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

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. 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 ficiton, 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!

July 13, 2017

My first Few Hours in Las Vegas
I think I had the worst first few hours in Las Vegas in the history of table tennis in Las Vegas – and I didn’t even gamble. Most people gripe about this type of thing on Facebook or to friends; I get to blog about it! So here is how my first few hours went, starting from minutes after I landed for the USA Nationals on Sunday, July 2. Skip to the other segments if you don’t want to hear my gripes!!!

  1. Right after landing I checked my email, and discovered a “poison pen” email from someone. I won’t go into details, let’s just say it was pretty ridiculous.
  2. As I went out to catch the shuttle, I got to see the shuttle leave, and had to wait for the next one.
  3. I got to the hotel at about 10AM, but the room wasn’t ready and check-in didn’t start until 11AM. So I found a comfortable spot, opened my laptop to check email and web pages . . . and it didn’t work. It was a brand new laptop, bought a week before to replace my previous one, which was about seven years old. But the new one kept freezing up and giving me “Not Responding” messages, so I wasn’t able to use it.
  4. I then got in line to check in. The line was already longer than the Great Wall of China. It took over an hour to get through it.
  5. When I registered for the hotel, I chose the Westgate over the tournament hotel, the Linq, for one simple reason – it was cheaper. When I registered by phone, they assured me there was no “resort fee,” that dreaded add on that they bilk people with. They also emailed me the hotel costs, which didn’t include the resort fee. When I checked in, they added the resort fee. I argued with them for half an hour, but they said it was “standard,” and whoever said otherwise was mistaken. I had little choice at that point, so I was bilked out of $33.96 x 6 = $203.76, which I have to pay out of my own pocket. I will be staying at the Linq next time.
  6. When I got to my room, it was about 48 degrees – I’m not exaggerating here. (If I were to exaggerate, I’d have it below freezing.) Someone had put the AC on full blast at the coldest setting. I tried changing the setting, but it wouldn’t change – the setting was jammed! I had to go to the playing hall so finally had to just turn the AC off, and didn’t use it the whole week I was there, despite temperatures outside reaching 116F. Fortunately, with rooms and a hallway covering three of the four sides, the room temperature was fine.
  7. I walked over to the playing hall, and then discovered I’d left my smart phone at the hotel room. Since I’d need it to communicate with students, I had to walk back to get it, and walk back again. Average walking time each way was 14 minutes.
  8. I got into the USATT check-in line, but so did everybody else. I spent another hour standing in line.
  9. I finally started practice with a student, but at this point I was exhausted. I’d spent over an hour standing in line at the hotel, spent nearly 45 minutes walking back and forth from the hotel to the playing hall to the hotel and back to the playing hall, and another hour in line checking in. My legs were now in full rebellion. My right knee was now bothering me, and that would get worse during the tournament - I'd start wearing a knee brace toward the end. 
  10. I got back to the hotel that night, and the brand new laptop still wasn’t working. I’d finally get it working the next day, but it would freeze up on and off all week, and often go into slow motion mode. It’s now at the Geek Squad at Best Buy undergoing a checkup.

USA Nationals Finals Videos

Kanak Jha, Lily Zhang Each Win Second Straight U.S. Table Tennis Titles
Here’s the article from ESPN.

Butterfly Presents Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth
Here’s the video (1:25). Stefan is the USA Men’s Coach and former member of the German National Team.

Strength Conditioning for Table Tennis
Here’s the articles from PingSkills

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

Table Tennis in the Twilight Zone
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Rabbit Hole
Here’s the article from a relatively new player who has made the plunge, but has some things to say about ratings and enjoying the sport.

Many Roles but Focus Remains Same - Ed Hogshead's Many Avenues to Help Grow US Table Tennis
Here’s the USATT article by Fatemeh Paryavi.

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

Bowmar Sports Sponsoring Alzheimer’s Fundraiser Tournament
Here’s info on the event taking place in Salt Lake City on July 29.

Matt Winkler’s 2017 US National Highlight Video
Here’s the video (4:20).

The 10 Points of the China Open 2017
Here’s the video (4:16).

Ding Ning vs Jun Mizutani Training
Here’s the video (3:11).

The Craziest Table Tennis ROLLERS of All Time!
Here’s the video (2:29).

Ma Long vs Ding Ning Funny Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:39). It’s in Chinese and meaningless to me until you get to 1:42, where they compete to see who can knock badminton birdies off the table! Next they compete to see who can serve into a bucket. Finally, the play each other opposite-handed.

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July 12, 2017

USA Nationals
I’m still rather sick, and almost took today off as well. My stomach feels like there’s a hurricane and a tornado chucking 100mm ping-pong balls at each other. But I’ll try to go over briefly some of the highlights. I also have two hours of coaching tonight!!!

  • Here are the Nationals Results.
  • For the first time since they adopted the new ITTF coaching rule last year, I coached a match where the opposing coach signaled every serve! They followed the rules; there were no serious delays. The girl he was coaching would look back as she walked to the table each time, or would very briefly look back as she was about to serve, and he’d signal. Late in the match they got “lazy” and the coach started calling them out in Chinese (as verified by some Chinese players nearby), since neither I nor my student know Chinese (although he didn’t really know that, did he?). I considered watching the coach and deciphering his signals, or having a Chinese player sit near me and translate his coaching later on, but there was no point as there’d be no time to signal my player what the serve was going to be.
  • USATT ran eight seminars at the Nationals. Turnout, alas, wasn’t great. I taught two of them. Only one person showed for the “How to Set Up and Run a Junior Program,” which was disappointing – but he got a real personal session on it as I went through the 19-page presentation I put together. (I may put it online at some point.) The Serving Seminar I ran had seven players. Topics covered included:
  1. Can Ma Long move his racket substantially faster than you when he serves? Probably not.
  2. How to Create Spin
  3. Exercises to Increase Your Spin
  4. How to Create Deception
  5. How to Serve Low (to net and low bounce on other side)
  6. Depth
  7. Specific Serves
  8. How to Practice Serves
  9. Placement
  10. Fast, Deep Serves
  • At the Hall of Fame Inductions on Thursday night, Dell Sweeris was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award, and Bowie Martin Sr., Marcy Monasterial, and Scott Preiss were inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame.
  • I won Over 40 Hardbat for the fifth time. (I’ve won Hardbat Singles twice and Hardbat Doubles 13 times – but Ty Hoff and I, who have won it nine times, lost in the semifinals this time, to Dan Seemiller/Patty Martinez.) I normally use sponge, and hadn’t touched a hardbat racket since last December, but it’s like riding a bicycle – once you know how to do it, it never completely goes away. (Well, there was that 1.5-year period where I kept losing and nothing felt right, and then discovered I’d inexplicably changed my grip!) I’m not going to go into my matches here, but I did have one interesting tactical choice that was counter-intuitive, and yet worked.

    Because I like to attack every serve with my forehand (not easy at age 57), players often mix in short serves to my forehand and long ones to my backhand. This puts great strain on my footwork as I have to make an instant decision on which way to go. My counter-intuitive solution? When receiving, I stood an extra step away from the table, and a bit more to my left. This way I had little distance to go to cover the long serves to my backhand, and so could focus on the short serves to my forehand – meaning I got a very quick start in that direction. This more than compensated for the longer distance to get to them. I still had to strain to cover them, but this allowed me to receive more forehand than if I stood in a more conventional receive position.

    However, the physical strain of trying to cover the table with my forehand, when receiving, when serving, and during rallies, left me exhausted for days afterwards, and may have weakened me to the point of making susceptible to whatever is making me sick right now. Because it was so tiring I also went easy on practicing – but it was interesting that while other hardbat players were practicing strokes, I was on the back tables with a box of balls practicing my serves!

  • Due to my Over 40 Hardbat Final and coaching, I was at the playing hall late on Friday, and so missed the Men’s and Women’s Finals. Congrats to Kanak and Lily!!!

USATT and ITTF News Items
While I’ve been away, the USATT and ITTF news pages have had a zillion new items, so why not browse over them?

My Quest for Olympic Games 2020 - Kanak Jha
Here’s Kanak Jha’s funding page. He just won his second straight U.S. Men’s Singles title.

New Articles and Videos from Samson Dubina
Here are three new ones – I really like the “Footwork Detective” video, and you should browse over the 26 videos from his camp!

Table Tennis Coaching – Tips for Parents Part 4
Here’s the new installment from Expert Table Tennis.

Coachable
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon. And I have a shirt that matches his coffee mug!

Forehand Drive Technique
Here’s the article and video (2:39) from EmRatThich.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills – lots of new entries.

USOC Coaching Newsletter
Here’s the July edition.

9 Reasons Why Table Tennis is the Best Sport in the World
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the new one from Tom Lodziak.

Pong Universe Point of the Week
Here’s the video (25 sec) of Vladimir Samsonov vs. Chuang Chih-Yuan.

Ask A Pro Anything - Chen Meng
Here’s the ITTF video (5:55) from Adam Bobrow.

Thailand Game Show
Here’s the video (15:36) where a kid demos table tennis tricks on something like “Thailand’s Got Talent.”

For Sale: Ping Table
Here’s the cartoon!

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July 11, 2017

Sick as a Dog
I was supposed to start blogging again today, but when I woke up this morning my throat was on fire, my nose was completely stuffed up, and I felt as sick as a dog - and you know that I'm pretty sick when I use a cliché like that rather than come up with something more creative. I feel horrible about this, but I feel even more horrible on the inside. I'm going to need at least another day before I can start blogging again. However, here is the Tip of the Week, Learn Control First on Receive. (This was inspired by Stefan Feth's Return of Serve clinic at the USA Nationals.) 

June 30, 2017

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 11
I leave for the USA Nationals early tomorrow morning (Sunday), returning next Sunday. As always, I don’t blog when I’m traveling – so next blog will be the Tuesday after I return, July 11. Until then, Pong On! (While I’m gone, why not browse the news pages at USATT, ITTF, and my sponsor, Butterfly?)

How You Can Support Table Tennis
There are a lot of ways you can help support our sport. Why not join in? Below are 15 ways you can do so. (Much of it is focused on USATT-related issues, but not all – and the same ideas apply locally or in other countries.)

  1. Donate to USA Table Tennis. “100% of the monies raised through the ‘Friends With Paddles’ program will be used to directly fund USATT’s National Team programming, including coaching, travel, training, participation in international tournaments, and direct athlete support.” If you are not a member of USATT, why not join?
  2. Donate to USATT Hall of Fame. “Interested in helping the Hall of Fame continue to fulfill its mission to honor the greatest players and contributors of the game?”
  3. Become a Certified Coach. What can be greater than passing on your years of knowledge? Plus, you learn when you teach!!! Note that the certification process is undergoing changes that will likely go online next month. ITTF Levels 1, 2, and 3 will likely be used for USATT State, Regional, and National coaching levels. Here is my recent USATT news item, Upcoming USATT Coaching Courses and Seminars, which includes info on upcoming ITTF courses in the U.S. and seminars at the USA Nationals. Here’s the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook and Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis. (I wrote both of these. At some point I’ll likely update and expand both.)
  4. Become a Certified Umpire. Here’s info on the various levels and requirements.
  5. Run Tournaments. You get to be in charge!!!
  6. Run a Club. Then join the club listing!
  7. Open a Full-Time Table Tennis Center. Ninety-three others have done it, so why not you? The Club Development Handbook might help.
  8. Run a League. Take your pick, a singles or a team league, rated or not rated.
  9. Run a Junior Program. I’m running a seminar at the USA Nationals, How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program. If you can’t make that, there’s info in my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook.
  10. Recruit and Welcome New Players. Many new players show up at a club and nobody wants to talk to or hit with them – they are beginners!!! Well, we all were once.
  11. Volunteer with USATT. Here’s the USATT Committee listing.
  12. Blog or Send out Press Releases. The more exposure we get, the better. Let me know if you have something online, and I’ll likely link to it here.
  13. Buy Table Tennis Books. It’s a great way to support the table tennis writing community! Here are mine. Here are other recent ones by Dan Seemiller, Samson Dubina, Tahl Leibovitz, Tim Boggan, Guido Mina di Sospiro, Donn Olsen, and Ben Larcombe.
  14. Become a Big-Spending Equipment Junkie with USATT Sponsors.
  15. Participate as a Player. Most of you are probably already doing this, but the more you compete in tournaments, the more you help the organizers with needed funds – while improving your own game, winning prizes, and going up in rating!!!

SuperMicro USA Nationals
Here’s the home page for the event taking place July 3-8 in Las Vegas. Here’s where you can see the events, players, and results (which will go active when the tournament starts – until then you’ll need a password!). Follow the action on the USATT New Page! I’ll be there – if you see me, stop by and say hi!

Australia Open
Here’s the home page of the event to be held July 4-7 in Gold Coast, Australia. (Preliminaries are July 2-3.) There are already a number of news items.

PongMobile for Ratings
Want a better, faster way to check your rating and search for others? “PongMobile is a web search software for USATT players, ratings and tournament histories. It is the companion application for the avid table tennis competitor. PongMobile allows for an intuitive, quick and easy search experience. Get a free account today, add your favorite players and begin following their progress.”

Two Brothers
Here’s the video (13:45). “This is the story about two brothers . . . they’ve always been competitive in everything, career, women, money, but nothing as much as the game of ping-pong.” (See two cartoon movies below, near the end.)

Improve Your Serves with Some Solo Service Practice
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak. Includes diagrams.

Yangyang Jia Table Tennis Lessons
Here are 14 video lessons. These have all gone up over the past month.

How to Play Competitive Ping Pong
Here are six steps from WikiHow.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Chinese National Team Boycott: The Story So Far
Here’s the video (5:29).
BREAKING NEWS (added Friday night) - new video from EmRatThich: Will Ma Long be banned? (11:44).

US Olympians Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang Back to Defend Singles Crowns
Here’s the article by Richard Finn on the Upcoming USA Nationals.

Perusing the Paddle Palace Catalog
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Japan Open
Here’s the video (4:53).

Videos from EmRatThich
Here’s his page, with new ones going up almost daily.

Adrian Crisan vs. 11-year-old Jason Li
Here’s a great rally (23 sec)! Crisan is a 5-time Olympian from Romania. Jason is rated 1775.

Attack vs Defense
Here’s the video (6:39).

Hungarian #4 Peter Fazekas
Here’s the video (14:10, a sequel to yesterday’s), where he is interviewed by Tahl Leibovitz, and plays Alexis Perez and Nicolas De Francesco. Videotape by Jules Apatini.

Ping-Pong Socks
Here they are!

Piano Pong Paddle and Other Pong Stuff
Here’s the picture, with lots of other ping-pong merchandise underneath from Pinterest.

Ultimate Table Tennis
“To play like a champ, learn from the Masters.”

Table Tennis is a Family Affair in the Jun Mizutani Household
Here’s the video (45 sec) of him watching as his wife (I presume) hits with their baby girl on the table. He’s ranked #6 in the world, the baby somewhere in the top 7.5 billion.

Man and Baby Pong – Another Family Affair
Here’s the picture, taken at MDTTC a few days ago by Carolyn Klinger.

Trick Shots

What's in a Ping Pong Ball?
Here’s the video (3:43) from HobbyKids. They do a bunch of weird table tennis stuff.

Spookiz Best Ping Pong Match Ever
Here’s the video (89 min). It’s a crazy kids’ cartoon that features table tennis. I browsed through it quickly, and the wild table tennis scenes take place in the first 30 sec, from 1:07 to 3:30, from 41:24 to 41:52, and from 42:31 to 45:00.

Sunny Bunnies Ping Pong Hero
Here’s the video (3:30 – link takes you 22 sec in, past the opening credits). It’s a series of short cartoons for kids, over 48 min long, but only the first features table tennis, the first 3:30.

Crazy Ponger
Here is the cartoon image – I wouldn’t want to play this guy!!!

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June 29, 2017

Table Tennis Game Variations
At the end of our camp yesterday the top juniors all got together and played a variation of Brazilian Teams I’ve never seen before. The normal rules for Brazilian Teams are simple – see below. But as I watched, a player lost a point – but stayed at the table. I asked why, and it turned out they had invented “Deuce Brazilian Teams,” where you play from deuce, i.e. have to win by two. So everyone gets to play at least two points on their turn, and it’s easier to stay up longer. It got me thinking about other game variations. Here are a few.

  • Brazilian Teams. Three or more to a team (though you can play with two). One player from each side goes up and plays a point. The winner stays, the loser goes to the end of his team’s line and the next player goes up. New player always serves. Games are generally to 31 or even 41 or more. Sometimes, if there’s a player stronger than the rest, you limit the number of points a player can win in a row and stay at the table. If you sweep the opposing team (or score 4 in a row), you are a hero. If you sweep them twice (or score 8 in a row), you are a superhero. Variation – Deuce Brazilian Teams, where instead of playing one point, players start out at deuce, and have to win by two, with the winner staying.
  • Up-Down Tables. Players pair up on the tables. They all play one game to 11, with no deuce – 11-10 wins. Winners move up, losers move down. Goal is to reach table #1 and stay there, or as close to that table as you can. If there’s an odd number, the loser on the last table practices serves the next round. This is great for all ages at camps. Sometimes, to quicken the pace, you play shorter games, perhaps to 7, or even start at deuce (have to win by two).
  • King of the Table. One player is “king,” others line up on other side. Challenger serves. If he loses the point, he goes to the end of the line and the next person comes up. If the Challenger wins the point, the King serves. Challenger has to win two points in a row to become King. Another variation the younger kids prefer is you only have to win one point to become King – so the King changes faster. Also, while it’s generally called “King of the Table,” we often call it “Captain” or “King or Queen” of the table or the girls rightfully object. How about Dictator of the Table?
  • Backspin Service Game. Players get five or ten serves each. You serve heavy backspin, usually high. If the ball bounces back into the net, you get one point. If it bounces back over the net and back onto your side on one bounce, without touching the net, it’s three points. If it bounces back over the net but takes more than one bounce, or nicks the net in either direction, it’s two points. This is my personal favorite, and all of my students learn this.
  • One-Shot Pong. This is for when you have a top player against a relative beginner. The stronger player has only one shot to win the point – he must win the point outright on his serve and on his serve return. If the beginner returns the serve, or returns the receive against his serve, he wins the point. (Another variation – all the beginner has to do is touch the receive of his serve! Generally the stronger player can loop or flip at wide angles for aces.) Other variations, depending on the difference in level, is the stronger player gets to serve and do one shot, and/or receive and one shot.
  • Doubles. Or, if you want to get creative, Triples!!!
  • Opposite Hand and/or Opposite Grip. Self-explanatory.
  • Mini-Tables and/or Mini-Rackets. Self-explanatory.
  • Hardbat and Sandpaper. Self-explanatory.
  • Cell Phone Pong. Self-explanatory.
  • Jungle Pong. This is a favorite of the kids, who often play this non-stop on break. You get a group together, and number themselves in order, so each player knows who he goes after. Then player 1 serves. Player 2 (and all subsequent players) have to let the ball come off the table and bounce on the floor, then he hits it back on the table, on either side, and the next player does the same. When a player fails to make a return, he’s out. This continues until you have a champion.
  • Cup Game. This is more for kids. They stack paper cups into pyramids or walls – “The Great Pyramid of Egypt” or “The Great Wall of China” – then they line up and knock them down as I feed multiball, 2-3 shots per player, taking turns. A variation of this is to stack ten cups in a pyramid and everyone gets up to ten shots to see how many they can knock over.
  • Frog Game. Another one for kids. I have a giant rubber frog I keep at the club – “Froggy” is the club’s unofficial mascot. I put him on the table, divide the kids into two teams, and as I feed multiball, they try to hit poor Froggy, keeping score. You can use just about anything as a target.
  • Worm Juice. Another one for the kids, though adults often join in this one. You put a bottle of Gatorade or similar liquid on the table, and say it’s squeezed worm juice. Kids take turns trying to hit it as you feed multiball. If they hit it, you have to drink it. Best part – you get to mock them as you feed the balls!!! (But they get the last laugh when they hit it.)

China Open Chinese Player Withdrawals and Aftermath

  • Chinese Men's Team Withdrawn from Australian Open, from ITTF. “It is unfortunate that the decision was made to withdraw the entire men’s team of Zhang Jike, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, Yan An, Liang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan from the Australian Open, despite only two of the players (Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin) being involved in last week’s incident at the China Open.”
  • Table Tennis Authorities Remind Players Who is Boss, from SupChina. “After China’s sports authorities relieved much-loved national table tennis team coach Liu Guoliang of his coaching duties in a sideways promotion to become vice president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association, three players protested, walking out of their matches at the World Tour China Open in Chengdu on June 23. The action caused a nationwide outcry online — many people criticized the “Soviet” nature of China’s sports administration that prioritizes the system over individual talent, although a few commenters accused the three protesting players of putting politics above sports.”
  • China Seeks Ping-Pong Diplomacy to Defuse Coaching Row, from Reuters. “The removal of China's top table tennis coach has stirred up rare tensions in the country's sporting world, prompting a backlash from leading players and fans, and drawing the gaze of the country's censors. Fans of table tennis, China's unofficial national sport, flocked online to vent their anger over the removal of the national team's popular head coach, Liu Guoliang, who stepped down from his position last week.”

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Agility Training for Table Tennis
Here’s the video (90 sec).

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

Jennifer Yue Wu Featured in Metro Sports
Here’s the article with pictures of the two-page spread for July/August. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Across the Net: Melton Table Tennis
Here’s the newsletter from this Australian club.

Harimoto Tomokazu's Birthday (14 Years Old) at T2Apac Event
Here’s the video (2:45) – it’s in Japanese (I think), but with some English sub-titles. The Japanese whiz kid’s birthday party was attended by just about everyone – Jiang Jialiang, Ovtcharov, Samsonov, Persson, Maze, Mizutani, Ding Ning, and many more. They even sing Happy Birthday – in English!

Ping-Pong vs. Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:33). It’s set to music, with French subtitles, but it’s mostly visual.

Hungarian #4 Peter Fazekas vs Paralympic Champion Tahl Leibovitz
Here’s the video (10:05), from Jules Apatini. Lots of slow motion replay.

England vs Greece Cheerleaders Routine
Here’s the video (2:27) – cheerleaders for table tennis?!!!

Novak Djokovic Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the new video (5:10). He’s using a hardbat. Can you imagine some of his topspins if he had, say, Tenergy?

How to Water a Plant via Ping-Pong Balls
Here’s the video (1:35) of a Rube Goldberg device that features lots of ping-pong balls.

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June 28, 2017

Equipment Reviews and Why I Don’t Do Them
Recently USATT has started doing “USATT Equipment Reviews,” by Matt Hetherington. Here are the first two:

Here are some other good places for equipment reviews. I’m sure there are others – feel free to comment below.

Some may have noticed that in 6.5 years and about 1500 blogs, I’ve almost studiously avoided doing equipment reviews. I’ve talked about equipment in general a number of times, but very rarely discuss the specific brands. I think there are only two times where I’ve actually done anything resembling equipment reviews. On Oct. 14, 2015, I had an entire segment on Emulating the Equipment of the Top Players, where I wrote about whether we should use the equipment used by the top players, and used Tenergy 25 (which I use on my backhand) as an example of a sponge not used by many top players but which many should probably be using.

On March 23, 2017, I wrote about my equipment, and also extolled on the virtues of Tenergy 25 and why more should use it, despite the lack of world-class players using it. I wrote:

“While I don’t write about specific equipment in the Tips, I can blog about my own equipment. For the record, I use a Butterfly Timo Boll ALC FL blade, with Tenergy 05 black 2.1 on forehand, Tenergy 25 red 2.1 on backhand. Tenergy 05 is great for looping, and makes it easy for me to loop over and over with power even at age 57. I use Tenergy 25 on the backhand because, while it’s also easy to loop with, it’s great for counter-hitting and blocking. Few world-class players use Tenergy 25 because it’s not designed for players who take a big swing at the ball, as most world-class players do, but for players under 2000, and really well beyond that, unless you loop all-out on the backhand, I’ve always thought Tenergy 25 was the best one.”

I’ve done a few Tips of the Week on equipment in general, such as:

But these covered equipment in general, not specific types. So why don’t I do more equipment reviews? There are four reasons.

  1. Conflict of Interest. I’m sponsored by Butterfly. I don’t want to turn this into a Butterfly equipment column, but at the same time I don’t want to be reviewing equipment by companies that are rivals to my own sponsor. Plus, if I give a good review to Butterfly or a bad review to non-Butterfly, there will always be that suspicion of bias.
  2. Not Knowledgeable about non-Butterfly. It’s a simple reality that I know most of the Butterfly sponges, but not non-Butterfly. Sure, I could spend time trying them out – I’m guessing the major companies would even send them to me for free in return for reviewing them. But I just don’t have time to add more things to my todo list. I’ll let Matt and others do equipment reviews.
  3. Not Really Good at Them. You have to do something a lot before you become good at it. Since I don’t do regular equipment reviews, guess what? I don’t think I’d be very good at them. I’d have to do a lot of them before I’d really have a good feel for the specific types of equipment and how they differ. It’s like table tennis itself – you can’t be good at it without doing it a lot. I fear my equipment reviews would be like a basement player trying to tell the pros how to play table tennis!!! Okay, I’m probably not really that bad at equipment reviewing, but besides practice, you have to be really interested in something to do well at it, which brings us to. . .
  4. Lack of Interest. Anyone who knows me knows that I pride myself on being able to play at a high level with just about anything – hardbat, sandpaper, a clipboard, cell phone, whatever. I’ve even beaten people using a towel (you have to hold it really tight), an ID card, and an ice cube!!! (Use glove or it’ll melt too fast.) There’s no question that I’m better with Tenergy on both sides than some less bouncy sponge, but I find it far more important to develop a strong foundation to your game than to spend huge amounts of time trying to find that “perfect” sponge. I’ve always advised players to try out what’s out there early in their careers, find what they like, and then generally to stick with it. In my “Suggested Equipment” Tip above, I wrote:

“Beginners and others not that familiar with what's out there need to go through a period where they try out the various rubber and rackets just so they know what the choices are.”

“Once you find something that fits your game, generally stick with it unless your game changes or there's a major equipment breakthrough.”

There will always be EJs (Equipment Junkies), and I have no problem with that. However, if the goal is to improve, that should always be secondary to developing a strong foundation to your game. Great equipment is like special effects in a movie – it can enhance a good movie, but it can’t make a bad movie good.

Excitement Continues to Grow as T2 APAC Player Selections Revealed
Here’s the ITTF article. “Which side has your backing? Are you TeamJJ, TeamMaze, Team Rossi, or TeamPersson?”

  • Team JJ: Jiang Jialiang, Vladimir Samsonov, Tomokazu Harimoto. Chuang Chih-Yuan, Wu Yang, Jeon Jihee, Matilda Ekholm.
  • Team Maze: Michael Maze, Timo Boll, Feng Tianwei, Chen Chien-An, Alexander Shibaev, Yang Haeun, Hina Hayata.
  • Team Rossi: Jörg Rosskopf, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, Elizabeta Samara, Cheng I-Ching, Georgina Pota, Shang Kun, Paul Drinkhall.
  • Team Persson: Jörgen Persson, Ding Ning, Bernadette Szőcs, Suthasini Sawettabut, Jun Mizutani, Joo Saehyuk, Mattias Karlsson.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

USATT Establishes Youth Ambassador Council to Promote Grassroots Programs
Here’s the USATT article.

Commanding Display from Kanak Jha Closes Out Proceedings in Buenos Aires
Here’s the ITTF article.

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

2017 SuperMicro US National Championships "Final Table Celebration" Bounces into Silverton Casino Hotel
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn on the location of the Men’s and Women’s Finals at the upcoming USA Nationals.

Wu Aims for First National Championship Singles Title
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Dima's Wild Win
Here’s the ITTF article on Dimitrij Ovcharov’s crazy (6-10 down match point) win at the China Open.

Mixed Doubles World Champions Eye 2020 Olympic Games
Here’s the ITTF article featuring the Japanese pair Kasumi Ishikawa and Maharu Yoshimura.

2007 China Open – Ten Years Back
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan, with a link to a video (2:52) of Ma Lin vs. a teenaged Dimitrij Ovtcharov at the China Open.  

China Open Highlights

Inflatable Sumo Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (7:23, though actual ping-pong doesn’t start until about 4:40).

Vladimir Samsonov vs. Tomokazu Harimoto: The Rematch – by Phone?
Here’s the video (62 sec) of the Battle of the Cell Phones, with Japan’s whiz kid Harimoto (who turned 14 yesterday) on left against 41-year-old Samsonov on right (who Harimoto upset at the China Open), with 1985 & 1987 World Men’s Champion Jiang Jialiang playing doubles with Samsonov.

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June 27, 2017

Hours Spent in Table Tennis
How many hours have you spent on table tennis? Some say it takes 10,000 hours to really develop a skill. Have you done your 10,000? I got to thinking how many hours I’ve spent on this sport. It turns out an insane number – apparently enough to perfect my table tennis skills, oh, about ten times over. So . . . how many hours? Let’s find out. There’s going to be a lot of rounding and estimates, but I think the figures at the end are pretty accurate. (Feel free to skip ahead to other segments if you find this boring.) 

I started in 1976, so I’m in my 42nd year. I practiced a huge number of hours my first few years. Here are estimates:

  • 1976-1981: About four hours per day, six days/week, so 24 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 6 years.
  • 1981-1992: About two hours/day, six days/week, so 12 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 12 years.
  • 1992-2007: About 1.5 hour/day, six days week, so nine hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 16 years.
  • 2008-2017: Not so much – just coaching. Perhaps 1000 hours, most of it in the early part.

Now comes the single greatest coincidence in the history of anything. After I wrote the above, and doing the arithmetic, I discovered that the first three segments each added up to 7200 hours!!! Okay, these are just estimates. There were stretches where I put in far more than the above, but I was also injured a few times and had to take time off, so it events out. Anyway, 7200 + 7200 + 7200 = 21,600 hours of practice. Let’s average that up to 22,000.

But that’s only part of my table tennis time. How about coaching hours? Since 1992 I’ve averaged perhaps 20 hours/week as a coach or practice partner, excluding camps. (I did more in the 1990s; I'm slowing down with age!) That’s about 25,000 hours. But I also coached a lot from 1979-1992 (especially 1985-1990, when I was a manager/coach/director at the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center), perhaps an average of 1.5 hours per day overall, but we'll call it an hour per day to be conservative, so another 5000 hours. So about 30,000 hours of coaching outside of training camps.

How about training camps? In April, 2012, I blogged about running my 150th five-day camp. Since then I’ve coached at another 50, so about 200 now, or 1000 days of camps at six hours each, or 6000 hours of camps. (Some of the camps I only coach half the sessions, but I only counted them as “half a camp,” so the numbers add up.) When I think about spending 1000 days coaching at camps I’m sort of dazzled. That’s 2.7 years!!! I'm going to combine regular coaching and training camps, which total to 36,000 hours of coaching. 

How about playing and coaching in tournaments? To keep it simple, I’ll combine these two since there’s a big overlap. I’ve been to every Open and Nationals since 1985 (and I think five before that), and the Teams since 1976. The Open and Nationals are normally five days, the Teams three, so that’s another 450 days or so. Figuring eight days at the tournament site, that’s 3600 hours. But I’ve also played in over 500 tournaments, and coached at another 200 outside the Open/Nationals/teams. So that’s another 700 tournaments. Figuring an average of 1.5 days each, at eight hours/day, that’s 8400 hours, plus the 3600 above, or 12,000 hours. I’ve spent over 1600 days at tournaments, or about 4.4 years!!!

I’ve also run 190 USATT tournaments, nearly all of them two days long. I spend at least 12 hours/day at these tournaments (plus lots of time before setting up and after doing paperwork), so figure 24 hours each, times 190, and that’s another 4600 hours or so – to keep it simple, let’s say 5000 hours. I’ve spent about 380 days running tournaments, over a year!!!

How about table tennis writing? I’ve been blogging Mon-Fri since January, 2011. I have taken time off, so I probably blog about 230 times per year for 6.5 years, or about 1500 blogs. Figuring an average of two hours each, that’s 3000 hours. But I’ve also written over 1700 articles in addition to the blogs – figure one hour each, so another 1700 hours. Then there are the eight books on table tennis. Some of these used my previous writings, and I can’t count them double. I just did a quick accounting, and I’m going to estimate I spent about 700 hours of them, including writing, editing, formatting, proofing, doing covers, etc. So writing comes to 3000 + 1700 + 700 = 5400. We’ll average that down to 5000 hours.

I was editor of USATT Magazine for 12 years and 71 issues. That was nearly a full-time job – writing, editing, soliciting articles and photos, photo work, page layouts, soliciting advertising, pre-prep work, etc. Call it 25 hours/week for 11 years 10 months, or about 15,000 hours. But I also did 19 U.S. Open/Nationals/Team Trials program booklets, 68 club newsletters, 8 Hall of Fame program booklets, 3 issues of Table Tennis World, 3 issues of USATT’s Coaches Quarterly, and 1 USATT’s Tournament Quarterly. That’s another 1000 hours. So about 16,000 hours as Table Tennis Editor.

I’ve also attended about 80 USATT board meetings, including teleconferences. I’ve been to about 50 actual meetings, averaging two days, eight hours, plus another 30 teleconferences averaging two hours, so about 860 hours of USATT board meetings. Add in committee meetings, and we’d be over 1000, but we’ll say 1000 hours.

There’s also about 500 press releases I’ve written and sent out over the years, and time spent with reporters, etc. Call it 1000 hours under Promotion.

But the above doesn’t include lots of miscellaneous things, like setting up and running clubs; cleaning clubs (I used to do that!); writing letters of recommendations for players; umpiring (many hundreds of hours back in the 1980s and 1990s), and hordes of other stuff that come out to (after 41 years) a lot more than 2000 hours. But we’ll arbitrarily call it 2000 hours, since that gets us to a nice even figure.

So where do we stand?

  • Practice: 22,000 hours
  • Coaching: 36,000 hours
  • Playing & Coaching at Tournaments: 12,000 hours.
  • Running Tournaments: 5000 hours
  • Table Tennis Writer: 5000 hours
  • Table Tennis Editor: 16,000 hours
  • USATT meetings: 1000 hours
  • Promotion: 1000 hours
  • Miscellaneous: 2000 hours.

That’s an insane 100,000 hours of table tennis! For perspective, there are 8760 hours in a normal year. So I’ve done about 11.5 years of continuous table tennis!!! I've played for a little less than 41.5 years, about 150,000 days, or about 360,000 hours since I began. So I've spent nearly 28% of my time on table tennis since 1976 (100,000/360,000) - about 6.7 hours/day. Sounds about right. In fact, at age 57, I've spent about 13% of my entire life doing table tennis!!! (It's fortunate that I only sleep about 6 hours/night so have more time for TT. I think.) 

The Ultimate Guide to Table Tennis Psychology
Here it is, from Expert Table Tennis. This came out in 2016, but I thought I’d link to it again.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

The Truth Behind the Forfeit of Ma Long, Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin in China Open 2017
Here’s the video (9:50) from EmRatThich. This is a really fascinating, almost hour by hour explanation of what happened, both a documentary and an opinion piece. 

Why are China’s top table tennis players protesting?
Here’s the article from SupChina. 

Kanak Jha Heads Successful US Pan American Junior Campaign with Trio of Golds
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Halfway Point, Picture Emerging
Here’s the ITTF article on the World Tour. “Success in Chengdu; following his win in the Men’s Singles event at the Seamaster 2017 ITTF World Tour China Open on Sunday 25th June, Germany’s Dimitrij Ovtcharov (800 points) is now listed is second spot on the Standings. Meanwhile, for China’s Ding Ning, the winner of the counterpart Women’s Singles event, she shares third spot alongside Singapore’s Feng Tianwei and compatriot, Wang Manyu (800 points).”

Quiz: How well do you know the World Championships?
Here’s the ITTF quiz. “The Liebherr 2017 World Championships witnessed some historic and breath taking moments that the word will cherish forever. How well do you remember those moments? Test yourself, take the quiz!”

Smile is a Robot (Ping Pong X Kalipo)
Here’s the video (4:20) – a very strange manga table tennis cartoon.

New Humira Commercial
Here’s the ad (60 sec) – from seconds 9-12 a man plays table tennis with a racket in each hand, which is his “body of proof that he can take on psoriatic arthritis.”

Penhold Ping-Pong Clocks
Here they are! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

More Insane Trick Shots from Players at the Worlds
Here’s the video (1:59).

Domino Pong
Here’s the video (8 sec)! Though they look more like large poker chips.

***
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June 26, 2017

Tip of the Week
One Point at a Time.

Table Tennis Protests and Walkouts
Below, in the segment on the China Open, you’ll read about the Chinese players refusing to play their matches in protest of the removal of Liu Guoliang as head coach. The top three men in the world, all from China, refused to play in their country’s “premier” event – Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin, with support from many other players and coaches. World #4 Zhang Jike, also withdrew, due to an apparent injury, but at least early on also joined the protest. How this will unfold is anyone’s guess, but from what I’ve read (and there are many links to articles and discussions below), I have a feeling Liu Guoliang will be hit hard, while the players will likely get something like a three-month suspension. We’ll see.

Here are three other major table tennis protests that led to players refusing to play, all in the U.S. Here’s a summary.

  • 1976 U.S. Open. This was my first big tournament, held in July in Philadelphia – I started playing earlier that year, and came in rated about 1150. I was completely caught off guard when I got to the tournament site to find most of the top players picketing, refusing to play due to low prize money – only $200 for first place in Men’s Singles. Among the picketers were U.S. #1 Dan Seemiller, Charlie Wuvanich (Australian and Thailand champion, who had move to the U.S. a year or so earlier and already had developed a huge rivalry with Dan), Ricky and Randy Seemiller, Tim Boggan, future USATT president Sheri Pittman (then only 14 years old), Fuarnado Roberts, and many more. Despite the low prize money, they had some top players, with world #3 Dragutin Surbek defeating English star Desmond Douglas (also top ten in the world) in the final or semifinals (not sure which), deuce in the fifth. The protest led to some increase in prize money, but more importantly might have led to the creation of the U.S. Nationals, held for the first time that December.
  • 1994 U.S. Open. I’m a little fuzzy on the details here, but many of the top players were very unhappy with the conditions and scheduling at this U.S. Open. When they tried to protest, they couldn’t find the tournament director, who had seemingly disappeared, and the tournament referee was out playing matches. Finally, in exasperation, many of the top players dropped out.
  • 2009 USA Nationals. Early in the tournament there was a growing frustration among the top players at the low prize money in Men’s Singles. It boiled over before the quarterfinals, where the eight players met, and six of them threatened to withdraw if prize money wasn’t increased– Fan Yiyong, David Zhuang, Ilija Lupulesku, Mark Hazinski, Han Xiao, and Raghu Nadmichettu. Han Xiao, who was the player rep, worked out an agreement with then-USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh for increased prize money in future years, but couldn’t get the other five to agree. So Han felt he couldn’t continue either (since he was the player rep), so all six defaulted. The other two played the final, Samson Dubina and 15-year-old Michael Landers, with Landers coming back from down 1-3 to win 11-9 in the seventh.

Shoulder Scare
On Saturday I had a scary time with my shoulder. I’d coached way too many hours on the previous Saturday-Wednesday, and spent all of Thursday and Friday pretty much at my desk working or in a lounge chair reading or writing on my laptop, barely moving at all. When I got to the club to coach on Saturday, I was stiff as a frozen rock. I loosened up somewhat while doing two hours of coaching. Then I did nearly two hours where I mostly fed multiball. At the end, I started to play a practice game with one of the players – and on the very first point he popped up my serve, I smashed, and I felt something hurt in my shoulder. I’ve had injuries in the same spot before, and I could feel I’d strained it again, but wasn’t sure how bad. I stopped playing immediately – fortunately, my only coaching the rest of the day was a two-hour group session where I wouldn’t have to hit – and was able to rest it.

The next day I had three hours of private coaching. I came in a bit early, made sure to stretch it out and got a good warm up, and while I could still feel the sore spot, I was able to play without problems. Hopefully it won’t act up at the coming USA Nationals (next week), where I’m entered in Over 50 Men’s Doubles, Hardbat Singles, Hardbat Doubles, and Over 40 Hardbat. (I normally use sponge, but play a lot of hardbat at national events along with coaching, meetings, and seminars.)

2017 ITTF-Pan Am Junior Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, held June 20-25 in Buenos Aires, ARG, with results, video, and lots of articles. USA did pretty well there, sweeping Junior Boys’ and Girls’ Teams. Kanak Jha won Boys’ Singles and Boys’ Doubles with Sharon Alguetti. Crystal Wang and Amy Wang both made it to the semifinals of Girls’ Singles, and made the final of Girls’ Doubles. Victor Liu/Rachel Sung made the semifinals of Junior Mixed Doubles. Team USA was Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, Victor Liu, Jack Wang, Rachel Sung, Amy Wang, Crystal Wang, and Grace Yang. 

China Open
Here’s the home page for the event, held in Chengdu, China, June 22-25, with results, video, and lots and lots of articles. The big news, of course, was the withdrawal of the top four Chinese players, ranked #1-4 in the world – Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, and Zhang Jike. In other news, Ding Ning defeated Sun Yingsha in the all-Chinese Women’s Final, Dimitrij Ovtcharov was up 5-2 in the seventh, then down 6-10 match point but comes back to win against Timo Boll in the all-German Men’s Final, and 13-year-old Japanese sensation Tomokazu Harimoto made the semifinals by defeating World #9 Noki Niwa and #12 Vladimir Samsonov, and won the first game against Boll in the semifinals before losing 1-4. (See video of Boll below discussion his matches with Harimoto and Ovtcharov.) Here are articles and links mostly on the Chinese Player Withdrawals.

Timo Boll on His Matches at the China Open

New from Samson Dubina

Advanced Serving
Here are five new videos from PingSkills. They include: Service Tactics (2:49), Variation of Spin (3:08), Variation of Placement (2:37), Variation of Speed (3:01), Service Disguise (4:33)

How To Play A Forehand Loop
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark, with links to video.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

How to Choose Best Setup in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (15:59) from EmRatThich. “What is the best combination (racket + rubber) in table tennis? Best paddle for a beginner? top bat for spin or for speed? These are the common questions that you asked. Today, coach EmRatThich will explain 3 types of setup in table tennis.”

Upcoming USATT Coaching Courses and Seminars
Here’s the USATT news item, which was also my blog on Friday.

How Big was the Liebherr World Championships?
Here’s the ITTF article.

Kenta Matsudara Block
Here’s the video (1:45) of the world #18 from Japan. It’s not in English (I assume it’s Japanese), but it shows both his topspin and sidespin blocks in slow motion.

Pong Universe Video of the Week
Here’s the video (83 sec), featuring the best players serving in slow motion.

Greatest Flip in History?
Here’s the video (35 sec)!

Serving Cup Challenge at the Worlds
Here’s the video (31 sec). I posted links to other versions of this during the Worlds, but I think this is a new one.

Table Tennis: Amateurs vs. Young Professionals
Here’s the video (12:14). Guess who wins? It’s pretty funny as the kids absolutely annihilate the comedic adults. The boys are Edwin Bai and Vincent Lo (rated 1519 and 1681, respectively), but I couldn’t catch the name of their club when they mentioned it. I don’t think the girls were introduced. (Comment below if you know the name of the girls or the club. They are all from California.)

Sherman’s Lagoon and the Ping-Pong Theory
Here’s the cartoon from Saturday, June 24!

***
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June 23, 2017

Upcoming USATT Coaching Courses and Seminars
[I sent the following in as a USATT news item, which should go up soon.  (It's up.) I spent much of yesterday putting together a 19-page presentation I’ll be playing on a projector for my “How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program” seminar, which will be held in a classroom. I also have a one-page outline for my “Intermediate and Advanced Serving” seminar, which will be at the playing hall, but I can pretty much do that one in my sleep. I’ll put both documents online after the Nationals.]

USATT is taking a two-pronged approach to educating our coaches – and players too! Take your pick of an ITTF Coaching Course or a USATT University Seminar at the USA Nationals.

ITTF COACHING COURSES
These are for current and prospective coaches who wish to improve their coaching skills as well as get certified as a USATT and ITTF coach. (Note that when you are certified at ITTF Levels 1, 2, or 3, you are automatically certified as a USATT coach at the corresponding levels of State, Regional, and National Coach.) There are five upcoming ITTF Coaching seminars:

USATT UNIVERSITY – Coaching Seminars at the USA Nationals
USATT University is a reality! USATT will be running eight seminars at the upcoming USA Nationals. When I ran for the USATT Board, one of the things I wanted to do was set up a “USATT Coaching Academy.” That morphed into USATT University! Special thanks goes to USATT CEO Gordon Kaye for making it happen, and to USATT staff members Andy Horn and Jon Taylor. A huge thanks also goes to those who will be teaching these seminars.

I think this is a great opportunity for USA Table Tennis to educate current and prospective coaches and organizers, as well as adding more “glitz” to our major tournaments as a further draw. If you have suggestions for future such panels, let me know.

If the courses are successful, we hope expand them even more at the U.S. Open in December. I’m already planning a 4-6 hour USATT Coaching Certification Clinic, as well as possibly other seminars such as ones on Tactics, Looping, Sports Psychology, Hardbat/Sandpaper, and How to Become a Professional Coach. (Note – as a USATT board member and coaching chair, I’m a volunteer and receive no payment for these seminars or related work.) Descriptions of the eight courses or seminars are on the USATT University flyer. Here’s the short version, in chronological order.

DAY

TIME

WHAT

COST

INSTRUCTORS

Mon

7-8 PM

Tournament Directors Best Practices 101

Free

Jasna Rather, Matt Hetherington, Ed Hogshead, James Therriault

Mon

8-9 PM

Advanced Return of Serve

$20*

Stefan Feth, USA Men’s Coach and 4-time USATT Coach of the Year

Tue

12-2 PM

USATT Umpire Clinic

Free

International Referee and Umpire Azmy Ibrahim

Tue

7-8 PM

USATT Club Best Practices 101

Free

Ed Hogshead, Tim Wang, Marguerite Cheung, others pending

Wed

7-8 PM

Intermediate and Advanced Serving

$20*

Larry Hodges, USATT Certified National Coach and Hall of Famer

Wed

8-9 PM

How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program

$20*

Larry Hodges, USATT Certified National Coach and Hall of Famer

Wed

8-9 PM

One-On-One with High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio

Free

Jörg Bitzigeio

Thur

7-8 PM

OmniPong 101 (tournament software)

Free

Craig Krum, OmniPong Developer

*Free to USATT certified coaches and USA Nationals volunteers

2017 ITTF-Pan Am Junior Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, June 20-25 in Buenos Aires, ARG. USA has already won both Boys’ and Girls’ Teams. Singles and Doubles is now starting. Team USA is Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, Victor Liu, Jack Wang, Rachel Sung, Amy Wang, Crystal Wang, and Grace Yang. Here are some news items that feature Team USA:

China Open
Here’s the home page for the event, in Chengdu, China, June 22-25. Here are some news items - see the big news about the Chinese team members refusing to play out of protest of Liu Guoliang's "promotion" out of the head coaching position! (Added later - Here's an article on the situation, from the South China Morning Post. And here's the Response from the Chinese Sports Administration. I have a feeling Ma, Fan, and Xu, and probably Zhang, are in serious trouble.) 

Double Gold for US Para Team in Germany
Here’s the USATT article.

Coaching Articles and Videos from EmRathThich
I only just discovered these!

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills. (Note – I put this up whenever they have new questions answered, which is almost every day.)

Ma Long Forehand Flick Training 2017
Here’s the video (2:18).

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

Who Are Those Guys? Tournament Mismatches
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon. And note the new website for Jon’s Table Tennis Training!

High Acclaim for Administration Course
Here’s the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Just Got Fit: Interview with Game Dev About Your Fitness and VR
Here’s the article.

Pong Universe Point of the Week: Alan Cooke vs. Joao Monteiro
Here’s the video (48 sec). Great point!!! We’ll ignore that the serve was illegally hidden, by both the body and the non-playing arm, which is illegally left out there to hide the serve.

Equipment Booths at the World Championships
Here’s the video (15:27) – if you are an EJ (Equipment Junkie), this is what you missed!

Sports Swap: Table Tennis vs. Hockey
Here’s the video (12:23). “What happens when an Olympic hockey player and a Dutch table tennis champion swap sports?”

Japanese Pythagoras Switch
Here’s the video (4:02) – it starts with table tennis! A ping-pong ball also makes an appearance for ten seconds at 1:54 in.

Your Basic Forehand Smash
Here’s the gif image.

Ten Cup Challenge
Here’s the video (41 sec). I do this all the time in my beginning junior class. The more advanced students often join in. The record for knocking them all down is two shots.

Five Types of Cheaters in Table Tennis
Here’s the hilarious video (3:25) from EmRatThich!

Three More Cats Playing Pong

***
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June 21, 2017

Thursday Off
I need a day off to catch up on things – see you on Friday!

Sports Skills and the Myth of the Natural
The following has a table tennis point to it, but starts out in a fantasy world. I’m currently reading Book Two in the Weird West Tales series by Mike Resnick, four fantasy books which feature the adventures of Doc Holliday in a re-imagined west where Americans, led by Thomas Edison, try to use science to battle the magic of Indians such as Geronimo. In Book One, “The Buntline Special,” we learn what really happened at the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Holliday takes on the undead Johnny Ringo. In Book Two, “The Doctor and the Kid,” Holliday, now broke due to a horrible loss in a poker game, needs to hunt down and kill Billy the Kid for the reward money. Alas, he can’t, as Geronimo has used his magic so bullets bounce off The Kid. Okay, as table tennis players, perhaps none of this interests you. But there’s a table tennis angle.

The novel features some very nice writing by Resnick, one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of all time. But a passage caught my eye last night. In the scene, Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid are drinking at a bar together. They know that they are going to be having it out sometime later, but until then they have become friends. The following conversation takes place – and it could just as easily have taken place at a table tennis club, where they were discussing table tennis.

“How did you get to be so good with a gun?” asks Holliday.

“I honestly don’t know,” says The Kid. “I never played with toy guns back in New York or Kansas, never dreamed of being a gunslinger, never practiced much with a gun once I got one. I just strapped on a holster one day, and pulled and fired my gun, and hit what I was aiming at every damned time. It’s like pointing my finger.”

“I would say that you’re what they call a natural,” said Holliday.

Now writers can take what is called literary license to change things for dramatic appeal, but this seems to perpetuate the myth that athletes are born, not made. (Doc Holliday, who in the novel is thought by many to be the only gunslinger who might be able to stand up against The Kid, also never seems to practice.) While it is a combination of the two, the consensus of most coaches is that top athletes are much, Much, MUCH more made than born. And yet, to many, athletes are just naturals who become the best because of inborn skills. This may be more true in certain sports, such as sprinting, but not in skill sports.

The reality, of course, is if Holliday and Billy the Kid were truly great gunslingers, they likely spent huge amounts of time practicing their draw and shooting skills. If they didn’t, there no doubt would be others who did, and they would have become the great gunslingers, and Holliday and The Kid would have lost the first time they went up against them.

Look at the top table tennis players in the world. None of them became great because they were “Naturals.” They all spent a decade or so practicing like maniacs. Some might have started out seemingly naturals – compared to other beginners - but any such naturals who didn’t practice regularly would soon be overtaken by those who do.

It’s not just the above passage. Look at the movie “The Natural,” where the whole premise is about a baseball player who is naturally blessed with incredible talent. Or the movie “Rocky,” with the premise that an apparently supremely talented adult boxer can overcome years of not training hard by training hard for just a few months at most. Or “The Karate Kid,” where the same happens in karate, because the kid “has good root.” (Sorry, all the heart in the world doesn’t overcome training long hours from a young age – though that very heart is often what enables a player to do that long training.) Sometimes it’s done just silly. In Conan the Barbarian (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), Conan as a child is enslaved and grows up doing hard labor. This makes him incredibly strong – no problem – but somehow it also made him an incredible warrior with a sword!!! Just naturally talented, right?

Sometimes it’s done better – in The Princess Bride, the hired swordsman, Inigo Montoya, spends his whole life since he was a kid training as a swordsman, which makes him a master swordsman, who eventually gets to say the immortal lines, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” And yet (Spoiler Alert!) – he loses to Westley in the big swordfight at the top of the mountain, where Westley seems to be just talented. (He did spend years on pirate ships, but only after he’d already grown up, and likely didn’t do daily systematic training there.) Another one that got it right? Wonder Woman, where she is secretly trained to be a warrior from an early age – though of course she also has the “daughter of Zeus” thing . . . .

We have some really “talented” kids at my club. But when you look into their talents, you learn that, for example, that the 8-year-old with the 1664 rating, who seems such a natural, has been training almost daily since age five. (I know, since I was his coach that first year. He did have great natural talent, but nothing would have come of it if it weren’t for the long hours he’s spent training.) The same goes for others. Many see kids like these and think they are good only because of this natural talent, but they are not there when the kids are sweating it out with coaches, hour after hour after hour, developing that talent. There are some that were naturally talented, including that 8-year-old – but I know of many equally talented ones who you will never hear of because they didn’t follow through with the training to make something of that talent.

So next time you watch a sports movie or read a novel about some “natural” athlete who has great skill because of natural gifts, or about some nobody who, due to this “natural talent,” is able to become great through a short splurge of hard training and become better than someone who has been doing so for a decade, or hear someone talk about some top player who got that way primarily because he was “talented” (and ignore the 10,000 or so hours of training it took to get there in a typical skill sport), just smile to yourself because you know better.

2017 ITTF-Pan Am Junior Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, June 20-25 in Buenos Aires, ARG. Team USA is Kanak Jha (seeded #1 in boys' singles), Victor Liu (#3), Sharon Alguetti (#5), Jack Wang (#7), Crystal Wang (seeded #2 in girls' singles), Amy Wang (seeded #4), Rachel Sung (#7), and Grace Yang (#10). We're seeded #1 in both boys' and girls' teams. Here are related articles:

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