Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

May 7, 2018

Tip of the Week
Serve and Attack . . . Almost Always.

World Team Championships
The World Team Championships finished yesterday in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6. SPOILER ALERT! Yes, China won Men's and Women's Teams (again, for the 21st time each), this time over Germany and Japan. So it was more of the same, but also more of the new. (See the numerous links on this below, as well as Team USA info.) Basically, only three men's team can give any serious challenge to the Chinese right now - Germany, Japan, and South Korea - but they are big longshots. It's unfortunate that Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #3) was injured and couldn't play in the final, but it's unlikely that would have changed the final result. It's easier for a ping-pong ball to go through the eye of a needle than to beat a team that has Ma Long and Fan Zhendong.

On the women's side, Japan (and perhaps Hong Kong) are the only countries that can challenge the Chinese, but it'd still be a sizeable upset if anyone were to beat the Chinese women, a team that includes world #1 Chen Meng, #2 Zhu Yuling, Liu Shi Wen and Ding Ning. Guess what all four have in common? All have been ranked #1 in the world in the last 20 months. (Liu and Ding are currently ranked #10 and #11, but those aren't realistic and says more about the new ITTF system which favors participation more than before. Ding was #1 as recently as October 2017, Liu in September 2016. Many still consider Ding the best in the world. China didn't even play world #1 Chen Meng in the semifinals or final.) But the Japanese women have one thing going for them - a younger team that could get better.

The biggest news at the Worlds might have been the Unified Korean Women's Team (which I blogged about extensively on Thursday and Friday), but they were no match for Japan's women. (Korea didn't unify the Men's Teams, but the North Korean Men don't look to be nearly as strong as South Korea's so it wouldn't have helped.) On the men's side, we saw the resurgence of England and Sweden, with the latter getting a bronze, the first time they've contended this far since their golden age when they had Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Lindh, Carlsson, and so on. (Shashin Shodhan writes about this in his blog, including his experiences training in Sweden.)

China has won Men's Teams the last nine times in a row, and 11 of the last 12. The last non-Chinese winner was Sweden in 2000. Overall, China has won Men's Teams 21 times. Hungary is second with 12, winning in 1979, 1952, 1949, and nine times in the 20s and 30s. Japan is next with seven, all from 1954-1969. Next is Czech Republic, but all their wins came from 1932-1951. Sweden is next with five (1973, 1989, 1991, 1993, 2000). Only three other countries have won Men's Teams - Austria in 1936, USA in 1937, and England in 1953.

China has won Women's Teams four times in a row. They first won it in 1965. Their dominance began when they won it a second time in 1975, and since then have won 20 out of 22 times, including 12 of the last 13. (The exceptions were Singapore in 2010 and a Unified Korea in 1991.) Overall, China has won Women's Teams 21 times. Next best is Japan with 8, all from 1952-1971. Next is Romania with 5, all from 1950-1956. Next is Czech Republic with three from 1935-1938. Winning two each are England (147, 1948), Germany (1933, 1939), and USA (1937, 1949). Only four other countries have won Women's Teams - Soviet Union in 1969, South Korea in 1973, Unified Korea in 1991, and Singapore in 2010.

You can find all these results in the List of World Table Tennis Championships medalists in Wikipedia, which include the following:

Here are some World Championships links:

Team USA did pretty well - USA Women especially. They went in ranked #23 in the world, but finished #13, which means that at the next World Team Championships in two years they'll be playing in the Championship division! USA Men also did well. They were ranked #44, but finished #33. Here are links involving Team USA.

And now we go on to other table tennis news of the day - except there's very little! It's been nothing but Worlds, Worlds, Worlds all weekend.

Ajmer Once Again the Focal Point
Here's the ITTF article featuring USA's Christian Lillieroos in India. "A hot bed for coaching courses, Ajmer in India’s Rajasthan province was the recent home for yet another initiative organised under the auspices of the ITTF Development Programme."

Successful High Performance and Development Workshop staged in association with the ITTF Foundation
Here's the ITTF article.

Collegiate Table Tennis: Best of the Best Nominations
Here's the info page. Nominations are open for Male Athlete of the Year, Female Athlete of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, Rookie Team, Most Improved Team, Division Director of the Year, and Regional Director of the Year

"I Love You So Much I Would Do Anything For You!" "Quit Table Tennis."
Here's the cartoon to see panel three! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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May 4, 2018

Unified Korean Team vs. Japan
They played out the Women's Semifinals at the Worlds this morning (starting at 10AM their time, 5AM Eastern Standard Time), and as expected, Japan won relatively easily, though match #2 was 16-14 in the fifth! (Here's video from 8-all on in the fifth - Kim had three match points, but also had a pair of edges after deuce.) Here are the results - and I'm using the ITTF designation "COR" to designate the Unified Korean Team:

  • Mima Ito (JPN) d. Jeon Jihee (COR), 2,8,9
  • Kasumi Ishikawa (JPN) d. Kim Song I (COR), 4,-6,8,-11,14
  • Miu Hirano (JPN) d. Yang Haeun (COR), 4,5,-9,6

And so Japan moves into the final where they will play China . . . I mean, the winner between China and Hong Kong, which is being played right now. (So yeah, they'll play China.)

Yesterday a top player emailed me pointing out something about the unified Korean team issue that I should have addressed in my blog yesterday. (He asked to stay anonymous.) We're all thinking what a wonderful thing this was, Korea unifying as one team, as they did in 1991 when they last won Women's Teams at the Worlds (over China). But let's take a closer look.

Here are two teams, Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Republic of Korea (and I'm going to start referring to them as North and South Korea from here on) who entered as two teams, went through the preliminaries, and made it all the way to the quarterfinals - and then, rather than play, in mid-tournament they decide to become one country, one team!!! Thank about this. It meant:

  • The Korean team(s) got to move one round further without playing, when normally half of all teams lose in each round.
  • While other teams were playing - and it's exhausting at that level - they got to rest.
  • Japan suddenly has to face a stronger team than they were supposed to.

Was this fair to Japan?

However, some strange things went on. First, you'll note that South Korea has a much stronger team, and it's likely that the best unified North & South Korean Team is the top three South Koreans. Here are the top players from both countries and their world rankings:

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

  • Suh Hyowon (#12)
  • Yang Haeun (#27)
  • Jeon Jihee (#35)
  • Choi Hyojoo (#47)

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)

  • Kim Song I (#49)
  • Ri Mi Gyong ($106)
  • Cha Hyo Sim (#161)

Now the ITTF rankings are not as accurate as they were before, since they now take participation into mind, so it's not clear that the #1 North Korean, Kim Song I, ranked #49, is really that level - she might be better. I really don't know. However, it would have been politically tough to take a unified team and play only South Korean players. And so in the final, Kim did play - and she's the one who lost 16-14 in the fifth to Japan's Kasumi Ishikawa, world #3! So she's probably better than her #49 ranking would indicate. Those rascally ITTF rankings!

But the even stranger thing is that the apparent #1 player from the unified Korean team would seem to be Suh Hyowon, world #12 - but she didn't play in the final. Instead, the Unified Korean team was made up of:

  • Yang Haeun (#27) (South Korea)
  • Jeon Jihee (#35) (South Korea)
  • Kim Song I (#49) (South Korea)

So why didn't they play Suh Hyowon, easily the top ranked Korean player? Imagine if Kim Sing I had pulled off that win, and perhaps one other, and Korea played world #12 Suh Hyowon, and she won a match - then Korea would have defeated Japan and gone into the final. I'm sure Japan would have been fine with that, right?

Conspiracy theorists might say there was some deal with the Japanese whereby if they didn't complain about the Koreas united against them, in return the unified Korean team would sit out their #1 player. They also played the North Korean #1, #49 in the world, instead of the South Korean #4, Choi Hyojoo, who is #47 - but of course results did show that Kim Song I was much better than her #49 ranking. But again, why didn't they play world #12 Suh Hyowon? Unless she was injured, was it right and fair (to her as well) to sit her out?

But Japan is strong enough that they likely would have won no matter who the Korea played, unless they unified with China. Here are the Japanese top three, who they played:

Japan

  • Kasumi Ishikawa (#3)
  • Miu Hirano (#6)
  • Mimi Ito (#7)
  • Japan also has players ranked #13, 18, 19, 22, 23, 24, 34, 41, 44, 66, , 79, 81, and another eight players between 100 and 200. Next to China, they have the most depth of any women's team in the world.

So what are Japan's chances in the Women's Final against China tomorrow? Here are the best Chinese players:

China

  • Chen Meng (#1)
  • Zhu Yuling (#2)
  • Wang Manyu (#5)
  • Chen Xingtong (#9)
  • Liu Shiwen (#10)
  • Ding Ning (#11)
  • Sun Yingsha (#15)
  • Five other players in top 100

Seriously, Liu Shiwen #10 and Ding Ning #11? China simply has the best players - probably. And yet, Japan's team is younger and perhaps hungrier, and there's no telling - until they play tomorrow - just how good they might be. Suffice to say China will likely have their hands full. Meanwhile, now that we've set the precedent that two teams can in mid-tournament, after playing into the quarterfinals, can combine as one team, can we field a unified China/USA team in the Men's and Women's Finals? Think of the headlines THAT would generate!

World Team Championships
The World Team Championships continue in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6, finishing this Sunday. You should be able to follow the action there with news, results, photos, and live and archived video. You can get the latest news on the ITTF Worlds News page. Make sure to check out the Point of the Day and the Daily Review! Here are some links, most but not all USA-centered.

Korea Unites to Play Japan!
Here's the ITTF video (45 sec).

New World's Videos from EmRatThich
Over the last few days he's put up several dozen new videos from the Worlds, many with commentary, including five more yesterday.

World Team Championships - the Volunteers
Here's the video (6:19) - let's thank the ones who do the work! And it's to the tune of the Star Wars Cantina scene!

Go Fund Me Pages for Junior Programs
I just received the following email regarding the South Bend Table Tennis Center juniors (coached by Dan Seemiller) - perhaps you can help out?

Dear SBTTC Board,
Thanks for your support of our juniors!  We've got $230 and the word just went out.
Please forward this GoFundMe appeal by e-mail or share by Facebook.  Here are links to the appeal:

https://www.gofundme.com/sb-table-tennis-to-us-nationals

Or you can forward this e-mail.
If we can get momentum going this first day, I think it will really help.  I've sent this to our SBTTC active list, folks at Kern Road Mennonite Church, Ms. Dooley at Dion's school last year, and Marty's extended family. 
Thanks,
Andre

Meanwhile, HW Global is still raising funds for the junior program they run at MDTTC - they have now raised $13,825 of the $15,500 needed. Here's their funding page. (I may be volunteering to run a 90-minute Serve & Receive Tactics clinic at the club to raise funds.)

How to Smash High Balls
Here's the video (5:39) from Tom Lodziak. "Attacking high balls should be easy. The ball is way up in the air. You have a big margin to get the ball over the net. How can you possibly miss? Easy peasy" "In this video I show you how to smash high balls consistently. The technique I show in the video isn’t the only smashing technique you can use, but I think it’s the easiest technique to start with."

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial
Here's a three-part serving tutorial from Tomorrow Table Tennis. I'd linked to parts 1 &2 previously, but part 3 came out just last week.

Challenge the Call?
Here's the Facebook poll created by Samson Dubina. "I think that ITTF should allow 1 challenge (similar to NFL) per match during international play? Many matches are won or lost from a serve fault or lack of a serve fault or an edge ball vs side ball, etc... What do you think? Would this be a cool feature for international matches? Vote NOW."

Table Tennis Specific Weight Training
Here's the video (29 sec) from Matt Hetherington. "A lot of people ask if there are any exercises they can do in the gym specific to table tennis muscle groups. Here is a good example of one which engages weight transfer from your toe, through legs, hips and core into a follow through with the arm! Happy gyming!"

Robot Pong - Our Future Lords and Masters are Getting Good!
Here's the video (71 sec). The robot is surprisingly good, as is his opponent. They are playing hardbat, so there's less spin. The final frontier for such robot play is dealing with spin - and I think they are a long way from that. I'm guessing the robot isn't going to return many of my serves, pushes, chops, or loops, not to mention high, spinny lobs. But I'd love to take it on in a straight hardbat hitting contest. But even there, if I get in trouble, I'm guessing I could throw in some chops and it'd miss.

Would Roger Federer Have Dominated in Table Tennis?
Here's the video Roger Federer's table tennis skills heavily praised by a competitive player (1:36) - Long-time USA player/coach/robot expert Larry Thoman is quoted. Here's the article from Business Insider, with Thoman quoted again: "It is universally accepted that the best place for developing into a world-class table tennis athlete is in China. The training environment there is regarded as several steps above what is available anywhere else in the world." Here's Shashin Shodhan's commentary.

WAB Club Feature: Lily Yip Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Triangle April Open
Here's the article.

Today is Star Wars Day
As in May 4, "May the Force [be with you]." Here's what you get when you Google "Star Wars Table Tennis."

Metallic Gold Ping-Pong Balls
Here they are!

Taxidermy Ping Pong Playing Mice
Here's the picture - um, yuck!

Bodybuilder VS Thumbtack STING PONG Challenge | Crazy Table Tennis\Ping Pong Ball Damage Test
Here's the video (8:50)! Note the Disclaimer Warning at the start!

Funny Japan TV Shows - Table Tennis Battle
Here's the video (24:06)!

May 3, 2018

North and South Korea Unified at Worlds
Here's some breaking news - rather than play their Women's Team quarterfinal match, the two Koreas will join forces. They will advance into the semifinals, where they'll play Japan, who defeated Ukraine in their quarterfinals. It's the first time they will have a unified team since they won Women's Teams at the 1991 Worlds, as commemorated in the 2012 movie, "As One."

My first thought on this was, "Is this legal, for two different countries joining up like this in the middle of a tournament? Can USA join forces with China perhaps?" But we'll let this Ping-Pong Diplomacy take precedence over such niceties.

Here's what USATT CEO Gordon Kaye posted on Facebook: "I am truly moved by what is unfolding in front of my eyes in table tennis, and more importantly, the world. A few moments ago, the teams from North Korea and South Korea, due to meet in the quarterfinals of the 2018 ITTF World Team Table Tennis Championships, both elected not to compete against each other and instead have decided to compete together for the remainder of the tournament as a unified Korea. This is what sport is supposed to be about. Peace. Friendship. Changing the world."

Here's the actual video (1:57) of the announcement at the Worlds. Here are articles on the breaking news.

World Team Championships
The World Team Championships continue in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6. You should be able to follow the action there with news, results, photos, and live and archived video. You can get the latest news on the ITTF Worlds New page. Make sure to check out the Point of the Day and the Daily Review! Here's a great new article from USATT, Kanak Jha the Backbone as USA Advance in Favorable Standing, by Matt Hetherington. See more USATT coverage from yesterday on the USATT news page.

Four Big Decisions for the Future made at the 2018 ITTF AGM
Here's the ITTF article. Here's their new Strategic Plan.

New from EmRatThich
Over the lasts two days he's put up a 16 new videos from the Worlds. Why not browse over them? On interesting one was, Did Japan lose on purpose? This was about their losing to England, where some thought they might have dumped to get a better draw. But the video actually debunks that theory, showing they gained no advantage by dumping, and that it only hurt them.

World Teams Championships Part A
Here's the podcast (13:15) from PingSkills

Shoulder Update
As noted in my (short) blog yesterday, in the morning I went to the Piccard Surgery Center in Rockville, MD, for a Shoulder Cortisone Injection with Arthrogram. Although they gave me a local anesthesia so it wouldn't hurt so much, they correctly warned me that it wouldn't reach all the way in - and it was VERY painful. Those screams you heard were not Darth Vader, but me, retroactively used in Star Wars. The arm hurts a lot this morning, and I'm told will do so for a day or so - and then, by Monday, the prediction is it'll be a lot better, just in time for me to rush out to Sweden and beat the Chinese.

Tuesday, May 1 Blog
For technical reasons, the last four segments of my blog on Tuesday didn't come out. I thought I'd fixed it, but I just discovered the fix was only temporary. I just redid it so it works now (but lost the 700+ "reads" that were there, alas - it now shows 76). So perhaps visit it again and learn about:

  • New from EmRatThich - Eight new videos from the Worlds.
  • How to Glue Long Pips Without Sponge
  • Soccer Pong?   Jon Persson of Sweden (world #63) demonstrating his foot juggling skills with a ping-pong ball.
  • Cats and Pong!

"What if Frank Caliendo played table tennis as Morgan Freeman against a 12-year old?"
Here's the video (4:13) as comedian/impressionist Frank Caliendo talks about ping-pong on the Rich Eisen Show. Here's another video (2:31) also on the same show where you see him play table tennis. Frank's got a 1665 rating - he's played in two U.S. Opens. But his last tournament was in 2015, and he's not only lost a lot of weight since then, I'm told he's improved at table tennis as well, probably to 1800+. He came to MDTTC once, and I got to play doubles with him! (I played awful.) My question is - When will Caliendo do Trump commentating as he plays table tennis?

Tournament Officials: Learn 4 Keys to Maximizing Your Performance!
Here's the article from Samson Dubina. "Before I begin this article, I need to first say that table tennis umpires and referees are present at tournaments for your own good.  Without rules and officials, table tennis would be chaos.  With that said, I want to give you a few tips that I have learned during the last 400 tournaments that I have played."

What in the Wood? A Creative Exploration of the Ingredients of Table Tennis Blades
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

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

Exclusive interview with Nigeria's Aruna Quadri
Here's the interview.

Revealed: From ping pong to taking your dog to work, these are the weirdest and wackiest ways to stay young
Here's the article from Britain's Daily Mail - with an interesting TT cartoon. "You may need a bigger house, but it turns out that the humble game of ping pong could be a lifesaver. As well as improving your co-ordination and muscle strength, it can even make your brain grow." (Do you really need a "bigger house" to fit a ping-pong table?)

Horacio Cifuentes vs Wang Yang at the WTTC 2018
Here's the video (10 sec) of this wacky point. Here's the entire match (11:33).

Spider-Man Pong
Here' the picture from Japan, celebrating Avengers: Infinity War! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

More Airport Pong
Here's the video (41 sec) as Adam Bobrow meets up with the New Zealand team at the airport, and all Pong breaks out.

Bad Sportsmanship - Demolition Pong!
Here's the video (7 sec). Did the flying racket survive? Did the kicked umpire table survive? Will the umpire have to undergo years of therapy after this attack? Oh wait, that's for the player!

Non-Table Tennis -Larrytt (Alias Larry Hodges) Top Ten Reasons Manny Machado Will Leave the Orioles
Here's my new article from Orioles Hangout! It's my 33rd article for them. For you non-baseball fans, Manny is the Orioles best player, and he's having an incredible start to his season, unlike the rest of the team - and since he'll be a free agent after this season, will likely be traded for prospects.

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May 2, 2018

Shoulder Shenanigans
I'm off this morning to the *Piccard Surgery Center in Rockville, MD, for a Shoulder Cortisone Injection with Arthrogram. So no blog this morning. But don't forget that the The World Team Championships continue in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6. (Lots of USATT coverage.) And here's a hot chick in table tennis!
     *This is what the REAL Jean-Luc Picard says about ping-pong! (Well, Patrick Stewart's voice, anyway. Here's the meme.)

May 1, 2018

Articles and Newsletters and Pulitzers, Oh My!
I quietly reached a few milestones recently, though I didn't realize it until last night. On April 20, USATT and Butterfly both published my article, $2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC April Open. It was my 1800th published article. (I count that as one article, though it was published in two places.) I've had two more articles published since then, for a total of 1802. Why is that number important? (Other than, of course, being the year the Treaty of Amiens was signed between France and the United Kingdom, ending the War of the Second Coalition, and the establishment of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in the U.S.)

This morning's blog is my 1802nd blog entry since I started tabletenniscoaching.com in January, 2011, so I've now had as many blog entries as published articles, or 3604 total. Since I blog Mon-Fri, the number of blog entries will soon far exceed the number of published articles. (I don't count blog entries as published articles.)

I keep a running list of my published articles. They include 1593 on table tennis; 62 non-fiction, non-table tennis articles, 33 of them at Orioles Hangout, the rest mostly on science or writing (my favorite of the latter being "Fifty Writing Quotes"); and 90 science fiction and fantasy short stories. I also have 13 books - 8 on table tennis, 4 SF or fantasy novels, and 2 short story collections. Yes, that adds up to 14 because The Spirit of Pong counts as both a table tennis book and a science fiction and fantasy novel! (What, you haven't read it? What's wrong with you!)

That 1800th article mentioned above was about the MDTTC April Open, the 199th USATT tournament I've run. This past weekend I ran my 200th, the Hopes Trials - see yesterday's blog. It will likely go up today as USATT and Butterfly news articles. As noted yesterday, all but two have been two-day tournaments, so that's 398 days of running tournaments . . . and I think the rest of my life has been either coaching or writing!

I hit another milestone yesterday with the publication of the May issue of the Maryland Table Tennis Center Newsletter. I started the monthly newsletter six years ago, and this was the 72nd issue, meaning I've now done one more of those than the 71 issues of USA Table Tennis Magazine I did during my two tenures as USATT editor (1992-95, 1999-2007). Of course, USATT Magazine, the national magazine for USA Table Tennis, was a much bigger magazine. It was replaced by the online USATT Insider a few years ago. Overall, I've been the editor for 194 issues of magazines, newsletters, or program booklets. Besides the above there were 19 USATT program booklets, 8 Hall of Fame programs, 3 issues of Table Tennis Coaches Quarterly, and a bunch of others.

All this, and not one Pulitzer or Nobel nomination!!! Jeez.

World Team Championships
The World Team Championships continue in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6. You should be able to follow the action there with news, results, photos, and video. Make sure to check out the Point of the Day and the Daily Review! Here are two new USATT articles and two from Butterfly:

New from EmRatThich
Here are eight new videos from the Worlds.

How to Glue Long Pips Without Sponge
Here's the video (25 sec). If you've tried this, you know how tricky it can be to do this without getting bubbles or wrinkles.

Soccer Pong?
Here's the video (9 sec) of Jon Persson of Sweden (world #63) demonstrating his foot juggling skills with a ping-pong ball.

Cats and Pong
Here's the Picture!

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April 30, 2018

Tip of the Week
Weaknesses Can Be Strengths.

Regional Hopes Camp and Trials at MDTTC
April 27-29, 2018

The camp had 37 players, ages 7 to 14, including many of the best 12 and under players in the northeast and other regions - including the California invasion that snagged both golds. Most were here for the Regional Hopes Trials on Sunday, April 29, which was for players born in 2006 or 2007. The camp was run by USATT National Team Coaches Pieke Franssen (head coach), and Wang Qingliang, assisted by coaches Michael Lauro, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Lidney Castro, Rajul Urvashi, John Hsu, and myself. Players from ten states took part - MD, VA, PA, OH, NY, NJ, MA, NC, MN, CA. Here's the group picture!

A huge thanks goes to the ITTF and USATT, to USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio, and to Coach Pieke for organizing and running these regional camps and trials all over the country. (This was the sixth and final one in the U.S. this year.) Thanks also goes to the local organizers and coaches, as well as to the players, and their parents and coaches. Without all of them supporting the Hopes program, it wouldn't happen. (Wen Hsu, Wang Qingliang, and I were the local organizing staff for this one.) Thanks also to Referee Paul Kovac and Umpire/Coach Michael Lauro. Thanks also to all the local kids who kept joining me at the control desk - by the end of the tournament they were printing match sheets and keying in the results! (I may be out of a job soon.)

The Hopes Trials started at 9:30AM on Sunday, April 29. Unlike most tournaments, there was no geographical separation - the draws were done strictly by ratings and the snake system. Winners of the Sunday trials will join other qualifiers to represent Team USA in the ITTF North American Hopes Tournament in Canada in May - here's the USATT Hopes info page with more info. (On a side note, this was the 200th USATT sanctioned tournament I've run (!) - and only the second that wasn't a two-day tournament. Yep, 398 days of running tournaments.)

Breaking news - it was processed for ratings on Monday afternoon. 

Results are below. Congrats to the boys' and girls' medalists! On the boys' side, it was Raghav Thiruvallur (ICC) over Jackson Beaver (MDTTC), with Darius Fahima (LYTTC) and Connor Lee (LYTTC) getting bronze. On the girls' side it was Purvi Soni (ICC) over Mariolaine Encabo (LYTTC), with Ivy Liu (LYTTC) and Nicole Deng (NOVATTC/MDTTC). Here are pictures of the medalists:

  • Girls' Medalists, L-R: MDTTC Hopes Organizer Wen Hsu, Nicole Deng (bronze), Ivy Liu (bronze), Purvi Soni (gold), Mariolaine Encabo (silver), and Coach Pieke Franssen.
  • Boys' Medalists, L-R: Coach Wang Qingliang, Darius Fahima (bronze), Connor Lee (bronze), Raghav Thiruvallur (gold), Jackson Beaver (silver), and Coach Pieke Franssen.

Congrats also goes to the rating champions. In Under 2300 it was Ronald Chen over Stanley Hsu; in Under 1900 it was Varun Mangeshkar over Lance Wei; and in Under 1500 it was Feng Xue over Saraansh Wadkar.

But before the Hopes Tournament there was the two-day Hopes Camp! The schedule for that was 4:30-6:30PM, 7:30-9:30PM on Friday (with a pizza party in between), and 12-2:30PM, 5:30-7:30PM on Saturday. Pieke's flight was delayed, and so he arrived almost an hour late - but no problem, he'd already sent his schedule ahead to the coaches, and so Coach Wang ran the first hour. We had 17 tables, with several tables often used for multiball. Several times I had 3-4 players and would do multiball with two at a time, running them through numerous high-speed footwork drills, with the other 1-2 players picking up balls. Other times I was a roving coach, where I'd regularly remind players to move their feet, to place their shots wider and deeper, to stay closer to the table, and much else.

The drills were creatively varied. Twice Pieke called the players together to go over eight drills at a time, written in large letters on a huge sheet of paper on the wall. He'd go over each drill and have players demonstrate it. Then he had all the players turn their backs to the wall and randomly call them by name and challenge them to describe, say, "drill #5." The kids quickly became very good at remembering them. Then they'd go out on the table and do the eight drills.

Drills ranged from numerous stroking and footwork drills, to serve and receive drills, and combinations of the two. The stroking and footwork drills ranged from simple consistent drives, where players had to do a certain number in a row (often 35 to 50), to more patterned sequences that had the players moving and attacking from all parts of the table - both the corners and the middle. (The drills were sometimes adjusted for some players, such as the three choppers in the camp.)

The serve and receive drills often had the players playing off a specific shot or variety of shots over and over. For example, one player might serve short anywhere over and over and the other player had to attack it, sometimes to a specific spot. Or they'd have the option of attacking it or pushing short or long. Or the server had to serve deep anywhere, and the receiver had to attack it. Sometimes the server or receiver had to do a specific type of serve or receive, but about every fifth time were allowed to do something different so the opponent had to be prepared to react and adjust.

Regarding deep pushes, Pieke told them he wanted them to try to push to the last five inches of the table. I've always told players in practice to focus on pushing to the last six inches of the table. So I had a standing joke with a number of locals that we'd compromise, and they aimed for the last 5.5 inches of the table! You don't really need all your long pushes in a match to go to the last five or six inches, which is somewhat risky - but if you practice that, challenging yourself to go as deep as possible even if it means missing (remember, this is practice), you really get a feel for depth and learn to consistently push deep in games.

Pieke also stressed the importance of making the correct decision more important right now than actually making the shot or winning the point. He used the example of deep serves, where he said a player who attacked a serve in practice but missed is doing much better than a player who didn't try to attack the deep serve. If you miss, you can always adjust and get better, but if you don't even try to attack it, then you can't get better. He made clear that choppers were a bit different, but otherwise if you wanted to be a top player, you have to attack the deep serve.

Many of the sessions involved up-down tables (winners move up, losers down), where players would play various games - sometimes to 11, one time best of five with all games starting at deuce, another time handicap singles where they spotted points based on their ratings. There were many improvised rules, such as the player had to serve short, or long, or the receiver had to return the ball in a certain way or to a certain location, so the players would get practice for all of these situations.

There was also a lot of physical training. There were relay races where players had to side-step; in another, the players were paired up and one player would sidestep side to side randomly while the other player had to stay with him; there was fast-stepping (from a ready position, feet move up and down as fast as possible); frog jumps; and of course jogging and various side-stepping to warm up. During one exercise Jackson Beaver said, "I'm tired!" Pieke responded, "If you say you are tired, that tires you out. Never say that!" Partly into the next exercise Jackson yelled, "I'm energized!" And yes, the players were more energized after that. Energy is more a state of mind than of fitness.

Like most successful coaches, Pieke was great with the kids, often joking around with them while making it clear when they could joke around, and when it was time to train hard. It's a fine balance all coaches have to find. Many are too serious all the time, and it can wear down a player. If you keep it fun while still demanding they fight and do their best, and that they demand excellence from themselves, then they will progress far. He and Wang were a great team, often taking turns calling the kids together and explaining the next drill, with Mike Lauro also doing some lectures and demos. I was more in the background, just feeding multiball or walking around coaching. It was a great three days, both for the kids and for the rest of us.

Here are the main results, with complete results at Omnipong.

Hopes Boys - Final: Raghav Thiruvallur d. Jackson Beaver, 10,7,10; SF: Thiruvallur d. Darius Fahima; Beaver d. Connor Lee, -9,4,-3,7,11.
Hopes Girls - Final: Purvi Soni d. Mariolaine Encabo, 7,7,7; SF: Soni d. Ivy Liu, 7,7,-10,7; Encabo d. Nicole Deng, -10,6,13,-10,7.
Under 2300 - Final: Ronald Chen d. Stanley Hsu, 5,9,-12,4; SF: R.Chen d. William Huang, 7,-9,9,-5,9; Hsu d. Spencer Chen, 9,8,-10,10.
Under 1900 - Final: Varun Mangeshkar d. Lance Wei, 4,10,6; SF: Mangeshkar d. Mu Du, 8,-7,4,4; Wei d. Andy Wu, -13,9,-7,6,9.
Under 1500 - Final: Feng Xue d. Saraansh Wadkar, 8,9,ret.; SF: Xue d. Kay O'Hara, -7,11,7,9; Wadkar d. Danny Wan, -5,9,7,9.

World Team Championships
The World Team Championships started yesterday in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6. Here's the News Page. You should be able to follow the action online with results and video.  Here are some news items from USATT (first four) and Butterfly.

Videos from EmRatThich
He put up 12 news ones - why not stop by and spend a few hours?

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the latest newsletter from Tom Lodziak, which links to a number of coaching articles.

Across the Net
Here's the May newsletter from the Melton TTC in Australia. (Here are their archives of past newsletters.) This issue includes articles such as Commonwealth Games Wrap, ITTF Museum Opens, There Was Movement at the Station (historical article about Ogimura at the 1959 Worlds), ITTF World Veterans Championships (which are in Las Vegas, June 18-24), Third-Ball Attack (coaching article), The Things You Say (what one says in table tennis and what they really mean), and On the Web, which features PingSkills and TableTennisCoaching.com!

Everything You Need to Know About Ping Pong/Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis Hub.

Alameda Hopes Camp and Tournament
Here's the article.

Flashback to the 2015 Worlds
Here's the video (41 sec) of this point between Ma Long and Fang Bo.

Mini-Table Match with Mini-Paddles - Omar Assar vs Lee Sangsu!
Here's the video (48 sec). Who wins between the world #17 from Egypt and #8 from South Korea?

Ever Wonder What Trick Shots REALLY Look Like?
Here's the video (49 sec) from Adam Bobrow!

People Jumping Over Ping-Pong Tables
On videos more than a few seconds long I linked directly to when they start their jump. Not all succeed! (I've put "Fail!" by the three at the end who didn't make it.)

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April 27, 2018

Regional Hopes Camp and Trials
This weekend I'll be coaching at the Hopes Regional Camp at MDTTC (Fri & Sat), and then running the Hopes Regional Trials on Sunday. There's going to be a lot packed into the next few days - we're gonna need a bigger weekend!

This afternoon I'm picking up Coach Pieke Franssen at Dulles Airport at 3:32 PM. He was supposed to come in earlier but his flight was delayed, and so he's on a different flight. It's going to be a tight squeeze as the camp starts at 4:30PM, and the airport is about 45 minutes away without traffic - but we'll be driving during rush hour, which means it could take anywhere from 1-2 hours. We'll see! But Coach Wang Qingliang will run the camp until we arrive.

Coach Pieke is the USATT head coach for the camp. He's from the Alameda TTC in California, and has already run several of the regional Hopes camps. Assistant coaches in the camp will be Wang Qingliang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Lidney Castro, Mike Lauro, and myself. Wen Hsu and I are the local organizers. There are 38 kids in the camp, most of them in the 11- to 12-year-old range, but there a number of others who were invited. The depth of the camp for this age group is very strong, with 11 over 1800, 16 over 1700, and 20 over 1600.

The schedule is as follows:

  • Friday 4:30-6:30: Camp
  • Friday 6:30-7:30: Pizza party
  • Friday 7:30-9:30: Camp
  • Saturday 12-2:30: Camp
  • Saturday 5:30-7:30: Camp
  • Sunday 9:30AM: Hopes Trials begins

I'll be running the Hopes Trials, for boys and girls. To take part in those players are required to be in the camp as well. We also have three rating events, Under 2300, Under 1900, and Under 1500. The rating events are open to anyone under age 16. You can still enter the rating events!

We'll be using 15 tables for the camp. With 38 players, we'll have 22 players on 11 tables, and 16 doing multiball on four tables. On the four multiball tables the coaches will feed fast multiball to two players - lots and Lots and LOTS of footwork! - while the other two pick up balls. I'll be one of the ones doing multiball coaching. I'll be feeding mostly topspin as feeding backspin aggravates my shoulder injury (see segment below), though I can feed backspin as part of a pattern, such as a backspin followed by three quick topspin - it's doing it repetitively that causes the problem. But if it does aggravate my arm - well, some of you might give your right arm to coach at such a camp, and I literally might do so!!! (I'll be careful.)

Coach Pieke put together a very detailed schedule for the camp, which I received this morning and will be going over later today. Hopefully I'll have energy to write all this up on Monday for my blog and as a USATT news item - we'll see!

Shoulder Update
I consulted with the shoulder surgeon yesterday morning. (I blogged about this on Wednesday.) Here are his recommendations, which I plan to follow.

  1. Have a special type of cortisone shot directly into glenohumeral joint. This is a tricky shot, and so I have to make a separate appointment for this in a different office, which should happen sometime next week. Then we see how the shoulder is over the next five days.
  2. If that doesn't work, then he'll do a manipulation under anesthesia. Without anesthesia, it's too painful and the muscles tighten up, making it impossible. This will essentially tear out scar tissue. It sounds scary, but he said it's standard, and he's done it many times. Afterward, he said the arm will still hurt for a time, but will have greatly increased flexibility.
  3. If that doesn't work – and it might be a few weeks before we know – then we have arthroscopic surgery, with a recover time of about two months.

World Championships Start Sunday
The World Team Championships start this Sunday in Halmstad, Sweden, April 29 - May 6. Here's the News Page - they already have 32 articles posted! You should be able to follow the action online with results and video.  

Learning From the Best Table Tennis Coaches
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "This Weekend, I was privileged to work with some of the best coaches in Europe!"

Ping That Pong
Here's a new table tennis blog I just discovered. It's mostly made up of guides and lists. When you read "The Top 8 Greatest Table Tennis Players of All Time," some of you will be shocked at who's #8!

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

WAB Club Feature: Princeton Pong
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Van Inh Le to Represent Australia at the World Veterans Table Tennis Championship
Here's the article. He's the defending Over 70 Men's Singles and Doubles Champion.

Truls is Ready to Take on the World
Here's the video (15 sec). "Based on this epic shot, Truls Moregard is ready for his first ever World Champs." Moregard of Sweden is world #319, but #8 in Under 18. (Did you notice who continues to be #1 in Under 18?)

USATT Video Library
Here it is! Why not spend a weekend going through this? You're gonna need a bigger weekend!

Animated Big-Glasses Boy Serving
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

The Avengers and Table Tennis
I saw it last night - it was great!

Bears Playing Table Tennis Videos and Teddy Bear Pong
Here's a collection of both!

***
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April 26, 2018

I'm Off to See the Surgeon - in Song
I see him at 11AM this morning. (I blogged about this yesterday - it's just a consultation about whether I should get shoulder surgery.) Then I buy advance tickets for The Avengers: Infinity War tickets (via Moviepass, which requires I go in person) for the 8:30PM showing at Germantown. Then I spend the day doing the MDTTC Newsletter and a bunch of other TT stuff. Then I teach a junior class from 6:30-7:30PM. Then I see The Avengers! And now, in honor of my upcoming visit to the surgeon, I give you . . .

I'M OFF TO SEE THE SURGEON
By Larry Hodges
(Sung to the tune of We're Off to See the Wizard, with Apologies to Harold Arlen, the munchkins, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion.)
I'm off to see the Surgeon
The wonderful Surgeon of Oz
I hear he is a jock of a doc
If ever a doc there was
If ever, oh ever a doc there was
The Surgeon of Oz is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the great operations he does
I'm off to see the Surgeon
The wonderful Surgeon of Oz!

Then I got to thinking - what about players who come to see me, a table tennis teacher?

I'M OFF TO SEE THE TEACHER
By Larry Hodges
We're off to see the Teacher
The wonderful Teacher of Pong
He's beyond reproach as a coach
If ever a coach there was
If ever, oh ever a coach there was
The Teacher of Pong is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful coaching he does
We're off to see the Teacher
The wonderful Teacher of Pong!

Two Upcoming ITTF Level 1 Coaching Courses in the U.S.

The Secret Life of the Table Tennis Counter Driver
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

World Championships Prediction Contest
Here's the info page, with $200 in prizes for those who most closely predict the first four finishers at the upcoming World Championships in Men's and Women's Teams, and who will finish higher, USA (world #44) or Canada (#53) Men.

Help Wanted: ITTF Equipment Manager
Here's the info page. But you might have to relocate - "The position will be preferably based in one of the ITTF offices in Switzerland or Singapore, but other flexible arrangements will be considered."

Ma Long is Unstoppable Against Chop!
Here's the video (2 min). Here he is against world #21 Ruwen Filu of Germany.

Two Great Points
Here's the video (90 sec) - Ma Long (near side) vs. Jun Mizutani, and Zoran Primorac (near side) vs. Michael Maze, probably the best modern lobber.

The Story of Ibrahim Hamato
Here's the video (2:07) - playing table tennis with his mouth. (I think this is a new version of one I posted before, but it's always fascinating to watch.)

Double Bottle Serves
Here's the video (32 sec)!

Dude Jumps Through Ping Pong Table
Here's the video! (23 sec, but link takes you to jump 12 sec in.)

Tom & Jack in Table Tennis Game
Here's the video (4:01)!

***
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April 25, 2018

Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
I've been seeing a physical therapist three times/week, 90 minutes/visit, for two months, where I go through rigorous massage and shoulder stretching routines. I also do a 20-minute stretching routine twice a day.

Yesterday I saw the doctor again for an update. He put me through a number of tests. The good news was that my shoulder flexibility has gone from 50% normal to 70%. The bad news is that the shoulder hurts just as much as before - no improvement there. I can play with the pain - it's not that bad - but I'd just be injuring the shoulder further.

I'd already been diagnosed with a frayed rotator cuff, tendonitis, and bursitis in the shoulder, and with an extreme lack of shoulder flexibility due to muscle stiffness. Yesterday the doctor gave me a final diagnosis - Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. If I were to quit table tennis completely and only do normal things with the shoulder, it would gradually go away in 1-3 years - but that's not really an option, is it? So here are my real options.

OPTION ONE: I continue the stretching routines, and the shoulder will most likely return to near normal - but it would take many months, and could take a year, and it may never get well enough to play serious table tennis again.

OPTION TWO: Surgery. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting with a shoulder surgeon to go over this option. But the doctor told me that if I go this route, the shoulder most likely will be back to normal about two months after the surgery. Based on what I know right now (but before meeting with the surgeon), this sounds like the best option. But I am a bit surprised at the two-month recovery period from surgery to serious table tennis. He may have meant two months to "normal" activities. Table tennis isn't normal.

For now, I still can't do private coaching, though I'm doing a number of group sessions, and regularly feed multiball. But as noted in past blogs, if I feed backspin repetitively, it aggravates the shoulder. I've practiced left-handed backspin multiball, and can do a decent job of it, but probably not for high-level players. I can do easy hitting with beginners, but have to be careful not to reach for a ball - which is tricky since beginners hit the ball all over the table. I've actually hit with beginners a few times recently where I held my right arm in with my left, and any ball that I'd have to reach for I'd just let go. (It means a lot of footwork for me, getting to every ball without reaching!) But advanced players, while they have more control, hit faster, and one sudden bad move and I'd kill the shoulder. I have been doing demos in classes with other coaches, but I'm just blocking and doing easy stroking.

Tactics for Beating Weird Players
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

PingSkills Podcast
Here's the podcast (32:49), where they cover:

  • Joke of the Week
  • Competition
  • Win a PingSkills T-Shirt
  • On This Day: Jorgen Persson celebrates his birthday
  • Tournament Wrap: 2018 World Team Championships
  • Trill of the Week: Variation of speed with topspin
  • Practicing Backhand Chops
  • Difference Between Counterhit and Topspin
  • Rare Serve
  • Switching Sides
  • Video Translations

"Extra Events" – Building Excitement at a Small/Medium Club
Here's the article featuring Rhode Island Table Tennis, by Steve Hopkins.

World Team Championships History | China Claiming Record 20th Gold in 2016
Here's the video (55 sec).

Out of this World Table Tennis Rally between Xu Xin & Zhu Linfeng
Here's the video (65 sec).

Incredible Point Between Joo Saehyuk and Chuang Chih-Yuan
Here's the video (48 sec). Check out Chuang's footwork about halfway through, when he forehand loops from the extremely wide forehand, and follows with another forehand loop from the extreme backhand!

Meet the Chinese National Women's Team
Here's the video (7 sec)! I couldn't find a similar one for the Men's Team.

Addressing Needs, International Umpires Course Staged in Minsk
Here's the ITTF article.

What Is the Most Expensive Ping-Pong Paddle?
How about this $2712 one? (Also talks about expensive rubbers.) Here's another article on it.

Dog Watching Table Tennis
Here's the video (14 sec).

Donald the Penholder vs the Robot
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) "O Pato Donald" is apparently the Spanish version of Donald Duck.

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April 24, 2018

Coaching Is Like Awkwardly Programming a Computer
How is this true? When coaching, you are trying to change the habits of the student's subconscious, which is what controls his conditioned shots. The student's conscious mind might be a partner in doing this, but it is the subconscious that is really the student.

If the student really was a computer, you'd just program him properly. Is he hitting forehands without rotating his body? Just go into his forehand programming, click the "rotate body" button, and you're done. But in real coaching there's no "rotate body" button, so you have to do it more awkwardly. Here's what really happens.  

STEP ONE: Tell student's conscious mind he needs to rotate his body on forehands.

STEP TWO: Student consciously rotates his body while hitting forehands.

STEP THREE: Student's subconscious mind notes that body is rotating while hitting forehands, and protests, since this isn't "normal," and so gives student feeling of awkwardness, which the student attributes to not being used to rotating his body while hitting forehands.

STEP FOUR: Student's subconscious gradually stops protesting as it gets used to this weird and newfangled idea of rotating the body while hitting forehands, and stops protesting as much. Student starts to feel more natural with the shot.

STEP FIVE: Student now rotates body somewhat naturally on forehands since this is now the "norm" for his subconscious. All is well.

STEP SIX: Student takes a week off from playing. Subconscious starts to yearn for those days of playing table tennis, causing subconscious to want to go back to playing as well.

STEP SEVEN: Student returns to playing. But subconscious remembers those good ol' days of not rotating while hitting forehands, and goes back to that.

STEP EIGHT: Go back to Step One.

Table Tennis Match Play
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "How important is match play?"

Table Tennis Tidbits #25
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho: "Ishigaki:  Moving Up in the Whirl?"

National Collegiate Table Tennis
They have a number of articles on the College Nationals held this past weekend. (I linked yesterday to USATT articles.)

Ormeau - Point of the Day!
Here's the video (46 sec).

Pong and Song
Here's the video (2:40) from Jules Apatini. Music starts about ten seconds in, singing about 30 seconds in.

$100 Robot Challenge!
Here's the video (3:43) from Samson Dubina. I posted his challenge before, but this is a new video. It's pretty funny to watch the kids in the camp try to return the robot's feeds!

Love All - A Table Tennis Story
Here's the article as they try to fund this unique project. "If you were in a room with lots of people, and you realized that everyone around you believed the Earth was flat, how would you feel? This is the kind of situation millions of table tennis athletes face as they struggle for table tennis' identity as a "real" sport, despite it being one of the most physically and mentally challenging sports. NO FILM exists which dives deep into this subject that affects the perception of the most played sport in the world. Help us make one!"

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 25
Here’s chapter 25 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 25 covers "1994 International Tournaments." Note that Volume 21 is now out. This volume is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Street Pong
Here's the picture from China! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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