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

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

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

September 27, 2017

Table Tennis People Who Owe Me Money
My trusting nature has cost me $450 plus interest. Maybe that’s not a huge amount over 41 years, but it’s an irritating $432 because of how they came about. (I’m probably owed other money over the years that I don’t recall offhand. These are the ones that stick out.)

Just last year I hired one of our local player/coaches to help run one of my beginning junior classes. He was short on money and asked if I could pay him $120 in advance. I did so. When the class started, he simply didn’t show, with no notice. The player still lives locally – about a mile from me, in fact - and coaches at a local rec center, but has never returned to MDTTC. I messaged him on Facebook (where he’s active and definitely got the message), texted him, emailed him, and called and left a message, but no response, not even an “I don’t have the money but will pay you later” note. (Not that that would have meant much after he didn’t show up to coach at the class as he’d been hired to do.) I’ve know the player since he was nine years old, practiced and coached him many hundreds of hours, used to coach him at tournaments, and gave him hundreds of rides. I later learned he did the same thing with another player, who he owes something like $300. What a disappointment.

A number of years ago a local player ran into an apparent problem. He was supposed to fly out to a major tournament in a few days, but couldn’t buy his air ticket until he received a check coming in the mail. He asked if I could lend him the money. I agreed, and paid for the $230 ticket. He later laughed at me, asking how gullible could I be to lend money to him, a con artist. So I’ll never see that money. Fortunately, that person would later run into major legal problems due to another scam attempt, and had to leave the U.S. to avoid creditors, not to mention getting banned by USATT. Karma. (Like the player above, I also had helped this player out extensively, giving him hundreds of rides.)

Seven different times since I began my Adult Training Sessions on Sundays someone has shown up but was unable to pay the $20. Seven times they absolutely and positively guaranteed they’d pay if I let them take part in the 90-minute sessions. Two of them were sincere and later paid. Five of them gave Academy Award-winning performances, and I never saw them again.

So . . . anybody out there want to borrow some money?

SafeSport Letter to USATT Community
Here’s the USATT notice.

EmRatThich: New Articles and Videos

Seemiller, McAfee, Chen, Ding Ning, Thompson, Tretheway, Quadri, Wijigunawardana, Hetherington, and Bobrow, Oh My!

Dan Seemiller: Living Legend Marks 21 Years in South Bend
Here’s the article on Dan Seemiller from the South Bend Tribune. “Danny Seemiller is a legend. Danny is a prominent name in table tennis and he is coaching right here in South Bend. He lives in the garden spot of the county, in New Carlisle. He coaches and mentors at the South Bend Table Tennis Club. The club will celebrate his 21 years of coaching with an open house from 3 to 5 p.m. Oct. 1.”

Richard McAfee - The Coaches' Coach
Here’s the article by Richard Finn. “Behind every great player there is a great coach, so goes the cliché. And behind many great coaches most likely there has been Richard McAfee.”

Bowen Chen Takes Crown at Robopong September BTTC Open 2017
Here’s the article.

Ding Ning from great to legend to immortality, moment of history awaits in Markham?
Here’s the ITTF article.

Mark Thompson New USATT Chief Operating Officer
Here’s the USATT article. At our last USATT board meeting (Sept. 9-10) I gave him an impromptu TT lesson during a break. He picked it up pretty well!

Bob Tretheway Memorial
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version – L-R: Aili Elliott, Scott Preiss, Henan Li Ai, Sean O'Neill, Dhiren Narotam, Larry Rose, Debbie Shuman and Norm Silver.)

Aruna Quadri Empowers Six Table Tennis Players with Equipment
Here’s the article from The Guardian in Nigeria.

Mudit Dani of India Wins Under-23 Table Tennis Tournament in US
Here’s the article from the Hindustan Times.

Denethi Wijigunawardana Interview
Here’s the article and video (2:38) from Samson Dubina. “Denethi Wijigunawardana is the 2017 College Regional Champion and current the #1 female player in Ohio.”

Matt Hetherington Has Fun with Duct Tape
Here’s the video (53 sec).

Adam Bobrow Celebration
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Yes, he gets a lot of coverage, but that’s because he has photos and videos like this! (Plus he is the “Voice of ITTF.”) The kid seems to be having fun too!

The Rough Diamonds Are Off. Talent Development on the Road to Buenos Aires
Here’s the ITTF article.

2017 Austrian Open: Finals Review
Here’s the video (1:38).

Ma Long & Liu Guoliang Training 2017
Here’s the video (6:17).

Russian New Generation
Here’s the video (6:24) – lots of nice action shots of up-and-coming Russians!

2x4 Board Pong?
Here’s the video (65 sec)! It kind of reminds you of Darth Maul, doesn’t it?

Send us your own coaching news!

September 26, 2017

Power Out
When I woke up this morning the power was out. I have no idea yet why, but it's been out for at least the last 2.5 hours. Alas, all my blogging files and links are on my desktop computer, so I don't have access to them. (I'm using my laptop on batteries for this.) So no blog today. Hopefully power will come back on soon. (I haven't called the power company yet, but will do so after this.) As if this weren't bad enough, I have a noon dentist appointment. To tide you over until tomorrow, check out the USATT news, ITTF news, or Butterfly news. Oh, and here's an animated gif of a man versus a cat

ADDENDUM 1 (1:00PM): Power came back on around 10:30AM. And I have the beginning of a cavity, and so have to go back to the dentist at 3PM for that. 

ADDENDUM 2 (4:00PM): Just got back from the dentist, gained a filling, spent $474 on checkup, cleaning, and new filling. There goes a lot of coaching hours....

ADDENDUM 3 (5:30PM): The pain killer that numbed my teeth and gums has worn off - and my teeth and gums HURT!!!

September 25, 2017

Tip of the Week
Assume You Have to Move.

Looping the Flip and Other Game Drills
One of the drills we did in my adult training class last night was a new one that none of them had done before. The drill itself was simple: one player served short to the other’s forehand; the receiver flipped the ball to the wide forehand (crosscourt – all the players were righties); and the server looped crosscourt, and the rally continued crosscourt, with the server looping against the receiver’s block. (If you are a hitter, you can do this hitting instead of looping.)

The drill is a subtle change on the more common version where you just serve topspin and start looping – now the server had to adjust his timing to looping against a flip, just as he’d have to do in a real match. The added bonus was the server got to work on his short serve to the forehand and his looping, while the receiver got to work on his flip and his blocking.

Once a player has the foundation of his strokes down, it’s important to do drills that bring in game-like conditions. For example, if you can forehand loop against backspin when your partner pushes to your forehand over and over, and backhand loop when your partner pushes to your backhand over and over, it’s time to make it more game-like, where your partner pushes anywhere randomly, and you have to loop, forehand or backhand.

Sundays are getting to be my favorite coaching time. I often have little private coaching, but have three consecutive 90-minute group sessions – the Beginning Junior Class at 4PM (16 players, I’m head coach); the Talent Junior program at 5:30PM (I think 24 players), and the Adult Training Session at 7PM (I’m head coach; numbers vary; last night we had eight).

Chen Bowen: Running Toward His Goals
Here’s the USATT version, and the Butterfly version. It’s an article I wrote on my fellow coach/player at MDTTC.

Lateral vs Deviation Sidespin Serves
Here’s the video (2:36) by Samson Dubina.

Is It Worth Buying Table Tennis Shoes?
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Ping Pong Training
Here’s the video (19:46) for learning about the sport, compiled by Jules Apatini. 

Table Tennis Footwork Patterns: Side to Side (Part 3)
Here’s the video (8:26) from EmRatThich.

Table Tennis Tidbits #9 - Fegerl: Odd Man “In” at the Polish Open ‘15
Here’s the article and video (13:32) by Robert Ho.

Here’s the video (2:42) featuring Coach Gregg Robertshaw and student Zelin, from the Triangle TTC. “We did a video clip over the last 2 months on "Motivation," where we started off trying to convince Zelin that he can play Table Tennis. As a coach, I tried to change his attitude where if he works hard, he will succeed. As we worked together, we took little steps at a time and conquer them. After few months, you'll be ready to win a few tournaments (actually, he has done this already). I truly gives us all kind of inspirations in watching him being motivated.”

World Table Tennis Wrap – Continental Clashes!
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Videos from EmRatThich

Duke Basketball Legend Christian Laettner Visits Virginia Beach for Ping-Pong Charity Event
Here’s the article and video (2:07). “Laettner's visit to Virginia Beach this weekend is not about hate - it's about love. It's not about basketball, either. It's about ping pong. ‘It's a great sport. I've been playing it my whole life and will play it until the day I die.’”

Lots of Table Tennis Pictures and Products
Here’s the page from Pinterest.

Top Ten Hand Switch Shots
Here’s the video (5:36).

Ice Pong!
Here’s the picture of a table and net made of solid ice. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Pong Evolution, the Live Version
A few days ago I linked to this Pong Evolution cartoon. Here is the Live Version! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) It stars, L-R: Adam Bobrow, Robert Gardos, Can Akkuzo, Omar Assar, and Berndt Öhler.

Sore Loser Pong
Here’s the animated gif!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 22, 2017

Moving and Stroking
I had a rather interesting session with Todd (age 12) on Wednesday. He’s played for about 1.5 years and is now pushing 1500 in our league ratings (1456), looping nearly everything on the forehand, and recently almost as much on the backhand. But there’s always been this strange problem at the start of our sessions where it often takes him 3-5 minutes before he can effectively forehand loop. It sometimes seems as if he’s forgotten how to do it.

Then I noticed something – whenever we do footwork drills, his looping technique looks pretty good. It’s only at the start of the session, where I’m blocking to one spot for him to loop that he often seems to struggle, often reaching for the ball with awkward technique and not getting much spin. So I tried something – I had him do one-one footwork right from the start, where I blocked to his wide forehand and then middle, and he moved side to side and forehand looped. Immediately he was looping really well!

Then we went back to my blocking to one spot, and his looping technique again deteriorated. That’s when it dawned on me – he loops much, Much, MUCH better when moving!!!

Perhaps he’s like the Sundance Kid, who couldn’t shoot well unless he was moving – see video (64 sec) from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” (Seven Academy Award Nominations in 1970, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won for four - Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Music – Original Song, and Best Music – Original Score. Alas, no table tennis, though here’s a picture of Paul Newman/Butch Cassidy and Robert Redford/The Sundance Kid playing table tennis doubles. Here’s another.)

I think there are three reasons why Todd (and probably others) loops better when moving.

  1. When moving to the right (he’s a righty), it puts him in perfect position to use the momentum of his movement to rotate his body into the shot. 
  2. When moving to the left, he uses the momentum of his movement to rotate his body back more so he gets a better swing.
  3. When I block mostly to one spot, he doesn’t have to move much, and so loses that habit, and so ends up not making the minor adjustments needed for each shot, and so ends up with an awkward stroke. When I move him, he gets back into that habit, and so is in position for each shot.

So all you lazy ping-pong players – here’s still another reason why you should be practicing your footwork! (See my Tip, Are You a Tree or a Squirrel?)

Is Conformity of Styles Hurting the Sport of Table Tennis?
Here’s the article from Matt Hetherington.

Forehand Topspin Technique – Chinese Technique
Here’s the article and video (16:45) from EmRatThich.

How to Play a Forehand Flick
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis.

The Changing Climate of Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Does Coaching Qualification Affect Our Sport?
Here’s the article from Coach Me Table Tennis.

Has Clothing Anything to Do with the Popularity of Table Tennis?
Here’s the article and pictures from Sports Flu.

Get to Know the Different Table Tennis Conversion Tops in the Market
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Austrian Open
Here’s the home page for the event, in Linz, Austria, Sept. 19-24. 

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

Our Champion for Peace: Tahl Leibovitz
Here’s the article. And here’s another.

Paddle Palace Club Host First USATT Class 11 Training and Classification Event
Here’s the article by Sean O’Neill.

Retirees Surprise Virginia Beach Kids with Ping Pong Table
Here’s the video (1:45).

Ma Long and Fang Bo Training
Here’s the video (7:56) of the world #1 and #11 players from China in training.

360 Degree View of Marcos Freitas & Stefan Fegerl
Here’s the video (67 sec) - left-click and grab and move around 360 degrees!

Who Will Win in a Table Tennis Match, North Korea vs. USA?
Here’s the article and somewhat funny video (1:39) from Sports Flu.

Waldner and Persson Chop Smashing and Lobbing Exhibition
Here’s the video (1:48).

A Little Ping-Pong Math?
Here’s the pong puzzle. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Ball Bath and a Drink?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Bouncing Ping-Pong Ball
Just a mesmerizing, hypnotic bouncing ping-pong ball. Watch it all weekend.

Pachyderm Pong
Did you know that today is National Elephant Appreciation Day? And so I give you…

Send us your own coaching news!

September 21, 2017

School Closed, Larry’s Off
The local schools are closed as a “Non-Instructional Day,” presumably because of Rosh Hashanah. As is my normal policy, when the schools are closed, I’m off too. (Though I’ll spend much of the day on various writing and other projects.) We have a one-day camp today at MDTTC. I’m not needed in it – we have ten coaches at the club – but I may go in later and help out as a practice partner. Then I have three hours of private coaching from 5:30-8:30PM. Meanwhile, to tide you over until tomorrow, here’s an animated gif of Speedy Gonzales playing table tennis. So . . . who would win in a battle between Speedy Gonzales and the Energizer Battery?

September 20, 2017

Old Ping-Pong Stuff
My house is loaded with old ping-pong stuff. Here’s a rundown.

  • I have well over 100 collared table tennis shirts in my closet, mostly from Butterfly, the oldest dating back to (gulp!) the late 1970s!!! But I don’t wear the old ones anymore. I have about 40 I use regularly, all from the last five years, all with my name and MDTTC on the back.
  • I still have the Newgy robot I used to lug around for group sessions at various locations in Maryland back in the early 1990s. Alas, it’s still set for 38 mm balls, and hasn’t been used since at least 2000, when the world switched to 40mm balls. I’m not sure what to do with it.
  • I have table tennis rackets on my shelves from the 1980s, and sheets of sponge almost that old.
  • I always keep a chopping blade (with long pips on one side) in my bag so students can practice against chopping. Until a year ago I had the same racket and sponge for this for over 25 years! (It’s at the club, and I forget the type of racket it is but it was a “top” chopping blade circa 1990 or so.) I finally got a new racket and sponge for this. (The new one is a Butterfly Joo Saehyuk blade with Tackiness Chop II 1.9mm black on the forehand, Feint Long II 1.3mm red on the backhand.
  • 244 books on table tennis, going back to 1902.
  • A drawer full of table tennis stickers and pins, with some from the 1970s.
  • Boxes and shelves of old table tennis magazines going back to the 1970s.
  • I have two weighted rackets for shadow stroking. One is a nice wooden one I got in 1994 in Taiwan when I was coached the USA Junior Team at the World Youth Cup Championships. The other is a make-shift one someone made for me by gluing two rackets together – in the late 1970s!  

And now we get to my table tennis racket. I started playing in 1976. From 1976-1979 I used a LOT of rackets and sponges – I kept changing, sometimes breaking them in disgust. I’ve always said that when you start out, you should experiment a lot, trying out the rackets of others at your club until you find something that works. But once you do find something that works, unless your game changes or the technology changes (really changes, which happens perhaps once every ten years), stick to the one that works until it’s practically a part of you. Here’s my history of table tennis rackets since 1979.

  • 1979-1987: Seemiller H Blade, Sriver on both sides.
  • 1987-2008: Butterfly Oberon blade, Selvid on forehand, Sriver on backhand.
  • 2008-2010: JOOLA Fever blade (I forget what sponge).
  • 2010-present: Butterfly Timo Boll ALC, with Tenergy 05 on forehand, Tenergy 25 on backhand (though I’ve been experimenting with 05 on backhand some). Though I have several backups that I often use when coaching, my primary one is still the same one I started with in 2010. It was given to me by Tong Tong Gong as a reward for coaching him to an upset spot on the U.S. National Cadet team. (I was between sponsors at the time.) It’s the very racket he used when he made the team seven years ago, and has his name still carved on it!

Alas, it’s not just table tennis stuff I have that’s old. My car is a 1997 Toyota Corolla that I hope will last me forever (or until they have affordable self-driving cars). My dresser originally belonged to my grandparents, and is at least from the 1950s. And here’s the really scary one with a whole story itself – my wallet is 36 years old! Here’s the story on that. It’s falling apart, but I keep putting on duct tape to keep it together. I’m determined to make it last forever.

Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Simplify for Better and Quicker Returns
Here’s the article, with links to video, from Table Tennis Spot.

Butterfly Presents: Footwork Drills, Stefan Feth, Drill No. 9
Here’s the video (75 sec, though it really starts 35 sec in).

Third Ball Attack in Table Tennis
Here’s the article from EmRatThich.

How to Protect Your Table Tennis Racket
Here’s the article from EmRatThich.

USATT Release Tentative Event Schedule for 2017 US Open Championships
Here’s the USATT info page. Hope to see you there!

USATT Establishes Youth Ambassador Council to Promote Grassroots Programs
Here’s the USATT news item, from June 27 – but the deadline is coming up, Oct. 3.

US Team Reflect on Cartagena - 5 Medals and a Wealth of Experience
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Chinese Superstar Olympians Visit USA to Celebrate 45 Year Anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. “Social media was buzzing with life as four legends of Chinese Table Tennis visited the USA as part of a 30 strong delegation to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of China-US Ping Pong Diplomacy. Grand Slam Champion Ding Ning, three time Olympic Silver medalist Wang Hao, 2000 Olympic Doubles Champion Yang Sen and 2-time Olympic Doubles Gold Medalist Qiao Hong were part of the team to attend a trio of special events in America.”

Zhu Yuling Claims Victory in Asia, Qualifies for World Cup
Here’s the article.

Presper Financial Architects Open - Tournament Results, Photos, Videos!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tourney Doubles As Mentorship Program
Here’s the article and video (2:11) from CBS Chicago.

World University Games Vlog Part 1
Here’s the video (13:13) from Nathan Hsu, a member of the USA World University Team. (He's been over 2500 and is currently rated 2475.) 

Time to Watch the Austrian Open!
Here’s the home page for the event, in Linz, Austria, Sept. 19-24. Here’s the ITTF promo video (67 sec).

Timo Boll vs Marcos Freitas (ETTC 2017 Final)
Here’s the video (9:28) of the Men’s Singles Final at the European Championships.

This is How Ping-Pong Balls are Made
Here’s the video (1:42).

Top 10 Best Point of China National Game 2017
Here’s the video (4:53).

Table Tennis Has its Dangers
Here’s the video (71 sec) of funny table tennis mishaps!

The Competitive Ping-Pong Player vs. The Competitive Table Tennis Player
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

September 19, 2017

Backhand Topspins
Last Thursday I blogged about Teaching the Topspinny Backhand, and teaching it to an 8-year-old girl. I’d held back with her and others on this because I didn’t want to mess them up just before our “Talent” program trials. But now that they are over, we’re going backhand topspin crazy – and it’s great!

On Sunday I coached Todd, age 12, on topspinning his backhand. Before that he had a decent backhand loop against backspin, but mostly hit his backhand in rallies. Within minutes of trying it out he was playing backhand topspins like a pro, at least in rote drills where he knew where the ball was going. It’ll take time to incorporate this successfully more random drills and in matches – but on the other hand, I told him it would take time to incorporate the shot into drills, and that time turned out to be minutes.

Maybe I should just tell everyone to copy Ma Long, tell them it’ll take them time to incorporate his shots, and watch them all play like Ma Long in minutes.

To me, the biggest change in the game since I started out in 1976 has been backhand play. Back then most players either hit their backhand or they backed up and topspinned, and I’m comfortable playing against either style. Now they’re staying right up to the table and topspinning. It’s not fair - there should be a rule that you have to choose!  

Coaching This Particular Grip
Here’s the video (3:03) from Samson Dubina as Bowen Chen demonstrates and explains his penhold grip, which allows for a powerful forehand and a reverse penhold backhand. “One of the most difficult things for young kids to learn with modern penhold is the grip pressure. It is significantly more difficult than shakehands. My friend Chen Bowen gives a brief explanation of his grip. Even if you don't play RPB style, I think that you will find this video interesting and informative.”

The Truth about Chinese Rubbers/Ma Long Forehand Rubber
Here’s the article and video (6:45) from EmRatThich.

The Master of Ball Placement - Jan-Ove Waldner
Here’s the video (4:39)

National Collegiate Table Tennis September Newsletter
Here’s the new edition. Note the first article, “NCTTA Coaching Certification - A Success.”

Immense Battle - Silver for Wu, Top Honors for Adriana Diaz at 2017 PanAm Champs
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington.

Lin Gaoyuan Lays Ghost to Rest, Now a Winner
Here’s the ITTF article on Lin winning Men’s Singles at the Asian Cup.

Romania Returns to the Top After 12 Year Wait, Gold Medal Finish Secured
Here’s the ITTF article on Germany winning Women’s Teams at the European Championships.

Trophy Belongs to Germany, Four Year Wait Finally Over
Here’s the ITTF article on Germany winning Men’s Teams at the European Championships.

World Table Tennis Wrap-up
Here’s the ITTF article. “It's been a huge week of table tennis, with continental kings and queens being crowned. Checkout the world table tennis wrap-up to find out what went down on the courts around the globe.”

2017 Butterfly Badger Open Final Highlights - Eugene Wang vs Jishan Liang
Here’s the video (6:58).

Lin Gaoyuan and Fan Zhendong in the Asian Cup 2017
Here’s the video (10:06, time between points removed, English commentary).

Xu Xin “The Show Man”
Here’s the video (57 sec) showing four great points.

Fegerl-Karlsson Exhibition
Here’s the video (3:37) from one year ago. Pretty funny routines!

Evolution Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 18, 2017

Tip of the Week
Always Think of a Loop as a Set-up Shot.

In my 57th year I have this seven-year itch to tell seven of nine stories I have on sevens. Here are my seven deadly sins stories of seven, otherwise known as the magnificent seven.

  1. Seven hours becomes one hour on Saturday. I normally have seven hours of coaching scheduled on Saturdays, my busiest day, from 10AM-5PM with no break (plus 5:30-7:30PM twice a month). But an extraordinary thing happened this past Saturday, or rather six of them. My 10AM student told me a few days in advance he was away and wouldn’t be able to come in. My 11AM student emailed that morning that he had strep throat and couldn’t come in. My 1PM student emailed that morning that he’d forgotten to tell me that he was out of town this weekend and couldn’t come in. From 2-4PM I have two students who come in together, but they were away at a tournament and so neither were coming in. My 4PM student had a family thing he had to go to and so had rescheduled the session for Sunday. Result? My seven hours of coaching became one hour. (I spent the day writing four Tips of the Week, most of this blog – including this – and working on three different science fiction stories.)
  2. Two of seven pays on Sunday. I run an adult training session on Sundays from 7-8:30PM. Two weeks ago a new player came in for the session, but forgot to bring cash or check. (I can’t take credit cards. The club can, but at 7PM on Sundays the staff is gone.) He absolutely, positively guaranteed that he’d come back later and pay the $20. I pointed out that this had happened exactly six times before, and while all six promised to pay, only one had. Like the previous six, the player gave his absolute word that he’d pay. So I let him in the session. Two weeks later – yesterday – he showed up and paid!!! So now it’s two for seven.  
  3. The mystery of why I put a seven centimeter bandage on my foot on Wednesday. I was off on Monday and Tuesday this past week. I was fine both days, and absolutely, positively did not have a huge gash on the back on my foot. But when I woke up on Wednesday morning, guess what I had? Yeah, a huge gash there. This may be the mystery of all mysteries – where did it come from? Did a werewolf come through the window while I was sleeping and gnaw at my foot? I don’t know. All I know was that it was painful, and forced me to limp. I almost cancelled my three hours of coaching that night, but after putting a bandage on it, I was able to play, though moving aggravated it. 
  4. On September 7 I learned that I’m going to have to pay about $1200 for repairs to the electrical grid in my building. We had a meeting on this, and that’s how much it’s going to cost, divided by all of the townhouses using it. Plus I had to cancel two lessons to make the meeting, costing me another $100.
  5. Why I’ll have to cancel seven hours of coaching on Oct. 7. Because I’ll be a panelist at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Gaithersburg, MD. Here’s my bio there.
  6. Seven books on table tennis by me on sale at Amazon. So why not buy one of these? (I also have Instructors Guide to Table Tennis, but that’s free at USATT.)
    1. Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
    2. Table Tennis Tips
    3. More Table Tennis Tips
    4. Table Tennis Tales and Techniques
    5. Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook
    6. The Spirit of Pong
    7. Table Tennis: Steps to Success (out of print, but used versions are still for sale. I plan to do a rewrite of this eventually, maybe next year.)
  7. In seven days I see the dentist. NOOOO!!!!!

USATT National Team Coaches Development Group
Here’s the info page by USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio.

Club Owners and Managers
Are you a club owner or manager that's looking to make the most out of your club?  Are you thinking about starting a new club?  The USATT Clubs Committee has started a new Facebook Group to help share best practices to make clubs successful. Come join us!

ITTF PanAm Championships
Here’s the home page for the event which finished yesterday in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia

Asian Cup
Here’s the home page for the event which finished yesterday in Ahmedabad, India.

European Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, which finished yesterday in Luxembourg.

How to Deal with Nerves in Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Ma Long Training: Backhand, Forehand & Serve
Here’s the video (11:02) from Table Tennis AZ. They have a lot of other great videos on their blog page.

Eugene Wang Captures 4th Badger Open Title
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

US Olympian Timothy Wang Takes on New Role at ICC Table Tennis Center
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington.

New Videos from EmRatThich

ITTF Monthly Pongcast
Here’s the video (12:31). I thought I'd posted this, but can't find it. 

Top Ten Unknown Facts About the Legend Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (60 sec).

Have You Seen This Kid Before?
Here’s the video (2:04) featuring Japanese whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto, #13 in the world at age 14.

Top Ten Women’s Points: #10
Here’s the video (20 sec) from Table Tennis Canada, between Yu Mengyu of Singapore (world #35, formerly #10) and Pesotska Margaryta of Ukraine (world #39 in 2014).

Racketlon: The Ironman of Racket Sports
Here’s the video (2:25) on this combination of table tennis, tennis, badminton, and squash.

Little Big Shots Philippines: 11-year-old Table Tennis Player
Here’s the video (4:32), where he and the host have a funny and then dramatic battle with a table tennis robot. “Little Big Shots (PH) is the Philippine adaptation of the hit TV show Little Big Shots (US) created by Ellen DeGeneres and hosted by Steve Harvey. It is a showcase of cute and talented kids from all over the Philippines and around the world. Viewers can get to know these kids as they engage in funny chats and interviews with host Billy Crawford.”

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September 15, 2017

A USATT Coaches Training and Certification Program
There are currently two ways of becoming certified as a USATT coach. One is the USATT certification process itself, which explains how to become a Club, State, Regional, or National Coach. (There is also an Instructor category, which is for non-table tennis people with teaching experience, such as PE teachers. I wrote the Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis for this, which has also been used at the Club level for many years.) The other is to take one of the ITTF coaching courses, where Levels 1, 2, and 3 equate to State, Regional, and National coaches.

However, as is often pointed out, the ITTF coaching courses weren’t really set up as a certification process, and they don’t always teach what we specifically would like taught at each level. And so we are now looking into possibly setting up our own USATT coaches education and certification process. (I’d be working closely with others on this, such as USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio and former coaching chair Richard McAfee.)

While I inherited the current process (appointed earlier this year as chair), I actually set up much of it when I was coaching chair for four years back in the 1990s. The situation back then was very different as we had few active coaches, and less than ten full-time professional coaches in the U.S., probably more like five. So to be a club coach, all you have to do right now is pass a simple open-book test. But now we have over 300 full-time professional coaches and over 90 full-time centers (compared to just one or two back then), and we need to raise our standards.

I wrote about this idea when I ran for the USATT board, with plans for a “USATT Coaching Academy.” One semi-step was the USATT University we had at the USA Nationals in July, where we had eight one-hour seminars, including ones on serving, receiving, and setting up and running a junior program. But while that was educational for the attendees, I’d like to have something bigger, more comprehensive.

Assuming we stay with the same levels, here’s a quick draft for the prerequisites, requirements, and skills needed for each level. The list of “Skills needed” are roughly from the current certification guidelines, but much of the rest is new and still in the beginning planning stages. One thing I’m beginning to believe is that most of the “education” should be at the Club, State, and Regional levels, while at the Regional and National level it’s about actual experience working with high-level players in training while applying the knowledge learned from previous levels. (Yes, there’s overlap between Regional and Nationals here.) I’m also thinking about whether we should require State coaches to attend at least some major training camps so they can be exposed to high-level training.

  • Club coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have achieved a 1400 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least two years, or equivalent, and 100 tournament or league matches. This is to show minimal experience in table tennis.
    • Requirements. Attend a six-hour course taught by a high-level (regional or national?) coach. The course would focus on the main techniques of table tennis. I blogged about this on Sept. 1. One additional item would be to require the reading of a manual or substantive article on teaching or coaching, though at this level we wouldn’t test them on this.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a Club coach should be able to “teach basic skills and techniques; plan and carry out training sessions with beginning player groups; coach beginning players on competitive match play; and teach beginning players up to a USATT rating level of 1700.”
  • State coach
    • Prerequisites: Must have been a club coach or equivalent for at least two years. Must have achieved a 1600 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least five years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. Attend a two-day course taught by a high-level (national?) coach. The course would focus on more advanced techniques than at the club level. It would also focus on tactics, sports psychology, physical training, and on actual teaching methods, i.e. pedagogy.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a State coach should be able to “Plan and carry out individual and group sessions for player development; teach basic and advanced skills and techniques; maintain a greater knowledge of major concepts of technical training and physical training conditioning methods; to teach players from beginner up to a USATT Rating level of 1850.”
  • Regional coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have been a State coach or equivalent for at least three years. Must have achieved a 2100 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least eight years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. Attend coaching courses (five days?) taught in conjunction with USATT National Team camps, and gain extensive experience by watching these camps. Attend other coaching seminars as needed. More emphasis on setting up and running large-scale programs, especially junior programs. Large emphasis now on high-level techniques. Lots of video study and analysis would be done at these camps. A lot of experience is now needed working with high-level players.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a Regional coach should be able to “plan and carry out training sessions for players and coaching development; have knowledge of advanced training concepts for higher-level player development; to learn tournament organization methods; and be able to teach intermediate adult and juniors from 1750 up to a USATT rating level of 2250.”
  • National coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have been a Regional coach or equivalent for at least three years. Must have achieved a 2300 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least ten years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. To attain level, a coach should be showing results. He should be developing high-level players and running coaching sessions with high-level players, including group junior sessions. He would be required to attend USATT camps held in conjunction with USATT National Teams, and attend seminars run by USATT National coaches on a semi-regular basis. Emphasis now is on developing players at the highest level with the highest level techniques.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a National coach should “have a comprehensive knowledge of working with junior and senior elite players; be able to train and coach players for conditioning and competition at the highest levels, including the Worlds and Olympic Games; and demonstrate strong leadership for the sport of table tennis and represented entities in all coaching experiences.”

When the Tail Wags the Dog
Here’s the article by Ben Larcombe from Expert Table Tennis. “Today, I’m looking at a common forehand loop mistake – something I refer to as ‘the tail wagging the dog’ – and what should happen instead… ‘power from the ground.’ If you have trouble playing a strong forehand loop when the ball is placed wide to your forehand, or often find yourself out of position after the shot, this article is for you.”

Speaking of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Coach Jon. “While talking table tennis is great, there are times when it might be better to not talk so much. I’ve found that during a match there are three people I don’t need to talk to. One would be spectators, the other is my opponent, and the most important is myself.”

Interesting side note and gratuitous self-promotion – in my science fiction novel “Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions,” one of the main characters, Bruce, is a professional table tennis player. (There are a number of table tennis scenes in the novel.) Chapter five is titled, “Arguing at the U.S. College Table Tennis Championships” (college sports are now all professional – it’s the year 2100) – and it ends with Bruce playing in the final of the national championships, where it’s deuce in the fifth – and he gets into simultaneous arguments with his opponent, the umpire, and a group of spectators, all while listening on his thought computer to events unfolding at the United Nations, where alien first contact is being made. He ends up walking off the court to join (and eventually run) a third-party challenge in the election for president of Earth. (The world has adopted the American two-party electoral system in this drama-satire.) This character Bruce (which is my middle name) is really just me unleashed to say whatever I want!

Hundreds of Free Articles from Samson Dubina
Here’s the links page – he’s got them all organized by type now.

Zhu Zhaohui Backhand Against Backspin in Slow Motion
Here’s the video (4:28).

Flawless Performance Leads Jha to Gold in Croatia
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington as USA Kanak Jha wins the Croatian Under 18 Boys’ Singles.

ITTF PanAm Championships
It’s taking place right now in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia, Sept. 11-17. Here’s the home page (with links to draws, results, news, livestreaming, photos, and everything else).

Asian Cup
Here’s the home page for the event which starts today, Sept. 15-17 in Ahmedabad, India.

Rising Youth Stars from a Place (and with a Style) You Might Not Expect
Here’s the article featuring protégés of Coach Dan Seemiller from South Bend, Indiana - Marty Stoner, Dion Payne-Miller, Dionta Payne-Miller, Dominique Clark, and Ronnie Coleman. And four of the five use the “Seemiller” grip!

Top Ten Facts You Didn’t Know About Ma Long
Here’s the article and discussion thread (from Table Tennis Daily) about the world #1 and reigning two-time world men’s champion.

Mo Zhang Prepares to Fight on Home Ground
Here’s the article on the Canadian star. “Canada’s very own Mo Zhang will enter the field of 16 players at the 2017 Uncle Pop Women’s World Cup in Markham from 27-29 October.”

Home-Made Tables in Nassau
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) That’s Richard McAfee (the tall one) teaching an ITTF class in Nassau, Bahamas.

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

Asuka Sakai: World’s Fastest Serve
Here’s the video (25 sec) as Adam Bobrow takes on the world’s fastest serve. It doesn’t go well. (I think I linked to a similar but different video previously.)

Facebook Live with Adam Bobrow
Here’s the video (70 min) though of course it’s no longer live. Adam is the “Voice of Table Tennis” as the commentator for the ITTF at their major events. (You don’t have to be on Facebook to see it.)

50-Shot Rally – Saive vs. Merchez
Here’s the video (69 sec) as Jean-Michel Saive (former world #1 from early 1990s) fishes and eventually lobs over and over against fellow Belgian player Cédric Merchez in the 2017 Super Division. Ironically, Merchez himself is a great fisher/lobber – here’s a video (10:21) featuring his own fishing style.  

Casual Behind-the-Back Winner
Here’s the video (32 sec) as Jonathan Groth of Denmark (world #37) makes an emergency return off a net ball before winning the point with this shot against Mattias Karlsson of Sweden (world #22).

Best of China National Games 2017
Here’s the video (4:11).

Matrix Ping-Pong
It’s been a while since I’ve linked to what may be the most hilarious table tennis video ever made. Here’s the video, and four parodies!

Non-Table Tennis – “When Parallel Lines Meet”
My new science fiction novel comes out Oct. 31. When it does, the kindle version will be $6.99. But if you pre-order now, it’s only $2.99! You can also pre-order the print version for $14.99. Sorry, no table tennis, but lots of aliens!!! (It’s set up out of sequence – I wrote the “origin” story of the main character, which actually comes at the ending 1/3 of the novel. His main two co-stars in my segment, set about a thousand years in the future, are three genetically enhanced “pets,” with human intelligence – a comedic two-faced (literally!) rhesus monkey; a passive-aggressive miniature blue whale; and a giant cottlesnake (half cobra, rattlesnake, 100% nasty). His job is to find home worlds for their races. I co-wrote the novel with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. Resnick is a legendary writer, with a record 37 Hugo nominations and five wins.

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September 14, 2017

Teaching the Topspinny Backhand
When a player first learns to play, they learn basic forehands and backhands, which include putting at least a very light topspin on the ball. A proper stroke automatically puts some topspin on the ball as the racket is moving forward and slightly up at contact. Beginners often hit the ball almost straight on, and so generate little or no topspin. Here’s a good backhand drive video (2:55, from ITTF). This teaches the standard, light topspin backhand. Here's a good backhand topspin video (3:18, from EmRatThich) showing a more topspinny backhand. Note how the racket tip drops down, allowing more topspin from the stroke. In the ITTF video, lefty Timo Boll is shown for a few seconds hitting backhands 28 seconds in, and also topspins his backhand this way. 

One of my students, age 8, tends to hit the ball almost straight on, resulting in a rather erratic backhand that’s more a blocking motion than a stroke, with the ball coming out dead. I could have done the standard slow progression to getting more topspin, but since she tended toward blocking, this would likely lead to more of a blocking-type backhand, and I wanted more. I've watched great backhand players like Crystal Wang, Han Xiao, and many others develop at my club and know how they and other top players developed their backhands.

So yesterday I went the other extreme and decided to spend over half of our hour session on turning her backhand into a real topspin backhand - not quite a backhand loop, but a backhand drive with good topspin. (I’m feeding multiball to her with light topspin.) Fortunately several of our top juniors were playing on nearby tables, hitting topspinny backhands. So I had her watch them to get a good mental image of what I wanted her to do. (I’m copyrighting the term “topspinny” – if you use it, you owe me $1! Here’s my Tip of the Week on the topic, from July 29, 2013, Topspinny Backhands.)

It took some time, but she suddenly got the knack of it – and started putting real topspin on the ball! Some of them were almost scary. If someone had asked me a month ago I would have said she was at least six months away from hitting backhands like that, but often we limit players by limiting them in our thinking. She’s also learning to forehand loop against backspin (and already has a decent forehand drive), so hopefully she’ll be developing into a serious two-winged topspin attacking threat. Next week I plan to introduce her to backhand looping against backspin, as well as incorporating that topspin backhand into regular backhand to backhand rallies. (I didn’t want to do that in yesterday’s session yet – not until she’s really got it down so she won’t fall back into blocking when we rally.)

2017 ITTF PanAm Championships
It’s taking place right now in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia, Sept. 11-17. Here are some links.

Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth: Drill No. 8
Here’s the video (1:43).

Pre Match Routines
Here’s the podcast (33:53) from PingSkills.

You Think Table Tennis is Not a Sport?
Here’s the video (9:12). I’ve seen a number of videos with this title and thought they were the same one, but discovered that there are several different versions.

Table Tennis Town
Here’s the video (1:26) about this table tennis club in Tokyo, which even has a table tennis themed restaurant.

Top 3 Table Tennis Ghost Points
Here’s the video (1:40). “Ghost Points” are when you hit the ball with backspin so the ball bounces back and away from the opponent.

Kenta Matsudaira & Jun Mizutani Demonstration and Exhibition
Here’s the video (3:10). After playing spectators, they play exhibition points near the end.

Best Trick Serve Ever?
Here’s the video (20 sec).

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