Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. 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. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
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!

December 5, 2011

Tip of the Week

Going to the Well Too Often. This was a tricky one to write because I didn't want to encourage players to avoid a winning tactic when leading and thereby blowing a game, yet I wanted to get the point across that to win on one winning tactic you need to both use it sparingly and find other winning variations or tactics.

Nationals in one week

I leave for the USA Nationals in one week. All potential opponents of my students, wouldn't this be a nice time to take a week off, eat lots of ice cream, and watch TV? Here is my article Ten-point Plan to Tournament Success. Please do not read this. Please do not follow this. Please pretend I never posted a link to this recipe for tournament success. In fact, there's some really nice shows on TV right now, and Rocky Road ice cream is soooooo good. . . .

Why is Your Grip Pressure So Important?

Here's a nice article by Coach Massimo Constantini. We know he's a great coach, a real icon, because "Constantini" is just an anagram for "Instant Icon." (Of course, "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God," so maybe we're reading too much into this.) You may also notice that this week's Tip of the Week (see above) is also a news item at Paddle Palace - they are now sponsoring me, and so I'll be putting the weekly Tips up both here and there as news items, as well as putting up some past ones.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

If you heard the fireworks yesterday around 11:30 AM Eastern Time, that was me celebrating the completion of the first draft at 75,237 words, 21 chapters, and 319 pages double spaced. (I added a final chapter called "Tactical and Strategic Thinking Revisited.") Today I'll be coaching much of the day, so tomorrow starts the long process of rewriting, editing, and proofing.

Northern Virginia Table Tennis Center

Here's an article on the NVTTC, a full-time club in Chantilly, VA, featuring Coach Zhongxing "Coach" Lu. These full-time clubs keep popping up. (This has nostalgic value to me - I was president and Tournament & League Director of the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Club for several years in the early 1980s, though it wasn't full-time back then.)

Timo Boll and Chen Weixing exhibition point

Here's a 44-second exhibition rally between Timo Boll and Chen Weixing.

Nani and Veloso play ping pong

Watch these two soccer players go at it (2:41). I'll put them in the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page when I next update, around Jan. 1. They are members of the Portuguese National Football Team (soccer in American terms). Nani is actually Luís Carlos Almeida da Cunha, and Veloso is Miguel Luís Pinto Veloso.

A new ping-pong song?

Yes, it's The Glowtones - Ping Pong (Doo Wop), in this video from 1957 (1:56)! The words "ping pong" are used over and over in the lyrics, and a ping-pong table in the background in the second half.

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December 2, 2011

Great "multiball" serve, receive, attack drill.

Here's a great "multiball" drill, where neither player actually feeds multiball. Start with a box of balls near the server's side of the table. The server (using his best serves) only serves and attacks one ball, then lets the next ball go by as he grabs the next ball. Receiver returns serve and plays one shot only. Then they repeat, in rapid-fire fashion. The goal of the server is to set up a strong third-ball attack. The goal of receiver is to stop server's attack. Take turns on the drill, with each doing perhaps 5-10 minutes.

You can do variations of this, where the server uses a specific serve over and over, the receiver a specific receive, etc. I posted variations of this drill in the past. The drill is especially valuable for learning to receive effectively. Most rallies at the intermediate and advanced levels don't go much beyond these four shots, so this drill lets you rapidly practice the most important shots of the game - the first two shots by each player.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page yesterday with 14 new photos of six celebrities. New celebrities are basketball players Chris Mullin and Carmelo Anthony, and German soccer player Gunther Netzer (or as they more correctly call it, football). There are also six new pictures of basketball star Yao Ming, and new pictures of actresses Fay Wray and Joan Davis. There are now 1299 pictures of 751 celebrities.

USA Nationals in Ten Days

I leave for the USA Nationals in ten days, on Monday, Dec. 12; events start the next day. I'll be mostly coaching at the Nationals, as well as playing hardbat. Regarding my coaching, it would be very helpful for me if any readers who are not students of mine would refrain from practicing their serves, receives, and other table tennis techniques until after the Nationals. I mean, practice is so passé; if you know the game, just show up and play, right? And practice is such work. So just have fun, don't practice, and me and my students will have lots of fun at the Nationals. Seriously, do not practice your serves - good serves are such a pain to coach against. I don't want to have to remind you again. Thank you for your attention.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Here is the (current) opening to the chapter on Receiving Tactics (5300 words):

"What is your goal when you receive? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering receive tactics. This is no different than thinking about serve tactics, except when you serve, you get to spend time between points deciding which serve to use.

"Receive is the most under-practiced aspect of the game, with serves a close second. Every rally starts with a serve and a receive, and yet players rarely take the time to practice and develop these techniques. Receive is probably the most difficult part of the game to master, and it's doubly hard when players only practice it in actual games. Instead, find a practice partner and take turns practicing your serve and receive.

"Most players are either overly aggressive or too passive when they receive. It's important to find the middle range. However, it is even more important to understand that it is consistency, placement, and variation that are most important."

German soccer players playing table tennis

Here's a video of German soccer players playing table tennis, including Emmanuel Frimpong - yes, "frompong." (1:38). I'll add to Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page next month. 

A History of Table Tennis

All told in 4:51 in this hilarious video by Pierre Knows, from why the name of the game changed from Whiff Whaff to Ping Pong to Table Tennis and why the Chinese still call it Ping Pang. (I think I linked to this video once a long time ago, but I searched my archives and couldn't find it - so if I did, enjoy it again!)

Rallying with a grenade

You read that right - here's a video of two top women rallying with a live grenade (3:34), in slo-mo, in front of a high-class, wine-sipping audience. Warning - has a gory finish.

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December 1, 2011

Reasons to attack the middle

I did some video coaching for someone recently. One of my primary comments was that over and over his first loop went to the corners, where the opponent was ready. Instead, I recommended his first attack primarily should go to the middle (i.e. roughly at the elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand). Why? It's much harder to block or counter-attack from there, as 1) the player has to decide whether to play forehand or backhand; 2) he then has to move into position, which is usually harder than moving to cover the corners; and 3) it draws the player out of position, allowing you to attack to the open corner, or (if the player rushes to cover it), to the other corner, or right back at the middle again.

Far too often players attack the corners with the idea they are looking for a ball to attack to the middle, with the common result of a strong return that they can't attack effectively. This is backwards - instead, attack the middle first, and then look for a chance to attack the next ball to the corners or the middle again.

Personally, I love opponents who mostly attack first to the corners, making my life easier. I'll buy my peers a drink if they promise to do so at key points. I hate with a vengeance those who attack my middle, who simply do not understand the "Do not go here!" sign implied by my constantly missing against those shots.

The main time you wouldn't attack the middle is when the opponent is looking to cover as much table as possible with his forehand, in which case the corners are probably more vulnerable, or else the middle moves toward the backhand side. But even here, while a soft or medium loop to the middle will probably get attacked with the forehand, a strong loop to the middle is very hard to handle with the forehand because the player is often jammed, and can only use the front half of their forehand hitting zone, while on a strong attack to the wide forehand, they can use the whole zone.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Alas, I discovered yesterday that I'd stopped midway through the chapter on Loopers, so I've got a bunch of work to do on that. (It'll be a long chapter, already almost 4000 words.) The book is now at 69,000 words, and the first draft - hopefully done within days - will probably be about 75,000 words, though the final version will likely be well over 80,000. Here are the opening paragraphs to the chapter on Serving Tactics (currently 8400 words, the longest chapter):

"What is your goal when you serve? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering service tactics.

"Serves are one of the most under-practiced aspects of the game, and yet they are often the quickest way to improve and to develop the tactical weapons needed to win. Not only do serves start off half the rally, but a good serve sets you up to attack, and if you do this enough, you improve your attack as well.

"Remember in the chapter on Strategic Thinking I talked about how you needed to develop an overpowering strength? (If your overpowering strength happens to be serve and receive, then focus on the strongest shot in your game that your serve and receive sets up.) The primary purpose of your service game should be to get that overpowering strength into play. But what is that strength?

"For some players, the answer is both easy and hard. It's easy because they know what they want to do: serve and loop, the most common goal at the higher levels. It's difficult because you can't effectively use the same serve over and over and over or your opponent will adjust. So even these players have to develop a repertoire of serves that set them up to do what they want to do."

Time Lapse Photography of the North American Teams Set-up

This is great - you actually get to see the entire set up in 29 seconds! It was created by Tom Nguyen of NATT. (As a side note, for several years I worked part-time for them at tournaments, and helped with these set-ups - and believe me, it's a LOT of work!)

Best points from the 2011 JOOLA North American Teams

Enjoy! (10:50)

Want to serve on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Board of Directors?

 Here's the opening (roughly the first half) to the job description:

"The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Athlete Advisory Council is pleased to announce its nationwide application process by which qualified athlete candidates may be nominated to serve as an Athlete Member on the US Anti Doping Agency’s Board of Directors.  A total of up to three candidates will be proposed to USADA’s Nominating Committee for their approval and acceptance for one of the two Athlete Member seats on USADA’s Board.  The Athlete Director shall serve a four year term starting Fall of 2012 and may be reelected for an additional four years. 

"Candidates should share the core values USADA: Integrity, respect, teamwork, responsibility, and courage.  The role of Athlete Member on USADA’s Board shall entail advocating and protecting athletes’ rights while remaining objective in achieving USADA’s goals.

"Candidates must have represented the United States in the Olympic, Pan American, Para Pan American, Paralympic Games, World Championships, or an event designated as an Operation Gold event within the ten (10) years preceding election.  However, it is preferred that candidates have competed more recently than the 10 year rule.  No candidate should have any prior doping violations and candidates may be required to complete and adequately pass a background and criminal check.

"The Anti Doping Division hopes to select from diverse pool of candidates from various backgrounds.  Although a minimum of Bachelor’s Degree is a must, no specific degree is required.  Knowledge of medicine, law, and chemistry may facilitate understanding of USADA policies and protocol.  Athletes may come from any sport under the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American umbrella."

This cat doesn't like ping-pong

Six seconds of feline fury.

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November 30, 2011

Angelica Rozeanu

Angelica Rozeanu of Romania was World Women's Singles Champion six straight years, 1950-56 - and believe it or not, she was the last European to win that title! (The Worlds were held annually through 1957, every two years since then.) From 1957 to present, women from China won it 19 times, Japan seven times (all the titles from 1956-69 except the 1961 win by Giu Zhonghui of China), and three times by Korea (Pak Yung Sun of North Korea in 1975 and 1977, and Hyun Jung Hwa of South Korea in 1993). China has won six in a row, 12 of the last 13, and 14 of the last 16.

So how good was Rozeanu, a hardbat chopper, who also won Women's Doubles and Mixed Doubles at the Worlds three times each? Judge for yourself in this video (4:51) from the late 1950s when she was at her peak.

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Table Tennis Players

I wrote this a while back, but I was thinking about it recently during the Teams, since it seems to fit the profiles of so many top players. Does it fit you?

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

I'm 67,000 words into the first draft, with 18.5 of 20 chapters completed. (I've also done the Introduction, Glossary, and yep, even About the Author.)  I'm halfway through the chapter on Hardbat Tactics (yep, I'm doing that!) and haven't started Mental Tactics (tactics to get yourself into the right frame of mind to play your best). Soon I'll be going over all my past articles to see if there are more items I should add. Here are some excerpts:

Opening to chapter on Tactical Thinking:

"What are tactics? Tactical thinking is how you figure out the best way to use what you have to win. Pretty simple, right?

"The goal of tactics is to mess up your opponent. That's all there is to it.

"Tactical thinking is a habit. Many highly intelligent people are not good tactical players because they never developed the habit. And I've seen some not-too-bright people who were good tactical players because, yes, they spent a lot of time watching and observing, and learned what to do to maximize their games - and so became very good tactical players.

"Tactical thinking takes place in five settings: Between tournaments, after matches, before matches, between games, between points, and during practice. The one time you don'tthink is during points."

Opening to chapter on Strategic Thinking:

"Strategic thinking is how you develop the tools you will use tactically. If you don't have the proper tools, you can't get the job done. It's like having a nail and a screwdriver - wrong tools."

Here's the tentatively final table of contents:

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One               Tactical Thinking
  • Chapter Two               Strategic Thinking
  • Chapter Three             All About Spin
  • Chapter Four               Your Tactical Game
  • Chapter Five                Beginning Tactics
  • Chapter Six                  Conventional and Non-Conventional Tactics
  • Chapter Seven             Service Tactics
  • Chapter Eight               Receive Tactics
  • Chapter Nine                Rallying Tactics
  • Chapter Ten                 Different Grips
  • Chapter Eleven             Pushing
  • Chapter Twelve             Loopers
  • Chapter Thirteen           Blockers, Counter-Drivers, and Hitters
  • Chapter Fourteen         Choppers
  • Chapter Fifteen             Fishers and Lobbers
  • Chapter Sixteen            Non-Inverted Surfaces
  • Chapter Seventeen       Hardbat Tactics
  • Chapter Eighteen          Doubles Tactics
  • Chapter Nineteen          Mental Tactics
  • Chapter Twenty            Tournament Tactics
  • Glossary
  • About the Author
  • Index

The Ping-Pong Workout - on FOX News!

Yes, they did a special on table tennis and fitness (2:21, starts with a 30-sec commercial), and concluded that it was good for fitness. Almost makes me want to vote Republican. :)

Table tennis going to the dogs

This tailless dog just wants to join in, while this one actually does join in, though I think you lose the point if your non-playing paw touches the table.

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November 29, 2011

Tactics versus Strategy

I've blogged in the past about the difference between tactical and strategic thinking. Tactical thinking is what you do to win now; strategic thinking is what you do to prepare yourself to win later. I had an experience a while back where I was coaching a junior against another junior who was about the same level. The other junior was a better counterlooper, while the one I was coaching had a better block. It went into the fifth game. Between games I said, "Do you want to counterloop with this guy?" (I was thinking he should block more, since they were getting into a lot of counterlooping points.) The junior I was coaching said, "I can beat him counterlooping."

My first thought was that if you block, you'll win, but if you counterloop you'll lose. I opened my mouth, then closed it, and then realized this was one of those strategic moments. So we worked out a tactical plan whereby he'd not just counterloop, but he'd serve and receive to get into those rallies. Because he was looking to counterloop every chance, he was ready for the shot, and so was able to pull out the fifth game, counterlooping down an opponent who normally would have won most of those rallies. It was a huge confidence booster for him, and he improved dramatically as his game became more looping, less blocking. Tactically, blocking might have been the right thing to do, but strategically, he needed to be able to counterloop against this type of player if he wanted to reach the higher levels, and so counterlooping was the strategic choice.

How to be more aggressive with third-ball attack

Way too many players serve and push, thereby giving up their serve advantage against a passive receive. If you want to improve, you should learn to serve and loop against these passive long pushes. There are always exceptions, but the vast majority of top players - and most intermediate players as well - reach that level by almost always attacking when an opponent makes such a passive return. You should too. You have many options - forehand or backhand loop; loop hard, medium, or soft & spinny; and wide to the corners or at the opponent's elbow (middle).  Here's a video from Coach Tao Li from Table Tennis University (4:55) that helps teach how to do this.

Europe versus Chinese table tennis

Here's a recent article, Professionalism in Europe, that explains why Europe is lagging behind China in table tennis. Here's an article I wrote a while back (along with Cheng Yinghua) called The Secrets of Chinese Table Tennis and What the Rest of the World Needs to Do to Catch Up.

Teams writeup

Here's a short article on the JOOLA North America Teams in the Baltimore Sun.

Mike Cavanaugh interview

Here's an interview with USATT Executive Director Mike Cavanaugh in the Sports Business Daily.

Tryptophan!

You may remember I warned about eating turkey for lunch or dinner if you have to play afterwards, because the Tryptophan may make you sleepy? (I blogged about this on September 8, and reprinted it on November 24.) Well, Red and Rover did a cartoon on this!

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November 28, 2011

Tip of the Week:

Message to Lower Ranked Players from Higher Ranked Players. (Re: How to beat us.)

Results of the JOOLA North American Teams

They are on the NA Table Tennis home page. It was a great three days at this well-run tournament, though now my mind is sizzled to a crisp from three days of coaching.

Successful attitudes during a grueling tournament

The JOOLA North American Teams is the most grueling of tournaments. I've noticed there are two types who do well there. The most successful are those who think of themselves as warriors, ready to take on anything and everything, match after match, shaking off all past results as they prepare for combat. However, there's another attitude that seems to work at all levels except the elite level, and that is the "party" attitude. This is the player who plays for fun, and so is completely relaxed when he plays - and guess who wins when he plays an uptight, nervous opponent who so badly wants to win that he rarely does, and whose mind is completely stressed out after a few matches?

My best coaching advice of the tournament

A player I was coaching lost the first game to a weaker player, and said between games he was nervous. I told him to "Play like it's just another match at the club." It was simple, obvious advice, and it worked. He reminded himself of this the rest of the tournament. It was so successful I repeated the advice to others, and the relaxed wins became infectious.

How to not care when you do care

Someone asked me at the Teams, "How do you not care when you do care?" It was a shorthand way of asking how to relax and not worry about winning when you so badly want to win. My answer was that you should be so focused on what you are doing (what serves to use, how to receive, where to place the ball, etc.) and should have convinced yourself so thoroughly that you can do the shots that you need to do, that the idea of losing never enters your mind. You should expect to win, so there is no uncertainty. And if you do lose, when it happens there should be a moment of confusion since it was totally unexpected. Then you shake it off, figure out what you need to do next time, and convince yourself it will never happen again because you know you can execute the shots needed to win.

Quote of the tournament

During a match at the Teams this past weekend, a 10-year-old I was coaching led 10-2 match point in the fifth game against a much higher-rated player. He lost the next four points, and then called a timeout at 10-6. He walked over to me and said, "I'm so nervous I think I'm gonna die!" After we finished laughing, I told him to put all his nervousness into a ball, and give me the ball, and I'd keep it on the sideline for him until the match was over. He handed over the ball of nervousness, and won, 11-7. (Later we tossed the ball of nervousness in the trash.)

Best team names at the Teams

Here are my favorite team names from the Teams, in alphabetical order. (Here's the complete listing - set field to "2011 NA Teams.")

  • Arctic Frost Spin (Karl A. Augestad, Kyle Yan, Ralph L. Stadelman, Zackery Gholston)
  • Beta-lactamase Inhibitors (Amy Lu, Ben Wolski, Joseph Chow, Josiah Chow)
  • Binary Coded Decimal Team (Bernard Lemal, Chun Yi Wang, Duc Nguyen, Li, Gan, Tai T. Ly)
  • Bone Crushers (Donna Rogall, Orlando E. Russell, Paul Nichols, Ray Glass, Raymond F. Chen)
  • Boys Gone Wild (Michael Landers, Peter Li, Suchy, Mieczyslaw)
  • Never Give Ups (Claude Francois, Daniel Guttman, Kyle Moyant, Ping Tan Foster)
  • Nice Team (John Bauer, Philippe Dassonval, John Salas, Li Yu Xiang, Wei Wilson)
  • Occupy Baltimore (people's ping pong party) (Khaleel Asgarali, Raghu R. Nadmichettu, Rocky Wang, Scott Lurty)
  • Peching Order (Keith Pech, Pedro P. Perez, Seth Pech, Seyed Hesam Hamrahian)
  • Spin Fatality (Charles Oxrieder, Chris OBrian, Gregg Robertshaw, Samir Nasser,  Walter Wintermute)
  • SPiN Galactic (Franck Raharinosy, Emile Goldstein, Jonathan Bricklin, Teodor Alexandru Lipan)
  • Sultans of Celluloid (Kaelan Yao, Paul R. Nunez, Stephen D. Hunsberger, Vincent Petrone)
  • We're Actually Not That Good (Edward W Wang, Hyo Won Kim, Joshua Tran, Karl Montgomery)

Lumbering forehand

Here's Larry Bavly pulling off the shot of the day at the Teams, at 1:30 of this 2:28 video.

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November 25, 2011

JOOLA North American Teams

I'm at the Teams in Baltimore, so this will be a shorter entry. I'm only coaching, but it's going to be a busy tournament since I'm coaching multiple players. I'm just thankful I don't have to play on the cement floors, which leave my knees in the same state of your average turkey in Thanksgiving. Come to think of it, I'm going to be in a hall with over 800 people walking about with blades, all looking for chances to kill.

Catch-up time

With about 10% of the USATT membership at the North American Teams, here's the chance for the other 90% to gain on them! What part of your game needs work? What part of your game can you turn into an overpowering strength? Go practice these aspects. Above all, practice your serves - more than anything else, that's the aspect of your game you can control. You might never develop great footwork or strokes, but you can always develop great serves. Here's an article on "How to Move Up a Level" - this is your chance to really work on moving beyond your current peers. Develop that overpowering strength that will strike fear in the hearts of all who oppose you. Here's an article on developing an overpowering strength. And since we're on the subject of improving, here are 14 articles on how to improve (including the two just mentioned):

How to Improve

Artistic blades

For sale! Yes, you can buy a Starry Starry Paddle, a Sunset Paddle, or a Manga Mascot Paddle! Even Ping-Pong Diplomacy blades! Time to start your Christmas shopping.

Cross-eyed table tennis boy

Gotta watch the ball!

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November 24, 2011

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

JOOLA North American Teams

For those that missed it, yesterday I did a special on the Teams, with links to articles, tips on how to play well, and video. Don't be a turkey; read and watch all of it!

The Turkey Theory of Forehands and Backhands

Players who are turkeys develop very strong forehands and weak backhands, or vice versa. Sometimes their weaker side isn't really that weak, it's just not that strong. If you have a weaker side, why not make it a goal to turn your weak/average/somewhat strong side into an overpowering strength? You can do it; simply choose not to be a turkey.

Turkey, Table Tennis, and Tong Tong

(The following is a reprint from Sept. 8, 2011 - but it seems rather timely now, especially for those of you competing in the Teams, who might eat a turkey sandwich before a match.)
I've had several cases over the years of a student eating a turkey sandwich for lunch at a tournament, and getting sleepy afterwards. This is presumably because of the relatively high levels of L-Tryptophan in turkey. Now this is controversial - while there's no question L-Tryptophan can cause drowsiness, it supposedly only happens if given almost in pure form on an empty stomach. Regardless, I've had enough bad experiences with this that I warn all my students never to eat turkey during a tournament until they are done playing for the day. For example, I was coaching U.S. Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong at a tournament last year. He had a turkey sandwich for lunch. When he had to play soon afterwards, he complained of sleepiness, said he could barely keep his eyes open. I took him into the restroom to splash cold water on his face, and it helped somewhat. He struggled for a couple matches before he felt alert again.

Marathon Training, Ping-Pong, and Turkeys

This is probably the only article ever that combines these three topics. Plus a bonus picture of a bearded Forrest Gump running.

Turkish Table Tennis

They call it Turkish Table Tennis (1:03), but it looks to me like a game of Around the World with some dancing thrown in.

Canada vs. Turkey: A Ping-Pong Odyssey

Yes, the long-awaited clash between these two table tennis powers (2:52).

Thanksgiving at the Ping-Pong Place

For Thanksgiving dinner, there's nothing like grandma serving a roasted Robo-Pong with ping-pong ball stuffing.

Turkey Table Tennis

Really! Winner gets the turkeyball.

Turkey Table Tennis with a Real Turkey

Are you ready to cut up a turkey with a blade, and serve it? Well, this turkey also has a blade and he's also ready to serve. (It's just a larger version of the turkey at the top.)  Happy Thanksgiving!

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November 23, 2011

Special on the North American Teams

The JOOLA North American Teams is this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center, Fri-Sun, Nov. 25-27. This is one of the "big three" tournaments in the U.S. (along with the U.S. Open in July and USA Nationals in December), with the largest participation of any USA tournament - about 800 players, 200 teams, 144 tables, 150,000 square feet, $20,000 in prize money. Here's a series of articles that you might want to browse, whether you are playing in the tournament or just want to know more. I've only missed one year since 1976, including 33 straight years from 1976-2008. I'll be there all three days coaching - come say hello! (The secret handshake is to point your finger at me and say, "Secret handshake.")

Pushing Epiphany

Yesterday I suddenly realized something I already knew, but now I realized that I knew it. And that is that your average club or tournament player (say, 1500-1800) pushes poorly not just because he doesn't know better, but because he isn't forced to push better by his peers. I can serve backspin to your average under 1900 player and the large majority of the time they will push it back so that it is easy to loop a winner - if you can loop at a 2000+ level. It's not any one thing - sometimes the pushes aren't deep or short, aren't low, aren't heavy, are predictable, or wander out from the corners. Any one of these things make the push easy to attack. If you do all of these things even pretty well, then they are difficult to attack well by just about anyone - which is what most 2000+ players do when they push. (Here's a Tip of the Week on pushing effectively.)

Maximizing Your Game Under Poor Circumstances

Here's an article by Samson Dubina on eight ways to improve when your training conditions are less than ideal. He asks the question, "One must play against better players in order to improve?" The answer is, of course, false. He explains, "It is possible to improve your table tennis game even if you don’t have ideal training partners, ideal coaching, and an ideal facility.  In this article, I’m going to suggest eight ways that you can maximize your game under poor training circumstances.

USA's Lily Zhang wins doubles at the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup

And here's the article that proves it! Lily, world #154, teamed with Russia's Anne Tikhomirova, world #68. In the final, they defeated the unified Korean team of Kim Kyung Ah (South Korea, world #13, perhaps the best women chopper in the world) and Kim Hye Song (North Korea, World #120), -6,8,-3,3,8. In the semifinals they defeated Cao Zhen (China, unranked, but world #30 in Feb., 2011, world #11 in 2006) and Aia Mohamed (Qatar, no ranking), 11,-10,7,8. Here's a picture of Zhang and Tikhomirova with their trophies, and an action shot (with the caption saying, "Russia's Anna Tikhomirova hits a return during the women's doubles table tennis match at the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup," but of course she's actually serving.)

Guinness World Record for most players in a rally

A total of 107 players took part in this rally (3:01). Perhaps the most boring table tennis video ever made, but are you in the Guinness Book of World Records?

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November 22, 2011

Teaching the forehand pendulum sidespin-topspin serve

Teaching the forehand pendulum serve is easy. Most relatively new players learn to do it with backspin and sidespin-backspin without too much trouble. But serving it with sidespin-topspin? This might be the single most difficult thing to teach. It's like teaching someone to whistle - at first they try and try, and nothing seems to work, and they get frustrated. And then, suddenly, it just happens, and then they get it, and from there on it's no problem. The same is true of this serve; players often struggle and struggle with it, which is frustrating to the player and the coach. And then, it just suddenly happens. I'm not sure why this particular skill is so much trickier to teach than other skills. You'd think that teaching a loop would be harder, but I've found that's much easier in practice.

The basic idea of the serve is that the racket goes through a pendulum motion. To get backspin or sidespin-backspin, you contact the ball on the downswing. To get pure sidespin, you contact the ball between the downswing and upswing. To get topspin or sidespin-topspin, you contact the ball on the upswing. To maximize spin, bring the wrist back and smoothly snap it into the serve, like a whip. It's helpful to imagine your arm (just above the wrist) hitting a pole just before contact, so that the wrist and racket whip about like the tip of a whip, or a tetherball spinning about a pole as it runs out of rope. 

The fastest moving part of the racket is the part farthest from the wrist, which for a shakehander is not the tip of the racket, but just below that (to the left for a right-hander). This is where you contact the ball for maximum spin. However, as the racket rotates around, the left side of the blade moves more naturally up, so it's easier to get sidespin-topspin by contacting the ball even more to the left. Demonstrating this is easy; teaching it is much harder. If anyone has suggestions on better ways to teach this, I'm all ears.

Parapan Am results

Here they are!

Improving Your Game Through Post Game Analysis

Here's an article by Samson Dubina on how to improve by analyzing your matches. He takes us through his analysis at four tournaments - the Rubber City Open in Akron, OH; the Hock Open in New Albany, IN; the Millcreek Open in Erie, PA; and the Macy Block Open in Columbus, OH.

Pongcast #4

Here's another Pongcast (27:35), once again covering the table tennis news of the week, in particular the recent Men's World Cup, and other items such as a segment on serves. They put a lot of time into putting these together!

How to Topspin Down the Line

Here's a video from PingSkills that teaches this (2:20).

Chinese Team Training

Here's a video (6:11) of the Chinese team training at the World Championships in May in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

Free book on how to practice

Here's a free online book (PDF format), Practice to Learn; Play to Win.

Juggling ping-pong balls with mouth

Here's someone who "juggles" four ping-pong balls by rapidly catching them in his mouth and blowing them up. He does 23 in a row, a new record. If he swallows one, well, they are low calorie, right?

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