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 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!

June 23, 2017

Upcoming USATT Coaching Courses and Seminars
[I sent the following in as a USATT news item, which should go up soon.  (It's up.) I spent much of yesterday putting together a 19-page presentation I’ll be playing on a projector for my “How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program” seminar, which will be held in a classroom. I also have a one-page outline for my “Intermediate and Advanced Serving” seminar, which will be at the playing hall, but I can pretty much do that one in my sleep. I’ll put both documents online after the Nationals.]

USATT is taking a two-pronged approach to educating our coaches – and players too! Take your pick of an ITTF Coaching Course or a USATT University Seminar at the USA Nationals.

These are for current and prospective coaches who wish to improve their coaching skills as well as get certified as a USATT and ITTF coach. (Note that when you are certified at ITTF Levels 1, 2, or 3, you are automatically certified as a USATT coach at the corresponding levels of State, Regional, and National Coach.) There are five upcoming ITTF Coaching seminars:

USATT UNIVERSITY – Coaching Seminars at the USA Nationals
USATT University is a reality! USATT will be running eight seminars at the upcoming USA Nationals. When I ran for the USATT Board, one of the things I wanted to do was set up a “USATT Coaching Academy.” That morphed into USATT University! Special thanks goes to USATT CEO Gordon Kaye for making it happen, and to USATT staff members Andy Horn and Jon Taylor. A huge thanks also goes to those who will be teaching these seminars.

I think this is a great opportunity for USA Table Tennis to educate current and prospective coaches and organizers, as well as adding more “glitz” to our major tournaments as a further draw. If you have suggestions for future such panels, let me know.

If the courses are successful, we hope expand them even more at the U.S. Open in December. I’m already planning a 4-6 hour USATT Coaching Certification Clinic, as well as possibly other seminars such as ones on Tactics, Looping, Sports Psychology, Hardbat/Sandpaper, and How to Become a Professional Coach. (Note – as a USATT board member and coaching chair, I’m a volunteer and receive no payment for these seminars or related work.) Descriptions of the eight courses or seminars are on the USATT University flyer. Here’s the short version, in chronological order.







7-8 PM

Tournament Directors Best Practices 101


Jasna Rather, Matt Hetherington, Ed Hogshead, James Therriault


8-9 PM

Advanced Return of Serve


Stefan Feth, USA Men’s Coach and 4-time USATT Coach of the Year


12-2 PM

USATT Umpire Clinic


International Referee and Umpire Azmy Ibrahim


7-8 PM

USATT Club Best Practices 101


Ed Hogshead, Tim Wang, Marguerite Cheung, others pending


7-8 PM

Intermediate and Advanced Serving


Larry Hodges, USATT Certified National Coach and Hall of Famer


8-9 PM

How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program


Larry Hodges, USATT Certified National Coach and Hall of Famer


8-9 PM

One-On-One with High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio


Jörg Bitzigeio


7-8 PM

OmniPong 101 (tournament software)


Craig Krum, OmniPong Developer

*Free to USATT certified coaches and USA Nationals volunteers

2017 ITTF-Pan Am Junior Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, June 20-25 in Buenos Aires, ARG. USA has already won both Boys’ and Girls’ Teams. Singles and Doubles is now starting. Team USA is Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, Victor Liu, Jack Wang, Rachel Sung, Amy Wang, Crystal Wang, and Grace Yang. Here are some news items that feature Team USA:

China Open
Here’s the home page for the event, in Chengdu, China, June 22-25. Here are some news items - see the big news about the Chinese team members refusing to play out of protest of Liu Guoliang's "promotion" out of the head coaching position! (Added later - Here's an article on the situation, from the South China Morning Post. And here's the Response from the Chinese Sports Administration. I have a feeling Ma, Fan, and Xu, and probably Zhang, are in serious trouble.) 

Double Gold for US Para Team in Germany
Here’s the USATT article.

Coaching Articles and Videos from EmRathThich
I only just discovered these!

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills. (Note – I put this up whenever they have new questions answered, which is almost every day.)

Ma Long Forehand Flick Training 2017
Here’s the video (2:18).

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

Who Are Those Guys? Tournament Mismatches
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon. And note the new website for Jon’s Table Tennis Training!

High Acclaim for Administration Course
Here’s the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Just Got Fit: Interview with Game Dev About Your Fitness and VR
Here’s the article.

Pong Universe Point of the Week: Alan Cooke vs. Joao Monteiro
Here’s the video (48 sec). Great point!!! We’ll ignore that the serve was illegally hidden, by both the body and the non-playing arm, which is illegally left out there to hide the serve.

Equipment Booths at the World Championships
Here’s the video (15:27) – if you are an EJ (Equipment Junkie), this is what you missed!

Sports Swap: Table Tennis vs. Hockey
Here’s the video (12:23). “What happens when an Olympic hockey player and a Dutch table tennis champion swap sports?”

Japanese Pythagoras Switch
Here’s the video (4:02) – it starts with table tennis! A ping-pong ball also makes an appearance for ten seconds at 1:54 in.

Your Basic Forehand Smash
Here’s the gif image.

Ten Cup Challenge
Here’s the video (41 sec). I do this all the time in my beginning junior class. The more advanced students often join in. The record for knocking them all down is two shots.

Five Types of Cheaters in Table Tennis
Here’s the hilarious video (3:25) from EmRatThich!

Three More Cats Playing Pong

Send us your own coaching news!

June 21, 2017

Thursday Off
I need a day off to catch up on things – see you on Friday!

Sports Skills and the Myth of the Natural
The following has a table tennis point to it, but starts out in a fantasy world. I’m currently reading Book Two in the Weird West Tales series by Mike Resnick, four fantasy books which feature the adventures of Doc Holliday in a re-imagined west where Americans, led by Thomas Edison, try to use science to battle the magic of Indians such as Geronimo. In Book One, “The Buntline Special,” we learn what really happened at the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Holliday takes on the undead Johnny Ringo. In Book Two, “The Doctor and the Kid,” Holliday, now broke due to a horrible loss in a poker game, needs to hunt down and kill Billy the Kid for the reward money. Alas, he can’t, as Geronimo has used his magic so bullets bounce off The Kid. Okay, as table tennis players, perhaps none of this interests you. But there’s a table tennis angle.

The novel features some very nice writing by Resnick, one of the greatest science fiction and fantasy writers of all time. But a passage caught my eye last night. In the scene, Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid are drinking at a bar together. They know that they are going to be having it out sometime later, but until then they have become friends. The following conversation takes place – and it could just as easily have taken place at a table tennis club, where they were discussing table tennis.

“How did you get to be so good with a gun?” asks Holliday.

“I honestly don’t know,” says The Kid. “I never played with toy guns back in New York or Kansas, never dreamed of being a gunslinger, never practiced much with a gun once I got one. I just strapped on a holster one day, and pulled and fired my gun, and hit what I was aiming at every damned time. It’s like pointing my finger.”

“I would say that you’re what they call a natural,” said Holliday.

Now writers can take what is called literary license to change things for dramatic appeal, but this seems to perpetuate the myth that athletes are born, not made. (Doc Holliday, who in the novel is thought by many to be the only gunslinger who might be able to stand up against The Kid, also never seems to practice.) While it is a combination of the two, the consensus of most coaches is that top athletes are much, Much, MUCH more made than born. And yet, to many, athletes are just naturals who become the best because of inborn skills. This may be more true in certain sports, such as sprinting, but not in skill sports.

The reality, of course, is if Holliday and Billy the Kid were truly great gunslingers, they likely spent huge amounts of time practicing their draw and shooting skills. If they didn’t, there no doubt would be others who did, and they would have become the great gunslingers, and Holliday and The Kid would have lost the first time they went up against them.

Look at the top table tennis players in the world. None of them became great because they were “Naturals.” They all spent a decade or so practicing like maniacs. Some might have started out seemingly naturals – compared to other beginners - but any such naturals who didn’t practice regularly would soon be overtaken by those who do.

It’s not just the above passage. Look at the movie “The Natural,” where the whole premise is about a baseball player who is naturally blessed with incredible talent. Or the movie “Rocky,” with the premise that an apparently supremely talented adult boxer can overcome years of not training hard by training hard for just a few months at most. Or “The Karate Kid,” where the same happens in karate, because the kid “has good root.” (Sorry, all the heart in the world doesn’t overcome training long hours from a young age – though that very heart is often what enables a player to do that long training.) Sometimes it’s done just silly. In Conan the Barbarian (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger), Conan as a child is enslaved and grows up doing hard labor. This makes him incredibly strong – no problem – but somehow it also made him an incredible warrior with a sword!!! Just naturally talented, right?

Sometimes it’s done better – in The Princess Bride, the hired swordsman, Inigo Montoya, spends his whole life since he was a kid training as a swordsman, which makes him a master swordsman, who eventually gets to say the immortal lines, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” And yet (Spoiler Alert!) – he loses to Westley in the big swordfight at the top of the mountain, where Westley seems to be just talented. (He did spend years on pirate ships, but only after he’d already grown up, and likely didn’t do daily systematic training there.) Another one that got it right? Wonder Woman, where she is secretly trained to be a warrior from an early age – though of course she also has the “daughter of Zeus” thing . . . .

We have some really “talented” kids at my club. But when you look into their talents, you learn that, for example, that the 8-year-old with the 1664 rating, who seems such a natural, has been training almost daily since age five. (I know, since I was his coach that first year. He did have great natural talent, but nothing would have come of it if it weren’t for the long hours he’s spent training.) The same goes for others. Many see kids like these and think they are good only because of this natural talent, but they are not there when the kids are sweating it out with coaches, hour after hour after hour, developing that talent. There are some that were naturally talented, including that 8-year-old – but I know of many equally talented ones who you will never hear of because they didn’t follow through with the training to make something of that talent.

So next time you watch a sports movie or read a novel about some “natural” athlete who has great skill because of natural gifts, or about some nobody who, due to this “natural talent,” is able to become great through a short splurge of hard training and become better than someone who has been doing so for a decade, or hear someone talk about some top player who got that way primarily because he was “talented” (and ignore the 10,000 or so hours of training it took to get there in a typical skill sport), just smile to yourself because you know better.

2017 ITTF-Pan Am Junior Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, June 20-25 in Buenos Aires, ARG. Team USA is Kanak Jha (seeded #1 in boys' singles), Victor Liu (#3), Sharon Alguetti (#5), Jack Wang (#7), Crystal Wang (seeded #2 in girls' singles), Amy Wang (seeded #4), Rachel Sung (#7), and Grace Yang (#10). We're seeded #1 in both boys' and girls' teams. Here are related articles:

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Very Good Chinese Long Pimples Chopper
Here’s the video (4:59) from EmRatThich.

Table Tennis with Brain Strategies - Mental Benefits of Table Tennis
Here’s the article.

Lily Zhang Looks Ahead to National Title Defense in Vegas
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington.

Zoran Primorac - Special Guest Visit - Westchester Table Tennis Center
Here’s the video (9:38). He coaches, answers questions, and gives an exhibition.

Will Australia Ever Take Table Tennis Seriously as a Sport?
Here’s the article – full title is, “Can table tennis come out of the rumpus room to become a serious sporting passion in Australia?”

Doubles Pong on the Floor
Here’s the picture – both the original graphic and the Adam Bobrow mimicry – but I have no idea what’s going on. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

250,000 Ping-Pong Balls in a Pool Party
Here’s the video (39 sec)!

Size Restrictions on a Table Tennis Bat
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 20, 2017

"What I was trained to do long ago..."
During a coaching session last night I blocked a ball rather wide to my student’s forehand. The student moved wide and made a very nice forehand loop that went extremely wide to my forehand, well outside the corner and moving away from me very rapidly. Several things happened very quickly, all the result of training from long ago, training which coaches now try to give to their students.

First, I did exactly what I was trained to do long ago, and after my block went to the student’s wide forehand, I reflexively moved to cover the potential wide angle return to my forehand. I’m pretty sure most club players would have at most moved marginally over, leaving the wide angle open.  

Second, I did exactly what I was trained to do long ago, and stepped to the ball, instead of leaning or reaching. The ball caught me off guard with the great angle, and I’m pretty sure the great majority of club players, when they saw how wide the ball was going, would have reflexively leaned and lunged at it. As an experiment, stand up for a moment, and lean to your right. Now try moving to your right. You can’t!!! By stepping to the ball, I was able to get to it cleanly.

Third, rather than moving sideways, I did what I was trained to do long ago when blocking on the forehand – I moved in, and cut the ball off quickly before it had a chance to get away from me. This allowed me to take the ball right off the bounce – but more importantly, it allowed me to hit the ball at all. I’m pretty sure that most club players would have moved sideways, and with the ball moving away from them, they wouldn’t have been able to touch it.

Fourth, since the ball was angled so wide to my forehand, I did what I was trained to do long ago, and counter-angled right back, blocking the ball even wider than the ball I’d had to block. The result was an easy ace as my student leaned and lunged sideways. (Alas!) Always remember - if you angle your opponent, position yourself for a counter-angle!

And Fifth, in the off chance that the ball did come back, I did what I was trained to do long ago, and reflexively moved to cover that potentially even wider forehand angle return – see the first item above.

After the point was over, I explained to the student what had just taken place, and we practiced covering those wide angles. But I had a small smile to myself – even after years of coaching and rarely practicing, the old training is still there!!!

USA Take Top Spots as Kanak Jha and Amy Wang Triumph in Argentina
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington. Here are some ITTF articles:

ITTF-PTT Level 1 Coaching Course - Denver, Colorado, August 7-11, 2017
Here’s the info page. Here are other upcoming coaching ITTF courses in the U.S.

Backhand Loop Lecture
Here’s the video (7:31) from Samson Dubina.

Improve Your Hand & Eye Coordination
Here’s the video (2:02) by Jules Apatini of The Aerobic Sports Dance & Music Exercises Group, which features USATT Hall of Famer George Brathwaite doing Aerobic Progressive Exercising with a Ping Pong Robot.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

China Table Tennis Team Training at Dusseldorf
Here’s the video (16:32) from EmRatThich.

Puzzle Pong
It’s a new, special event at the Westchester Open this weekend. Here’s what Westchester Club owner and puzzlemaster Will Shortz wrote me about the event. “A new, experimental event at this month's Open is Puzzle Pong, which will start Saturday at 1 pm. Yours truly will sit at the side of the table and provide quick questions with words, numbers, and trivia during play. In addition to the usual points scored, players can also win points by being the first to answer my questions. It's the ultimate test of mind and body!” I wish I could be there!!! Alas, I have too much coaching that Saturday, and since I’ll be away three Saturdays in July, I can’t afford to take more time off.

Maryland State Championships
Here’s the USATT news item. I’ve emailed them asking them to take “Results from the” off the title, since it’s a regular article, not just results. (This was in my blog last week.)

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

The Rise of Japan’s Generation Z
Here’s the video (2:16) – are the Japanese juniors overtaking the Chinese?

Incredible Point Between Ma Long and Xu Xin at Japan Open
Here’s the video (38 sec) – Ma’s the righty on the far side. Commentating by Adam Bobrow. (Yes, that last shot by Xu hit the table.)

MAvelous Captain Long Movie
Here’s the trailer (2 min) for the MAvelous Captain Long Movie set to hit your movie screens in 2020!

Pong-Style Border Security
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 19, 2017

Tip of the Week
Importance of Routine.

Capital Area League - and How to Create Your Own League!
They had their final meetup this past Saturday (at MDTTC) – and results and photos are up, care of Mossa Barandao and Thomas Olausson of PongMobile! There were 116 players on 24 teams this year, all in the Washington DC area (most of Maryland and Northern Virginia). It’s a great activity that brings everyone together for many hours of great fun and competition – without those pesky ratings, by the way! (Of course, you can run a league with or without ratings.) The league will continue again with a new season this Fall.

Interested in creating a league in your area? Here’s the USATT League page, where you can learn how to set up either a Team League or a Singles League (with the USATT League Rating System). If you don’t have one, you do not know what you are missing!!! Here's a video (81 sec) explaining the league software and who to contact to get it. 

A great congrats goes to everyone in the Capital Area League, but especially the following:

    : MDTTC UniSHARKS (Roy Ke - League MVP, Tiffany Ke, Ronald Chen, Spencer Chen)
    Runner-ups: MDTTC Lions (Greg Mascialino, Ryan Dabbs, Nathan Hsu, Allen Lin)
    : MDTTC-The Lily Difference (Darwin Ma, Joshua Gong, Mohamed Kamara)
    Runner-ups: Chantilly (John Olsen, Fred Nicolas, Lo Chao, Naveen Vaddadi)
    : WDCTT Too (Thomas Olausson, Ryan Lin, Arnd Plagge, Zhaoyuan, Liu, Olga Kartushina, Stephen Thoren)
    Runner-ups: Team Butter-Fried (Si Cheong, Ian Dominguez, Gordon Lee, Enrique Torrez, Gabriel Griffin)
    : HWGF Team 1 (Hanfei Hu, Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, Andy Wu, Jackson Beaver)
    Runner-ups: HWGF Team 2 (Ryan Lee, Nicole Deng, Adrian Yang, Kay O’Hara)
  • Host Clubs: MDTTC, Smash TT, Washington DC TTC
  • Super Volunteer: Mossa Barandao, who does much of the running of each league, using software he and Thomas Olausson created.

USATT Minutes and Actions
Here’s the page, which has been updated to include minutes of all meetings and teleconferences through May, and the actions from the June 12 teleconference.

Serve Return Placement
Here’s the video (2:11) by Samson Dubina.

Forehand Drive Technique in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:39) from EmRatThich.

Tactics to Improve Your Serve
Here’s the series of short videos from PingSkills.

The Importance of Linking
Here’s the podcast (29:14) from PingSkills where they talk about the importance of linking your strokes together.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Japan Open
Here’s the home page, with news, results, photos, lots of video, and more. It took place this past weekend in Tokyo.

Legendary Quartet Unveiled as T2 Asia-Pacific League Team Captains
Here’s the ITTF article featuring the new captains - Jiang Jialiang, Jörgen Persson, Jörg Rosskopf and Michael Maze.

2017 ITTF Argentina Junior Open
Here’s the home page for the event, June 18-19 in Buenos, Aires, ARG. (It’s being livestreamed.) Following this will be the Pan Am Junior Championships, June 20-25, also in Buenos Aires. USA has eight players in both events: Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, Jack Wang, Victor Liu, Amy Wang, Rachel Sung, Rachel Yang, and Grace Yang.

National Senior Games – Table Tennis
Here are the results – they were held last weekend in Birmingham, AL, with Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, in nine age events starting at age 50.

Kasumi Ishikawa "Secret Story"
Here’s the video (7:25) from EmRatThich.

USATT Top 10 - National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the video (5:04).

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 World Championships
Here’s the video (6:01).

Harimoto Tomokazu vs LIANG Jingkun (Round 3 Japan Open)
Here are highlights (1:22) of the Japanese whiz kid (Harimoto).

Unbelievable Behind Back Shot by Xu Xin
Here’s the video (24 sec) – note the score!

Living Legend George Brathwaite Shows How to Keep The Ping Pong Ball In Play
Here’s the video (75 sec) as he plays against a mobile return board!

Fathers’ Day Pong
Here’s the video (36 sec) of Andrew Williams (from PongUniverse) and son Shia Williams.

Here’s a Vacant Table
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 16, 2017

Living a Life of Pong
Sometimes I get so busy from all my table tennis work that I barely can find time to do anything else. I somehow make time for my other interests – science fiction reading & writing, movies, and a few other things, but those are like smoke in a hurricane of table tennis activities. When things get so busy that there’s barely time to breathe, us table tennis people have to remind ourselves that this is the business we have chosen. After all, if we weren’t doing table tennis, what would we be doing? Not table tennis!!! (Horrors!!!)

<Start non-Table Tennis Paragraph.> In my case, I’d likely be a math professor in that other lifetime that never happened. Instead, recently, in my SF writing sideline, I’ve begun writing stories that feature Mad Molly, an 80-year-old autistic black retired math professor who regularly saves the day with math, though she usually does in humorous fashion as she has her own separate motives – such as, in one story, her determination to get an ice cream pie sent to her sister in Paris before it melts, and to make it happen she has to save Washington DC from a nuclear attack. I actually get paid for these stories! Just this morning I received $315 via PayPal for a short story I recently sold. </End non-Table Tennis Paragraph.>

Admittedly, I’m busier in table tennis than most. I often envy my fellow full-time table tennis coaches, who get to focus on coaching and little else. They are often split into two types: Those who just coach table tennis, and those who coach table tennis and still train as players. (I’m sure they have more going on in their private lives.) Alas, I’ve dropped the latter, but double alas, I’ve got a lot more on my ping-pong plate than most.

With USA Table Tennis, I’m on the Board of Directors and chair the Coaching Committee. (I’ll be doing a USATT news item soon on upcoming USATT/ITTF coaching courses and other coaching matters. And the amount of email correspondence is huge.) With MDTTC, I run many of the group sessions, run the tournaments, do promotional work, and do the monthly newsletter. As the founder and coach at, I do the daily blog, weekly Tip of the Week, and other upkeep. As the founder and member of the board of directors for the Capital Area Table Tennis League, I . . . well, admittedly and guiltily, I actually do less there than others on the board, as I’m just too busy on other things. But I am volunteering three hours this weekend to help run the upcoming meetup!

Of course, the interesting details of the below can get lost in the maelstrom of info, so the flavor is lost. For example, I mention my private coaching, but leave out the daily details. As noted in yesterday’s blog, many of our players are preparing for the Nationals, so we adjust our coaching for that. There are also various techniques that come up more in any given week. For example, I’ve spent a surprising amount of time this past week coaching fast no-spin serves, both to the middle and wide corners, and other deep serves. There’s also been an emphasis on recovering into ready position – too many players, when moving to the wide forehand or stepping around the backhand to play forehand, don’t follow through back into position, and so don’t recover for the next shot. So I’ve been demonstrating that all week. Another student keeps learning and unlearning how to loop, and so we have to get over this so he doesn’t have to spend 5-10 minutes of each session relearning the same thing each time. And lots more – I could write a book on a week’s coaching activities and the trials and tribulations of each player. I also got to watch many students in action at the Maryland State Championships, which gives us things to work on.

Here’s a chronicle of my recent and upcoming TT activities.

  • Saturday and Sunday (this past weekend): Ran the Maryland State Championships. Also gave a one-hour clinic for a group that came in from some local church group. Then sent in all the tournament results to USATT for processing. I was at the club at 7:45AM both mornings, and didn’t leave until about 9PM on Saturday, 11PM on Sunday.
  • Monday: We had a USATT teleconference, from 7PM to roughly 9PM. There were updates and reports from the Worlds and ITTF meetings, and on the upcoming USA Nationals. We went over the minutes of past meetings – six of them – and after some edits, approved them all. The actions and motions from these meetings are already online at the USATT Minutes and Actions page, with the approved minutes going up soon. We went over bylaw proposals, and approved one which increased the number of ads a player can wear on his shirt. Another one on whether USATT can force testimony from members on disciplinary matters was I believe tabled for now – I’m really hesitant on that one. There was discussion of committees, a memo from the Ethics and Grievance Committee, and of the Pan Am Junior Team and Coaches. And then we adjourned!
  • Monday: What, did you think all I did on Monday was attend the USATT teleconference? I did the write-up of the Maryland State Championships, compiled results, and formatted photos linked to the results (with a caption on each), which I posted in my Wednesday blog. I wrote a separate news release which I sent to all the local media. Then the rating results from the tournament came out early in the afternoon – and there was a computer glitch! The results for the Under 15 event results were all wrong, with numerous results that hadn’t taken place, including a number of fictional 50-point losses (and wins). I’d sent in the correct results, but somehow what they received was jumbled up. It didn’t get fixed up until late Wednesday, and so I spent 1.5 days explaining the situation approximately 100,000 times via phone, email, and to kids, parents, and coaches surrounding me at the club. You can find the ratings at the USATT ratings page.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday: I had three hours of private coaching on Tuesday, four on Wednesday. But probably the biggest headache was working out the big transition to summer hours. Most of the year I begin coaching at 4:30PM or so, as kids get off school. But we have camps at MDTTC all summer starting next Monday, and they need all the tables until 6PM. So I’ve been emailing and discussing the schedule with my students, and as of late last night I finally have my new schedule worked out, with students now starting at 6PM or later, Mon-Fri, or on weekends. Also did a huge amount of USATT work – got to check off a lot of stuff on my todo list.
  • Thursday: I taught the final class of our Thursday Beginning Class last night. It starts up again in the fall, with the kids mostly going to our camps all summer or signing up for private coaching. (We have nine full-time coaches at MDTTC.) But I spent much of the day also working on the two seminars I’ll be running at the USA Nationals, one on Serving, one on Setting Up and Running a Junior Program. I’m also beginning plans for the creation of a one-day six-hour USATT club coach certification camp we might start running.
  • Friday: Today, after I finish this blog, I need to finalize the Hall of Fame Program booklet. It’s due Monday, but I’ll be too busy this weekend to work on it. Last night Sean O’Neill, who became the new Hall of Fame Committee Chair in January (succeeding Donna Sakai) sent me the last info needed, on the Boosters Club (donations to the Hall of Fame), which are published in the program. If you are interested in donating (and getting published in the program and online, and getting a personal thank you from Sean), here’s the USATT Hall of Fame Donations page! Get it done by Monday, as I’ll be making any last-minute additions then before sending it in for publication.
  • Saturday: Normally I coach 5-7 hours on Sundays, but due to a strange configuration in the stars (students away or competing in the Capital Area League), I only have three hours of coaching this time. So I had a fit of madness and volunteered to help run the Capital Area League. I finish coaching at 2:30PM, then I’ll be helping out from 3-6PM. It’s the final meetup of the season, then it starts up again in the Fall. This season we have 116 players on 24 teams. This meeting is at MDTTC, but the league also meets at two other local clubs, Smash TT in Virginia and the Washington DC TTC.
  • Sunday: 8.5 hours of coaching, both private and group. Nuff said.
  • Monday: The MDTTC summer camps begin! They are Mon-Fri all summer, June 19 to Sept. 1, for eleven consecutive weeks (except July 3-7, when the coaches and many of the players will be at the USA Nationals). Hours are 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM, followed by private coaching. Guess what time I have to get up each morning in order to get my blog done? Plus I finalize and send in the Hall of Fame program, and three hours of private coaching. 

Japan Open
Here’s the home page, with news, results, photos, lots of video, and more. It’s taking place right now in Tokyo, June 16-18, Fri-Sun (with a qualification tournament held June 14-15).

How Long Does It Take to Get Really Good at Table Tennis?
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak. I found this to be really interesting – see what you think.

Table Tennis Placement and Free Parking
Here’s the article, with link to video “The Best of Oh Sang Eun” (3:16), from Coach Jon. “YouTube videos of Jan Ove Waldner have introduced the value of great blocking to a new generation of players. No less impressive are the blocks by Oh Sang Eun. The veteran Korean player maneuvers the best players in the world into awkward positions and manages to finish points with perfectly placed, often uncontested, backhands.”

Consistency Equals Confidence
Here’s the new podcast (28:34) from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

Zhang Jike Backhand Flick Training 2017
Here’s the video (6:01).

Indian Prodigy, Mudit Dani Sets Sights on USA
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. Mudit will be attending New York University starting this fall, focusing on economics and math. He is “Just the third player in India's history in the sport to reach the top 10 standings of the ITTF World Junior Circuit.” He said, “I wanted to pursue my education at a place which is flexible and will allow me to continue to pursue table tennis.”

USATT Top 10 - National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the video (5:05).

Lunch with the Iranian Women’s Team at the Worlds
Here’s the video (2:21) as Adam Bobrow practices his Farsi. Not much table tennis, but interesting to watch!

Ultimate Table Tennis Commercial
Here’s the video (30 sec) for the upcoming Ultimate League in India.

Left-Handed Inside-Out Sidespin Pendulum Forehand from Outside Backhand Corner Around-the-Net to Smack Small Ball in Target
Here’s the video (14 sec) – of course Matt Hetherington is left-handed, but still….

ZHANG Jike vs FAN Zhendong Funny Point Asian Championships 2017
Here’s the video (60 sec).

Send us your own coaching news!

June 15, 2017

Preparing for Nationals
It’s that time of year again. So . . . how does one go about preparing for a big tournament? Well, first of all, you read my article, Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament. Well, duh!!! But from a coach’s point of view, here is how our coaching changes.

First, in the age of nearly unregulated plastic balls, where the balls play very differently, you have to switch over to whatever ball is being used. For the upcoming Nationals, that’s the Nittaku Premium ball. I keep a supply of each of the major types, and just yesterday I tossed a bag of these balls into my playing bag.

Second, there’s more emphasis on game play, less on basic rote drills. The time to perfect shots is mostly past; now’s the time to practice what you have in game situations. That means more free play, more points starting with serve or receive, and lots of random drills. It means more emphasis on receive, sometimes playing out points, sometimes not. For top players, it sometimes means mimicking the shots of rival players they will likely play so they can prepare for them.

Third, there’s a lot of emphasis on serves. Now is not the time to develop new ones, but to hone and perfect the ones you have. The coach or player need to decide what serves they will be using in the tournament, and make sure those serves are ready and at their best. Deep serves especially need to be practiced as they are the toughest to pull out under pressure, and the easiest to miss.

Fourth, sports psychology is emphasized more and more. All the training is wasted if a player goes out there and isn’t mentally at his best. I sometimes work out in advance with players how to prepare this way. For example, I had one student for years who liked the Baltimore Ravens football team and the TV show NCIS – and so I’d come prepare to talk about those two topics to help relax him before matches. Then, about five minutes before the match would begin we’d talk tactics, reviewing the tactics we’d gone over earlier.

Fifth, coaches and players are making coaching plans for the tournament. Often this means studying playing schedules to see who is playing when, and which coaches are available. (My club, MDTTC, will have seven or eight coaches at the Nationals.) Coaches also have to make sure players are ready for coaching – how best to prepare for each match, who to warm up with, when to call timeouts, what serves to use at various times in a match, etc.

Maryland State Championships
I’ve added links to photos for most of the events – see yesterday’s blog.

We Need You - World Veteran Championships Las Vegas 2018
Here’s the USATT call for volunteers – this means YOU! The event will take place in July in Las Vegas, with something like 3000 players – and you’ll be right in the middle of the action!!! I’ve already been recruited to do daily coverage, though I plan to also play in it.

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

ITTF North America
Here’s their home page. USA Table Tennis works with them on a number of issues.

Match Analysis: Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong Men's Singles Final
Here’s the article, with links to video. Here’s the article about the Men’s Final at the recent Worlds – somehow I missed this when it first went up.

Target Drills
Here’s the video (18 sec) from Coach Me Table Tennis, where the player has to react to the command on which target he should aim his attack at.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Ideal Pairs But Where Have the Right Handers Gone?
Here’s the ITTF article on Men’s Doubles at the Japan Open (currently underway in Tokyo). They are down to the final 16 teams – and 15 are lefty/righty combos! The other team? A pair of lefties!!! This reminds me of the time many years ago when many of the top right-handed USA players were lobbying to play doubles with lefty stars Quang Bui and Brian Masters at the 1985 USA Nationals. It got so heated that Quang and Brian said forget it, and they played together. Quang was an all-out attacker, while Brian played with the Seemiller grip and favored his backhand, so he could play almost like a lefty – and the two won Men’s Doubles! They won again in 1987.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Ask A Pro Anything - Jeoung Youngsik
Here’s the video (5:31) with the world #15 (previously #7) from South Korea, from Adam Bobrow.

Nathan Hsu in China - Getting a SIM Card is Such a Pain
Here’s his newest Vlog (9:27).

Strolling Pong and Four-Table Pong
Here’s the video (40 sec) with Adam Bobrow at the Worlds – the future of our sport?

Send us your own coaching news!

June 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
Great Serves are the Best Way to Avoid Upsets and Compete with Strong Players.

$4500 Maryland State Championships
I ran them this past weekend at MDTTC, with great help from Mossa Barandao of PongMobile and Wen Hsu. Complete results are at Omnipong – the program is great for running tournaments and posting results. After the tournament finished on Sunday night, I sent in the results – and they were processed for rating shortly after lunch! (Do you remember the days when it sometimes took months, and how happy we were when they started going up consistently within ten days?)

Below is my write-up (skip ahead if you aren’t interested in the illustrious play of Marylanders – lots of other segments), which will need some adjusting as I referred to post-tournament ratings a couple of times that will likely change, though probably not too much in these two cases. Alas, there was some sort of glitch, and one event – Under 15 – has all sorts of mistakes. The results sent in were identical to the correct online ones above, but for reasons that aren’t clear yet, the results for that one event were completely jumbled up, so that it has a number of matches by players against players from other groups they never played, including 50-point losses that never actually happened. USATT is working to fix it, and hopefully they will be corrected today. 

[NOTE - ratings were corrected and are online. I've also added links to photos of the finalists in most of the events in the results below.]

We suspect the root of the problem was the following. When the Under 15 event was initially set up, it wasn’t set up for a 3-4 playoff. We realized this after the initial RR group results and some of the playoffs had already been played and entered on the computer. When we fixed this, we inadvertently reset the draw, losing all the results. Mossa quickly retyped in the results, and all seemed well, since we now had correct results on the screen and in the published results at Omnipong. But internally, something must have gone wrong.

$4500 Maryland State Championships
By Larry Hodges, tournament director

June 10-11 - The $4500 Maryland State Championships were held this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) in Gaithersburg, MD, with 88 players. The two biggest winners at the tournament were Men’s Singles Champion Chen Bowen (18) and Tiffany Ke (12). Main results are below; complete results are at Omnipong.

In the Men’s Final, #1 seed Chen, an all-out two-winged penhold looper who loops harder than Mike Tyson could ever punch, defeated #2 seed and last year’s champion, Jeffrey Zeng, known for his consistent rallying shots, at 10,8,-10,12,-8,1. In the semifinals, it was Chen over Khaleel Asgarali (5,9,5,10), who would go on to win Under 2400, and Zeng over Roy Ke in a titanic seven-game battle, -12,3,-8,8,-6,7,4. (Here’s a photo of the Final.) 

Chen and Zeng teamed up to win Open Doubles, over chopper/loopers Wang Qing Liang/Wu Jiacheng, at 7,-6,10,10. All four are full-time coaches at MDTTC. Brother/sister combo Roy and Tiffany Ke came in third in the final RR – and were up 2-1 on Chen/Zeng, and up 2-0 on Wang/Wu.

In the Women’s Final, top-seeded Tiffany Ke (2302 at age 12!), an all-out hitter with short pips on the forehand, defeated close-to-the-table two-winged looper Lisa Lin (13), 8,7,8. It was a repeat of last year’s final, where Ke had become the youngest Maryland State Women’s Singles Champion ever at age 11, winning deuce in the fifth over Lin (then 12) in the youngest Maryland Women’s Final in history.

A local rivalry has formed in the junior events, between Ryan Dabbs (13, 2275) and George Li (14, 2280 after this tournament). They played three times, and all three went five, two of them deuce or 11-9 in the fifth. In Under 18, they met in the preliminary RR Group, with George winning at -8,6,3,-8,9. They met again in the final, and again George won, this time 10,-8,-9,9,6. Ryan turned the tables in the Under 15 final, winning -8,6,3,-8,9. (Ryan would also make the final of Under 2400.) Other local juniors battling with them include the Chen brothers, Spencer (15, rated 2222 after this tournament) and Ronald (12), who were in the Under 2100 final (with Spencer defaulting), as well Tiffany Ke and Lisa Lin (see above), Jessica Lin (13), Joshua Gong (14), and Abbas Paryavi (14), and others. (Mysteriously missing was Klaus Wood, 15, rated 2313.) 

Special thanks goes to tournament sponsors HW Global Foundation (a Talent Development Program), PongMobile, Newgy Table Tennis Robots, Asian Pacific Table Tennis Balls, and USA Table Tennis. Great thanks also goes to Mossa Barandao of PongMobile for his tireless help in running the tournament; to Referees Paul Kovac and Joseph Lee; Umpire Stephen Yeh; and to scorekeepers Ali Paryavi, Lance Wei (Under 1000 Champion), Adrian Yang (Under 12 Semifinalist), and James Zhang (Under 12 Semifinalist).

(Click on links to see pictures of finalists.)
Men’s Singles – Final: Chen Bo Wen d. Jeffrey Zeng, 10,8,-10,12,-8,1; SF: Chen d. Khaleel Asgarali, 5,9,5,10; Zeng d. Roy Ke, -12,3,-8,8,-6,7,4; 3-4: Ke d. Asgarali, 9,-11,-6,9,9,6; QF: Asgarali d. Wang Qing Liang, 5,9,5,10; Ke d. Abbas Paryavi, 9,2,7; Chen & Zeng byes.
Women’s Singles – Final: Tiffany Ke d. Lisa Lin, 8,7,8; SF: Ke d. Claudia Ikeizumi, 5,9,8; Lin d. Caroline Kalihara, 7,11,9; 3-4: Ikeizumi d. Kalihara, def.
Open Doubles: 1st Chen Bo Wen/Jeffrey Zeng, 3-0 (d. Paryavi/Paryavi, 1,2,3; d. Ke/Ke, -9,7,-8,7,7; d. Wang/Wu, 7,-6,10,10); 2nd Wang Qing Liang/Jiacheng Wu, 2-1 (d. Paryavi/Paryavi, 3,4,5; d. Ke/Ke, -5,-9,5,6,8); 3rd Roy Ke/Tiffany Ke, 1-2 (d. Paryavi/Paryavi, 7,6,7); 4th Ali Paryavi/Abbas Paryavi, 0-3.
Under 18 - Final: George Li d. Ryan Dabbs, 10,-8,-9,9,6; SF: Li d. Tiffany Ke, 12,-8,9,3; Dabbs d. Spencer Chen, 6,9,3; 3-4: Ke d. Chen, 1,4,4.
Under 15 - Final: Ryan Dabbs d. George Li, -8,6,3,-8,9; SF: Dabbs d. Tiffany Ke, -9,8,5,-9,11; Li d. Jessica Lin, 8,6,9; 3-4: Ke d. Lin, 9,5,3.
Under 12 - Final: Hanfei Hu d. Jackson Beaver, -5,12,-6,9,9; SF: Hu d. James Zhang, 10,8,-8,9; Beaver d. Adrian Yang, -9,4,10,-12,8; 3-4: Yang d. Zhang, 4,5,6.
Under 10: 1st Stanley Hsu, 2-0; 2nd Mu Du, 1-1; 3rd Andy Wu, 0-2.
Over 40: 1st Matt Chando, 3-0; 2nd Lixin Lang, 2-1; 3rd Yunhua Gong, 1-2.
Over 50 - Final: Thomas Sampson d. Yunhua Gong, -6,8,11,-6,7; SF: Sampson d. Changping Duan, 5,9,10; Gong d. Lixin Lang, -8,8,8,3; 3-4: Duan d. Lang, def.
Over 60 - Final: Bob Slapnik d. Changping Duan, 6,-8,6,7; SF: Slapnick d. Chris Buckley, 5,9,10; Duan d. Somchai Paarporn, -8,8,6,4; 3-4: Paarporn d. Buckley, -6,11,9,3.
Over 70 - Final: Ed Watts d. Gordon Gregg, 2,7,2.
Under 2400 – Final: Khaleel Asgarali d. Ryan Dabbs, 9,-10,7,3; SF: Asgarali d. George Li, 10,6,5; Dabbs d. Tiffany Ke, 7,-6,9,9; QF: Asgrali d. Joshua Gong, 6,5,6; Li d. Naveen Vaddadi, -4,5,9,7; Dabbs d. Ronald Chen, 3,5,9; Ke d. Spencer Chen, 4,10,6.
Under 2100 – Final: Ronald Chen d. Spencer Chen, def.; SF: R.Chen d. Mohamed Kamara, 8,9,-4,8; S.Chen d. Joshua Gong, 5,8,7; 3-4: Gong d. Kamara, def.
Under 1800 – Final: Sean Hwang d. Jackson Beaver, 6,14,6; SF: Hwang d. Liren Guo, 5,-3,9,8; Beaver d. Hanfei Hu, -7,7,-9,3,9.
Under 1500 – Final: Ryan Lee d. Andy Wu, -10,7,3,-15,11; SF: Lee d. Hanfei Hu, 8,-11,8,7; Wu d. James Zhang, 8,-7,-2,5,6.
Under 1200 – Final: Anoop Srivastava d. Kurtus Hsu, -13,6,4,8; SF: Srivastava d. Lance Wei, 5,108; Hsu d. Todd Klinger, 6,6,-10,2.
Under 1000 – Final: Lance Wei d. Nikhil Naravan, -11,10,8,7; SF: Wei d. Jeremiah Jeffrey, -6,5,8,-7,8; Naravan d. Christopher Timasonravichki, 8,-7,5,7.
U4000 Doubles: 1st Kevin Zhou/Arndt Plagge, 1-1/5-4; 2nd Abbas Paryavi/Ali Paryavi, 1-1/5-5; 3rd Donn Olsen/Kyongsook Kim, 1-1/4-5.
U3200 Doubles – Final: Mu Du/Ryan Lee d. Andy Wu/Stephanie Zhang, 5,3,5; SF: Du/Lee d. Nicole Deng/Michelle Kang, 11,10,6; Wu/Zhang d. Jackson Beaver/Hanfei Hu, 3,-4,9,14.
U2400 Doubles: 1st James Zhang/Jason Liu, 2-0; 2nd Hanfei Hu/Lance Wei, 1-1; 3rd Todd Klinger/Nikhil Narayan, 0-2.

News from USATT and ITTF
Since my last blog there’s been a lot of news items at the USATT News page and the ITTF page. I’ll link to some, but why not browse over these pages and see what’s interesting?

USATT Minutes
Our long national nightmare is over – the minutes of USATT board meetings and teleconferences from December through May are now up at the USATT Minutes & Actions page! They were all approved, one by one, at the June 12 USATT teleconference. It’s done, it’s over now!

Pan Am Junior Championships
Here’s the USATT announcement. The team will be competing at the 2017 Pan American Junior Championships to be held June 20-25 in Argentina, and also at the 2017 ITTF World Junior Circuit Argentina Junior Open in Buenos Aires 18-19.

Some of you may remember that I blogged on Dec. 2, 2016, about why I believe our teams should be primarily made up by trials, not selections. Since that time, the rules have changed in that direction – but they take effect on July 1. So the Pan Am Junior Team was the last one under the old rules. USATT did face a serious problem in that we have a glut of top juniors right now – the best in U.S. history in terms of depth – and so not all could go. On the boys’ side, players selected were Kanak Jha, Sharon Alguetti, Jack Wang, and Victor Liu. Not selected included Krish Avvari, Kunal Chodri, Nicholas Tio, and Adar Alguetti, and others. Bruce Liu wrote on Facebook about his objections to these selections (both players and coaches). NOTE - for most of the day it was linked to what turned out to be a private Facebook page. I've changed the link to where it was posted in a public one.) 

How to Maintain Tactical Focus
Here’s the coaching article from Brian Pace of Triangle Table Tennis.

No Lone Rangers - Don't neglect this one main aspect of improvement...
Here’s the coaching article from Samson Dubina. “In the world of elite table tennis, there are no lone rangers. If you want to improve your game this year, you won’t be able to stay hidden in your house forming game strategies for months and come out 500 points ahead.”

Is Blocking Stroke Good For You?
Here’s the coaching article from Table Tennis Spot.

How to Make High Risk Shots into Low Risk
Here’s the coaching article from Coach Me Table Tennis.

Ask the Coach
Questions Answered at PingSkills.

Table Tennis Footwork
Here’s the new video (12:07) from EmRatThich. Here’s Part 1 (8:22), which I linked to in May.

How to Play Backhand Topspin
Here’s the video (9:58) from Yangyang. Links to previous coaching videos are on right.

Our Visit to the Thomas Keinath Table Tennis Academy in Germany
Here’s the video (6:05) from PongUniverse.

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

Get to Know Kasumi Ishikawa Better
Here’s the video (30 sec) taken at the Worlds with the world #6 (formerly #3) from Japan.

Usain Bolt Plays Table Tennis in China
Here’s the video (2:35).

Adam Bobrow vs. Asuka Sakai – World’s Fastest Server
Here’s the video (1:52), but you might want to skip ahead to 1:34, where Japan’s Sakai throws his famous super-fast serve at Adam – ace!!! Some of you may remember the “Fastest Serve” video (44 sec) from two years ago that introduced us to the world’s fastest serve. He’s grown up now, out of the juniors, but is now ranked #112 in the world among men, and #14 in Under 21 Men.

Giant Ping-Pong Challenge
Here’s the video (13:13). Big paddles, big balls – is this the future of Table Tennis?

Send us your own coaching news!

June 12, 2017

No Blog Monday and Tuesday
No blog today or tomorrow (Mon and Tue) – I’m mentally and physically exhausted from running the Maryland State Championships this past weekend. (I was at the club 7:45AM-9PM on Saturday, 7:45AM-11PM Sunday, doing paperwork at the end. Everything is submitted for ratings processing. We had 88 players.) I also have to catch up on hordes of USATT, MDTTC, and writing work. Today’s priorities are to write and send out press releases on the tournament, put together a list of changes for next year, read through 43 pages of USATT printouts to prepare for a USATT teleconference at 7PM tonight (which will probably go to at least 9PM), and then get started on several long put-off writing projects. But here’s a new video of a Table Tennis Cat (19 sec)! 

June 9, 2017

Serve Practice and the Complacency of Non-Practice
By the time you’ve reach the intermediate or advanced level in table tennis you probably have at least decent serves. You can serve an advanced beginner off the table, and probably have “go to” serves that score you points against your peers, maybe even against stronger ones. And since you already have those serves, you don’t really need to practice them, do you? After all, you are using them in games every week, which keeps them honed and ready to use at their very best, right?

Wrong. There are three flaws with this logic.

First, no matter what level your serves are, they won’t have that little extra they’d have if you practice them regularly. Recently, in preparation for the Serving Seminar I’m running at the Nationals, I practiced my serves a few times, something I hadn’t done much recently. The result was immediate and obvious – my students, even advanced ones who were used to my serves, some of them practically growing up returning them, began having fits with them. It led to a lot of frustration – I had to explain to them that they weren’t getting worse, that my serves were actually better, back to where they had been years ago when I practiced them regularly. What specifically made them better? With a little practice, I’m keeping the serves lower (low-bouncing net-grazers), and getting both more spin and (more importantly) my contact is much quicker and more deceptive (as they used to be), and receivers are having fits telling my side-backspins from my side-topspins, and other variations.

Second, because I’m practicing them, I’m back to being able to pull off very deep serves where the ball actually goes very deep. It’s risky serving too deep, and so most players don’t go too deep. With a little practice, you can serve consistently at almost any depth, including big breaking serves, fast no-spins, and those sudden quick down-the-line ones, with the bounce on the far side within six inches or so of the end-line, jamming receivers.

Third, if you don’t practice your serves regularly, how can you improve them? With just a few minutes of practice last week my backhand serve went from okay to a deadly weapon. How? Because I practiced it, and can how whip the racket through the ball at full acceleration while grazing the ball and changing racket directions just before or after contact – and the receiver has to read all this.

I blogged about Service Practice on June 2, and gave these two links to serving articles:

Improvement of Players Who “Goof Off” – Part 2
Yesterday I blogged about improvement of Players Who “Goof Off.” Here’s an interesting Facebook comment on it from Han Xiao (many-time USA team member, 3-Men’s Doubles Champion, Men’s Singles Finalist).

“It's likely that players who really focus on training rather than goofing off will develop a better understanding of ball contact, spin, body control and mechanics, etc. that will allow them to pull off more creative shots with relative ease as well. I also know from personal experience that the goofing off or laziness in certain situations becomes a bad habit, so it's actually actively detracting from your game instead of just reducing your training efficacy. For a few months in my career I kept doing things like settling for a backhand every time after covering the wide forehand, and even chop blocking the next ball quite often. Things like that really set you back a bit and a few months of bad habits will really hurt a player's development.”

Building Blocks of Table Tennis
Here’s the page from PingSkills, with links to nine videos, most about two minutes long. “To build a complete table tennis game you need to develop a range of skills. We break these down into 7 building blocks. By understanding these you'll be able to ensure you work on skills that will help you evolve your game. After watching this module you should have a good understanding of the building blocks and then can watch all our other tutorials to build your skills.”

Beat the Injured Player: Learn some new tactics
Here’s the new article from Samson Dubina.

How to Do a Reverse Sidespin Serve
Here’s the article and video (6:13) from Tom Lodziak.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Fan Zhendong Reverse Pendulum Serve Practice 2017
Here’s the video (46 sec). (I won’t comment on how well hidden contact is.)

KoKi Niwa Forehand Technique
Here’s the video (7:08). It’s in Japanese, but you can learn by watching. Niwa of Japan, ranked #9 in the world, made the quarterfinals of Men’s Singles at the Worlds this past week, including a win over world #5 Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Jean-Michel Saive Re-Elected to National Olympic Committee
Here’s the ITTF article.

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

Spanish Junior Para Open in El Prat de Llobregat
Here are two ITTF articles that feature USA.

Unforgettable Experience for Isa Islam
Here’s the ITTF article about this Turkish coach’s experiences at the Worlds.

Ask a Pro Anything: Lily Zhang
Here’s the video (20:50) featuring the U.S. Women’s Champion with Adam Bobrow.

Hirano Miu - The Supergirl
Here’s the highlights video (4:47) of the world #8 woman from Japan, who made the semifinals of the Worlds this past week, including a win over world #4 Feng Tianwei.

2017 World Championships: Glorious Scenes
Here’s the video (2:08).

Table Tennis Postcards
Here’s the page.

Ma Long vs Zhang Jike Funny Training Lob
Here’s the video (1:58).

Bowling Pong
Here’s the video (37 sec).

Table Tennis Monster
Here’s the video (2:55) – not sure how I missed this from a year ago. It’s got table tennis, a dinosaur, and features Alex Piech (human) and Jason Piech (dinosaur) of Arkansas, brothers who have been to our training camps in Maryland. Both of them will be at the USA Nationals next month. They’ve had other videos, such as this one, 2016 USA Table Tennis National Championships (33 sec) and others – see links on right.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 8, 2017

Improvement of Players Who “Goof Off”
What comes first, chicken or the egg? It’s sort of like a question that comes up regularly in table tennis. Obviously, players who work harder and train more seriously tend to get better than those who do not. But there’s a related question. Suppose you have two developing players who roughly work and train equally as hard, with one exception – while Player A is nearly 100% serious, Player B will sometimes goof off and use weird strokes. How does this latter habit effect a developing player?

I’ve noticed over many decades of coaching and observing that players who focus nearly 100% on doing the shots right, all the time, almost always improve much faster and become much better players than those who spend even a small amount of their developing time goofing off by throwing in “weird” shots. I’ve come to believe that when a developing player, after working hard for a time, throws in a few “goof off” shots where he intentionally does the shot wrong, he might be undoing much of his earlier practice and confusing his subconscious so the technique doesn’t turn into muscle memory.

For example, suppose I’m teaching forehands to two players. One is focused on getting it right, and so gets it right. The other is also mostly focused on getting it right, but interrupts practice somewhat regularly to throw in different variations of the stroke. My impression is that the first player improves much faster and gets much better because the subconscious, which is what is really learning the strokes, picks up what’s needed without interference, and so it efficiently becomes muscle memory. The latter player doesn’t improve as fast since the subconscious is confused as to what is supposed to become muscle memory, and so doesn’t learn as fast.

The problem here is there’s a second possibility. The latter player might not improve as fast because he’s confusing the subconscious as to what it should be doing, and so doesn’t develop muscle memory as well or as fast. But that itself might be a side effect – it’s possible that the first player, the one who doesn’t “goof off” in this way, is simply a more focused player, and that’s why he improves faster than the latter, who might simply be less focused and so picks up techniques more slowly and with more difficulty.

As I’ve explained to students many times, there are some things in table tennis where you should be creative, and other things where you should focus on just getting it right. You can be creative with your serve, receive, placement, and various tactics. But in getting the techniques right, you should generally put aside creativity and focus on getting it right until it’s muscle memory. Some, however, simply find this difficult, perhaps due to a lack of patience, and so they throw in weird "experimental" shots, which might be undoing much of their earlier practice. I wonder if there have been studies on this problem in other sports?

Once you have a shot down so you can do essentially do it in your sleep, then you should experiment on possible variations that might be trickier for the opponent to deal with – but only after the shot is pretty much mastered. For example, once you can loop pretty well, and the stroke is pretty much mastered, then you can experiment with shots such as hooking with sidespin, inside-out loops, dummy loops (loops with no spin), and other variations.

Note that this doesn't mean players shouldn't ever "goof off." Some superstar players like Waldner were notorious for sometimes goofing off in practice. But they did so only after they had mastered the basics - usually very early in their careers, as little kids. 

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Here’s the article.

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Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

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Questions answered at PingSkills.

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Here’s the podcast (41 min), which includes On This Day, Joke of the Week, Tip of the Week, Drill of the Week, Tournament Wrap, Win a PingSkills Bat, Defense, Doubles Serve, Doubles Position, Awkward Grip, and Links.

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Here’s the video (4:47) from EmRatThich. There are many other videos there.

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Here’s the article about the preparation by the 2011 and 2013 World Men’s Singles Champion and 2012 Men’s Singles Gold Medalist. (In all, Zhang Jike’s won 7 golds at the Worlds, and 3 at the Olympics.)

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Here’s the video (4:23). Xu (world #3) is penholder on right. Later, in the round before the quarters, Lin would be up 10-5 match point in the seventh – and lose seven in a row. (Here’s the video of that, which I linked to yesterday.)

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Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

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Here’s the card – “It’s not whether you win or lose that counts. It’s whether I win or lose…”

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