Larry Hodges's blog

May 9, 2017

USATT Teleconference
The USA Table Tennis Board of Directors had a teleconference last night from 7PM to close to about 8:45PM. All nine board members (including me) attended, as well as CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, and attorney Dennis Taylor. Here’s a quick rundown.

I had nominated Sydney Christophe to be the fifth and final member of the USATT Coaching Committee. The board approved him unanimously, so he joins myself (chair), Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao and Timothy Wang on the committee. Sydney is certified as a USATT National Coach, an ITTF Level 2 Coach, and is one of five USA ITTF course conductors. He’s a Lead Coach for the American Youth Table Tennis Organization, and a former Caribbean Men's Singles Champion.

The board also unanimously approved the Classic Table Tennis Committee. (They cover hardbat and sandpaper.) Scott Gordon was the previously appointed chair. The rest of the approved committee is Diann Darnall, Ty Hoff, Al Papp, Jay Turberville (Athlete).

There was a relatively short discussion of SafeSport. I say “relatively” since we had a very long discussion of this at the recent board meeting in California. One problem that’s come up is that some are reluctant to give their social security number for the background check. USATT is looking into other options for this.

Next up was discussion of the new High Performance Director, Jorg Bitzigeio. (I’ve come to accept that for the next few years, every time I want to use his last name I’m going to have to look it up. Or maybe I’ll just memorize it and save some time. After all, I learned how to spell USATT Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh!) Jorg is working on getting his USA work visa. The question Rajul Sheth brought up was whether he should be working with USATT until and if he gets that visa. As explained by Gordon, it would be illegal for us to pay him until he does, but until then his work with us is voluntary. The other question was about his being named the coach of the Women’s Team at the upcoming Worlds. (Here’s the news item on the World Team and coaches. Note that Adar Alguetti had made the Men’s Team but had to withdraw for reasons I don’t know.) Some had been told that Jorg had chosen himself, but he was actually chosen by the CEO and the chair of the High Performance Committee.

This is where I spoke up. I pointed out that there were really three questions being raised: 1) Should Jorg be working for us before he gets the work visa; 2) Who chooses the USA Team Coaches; and 3) Who would be the best coaches for our teams at the Worlds? I said that I’d rely on the CEO’s judgement that we could use Jorg before he gets the work visa (#1 above), and that the third question wasn’t really a board question. The key question for the board was #2, who chooses the team coaches? It seems an obvious thing, and yet we don’t have anything in writing that says who does this.

I’d already emailed with Carl (High Performance Committee chair) that we need to have documentation that says specifically who chooses the National Team Coaches. As I pointed out, I’ve heard arguments that the coaches for our teams should be chosen by the CEO, by the High Performance Committee (HPC), by the High Performance Director (HPD), and by the Coaching Committee. Regardless of who we decide will make these choices, we need to document who makes the choice and how. I was assured they will be doing this. My personal belief is that HPD should nominate and the High Performance Committee approve the choices. If the HPD is in consideration as one of the coaches – as was the case here – then the HPC would make the decision.

One problem also brought up was that Jorg wasn’t as familiar with our top players as some other USATT coaches. But he is studying video and communicating with the players on this. He is going to be in overall charge of developing USA players for the foreseeable future, so this is one way to start. He was a National Team Coach for Germany for ten years, and is highly qualified. And while he may not be as familiar with USA players as some coaches, he has one advantage – he may know the international players better than most other USA coaches.

Next up was a long discussion of the recent North American Hopes Trials. Alas, there were a number of problems at the tournament, and the board received a huge number of emails on this. The tone of the emails was very civil, and Gordon assured us that they are compiling the list of problems, and that they will be dealt with for next time. Probably the biggest issue brought up was an incident where the boys began playing second round matches in their round robin groups when the girls were scheduled to play next. And so the matches, which had already started, with some already into the third game, were interrupted by the referee and told to stop playing. The girls then played their round, and then the boys were sent back to complete their matches from where they had left off. Others cited the lack of “pomp and circumstance” that would make the event feel more classic, such as playing the National Anthem or an awards ceremony. (Afterwards Gordon sent out a packet of “goodies” to all the participants.) Others pointed out that due to the way the tables were set up and the lack of room, it was almost impossible for coaches to coach at certain tables.

I pointed out that the first step for many of these questions that came up was to send them to the USATT Rules Committee and/or USATT Umpires and Referees Committee and ask for their input. (The referee for the tournament isn't on either committee, so no conflict of interest.) 

We had brief discussion at the end of the World Veterans Championships coming next year in Las Vegas, and of the U.S. Para Open – and then we were done!

Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (3:02) as Elizabeta Samara teaches you how to hit her famous reverse pendulum backspin serve.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills.

California State Championships
Here are the main results.

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

Warren Buffett, Ariel Hsing
Here’s the picture at the annual Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Ariel has been an invited guest to the event since she was about 11. Here are lots of pictures of them (and Bill Gates) from past years.

Meet Fan Zhendong
Here’s the video (1:40) featuring the world’s #2 player.

2017 Croatia Open Highlights: Gionis Panagiotis vs Tristan Flore (Final)
Here’s the highlights video (5:02).

Dazzling Winning Celebrations, Inspiring Match Preparations
Here’s the ITTF page with lots of pictures and video. “Surprise wins, match preparations, celebrations and lots of love. Table tennis players around the globe share their week on social media and you will end up feeling their love!”

Marmaduke Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

May 8, 2017

Tip of the Week
Advantage of Passive Receives.

Coaching Level vs. Playing Level
It’s difficult for a low-level player can become a National Coach. It’s a simple reality. To be a high-level coach means spending years regularly working with, or at least watching and interacting with, top players as they develop, and the coaches who work with them, and then coaching and developing (or help developing) your own players. You can’t learn this by watching videos. Since top players become top players by training with other top players and working with top coaches, they automatically get this, and so have the potential to become top coaches.

I say potential because not all top players are suited to be top coaches. Some learn and really understand the game as they develop, while others do not. Some are good teachers, others are not. Some are emotionally suited to coaching, others are not. I've met at least one 1400 player who could be a National coach, and at least one 2800 player who probably shouldn't even be a club coach. Nearly all top players can, if they choose, become decent coaches.

But the reality is that top players are far more likely to become top coaches than non-top players. Non-top players rarely have the opportunity to spend years working with, watching, or interacting with top players as they develop, something top players do on their way to becoming top players. Lower-level players often become fine basics coaches, but not National level unless they have this opportunity. But some do get the opportunity, and if they are the type who is willing and able to learn, they can become high-level, perhaps National coaches.

These days, with 93 full-time table tennis clubs in the U.S., there are far more opportunities for lower-level players to spend years developing as high-level coaches than before. But there are no short cuts; you have to put in the same time and effort into this that a top player spends developing his game. You can’t just watch video of top players and expect to understand what it took for the player to reach that level – you have to see it developing, every step of the way.

What’s the best way for a non-top player to become a top coach? It’s pretty simple. 1) Spend years watching and interacting with top players and coaches as they develop; 2) Spend years studying the sport; 3) Develop players. The first two set you up to do the third item, and the third item proves you are truly a high-level coach. The third item can even be a group effort as sometimes low-level players/coaches work with top coaches in developing players, and in the process can become top coaches themselves.

We’re going to be revamping the USATT Certification Process soon. (I was recently appointed chair of the USATT coaching committee.) We’ll probably be adopting more of the ITTF coaching certification process, and making other changes. One thing I’ve always been unhappy with is the rating requirements for the various coaching levels. For club, state, regional, and national coaching certification, we currently require 1400, 1600, 2100, and 2300 ratings. (There's an adjustment factor for women - +150 points, so 1250 qualifies for club coach, etc..) Playing level is often one of the best indicators of a player's knowledge, but not always, and having it set in stone in the rules that we will certify coaches based on their playing level rather than their coaching level - which would often be a result of their playing level, but not always - needs to change.

USATT Board Teleconference
We have our monthly teleconference at 7PM tonight. (I'm on the board, alas.) I normally coach 4:30-8:00 PM on Monday nights, but as usual had to cancel the last 1.5 hours. The agenda:

  • Roll Call/Administrative Tasks
  • Approval of Committee Members (Coaches Committee, Classic Hardbat Committee)
  • SafeSport Update
  • Discussion Regarding High Performance Director
  • Discussion Regarding Hopes Continental Event
  • Discussion Regarding ITTF-North American Commercial Grant
  • Old Business
  • New Business
  • Adjourn

Articles and Video from PingSkills
Here are new ones.

Articles from Samson Dubina
Here are two new ones.

EmRatThich Videos
There are five new videos up at the enigmatically named EmRatThich.

Table Tennis T-Shirt
I kind of like this one – “It’s okay if you think table tennis is boring. It’s kind of a smart people sport.” (It’s why I titled my best-selling book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!)

How to Do Three-Point Forehand Footwork Like an Olympian
Here’s the video (51 sec) featuring USA’s Yijun 'Tom' Feng (2015 USA Men’s Singles Champion).

Ma Long Exercise First Ball With His Coach
Here’s the video (2:11).

Elite Table Tennis in Slow Motion
Here’s the video (11:54). It’s from last year, but I don’t think I saw it until now.

Zagreb Open
The Zagreb Open in Croatia finished on Saturday. Lots of articles, results, pictures, and video.

Doubles Seeding Announced for Liebherr 2017 World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article.

The Perfect World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article on Waldner’s perfect 21-0 game record in Men’s Singles at the 1997 Worlds – the only player to win the Worlds without losing a game. Links to highlights video (57 sec).

Table Tennis Robots
These robots are getting better and better (57 sec)! But they still can only do simple rallying – they can’t well react to spin, and don’t seem to attack themselves. I would love to see this robot in a tournament to see what rating it would get. But I don’t think they can serve, so I’m fine with an adjusted rule that in robot vs. human matches, the human always serves if the robot is unable to. From what I see, I don’t think it could return a simple backspin serve or push, so it would get a rating probably under 800.

China’s Men’s vs. Women’s Team – Serve Pressure Training
Here’s the video (8:17) – I’m not sure what the rules are, but it’s some sort of serving competition, which the men won.

2017 ALN Cup Interviews
Here are the videos (4:00 and 8:57) with Lubomir Pistej, David Gonzalez, Abhilash Rajesh Kumar, Mudit Mahajan & Barney Reed.

Amazing Point
Here’s the video (26 sec)! It’s Artur Grigoryev vs. Mikhael Gladyishev at the Russian Club Championships last year.

Joo Sae-Hyuk vs Jan Ove Waldner Exhibition
Here’s the video (15:16)! Joo Sae-Hyuk, a chopper/looper, was a Men’s Singles Finalist at the 2003 World Championships. And Waldner . . . well, according to Wikipedia, he’s “widely regarded as being the greatest table tennis player of all time.”

Mini-Table Pong
Here’s the video (82 sec).

Table Tennis Trick Serves - Pongfinity
Here’s the video (1:32).

How Adar Alguetti Asks for a Date at the Prom
Here’s the video (32 sec). USA junior star Adar (rated 2626) is holding the sign.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 5, 2017

As soon as I finish this blog I’m off to Ledo’s Pizza where I’ll spend much of the afternoon going over upcoming USATT coaching plans. (I was recently appointed chair of the USATT Coaching Committee.) There are two primary items.

First, I’m working with USATT headquarters to put together several coaching seminars at the upcoming USA Nationals, for both players and coaches. They would likely be held on Sun, Mon, Tue, and/or Wed nights, and range from 60-90 minutes long. Possible clinics we’re mulling over include:

  • Advanced Serve. We’d bring in a top coach and player for this – I already have a duo in mind. (I’d assist.)
  • How to Become a Professional Coach. I’d teach this one.
  • How to Set Up and Run a Junior Program. I’d teach this one. (I’d only teach this one or the one on becoming a professional coach, so have to decide which one.)
  • USATT Club Coach Certification Clinic. I’d run this one.
  • Basics Clinic. I might run this one.

Second, I’m going over the current USATT Coaching Certification Program. I’ve already gone over them, but now I’m going over them very closely for updates I might recommend to the USATT Coaching Committee. For one thing, there’s that silly rule that someone came up with where you have to achieve a specific rating for each level of coaching. There have been some great coaches who were not top players, but based on our criteria, they could only be low-level coaches. What’s important for a coach is his coaching ability, not his playing ability – I thought this would be obvious, but apparently not. (For one-on-one coaching, playing ability makes a difference, but a low level of play doesn’t stop a top coach from running high-level group sessions.) The key point is that top players usually have the opportunity to spend huge amounts of time with top players in training, and so gain much of the necessary experience to become a top coach. It’s harder for lower-rated players to get this experience, but some do, and become top coaches. I know of at least four top coaches who never reached 1400 level, but all spent many years working with top players as they developed, and so gained that experience – but based on our criteria, they can’t even be club coaches, our lowest level. I’ll blog later on about how we’ll change this. (Short version – playing level does indicate a minimum amount of time put into the sport, but if a coach can show he’s been active for a specific number of years, that does the same.)

There’s always a lot going on with USATT. There have been a huge number of emails to the USATT Board (I’m a member) regarding the North American Hopes Trials that were held this past weekend – apparently there were some problems. I keep debating whether I should wade in, but what’s the point? The problems are being taken care of, so I’d just be politicking at this point. Instead, I’ll just watch to make sure the problems are fixed. I’ve coached at past Hopes Trials, including a really well-run North American Hopes Trials at the Westchester Club in 2013, run by Robert Roberts and Will Shortz that could be a model for future ones.

There’s a listing of upcoming ITTF coaching courses below. (Here’s the online listing, which needs some updating – I’ll look into that shortly.) As coaching chair, I have to approve and do some paperwork on each, though headquarters does the bulk of this. There’s a new one being planned in Portland, and I have to send some emails out shortly on that.

On Monday at 7PM we have a USATT Teleconference. I don’t have the agenda yet, but will likely blog about that on Monday and Tuesday. We’ll also finally get the last member of the USATT Coaching Committee approved, and then I can blog about that.

Last week I spent a bunch of time on grandfathering seven new National Coaches. More on that later once the online coaches list is updated.

There’s also lots of MDTTC work (my club). Yesterday I finalized the May Newsletter. (Usually it goes out around the first, but the newsletter publisher is out of the country until tomorrow – May 6 – so it can’t go out until she returns.) I also have to go over with our nine coaches and about a dozen others the USATT/USOC SafeSport Requirements. I am NOT looking forward to that. A kid accidentally broke off the on/off switch for one of our robots, so I had to package that up and send back to Newgy for fixing.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.

USA Nationals – Online Registration
Have you entered the USA Nationals yet? You can now enter online! They will be held July 3-8 in Las Vegas. I will be there; will you? There will be several coaching clinics and other seminars.

My Table Tennis Books
What, you haven’t bought all my table tennis books yet??? What’s wrong with you?

Why Every Table Tennis Player Should Use Multi-ball Training
Here’s the article from Pong Universe. (This is from last year, but I don’t think I posted it.)

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills – 16 since yesterday!

Different Strokes for Different Folks
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon.

Ma Long & Xu Xin & Zhang Jike & Wang Hao Training
Here’s the video (15:25).

Billy Ding and the 2017 World University Games
Billy’s on the USA Team to the World University Games, and is trying to raise funds to go. Here’s his funding page. “This summer, I will be representing Team USA and the University of Washington at the 2017 World University Games in Taiwan. While I’m thrilled for this opportunity, it does take a lot financially to make this possible. I’m looking for support for training and my trip to the World University Games. Thanks so much for the support!” Here are the USA Team Members:

  • Men: Yijun Feng, Timothy Wang, Billy Ding, Nathan Hsu, Jason Plog
  • Women: Wu Yue, Lily Zhang, Angela Guan, Erica Wu, Isabel Chu

2017 USA Paralympic Table Tennis Teams

Zagreb Open
The Zagreb Open in Croatia finishes on Saturday. Lots of articles, results, pictures, and video.

China Announces the New Coaches for Top 4 Players
Here’s the article, with link to video. The new coaches:

  • Ma Long - Ma Lin
  • Zhang Jike - Liu Guozheng
  • Fan Zhendong - Wang Hao
  • Xu Xin - Wu Jingping

Battle of the Paddles: Ping-pong players flex their brains and conquer fear in recent tournament
Here’s the article

The Slickest Shot Ever Made
Here’s the video (28 sec) as China’s Fan Zhendong (world #2) pulls off a rolling shot that makes even him and his shocked opponent, France’s Simon Gauzy (world #16), to smile.

World Championships Top Ten Moments - #5-10
Here are links to these five, care of Fremont Table Tennis. I’m not sure if ITTF has done #1-5 yet.

2017 ALN Cup Open Final - Tao Wenzhang vs. Lubomir Pistej
Here’s the video (10:38).

Table Tennis Manager – Online Table Tennis Game
Here’s the online game - “The Multiplayer Online Game for Table Tennis.”

Sizzling Photoshoot of Feng Tianwei, Timo Boll and Others
Here’s the article and photos.

Justin Bieber’s Bizarre List of ‘Demands’ for India Tour Goes Viral
Here’s the article – So what if he (with a 120-person strong entourage) demands 10 luxury sedans, 2 Volvo buses, a Rolls Royce for himself, a Jacuzzi, and will be flying in a PlayStation, IO HAWK, sofa set, washing machine, refrigerator, upholstery, wardrobe cupboard, massage table . . . and a ping pong table. At least he has his priorities straight! Here are some videos of Bieber playing table tennis.

How to CHEAT at Table Tennis
Here’s the article!

True Table Tennis Love?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Skill Level God Mode
Here’s the video (41 sec). (I think I posted this once before, but this seems a new version.)

Table Tennis Battle
Here’s the hilarious video (1:42)!

Send us your own coaching news!

May 4, 2017

Star Wars Table Tennis
Today is Star Wars Day. How did that happen? It is May the Fourth, as in, “May the Fourth Be With You!” And, of course, Star Wars and Table Tennis go together like ketchup and fries, chocolate and nuts, and table tennis and nets. (Seriously – my club has 18 tables and so 18 nets, plus about 12 ball pickup nets, plus the robot net.)

What does Yoda say to Luke Skywalker? Among other things, Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try.” At first glance (and perhaps many glances after that), this is rather unhelpful. Do we really want to tell our table tennis students not to try, that they should either do or do not? Everyone starts out as a beginner, unable to do proper shots, so that means they all “do not.” Does that mean they should not try? Perhaps a student should stop “trying” and instead just “do or do not.” At first there’ll be a lot of “do not,” but gradually there’ll be more and more “do.” Technically, they are “trying” to “do,” but you can think of each attempt as “do or do not,” since that’s essentially what happens. (We’ll ignore those gray areas where the shot is pretty good but not perfect – is that “do” or “do not”?)

In the same clip above, Yoda also says, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This applies directly to table tennis as most coaching is not teaching a student to do something – it’s getting rid of bad habits and unwanted movements, i.e. unlearning what they have learned. Yoda might have made a fine table tennis coach!

Now let’s look at the Jedi Code.

There is no emotion, there is peace.
There is no ignorance, there is knowledge.
There is no passion, there is serenity.
There is no chaos, there is harmony.
There is no death, there is the Force.

Grammatically, this is awful, but then while the rest of us were learning proper writing and speaking, Yoda (with his backward speech) and the rest of the Jedi gang were out practicing their “sad devotion to that ancient religion.” But what this seems to say is that the five items listed first do not really exist, that there is only the second item. Does this help us in table tennis? Let’s see:

  • No emotion, only peace. This will greatly help you when you play, especially in a close match!
  • No ignorance, only knowledge. Well, duh, this will help all table tennis players who use their knowledge to play smart tactics and develop their game strategically. However, just as important as knowledge is wisdom, and the Jedi seem to leave that out.
  • No passion, only serenity. This is a tricky one, as you need passion to give you that driving force (snicker) to practice to get better. Those with a passion for the sport will practice longer and harder than those that don’t. On the other hand, once you are at the table, serenity is your friend.
  • No chaos, only harmony. I think this refers to chaotic thinking, and it greatly helps a table tennis player if he replaces this with harmony – but this seems redundant with the previous item, serenity. I guess the Jedi want to emphasize this.
  • No death, only the Force. The only “death” in table tennis comes when you lose, though of course if your opponent does a lot of kills that could imply some sort of death. But if you think of losing when you play (i.e. “death”), then you’ll be nervous about it and not play as well. But to play well means relying on your training, i.e. muscle memory, and basically letting go and playing at a mostly subconscious level, other than tactical thinking. That’s basically relying on the Force.

Should adopt the Jedi Code for our table tennis selves? But perhaps cheat a little and allow passion? Or maybe we should go the other way, and fall to the Dark Side? After all, most of us “don’t understand the power of the dark side.” (I use black on my forehand, and I’m primarily a forehand attacker, so I regularly use the power of the dark side – but that’s just me.) Perhaps we should look at the Dark Side (don’t they have cookies?) and the Code of the Sith?

Peace is a lie. There is only Passion.
Through Passion I gain Strength.
Through Strength I gain Power.
Through Power I gain Victory.
Through Victory my chains are Broken.
The Force shall free me.

Now we’re told to forget about peace (of mind?), that it’s a lie, and that the passion that the Jedi says we should not have is all we have. How does this apply to table tennis? Basically, the Sith are saying Passion => Strength => Power => Victory => Chains are Broken, and that the Force (your subconscious muscle memory) will set you free. Somehow this seems to fit table tennis better than the passionless Jedi Code. So guess what? If we want to be good at table tennis, perhaps it’s time for us all to take a trip on the Dark Side!

And now for some Star Wars Table Tennis!

“Ladder Drills”: Chinese Table Tennis Footwork Training Methods
Here’s the video (8:11) from EmRatThich.

How to Get More Spin on Serves
Here’s the video (2:37) – a neat trick for teaching spin.

How To Play Defensive – Important Tips For You To Protect Your Score
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark.

Table Tennis Resort for Highest Ambitions
Here’s info from Butterfly on training camps at this club in Germany.

Melton Table Tennis Association Newsletters
Here are links to all ten of the newsletters from this club in Australia. They have lots of interesting content, such as an article on lefties in the May 2017 issue.

World Table Tennis Day Celebration
Here’s the highlights video (3:32).

World Champs Top 10 Moments: Ding Ning Recovery
Here’s the ITTF video (58 sec).

Hina Hayata vs Kim Kyung Ah: ITTF Asian Championships 2017, Women's Team
Here’s the video (22:12).

U.S. Men’s Champion Kanak Jha Hitting with School Children
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Jealous Ping-Pong Paddle?
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

May 3, 2017

Biggest Comebacks in Table Tennis
Here are the biggest comebacks I know of. Note that games were to 21 until the early 2000s.

  • In 1976, my first year of playing, I think at the Eastern Open, 13-year-old Curt Kronlage (son of Hall of Famer Yvonne), rated 1677, won the first game and was up 20-6 match point on Sid Jacobs, a chopper rated 1858 – and lost 16 points in a row, and lost the third badly. (I saw parts of the match, but didn’t know what was happening until afterwards.)
  • I’ve been told that Istvan Jonyer/Tibor Klampar were up 20-8 match point at the World Championships against a Chinese team in Men’s Doubles, and lost. This must have been at the 1977 Worlds, where in the round of 16 they lost to Huang Liang/Lu Yuan-Sheng, -13, 16, -19, 18, 21. (Here’s where you can find results of past Worlds.)
  • At the 2003 World Championships, Werner Schlager was down  2-3 in games and 6-10 match point in the quarterfinals of Men’s Singles against reigning world champion Wang Liqin, but came back to win. (I was watching in the stands.) Here’s video. Schlager went on to win the title.
  • At the USA Team Trials around the early 1990s, Brian Masters led 10-0 in the fifth against Jim Butler (games to 21), but lost. (I was watching in the stands.)
  • At the 2016 USA Nationals, in the Men’s Singles Final, Kanak Jha came back to win against Feng Yijun from down championship point in the fifth game, and down 4-9 in the seventh, but won seven in a row to win. (I was watching in the stands. Here’s video.)
  • At the 2014 USA Nationals, in the Men’s Singles Final, Jim Butler came back to win against Kunal Chodri from down 1-5 in the seventh to win 11-8. (I was watching in the stands. Here’s video – go to 2:08.)
  • Here are more Amazing Comebacks.

Here are some comebacks in matches I’ve played.

  • The second 2000+ player I ever beat was Benfield Munroe, at the 1979 Southern Open. He was up 20-15 match point in the fifth. I pulled out my forehand tomahawk serve, which I hadn’t used until then, and miraculously he missed it five times in a row. I won the next point on his serve, and he missed the tomahawk serve a sixth time in a row! (I blogged about this on May 3, 2016.)
  • I was down 0-10 in the fifth against Pat Cox in the Under 2400 final of the Eastern Open, circa early 1990s – and tied it up 10-10, and won 26-24.
  • In the semifinals of Handicap Singles at some 4-star tournament – games to 51 (!) – I spotted an unbelievable 45 points to some beginner, tied it up at 47-47 . . . and lost! (He scored three of those last four points on nets and edges, and smacked in one wild forehand kill.)
  • One of my proudest tournament achievements is that I’ve come back from down 20-15 match point or worse seven times in tournaments, but no one’s ever done it to me. I did blow a 20-16 match point lead once on Joe Cummings, leading to weeks of various “wits” saying, “He’s Cummings back!”

Ask the Coach
More questions answered by PingSkills – this morning they talk about anatomic handles and the book Ping-Pong Diplomacy by Nicholas Griffin.

Righties versus Lefties
Here’s an interesting interactive chart showing that of the top 300 men and women in the world, 24.75% and 18.47% respectively are lefties, which are above the worldwide average for left-handedness which is about 10% (according to Wikipedia). Lefties obviously do have at least some advantage in table tennis as players aren’t as used to playing them, and so their natural tactical instincts are for playing righties.

Worlds: Ma Long and Ding Ning Once Again Head Seeding
Here’s the ITTF article.

Hugo Calderano on Whose Shoulders Rest Brazilian Hopes
Here’s the ITTF article.

Feat Not Achieved for Four Decades, Career High for Miu Hirano
Here’s the ITTF article, featuring Hirano’s beating the top three Chinese, which was last done in . . . 1977!

Matthew Syed Admits One of His Biggest Regrets
Here’s the video (2:17) where he admits to trying to cheat against Des Douglas. (Syed and Douglas were both former English champions.)

Behind the Back Shot by Vladimir Bril
Here’s the video (25 sec).

A Little Sit Down Lobbing
Here’s the video (31 sec).

Ping Pang is Life
Here’s the video (60 sec), a compilation of hilarious short clips.

Non-Table Tennis – “Eternity and the Devil”
This morning I sold my science fiction horror story “Eternity and the Devil” to the Flametree Publishing for their upcoming Time Travel anthology. They pay well! The story is about a physicist who sells his soul to the Devil in return for solving the Grand Unified Theory, which he uses to greatly benefit mankind – he’s a good guy. When the Devil shows up and takes him to Hell, the scientist escapes into the future in a time machine, pursued by the Devil.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 2, 2017

Lack of Injuries and Why They Are Gone
I’ve been pretty much injury free for a while now. I don’t understand it – I’m playing an Olympic Sport 25 hours/week, and I’m not falling apart??? (That’s different from merely being exhausted all the time from all the exertion and other work.) Here’s a summary – it’s strange how injuries come and go. Let’s see:

  • Knee problems. I had lots of them for many years, and had to wear ace knee braces (sometimes on both knees) for a decade. Then the club went from cement to rubberized floors, and the knee problems went away. I still keep the ace knee braces in my bag, but I don’t know why – I haven’t used them in about a decade.
  • Arm problems. I’ve had arm problems since playing baseball when I was about 12, due to poor throwing technique. It caused havoc with my game in the 1980s, and then, after mostly going away for 20 years, started up again about ten years ago. And then I discovered the BandIT Therapeutic Forearm Band – and no more problems! (I wish I’d had this back in the 1980s. I coulda been a contenda!)
  • Shoulder problems. Every time I hurt my arm I’d adjust my stroke to accommodate – and every time this led to shoulder problems. First I’d hurt the front area. Then, adjusting for this, I’d hurt the back area. But with the forearm band (see above), no more arm problems, and so no more shoulder problems.
  • Back problems. I’ve had periodic upper-back problems, which come about because my right side is so much stronger than my left (gee, I wonder why?), and so the muscles of the upper back literally pull my spine out of alignment. I’ve missed a lot of sessions because of this. But then a physical therapist showed me a simple stretching exercise that loosens those muscles – and no more back problems. (The picture shows the person stretching the upper left side; I do the opposite way, for the upper right side.) I’m supposed to do this stretch regularly, but I’ve discovered that I don’t need to – I can feel when the back muscles are beginning to tighten up, which leads to the back problems, and so when I feel that, I do the stretching regularly for a few days, and it goes away.

Having said all this, there are other health risks to table tennis, such as:

  • About once a year, while following through on a forehand loop, I smack myself in the head. Someone said this explains a lot about me.
  • Spending many hours in table tennis shoes can lead to occasional foot problems. I’m lucky that I don’t have major problems this way, but sometimes on weekends after ten hours at a table, my feet and I aren’t on speaking terms.
  • On Saturday I had several free hours at the club where I did some writing on my laptop. I brought a small (7.5 oz) Mountain Dew with me to drink while writing, but forgot to put it in the refrigerator. So, to cool it faster, I put it in the freezer – and forgot about it. On Sunday I remembered it, and brought it out, and it was, of course, solid ice. So I decided to sip it slowly while coaching as it melted. Three things came from this – 1) I had a nice, sugary drink while I coached that took about two hours to finish; 2) I poisoned myself with this nice, sugary drink; and 3) I learned that when you freeze and then melt a Mountain Dew, it goes flat, so I was left with a flat, sugary drink. (I normally drink water while coaching, and try to limit myself to one 7.5 oz Mountain Dew per day.)

Fan Zhendong Backhand Flick & Forehand Technique
Here’s the video (11:31).

Table Tennis Exercises to Improve Footwork
Here’s the video (9:54) from EmRatThich.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills, including (over the last two days):

  • Backspin and sidespin service           
  • Is it important for serves to have sidespin
  • Service secrets while playing doubles
  • Topspin return on underpin serve
  • Attacking sidespins
  • Shakehand shallow grip
  • Backhand sidespin flick off serve

A Little Serving Target Practice
Here’s the video (23 sec). This is great practice for your serves as long as you use full spin. Many players, when using targets, ease off on the spin, making the practice counter-productive. Instead, learn to serve with full spin and still control the ball’s path – which you should see in your head before serving.

Stuttgart Revisited, Jörg Rosskopf Wins Legends Tour in Metz
Here’s the ITTF article. Here’s the home page for the Legends Tour.

Zagreb Open
The Zagreb Open in Croatia starts today and goes through Saturday, with the qualification rounds today and tomorrow, and the main draws starting on Wednesday.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Korea Open
Here’s the video (5:19).

Great Point: Timo Boll vs. Tiago Apolonia
Here’s the video (18 sec, no sound).

Ping-Pong Posters
Here are some great ones!

Ping-Pong in Space
Here’s the video – link should take you to 13:16, where she says, “We’re going to play a little ping-pong…, but it’s kind of space ping-pong because we’re going to use a ball of water as our ball.” What follows is perhaps the most mesmerizing, action-packed table tennis ever seen in outer space. (You can stop watching after he swallows the ball at 14:12.)

Animated Pong – Hippos and Dogs and Cats!
Here’s the video (1:35) – I think that’s a hippo and a dog playing doubles against a pair of blue cats! About 2/3 of the way through it gets more interesting as something happens to the poor hippo.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 1, 2017

Tip of the Week
Strive to Make Every Shot a Memorable One.

Exhausting Weekend!!!
It was a long one. On Saturday I had four hours of private coaching, from noon to 3PM, and 5-6PM. Normally I have a 3-5PM multiball session with two players, but they couldn’t come in, so I had a two-hour break. Then I had the 5-6PM session, and then I’m done, right?

Wrong. We had a group of 40+ people who come in annually for a ping-pong party. They are from a church, and this is the third straight year they’ve rented to the club on a Saturday night for a ping-pong party, 6:30-10:00PM. None of them are what we’d call “serious” players, but a number were good “basement” players. I do exhibitions and demos for many parties, but for this one my only job was to watch over the club for 3.5 hours. I did spend 15 minutes doing an impromptu trick-shot demo, where I did the 50-foot serve, the bounce-back-over-the-net serve, demoed that I could force opponents to return my spin serves where I wanted them to, did the blow the ball in the air trick, speed bouncing on the table, tossing balls in the air and smacking them with another, and my latest trick – having someone toss my Gatorade bottle into the air and I smack it with a ball. I also rescued the table tennis robot from a kid who apparently mistook it for a toy to be broken – and he managed to break off the on-off switch before I stopped him and took down the robot. (Getting that fixed is on my todo list today.)

But during most of those “free” hours (3-5, 6-10PM) I worked in the back on my laptop, getting a bunch of science fiction writing (my sideline) done. I mostly finalized a rewrite request from my publisher for my new novel, and finalized two short stories I’ve been working on. I have several table tennis writing projects coming up which I hope to get to soon.

Recently my students are more and more into serving (yes!), and so I’ve been coaching that a lot. I worked with one student on fast, deep serves, and he picked it up so fast it was scary – fast ones, big breaking sidespins, fast no-spin. After the session he stayed late to practice them on his own. Others are focusing on spin serves, which are more important. (Fast serves are normally variations to catch an opponent off guard. Overused they become less effective.)

Sunday is my busiest coaching day, with almost non-stop coaching from 11AM to 8:30PM. First up was private coaching to 3:45PM. Then from 4:00-8:30PM were three consecutive 90-minute classes. 4:00-5:30PM is the Beginning Junior Class I teach, with John Hsu assisting. Yesterday’s focus was on spin serves. Because we spent so much time on that we finished with some very physical footwork and smashing multiball.

Then came the Talent Development Program, 5:30-7:30 PM, our advanced junior class (ages 7-12), invitation only. (Officially the class goes to 7PM, but they rarely leave the tables until about 5-10 minutes after that, and then they do physical training.) Normally I’m assigned three players to work with – there are 23 players and eight coaches/practice partners. But one player was missing, so I only had two, so they got 50% more attention each. The entire camp started with lots of shadow practice, then came serve practice, then multiball, then table training. I always have to stop about five minutes before 7PM to teach my adult training session.

Because of the Capital Area League the day before, several of our regular players were resting, and a couple of others were out of town, so we only had eight players in the session. Since we were missing most of our “top” players, I focused on the basics, and on often under-practiced down-the-line shots. One “new” players is Joanna, who I blogged about a couple of times. She was apparently a strong junior player from Poland many years ago, then stopped for 30 years. She started up two months ago, taking private coaching from me. At first, I could see she had good strokes, but her shots were wild, going all over the place. But things quickly changed – and now she drills like an 1800 player. I’m not sure what her level is now in games as she is only practicing now, but we’ll soon find out. She might be pushing 2000 level soon if she starts playing matches.

Recently I’ve upped my private coaching hours, and I’m now back to coaching six days a week. I usually try to have two days off per week to rest, but it just isn’t happening. And now I’m beginning to pay for it! I was exhausted at the end of Sunday, and woke up this morning with every muscle sore. The hard part each day when I’m this tired is getting started each session. Once I get going it’s easier. Then on Thursday I have a light schedule – just one hour – and Friday I’m off. (I keep getting requests to coach on Friday, and I’m desperately fighting them off!)

Tom Lodziak Newsletter
Here’s the new edition, with links to numerous coaching-related articles – including one by me, and my recent interview there.

Emotions at the US Nationals: Problem and Solutions
Here’s the new article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tournament Knock Up
Here’s the article from, which gives three elements to maximize your chances for success in tournaments.

Ask the Coach
More questions answered from PingSkills.

A Coach’s Dozen: An Update on Building Healthy, Strong, and Resilient Young Athletes
Here’s the article and chart.

Wiggle Wobble Table Tennis - Like a Boss!
Here’s the new video (2:48) from Brett Clarke.

Qualifiers Emerge at 2017 ITTF North American Hopes Trial
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, with a link to video of the boys’ final. Here’s the home page with the results from this past weekend.

Young Officials Take Center Court at Hopes Trial
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League (Washington DC area) had their second meet of the season, this time at the SmashTT club in Virginia. (Click on the division for results.)

Vladimir Samsonov Receives Order of Honour from President of Belarus
Here’s the article.

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

108 Countries Set to Compete at 2017 World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the ITTF article, and the home page for the event, to be held May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The Contenders: 2017 World Champs
Here’s the ITTF video (28 sec).

Best Table Tennis Tables 2017
Here’s a site that reviews tables.

Pong Universe Point of the Week
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Epic Attack vs. Defense at the Slovenian Open!
Here’s the video (1:46).

Ping Pong Trick Shots with Dude Perfect
Here’s the video (7:16)!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 28, 2017

USATT Coaching Committee
I spent all of last night, and into the wee hours, working on USATT coaching committee issues. Some are rather mundane, such as getting the online committee listings updated. Others are more complicated, such as grandfathering several top-level coaches into our coaching certification system, and setting up two coaching seminars at the Nationals – probably one on serving, and another on becoming a professional coach. I already have a coach and top player in mind for the serving seminar (I’d assist), and would run the “professional” seminar myself. The plan is that certified coaches, and perhaps tournament volunteers, would be allowed in free, while others would pay, with the coach running the seminar getting half or more of that money. (I wouldn’t take anything – conflict of interest.)

The serving seminar would be for both players who want to learn advanced serves, and for coaches who want to teach it. One possibility is splitting it into two parts, one for players, and one for coaches. I might take the lead in the one for coaches. The Nationals starts on Monday morning. The seminars might take place on Sun, Mon, Tue, and/or Wed night. Thursday night is the Hall of Fame Banquet, and Friday night is the Men’s and Women’s Singles Finals.

The new coaching committee is currently made up of me (chair), Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao, and Timothy Wang. (Note that all have great experience with full-time clubs – that’s intentional. They also are regular attendees of the Nationals and Open, so we can meet twice a year at those tournaments.) One more will likely be joining the group soon. Long-time chair Richard McAfee has been very helpful as a “special advisor.” New High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio is the USATT staff liaison, and would be involved in coaching committee issues. My first item of business with him will be to apologize that I will never remember how to pronounce his last name, so he’ll always be just Jorg (“George”) to me.

Double-Hit Rules Question
Here’s one I came up with recently. Rule states, “Unless the rally is a let, a player shall score a point . . . if an opponent deliberately strikes the ball twice in succession.” The reason for this is that it’s usually impossible to tell if the ball does a double-hit or not when it hits your playing hand – and remember that your hand below the wrist is considered part of the racket. (That never made sense to me, but it’s the rule – 2.05.07: “A player strikes the ball if he or she touches it in play with his or her racket, held in the hand, or with his or her racket hand below the wrist.”) So while it's legal to accidentally double-hit a ball (usually as it hits part of your hand and racket, or two parts of your hand), you can't do this deliberatly, such as hitting it once into the air high and near the net, and then smashing it. 

Now suppose your opponent hits the ball rather short, and you reach in and smack it rather hard. Suppose the ball hits the net or the net post and bounces back very fast, and before you can react, it hits your racket again, and then goes over on the other side for a winner. Whose point is it? Well, the double-hit wasn't deliberate, so it should be your point, right? But I’m guessing that if you did this, your opponent might see it differently! (Any referees/umpires out there want to chime in on this?)

Ask the Coach
More questions answered at PingSkills!

Analysis: Miu Hirano vs. Ding Ning Quarterfinal Match in Wuxi
Here’s the ITTF Article.

The Meaning of "Cho-le" in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:39). The mystery is solved!!!

Table Tennis to Benefit Special Scholarship Students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School
Here’s info – it features Navin Kumar, and takes place this Saturday (tomorrow) from 1-4PM at Beltway Plaza Mall in Maryland. It’s listed as a tournament, but it’s really Table Tennis Challenge, where passersby can challenge Navin. I’d stop by – it’s local – but I’ll be at the club from noon to 10PM on Saturday.

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

Join Together at the 2017 Butterfly America’s Team Championship
Here’s info on the 4-star team tournament held May 27-28 in Rockford, IL.

ITTF Articles on the Worlds
There are a number of articles on the upcoming 2017 World Table Tennis Championships, to be held May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Milestone in Ajmer
Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 course taught in India by Christian Lillieroos.

Highlights of the 2017 TMS National College CoEd Team Finals
Here’s the video (10:31).

Ma Long Mixed Martial Training
Here’s the video (52 sec). “Ma Long went to Fighting Bros Club in Beijing for Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training.”

Crazy Hand Switch Attempt of Ma Long
Here’s the video (19 sec) – note how it starts with Ma Long’s sidespin block, which he pops up this time.

Crazy No-Look Table Tennis Shot
Here’s the video (52 sec)! Notice that the guy who won the point didn’t even know it.

Crazy Spinning No-Look Table Tennis Shots
Here’s the video (43 sec). (I may have posted this one once before – it looks vaguely familiar.)

How to Play Ping-Pong Alone
Here’s the video (2:59)!

Non-Table Tennis – “Alternative Truths”
Alternative Truths,” an anthology of science fiction & fantasy stories that satirize the election of Donald Trump, just came out. It comes in print or kindle versions. Included is my humorous fantasy, “The Monkey Cage Rules,” which starts out by mocking gullible voters – the unnamed president’s first words after getting elected are, “You people are soooooo gullible.” It then skewers numerous governing philosophies as the new president attempts to find a governing process that works. Along the way you meet the Ladybug of Liberalism, Specter of Socialism, Cardinal of Conservatism, Lion of Libertarianism, Mollusk of Moderation, Coelacanth of Communism, Mastiff of Monarchy, Doberman of Dictatorship, and the Sage of Baltimore (H.L. Mencken). The anthology includes 17 stories, including one where Donald Trump gives the Gettysburg Address! (I had another story that also came out recently, “Happily and Righteously,” a satire on paranoia, in the Funny Horror anthology.)

Send us your own coaching news!

April 27, 2017

Playing in a League and [Not] Reading Hidden Serves
I mentioned in my blog yesterday that some of the USATT board (as well as CEO Gordon) played in the ICC League on Saturday night. I also mentioned I didn’t do very well, and said I’d probably blog about it later. I was hesitant to do so as some will argue that I’m just making excuses. But I’ll just report what happened.

On the very first serve of my very first match, my roughly 13-year-old opponent (I’m told from a local club, not ICC, about 2000 level) served a blatantly hidden serve, hiding contact with his arm and shoulder. I badly missed the first two serves, one into the net, the other off to the side, and complained, to no avail. I didn’t want to create a scene, but at the same time I was pretty disgusted that even kids are hiding their serves illegally these days – but how can I blame him? It’s no different than what the best players in the world and the U.S. are doing, and it’s what his coach taught him to do, and umpires overwhelmingly allow it. If Ma Long and most top players (and Zhang Jike – see below) can serve this way, why not anyone else? I’ve blogged about this many times, and am still working on trying to get ITTF and/or USATT to resolve this issue.

 The key part that many still don’t get is that the key rule isn’t just that you can’t hide the ball. It’s that you must serve so that the umpire can see that the serve is legal, i.e. not hidden. In this case, four serving rules were being broken. (Note that for the last two, when there are no umpires, the players act as the umpires.)

  • 2.6.4: From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server…
  • 2.6.5: As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net. 
  • 2.6.6: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 
  • If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.

As a player and coach, I knew what I had to do – against his short serves, instead of my usual off-the-bounce flips, and quick short and long pushes, I’d have to take the ball as late as possible so I’d have more time to read the spin by how it bounces and curves through the air, and return them defensively, giving my opponent easy attacks, which isn’t exactly fair.

As a player, I could have adjusted, but I’m basically retired from tournaments, and so my priorities are different. The fact that I was stuck out there, facing blatantly illegal serves, unable to do anything about this, and knowing that this is now the norm, was just too frustrating, and so I pretty much lost any interest in really playing – and my results that night showed it. The other players served legally, and I tried to win, but my heart wasn’t really in it anymore. I do have to apologize to my opponents for how grim-faced I was that night, but now you know why. (I actually defaulted my last match, to a chopper, as my arm was getting sore, and I didn’t want to make it worse.)

Zhang Jike Plays School Kids – and Hides His Serve!
Here’s the video (2:10) – it’s in Chinese, but you don’t need to understand that to understand what’s going on as the kids try to return his serve. The ironic part is that even here, against little kids, he’s illegally hiding his serve – note how in the very first serve (20 sec in) he leaves his arm out to hide the ball.

How to Combine Your Forehand Drive and Backhand Drive
Here’s the article and video (1:36) from Coach Tao Li at Table Tennis University.

Chinese Physical Training/Training in China
Here’s the article, with links to video, from Fremont Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach
Two more questions answered at PingSkills – Deciding the Serve and Anatomic Handles.

US Coaches to Lead Team on Home Turf for Dusseldorf World Championships
Here’s the USATT article.

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

USATT Sanctioned Tournament Video Feature
Here’s the USATT article where USATT will help promote your tournaments.

Dublin Jerome Senior is a Top Contender for Paralympic Table Tennis Team
Here’s the article and video (2:28) from NBC4 WCMH in Columbus, OH, featuring Andrew Schneider. If you’d like to help fund his Paralympic Table Tennis dreams, here’s his GoFundMe page.

USA’s Amy Wang Triumphs in Belgium
Here’s the ITTF article.

ITTF Partners Legends Tour
Here’s the ITTF article.

Erie Open Final RR
Here’s video (58 sec) of some of the best points in the final round robin. That’s Open Champion Samson Dubina against Runner-up Roy Ke and then Seth Pech (3rd).

Duck Pong
Klaus Wood (member of USA Cadet Boys’ Team) recently adopted two pet ducklings. He did so by creating (according to his dad, Matthew), “a well-researched, multi-slide Powerpoint presentation with details on all his duck plans.” That, and straight A’s on his report card, won Klaus the two ducklings, whose names are Ping and Pong. Here’s the Facebook announcement. Here are the ducklings with a ping-pong ball. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Here they are again, in bathtub, with curious dog watching. Inspired by this . . . I give you Duck Pong!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 26, 2017

Tip of the Week
How Do You Develop Ball Control and a Feel for the Ball?

USATT Board Meeting
On Friday I flew out to the USATT board meeting in Milpitas, CA, last Friday, arriving in San Jose Airport around 5PM. I spent much of the flight going over USATT coaching committee plans – I was recently appointed the chair. (It’s my second tenure – I also chaired it for four years in the 1990s.) I flew in with fellow board member Gary Schlager (his first in-person board meeting) and USATT lawyer Dennis Taylor. Local player Michael Greene picked us up at the airport – right on time - and would later be picking up others as well.

That night we did a quick visit at the Silicon Valley TTC, which was a five-minute walk from the hotel, hitting for perhaps 15 minutes. Then we had dinner at the Outback Steakhouse. (I just had a salad.)

On Saturday morning we took what I kept calling the “Great White Whale” (a large white van, almost a bus, which USATT CEO Gordon Kaye drove to charter us everywhere) to the ICC Table Tennis Center to observe elite training. They had huge numbers of players training in three large groups, based on level, including U.S. Team Members Kunal Chodri and Nikhil Kumar. We then had lunch at the home of Anil Godhwani, the primary owner of ICC Table Tennis, who has donated over a million dollars to the center. (Pause while you lift your jaws off the floor.) As he put it, the donations were to get the ball rolling, which led to others donating money as well – and so this might be the only “cash rich” table tennis club in the country! But it all goes back into table tennis, so they have an incredibly successful table tennis program.

The board then went on a tour of some of the local full-time table tennis clubs. Besides ICC Table Tennis, we also visited the Fremont TTA, Table Tennis America, World Champions TTA, and (on Sunday) the Silicon Valley TTC (my second visit there). We were supposed to visit the Alameda TTC, but ran into time problems, and since it was 45 minutes away, we had to cancel that trip.

The board met in a meeting room at Anil’s house Saturday afternoon. There were few contentious issues that afternoon, which featured many reports, including:

  • Upcoming USA Nationals in Las Vegas, July 3-8;
  • 2017 U.S. Open, to be held Dec. 17-22, Sun-Fri, in Las Vegas – we save hordes of money by using these dates;
  • 2018 World Veterans Championships;
  • Discussion about other USATT events - Team Trials and future Nationals and Opens. Some believe that by switching the dates of the Open (now in December) and Nationals (now in July), we lost world-class players who might be more likely to come to the U.S. Open in July. But the switch was done because so many kids in the U.S. had great difficulty making the Nationals in December since it coincided with finals exams. There was also discussion of the format of the Team Trials. I pointed out there were mathematical proofs that there is no such thing as a truly fair trials process, and so all you can do is pick the least unfair one – which in our case seems to be three consecutive days of single elimination. The problem with giant round robins is that in the late rounds it’s easy for players who are out of the running to either stop trying as hard or to dump to friends who have a chance of making the team, and this has unfortunately happened a number of times.
  • Coaching Committee: I’ll write about this later.
  • Discussion of Advisory Committee Roles;
  • Discussion of ITTF election;
  • High Performance and USOC Update on: High Performance Director Update; Upcoming Events; and Funding;
  • CEO’s report on membership, clubs, tournaments, sponsorship, and fundraising;

That night some of us took part in the ICC League, including me. (I didn’t do well – I’ll blog about this probably tomorrow or Friday.)

We’d fallen behind on Saturday, and had to move a few items to Sunday. To make up for this, we met in the hotel lobby at 8AM for a combined breakfast and board meeting, where we went over proposals from the Umpires and Referees Committee (URC) and Tournament Committee. A key part here was about who the URC Selection Sub-committee reports to – the URC itself, or the USATT board? But most believed it should report to the URC, which seemed logical. There was also a discussion about age requirements for coaches. The ITTF has no age restrictions for coaching certification, but USATT – apparently for legal or insurance reasons, but not sure yet – requires coaches to be 18 to be certified. This is something we may look into later. I pointed out that I can see the logic of certifying players under age 18, perhaps at age 16 or 17, but we do have to draw the line or we’ll have 7-year-old certified coaches. Maybe that’s a good thing?

Then we took the van to ICC, where we had our Sunday meeting. It wasn’t actually at the ICC Table Tennis Center, but the Indian Community Center, of which ICC Table Tennis was a part. That afternoon’s discussions:

  • Financial Update;
  • Service Judges Update. At the recent National College Championships they experimented in some matches with Service Judges, where two umpires would sit in the stands behind each player, allowing them to see more easily if the serves were hidden. The accounts were mixed. The report showed that more faults were called, and as a result players served more legally. But the problem was it meant having two more umpires for each match; not all tables had stands behind each player where an umpire could sit; and some thought it changed the playing conditions from what our top players face overseas, putting them at an unfair disadvantage if they have to learn to serve legally when there are service judges, and go back to the usual illegal hidden serves otherwise. (Amazing how that is the norm now.) USATT will experiment with this more at the upcoming Nationals, but not in championship events.
  • Board Fundraising and Philanthropy Seminar. Martha Johnson from the US Olympic Committee gave a roughly 75 minute seminar on raising money. Part of this included getting the USATT Board on board – meaning all nine of us are expected to donate money. I’m going to donate, but will have to guard my wallet so not too much disappears. Anil also spoke of his experiences in fund-raising.
  • Proposal from Resource Development Committee. This was a proposal from Cogeo Sports and Entertainment to partner with USATT “to provide consulting advice and execution services to support the growth of USTTAF’s fundraising initiatives.” (USTTAF = US Table Tennis Association Foundation.) I honestly said that I couldn’t tell if this was the key to USATT’s salvation or something from Dilbert. It’ll be looked at by business minds and perhaps discussed and voted on later.
  • Lunch – Indian food served at the board table.
  • There were several other issues, such as a rewording of Hearing Panels from the bylaws (passed), and a discussion on whether to add language to entry forms that said, “I agree to abide by all ruling of the referee and tournament director provided they are in accordance with the rules.” The latter was not passed – it would basically give players an excuse to refuse to follow the referee’s rulings on the grounds that the player didn’t believe they were in accordance with the rules. But it is the referee who has to make that judgement, not the player, and could lead to havoc, and so this was not passed. (No vote was taken.)
  • During a legal discussion, I learned that in legal terms, “or” supposedly means the same thing as “and/or,” which makes no sense to me, but I’m no lawyer. But I know English – one can serve topspin or backspin, but he can’t serve topspin and/or backspin, as that implies you can sometimes serve topspin and backspin!!! I’m sorry, but or ≠ and/or!

Then came the BIG issue of the day – SafeSport. I’ll likely blog about this more later on. This came about because of abuses in other sports, primarily gymnastics, where some coaches were harassing minors. This, of course, could happen in any sport. So the USOC set up SafeSport – and while they meant well, and I agree that something like this was needed, I think they over-reacted.

Suffice to say that this requires a background check (which I passed), and an online tutorial and quiz that took me about two hours to complete. This will soon be required of all USATT certified coaches, umpires, and referees; all owners and officers of USATT clubs; tournament and league directors and organizers; all USATT board members, committee members, staff, and other positions with USATT; and anyone else in a position of authority over athletes. This is all being required of all Olympic Sports by the USOC, so we really have no choice – if we vote this down, they’ll simply decertify us and/or appoint a new board of directors.

I pointed out numerous problems with the current tutorial and quiz:

  • User Friendliness. I found it tricky getting started. If you have specific instructions, no problem, but I tried doing it from what was on the website, and it took a few minutes to figure things out. Once I got started, it was user-friendly, though at the end it took a few minutes to figure out how to print my certificate of completion.
  • Length. They should have been able to condense this into something much shorter.
  • Bad Questions. Three of the questions or answers I believe were unimportant, confusing, or wrong.
  • Non-English Speakers. Over half of U.S. Table Tennis coaches are Chinese whose English would make it impossible for them to understand the video and/or take the online written quiz. So they’ll either have to get a translator (and probably take five or more hours as they play a snippet of the tutorial, stop, translator translates, then repeat, and then go through the quiz slowly), or simply get others to take it for them. Guess which is more likely? (Note that there are many hundreds of coaches, not to mention all the others who will be required to take the tutorial and quiz.)
  • Underage Volunteers. Many clubs, including mine, have minors under the age of 18 who help out in running coaching sessions and leagues. Do we have to do background checks of 13-year-olds, and force them to take the online tutorial and quiz?
  • Slippery Slope. If this is required – and remember, I’m not against it once they fix the problems – what about other issues? Players have died of heart attacks at clubs – should the USOC require us to have doctors on hand at all clubs at all times? Clubs have had fires – should the USOC require us to have a firefighter on hand at all times? A terrorist could attack a club – should the USOC require metal detectors at all clubs and security guards?
  • Feedback. There is such a thing as good bureaucracy, where you set up procedures to do good things – and that’s the intent of SafeSport. But part of that means that the bureaucrats who create the rules should get feedback from “those on the field” – people like me, who are out there actually coaching and organizing – so they can find and fix problems like those I’ve pointed out.
  • Social Security Numbers. Others pointed out that many would object to giving out their social security numbers for the background checks. I run tournaments at MDTTC, and have one referee and two umpires – and one has already resigned as an umpire rather than give out his SSN. I’m waiting on the other two, one of whom has also voiced objections to giving out his SSN. (I haven’t spoken to the other.) I’m worried I’ll lose all three.

We spent over two hours on this issue. Carl Danner was especially good at going over the language of the actual USATT bylaw that would require SafeSport. One problem we kept coming up with is that based on the wording of SafeSport, we could face issues where a club can’t act with common sense, but must instead rely on SafeSport to resolve problems. I pointed out past examples from my club where common sense worked well, where escalation to SafeSport wouldn’t have been needed. For example, a player once kept bringing in ultra-violent videos and playing them at MDTTC for kids in the 6-9 age group. We told him to stop. He did it again, and the MDTTC management kicked him out for I think a month. When he returned, he did it again, and was kicked out for life. End of problem, and no SafeSport was needed in this case.

Then we voted. With the USOC literally forcing this on us, it passed 8-0-1. I was the abstention – I simply couldn’t vote for it in the current state. I doubt if they will shorten it – it’s more likely to be lengthened as more possible issues come up.

That night we attended the ICC Table Tennis Fundraiser. It started with a few short speeches, and then demonstrations with the ICC coaches and top juniors, following exhibition matches between Olympians Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang, and another between ICC coaches Bob Chen and Wenzhang Tao. Then they asked for donations, starting at $10,000, then $5000, then $2500, then $1000, and kept working their way down. It was very professional. Then Olympians Timothy Wang, Lily Zhang, and Ariel Hsing were all available to hit with players, as well as ICC top juniors. I had a little fun, playing exhibition-type matches against Timothy and Ariel where I chopped with a clipboard! Later I hit for half an hour with the clipboard against ICC juniors.

That night we had dinner again at the Outback, and then we were done! Gordon picked me and two others up at the hotel at 5AM Monday (you read that right) and I caught a 6:30AM flight back to Maryland. I spent Tuesday catching up on things (plus four hours of coaching), and will spend the rest of the week on that as well.

A great thanks goes to Gordon and to ICC (especially Rajul Sheth and Anil Godhwani) for setting up, organizing, and hosting the meeting - they did a great job. Thanks to all those who attended as well!

ITTF Presidential Election, Illegal Serves Question, and ITTF Commenting
Last Thursday, in the second segment, I blogged about this. Well, it took a week and several querying emails, but my question to the candidates about illegal serves finally went up Tuesday night, over a week after I first tried posting the note. It took a day for ITTF to send me the “verification email,” and another six days to approve the note, apparently they say because it included a link. Hopefully if the candidates respond it won’t take them a week or it’ll be a very slow communication process – smoke signals are faster. Strangely, while the questions went up on the announcements for Jean-Michel Saive and Thomas Weikert, it still hasn’t gone up for Khalil Al-Mohannadi. If they respond, I’ll link to their responses here.

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina
While I’ve been away, the Dubina’s been writing away!

Ask the Coach
Here’s the page from PingSkills – they’ve answered 16 more questions while I was away!

How to Play Offensive – You Will Never Win If You Don’t Know These Tips
Here’s the article and video (7:07) from PingPoolShark.

New Articles from USATT
While I’ve been away, USATT’s been posting away! I won’t link to all the new articles; I’ll let you browse their news page.

Westchester TTC Presents “Chip and Gus”
Here’s info on this table tennis play to be held at the Westchester TTC in New York on Friday, April 28. “Chip and Gus, oddball acquaintances meet once a month in the back room of a rundown bar to play ping pong.  But on this funny, smart, sad, and surprising night, something will change their relationship forever.”

Dan Seemiller Leads Camp for Veterans in South Bend
Here’s the article.

Chinese National Team Closed Training for WTTC 2017
Here are articles, video, and pictures.

Man vs. Machine
Here’s the video (44 sec, in slo-mo) as “Ty Petty ‘returns’ a ping pong ball shot out of a vacuum cannon... at 300 plus miles per hour!”

Better Nuclear Power Through Ping Pong
Here’s the article and a video (63 sec) showing a ping-pong ball traveling at Mach 2 (over 1500 mph) going through a paddle.

Ping Pong Pool
Here’s the video (19 sec)!

Ping-Pong Song and Tricks
Here’s the hilarious video (1:41)!

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