Butterfly Online

Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
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 seven books and over 1400 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!

His book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!! His newest book, 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!

October 18, 2016

Random Drills
Yesterday I did a number "random drills" with students, though we first did drills leading up to them. With Daniel (age 12) who is often hesitant to loop against backspin in game situations, we started with regular multiball backspin where he looped forehands and then backhands. Then we did the 2-1 drill with backspin only – he'd backhand loop from backhand corner, then forehand loop from backhand corner, then forehand loop from forehand corner, and then repeat. Then I fed random backspin all over, and he had to loop forehand or backhand. Then we played points where he served backspin and I'd push to his forehand, he'd loop, then we'd POP (play out point). Then the same where I pushed to his backhand. Finally, we went full random – he'd serve backspin, I'd push anywhere randomly, he'd loop, and then POP. (Daniel does 90 minutes, so he gets a lot of drills.)

Next up was Navin Kumar – yes, the bionic man himself (google it, but suffice to know he's got Parkinson's and a mostly mechanical heart). He's having trouble making the transition from backhand to forehand. Normally he uses long pips on the backhand, no sponge, with regular inverted on the forehand. However, he's getting ready for the U.S. Open, including the Under 1800 Sandpaper, so he requested that we do the session with sandpaper! I brought out my sandpaper racket, and we did the normal forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand warmup. Then we did my forehand down-the-line to his backhand, so he could practice hitting it down the line. Then, to work on his transition, I hit forehands alternately to his forehand and backhand, and he returned them all to my forehand. Finally, we went full random – I did forehand and backhand drives to all parts of the table, and he had to transition from forehand to backhand and back to counter-hit or block them all. (We also did a number of other drills, including working a lot on his forehand receive, plus he worked on his attack against my chopping.)

Interesting note – Daniel's dad is in Japan this week, and he didn't have a ride, so for his two sessions this week (Mon and Tue) I'm picking him up. The ride is about 20 minutes. But a strange thing happened when I picked him up at 5PM – my GPS insisted the ride to the club would be 2 hours and 28 minutes! I thought there must have been a really major accident on the highway, and considered whether it was worth trying to get to the club. Then I discovered that I'd accidently changed settings, and it was showing the route and time for walking to the club! So I learned three things at Daniel's house. 1) The GPS on my smart phone has a walk setting; 2) It's a 2'26" walk from Daniel's house to the club; and 3) his doormat has "Welcome" in 18 languages.

USA Team Pictures
Here's the USA Teams Page, with links on left to every team, with each player pictured. (I linked to this last week, before all the pictures were up.) Now you can see them all! Included are the USA Men's and Women's National, Olympic, and World Teams, and the USA Youth Teams: Junior, Cadet, Mini-Cadet, and Hopes Teams for boys and girls. There's also a USA Team Coach listing, but no pictures yet. Here's the Paralympic Team Page, with pictures of the those teams. 

Humidity: The Ultimate Pitfall of the Plastic Ball
Here's the article from MH Table Tennis.

Table Tennis University Back Online
Here they are, including a free "Basics Mastery" course. It's now hosted by Expert Table Tennis – here's their coaching page, with info on this.  

Crossover Step Footwork
Here's the video (15 sec) by Samson Dubina, from his Footwork Clinic.

2016 Rough Diamonds Training Camp with Li Xiadong and Zhang Yining - Quality Training Part 1
Here's the video (17:31).

Leaping, Falling Backhand Attack
Here's the video (24 sec).

Great Rolling Shot
Here's the video (13 sec).

Kids Playing Mini-Restaurant Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Table Tennis on The Simpsons
The Simpsons have become quite the table tennis show! They had table tennis on their new shows on Oct. 2 and Oct. 9. On Oct. 2, Bart and Lisa played table tennis in virtual reality created by Mr. Burns. On Oct. 9, there was a chain mail ping-pong player in a group of nerds. Here's more table tennis with The Simpsons:

  • Here's video (13 sec) that shows Bart playing table tennis in the background.
  • Here's video (33 sec), which ends with the character voiced by Patrick Stewart saying, "Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong!"
  • Here's video (11 sec) of Grampa Simpson calling a Chinese man "Ping-Pong Craig."
  • Here are two pictures of Bart and Lisa Simpson playing ping-pong: Picture 1 and Picture 2
  • Here's a drawing of Bart with a ping-pong paddle.
  • Here's the online wiki for Madam Wu, a minor character on The Simpsons, where it says that "Her father was a professional ping pong player who died when he got a ping pong ball lodged in his throat." According to The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar (which I just got for Christmas), in the Oct. 10, 2012 entry, it says, "Her father choked to death on a Ping-Pong ball the day before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented."

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October 17, 2016

Tip of the Week
Play Both Weaker and Stronger Players.

Sunday Coaching
Sundays are my busiest coaching day, and yesterday was no exception. Of course, compared to some of the Chinese coaches at MDTTC (and other clubs), it was just another average day. It started with two one-hour private sessions and then a 45-min one. Then I fed multiball for 30 minutes for our "Talent Group" (MDTTC's top kids, mostly in the under 10 age group). Next came the 90-minute Beginning Class I teach every Sunday. (I also have one on Thursday nights.) And finally came the 90-minute adult training session. Technically, that was only six hours and 15 minutes, but it always seems like 16 hours.

How do I prepare for a long coaching day like this? My Sunday "ritual" is a big plate of spaghetti, extra sauce, for lunch before I start, and a granny smith apple halfway through. And lots of water.

One of the private students had been up late the night before due to homecoming, and showed up half asleep. That's always a challenge, getting them to wake up. One "technique" I often use is an old-fashioned one – I send them into the bathroom to splash cold water down their face. In this case, we did a lot of very physical looping and footwork drills to wake him up. At the end of the session we played games, and I decided to take a different approach here – I rarely attacked, just looked for ways to win "cheap" points. As he pointed out after I won the first game, "You didn't earn a single point!" But of course I had – learning to win "cheap" points is one of those things many players never learn, and so never reach their potential.

Another private student has good timing, but keeps jamming up against the table, and often slaps at the ball instead of stroking it. We did a lot of shadow-practice to fix that, and I made him rally very slowly to get it right. He got a bit impatient, and so after I figured he was doing it pretty well, I "rewarded" him by letting him smash, where I fed multiball, side to side, so he was both smashing and moving. So yes, I tricked him into thinking this important and rather difficult drill was a reward!

For the Talent Program – which has 18 kids, all invitation only – we did a series of multiball drills. I had five in my group. I'd do multiball footwork with one, and the other four followed along behind him, shadow-stroking. About one-third of the kids in the group have discovered I keep a bag of hard candy – "Jolly Ranchers" – in my playing bag, and surreptitiously gather around to "borrow" pieces during breaks. The purple ones are king.

In the adult training session, about halfway through I called them together and gave a talk and demo on backhand attack against backspin – drives, flips, banana flips, and most important, backhand loop. The focus was on good technique and contact, because if you get those two, consistency follows. Then we did drills where they served backspin, partner pushed to backhand, and they backhand attacked (mostly loops), and played out the point. Of course, not everything goes according to plan. Two players had trouble pushing effectively so I had them do a straight pushing drill.

The Power of Shot Placement (Precision and Power)
Here's the video (5:31).

2016 U.S. Open in Las Vegas
The entry form came out last week, and here's the U.S. Open Home Page. Here's new info:

MDTTC October Open
Here's the info page (where you can enter online) for the event this Saturday (Oct. 22) in Gaithersburg, MD, and here's the entry form. I'm running it!

Warming Up in India
Here's the video (37 sec) as players warm up for a tournament, about a zillion to a table.

Daddy, Can You and Me Play Ping-Pong?
Here's the video (9 sec)!

Teddy Bear Pong
Here's the video (59 sec) from NBC Sports of a dog dressed as a teddy bear playing table tennis! (I put this up late in my last blog, so here it is again for those who missed it.)

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October 14, 2016

90 Full-Time Table Tennis Clubs in the U.S.
In my October 5 blog, I wrote how we now had 88 full-time clubs in this country, about ten times the number had just ten years ago with a corresponding increase in the number of full-time coaches (from around 10-20 to over 300). I ended the blog by writing, "Let’s get to 90 this year, and break 100 next year." Well, lo and behold, we're already at 90! I was alerted to the existence of two more full-time clubs in Florida, the Palm Beach Table Tennis Club in Boynton Beach and the PowerStroke Table Tennis Club in Saint Augustine, FL. So now that we have 90 in 25 states and DC, let's go for 100 in 30 states! (Update - alas, a club just closed in California, so as of Sunday we're back to 89. But I'm told someone is interested in re-opening the club at the same location, so it might come back. We'll see.) 

I don't think there's much doubt that this has been the biggest and best thing to happen to table tennis in the U.S. this past ten years. When you look at the way these centers are spread out, I figure the U.S. should have about 500 to 1000 of them. It'll take a while, especially if it has to happen on its own without anyone recruiting and training people to develop these centers, but the numbers will inevitably grow. I believe that any city with a population over 50,000 can support a full-time center. Since the east and west coasts, and much of the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico areas (and other places) are basically one long suburban area, the potential for full-time clubs in these regions is almost unlimited.

If you want to start a full-time club, two things that might help are:

Table Tennis Books
And while we're talking about books, here's my periodic note to support us poor, starving table tennis writers! Here are a few to consider:

U.S. Open Entry Form
Here it is! Hope to see some most all of you there!

USA National Teams
Here they are! They include the USA National Team Coaches, Men's and Women's National Team, Olympic Team, World Team, the ITTF USA Hopes Team, and the Junior, Cadet, and Mini-Cadet Boys' and Girls' Teams. And here's the USA Paralympic Teams.

Women's World Cup Review
Here's the ITTF video (5:11).

USATT Coaching Articles
Here they are – USATT has compiled the coaching articles they've featured on their news page onto one page.  

Winning Ugly
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Thinking Big – A Table Tennis journey
Here's the article from Pong Universe, where he talks about thinking big and how to get there.

Four Table Tennis Shots Every Player Needs to Master
Here's the article, which covers forehand and backhand drives and pushes.

Diary of a 10-Year-Old (Part II)
Here's the new blog entry by Sarah Jalli, where she talks about what she learned at the Women's World Cup. (Here is Part I.)

Ma Long Forehand Technique Analysis 2016
Here's the video (5:10).

The Diversity of Serve
Here's the video (4:29).

Belgian Legend Saive "Positive" About Chances of Challenging Weikert for ITTF Presidency
Here's the article.

TableTennisDaily Podcast #18 - Jean Michel Saive
Here's the podcast (54:08).

Deadline Approaching to Submit Nominations for Fair Play award
Here's the article and other info.

Interview with Ryu Seung-min, New Member of the IOC Athletes Commission
Here's the video interview (39:39, in Korean with English sub-titles).

USATT 2015 Financials
Here they are.

National Collegiate Table Tennis 2016 Annual Report
Here it is.

Tress Way is the Best Table Tennis Player in the Redskins Locker Room…for Now
Here's the article from the Washington Post.

Trip to Hong Kong Starts with Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the video (1:31) which features 100 students from Lincoln High School in Tacoma, Washington, visiting Hong Kong.

Penhold Forehand - Rocket Shots
Here's the video (6:18).

How to Play T3 3-a-Side Ping Pong
Here's the video (3:37).

Ping Pong Meets 'Guitar Hero' When Table Tennis Goes High-Tech
Here's the video (1:19) as they demonstrate this game.

Lots of Around-the-Net Rolling Shots
Here's the video (4:26)!

Mozart Pong
Here's the video (1:22) as a string quartet plays music to the beat of a ball bouncing on a paddle!

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October 11, 2016

No Blog on Wednesday and Thursday
(I'll get to the table tennis part shortly.) Last week I received an unexpected email from a legendary science fiction writer. He's familiar with my own science fiction writing, and made an offer: Would I like to collaborate on a SF novel with him and one other person? The answer, of course, was yes. But I need a few days to really focus on getting started with this. I can't give out his name yet, but should be able to do so in a month or so. Meanwhile, the plan is this. He's already written the final third of the novel; he had another writer do the middle third; and I'm supposed to do the first third. Yes, it's a strange way of working! I've read the other two parts, and know the main character and where my first third will end, and have spent the last week planning out my part . . . and now I have to get to work!

Don't worry, I'm not leaving table tennis. I do both TT and SF. TT actually pays the bills – both coaching and writing - but I've sold 80 short stories and have three novels, so that's a big sideline for me, both as a hobby and a growing side-profession. Meanwhile, I really have three write-ups below, the Tip of the Week, the World Women's Cup, and the USATT Board Meeting, so this should last you a few days.

Tip of the Week
Taking the Shot Versus Letting it Happen.

$150,000 Women's World Cup in Philadelphia
I was only there on the Sunday, for the semifinals, the third-fourth playoff, and the final. I actually bought a $25 ticket in advance, but then discovered I had a "VIP" ticket – but it was too late. But it did allow me to sit up front in a box seat, next to High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner. It was a bit disappointing when world's top two players and Olympic Champions Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen dropped out, but it meant a more even competition instead of the usual all-Chinese final. In fact, this would be the first World Cup ever not won by a Chinese player. Below are a few notes on the players and other links.

  • Champion Miu Hirano (JPN) – the 16-year-old from Japan, seeded fourth and ranked 17th in the world, was the upset winner. She probably had the best side-to-side transition from forehand to backhand and vice versa, giving her the strongest overall two-winged attack. She was pretty much down on the ropes to Feng Tianwei in the semifinals, down 1-2 in games and 5-10 in the fourth, but scored seven straight points to win that game and go on to win 4-2. It was here that Hirano raised her level to where she needed in order to win this tournament – and she'd hold that level in the final as well. In the sixth game, Feng had three game points before Hirano pulled it out. One fascinating thing about Hirano – between games and during timeouts she and her coach went over a notebook each time, with Hirano holding it up and going over notes. From a distance, it looked like both notes and charts of the table, apparently with notes on placement. Another interesting thing about Hirano – when she's about to serve, and often between points, she often stops and just stares at her opponent. (Reminds me of the old Cheng Yinghua stare, back in his peak days.)
  • Finalist Cheng I-Ching (TPE) – The other three semifinalists were stronger on the backhand than forehand; Cheng was the only one who was more forehand oriented, though her backhand was also pretty good. However, I was disappointed in that she literally hid her serve every point, and was never called on it. As I've blogged before, this is pretty common at the higher levels, but while some only hide their serves a few times per game, she did it nearly every time, pushing her head out at the last second to hide it. Hirano also hid her serve some, but perhaps only one-fourth of the time, though all of her serves were borderline and likely should have been called as there was no way of the umpire to tell if they were borderline hidden or borderline visible.
  • Feng Tianwei (SIN) – She had the most defined game – she'd cover perhaps 60% of the table with her off-the-bounce backhand topspins, and dominated those rallies against everyone. She was much weaker on the forehand, and didn't transition to it well, but tried to compensate by covering less of the table with it. Her opponents all went after her forehand relentlessly, but Feng often stopped that by pinning them down on their backhand with her own relentless backhand attack, taking away any angle into her forehand. She looked to me like the favorite to win the tournament when the Chinese pulled out, and seemed on track to do so when she led Hirano 2-1 and 10-5, but it was not to be. She occasionally hid her serve, but nothing to the extent that Cheng did.
  • Tie Yana (HKG) – She served nearly all backhand, often serving short to the forehand to get away from her opponent's strong backhand attacks.

And now some links:

USATT Board Meeting
On Monday we had a USATT board meeting in Philadelphia, the day after the Women's World Cup. Only five of the nine board members were able to attend – Peter Scudner, Kagin Lee, Ed Hogshead, Anne Cribbs, and me. Also attending were USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, USATT Legal Counsel Dennis Taylor, Assistant Secretary Lee Kondo, Athlete Advisory Council Member Tahl Leibovitz, and a Strategic Planning Advisor named Henry. Also listening in at times were USATT umpires/referees Joseph Lee and Linda Hsing. We met from 9:30AM to 2:30PM.

We started with a report from Gordon on the Women's World Cup. We'd originally anticipated a solid profit for the event, but when the top two seeds and Olympic Champions from China both dropped out, it hurt ticket sales, and so we will likely break even or lose money. And yet, we still had a pretty good turnout on Sunday for the final, semifinals, and third-fourth playoff.

There was a long discussion on the National Teams Selection Process and other High Performance Issues. There was some discussion on why our current men's team is so weak, while our cadets so strong; I pointed out that our men's team was mostly developed before the rise of full-time clubs and training centers in the U.S., and the much higher level and depth of our cadets – and therefore the next generation of teams on both the men's and women's side – would be much higher. I urged USATT to focus on recruiting and training people to set up and run such training centers and junior programs.

Regarding the selection process, I argued for going to more trials, and less selection. In the current structure set up earlier this year, with ten players on each youth team (junior, cadet, mini-cadet, boys and girls for each), only four make the team via trials, the rest are selected. I'd like to see eight by trials, with two selected. (Selections are a "safety net" as you don't want, say, the #1 player in the age group, with a top ten in the world ranking, not on the team because he's sick or injured, or has one bad day.) I'm leery of subjective selections where players deemed "high potential" are selected over stronger players as this often leads to great controversy and the selections just don't seem fair to me – and coaches are often wrong in how they judge "potential." If a player has high potential but isn't yet strong enough for the team, invite them to USATT camps for training, but don't put them on the team over a stronger player.

However, we still need to find a way to get more of them to postpone college for a few years to focus on training as we lose most of them at age 18, right when they are approaching their peak years. I hate the idea of telling someone not to go to college, but why not take a few years off to train first? That's what I did; I took two years off before college.

There was discussion and planning for the next board meeting and USATT Assembly, both at the U.S. Open in December. (Board meeting will likely be on the Sunday before the Open starts.) There was also discussion of the upcoming USATT elections. Five of the nine board members are going to be off, so it'll be a lot of new people. There should be news on the election soon for those interested in running. We also discussed National Collegiate Table Tennis Association issues and the new ITTF coaching rule.

Then came the main topic for the day – Strategic Planning. Alas, we only had about 90 minutes for this, and so I didn't think we were able to really get into this. One interesting thing is the moderator, Henry, had us each anonymously answer three questions, and asked to score them from 1 to 6, with one being we strongly disagree, and six we strongly agree. Here are the three questions (as near as I can remember), and the scoring results.  

  1. Do we have a clear idea of what the board's vision is? Scoring: One 5, three 3's, four 2's, and one 1.  
  2. Does USATT operate at full potential? Two 4's, four 3's, two 2's, and one 1.
  3. Do we devote enough time to discussing USATT strategy. Six 4's, one 2, and two 1's.

There was some discussion of vision, which we need more of. Some do not have the same understanding of vision that I have. For example, one person thought I had a vision of training centers all over the country, and another that I had a vision of regional leagues all over the country. My vision is of a greatly improving the level of play for our national teams and a huge increase in USATT membership. Training centers and leagues are a means to those ends. I believe USATT has the resources to recruit and train coaches and directors to set up full-time clubs. For leagues, we need a full-time USATT League Director, and we currently do not have the money to hire one – so that has to be on the back burner for now.

I really wish we could spend more time discussing our specific visions for the future of our sport, specific goals to reach those visions, plans to reach those goals, and how to implement those plans.

Attitude is the Make or Break of Sports
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Why You Should Attack the Middle
Here’s the new coaching article by Tom Lodziak.

Resistance Training with Kanak Jha
Here's the video (22 sec) where Kanak is hooked up to a strap that pulls him backward, forcing him to work to move to the table. (You can't see the strap until after halfway through.) The strap makes it harder to move in, thereby developing the muscles needed to do so, thereby increasing his speed in moving in and making it more active and dynamic.

Li Xiaoxia and Zhang Jike - The Grip
Here’s the video (1:13) in Chinese with English subtitles.

Table Tennis in Another Dimension
Here’s the new article from Coach Jon.

Ask a Pro Anything: Meet Wong Chun Ting
Here's the article and video (5:41). Wong, from Hong Kong, finished third at the recent World Men's Cup.

Lily Zhang reflects on meeting President Barack Obama at the White House
Here's the article.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2016
Here’s the video (12:01).

Fan Zhendong Multiball Training with Wu Jingping
Here’s the new video (3:55).

Can You Solve It? The Ping Pong Puzzle
Here's the puzzle. You have until 5PM Eastern Time to solve it, and then they post the answer.

Ball Spins Inside Roll of Tape
Here's the video (13 sec) where Allen Wang smacks the ball into the roll of tape, and the ball spins like crazy inside!

Teddy Bear Pong
Here's the video (59 sec) from NBC Sports of a dog dressed as a teddy bear playing table tennis!

Non-Table Tennis – Capclave Science Fiction Convention
On Friday and Saturday I was at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Gaithersburg, MD – coincidentally only five minutes from MDTTC. I was on three panels, two author signings, a reading, and a finalist in their annual "Small Press Award for Short Fiction." The three panels were on humor in science fiction; politics in science fiction; and on writing workshops. I had a lot of fun with the author signings - didn't sell enough books, alas - and didn't win the Small Press Award, also alas. On the other hand, things are looking up right now, as noted in the segment at the top!

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October 6, 2016

No Blog Friday or Monday – Capclave, World Women’s Cup, USATT Board Meeting
Here’s my schedule over the next few days.

  • Friday and Saturday – at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention, where I’m on three panels, doing a reading, two signings, and I’m a finalist for the annual Small Press Award for Short Stories, given out Saturday night. Here’s my more detailed schedule in my science fiction blog.
  • Sunday – I drive up to Philadelphia for the Women’s World Cup. The semifinals are at 2 and 3PM, the 3-4 playoff at 6PM, and the final at 7PM. Here’s a more detailed schedule for Fri-Sun from the ITTF.
  • Monday – I attend the USA Table Tennis Board of Directors Meeting in Philadelphia. (I’m on the Board.) The agenda isn’t out yet. Then I drive home, returning late on Monday night.

Full-time Table Tennis Centers Revisited
Yesterday I blogged about that dark day ten years ago when USATT board members literally mocked the idea of full-time training centers. I thought I’d elaborate here on the type of thinking that goes on here.

When the idea of a new table tennis program comes up, many get stuck in the present with this deep-set belief that it’s a zero-sum game, that there are only so many players and so only so many full-time clubs or other table tennis programs are possible. They look at how many table tennis players there are, and can’t get beyond those numbers. And it’s true that given the number players in a specific region, it can only support so many table tennis centers, as well as tournaments and leagues.

But what many at that meeting ten years ago didn’t get, and what many still don’t get, is that it is not a zero-sum game. The reality that full-time clubs develop their own base of players. A full-time club that doesn’t do this is going to be a short-lived club. By setting up a full-time club with professional coaches and coaching programs (group and private), junior programs, senior programs, leagues, tournaments, and open play, the club creates a demand that leads to lots of new players. For perspective, my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center, has something like 400 members. (I co-founded it in 1992.) I’d guess that about 20-30 of them would be playing if not for the club. That means the club created nearly 400 new players.

Another myth is that a full-time club hurts other clubs in the area. Unless they are essentially next door to each other, this simply isn’t true. Each one creates its own base of players, and with a larger base of players, both clubs end up with more and more players in their leagues, tournaments, and other programs. In the long term, more clubs lead to more prosperity for all of them. (“A rising tide lifts all boats.”)

The Ultimate Guide to Table Tennis Psychology
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis. Here are the topics covered:

  1. A positive attitude
  2. A high level of self-motivation
  3. High, realistic goals
  4. Good people skills
  5. Positive self-talk
  6. Positive mental imagery
  7. Control over anxiety
  8. Control over emotions
  9. Maintaining concentration

Unique Drills: Learn how to write new robot drills!!!
Here’s the new video (5:33) from Samson Dubina.

Beltway Plaza’s Table Tennis Challenge
Here’s the info flyer on the event this Saturday from 1-4PM at Beltway Plaza in Greenbelt, Maryland. “See if you can beat our resident pro, Navin Kumar, for prizes and to support the Michael J. Fox Parkinson’s Foundation.” (Navin, “The Bionic Man,” has Parkinson’s and a partially mechanical heart.)

Richest Table Tennis League Coming to Asia-Pacific Region
Here's the article

Fang Bo - Best Rallies
Here’s the new video (2:44) of the 2015 World Men’s Singles Finalist from China.

Roller Coaster Pong
Here’s the picture!

Non-Table Tennis – Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions on Sale
The kindle version of Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions at Amazon is currently on sale for just $4.99. This is my science fiction novel about the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the world has adopted the American two-party electoral system – with a number of table tennis scenes as one of the major characters is a professional table tennis player who becomes a campaign director. I’m doing two book signings for this on Saturday – see note at top.

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October 5, 2016

88 Full-time Table Tennis Centers in the U.S.
One of my most vividly bad memories in table tennis was the USATT Board Meeting in December, 2006, almost ten years ago. It was at that meeting that I made a proposal for USATT to actively recruit and train coaches and club directors to set up and run full-time table tennis centers and junior programs, with the goal of 100 such centers in ten years.

At the time there were only 8-10 such full-time centers in the country. I’d co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, the first successful full-time center devoted to training, and we’d set the model that others were beginning to follow.

The response? It was basically laughed off. Two board members openly said that full-time table tennis centers wouldn’t work in the U.S. except in a few specific areas, and that these areas already had a full-time club, so there was no potential for more. The rest remained silent. I remembered arguing with these two with the growing realization that they had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, and yet they were running our sport and firmly believed what they were saying. [I'll likely blog about this more tomorrow, this deep-set belief of many that it's a zero-sum game, that there are only so many players and so only so many full-time clubs possible, as opposed to the reality that these clubs develop their own base of players.]

At the time I worked full-time for USATT as Editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine and as Program Director. I was so disappointed in the short-sighted response to my proposal that I resigned both positions. (I went back to coaching and writing.)

It’s now nearly ten years later, and without any real help from USATT, we’ve gone from 8-10 to 88 full-time table tennis centers. Over the last ten years coaches have been flooding into the U.S. and these centers have been popping up everywhere. Twenty-five states and DC now have full-time table tennis centers. This in spite of the fact that there’s no group actively recruiting or training these coaches, and that every time someone wants to open a full-time center they essentially have to reinvent the wheel as there wasn’t any manual on this.

One result? We suddenly find ourselves with the strongest group of cadet players in U.S. history – by far – one of the strongest groups in the world. Ten years ago the USATT board was focused on developing top players, but when I pointed out that top players start out as top juniors, and top juniors come from full-time centers where large numbers of them can train full-time under professional coaches – well, the response was underwhelming. (I would estimate that in those ten years we’ve gone from about 10-20 full-time coaches to easily over 300.)

USATT did make a move last year in adopting the USATT Club Development Handbook, written by Yang Yu, which covers much of what’s needed to open a full-time center. (Here’s my review of that on June 22, 2015.) Here’s the table of contents:

  1. Are You Ready to Start a Club?
  2. Mission Statement and Business Entity
  3. Facility and Equipment
  4. Income Sources (tournaments, walk-in play, membership, training programs, equipment sales, private events, donations, food & drink sales, sponsorship)
  5. Business Model (mixed operation model, training center model)
  6. Marketing Your Club (with 13 methods listed)
  7. USATT Club Affiliation and Recognition Program
  8. Club Management
  9. Outline the Financial Budget

There's also the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote and published in 2013. USATT may use it at cost as part of any training program for coaches. The focus here is the professional side - recruiting students, setting up and running programs, maximizing income, finding a playing facility, etc. 

Imagine if USATT had gotten move involved earlier – not trying to run things, but simply by trying to recruit and train such coaches on the professinal side of coahcing, including how to open up full-time clubs? We might have twice as many such centers. It’s something I plan to look more into soon. USATT should be actively recruiting and training these coaches. It doesn’t cost us anything – the coaches pay for the training. It can be done as an add-on to the current ITTF coaching programs we already run. If they don't, there's a chance I might try to do this myself. Whether it's a USATT Coaching Academy or the Larry Hodges Coaching Academy, we need some entity that actively recruits and trains coaches, not just on how to coach, but on the professional side. 

Two new full-time centers have opened this past week, the Paddle Palace Club in Portland, Oregon, and Zing Table Tennis in Easthampton, Massachusetts. (Here’s an article on Zing.) Congrats and welcome aboard to both!!!

Why not browse over this list of full-time table tennis clubs in the U.S., and give thanks to all these table tennis entrepreneurs who took the effort to open and run such centers? Also let me know if there are any missing or other updates/corrections.

Let’s get to 90 this year, and break 100 next year.

USATT SuperCamp Request for Proposal
Here’s the info page.

10 Quick Tips to Better Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Newgy.

Alzheimer’s and Table Tennis
Here are two articles.

Numbers Growing, Healthy Situation as Star Names Head for Philadelphia
Here’s the ITTF article.

Female Table Tennis Pro Faces Average Joes to Promote Women's World Cup in Philadelphia
Here’s the video (1:49) of USA Olympian Wu Yue taking challenges at the Shops at Liberty Place in the Rotunda.

ITTF Flash News
Here’s the ITTF News.

Play Ping Pong Against a Robot Inside an LA Gallery
Here’s the article and pictures.

Princeton: Seniors Earn Table Tennis Gold
Here’s the article.

Diary of a 10-Year-Old
Here’s the entry on the upcoming World Women’s Cup by Sarah Jalli, in Philadelphia this weekend.

Vintage Table Tennis
Here are two very old videos:

Chimpanzee Playing a Table Tennis Robot
Here’s the video (2:24)! The headline says it’s a monkey, but I refuse to spread such ignorance. This is a different video than the 13-second video of a chimp playing that I posted on Sept. 14.

***
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October 4, 2016

Service Week – Teaching a Beginner to Serve
This past week the focus in both of my beginning table tennis classes was serving. For me, it’s the most fun part to teach, and the part that the kids are most fascinated by. If you show a new kid a backspin serve that bounces back into the net, they won’t stop trying until they can do it. If put a target on the table and smack it with a serve, the kids will spend the next half hour trying to hit it, and keep track of every hit. (I use the latter for the younger kids, who struggle at first with just serving, and aren’t ready to really spin their serves.)

Here’s how I teach serves to beginning kids.

  1. At the very start of the session I challenge the kids to return my serve. They line up, and stay until they’ve missed three serves. Then I serve various spins. When serving sidespin, I always put the racket down right after serving and step to where the ball will go, catching it. For backspin, as I serve I beg them not to go into the net. They have fun with this, and quickly realize how important spin is to the game. After a few rounds I explain what they need to do to return each serve, i.e. aim to the side and down against sidespin.
  2. Next I explain the serving rules. I try to make this interactive, asking them what rules they know, and fill in the blanks. Then demo lots of legal and illegal serves and have them call out if they think it’s legal or not.
  3. I then demo basic forehand and backhand topspin serves, and explain their main purpose is to start a practice rally, such as forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand.
  4. Then we get into spin. I explain the various spins, and then demo them, asking them to call out what type it is. I show them backspin serves coming back into the net. Then I put a racket along the far right side, and serving from my right side, I serve crosscourt with sidespin so the ball curves back and hits the paddle. For topspin, I let them see how the ball jumps as it hits the table.
  5. Then I go over the two keys to spin: racket acceleration and grazing. This is where I explain the difference between racket speed and acceleration.
  6. To teach them how to graze the ball, I first show them the proper forehand pendulum serve grip. Then I break out the colored soccer balls, and have them practice spinning them in the air – spin and catch, spin and catch – for about five minutes. The colored balls give them feedback on whether they are getting spin. Even beginners can spin the ball in this way.
  7. Then go over the specifics of the forehand pendulum serve, and briefly demo other serves. Then I ask for questions – there usually are a few. But by now, they are itching to serve.
  8. I generally put them three to a table, with a box of balls in the middle on one side. Two players practice serving, one from each side, while the third picks up the balls with a net. After five minutes they rotate. After fifteen minutes, they’ve all had ten minutes service practice and five minutes picking up balls. Sometimes we go longer.

The Fitness and Sport of Table Tennis
Here’s the article, with lots of great table tennis links at the end.

Chinese Technique - How to Serve Short
Here’s the video (8:35).

Multi-Ball Exercise for Table Tennis Players and Coaching Tips
Here’s the article. (Recently there seems to be a lot of articles and videos on multiball – I had two here yesterday.)

LIEBHERR 2016 ITTF Men's World Cup
Here’s the home page for the Men’s World Cup, which finished yesterday in Saarbrücken, Germany, with results, pictures, video, and articles. Here’s the Day Three video review (4:37). Here are video highlights (3:59) of USA’s Feng Yijun against South Korea’s Lee Sangsu with the latter winning in seven.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 2! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

Creative Variations of Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:18).

Timo Boll vs. Jorgen Persson Exhibition, with Umpire Jan-Ove Waldner
Here’s the video (12:37)! They did this just yesterday at the Men’s World Cup, before the Final. Here’s a shortened highlights version (4:04), but I recommend the full version so you get the full treat, including the crowd singing Happy Birthday to Waldner, who was 51 yesterday.

***
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October 3, 2016

Tip of the Week
Returning Smashes: Reacting and Racket Angles.

Clinton Smashes Trump in Debate
Here’s the cartoon! As you can see, I had a little fun last night – and there’s no question now that she got quite a bump in the polls after the debate. (Here’s my 2016 Election Pong Style cartoon, posted previously.)

Eighteen Private Coaching Sessions in a Day
On Friday, I gave 18 private coaching sessions. You heard that right! Okay, that’s a bit misleading as it was 18 ten-minute sessions, plus two 30-minute group sessions. I was hired by a local business that has gone table tennis crazy to spend four hours at their headquarters. It was a wild afternoon!

They have two tables, both pretty nice ones, though one net is a bit ragged. They were mostly using hardbat and sandpaper rackets, stacked in a box by the table, with a few cheap sponge rackets mixed in. They had a huge quantity of orange 2-star celluloid balls.

My plan was to do a 30-minute group session where I’d introduce them to the sport, and teach the grip, stance, forehand, backhand, and perhaps the push. Then we’d finish with 30 minutes on serving and follow-up questions. In between I’d spend ten minutes with each player, working primarily on forehand and backhand. However, the plans at the start were a bit thwarted as it turned out they had lots and Lots and LOTS of questions! Most were about rules and equipment. They had many house rules, from 7-0 skunks to not being able to score the last point of a game on your own serve – when up game point, the other guy always got to serve. We went through 25 minutes of questions before I even got to teaching and demonstrating the forehand. Fortunately, I had no other coaching planned that day, so I decided to simply stay a bit late to get everything in. So the 30-minute opening session became a 45-minute session. And then began the 18 one-on-one sessions.

They had some seriously decent players, including probably 5-6 who could hit forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand pretty well, all perhaps in the 800-1200 range. Their best player was a hardbat player with very strong strokes from both sides – he was a tennis player – who would probably give stronger players a run for it except that he’d never really played against spin, and serves, loops, and inverted sponge in general would probably give him problems at first. However, before the day was done he had switched to one of their sponge rackets. He and several others plan to attend MDTTC’s Friday night league this week, so we’ll see how they do.

I went through all 18 players, with a ten-minute timer on each, which took three hours. About 12-14 of the 18 were part of their table tennis craze, with the others joining in for the day and perhaps becoming addicted.

In the closing group session, I went over the serving rules, and then taught them how to do spin serves. After going over the basics of grip, wrist and racket acceleration, and grazing contact, I brought out the soccer-colored balls so they could all practice spinning the ball off their rackets, with the colored balls giving them feedback on their spin.

I then called on volunteers to try to return my serves, and they lined up – and of course I did my usual exhibition spin serve tricks, where I’d serve sidespin, put my racket on the table, and step over to the side where the ball was going to go and catch it. Or I’d beg them not to put the ball in the net as I served backspin, and of course the ball would go straight down. After a bit of this I explained how to return the serves, and they picked it up pretty quickly.

There wasn’t enough time or tables for them all to practice their serves, but a number of them began practicing on the two tables. I showed them how you can have four to a table, with a box of balls in the middle on each side, and a player serving from each corner, so eight players could practice serves on two tables.

There were lots of closing questions. And then I showed them a number of table tennis tricks, starting with the blowing the ball trick. I finished by going to the other side of the office, directly to the side of the table, where I couldn’t even see the table due to the intervening cubicles. After some very careful calculations in my head, I did the 50-foot serve that spins about and hits both sides of the table legally (other than the detail that I’m in front of the end-line’s extension, since I’m directly to the side of the table), and got it on the first try. To do this serve requires not only lots of sidespin, but lots of backspin to pull the ball back after the first bounce. It also takes a lot of energy as that’s a long distance to serve!

At the end of the session they asked if I could come in every three months. So it looks like it’s going to be a recurring event.

LIEBHERR 2016 ITTF Men's World Cup
Saarbrücken, GER, Oct. 1-3
Here’s the home page for the Men’s World Cup, which finishes on Monday. As of this writing, China’s Fan Zhendong had just defeated Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson 4-1 in the semifinals, and Xu Xin defeated Wong Chun Ting 4-1 in the other all-Chinese semifinal. So it’s Fan vs. Xu in the final later today. (Breaking news: Fan wins, 4-1.) 

ESPN2 to Broadcast Final of Seamaster 2016 Women's World Cup of Table Tennis
Here’s the USATT news item. The event takes place in Philadelphia, Oct. 7-9. Here’s ticket info. (I’ll be there on Sunday.)

Werner Schlager Week at Expert Table Tennis
Last week was “Werner Schlager Week” at Expert Table Tennis, with daily articles from the 2003 World Men’s Singles Champion. Below are all five, including the Friday tip that didn’t make my Friday blog.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the new issue, with links to numerous coaching articles, including a new one, “Service tactics to win cheap points.”

Why Every Table Tennis Player Should Use Multi-ball Training
Here’s the coaching article from Pong Universe.

Articles by Samson Dubina
Here are three new ones.

How to Do a Multi Ball Training Session
Here’s the video (2:18).

Table Tennis Limbo: How Low Can You Go?
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Zhang to Compete in Table Tennis' Women's World Cup
Here’s the article from Palo Alto Online.

Li Xiaoxia Keen on Being Coach
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Weikert Announces His ITTF Presidential Candidacy
Here’s the ITTF press release. You may remember that Jean-Michel Saive also intends to run for ITTF President – here’s his Facebook posting.

New Father Ovtcharov Aiming to Become Men's World Cup Champion
Here’s the ITTF press release.

San-Ei Continue to Tokyo 2020 after Successful Rio 2016 Table Partnership
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Fan Zhendong - The Rising Dragon (Unstoppable Force)
Here’s the video (5:22).

Great Points by Waldner
Here’s the video (2:36).

Doubles Training on a Robot
Here’s the video (51 sec), with a “big” person and a “small” person!

Zhang Jike Training With...a Dog?
Here’s the video (3:32)!

***
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September 30, 2016

Coaching Happenings
Here’s a rundown of some coaching issues that came up this week.

During a junior class yesterday, one 6-year-old beginner was struggling to get his serve on the table. He kept smacking it out toward the net, and it would either go into the net, or way off the end or side. I kept explaining that his target was on his side of the table, just a few feet from him. Finally I put a quarter on the table near his end-line and told him that that was his target. Two amazing things happened. First, he became focused on hitting the quarter, and his serve began to hit both sides! Second, about five minutes later, he became so good at serving that I had him try the same thing with a downward stroke – and within a minute he was serving with backspin! Not heavy backspin, of course, but enough that he was pretty excited.

Another beginning kid was struggling with his forehand pendulum serve. I suggested he try a backhand serve – and within minutes he was serving a pretty nice sidespin.

One kid kept swatting balls all over the place. Later, at the very end of the class we had one of those “Hit the bottle of worm juice and I have to drink it” (well, Gatorade), and this kid became so fixated on hitting it that his stroke straightened out, and three times he made me drink it.

In private coaching, one player said he’d been having trouble with lefties – turns out the problem was he was so used to playing his backhand crosscourt that when he played a lefty he’d mostly go right to the player’s forehand (giving an easy attack). When he did go down the line, he struggled since he wasn’t used to doing it. So we did a bunch of down-the-line practice, my forehand to his backhand. (We’re both righties.)

I blogged on Wednesday about one player who was struggling with his forehand loop until I had him spend a few minutes watching some of our top juniors looping in drills – and then his loop magically straightened out.

I might have some interesting stories next week. This afternoon I’m going to a business where they have hired me to run a clinic for them from 12-4PM for 18 players!

Backspin and No-Spin Serves
Here’s the coaching video (3:15) by Brett Clarke. I can’t find the original, just this one on the Sri Lanka page.

Footwork Training
Here’s the video (90 sec).

Best Serve for Backhand Dominant Player
Here’s the video (13:46).

I Am a Coach Because…
Here’s a good meme for coaches. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Kanak Jha and Other USA Table Tennis Olympians at the White House
Here are four pictures.

Olympic Champion Ding Regains World Number One Spot
Here’s the ITTF press release.

Insane Behind-the-Back Knock Off Bottles Serve
Here’s the video (15 sec)!

Severus Snape’s Forehand vs. Ron Weasley (the Ball)
Here’s the repeating gif!

***
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September 29, 2016

No Regular Blog Today - Thank the Problems with USATT's Team Selection Process
There have been serious problems in the USATT’s team selection process, and I’ve been drawn into it – and for the third night in a row I was up all night dealing with this and other issues. At some point I’ll blog about it. For now, I woke up with a massive headache, and I’m a little too tired and disgusted to want to do anything right now. It’s hard to stay idealistic when dealing with this stuff. Anybody want my spot on the USATT Board? Oh, please, please, please! (The stuff below I put together at around 4AM when I couldn’t sleep. I went to bed after 5AM.)

Physical Tips for Table Tennis Players – by Werner Schlager
This is “Werner Schlager Week” at Expert Table Tennis, with daily articles from the 2003 World Men’s Singles Champion!

PongHero
Here’s the page. “PongHero is a site dedicated to providing reviews and information about table tennis equipment. Our goal is to provide unbiased reviews and information to help readers make informed decisions when making a purchase.”

Creative Multiball in Sri Lanka
Here’s the video (2:02).

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2016 China Open
Here’s the video (4:05).

2016 China National Championships Men's Single Final Highlights, Fan Zhendong vs Zhou Yu
Here’s the video (14:27).

Table Tennis People Are Awesome
Here’s the new highlights video (5:37), set to music.

Teddy Bear Pong
Here’s the video (3:20) and the picture!

***
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