Blogs

Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM 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 1900 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 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 TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, 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!

Tip of the Week
Finding Simple Tactics That Work.

Sally Boggan RIP
Here's the online obit; she was 87. She was the matriarch of perhaps the greatest US table tennis family ever. Alas, they had to take her off life support and she passed away on Saturday, Jan. 23. She had a stroke a year and a half ago that paralyzed her on one side, but recently had a second stroke which paralyzed her other side and led to her death. Here's a picture of the Boggan clan - L-R Sally Boggan, Tim Boggan, Eric Boggon, and Scott Boggan. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Here is the Tim Boggan in Memory of Sally Boggan GoFundMe page (created by former USATT president Sheri Cioroslan), where you can, "Assist Tim Boggan with Funeral Expenses and Support. This is a continuation of the previous fund. This will help Tim cover medical and funeral expenses for his dear wife Sally. All contributions will go directly to Tim." (Tim, as you may remember from this blog, turned 90 in September, and is still going strong - I've been emailing with him the last few days.)

Playing Different Styles
I've always believed it helps to sometimes practice other playing styles, as it not only adds new dimensions to your game, but gives you an understanding of what it's like to play that style, so you can better understand what works against it. As a coach, of course, I learned all styles, and can play just about any style almost the same level as my normal style.

One year, at the US Open Team Championships in Detroit (which are now the North American Teams in Washington DC - I instigated that move) I was a player/coach for a weaker team. I spent the morning playing players from 1800-2000, and decided to play each of them differently. We played two teams and I played six matches without losing a game. Afterwards, at the Pontchartrain Hotel, which has huge elevators, I was at the back of the elevator when both teams we had played entered the elevator, but didn't see me as I was standing sort of behind some big person. They started talking about their morning, and my name came up. Roughly speaking, this is how the conversation went:

  • Player 1: "I lost to Larry Hodges. He was forehand smashing everything."
  • Player 2: "I lost to Larry, but he was forehand looping everything really soft!"
  • Player 3: "Huh? I lost to Larry, but he's just a blocker!"
  • Player 4: "What are you guys talking about? He's a chopper!"
  • Player 5: "I lost to him, but all he did was fish and lob!"
  • Player 6: "Against me, he forehand ripped everything!"

I had a hard time not cracking up. The truth was I really had changed styles every match. I wish I had had another three matches so I could have tried a few more styles! The only style that gives me great difficulty to play is two-winged looping, since my backhand loop is awkward. I can play that way, but often end up mostly soft-spinning or just fishing on the backhand side. In the match above where I was fishing and lobbing, I think I actually started out two-winged spinning, but switched to just fishing and lobbing.

Weekend Coaching
Once again, due to the pandemic, there were no group sessions, so I only did one hour with Navin Kumar on Saturday. Focus was on blocking all over the table, so I did drills where I looped everywhere. We focused on chop-blocks on the backhand, and quick blocking and sometimes smashing on the forehand. I also chopped to him for 15 minutes. Here's video (45 sec) where I realize that 1) He's leaning to the ball instead of moving (I have to remember to remind him), and I keep seeing how much out of shape I've become after nearly a year of mostly sitting in my lounge chair.

Bernie Sanders and Table Tennis
Unless you are blind, you have seen the new Bernie memes from the picture of Bernie at the inauguration. Here are three that involve table tennis! (Here's an article on Bernie that includes a picture of him playing table tennis with his grandchildren, from the Burlington Free Press, December 2019.)

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had another USATT Coaches meeting (51 min) on Friday, at noon eastern time. Five of us attended - Host Sean O'Neill (USATT High Performance Director), myself, Samson Dubina, Mike Lauro, and Sameh Awadalla. (Here's a screenshot.) If you are a USATT certified coach, why not join us next time? (I believe Friday, Feb. 5.) Info is on the USATT Coaches Facebook page, along with other coaching info. Topics discussed this time:

  1. Welcome (each of us gave a short rundown on recent activities)
  2. Stefan Feth (hired as USATT Men's Coach)
  3. Assistant Coaches (Pan Am Junior Games - 9/10-15/21)
  4. Switcher Studio Subscriptions
  5. Stupa Android
  6. Discussion Topic: Unreal Expectations and Anxiety

A Professional Coach Makes You a Better Player
Here's the article by Dora Kurimay. "Ways a Professional Coach Can Help You Become a Better Table Tennis Player" - with three big ways given.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Joey Cochran

How to Do the Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (3:51) from PingPonged TV.

Forehand Loop Against Underspin with Ex-Cadet Team Members
Here's the video (10:16) from PandaPong.

Block Like Legends Waldner and Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (8:38) from Ti Long.

How I Practice Table Tennis
Here are three videos from Ohio 2400+ star Seth Pech:

Looeelooee Table Tennis Lessons Q and A - Why Good Rubbers Suck
Here's the video from Louis Levene (15:35). A key thing here, for me, is it is the harder sponges (such as Tenergy Hard) that I wouldn't recommend except for advanced players. But the softer versions, such as regular Tenergy and the even softer Tenergy FX, I would recommend. I find it's good for players to go to more advanced sponges early on, but not the hard versions, and not on a fast blade. (You have to swing much harder for the harder sponges to be effective, which only advanced players should be doing on most shots.)

32 Seconds of Xu Xin Multiball Footwork
Here's the video - have you done your footwork today?

Why Table Tennis is the Most UNDERRATED Sport
Here's the video (9:42).

Tomokazu Harimoto vs Mizuki Oikawa
Here's the video (29:45) of the big quarterfinal upset at the Japanese Championships, as Oikawa (world #63) upsets Harimoto (world #5, #1 in world outside China) and goes on to win the title. (See article below on this from Steve Hopkins , 2021 All-Japan Finals: New Era Rising?)

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USATT

$102,000 World Ping Pong Masters
Here's the home page for this sandpaper event held in Coventry, England, this past weekend. Alexander Flemming (GER) defeated Andrew Baggaley (ENG) in the final. The page gives the exact prize money listing, news, and complete results. Here's a video (8:25) of the final, but the quality isn't that good. Here's an article from Table Tennis England. 

With Six Months to Go, the Tokyo Olympics Are Swimming Against a Tide of Doubt
Here's the article from the Washington Post, about whether the Olympics will be held this year or not. Table tennis is mentioned twice.

Medal Winning Table Tennis Star and Author Mathew Syed on What Makes Him Tick
Here's the article from The Scottish Sun.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page.

Psychedelic Penholder Girl
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Would You Play Ping-Pong on Ice?
Here's the video (16:30)!

Ping Pong | Actin' Funny
Here's the video (13:53) - the level of play is low, but it's pretty funny!

Behind-the-Back Counter-Smash
Here's the video (49 sec, including slo-mo replay)!

Vying for the Kingdom of My Ping Pong Garage
Here's the video (51 sec), featuring Adoni Maropis!

Another Year of Ping Pong
Here's the video (10:53) with some really great stuff from Adam Bobrow!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - Interview About Pinning the Egg
Here's the interview (9:18) with me about my science fiction story, Pinning the Egg, which appeared in the SciPhi Journal a month ago. The focus of the first seven minutes is about how I developed the two main characters for the story, but the last two minutes he asks me about table tennis! (Here's the story description: "When a Murt egg lands on Earth, it's up to the resident Zinh to stop it before it hatches and destroys all life, as part of the galaxy-wide war between the malicious Murt and the Zinh defenders, with the taunting as nasty as the fighting. The story starts with a Go game with Emperor Qin in China 2200 years ago and then moves to England, where even Excalibur makes an appearance."

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Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Shorten Stroke on Receive.

Weekend Coaching - Not
Here's the notice at my club: "MDTTC will be closed for two weeks starting Jan. 15 due to possible COVID exposure." Yikes!!! So no coaching this past weekend. I'm told we can do limited private coaching, so I might do a session next weekend. We'll see.

Han Xiao Appointed to Co-chair Commission on the State of the U.S. Olympics and Paralympics
Below are two articles. (His co-chair is Edwin Moses.) Han, 33, is already the Chair of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) Athletes’ Advisory Council. He was a long-time member of the US National Men's Team, 4-time US Men's Doubles Champion, and Men's Finalist at the 2011 Nationals. He's from my club, MDTTC - in fact, I'm the first person in table tennis to meet him, when he came in with his dad at age seven. I was owner/director/coach, and assigned him to Coach Cheng Yinghua, who had an opening an hour later. Over the years I trained with him zillions of hours, coached him at tournaments, he won every junior title and many men's titles . . . and now he's making it even bigger!!! (Xiao is roughly pronounced, "chow.") The last time I beat him was when he was 13 and over 2300, and I did that by catching him off guard by suddenly chopping at the end!

USATT Board of Directors
A strange thing happened a few days ago. I browsed over the USATT Board of Directors Page - and saw two weird things. (Skip this long segment if you have no interest in USATT matters.)

First, there were three athlete representatives listed, when our bylaws specify there are two. The rule for many years has been that at least 20% of the board and all committees must be athletes (roughly defined as players over the past ten years on National Teams to the World Championships, Paralympic World Championships, Olympics, Paralympics, Pan Ams, and Para Pan Ams). The three were Tara Profitt, Niraj Oak, and newly-added Yijun Feng. Now it so happens that there is a new USOPC rule that requires the boards and committees of all Olympic and Paralympic sports to go to 33% athlete representation - Section 5 of the Empowering Athletes Act. Here's an article on it. Here is the Empowering Athletes Act of 2020, where it says, ""(C) require that— (i) not less than 1⁄3 of the membership of the board of directors of the corporation shall be composed of, and elected by, such amateur athletes."

However, that does not override our bylaws, which are the rules USATT goes by - it means that USATT and other sports will have to change their bylaws. USOPC cannot "order" us to make the change, but they can punish us if we don't go along, including decertifying us or cutting our funding. So it's essentially 100% certain that USATT will change its bylaws, either at their next board teleconference on Feb. 1, or soon afterwards. (Bylaws require 30-days' notice, and since I'm told no notice of this has gone to the board yet, they can't do it on Feb. 1 - except that the bylaws allow the board to waive the 30-day rule if they unanimously agree.) And so, this board, with an "illegal" third athlete rep, wasn't a legal board.

I contacted the chair, Richard Char, and he agreed, and within hours the change had been made back to two athlete reps listed. Surprisingly, Niraj Oak was removed, though Yijun Feng had been the new one. But presumably, once the board does change the bylaws, Oak will be back on. They key thing is that USATT needs to change the bylaws first to allow the third rep, and then they can add the third rep.

HOWEVER - and this is a big however - there's a problem. If you add a third athlete rep, then doesn't that mean one of the other positions has to leave? Otherwise, there'd be ten board members - and then you'd have to add a fourth athlete rep, and now we're at eleven! But conveniently, one spot is currently vacant - the National Organizational position. So all they have to do is replace that with the third athlete rep, and all is well, right?

What is a National Organization? According to our bylaws, "National Organization members are those amateur sports organizations that register as a national organization and which conducts, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition, a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the sport of Table Tennis."

For the last decade or more, the only National Organization we've had has been the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA). And so they've held the position. So why is it now vacant?

I'm told that USATT contests that NCTTA doesn't fulfill the requirements to be a National Organization, and that's why the position is vacant. Specifically, I'm told they argue that they haven't funded players to the World Collegiate Championships in recent years. The primary reason for this, of course, is funding. But here's the problem I see - that's not what the definition from our bylaws says. It says a National Organization member:

"...conducts, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition, a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the sport of Table Tennis."

NCTTA runs the National Collegiate Championships each year, and the winners are the best college players in the country (here's a listing), which means the "level of proficiency" is obviously appropriate for "the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition. (And the World University Games are obviously an "international amateur athlete competition.") Over the last few years they include big names like Lily Zhang (world #30), Yue Wu (world #31), Ariel Hsing (3-time US Women's Singles Champion), Jiaqi Zheng (2015 US Women's Singles Champion), Jishan Liang (2636, previously over 2700), Kai Zhang (2656, previously over 2700), Yichi Zhang (2623), and so on. Others who compete in the NCTTA events include US Team members Tom Feng and Adar Alguetti, and the other two Alguetti brothers (Sharon and Gal) would be except for the pandemic. (The rankings given are ITTF world rankings, not collegiate rankings.) So, yes, NCTTA easily fulfills the definition of a National Organization.

Here's where things get tricky. Since the Board has to make room for that third athlete spot, they'll be tempted to just remove another position. The easiest way to do that is to simply remove that currently vacant spot, the National Organization position, and replace it with the third athlete rep.

However, there's a problem with that. According to the Ted Stevens Act (officially the Olympic and Amateur Sports Act Amendments of 1998), under Eligibility Requirements,

"An amateur sports organization is eligible to be recognized, or to continue to be recognized, as a national governing body only if it—
   (11)  provides for reasonable direct representation on its board of directors or other governing board for any amateur sports organization that—
      (A)  conducts a national program or regular national amateur athletic competition in the applicable sport on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athletic competition; and
      (B)  ensures that the representation reflects the nature, scope, quality, and strength of the programs and competitions of the amateur sports organization in relation to all other programs and competitions in the sport in the United States;"

So USATT seemingly is required to have the National Organization position, and presumably why the position is there at all.

So what can USATT do? There's a simple solution. EXPAND THE BOARD!!! Right now there are nine positions. Go to eleven or twelve. With eleven, you would include all nine of the current positions, plus two additional athlete reps. With twelve, you could add either a third At-Large Representative elected from the membership, a Junior Rep, or some other position. (And the USATT board historically had eleven members for most of its history.) But whichever way they go, the Feb. 1 meeting will have some interesting discussions.

Other USATT News

Everyone Wants to Pay Me Big Money for My Table Tennis Domains!
I've been offered $8000 for my domain, tabletenniscoaching.com! And it's not my only table tennis site that others are feverishly trying to buy. I also own tabletennisparlor.com - and have separate offers of $15,000 (!) and $2036 for it! Golly!!! Alas, as pointed out to me by John Olsen (who not only is rated over 2000, but knows a thing or two about computers and online scams), it is a scam. (I've never used tabletennisparlor.com, but if anyone wants to buy it, let me know. At Godaddy.com, it says, "Table tennis" is a high value keyword that has an average sale price of $2,036.00.")

New from Samson Dubina

Working on Some Counter Topspins with Justin Kwan
Here's the video (42 sec). I've blogged about this type of drill before - it gives a much more realistic practice against an opening loop against backspin than what most players do, which is just off-table counterlooping. This is a standard drill when I'm coaching players beyond the beginning stage.

6 Types of Forehand Flicks That Attack Opponent's Spin
Here's the video (12:12) from Ti Long.

3 Phases of a Table Tennis Stroke
Here's the video (3:51) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Reverse Windshield Wiper | Fast Topspin
Here's the video (7:35) from Joey Cochran.

Multiball Training with Bernadette Szocs
Here's the video (88 sec) with the world #26 from Romania.

One of the Most Effective Services in Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:42) featuring world #48 Matilda Ekholm of Sweden.

Best Points Of The Decade
Here's the video (37 min) from Table Tennis Destiny. I recognize many of them!

Top 3 Defensive Table Tennis Players
Here's the video (8:37) featuring Ruwen Filus (GER, world #42), Panagiotus Gionis (GRE, world #49), and Joo Sae Hyuk (KOR, 2003 World Men's Singles Finalist).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New From Steve Hopkins

Getting High On Balsa
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Betterplay: Artificial Intelligence for Better Table Tennis Experience
Here's the page for Betterplay, including About and How It Works pages. "Choose the full match/set/practice video(s). The tool breaks a game down to the rallies. Breaking rallies into elements will be enabled in the future versions." (Using artificial intelligence to analyze techniques seems to be the new "in" thing. See the segment on Stupa Analytics in my November 23, 2020 blog.)

Table Tennis Transfers
Here's the online platform "designed to help the sport and change how people in table tennis interact. It connects all table tennis players, coaches, clubs & academies, professional and nonprofessional, simultaneously in one place. If you share our vision, help us reach as many table tennis people as possible and sign up. Currently there are users from 96 countries."

Matchroom Launches $102,000 World Ping Pong Masters
Here's the news release on the Sandpaper event to be held Jan. 23-24 in the Ricoh Arena in Coventry, England. This sort of takes the place of the annual World Championships of Ping Pong in London, also a sandpaper event, which was cancelled this year due to Covid. (One of the strange things about these big "Ping Pong" events is that they downplay that they are sandpaper-only events.)

ITTF News

David S. Cohen, Deputy Head of the CIA and Table Tennis Player
Here's the New York Times article, which says, "Mr. Cohen is also an enthusiastic table tennis player, dominating games at C.I.A. charity fund-raisers, according to an official."

Child Hand Multiball
Here's the video (43 sec)!

What is the perfect Age to Start Playing Table Tennis, a Robot Ad . . . and a Budding Acting Career?
Here's the video (74 sec) featuring Titus Dubina, who is embarking on his professional table tennis, acting, and endorsement career!

Monica and Mike Ping Pong Table Tennis Challenge from TV Show "Friends"
Here's the video (71 sec)! (It's an old clip, but I think it just went online.)

Pig Pong Board Game
Here's the ad (30 sec) from 1986!

Cat Tail Pong?
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Cat vs Ping Pong Ball
Here's the video (1:32)!

Paddle in the Face
Here's the video (11 sec)! That took some deadly accuracy. (While practicing, I once did a forehand pendulum serve with so much force that the racket flew out of my hand and broke a window!)

Funny, Unstoppable Rally
Here's the video (30 sec)!

Table Tennis Comics and Cartoons
I usually put up new ones as they come out. However, many of you may have missed some of the classics of the past. So here is what comes up when you Google the following, under "Images"!

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Tip of the Week
Should You Experiment If You Have a Big Lead?

Mercy Points and Comebacks
There was quite a lot of discussion on Facebook from my blog last week about whether to give "mercy points." So let's revisit. 

The basic rule is that it's up to you if you want to give a mercy point at 10-0. Both Ma Long and Jan-Ove Waldner, generally considered the two main candidates for Greatest of All Time, have given away mercy points or played exhibition at the end of a lopsided match. Other top players are die-hard try to win every point, even at 10-0 against a beginner. Some players might be insulted if you "give" them a point, so it depends on the player and circumstances. As I said, in a non-competitive match, I prefer to put a ball up and let them "earn" the point.

It also depends on the event. A senior focused on winning Over 50 at the Nationals shouldn't take chances there, but might give a point (or go easy) at 10-0 match point in a rating event against a much weaker player. Some champions are cut-throat at all times; others are only cut-throat when it matters, and can turn it on or off when needed.

Comebacks do happen. Most of my playing career took place when games were to 21. During that time, I came back from 14-20 or 15-20 match point seven times. Nobody has ever done that to me. (The biggest comeback against me was Joe Cummings, when I lost from up 20-16 match point at the Southern Open in Baton Rouge in the late 1980s. Still stings, since the kids at the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center, where I was at various times manager/director/one of the coaches, spent the next year saying, "Cummings back!")

=>Math Alert!!! Skip this paragraph if you suffer from Math Phobia!<=
What are the chances of a comeback from 0-10? If each point is even, then the odds are 0.5 to the tenth to reach deuce, and then it's 50-50 you win, so the odds are 0.5 to the eleventh, or about one in about two thousand (1 in 2048). But if you give a point away, it drops to about one in a thousand (1 in 1024). But let's assume the opponent gets hot and would score 60% of the points. The odds of him reaching deuce from 0-10 are one 0.6 to the tenth power, or one in 165. At deuce, the math gets tricker since you have to win two in a row (see note on this below), but the odds of him winning at deuce are about 69%. So his chances of winning from down 0-10 are about 1 in 239. If you give a mercy point, then the odds of him winning are about 1 in 144. Now let's assume you are playing a world-class player who wins 80% of the points against you, but spots you a 10-0 lead. He'll have about one chance in 9.3 of deucing it. At deuce he's about a 16-1 favorite (94%), and so his chances of winning the game from down 0-10 is about 10.1%. If you give a mercy point at 10-0, then his chances are about 1 in 7.9, or about 12.6%. (Here's a simple way of calculating the odds at deuce. If the other player wins 80% of the points, then he has a .8 squared chance of winning two in a row, or 0.64 = 64%. The opponent wins 20% of the points, so has a .2 squared chance of winning two in a row, or 0.04% = 4%. If they split points and it's deuce again, then the calculation starts over and doesn't affect the odds. So you just take the probability the stronger player wins two in a row - 64% - to the probability the weaker player wins two in a row - 4% - and that's the probability the stronger player wins, i.e. 64 to 4, or 16 to 1, or 94%.)

One question that came up is whether a player who gets a "mercy point" or has an opponent who starts playing exhibition is morally expected to lose. Not a chance. The one giving the mercy point or playing exhibition at the end is the one taking the risk. The only time it would be immoral to come back is if you join in the exhibition play.

Here are some of the biggest comebacks I know of.

  • In 1977, Curt Kronlage (age 13, rate 1677) won the first and was up 20-6 match point on chopper Sid Jacobs (senior player, rated 1858), and lost 16 points in a row, and lost the third 21-14. Yep, I remember all the numbers!
  • Sometime in the late 1970s, the Hungarians Istvan Jonyer and Tibor Klampar were up 20-8 match point in the semifinals of Men's Doubles at the Worlds against a Chinese team, and lost.
  • At the Sun TV Open in the early 1990s, I was down 0-10 in the fifth to Pat Cox in the final of I think Under 2400, and scored ten in a row to 10-all! But games were to 21 back then. I won the match, 26-24 in the fifth.
  • In different junior events at the US Nationals one year, one kid was up 10-2 match point in two different matches and lost both.
  • I was told that Brian Masters was up 10-0 in the first game against Jim Butler at the US Team Trials one year and lost the game and match. (I was there but didn't see the match.)
  • I once played in a handicap tournament at some 4-star tournament, where you played one game to 51. I was about 2250 and played this player under 1000, and had to spot him 48 points, the maximum. So I was down 0-48!!! I tied it at 48-all - yes, 48 points in a row, he was that bad. Then he got two net/edges in a row! I deuced it, 50-all. Then he net-dribbled my serve back, 50-51 - I think it was the first serve he'd returned the whole match! Then, on the very last point, he suddenly (and extremely awkwardly) smashed a winner, the only point in the match he earned, to win, 52-50!!! I still remember lunging for that smash on the last point, couldn't believe it actually hit, and when I lobbed it off, it left me scarred for life!!! About 50 people were watching this at the end.
  • Scott Gordon reports that "in one of the Gilbert Cup tournaments [early 1990s?], Kong Linghui was up something like 19-3 against someone (I think Kim Taek Soo), and almost lost. His opponent deuced the game and Kong had to win the deuce battle, if I remember right."
  • Samson Dubina reports, "At the tournament last weekend, Kenzie was down 2-0 and 10-0 and came back to win the match. At the league last Thursday, Fiona was down 10-2 in the fifth and came back to win. Personally, I feel that I have a 0.001% chance to come back from down 10-0... so I would prefer not getting a mercy point. A 10-0 comeback truly is possible."

USATT Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT News item. (Update: They've added bios.) Here is the USATT Coach of the Year info page, which includes a listing of past winners. (I've won twice - but what it doesn't show is that I was runner-up for Coach of the Year three times in the 1990s!!!) This year's winners are:

  • National Coach of the Year – Tao Wenzhang – Spartans TTC, Santa Clara, CA
  • Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year –  Dan Liu –  ICC, Milpitas, CA 
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year – Mike Boyd – Samson Dubina TTA, Uniontown, OH
  • Doc Counsilman – Qingliang Wang – MDTTC, Germantown, MD  
  • Para Coach of the Year – Vlad Farcas – San Antonio, TX
  • Para Development Coach of the Year – Gary Fraiman, Sunrise TTC, Clearwater, FL

Weekend Coaching
I pulled out my chopping blade and chopped to Navin Kumar for close to half an hour, getting him ready for the World Parkinson's Championships in September in Berlin (hopefully!), where we know there's a strong chopper. (I use a Butterfly Joo Saehyuk blade, with Tackiness C-II on the forehand, Feint Long II on the backhand. I'm almost the same level chopping as attacking.) The focus was on long rallies, where he attacked with his backhand long pips all over the table, with occasional forehand attacks. We also worked on his blocking (chop blocks on the backhand) and forehand attack. Here's video (50 sec) of my looping to his forehand block. (The Junior Program was off this weekend, so otherwise I had a free weekend.)

Baby Yoda Shirts
I now have two of them! (Yeah, I'm a fan of The Mandalorian and Baby Yoda (Grogu). Here are my two shirts, which you can get at Amazon.

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had our last Zoom session on Friday at noon, eastern time. They are every two weeks, on Fridays for about one hour, and hosted by USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. The sessions are open to all USATT coaches. Others attending were Gao Jun, Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Marguerite Cheung, Mike Lauro, Britt Salter, and Larry Hodges (me). Here's a group picture and here's video (57:41). Here was the agenda:

  1. Intros
  2. 2020 COY
  3. Switcher Studio Opportunities
  4. Free STUPA (android & iOS)
  5. Insurance/Coaching License
  6. January 15 USATT Covid Update
  7. WTT Doha Bubble
  8. 2021 National Team Trials
  9. Your turn

USATT Coaches Committee Meeting
On Thursday night, the USATT Coaches Committee (Pieke Franssen, Gao Jun, Dave Fullen, and Larry Hodges) had a Zoom meeting (about 45 min) with USATT CEO Virginia Sung and High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss coaches' licenses and other upcoming coaching certification issues. It's something they are working on, but nothing to report on yet.

Senator Jeff Merkley and Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:03) of CNN panning over the ransacked office of Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) after the recent Capitol attack. At 1:35, for about ten seconds, you can see he has a Desktop Table Tennis set!!! They even zoom in on it for a few seconds. (They made a real mess of his office, even stole a laptop computer.

NCTTA Cancels 2020-21 Season
Here's the news item. "Due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) has canceled its entire 2020-21 season. The Collegiate Table Tennis Championships at the Round Rock Sports Center will not be held this year. The safety of our student-athletes and volunteers remains the highest priority."

New from Samson Dubina

Cardiofit Ping
Here's their webpage, and here's info on a free trial session starting Jan. 17. "The first virtual club that offers a specific physical training for table tennis from home by video-conference."

Table Tennis VOD Review #7 - Where's the Bread and Butter?
Here's the video (29:40) from Louis Levene. "I make most of my comments for this one near the end of the video so watch it all the way through!"

Forehand and Backhand Looping Technique
Here's the video (60 sec).

How Strong is Xu Xin's Forehand?
Here's the video (3 min) from 247 tabletennis.

What’s the Score???
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Timo Boll vs Kanak Jha | FINAL | German Cup 2021
Here's the video (7:24) of their match in the Team Final. You can read more about it in Steve Hopkin's "Boll Perfect as Dusseldorf takes German Cup." Here's another interesting match: Timo Boll vs Hugo Calderano | FINAL | German Cup 2021 (11:01). 

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT News

ITTF CEO Explains How Table Tennis Survived COVID-19
Here's the article from Australia's Ministry of Sport. "International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) CEO, and World Table Tennis (WTT) director, Steve Dainton, spoke with Ministry of Sport on how COVID-19 affected the world of table tennis and the battle between traditional broadcast and Over-The-Top digital streaming broadcast (OTT)."

ITTF News

Ping Pong Review
Here's the review of Taiyō Matsumoto's manga Ping Pong, which was released as two-volumes in English last year. They are a bit expensive, about $20 each, but are both 520 pages, so that's a lot of pages!

"So, Do You Play?" Asks Girlfriend's Little Brother, Gesturing Grandly To Ping-Pong Table
Here's the article from The Onion!

Dominic Thiem Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (28 sec) - note all the two-handed backhands! Dominic Thiem (on the right) is the world #3 tennis player. Not sure who is on the left. (Email me if you know.)

Double-Ball No-Table Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:04)!

Game Over: Table Tennis Gone Wrong
Here's the video (5:12) - with a "fake" Mr. Bean!

Eight-Two, Brute
Here's the cartoon!

Coronavirus Table Tennis Cartoons
I searched the Internet and could only find four - and three of them were by me. So here they are! (I didn't do the first one.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Play Both Weaker and Stronger Players.

Weekend Coaching - Navin and Stanley
The junior program starts again next weekend, so no group sessions this past weekend. I did my usual session with Navin Kumar, and it was one of our best. He blocks with long pips on the backhand (no sponge), and has gotten pretty good at it. About a year ago I'd worked with him on chopping down on the ball slightly at contact, a chop block, but due to Parkinson's, it didn't work out well - it requires a fine touch. So since the we've focused since then on meeting the ball more straight on.

Coach Gary Fraiman (from Florida) saw a video of one of our sessions and suggested he chop block more. (Gary is highly experienced coaching Para players, and as a player is a long pips chopper, so he knows about long pips.) He and I discussed it via Facebook messenger, and I decided to introduce it again - and this time Navin picked up on it quickly!!! When you meet a topspin ball straight on with long pips, you get much of your spin back as backspin. But if you chop block it with the pips, it returns nearly all of the spin, especially if there is no sponge under the pips. Plus, since the ball isn't sinking directly into the wood, it bounces out softer, giving more control, especially depth control. This allows Navin and other players with long pips to block loops back with heavy backspin, both deep and short on the table. (You can't really block a power loop back short, but you can against softer loops or ones that land short.)

  • Chop Blocks (55 sec) mostly against my backhand topspin
  • Chop Blocks (51 sec) where he moves me around (plus I pull off a lefty loop)

Navin also was interviewed by 13-year-old Peyton Magee, editor of the Georgia-based Loch Lomond Gazette.

Meanwhile, other players were also doing private coaching. Here's video (49 sec) of Stanley Hsu (age 12, #1 in the US in Hopes Boys at 2286) counterlooping with Coach Cheng Yinghua (4-time US National, 2-time US Open Men's Singles Champion, and former Chinese National Team member). Stanley started out in my beginning class (I taught him the fundamentals), and I still sometimes coach him in our group sessions and at tournaments.

Should You Give a Mercy Point or Win 11-0?
Here's the video (6:01) from Pingponged TV. It's nice to give up a point to avoid embarrassing an opponent. However, it also risks a rare comeback from 10-1, and (the bigger, more likely problem), can throw off your focus, which could affect you afterwards. Also, against a rival, winning 11-0 can affect their confidence against you in future matches, making it harder for them to beat you. Of course, the simplest path, and one recommended by the most competitive-minded, is to play every point all-out, even at 10-0 against a beginner. (Some players will actually get upset if you give them a "mercy" point - but that's often if you make it too obvious, instead of making them at least sort of earn it.)

My policy on this is as follows.

  • In a competitive match, if I'm up 10-0, I don't even think about the score; I play to win, and if I win 11-0, fine, but all that matters is that I won the game or match, won it playing well, and kept my focus. In a slightly competitive match, where there's little chance of a comeback, if I’m up 10-0 match point against someone considerably weaker, then I'll sometimes play a lobbing exhibition point, if I think the opponent is okay with it. (What is a "competitive match"? Any match where, if you play really poorly and the opponent plays really well, he could win. Typically, that might be a 400-point difference in rating, assuming the ratings are accurate - but to play it safe, make that 500 points. By the time you are up 10-0, you'll know if the ratings are accurate.)
  • In a non-competitive match, if I'm up 10-0, I won't give away the point. But I will almost always pop a ball up slightly and give the opponent a chance to partly earn the point. But they still have to smash it past me! Against a near-beginner who can at least somewhat smash, I'll make it even easier, and give them the easiest possible ball to smash - high, but not a lob, and without any serious spin. Then I'll fish and lob the rest of the point.

I've had a few 11-0 wins in tournaments. Back in the days when games were to 21, I only once beat someone 21-0, though I could have done so many times against beginners. The one time I did was against this 1800 player who, after I won the first 21-18, went crazy between games, yelling out he could have beaten me and would beat me, and drawing a crowd to watch this crazy guy. (I was about 2250 at the time.) I bore down in the second. It was at around 10-0 (with him screaming every point) that I really became determined to win 21-0 - and at 20-0, I was never so focused! On a side note, the first 2000 player I ever played was Herb Horton, early in 1976 when I was a beginner. He beat me 21-1, 21-0, 21-2. Another interesting match that shows no lead is too big - against Pat Cox in the final of I think Under 2400 at a 4-star Sun TV Open in Pittsburgh, I was down 0-10 in the fifth. I tied it up 10-all! But games were to 21. I went on to win . . . 26-24!!!

The Years 2020, 2021, and 2022
Am I the only old-timer from the days when games were to 21 (before 2001), who, this past year, whenever someone said "2020," thought we were at deuce, and for this next year, whenever someone says "2021," will think I'm down game point? Next year is worse - that's when we lose, 2022. (Of course, every time we say 2021 we are admitting that 2020 won.)

11 Return Sidespin Serves That Make the Opponent Give Up
Here's the video (13:27) from Ti Long. Some of these are way under-used by aspiring players.

Ma Long Forehand Loop (Topspin) | Weight Transfer Analysis
Here's the video (2:13) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Super Tip - Develop your Serve
Here's the video (2:47) from Eli Baraty.

Table Tennis Analysis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Samson Dubina

The Life of a Table Tennis Coach in Covid Times
Here's the video (8:12) featuring Ernesto Ebuen, from pingponged TV. "We talked to Ernesto Ebuen, a player born in the Philippines who migrated to the United States in 2007 where he has been able to build a career in table tennis: as a player, as a coach and as co-founder of PINGPOD: a concept of a small format table tennis clubs in NYC. In this personal interview he tells us how the Covid 19 pandemic took away one of his loved ones at the very beginning of the pandemic, how he himself faced the disease and how a table tennis club can manage infections and continue to function despite a positive case of covid-19."

Table Tennis Talk Podcast | Episode 5
Here's the podcast (82 min) featuring Dan Seemiller, Jr., head coach at the El Paso TTC, by Joey Cochran of Table Tennis Junkie. "Also Ultimate Table Tennis, T-League 2019, the Chinese Nationals, Joey's Coaching Corner, and the Weird World of Table Tennis."

USATT News

New from Steve Hopkins

John Tannehill Tribute
Here's the music video (4:09) featuring Tannehill and others, from Dave Fullen.

Top 50 Best Table Tennis Points of 2020
Here's the video (14 min) from TTEntertaining.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

2021 Preview: Top three male athletes with a point to prove
Here's the ITTF article, featuring Hugo Calderano, Liam Pitchford, and Mattia Falck.

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page.

The Magic Chopper
Here are two videos of "The Magic Chopper" from the 1960s, Zhang Xielin of China - a penhold chopper. (He was also known as Chang Shih-lin.) He apparently beat most of the Europeans, who had trouble adapting to his unconventional chopping technique, which included backhand sidespin chops. (His Chinese teammates were used to him, and so did better.)

Christmas Paddle Video
Here's the video (53 sec) - "This truly is a special moment... boy gets the perfect gift this Christmas." A must watch.

Earn £100 a Week Teaching Monkeys to Play Table Tennis
Here's the ad! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I have no idea when this came out or the context, but I now know that "Teaching ping-ping to monkeys is both challenging and rewarding. All it takes is patience and a large box of bananas."

Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:10) from LegendTrix.

More Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (1:22) by a kid from Dude Attack. (It's listed as video #5, but the previous ones weren't ping-pong trick shots.)

Men's World Cup: The Lego Movie!
Here's the video (3:27) as once again Fan Zhendong and Ma Long go at it!

Santa Wishes You a Happy New Year 2021!!!
Here's the cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Puppy-Pug Pong
Here's the video (19 sec)! Hilarious!

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - My Science Fiction Blog
Here's the blog, with a new entry for January 2, 2021. (Note that both larryhodges.com and larryhodges.org both go to my SF blog.) It's mostly about my sales and published stories in 2020, a writing workshop I'm currently attending (sort of like attending a table tennis camp), and about the 67 books I read last year! (This includes six on table tennis.)

***
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Tip of the Week
Use Quick, Deep Pushes to Set Up Your Attack.

Miscellaneous

  • Today's blog is my 1800th blog, and coincidentally the last of the year. (I used to do them five days a week, Mon-Fri.) This is in addition to 17 books and over 2000 published articles!
  • There was no junior group sessions this past weekend - holidays!!! But I did coach Navin Kumar on Saturday. Here are two videos (note how empty the club is due to holidays and pandemic!): Forehands (20 sec, and note how six seconds in I move in and start taking the ball quick off the bounce, to rush Navin) and Loop to Navin's Block (35 sec, and if you listen closely, near the end you can hear me doing my Gollum impression, where I tell myself "I can't do this" and then "Yes I can!", back and forth).
  • My quick and really, really bad limerick epitaph for 2020:

The year 2020 for ping-pong,
A year of nonstopping wrong,
Like playing 'gainst long pips,
Or players with wrong grips,
Or a ball smacked in your face by King Kong!

New from USA Table Tennis
You definitely want to see the first video - may they all rest in peace. I knew them all, other than Varner.

Fundraiser for Tahl Leibovitz . . . and a Topps Card for Donators!
Here's the page. He's already won gold at the Paralympics, and his going for a repeat!!! Here's the USATT Tahl Leibovitz Bio and his USATT Hall of Fame page. PLUS - here's the added benefit. If you donate, you get a virtual Topps Card!!! Here's mine - I'm a star! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Michael Clarke RIP
He passed away from Covid-19 last week, age 73 but still an active player and coach from Baltimore. (Here's a Facebook posting that has his picture - he's in the middle. Here's the non-Facebook version.) He's mentioned and pictured in the USATT Gone, But Not Forgotten video, at the end. Here's an excerpt from my blog from Feb 13, 2017 where he and I did a clinic and exhibition for kids at the Potomac Recreation Center in Maryland:

Then Mike and I did a rather humorous exhibition, which I introduced by saying, "A very bad thing happened today." When the kids all leaned forward to find out about this "bad" thing, I explained that just one hour before, Michael had told me that he could beat me. "He thinks he can beat ME!" I exclaimed over and over. And so it was on - with the loser having to sweep and mop the gym (or so I claimed). As usual I played the bad guy, and so everyone was quickly rooting for him. I'd insist they cheer when I won the point, and boo when he scored, and of course the kids did the reverse. I cheated, tried bribing the scorekeeper, and so on. We did the first table tennis wave in history (for about the 500th time over the years, but don't tell them). I also managed to throw in my 50-foot serve from the side, blew the ball over the net, lots of lobbing, and brought out the big paddle and mini-paddle. As always, I lost, where I was rolling about on the floor lobbing on the last point before Michael finally smashed a winner to win 11-9.

Casting Call for a Sports Drink Commercial - Looking for Ping Pong Experts
Here's the info page on how to apply. They are looking for Ping Pong Experts who are ages 10-13 or 50+ years old, who can be in Los Angeles for one or more shooting dates in January. Deadline to apply is January 8, 2PM Pacific time. The ones chosen will be paid $2500 . . . and you'll be a professional actor!!!

New from Samson Dubina

8 Types of Hook Serves to Destroy Opponents!
Here's the video (15:27) from Ti Long.

Two-Way Multiball Training
Here's the video (30 sec) from Rahul Shah - a great way for one player to practice loop against backspin, the other counterlooping against an opening loop against backspin.

SPIN: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis
Here's the video (49:23) from Pingskills, where they interview Tom Lodziak, author of Spin: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis.

Table Tennis and Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow)
Here's the article by Licensed Physical Therapist Aldin Soneja.

Covid-19 and Table Tennis: Which Type of Mask Should I Use?
Here's the video (16:16) from the Pong Professor.

The Backhands of Jimmy Butler and Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (9:15) from Jimmy Butler. It starts off with a rally between Butler and Daniel Tran that ends with a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it backhand smash by Butler, and then goes into a tribute to Jorgen Persson's backhand smash. (Persson was the 1991 World Men's Singles Champion.) Watch the reaction of Daniel when Jimmy smashes that backhand!

World #27 Tells Us Her Secret to Play Backhand and Many More Tips
Here's the video (14:28) from Pingponged TV, featuring world #27 Britt Eerland from the Netherlands.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Best Points of the Decade
Here's the video (37 min) from Table Tennis Destiny.

What Disease Does Ping-Pong Have the Potential to Prevent?
Here's the video (59 sec) - but the guesses by the competitors were also correct!

Table Tennis Talk Podcast | Episode 21
Here's the podcast (52:15) from Joey Cochran. "...we wrap up 2020 with some of the most anticipated tournaments of the year, the ITTF Finals and WTT Macao. This is the first WTT event and gives us a lot to look forward to next year. We also talk about the exciting new virtual reality table tennis game, Eleven table tennis."

New from Steve Hopkins

Peace on Earth
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

World Team Table Tennis Championships Cancelled After Three Postponements
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page. Here are some highlights.

Santa Dimitrij Wishes You a Merry Christmas
Here's the picture from the world #12 (former #1 for two months in 2018)! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) One of your New Year's Resolutions has to be to learn to spell " Dimitrij Ovtcharov," right?

£500 Challenge from the World Champion
Here's the 1946 ad from four-time Men's Singles World Champion Richard Bergmann. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) That's £20,000 in modern money, or about $27,000.

Top 20 of 20
Here's the video (8:09) from Adam Bobrow - 20 mostly hilarious shots as he throws "snakes," lobs, and other shots at opponents.

Insane Table Tennis Cartoon
Here's the video (73 sec).

Funniest Moments 2020
Here's the video 12:37) from Pongfinity!

Funny Japanese Commercial - a Decahanded Player?
Here's the video (15 sec) - in case you ever wondered what it would be like to play with ten hands and paddles.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the music video (1:46)!

Kids crazy Ping pong trick shots

Dinosaur Masked Pong
Here's the picture!

Baby Yoda Table Tennis

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Proper Strokes Are 1-2-3: Don't Forget the Neutral Position!

USA Table Tennis Museum
Wouldn't it be great to have one? A place where we could all learn about the greats of our past? Schiff and McClure. Miles and Reisman. Seemiller and Boggan. O'Neill and Butler. Cheng and Zhuang. Aarons, Fuller, and Green. Neuberger and Shahian. Martinez and Sweeris. Bhushan and Lee. Gao and Feng. And so on.

There are various table tennis collections around the country, there's the online USATT Hall of Fame, and Mike Babuin maintains the Cary TTA museum in North Carolina (but the link to the actual museum is no longer active) - and Mike just sent me a video of the Cary Museum (10:52). So maybe that's something we might build on? Or do we start something new? I'm talking about a really serious one, with a dedicated building and curator, like the ones they have for just about everything you can imagine. Here are some other museums, so why not table tennis?

There is an ITTF Museum in Shanghai, but that's a little tricky to commute to unless you're in China. USATT, Scott Gordon, Tim Boggan, Will Shortz, Paddle Palace, Mike Babuin, and many others have extensive table tennis historical collections, and I've got a lot as well, especially my table tennis book collection. (I'd seriously consider donating it to start up the Larry Hodges [Memorial?] Library Wing of the USATT Museum!) I'd love to see it all put together in some dedicated location, with an actual curator.

Here's a listing of just some of the top sports museums in the US. It includes skateboarding, mountaineering, mountain biking, polo, lacrosse, archery, in-line skating, and flyfishing. There are four on surfing alone!!! And this isn't even a comprehensive listing. There's even a Marbles Museum!!!

Notice what's missing? The Olympic Sport of table tennis.

Of course, writing about it is a lot easier than actually making it happen. For something like this, we'd probably need a wealthy owner or investor, or someone who knows how to raise money. Or just someone who is such diehard at such an opportunity that they'd do whatever it takes to make it happen. (Here's a web page on How to Start a Museum.)

So . . . who's going to do this?

Weekend Coaching
This Sunday we completed the junior group tournament we started last Sunday. The kids were in three groups by level, with ten in each group, and played a complete round robin. Due to new restrictions how many people could be in the playing hall at one time, I actually spent half the sessions in the back room working on my computer. Parents weren't allowed in for that same reason. When I was in the hall, I took extensive notes on their play.

During a break, I came up with a non-table tennis joke that I shared with the kids - though I had to write it out for them to see it. What do you have when a father dog in the capital of Bolivia lifts its front legs in the air and freezes? A La Paz pa's paws pause. They wanted more, so I gave them a follow-up: "You walk into a room and there are three gorillas in it. One is holding a banana. One is holding a knife. One is holding a smart phone. Who is the smartest in the room?" It was hilarious listening to them debate this, though most finally settled on the gorilla with the smart phone as the smartest. Then I said, "So the gorilla with the smart phone is smarter than the other two gorillas, and smarter than you, since you are also in the room?" (Note to self: Need to create a list of table tennis jokes to tell them.)

Political Table Tennis Cartoons
Here are two that I recently put together. When I say I put them together, that means I found images online, and then Photoshopped them. (So I didn't do the actual artwork.) If you are a Trump fan, you probably don't want to click on the first one. I warned ya!

Blast from the Past - Butterfly Europe 1970s Coasters . . . and My Meeting with Surbek
Here's a picture of six table tennis coasters from the late 1970s. Someone put up a picture of one of them, and so I ran to one of my shelves of table tennis stuff and found the complete set! They'd been in storage for the last 40 years or so. The six are the three Hungarians and the three S's - here's the picture of Jonyer, Gergely, Klampar, Secretin, Stipancic, and Surbek. My whole table tennis career is sort of bookended by my "meeting" Surbek in 1976, and meeting Jonyer at the 2018 World Veterans Games. With Jonyer, we just shook hands - a hugely memorable moment for me, just another Tuesday for him. Here's the story of me and Surbek.

I started playing early in 1976 at the late age of 16. I went to my first US Open that year, in July, in Philadelphia. One day I went out for lunch and sat at the bar. The place was jammed. Surbek and Milivoj Karakasevic walked in - and the only place to sit was on the two empty chairs on each side of me. So that's where they sat, with me in between!!! I didn't know at the time who Karakasevic was (top 20 in the world and father of Aleksandar, who would have been seven months old at the time), but I was fully aware that Surbek was #3 in the world and top seed at the tournament, which he'd go on to win. I'd been studying his game from a photo sequence in a Japanese book. I couldn't decide whether to get up and let them sit together, so I sort of just sat there, scared to death, while they leaned back and talked behind my back in Serbo-Croatian. I ate quickly and left, and then Surbek moved into my spot. Perhaps the most nerve-wracking moments of my table tennis life!!!

US Open and US Nationals Historical Results
Here is the page, www.ustabletennisresults.com, created by Vince Mioduszewski. It now has all results from every US Open and Nationals (even rating events!) 1933 to present. (I linked to it last week while it was still being updated.) All results are now up, but a number of scores and some results are still missing. Vince is working to get the missing data. Vince has been hard at work compiling all these results from old magazines (including a box I sent him, and from others), Tim Boggan's History of US Table Tennis (he bought the complete set of 23 books), and online results for more recent years.

USA Table Tennis Announces Election Results for Board of Directors' Positions
Here's the news item. Elected to the board were At-Large Members Thomas Hu and Dan Reynolds, and Club Representative Will Shortz. Congrats to the new members! (But see my cartoon above, Well, Ya Won the Election, Kid!)

Casting Call for a Sports Drink Commercial - Looking for Ping Pong Experts
Here's the info page on how to apply. They are looking for Ping Pong Experts who are ages 10-13 or 50+ years old, who can be in Los Angeles for one or more shooting dates in January. Deadline to apply is Jan. 8, 2PM Pacific time. The ones chosen will be paid $2500 . . . and you'll be a professional actor!!!

December Chop and Smash Blog 
Here's the article by USATT CEO Virginia Sung.

Free 6-Week Table Tennis Workout Program
Here's the info page from Peak Performance Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

Snake Serve
Here's the video (8:35) from Adam Bobrow. At first, it sounds pretty basic, but it's actually pretty advanced - the serve he's teaching is my favorite serve - I do it all the time, and it's short and looks like backspin, but it's actually topspin. Players tend to push the serve, so it pops up - but even advanced players often misread it the first few times, and continue to be tentative against it even when they read it correctly. (Adam, stop giving away secrets!!!) Like his other videos, this is funny, but this time he's teaching something that can really help your game.

New from Tom Lodziak

Serve Technique: Ma Long Serve Analysis, Footwork Pattern
Here's the video (2:11) from inMotion Table Tennis.

How To Forehand Pivot
Here's the video (2:04) from Rachid El Boubou

Reverse Windshield Wiper Serve Tutorial | Short Topspin
Here's the video (6:49) from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie.

Don't Forget Flexibility
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

New Racket and Ball Colors
Here's the article from EmRatThich at PingSunday.

Here's Why Ma Long Is The Greatest Table Tennis Player Of All Time!
Here's the video (9:55) from Table Tennis Daily. One thing that jumped out to me while watching the action shots - note how on even his biggest forehands, he rotates in a circle, with head and body not moving forward. This keeps him balanced, maximizes centrifugal force, and keeps him in position immediately for the next shot. Many players move their bodies forward in this shot, and never understand why they have trouble doing two in a row.

Jim Butler Matches
You should go to Jim Butler's Facebook page and watch the almost daily videos he puts up of his practice matches. They are great - he edits out time between points, puts in background music, and often starts with something humorous, such as the tribulations of Huijing Wang's dog. He regularly plays Huijing Wang, with other videos of him playing Kewei Li, Robert Roberts, Linda Shu, and Daniel Tran.

ITTF World Professionals Make Debut at Chinese Table Tennis Super League
Here's the video (4:43), featuring Lily Zhang (USA), Adriana Diaz (PUR), Cheng I-Ching (TPE), Jeon Jihee (KOR) and Doo Hoi Kem (HKG).

Highlights with Sean, Tahl, Hank, Jimmy
Here's the video (3:34) from Sean O'Neill.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

11 Years of ITTF - Global Sports Development Collaboration
Here's the ITTF video (2:03).

Three Thousand Days of Table Tennis
Here's the article by and about Will Shortz and his ongoing herculean feat!

New from Steve Hopkins

ITTF Statement on Matches Manipulation
Here's the statement.

ITTF News
Here's their home page and news page.

Bets, Lies and Table Tennis: How Police Pinged an International Pong
Here's the article from the Sydney Morning Herald.

Booba World Table Tennis Day
Here's the video - it's over two hours, but link should take you to 2:06, where there's ten seconds of "table tennis"!

Watchin' Sid & Nandan's Guest Appearance on Ryan's Mystery Playdate!
Here's the video (2:52) - "It's table tennis champs!" And that's a great entrance!

Ping Pong: Expectations vs. Reality
Here's the video (5:38) from Pongfinity.

Santa Claus Table Tennis
I found these for you so you don't have to! You're welcome.

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - "Pinning the Egg" and "The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame"
My science fiction story, "Pinning the Egg," came out this week in the Sci Phi Journal. When a Murt egg lands on Earth, it's up to the resident Zinh to stop it before it hatches and destroys all life, as part of the galaxy-wide war between the malicious Murt and the Zinh defenders, with the taunting as nasty as the fighting. The story starts with a Go game with Emperor Qin in China 2200 years ago and then moves to England, where even Excalibur makes an appearance.

I also just sold another story, "The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame," to Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction. It's the humorous story of baseball's spread through the galaxy, except instead of highly skilled players that make viewers feel inferior, they want the most uncoordinated, incompetent players possible, so the aliens feel good about themselves. Just how bad can a player be? Maybe I should have done this with table tennis spreading through the galaxy, where the "stars" were the worst players?

I actually have another story making the rounds, "The Beijing Galactic Table Tennis Championships." In it, table tennis has spread to the galaxy, and now they are holding the first Galaxy Table Tennis Championships - in Beijing - with aliens (mostly non-humanoid) from around the galaxy coming to compete. However, that story is rather long, over 10,000 words (about 40 pages double spaced), so a more difficult sale.

***
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Tip of the Week
Use It or Lose It!

Weekend Coaching
This past Sunday and next Sunday we are running our season-ending practice tournament for our junior program. The kids are divided into three divisions by level/rating, with about ten in each, and play a complete round robin, all best of five to 11. I spent the sessions split between watching and taking coaching notes, and umpiring some of the matches (so they could get more of a tournament-like feel for the matches). In the lowest group (with the youngest kids), I taught them how to read the playing schedule and how it is created. After watching them, I realize that a lot of them need more work both on their serves, and on understanding the purpose of the serve, which is primarily to set up their attack. The really good news - I spent some time just watching their feet, and came away pretty happy - with one exception, all of them had "active feet." The only exception tended to lean to the ball instead of moving, so we'll work on that. Most had pretty good stroking technique.

In the other two divisions, the main takeaway was, "Wow!" Many haven't played a tournament in nearly a year, and they have dramatically improved. Their ratings are way behind - beware everyone when tournaments start up again!!! I knew they had improved, but it's a lot more obvious when they play real matches. You can basically add 100 or more rating points to each of their ratings. The ten in the top group ranged (in mostly old ratings) from 1984 to 2286, with all but two of them ages 11 to 13.

On Saturday, I had my weekly session with Navin Kumar. (As I note occasionally, I'm retired from private coaching, but made one exception for him since I coached him at the World Parkinson's Championships last year and will likely do so again next September in Berlin.) A lot of the focus on the session was aggressive return of serve with his long pips (no sponge), instead of just patting the ball back. I traded rackets with him to demonstrate, and showed him how you can "bump" almost any serve back quick off the bounce and rather aggressively, and if you place it well (usually to wide corners), it can tie a serve in knots. Here are two videos:

US Open and US Nationals Historical Results
Here is the page, www.ustabletennisresults.com, still under construction, created by Vince Mioduszewski. It now has all results from every US Open and Nationals (even rating events!) from 1970 to present, as well as 1940-49. Soon they will all be up, 1933 to present. Vince has been hard at work compiling all these results from old magazines (including a box I sent him, and from others), Tim Boggan's History of US Table Tennis (he bought the complete set of 23 books), and online results for more recent years.

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had another of the bi-weekly USATT coaches meetings on Friday, Dec. 11, 12:00-12:54 PM eastern time, hosted by High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. Six of us attended. Here's video (54:25) and a group picture. Here's what happened.

  • Welcome to the attendees, with each giving a short report on their recent club and coaching activities: Sean O'Neill, Larry Hodges, Mike Lauro, Samson Dubina, Doru Gheorghe, Willy Leparulo
  • Player Pathways. Sean spoke about this program, and here's the USATT news item, USA Table Tennis Announces the Performance Pathway Program for 2021. It involves direct athlete assistance to the top four men, women, and Para athletes.
  • Reminder about the USATT Coach of the Year nominations, due Dec. 31.
  • A discussion of Stupa Analytics. (I wrote about this in my November 23, 2020 blog.) You can get one free Stupa analysis. Sean said that they have received a USOPC sports science grant for our national team.
  • USOPC Grants. USATT had applied for a grant late this year for some leftover money, to be used in developing the USATT coaching program. It was denied, but will reapply for 2021.
  • We discussed the All-American Awards - for top ten in each age group, honorable mentions for the next ten. The question was what to do this year, with the pandemic and few tournaments? The consensus was to still have them as they are a nice incentive.
  • We discussed wearables, which are items you wear that monitor various things such as heart rate and sleep. An Apple Watch and Polar Unite Watch are examples.

New from USATT

USATT Board Teleconference
USA Table Tennis held a board teleconference last Monday, Dec. 7, starting at 8PM. Eighteen people attended, including me. This is fascinating stuff to a small minority of us; for the rest of you, skip ahead!!! (NOTE - I wrote the below after the meeting, but this morning I see that they already have the minutes up for that meeting - that's a speed record! Presumably, they approved them via email vote. The minutes match up pretty well with my notes, and go into more detail. Here is the USATT Minutes and Actions page.)

  • CEO Report. Virginia Sun reported that the Olympic Training Center is closed, due to the pandemic. She had just gotten out of a USOPC meeting on Covid-19 situation with over 100 others She also reported on the T2 competitions, where, despite following protocols, a number of people tested positive afterwards.
  • Budget and Audit Committee Reports. Numbers assume (for now) things back to normal in second quarter (not sure if that's before or after), but we don't really know that. They will adjust as needed. The 2021 budget was approved unanimously. One curious thing - there was little discussion of the actual budget items. In past budget meetings that I've attended (including as a board member), they often went over it segment by segment, even line by line, and sometimes spent many hours on this.
  • Licensing and Sponsorship – Protecting Against Intellectual Property Infringement. It seems some equipment vendors have used USATT trademarks without permission, so they had a discussion on how to respond. Not sure if they reached a decision, but presumably this is something the CEO will handle.
  • Board Elections Status Report. They will announce election results by Christmas. New board members will be invited attend February meeting. Not sure why it could take until Christmas (eleven days from now) to get results - voting ended last night (Sunday, Dec. 13), so it'd be nice to get the results today. The number of votes is usually only in the hundreds, so presumably they can do the count in one day. Perhaps there are verification protocols. I'll post here when/if the election results are posted.
  • Board Meeting Schedule for 2021. Board has been meeting almost every month. Will go to bi-monthly, i.e. six times/year.
  • When asked about new business, Lee Kondo asked about enforcing service rules, and cited this USATT notice.
  • They then went into executive session, so I had to leave.

New from Samson Dubina

Four Useful Tools for Improving Your Long Fast Serves in Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (13 min) from Matt Hetherington at MH Table Tennis.

Pendulum Serve Tutorial | Pure Backspin
Here's the video (11:50) from Joey Cochran.

Table Tennis Match Management
Here's the video from Richard McAfee (33:19).

Table Tennis VOD Review #6 - Work on Finding the Ball and Having Better Placement
Here's the video (33 min) from Louis Levene.

Table Tennis Serve Compilation (Part 2) - 11 More Ways To Serve
Here's the video (3:31) from Paragon Table Tennis. Here's the link to Part 1 - 49 Ways To Serve (3:52).

How to Return Fast Serve in Table Tennis
Here's the video (20:34) from Ti Long.

The Table Tennis Gambit
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Here's What Olympians Eat for Each Sport
Here's the article from Live Science, with a segment on table tennis with info and quotes from Richard McAfee.

Pingponged TV Featuring Mattias Falck
Here's the video (12:45) - their first episode. Falck of Sweden, who uses short pips on the forehand, is #8 in the world, and shocked the world by making it to the final of Men's Singles at the 2019 Worlds.

Incredible Attack vs. Chop Rally
Here's the video (69 sec) - and (Spoiler Alert!) after all those shots to the corners, notice that it was, predictably, a shot to the middle that won the point. (Yeah, that's where choppers and many other players are weakest.)

Best Table Tennis Shots of November 2020
Here's the video (14:12) from TT Entertaining.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

ITTF Equipment Webinar
Here's the video (1 hr 24 min).

New from the ITTF

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Interviews Timo Boll
Here's the video (57 sec)!

New from Steve Hopkins

Funny Ping-Pong Stuff
Here's the page from Etsy. Lots of neat stuff - shirts, mugs, face masks, etc. How can you live without some of this stuff? (No, I have no financial interest in Etsy!)

Impromptu Table Tennis Exhibition
Here's the video (30 sec) - but must be from a while back since the score's 20-13. (Games switched from 21 to 11 in 2001.)

Sunny Bunnies - Table Tennis Practice
Here's the video (20:46, but the table tennis is in the first 3:30)!

World's Longest Ping Pong Shot
Here's the video (8:02) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Untold Christmas Carol"
Just got another very positive review, from SFRevu, of  a current story of mine in Galaxy's Edge, "The Untold Christmas Carol," the behind-the-scenes expose of what really happened to Tiny Tim - with Satan and Benedict Arnold involved. Here are the two reviews of the story so far:

  • SF Revu: "A devilish alternate take on the classic Christmas Ghost Story. Another amusing tale and the perfect way to end this issue."
  • Tangent SF Reviews: "The prose was well-paced and told in a whimsical style. A nice nugget to pass a few minutes with a smile." 

***
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Tip of the Week
Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?

Weekend Coaching
On Sunday, I asked one of our junior players what she wanted to work on, and she wanted to do side-to-side footwork drills. We must be doing something right!!! As usual, we focused on fundamental as I was working with our younger kids. I also set up targets on the table for serve practice and they took great joy in knocking them off - though I kept insisting that they weren't really knocking them off, they were just showing me what it would look like if they were to knock them off, so that if they were to actually knock them off, I'd know what it would look like. Did you get all of that?

They played up-down tables the second half of the session. They would hide the ball to see who served first. If the server scored two in a row, he became the receiver, and the goal was to be the receiver. They would play for about five minutes, and then whoever was receiving at that time moved up, the server moved down. To help work on specific parts of their game, we had them use improvised rules. For example, they might have to serve long to the backhand, or long anywhere, and so on.

Several of the players were hesitating when looping in the games - they'd start out right, but as they started their forward swing, they'd ease up, trying to guide the ball, instead of just letting the shot go, as they do in regular practice. So I worked with several of them on that. I had to keep stressing that this is practice, and if you can't do the shot properly in practice, when will you do it properly? I think they go the message. It only takes doing it right a few times in games to get into the habit of doing it right - at least for kids, who learn fast

USATT Election
The deadline to vote is Sunday, Dec. 13 - so VOTE!!! NOW!!! If you were a USATT member, you should have received the election info by email on Oct. 29, so go check your email box. I wrote about this in my Oct. 26 blog, where I strongly endorsed Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu, and also endorsed Will Shortz for Club Rep, though both candidates for that spot were good, the other being Mike Babuin. (Thomas Hu has 47 testimonials on the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page. Why not pay it a visit? Yesterday he posted 15 Priorities if he is elected.)

Seriously, if you haven't voted and you are a USATT member, stop what you are doing and vote RIGHT NOW!!! (Hopefully for Khoa, Thomas, and Will.)

USA Table Tennis Suspends All Sanctioned and Approved Activities and Events Through January 15, 2021
Here's the news item. (This went up after the blog went up, but I thought it was important and timely, so I added it afterwards.) It's a disappointing situation, but the suspension is understandable. 

USATT Board Teleconference, Monday, Dec. 7 (TODAY) at 8PM Eastern Time
Here's the USATT Agenda and Notices page, with a link to the info for the meeting, including the agenda. (It currently gives info on how to join the meeting, which uses Uberconference.) All USATT members are welcome to attend. I expect to be there. Here is the current agenda - though other items are sometimes added last-minute.

  • CEO Report
  • Audit Committee Report
  • 2021 Budget
  • Licensing and Sponsorship – Protecting Against Intellectual Property Infringement
  • Board Elections Status Report
  • Board Meeting Schedule for 2021

USATT High Performance Committee
The former chair, Bruce Liu, resigned a while ago, as did member Angela Guan. USATT has now filled the committee again with five members. They are Jimmy Butler, Amy Feng, Wu Yue, Feng Yijun, and Khoa Nguyen. (Here's the USATT Committee listing.) One thing of notice - there is no chair yet. I'm told they will operate without one for now.

In my view, as I wrote about the previous members (with Bruce and Angela instead of Wu and Feng), these members are all individually well qualified. HOWEVER . . . it's almost all athletes, with few coaches. I believe Amy Feng is the only regular coach among the five (though I'm not sure how much she is coaching). The purpose of the HPC is to develop top athletes, and that's exactly the purpose of a top coach - and so there should be more top coaches on the committee. As it is, it's like having 25 sluggers on a baseball team, each of them highly qualified players - and then realizing you have no pitchers. There really should be more of a balance. Of course, it's easier said than done - many of the most qualified high-level coaches might not want to do so as it would be a conflict of interest since they are coaching some of the players the HPC sets the rules for, plus they want to be eligible to coach USA teams, and the HPC chooses those coaches - another conflict of interest. (Alas, I'm not volunteering.)

Covid-19 Outbreak at USATT's T2 Qualification Tournament at ICC Table Tennis Center
Here's a discussion of this at the MyTableTennis.net forum, with 61 comments so far. Apparently at least ten people from the event have come down positive. Yikes!!! As near as I can tell from the video shown there, they did take proper precautions.

How To Footwork & Body Transition
Here's the video from Coach Jishan Liang (1:44)

Developing Hand Speed
Here's the video (2:31) from Coach Ojo Onaolapo.

How to Return Heavy Backspin Serve
Here's the video (15:03) from Ti Long.

Good Serve - Best Table Tennis Serve Placements
Here's the video (10:07) from Prospin95 Table Tennis.

Penhold Serve Tips and Techniques
Here's the video (11:29) from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie.

New from Samson Dubina

Doubling Down With Short Pips
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

US Open and US Nationals Historical Results
Here is the page, www.ustabletennisresults.com, still under construction, created by Vince Mioduszewski. It currently has all the results for the US Open and US Nationals from 2000-2019. Soon it will have all of them, with US Opens from 1933 to the present, and the Nationals from 1976 to the present (plus a few miscellaneous other ones). These results include all of the events - championships ones for men, women, seniors, and juniors, as well as rating events, hardbat, etc. Vince has been hard at work compiling all these results from old magazines (including a box I sent him, and from others), Tim Boggan's History of US Table Tennis (he bought the complete set of 23 books), and online results for more recent years.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis
After an eight-year hiatus, I recently did an update to my Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. There are now 1446 photos of 876 celebrities! New ones added were Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Mookie Betts, Diego Maradona, Mike Trout, and Howie Kendrick. However, at this point I'm only doing occasional updates, and only for really, Really, REALLY famous people!!! (Howie Kendrick is pretty famous, but he only made the list because he's in the picture with Mike Trout.)

Here are two other sites I maintain:

Table Tennis Fan Pages
Here are some table tennis fan pages (alphabetically) for US players. I'm sure there are many more! Email me or comment to me on Facebook and I'll add others to the list. (What's the difference between a "fan page" and a regular Facebook page? It's not entirely clear, but here's an online explanation. Some use regular Facebook pages as fan pages.)

Junior Olympics
Table Tennis was a part of the Junior Olympics from 1982-2013, plus in 2016. For many years starting in 1985 they also held the Junior Nationals in conjunction. This used to be an annual must tournament for serious junior players all over the country. I recently discovered that all of the results (table tennis and other sports) are online! Here's the page. (It brings back a lot of memories for me, since I was the match coach for over 200 gold medalists at the Junior Olympics and Junior Nationals, more than any other table tennis coach.)

Top 10 Men's Points | WTT Macao
Here's the video (3:26). See Hugo's backhand counterloop 26 seconds in!

Wally Green and Spin Table Tennis
Here's the video (5:07) from  WPIX 11 News.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Strange and Interesting Table Tennis Merchandise

Unreal Counter-hit
Here's the video (33 sec, including slo-mo replay). With the lack of masks, social distancing, and the well-deserved shaking of hands, I hope this wasn't a recent video!

ProSpin95 Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here's the video (58 sec)!

Romi Bear & Dami Rabbit "Table Tennis" | Cartoons for Kids
Here's the video (2:16)!

Andy Capp Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon!

Quit Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Best Ping Pong Shots 2020
Here's the video (8:37) from Pongfinity - these shots are INSANE!!!

***
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Tip of the Week
Letting an Opponent Control Play is Risky.

Sports Illustrated
They have an article in the new issue, Table Tennis Remains Diversity's Best Kept Secret. (I think it's in the December print issue.) The story features one of my students, Navin Kumar, as well as Nancy Zhou, Dr. Tsz Lun (Alan) Chu, Ibrahim Hamadtou, Anushka Oak, and Lily Zhang. Navin's involvement (and I think some of the others) came about when the writer contacted me with a series of questions about diversity in table tennis. I thought about it for a few days, and realized I was probably not the right person to interview about this. To use a metaphor, cars are important, but I'm probably not the person to interview about cars. (What's a carburetor? I have no idea.) So I sent them some other contacts, and then turned them over to Navin, who is Indian, as well as having Parkinson's (bronze in singles, silver in doubles at the 2019 World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships) as well as having a mostly artificial heart.

Why Doesn't Table Tennis Get More Exposure?
I was asked on Facebook recently (by Mike Clardy) why our sport gets so little TV (and online) exposure from the major venues, while sports like bowling, darts, and even axe throwing get more coverage. Here was my response (with some minor updating).

It's always been a strange phenomenon that table tennis gets so little TV exposure in the US, while more obscure sports (and in some cases, "sports") are on TV. There have been a few isolated cases, such as ESPN's coverage of table tennis circa 1980, and we had some TV exposure in the early 1990s due to Dan Seemiller's efforts. But these are the exceptions. In general, table tennis doesn't get nearly as much TV exposure as other, seemingly lesser sports. The same thing applies to the various major online venues as well. But long ago I realized why. I'm going to explain with a seemingly non-related item - the history of Star Trek.

In 1964, Gene Roddenberry went to Desilu Productions with the idea for Star Trek. It was well-thought out, but was so revolutionary that it was turned down by CBS and NBC. The board of Desilu also voted against producing it - but they were overruled by their owner, Lucille Ball, of "I Love Lucy" fame. Ball liked the idea and championed it, and made Star Trek happen. If not for her, there would be no Star Trek. (Here's an article about it from Entertainment Weekly and here's another from Star Trek.com.)

How does this relate to table tennis? Well, look at all those sports and "sports" that get exposure on TV. Also look at all the bad movies and TV shows that get made. Why does that happen? Because of each of them had a "champion" who made it happen. It means that no matter what you do, there is an element of luck in getting something produced on TV.

However - and this is the BIG HOWEVER - there's a saying in sports that champions make their own luck. What that means when it comes to getting on TV is two-fold. (And now I'm going to cleverly and completely change the meaning of the word "champion.") First, you have to find your champion. Second, you have to sell your champion. In the case of Star Trek, Roddenberry went to multiple networks and studios in search of a champion, and found one in Lucille Ball. Then he was able to sell her on the idea. She championed its production, and the result is history.

In the case of all those bad movies, TV shows, and "sports" that get more TV and online coverage in the US than table tennis, they all did the same thing - they looked for and sold themselves to a champion, and that champion made it happen.

What does this mean for table tennis in the US? Occasionally someone from USATT or elsewhere looks for a champion, but is unable to sell it. Others might be able to sell it, but aren't looking for that champion, or don't know how to do so. More often, neither happens. And so (with rare, temporary exceptions), we have never found and sold ourselves to a champion to get table tennis regularly on TV in the US.

How can we change this? Simple, and by that, I mean the idea is simple, but the execution not so easy. It means going to those people (like Lucille ball) who are in a position to put both good and bad movies, TV shows, sports, and "sports" on TV and large online venues, and selling them on table tennis, just as Roddenberry did with Star Trek. It's how all those good and bad productions got on TV. All we have to do is to follow in their footsteps, and keep doing so until we find our champion - i.e. we MAKE our luck. (Hopefully as a sport, not a "sport.") If all goes well, someday someone will point at us and say, "How come a 'sport' like table tennis gets so much TV exposure, while our sport doesn't?"

One addendum I'd add to the above is that when we do get coverage, we need to make it stand out (duh!). Many focus on the personalities, which is important. But equally important, and maybe even more so, is to focus on conflicting styles. One of the reasons people love to watch Federer vs. Nadal in tennis is that clash of styles - the elegant Federer, with his power forehand and one-handed backhand, vs. the runs-down-everywhere Nadal with his topspinning forehand and two-handed backhand. One of the reasons the current world #1, Novak Djokovic, is considered boring is that he doesn't really bring anything exciting, style-wise - he's basically a robotic backboard who never misses. The same is true of the past tennis - think of the clash in styles of McEnroe (net-rusher) vs Borg (two-winged topspinner) v. Connors (aggressive flat hitter). Or boxing - who could forget the dancing, boxing style of Muhammed Ali vs. the constantly coming-at-you attack of Joe Frazier? (Okay, I'm dating myself.)

In the past, table tennis at the top had more styles, but many of those styles are almost dead now - pips-out hitters, choppers, even Seemiller grip players. The difference in styles is more subtle, so it's more important that the commentators and public relations directors emphasize the differences - for example, the backhand dominance of Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto vs. the off-table topspins of Xu Xin vs. the two-winged blistering attacks of Ma Long and Fan Zhendong.

Weekend Coaching and MDTTC Juniors
On Sunday, I worked mostly with two of the younger players in the junior session, with a focus (as usual) on fundamentals. One thing that always surprises me about younger kids - they are fascinated with serves, and given a choice, will often choose to do that (and do ball pickup!) rather than actually, you know, play!!! Afterwards, I stayed late and hit with two of our 1800 juniors. I'm way, Way, WAY out of shape after eight months of pandemic isolation (i.e. mostly sitting in my lounge chair reading, writing, doing crossword puzzles, and watching TV), and when I played a practice match with one of them, it showed.

This was the first Friday-Sunday after Thanksgiving since 1975 that I didn't play or coach at the North American Table Tennis Teams Championships (previously the US Teams). My first year was 1976, when I was 16, and it's been 44 years in a row until now. It was cancelled this year.  

All these cancelled tournaments is, of course, disappointing to the kids, who train so hard for them, as well as the incredible coaching staff that works with them. I'm pretty proud of our players. In the new rankings that came out last week (after the Presper Financial Architects Open in Ohio, which didn't get cancelled), in Hopes Boys (12 and under), my club (MDTTC) now has the #1, 3, 5, and 6 players in the country, with ratings of 2286, 2078, 2020, and 1994. We also have the #2 and #3 in 11 and under, at 2078 and 1994 - these two are also in the Hopes rankings at #3 and # 6, and have another year of eligibility. We also have the #1 in 9 and under. (The latter plays out of Philadelphia but trains with us on weekends.) We also have 7 of the 21 players in Mini-Cadet Boys (13 and under). Along with my great fellow coaches, I've worked extensively with most of these players, several of them starting out with me. Here's a listing of some of our top junior players.

  • Stanley Hsu (12, 2286, #1 in Hopes Boys, National Hopes Champion)
  • Tiffany Ke (16, 2220, #12 in Junior Girls, but recently #1 with a rating over 2400, with two years of eligibility left, National Team Squad)
  • Nicole Deng (14, 2116, National Mini-Cadet Champion, National Team Squad, trains with us on weekends)
  • Ryan Lin (11, 2078, #3 in Hopes Boys, #2 in 11 and Under)
  • William Wu (14, 2071)
  • James Zhang (13, 2059, #14 in mini-cadets)
  • Stephanie Zhang (17, 2038)
  • Lance Wei (13, 2027, #17 in mini-cadets)
  • Mu Du (12, 2020, #5 in Hopes Boys)
  • Winston Wu (11, 1994, #6 in Hopes Boys, #3 in 11 and Under)
  • Ryan Lee (13, 1986, #21 in mini-cadets)
  • Arjun Kumar (9, 1585, #1 in 9 and Under, trains with us on weekends)
  • A dozen others from 1600-1900

On Saturday, I had my weekly session with Navin Kumar. (As I've often noted, I'm retired from private coaching except for these sessions.) He made a breakthrough on attacking pushes with his long pips (no sponge), as he's gaining confidence in taking the ball right off the bounce and "bumping" it with a quick topspin. His forehand was also much stronger than usual this session. Here's video (14 sec).

World Table Tennis
Here's their home page, with the large title, "Introducing World Table Tennis: A New Perspective." WTT was set up by the ITTF to run all of their events.

Here's the ITTF home page for World Table Tennis Macao, held Nov. 25-29 in Macao, China (where they have created a "bubble" for players and others involved, due to the pandemic), with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. Note the links to Prize Money ($400,000, including $15,000 appearance fees), Playing Format, and Scoring - the latter two are especially of interest.

USATT Coverage (from World Table Tennis)

Other Articles and Video

USATT Coaches Meeting
The Zoom meeting was on Friday, Nov. 27, at 11AM. Here's video of the meeting (83 min), hosted by Sean O'Neill. The meetings usually take place the second and fourth Friday of each month, and usually last about an hour - and ALL USATT coaches are invited to attend to ask questions and give their thoughts. (Info on each meeting is posted in advance in the USATT Coaches Facebook page.) Discussions included Coaches feedback on their latest activities; Coach of the Year award; SafeSport/Background Checks; Articles for the USATT website; National Development Team; World Table Tennis Feedback; and perhaps of most interest to viewers, a great discussion of coaching between games that starts at 16:56 where all five of us give our thoughts on this. There were five of us attending:

  • USATT High Performance Director and five-time US Men's Singles Champion Sean O'Neill
  • USATT High Performance Manager and long-time USA Women's Team Coach Doru Gheorghe
  • USA National Team Coach and 8-time US Women's Singles Champion and former world #3) Gao Jun
  • USATT Certified National Coach and 2018 USATT Volunteer Coach of the Year Mike Lauro
  • Me

Champion and Great Entertainer, Jacques Secretin passes (1949-2020)
Here's the ITTF obit. He was a big star in the 1970s and 80s, reaching #3 in the world, 1976 European Men's Singles Champion, 1977 World Mixed Doubles Champion (along with four silver medals), and completely dominating French table tennis for decades. (Here's his Wikipedia page.) Besides his lefty topspin attacking, he was also known for his lobbing - when I started out in 1976, I was told he was one of the "Big Three Lobbers" - Secretin, Surbek, and Hasegawa. However, he was best known as half of the famous "Secretin-Purkart" exhibition team - he was the brilliant and incredibly skillful straight man to Vincent Purkart's clowning. Here's video from their exhibitions (8:20). Here's another article, Jacques Secrétin, the legend of table tennis, is dead, from World Today News, with more pictures and great video.

PongNow: Ty Hoff
Here's the video (20:17) by Steve Hopkins. Ty and I have a long history. I was one of his original coaches. His first coaching came at the 1980 Perry Schwartzberg Camp in Wilson, NC, where I was Perry's assistant coach. Later, Ty hired me as a private coach for I think three days in New Bern, NC. Still later, Ty and I teamed up to nine US Open and Nationals Hardbat Doubles titles. (I also won singles twice, while he won I think four times. I normally use sponge.) We also made the quarterfinals of Men's Doubles at the Nationals one year. In 1990, when I became the director of the Resident Table Tennis Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, I brought in Ty as the dorm manager, where he also acted as a practice partner.

Table Tennis Took Angie Bengtsson Around the world, Letting Her Share Her Native Heritage
Here's the USATT article

New from Samson Dubina

Table Tennis VOD Review #5 - Need to Be More Stable
Here's the video (32:50) from Louis Levene, where he analyzes a match.

World's Best Table Tennis Server Par Gerell vs Dan and Tom
Here's the video (7:39) from Table Tennis Daily.

How to Reverse Serve from Basic to Professional and Tips of World Stars
Here's the video (19:55) from Ti Long.

Windshield Wiper Serve Tutorial | Short Deadball
Here's the video (9:24) from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie.

Basic Skills is the Key
Here's the video (6:28) from Table Tennis TV.

Ding Ning Full Training Session WTT MACAO 2020
Here's the video (25:14). She's the three-time World Women's Singles Champion and reigning Olympic Women's Singles Gold Medalist.

Reflections on Excellence by Michel Gadal
The book is now on sold as a Kindle book at Amazon. I reviewed the digital book in my November 9 blog.

Move Like a Table Tennis Player
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Returns Thanks to You!!
Here's the ITTF video (3 min).

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

ProSpin95 Table Tennis Trick Shots
Here's the video (53 sec).

Blue Funny Face Table Tennis Paddle
Imagine playing someone with this paddle!!! Wouldn't it be great if you could use rackets like this, instead of the all-one-color surfaces required?

International Political Table Tennis Cartoons
Here they are, one on climate change, and one on Greece, Turkey, EU, and Refugees.

AJAX Retro Comic Book Cover Full Fun PING Pong Black Art Print
Here's your chance to order this table tennis poster - I think it's a dog playing a kangaroo and its baby joey!

Broken Table
Here's the cartoon!

Happiness is . . .
Here's the cartoon.

New from Pongfinity!

Spider-Man into the PingPongverse - Basic Table Tennis drills with Spider-Man
Here's the video (5:49)!

Legos Table Tennis!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Untold Christmas Carol" and "Pinning the Egg"
Tangent, one of the big science fiction reviewers, did a very positive review of a current story of mine in Galaxy's Edge, "The Untold Christmas Carol," the behind-the-scenes expose of what really happened to Tiny Tim - with Satan and Benedict Arnold involved. The review finished with this: "The prose was well-paced and told in a whimsical style. A nice nugget to pass a few minutes with a smile." Here's the review. On Wednesday, I sold a humorous science fiction story to the Sci-Fi Journal, "Pinning the Egg." (It involves an alien invader and Excalibur, but in a SF fashion.)

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Tip of the Week
The Forehand Down-the Line Block and Counterloop.

USA Table Tennis Executive Directors, CEOs, Presidents, Board Chairs, and Editors
Here is the comprehensive list, which I put together for the heck of it. I've published partial lists in the past, but now they're all there!!! I'm in it for my two tenures as editor, totaling 12 years and 71 issues.

Christmas Table Tennis Book Shopping
It's that time of year again - time to do your Xmas shopping, either for some other table tennis player, or for yourself. (Interesting tidbit - I sell almost as many table tennis books in November and December as the rest of the year combined - lots of Christmas shoppers.) Here are some choices.

=>Books by Larry Hodges

=>Books by Dan Seemiller

=>Books by Samson Dubina

=>Books by Dora Kurimay

=>Books by Tim Boggan

=>Other Table Tennis Books Published in 2020

Weekend Coaching
On Sunday I mostly worked with three kids in the group session, with a huge focus on footwork and serves. For much of the session the three rotated, one with me, one practicing serves, one on ball pickup. (Halfway through I gave them the option of doing either serve practice or hitting with the robot, and they all chose more serve practice.) The down side - my neck started bothering me, and I could barely turn it by the end of the session. I'd told two high-level kids I'd play practice matches with them after the session - something I hadn't done in a while - but had to drop out because of the neck problem. It seems better this morning, but still stiff.

On Saturday I had my usually weekly session with Navin Kumar. His strength is still his backhand block (with long pips, no sponge), but his forehand is improving. During this session he started hitting harder at one point, and made some good shots, though the consistency went down - mostly because he sometimes didn't recover fast enough from the previous shot, and so was vulnerable on the next, especially if my return went deep on the table. Here's video (62 sec) of him hitting harder, and doing some footwork. (I'm retired from private coaching, other than the sessions with Navin, to get him ready for the next World Parkinson's Championships.)

Regarding weekend coaching, I was taking next weekend "off" to go coach two of our junior teams at the Westchester Teams in New York. Alas, for some strange reason (what could it be?), it got cancelled. One of the things about table tennis is that it's best if you have something to look forward to - and that usually means tournaments, whether playing or coaching at them. At this point, I'm just looking forward to the day when we all this is over.

Published Article #2000
This morning, when my Tip of the Week went up, both here and at Butterflyonline, it was an historic moment for me - it was my 2000th published article. This is in addition to 1795 blog entries (including this one) - with my 1800th blog entry scheduled to go up on Monday, Dec. 28. (If you include blog entries, that's 3795 published articles.) The articles include 1765 on table tennis; 63 non-fiction/non-table tennis (including 33 on the Baltimore Orioles, several science articles, and one in a math journal back in my math days); and 114 short story sales (plus 39 resales, 4 novels, and 15 "twitter" sales). I also have a total of 17 books, which include nine on table tennis, eight science fiction/fantasy, and one travel book. (That adds up to 18 because the novel "The Spirit of Pong" counts as both table tennis and science fiction/fantasy.) Here's a complete listing of my published work. I normally update it at the end of each month, but went ahead and updated it this morning to including all 2000 articles.

USATT High Performance Committee
The new, updated minutes are up. I blogged about this in my November 2 blog. They've taken the emails to the committee out of the minutes - but you can compare the new version with the old one, which is linked in the Nov. 2 blog. I haven't checked to see if there are other changes.

ITTF Grand Finals
Here's the info page for the event held Nov. 19-22 in Zhengzhou, China, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video. On the women's side, Chen Meng won for the fourth year in a row, after also winning the Women's World Cup two weeks before. On the men's side, Ma Long defeated Fan Zhendong in the final, reversing their result from the week before at the Men's World Cup. Here is coverage by Steve Hopkins from Butterfly:

Stupa Analytics
On Fri & Sat, Nov. 20-21, Stupa Analytics did online Zoom seminars for Clubs and Coaches, hosted by USATT and Sean O'Neill. I attended the Coaches seminar at noon on Saturday, which lasted exactly one hour, with eleven participants. Here's a screen shot. They have some really sophisticated software with a lot of features that can really analyze your table tennis game. (They currently specialize in table tennis, but plan to branch out to other sports.) The software first detects the table, ball, and players, and then analyzes the rallies - it can even distinguish between a block and a topspin stroke. For example, in one video, I wrote down its seemingly accurate analysis of a player's shot: "Not making enough space between elbow and body while playing FH topspin. Right leg weight on heel and unstable." Their front page advertises, "Get Your 1st Match Analyzed For Free!" So why not give it a try? Their services include (with the first three perhaps of greatest interest to most players):

New from Samson Dubina

New from Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie

Epic Sidespin Serve Tutorial
Here's the video (19:10) by Tom Lodziak.

New from Louis Levene (Looeelooee)

How To Win A Point In Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:43) from ProSpin95 Table Tennis

Tomokazu Harimoto Practicing Serves at World Cup
Here's the video (4:07). At 17, the Japanese star is already #4 in the world. Note how much care goes into each serve - none of that rushed "serve and grab the next ball and serve again" thing that many players do, with the apparent theory that quantity is more important than quality. He also has not one, but two coaches watching over him! Interesting side note - 20 seconds in you'll see former MDTTC coach (my club) Jeffrey Zeng Xun in the foreground, briefly picking up balls and then talking on his cell phone. He shows up a few more times. (He coached Lily Zhang at the last two Women's World Cups - semifinals and quarterfinals.)

Antecedents and Consequences of Outward Emotional Reactions in Table Tennis
Here's the academic paper from Frontiers in Psychology, where "researchers analyzed footage from the finals of the youth National Championships in Greece and categorized all of the outward emotional displays as either positive, neutral, or negative. They then examined the antecedents and consequences of these displays to see if any patterns emerged." Some of it is techy; some is very readable and relatable to our own table tennis experiences. Here is the key takeaway from Kevin Finn at In the Loop ("Your concise monthly guide to the latest research pertaining to all things table tennis").

Key Takeaway:
There's a decent chance you are showing more negative emotions to your opponent than positive. When the stakes are high and the score is close, know there is a good chance you will react emotionally after the point. You should have a plan for how to handle losing a point in these situations and work on perfecting that table tennis "poker face." If you win the point, you can celebrate (you don't have to go full Harimoto), but learning to react a little more stoically when you lose the point might be a good idea. Easier said than done, I know! Note: In a recent video on mental strength, Timo Boll made this exact recommendation.

New from Steve Hopkins
(See also his coverage of the ITTF Grand Finals above.)

Making the Best of Being a Blocker
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Referees
Here's the USATT article, by Wendell Dillon

The Pursuit of Belonging, Part 2
Here's the article featuring Anderson College and August College in the early 1990s, and including a link to Part 1 (which I linked to when it first came out).

TTLive Software
Here's the info page. "At TTLive.app, we have software with complete tooling for running leagues and tournaments with the ability to create pools, teams, and brackets for tournaments with the click of a button."

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Archival Footage

  • 1937 Newark, N.J. National competition (45 sec) - actually an exhibition, with Sol Schiff on left, Coleman Clark on right, both lefties.
  • 1946 US Table Tennis Championships (65 sec)
  • 1947 Worlds Finals - Bohumil Vana d. Ferenc Sido (48 sec). Vana would win in 1938 and 1947 (and likely more if not for the eight-year break because of World War 2), and lose in the final in 1948 and 1949. Sido would win in 1953, while losing in the final in 1947 and 1959. Sido was the last player to win men's singles at the Worlds with a hardbat, and the last to make the final with all hardbat. (Eberhard Schöler would make the final in 1969 with hardbat on the backhand only.)

The Best Ping Pong Movies of All Time
Here's the article, including preview videos. It's from 2019, but I don't think I've linked to it before. While we're at it, where's the Table Tennis Films Wikipedia page.

Great Hand-Switch Shot
Here's the video (10 sec) - that's a nice lefty off-the-bounce counterloop! And he did it at 9-6 in the fifth. Even the opponent clapped. There's another interesting thing about this - note how the opponent barely reacted to the lefty loop. He's obviously a good player, but table tennis reactions are done by the subconscious - and since it wasn't expecting or prepared for a sudden lefty loop, it barely reacted, and so the opponent barely waved his paddle at the ball going by. If it had been essentially the same shot, but done righty, he probably would have either returned it or made a good effort.

Fancy Ping-Pong Paddles
For the Table Tennis Nerd. Now if they only came in Tenergy...

Test Your Ping Pong IQ
Here's the video (8:49) from Adam Bobrow.

Table Tennis Prank
Here's the video (9 sec)!

Baby vs. Table Tennis Balls
Here's the video (2:13) from Tom Lodziak!

Well, Kid, Ya Beat Me - Best Table Tennis Cartoon Ever
Here it is! And here's a related one that might have come just before it. Both are from The Far Side.

New from Pongfinity!

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