Larry Hodges's blog

March 21, 2018

It's Snowing
Yes, it's snowing - we're supposed to get 5-8 inches here in Maryland. But that barely affects us, an indoor sport, correct? Well, obviously it does affect us as players have to get to the club before they can take part in the world's greatest indoor sport. We had to cancel our Tuesday night league last night due to weather.

Except why do we insist on believing table tennis is an indoor sport? Do you really need walls around you to play? I once did an outdoor exhibition with Scott Preiss in the rain, with the wind blowing. (Okay, we looked like amateurs.)

Table tennis can be played anywhere. Don't believe it?

10 Fundamental Skills for Modern Table Tennis
Here's the article from Ping Sunday by EmRatThich. Here's the list they cover:

  1. Forehand drive technique
  2. Backhand topspin close to the table
  3. Forehand push and backhand push
  4. Forehand flick
  5. Backhand flick
  6. Backhand loop the underspin ball
  7. Forehand attack the semi-long ball
  8. Learn Forehand fast serve
  9. Forehand pendulum serve
  10. Backhand sidespin serve

Tomorrow Table Tennis
Here are two coaching videos.

2018 German Open Highlights: Kanak Jha vs Cristian Pletea
Here's the video (2:30) of USA's Kanak in the round of 32 of Under 21.

Nicholas Tio Thrives Under Trial and Rises to Face World Stage Again
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Spin & Smash Table Tennis & Ping Pong Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Glen Head Table Tennis Center and Chess Academy
Here's their grand opening notice for April 6 in Glen Head, NY. Though it's only a part-time club, I like the combining of chess and table tennis - after all, the latter is often called "chess at light speed." Or should we call chess "table tennis at molasses speed"?

Panda Pong Products
Here's the page.

Afghanistan vs. Pakistan Pong
Here's the cartoon!

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March 20, 2018

Doctors Over 2000
At the 1995 U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas, a player suffered a massive heart attack while playing. I was standing nearby when it happened, and was amazed at the response. Within minutes, he was surrounded by seven doctors and two nurses, all of them players or attendees at the Nationals. The patient survived. So now you know you are safe if you have a medical emergency at a big tournament! Here is a list of the doctors and nurses who saved the player:

  • Dr. Mark Schaffner
  • Dr. Robert Ho
  • Dr. Jiing Wang
  • Dr. Donald Geeze
  • Dr. Grady Gordon
  • Dr. Richard Poole
  • Dr. Michael Scott
  • Nurse Grace Matossian
  • Nurse Mary An Geeze

So there are a lot of doctors who play table tennis. But how many have reached a high level of play, such as over 2000? I'm going to include anyone who is a medical professional referred to as "Dr." (So this includes dentists, and other titles, such as a DPM (Doctor of Podiatric Medicine.) I put together a preliminary list of all I could think of, and then asked the question on Facebook on Saturday, and here is the alphabetical list I came up with, with a few notes on some of them. I'm sure there are more, so feel free to post any I missed in comments, and I'll add them to the list. I'm guessing there are a number of former junior stars who went on to be doctors, such as the three listed below from my club (Chris Ko, Vivian Lee, Jessica Shen). I know of other former junior players who went on to become doctors, but they didn't achieve a 2000 rating.

  • Tommy An - former junior star.
  • Donald Geeze - one of the doctors in the story above.
  • Grady Gordon (RIP) - one of the doctors in the story above.
  • Steve Horowitz - famed cardiologist, here's his bio.
  • Dennis Hwang - member of the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in the late 1980s, graduated as class valedictorian while training three hours/day. Now a pulmonologist.
  • Chris Ko - former junior star from Maryland Table Tennis Center, author of the book The Ping Pong Diet.
  • Mike Lardon - sports psychologist and former junior star from the late 1970s, made the finals of Under 18 at the Nationals, wrote the book, Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life.
  • Tuan Le - has been rated as high as 2434, very active in California tournaments.
  • Vivian Lee - former junior star from Maryland Table Tennis Center.
  • Rick Mueller - star dentist and chopper.
  • Gary Osmanoff - star dentist.
  • Jessica Shen - former junior star from Maryland Table Tennis Center, has her offices right down the street from my house.
  • De Tran - I believe the only doctor to also have made the U.S. National Team, he has been rated as high as 2573, making him the highest rated on this list.
  • Marius Wechsler - Pediatrics expert who has been rated as high as 2182.
  • Norman Yeh - former pips-out penhold junior star.

USATT Hall of Fame
I adapted my blog last Friday on the USATT Hall of Fame into this USATT news item, which they just published.

2018 US Youth National Ranking Tournament
Here's the article by USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio, on the event to be held Sept. 27-30 in Sacramento, CA.

Defenders – Deceive or Die
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Cary Cup – Unique for Seventeen Years
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Wilmington Table Tennis’ Southeastern Sportsman of the Decade
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 20
Here’s chapter 20 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 20 covers "Jan/Feb 1994 - Off Court Views."

Interview with Indian Star Sathiyan Gnanasekaran
Here's the interview with the world #49.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - February 2018
Here's the video (23:25).

Moose Playing Table Tennis Phone Case
Here it is!

The Table Tennis of Ageha
Here's the Manga comic! (It says "To be continued" at the end, but I can't find the next segment.)

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March 19, 2018

Tip of the Week
Your Goal Should Normally Be to Win Playing the Style You Are Developing.

Serving Backspin, Tim's Latest History Book, the Flu, and an Irritating Writing Project
Let's go in order here!

  • Serving backspin. Too many of our local kids don't really have heavy backspin serves. So I'm starting to take it on as a project to solve this problem. Yesterday I gave a short lecture/clinic to eight of them, demonstrating this, and worked with them on it. The key thing is that some have developed the habit of contacting the ball in a certain way, rather than on trying to graze the ball more and more finely for maximum spin. Once they are getting decent backspin, I'm going to introduce them to the backspin game, and then they'll all go crazy competing at it, and soon they'll all be able to serve heavy backspin. What is the backspin game? Everyone gets five or ten serves. If you serve with enough backspin that the ball comes back into the net, you get one point. If it bounces back over the net cleanly on once bounce, you get three points! (Yes, this means serving high on purpose, but that's fine since they'll be learning to put heavy backspin on the ball, and it's easier at first doing it this way.) If you serve so the ball comes back over the net but takes more than one bounce, or nicks the net in either direction, it's two points.
  • History of U.S. Table Tennis: Volume 21. A proof copy would already be in Tim's hands if not for an irritating mistake. I did all the online setup, and the files were approved, and I was about to order a proof copy sent to Tim - but the cost was astronomical, five times the normal rate! I contacted createspace.com, and they identified the problem - unlike all 20 previous volumes, while setting up the interior for this volume I had neglected to uncheck the default "full color," and check "black and white," so the software thought the entire interior of the 438 page book was full color! (It's all black and white.) It also turns out that the ISBN number is linked to the type of interior, and once set, cannot be changed. After going back and forth with them on this a few times, I finally did a run-around. I recreated the volume again as a new book. The software wouldn't let me use the same title, so I changed the title from "History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 21" to "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 21." Notice the difference? Yes, I inserted a comma. It won't affect anything as the title on the cover stays the same. Anyway, I resent the same files for the "new" book, and should be able to send a proof copy to Tim later today.
  • Flu. It's hard to believe, but for the third time this season I came down with the flu. I felt it coming on all day on Thursday (the day Tim left), and it came on full throttle on Friday. That night my temperature hit 102.6. If it had reached 103, I might have gone to the hospital. By Saturday, it was back to around 100, and by Sunday morning the temperature is gone - but I still feel like I just boxed Mike Tyson all weekend. (And I did all the work above on Tim's book while sick.)
  • Irritating writing project. There's a certain person, who shall remain nameless, who has wasted more time with USATT this past year than just about anyone this past decade. The USATT Board of Directors has had numerous discussions about dealing with this person, who used to have several USATT positions, but no more. Over the past year he has sent out an enormous number of long, meandering emails, many of them full of accusations. Because he was in a USATT position, I've spent an enormous amount of time researching his many claims, and invariably found them groundless, with many blatantly false claims. In October I finally told him I was done responding to his emails. He got involved in still another controversy in December, and is now making up things about me and others in his latest complaints to the USATT Ethics and Grievance Committee, the ITTF, and seemingly everybody else in USATT. (Some people should not be allowed behind a keyboard.) Sadly, I have to respond. I don't know if it's sad or great that the claims about me are so easily refuted - he claims I wrote things in emails to him that I didn't write, and I have the emails to prove it. But once again I have to waste time on this person, as do others. I've spent over 75 hours on his issues, and it will break 80 very soon, time that would have been better spent, say, cutting my nails. In fact, the USATT Board of Directors has likely been forced to spend more time this past year on this one individual than on the other 8000 or so members combined - and that has to stop. I will likely write more about this after his latest complaints are officially dealt with by the Ethics and Grievance Committee and the ITTF. It's sometimes hard to stay enthusiastic about USATT work when so much of that work is wasted time putting out fires by this person. Of all the votes I've been involved with on the USATT Board, the only ones I regret are the ones that put this person in a position to do all this time-wasting damage. I was warned about him repeatedly, but I just didn't believe it as until recent times I was seemingly friends with this person and had many intelligent conversations with him in person - but once he starts sending emails, he's a different person. Alas. 

USATT Actions
The actions of the March 12 USATT Teleconference are now online. Congrats to Dan Reynolds, the new chair of the Ethics and Grievance Committee!!!

Polish Open
Here's the home page for the Polish Open, held this past weekend in Spala, POL - check out the results, news items, pictures, and video!

How to Spin the Ball Like a Pro
Here's the article from Ping Pong Passion.

Training With Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Anton Kallberg @ Dusseldorf Table Tennis
Here's the video (18:06) from Arnaud Scheen.

You Don't Have to Be a Superstar to Make Great Shots
Here's the video (3:08) of the Top Ten Rallies by Quinn Baker (rated 1916, recently 1964).

Zheng Pu Jumping Barriers
Here's the video (10 sec) - a little physical training anyone? (He's rated 2618.)

Ping-Pong for Charity
Here are the latest pictures and videos.

A Perfect Performance and Lucky Socks
Here's the ITTF article on the Oceania Championships.

Timo Boll, Age 4 and Now
Here's the video (1:44).

Serving Down the Line

Chop-Lob Receive
Here's the video (6 sec) of the ultimate in "short receive," by Adam Bobrow (far side). I do this regularly with my students!

JENGA Ping Pong Trick Shots I Pongfinity
Here's the video (2:58)!

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March 16, 2018

USATT Hall of Fame
Every major sport has a Hall of Fame where fans can read about their favorite stars and learn about others. The USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame was created in 1979 - after a "false start" in 1966 (read about this in the History of the Hall of Fame). Steve Isaacson was the primary mover in its creation. The Hall honors the greatest table tennis players, officials, and contributors since USATT (then USTTA) was formed in 1933.

Now there are an even 150 members - 97 players and 53 officials/contributors. (Note that there were no inductions in 2016, the year USATT switched the Nationals from December to July.) Each year potential inductees are Nominated, and then the Hall of Fame Committee (President Sean O'Neill, Tim Boggan, Dean Johnson, Patty Martinez, Scott Gordon, Mal Anderson, Dick Hicks, Donna Sakai, and Yvonne Kronlage) adds their own choices, and then they vote. Anyone who gets a 2/3 majority is inducted.  

There is an Annual Dinner at the USA Nationals in July where that year's inductees are inducted, with a roughly 15-minute presentation on each of them, followed by an acceptance speech. There is also an annual Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. About a hundred people attend the dinner each year - if you are at the Nationals, you don't want to miss this! You'll get to hobnob with both the current and past inductees who attend. (Disclosure - I'm a 2003 inductee.) I'll be there - stop by and say hello!

Some of the regular attendees include Sean O'Neill, Dan Seemiller, Insook Bhushan & Shekar Bhushan, Dave & Donna Sakai, Dell & Connie Sweeris, Lily Yip, Patty Martinez, Tim Boggan, Jack Howard, Houshang Bozorgzadeh, Dick Hicks, Barbara Kaminsky, Yvonne Kronlage, Scott Gordon, Mal Anderson, Dean Johnson, Dick Evans, Si Wasserman, Judy Hoarfrost and Jim McQueen, with apologies to those left out.  

Want to help out? Here's the Donation page! There are also In Memoriam and Retrospectives pages.

One of my little pet projects was to get all the Hall of Fame programs online - all 34 of them, starting in 1979. I ran into difficulties as I couldn't locate the one from 1989, but Donna Sakai found one in her files and sent it to me. I scanned all of them (except for the last eight, which I had created and had the PDFs), fixed them up, and sent them to Sean O'Neill (who chairs the Hall of Fame Committee), and he put them all online. I also compiled a year-by-year listing of inductees - all we had was an alphabetical one. So here they are!

Polish Open
Here's the home page for the Polish Open, in Spala, POL, March 13-17.

Kanak Jha Lights the Path for Future US Success
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

U Serves / V Serves
Here's the video (3:02) from Samson Dubina. This is how I teach deception as well, though I've never used the "U" and "V" phrases - I may steal them.

The Most Important Shot in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Slowmotion Analysis - Xu Xin VS Harimoto Tomokazu - 2017 WTTC
Here's the video (3:21).

Defender Drill with Push and Chop
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

New from Pro Table Tennis

2018 Butterfly Canada Cup Finals: Setting Up for Future Success
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

WAB Club Feature: California Table Tennis
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Ask a Butterfly Pro Anything - Natalia Partyka
Here's the interview.  Poland’s Natalia Partyka holds an incredible record of winning 4 consecutive Paralympic Table Tennis Gold Medals at 4 separate Paralympic games.

Jump Rope Training
It's one of the best ways to train for table tennis. Here are two examples.

Fluxx Ball
Here's the video (1:38), though might skip ahead to 49 sec in when they show the actual game. It's sold at Toys R Us as "Wobb Ball" - I just ordered one. (Better hurry, Toys R Us is closing!)

Spin Serve Cup Basketball
Here's the video (30 sec)!

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March 15, 2018

A Monstrous Week
Wow . . . the sheer amount of stuff that's gone on this week is beyond mindboggling. Here's a rundown.

  • Power Outage. Remember the planned power outage I wrote about that was supposed to happen on Wednesday, 7AM - 5PM? Rather than lose a day, I was up at 6AM, packed the computer, monitor, printer/scanner, and lots of other supplies, and Tim and I left to go to the club (MDTTC) to work in the back room there. I got everything set up there by 8AM, and we were set to go to work. Then we received an email at 8:07AM that due to freezing temperatures - 32 even - they were postponing the outage. (Don't they read weather reports?) So I packed everything up again and went back home. Roughly speaking, from 6:30-9:30AM all we did was pack up things, move them, and set them up again. One worrisome item - while setting up at the club, I plugged in a power cord, and then tossed the cord under a table so I could connect it to the computer. As I tossed it, I felt a sharp pang in my shoulder. Hopefully I didn't hurt it much. I have to be very careful with that arm.
  • History of Table Tennis: Volume 21. We really had hoped to finalize it yesterday, but there are lots and lots of complications. We finished the actual pages yesterday - 438 pages, 1677 graphics, covering 1994-1995. However, there are lots and lots of corrections - Tim goes over the pages with a magnifying glass - that's literally true, he really uses one - and on nearly every page finds something he wants changed. So I'm constantly changing and fixing up photos in Photoshop. Plus, Tim thinks of Photoshop as a word processor, so often I'm zooming in and doing graphical editing of text, where I'm literally copying and pasting letters or words to fix the text. (As I've noted before, the books are literally cut & pasted together, with Tim creating pages that Mal Anderson then scans, and then we fix them up - but each page is just one big graphic.)
         Anyway, we didn't finish yesterday, but we're hoping to finish today, hopefully by noon, though I suspect it'll take longer. (We've been working roughly 7AM-5PM since Sunday, March 4, and I've worked on it late into the night a few times.) After that's done I still have several hours of pre-press work to do to get the files ready for publication. (Copies should be available in a few weeks.) Meanwhile, why not buy a copy from Volumes 1-20?
  • Player in Hospital. One of our local players came down violently sick with internal bleeding. I was around when it happened, so guess who called 9-1-1, and spent four hours at the hospital with him? He's in stable condition now. Sorry, I'm not at liberty to divulge more. But there were a number of complications here, and we also lost a lot of work time.
  • Plumbing, Fence, Windows, and Car Door. I own a townhouse and rent out the first two floors to local players and coaches. One of the toilets stopped up, and it was a mess. I ended up paying $160 yesterday to get it fixed. Meanwhile, the front gate broke, and I also spent $166 yesterday getting it repaired. Also meanwhile, two windows in my townhouse have broken sidings (the parts that allow the window to move up and down), and the estimate I got for repairing each was . . . wait for it . . . here goes . . . $650!!! That's EACH - so $1300!!! I said no thanks, and will search around for more affordable window repair after Tim leaves. And then someone opened my car door too hard yesterday and broke the door handle. That's going to cost a bunch to repair. Maybe I should do an online "GoFundMe" campaign?
  • Shoulder. It's at least a little better, but I'm taking at least another two weeks off before starting private coaching again. I could start the week of March 26, except that's the week of our Spring Break Camp. So tentatively I'll start up after that, which means at the start of April. I will likely start only with beginners, who won't push me as hard. If that goes okay, then I'll try the more advanced ones. Meanwhile, I'm still doing regular group sessions. Hopefully that toss of a power cable didn't hurt it. (See power outage above.)
  • USATT Teleconference. The USATT Board of Directors had a teleconference on Monday. It was a rather memorable one in a bad way as the big topic was the Umpires and Referees Committee, and one member of it. By a unanimous vote - with the subject of interest on the phone with us - we were forced to remove him from the committee. More on this when the minutes of the meeting go up.

World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas
The deadline to enter the WVC is . . . TODAY!!! Yes, the Ides of March, and one day after Pi Day. As I write this on Wednesday night (and post it just before 5AM), there are 3988 listed online as entered, but I've been told there are more that haven't been listed yet, so the number is over 4000. I'll be there doing daily coverage. I'm also entered to play, but due to shoulder problems will likely drop out.

USATT, ITTF, and Butterfly News Items
I've been away for a few days, and they've been steadily putting up news items. So why not give them a browse? (Disclaimer: I'm sponsored by Butterfly.)

Does Coaching Improve a Coach’s Playing Skills?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

2018 Qatar Open - Brazil Challenging China?!
Here's the article (with link to video) by Shashin Shodhan.

Polish Open
Here's the home page for the Polish Open, in Spala, POL, March 13-17.

Great Exhibition Rally
Here's the video (64 sec)!

Zombie Pong
Here's the picture!

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No Blog Tuesday and Wednesday

Power will be out in my house on Wednesday for outside electrical repairs (7AM-5PM), so Tim and I need to finish Volume 21 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis today. Translation: I worked practically all night Monday night, and we'll be working all day and late into the night on Tuesday to finalize everything. So no time for the blog. I'll be back on Thursday. Meanwhile, here are Strange Ping-Pong Tables and Other TT Stuff!

March 12, 2018

Tip of the Week
"Hot Anger" versus "Cold Anger."

Weekend Update - Coaching
In the Saturday Junior League & Camp (two hours, about 25 players), the focus was on serve and attack, and handling your opponent's attack. We had them play games where the server had to serve and attack (or counter-attack if the receiver attacked the serve), or he instantly lost the point. However, the receiver, if he won the point after the server attacked, won two points. It made things interesting!

In the Sunday Beginning Class (90 minutes, 15 players) - week nine out of ten this session - the focus was on serves, smashing, and smashing lobs. I was impressed with some of the kids who are really learning to spin their serves. Two kids were practicing serves on the same table, with one serving forehand pendulum serves from the backhand side, the other serving backhand serves from the forehand side, and since they often timed it so they served at the same time, it was interesting to watch their respective serves spin away from each other.

In the Sunday Talent program (28 players (two hours), I worked with a number of kids who are having trouble doing heavy backspin serves. I also worked with a number on forehand flipping, followed by rallying (with multiball). We also had contests to see who could do each drill the longest. Two girls who usually don't win these contests ended up winning the forehand-to-forehand footwork contest, to my great (but secret!) surprise. Hey, maybe they're getting better!

After the Talent program we had a big pizza party. The head coaches also spoke with the parents, giving player evaluations for each player. Then, when the pizza was gone, the kids (of course) went back out on the table to play various made-up games. I had come prepared - and brought out five mini-rackets (all surfaced with Tenergy), the huge Frankenpaddle, and an oversized 55mm ball! They, and many of the coaches, spent the next 90 minutes playing with them non-stop.

Weekend Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 21
We've finished 22 chapters and 322 pages. Alas, a series of unfortunate time-wasting events took up much of Sunday morning, or we'd have done another two chapters. We'll try to catch up - we were hoping to finish the pages on Tuesday, and do all the corrections (Tim has a lot) on Wednesday. Most likely we'll now finish the pages on Wednesday, and then see how long it takes get the corrections done. Tim hopes to leave early Thursday morning.

Weekend Update - Shoulder
I've been dutifully seeing the physical therapist three times a week, and doing my daily shoulder stretching exercises, and the shoulder is a lot looser now - which is sort of like saying granite is softer than diamond. One thing - the therapy is more centered around loosening up the rock-tight muscles that surround the shoulder, which put great pressure on the shoulder and rotator cuff. I can now touch my back with my right arm for the first time since October. It's been years since I've been able to do it except after serious exercise that warms and loosens the shoulder up.

I haven't done any private coaching in a couple of weeks. My tentative plan is to do some sessions with beginners next Saturday. If that goes well, then I might try it with stronger players. But I don't want to re-injure it, so I'm toying with putting off private coaching with stronger players for a bit longer - just thinking about hitting with them makes my shoulder queasy!!!

2018 Seamaster Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, held this past weekend Doha, Qatar. Check out the results - especially for Men's Singles surprise finalist world #15 Hugo Calderano of Brazil!

Rule the Roost with the Right Rubber and Racket
Here's Table Tennis Tidbits # 12 by Robert Ho.

Simon Gauzy Training Short Game, Receive at World Cup
Here's the video (4:15) from Arnaud Scheen. 

China Team Needs to Watch Liam Pitchford
Here's the video (18:14) from EmRatThich on the world #53 English champion.

Top 10 Table Tennis Boys World Ranking
Here's the video (1:58) from Pong Universe.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 19
Here’s chapter 19 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 19 covers the 1993 U.S. Nationals.

Anna-Carin Ahlquist vs. Jan-Ove Waldner
Here's the video (3:48) as the Swedish wheelchair star takes on the "Greatest of All Time" - in a wheelchair!

Cartoon Funny-Faced Paddles
Here they are - lots of funny faces!

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March 9, 2018

USA's Best: Past, Present, and Future
Here's a quick look at our best in the past, present and future. Here goes - and if you aren't interested in our history, skip ahead to the Present and Future!

PAST

USA's best heyday was 1936-1938. USA had stars like Ruth Aarons, Jimmy McClure, Robert Blattner, and Sol Schiff. During that period they won the following titles at the World Championships:

  • Men's Teams: 1937
  • Women's Teams: 1937, finalist in 1936
  • Women's Singles: 1936, 1937 (Ruth Aarons both times)
  • Men's Doubles: 1936, 1937, 1938 (McClure/Blattner 1936-37, McClure/Schiff 1938)

Not a bad record!

There were no World Championships from 1940-1946 due to World War 2. And then Team USA returned almost as strong as before, with a whole new set of stars - Dick Miles, Marty Reisman, Lou Pagliaro, Mae Clouther, Reba Monness, and the sisters, Leah Thall Neuberger and Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer. Here are their results at the Worlds right after World War 2:

  • 1947: Finalist in Men's Teams, Finalist in Women's Doubles (Mae Clouther/Reba Monness), Semifinals in Men's Singles (Lou Pagliaro)
  • 1948: Mixed Doubles (Dick Miles/Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer)
  • 1949: Women's Teams, Semifinals in Men's Singles (Marty Reisman), Semifinals in Women's Singles (Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer)

Not a bad record!

So the "Golden Age" of USA Table Tennis was from 1936-1949, with that 1940-46 World War 2 gap. (Or call it two short "Golden Ages," 1936-1938 and 1947-1949.) But USA wasn't done - in the 1950s USA had a few last gasps:  

  • 1951: Semifinals in Women's Singles (Leah Thall Neuberger)
  • 1956: Mixed Doubles (Erwin Klein/ Leah Thall Neuberger)
  • 1959: Semifinals in Men's Singles (Dick Miles, led 2-1 in games and 12-8 in fourth)

So from 1936-1956, USA did the following at the World Championships - and note that we are 10-3 in finals!:

  • Men's Teams: 1937 (Finalist in 1947)
  • Women's Teams: 1937, 1949 (Finalist in 1936)
  • Men's Singles: Zilch
  • Women's Singles: 1936, 1937
  • Men's Doubles: 1936, 1937, 1938
  • Women's Doubles: (Finalist in 1947)
  • Mixed Doubles: 1948, 1956

And then, from 1960-2018 . . . Zilch. Nada. Nothing at the Worlds. And don't even ask about the Olympics, which included table tennis starting in 1988. (Note - we've won numerous titles at Disabled or Para events, but that's a separate issue.) We did have Eric Boggan reach #18 in the world in the early 1980s with wins over essentially all the top ten players in the world at some point, and Dan Seemiller also reached top 30 in the late 1970s. (Dan and brother Rick Seemiller reached the quarterfinals of Men's Doubles at the Worlds in 1977.) Wang Chen, formerly world #3 for China, reached the quarterfinals of Women's Singles at the 2008 Olympics. (I think Gao Jun reached the quarterfinals of Women's Singles while playing for USA one year, but not sure what year.) 

But there were two other more modern achievements that many forget.

In 1995, at the World Team Cup held in Atlanta, Team USA made it all the way to the semifinals with a series of upsets. Cheng Yinghua, Jimmy Butler, and David Zhuang pulled off upset after upset in doing so, with Cheng even defeating world #1 Jan-Ove Waldner. So as recently as 1995, Team USA made the Final Four at the World Team Cup. (But, as some would point out, Cheng and Zhuang developed their games in China before emigrating to the U.S.)

Just one year before, in 1994, another Team USA also caused an uproar at the King Kar City World Youth Cup Championships in Taiwan for players under age 18. China didn't play (because it was in Taiwan), but most of the best countries in the world attended. Team USA, made up of David Fernandez, Barney J. Reed, and Richard Lee, with a series of upsets, also made it all the way to the semifinals, upsetting powerful teams from Korea, Taiwan, and Sweden. (I was the team coach - it's an incredible memory coaching the team between games in front of 20,000 screaming fans.)

Former world #3 Gao Jun of China became a USA citizen in the 1990s and for a number of years she, Jasna Rather (previously from Romania and Yugoslavia), and Tawny Banh did pretty well in Women's Teams (and Gao in Singles) in events around the world. But other than that 1995 "Dream Team" and 1994 junior team, and a few Gao Jun-inspired scares in the 1990s/early 2000s, Team USA hasn't really threatened much since the 1950s. (Here's a complete listing of World Championship Medalists.)

PRESENT

Let's face it, our current USA Men's and Women's team aren't particularly great compared to the rest of the world. The men are ranked #38, the women #23. On the men's side, our #1 is Kanak Jha at #73, with no one else in the top 300. On the women's side, our #1 is Lily Zhang at #56, with no one else in the top 100 - but we do have Wu Yue (#113), Crystal Wang (#153) Angela Guan (#211), and Rachel & Grace Yang, sisters tied at #294. On any given day, our women's team can battle with most teams outside the top four or so, but they have a way to go before they are really threatening the best teams.

However - and that's a BIG however - did you notice that many of the players above are juniors, and still developing? That includes Kanak Jha, Crystal Wang, Angela Guan, and the Yang sisters. So let's take a look at the current junior rankings - and we'll now move to the. . . .

FUTURE

How many of you remember the days when USA would rave about having any kid ranked in the top 50 in the world? It didn't happen very often. And now - well, unless you've been hiding at a table tennis club practicing your serves and not checking the table tennis news, you probably know that USA's Kanak Jha is now World #1 in Under 18 Boys!!! That's a first. (Yes, there's a caveat - few of the top Chinese juniors are ranked, and of course the "best" junior in the world is 15-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, ranked #12 in the world in the Men's rankings, but he no longer competes in international junior events and so has no junior ranking.)

We also have a relatively new USATT High Performance Director, Jörg Bitzigeio, formerly a top coach from Germany, now dedicated full-time to working with our top players to turn USA back into the powerhouse it was from 1936-1949. He is in regular contact with our top players and juniors, and their coaches, working to focus them on developing world-class players who can battle with the best. He's also run trainings camps for them. (As the USATT Coaching Chair, I'm also working with him on developing a new USATT coaching education and certification system, but he's taking the lead in that.) Here are current world rankings for under 18 and under 15.

Under 18 Boys

  • Kanak Jha (USA), #1
  • Sharon Alguetti (USA), #29
  • Victor Liu (USA), #49
  • Jack Wang (USA), #78

Under 18 Girls

  • Amy Wang (USA), #11
  • Rachel Sung (USA), #46
  • Crystal Wang (USA), #48
  • Ishana Deb (USA), #78
  • Grace Yang (USA), #83

Under 15 Boys

  • Nikhil Kumar (USA), #4
  • Aditya Godhwani (USA), #112

Under 15 Girls

  • Rachel Sung (USA), #5
  • Tia Lynn Hsieh (USA), #50
  • Angie Tan (USA), #52
  • Lavanya Maruthapandian (USA), #64
  • Swathi Giri (USA), #65
  • Joanna Sung (USA), #111

Note that Amy Wang and Crystal Wang both just left the Cadet category, and have at least two more years in Under 18. At their highest in Cadet Girls, Amy was #3 and Crystal #2. Also, Swathi Giri, at #65 in Under 15 Girls, has at least two years left there, and last year was on the ITTF World Hopes Team, for the top four girls in the world ages 11-12.

There's a reason why USA has, in recent years, shown signs of coming out of its decades-long slumber (other than that short awakening in 1994-1995) - training centers!!! The Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) was the first successful full-time training center, opening in 1992. As recently as 2006 there were only eight such centers in the whole country. So of course few top juniors were being developed, and that, of course, is where top men and women come from. But now there are 93, and so of course there are more and more of these top juniors. And so Team USA is now highly competitive in world events, led by Kanak Jha and others listed above. Here's the Feb. 28 article by Matt Hetherington, TeamUSA Youth Capture Multiple Podium Successes in Sweden, showing just the latest successes.
I'm a coach at MDTTC, and we're doing our part, with great help from the HW Global Foundation, which runs our Talen Development Program. (The club is also sponsored by Butterfly, as am I.) Perhaps our brightest current star is Tiffany Ke, age 13, rated 2359, and #2 in Under 15 in the U.S., and #272 in the World - but with two years of eligibility left. (She's also #5 in Under 18 Girls in the U.S.) At the Nationals last year she did a clean "sweep," making the USA Under 12, Under 15, and Under 18 Girls' Teams. We have a number of others, but probably our brightest group is Under 10 Boys, where Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Andy Wu are ranked #1, #3, and #4 in the USA rankings. (Stanley and Mu both started out with me in my beginning table tennis class.) These three nine-year-olds play three very distinct styles - Stanley reminds me of a modernized Waldner; Mu Du plays like Ma Long; and Andy's a chopper/looper. (As of Dec. 31, we had 6 of the top 13 in 10 and Under Boys.)

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 21 - Update
After five slave-driven days, Tim (see "Tim 'Hulk' Boggan" segment at end) and I have done 15 chapters and 213 pages, plus the covers. Some of the chapters are relatively easy; others have taken half the day. There have been at least four individual pages that each took over an hour; one took two hours. We're mixing 21st century and 19th century techniques here - Tim cut and pasted every page with scissors and tape, and then Mal Anderson scanned the pages. Unfortunately, every scissor mark shows, there are smudges everywhere, and over half the columns aren't lined up, so I have to fix all these problems in Photoshop. And then Tim has zillions of changes, with lots of alternate photos to scan and stick in, and often having me move things around in Photoshop as if it were a word processor.

We worked from 7AM to 4:15PM yesterday (30 min lunch break), then I was off to the physical therapist, who worked on my shoulder for an hour. Then I taught my Thursday night Beginning Junior Class, 6:30-7:30PM. I didn't get home until after 8PM, and then my "real" work began. I won't bore you with a complete list, but I managed to go through my entire todo list (including writing this blog) - but I didn't finish until 2:15AM. I left a note for Tim alerting him to the fact that we'll be starting late this morning. (That "roar" you might hear around 5AM is Tim reading my note.)

If all goes well, we'll finish the pages on Tuesday, and do corrections on Wednesday, and then we'll be done, and I'll get to stop doing these crazy 7AM - midnight (or 2AM) workdays.

2018 Seamaster Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, March 8-11 on Doha, Qatar. Make sure to click on the news link!

A Simplified Approach to Returning Serves
Here's the article and video (7:58) from Tom Lodziak.

Sizing Up Your Opponents and Assigning Estimated Ratings
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Translator: Learn to understand what he means...
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "If someone says… 'I lost in the fifth'  - He means…  'I lost badly in the fifth.' (If it was close, he would have told you the score.)"

WAB Club Feature: New York International Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Tag a Mate: My “Win” Over Timo Boll
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

2018 English National Championships: How to Make it Better
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out Wednesday.

Italian Highlights Reel
Here's the video (3:35), which appears to be a top ten rallies from the Italian Championships.

Society 6 Home Décor Table Tennis Items
Here's the listing, with pictures!

Crazy Point with Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (20 sec)!

How an Olympian Opens a Water Bottle
Here's the video (12 sec) of Ilija Lupulesku!

Tim "Hulk" Boggan
Here's the image! Yes, that's Tim's face superimposed on The Hulk. (I did this a number of years ago, but thought this would be a good time to bring it out again.)

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March 8, 2018

Alas, between the long hours working with Tim Boggan on his latest History of U.S. Table Tennis volume, and catching up on things last night, I wasn't able to put together a blog for this morning - and now I'm due to go back to work with Tim. So no blog this morning. Back tomorrow with a nice feature blog, tentatively about the past, present, and future of our national level players. I'll leave you with this quote, which I said to Tim after finally finishing a page after spending an hour on it fixing up problems and making numerous changes to it: "Our short national nightmare is over. Let's start the next one." And here's two minutes and nineteen seconds of cats playing table tennis.

March 7, 2018

Update on History of U.S. Table Tennis and My Shoulder
Yesterday Tim Boggan and I spent most of the day going back and putting in captions and photo credits for the 116 pages we'd done on Sunday and Monday. Between that and the many changes Tim had, we only got one additional chapter done. (This time we did the captions and credits as we did the pages.) So we've now done nine chapters and 132 pages. I haven't kept track of the graphics, but I'll get a count later on.

Volume 21 covers 1994-1995. Since this was during my first tenure as editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine, probably half of the material is direct from things I wrote. So I'm having some nostalgic times seeing my past words. (Yeah, I have a lot of articles - 1791 to exact, plus 13 books. As to USA Table Tennis Magazine, I did 91 issues, 1991-1995, 1999-2007.)

It looks like it's going to take a little over eleven working days to finish, so if all goes well, we'll finish next Wednesday or Thursday. We'll see. It's a big project, put together by three USATT Hall of Famers - Tim Boggan, Mal Anderson, and, um, me. (My profile is well out of date - I hadn't even started this blog yet - it started in January, 2011, along with the weekly Tips of the Week - and I'd only written two of my eight books on table tennis, plus I've done about 14,000 hours of coaching since that time.)  

Meanwhile, I'm seeing the physical therapist three times a week for an hour, plus doing about 20 minutes of specialized stretches three times a day. I'm still doing group sessions where I just feed multiball and walk around and coach, and can do basic demos, but I'd likely hurt the shoulder if I did any private coaching with a strong player. However, I might be able to do some private coaching in a couple weeks with lower-level players who don't play as fast.

The Twelve Core Psychological Characteristics of Olympians
Here's the article from Psychology Today. I may turn this into a series of Tips of the Week, where I expand on each of these and how you can develop them. But right now I'm too busy working with Tim on the latest History of U.S. Table Tennis to think about this right now. Here are the twelve main topics - the article expands a bit on each.

  1. The ability to cope with and control anxiety. 
  2. Confidence 
  3. Mental toughness
  4. Sport intelligence
  5. The ability to focus and block out distractions
  6. Competitiveness
  7. Having a hard-work ethic
  8. The ability to set and achieve goals
  9. Coachability
  10. Hopefulness
  11. Optimism
  12. Perfectionism

2018 Seamaster Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, March 8-11 on Doha, Qatar.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 World Team Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Spin, Spin, Spin: Learn to Boost Your Level With Mega Spin
Here's the article from Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tidbits #20: The 2016 Zagreb (Croatia) Open - Choppers’ Delight
Here's the USATT article (with links to video) by Robert Ho.

March 2018 World Ranking: How Timo Boll Made It Back to the Top
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Training Camp 2018 in China
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Nominations Open for ITTF Athletes’ Commission
Here's the ITTF article.

Invitation to Umpire at 2018 World Veteran Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

College Table Tennis

Ask a Pro Anything: Panagiotis Gionis
Here's the ITTF video (5:43) by Adam Bobrow.

Korean Doubles High-Toss Goof
Here's the repeating gif image - still the funniest one of all! (It's actually actors from the movie "As one.")

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