Larry Hodges's blog

August 9, 2017

Why Waldner Doesn’t Have to Move
Here’s the meme that’s making the rounds on Facebook. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) “I am standing where the ball comes, that is why I don’t have to move, I can Read the Game,” said the great Jan-Ove Waldner.

Some will misunderstand this, taking it literally. Waldner did have to move, of course, but if you watched him play it often seemed like he wasn’t moving – because he was moving before the opponent hit the ball, and so was already there, waiting. Most players react to the ball as it is coming toward them, or perhaps as the opponent is hitting the ball  - but this is way too late if you want to be a good player. Instead, you develop the habit of watching and reading the opponent, and reacting to where the ball is going the instant the opponent has committed, usually at the start of his forward swing. Here is my Tip on this, React to Opponent’s Swing.

This also helps if you want to develop a strong defense – you have so much more time to react if you are reacting before the opponent hits the ball then if you wait until afterwards. Here’s my Tip that covers this, Brick-Wall Blocking Defense.

Of course, it helps to be light on your feet – which is more technique than physical. I’ve known overweight players who were light on their feet. Here’s my Tip on that, You Can Be Light on Your Feet.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20
We started last Wednesday morning, and it looks like we’ll probably finish up on Friday – so it’ll be ten days of torture fun as Tim and I painstakingly put together the 460 pages, 28 chapters, and 714 graphics covering the events of 1993-1994. Ironically, I had just started my first tenure as USATT Coaching Chair, and my activities are all over this volume. I began my second tenure earlier this year.

Silver for Kumar in Hong Kong Cadet Singles
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Rio Review: Karlsson Says Get Yourself to the Games
Here’s the ITTF article. “I think that the Olympic Games is the most incredible experience you can have as a table tennis player,” says Kristian Karlsson.

Here are two new articles.

Timo Boll vs. Tomokazu Harimoto
Here’s the video (7:48, with time between points removed) of the veteran Boll (world #7, formerly #1, age 36, from Germany) and the Japanese whiz kid Harimoto (world #20, age 14).

Insane Table Tennis Rally
Here’s the video (70 sec) – I posted this exhibition point between Timo Boll (lefty on left) and Jorgen Persson before, but it’s worth a second look.

Some Table Tennis Physical Training?
Here’s the video (34 sec)!

Sean Woolsey’s Walnut Wood Ping Pong Table
It’s yours for just $9000!

Yeah Ping Pong!
Here’s the humorous video (2:38)!

Ping Pong in the Stone Age
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s where you can download a high-quality version for $11.)

Send us your own coaching news!

August 8, 2017

Pong Road
On Friday night I saw Pong Road, a roughly 30-minute video (in three parts), “an episodic documentary that follows Rocky [Wang] along his journey. Get ready to see ping pong that you've never seen before.” Alas, it’s not online yet so you’ll just have to wait until they do so, or there’s a showing in your area. They do have more segments planned. Here’s their Facebook page, here’s “The Story,” which explains more about Pong Road, and here’s their About Page, with more on Rocky Wang, and on Mark Weismantel, who was the “director, cinematographer, editor, sound designer and art director.”

I’ve known Rocky since he was 13, in 1987. He’s also from Maryland, but strangely I first met him in Colorado. I was (at various times) the manager, director, and one of the coaches for the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center from 1985-1990, where many of the best junior players in the U.S. lived, went to school, and trained, from 1985 to sometime in the early 1990s, when the program ended. My first memory of Rocky was when he joined us that September in 1987. I walked into the dorms and saw this little kid doing a split between the two walls, holding himself up like this! (The walls were a little closer – and yes, that’s Jean Claude Van Damme demoing here.) Rocky would reach about a 2500 level before quitting in the early 1990s for 12 years. He started up again around 2006, and since then has been coaching (often at Spin NY – see video ad below) and running table tennis events for a living.

In Segment #1, Rocky visits the Maryland Table Tennis Center, my club, where Rocky coached for a time. He is filmed playing Raghu Nadmichettu, “his nemesis,” about a 2350-2400 player. Alas, I’m not there during filming, but you do see our other coaches in action.

In Segment #2, Rocky visits Asheville, NC, and takes on players at a store that has a ping-pong table set up. You meet some interesting characters, and see Rocky take them on . . . with his shoe. Guess who wins? And did I mention he travels in a van he calls Myrtle the Turtle?

In Segment #3, Rocky plays in a tournament in Knoxville, TN, where the winner gets $600, the runner-up $300. He plays twelve matches, some in highly dramatic fashion – but I won’t spoil it for you.

Here are two pictures taken at the showing. In the first, you see Rocky (on left, green shirt) and Mark giving a talk before the viewing. In the second you see some of the spectators, including me (in blue Butterfly shirt, third from left). Sitting to my left is John Wang, Rocky’s father and one of the most influential table tennis people in Maryland during the 1980s and 1990s.

I’ll post here when there are future showings and when it goes online.

Pips and Anti
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Backhand Drive
Here’s the video (2:37) by Georgina Pota of Hungary, world #32 (formerly #14).

How to Move in Table Tennis Like a Pro
Here’s the video (7:06).

Liu Guoliang Comments on Finals Match: Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong
Here’s the video (5:52).

PingSkills Show #287 - Return of Serve
Here’s the podcast (27:28).

Here are two new articles.

Thoughts on Table Tennis
Here’s the page with links to many table tennis articles, called . . . "Thoughts on Table Tennis." 

Rising Above the Challenge, the Inspirational Story of the Shetty Brothers
Here’s the ITTF article.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty! Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 19! (Volume 20 should be out within two weeks.)

Spin Table Tennis Ad
Here’s the video (94 sec) – they now have seven locations in the U.S. and Canada, and this ad shows the fun they have. They even have a bathtub of ping-pong balls for patrons to bathe in!

Zhang Jike With an Ice Racket
Here’s the video (22 sec)!

Table Tennis Wall Clocks
Here’s a new one! Here are many more.

Eight-Two, Brute
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 7, 2017

Tip of the Week
Feet Parallel to Table is Usually a Backhand Stance.

Weekend – Pong Road, and History of U.S. Table Tennis, and Coaching
I had a hyper-busy table tennis weekend. Here’s a rundown.

On Friday I saw Pong Road, which features table tennis player and coach Rocky Wang on the road, at MDTTC (my club), Ashville, NC, and at a tournament in Knoxville, TN. I’ll blog about this later this week. I also managed to see Dark Tower on Saturday night and Game of Thrones on Sunday night. All were excellent, though the critics don’t seem to agree with me on Dark Tower. (I’ve read the five very long Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin – who I’ve met - but not the seven Dark Tower novels by Stephen King.)

I’m still working with USATT Historian Tim Boggan on his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 20, which covers 1993-94. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m doing the page layouts, but that’s really not quite accurate. That’s what I did for most of the volumes, but a few volumes ago Tim changed the way he did them. Before, he’d type up the text from past articles from USATT Magazine and other TT magazines and sources, and find photos to match, and I’d do the layouts from them. Now, to save all the typing, he does it “old school” – he cuts and pastes the articles directly onto sheets of 8.5 x 11 pages, essentially doing the page layouts with scissors and tape. Then he sends them to Mal Anderson, who scans them, and finds hundreds of alternate photos for the ones Tim chose. Mal then sends the scans to me on a CD. My job is to clean up the pages, add the captions and photo attributions, and (most time consuming), make all the changes Tim wants – and he has lots and Lots and LOTS of changes and additions, which aren’t easy since it all has to be done in Photoshop. Net result is it takes about 10-12 days working eight hours a day to get it all done.

In the past we did each page completely before moving to the next. This time we did it a bit differently – we put the pages together at full speed, without doing too many changes and without captions, and so yesterday we “finished” the volume at 460 pages, with 714 graphics. (I manually did a count last night.) But this morning we go back and start fixing up the pages, which will take several days. My guess is we finish on Thursday. I also have to put together a one-page ad for the volume, and update the web page.

My coaching schedule was light this weekend as several of my students are out of town, one is injured, and many of our group sessions are off for the summer, starting up again in September. So I spent much of it working with Tim. I had an interesting “progressive” coaching session with one student where we literally started with the basics at the start and worked our way to advanced random drills by the end – I’ll blog about this later in the week. I also managed to put together a draft of a proposed six-hour coaching seminar for USATT Club Coach certification. Later I’ll finalize it and run it by the rest of the USATT coaching committee.

Stefan Feth: 99% Is Not Good Enough - Messages From Paris
Here’s the video (6 min) from the USA Men’s Coach. “In this series, Messages From Paris, we share some interesting interviews made during The 2013 World Table Tennis Championships, that were held in Paris.”

Basic Forehand Drive
Here’s the video (3 min) by Elizabeta Samara of Romania, world #27 (formerly #13)

Table Tennis Tidbits #5
Here’s the article by Robert Ho, which talks about the expedite rule, with links to video. I linked to his previous four “Tidbits” in my July 31 blog.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Aug. 2-6. USA’s Nikhil Kumar and Michael Tran won Cadet Boys. Nikhil made the final of Cadet Singles, Michael made the quarters.

Here are two new articles there:

Olympics: 2024 in Paris and 2028 in Los Angeles
Here’s the blog about this by Shashin Shodhan, where he also talks about his own experiences trying out for the 2000 Olympic team, which he came close to making. Includes a link to video of David Zhuang vs. Tegun Toriola at the 2008 Olympics.

Tomokazu Harimoto Cuts Hand on Table
Here’s the video (8:21) of his match against vs Jun Mizutani at the 2017 T2APAC. Against a ball to his forehand side 29 seconds in he cuts his hand against the corner, and it bleeds pretty badly. Warning – it’s somewhat graphic!

Table Tennis: Skill, Determination and Confidence!
Here’s the video (1:28).

The Best of Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (5:09).

Table Tennis - The Strongest Sport
Here’s the highlights music video (5:09).

Target Practice
Here’s the video (1:28) of Adam Bobrow knocking various targets off the table – an almond, coin, a ball in a tube of tape, a chia seed, and a long-distance serve into a bowl of water (which is my favorite trick!)

Ping-Pong in Space
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 4, 2017

ITTF Hall of Fame
One of my pet peeves is how international organizations can sometimes be so . . . short-sighted. Here is a classic example. How do you get into the ITTF Hall of Fame? Well, for players, the eligibility rules are very simple: “Eligibility for the highest honor in international Table Tennis requires that the player must have won 5 Gold Medals in World Championships or the Olympic Games.”

This is downright silly. Winning a gold medal in Singles, where you were the best player, is worth more than winning it in Doubles (Men’s, Women’s, or Mixed) or Teams, where your finish is largely determined by other players. The result is a travesty of justice. The rules dramatically favor players who happen to have strong teammates.

Let’s take Stellan Bengtsson as an example. He won Men’s Singles at the 1971 Worlds, and won Men’s Doubles and Men’s Teams in 1973. He had five other silver and bronze medals at the Worlds, but in the end, he “only” got three golds. He was ranked #1 in the world for most of three years, and won 67 international titles. Because China had far more depth in their players, the odds were stacked against Bengtsson, especially in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Teams – though he battled with them over and over. (He did have Kjell Johansson and Hans Alser as teammates, and Stellan and Johansson won Men’s Doubles and Teams in 1973. Johansson also won four golds at the Worlds, three in Men’s Doubles and one in Men’s Teams, and made the final of Men’s Singles in 1973, but also isn’t eligible for the ITTF Hall of Fame, based on their rules.) Table tennis wasn’t in the Olympics yet, so Stellan (and others before 1988) didn’t have that opportunity.

Result? Stellan Bengtsson is not in the ITTF Hall of Fame. That’s a joke. (Neither is Istvan Jonyer and a host of other Men’s World Champions – see listing below.)

Meanwhile, a player on the Chinese team who never really challenged to be the best in the world, as Stellan was, can get gold simply by being on their team, even if he doesn’t play the big matches.

Let’s compare Stellan’s record with, say, Chen Qi of China. He was a great player, and is deservedly in the Hall of Fame. At the Worlds, he won Men’s Doubles twice and Men’s Teams twice. He won Men’s Doubles at the Olympics. That’s five golds, the minimum.

But he was playing doubles with Ma Lin and Wang Hao, two of the best players in the world. In the Teams, he had Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Wang Hao, and Ma Long playing ahead of him – and in both years he won Men’s Teams, he didn’t even play in the final. In Singles, his highest world ranking was #5, and he spent most of his career in the #6-8 range. Stellan was ranked higher than #5 for much of a decade, much of it as #1.

But with the ITTF rules, Chen Qi is in, while Stellan Bengtsson is out. Really???

Peter Karlsson is another deserving Hall of Famer, and was inducted in 2003. He also won five golds, all at the Worlds – one for Men’s Doubles, and four in Men’s Teams, where he played with Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, and Lindh. His highest world ranking was #4. Is he really more deserving than all those who have been left out?

Let’s suppose USA’s Men’s National Champion Kanak Jha (age 16) becomes the best player in the world, and completely dominates for four years. He wins gold in Men’s Singles at the Olympics, and Men’s Singles at three consecutive Worlds. He’s among the greatest players in history, right? But Kanak (currently at world #212) is the only USA player in the top 400. So it’s unlikely he’s going to win anything in Doubles or Teams. So he only gets four gold medals. So no Hall of Fame for you, Kanak – sorry, you simply weren’t good enough!

Just think about this for a moment - you could win Men's or Women's Singles at the Worlds four times, something only done on the men's side by Viktor Barna [5 times] and Richard Bergmann (4 times), and on the women's side by Mária Mednyánszky (5 times) and Angelica Rozeanu (6 times), and you couldn't get into the ITTF Hall of Fame!!! (No one has won four or more since 1955.) 

There’s also something wrong with them inducting players during their playing career, instead of afterwards, as is done by every major sport that I know of. Ma Long was inducted into the ITTF Hall of Fame in 2013 at age 24 before he won his three biggest titles – gold in Men’s Singles at the 2016 Olympics (three years later!) and gold in Men’s Singles at the 2015 and 2017 Worlds. When he got in, he got in for winning Men’s Teams five times (once at Olympics, four at Worlds) and Men’s Doubles once. (He’s now won 12 golds at the Olympics and Worlds, and is still going strong at world #1.)

It’s also silly that they don’t take into account the World Cup, Pro Tour wins, or world ranking. Because of this, and the problems outlined above, other obvious choices also aren’t in. Below is a listing of modern Men’s World and Olympic Singles Champions (sponge era) who are not eligible for the ITTF Hall of Fame – and note that from 1969 to 1979 there were six consecutive World Men’s Singles Champions who are not eligible! Even Istvan Jonyer apparently isn’t good enough for the ITTF Hall of Fame – besides winning Men’s Singles at the Worlds, he also won Men’s Doubles twice, Men’s Teams once (not easy with China usually winning), and was ranked #1 in the world for about three years, and near the top of the rankings for about 15. By my count, there are 66 players in the ITTF Hall of Fame, but none of these players qualify - click on "show" on their linked Wiki page for their medal record:

When have a system that gives bad results, you change the system. There’s a reason why nearly every major sport votes on their Hall of Fame members, whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, soccer, boxing, tennis, and even USA Table Tennis.

[Note – I did find one interesting discrepancy. Li Furong is in the ITTF Hall of Fame, but he “only” won four golds, all in Teams. He lost in the Men’s Singles Final three straight times to Zhuang Zedong, 1961-1965, though it’s been said that he was ordered to dump all three times. I’m curious how he got it.]

Here’s an interesting photo of Kjell Johansson (leaping) and Stellan Bengtsson! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

ITTF Education
Here is the ITTF Education Knowledge Base and ITTF Education Videos. They seem to do a good job here!

How to Do a Backhand Banana Flip
Here’s the video (39 sec) from Eli Baraty.

The Muscular System
Here’s the ITTF article.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Aug. 2-6. USA’s Nikhill Kumar, Michael Tran, and Alan Chen won the Cadet Boys’ Team title. Here are two articles on it:

Pyongyang Open
Here’s the home page for the event, in North Korea, Aug. 2-6, with articles, pictures, video, draws, and results.

T2APAC League
Here’s the home page for this professional league. Many of the best players in the world are competing in this India-based league. If you click on “Matches,” you can see video of these matches. (But that's one awkward name for a league!)

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

USOC Coaching Newsletter
Here’s the August issue.

ITTF World Rankings
Here’s the ITTF article, Top spot yet again, milestone for Ma Long. “A milestone for Ma Long, listed in top spot on the Men’s World Rankings issued on Wednesday 2nd August, it is the 30th consecutive month that he has held the exalted position, the 60th occasion of his career.”

Dirk Wagner Profile of a Table Tennis Coach – Part 1
Here’s the article and video (17:09).

Ask A Pro Anything - Tomokazu Harimoto
Here’s the video (5:51) with Adam Bobrow and the 14-year-old whiz kid from Japan!

Michael Maze - Master Of Lob And Sidespin
Here’s the video (7:35).

Ma Long at Age 14
Here’s the video (4:02).

Around the World at Smash TT
Here’s the video (2:40) from a junior session – don’t get dizzy!

Types of Table Tennis Players
Here’s the humorous video (4:59).

Yeah Ping-Pong: Five Illegal Serves
Here’s the humorous video (3:30).

Is it Ping-Pong or Table Tennis?
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 3, 2017

Moving to the Wide Forehand, He Zhiwen, and Update on History of USATT, Vol. 20
Most of my students have figured out that while I can still move quickly to my left (i.e. to step around my backhand to attack with my forehand), I don’t move very well to my right anymore. And so they take great glee in finding chances to go that way. I actually encourage it – I want them to develop good tactical habits, and so the last thing I want them to do is develop a habit of holding back when they see the right tactical move. If I leave my forehand side open during a rally, they should jump on it, making it a habit that will carry over in real matches.

This problem with moving to my right has been true for a number of years, but for the last month or so I’ve been having problems with my right knee, which made it far worse. At the USA Nationals, where I was mostly coaching and attending meetings, I did manage in my free time to win Over 40 Hardbat Singles, but most players didn’t realize just how much trouble I was having moving that way – and I used a variety of tactics to cover for it. A knee brace really helped.

I aggravated the knee again during my recent writing workshop vacation – while carrying my bags upstairs to my room! And so I spent much of the nine days there hobbling about with the knee brace, which I always wear now when I coach.

What’s scary is that I had problems last year with my left knee. What happens when both go down?

I blogged about He Zhiwen on Tuesday. Yesterday I got to spend the night coaching on adjacent tables with him. I secretly spied on him during a session with one of our top juniors. Though he normally uses pips-out, he was coaching with inverted (since that’s what most players use). He spent a lot of the session on serve and receive. I think he spent 15 minutes just serving to the kid, without playing out the point. He doesn’t speak English, but does know Spanish – he’s played there and represented them for a few decades – and so I spoke with him briefly with my very limited Spanish. (“Dos anos Espanol en mi escuela. No muy bien – un poco.”)

Meanwhile, Tim Boggan and I started on his next volume a few minutes after 10AM, and managed to do the front and back covers, the intro pages, and the first four (of 28) chapters – 57 pages total plus the covers. However, these chapters were shorter than usual, so I expect we won’t get this much done most days. I haven’t counted the graphics, but probably about four per page, so probably over 200. It was a long day – we finished around 5PM, and then I went off to coach. (Note that most of the pages were scanned as a page, where Tim had cut and pasted them into one-page sheets – old style! – and then Mal Anderson scanned them, and I fixed up the photos and fitted them to the page.)

Five Years since Grand Slam, Fans Call for Zhang Jike Day
Here’s the ITTF article.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

2017 Edgeball Chicago International Table Tennis Tournament - August 12-13
Here’s the info page.

The Strange Case of Table Tennis at SCAD
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Some Sort of Vietnamese TT Exhibition?
Here’s the video (2:42).

Table Tennis Physical Training
Here’s the video (3 min) from last year’s USATT’s Supercamp, with many of the top juniors in the U.S. in attendance. If you watch closely you’ll see me in several shots.

Think Table Tennis is Not a Real Sport?
Here’s the video (2:35) – some great shots and sequences!!!

Ma Long vs Ding Ning Funny Show
I may have previously linked to the first one.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 2, 2017

Timmy Boggan’s Coming to Town! [Sung to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”]
He’ll be here at 10AM, and when he says 10AM, he means exactly 10AM. Knowing Tim, at 10:01AM we’ll be working on Volume 20 (!) of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. As noted in previous blogs, I do the page layouts and photo work. Mal Anderson has already scanned the photos and sent them to me. We’ll be working from 7AM to 5PM for the next 10-12 days (working around my coaching schedule on weekends), with Tim looking over my shoulder and periodically saying things like, “That goes there, you fool!”

Tim keeps strange hours, going to bed every night around 7PM and getting up around 3AM. So he’ll be puttering around my house each morning, impatiently waiting for me so we can get started at 7AM. But he’s a USATT Hall of Famer and the USATT Historian, so who are we to judge?

This is a tricky time for me—or should I say exhausting? After I finish my work with Tim, I’ll be leaving nearly every day to the club for a few hours of coaching. And then, after getting home perhaps at 8 or 9PM, because I won’t have much time in the morning (those 7AM starting times), I’ll be up late getting the blog done mostly in advance, as well as other USATT and MDTTC stuff that can’t be put off. Basically, for the next 10-12 days I’ll be living off Mountain Dew.

In honor of Tim, let’s all sing together - and if you video yourself singing this and put it online, and either put it in the comments below or email the link to me, you'll be in my blog tomorrow!

You better play smart,
Don’t put the ball high,
Better have heart,
I'm telling you why,
Timmy Boggan’s coming to town!

He's making a list,
Of playing advice,
Gonna find out who's games aren’t nice,
Timmy Boggan’s coming to town!

He sees you when you're playing,
He knows all your mistakes,
He knows if you've played bad or good,
So play good for goodness sakes!

O! You better play smart,
Don’t put the ball high,
Better have heart,
I'm telling you why,
Timmy Boggan’s coming to town!

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Jake Duffy’s Seamaster ITTF Training Camp Experience
Here’s the article.

Will Shortz: A Profile of a Lifelong Puzzle Master
Here’s the article from the New York Times. He owns the full-time Westchester club in New York, one of the premier clubs in the country.

Pyongyang Open
Here’s the home page for the event, starting today in North Korea, Aug. 2-6, with articles, pictures, video, draws, and results.

Women Beating Men in Open Table Tennis Tournament
Here’s the article – about a London tournament in 1901!

Guinness World Record Recognizes Table Tennis Playing Robot
Here’s the article.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter nineteen! Or order your own print copies at, as well as Volume 19!

Falcons TTC Outclass Shazé Challengers to Clinch the Inaugural CEAT UTT Title
Here’s the article from Ultimate Table Tennis in India.

2017 World Championships: Meet Your Idol
Here’s the ITTF video (2:09). “Two lucky fans met up with their idol Zhang Jike at the Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships to interact with the Chinese superstar!”

Table Tennis Jigsaw Puzzles
Here’s where you can get them! (Make sure to click the “More Results” link.) But this Dinosaur Playing Table Tennis might be the best one – I have this one. I bring it to the club during some of our camps and the kids put it together during breaks. (It’s only 70 pieces – more for the younger ones.)

Send us your own coaching news!

August 1, 2017

He Zhiwen
One of the strange things about being at a club where we have ten full-time coaches, where I’m the only one who’s not Chinese, is often I don’t know what’s going on. Others assume I do since they are all talking about it – but in Chinese!!! So I didn’t know that He Zhiwen was even at our club until he’d been there about a week. I had just finished a long coaching session, and as I was walking to the front of the club I saw this elderly lefty pips-out penholder practicing with one of our top juniors. I stopped to watch because there was something about this player, whose strokes looked like machine guns as he almost mechanically smacked in ball after ball, both blocking and hitting, obviously a great player. So I asked Coach Jack, and he was surprised, thought I knew.

He was the famous Spanish player He Zhiwen, 55 years old, formerly a Chinese National Team member. He has now been at my club (MDTTC) for about three weeks, and I believe will be there another week or so. Last year at the World Veterans Games he won the 50-54 Men's Singles without dropping a single game. He was top ten in the world in the 1980s. In 2012, at the age of 50, he was ranked as high as #59. When he left the ranking list in 2016 at age 54 he was #82. He’s a lefty pips-out penholder. Here’s discussion of him at the forum, with several videos posted of him competing at the Westchester Open this past weekend, where he made the semifinals of Open Singles. Here’s a Best of He Zhiwen video (4:57). Here are more videos of him. (He seems to have two spellings for his name, the other one being He Zhi Wen.)

He is probably the best player his age in the world. At the time he was top 60 in the world at age 50 I believe he was by far the oldest in the top 100, as well as (I think) the only pips-out penholder. He was a bronze medalist in Men’s Doubles at the 1985 Worlds, and 28 years later, a bronze medalist in Men’s Doubles at the 2013 European Championships.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Coaching Kids
Here’s the new video from Samson Dubina (2:22). “When coaching 5-6 year old kids, about 50% of your time should be on fun drills and 50% of your time should be on structured training.” Here’s another video (55 sec) on coaching Intermediate juniors. “For intermediate juniors, you should be doing about 10% fun and 90% serious training. Fun exercises really do enhance dexterity and concentration as well!”

Why Achanta Sharath Kamal Wanted to Quit Table Tennis?
Here’s the article from SportsFlu.

The Epic Table Tennis Journey: Tactical Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis. “The story of a 25 year old who foolishly decided to try to get to the Olympics at a sport he had never played before.....”

Dean Johnson Autobiography: How The Years Passed By
Here’s the book review of Hall of Famer Dean Johnson, by Tim Boggan.

Aspire to Thrive – Cross-country Mini Table Tennis Grudge Match
Here’s the video (5:14). “Mixed doubles partners, Amy Karpinski & Tony Murnahan, challenge each other in a cross-country, mini table tennis, grudge match as they make their way from Morrisville, NC to Las Vegas, NV via highway 40 for the 2017 SuperMicro National Table Tennis Championships. Watch as they play on different terrain and battle the outdoors and different forces of nature.”

Ping Pong Coconut Biscuit
Here they are! Unfortunately, they are sold from Malaysia, so they might be expensive to order for most of us.

Bruce Lee Pong
Here’s the picture! (Here's the "infamous" video of Bruce Lee playing table tennis (2:37) with nunchucks - but it's actually an actor pretending to be Lee in a Nokia watch commercia. It's infamous because so many people believe it's real.) 

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July 31, 2017

Tip of the Week
Killer Practice Sessions. I actually wrote this article back in 2010, before I started this blog, and never linked to it or used it as a Tip before.

I’m Back
What, you didn’t notice I was away? Here’s my write-up of my nine days at The Never-Ending Odyssey (TNEO) Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Workshop. (Make sure to click through the 12 “Vacation” pictures! Sorry, no table tennis there. Also, if you know anything about GPS, see the next-to-last paragraph – it’s a mystery how my phone was reprogrammed to try to bring me to some local address when I was trying to drive home.)

There were two table tennis related items from the workshop. First, I brought my weighted ping-pong paddle and shadow practiced nearly every day. (I don’t think you can get this in the U.S. – I bought it in Taiwan when I coached the U.S. Junior Team there at the World Youth Cup in 1994.) Second, and more importantly, I hurt my right knee on the first day and was hobbling about the whole time. I’d hurt it initially at the recent Nationals, but was mostly over that until I tried carrying heavy boxes up some stairs. Fortunately, I had my car with me (eight hour drive up, ten hours back due to incidents – see write-up), and so was able to drive from the dorms to our classes each morning, rather than walk the half mile, back and forth twice each day.

But now it’s back to the normal table tennis routine. I’ve got two hours of coaching tonight (it was three, but one had to cancel), so hopefully my knee, with brace, will be able to handle it. Today I also have to put together the MDTTC Newsletter. There’s also a bunch of USATT Coaching Committee stuff to get done, MDTTC tournaments for 2018 to sanction, and a host of other things on my todo list, but these might have to wait for a bit for Timmy is coming to town.

Yes, USATT Historian Tim Boggan moves in with me (again) this Wednesday for another 10-12 day stay as we work on History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume (drum roll please) 20! As usual I do the page layouts and photo work. Mal Anderson scans most of the photos in advance and sends them to me on a CD, which I’ve already received. I have to do a lot of work on the photos, cleaning them up, adding acknowledgements, etc., and doing all sorts of “fixes” at Tim’s direction – I never should have let him know what can be done in Photoshop! (“Take him out!” Tim will say of someone in the background that he thinks takes attention away from the photo. “Clean her shirt!” if a shirt doesn’t look right. “Fix the background!” if there’s anything Tim thinks needs fixing. He’s very picky about backgrounds!) It’s going to be a busy time – we work from 7AM to 5PM on weekdays, and on weekends around my coaching schedule.

Why Some Students Fail and Other Students Succeed
Here’s the article. Angela Lee Duckworth, a teacher turned psychologist, has an answer to that question. A MUST read for coaches and players. 

New York ITTF Level 2 Course Offered from August 17-22, 2017
Here’s the USATT article. “Calling all ITTF Level 1 Coaches!  Now is the time to upgrade your skills and both ITTF and USATT Coaches Certification Level.” Here are four upcoming ITTF coaching courses in the U.S.:

Articles by Samson Dubina
While I was away, Samson’s been writing away. (Yes, away rhymes with away.) Here are his articles.

Table Tennis Tidbits #4 by Robert Ho
His latest is up – see below, including his previous ones.

USATT News and Pan Am Cup
Here’s the USATT News Page – lots of articles while I was away! Included are articles on Lily Zhang winning the just-completed Pan-Am Cup.

Sports Flu Table Tennis
They are doing lots of table tennis articles. They have some good ones, and some silly ones (“What Your Zodiac Sign Tell About Your Table Tennis Game?”).

About That High Toss Serve
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

What Can Table Tennis Players Learn from Roger Federer?
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Tom Lodziak Newsletter
Here’s the latest issue, with a number of coaching links.

Melton Table Tennis
Here’s the latest newsletter from this Australian club.

Ping Pong Fury
Here’s an article on the Chinese defaults at the China Open from Chublic Opinion.

#1 Basketballer vs. #1 Ping-Ponger
Here’s the video (1:36) of Stephan Curry vs. Women World Champion and #1 ranked Ding Ning.

Mini Table Chop vs Loop
Here’s the video (27 sec). That’s Dan Seemiller Jr. chopping on the left, Abdullah Almkeemy on the right.

The Washington Redskins Ping-Pong Table
Here’s the picture from their locker room  - but look at that cheap net!

Beetle Bailey Table Tennis
Here’s a new cartoon just found by Marv Anderson. It’s dates Dec. 16, but like a number of others, I don’t have the year. Here’s the updated blog where I link to all 22 Beetle Bailey table tennis cartoons. Mort Walker must love table tennis!

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July 20, 2017

Gone Until Monday, July 31
I’m on vacation and out of town starting this afternoon until Sunday, July 30. Normal people vacation at places like Disneyworld, beaches, or some other vacationy place. Me? Every year about this time I go to a science fiction writing workshop in Manchester, NH, for nine days of intense writing, critiquing, and classes. Fun!!! See you in eleven days.

How You Can Improve at Table Tennis
This morning I was going to write about the segment title – “How You Can Improve at Table Tennis.” But that literally would take a book. I considered shorter ways of doing it, but those would just touch the surface. Then I realized that probably my best and favorite Tip of the Week, “How to Move Up a Level,” pretty much covered it – and yet, these Tips, once published, tend to be lost and forgotten. So below I am reprinting this Tip of the Week from August 4, 2014. (My books Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips both have chapters titled “Improving,” with 54 different Tips out of 300 total in the two books.)

How to Move Up a Level
What does it mean to move up a level in table tennis? I'd define two players to be on different levels if it would be a major upset if one defeated the other. Another way of looking at it would be to say that if the stronger player plays his normal level, he would win pretty much every time. Based on this, I'd say a level in table tennis ranges from about 300 points at the lower levels (under 1000 or so), to about 100 points at the higher levels (over 2500 or so). For most USATT members, a level would be about 200 rating points or so.

How can you move up a level in table tennis? It means improving all parts of your game, as one weak link in your game is like a weak link in a chain.

You could work hard, dramatically improve one aspect of your game, and hope to move up a level. But it's not that simple. Suppose you develop a really nice forehand loop. With this weapon, you would think that your level would go up dramatically. And sure enough, you will do better against players around your own level. But when you play players a level higher, their level is far enough ahead of yours that they'll simply do something to disarm your new weapon. They may serve short, push short, push very heavy, throw spinny or fast serves at you, use ball placement, block well, force backhand exchanges, play quick shots so you don't have time to loop, or simply attack first. In each case, they'll take your weapon away from you, and you still won't move up that coveted level. Often, a stronger player will seem to win on one of his strengths, when in fact he is winning by exploiting a weakness of yours that allows him to use his strength.

The lesson is that to move up a level, you need to improve your overall game, not just one aspect. A player who is a level stronger than you rarely defeats you on one aspect of his game (although many erroneously believe this to be true); he does so by improving the overall level of his game. (There are, of course, players who have improved all but one aspect of their game, and by improving that one final aspect, suddenly go up the coveted level!) A strength in your game can compensate for a weakness, but only to a certain extent.

So how do you go about improving the overall level of your game? To move up a level in table tennis, you have be able to match the players a level higher than you on five key things:

  1. You have to return your opponents' serves as well as they return your serves.
  2. You have to either rally as fast as your opponents can rally, or force your opponents to rally at your pace (by slowing the pace down with pushes, slow loops, controlled drives, etc.). Rallying at their pace means either hitting at their pace, or simply reacting to their pace (i.e. blocking or chopping). "Pace" means both speed and quickness.
  3. You have to be able to react to your opponents' rallying spins (loops, pushes, chops, lobs, spins returned by long pips, etc.) as well as they react to yours.
  4. You have to be able to end the point (i.e. smashing, loop kills) as well as your opponents do. This means either being able to end the point as well as your opponents, or being able to stop them from ending the point better than you can by not giving them shots where they can end the point. Ending the point does not always mean ending it with one shot - it can also mean a series of strong shots that win the point.
  5. And finally, you have to have at least one strength that threatens your opponents as much as their strengths threaten you, and a way of getting your strength(s) into play.

You may have noted that tactics is not one of the five "keys." This is because tactics is part of all five keys. Stronger/weaker tactics simply make you stronger/weaker in each key.

Do some (but not all) of the above five keys, and your performance in a tournament will go up some, perhaps half a level, but not a full level. Developing a single "overpowering" strength won't raise your level as much as you'd think, as opponents a level higher will beat you on the less developed parts of your game. Even players at your "previous" level will still often beat you by exploiting these weaknesses. But ... if you improve all five things, even just a little bit, you'll go up dramatically.

What's stronger, a chain with four powerful links and one weak one, or a chain with five pretty strong ones?

Wanna Buy a Table Tennis Book?
Here’s my Amazon listing! (I just spent $1900 in car repairs and $700 for a new laptop – please buy a book or ten!)

USA Nationals Ratings
They are processed.

Design a Ball Competition
Here’s info on this competition from Aerobic Table Tennis, and here’s the prize listing.

Benefits of Having a Table Tennis Coach
Here’s the article by Brian Pace.

Robert Ho's Table Tennis Tidbits #2
Here’s the article, “Offense and Defense: The Influence of Rubber on Tactics.” (Tidbits #1, “Looping,” was in my Tuesday blog.)

Butterfly Presents: Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth, Drill No. 4
Here’s the new video (74 sec).

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

Style or Substance
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon. “Seeing Life Through the Lens of Table Tennis.”

Table Tennis Articles from ThoughtCo
Here they are!

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

USATT Hall of Fame Banquet Program
It’s online. I’ve been doing these for USATT since 2009.

Adam is the Voice of Table Tennis
Here’s the article in the Deccan Chronicle, one of the biggest newspapers in Chennai.

Ever Wondered Why Table Tennis is Called Ping-Pong?
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

Liebherr 2017 World Championships, Social and Viewership Records Broken
Here’s the ITTF article.

Fidget Spinner vs. Table Tennis
Here’s the video (11:43) from EmRatThich. I’ve never heard of a fidget spinner, but I’m guessing they are popular in China.

Evolution of Table Tennis 3
Here’s the video (8:25) with some fascinating video of the sport from the hardbat era and early sponge days, including Johnny Leach, Hiroji Satoh, and Ichira Ogimura. Here’s the History of Table Tennis videos home page.

Point from 1978 European Championships
Here’s the video (65 sec) of England’s Desmond Douglas (attacking) vs. France’s Jacque Secretin.

Water Pong
Here’s the video (35 sec) – every club should have one of these. And a pond.

“Elvis Table” at Pong Planet Designed by Gary Alcares
Here’s the article and pictures.

Pong Fire
Here’s the picture – can you take the heat?

Shark Pong
So . . . are you a ping-pong shark?

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July 19, 2017

Why do you play table tennis? Everyone has a reason, and whether you’ve thought it through or not, it always comes down to goals. Is your goal to have fun? Fitness? To quench your competitive spirit? Improvement? To reach a specific level or win a specific title? To make money?

  • Fun. This should be at least part of everyone’s reason. If it isn’t fun, why not find another sport or activity that is fun for you? The fun could be either from the play itself or from being around your table tennis friends.
  • Fitness. It’s a great way to get in shape, especially if you are training (i.e. doing drills, including lots of footwork drills).
  • Competitive Spirit. This is not to be confused with “fun.” Some people are just very competitive, and need to compete. Playing table tennis for them is like drinking coffee for someone else. They may take coaching to become better, or just to develop a specific technique that they want to use to compete, such as a serve or a loop. They may be driven to beat a specific player or players, with these goals changing as they improve or the players they play changes.
  • General Improvement. Some just like to get better at something, usually with the idea of reaching their potential. If so, then the proper combination of coaching, practice, and match play will lead to this. (Many leave out sports psychology training, systematic receive training, or some other important part, and so never reach their potential.)
  • Specific Level or Title. This could be anything from achieving a 2000 rating to winning the club/county/state/national/world title, perhaps in men’s, women’s, or an age group. Or it could be just becoming the neighborhood champ – though goals often go up after achieving lowly ones like this.
  • To Make Money. Okay, that’s just for us professional coaches and players!

So which of these are important to you? In theory, you could put a percentage on each so it adds up to 100%, but that doesn’t really work. A player may be putting 100% effort into improvement, but still enjoy the sport and also play for fitness and other reasons. Instead, perhaps put a percentage on each for how much each one is important to you. I know that at various times in my 41 years in the sport I’d have put 100% (or close to it) for each of these, though rarely at the same time.

USATT Minutes and Actions
Here’s the USATT Minutes and Actions page, where you can find all the doings of the USATT Board of Directors. The minutes of a number of past meetings were recently posted. (I’m one of the nine on the board.)

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

Legends of the Liebherr 2017 World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article and video (90 sec).

WTTC 2017: World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the new highlights video (3:46), set to music, by EmRatThich.

Ping Pong, Elderly Delighted after Winning
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

JOOLA Prop Challenge - Table Tennis Tricks Compilation
Here’s the article and video (2:33).

Around the Net Loop
Here’s a repeating gif (5 sec) as India’s Sharath Kamal Achanta takes it around the net.

Chicken Man Playing with a Pot
Here’s the picture!

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