Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each! Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational ficiton, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

January 16, 2017

MLK Day
It's MLK Day, so I'm off! (Well, sort of . . . I'll be at my desk working with Tim Boggan for a gazillion hours today, then coaching tonight.) And here's the Tip of the Week (which I'll also link to tomorrow): Coaching and Playing Under the New ITTF Coaching Rule. See you tomorrow. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 28.)

January 13, 2017

The 800-Pound Gorilla in the Ping-Pong Hall: Muscle Memory
Think about it: everything you do when you play table tennis beyond the beginning level involves muscle memory. Muscle memory controls your strokes and serves, your reactions to the opponents' shot, even most of your tactics.

I'm sure there are many advanced studies on this, but what's important here is the practical aspect. And for that, I would say there are two types of muscle memory in table tennis: what I will call "rote muscle memory" and "reactive muscle memory." (I'm sure there are actual technical terms for this, but I'm not going for the technical side here.)

Rote muscle memory is what you use when you tie your shoelaces, play a song you know well on an instrument, do table tennis serves, or hit forehand to forehand with someone who keeps the ball in the same place. It's the first thing beginners learn as they develop into intermediate players. Without this, you simply wouldn't be able to make high-level shots with any consistency. An example of this is a demo I regularly give in my classes, where I put a water bottle on the far side of the table, and then rapid-fire smack it over and over with my forehand, all the while carrying on a conversation with the players. The shot is so ingrained into my rote muscle memory that I can hit it ten times in a row pretty regularly from about eight feet away. (I have a box of balls on my side so I can rapid-fire grab them to hit.)

Reactive muscle memory is what you use when you field a baseball, play "Simon Says," or rally in table tennis. It's the next step beyond rote muscle memory in that you not only have to have the muscle memory for a specific set of movements, but have to adapt them almost instantly to the situation. When an opponent puts heavy spin on the ball or hits it very hard away from you, you use reactive muscle memory to adapt to the shot with the correct muscle memory. This takes longer to learn than simple rote muscle memory. The primary difference between a top player and a non-top player is how advanced their reactive muscle memory is. It involves reacting properly to shots, i.e. reacting quickly, moving to the ball, choosing the right shot and placement, using proper technique, the right contact, racket angle, etc.

You use this type of muscle memory more than you'd think - even for tactics. As I wrote about in my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, most tactics are subconscious. You don't stop in the middle of a rally and say to yourself, "Hey, my opponent is a little out of position, and so if I go quick to his forehand I will score the point." Instead, your subconscious, through years of reactive muscle memory training (i.e. playing table tennis games and certain types of drills), reflexively sees the opening and you go there (and doubtless take credit for it), just as you'd reflexively close your racket against an incoming heavy topspin or reflexively loop a deep ball while not doing so against a short ball. In fact, the only tactics that aren't primarily subconscious (i.e. reactive muscle memory) are serving tactics, where you get to consciously choose your serve - though you'd be surprised at how much your subconscious is involved in that selection as well. Tactics in a rally have to be reactive, so while you may consciously tell yourself to push aggressively against a short backspin serve, you still have to react to it subconsciously when it happens - yes, reactive rote memory. (But telling yourself to do something in a given situation is how you communicate with your subconscious so that it learns what to do.)

How did this topic come up? Last night I was coaching a 7-year-old, and she popped the ball up. I smashed it, and she said she was afraid I'd hit her. So I put out the water bottle and demoed that the ball will go where I want it to go, that I wasn't going to hit her unless I wanted to hit her, and that the more she practiced, the better she would be at it as well. Next thing you know, I was in a philosophical discussion with a 7-year-old on the various types of muscle memory! She was proud of how fast she could tie her shoelaces, and so I used that as an example of rote muscle memory. She was pretty good at spinning the ball in the "spin and catch" exercise I use to teach beginners to spin the ball (see #6 in this blog), which is the "rote" part, but had trouble catching the ball since she couldn't always control where it went, i.e. the "reactive" part.

Friday the 13th
Yes, it's the day all Friggatriskaidekaphobias fear most. Here's Jason Vorhees wishing you a Very Happy Friday the 13th. ("I Jason. I no Loop. I smash. I Kill.") While we're at it, here's an extremely acrobatic black cat at the net (2:01). It's hilarious, and set to music. And here are two ghosts playing table tennis. And heck, here's a picture of Tim "Hulk" Boggan! (Hulk scary!)

Daily Update: Volume 19 of History of U.S. Table Tennis
Tim Boggan and I started work at 3PM on Tuesday, Jan. 10. I'm doing the page layouts and photo work. Most of the layouts were actually done in advance by Tim, who literally cut & pasted them from old magazines! He then sent them to Mal Anderson, who scanned all the pages. (Something like half the photos used are Mal Anderson photos. I've typed "Photo by Mal Anderson" more times than I've breathed in my life.) Tim used to type of the text, but this saves time - which is why the volumes are coming out every six months now instead of annually.

You'd think this would make my job easier - but it doesn't. I'm spending hours on page after page, fixing them up from paper cuts and other stuff that shows up in the scans, plus cleaning up each photo, and adding captions to each (which weren't in the scans).

Just for the record, all three of us (Tim, Mal, and I) are USATT Hall of Famers!

Book is projected to be 25 chapters, 500 pages, 1700 graphics. Current status, through Thursday night, Jan. 12:

  • 134 pages (front and back covers, 4 front pages, 7 chapters)
  • 524 graphics

Brief Analysis of the Application of Sun Tzu’s Art of War on Table Tennis
Here's the article.

Ask a Table Tennis Coach
There are two more segments at Expert Table Tennis.

  • #8: How to Add Wrist to Your Forehand Loop
  • #9: Ask a Table Tennis Coach - 009: How to Become a Professional Table Tennis Player

Ding Ning Tomahawk Serve Technique Slowmotion 2017
Here's the video (4:14).

Table Tennis Training with Jan-Ove Waldner?
Here's info - apparently it's Fridays 6-10PM in Ottawa, Canada - and it started in November and continues until June 2, 2017. I'm confused - is Waldner (of Sweden) in Canada on Friday nights? If this is verified, I might find an excuse to go up there one Friday.

5 Physical Activities to Try as You Get Older
Here's the article from NetDoctor - see #2. Here's USATT's link to the article - see the picture above, of me? Is that a hint?!!! (I'm "only" 56! But 57 in February.)

Destinations of the World Tour
Here's the ITTF article.

Turning Tables
Here's the article where Irish Paralympian Eimear Breathnach tells how love of sport helped her cope with horrific accident that left her wheelchair bound.

Newlywed Table Tennis Icon Fukuhara Putting Family First
Here's the article from the Japan Times (in English).

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

Tress Way and Nick Sundberg Compete at Table Tennis Club
Here's the article about the two Washington Redskins players competing at the Smash TTC in Virginia!

The Mercy Rule
Here's the video (42 sec) from PingSkills.

Younger Generation Challenge Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (17 sec).

Paddle Palace Trick Shot #1
Here's the video (8 sec) of Tom Roeser

Google's Circle Shaped Ping Pong Table
Here's the article and picture. It's from the Google Asian office! I really want to see a video of them playing on this.

24 Most Funny Table Tennis Pictures
Here's the page!

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January 12, 2017

USATT Election
As noted in yesterday's blog, USATT has an election coming up. Yay!!! Here's info. It was also in yesterday's USATT Insider, and will be in a mass email by USATT to members this Friday.

The candidates are Attila Malek and Rajul Sheth, who are running for the open At-Large position (a four-year term) held by Mike Babuin the past eight years. (He's term-limited from running again.) As you'll learn from their campaign statements, both have been very active and successful in their table tennis careers. I've debated about whether to endorse one, but frankly, I don't want to do that when I'm fine with either - both will bring their expertise to develop the sport, both at the grassroots and elite levels. When the day comes that I do endorse a candidate, it'll likely mean that there's both a candidate I really want to see on the board AND a candidate that I really don't want to see on the board. And believe me, there are many who fit both categories!

One reason I don't want to get into this is that while I agree on most issues with both, there are also some disagreements. I've found that when I get into these things, if you agree with someone on 9 out of 10 issues, guess which one gets all the attention? I'm ready to work with either, but at the same time, at some point I'll want to sit down with whoever won and go over my thoughts on the their campaign statements - specifically, the specifics! Yes, the Devil is in the details. Trying to get things done with USATT, with its severe lack of resources despite being an Olympic sport governing body for a country of 320 million, can sometimes be maddening. I know; I have my own campaign promises that I've been working towards. (I'm halfway through my own four-year term.)

Of course, one added incentive to staying out of this is that for the next ten days or so I'll be working 18 hours/day (Tim's book - see below - plus my usual coaching, blogging and other writing, USATT, MDTTC, and other work), so I don't really have time right now to get into political discussions. Later on I'll blog about upcoming USATT activities, including my own plans for this year.

But none of this stops me from having some fun at their expense - Anagram Man strikes again!

Rajul Sheth:

  • Jar Let Hush. He's halfway to Jar Jar (Binks), he calls "Let!" when you smash a winner, and if you ask him important questions, he says, "Hush!"
  • Let Jars, Huh? Yes, as his first act on the board he'll require clubs to have these Let Jars, and you have to put a quarter in it whenever you call a let. Huh? (But the money goes to support the club.)

Attila Malek:

  • I Talk Tamale. Huh???
  • Malta Talkie. He stars in a Mediterranean country's movies, with sound, circa 1920s?
  • Llama Eat Kit. So he wants USATT to feed South American pack animals?
  • Talk Email At. Okay, this is better, he'll Talk with you, Email with you, and of course "At" is just short for the @ in his email address.  

Hodges:

  • He's God!

Daily Update: Volume 19 of History of U.S. Table Tennis
Tim Boggan and I started work at 3PM on Tuesday, Jan. 10. I'm doing the page layouts and photo work. Book is projected to be 25 chapters, 500 pages, 1700 graphics. Current status, through Wednesday night, Jan. 11:

  • 80 pages
  • 4 chapters, front and back covers, 4 front pages
  • 281 graphics

Calf Injury Update
It's 90% healed. I'm back to regular coaching starting today. However, I have a light schedule until this Sunday - then I get busy. No more updates unless I reinjure it.

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

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

Three ITTF Articles

Charlotte Bardsley: The Story So Far
Here's the article on the English Under 12 Champion.

Epische Trailer Finalisten Masters 2016
Here's the video (3 min) - lots of great slow motion play.

Ping-Pong, Anyone? From the New Yorker Cartoon Lounge!
Here's the video (2:10). "In this episode, Bob Mankoff plays table tennis with a robot and looks at Ping-Pong cartoons from the magazine."

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January 11, 2017

Timmy and Ping-Pong and Calfie, Oh My!
Tim moved in with me yesterday around 3PM, and within minutes we were hard at work, me doing pages of Volume 19 of his History of U.S Table Tennis, him saying "This goes there! Scan this! Type this! No, you fool, that's not what I meant!" We did the front and back covers and the first 15 or so pages (of a projected 500), plus I scanned and fixed up a bunch of other photos. We then left for dinner at about 5:15 PM, Carrabba's. (It's a nice Italian chain, with lots of authentic Italian dishes with Italian-sounding names. I had pepperoni pizza, Tim had Linguini with white clam sauce.) After dinner, he went to bed (around 7PM as usual for him), and I stayed up late writing. (A new SF story, plus started on the blog.)

I went to bed after midnight, was up by 5:30AM to get the blog down, and to be ready to work with Tim by 7AM. As I write this, I'm looking for more ways to postpone getting started with Tim, because once we start, we'll be at it ALL DAY!!! At least until 5PM, when I leave to coach.

The calf injury is 2/3 healed, but I'm still worried about re-injuring it. But I'm going to go ahead and do the one hour of coaching I have scheduled tonight, with a 1700 player. I'll likely just block and feed multiball - not sure if I should play open rallies, but we'll see.

2017 USATT Election
Here's the USATT info page (including campaign statements) - it's Attila Malek vs. Rajul Sheth in this upcoming battle to the death to be on the USATT Board! Voting begins on Jan. 14 and continues for two weeks. 

3 Reasons to Feel Good After a Tough Loss
Here's the article.

Ask a Table Tennis Coach
There are more episodes available at Expert Table Tennis.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 16! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

President of the Puerto Rican Table Tennis Federation Proud of 2016 Campaign
Here's the article from Butterfly.

Featuring Vladimir Samsonov
Here's the new video (41 sec).

Two New Table Tennis Guinness World Records Set
Here's the video (27 sec).

Ping-Pong Trick Shots by Jeyx
Here's the video (6:35).

Curvy Table?
Here's the picture - try rallying on this! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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January 10, 2017

History of U.S. Table Tennis: Volume 19
It's hard to believe, but we're into Volume 19 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis! As I write this, he's relentlessly driving toward Maryland, with an expected arrival of 3PM. Then we go to work!

As usual, the volume is projected to have about 500 pages and 1000 photos. USATT Hall of Fame official and photographer Mal Anderson scans most of the photos in advance and sends them to me on a CD. But nearly all of them need fixing up in Photoshop as many are scans directly from magazines or are old, vintage (i.e. poor quality) photos - and that's the first part of my job. And then I do the page layouts, with Tim sitting next to me, jabbing his finger at the screen periodically and screaming, "No, it goes there, you fool!"

He used to type up nearly all the text and then we'd place the photos (including captions and photo credits). But in recent years, to save time, he's had Mal scan the articles directly, and so I often place entire pages in one shot. However, the pages need lots of time-consuming fixing up, plus Tim always has a zillion replacement photos to take the place of those scanned.

As in the past, it'll take 10-14 days to complete the job. (I think this one covers 1991-1992.) We generally work from 7AM to whenever I leave to coach - usually around 4:00 or 5:00 PM. And then, in about six months, we start all over again! (When will I do my blog and other work? Late at night. I won't be sleeping much the next two weeks.)

Calf Injury
It's healing okay, but I'm still limping. I've already had to cancel or get replacements for all private coaching from Saturday through today, and I may have to cancel tomorrow's coaching (Wednesday). On Thursday I only have a one-hour session with a beginning junior, so I may make that one.

Consistent Bat Angle During Swing?
I was asked the following question on the forum here last night:

QUESTION: A lot of coaches tell us to not 'turn' or close your paddle during your forehand forward swing. They say it's a bad habit of creating topspin and causes inconsistencies. However, I've seen J.O. Waldner and Xu Xin doing that a lot.

MY ANSWER: They probably do this mostly against a slow incoming ball - and they have the timing to get away with it. Against a fast incoming ball, you normally don't want to be changing the racket angle as you forward swing. Against a slower ball, you can generate a bit more whip by changing the angle as you forward swing - but the timing is more difficult. I often to this when going for an all-out rip against a backspin. 

He also asked about swinging across the body. Here are the two postings. An extended version of this may turn into a Tip of the Week.

How to Practice Looping Backspin Balls
Here's the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Elizabeth Gresham 1948 - 2016
Here's the USATT obit on this long-time player and supporter.

Athlete Reminder: 2017 WADA Prohibited List Now in Effect
Here's the article. "USADA would like to remind all athletes that the 2017 WADA Prohibited List went into effect on January 1, 2017." And I was so looking forward to lunching on Clenbuterol, Salmetero, Beta-2 Agonists, and Non-erythropoietic EPO-receptor Agonists.

Starting Where Left Off, Tomakazu Harimoto and Fan Zhendong
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Stick Figure T-shirt in Many Colors
Here's the new kickstarter project from Steve Worthington.

Ma Long Heavy Spin Forehand Technique Slow Motion 2017
Here's the new video (1:19).

Table Tennis Therapy for Alzheimers
Here's the news story (2:51) from News 13.

The Craziest Ping-Pong Skills
Here's the video (2:40), a compilation of crazy table tennis trick shots. This came out a month ago, but I don't think I posted it.

"Big" and "Little" Table Play
Here's the "Big" video (47 sec), and here's the "Little" video (30 sec). Which is more exciting?

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January 9, 2017

Tip of the Week
Focus on How to Beat Someone, Not On Why You Can’t. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 27.)

My Weekend….
Tennis and calf injury and new classes, oh my!

  • Friday: Here's what I wrote on Facebook on Friday night: "Well, I've gone and done it. As part of my 'secret' plan to get in great physical shape, I was in my first tennis (yes, tennis) training session tonight in over five years. I jogged and stretched in advance, but of course you know what happened - 45 minutes into the session I pulled my right calf muscle. I probably won't be doing any private coaching for a while - I can't even walk right now without a crutch. (I can do group sessions on crutches.) I used to do group tennis sessions twice a week for over a decade." NOTE - in the tennis training session, someone drop shot the ball short to my forehand. I raced in at full speed and smacked in a running, lunging winner - but that was where I pulled the muscle. Few people would have gotten to that ball!
  • Saturday: I was on crutches all day (when I had to get up), and had to cancel all my one-on-one coaching sessions through Tuesday. I'll wait and see how it is for Wed and Thur. But I couldn't put any weight on the right leg yet. I spent most of the day reading and writing.
  • Sunday: This is my busiest coaching day, but I had to cancel or get substitutes for all my private coaching due to the leg injury. However, I had two 90-minute group sessions. I thought I was going to be on crutches for them, but discovered that if I taped the leg up very tightly, and kept it slightly bent, I could hobble about without hurting it further. I ran the first session of the new ten-week beginning junior class, with 11 kids, and with John and Wen Hsu assisting. I also ran the first adult training session of the new year, with 12 players.
  • Monday: I already cancelled both private sessions for today. I'll get a lot of other work done, but will limit any walking to help it heal. I'm debating whether I can coach on Wed and Thur. I also have to prepare for Tim Boggan's arrival on Tuesday to begin photo work and page layouts for History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 - more on that tomorrow. 

Slow Motion Table Tennis from the ITTF
Here's the video (40 sec), which starts off with the slow motion serve of world #1 Ma Long. Notice how the ball went completely behind his head, illegally hidden from the receiver? The funny and sad thing is that this just showcases that our top players no longer even attempt to hide that their serves are illegally hidden (this was pretty blatant), and the ITTF doesn't even bother to hide it, showcasing it here. Umpires just won't call it, referees won't insist on them calling it, and the various rules & officials committees and governing associations won't act to make sure the rules are being followed. Yep, cheating is rampant in our sport, and the ones in charge know it and won't do anything about it. I've tried every way imaginable, via USATT and ITTF, and it's like throwing ping-pong balls at a cloud of smoke. (Remember, it's not a matter of the umpire being able to tell if the serve is hidden. The question is whether or not he is "sure" of the serve's legality - and if he is not sure, then by our rules it is an illegal serve that should be called.)

Ask a TT Coach
Here are new articles from Expert Table Tennis. They've been busy!

Devastate the Cheater
Here's the coaching article from Samson Dubina.

Can European Players Compete with the Chinese?
Here's the article from eBATT Sport.

Pleasantville Table Tennis Prodigy Sets Sights on College, Olympics
Here's the article featuring Kai Zhang.

USATT Articles
They have a number of new News items - why not browse over them? (Some duplication with items here.)

Board of Directors Meeting Actions and Notices - Dec. 11, 2016
Here are the motions made at that meeting in Las Vegas. Complete minutes will go up later. There was also an email vote on Dec. 16 (to add Dell Sweeris and Donna Sakai to the USTTA Foundation Board. Yes, USTTA, not USATT - it was founded before USATT changed its name.)

Grand Slam Champion Zhang Jike Sets Fire on Cover of Men's Uno Magazine
Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast - December 2016
Here's the video (13:16).

Here is Some Flippin' Practice
Here's the video (16 sec).

Tischtennis in Deutschland
Here's the video (48 sec) of this great attack vs. chop point.

NYCTTA Table Tennis Drill Session 360
Here's the video (76 sec) showing the new New York City TTA club. Forehand-Backhand drill!

Washington Redskins Players Tress Way and Nick Sundberg in Smash Table Tennis League
Here's the Facebook page with pictures.

Funny Guy Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:39).

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January 6, 2017

How My Coaching Differs from Some
"You can't do it!" I told the 7-year-old girl.

"Yes I can!" she insisted. I'd challenged her to hit 20 forehands in a row.  

"Prove it!" I demanded. In the next rally, after she missed after about ten shots, I shook my head in disgust. "See? I told you weren't good enough. I think you should give up!"

"No way!!!" Of course, a short time later she was gloating at me while I hid my face in embarrassment. "You were lucky!" I declared. "You'll never get that many in a row again!" Of course, within minutes she hit 30. (This all happened in a session last night.)

Most coaches like to encourage their students. I like to take the opposite approach – and it works. Plus, I have the fun of insulting all my students – and they like it! Of course, you have to have the right manner when you do this. I've seen some stern-faced coaches who, if they said, "You aren't good enough to do it," the student would burst into tears and run for the door. You have to keep it both fun and challenging.

Programs at a Professional Table Tennis Center
It's an honor to work at a really professional training center. What do I mean by professional (in italics)? It means that it's not just a place where people come in and call winners; it means the place actually has programs for the various needs of the players. No two centers are the same, but successful ones have a variety of programs. Here's what we have at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I coach.

  • Eight Professional Coaches (for group and private lessons). I'm one of them!
  • Six Junior Training Programs. I coach in three of these.
  • Two Adult Training Programs. I run one of them.
  • Training Camps (ten 5-day Summer sessions, Spring Break Camp, Christmas Camp, 11 one-day camps during school holidays, an annual Disabled Veterans Camp I run). I coach at many of these.
  • Four Leagues (including an Elite League and a Junior League).
  • Five Tournaments Per Year (the annual $5000 Maryland State Championships, and four $2670 Butterfly Opens). I run all of these.
  • Space Rental and Parties. I run all the parties, especially special table tennis birthday parties.
  • Table Tennis Robot. It's almost continuously in use.
  • Monthly Newsletter (to promote these programs). I'm the editor.
  • Pro Shop. Last year we had the second most sales among Butterfly clubs in the U.S.
  • Open Seven Days/Week, with 16 tables (sometime 18 for training).

If you have a full-time club in your area, see what programs they have. If they are missing any key ones, see if they can add them. If there isn't a full-time club in your area, why not take the initiative to develop one? Here's the USATT Club Developmental Handbook. The Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook (which I wrote) might also help.

How to Improve Your Forehand Drive
Here's the new coaching article from Expert Table Tennis. Includes links to video.

Table Tennis Spot
Here are a number of coaching articles, and here are other more general articles (with links to still more articles on the right).

The Perfect Table Tennis Serve
Here's the article from Coach Tom Lodziak.

A Fun Way to Learn Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis North, which includes lots of pictures – including a great headline picture. Article is on teaching table tennis to kids.

Fan Zhendong Super Backhand Technique Slow Motion 2016
Here's the new video (4:02).

Outstanding Rally by Antoine Hachard
Here's the video (40 sec).

A Pair of Sidespin Serves!
Here's the video (14 sec) as the server sends out these super-sidepinning serves. 

Batman Ping-Pong Set
I want one!!!

My New Year's Resolution: Beat You at Table Tennis
Here's the "Uncle Sam" poster! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Mostly Non-Table Tennis – Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions Reviewed in Mensa Bulletin
Here's my science fiction & fantasy blog on this. (Remember, the novel features a table tennis player!)

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January 5, 2017

TT-Flex
I tried out the TT-Flex at the club yesterday, the new invention of Samson Dubina. Here's the video (4:02, though you can get the idea about it in the first few seconds). "TT-Flex is a full body strengthening system that targets the exact table tennis movements you need to enhance your game!" It hooked up easily to a table leg, and worked as advertised. It was similar to some oversized rubber bands I'd been given years ago to use to rehab from arm injuries, except, of course, this ties in directly to a weighted metal racket, with various hole placements to work on specific shots. It seems a pretty interesting way to exercise and develop the shots.  

I showed it to one of my junior students, who wanted to try out the weighted racket in rallies. Not easy – it's got those holes for the rubber bands! But he learned to hit the ball at the bottom of the hitting surface, where there's no holes, and spent ten minutes chopping and chop-lobbing to my smashes. I'll show it to others in my adult training class on Sunday.

Cold?
I almost didn't blog this morning. I've had what seems a minor cold for about ten days now – including a continuous sore throat. Believe me, having a sore throat ten straight days is irritating! I haven't seen a doctor or taken anything for it yet, since it's mostly been a minor irritant, but now I'm toying with doing something about it. I'll probably spend much of today in bed, reading and willing the sore throat to go away. Later I'll stop by the supermarket and look about buying something for it. (I have already have throat lozenges, but I'm sick of them.) Fortunately, I only have one hour of coaching scheduled for today. (My Thursday junior class starts up again next Thursday, and then Thursday nights will get busy again.) 

6 Mistakes You Probably Make When Practicing Third Ball Attack
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

USATT Insider
Here's the new issue, which came out yesterday morning.

Same Name, Once Again Ma Long Heads List
Here's the ITTF press release.

Television Figures Released - millions upon millions watched table tennis at Rio 2016
Here's the ITTF article. "A quite staggering 552,300,000; that was the number of viewers, the net reach of the table tennis events at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games."

Behind the Back Power
Here's the video (9 sec) – why haven't you perfected this shot? (I have a student who insists on practicing this shot for several minutes every session!)

Paralympic Floor Pong
Here's the video (43 sec, including slo-mo replay).

Dab Shot
Here's the video (31 sec) - Watch this just before playing me or one of my students. It'll completely mess up your strokes!

Toddler Pong
Here's the video (29 sec)!

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January 4, 2017

Visual Imagery with Ma Long
Yesterday I had private sessions with two junior players. The first one, age 12, about 1700, has great ball control, but often falls back on forehand looping with mostly his arm, which leads to both a loss of power and frequent injuries. We've been working hard to fix the problem. Often he'll loop really well for a time, then he'll fall back into old habits. He'd taken some time off during Christmas (partly because I was also away), and so was a bit out of practice, and so I was worried he'd start up with his old habits. What to do?

After a short warm-up, we watched (on my smart phone) the first half of this video of Ma Long (5:06), which features his forehand loop. (For those living in a cave, he's the reigning world men's singles champion and ranked #1 in the world.) The idea was to get that visual image so that he could match it. And it worked – right from the start his loop technique was very Ma Longish.

My second student, age 10, about 1200, is working on developing his forehand loop. He tends to be backhand oriented, and so often blocks with his forehand from a backhand stance. So we're working on rotating sideways on forehands, which opens up the side for a bigger swing. Since we were going to spend much of the session on his forehand loop, about five minutes into the session (after giving him a good warm-up), we stopped and watched the first half of the video. It paid off – once again I had a student looping with Ma Longish technique.

While neither player is going to be Ma Longish level anytime soon, this type of technique training is a big first step. I strongly recommend other players to regularly watch videos of top players with techniques they'd like to emulate.

New Articles from Samson Dubina
Here are two more. I'm mentioned in one!

Shedding Pounds with Ping-Pong
Here's the article from weightwatchers.com.

Request for Proposals - 2017 USATT National Team Trials
Here's the USATT info page.

My 10 Best Stories from 2016
Here's the ITTF article.

Bring in the New Year with Table Tennis [Game of the Week]
Here's the article.

Bay State Table Tennis Club Players Build on History, Love of the Game
Here's the article.

Great Returns!
Here's the video (36 sec).

Robot vs. Big Paddle
Here's the video (16 sec). If you want to be a champ, this is what you gotta do!

How to Play 3-A-Side Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:37).

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January 3, 2017

My 2017 Resolutions

  1. Weight to 175. Currently at 191.
  2. Win a National Hardbat Title at U.S. Nationals or Open.
  3. Address the rest of the USATT issues I promised to work on when I ran for the USATT board.
  4. Put together new book, "More Table Tennis Tips" (the 150 Tips of the Week from 2014-2016), the follow-up to Table Tennis Tips (the 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013).
  5. Write "Parents' Guide to Table Tennis" (new book).
  6. Help Tim Boggan put out two more volumes of his "History of U.S. Table Tennis" series – Volumes 19 and 20. (He moves in with me on Jan. 10 for two weeks to do Volume 19.)  
  7. Write a new SF novel, my fifth. I plan to start on this on March 1, but will be doing a lot of planning and research in advance.
  8. Write 20 new short stories (science fiction & fantasy).

Time Spent Out of Town in 2016
Total days out of town: 78. These do not include four days coaching at ITTF Cadet Camp at MDTTC (local), or six days where I did local exhibitions or coaching outside MDTTC. They are roughly split between table tennis (coaching at major tournaments or USATT meetings) and science fiction & fantasy writing (conventions where I promoted my novels, and writing workshops).

  • Mar. 18-20, Lunacon SF Con, Rye Brook, NY
  • Apr. 29-May 1, Ravencon SF Con, Williamsburg, VA
  • May 27-28, Balticon SF Con, Baltimore, MD
  • June 17-18, USATT Board Meeting, NJ
  • July 4-10, USA Nationals, Las Vegas, NV
  • July 10-22, USATT Supercamp, LYTTC, NJ
  • July 22-30, TNEO Writing Workshop, Manchester, NH
  • July 31-Aug 4, Junior Olympics, Houston, TX
  • Sept. 23-24, Baltimore Book Festival, Baltimore, MD
  • Oct. 7-8, Capclave SF Convention, Gaithersburg, MD
  • Oct. 9-10, World Cup, Board meeting, Philadelphia, PA
  • Oct. 27-30, World Fantasy Con, Columbus, OH
  • Nov. 18-20, Philcon SF Convention, Cherry Hill, NJ
  • Nov. 25-27, NA Teams, Washington, DC
  • Dec. 5-9, Caribbean Writers Cruise, Caribbean
  • Dec. 11-18, U.S. Open, Las Vegas, NV
  • Dec. 20-25, Christmas Vacation, Eugene, OR

Books I Read in 2016
I read 46 books in 2016. The bulk of them were fiction, specifically science fiction & fantasy, including 19 by Mike Resnick, who I discovered this year. (I also read two of his "On Writing" books.)

TABLE TENNIS (5)

  1. The Metaphysics of Ping-Pong, by Guido Mina di Sospiro
  2. Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion, by Dan Seemiller
  3. Handbook of Table Tennis, by Mudit Dani
  4. History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 17, by Tim Boggan
  5. History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18, by Tim Boggan

ON WRITING (2)

  1. Putting It Together, by Mike Resnick
  2. The Business of Science Fiction, by Barry Malzberg and Mike Resnick

NON-FICTION (3)

  1. The Presidents, by Frederick S. Voss
  2. Personality, Character, & Leadership in the White House, by Steven Rubenzer and Thomas Faschingbauer
  3. Numbers, by David Wells

FICTION (36) – the first 19 are by Mike Resnick (as are the two writing books above), who I discovered this year.

  1. The Outpost, by Mike Resnick
  2. The Soul Eater, by Mike Resnick
  3. The Branch, by Mike Resnick
  4. Ivory: A Legend of Past and Future, by Mike Resnick
  5. The Widowmaker, by Mike Resnick
  6. The Widowmaker Reborn, by Mike Resnick
  7. The Widowmaker Unleashed, by Mike Resnick
  8. A Gathering of Widowmakers, by Mike Resnick
  9. The Prison in Antares, by Mike Resnick
  10. The Fortress in Orion, by Mike Resnick
  11. Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, by Mike Resnick
  12. INCI, by Mike Resnick and Tina Gower
  13. Kirinyaga, by Mike Resnick
  14. Adventures: The Chronicles of Lucifer Jones, by Mike Resnick
  15. Birthright: The Book of Man, by Mike Resnick
  16. Seven Views of Olduvai Gorge, by Mike Resnick
  17. Win Some, Lose Some, by Mike Resnick
  18. Alternate Presidents, edited by Mike Resnick
  19. Will the Last Person to Leave the Planet Please Shut Off The Sun, by Mike Resnick
  20. Quantum Night, by Robert J. Sawyer
  21. Probability Moon, by Nancy Kress
  22. Ancient Shores, by Jack McDevitt
  23. 11/22/63, by Stephen King
  24. Barsk: The Elephants Graveyard, by Lawrence Schoen
  25. Seven Eves, by Neal Stephenson
  26. Superposition, by David Walton
  27. The Einstein Prophesy, by Robert Masello
  28. Taft 2012: A Novel, by Jason Heller
  29. Bloodsuckers: A Vampire Runs for President, by Michael Ventrella
  30. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  31. Magic and Murder Among the Dwarves, by Erik Bundy
  32. Proven Guilty (The Dresden Files #8), by Jim Butcher
  33. White Night (The Dresden Files #9), by Jim Butcher
  34. Small Favor (Dresden Files #10), by Jim Butcher
  35. Cats in Space, edited by Elektra Hammond
  36. After Death, edited by Eric Guignard

Devastate the Smart/Dumb Guy: Tactics for 2 Different Opponents
Here's the coaching article from Samson Dubina.

A Comprehensive Education, Jinxin Wang Provides Food for Thought
Here's the article on this Chinese player now living in the U.S.  Includes links to three technical coaching articles he's written on "The Importance of Fingers and Wrist in Table Tennis."

Adriana Díaz: Latin America’s New Sporting Sensation
Here's the article. It includes some funny cartoon pictures of her!

"Always Loop" Video Channel
Here's the new page, with links to a number of TT videos.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training at the Swedish Open 2016
Here's the video (3:52).

58 Smashes to Win the Point
Here's the video (72 sec) of this great lobbing point.

Insane Point
Here's the video (1:24, including slo-mo replay).

Hitting the Ball Before It Bounces
Here's the new video (1:44) from PingSkills, which covers the rules on this.

Happy New Year from Jorgen Persson
Here's the video (13 sec). (1991 World Men's Singles Champion.)

Fan Zhendong Playing with Smart Phone
Here's the video (12 sec) – check out the backhand smash!

Rallying with Three Balls, then Three Smashes
Here's the video (11 sec).

Rallying with Five Balls
Here's the video (18 sec).

Car Pong!
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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