Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

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

December 9, 2019

Tip of the Week
Six Ways to Learn Tactics.

Last Blog and Tip Until January 6, 2020
I'm leaving for the U.S. Open next weekend, and then Christmas with family in Sonoma, California. See you in 2020!

Weekend Coaching, Party, and Longpong
It was another busy weekend in TT world at MDTTC!

We had the final Thursday Beginning Class of the year. The focus was Player's Choice (player decided what he wanted to work on) and smashing lobs. At the end, Lidney Castro, Todd Klinger, and I each had a small group that took turns smashing our lobs, with each staying until they missed three.

The focus of the Sunday Beginning Class was spin serves and the 2-1 footwork drill. (The latter is where you hit a backhand, then a forehand from the backhand side, and then a forehand from the forehand side, and repeat - the three most common movements in table tennis.)

The Saturday Junior League (which is half league, half coaching) focused on singles (we've been doing a lot of doubles this season), with lots of improvised games, with players moving up-down tables. For example, the server might have to serve short to the forehand, and the receiver had to either push short or flip to the backhand, and then play out the point. Or server had to serve long, and receiver had to attack. And so on.

The Sunday Junior Talent Program did the usual drills, with 30+ kids. I was in charge of three tables, where they started with footwork drills, and then went on to serve & receive drills and games. After an hour and 45 minutes of practice, it was time . . . to Party!!! Both pizza and Chinese food were brought in. (I went mostly for the chicken chow mein.) And then it was off to games.

I've seen various videos of player who put together tables to play improvised TT games. Perhaps someone has done this one already, but I hereby am copyrighting, trademarking, and patenting "Longpong"! I put two tables together, lengthwise, and removed the nets. Then I put a table tennis barrier between them, propped up on each side by a chair, so that it gave us a "net" about 15 inches high, to go with our 18' table. And then the kids took over! Here are pictures from Facebook by Carolyn Klinger. (Click on the pictures to see two of Longpong, and then general party pictures. Here's a non-Facebook version of Longpong.) It became so popular that I put together a second Longpong court.

The kids quickly evolved rules. They settled on playing three-on-three. One player played at the end of the table, with two others on either side to return shorter balls. They decided that volleying was legal except to return serve. They also decided that if one player missed, another player on his team could keep the ball going, volleyball style! Halfway through they also switched to using my 50mm oversized ball. They played games for over an hour, and only stopped when their parents dragged them off to go home.

USOPC, USATT, and the Resignation Request Letter
I wrote about this in the third segment of my blog last week. I'm told that there is a lot of resistance on the board to resigning, as the USOPC requested, or even having a teleconference to discuss the situation.

The letter from the USOPC had a five-page cover, and confidential attachments that I'm told add up to about 100 pages. I haven't seen the attachments, but like me, a lot of people have seen the cover. At this point I think it is fair to post what is the single most pertinent part of the letter, from paragraph 2 of page 2. (It even refers to the "confidential" attachments, implying that the cover letter is not confidential - and it isn't marked confidential.) Before reading this, keep in mind that I'm told that most board members strongly disagree with the findings. (On the other hand, at least one board member told me he/she almost completely agrees with the letter.) Here is paragraph 2 of page 2 of the USOPC letter. (Arent Fox is the firm that did the independent review. Yeah, I want to put an apostrophe in there too.)

"Arent Fox has completed its review of USATT and issued a comprehensive independent report detailing its findings (the "Confidential Independent Report"). Based on that report and the USOPC's audit findings, it is evident to the USOPC that, as discussed in further detail below, serious problems exist with USATT. These problems are numerous, but appear to result from (1) the inability of the USATT Board to consistently reach consensus on contested matters, or to effectively and efficiently deal with issues confronting USATT; (2) the failure of USATT's Board to act at all times in the best interests of USATT; (3) the lack of a trusting and collaborative relationship amongst the USATT Board and between the Board and USATT staff; (4) the failure of USATT's Board and certain Committees to recognize and avoid actual and perceived conflicts of interest, and (5) the failure of numerous USATT Board members to act in accordance with the USATT Code of Conduct. The Confidential Independent Report is enclosed for your reference."

Keep in mind that the letter also says:

"The USOPC does not base these requirements on its belief that any one Board member is particularly at fault for USATT's current predicament. Rather, our position comes from a clear sense that the challenges confronting USATT can only be solved if their leadership is acting both cooperatively and collaboratively, and that cannot happen with a Board that is so fractured and distrustful of one another."

Basically, it appears to me that there are well-meaning members of the board who have strong disagreements, both over issues, and over how to interpret various documents, such as the USATT Code of Conduct. (And some may remember my Oct. 15 blog on the USATT teleconference where the board voted 5-3 to expel board member Rajul Sheth - but it failed as it needed a 2/3 majority. You can see the official USATT note on this in the October 15, 2019 entry in the USATT minutes.) Anyway, I'm sure we'll learn more about the situation next week at the USATT Assembly, scheduled for Wednesday night, Dec. 18, at the U.S. Open - the very date the USOPC is asking all board members to resign by. There's a chance I might post an UPDATE here after that. (NOTE - I heard they might move the Assembly to Thursday night.) 

Upcoming Table Tennis Work
Rarely have I had so many upcoming projects, mostly of the literary kind. Here's a rundown.

  • Dan Seemiller's "Winning Table Tennis." This book, by Dan Seemiller (5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion, 12-time Men's Doubles Champion, 8-time Mixed Doubles Champion, and long-time U.S. Men's Team Coach), and Mark Holowchak, 176 pages, came out in 1997. It is now out of print. Dan asked if I could recreate the book for him. He had a copy in an old version of InDesign, which I don't have on my desktop computer. However, I remembered that I did have a copy in my previous computer, which was sitting in a closet. So I brought that out, dusted it off, and started it up - and was able to open the files. Much of the text came out weird, and none of the photos would come out. So I'm going through it, copy and pasting the text into a Word document. I was able to rescue the graphic figures used, but not the photos (other than the cover photo), which I'll have to scan directly from the old printed version. And then I have to put together all of the page layouts. I hope to have it out in January.
  • Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt. I put together a book from my nearly seven weeks there, in August and September, much of it from my Facebook postings. I'm about halfway through the page layouts and hope to have it out in January or shortly thereafter.
  • Still More Table Tennis Tips. About every three years I have 150 new Tips of the Week (which go up here every Monday), which I compile into a book, in an organized and logical sequence. So far there has been Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips. I should have enough Tips by the end of March next year for "Still More Table Tennis Tips." I expect to write a number of new Tips over the Christmas holidays - I have a page of Tip ideas.
  • Still More Pings and Pongs. While table tennis is and has been my primary job for many decades, I also write science fiction and fantasy. I've sold 107 short stories and four novels. Periodically I put together collections of my best short stories I've sold, after the publication rights reverts back to me (usually six months after publication). The first was Pings and Pong, then came More Pings and Pongs. I now have enough stories for Still More Pings and Pongs, which I hope to have out early next year.
  • Trump Tales: A Taunting. Some of you won't like this, but others will love it. I've written a number of Trump satires and plan to put this out sometime early next year, hopefully by February. It will have eleven stories in it, seven previously published, four of them new. For example, my most recent work is "Plucky Billionaires Squad," a humorous superhero satire that features seven multi-billionaires with superpowers who are out to save the world from President Trump - Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Michael Bloomberg, and Alice Walton.
  • Coach of the Year. Besides the more literary stuff above, I'm putting together USATT Coach of the Year nominations for two coaches - one for National Coach of the Year and one for Developmental Coach of the Year.
  • Short Stories. Outside table tennis, that's what I primarily do, and I'm in various stages of a number of stories. But this is a table tennis blog, so I won't get into that here. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention . . .

My Table Tennis Books
Here's where all my table tennis books are linked. Great Christmas presents - to others or to yourself!

Team JOOLA Produces Magical Finish at 2019 North American Team Championships
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Kanak Jha Repeats Top 16 Finish at World Cup
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff

North American Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held this past weekend, Dec. 4-8, in Markham, Canada, with results, news items, photos, and video. See also:

ITTF World Tour Grand Finals
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, to be held Dec. 12-15 in Zhengzhou, China. See also Ending the Year in Grand Fashion: World Tour Grand Finals Preview by Steve Hopkins.

Beat the Defensive Blocker
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Using Mental Rehearsal to Reduce Nerves and Boost Performance in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from Dora Kurimay

The Student of Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

South Bend Table Tennis Star and Two-time Olympic Coach Takes His Own Swing at the Games
Here's the article featuring Dan Seemiller in the South Bend Tribune. "Dan Seemiller of New Carlisle is trying to make the 2020 U.S. Olympic team in table tennis."

Zhang and Wu Sail to New World Ranking Highs
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

World Table Tennis Day 2020: Register Now!
Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Foundation Launches First Donation Campaign at 2019 ITTF Star Awards
Here's the ITTF article.

New from Steve Hopkins

Lessons From Watching Dad Find Ping Pong In His 70s
Here's the article

Whitney Houston Played Ping-Pong
Here's the Washington Post story - page down to see photo of her (on right), with author Robyn Crawford on left.

Lubomir Pistej Makes Magical Chop Winner
Here's the video (46 sec).

Smack into the Camera
Here's the video (15 sec, in slow motion) from Scott Preiss!

Roller Pong
Here's the video (30 sec)! And now with net (28 sec).

Impossible Trick Shots?
Here's the video (2:29)!

Amazing Trick Shots #3
Here's the video (3:26)!

TikTok Take on Table Tennis Includes Chair, Cup, Cat and Sword
Here's the video (43 sec)! Here's another one (33 sec)!

Unliveably Small Ping-Pong Room
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

New from Pongfinity

  • The Pongfinity Game (2:09). "We have just launched our own mobile game!! DOWNLOAD IT FOR FREE!"
  • 1 Million Subscribers (17:56). "A few weeks ago we hit 1M subs and thought we would make a very special video about our journey to the milestone."
  • Best Ping Pong Shots 2019 (10:12). "It has been a truly incredible year and these are our favorite clips of 2019!"

Across the Universe: Tales of Alternative Beatles
This is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories that feature the Beatles, which came out Dec. 3. "This collection is a Magical Mystery Tour through alternate universes where the familiar narrative of the Beatles is turned on its head." No, I don't have a story in it - but Cat Rambo, a fellow science fiction writer, tuckerized me in it! Here is an excerpt from her story, "All You Need."

No matter what, all major deals on this side of the boardroom of the Larry B. Hodges Memorial Museum of Ping-Pong History.

The original furniture was long gone; the only remnants of the original décor were the murals on the wall depicting a series of ping-pong tournaments on one side and the history of ping-pong on the other, beginning with a scene of lawn tennis players fleeing raindrops and snowflakes by taking their game indoors, and concluding with a scene of the museum's construction, overseen by a smiling man Vito had always presumed was Larry Hodges.

And just for the record, I'm the best science fiction writer in USA Table Tennis, and the best table tennis player in Science Fiction Writers of America! Yeehaw!!!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 2, 2019

Tip of the Week
What to Watch During a Point.

JOOLA North American Teams
When I tell the kids I'm coaching at the Teams that this is my 44th consecutive Teams (starting in 1976), I can't tell if they are in awe of my experience or that they just think I'm really old. I probably sound and look it. My throat is still a bit sore from cheering and my hands hurt from clapping.

There were 1083 players on 272 teams (3.98 per team) on 154 tables, the biggest Teams in history. Wow!!! It's especially fun watching the reactions of new players when they first walk into the venue and see all this. Their eyes go wide, they look side to side as they pan everything, and then they get a big grin on their faces. Here's a camera pan (25 sec) of the whole arena from Pongmobile.

Here are complete results. Here are the results for the Final. Here's the Live Streaming of Quarters, Semis, and Final (10 hr 56 min). Alas, I didn't get to see the finals, or any matches in top division. During the semis and finals there I was coaching in the semis and finals of various divisions, where I was one of the coaches for the seven junior teams from the Maryland Table Tennis Center, with the junior teams and training sponsored by HW Global Foundation.

NOTE added Monday night - you should watch at least the last game of the finals, between Eugene Wang and Xi Wang, which starts at 10:39:47. SPOILER ALERT - Eugene won the first two games at 9 and 5, then got killed the next two at 4 and 3. In the fifth, Eugene leads 6-1, 7-2, 8-3, 9-5, and 10-7 triple match point - but Xi wins the last five in a row!

I ended up coaching at least one team match for six of our seven teams (most of them ages 9-13), but mostly was assigned to coach our #2 junior team, Ryan Lee, Mu Du, and Stephanie Zhang, coaching eight of their eleven team matches. All three had very good tournaments, as did nearly all of the players on our seven junior teams - most of them took part in the six-day USATT camp just before the tournament and were primed and ready. The #2 team went 6-1 in their division, with the top two teams advancing - but alas, two other teams also went 6-1, and in the three-way tiebreaker (where you take matches won and lost just among those three), they came in third and did not advance.

Each team played four team matches on Friday, starting at 9AM and finishing by dinner time. That was a relatively relaxing day!

On Saturday I arrived at the playing venue at 7AM to help warm up our players, who had to play at 8AM. There were six time slots in the day (8AM, 10AM, 1PM, 3PM, 6PM, 8PM), with each team playing five team matches and getting one bye. However, many matches went long, including our own. Our #2 team included a chopper - Stephanie - and her matches often went very long as players struggled to find ways to get through her defense. And so our final 8PM match didn't start until about 9:30PM. And then it went on . . . and On . . . and ON!!! We were down 2-4, and the huge arena was nearly empty. Ryan and Mu Du won their matches, and it went to the ninth match, where Stephanie (under-rated at 1855) took on a 2021 player.

The final match started at one minute to midnight - as I pointed out to the team, her match started in November and ended in December! The opponent was patient, picking his shots carefully, and it was a dead even battle. The first three games all went deuce. But finally at around 12:25AM, Stephanie pulled out the match, 11,-10, 11, 7! The players went crazy - they had gone 5-0 for the day - or should I say two days? I was in the playing hall from 7AM to 12:30AM, 17.5 hours.

On Sunday each team played two more matches finish their divisional play. The #2 team was disappointed when they didn't advance - for about an hour we thought we would, until a team we had beaten upset the team we had lost to, forcing the three-way 6-1 tie. Alas, the #1 team knew they had clinched advancing and knew they could lose 2-5 and still advance in first. So they didn't play their strongest team and ended up losing 3-5. It's understandable as if you play your strongest three every match, then the others don't ever get to play, and they had five players on the team. I helped coach one of our two teams that did make the playoffs. Both won in the semifinals but lost in the final. The highlight for me, and perhaps for one of our players, about 1600, was down 0-2 against an 1800 player. I told him to 1) start serving to the guy's forehand, and 2) look to forehand loop every chance. He won the next three easily! (Ironically, it was just before this match that I received the irritating email and text that I mentioned at the end of this segment, so I was getting rather impatient that our player, down 0-2, kept dragging the match on and on!)

Craziest match I coached was Winston Wu (age 10, rated 1747, on Team #3) vs. a 2014 player, a powerful two-winged looper. Playing steady and smart, Winston goes up 2-1 in games and leads 8-3 and 10-9 match point in the fourth, but can't pull it out. He's almost inconsolable, and immediately falls behind 1-5 in the fifth. I call a timeout, he gets his emotions in check, and ties it at 5-all. Then he loses five in a row and is down 5-10 quintuple match point! Yep, he wins five in a row, deuce! Then he's down 10-11 and 11-12 match point (missing an easy smash that would have won it for him), then is up 13-12 match point, then 13-all, finally wins 15-13 in the fifth!

There were some funny moments. Here's a recap:

  • On the first day in the first team match, we lost the pen we'd been given by the desk for keeping scores. So I went up and borrowed another. In our next team match, that one was lost, so I sent up a member of the team to get a new one. Later that day we lost that pen, and so I sent another member of the team to borrow a pen. Sure enough, that pen was also lost, and so I had to send up the third member of our team to borrow another, our fifth, and we were only on the second day. If we lost it again, one of us would have to go up a second time, and none of us wanted to do that. So this time I assigned one of the players to keep the pen - he became our team's penholder. (He did a good job - managed to avoid losing any more pens.)
  • We had to play a team that had three 1900+ players and a player rated about 1500. But we all knew the player and knew that he was actually better than 1900 as well. They jokingly confronted him on it, saying, "You're no 1500 player!" He kept insisting that he was just a 1500 player. I finally leaned over and said, "If you're a 1500 player, let's keep it that way."
  • At one point I told one of the parents, "There's no crying in baseball, but there's a lot in table tennis." (But only if you coach junior teams.)

There were the usual less-happy moments, when players lost close ones and otherwise faced diversity. As I told the kids, after playing the Teams, college will someday seem easy! But there was one really irritating moment - see final paragraph below in segment "USOPC Requests USATT Board Resignations."

USOPC Requests USATT Board Resignations
Last week the USA Table Tennis Board of Directors received a rather ominous letter from the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee. (That's USOPC - they were USOC, but recently added the "P".) I first heard about this last week when someone prominent in our sport (but not directly connected with USATT) emailed me about it. It turns out that USOPC had brought in an independent firm to investigate USATT. (I'd previously heard rumors about this.) Alas, the report apparently found many alleged problems. I have seen the five-page letter, but not the roughly 100 pages of attachments that went with it, which give the specifics of the alleged problems. (The attachments are likely confidential because of personnel matters. Perhaps a redacted version will go public later.) I am not going to quote from the letter as it is somewhat confidential at this time, although I'm told it will likely go public later. (Apparently SafeSport is NOT one of the "major" problems they found - some have guessed that might be the issue.) One board member I spoke with vehemently disagreed with the findings and said that the report had many mistakes.   

The news has already gone public at the forum. (No, it did not come from me.) The news there is primarily correct - USOPC is asking that all nine members of the USATT Board of Directors resign by Dec. 18. While I am not going to quote the letter yet, it does say specifically that they do not blame any individual members. 

If all nine resign by Dec. 18 (day 2 at the US Open, the day after the USATT Assembly meeting there), the USOPC will appoint three interim members, and two would be appointed by the Athlete's Advisory Council, giving us an interim five-person board. The full board of nine members would be created next year via our bylaws, including USATT elections for two spots. Other than the two current athlete reps, none of the current board members would be eligible for election or appointment.

If any of the nine refuse to resign, then the USOPC will likely move to decertify USATT as the National Governing Body for table tennis in the USA - they apparently have the authority to do so. They'd create a new one, which would essentially take over from USATT, and ITTF would almost certainly recognize the new one. Regardless of how it happens, from a player's point of view, essentially nothing would change - the USATT staff would continue doing their jobs, tournaments would continue to be sanctioned, ratings processed, and so on. The USATT CEO (also a member of the staff) would continue as she is not a member of the Board. I'm not sure of the details, but I'm told that the new one would likely simply take over our membership and ratings database, hire our staff, and so on. But I don't know if this is correct, if the USATT board were to fight this and refuse to turn over anything. But at this stage this is mostly conjecture.

At the North American Teams on Sunday, just before I was about to coach one of our junior teams in the semifinals of a division, I received an email and a text saying that someone was claiming that I had a printout of the confidential attachments and was showing it to people. This is completely false - I do not have a copy and have not seen it. This was really irritating. I had to grit my teeth and coach matches for the next two hours before I was able to respond that someone was making up stuff.

TTTeam USA Training Camp at MDTTC
Here's my article on the USATT camp, held Nov. 23-28 at MDTTC. I was one of the coaches.

ITTF Men's World Cup
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Chengdu, China, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

Kanak Jha at the Men's World Cup

World Junior Championships
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Korat, Thailand, Nov. 24 - Dec. 1, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

North American Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event to be held in Markham, Canada, Dec. 4-8. (Dec. 4-5 are preliminaries.) 

Top Ten Men in the World, 2001-2019
Here's the video (5:37) - it's fascinating! "Respect to Timo Boll and Vladimir Samsonov! Almost 20 years in Top 10! And then no one can beat Ma Long around 2013-2017! The Dragon! The prime of Zhang Jike! and then the rise of Fan Zhendong!" (And let's not forget Wang Liqin's domination at the start.)


Section 9 Complaint against USATT
Here's the Complaint filed by Wang Chen against USATT over the US Olympic Trials Selection Procedures, which she posted on Facebook last week. It's about 50 pages. If you are not on Facebook, you might not be able to read it.

How to Forehand Loop Like a Pro
Here's the video (5:47) from Feel the Game.

New from MLFM Table Tennis

New from Samson Dubina

This is How We Start Our Day
Here's the video (19 sec) of counterlooping from a great angle.

How to Overcome "3rd Game Syndrome"
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from EmRatThich at Ping Sunday

MIA Table Tennis (The Two Ingredients to Grow Table Tennis)
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

WAB Club Feature: Los Angeles Table Tennis Association
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Thailand Hosts Its First ITTF Level 3 Course, A Dream Realized!
Here's the article by Richard McAfee, who ran the course.

Team World Cup - 2020 Olympics Test Event
Here's the article by Shashin Shodhan on the team match between China and Korea, with a link to video of Korea's Jeoung Youngsik and China's Liang Jingkun (12:04).

Timo Boll Exclusive Interview | German Table Tennis Legend
Here's the video (12:53).

Mattias Falck: Behind the Table
Here's the ITTF article with links to video.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapters 18 & 19
Here is Chapter 18 and Chapter 19 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "1998 U.S. Open," Parts 1 and 2. (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

MALONG Fanmade Channel
They've seven more videos in the past week, many of them players training at the World Cup.

Lily Zhang vs Matilda Ekholm
Here's the video (5:03) from the German Bundesliga.

Highlights of the South Shore Sports Butterfly Open
Here's the video (4:21).

Westchester Table Tennis Center November Open Final
Here's the video (17:25) of Sharon Alguetti vs. Kai Zhang.

Adam Bobrow vs. World #3 Lin Gaoyuan
Here's the video (5:23)! Adam's rated 2143.

2019 - The Year that the ITTF Invested in its Future!
Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Interview with Nenad Bach - Ping Pong Parkinson

Funny Table Tennis Match
Here's the video (4:16), from the Philippines!

One-Eyed Shock Collar Table Tennis
Here's the video (6:02)!

Table Tennis Trick Serves
Here's the video (2:21) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 25, 2019

Tip of the Week
Serving from the Forehand Side.

USATT Training Camp
I'm one of the coaches at the USATT Training Camp here at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, Nov. 23-28. Actually, I'm spent over half the sessions so far as a practice partner - I may be getting older, but I can still block pretty consistently. (And when needed, I can loop!) I also made two trips to the airport (an hour away) to pick up players.

Wang Qingliang is the head coach. He's one of the USATT National Development Team Coaches. The rest of the coaching staff is myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Alex Ruichao Chen. Khoi & Khai Dinh, and Vikash Sahu, are practice partners (with Vikash leading the warmup routines in the morning - jogging and stretching). Wang's a strict disciplinarian and has the players' respect, but he still has fun with the kids - this morning, before practice, he joined the kids in a winner-stay-on battle on the mini-table with mini-paddles.

There were 27 junior players, most of them ages 10-15, and five of the top eight are girls. The strongest include Aziz Zarehbin (13, 2432), Sarah Jalli (13, 2305), Sabrina Zhu (15, 2270), Lavanya Maruthapandian (16, 2240), Andrew Cao (12, 2208), Stanley Hsu (10, 2204), Nicole Deng (13, 2176, and Emily Quan (12, 2156). Here's a picture during a lecture/demo (by Carolyn Klinger). (Here's the non-Facebook version. The Facebook version has several other pictures.) Here's a video (3:04) taken by Coach Cheng.

The camp started Saturday night, 7-9PM. Then it's Sun-Wed, two three-hour sessions per day, plus half an hour of physical training in the morning. We also have a video session on Wednesday where we'll be watching and analyzing videos - I'm looking forward to that. On Thanksgiving Thursday we have a 10AM-1PM session, and then everyone's off for Thanksgiving - which for most, means driving out to the Gaylord National Resort Convention Center in southern Washington DC for practice for the North American Teams, Fri-Sun (Nov. 29-Dec. 1). There are currently 1080 players in 271 teams! (I tried but failed to convince the kids I'm having roast puppy for Thanksgiving.)

As usual, there are lots of footwork drills and serve & receive drills, and lots of fun counterlooping. When I'm a practice partner, I let the other player go first. When it's my turn, I only do half my time, then let the other player do the rest. When I'm coaching, I get to walk around, spending much of my time watching their feet and reminding them to move them. (They all move them, but some less than others. We want lively feet!) I'm also reminding a lot about balance - often players can't get to balls because of how they finished the previous shot, either off-balance or out of position.

Many of the drills take the players outside of their "comfort zone." At least one player was heard saying, "My brain can't handle this." But they all adapt, which is half the point. There are drills that start off with up to five set shots. There are serve and receive drills with restrictions - for example, the server can only serve short, while the receiver had to return long (either flip or long push). Or the server has to serve long. Or the receiver must receive to the server's middle. And so on. The point is to allow players to focus on specific aspects of an otherwise complicated situation so they can become proficient at each part, making it easier to do any of them when needed.

Most sessions end with up-down tables, where some of these rules are in place. At the end, they usually play regular, but often starting at various scores, such as starting with the server down 7-9. This afternoon we finished the camp with an improvised version of Brazilian Teams, where each team sent two players at a time to two tables. If both players from a team scored the point, their team won a point. If they split, no points for either team. (I acted as umpire.)

I'll write more about the camp in a USATT article I hope to send in on Wednesday, along with more photos and video. (I'll probably start with what I have above and add to it.)

Men's World Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event to be held in Chengdu, China, Nov. 29 - Dec. 1.

World Junior Championships
Here's the ITTF home page for the event going on right now in Korat, Thailand, Nov. 24 - Dec. 1.

Common Questions of FH loop and Their Solutions, Part 1
Here's the USATT article by National Team Coach Wang Qingliang.

Table Tennis Stance and Ready Position (with Fan Zhendong)
Here's the article from Ben Larcombe.

New from Samson Dubina

  • Shadow Strokes. "Your imagination is your most powerful tool. Are you using it?"
  • 3:1 Principle: Learn to Evaluate your Training Sessions

How to Return Long Serves, Part 2
Here's the video (10:10) from Louis Levene. Here is Part 1 (14 min) from three weeks ago.

Practice Multiball Movement Footwork One-One
Here's the video (3:02) from Dennis Darmawan.

Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (3:20) from GT Table Tennis.

How to Play Like Desmond Douglas
Here's the video (8:55) from Tom Lodziak. "Desmond Douglas played in the 1970s and 1980s and was 11 times English champion. He reached number 7 in the world rankings. He is still the most well known table tennis played in the UK. Desmond had a unique playing style. He played close to the table and used short strokes and quick reactions to put his opponents under pressure."

Kids Training in China
Here's the video (44 sec). "Shadow training without the ball is very important at the young age."

Inspired to Bounce
Here's the video (48 min) featuring Richard Bowling - the password is ibounce. Here's a trailer for it (2:41) and a 30-sec teaser. "Inspired to Bounce is a documentary of how one man's bold and imaginative 20-yr table tennis adventure reinvented his life, and led him on a mission to inspire the world. For details visit:" (And since I know you are thinking the question, Richard has been rated as high as 2243.)

Hugo Calderano - Outside The Venue | Meet "The Thrill from Brazil!"
Here's the ITTF video (21:59) featuring the world #6.

DHS Top 10 Points | Zen-noh 2019 ITTF Team World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (4:53).

MLFM Top 10 Table Tennis Points Of 2019
Here's the video (6:37) from MLFM.

Spreading the Net in Thailand
Here's the ITTF article featuring USATT Coach Richard McAfee. "The Table Tennis Association of Thailand is for sure a model to follow for many national associations. They take corporate social responsibility very seriously; they work on the social legacy of the event, by bringing more players to the movement but also more visibility to the event. They perfectly understood that doing good actions brings also a benefit for them. This is what we want to promote through the Table Tennis Legacy programmme of the ITTF Foundation."

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Steve Hopkins

Stellar US Para Junior Athlete Breaks into Top Ten World Ranking After Shining Performance in China
Here's the USATT article featuring Jenson Van Emburgh, by Michael Reff.

Nenad Bach (Ping Pong Parkinson) Part 1
Here's the interview with musician and peace activist Nenad Bach, who has Parkinson's and plays table tennis.

Taiwan School Team's Training in Yokohama
Here's the article by Sally Moyland

The Significant Special Sounds of Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 17
Here is Chapter 17 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Varied Interests." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Table Tennis Christmas Card
Buy one today!

Basic Serving Spins
Here's the video (13 sec) from Louis Levene!

High Bounce Off Net Post and a Premature Yell
Here's the video (15 sec) - Jeremy Hazin on near side, Nandan Naresh on far side. Here's the entire match (15:13, time between points removed) - it went seven games! (And guess who led 3-1 in games?) Nandan (13) is rated 2343, Jeremy 2598 (member of Canadian National Team). 

Playing Table Tennis with Golf Clubs - Waldner, Persson, Jiang
They won Men's Singles at the Worlds five times: Jiang (1985, 1987); Waldner (1989, 1997); and Persson (1991). Here are two pictures where they use golf clubs as rackets, as part of a Volvo commercial in China, with pro golfers Ian James Poulter and Jason Dufner. Alas, I was unable to find the actual video - can anyone post it?

We're Pinging in the Rain!
Here's the video (11 sec)! Here's another - that's Timo Boll on left.

Mini-Table Mini-Player Multiball
Here's the video (14 sec)!

Sonic the Hedgehog Trailer
Here's the video (3:01) - link should take you to 15 sec in when he plays super-fast table tennis for three seconds! (Move comes out Feb. 14, 2020.)

Funny Table Tennis
Here's the trickshot video (3:14)!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 18, 2019

Tip of the Week
"Proper Way" is What Works for You.

Illegal Serves History
I regularly get emails from people asking about illegal hidden serves, since I've been known to campaign against the current situation where the rule is rarely enforced. In recent times I've sort of thrown up my hands in disgust and despair - nothing I do is going to convince ITTF or USATT to take action, and many still ignore the evidence of their eyes when it's pointed out that most top players hide their serves, usually by tossing the ball behind their head, or thrusting out their head or shoulder.

Remember that the problem isn't that umpires don't call serves that they see are hidden; the problem is they don't call serves where they aren't sure, which, of course, is exactly why top players have developed such serves, which are hidden but in ways where the umpire isn't quite sure, and so they are not called and the players get away with it regularly - and to compete on an equal basis, others must do so as well. The rules state that umpires should call a serve that they aren't sure about, and that it is the responsibility of the server to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal. Alas, this rule is rarely followed. Someone emailed me about this a few days ago. Below was my response (with a few minor edits), which briefly explains how the situation came about.

When the hidden serve rule first came out, it was enforced and players learned to serve legally. Then top players discovered that if they hid their serves in ways that the umpire (sitting to the side) couldn't tell for sure if the serve was hidden, the umpires rarely called it, despite the fact that the rules say they should fault (or warn the first time) serves where they weren't sure about the legality, and that the rules say it is the responsibility of the player to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal. Once this became widespread, it became so standard that umpires didn't call hidden serves that any who did would stand out, and so they don't.

Many argue that umpires shouldn't call hidden serves because it's unfair to have different standards in different matches, and since most umpires allow illegal hidden serves, they should too. When I tried to get USATT to clamp down on this, the High Performance Committee was against it, since they argued that if we enforced the hidden serve rule in the U.S., our top players wouldn't be prepared when they played internationally, where the rule isn't enforced - and the same argument is made in every country, so every country allows hidden serves.

Basically, top players have no choices but to "cheat to compete." High-level clubs can't even ban hidden serves among their players - if they did, then their up-and-coming players wouldn't be able to practice against players using those serves (or do them themselves), and they'd get killed when they face them in tournaments and are handicapped by their own less effective serves. It needs to come from the ITTF, a worldwide directive to enforce the rules, but they won't do anything because, I'm told, it would be "insulting" to umpires to insinuate they aren't enforcing the rules. (I tried to get USATT to petition ITTF to do this, to no avail.) 

Weekend Coaching
The focus of the Thursday Beginning Class was spin serves. I had them do the spin and catch exercise where they spin the ball off their racket (with a forehand pendulum grip) and catch. Then, after a demo, they went out and practiced the serve. I also challenged them to see if any could serve with enough backspin to make the ball come to a stop or even bounce back, and demonstrated the "come-back" serve that bounces on the far side and then directly bounces back over the net. (Top players see it coming and smash it as it goes back over the net - but it's great fun to do with beginners.) I showed them how to "scoop" the ball with backspin (hit the ball with an extremely open racket) so that the ball gets great backspin though often too high. To my utter astonishment, one kid, who had never served with spin before, managed to pull off the come-back serve! He was pretty excited. Then we had a forehand-to-forehand contest - one kid got I think 143 in a row hitting with Coach Spencer. (I gave him the more advanced players while I worked with the younger beginners.)

In the Sunday Beginning Class the focus was on backhand pushing. I also gave them a demo on all the different types of spins and how they affect the ball. Then we finished with a forehand-to-forehand and then a backhand-to-backhand contest to see how many they could get in a row. The record this time was 106 with Coach Lidney. (I gave him the more advanced players while I worked with the younger beginners.)

In the Sunday Talent Development Program, we had a practice tournament, where all the kids were put into three-person teams and played team matches, as most of them will be doing in ten days at the North American Teams. My main task was to watch and take notes of the kids who will be playing at the Teams, who I might coach. I also coached between games in some of the matches, often coaching both players at once. For example, one kid kept pushing back topspin serves deep to the forehand, so I point out this was PRACTICE, and she'd never get better if she didn't attack them now. She got more aggressive, even looped in a few. Another kid kept missing against forehand pendulum side-top serves, so I suggested he have his regular coach do this serve against him for practice. Another kept playing into his opponent's extremely good backhand and forehand, so I suggested (out loud, so both could hear) that he play into her middle instead, and made sure the opponent understood that this is what she needed practice against here in PRACTICE.

Periodic Reminder to Help a Poor, Starving Table Tennis Writer and Coach
Here are my books, both table tennis and science fiction! Great Christmas gifts, both for others and yourself! I will have three more coming out early next year - "Still More Table Tennis Tips," "Still More Pings and Pongs," and "Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt." (I'm currently doing the page layouts for the last one - it might be out by the end of the year.)

Maryland Junior Boys Among Top Ranked in the U.S.
Here's the USATT news item on some of the kids from my club - hey, it's by me!

USATT CEO Virginia Sung Reflects on First 6 Months in Office
Here's the USATT article. "Now that I have reached the six months mark of my tenure at USA Table Tennis, I would like to take a moment to share with you the progress our team has made." … "Vincent Van Gogh once said, 'The greatest work of art is to love someone.' In our case, the greatest work of art is to love the sport."

Austrian Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Linz, Austria, Nov. 12-17, with complete results, news, pictures, and video. Here are some links.

Indonesian Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Batam, Indonesia, Nov. 13-17, with complete results, news, pictures, and video.

US Open
They finished with 740 entries - you can browse the list by name, rating, or event. (Final deadline to enter was Friday.) Top seed is Aleksandar Karakasevic (2835). Event will be in Fort Worth, TX, Dec. 17-21. Here are some USATT articles.

Overplaying vs Taking the Risk: Learn to Find the Balance
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Beat a Blocker
Here's the video (8:19) by Tom Lodziak.

One Change to Enhance Your Forehand Against Backspin Opener
Here's the video (1:53) from GnoP GniP.

Learning KILLER Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (8:29) from MLFM Table Tennis Tutorial.

Anxiety in Sports and Everyday Life
Here's the video (12:21) from sports psychologists (and table tennis players!) Dora Kurimay (Mental Performance Coach and championships table tennis player and coach) and Paul Matkovic (PSY.D and a licensed Clinical Psychologist who many years ago played at my club).

New from EmRatThich

Ping-Pong Literacy
Here's the promotional video (1:57) for the upcoming ITTF kids coaching video.

New from Steve Hopkins (in addition to his article above on Austrian Open)

US Team World Cup Athletes Granted Operation Gold Awards by USOPC
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "Kanak Jha, Yijun Feng, Kai Zhang and Lily Zhang, Wu Yue and Amy Wang all received an award payment of $3750USD each."

Unraveling a Five-Way Tie
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Swan Warriors Table Tennis Club Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Table Tennis Tidbits #48: '19 German Open: Teen Terrors and Rubbery Issues
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho.

Table Tennis Match Edge - Table tennis Videos, Equipment and Clubs
Here's the table tennis app! Has anyone tried this?

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 16
Here is Chapter 16 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "International happenings." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Ma Long (The Movie): 2009-2019 10 Years on Top
Here's the video (7:53).

USA Players Featured in Videos

New Videos from MALONG Fanmade Channel

Ping Attitude
Here's a site with lots of table tennis videos. They have a "Best of" video for each month, such as "Best of October" (13:37).

For the First Time an Event Of Its Kind in Manhattan - The Big Apple
Here's the video (4:46) by Jules Apatini, featuring Michael Landers (near side) and Nishaad Shah of India.

Female Table Tennis Star | 2019 Star Awards
Here's the ITTF video (1:36).

Waking up in Tokyo | Zen-noh 2019 ITTF Team World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (67 sec).

The First to 21 Points Gets into the Country
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Satan's Sponge Sandwich?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

It's Table Tennis! It's Ping Pong!!!
Here's the meme! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

Boomerang Flick
Here's the video (21 sec) of this contender for Shot of the Year!

Table Tennis & Juggling
Here's the video (2:25) featuring Hugo Calderano (world #6 from Brazil) and a professional juggler.

Ram Pong
Here's the video (46 sec) where we learn that sheep aren't good at table tennis. 

Table Tennis Incredible Film
Here's the video (4:39)!

Incredible Ping-Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (3:01)! "This kid makes incredible ping-pong shots look easy."

Ping Pong Stereotypes 3
Here's the video (4:07) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 11, 2019

Tip of the Week
Three Spots or Two?

Happy Veterans Day!

Weekend Coaching
The focus of the Thursday Beginning Class was pushing, especially backhand pushing. (We'll work more on forehand pushing later.) Due to an apparent car accident, there was a huge traffic jam in the road leading to the club, and over half the class came in 10-15 minutes later. I had planned a forehand-to-forehand consistency contest, but we ran out of time and will have to do that later. (We'll also have a backhand-to-backhand contest.)

There was no Sunday Beginning Class due to Veterans Weekend. However, we did have the advanced Talent Development Program. I mostly ran drills on two table - the usual footwork and serve and attack drills, followed by Brazilian Teams. Later today I have to put together my player evaluations for the players I've been working with. Next Sunday we go over these with the players and their parents after the training session, followed by a party. After the session Sunday the coaches went out for Chinese food and discussed the players.

It's always interesting watching how the players develop. One kid who started out a year ago didn't seem as coordinated as some of the others, and honestly didn't show much promise. But he had two big things going for him - he was focused on practicing hard, and practiced regularly with his dad, who is a good player. One year later, he's pulled away from most of the others who started with him and who (at the time) seemed to have more promise, and now seems one of the most coordinated! During the dinner, I singled him and a couple others out as ones that I predict will "explode" in level in about a year.

There's another girl, about eight, who is beginning to devastate her peers with pure shotmaking - big backhand and forehand hitting, and strong forehand loop (when not rushed). The problem is she jams the table so much she often gets caught on deep balls, plus she has a tendency against short balls to the forehand to smack them all over the place, plus her receive is so aggressive that against good serves she is erratic. With a few minor fixes, she is another that'll soon "explode."

Malls for Table Tennis Clubs
I spend many afternoons at the Lakeforest Mall Eatery, usually eating pizza, drinking Dr Pepper, and writing. There was a time when the mall was always jammed, just like malls all over Europe are still jammed (as I learned in my recent seven weeks in Europe and Egypt). But in the U.S., malls are dying. Except for clothing and shoe stores (where people want to try on things), most people prefer to use Amazon, and so when I walk around Lakeforest Mall, it's like a ghost town compared to its heyday. Store are closing left and right, and I'm sure the monthly rent must have dropped dramatically, since few stores could afford to pay what they paid back when the malls were full.

As I peered into one of the vacant stores, I had a brainstorm - wouldn't this be a perfect opportunity for table tennis? I wonder if we could start opening full-time clubs in malls. You could pretty much choose your size. Plus, though the crowds are smaller, you still get a steady stream of people who might see the club and try it out. I'm guessing that there are already such "mall" clubs - I remember a few from the past, but they were mostly in rural areas.

ITTF Team World Cup
Here are links for the event that took place Nov. 6-10 in Tokyo. USA Men and Women BOTH reached the quarterfinals!!! Some of us remember a time when results like this were only a dream, except when we relied on immigrants. I think twice in the recent past Team USA contended at the world-class level - about ten or more years ago when we had former Chinese stars Gao Jun and Wang Chen on the team (at their peaks ranked #3 and #4 in the world), and again at the 1995 Men's Team World Cup, where the USA Team made the semifinals, with two of the players from China (Cheng Yinghua and David Zhuang), along with Jim Butler.

The current USA Teams were mostly developed in the U.S., at the many full-time training centers that now develop top players on a regular basis, in contrast to the past when we didn't have them, and top players were developed only sporadically. The USA Women's Team that made the quarterfinals was Lily Zhang, Wu Yue, and Amy Wang, and the USA Men's Team was Kanak Jha, Kai Zhang, and Feng Yijun. Of these, only Wu Yue and Kai Zhang developed primarily in China, and Kai came to the U.S. as a junior star and continued to develop here. All of them train at full-time training centers in the U.S.

One of the problems USATT has always faced is having two "masters" - the USOC, which wants them to focus on developing elite players, and the membership, which primarily wants them to focus on developing the sport by focusing on clubs, coaching, junior programs, leagues, and so on. I've always argued that there is one big overlap between the two that USATT should focus on - full-time training centers, which are also full-time clubs. You can't really develop many top players without a lot of full-time training centers to develop them, and until we had that base, there was little chance of, say, making the quarterfinals at the World Team Cup with players developed in the U.S. Our situation is now a lot different than before, and now we are challenging most of the top countries in the world. (My club, MDTTC, which I co-founded in 1992, was the first successful full-time training center in the U.S., and as recently as 2007 there were only eight such centers in the U.S. Now there are over 100.)

Hungarian Junior & Cadet Open

Serving Seminar
Here's the flyer for the Serving Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center by Alex Chen Ruichao, this Wednesday, Nov. 13, 7-8:30PM. I'll be assisting.

US Open - Deadline Nov. 15
Here's the home page for the U.S. Open to be held in Ft. Worth, TX, Dec. 17-21. Final deadline to enter is Nov. 15, which is this Friday. There are currently 678 entries - here's the listing, which you can sort by Name, Rating, or Event. (Note - it has since dropped to 611 - did a large foreign continent drop out? Or it might be people who inadvertently "entered" the tournament, but didn't enter any events - this happens a lot in the tournaments I've run on Omnipong.) (I've emailed them requesting that they add listing by Club and State.) This will be my 36th consecutive U.S. Open - I've been to every Open and Nationals since 1984 (and a few before that). I'm not playing, just coaching.

USATT/ITTF Club Coaching Course to Precede 2019 Seamaster US Open
Here's the info page.

2020 USA Hopes Tour Request for Proposals
Here's the USATT info page.

Ma Long Forehand Loop in Slow Motion
Here's the video (56 sec) - you should be studying this! It's a model of simplicity.

Why is Backhand Topspin vs Backspin so Difficult?
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Devastate the Short Pips Attacker
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

New from MLFM Table Tennis

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Malong Fanmade Channel
Their Youtube page has a number of new videos of the top Chinese players training.

How to Act Like a Champion No Matter What
Here's the article

Finding Your Points in the Table Tennis Lost and Found
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

October Kicked off NCTTA Divisionals, With Them Exciting Matches
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

WAB Club Feature: Allen & Sons Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 15
Here is Chapter 15 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Amazing Point! - Emil Johnsson - David Björkryd Ängbys 2019
Here's the video (1:28) of this really incredible point between these two kids. (It's shown twice, from different angles.)

DHS Top 10 Points | Uncle Pop 2019 ITTF Women's World Cup
Here's the video (4:29).

Here's the ITTF video (6:13). "Table Tennis for NepALL is our project nominated to SPIA Asia - Sports Industry Awards & Conference. It was a 3 year initiative aimed to develop Table Tennis for people with a disability as vehicle for a positive social change. The project provided opportunities for empowering, strengthening, and integrating them in the community."  

Ten Steps on How to Build a Table Tennis Table
Here's the video (1:47). 

Potomac Team Championships
Here's the video (3:23) from the tournament held Nov. 3 at the Potomac TTC.

Background Pony Pong
Here's the cartoon!

You Don't Apologize for Nets and Edges?
Here's the cartoon!

Unlocking Zazz in Table Tennis - Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
Here's the video (3:42)!

Ever-Changing Ping-Pong Balls
Here's the video (21 sec)! Some would say this is what the ITTF plans.

Send us your own coaching news!

November 4, 2019

Tip of the Week
How to Push Extremely Heavy.

Weekend Coaching
In both the Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes the focus was on footwork - forehand-forehand backhand-backhand, and forehand-backhand side-to-side. We also had a forehand-to-forehand competition - the Sunday winner got 153 in a row.

In the Saturday Junior League (which is half coaching, half matches), we did a lot of doubles practice, and then singles. One of our players spent much of the night working on attacking the opponents' middle, and had great success with it. On Sunday we had a camp tournament. I ran group three, with eight players - and the kids learned the importance of every game and match! There was a three-way tie for first, all 6-1, so it went to games, and each position was then decided by one game. There were also ties for 5-6 and 7-8, broken up by head-to-head.

After several were frustrated with their early matches, I told them the story of Tong Tong Gong. At age 11 or so, he was one of the youngest to make the Final 12 for the National Mini-Cadet Team Trials about ten years ago. (I was coaching his matches.) He was in a group of six, with the top two making the National Team. He was seeded last in the group and played the top seed in the first match. He led 10-8 all three games - and lost all three in deuce! He was inconsolable afterwards, and I pretty much thought it was over - not because of the loss, but because he seemed mentally gone. But then he listened to some music, calmed down - and went out and pulled off four upsets in a row to make the National Team!!!

2018 and 2019 USATT Strategic Meetings
Today is the one-year anniversary of the 2018 USATT Strategic meeting, held Nov. 3-4. I didn't go to it, but I did write a letter to the participants. They came up with the 2019-2024 Strategic Priorities. It was originally called the Strategic Plan, but I was on the board of directions at the time and strongly objected, since there was no actual plan, just a listing of priorities - and so they changed the name.

Anyway, nothing has come of it as of yet, but we'll see. As I argued at the board meeting afterwards, coming up with a bunch of "Priorities" is easy; creating and executing plans to reach them is the hard part. Just as in past such meetings, I thought they should have focused on creating such plans, not just come up with priorities and goals without any plans to reach them. (The counter-argument is that the plans will come later - but why bring all these "experts" together and not take advantage of their expertise in creating the needed plans?) They had a smaller Strategic Meeting a month or so ago, but I haven't yet seen the plan from that one, or know if they are creating plans to reach the Priorities from the year before or starting from scratch - we'll know soon! Here is my blog about the infamous 2009 Strategic meeting and why it, and previous ones, didn't accomplish anything because they always make the same mistakes. Normally they have these meetings about every five years or so.

US Open - Deadline Nov. 15
Here's the home page for the U.S. Open to be held in Ft. Worth, TX, Dec. 17-21. Final deadline to enter is Nov. 15. There are currently 630 entries - here's the listing, which you can sort by Name, Rating, or Event. (I've emailed them requesting that they add listing by Club and State.) This will be my 36th consecutive U.S. Open - I've been to every Open and Nationals since 1984 (and a few before that). I'm not playing, just coaching.

New Articles/Stories by Larry Hodges (hey, that's me!)
I had four very different articles come out this past week.  

Christmas Table Tennis Shopping
Here are some choices for table tennis books for table tennis players, and that most especially includes you!!! (C'mon, help out us starving table tennis writers.) I'll start with some of my own books. (Here is a listing of all 261 books I own on table tennis.)

Want Novels?

Want Biographical?

Want History?

Want to Play Better?

Serving Seminar
Here's the flyer for the Serving Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center by Alex Chen Ruichao, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 7-8:30PM. (I'll be assisting.)

ITTF Team World Cup
Here are links for the event taking place Nov. 6-10 in Tokyo.

ITTF World Rankings

Funding for USA Players Training for Olympics
Want to fund an Olympian Hopeful? Here are two funding pages that I know of. Let me know if there are others.

New from EmRatThich

The Business of Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

World Veterans Tour Event Shines in Sunny Florida
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

Ekholm to Bring International Prestige to Fort Worth
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

WAB Club Feature: Greater Vancouver Table Tennis Association
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

ITTF Feature Articles

India Close Second Behind China: McAfee
Here's the article featuring Richard McAfee in the Deccan Herald in India. "Hall of Fame table tennis coach Richard McAfee opined that India now has the infrastructure and the talent pool to become one of the top five teams in the world."

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 14
Here is Chapter 14 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "Members Speak Up." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Chinese National Women's Team vs The USA Men's Team - TOP 10
Here's the video (2:52).

DHS Top 10 Points | 2019 ITTF German Open
Here's the ITTF video (5:54).

85-Year-Old Table Tennis Player vs. World Number 1
Here's the video (39 sec) as USATT Hall of Famer and 1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy Team Member George Brathwaite takes on world #1 Xu Xin of China.

Roma Ping Pong Fest: TTX comes to Rome!
Here's the ITTF video (1:21).

Adam in China
Here's the video (10:09), featuring Adam Bobrow.

Crazy Backhand Around Net Sidespins
Here's the video (12 sec) - with multiball!

Amazing Hand Switch Shot
Here's the video (37 sec)!

Eight Racket Smackdown
Here's the video (25 sec)! (Technically there are nine rackets.)

Lola Marsh - Only for a Moment
Here's the table tennis music video (60 sec)! It starts slow but gets better and better with the table tennis antics. 

Xing Xong
Here's the video (6:07) from Pongfinity! (This went up a few hours late, so I might relink it next week.)

Table Tennis Halloween Pong

Send us your own coaching news!

October 28, 2019

Tip of the Week
A Lightbulb in Your Head: Mindless Swinging or Tactical Shot-making?

Weekend Coaching - Doubles and Footwork and Halloween Hitches, Oh My!
In the Saturday Junior League (which is really half league, half training/coaching), I worked with some of our top kids on their doubles. Some of them are getting very good now at positioning themselves. In singles, when a player is caught out of position, he usually thinks to himself, "I got out of position." In doubles, when a player is caught out of position, he usually thinks to himself, "They got me out of position." WRONG! (Well, usually.) Just as in singles, when you get caught out of position in doubles, it's usually because you went out of position after your previous shot. But unlike singles, where you get immediate "punishment," in doubles many players don't connect their own poor positioning with getting caught out of position, and so don't fix the problem. I worked with several of our kids who, to get out of their partner's way, either went off to the side too much or too far back, and others who waited too long to return to the table after their partner made their shot. Some of the more advanced kids are now working on circling footwork, where two righties (or two lefties) try to circle around so each can approach the table in their regular ready stance.

In the Sunday "Talent" Program (advanced kids, over 30 of them), I ran the drills for six players on three tables - lots of footwork at the start, then lots of serve and receive practice. Two of them still don't rotate much on many forehands and so get caught on that side, and are often caught on that side. I did a lot of emphasis on attacking any deep ball, especially serves that went long, as well as attacking the middle.

In the Thursday Beginning Class, the focus was on footwork. However, the biggest concern was that the schedule, created by the local schools (which organizes the Thursday class, though we run it at MDTTC), had scheduled the following class for Thursday, Oct. 31 - Halloween! It's not a school holiday, so of course kids would have no problem showing up from 6:30-7:30PM rather than go trick-or-treating! However, by a unanimous vote of the class, I was asked to skip this Thursday, and with permission of Montgomery County Schools, we will do so, and will instead go an extra week into December. I tried, and failed, to convince any of the kids to dress up as a ping-pong ball for Halloween.

In the Sunday Beginning Class, the focus was on serving, followed by stroking drills. The age and level of play in that class this season is a bit lower than the Thursday class, so the focus was mostly on just serving on the table, keeping it low, and hitting targets. (Poor Froggy took a beating! We actually have two of them now - I bought a second one.) We used the Adjustable Serving Bar both here and in the Thursday class.

China Daily
China Daily (which is in English) has featured USA players in four recent articles and videos by Zhao Xu. (I'm featured or mentioned in all of them, especially in Oct. 2.) I did a search and found a total of 147 articles by them that had the word "table tennis" in them - feel free to browse them.

US Open and North American Teams
Here's the home page for the U.S. Open to be held in Ft. Worth, TX, Dec. 17-21. Final deadline to enter is Nov. 15. There are currently 598 entries - here's the listing, which you can sort by Name, Rating, or Event. (I've emailed them requesting that they add listing by Club and State.) This will be my 36th consecutive U.S. Open - I've been to every Open and Nationals since 1984 (and a few before that). I'm not playing, just coaching.

From Nov. 29-Dec. 1 I'll be attending the JOOLA North American Teams in Washington DC, for the 44th consecutive year, since 1976, the year I started playing. (I'll be coaching one of the seven junior teams from my club.) They currently have 1026 players on 275 teams - here's the listing. (They used to be called the U.S. Open Teams, and were in Detroit for many years, and then Baltimore, before moving to DC a few years ago.) It's past the deadline to enter, though they take players on a space available basis, with a late fee.

World Veterans Tour – Fort Lauderdale
The event was held last weekend, Oct. 17-20.

2019 World Cadet Challenge
Here's the home page for the event currently being run in Władysławowo, Poland, Oct. 23-31. USA players are Ted Li, Sid Naresh, Joanna Sung, Angie Tan, and Emily Tan.

Winning the Warm-up
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "It’s pretty remarkable that there are players who have been playing for decades that don’t make the best use of their preparation time before a match. Consider a few guidelines that will be beneficial for you, and show consideration for your opponent."

Copying the Pros Can Make You Worse
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

How to Return Long Serves in Table Tennis (Part 1)
Here's the video (14 min) from Louis Levene.

Zhang Jike Learns New Table Tennis Techniques
Here's the video (5:26) where he works on his "Strawberry" flip.

Learning CRAZY Sidespin Serve
Here's the video (7:10) from MLFM Table Tennis.

Ping Pong Literacy
Here's the video (2:30) from Steve Rowe, featuring his table tennis program for kids, ages 4-8 years old.

MALONG Fanmade Channel
Here's the Youtube page with lots of new videos this past week, including a number of Fan Zhendong.

Sid Naresh Serve and Loop Winner
Here's the video (19 sec) in slow motion. Sid's on the US Cadet Team (under 15) with a 2489 rating.

Women's World Cup
Here are new ITTF videos.

DHS Top 10 Points | 2019 ITTF Swedish Open
Here's the video (5:31).

The King Never Gives Up - Part 1
Here's the documentary (25:06) from EmRatThich.

USATT Community Voice Positive Vibes for 2021 WTTC in Houston
Here's the article by Michael Reff. "The 2021 World Table Tennis Championships will be held in Houston, Texas, and positive vibes are already abound in regards to the chosen venue and what it has to offer for the players as well as the public."

WAB Featured Club: Han-In Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Ace Ping Pong: Grand Slam – Official Launch
Here's the article and video  (20 sec) on this new table tennis video game!

Table Tennis at 22 Months
Here's the video (1:27).

Robot Table Tennis Ball Retriever
Here's the video (9:42)! I wonder if this will ever get made.

Pooh Pong vs. Pooh Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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

Halloween Pong
Here's what you get when you Google "Halloween Table Tennis"! But if you are a real table tennis person, you should find a way to play this ghostly repeating gif image in your front yard!

Adam vs. THE CLAW
Here's the video (8:26) from Adam Bobrow featuring a unique Japanese girl!

Lake Trick Shots
Here's the video (10:08) from Pongfinity! Some really hilarious play here.

Send us your own coaching news!

October 21, 2019

Tip of the Week
How to Stop the Short Receive.

Weekend Coaching and Attacking the Middle
While I was away Friday and Saturday (see Capclave SF Convention at end of blog), I had three group sessions.

We had the third meeting of the Thursday Beginning Class, where the focus was serving and review of forehand and backhand. At the end, as happens in about half our beginning classes, they stacked cups into pyramids and walls (or as I called them, the Pretty Good Wall of Maryland), and then, as I fed multiball, took turns destroying the fruits of their work.

We also had the second meeting of the Sunday Beginning Class, where the focus was on the backhand and forehand review. As with the Thursday class, we finished with cup-killing. (Kids just love smacking cups - and while they do this, they are developing their strokes and accuracy!)

In the more advanced Talent Development Program, I ran the drills for six players on three tables. It was sort of divided into two parts. The first part was lots of footwork drills. The second part was serve and receive drills, where we had the players play out the points. If the server won two points in a row, he became the receiver. Every three minutes the players moved up or down the tables, with the receivers moving up, serves down.

The focus of two of the drills was receiving to the middle, i.e. the server's elbow. In the first drill, the server would serve short anywhere, with the receiver attacking the server's elbow. If the server "cheated" and tried to favor one side, the receiver had to move adjust to still go at the elbow - so if the server tried to favor his forehand, the receiver would go more to his backhand and still catch him. (We also allowed them to go to the wide forehand if the serve "cheated" too much.) In the second drill, the server had to serve long anywhere, and the receiver looped it at the server's elbow again adjusting if the server moved.

Attacking the middle is one of those things best taught early and young. Chinese coach and all-time great Liu Guoliang once said of a top USA player (and I'm paraphrasing here), "The main thing that keeps him from beating the best players in the world is he didn't develop an instinct for attacking middle early on, and now it's too late."

Smashing Seminar
Last Wednesday night I ran a 90-minute Forehand Smashing Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Fourteen players attended - two came in after photo was taken. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) It went pretty well - and I had fun smacking water bottles with my forehand smash while lecturing, as a demonstration that you have to let the subconscious take over for these shots. Here's what was covered:

  • Should You Smash or Loop?
  • Technique
  • Balance and Recovery
  • Muscle Memory and the Subconscious
  • Drills to Develop a Great Smash
  • Smashing Backspin
  • Smashing Loops
  • Smashing Lobs
  • We finished with a smashing competition. I created a pyramid of ten plastic cups, and each player had ten shots to see how many they could knock down. One player astounded us all by knocking them all down in four shots - he obviously paid attention during the seminar!

You Never Know!
A 59-year-old was too old to win Over 40 Hardbat at the U.S. Nationals in July, but he did. (Hey, that's me! Well, I thought I was too old.) Navin Kumar wasn't supposed to win Bronze in Singles and Silver in Doubles at the World Parkinson's Championships, but he did. And USA's Lily Zhang, world #49, wasn't supposed to make the semifinals of the Women's World Cup this past weekend, but she did. Remember this the next time you enter a tournament! (And, of course, Dan Seemiller at 65 can't possibly make the US Olympic Team, right? See "Two Opportunities to Support the Sport You Love!" below, and the segment on this in my blog last week.)

US Open Early Entry Discount Ends Oct. 25
Here's the home page for the US Open. Price goes up after Oct. 25 - this Friday. Final deadline is Nov. 15. Tournament is in Ft. Worth, TX, Dec. 17-21 - I'll be there. Enter now! 

Women's World Cup
History was made as Lily Zhang made the semifinals, the first time ever by a USA player, and China's Liu Shiwen won for a record fifth time. (Coach Zeng "Jeffrey" Xun coached her matches - he's one of my fellow coaches at MDTTC.) Here are some links.

Polish Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event held in Wladyslawowo, Poland this past weekend.

World Veterans Tour - Fort Lauderdale
Here's the ITTF page for the event this past weekend, with compete results, articles, pictures, and video. Wish I could have been there!

Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships
I wrote about this in my blog last week. Here are more articles and photo galleries.

Winning Table Tennis
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Are You Standing Too Close to the Table Tennis Table?
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe.

New from EmRatThich

Training at the German Open and Women's World Cup
Here are four videos from Malong Fanmade Channel.

National Collegiate Table Tennis October Newsletter
Here it is!

Two Opportunities to Support the Sport You Love!
Here's the Butterfly article on the Butterfly South Shore Highland Table Tennis Tournament and Coach Seemiller’s Journey Back to the Olympics

Table Tennis Coach May Have Lied About Links to Ukraine
Here's the article by Coach Jon!

WAB Club Feature: Canadian Elite Table Tennis Training Centre
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

St. Lucia Olympic Solidarity Course
Here's the article by Richard McAfee about the course he ran in the West Indies.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 13
Here is Chapter 13 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "1998 Gilbert Cup." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

TT Dream Building Fund 2020
Here's the ITTF video (60 sec).

Never Give Up
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Lionel Messi Also Plays Table Tennis!!!
Here's the video (10 sec) as Argentina soccer superstar Lionel Messi knocks a ball off a bottle with his serve!

Earn £100 Teaching Monkeys Table Tennis!
Here's the help wanted cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Ping Pong Trickshots
Here's the video (3:06) from GT Table Tennis!

Ping Pong with Musical Instruments
Here's the video (10:03) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - Capclave Science Fiction Convention
I was a panelist at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention on Friday and Saturday. I was on four panels, including one I moderated, plus an author signing. Here are some links.

Send us your own coaching news!

October 15, 2019

Tip of the Week
React to Opponent's Forward Swing.

Forehand Smashing Seminar
I will be running a Forehand Smashing Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, on Wednesday, Oct. 16 (tomorrow!), 7:30-9:00 PM. 100% of fees goes to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC. (I'm not taking any payment for this.) If interested, email me to reserve your spot! Seminar will alternate between lecture/demos and table practice. Topics covered will include:

  • Should You Smash or Loop?
  • Technique
  • Balance and Recovery
  • Muscle Memory and the Subconscious
  • Drills to Develop a Great Smash
  • Smashing Backspin
  • Smashing Loops
  • Smashing Lobs
  • BONUS - at 9PM we'll have a smashing competition!

USATT Teleconference on Rajul Sheth
This morning (Tues, Oct. 15), USATT had a teleconference at 11AM for about one hour, with only one item on the agenda - whether to remove Rajul Seth from the USATT Board of Directors. Here's the USATT notice. I listened in on the teleconference, as it was an open meeting. Rajul is not only a member of the USATT board of directors, but he's the founder and director of the highly successfull ICC Table Tennis program in the Bay area. 

From the USATT bylaws (Section 7.13), there are two ways the board can vote to remove a member - either "without cause," with a 3/4 majority of the board, or "with cause," with a 2/3 majority of the board. In both cases, the member being voted on can't vote, so they need either 2/3 or 3/4 of the rest of the board - including any who do not attend or vote. Initially they were going to do it "without cause," which makes things easier later on if the expelled member files a grievance. The board last year removed an appointed committee chair "without cause," but that was a case of the board removing someone they themselves had appointed. In this case, they would be removing someone who had been elected by the USATT membership. I was one of those who wrote to USATT and pointed out that in this case, they really needed to do it "with cause." They agreed, and so put together an extensive case. To remove him, they would need six votes.

Here is the USATT Board Book for the USATT board meeting held in Rockford, IL, Oct. 5-6. Originally, they were going to vote on Rajul in a teleconference before that meeting, then they decided to do it at that meeting. But because some of the info for the case was distributed to the board just before the meeting, they decided more time was needed to go over it, so they scheduled the vote for the Oct. 15 teleconference. The "for cause" case is in the Board Book, Under Exhibit J. It is divided into four parts. The first three basically cover USATT rules and codes of conduct. J-4, which is divided into five parts, has the specific charges. It's all very long, and I'm not going to get into it here. Suffice to say that if I were still on the board - I decided last year not to run for re-election - I would have had to make a very difficult decision. Especially troubling was the apparent pledge to donate money to a lawsuit against USATT. However, I hate judging other people - at times like this, I'm glad I'm not on the board anymore.

Surprisingly, Rajul decided not to attend the teleconference. The other eight members of the USATT Board of Directors attended. Rajul sent a note to the Chair, Anne Cribbs, to read. Then they had discussion. From previous discussions, going in it was fairly obvious that the vote was 5-2 to remove Rajul, with one unknown - Deepak Somarapu. Two board members defended Rajul (Bruce and Tara), while the others explained why they believed he should be voted off, based on the charges given above. When Deepak spoke, I had trouble understanding all that he said, but the gist of it made me believe he was going to vote against Rajul.

Then they voted - and when they got to Deepak, he voted "no." I think there were some internal gasps as I think others also thought he was going to vote "yes." But as soon as he voted, the result was clear - and so the vote was 5-3 to remove Rajul, which fell short of the 2/3 needed. And so Rajul stays on the board.

World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships
When I heard that the Westchester Table Tennis Club in New York would be hosting the first World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships, and that Navin Kumar from my club - who I coached for years - was going, I told him I'd drive up (4.5 hours) and coach him for free, if he'd pay my expenses. It was a great trip for me, and an even greater one for Navin. I confess - I didn't expect him to medal. But he got Bronze in Men's Singles and Silver in Men's Doubles!!!  His partner in the Doubles was Ilya Rozenblat from Kansas. It was an interesting team - Navin is a blocker, with long pips (no sponge) on the backhand, while Ilya uses a sort of lively anti on the backhand, but mostly hits with it - and when I say hit, I mean he murders any slightly weak ball! He also has a nice forehand loop.

For singles, they divided the players into three divisions, based on disability scores for Parkinson's, and surprisingly, Navin was in Division 3, for those with the least disability, while Ilya was in Division 2, in the middle. Ilya easily won his division without losing a game, while Navin got bronze in his.

One interesting thing - because Parkinson's players can't play for as long as others, all matches were best of three to 11. This led to a tactical decision for most matches. Normally Navin is likes to lock up opponents by keeping most (not all) shots to their wide backhands, and challenging them to hit through him, backhand to backhand. But with best of three to 11, I told Navin that it would be better to go side to side, so that opponents never get comfortable against the pips from either side, and the matches would be over before they adjusted. It worked – all his wins were 2-0, often by surprisingly lopsided scores as his opponents simply didn’t have time to figure him out. He won three matches before losing in the semifinals (bronze), where he made it to 7-9 in the third before losing against a US player who was rated about 1800, and also had long pips (with sponge) on the backhand. (I warmed Navin up for the match with long pips - I'd brought a selection of rackets, including ones with both long pips with and without sponge.)

They actually played doubles first, with Navin and Ilya getting silver. Here's a picture of me coaching them between games. (Here's the non-Facebook picture.)

A great thanks goes to everyone who helped put the tournament together! This included Westchester TTC owner Will Shortz, and all the staff and officials - even the one I argued with about scheduling! Attendees included ITTF President Thomas Weikert, and former world #3 and two-time Men's World Cup Champion Zoran Primorac, who chairs the ITTF Athlete's Commission and is on the ITTF Executive Committee. (I interviewed him after he won Men's Singles at the 1991 U.S. Open in Midland, Michigan - his English has improved!)

Here's a nice video, TT4Health: The story of Jens Greve (6:10). "Jens Greve, diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, is the founder of Yuvedo, an app to help people also diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and their relatives. Because of his incredible work, he has become ambassador of our #TT4Health program and will also PLAY FOR HISTORY at the first ever ITTF Parkinson's World Table Tennis Championships."

In the World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships, make sure to see the links under News and Media!

Five-Time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller is Trying Out for the Olympics
Want to help fund his training? Sure, he's gotten older. But with his unique style, who knows - he might be able to pull off some upsets! At worse, it'll be fascinating to see just how good he can if he trains seriously for the first time in years. He's rated 2356 at age 65 (easily #1 of his age in the U.S, probably in U.S. history), and was rated over 2400 last year, and over 2500 just four years ago - so he can probably reach at least that level again. (Ten years ago, at age 55, he was US Men's Doubles Champion, for the twelfth time, with Mark Hazinski.) Here is his GoFundMe page, which includes a five-minute video from Dan. Serious training cost money, as Dan explains in the video. (He also gives a few table tennis tips!) So far he's had 53 donations, raising $5615 of his goal of $12,000. Want to help him out? (And don't forget to get a copy of his autobiography, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion!)

German Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event that ended Sunday in Bremen, Germany, with results, articles, photos, and video. Here's the article German Open Review: Fan Tops Field by Steve Hopkins.

Uncle Pop Women's World Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event to be held in Chengdu, China, Oct. 18-20. (Don't you love the "Uncle Pop"?) Representing USA is Wu Yue and Lily Zhang.

2nd US Youth National Ranking Final Standings
Here's the USATT news item. I've worked with a number of these players! Stanley Hsu, who came in first Hopes Boys, started out with me.

Here are complete results of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (Yep, that's my club!)

USATT Invitation for Interest in Committee Membership
Here's the USATT news item.

USATT Adds National Team Tracksuits to Prize List for Senior Events at 2019 Seamaster US Open
Here's the USATT news item by Matt Hetherington.

Coaching Position at Zing! Table Tennis Center
Here's the news item by Noel Abbott.

Winning Table Tennis
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "A missing key in table tennis is a proper understanding of between-game analysis and between-point analysis.  In this article, I’m going to mention the three keys – understanding the problem, finding a solution, and encouraging yourself with the benefit of implementing the solution."

Champions Keep Playing Until They Get It Right
Here's the article from Pong Universe.

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Louis Levene

How to Flip Short Balls
Here's the video (7:29) by Yu Di.

Increasing Consistency Through Changes in Pace - Build From Your Block...
Here's the video (2:12) from Ed Lynn Table Tennis Coaching.

4 Basic Backhand Exercise For Beginners
Here's the video (7:05) from MLFM Table Tennis.

Gray Offers Insights into Table Tennis Physical Training
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. "As National Team players were put through their paces in a number of training camps over the past year or so, there was one man standing among them directing the all-important physical training sessions which were apparently lacking among the nation's best athletes. Eric Gray was that man, and having been involved in a number of physical training sessions and athletic camps with the youth and senior national teams since becoming involved with USATT, he has some valuable insights into physical training needs for table tennis players."

Taming the Tennis Player
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

ITTF High Performance & Development – Continental Reports
Here's the ITTF Reports, including the half-year report for North America.

High Level Coaching Course in Halmstad – the next level of learning
Here's the ITTF article.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast | September 2019
Here's the ITTF video (16:26).

Five Things the Month of September Taught!
Here's the ITTF article. Item #2 is about USA's Lily Zhang!

How to Play Table Tennis Alone
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Teaching with Table Tennis
Here's the article from the Northern Ontario News.

WAB Featured Club: Denver Table Tennis Alliance
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

College Table Tennis Season Commences as School Teams Prep for Divisionals
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

Tallahassee Table Tennis Club Hosts First USATT Sanctioned Tournament
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

The Art of Ping-Pong – in Pictures
Here's the page (from 2014).

Pizza Hut Football Table Tennis
Here's the repeating gif image (7 sec)!

Table Tennis Funny Moments
Here's the video (8:02)!

King Ping Pong Comedy
Here's the video (4:14)!

Ping Pong Password
Here's the video (5:28)!

Top 10 Table Tennis Spin Shots
Here's the video (2:24) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 8, 2019

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Reasons You Might Not Be as Good at Table Tennis as You Could Be.

Europe and Egypt Tour
I'm back!!! From Aug. 12 to Sept. 28 I did a once-in-a-lifetime tour. I wrote about it extensively on Facebook, and now plan to put it all together in a book, which (hopefully) will be out this fall. I visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt. I saw all the famous sites, from Stonehenge to the Great Pyramids and Great Sphinx, from the beaches of Normandy to the Eiffel Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the ancient sites of Athens, Rome, and Pompeii, the sobering tour of Auschwitz and other Holocaust museums and monuments, and the many other sites of Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Siena, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, and Cairo, with short stopovers in Lisbon and Budapest as well. I saw a zillion museums (from the British Museum to the Louvre to the Cairo Museum) and more ancient cathedrals than there are bits of sand on a beach. I even did a camel ride around the Great Pyramid!

Because I was traveling "light," I didn't bring my table tennis stuff, and didn't play any table tennis. However, there were two table tennis episodes in my travels. Amazingly, someone recognized me while we were walking on the path toward Stonehenge. He said, in I think an eastern European accent, "Excuse me, are you Larry Hodges?" It turned out he was a table tennis player who reads my blog - I get 14,000 reads per blog, so I guess there are a lot of people out there. I wasn't wearing any table tennis stuff except for my T-Rex Playing Ping-Pong Cap. That drew his attention, and suspecting it was me, he googled my picture to verify. (It's a great hat - combines my two worlds of table tennis and science fiction, though a T-Rex is real so not actually SF.)

In Lausanne, Switzerland, I visited the ITTF headquarters. This used to be the only ITTF headquarters, but now they have a second one in Singapore. Alas, the one in Lausanne is gradually phasing out, and now is down to three employees. There I meet Jordi Serra, the ITTF Head of Operations and former Executive Director. He's very friendly and helpful, showed me around, and gave tips on what to see in Lausanne. He introduced me to the two others there, Silvia Bernhard (Office Manager) and Emese Barsai (Program Manager). He also took a picture of me - don't I look like an American tourist? Though most American tourists don't wear a 2019 U.S. National Table Tennis Championships shirts or a hat with a T-Rex playing table tennis! (During my tour I've been wearing both TT and SF shirts.)

When I visit each famous site, I always buy a souvenir magnet. It actually saves money - others spend $20 on a t-shirt while I spend about $4! I now have my magnet collection organized into two groups - International (on a large magnet board) and USA (on my refrigerator).

USA Sweeps Olympic Qualifier with Canada
Here are two articles by Matt Hetherington.

The women's match was pretty one-sided and was never in doubt. However, on the men's side, USA looked to be only slightly favored, with Canada's Eugene Wang their key to potential success. Here's video of the two team matches:

The format was three-person teams, with one player on each side playing two singles, and the other two players playing one singles and one doubles. USA was obviously going to put their #1 player, Kanak Jha, in the singles spot, with Zhou Xin and lefty Nikhil Kumar in the doubles spot, with one singles each. And Canada, of course, would put Eugene Wang in the singles spot, with Hongtao Chen and lefty Jeremy Hazin in the doubles spot, playing one singles each, right?

But no, Canada instead put lefty Hazin to play two singles matches, with righties Wang and Chen playing doubles and only one singles each. This seemed to make zero sense. Were they hoping to avoid Wang against Jha, thereby getting two wins from Wang (doubles and singles)? But that wasn't it - they must have known that Jha would be playing two singles for USA, and they put Wang against him in the fourth match. And they sent up a pair of righties for doubles, putting their lefty to play two singles. (Lefty-right in doubles is an advantage.) If Wang was injured, but still able to play two matches, then shouldn't he play two singles, with the lefty/righty playing doubles?  I have no idea why they did this. Is there some info we are missing here?

It did start off sort of well for Canada in the opening doubles, match, with Canada winning the first game and getting to deuce in the second. Kumar didn't play well early on, but then he got back to his normal self and USA not only won the doubles rather easily in the end, with a stronger short game and better angle play. Hazin gave Jha a good match, but lost 3-2, and Zhou won 3-0 over Chen, giving USA a 3-0 sweep in both men's and women's. So the strange Canadian tactic did not work. And we also missed the fireworks of the Kanak Jha-Eugene Wang match that never happened.

Many of you know how often I've complained about illegal hidden serves. If you watch the matches, you'll see that in nearly every serve the player throws the ball backwards and juts his head forward as the ball is dropping, obscuring the ball and contact from the opponent, which is of course illegal. However, some of the serving was ridiculously illegal. I don't want to pick on him, but look at all of Hazin's serves - he blatantly hides the ball with his free arm every time, and is never called. Here is Rule 2.6.5: "As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net." Here is Hazin's very first serve of the match against Jha - they are all like this. (Note that in YouTube, you can freeze the image and then move up or back one frame at a time by hitting period or comma. Check out other serves and see how often the ball is obscured by the head, and sometimes the nose - I guess having a big nose is an advantage in table tennis!) However, the rules are very clear that if an umpire isn't sure if a serve is legal, then it is illegal, and the player should be faulted (or warned the first time). This is rarely done, especially when the ball goes behind the head and the umpire has no idea if the ball remained visible to the receiver, as it legally must be.

Forehand Smashing Seminar
I will be running a Forehand Smashing Seminar on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 7:30-9:00PM, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. 100% of fees goes to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC. (I am taking no money for this.) If interested, email me to reserve your spot! Seminar will alternate between lecture/demos and table practice. Topics covered will include:

  • Should You Smash or Loop?
  • Technique
  • Balance and Recovery
  • Muscle Memory and the Subconscious
  • Drills to Develop a Great Smash
  • Smashing Backspin
  • Smashing Loops
  • Smashing Lobs
  • BONUS - at 9PM we'll have a smashing competition!

Weekend Coaching
After being gone seven weeks, two big questions loomed: Would I still remember how to play table tennis? Would anyone at the club still recognize me? The answer to both was, well, mostly yes!

This past week we had week one of both the Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes. They are for kids, roughly ages 6-14. We primarily covered the grip, stance, and the forehand, and then games - King/Queen of the Table for the older kids, smacking pyramids of cups for the younger ones.

The last two Sundays I also coached in the more advanced HW Global Junior Program. (I returned from my European trip on Saturday, Sept. 28, and began coaching the next day.) On the first Sunday I worked with the older, more advanced kids; this past Sunday I worked with the younger ones.

Although I'm retired from private coaching, I came out of retirement to give a session last week to Navin Kumar to help prepare him for the upcoming World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships coming up this weekend at the Westchester TTC. (I'm coaching him there.) We have another session today at 4PM at MDTTC.

Bouncing Around the Globe to Ping-Pong Pinnacle
Here's the article from the China Daily News, featuring Kai Zhang, Cheng Yinghua, Will Shortz . . . and me! Well, I'm quoted many times.

2nd US Youth National Ranking Tournament Homepage
Here are the results and, Final Standings, and Photo Gallery of the tournament, held this past Thur-Sun at the Westchester TTC in New York.

German Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event starting today in Bremen, Germany, with results, articles, photos, and video.

Table Tennis News
It's been about two months since I last blogged, so lots of news and coaching articles have piled up. Rather than link to them all, why not browse over these news pages?

How to Do Backhand Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (16:08) from Louis Levene. He has a series of other coaching videos on the Looeelooee TT Youtube Channel. (He started this series while I was gone.)

Table Tennis at the Olympic Games
Here's the video (46:53) from PingSkills. It covers Tip of the Week (How to get off to a good start in matches); Drill of the Week (Forehand anywhere); and nine other segments.

Running Around Table Stroking and Footwork Drills
Here's the video (54 sec) from Samson Dubina!

How To Win Gold and Have Fun Doing It
Here's the article by Tahl Leibovitz

Maintaining China's Grip at the Top of the Table Tennis Rankings - requires solidarity and innovation, says former national team coach
Here's the article.

Pong Universe Blog
They now have a weekly blog. Topics covered so far:

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter

The Fountain of Youth Has a Net
Here's the article from Southwest Magazine.

10 Reasons Why Ping Pong is Good for Your Brain
Here's the article.

Ping-Pong and the Riddle of Victory
Here's the video (12:44). "Growing up in England, Pico Iyer was taught that the point of a game was to win. Now, some 50 years later, he's realized that competition can be "more like an act of love." In this charming, subtly profound talk, he explores what regular games of ping-pong in his neighborhood in Japan have revealed about the riddle of winning -- and shows why not knowing who's won can feel like the ultimate victory."

Playing Table Tennis With The World's Oldest Bats
Here's the video (4 min) from Table Tennis Daily.

Miss the Backhand, Stroke the Forehand!
Here's the video (24 sec).

Side Pong
Here's the video (16 sec)!

When Superheroes Play Table Tennis
Here's the video (32 sec)!

T-Rex Pong!
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) And here's Tyrannosaurus Rexes Playing Table Tennis from 2016 (see last segment).

Spider-Man vs. Venom
Here's the video (4 min)!

They put up hilarious table tennis videos every week. Here are ones that went up recently.

Non-Table Tennis - "Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer"
My story Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer was published at Galaxy's Edge. (It's short, about 1000 words.) It's already been reviewed twice:

  • Tangent Online: "The narrator of 'Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer' by Larry Hodges is a woman who dies of breast cancer. At the time of her demise, the incarnation of Death shows up. For unclear reasons, the Grim Reaper disappears, and she takes over his role. In addition to her duty of sending souls on to their final destinations, she also raises money for cancer research by delivering pizza. This doesn't quite work out, so she comes up with a much better plan.
  • SF Revu: "A crusader against cancer dies from it and becomes Death. She finds a way to use this to continue the fight against cancer. Nice twist."

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