Larry Hodges's blog

November 3, 2017

Moving and Table Tennis
Once again I’ve run into the interesting fact that some players have better shots when they move, especially when moving to the wide forehand. I blogged about this on Sept. 22, where we discovered that Todd’s shots were much better when he did footwork.

Yesterday I coached a new player, Ron, and it happened again. He was an experienced tennis player but new to table tennis. His forehand was decent, but often a bit cramped, with the racket too close to the body, and the tip often tilted slightly up. We worked on this for a while, and then I noticed something. Whenever I went a little wider to this forehand, he’s reach out and hit a perfect forehand! He’d extend the arm so it wasn’t cramped, and the tip would drop down to where it should be. Often his shot would be very wide to my forehand, which was very obvious because, due to my ongoing shoulder problems, I can’t really extend my arm and so have less reach going that way.

I pointed this out to him, and had him shadow practice that “moving” forehand until he could do it (without the ball) from other parts of the table. Then we went back to hitting, and the stroke was much better.

When my shoulder is healthy, I’ve had the same experience. During my peak years it was very difficult for players to win the point going to my wide forehand as I covered that very well. (I was a bit weaker when they went very wide to my backhand, but that’s another story.) Part of the reason I covered it well was because I’d go into the shot (when hitting or looping) with my shoulders rotated back and arm extended, and so could rotate into the shot, giving the shot power.

Another reason players often have better strokes when moving is that the very act of moving helps them focus on moving into position for the shot. When they don’t have to move much, they tend to just stand there, and reach for the ball on shots where a short step would put them in perfect position.

Belgium Open
Here’s the home page for the event in De Haan, Bel, Oct. 31 – Nov. 4. As of Friday morning, they are into the final 16 in Men’s and Women’s Singles.

U.S. Open Deadline
The final deadline for entering the U.S. Open is Nov. 10, which is next Friday. What are you waiting for??? (Here’s the current list of players and by event. They should easily top 700.)

New York Takes Next Step in Coach Education
Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 2 course run in New York by Richard McAfee.

ITTF Eyes North American Market
Here’s the ITTF article. “Table tennis could soon be making waves in the biggest sporting market in the world.”

Forehand Loop Advanced Skill Development
Here’s the article, with links to numerous videos, by Brian Pace from Triangle Table Tennis. 

New from EmRatThich
Here are two new articles/videos.

400 Coaching Articles
Here’s the listing of these articles by Samson Dubina.

8 Common Table Tennis Injuries and How to Avoid Them
Here’s the article from Ping Pong Passion.

ITTF Shakes up the Rankings
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins. (I blogged yesterday about the new world rankings.)

Football vs. Table Tennis – Which Sport is Harder?
Here’s the article from Eli Baraty from Coach Me Table Tennis. Note – what he calls football we in the U.S. for some weird reason call soccer.

Jump Rope & Multi Ball
Here’s the video (1:38) where Larry Bavly test which can be done longer. It’s not really a fair test, however, as his table tennis muscles are far more developed than his jump rope ones, and so of course multiball training is “easier” for him. Plus you can always increase the pace of the multiball and exhaust him far more quickly. (Here’s his description and discussion at mytabletennis.com.)

2017 Butterfly Badger Open – Video Interview with Bowen Chen
Here’s the video (2 min) by Barbara Wei. (This was from September, but just went online.)

Arsenal Keeper Petr Cech's Unique Table Tennis Robot Training Workout
Here’s the video (48 sec), and here’s the article on it from ESPNFC. He’s a goalkeeper for the football team Arsenal – yeah, once again that’s soccer to Americans.

Slow Motion Table Tennis! Did You Know How Much Spin There Is?
Here’s the video (1:36) from Scott “ThePingPongMan” Preiss and Keenan Southall.

Ma Long Training at World Cup 2017
Here’s the video (9:08).

Xu Xin - The Cloud Walker Signature Shots
Here’s the video (8:39).

Back from the World Cups. Let's Chat.
Here’s the video (64 min) from Adam Bobrow, the Voice of Table Tennis. (Lots of comments underneath.)

Balding Ping-Pong Boy
Here are the cartoon images. Here’s where you can get the original from Shutterstock.

Zombie Pong

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November 2, 2017

New ITTF World Rankings
Here’s the ITTF article on the new world rankings, and here’s more from Table Tennis Daily. Here are the new rankings for Men and Women. They are using for the first time a newly updated rating system. Some big changes!

On the men’s side, Xu Xin and Zhang Jike were both removed for inactivity, with Germans Ovtcharov and Boll moving up to #3 and #4. (But their next player is Filus Ruwen, who moved from #24 to #21.) China’s Ma Long and Fan Zhendong are still #1 and #2, but the next two Chinese are Lin Gaoyuang and Fang Bo at #7 and #10. Japan’s Noki Niwa, Jun Mizutani, and Kenta Matsudaira move up to #5, 6, and 9, with their 14-year-old whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto moving from #18 to #16. (He was #14 two months ago.) France’s Simon Gauzy went from #14 to #8. China is still dominant, but China vs. Germany or Japan could be interesting.

On the women’s side, reigning #1 Ding Ning was removed for lack of activity. The women ranked #2 to #7 last month all moved up one notch, with Zhu Yuling taking over the #1 spot for the first time. Only “big” jump among the top women was Cheng I-Ching of Chinese Taipei, who moved from #10 to #7. China had the top four women last month, but now have only the top three (Zhu Yuling, Chen Meng, and Liu Shiwen), with Japan taking the next three spots (Kasumi Ishikawa, Miu Hirano, Mima Ito). China is still dominant, but China vs. Japan could be interesting.

Lily Zhang, the only USA player in the top 100 (men or women) moved from #80 to #76. Excluding two players who left the rankings for lack of inactivity, all 28 ranked USA players went up in ranking! Here’s a listing.

USA Men
Kanak Jha: 228 => 204
Timothy Wang: 360 => 325
Feng Yijun: 371 => 332
Sharon Alguetti: 547 => 445
Adar Alguetti: 555 => 489
Victor Liu: 560 => 496
Kunal Chodri: 581 => 508
Nicholas Tio: 604 => 524
Nikhil Kumar: 674 => 572
Michael Tran: 731 => 590
Gal Alguetti: 866 => 711
Billy Xu Ding: 841 => 728
Nathan Hsu: 918 => 799
Jason Plog: 1046 => 913
Aditya Godhwani: 1093 => 960
Jack Wang: 611 => off list for lack of activity
 
USA Women
Lily Zhang: 80 => 76
Wu Yue: 128 => 119
Crystal Wang: 192 => 181
Amy Wang: 252 => 234
Angela Guan: 291 => 260
Erica Wu: 322 => 284
Rachel Sung: 479 => 322
Lavanya Maruthapandian: 396 => 452
Grace Yang: 485 => 421
Rachel Yang: 478 => 424
Ishana Deb: 562 => 485
Isabel Chu: 605 => 527
Joanna Sung: => 798 => 694
Tia Lynn Hsieh: 520 => off list for lack of activity

Belgium Open
Here’s the home page for the event in De Haan, Bel, Oct. 31 – Nov. 4.

Liu Guoliang: Genius of Table Tennis Tactics
Here’s the article and video (19:52) from EmRatThich.

ITTF Decides on Sanctions for Chinese Trio for China Open Forfeits
Here’s the video (3:39). Here’s the ITTF article on this that I linked to yesterday, and EmRatThich’s take on it, also linked to yesterday: Ridiculous Sanctions of ITTF to China Open Forfeits Scandal.

All Tied Up and Nowhere To Go
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

First Indian, Manav Thakkar to Top ITTF Junior Circuit Ranking
Here’s the article.

Ma Long Will Be Back on Nov. 21
Here’s the music video (48 sec) from EmRatThich.

2017 Butterfly Southeastern Open Final - Yichi Zhang vs Jishan Liang – Highlights
Here’s the video (10:24).

Alex and Jason Piech at Southeastern Open
Here’s the music video (2:32). Don’t they ever miss? Watch the reaction of their opponents as they smash winners. Don’t miss Alex’s “eyebrow” follow-through after his shot 16 seconds in.

Halloween Table Tennis Pictures
Here are four more from Table Tennis North, who had some sort of Halloween kids table tennis party. (Click on each picture to see the next one. Here are the non-Facebook versions: One, Two, Three, Four.) There were more in my blog yesterday.

Drawing of Cartoon Cats Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the image!

Non-Table Tennis – Science Fiction Sales and Publications
The last few days have been crazy in Larry’s science fiction world. Here’s a rundown of the past two months. (Galaxy’s Edge and Compelling Science Fiction are two of the major “pro” science fiction magazines.)

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November 1, 2017

Table Tennis Writing and Book Sales
When I’m not coaching table tennis, I’m writing about it, along with a little science fiction. (Here’s my Amazon page for both.) As of today, I have 1766 published articles, plus approximately 1600 table tennis blog entries, 34 science fiction blog entries, and 13 books.

Of the articles, they include 1562 on table tennis, 142 science fiction & fantasy, 33 on the Baltimore Orioles, and 29 others. Throw in the 1600 blog entries, and it’s about 3400 articles, plus the 13 books. That’s way too much time I’m not watching Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead!

The 13 books include 8 on table tennis and 6 science fiction & fantasy. Yep, 8 + 6 = 13. That’s because The Spirit of Pong counts for both. (Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions could count for both as well, since there’s a lot of table tennis in this science fiction novel. Here’s my blog on that.) My latest science fiction novel is When Parallel Lines Meet, which I co-wrote with Mike Resnick and Lezi Robyn. Here's my SF blog on that

Here’s a listing for book sales for October. I’ve combined print and kindle sales.

91 Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (66 in English, 25 in French)
15 Table Tennis Tips
06 More Table Tennis Tips
05 Table Tennis Tales and Techniques
03 The Spirit of Pong
03 Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook
Total: 123

As you can see Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers easily outsells the rest. There’s a simple reason for that – there really isn’t a comparable book. There are books with short chapters on tactics, and short manuals on tactics, but nothing that’s really feature length or in depth other than this. Why not get a copy for yourself and see what you think? (Note - the numbers above don't include books sold via Butterfly, Paddle Palace, and other table tennis stores, which buy them in large numbers every year or so.) 

I also sold over 26,000 copies of Table Tennis: Steps to Success, but that’s out of print, so the only sales of that are now resales, where I don’t any commission or even really know about. Someday, when I’m retired, I plan doing an update, retitling it “Table Tennis Fundamentals.” My other table tennis book is the online Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, which I wrote for USATT. Someday I also hope to update and expand this. 

I do have an idea for another table tennis book that’ll be different from any others – but I’d rather not blog about it and have roves of other table tennis writers steal the idea. Hopefully I’ll get to it this next year.

And speaking of Table Tennis books….

The Best Table Tennis Books
Here’s the article by British Coach Tom Lodziak. I like his listing!

Belgium Open
Here’s the home page for the event. It started yesterday in De Haan, Bel, Oct. 31 – Nov. 4.

ITTF Decides on Sanctions for Chinese Trio for China Open Forfeits
Here’s the ITTF article - $20,000 each for Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin.

Bundesliga Match at JOOLA North American Teams
Here’s the news item. Two premier teams from the German professional league will play at 1PM on Friday, Nov. 24 during the North American Teams at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort in National Harbor, Maryland.

New from EmRatThich
Here are three new articles/videos.

Reaction Multiball with Colors
Here’s the video (50 sec) from eBaTT.

Table Tennis Tidbits #12: Analyzing the German Open Final
Here’s the article and link to video (15:39) by Robert Ho.

Drop Shot Off Lob
Here’s the video (2:59) from PingSkills.

Halloween Jokes
Here’s the new podcast (33:22) from PingSkills. Topics include Jokes of the Week, On This Week, Tip of the Week, Drill of the Week, Tournament Wrap, Is this a Let, Changing to Long Pimples, Using Sidespin Flick, Shifting Grip from Forehand to Backhand

Did the Ball Hit the Edge?
Here’s the video and discussion of the last point of game five at the Women’s World Cup this past Sunday. Liu Shiwen leads 11-10 when Zhu Yuling apparently loops off – or does she? The umpires gave the point to Liu and so she goes up 3-2 in games. At first, the ball does appear off. But when viewed in slow motion, it becomes somewhat obvious it barely nicked the table, and so it should be deuce. Fortunately, it didn’t affect the match as Zhu wins the next two games to win the match.

Zhu Yuling Wins in Markham Ends Remarkable Record of Liu Shiwen in Dramatic Final
Here’s the ITTF article about the Women’s World Cup Final this past Sunday.

Rivals' Rise No Threat to China's Dominance: Jiang Jialiang
Here’s the article, featuring two-time World Men’s Singles Champion Jiang. How confident was he that his country is still the side to beat at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics? "I am 80 per cent sure," was his quickfire reply to The Straits Times.

“Hopes” say Goodbye to Fiji with the Future in Mind
Here’s the ITTF article, which features Dario Arce from Mexico.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Men's World Cup
Here’s the video (4:34).

Halloween Table Tennis Videos and Pictures
Here are the best Halloween table tennis costumes from yesterday.

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October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween! But I’m Off Today
It's Halloween, my new science fiction novel comes out today, and I've got an injured hip, shoulder, and knee. I'm taking the day off. See you tomorrow. (However, after a day of rest on Monday, the hip injury seems much better this morning. I don’t think I’ll have to miss any of my coaching on Wednesday. I have no coaching on Mondays and Tuesdays, my “weekend.”) But to tide you over, here are pictures and a video (34 sec) of Navin “Bionic Man” Kumar dressed as Randy Daytona from the movie “Balls of Fury.” (Here’s a direct link to the video. Here’s a non-Facebook picture.)

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October 30, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Play the Bomber: The Player Who Tries to Blast Every Shot.
[Note – I wrote this as a Tip of the Week in 2010, and put it up as a coaching article once, but somehow it never made its way up as a Tip – so here is an updated version.]

Weekend Coaching, Hip Hurts, and Halloween Costumes
Another busy weekend – and this time a PAINFUL one. (More on that below.) On Sunday, as usual, I had three consecutive 90-minute group sessions.

In the Beginning Junior Class, the day's feature was smashing. They'd spent a lot of time until now on forehands, as well as backhands, footwork, pushing, serving, and so on. So now we had what is probably the most fun session of all for them. Yes, the only thing more fun than smashing is first learning to smash. I went over the basics, did a demo, and then we went into our groups. (Assisting were John Hsu, Martin Jezo, and Greg Mascialino, who was subbing for Coach Wen.) But it wasn't all smashing – we also did side-to-side footwork (as always) and pushing, and then Brazilian Teams and Up-Down Tables at the end.

For the Talent Junior Program (our advanced juniors), we did lots of multiball and other drills. I was working with the younger kids, and we did a lot of shadow practice. We spent much of the session with each coach doing a different segment. For the first half, mine was feeding backspin side to side as they forehand looped. For the second half we worked on pushing.

In the Adult Training Session, after a number of stroking and footwork drills, the focus was on serve and attack, and we spent the last half hour on that.

Now about that PAIN thing. As I blogged last week, I somehow managed to injure my right hip last week. I'm not sure when or how, but when I got up Thursday morning just moving in general was agony. This was on top of the already injured right shoulder and ongoing right knee problems.  (Notice how all three injuries are on the right side? Yeah, I'm right-handed.) The irony is that with all these problems, to most players the first thing they notice is I wear an arm brace, but currently the arm problems are on break with the brace mostly preventive.

But the hip pain was incredible. I can barely move my leg to put on shoes – it's a painful process that just makes it worse. Even feeding multiball was difficult as there's this slight side-to-side weight shift when you feed, and doing that felt like a knife being jiggled about inside me – so I finally began feeding with all my weight on my left leg, which led to a very tired left leg and the threat of a left leg injury. I managed to get through Sunday, and now have two days off from coaching. Hopefully I won't have to miss any coaching days when I start up again on Wednesday, where I have four hours of coaching.

Right about now you are probably screaming at me, "See a doctor!" I might soon. But he'll just prescribe rest and icing. Plus I hate seeing doctors. However, at 57, things aren't as easy physically as they once were.

Meanwhile, I did a survey of our regular juniors on their Halloween costumes. Here's the final listing: Two Ninjas; Darth Vader; Luke Skywalker; Storm Trooper; a Hot Dog; Wizard, Transformer; Batman; Kai from the Lego Ninjago movie; the Queen of Hearts; and a Purple Skittle (part of an ensemble of Skittles). (Note – I'm giving out Snickers, Milky Way, and Skittles on Halloween. Meaning I'll likely have a large supply of leftovers to give out at the club next week.)

2017 Women's World Cup
Here's the home page, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video – the event finished yesterday. Congrats to World Cup Champ Zhu Yuling of China! Don't miss the Day 3 Daily Review (4:51)!

2017 ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It finished this past weekend in Fiji. Here’s the ITTF page with results, articles, pictures, and video.

China in North America ITTF Camp
Here's the article by Sid Naresh

How to Play Like Timo Boll (and beat the best player in the world)
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New Articles and Video from EmRatThich

Tactical Choooing?!? 5 Things to Consider...
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Welcome to the League – Learning Match Play
Here's the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Ma Long, Zhang Jike, and Timo Boll Biographies
Here's the Ma Long bio. Zhang and Boll's are linked on the right.

Melton TT Newsletter
Here's their November issue, with a number of interesting articles. Here's their archives of past newsletters.

Table Tennis Club in Wales to Combat Alzheimer's
Here's the funding page from the Cardiff City Community Table Tennis Club in Wales.

Point of the Day
Here's the video (33 sec) between world #1 Ding Ning (far side) and #3 Chen Meng, both of China.

Best of People are Awesome
Here's the video (2:31), but the table tennis is just the first 13 seconds as two players rally with five balls.

Non-Table Tennis - When Parallel Lines Meet (and other stories)
Here's my new science fiction blog, where I write about my new novel coming out tomorrow (When Parallel Lines Meet), two new short stories published, and my story "Captain Exasperation Woman Meets President Trump."

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October 27, 2017

Ten Miscellaneous Mostly Table Tennis Items

  • Lucy at the table with backspin. She just turned nine, and she just learned how to put enough backspin on her serve so that it comes back into the net. This is the most memorable moment in any kid's life, as we all know. Once she learned how to do it, she didn't want to stop.
  • Halloween. Lucy will be a witch for Halloween. I pointed out that in a fight between a witch and Superman, all she has to do is turn Superman into a frog and she wins. Another student, Aarya, is going to be Wonder Woman – and during our session we argued on and off about who would win in a fight, Wonder Woman or Superman. Aarya worked hard that session, so at the end I admitted that she was right, that Wonder Woman would win, and she was very happy. (But seriously, since Superman's only weaknesses are supposedly kryptonite and magic, why hasn't he ever been turned into a frog by some magical creature?) I may give a full report on costumes by our juniors next week. Meanwhile, if you stop by my house, I'm giving out your choice of Snickers, Milky Ways, or Skittles. I'll probably be giving out the leftovers all week at the club.
  • Injury update. My shoulder is still hurting – I still have to avoid smashing high balls or extending my arm for shots. Worse, I can't do my 50-foot serve, which I normally do several times a night. However, the breaking news is somehow, someway, I managed to injure my hip yesterday. It's painful to move around. However, it seemed to go away after a time while I was coaching – but this morning it feels like it's on fire.
  • Contagious injury? Matt, who I coached last night, had to stop five minutes early – his shoulder was bothering him. Did he catch it from me? Actually, he hurt it playing ultimate Frisbee the day before. (He's captain of his team.)
  • Double-Contact No-Return Serve. I picked up this "serve" from USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio, and have been using it on students for weeks. Basically, you toss the ball up, then sidespin it one way with your racket, then hit it again with the opposite sidespin. It's not legal, but it's fun watching opponents attempt to return this almost unreadable serve. I have several variations. Ask me to demonstrate it at the US Open.
  • Volunteering at the World Veterans. I'm a volunteer there – I'll be doing daily press coverage. Here's the info page. You'll get all or most of your expenses paid. The event takes place June 18-24, 2018, in Las Vegas. About 5000 players are expected. If you are age 40 or over, you should be there!
  • Early Deadline for US Open Ends Today. After today, the rates go up. Here's the info page. It's in Las Vegas, Dec. 17-22. I'll be there, attending meetings, coaching, and playing.
  • History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20. I finally managed to put all 28 chapters together and send them to Ryan, the USATT Webmaster. He still has to do some work on them, and then they'll publish them, one by one. There are a few rather large chapters that might be broken into two. Why not buy one of the volumes?
  • Or one of mine?
  • Non-Table Tennis – Running with the Dead. It's a dark fantasy I wrote that just went up at Astounding Outpost this morning. It’s the story of a dead high school kid – yeah, a zombie – who just wants to go to school and try out for the track team as a miler, and the rejection he faces from everyone, especially the “Mile Mafia,” the high school kids who rule the track team. (It’s basically a civil rights allegory.) Strangely they put my name at the end of the story instead of the start, as is the norm. I have another short story coming out on Nov. 1 at Galaxy's Edge, "The Nature of Swords" – in addition to my current story there, "Theater of Death." More importantly, my science fiction novel, "When Parallel Lines Meet," which I co-wrote with two others, comes out Oct. 31. (I get paid for each of these. But table tennis still primarily pays the bills.)

2017 Women's World Cup
Here's the info page – follow the action! The event starts today in Markham, Canada, Oct. 27-29. Here's the player listing. Lily Zhang (world #80) is representing USA. In the preliminary RR she'll be playing Hyowon Suh (KOR, world #27) and Mo Zhang (CAN, world #59). The top eight seeds are seeded out of the preliminaries.

2017 ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It’s being held right now in Suva, Fiji, Oct. 21-29. Here’s the ITTF page with results, articles, pictures, and video. Team North American (USA and CAN) just got the silver in Cadet Girls, losing to Team Asia in the final, 0-3. Here's the article, Asia Doubles Down on Gold. They are now playing singles and doubles. USA players are Nikhil Kumar, Michael Tran, Rachel Sung, and Amy Wang. 

Coaching Videos from PingSkills
Here are two new ones.

How Table Tennis Saved My Life
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "Pulling out a knife on another person is one memory I wish to forget."

Gionis Panagiotis​: A Modern Defender in Table Tennis​
Here's the video (5:08) about the 37-year-old Greek star and world #32. He was #27 last month. Unfortunately, in the new ITTF ranking interface that just went up, there doesn't seem to be a way anymore of finding a player's highest ranking ever, just his current one and last months. I'm not happy about this.)

Most Viral Table Tennis Rallies from the Internet World!
Here's the video (6:11).

Watch a PGA Tour Rookie Take Down Table Tennis Legend Matt Kuchar
Here's the article and video (42 sec) from Golf Digest as he loses to PGA Tour rookie, Zecheng "Marty" Dou. However, I'm pretty sure neither of them would win against Baltimore Orioles shortstop JJ Hardy, who I've coached at my club, where he beat players over 1800 and made it to deuce one game against a very surprised 2450 Nathan Hsu. He's around 1850-1900 level.

Aussie Pair Bounce Ping Pong Balls Off Walls, Tables and Kitchen Containers for Trick-Shot Game
Here's the article with lots of pictures.

Your Lies Bounce Off Me Like Ping-Pong Balls
Here's the repeating gif image of Chris Farley!

The Animated Ping-Pong Song
Here's the video (3:34), with great animation! (This is from 2008, but I'm not sure if I've ever linked to it.) 

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October 26, 2017

A Song of Celluloid and Plastic
For many weeks now I've been coaching exclusively with Butterfly plastic training balls. Most players I work with still prefer celluloid, but accept plastic balls since they have no choice – it's what's used in nearly every tournament and league. In the MDTTC Tuesday and Friday night leagues they only made the final switch to plastic about a month or so ago. (Until then it had been optional, and most had still preferred celluloid.)

Yesterday I went in to coach. (I had four scheduled, but one called in sick, so only three.) At the same time I was coaching we were running our afterschool program with a bunch of kids, and they, and other coaches doing private coaching, were using all of the plastic training balls. There was only a basket of celluloid balls. Since my students had mostly been lamenting their not being able to use the preferred celluloid, I thought, what the heck, and grabbed that basket rather than check if we had more plastic ones in storage.

Instant problem. My first student, Todd, had recently gone over 1500 in league ratings, which closely match USATT tournament ratings. But when they switched over to plastic, he had trouble adjusting at first and immediately dropped 150 points. He is now working himself back up, and felt like he was finally used to the plastic balls. So when I brought over the celluloid balls, he was rightfully unhappy. "I just got used to the plastic balls!" he said. We decided to stick with the celluloid balls. They do play similar to the Nittaku Premium plastic balls he'll be using at the Open in December, though quite different from the plastic ball used in the league and in the upcoming North American Teams during Thanksgiving Break. These days we all need to be able to adjust back and forth.

But he had a point. I'm going to make sure to use only plastic training balls for coaching from here on, except perhaps with beginners. I'll go in a little early today to make sure to get them – if necessary, going to the back room where I believe we have more plastic training balls stored.

Shoulder Update
My shoulder has not gotten better. While I've done a reasonably good job of avoiding anything that hurts it, about once every hour while coaching I seem to strain it. I'm avoiding stretching out to my wide forehand to block, hit, or loop, and certain serves that aggravate it. I've also learned not to reach out to pick up balls from the table with my playing arm – it's surprising how many times I've strained the arm doing that. But yesterday I hit a new low as the shoulder began to bother me when I fed multiball backspin – and that I NEED to do. I had to stop doing it during a multiball segment as my shoulder began screaming at me. If it doesn't get better soon I might have to take a week off. We'll see. (Meanwhile, when I got up this morning my hip was killing me.)

Bronze Medallists Found in Fiji
Here's the ITTF article that features Team North America getting the bronze in Cadet Boys' Teams at the ITTF World Cadet Challenge. North American Girls are in the final of Cadet Girls' Teams against Team Asia. Next up: Team Finals, and then Singles and Doubles.

Training with Ma Long-Lin Gaoyan, Part 1 (World Cup 2017)
Here's the video (19:46) from BelgiumTV.

Subtle Variations: Variations at 100 Balls/Min
Here's the article and video (36 sec) from Samson Dubina.

Loop It Like Larcombe
Here's the article from Epic Table Tennis, which features Ben Larcombe from Expert Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach Show #294: Ma Long's Birthday
Here's the podcast (30:36). Topics covered include On This Week; Joke of the Week; Tip of the Week; Drill of the Week; Tournament Wrap; Improving Topspin Against Backspin; Spin on Fast Shots; and Slow and Fast Footwork.

Looping Against HEAVY Backspins (from a chopper) with Chinese National Player - Sun Jianfei
Here's the video (4:02).

Loops For Those Who Don’t Loop
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Competitive Brain Food: Milwaukee Teens Passionate about Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (2:50) from FOX6 that features Austin Cherian, Emma Canga, and Milwaukee TTC president Linda Leaf.

The Best 5 Table Tennis Robots of 2017
Here's the article from PongBoss. (I normally avoid equipment review articles, but I'll allow this one on robots.)

Table Tennis Legend Michael Maze is Back!
Here's the video (20 sec).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov: My Little Princess
Here's the video (24 sec) as Dimitrij's baby daughter hits 16 forehands in a row. Ding Ning, you are in serious trouble.

Circling Table
Here's the video (37 sec) – no, not players circling a table, a circling table!

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October 25, 2017

Sometimes English Just Doesn’t Have the Word: Ruminating on the Word "Mócā"
Recently during one of our advanced junior training sessions, I kept hearing some of the other coaches say something like “Mocha.” We were feeding backspin so the kids could work on looping, and over and over I heard this “Mocha.” I finally asked what they were saying. The word was “mócā.” In Chinese, that’s 摩擦. You can get the pronunciation here. (Click on “say it.”) The definition is roughly “to rub, to create friction.” However, I'm told there isn't really an accurate English description. 

When I want a player to create more spin, I might say, “More spin!” or “Graze the ball!” But saying “More spin!” really talks about the result, not how to do so, which is what we want. Saying “Graze the ball!” is better, and may work when coaching spinny serves, but for looping is not as accurate unless you are teaching very slow, spinny loops, where you truly graze the ball. But for most looping, you sink the ball more into the sponge, and so grazing isn’t quite accurate.

The Chinese “mócā” seems more accurate, as here the key is to rub the ball, which more accurately describes a looping contact. Perhaps I should tell students to “Rub the ball!”? Perhaps, but somehow in English that doesn’t come off as well, though I might try it. Perhaps “Rub the ball, create friction!”? That’s a bit wordy, but more accurately reflects what’s wanted – and is basically the definition of “mócā.”

Since a large percentage of players at our club are Chinese, perhaps I should just start saying “mócā!”? The non-Chinese will quickly learn what it means. And then I can join the Chinese coaches with their chorus of “mócā!” But I’m told I still don’t pronounce it right, and my saying it will likely just elicit giggles from the Chinese kids and rolled eyes from the Chinese adults. Alas.

USATT Announces First “Youth” Ambassador Council Members
Here’s the USATT news item.

2017 ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It’s being held right now in Suva, Fija, Oct. 21-29. Here’s the ITTF page with results, articles, pictures, and video. USA players are Nikhil Kumar, Michael Tran, Rachel Sung, and Amy Wang. 

China Accused of Mass Doping
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan, which also touches on other scandals, such as falsifying ages.

Shadow Training
Here’s the video (2:41).

Should You Use Pips??
Here’s the video (4:55) by Keenan Southall. “Short answer: No.”

Simon Gauzy Hits Ridiculous Wiggle Shot at the World Cup 2017
Here’s the video (40 sec) as the world #13 from France pulls it off against Jeong Sangeun (#36 from South Korea).

Eye Pong?
Here’s the repeating gif image! It’s hypnotic – watch it bounce up, and down, up, and down, up, and down….

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October 24, 2017

Coaching, Injuries, Volume 20, and All That Pushing in Class
I spent much of last week with a cold, but was mostly over it by the weekend. Meanwhile, the right knee I injured way back in July at the Nationals, and re-injured several times since, is about 70% okay now, though I still wear a knee brace just in case. The back is fine - it's been a year or so since that's been a problem. And my arm is okay, though I also still wear an arm brace. So I'm the peak of health, right?

Except for the dumb moment last Thursday (first day back while still fighting the cold) when I found a celluloid ball mixed with the plastic training balls, and tried to backspin smack it all the way across the club to a court where they were being used. Ow!!! I tore my shoulder up doing so. It's the same shoulder injury I've had in the past, but I think it's been okay for something like two years. So it was due. 

So since Thursday I've haven't been able to really extend my arm, whether going to my wide forehand to loop or even on some forehand pendulum serves. I can’t smash high balls. When students loop to my wide forehand I can't reach out to block - I have to completely step over. In theory, I should be able to do that, but in reality, when someone loops aggressively to the wide forehand, you have to be able to reach out to cut it off to block, and if I do that now it's another Ow!!! Anyway, I'll survive if I manage to rest it. On Saturday while coaching I strained it three times - twice inadvertently reaching for balls to my wide forehand, and once, while feeding multiball, just reaching for a loose ball on the table. 

Anyway, I still managed to make all my sessions. Fortunately, on weekends a lot of the coaching is group sessions, where at most I'm feeding multiball. As long as I don't reach for those loose balls, I should be okay. Unfortunately, it's hard to ignore 41 years of conditioning to reach for balls that need to be reached for. 

On Sunday we had a big party at MDTTC for the Talent Development Program, which is our top junior players, ages 7 to 13. Over 20 kids attended, along with parents and coaches. Lots of great Chinese food was delivered to the club in a huge cafeteria-style banquet. I pigged out on Sesame Beef. They ordered a LOT of food, and I was able to take a large supply of the Sesame Beef home, and had it for lunch and dinner yesterday, and still have enough to do the same today. I'm lucky - when I like something, I can eat it over and Over and OVER!!!

Afterwards, the kids spent an hour divided into two groups, with the younger kids having a long, non-stop ping-pong ball fight, while the older ones played Jungle Pong. This is a favorite of the kids, who often play this non-stop on break. You get a group together, and number themselves in order, so each player knows who he goes after. Then player 1 serves. Player 2 (and all subsequent players) have to let the ball come off the table and bounce on the floor, then he hits it back on the table, on either side, and the next player does the same. When a player fails to make a return, he’s out. This continues until you have a champion. There are a lot of tactics - sometimes they loop aggressively off the floor, other times they smash it into the net so it rebounds backwards. In all cases they are trying to get it to bounce on the floor twice before the next player can get to it. The kids are really good at this and the rallies surprisingly long.

Now comes the big problem - all that pushing and shoving in class. Okay, there was no shoving, but lots of pushing as I introduced our Beginning Class on Sunday afternoon to pushing. New players are fascinated by spin, especially backspin. The hardest part is sometimes convincing them to push low, since they discover if they push high, they can get the ball to bounce backwards!

Yesterday's big project was getting all 28 chapters of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20 (!) ready for online publication by USATT. That meant breaking the original PDF into 28 pieces, and then doing a series of filters to get them so each chapter is under 10MB. Alas, I've run into technical problems with four chapters, but I'm working on it. 

Chinese National Team Accused of Doping?
Here’s the article by EmRatThich. He has serveral sources for it. All I can say is Wow! “Chinese doctor Xue Yinxian (former doctor for the Chinese Olympic team) has revealed 2 days ago to German Media: ‘If you refused to dope, you had to leave.’” This could be a huge story - since doping is illegal, wouldn't that mean anyone caught doping would have to give up, for example, their Olympic medals, World Championships titles, etc.?

A Busy Month for US Players Internationally
Here’s the article by Bruce Liu.

2017 ITTF World Cadet Challenge
It’s being held right now in Suva, Fija, Oct. 21-29. Here’s the ITTF page with results, articles, pictures, and video. USA players are Nikhil Kumar, Michael Tran, Rachel Sung, and Amy Wang. Here’s an article, “Early upset; North America on the rise,” featuring Rachel and Amy.

Butterfly Southeast Open
The 4-star event was held this past weekend at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina. Below are some links. The articles are all by Barbara Wei.

Review Day Three: German Stars Impress on Final Day in Liège
Here’s the ITTF article and video (4:35).

Timo Boll Swaps Hands Against Ma Long
Here’s the video (39 sec) as he does this in the semifinals of the Men’s World Cup this past weekend, on the way to winning, 12-10 in the seventh. Here’s another video, from 2013. Here are some related videos.  

Insane Table Tennis Point!
Here’s the video (34 sec), with Keenan Southall against the top seed on the far side, Tung Pham.

2017 World Series: LA Dodgers, Jose Altuve, and Ping-Pong
Here’s the article and video (2:52) by Shashin Shodhan.

Pong Cupcakes
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) The picture was sent to USATT Hall of Famer Dell Sweeris for his birthday, which is today.

Crazy Ping-Pong Drawing
Here it is! (It’s actually on sale here.)

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October 23, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Sixteen Reasons Players Don’t Improve.

Liebherr Men’s World Cup
It was held this past weekend in Liege, Belgium. As usual in table tennis, one country dominated, with another all- China German Final – wait a minute, what happened there!!! Yes, it was Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Timo Boll in the all-German final. So what happened to the Chinese? To be concise, they were Timoed. Ovtcharov won the final over Boll, but he really should share the prize as it was Timo who took out the Chinese. But only barely.

First, note that China was handicapped because at the World Cup, there’s a limit of two players per country, and so their great depth is not rewarded there. Instead of their usual lineup of world #1 Ma Long, world #2 Fan Zhendong, world #3 Xu Xin, world #6 Zhang Jike, and world #9 Lin Gaoyuan (not to mention world #12 Fang Bo and #17 Yan An), they sent only Ma and Lin. (Lin qualified by winning the Asian Cup.) These days, it’s obvious that Ma Long and Fan Zhendong are the two best in the world, and rarely lose to other players. Xu, their #3, is a bit shakier, as is Zhang these days – both occasionally lose to non-Chinese players, which is a no-no for the modern Chinese team. So perhaps China is looking to develop another big star with Lin? He has the game to do so. 

However, at the last Worlds, Lin was up 10-5 match point against teammate Xu and lost. This time? In the quarters, against Timo, he was up 10-4 match point in the seventh against Timo Boll . . . and lost. (He had another match point at 11-10. See link to the video below. Here’s the ITTF article.)

But nobody can beat Ma Long, right? And he did lead 3-1 in games against Timo in the semifinals, and then he too was Timoed, 12-10 in the seventh. (Here’s the ITTF article.)

And so the final was world #4 Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. world #5 Timo Boll, two Germans who practice regularly against each other. After all his heroics, you’d think Timo should win, but he was perhaps a bit exhausted from his two deuce in the seventh matches, and remember – this guy is 36, which is really old in table tennis. (Here’s the ITTF article.) And yet, this oldster knocked out the two Chinese, made the final of the World Cup, and after being #1 in the world back in 2002-2003, he’s climbed his way back to #5 – and after this World Cup, perhaps higher.

So . . . how did this happen to the invincible Chinese? At my club last night there was discussion of this, and there seems a universal belief that it’s very simple. Liu Guoliang was arguably the most successfully Chinese coach of all time, with China dominated perhaps more than ever in their history during his years as head coach. And then, for apparently political reasons, with the belief that China would dominate regardless, he was “promoted” out of his coaching position to become one of something like 17 vice presidents for the China Table Tennis Association. More than anyone else, he was the one who seemed to keep the Chinese not just on top, but dominating on top, but with his removal, there are now cracks developing. Or perhaps Ma was just recovering from injuries or having trouble adjusting to the ball? If so, why would he have been sent, instead of Fan Zhendong? (See his interview below.)

So what should or will the Chinese do with Lin? If they are smart, they will focus on sports psychology. If they do, Lin could develop to the same level as Ma Long and Fan Zhendong. However, it’s also likely that they will decide he’s too risky, and while he’ll stay on the Chinese team, he won’t be one of their “Big Guns.” At the World Championships, you play three players in the team event, and for the foreseeable future, Ma and Fan hold two of those spots. But there’s a huge battle for the third spot. Zhang Jike used to have a lock on one of the top three sports, but no more as Xu Xin has mostly passed him – but those two and Lin are the main competitors for that third spot. (Fang Bo is another possibility, if he raises his level just a bit.)

At the next Worlds, for the first time in a while, the Men’s Team competition might get interesting. China will face a Germany sending up their world #4 and #5 stars, along with one of Ruwen Filus (world #24), Bastian Steger (#29) or Ricardo Walther (#43). They will also face a Japan with Jun Mizutani (#7), Noki Niwa (#8), Kenta Matsudaira (#11), and of course the up-and-coming superstar, Tomokazu Harimoto, already world #18 at age 14 (and #13 in last month’s rankings). Maybe, just maybe, China might want to bring Liu Guoliang and begin the difficult task of once again going from best to dominating best?

Here are some links.

Between Points - Learn about the most under-developed part of table tennis
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Improve Your Table Tennis Game in One Month
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty. This actually came out last week, while I was sick, and I somehow missed it.

Best Rubbers and Blades for Advanced Players
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Fifteen Unwritten Rules of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by EmRatThich – with three more added “with your comments,” so there are (at this writing) actually 18.

Table Tennis Tidbits #11
Here’s the article and video (54:50) by Robert Ho.

Backhand Counter Technique
Here’s the video (1:53) from ReSpin Table Tennis. More coaching videos are linked on the right.

Training with Kanak Jha and David Powell at the World Cup
Here’s the video (1:50).

Greatest Table Tennis Shot Ever – Revisited with Fire!
Remember this video (54) second of that crazy, incredible behind-the-back countersmash made by Kit Jeerapaet against “Bogeyhunter” (Sutanit Tangyingyong)? Here’s Bogeyhunter’s fiery revenge!

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