Larry Hodges's blog

December 13, 2017

Last Blog Until Thursday, Dec. 28
I leave tomorrow for two days of USATT board meetings, the US Open, and then Christmas with family, so this will be my last blog until Dec. 28.

USA Open, Meetings, and Christmas
I’m leaving tomorrow morning for two weeks, which I’ll divide into three parts below. Here’s the US Open home page, where you can follow all the action. Here’s the player listing, the event listing (showing who is in each event), and perhaps most importantly, the results page (where the draws will go up in a few days, and then results). Here are the two USATT articles that might be of interest for your US Open viewing:

PART ONE: Meetings

  • USATT Board of Directors Meeting
  • USATT Coaches Education and Certification Meeting
  • USATT Assembly

=>USATT Board Meetings
We will be meeting Dec. 15-16 (Friday 1-6PM, and Saturday 8AM-5PM) in the Diamond 3 & 4 rooms at the Las Vegas Convention Center, near the playing hall. (I’m a member of the board.) The meetings are open to all USATT members, except for occasional closed sessions when legal or personnel issues come up. There’s a LOT of material on the agenda, so I’m gearing myself up for an action-packed two days of sitting around a table and solving the major problems of our sport, and perhaps adding a few major commas to the bylaws. I’ll be giving the USATT Coaching Committee Report. (I chair the committee.)

Major items on the preliminary agenda include: Approval of Past Minutes; Committee Reports; NCTTA Update; Approval of the Foundation Board; Committee Assignments; Fundraising; North American Ratings System Proposal; ITTF-North American Initiatives; Club and Membership Discussion; Financial Update; USATT Events Discussion; High Performance Program Discussion; USOC Update and Discussion; ITTF Update and Discussion; SafeSport; Legal Update; Athlete Support and AAC Involvement; Discussion Regarding General Assembly; and Old and New Business.

=>USATT Coaches Educaton and Certifciation Meeting
After dinner on Friday I have a follow-up and less formal meeting (with High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio) regarding USATT Coaches Education and Certification. On the agenda there is USATT Coaches Education and Certification Program; Review of Current Requirements; New Requirements for Each Level of Certification; Team USA Mobile coach; “National” Coach Name Conflict; Recertification; English Requirement; and Grandfathering.

=>USATT Assembly
It is on Tuesday at 8PM, for about two hours, in Room N250 at the Las Vegas Convention Center (near the playing hall). Here is the description of this from the USATT Bylaws:

“There shall be an annual USATT Assembly at which all individual and organization members and other USATT constituencies in the United States Table Tennis family shall be invited to gather and provide input to the Board on important issues confronting the organization. At USATT’s Assembly, the Board of Directors shall provide a report on the “State of the USATT.” The Chief Executive Officer shall provide a managerial report addressing issues of concern and importance to USATT. Individual and organization members and other constituencies may be permitted to pose questions to the Board and Chief Executive Officer for response. The annual USATT Assembly shall be purely advisory and shall have no rulemaking, budgetary, legislative, or other authority, though it, or some of it, may be involved in some appropriate way in the nomination of individuals to serve on the Board as otherwise set forth in these Bylaws. The Board shall determine the agenda of the annual USATT Assembly.”

My first US Open was in 1976 in Philadelphia, and I’ve been to every US Open and Nationals starting in 1984, so this is my 34th year in a row. (I also went to the Teams in 1976, and last month attended for the 42nd year in a row.) On the other hand, Homer Brown is practicing up for his 49th US Open in a row. This year, as usual, I’ll be both coaching and playing. Though I normally play and coach with sponge, at major tournaments (where I’m primarily coaching) I play the hardbat events, with pretty good success. This year I’m entered in four events:

  • Hardbat Singles. I’ve won this event at the Open or Nationals twice, but alas, it’s been a few years – yeah, I’m getting older. But hopefully I can still battle with the top players. We’ll see.
  • Hardbat Over 40 Singles. I’ve won this event at the Open or Nationals five times, and am the defending champion from the USA Nationals in July.
  • Hardbat Doubles with A.J. Carney. We’re top seeded – I’ve won this event 13 times, nine times with Ty Hoff, four times with Steve Berger.
  • Hardbat Mixed Doubles with Estee Ackerman. We’re top seeded, but this is the first time I’ve played this event, which is relatively new.

PART THREE: Christmas
This year we will be gathering in San Francisco, hosted by my nephew. I fly there from Las Vegas on Friday, Dec. 22, and then fly back to Maryland on Wednesday, Dec. 27.

Christmas Table Tennis Camps
Here is a rundown on Christmas or Holiday Training camps at the end of the year that I know of – but I’m sure there are others I don’t know about. (If you know of a camp I left out, send me the link and I’ll add it.) Many of these camps are geared toward kids, but most or all take adults as well, if you don’t mind training with hard-working kids. (Note - Samson Dubina is also running a Christmas Camp in Ohio, but he advertised early and already maxed out.) 

Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals
Here’s the home page for the event in Astana, Kazakhstan, Dec. 14-17, with draws, results, articles, photos, and video.

Distractions! Learn How to Focus During an Intense Match
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

How Do You Control Your Nerves at Big Tournaments?
Here’s the article from Pong Universe, which I linked to previously. I’m linking to it again to emphasize one of the quotes which happens to match exactly what I do, and what I recommend most players should do. Here’s what four-time U.S. Men’s Singles Champion Jim Butler says:

“I try and clear my mind, not thinking about it much other than game planning a strategy in my head versus my opponent.”

New from EmRatThich at PingSunday

Table Tennis Tidbits #13
Here’s the article and video (5:34) by Robert Ho – “2016 World Team Championships: Retroactive Telepathy.”

Training With Jeong Sangeun and Lee Sangsu at 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (16:24) from Arnaud Scheen. They are ranked #23 and #10 in the world, respectively.

Table Tennis and the F Word
Here’s the article from Coach Jon. (No, it’s not that word – but read if you are frantically focused on finding the facts, and want to know about Funktapuss.)

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

12 Years On – Can Timo Boll Reclaim Title Glory?
Here’s the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Quotes by Renowned Players
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

One Match From Number One
Here’s the ITTF article on how Dimitrij Ovtcharov of Germany is just one match away from being world #1. In fact, Dimi will be #1 as of Jan. 1 unless he loses first round at the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals AND Fan Zhendong wins the tournament, in which case Fan becomes #1. (Dimi plays Koki Niwa in the first round. Here’s the Men’s Draw.) Either way, the reign of Ma Long, who has been world #1 since March, 2015, will end, mostly due to lack of participation, which features more prominently in the new ITTF ranking system. If Dimi becomes #1, he’ll be the first non-Chinese world #1 since teammate Timo Boll was #1 for three months in 2011.

A First for India, Government Support for Coach Education
Here’s the ITTF article. "Led by Richard McAfee of the United States, the course had a special significance; it was the first to be held in the country with government support; the fees of all the students were paid, previously the cost at fallen on the shoulders of the individual."

Tournament Software
Here’s the article Table Tennis Tournament Software. The other major option on the market that I know of, the one I use, is Omnipong.

RIP: San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee
Here are pictures of him playing table tennis and posing with players. Here’s his obit.

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 6
Here’s chapter six of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

5 Unique Serves in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:13).

Kjell Johansson vs. Olof Palme
Here’s the video (1:23) of Sweden’s former star Kjell Johansson playing Sweden Prime Minister Olof Palme. The clip comes from the 1972 Swedish table tennis video “Pingis - Allas Idrott” (“Table tennis – everybody’s sport”). Here is the entire movie (in Swedish). (That’s 1971 World Men’s Singles Champion Stellan Bengtsson, now coaching in San Diego, at the start.) Johansson was three-time World Men’s Doubles Champion, one-time World Team Champion, two-time European Men’s Singles Champion, and lost 21-18 in the fifth in the final of Men’s Singles at the 1973 Worlds to China’s Xi Enting – the last two points on net balls. Palme was prime minister twice, totaling over ten years, sadly ending with his assassination while in office in 1986. Bengt Grive, former Swedish champion in Men’s Singles, Doubles, and Teams, and former world #9, is the umpire.

Around the Table
Here’s the video (44 seconds) as three kids circle the table.

The Seventeen Guide to Table Tennis Reaction
Here’s the video (11:12).

Cow Pong

How to Play Table Tennis During the Holidays
So you want to play table tennis around Christmas, but the wife (or husband or parents?) won’t let you? A student of mine had this very problem. And that got me thinking how he should have responded. Here’s my top ten list of things to tell the wife (or husband or parents) so you can get to the club during the holidays. (And for the love of God – or rather Jesus – don’t miss the Santa vs. Jesus video, #10 below!!!)

  1. “Honey, you know that table tennis is number one for me. But you’ll ways be number two, or at least top five.”
  2. “I need to work off all the calories from Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. And so do you, you’re starting to put on some pounds, so why don’t you join me? Hey, stop hitting me!!!”
  3. “But honey, the rackets are Christmas colors, with red for berries and black for dead, rotting leaves!”
  4. “But all my rivals are training on Christmas and New Year’s, and gosh, 365 days a year, and so I have to! You want me to lose to them?!!! Why do you hate me so???” (If you prep with a raw onion in advance, you should be able to fake crying at this point.)
  5. “Oh sorry, honey, I left the Christmas presents at the club last night, again. So I guess I’ll have to go there, again. Darn it. Sorry.”
  6. But even Santa Claus plays table tennis!”
  7. Really, Santa plays table tennis!”
  8. See, Santa’s playing table tennis!” (Wait, he’s a fake, ignore this one.)
  9. Seriously, if Santa can play, why can’t I?”
  10. In fact, Santa and Jesus play table tennis all the time!!! Can’t I be like Santa and Jesus?” (Here’s where you give a big puppy-eyed look.)

Send us your own coaching news!

December 12, 2017

Tip of the Week
Push-Button Matches - Playing the Scary All-Out Attacker.

Top Ten Ways to Describe My Weekend with the Flu

  1. I went 100 rounds with Mike Tyson. I lost the first 99 rounds.
  2. Or maybe that was the Chinese team used me for smashing practice. With golf balls.
  3. I alternated freezing and boiling over. Yeah, climate change every ten minutes.
  4. If you’d bought $100 in stock in Kleenex on Friday, by today you’d be a millionaire.
  5. I’ve proven you can live on nothing but cream of wheat, chicken soup, and Dayquil/Nightquil for three days – but it isn’t fun. Just looking at anything else made my stomach explode like a thousand celluloid ping-pong balls in a microwave.
  6. I can’t decide whether I can now check “Flu shot” off my todo list, since I’ve now had the flu. It’s been on the todo list for a month or so, and I was going to do it….
  7. My fever hit 101.5 on Saturday night. That may not seem high, except I normally am around 97, for whatever reason.
  8. At least I could imagine all my poor, forlorn students, tears in their eyes, missing out on their lessons. Misery loves company, even if it’s delusional.
  9. I went in on Sunday for one session where all I had to do was feed multiball. About halfway through I was on the verge of collapse, but I finished the session. I now know what it’s like to be a zombie.
  10. Strangely, my voice wasn’t affected until the worse was over. And then, on Monday, after the fever was gone, my voice went hoarse, and I could barely talk for a few hours. I spent the day in bed reading and running up the stock price of Kleenex. Even more strangely, I had a sudden burst of energy on Monday afternoon, and after mostly lying in bed for three days, I worked for about eight hours straight, almost all on table tennis matters, much of it preparing for meetings at the US Open. (A lot of it was regarding plans for a new Coaches Education and Certification Program, but more on that next year. We’re still in the beginning stages. I also got most of this blog done in advance.) And then I couldn’t sleep, and so, after tossing and turning all night, I went back to my computer at 2:30AM and wrote the first draft of a new science fiction story (my non-table tennis sideline). The story, using a mixture of real science and technobabble, explained the existence of dark matter and involved huge numbers of alien civilizations from other universes using our universe as a dumping ground – yeah, the dark matter, which is nearly undetectable to us because of the differing physical properties of the universes it comes from – and the implications this has on earth, which in the story has reverted to “theoscience,” where the world has become a theocracy that has just awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics to a theologian for his theory that our universe is the center of the multiverse. (Turns out he is correct, but only as the central dumping ground.) The story is currently titled, “The Dumping Ground of the Multiverse,” but that sort of gives the story away so will have to change. Then I went back to bed at 6:30AM, got up again at 8:30 AM (crazy hours!), and finished the blog. And now it’s back to table tennis stuff!

North American Teams Ratings
They are up! There were 937 players.

Writers & Bloggers
Tomorrow will be my last blog until Dec. 28. I leave Thursday morning for Las Vegas for two days of USATT board meetings, then playing and coaching in the US Open, and then Christmas with family in San Francisco. (More about all this in tomorrow’s blog.) So if you have something you are about to put up, if you get it to me by tomorrow morning, say 9AM, then it’ll be in the current blog for 15 days.

New From Samson Dubina
He’s been busy since Friday. Here are six new articles or videos. (He put the last three up on Friday after I’d already blogged, but I put up a belated link to them, so you might have seen those ones.)

Pro Table Tennis Team Gives Helping Hand to Youth Education at Topspin New York
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

South Bend TTC Disabled Veterans Camp
Here’s the article and pictures by Dan Seemiller.

Left-handed Sportspeople Have Greater Advantage in Cricket, Baseball and Table Tennis
Here’s the article from ABC News in Australia.

Timo Boll Exclusive Car interview With TableTennisDaily!
Here’s the video (26:58).

Sabine Winter: Ask a Pro Anything
Here’s the video (5:56) from Adam Bobrow.

Moregard Truls – Strong Playing Style? Best of the 2017 World Junior Championships
Here’s the video (10:13) from Arnaud Scheen. Truls is the new sensation from Sweden who made the final of Boy’s Singles at the World Junior Championships. (Here’s the draw.)

T2 APAC: Grand Finals Live Streams
Here are links to the videos.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Swedish Open
Here’s the video (4:40).

Vanishing Point: Leon the Magician Makes Table Disappear
Here’s the article and video (1:50).

Send us your own coaching news!

December 11, 2017

No blog today - sick with flu. I went in to coach on Saturday, had to leave early when my fever hit 101.5. The fever's gone, but I feel like I just went 100 rounds with Mike Tyson. I singlehandedly have sent Kleenex's stock soaring while living on a diet of cream of wheat, chicken soup, and Dayquil/Nightquil. I also somehow lost two pounds from dehydration. And yes, I had a flu shot - last year. It's been on my todo list for a while to get a flu shot this year. Oops. 

December 8, 2017

Physical vs. Mental Stiffness, USATT &USOC Coaching, Sidespin/Backspin Serves, the Christmas Rush, and I Do Not Have A Cold

  • Here’s an insight that many don’t understand. Some players are physically stiff, especially as they get older – I’m one of them. It can lead to stiff shots, and make the player look, yes, stiff. But that’s completely different than mentally playing tight. You can have the stiffest muscles in the world and still be mentally loose and relaxed. I know, because I have the stiffest muscles in the world – 10,000 on the Vickers hardness scale – and yet I’ve always played relaxed and mentally loose, even if I don’t look it. I’m always warning my students not to copy the stiff, mechanical nature of my strokes (except perhaps for my forehand smash, which is pretty textbook), and to instead copy some of our 2600 coaches/practice partners, especially their looping strokes. But don’t mistake physical stiffness with the mental side, where anyone can learn to play relaxed and loose.
  • Yesterday at 2PM I was on a teleconference with USATT and USOC people about setting up a USATT coaching education and certification program. I have meetings about it at the U.S. Open, and will be flying out to USATT and USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs in early January for two days to work on this. (USOC is paying for it.) I’m working closely with USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio on this. Ultimate plan – a USATT Coaching Academy.
  • I had a lot of fun yesterday demonstrating one of my trick serves to students who were trying to develop spinny serves. It’s a forehand pendulum serve from the forehand side of the table, served crosscourt, about 3/4 backspin, 1/4 sidespin, where if I do it just right, I can get the ball to stop just short of the opponent’s end-line and break right, and just roll along the table, parallel to the end-line. Here’s an example (32 sec) I found online. Instead of cups, I put a ball net along the far side of the table, near the edge, and make the ball roll between the net’s handle and the end-line.
  • The Christmas rush has officially begun! In the first week of December I’ve sold 93 of my books. As usual, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers leads the way with 63 copies sold.
  • I do not have a cold. I Do Not Have A Cold. I DO NOT HAVE A COLD. (The power of positive thinking…) 

Coaching Articles
There don’t seem to be any new coaching articles since yesterday – how will we survive the weekend? I know – why not browse over some of the nearly 350 weekly Table Tennis Tips? Or just buy the books, Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips – a Christmas present to yourself!!! (Wow, what a shameless plug for my books!) Or check out the archives for others, such as MH Table Tennis.
(BREAKING NEWS - shortly after I put up this blog, Samson Dubina posted three new articles/videos, on In and Out Footwork, Table Tennis Nutrition, and Dynamic Table Tennis Warm-up. I'll link to them again on Monday.) 

T2 Grand Finals
Here’s their home page, with links to the matches. The Championship playoffs started yesterday, and continue to the Finals on Sunday. Today’s matches start at 6PM GMT, which is 1PM Eastern Time in the U.S. Playing today:

  • Timo Boll vs. Jun Mizutani
  • Yang Haeun vs. Suthasini Sawettabut
  • Chen Chien-An vs. Joo Saehyuk
  • Strangely, the schedule shows these three playing a second time, six matches in all, but I think that’s a mistake.

Final Publication, Ma Long Concludes at Top of Order
Here’s the ITTF article on the newest world rankings. Here are the Men’s Rankings, Women’s Rankings, and links to other ranking lists.

Ever Present, Just Not the Same Without Him
Here’s the ITTF article on the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Dec. 14-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan, featuring Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan.

Olympic Table Tennis Champ Wang Chen to Open Jersey City Club
Here’s the article.

Timo Boll Reflects on the Greatest Shot Ever Played in the T2 Cavern!
Here’s the video interview (67 sec) where they talk about his incredible opposite-hand counterloop (33 sec), which I linked to yesterday.

Interview with Jenson Van Emburgh
Here’s the video (2:24) with the USA Paralympic player, who came back from down 0-2 in the semifinal singles match at the 2017 ParapanAmerican Championships in Costa Rica. (Alas, I can’t find a results page so don’t know how he did in the final.)

Final of Spin & Smash Open in Ohio
Here are the videos of each game between Chen Bowen and Samson Dubina.

Olivia Stack Reading Up on Her Favorite Topic.....Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!!!
Here’s the video (78 sec) as she pages through and gives valuable insight on Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. The picture she’s talking about halfway through is of Joo Se Hyuk chopping. I think she thought it was her dad!

Football vs. Ping Pong
Here’s the video (4:27) where the compare the two, with athletes from each competing. That’s soccer for us Americans! (This is from 2016, but I don’t think I ever linked to it.)

Send us your own coaching news!

December 7, 2017

How’s Your Big Breaking Serve Into the Backhand?
I had an interesting “comeuppance” recently when I was explaining to several players the importance of including deep serves in your serving arsenal, and going over the more valuable types – fast down-the-line, no-spin to the middle, and big breaking serves to the backhand. One of them finally asked me, “Larry, what’s a big breaking serve?” Turned out at least two listeners had no idea what I meant.

A “big breaking serve” is one that curves a lot. Probably the most successful and most commonly used is deep into the backhand, so that it breaks away from the receiver. This is most commonly done with a forehand pendulum serve from the backhand side, crosscourt, between two righties (or two lefties). For righties against lefties, and vice versa, it's most commonly done with a forehand tomahawk serve from the forehand side. 

One of my regular demos when I talk about serves in a clinic is to show the difference between a fast topspin serve and a big breaking sidespin serve. I’ll have a volunteer – someone who’s not too strong – return my serve. When I give him a fast topspin serve, he has no trouble returning it. But then I throw the big breaking serve, and he’s caught off guard, reaching for the ball, and his return goes flying off the side and way past the end. I did this demo in a private session yesterday with a junior player to instill in her the importance of learning to put spin on the serve.

At the Teams, during a timeout, I asked one of the junior players I was coaching if he could do a big breaking serve to the opponent’s backhand, and he asked me what that was. I explained that it was a deep sidespin serve to the backhand that would break away from the receiver. He said he could do it. He went back and served a straight topspin serve that the opponent smacked back for a winner. Later I asked the player about it, and he admitted that he didn’t really have a deep sidespin serve, but he was working on it. If I’d known that I wouldn’t have told him to use it!!!

So  . . . how’s your big breaking serve into the backhand? Can you curve it so it goes away from the receiver, forcing him to reach for it, and making good returns difficult? (For one thing, most players cannot return this serve down the line, and so predictably return it crosscourt, so you can set up for the return.) If not, what are you waiting for? Done properly, it’s often a free point!!! Against top players, of course, it usually gets looped, but even against them, if used sparingly, it can cause havoc.

On a related note, here’s the primary reason why so many players have trouble with serves that break away from them, whether on the backhand or forehand. They instinctively set up to receive them with their racket at the right height. And then, when they realize the ball is curving away, they step or reach for it – but as they do so, they lower their racket. It’s a natural reaction, but spells disaster. With their racket now too low, they either lift the ball off the end, or to keep it on the table they roll it back weakly. If they’d just kept their racket at the proper height they’d had before reaching they’d make a much better return.

T2 Grand Finals
Here’s their home page, with links to the matches. The Championship playoffs start today (Thursday), and continue to the Finals on Sunday. Today’s matches start at 6PM GMT, which is 1PM Eastern Time in the U.S. Playing today:

  • Shi Xunyao vs. Feng Tianwei
  • Chuang Chih-Yuan vs. Timo Boll
  • Liu Fei vs. Bernadette Szocs
  • Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Jun Mizutani

How to Attack a Backspin Ball with a Forehand Topspin
Here’s the article and video (9:38) by Tom Lodziak.  

Present in Astana Makes Feng Tianwei the Leading Lady
Here’s the ITTF article on the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Dec. 14-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Weiqiao in First Place as Lin Gaoyuan Crushes Xu Xin
Here’s the ITTF article on the Chinese Men’s Super League.

2017 Junior Worlds - A New Swedish Future Waldner?
Here’s the article and video (6:55, of the Boys’ Singles Final) by Shashin Shodhan.

The Table Tennis Coaching Ambush
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong: China Super League 2017-2018
Here’s the video (6:09).

Great Hand-Switch Point by Timo Boll
Here’s the video (33 sec).

TopSpin Charity
Here’s the video (2:04).

People vs. Ping Pong
Here’s the hilarious video (1:35), which I somehow didn’t link to when it came out in October.

Send us your own coaching news!

December 6, 2017

Knowing When to Change Serving Tactics
In the German Open Men’s Final (4:42) on Nov. 12, Timo Boll faced Dimitrij “Dima” Ovcharov in the final. Timo had already defeated China’s Lin Gaoyuan in the quarterfinals and Korea’s Lee Sangsu (who had defeated Xu Xin in the quarterfinals) in the semifinals. Dima had defeated China’s Fan Zhendong, world #2, in the semifinals, and so it was a rare non-Chinese final – in fact, an all-German final in the German Open. At the time Dima was world #4, Timo #5, but both moved up one spot since.

Dima went up 3-2 in games, and took a 4-0 lead in the sixth, with Timo to serve. Up until then Timo had been serving I believe all forehand serves. So what does he do? He switches to a rarely-seen backhand serve for his next eight serves. Here’s the video (17:36) starting at 0-4 – note how surprised commentator Adam Bobrow is at this. The umpire stops the point on the first serve and warns Timo on his toss, which is apparently too low – he’s probably not used to using this serve often. He increases his toss and gives a low, no-spin serve, and follows with a winner, 1-4. He again serves backhand, has a shot, but misses it, 1-5. He then scores the next two points on Dima’s serve, 3-5. Timo continues to serve backhand, and wins the next six points on his serve in a row with it to win 11-7 – with Dima missing three of the last four outright!!! The lesson here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try out new things against an opponent if other things aren’t working.

However, the other lesson is that sometimes you can overuse that new thing. Timo continues to backhand serve in the seventh game, but is less successful. His first five serves are backhand serves, and he loses four of them. The points at 0-2 at 2-5 for some reason aren’t shown, but you can see them in the full video (50:15), where time between points is taken out. Here’s the backhand serve at 0-2, and here’s the backhand serve at 2-5 – and this is a surprise, it’s a reverse backhand serve that wins the point! Strangely, he never uses that serve again, but probably because it’s just a surprise serve that probably wouldn’t work a second time. He serves backhand again at 4-6, loses the point (now losing all four points when he used his regular backhand serve this game), and that’s when he finally switches back to his normal forehand serve – and loses that point, 4-8. He wins the next two points on Dima’s serve. At 6-8, Timo serves backhand again twice in a row, and loses both, and Dima wins the game and match, 11-6.

So in the sixth game, when serving backhand, he wins seven of eight points, including the last six in a row. In the seventh game, excluding the winning reverse backhand serve, he serves backhand six times and loses all six, but also loses the point when he uses the forehand serve one time. The backhand serves were mostly no-spin, with some backspin ones as well.

And just for fun, check out the clapping green dinosaur at 4-2 in the seventh!!!

How Do You Control Your Nerves at Big Tournaments?
Here’s the article from Pong Universe. “Being nervous is okay, but only a little. Nerves is an ever-present thing, whether you're the best in the world or a developing athlete. This is something everyone should understand and learn to deal with. If you allow yourself to get too nervous or too excited right before or during a competition, then your muscles will tighten up and you'll perform poorly. We asked some professional Table Tennis athletes - How do they deal with nerves at big tournament? Here's what they had to say:”

Heavy Backspin Serve and Control
Here’s the video (15 sec) – can you do this? If you can’t, then you need to practice your serves!

World Junior Experience Builds on Long-term Plan for Team USA
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. “While no medals came home with team USA from this year's World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Riva Del Garda, Italy, a stronger and more united team came back from Europe than that which had left. The team performed exceptionally to make the quarterfinals in both the Boy's and Girl's team events, with the boys narrowly missing out on a guaranteed medal in the deciding game against Romania.”

Future Olympians on Show at Upcoming North American Youth Olympic Games Qualifier
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. “While you will need to wait almost two more years to enjoy the pageantry and excitement of the next Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, you only have to wait until later this month to get an early look at some possible future Olympians. Sixteen of America’s most promising boys and girls under the age of 18 including 2016 Rio Olympian Kanak Jha and Canada’s top teenagers will gather for the North American Continental Youth Olympic Games qualification tournament on Sunday, December 17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.”

2017 US Open Final Table Celebration to be Held at SLS Casino and Hotel
Here’s the info page. Here’s the home page for the U.S. Open. Here are listings for players and for events (which show who’s entered in each event) – make sure to set “2017 US Open” in the dropdown menu. There are 843 players entered.

USATT Umpires and Referees Committee Safesport Memorandum
Here’s the USATT article by Joseph Yick, chair of the USATT Umpires and Referees Committee.

Different Styles, Germany Leads the Way
Here’s the ITTF article on the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Dec. 14-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Ruwen Filus's Chops are Incredible!
Here’s the video (59 sec).

Peace . . . Love . . . Ping Pong Clock
Here’s the Zazzle page to buy one!

Waldner’s Shoe Pong
Here’s the video (26 sec) – that’s some great defense and offense!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 5, 2017

Injured a Lot?
Someone recently asked me why I seem to be injured a lot. And it’s true – I have a revolving door of injuries, including problems with my right knee, upper back on right side, right shoulder (two spots), and right arm. Those with right-minded thinking may have rightfully noticed an outright pattern, and they are right. (We’re not talking rightwing politics, though I am a right-winger in table tennis since I am right-handed . . . in case you hadn’t figured that out.)

Years and years of long hours training, playing, and coaching have led to these problems. Somehow I don’t think any doctor ever saw an injured patient and prescribed, “Rest and twenty hours of table tennis per week.”

The knee problem has its roots in the fact that MDTTC, which opened in 1992, had cement floors for a number of years before going to red rubberized flooring. Playing on cement regularly is like banging your knees with a hammer. My left knee used to bother me at times as well, but not in recent times.

However, the simple reality is I’m 57 (gosh that sounds old…), and the muscles aren’t as tight as they used to be – they’re tighter. I’ve always been way too stiff, and now I’m older and stiffer. Worse, when I do have minor injuries, I have to keep going and continue coaching, because, you know, it’s my job! And when the minor injuries become not-so-minor, I still have to continue, because, you know, it’s my job! It’s only when they become rather severe that I take time off. The result, of course, is that minor injuries sometimes turn into no-so-minor ones.

My right knee is about 90% better, but I still wear a knee brace when I play to make sure. As I noted in my blog, last week was the first time since the U.S. Nationals in July that I was able to walk up or down a stairway with both legs – for four months I’d been stepping up or down with the left, then bring up or down the right, but never step up or down with the right unless I had a railing to help support my weight.

I haven’t had back problems in a year (cross fingers), but when they come on, I know what stretches fix that problem. One of the two shoulder problems hasn’t bothered me in about year as well. I still have arm problems, but the arm brace I wear when I play pretty much fixes that. I originally hurt the arm playing baseball when I was 12.

However, the other shoulder problem, a spot on the back of the shoulder, is a serious problem right now. I can’t really extend my arm to reach for a shot, or even for a ball that’s near the net. It doesn’t affect 90% of my playing, but there are certain things I struggle to do right now. Hopefully it’ll be better at the U.S. Open, which starts Dec. 17. While I’m there to attend USATT meetings and coach, as usual I’m also playing in the hardbat events. (I normally use sponge, but retired from sponge tournaments a while back.) We’ll see. (And since much of the U.S. Open is on cement floors, my knees have already scheduled some serious problems. I hope most of my matches are on the rubberized flooring.)

ITTF Coaching Course in Portland
Here’s info on the ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course to be held at the Paddle Palace club, Jan. 8-12, run by Christian Lillieroos.

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve
Here’s the video (3 min) from Elizabeta Samara of Romania, world #26.

When to Pivot
Here’s the podcast (32:24) from Pingskills, which covers: Joke of the Week, Ariel Hsing's Birthday, Tournament Wrap, The World Junior Table Tennis Championships, Tip of the Week, Keep your head still, Drill of the Week, Backhand or Pivot Forehand, Setting Goals, Flick vs Counterhit, and Sponge Thickness.

Wealth of International Experience Leads Names at 2017 US Open
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Timo Boll Delighted with German Progress
Here’s the ITTF article.

African Table Tennis in Diaspora hosts 3rd Tournament
Here’s the USATT article.

2017 World Junior Championships Highlights: Sun Yingsha vs Wang Manyu (Final)
Here’s the video (5:18) of the Junior Girls’ Final.

Steffen Mengel Completely Freaks Out After Losing a Match
Here’s the video (21 sec) of the German, world #84, losing to Jakub Dyjas of Poland, world #61.

Solo Pong
Here’s the video (56 sec) from the Junior Worlds as USA team members Adar Alguetti and Nikhil Kumar challenge each other! (How can you challenge another in “solo” pong? See the video!)

Mrs. Met vs. Serena Williams
Here’s the repeating gif image as the New York Mets mascot and the legendary tennis player have a preliminary “dance off” before their table tennis match.

Send us your own coaching news!

December 4, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Mess Up Your Opponent When Forced to Make a Weak Shot.

Weekend Coaching
Here are some highlights.

  • In the junior group session on Saturday we let them play Brazilian Teams for nearly an hour – but with one catch: whoever served had to serve and attack. If the server pushed the return, he lost the point. (Here’s where I blogged about the rules for Brazilian Teams and other table tennis games.) Too many of our kids at the North American Teams had played too passive on their serve, and so this was both the “penalty” and reward (since they love playing Brazilian Teams).
  • On Sunday, to teach some of the younger players to arc the ball with topspin when they loop, I spent about half an hour feeding multiball to eight different kids using the adjustable serving bar. (John Olsen made this for us.) I had to feed backspin under the bar – tricky to do! - while the kids had to loop over it.
  • After the Sunday session we had a party, with pizza and lots of other food. The coaches also met with the parents and kids, one by one – I think 28 of them – and went over our notes about their kids – where they’ve improved, what they need to work on, etc. I met with I think six of them, mostly ones I’d coached at the North American Teams.
  • In private coaching, I did something some might consider unlikely – I taught Serguei, a man in his 70s, to loop in rallies! We’ve been working on it for months, but for a time the stroke was ragged, awkward, and constantly changing, and so erratic. But in our previous session it began to really come together, and during the session on Sunday he had basically mastered the shot (in drills), looping over and over very smoothly, without backing up too much (which he used to do). He now can loop really well, against backspin and against block, in drills. The next step is incorporating this more and more into match play. 
  • In other private coaching, we're now really focused on footwork with Todd, age 12. He has a tendency to fall back on his heels, so we're focused on keeping his weight more on the balls of his feet. After playing a forehand he isn't always ready to play a backhand, so that's another footwork thing we're working on - lots of random drills. He's rapidly gaining confidence in his looping, both forehand and backhand, but still sometimes falls back into "guiding" the shot rather than just letting it go. Another thing we're going to really focus on now is serves - he gets good spin on his serves, so now we're going to work more on deception. 

Tomokazu Harimoto in Training
How did this Japanese whiz kid reach #16 in the world at age 14? Here are two training videos showing his techniques in slow motion.

New from Samson Dubina

Serve Placement
Here’s the video (6:43) from PingSkills.

Impact of Footwork and Balance On Making Contact With The Ball Part 3
Here’s the video (12:43) from ITTF Coaching Education by Joze Urh. It includes links to parts 1 and 2, which I previously linked to.

Training With Timo Boll and Coach Jörg Rosskopf at the 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (15:55).

USOC Coaching Education Newsletter
Here’s the new December issue.

New from EmRatThich

2017 World Junior Championships Highlights: Xue Fei vs Truls Moregard (Final)
Here’s the video (4:06). USA’s Kanak Jha lost 4-3 in the round of 32 to Moregard. Here’s the home page for the World Junior Championships, which finished yesterday, with full results, articles, video, etc.

2000 World Veteran Championships
Here’s the article (by Tim Boggan), and yes, you read that right – the 2000 World Veterans, in Vancouver, Canada, the last time it was held in North America. It’s from the July/August 2000 issue of USA Table Tennis Magazine, back during the twelve years I was editor. Here’s the home page for the 2018 World Veterans in Las Vegas, the next time it’ll be in North America!

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 5
Here’s chapter five of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

Under 15 Boys Training at Swat Table Tennis Academy
Here’s the video (50 sec).

Table Tennis Anyone? The Sport’s Growing and Paddle Palace Is a Popular Spot to Play It
Here’s the video (1:51) from KATU 2 News.

Timo Boll vs. Kenta Matsudaira – Around the Net
Here’s the video (27 sec) where they have a great rally that includes Timo’s around-the-net counterloop – but it takes more than that to score against Kenta!

Ma Long – Ding Ning Exhibition Play
Here’s the video (49 sec)!

Solo Pong
Here’s the video (55 sec) – which Romanian does it better, Cristian Pletea or Adina Diaconu?

Send us your own coaching news!

December 1, 2017

Ball Madness
There used to be a debate about whether there really was a difference between Nittaku and a Butterfly 3-star balls. But there really wasn’t a serious debate – every top player and coach knew that the Butterfly ball was slightly lighter than the Nittaku. The real debate was whether the difference was enough that you’d want to train with the ball to be used in your next tournament. I was firmly on the side of using that ball, since even a very slight difference made a difference to your timing – but the difference was so small that it was more psychological, where you wanted to use the same ball so that you’d know that it would play the same.

That were the good old days of celluloid, when the difference in balls was so small as to be almost a non-issue. These days, with the ITTF’s rush to adopt plastic balls, and with every tournament I know of now using them, you have to adjust to many different types of balls, and unlike before, the differences are much larger.

I’ve taken to buying a dozen or more of each major type that’s used in tournaments, plus of course we have three types of training balls at the club – the old celluloid ones, plus two types of Butterfly training balls. Keeping them separate is like cooking chili and then trying to separate the ingredients afterwards. So here’s my current ball situation.

I use plastic Butterfly training balls for most of my coaching. Except – when there’s a tournament coming up, I use the ball to be used in that tournament for coaching them. (Sometimes we’ll use a box of training balls the first half, so that we don’t have to keep picking them up and for multiball, and then switch to the tournament ball the second half.) So I’m sometimes switching balls on almost a session-by-session basis, based on the next tournament of the player I’m coaching. Here’s a rundown of what I have to deal with. (Note – I’ve been told that the three seamless balls below – Asian Pacific, JOOLA Flash, and Xiom – come from the same factory and are the same, but am not certain. I’m also told that different batches from different times come out differently, but I haven’t tested them.)

  • Three types of Training Balls for most coaching: Easy Ball Training 40+ (two types – old version and new version), and Butterfly training balls (celluloid)
  • Butterfly MDTTC Opens, four times per year, and 2017 Butterfly WDCTT Dec Open (next weekend): Butterfly 3-star G40+ balls
  • Howard County Opens: JOOLA Super-P 3-star 40+ balls
  • U.S. Open (December) and local Capital Area League: Nittaku Premium 3-star 40+ balls
  • Most international events (for some of our top juniors): DHS 3-star 40+ balls
  • Maryland State Championships: Asian Pacific 3-star 40+ seamless balls
  • North American Teams (last weekend): JOOLA Flash 3-star 40+ seamless balls
  • Tournament at Smash TT in Virginia: Xiom 3-star 40+ seamless balls

Nearly all of these balls play differently. THIS IS MADNESS!!!

Book Sales
It’s not too late to buy some of my books as Christmas presents! Here’s the Amazon page where you can buy them. I had a pretty good month in November, selling 178 books (not including bulk sales from major distributors). Here are the numbers for the month, combining print and kindle sales. Strangely, there were no sales of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, which usually sells about 5-10 each month. The Tactics book sells pretty well in France, and is currently being translated into Korean. I need to find someone to do a Chinese translation.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers 144 (95 English, 49 French)
Table Tennis Tips 16
More Table Tennis Tips 8
Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook 6
The Spirit of Pong 4

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. Teams are done; they are now starting singles and doubles. Here’s the article on the team competition, Tried and Trusted Trio, China Supreme. I wonder why Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto (world #16 at age 14) didn’t play?

Over 40 Tour Final Coming to Westchester Table Tennis Center
Here’s the article. It’s this weekend in New York, with $12,000 in prize money. “Entries are accepted up to the start time of each event so players may register to compete on the day and with over 200 players eligible to compete in the event from all age categories and abilities it promises to be a great event. The competition will be hot with players like US Olympian Jimmy Butler and top Over 40 contenders from the New York area - Gao Yanjun, Shao Yu and De Tran, all on the list of eligible contenders for the top spot.”

Who is the Greatest of All Time, J-O Waldner or Ma Long?
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty. (One small nit-pick – speed glue was around long before Waldner played, and he used it from the start of his career.) One other argument for Waldner, which for many is the deciding point, is that he led a very small country, Sweden (population around 7 million at the time) to the World Team Championship four times, overcoming the Chinese juggernaut.

Thirst for Knowledge Undiminished in Sri Lanka
Here’s the ITTF article on Richard McAfee’s coaching.

Evolution of the Laws of Table Tennis and the Regulations for International Competitions
Here’s the listing.

Irvine Levine – A Witness to 70 Years of Rhode Island Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins.

7 Min of Heaven & Lesson at NYCTTA!
Here’s the video (7:10). (If you go directly to the Youtube version you can see the description underneath.)

IFO Veteran Open 2017
Here’s the video (5:07). See the article under the video (click “Show More”), which starts out, “First staged in 1991, the west coast Swedish city of Gothenburg was the recent home for what has become the biggest tournament for veteran players in northern Europe.”

Never Before Seen Smash By Timo Boll!
Here’s the video (51 sec) – or should we call this a non-smash? You decide!

Shot of the Tournament?
Here’s the video (16 sec) – as a wheelchair player goes wide to his right!

It's Time for Fun and Games!!!
Here’s the video (31 sec) from Andrew Williams.

Racket Sharing Table Tennis
Here’s the video (78 sec)!

Fight to the Death!
Here’s the video (1:38) – from the Scorching Ping Pong Girls. This is how table tennis is really played. If you do not play like this, you are an amateur who should be kururi-senpaied and banished from the galaxy.

Non-Table Tennis - Compelling Science Fiction
My story "Redo" just came out in the magazine Compelling Science Fiction. It's the story of a large, caterpillar-like galactic alien census taker who has spent the last 83,000 years doing a door-to-door census of earth - and he's only halfway done. After each interview, he hits a redo device, and while time doesn't stop, all the matter and energy on earth and around it zip back to where they were at the time that interview started, the one he interviewed has no memory of the interview, and he goes on to the next house. Then things go wrong, he gets killed by a Doberman (sort of), and another group of aliens (who've been caught in sort of a time loop those 83,000 years) is about to annihilate Earth. Can he (with his "redo" device - and a fire extinguisher?) and a resourceful human scientist save the world?

Send us your own coaching news!

November 30, 2017

Big Tournaments are Like a Month of Training
I’ve pointed this out in past blogs (not recently), and it really is true – if you play in a big tournament, where you are playing intense matches all day long for two or more days, when it’s done it’s like you’ve been training for a month.

The huge tragedy here is that the best time to play a tournament is when you are at your best – which is usually right at the end of the big tournament you just played in. Which is why it’s sometimes best to schedule several tournaments in a row, or at least in close proximity. (This can be taken to an extreme. I once played tournaments nine consecutive weekends. At the end I had my highest rating of my life.)  

Think about it. Imagine yourself the last time you played a tournament (assuming you have), where you played lots of matches. Didn’t you most often play your best near the end, at least until and if you got too tired to play well? Isn’t that the way you want to play at your next tournament?

That type of play doesn’t go instantly go away. When you hit that high level after lots of matches at a tournament, it stays with you for a time. Make sure to play some that week to keep your touch, and guess what? The following weekend, with a proper warm-up, you’ll likely pick up right where you left off the previous weekend, when you were at your best near the end. It doesn’t always work, but it works this way the majority of the time.

A lot of locals played in the North American Teams this past weekend. By the third day many had hit breakthroughs and were playing the best they’d ever played, except of course where exhaustion took over. But the exhaustion goes away soon, while the level of play reached does not. So many of the smart ones are now looking to follow this up at other tournaments, whether local (there’s one at the Washington DC TTC next weekend) or at the U.S. Open in December.

I know some of the kids I coached at the Teams hit major breakthroughs at the tournament. Some started off with losses, then their game came around, and by Sunday everything came together. (The kids never get exhausted. It’s exhausting just watching them run around on the third day.) Others started out well, and only got better. I’ll likely show up at the DC tournament to coach some of them, and try to make sure they continue the breakthroughs they achieved at the Teams.

RIP: Joseph Edgar Newgarden: 1929-2017
Here’s the USATT obit. Here is his USATT Hall of Fame profile.

German Bundesliga League Match Makes History at the North American Teams
Here’s the article - ASV Grünwettersbach defeats Post SV Mühlhausen, 3-1. ASV Grünwettersbach would go on to win the North American Teams as well.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3.

Pong Road Episode #5
Here’s the page with all five episodes. I blogged about the first three episodes on August 8. The episodes are “an episodic documentary that follows Rocky Wang along his journey. Get ready to see ping pong that you've never seen it before.”

Losing? Find the Solution...
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tutorial with Videos by Coach Tom Lodziak
Here’s the page at Sports Flu. Here’s a direct link to Tom’s online video coaching page.

Accidently Visualizing Victory
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Ma Long Amazing Serve Training – in Slow Motion – at the 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (6:20).

VIP Packages at the U.S. Open
Here’s info. It includes early access to the venue on Saturday, Dec. 16; Week-long access to the iPong Player’s Lounge (with unlimited snacks & beverages and VIP viewing area); Four dedicated warm-up/practice tables; a VIP seat to the “Final Table Celebration”; and lockable storage at the playing venue.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out yesterday.

Pool, Ping Pong and Frosh Dorm Culture
Here’s the article from the Stanford Daily Grind.

Thanksgiving Pong
Here’s the cartoon, only one week late!

Send us your own coaching news!

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