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!

April 14, 2017

Interview with Larry Hodges – and the Best Tip Ever!
USATT is featuring my interview from yesterday

MDTTC Spring Break Camp Days Four and Five
Here’s the official group picture! Today’s the final day of the camp. Much of yesterday's focus in my group was serve and receive. I confess I still get a kick out of watching a new kid's eyes go wide when I demo the various spin serves. After explaining and demoing the serves, they went out on the tables to practice their serves.

Best part? When we called break, one kid stayed and practiced serves the entire 20 minutes. The highlight? I had introduced the exercise where you try serving a high backspin that bounces back over the net. The kid was very excited when he served his first one! Then he worked on serving it lower, with the goal of getting the ball to bounce back into the net. Soon there was a small collection of balls there.

There was a bit of excitement in the air all day, and for a good reason. In the morning I'd announced that on Friday we would be playing the "Candy Game." At 12:15 PM today (Friday) I'll be putting a huge stack of Jolly Ranchers and Hershey Kisses on the end of a table, and the kids will line up, three shots each, taking turns trying to knock them off as I feed multiball. Anything they knock off, they get to keep! (Trade-ins are allowed, so they can trade what they knock off for different flavors or candy types.) We’ll do this for about 30 minutes. So there was an extra focus on accurate shots yesterday! I think this might be the key to developing a new generation of players to challenge the Chinese.

Today’s focus, in addition to winning lots of candy, will be pushing and smashing – two extremes.

USATT Coaching Committee
I was recently appointed to chair the USATT Coaching Chair, my second tenure. However, I can't really do much until my nominations for the rest of the coaching committee are approved. We have a USATT Board meeting in the Bay Area in California next weekend where they'll vote on this. I'm not going to go public yet with my nominees - I'll announce them after the vote. 

Once they are approved, some things I want to focus on are 1) Recruiting and training professional coaches to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs. 2) Coaching seminars at the Nationals and Open; 3) Updating the USATT coaching certification process; 4) Communicating with our current coaches - in particular, asking them what USATT can do for them, given USATT's limited resources. Any other suggestions? (Addendum, added Sunday morning - I blogged more at length on my plans on March 17.)

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16.

Fan Zhendong Forehand Loop kill Technique
Here’s the video (4:51).

Featured Table Tennis Questions
Here’s the page from PingSkills. (I’m going to start linking to these as they come up.) Here’s a separate video from them, Physical Warm Up (7:38).

Amazing Rally Between Pistej and Storf
Here’s the video (24 sec).

Ping Pong Movie: “I’m Number One”
Here’s the video (8:50). In Vietnamese with English subtitles.

Sofia Polcanova . . . Balancing-on-a-Board Pong?
Here’s the video (11 sec)!

These Guys Are Using PORSCHE GT3 As A Ping Pong Table!
Here’s the video (17 sec)!

Grandma Trick Shots: “Ball is Life!”
Here’s the video (92 sec)!

What Type of Table and Net is This???
Here’s the picture!

Animal Pong
Let's have a little fun today. So . . . what are the best animal table tennis players? And the worst? Let's go to the videos! (Comment below if you have a link to any animals I missed below.) 

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April 13, 2017

MDTTC Spring Break Camp, Day Three
Yesterday the focus was on honing the forehand and backhand strokes, and footwork. I did a lot of multi-player multiball drills, where I'd work with two or more players at a time. Here are some of the drills we did. (All of the players I worked with were righties.) 

Two players: The Multi-Player Side-to-Side Drill. The A player would stand in the forehand corner, the B player in the backhand corner but a step back. The A player hit a forehand, moved to the backhand side, hit a backhand, moved back to the forehand side, hit a forehand, then step back. Then the B player would do the same, going backhand, forehand, backhand, step back. Then repeat. It's continuous, with me feeding the balls side to side. Halfway through the drill I'd have them switch sides. (If the players are complete beginners, then they just stand in separate corners and practice forehands or backhands.)

Two or more players: Circling Drill. Players lined up on the backhand side, and hit three forehands, one from the backhand side, one from the middle, one from the forehand side, and then circle back to the end of the line. Halfway through the drill they'd switch and line up on the forehand side, and hit forehands from forehand, middle, and backhand. Two other variations: Just two shots, a forehand from each corner, or a forehand and a backhand from the corner. Each drill should be done in each direction. (I did variations of these drills with five players.)

Two or more players: The 2-1 Drill. The players would line up by the backhand side. Each player would get three shots: backhand from the backhand side, forehand from the backhand side, and forehand from the forehand side, then circle around to the end of the line. Note that this drill, when done continuously, incorporates the three most common moves in table tennis – move to cover the wide forehand, move to cover the wide backhand, and step around forehand.

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16.

“The Bionic Man”
Here’s the video (1:47) from WJLA ABC News 8 last night, featuring Navin Kumar. That’s me in the video hitting with him throughout (bright blue shirt), and quoted one time. (This is Navin’s recording of the video; the online version from WJLA hasn’t gone up yet.)

Forehand Flick: Three Tips
Here’s the article and video (3:22). Note that “Flick” is the same as “Flip.”

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

2017 NorCal Juniors League Mid-Season Report
Here’s the article.

Eight New Blue Badge International Umpires Announced
Here’s the ITTF press release. One of the new ones is USA’s Esther Aliotta.

The Beast is Back
A little multiball, anyone (46 sec)?

Why This Self-Made Millionaire Takes Meetings While Playing Ping Pong
Here’s the video (48 sec) from CNBC.

Somewhat Amusing Ping Pong Videos
They’ve been accumulating – time for some Spring Cleaning!

  • Popeye vs. Bluto (2:29) - the table tennis is from 0:18 to 1:14, then it switches to some sort of live concert, and finishes with a non-table tennis Tom and Jerry cartoon
  • Sardine Pong (7 sec) – it’s apparently ping-pong on a large sardine, though it looks more like a flattened whale.
  • Ping Pong Movie Preview (1:26) – involves a somewhat hilariously poorly animated ping-pong ball as these two go at it.
  • 3D Animation Robotic Table Tennis (25 sec) – two robots go at it.
  • South Park Pong (1:59) – some shooting involved! No sound.
  • Chipmunk Pong (52 sec) – I’m not sure if the high-pitched “chipmunk” voices of the two girls playing table tennis are from speeding up the video or helium.

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April 12, 2017

Interview with Larry Hodges – “The Best Table Tennis Tip…Ever”
Here’s the article and interview from Todd Lodziak at TableTennisCoach in England. I’m a bit embarrassed by it!

MDTTC Spring Break Camp
Yesterday was Day Two of our Spring Break Camp. I’m in charge of a group of seven players who are mostly beginners. The complication is their diversity - there are four boys who are all about 10-12 and about the same level; a girl about 8 who is a beginner; and two very young kids, a boy and girl, about ages 5 and 6, who struggle to hit the ball. During the multiball sessions I tend to break them into two groups, the four older boys and the other three, and go back and forth.

We’ve done a lot of work on forehand, backhand, and footwork so far. I started the younger ones on serves on the first day to give them a “head start,” and introduced the others to serving with spin yesterday. I was going to have them practice their serves, but was running out of time, so instead we had sort of a “fun” ten-minute session where they took turns trying to return my spin serves, while I called out where their return would be – “Lonely” meant to the left, where the box of balls were; “Thirsty” meant to the right, where the water fountain was; and “Net” meant the obvious. I think my favorite time in every camp is the first time I serve heavy backspin and make the ball come back into or even over the net, and see the look on the faces of the new kids, who are oohing and aahing at this witchcraft!

So today I’ll introduce them to serving these spins, starting by having them spin and catch the soccer-colored balls (so they can see the spin), and then have them try it at the table. I may introduce pushing as well, though I suspect that after practicing serves for a while they’ll want to do something more physical, like smashing. I did promise to show them how to smash high balls today, we’ll probably do that this morning.

After the camp I had two private coaching sessions. One was with Dolores, a new player who causes double-takes from long-time players due to her incredible resemblance to USATT Hall of Fame player Barbara Kaminsky from nearby Virginia. Twice already I’ve played gags on locals who know Barbara, convincing them that she was Barbara – the resemblance really is that close! But Dolores has a ways to go before she’ll have Barbara’s forehand, but we worked on it a lot, as well as backhand and pushing. Following that was a session with 11-year-old Jackson, where we focused on his gradual transition from mostly forehand hitting to mostly forehand looping, and on staying low.

USATT Announces Updates to League Ratings Processing
Here’s the USATT article. I’m happy it’s back in top form! There have been database problems that have led to a lot of time and effort by USATT to get things fixed, but hopefully all is working smoothly now. (I instigated and co-founded the system with Robert Mayer many years ago, which helped transform USA clubs from the then prevalent “winner stay on” systems to leagues. It processes more matches than the tournament rating system.)

Butterfly MDTTC April Open
My write-up, results, and pictures from my blog yesterday are now featured as both USATT and Butterfly news items. Congrats again to all those champions!

Push or Flick
Here’s the article and video (2:02) from PingSkills. (A “flick” and a “flip” are the same thing.)

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16. China just won Men’s and Women’s Teams over South Korea and Japan, respectively. Here’s the ITTF press release on that.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - March 2017
Here’s the video (8:14).

Table Tennis Club 4 Fun - Some Olympic Rallies!
Here’s the highlights video (3:49).

Samson Dubina – Back in Training
Here’s the video (5:21) as he comes back after a hand injury.

Upping the Speed for Fitness Sake
Here’s the video (41 sec) of Matt Hetherington in Training.

Pingsider | 90 Years of ITTF
Here’s the video (7:45).

Exhibition at Chinese Lantern Festival in Boca Raton
Here’s the video (51 sec) of Andrew Williams and 5-year-old son Shia do the exhibition.

Classic Old TT Picture from the Turn of the Century
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Boy and Monkey Pong
Here’s the animated video (21 sec) as the two go at it – with the Monkey doing a little multitasking. It’s reminiscent of this video (31 sec) where it’s a dog that’s multitasking!

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April 11, 2017

Butterfly MDTTC April Open
April 8-9, 2017 • Gaithersburg, MD
By Larry Hodges

Players from six states, DC, and Nigeria competed in our 3-star April Open at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, with over $2700 in cash prizes. I sent the results in on Sunday night; found a mistake on Monday morning and resent the new results at 9AM, and USATT still managed to process the tournament that day! So the rating results of both the 4-star Cary Cup from the week before the MDTTC Open went up on Monday at the USATT Tournament Ratings Page. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong.

The Open final between the lefty top-seeded Alex Ruichao Chen (2689 and a full-time coach at MDTTC) and second-seeded Azeez Jamiu (2609, former Nigerian star visiting New York) was a nail-biter at the end. Alex may have the best pure serve and forehand attack game in North America, but Azeez’s tricky serves, receives, and his own relentless looping gave Alex fits, especially at the start. Azeez went up 2-0 in games, but Alex came back. In the seventh, Alex led 9-4 and 10-7, and then it was 10-9, Alex serving. His serve went slightly long, Azeez looped it really, really wide to the left Alex’s backhand – and Alex stepped way, way around, and absolutely pulverized a crosscourt forehand counterloop for the winner!

Two things jumped out at me from this match. First was Alex’s serve and forehand loop attack. He’s absolutely relentless with this. Any return that goes long, no matter how wide or even aggressive is attacked with his forehand, meaning he’s racing about at about light speed – not easy for a guy who’s well over six feet tall. The other is how well Azeez mixed up his receive, often handcuffing Alex on those third-ball attacks. (If Alex gets hold of one while balanced, you won’t even see his loop – you’ll just hear the sound of it smashing into the table as it whizzes by.) Alex may have followed his serve with a loop over and over, but he was often forced to do so in awkward or off-balanced positions, forcing misses or counter-attacks to the other corner. Azeez is a master of varying his receive with last-minute changes of direction and hiding what he’s going to do until the last second, whether it’s a short or long push or a flip, or (if the ball’s the least bit long) a loop. There was a lot of short pushes, with both returning short serves back short as each looked for a ball to attack.

The Under 2400 event was an apparent 18th birthday present for Roy Key, who celebrating his birthday by romping through the event, winning his matches 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-0, and 3-0. The scores in the semifinals and final were 4,7,5 and 7,7,8. Only Ping Li, a newly arrived senior player from China, way under-rated at 2102, got a game off him, losing in the quarterfinals at 7,2,-9,9. But don’t feel bad for Ping, as he won Under 2200, defeating local junior star William Huang in the final, 4,6,7. Ping’s big struggle was in the semifinals, where he defeated another junior star, George Li in a battle of Li’s and nines, at 9,-9,-9,9,9.

But in an historical oddity, we had an all non-junior semifinals in Under 2000, with Xinsheng Michael Huang defeating Mohamed Kamara in the finals at 9,5,-10,-3,4. Kamara had to battle with Kallista Liu in the semifinals, 6,-8,-7,6,4, while Huang had perhaps an even more difficult battle in his semifinals with Thomas Olausson, 9,-9,7,10. Most watched match of the event – Kallista’s closer-than-it looked win in the quarterfinals with 8-year-old Stanley Hsu, now rated 1674, at 9,10,8

Huang had less luck in Over 50, where he made it to the final before losing to Lixin Lang, -11,7,7,7. Huang likes sevens – in the semifinals he defeated Robert Lande at 7,7,7. In the other semifinals, in an effort to one-up him (and also a battle of pips-out penholder vs. chopper), Lang defeated Frederick Nicolas at 8,8,8.

Chase Womack, rated only 1381, matched to the Under 1800 title with ease, winning his matches 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-1, and 3-0. Think his rating will go up? In the final he triple-nined Arndt Plagge, 9,9,9. (There were a lot of triple scores like that this tournament.) In Under 1500, it was chopper/looper John Miller over Mahmoud Youssef in a titanic final against that seemed longer than a baseball game, 9,-8,7,-4,5. But Mahmoud, rated only 1108, would follow that by winning Under 1200, -10,9,6,6 over another chopper, 13-year-old Stephanie Zhang, -10,9,6,6. Perhaps Miller warmed him up?

In Under 15, it was second-seeded Spencer Chen’s relentless attacking over top-seeded George Li’s hyper-versatile game (looping, fishing, chop blocks, you name it), 6,6,9. In Under 12, Jackson Beaver was top seed with his new rating of 1752 after the Cary Cup, but showing no respect for ratings, Mu Du (age 8, 1389, but 1513 after this tournament) held on to win the title, 7,8,-5,-5,5.

I ran the tournament, but with great help from Mossa Barandao (who acted as assistant director – check out the ratings presentation he created at Pongmobile!) and Wen Hsu, as well as Referee Paul Kovac and Umpire Steven Yeh. Thanks also goes to sponsors Butterfly and the HW Global Foundation, to Omnipong tournament software, and to the real backbone of running a tournament – lots and lots of tape, paper clips, balls, pens, clipboards, and printing paper. 

Butterfly MDTTC April Open Results
Complete results at Omnipong. Click on names for pictures!
Open Singles – Final: Chen Ruichao d. Azeez Jamiu, -9,-5,8,10,-8,8,9; SF: Chen d. Jeffrey Zeng, def.; Jamiu d. Chen Bo Wen, 8,8,6,7; QF: Chen Ruichao d. Meshal Alduaig, 5,7,9; Zeng d. William Huang, 3,5,6; Chen Bo Wen d. Bojun Zhangliang, 7,9,13; Jamiu d. Roy Ke, -7,3,9,8.
Under 2400 – Final: Roy Ke d. Bojun Zhangliang, 7,7,8; SF: Ke d. George Li, 4,7,5; Zhangliang d. Meshal Alduaig, 7,4,10.
Under 2200 – Final: Ping Li d. William Huang, 4,6,7; SF: Li d. George Li, 9,-9,-9,9,9; Huang d. Tiffany Ke, -6,7,6,14.
Under 2000 – Final: Xinsheng Michael Huang d. Mohamed Kamara, 9,5,-10,-3,4; SF: Huang d. Thomas Alausson, 9,-9,7,10; Kamara d. Kallista Liu, 6,-8,-7,6,4.
Under 1800 – Final: Chase Womack d. Arnd Plagge, 9,9,9; SF: Womack d. Mu Du, 6,-6,9,4; Plagge d. Elliott Hamilton, 7,4,7.
Under 1500 – Final: John Miller d. Mahmoud Youssef, 9,-8,7,-4,5; SF: Miller d. Eugene Zhang, 3,2,1; Youssef d. Stephanie Zhang, 6,-8,5,10.
Under 1200 – Final: Mahmoud Youssef d. Stephanie Zhang, -10,9,6,6; SF: Youssef d. Matthew Dovel, 7,4,8; Zhang d. James Zhang, 3,9,-12,3.
Over 50 – Final: Lixin Lang d. Xinsheng Michael Huang, -11,7,7,7; SF: Lang d. Frederick Nicolas, 8,8,8; Huang d. Robert Lande, 7,7,7.
Under 15 – Final: Spencer Chen d. George Li, 6,6,9; SF: Chen d. Abbas Paryavi, 3,10,10; Li d. Bowen Zhang, 8,7,-10,6.
Under 12 – Final RR: 1st Mu Du, 3-0; 2nd Jackson Beaver, 2-1; 3rd Kay O’Hara, 1-2; 4th James Zhang, 0-3.

Online Registration for USA Nationals Now Open
Here’s the USA Nationals Page – enter now!!! They are in Las Vegas, July 3-8.

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16. Here’s a good match: Zhang Jike (CHN) vs Kang Wi Hun (PRK) (6:43).

Three Tips on How to Fix a Dented Ping Pong Ball
Here’s the article, with links to videos.

2017 TMS College Table Tennis National Championships
Yesterday I linked to their home page, with results, articles, and video. There are also lots of feature articles at the National Collegiate TTA’s page. It was held this past weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

'That' Ding Ning Serve in Slomo
Here’s the video (22 sec).

MArvelous LONG - Fan-made Trailer for Ma Long 2020
Here’s the video (1:59). “This is a fan-made trailer by @昰龙 (Sina Weibo). Ma Long is a big fan of Marvel and has a good collection of action figures of Iron Man and others. Inspired by the trailer of Iron Man 3, this clip tells about the story of Ma Long who starts his new journey to 2020 Olympic Games after achieving the full Grand Slam in 2016.”

Ping Pong The Animation - Kazama is a monster
Here’s the crazy video (2:46)!

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April 10, 2017

Tip of the Week
First Step to Blocking Well is Taking That First Step.

Tournament and Camp
I spent all day Saturday and Sunday running the 3-star Butterfly MDTTC April Open, assisted by Mossa Barandao. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong. I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but suffice to say I was there each morning at 8AM, finishing around 8PM on Saturday, and 5PM on Sunday – and then coaching for 1.5 hours. I was going to blog more about it this morning, but I’m running out of time – have to go coach at our MDTTC Spring Break Camp this morning, which is Mon-Fri this week, 10AM-6PM. Combined with the usual private coaching at night, it’s going to be a VERY busy week. (I ran out of time this morning, despite getting up at 6AM, because I had to fix some problems in the results for the tournament - technical problems - which I just managed to do before putting this up, and in a few minutes I'll be off to the club....)

USA Table Tennis Names Jörg Bitzigeio New High Performance Director
Here’s the USATT article and picture. “Bitzigeio was an integral part of the German Table Tennis Federation national team programs from 2005 – 2015, including serving as the Senior National Team Head Coach from 2006 – 2012. Under his guidance, German teams achieved unprecedented international success, including a bronze medal with the Women’s National Team at the 2010 ITTF World Team Championships.”

2017 TMS College Table Tennis National Championships
Here is the home page, with results, articles, and video. It was held this past weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The Perfect Stroke - Read about the 4 Elements!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Separating Play and Practice
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Cadet Underdogs Rise to the Occasion at 2017 Australian Junior & Cadet Open
Here’s the ITTF article, which features USA’s Lavanya Maruthapandian.

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

Five Years Ago: Table tennis Tiff Lands in Civil Court
Here’s the article, featuring table tennis coach Joel Mitchell – fighting for his club!

11th Annual Parkinson's Symposium – Navin Kumar Talks Table Tennis
Here’s his speech (4:52) Saturday in New Orleans, where he explains the benefits of table tennis for Parkinson’s. He does something I’ve always wanted to do – give a speech while bouncing a ball on a ping-pong paddle!

Ping-Pong Variations for Kids
Here’s the video (1:18).

Stellan!
Here’s the caricature of the 1971 Men’s World Champion and San Diego coach. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

The Three Stooges in Table Tennis Tussle
Here’s the video – link should take you to 2:24, where the table tennis video of the animated Three Stooges starts and runs for about three minutes.

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April 7, 2017

China and USA National Team Coaches
China just announced their new National Team Coaches Lineup:

  • Head Coach: Liu Guoliang
  • Men’s Team Head Coach: Qin Zhijian
  • Men’s Team Coaches: Liu Guozheng, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Liu Heng, Ma Junfeng
  • Women’s Team Head Coach: Kong Linghui
  • Women’s Team Coaches: Xiao Zhan, Li Sun, Chen Bin, Zhang Qin, Huang Haicheng

As explained in the article, “Ma Long’s coach Qin Zhijian has been promoted to fill the role of Men’s Team Head Coach, with Liu Guoliang now overseeing the entire team. Meanwhile Xiao Zhan, Zhang Jike’s coach, has moved to the Women’s Team. The staff also sees the return of some familiar faces but in new roles. Ma Lin and Wang Hao are back in the national team, but now in the guise of coaches. Both will be looking to make their mark in this new chapter of their table tennis career.”

Much of this is a near who’s who of past championship players, as the previous generations works with the new – Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, Liu Guozheng, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and others. Others were also top players, but are more notable and are being rewarded for their work with current top players, such as Qin Zhijian (Ma Long’s coach, but also 2001 World Mixed Doubles Champion and two-time semifinalist, and 2003 Men’s Doubles semifinalist with Ma Lin) and Xiao Zhan (Zhang Jike’s coach).  

USA does a similar thing. Here’s the listing of the USA National Team Coaches.

It too includes many past or current USA stars, such as Sean O’Neill, Han Xiao, Samson Dubina, Gao Jun, and Lily Yip. Unlike China (for obvious reasons), we bring in foreign stars as well, such as Stefan Feth (former German star), Teodor Gheorghe (former Romanian star), and a number of former Chinese stars.

Right now we’re between High Performance Directors – Cory, our previous one is still listed on the page, while a new one, who should be hired and announced soon, isn’t up yet. [BREAKING NEWS ON FRIDAY NIGHT - He's been hired!) Once we get the new HPD, hopefully he and the National coaches can work together so that (drum roll please!) soon we’ll, maybe, just maybe, start challenging some of those Chinese players. Our current group of cadet and junior stars is the best we’ve had in history (I’ve blogged about that a few times), and while it might be a bit much for them to start challenging the Chinese, at the least they have the potential to challenge everyone else, and then we can take a good, hard look at the Chinese.

I was one of the USA National Team Coaches for about ten years, mostly in the 1990s. (“National Team Coach” is different than being certified by USATT as a “National Coach,” which is a coaching level, but doesn’t mean you are one of the National Team Coaches. I’m certified as a USATT National Coach, but didn’t apply to be a National Team Coach.) Some of my best memories are coaching U.S. junior teams at international tournaments in Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, and around the USA. But sometimes the baton must be passed. I’m “only” 57, and yet, when I look over the listings above, I can’t help but notice that I’m older than any of the current eleven USA National Team Coaches except Teodor, and probably older than all the Chinese National Team Coaches. (Anyone know if any of them are older than me?) Besides, I'm busy enough with USATT, as a board member and recently appointed chair of the USATT coaching committee - lots of stuff in the planning stages right now!

Database of Colleges for TT People Initiative
Here’s the page. I filled it out – why not you? “The purpose of this form is keep track of college status of people involved in table tennis. This may not be entirely scientific but at least partially shows that table tennis not only helps players develop their physical capability but also mental aspect of their lives. If you are/were involved in Table Tennis - either have graduated, a current college student, or just got your admission for college, you are more than welcomed to fill the form. Please fill in the form only if you agree that we may use it to promoting the sport.”

2017 TMS College Table Tennis National Championships Day 1
Here is the livestreaming (2 tables) – the tournament begins today! Here's the results page.

How to Get More Speed and Spin on Your Forehand Topspin Attacks
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Forehand Topspin in an Awkward Position
Here’s the picture and notes by Eli Baraty. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

“Ask the Coach” from PingSkills
Here are 25 questions and answers.

Happy World Table Tennis Day Videos
I linked to eight of them in Thursday’s blog. Here are more.

2017 Butterfly Cary Cup: Bright Future for Triangle Table Tennis & Cary Cup
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

Ma Long Training with Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (10:17).

Ma Long Training with Yan An, Lin Gaoyuan, Joo se Huyk
Here’s the video (13:05).

Ma Long vs Ma Lin Chop Block Technique
Here’s the video (11:08).

Fan Zhendong Training at Age 11 in 2008
Here’s the video (5:03).

How to Make a Solo Mini-Table
Here’s the video (59 sec). Or you can just buy one.

Bench-Net Pong
Here’s the picture!

Hippo vs. Dog
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Snake Pong?
Here’s the video (4 sec) – yes, snakes can play!

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April 6, 2017

Kids and Blocking
It always surprises me at how quickly kids pick up on blocking against loops, at least in a drill. But there’s a simple method I’ve found that leads to this. As soon as I explain that blocking is just like playing a video game, they go into “game mode,” and suddenly they are blocking champions! I can loop over and over and they’ll get nearly all of them back, even if their level is in the 500-1000 range. I can even get a little practice out of this.

But there are obvious weaknesses. They can’t really adjust to changing spins – if I suddenly throw a super-slow spinny one at them, they usually block off. If I loop very deep on the table, they get jammed and miss. And they aren’t yet in the habit of stepping to the ball, and so have trouble if my loop goes outside a roughly 18-inch wide zone.

A key here is to teach them, right from the start, that they should step to each ball, even if it’s a one-inch step. If you allow them to develop the habit of reaching for the ball, it becomes a habit that’s harder to break. Even if my loop goes to exactly the same spot twice in a row, they should assume they have to move, flexing their knees as I’m hitting my shot in preparation for moving. You should also teach them not to jam the table – arm’s length is about right – or they’ll always struggle with deep balls.

Related to this is that while blocking, they can’t help but see how the coach or practice partner is looping the ball. My loop is a bit ragged and stiff, with my elbow too bent. I warn students not to copy those aspects. It gets the job done, and is both consistent and (when I’m in position) pretty powerful. The key is that I do it the same every time, so the stroke, timing, and contact are consistent, leading to a consistent shot. When I introduce players to looping, or loop to their blocks, I often look about to see if one of our top players or coaches is looping so they can get a visual image of what a smoother and looser loop looks like. On the other hand, despite its deficiencies, students quickly pick up on the idea that when looping, if you can touch it, you can loop it over and over almost without miss, since that’s something I can do, as can most top players – and so they come to think of that as the norm they should aspire to.

World Table Tennis Day: Celebrations in Full Swing
Here’s the ITTF article, and here’s the ITTF video (73 sec). Yep, it’s today! “The idea behind this day is to gather Table Tennis enthusiasts, attract people who usually don’t play table tennis, promote the love for our sport, and ideally engage new players to the practice in the long term. I can’t wait for the entire world to play table tennis on 6 April.” –ITTF President Thomas Weikert. Here are more links.

Understand Your Mistakes
Here’s the article by Carl Hardin.

The Perfect Stroke - Read about the 4 Elements!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Top Five Unique Services in Ping Pong
Here’s the video (2:13).

Jun Mizutani Training Serve | WTTC 2015 Suzhou
Here’s the video (22:46). It’s from the 2015 Worlds, but the video just went up.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge – Interview With Ed Hogshead
Here’s the interview by Barbara Wei.

Youth Excel at NJTTC Hopes Regional Camp and Trial
Here’s the USATT article.

College TT: Table Tennis Set for Nationals
Here’s the article featuring Western University in Ontario, Canada.

When Your Flight is Delayed at the Airport and It’s World Table Tennis Day
Here’s video (16 sec) of Matt Hetherington this morning when his flight was delayed five hours, but it was World Table Tennis Day. Here are some other airport videos!

  • Here’s video (2:47) of how a group of MDTTC junior players and I spent our time at the airport when our flight was delayed in 2012 .
  • Here’s video (4:20) of college players at the airport in 2010.
  • Here’s video (3:24) of college players at the airport in 2007.

Ping Pong Rabbit
Here’s the trailer (65 sec) for “Ping Pong Rabbit,” an animated movie currently being filmed here in the U.S.! “‘Ping Pong Rabbit’ tells the story of a young country rabbit who loves playing ping pong. Big city ping pong turns out to be a rougher game though, and he must battle evil monkeys to save the soul of the game. From the co-director of ‘Corpse Bride.’”

Jerry Seinfeld on Tennis and Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the video – link should take you to 46 sec in. "Tennis is basically ping-pong where you're standing on the table." Here are three clips of Seinfeld playing table tennis in a Microsoft ad – Bill Gates is in the video as well.

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April 5, 2017

The Three Types of People and Long Pips
This past weekend at the Cary Cup Open in North Carolina, one of my students, just-turned-11 Jackson (that’s his first name) went in rated 1416, but pulled off a series of upsets, including a win over a 1939 player with long pips on one side. There’s an interesting story behind this.

About a month ago I’d watched him lose a practice match to a 1500 chopper with long pips. In our next session, I pointed out that throughout the match, he’d served and just stood in the middle of the table, waiting to see what return he’d get. Since most of the returns came to his backhand, he mostly followed up with soft backhands, and so both lost his serve advantage and took his strong forehand out of play. I explained that when you play a chopper (or most players with long pips on the backhand who receive defensively), you essentially get one “free shot” off your serve. (This assumes the chopper is willing to chop your serve back.) So I pulled out my chopping racket (with long pips) and had him practice against it, where he’d serve and follow almost exclusively with his forehand. He picked up on this pretty fast.

I also explained to him that there are three types of players in this world:

  1. Those who like to serve no-spin to long pips, so they get no-spin returns to attack.
  2. Those who like to serve backspin to long pips, so they get a light topspin return to attack.
  3. Those who like to serve light topspin to long pips, so they get a light backspin return to attack.

Now the above isn’t an exact thing – a good long pips player can often brush against a backspin serve enough so their return isn’t topspin, but at most it’s a no-spin or very light backspin. They can rush you by taking the ball quick off the bounce. And of course they don’t have to just push or chop the serve back. But many do, and the above is a general synopsis of the possibilities. Jackson liked #1, and that’s what he practiced against me, and that’s what he did down at the Cary Cup against the 1939 player.

I’m mostly a #3, since I love it when I get that light backspin that I can jump all over with a loop kill. When I serve no-spin or backspin, the no-spin or light topspin return seems to jump at me (since I’m more used to reacting to inverted returns), and I find it easier to time my shot if the return instead has a light backspin. But I throw all three variations at long pips, while favoring the light topspin. Others should experiment with all three and find what works for them. (If you do serve backspin or no-spin and get passive returns, you should be able to loop these right at the top of the bounce, so the opponent has little time to react to a wide-angled shot or one at their playing elbow.)

What’s most important is to understand that the concept above isn’t really about long pips or what to serve to them, though it has helpful hints on this. What is it primarily about? There are three types of players in this world:

  1. Those who think the above is primarily about how to serve against long pips.
  2. Those who rushed through the above and really have no idea what it’s about.
  3. Those who understand that the above is primarily about understanding and taking advantage of any situation in table tennis – and uses serving to long pips as an example.

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC April Open
If you are in the Maryland region, then why not enter the MDTTC April Open I’m running this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg? Here is our tournament page and here is the entry form. You can also enter online at Omnipong. The ten events are (on Saturday, with prize money in all events): Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15, and (on Sunday): U1800, U1500, U1200, and Under 12. Deadline is 7PM on Friday.

Roger Federer: “"Staying the same means going backwards"
Here’s the video (1:41). There are more gems here in the 90 seconds he talks than many people learn in a lifetime. Here’s a recap - 11 pointers that'll win you an 11-point game!

  1. “I can’t stand it watching me throw rackets and embarrassing myself so I tried to change.”
  2. “It’s very important to move on.”
  3. “I think losses make you stronger. I think it’s important you learn from those mistakes and then you become better.”
  4. “A light goes up in your head, and you go like, ‘You know what? I think I now understand what I need to improve.’”
  5. “I always questioned myself in the best of times.”
  6. “What can I improve? What do I need to change?”
  7. “If you don’t do anything, or if you just do the same thing over and over again, you stay the same, and staying the same means going backwards.”
  8. “It’s important for me to actually hear criticism because I think that’s what makes me a better player.”
  9. ‘If you never set goals, you can never question yourself.”
  10. “When things are going great, what more can I do? How much better can I become? How much harder can I train?”
  11. “All I can do is give my best and then it’s going to be fine.”

Backhand Technique for Beginners – Push and Drive
Here’s the article with links to video from PingPoolShark.

Slump...How do I GET OUT of a slump?
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Inaugural Teams Day Coming to 2017 US Nationals
Here’s the USATT info page.

2017 World University Games – Want to Help Angela Guan?
Here’s the GoFundMe page where she’s trying to raise money to attend. “My name is Angela Guan, and I am a member of the US National Table Tennis team. I will be representing Team USA in the World Championships in Germany this May. In addition, I will be representing USA and UC Berkeley at the World University Games in Taiwan, which is a self-funded trip. I am looking for support for training and my trip to the World University Games. Please support me! Thank you very much! Go Team USA!”

Hoping to Return in Early June to Same Hall, Timo Boll and Petrissa Solja
Here’s the ITTF article.

The Best Defender EVER: Koji Matsushita, Extraterrestrial
Here’s the video (4:45) – some great chopping points!

7-Year-Old Dhatri Gundlapally in Action
Here’s the video (22 sec) – 345 forehands and 235 backhands in a row!

Bay Area Major League Baseball and Table Tennis
There are three new postings about the San Francisco Giant and Oakland A’s table tennis players in the Fremont TTC blog! I really wish Major League Baseball (and NFL and NBA?) would have a real table tennis championship. I’m betting on Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who I’ve coached and can verify is close to 1900 level. (He only spent one day at MDTTC a few years ago where he played practice matches, beating an 1808 player and getting to deuce one game with Nathan Hsu, who was about 2400 at the time.)

Why You Shouldn’t Sit on the Table
Here’s the repeating gif image (5 sec)!

The Truth About Table Tennis
Here it is!

Non-Table Tennis – “The Many Heads of Mr. Krup”
Even though my primary income is from table tennis coaching and writing, I still get a huge kick out of selling a science fiction story to a market, seeing my name on the cover, and getting a paycheck for it! (I wrote about this recently, when the cover image came out, but now the magazine is out.) It’s my 20th “cover story” in the science fiction & fantasy world, that other universe I attend when I’m not doing TT. (Here’s my bibliography there.) It’s a time travel story about (spoiler alert!) the world’s greatest female hunter/greatest hunter period (there’s some argument about that in the story), who is forced to hunt the ultimate game - herself! Sorry, no table tennis, though lots of kills! Space and Time will be on sale nationwide at Barnes and Noble.

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April 4, 2017

April Fools’ Blogs
I hope you enjoyed the groundbreaking exposé in my blog yesterday of the new techniques by the Swedes to beat the Chinese – edge serves, net receives, knuckle shots. Some of you may have noticed that although the blog was on April 3, it referred to events that took place on Saturday. April 1. The more attentive of you may have read the first letter of each line. If not, now’s your chance!!! And for the record, Jan-Ove Waldner does have an older brother sort of named Ake Waldner – his real name is Kjell-Åke Waldner, and he too was a top table tennis player.

Here are my past April Fools’ Day blogs, where the first letter of each line spells out this secret message.

Backspin/No-Spin Serves
On Sunday in our adult training session, for our last drill, I had the players practice their backspin/no-spin serve and attacks. I often have them do serve and attack where they serve backspin; now I had them mix up backspin and no-spin serves – or more precisely, “Heavy no-spin serves,” i.e. fake heavy backspin but serve with no-spin. When you serve heavy backspin, receivers may put the ball in the net, but more likely they will push it back heavy and low. If you fake backspin but serve no-spin, opponents will tend to pop it up and return it with less backspin (since they don’t have your backspin rebounding off their sponge). But they also are more likely to attack, if the read it properly. So when serving no-spin, players should tend to be more aggressive on the follow, while at the same time being prepared if the receiver attacks. If you serve the no-spin very low, then few players can attack this ball very aggressively, and so you still get to attack. Here’s my article on this, Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.

The Smasher - Check out the tactics to beat this difficult opponent!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

How to Serve with Corkscrew Spin
Here’s the article and podcast (6:35) from Expert Table Tennis.

Zheng Chaoying Warm Up and Stretching Techniques for a Healthy Table Tennis Player Part 2
Here’s the ITTF article and video (25:14). Here’s Part 1 (16:49), which I previously posted.

2017 Butterfly Cary Cup: Kaden Xu Dominates Competition
Here’s the final article on the Cary Cup by Barbara Wei.

College Table Tennis: Table Tennis Titans Face More Battles in Wisconsin
Here’s the article by Andy Kanengiser.

Recognised Even Before Official Date, a Special Status for World Table Tennis Day
Here’s the ITTF article, which features Kanak Jha and Tahl Leibovitz.

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

Westchester March 2017 Open - Jishan Liang vs Kaden Xu
Here’s the video of the final (20:44).

Mini-Ice Hockey Pong
Here’s the video (21 sec)! I’m guessing the goalie has good defense.

Stephen Curry vs. Serena Williams in Table Tennis!
Here’s the video (91 sec) of the two going at it (and destroying a room) in the new Chase commercial.

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April 3, 2017

Tip of the Week
Coaching Tournament Matches.

How The Swedes Will Beat the Chinese Again
Ake Waldner visited MDTTC this past Saturday, spending the day watching our
players train. He is the brother of former Swedish superstar Jan-Ove Waldner, and was
recently named Head Coach of the Swedish National Men’s Team. Our players had some
interesting questions, of course. Sweden had battled with China for decades, with such
legendary players as Bengtsson, Persson, Appelgren, and of course Waldner.

First question, of course, was rather straightforward – how could Sweden, USA,
or any other team possibly beat China? I’ve always argued that if we use the same
orthodox techniques that make the Chinese so good, we’ll always be just a pale
likeness, with no chance of matching them.

Ake agreed with me! And it turns out the Swedes are working on new techniques,
practicing things that might allow them to beat the Chinese. Serve, receive, and
rallies – you have to win at all three, Ake said. The Swedish team had bought
into the new concepts, and have spent many countless hours preparing for their
likely showdown with the Chinese at the upcoming World Championships.

First, they’ve developed a revolutionary new serving technique. Ake demonstrated
over and over his ability to serve on the edge. He’d stand in his backhand side,
open his racket, and just tap the ball down the line. The ball would hit the edge and
lurch to the side, unreturnable unless you basically lobbed it up, an easy smash.

As if that weren’t enough, they had also developed new receive techniques,
pushing short balls back with a soft touch so they’d just teeter on the net, and then
roll over, unreturnable. The Chinese rely on these short serves to set up their crazy,
insane attacks. Now they’d be forced to serve long, and the Swedes would easily
loop those serves in for winners.

Finally, Ake showed me what they were doing to win actual rallies. The ITTF
ordained a few years ago that “unintentional” double-hits were now legal, though
of course there’s no way of judging that. The Swedish players had, amazingly,
learned to do double hits off their knuckles – crazy, unreturnable shots!

Anyway, we learned a lot from Ake Waldner during his day-long stay. He even
played a little with our very best juniors, though of course none of them were
ready for this non-stop barrage of edges, net dribbles, and double-hits. Basically,
it was a slaughter! I actually feel sort of sorry for the Chinese now – it’s too
late for them to copy these techniques or learn to play against them.

For what it’s worth, I think these new techniques will ruin the game. Isn’t the
object of the game is to win on real skill, not with silly tricks? Maybe I’m just
old-fashioned, and maybe this is the future of our sport. If it is, then I’m
likely to quit coaching. It just isn’t the same.

4-Star Cary Cup
It was held this past weekend in North Carolina. Here are links and two articles by Barbara Wei.  

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the new issue, with links to numerous coaching articles.

Forehand Technique for Beginners – Drive and Push
Here’s the article with links to video, from PingPoolShark.

Table Tennis Training: Ma Long Forehand Loop Against Heavy Backspin
Here’s the video (3:36). (Note – I put this up on Friday a few hours after I’d put up the blog, so I’m putting it up again here.)

Backhand Topspin Against Backspin: Ma Long Technique
Here’s the video (2:08).

New York Ignites World Table Tennis Day
Here’s the ITTF article, which features Kanak Jha, Tahl Leibovitz, ITTF President Thomas Weikert, and ITTF Director of Development Leandro Olvech.

Liu Guoliang Speaks Out on Liebherr World Championships Selections
Here’s the ITTF article.

2017 US Hopes Camp at ICC
Here’s the article and links.

College Table Tennis

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge - Jishan Liang Interview
Here’s the video (3:01).

Some Great Table Tennis Points
Here’s the highlights video (8:40).

“Table Tennis is playing chess while running a 100 meter Sprint”
Here’s the highlights music video (4:11).

Sidespin Through the Toilet Paper Tube
Here’s the video (25 sec)!

Multiball Gun Pong
Here’s the video (6 sec)!

Danny Williams Gets Hustled by Ping Pong Ringer
Here’s the article and video (1:51).

April Fools’ Jokes
These all came out on Saturday, April 1. Alas, I don’t blog on Saturdays, so I was unable to do an April Fools’ joke myself. April Fools!

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