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!

May 15, 2018

USATT Teleconference and the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet
We had one last night, a rather short one, only about 70 minutes, starting at 7PM. All nine USATT board members (including me) attended, as did the USATT CEO, COO, HPD, LC, and the chair of the HPC. (Awe, c'mon, do I have to spell these out for you? Think of it as a brain teaser.)

The meeting really had two parts, the "Open" session and the "Closed" session. During the open session we primarily discussed:

  • World Veterans - over 4000 entries. However, there have been problems with visas from some countries, likely due to the U.S.'s changing to more restrictive policies, and we may have lost up to 100 entries. We also arranged to have a USATT board meeting at the Veterans on Wednesday, July 20, with a board dinner the night before. 
  • U.S. Nationals. Final entry deadline is May 25, so what are you waiting for?
  • Para Data Protection Guidelines
  • Volunteer Recognition

Then we went into closed session to discuss legal matters. I wish I could discuss these matters, but I cannot. I'm hoping the saga of the biggest issue discussed will come to an end sometime this summer so I can write about it. I've hinted about it a few times, but suffice to say it's mind-boggling how one person can waste so much of everyone's time. I've now spent nearly 100 hours on this one issue that only about 20 people in USATT know about.

Meanwhile, I finished the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet program book last night (6 pages), other than getting the finalized list of the 2018 Hall of Fame Boosters and final proofing. If you'd like to donate and join the USATT Hall of Fame Boosters Club, here's the Donate Page. Here's the 2017 Hall of Fame Boosters Club.

I've been doing their program books since 2009, and this is the ninth one I've done. But there's something surreal about doing this one, since I'm getting their Lifetime Achievement Award. The five inductees are Li Ai, Dhiren Narotam, Norman Bass, Henan Li Ai, and Doru Gheorghe. The induction ceremony will take place during the USA Nationals, on Thursday, July 5, with the following schedule: 6:30 - Social; 7:00PM - Dinner; 8:00 - Awards. Here's a listing of the annual inductions with links to each program. (Page down below the pictures from last year's induction.)

Group Shadow Practice
Here's the video (33 sec) - this should be a part of any training program.

Zhang Jike at Full Speed
Here's the video (15 sec) as he does speed multiball. Can you do this?

The High-Toss Backhand Serve
Here's the video (43 sec) - why haven't you developed this?

New From EmRatThich
Here are three new videos.

Looking for an Over 50 Doubles Partner for the World Veterans?
Mike Levene is looking for a partner. He's a lefty looper, rated 2110, previously as high as 2229. He and I made the final of Over 40 Doubles at the 2010 U.S. Open, losing the final to Dan Seemiller/Mark Nordby. He runs the Smash TTC in Virginia. Contact him directly at 678-682-1907 or email him.

Exciting Young Names Present But One of Experience Overshadows All Other
Here's the ITTF article that features Liu Shiwen. In the new ITTF rankings (that give more weight to participation) she's only #10 in the world, but she's obviously better than that. She was #1 for 11 months, 2015-2016, and spent six months of 2017 as #2. When ITTF came out with their new rankings, in one shot she dropped from #4 to #24.

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Racket
Here's the article. "From 50 cm Long Handles to Boosters (and Everything in Between)."

Ruth Aarons in Action
Here's the video (59 sec) of USA's 1937 and 1938 World Women's Singles Champion doing an exhibition with Sandor Glancz.

The 2018 Russian Slapping Championships
Here's the video (4:18) - not for the squeamish! But seriously - wouldn't any table tennis player with a good forehand be great at this?

Vigiland - Pong Dance
Here's the video (2:51)!

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May 14, 2018

Tip of the Week
Tactical Thinking Between Points.

Doubles Foibles
I did a lot of doubles coaching on Saturday during the Junior League Training. This is a joint junior league and training session (mostly ages 8-13), where we do both singles and doubles, often using improvised games so the players get specialized type training. For example, we play games where the server loses the point if he doesn't serve and attack, or gets two points if he serve and attacks and eventually wins the point, or where the server starts out behind 7-9 or 8-10. And so on.

During the doubles segment on Saturday the one thing that stood out was that . . . no one thing stood out. Every team had different strengths and weaknesses. But there was one pattern and that was in most teams (not all), both players had the same doubles weaknesses, as if they copied from their partner. Here's a rundown. (Note that I'm picking on the problems I found, but they also did a lot of things well.)

  • The Wanderers. These two are good in singles, but in doubles they had this "wandering" habit. After hitting their shot both tended to move way, Way, WAY out of the way, bordering going into the next court. They'd go off to the side and back, and then, after their partner hit their shot, they'd be in the wrong country for their own shot, leading to many on-the-run lunges. Ideally, players should move mostly back and slightly angled away from their partner, but stay as close to the table as they can so they can get to the next shot.
  • The Blasters. I think this is self-explanatory - they both went for every shot. I kept reminding them that they should put some topspin on their flips, and try not to break lightspeed with each shot.
  • The Pushers. Again, self-explanatory. How many times did I have to remind them to stop pushing against topspin serves??? (Yeah, lots of pop-ups.) And please, Please, PLEASE will one of you attack the ball???
  • The Loop and Lob Brothers. One would loop, the other would, well, just get the next ball back, even if it was a weak return. That's the problem when you put a conventional attacker with a more defensive-minded player. Surprisingly, such teams often can become pretty good with practice, but they need to really focus on tactically playing together, and taking advantage of their respective strengths and weaknesses. For example, the defensive-minded one knows that he's going to get more weak balls than he usually does, since his partner is often looping, so he should be set to take the smash when it's there, rather than stand in his often defensive position. Similarly, the attacker doesn't need to force his attacks since his partner is comfortable if he pushes.
  • The Long Servers. When playing against loopers - which is most players - serving long over and Over and OVER isn't the best tactic. But even though the players can serve short, they don't really think about this unless I remind them once or twice or a trillion times.
  • The Arguers. There's something surreal about games where I find myself saying, multiple times, "Is there any way I can get you two to stop bickering and to play?"

Table Tennis Training Methods in China and Five New Videos
Here's the article, with links to video, from EmRatThich. "How do Chinese table tennis players practice? What is the training method in China? Why don’t Chinese players miss the easy ball? And why they are so good compared to other countries? Today, let’s talk about the training method in China and the main difference between the training drills in China and in the Western countries."

Here are five videos EmRatThich put up this weekend:

Home School: Improve Swing with Ping Pong Paddles
Here's the video (1:18) from the Golf Channel! "Go steel some ping-pong paddles from the kids" - apparently he hasn't seen Olympic table tennis!

Training with Patrick Franziska and Lubomir Jancarik at Dusseldorf TTC
Here's the video (16:14). Franziska of Germany is world #27; Jancarik of Czech Republic is world #111.

Maryland State Championships
I'll be running them at MDTTC, June 2-3. You have to be a Maryland resident to play in championship events (Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, age events), but the rating events are open to all.

May 2018 World Ranking: Impact of 2018 World Team Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

India Can Be Among World's Top Five Teams in a Few Years
Here's the article from ESPN.

26th Butterfly Cape Fear Open
Here's the article on the tournament held in Fayetteville, NC.

Wild Table Tennis Art
Here it is - I have no idea what it is, but it looks pretty wild!

Challenge Pongfinity - Episode 14
Here's the video (4:01)! Wait till you see the guy rallying on two tables, and using an air dryer as a "racket"!

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May 11, 2018

Upcoming Tournament, Coaching, and Writing Plans
WORLD VETERANS AND USA NATIONALS.
I'll be at both, June 18-24 and July 2-7 in Las Vegas. For the Veterans (4046 entries!), I'll be doing daily online coverage for USATT. We also have a USATT board meeting during the Veterans that I'll attend. At the Nationals I'll be coaching, attending meetings, and of course going to the Hall of Fame Banquet where I get the Lifetime Achievement Award!!! (Hope to see some of you there.) Between the two, June 25-July 1, I'm taking a Las Vegas writing/reading "vacation," where I plan on getting a lot of writing done in my hotel room - see my writing plans below. I'm also helping with a pre-Nationals clinic for some of our junior players, plus I'll be running a 90-minute coaching seminar, tentatively on July 1, on Serve and Receive Tactics - you are invited to that! (I may move that to Tue or Wed night.)

TABLE TENNIS COACHING PLANS.
My shoulder is rapidly improving, and I actually think I probably could do private coaching now. I can tough my back with my right arm again (yay!), and no longer have to hold it with my left when I comb my hair. (Seriously, how funny does it look combing your hair while using your other arm to hold the combing arm?) But here's the problem - if I did so and re-injured it, I'd be right back where I was before. So I'm planning to wait until at least late summer or even September before I start up private coaching again. When I do so, I plan on greatly limiting my hours, probably doing private coaching only two times a week. This is both to minimize the chance of re-injuring the shoulder and other injuries, plus it opens up more writing time. For now, I'll continue just running group sessions.

WRITING PLANS.
I have both my table tennis and science fiction writing careers. After much reflection, I've decided these are my next books, in this order.

  1. Campaign 2110 and Campaign 2120, sequels to my 2016 science fiction novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, a drama/satire that covers the election for president of earth in the year 2100, where the world as adopted the American two-party electoral system. This was always planned as a trilogy, and it's been bugging me for a while that I hadn't gotten to the next two novels. As I've blogged in the past, the novel contains a considerable amount of table tennis! One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player (who leaves the pro table tennis circuit to run a worldwide presidential election), and during the campaign teaches another of the four main characters, an alien ambassador, how to play - and since her ancestors snatched flying insects out of the air, she has far better coordination and reflexes than humans, and soon begins to beat him. I'll have them continue the table tennis as the adventures move to other worlds. The complete titles of second and third volumes are Campaign 2110: Scorpions in Space, and Campaign 2120: Galactic Scorpions.
  2. Parents' Guide to Table Tennis. I've been planning to write this for a long time and keep putting it off. I may work on it during the break between the World Veterans and Nationals, unless I'm working on the two Campaign novels above.
  3. Table Tennis Fundamentals. This would be an updated and expanded version of Table Tennis: Steps to Success, my previous book on the fundamentals of table tennis. My goal is to get the photos done this year - I'm having difficulty deciding who I should hire for this! Then I hope to write this next year. Or maybe I should just demonstrate the shots myself? My strokes are rather stiff and aren't good for video, but if I'm only doing photo sequences . . . maybe.

More and more these days I'm doing my writing at the huge eatery at Lake Forest Mall. Often I go there shortly after I finish my blog. Today I have a bunch of things to take care of (working on the Hall of Fame Program book for one, which I prefer to do on my desktop at home), but I expect to go there by early afternoon and have a late lunch and later on dinner there, while getting lots of writing done. If you are ever there, check the tables by the windows and I might be there! (Stop by and say hi, but please, for the love of Table Tennis, don't join me for lunch or dinner - seriously, I'm there to write!)

There's been a big change in my life recently as I find I get more writing done with Dr. Pepper than Mountain Dew. What a life-changer that is!!! :) (Pizza + soft drink = productivity.) These days I only drink soft drinks when I'm writing or at movies, so don't worry, I'm not overdoing it. After hitting 200 pounds in December, current weight is 179, and I'll be under 175 soon.

And while on the topic of writing, don't forget to support us poor, starving writers and injured coaches by buying some of my books. I may start a union, Union of Shoulder Addled Table Tennisers (USATT). (If you can come up with a better acronym, comment below.)

Thursday Beginning Junior Class
I taught the class last night, with John Hsu assisting. We started with 15 minutes of multiball footwork. Then we moved to the day's focus - pushing. We gave the usual demo (with a multi-color ball so they can see the backspin) and a short lecture, and then had them practice. All were able to create a decent backspin, even the youngest in the class, about age 7. Then we went to games, including the popular "worm juice" game for the younger kids, who are all getting too good at smacking the Gatorade bottle (as I feed multiball), forcing me to drink the dreaded "worm juice."!

Maryland State Championships
I'll be running them at MDTTC, June 2-3. You have to be a Maryland resident to play in championship events (Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, age events), but the rating events are open to all.

Early Bird Deadline at the USA Nationals
The early "Early Bird" deadline is TODAY, May 11, so don't forget to enter TODAY!!! Tomorrow the cost for adults goes from $250 to $325, for juniors from $225 to $300. Here's the USA Nationals page, July 2-7 in Las Vegas.

Training Drills
Here are two new training videos from 3T Table Tennis Training.

Investigating, Implementing, Performing: Developing a Tournament Goal
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "One year at the US National Team Trials, I was leading 3-2 against Mark Hazinski and leading 9-3 in the 6th game.  After a series of aggressive mistakes by me, he closed the gap 9-8.  I simply pushed and blocked the next 2 points to win the match 11-8 in the 6th.  Walking off the court, my coach said, 'I would rather have you lose the match than to win it like that.'  I replied, 'The goal was to win.'"

China's Table Tennis Continues to Dominate
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "Knowing the outcome is a big problem for our sport or any sport for that matter! For example, if I took a Ferrari and a Ford Focus on a track and announced to all my family and friends come and watch these two cars race, I’m pretty sure no one would be interested."

Ma Long Multi Ball Training at World Team Championships 2018
Here's the video (3:41).

Xu Xin "Golden Hand"
Here's the video (8:13) from EmRatThich. "Xu Xin is not only the Show man. He also has the "Golden Hand" in table tennis. This is the best rallies of Xu Xin in the WTTTC 2018 World Team table tennis Championship in Halmstad."

Tomokazu Harimoto
Here are two recent matches of the 14-year-old Japanese whiz kid, now ranked #10 in the world.

Kozul Drops Racket
Here's the video (50 sec, including slo-mo replay). Denis Kozul (world #109 from Slovenia) is serving from down match point to Jon Persson (world #68 from Sweden), but drops his racket on the table right after the serve. Persson puts the ball in the net, so it's seemingly Kozul's point, right? But the umpire awards the point, and the match, to Persson. The reason is not given in the video. However, I suspect it's because Kozul apparently touched the table with his free hand while picking up his racket. But then, at the end of the video, the umpire seems to change his mind, and calls the score 7-10, now awarding the point to Persson, and the score boards now reflect that. So I'm not sure what happened here.  An umpire can't change a judgement call, and if he judged Kozul touched the table, or did something else to lose the point, I'm not sure how he can legally change it from declaring Persson the 11-6 winner to 10-7.

Sports Science Conference Proves Resounding Success
Here's the ITTF article.

Music to the Ears of Nenad Bach, Bat on Ball
Here's the ITTF article. "Enthralled by the stars of the sport but there was another reason why the man, who enjoyed number one hits in Europe in the 1980s, was present in the Swedish west coast resort." "…he presented the Ping Pong Parkinson project, an initiative of which he is the founder having recently organised a tournament at the Westchester Club in New York for those who suffer from the illness."

Golden Paddle Trophies
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Now that's a nice looking trophy!

Ping-Pong Knockout Forehand
Here's the video (10 sec)!

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May 10, 2018

Early Bird Entries at the USA Nationals and the Coaching Seminar
Here's the USA Nationals page, July 2-7 in Las Vegas. The early "Early Bird" deadline is tomorrow, May 11, so don't forget to enter NOW!!! On May 12 cost for adults goes from $250 to $325, for juniors from $225 to $300. So maybe, just maybe, you should consider entering NOW!!!, and save yourself $75? It's like getting a free sheet of Tenergy!!! (Did I mention you should enter NOW!!!?)

I blogged about the USA Nationals on April 19, where I wrote about the 91 events, spectating, equipment booths, the Hall of Fame Banquet, the VIP package, the USATT board meeting, and the coaching seminar I'll be running.

The coaching seminar will be on Serve and Receive Tactics, tentatively held on Sunday, July 1, from 5:30-7:00PM. (I might see if it can be moved to perhaps Tue or Wed night.) It will be FREE to all USATT members. Here are topics I will be covering:

Serve Tactics

  • The purpose of the serve
  • Set-up serves vs. trick serves
  • Types of deception
  • Long serves
  • Short serves
  • Serving combos
  • Holding back on serves
  • Ten-point plan to serving success

Receive Tactics

  • Reading the serve
  • The purpose of the receive
  • Types of receive - your arsenal
  • Passive, disarming, & aggressive receives
  • Receiving deep serves
  • Receiving short serves
  • Deception on receive
  • What to do with tricky serves

I plan to run a similar seminar at MDTTC on Thursday, May 31, from 8-9:30PM, as a fund-raiser for sending MDTTC coaches to the Nationals. For that one, we'll be charging probably $15 for MDTTC members, $20 for non-members. (I'm doing both of these as a volunteer - I won't get paid a cent.)

New ITTF World Rankings
I blogged about the new world rankings on Tuesday (4th segment). Here are four new articles and a video on them.

The Table Tennis Troubleshooter
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Experienced players are often excellent diagnosticians. You may not need to have played very long to recognize weaknesses in other players. Watching other players gives some insights, but playing a match against them reveals far more about their abilities. Every player comes with their own idiosyncrasies. Some of these traits provide special strengths for them, but some may stall their progress for years."

Slow Motion Analysis of Fan Zhendong vs. Koki Niwa
Here's the video (2:41).

USA Fields Talent Packed Squad of Nominations and Qualifiers for 2018 North American Hopes Tournament
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

WAB Club Feature: Pleasanton TTC in California
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Coach Expresses Hope of Joint Korean Table Tennis Team at Asian Games
Here's the article from Inside the Games. "…but warned they should only do so if it increases their chance of success."

Traian Ciociu, the Senior Player but Ready to Learn
Here's the ITTF article. "Age is no barrier, without doubt Luxembourg’s Traian Ciociu, is young at heart, the 55 year old is the most senior player on duty at the current Liebherr 2018 World Team Championships in Halmstad, Sweden. Motivated, he fulfils both the role of player and that of the guiding hand for the younger players in his team."

Table Tennis Tidbits #27
Here's the USATT article (with links to video) by Robert Ho: 2016 China Open, Top Two Tangle Times Two.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 27
Here’s chapter 27 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Chapter 27 covers "1994 May-June Tournaments." Note that Volume 21 is now out. This volume is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Salute to Professional Coaches at the ICC Butterfly America Open
Here's the Facebook album. (Can non-Facebook members see them?)

ITTF President vs TableTennisDaily's Dan!
Here's the video (9:07).

Giant Fox Pong?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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May 9, 2018

Today is "Larry's Gripes" Day!
Everyone should be allowed to air their gripes once a year. Here are mine.

  • Dealing with constant shoulder problems, though they seem to be getting better. I think I'll start an association, Union of Shoulder Recoverers (USA). Let's make USA #1!
  • Dealing with a certain USATT member who has wasted more USATT time and energy than anyone in the past ten years. I've spent 90 hours on this person's issues (others have spent far more), and am doing all I can to get out of the web of intrigue and accusations (and, unfortunately, nonsensical, time-wasting grievance cases) he makes on a semi-regular basis. 
  • Dealing with the daily requests for articles - or more specifically, the ones who don't understand that just because they preface their request by saying, "Larry, you are such a great writer!" doesn't mean I have the time or energy to write an article about anyone or anything that someone asks me to do - and why do I seem to owe this to so many people just because I'm supposed "such a great writer!"? (Okay, I like that last part.) The large majority of my table tennis articles are for my blog, a Tip of the Week, for USATT, Butterfly (my sponsor), my club (MDTTC), and upcoming books or novels. Seriously, when someone asks me to write an article, they are basically saying, "Larry, I want you to write my article because it's more important than the next chapter of your book." Remember, there are a lot of these requests, and only one of me. (USATT, Butterfly, and MDTTC are somewhat exempt from this.
  • Did I mention my shoulder problems?
  • Students who show up late for a class and thereby miss the opening lecture and demo. 
  • Those who have all the answers for USATT and assume no one else has thought of what they believe is the answer, or that it has already been tried in some way, nor are they normally willing to do the work needed to apply the idea, assuming USATT has the manpower to do so. (It doesn't.) Suggestions are great, but first do a little checking on the history of the idea - feel free to email me or someone else with a long table tennis history to see if it's been tried, and if so, how it was tried so you can see if there's perhaps a better way of doing it. Again, keep in mind that USATT has limited resources.
  • Lefty's with good backhands. Really, I never want to play them. They're evil. They have that wide angle into my forehand. Seriously, they are all Sith.
  • Phone calls out of the blue from people I don't know. I prefer email so I can deal with it between tasks, rather than interrupting whatever I'm doing - and I'm almost always doing something. I only give my phone number out to a select few, but somehow people find it. I think there's a TV reality show out there somewhere titled, "Find Larry's Phone Number and Call Him When He's Busy."
  • Parents who believe they know table tennis better than the coach. Fortunately, the great majority do not.
  • People who want me to do their research on things that they could easily Google. 
  • Gosh, I wish those shoulder problems would go away. Did I mention them? (But really, it's getting better.)
  • USA didn't win Men's or Women's Teams at the Worlds again??? Jeez, that's 69 years in a row. (We swept both in 1937 and won Women's Teams in 1949. Ah, the memories from those grand old days back in 1937 when we were #1 . . .)
  • People who read the previous item and literally thought I remember the 1937 Worlds and must be really, really old, like 100 or so.
  • Seriously, you didn't know that lefty's with good backhands are evil? Really, they are! That angle into the forehand, it's so unfair...

4 Mental Tricks: Pre-Match Preparation
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. Learn about the Nandan, Lily, Mike, and Roger Effects! Regarding the Lily Effect, I always seem to play my best when I'm down 8-10. So I'm always imagining that is the score, even at 0-0.

7 Losses in a Row – a Review of My League Season
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Training Videos
Here are a series of training videos. Click on the arrow to see the next one. The commentary is in Chinese but you can learn by watching the technique.

Ping Pong Filipino Prodigy
Here's the video (10:38) from EmRatThich. "Watch 11-year-old table tennis sensation Aljay Villena, the best hope of Philippines for that elusive 1st Olympic gold medal."

Aerobic TT Rocks Halmstad
Here's the article.

Letter from the ITTF CEO
Here's his letter about the Worlds.

Halmoo the World Team Championships Mascot
Here's the moose with:

When Superheroes Use their Powers in Sports
Here's the video (3:18) - guess who plays table tennis? Go to 1:48 in the video to find out!

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May 8, 2018

Withering Weekend Work and Shifting Shoulder Shockers
Forget Spider-man, it's Spider-day at MDTTC! At least on Saturday it was. During a junior session a giant Wolf spider came crawling into the playing area. You can imagine how the kids reacted. At first the coaches shooed them back to the tables, as the spider was near the barrier, away from the table. But someone had to take action we needed a hero! I grabbed a box, and with my paddle, got the thing to crawl onto it. Then I let it go outside, despite several girls screaming, "Kill it!"

Despite all the excitement, we got some serious table tennis in. We did a lot of up-down table games, but had them start with varying scores, such as the server is down 7-9 or 8-10.

In my Sunday Beginning Class the focus was on smashing. Which is almost as exciting for them as the spider was on Saturday. Then we had the more advanced Talent program, where we challenged them with more complicated drills than usual. For example, in one drill the player would serve short backspin his partner's forehand. Partner would quick-push to the wide forehand. Player would loop down the line to partner's backhand. Partner clocked it crosscourt to player's backhand. Then then they continued the rally with the backhand-forehand-forehand drill. We also did a bit of serve practice, and I'm impressed with their improvement. Some may remember I noted in a blog earlier this year that I thought some of them needed a lot of serve practice, but that's exactly what's happened. One kid, who absolutely could not put backspin on the ball back in January, may now have the heaviest backspin serve in his group - yeah, he got determined and has been practicing it, and can now make the ball bounce backwards on the far side of the table. 

Here's a quick update on my shoulder. After the cortisone shot on Wednesday, the shoulder is suddenly feeling good for the first time since last September!!! This is also due to two months of physical therapy (3-times/week for 90 minutes), plus one to two 20-minute stretching routines each day. Amazingly, I can do something I haven't been able to do in years - put my playing arm flat against my back. However, just to be safe, I don't plan on playing for a time. When I do return - tentatively in the fall, but perhaps late summer - I will likely restrict my private coaching to less than before, while continuing with the four group sessions (6.5 hours) I do each week. 

World Team Championships Finals - Shortened Versions
Here are videos of the Men's and Women's Team Finals from the Worlds, with time between points removed. (With apologies to esteemed commentator Adam Bobrow.)

Men's Team Final

Women's Team Final

2018 World Team Championships is Simply LIT
Here's the ITTF video (2:30).

New World Rankings
The new world rankings are in, after the World Team Championships.

  • On the Men's side, Fan stays #1; Ovtcharov and Boll trade places as #2 and #3; Ma Long mysteriously stays at #6 despite being the best in the world; and 14-year-old Japanese whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto moves into the #10 spot (from #13 last month, and #11 in Jan and Feb).
  • On the Women's side, the top three spots stay the same, but Singapore's Feng Tianwei drops from #4 to #9. Ding Ning, who many believe is the best in the world and who was #1 for a year until October, dropped from #11 to #16, while Liu Shiwen, another candidate for best in the world (world #1 or #2 for most of 2016-2017), stays at #10. These Chinese players may dominate at the table, but they apparently don't compete as often as their counterparts, and the new system punishes them for that - while making the rankings less accurate. 
  • USA's Kanak Jha moved from #82 to #72, but no other USA men are in the top 300.
  • USA's Lily Zhang moved from #55 to #53, while Yue Wu exploded from #122 to #72. Crystal Wang (who wasn't at the Worlds) moved up one spot to #155, with no other USA women in the top 200.

Photos from the Worlds
Here is a gallery from Steve Rowe. It's on Facebook, so I'm not sure if non-Facebook users can see it.

8 Slump-Busting Tips: How do I GET OUT of this slump?
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Funny Moments - China National Team at the Worlds
Here's the video (2:38).

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May 7, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some World Championships links:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Was this fair to Japan?

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

Republic of Korea (South Korea)

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

Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan

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

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

China

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Triangle April Open
Here's the article.

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

Metallic Gold Ping-Pong Balls
Here they are!

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

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

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

May 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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May 2, 2018

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

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