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!

NOTE - For technical reasons, the second half of the blog was cut off for most of Monday, May 4. The problem is now fixed. But if you were here earlier, you only saw about half of today's links. 

Tip of the Week
Don't Practice Hesitation.

USATT Coaches Excellence Program and Zoom
On Sunday, we had a USATT Coaches Meeting on Zoom from 4:00-5:15PM. Attending were Virginia Sung (USATT CEO), Sean O'Neill (USATT High Performance Director), Christian Lillieroos (USATT Coach Education Director), and the USATT Coaching Committee: Pieke Franssen (chair), Gao Jun, Dave Fullen, and myself (Larry Hodges). Stellan Bengtsson is also on the committee but was unable to attend.

The purpose was to go over the new USATT Coaches Excellence Program, which is being created by Christian, Sean, and Dave. There will be three tracks:

  • Club Levels 1 and 2
  • High Performance Levels 1 and 2
  • Para Levels 1 and 2

A key part will be continuing education. I'll be going over the program over the next few days to give my input. USATT will be going public with this soon. Much of the program will center on online training. It looks pretty promising!

I know that some of my key input will be:

  • Importance for those in the "High Performance" track to observe high-level training sessions, with top coaches, where they see all levels of development. You don't need to be a great player to be a great coach, but a primary advantage a great player has is that he's spent years in high-level training sessions, while a non-great player rarely has that opportunity. (So this is less of an issue with former top players who are becoming High Performance Coaches.) If you want to be a high-level coach, you have to find opportunities to do so, even if it means traveling somewhere to spend a week or so watching such sessions at a high-level center. If you want to learn how to develop an elite player, you can't just watch an elite player on video; you need to see how that player developed at each step, from beginning, intermediate, and advanced junior, and then elite player. (In theory, someone could video hundreds and hundreds of hours of such training and require coaches to watch it all, but I don't think that's really feasible or as effective - seeing it in person is a bit different, plus you can ask questions.)
  • Importance of training coaches how to recruit and retain players, and setting up a training program. There's no point in having great coaching knowledge if you don't have anyone to work with. This could be an optional thing, but it needs to be available. (I used to point out that it's better to have ten 1100 players coaching than one glorified National coach who is not.)

MDTTC Juniors and Zoom
So, what do table tennis kids do when they're stuck at home due to the pandemic? If you're MDTTC junior star and team captain Stephanie Zhang, you instigate Zoom training at home with the other MDTTC juniors and coaches! The players and coaches jumped on the idea, and they now do it twice a week. Most of the kids have tables at their houses, and can train with siblings or parents. (Stephanie, for example, practice with brother James, while brothers Stanley and Kurtus Hsu were together, and so on.) Others shadow-practice. I observed their session this past Saturday. There were 35-40 players on 29 screens, with each player having a video camera on them (presumably smart phones) so the coaches could watch and comment. Coaches Wang Qingliang and John Hsu oversaw it. John called out the drills - ones for those with tables and practice partners, and ones for those shadow-practicing. Wang and John would regularly call out instructions, encouragement, and admonishments, which they could all hear. It was kind of interesting having all those screens open on my monitor! At any time you can zoom in on one to see more closely what they are doing. (I may join in more actively later on.) 

Three Table Tennis Books Coming Out

  • Circa May 15: "Why Table Tennis? 10 Aspects of the Sport that Will Change Your Life. This book, by Samson Dubina and two of his Ohio junior stars, Jacob Boyd and Sarah Jalli, will come out in about a month or so. I'm the editor for it.
  • June 1: Still More Table Tennis Tips, by Larry Hodges. (Hey, that's me!) This is the third book in the series, following Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips. It's 189 pages with 150 Tips from the last three years, organized in logical fashion, with seven chapters - Serve and Receive, Strokes, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, and Doubles. It'll be published on Monday, June 1. It'll be my 17th book, and my 9th on table tennis.
  • Circa July: Winning Table Tennis, by Dan Seemiller. This is a reprinting of Dan's instructional book from 1997. I've been working with another member of the writing community (the science fiction one, not the table tennis one!) to recreate the pages, since the original files were lost, other than the text.
  • Or read about Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt: Seven Weeks Following Tour Guides with Little Flags and Funny Hats, and the Quest for the Elusive Dr Pepper!

RIP Donglong "Derek" Hao
Just heard the bad news - Coach Hao died a few days ago. He was a coach and top player (rated 2531) from the Swan Warriors TTC in the Bay Area in California. He was only 28. No reason has been given for his death yet. A chopper/attacker, he played recently at the US Olympic Trials, where he was in the Final 16, and almost advanced to the Final Eight - he was to play Sharon Alguetti, with the winner advancing, but had to default due to a leg injury. Here's a Facebook note on it with three pictures. (Here are the non-Facebook versions - picture1, picture2, picture3.)

Open Against Half Long With FH
Here's the USATT article by Wang Qingliang.

Do You Want to Serve Like a Pro?
Here's the video (4:35) with Thomas Keinath.

How to Do Reverse Pendulum Serve Table Tennis
Here's the video (13:38) by Louis Levene.

BTY Training Tips featuring Shigang Yang: Forehand Flip With Multi-ball Training
Here's the video (1:20).

The Chop Block (The Most Neglected Shot in Table Tennis)
Here's the article and video (6:41) from Tom Lodziak, with Craig Bryant.

New from Emratthich/PingSunday

New from eBaTT (Eli Baraty)

New from Samson Dubina

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here! (Note - for some technical reason, whenever I link directly to these videos, when I post my blog, everything from that entry on disappears! I have no idea. I've looked to see if there are any underlying characters that might cause this but can't find anything.)

Questions Answered at PingSkills
Here's their Q&A page. Post your own questions!

Professor Helps Olympic Table Tennis Team During COVID-19
Here's the article.

Player Watch: Jha on the move, an engagement and Pitchford's connection with the force?
Here's the ITTF article featuring USA's Kanak Jha.

New from Steve Hopkins

Heart to Heart with Anna: The Bionic Man of Table Tennis
Here's the podcast (34:17) featuring Navin Kumar.

Club Feature of the Week (9)- Sky High Table Tennis Club
Here's the USATT article.

Fifth Time's a Charm as Jorge Vanegas Successfully Becomes International Umpire
Here's the USATT article.

It Was Purely Physical?
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

China's Help in the Growth of Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (7:42).

New from the ITTF

King of Attack vs. King of Defense
Here's the video (15:39) - Ma Long vs. Joo Se Hyuk!

Story About Swedish Table Tennis from mid-1980's
Here's the video (12:50).

6 Weird Facts About Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:14) from Pongfinity.

Can You Make a Ping-Pong Table Disappear?
Here's the video (55 sec) from table tennis magician Leon Thomson!

Balloon Pong with Grandma
Here's the video (20 sec)!

Double-Hand Pong
Here's the video (21 sec)!

Top 10 Ping Pong Commercials
Here's the video (6:16)! I consider the Energizer one the best ever!

Legos Pong!
Here are two hilarious videos as the "Legos" version of the stars battle it out, with play-by-play by ITTF commentator Adam Bobrow!!!

May the 4th Be With You
Here is some Star Wars Pong!

Non-Table Tennis - Tooth Theology
My science fiction story, "Tooth Theology," just came out in the new issue of Galaxy's Edge. What if, in the distant future, most religions have died out, while worship of the Tooth Fairy - through her priestly Dentists - dominate the world?

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Don’t Warm Up Your Opponent During a Match.

Developing Your Game at Different Ages
Suppose an 8-year-old, a 30-year-old, and a 60-year-old walk into your club, all beginners, and sign up for lessons. You'd likely start them off similarly, teaching the fundamentals. But something happens after a time - how you teach them begins to change quite a bit.

For the 8-year-old, you'd be teaching him "modern" table tennis - like, say, Ma Long. Once he has the fundamentals down pretty well, he'll likely be taught to stay pretty close to the table, loop from both sides, with feet mostly parallel to the table, even for forehands (except when forced off the table). He'll become a great counter-looper. He'll mostly serve seemingly simple short backspin/no-spin serves - third-ball attack serves - and follow them with loops. (He'll learn other variations, but they will be "surprise" serves, not his core serves that set up his third-ball attack.) He'll learn to attack short serves with backhand banana flips. And he'll be well on his way toward being an elite player, maybe a contender for the National Team or more!!!

Many coaches would teach the 30-year-old the same way, but that's probably a mistake. If he's a truly top-notch athlete, then perhaps you would teach him the same way. But in essentially every case, he's not ever going to be in contention to be a National Team Member. His goals are probably to be as good as he can be - perhaps someday a 2000-level player. For this player, you would likely teach him a bit different - more "old-school." He'll learn to loop the backhand against backspin, but in rallies, he's probably better off hitting and blocking aggressively. He probably should move the right foot (for righties) back some for forehands, and not try to jam the table when looping. He'll learn to counter-loop, but he'll pick and choose when to do so rather than trying to do it almost every time. He should learn to flip serves, but should probably focus more on pushing them back effectively. And while he should develop short backspin/no-spin serves, he'll develop a wider variety of serves, especially deep ones - serves that don't work as well at the higher levels, but can be completely dominant against 2000 players. 

Of course, you should check with the 30-year-old to see what his goals are. He may want to play like Ma Long, in which case you'd coach him the same as that 8-year-old. How about a 20-year-old? He's in between, and depending on his goals and fitness level, you might teach him like that 8-year-old.

How about the 60-year-old? Unless he's a super-athlete for his age, he's not going to learn to run around all over the place looping. To reach his potential, it might be better to develop a great blocking game, and perhaps a good smash. He should learn to forehand loop against backspin, but in rallies he should probably mostly hit the forehand. He'll develop the trickiest deep serves he can, though he should also learn to serve short. He might learn to backhand loop against backspin, but often he'll be better learning to push and hit. In fact, if his goal is to be as good as he can be, then (and some will gag at this!), very often he should go to long pips on the backhand, even early on. That's the dominant style at the older age groups, and there's a reason for it - the long pips is basically an "equalizer," allowing them to block an opponent's athletic loops and turn all of that topspin into backspin.

Of course, you should also check with the 60-year-old to see what his goals are. He may want to play like Ma Long - but unless he's in great shape, I wouldn't recommend that as he'd probably hurt himself! (Yeah, that type of game is pretty physical.) But he might want to play with "regular" rubber, rather than face the stigma some long-pips players get, or he might want to play more of a topspin game.

In the end, players have to decided what their goals are. I've considered using long pips on my backhand a few times, but I just prefer sticking with inverted, so I win or lose using roughly the same equipment as the large majority of my opponents - plus, as a coach, I'm a better practice partner this way, both in drills and games. (I'll proably rewrite the above as a Tip of the Week later on.) 

New Table Tennis Books

  • Why Table Tennis? 10 Aspects of the Sport that Will Change Your Life. This book, by Samson Dubina and two of his Ohio junior stars, Jacob Boyd and Sarah Jalli, will come out in about a month or so. I'm the editor for it, and was up late last night on it, which is why this week's blog went up a bit later than usual. I should finish editing it today or tomorrow, though they still have a lot of layout work to do.
  • Still More Table Tennis Tips - I finished the pages for this book yesterday, and sent it off to Mark Dekeyser, John Olsen, and Dennis Taylor for final proofing, as they did for the first two books in the series, Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips. It's 189 pages with 150 Tips from the last three years, organized in logical fashion, with seven chapters - Serve and Receive, Strokes, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, and Doubles. It'll be published on Monday, June 1.

A Table Tennis Coach Wants to Go to Georgia, Looking for a Barber Before His Hair Becomes Unreal...
It's probably a mistake that they are opening up this early in the pandemic . . . but I am sure tempted to drive down and get a haircut, see a movie, play some table tennis (since they are allowing gyms to open, TT clubs should be open), and then drive back to Maryland! It's only 660 miles to Atlanta, I can make it in ten hours! (Okay, I'm joking, but I am probably going to have to cut my hair with scissors this week, and I have no idea how it's going to come out.)

Let's Play Some Table Tennis Music While We're Stuck Inside!

Free Service Masterclass!
Here are the videos - ten of them on serving from Matt Hetherington. (See links on right.) 

New from Samson Dubina

New from eBaTT (Eli Baraty)

New from EmRatThich

Table Tennis Tips: Practicing Finishing Shots
Here's the video (6:11) from Steve Emmons.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here! 

Robot that Feeds with Real Racket
Here's the video (15 sec). I hope we get these in the US soon! Convention robots are great in many ways, but the one thing you don't get when you train with them is the practice of reacting to a ball coming off a table tennis racket.

The World’s Smallest Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Alumni Spotlight: Michael Wang
Here's the article from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Ping Pong, Walks and Mind Exercises: Brain-boosting habits of a renowned brain doctor during self-quarantine
Here's the article from CNBC.

New from USATT

USATT PongPositive Interviews
Here's the page. This week they interviewed Jishan Liang, Judy Hoarfrost, Zhou Xin, and Frank Caliendo (yes, the comedian, who is also a USATT member).

New from the ITTF
They've put up a lot this week! Much of it is their "Return to Budapest" articles reminiscing about the 2019 Worlds.

New from Steve Hopkins

How to Make a Table Tennis Ball Collector
Here's the video (2:08). Or you can just buy ones from Butterfly, JOOLA, or Paddle Palace.

Status of Table Tennis Clubs After the Epidemic is Over
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I'm guessing it's going to be even worse at barber shops.

Lily Smacks Ball Off Kanak's Head
Here's the video (9 sec)! Shall we call her Lily "William Tell" Zhang? Lily and the brave Kanak Jha are USA's top-ranked players, both ranked the same at #27 in the world in Women's and Men's.

Table Tennis - CLUB CHALLENGE - Hotshots vs HITT
Here's the video (7:39). "Hotshot Table Tennis (Jersey City, New Jersey) and HITT (Hoboken, New Jersey) duke it out in our "pass the ball challenge". Which club can pass the ball more? We challenge your club to beat either of our tallies! Forward on and keep our table tennis communities connected and thriving."

Serve Practice with Toddler Ball Recycler
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Meet the Spin Pros
Here's the video (58 sec)!

Trick Serve and Shot
Here's the video (17 sec)! I've done this trick before, but I do it with a forehand pendulum serve, so the ball curves the other way, and then I smack it with a forehand. Now I'm going to have to learn the opposite way so I can match this!

Table Tennis Trickshots - Solo Edition
Here's the video (1:27)!

River Pong
Here's the video (13 sec). Why spend money on a net when you can just stick a river there?

Crazy Diving Returns
Here's the video (21 sec)!

Over-the-Shoulder Counter-kill
Here's the video (33 sec) of this incredible shot!

Under-the-Legs Underhanded Sidespin Counter-Smash
Here's the video (15 sec) as Matt Hetherington against Lily Yip!

Backyard Improvised Chop Doubles and Exhibition
Here's the video (50 sec)! The lefty is 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien. (Anyone know who the other player is? They also did the Relaxing Hammock Pong (32 sec) from two weeks ago.

Extended Ping-Pong
Here's the video (5:34) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Sometimes Challenge an Opponent's Strength.

Quarantine Shadow Practice
Anyone who reads my blog and tips knows that I'm a big advocate of shadow practice - where you practice your strokes and footwork without a ball or table. And here we all are, stuck inside, unable to play real table tennis with a ball or table! This is the perfect time to get your racket out and practice your game.

Before we go further, here are five Tips of the Week where shadow practice is discussed:

For me personally, I've been shadow-stroking for two reasons. First, I do it about five minutes per day for exercise. (And so should you - but more than five minutes!) Second, and this is perhaps the more interesting one, I'm developing my backhand loop . . . finally. I've always had a very forehand-oriented game. My backhand was just for rallying - I could keep the ball going forever, but I didn't attack well with it. I can backhand loop decently in a drill, but in a match, I have two problems developing it.

Because I'm forehand oriented, anytime I see a ball I can attack, my natural, long-trained instinct is to use my forehand. So if someone pushes to my backhand, before the ball's barely left their racket I'm already stepping around, even now, at age 60. (How did that happen?) It's pretty much reflex - and I'm still pretty quick for that first step to my left. (These days, alas, I get punished on the next shot, to my wide forehand, which I no longer can move to cover like I used to.)

But there's another reason. I hit my regular backhand almost directly in front of me, right in front of my eyes. This gives me great consistency, but isn't so great for looping, where it's better to take it a little from the side. (Backhand looping directly in front also puts strain on the shoulder, and whenever I try backhand looping too much, I hurt my shoulder.) So guess what I'm doing? I'm shadow practicing my backhand loop, over and over, with the contact point almost a foot to the left of my normal contact point. By the time we're allowed to go back to clubs, it might be a habit - and finally, at this late age, maybe I'll be a two-winged looper!!!

You can shadow practice with any racket. However, I like to do it with this weighted paddle I bought at the 2001 Worlds in Osaka, Japan. You should both practice your strokes and your footwork. You can play entire games this way!

Table Tennis Books
The Tips above, and related issues, are mostly from three of my books: Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers; Table Tennis Tips; and More Table Tennis Tips. (See links at Books by Larry Hodges.) The tactics book has been the #1 selling table tennis book in the world for much of the last few years (for English). But you might want to read the two Tips books now - the third in the series, Still More Table Tennis Tips, comes out in late May! Here's the draft of the cover.

USATT Interviews Me and Others
Here's the video (15:51). Alas, the audio isn't great. I think the microphone on the headphones I was using didn't work, and so the audio is from the computer's regular microphone - but I didn't realize this until later. USATT has been doing a series of these "Pong Positive" interviews - others include Frank Caliendo, Will Shortz, Liu Juan, Kanak Jha, Tom Feng, Sharon Alguetti, Lily Zhang, Han Xiao, Eve Yen, Huijing Wang, and Jennifer Wu.

Tim and Sally Update
Tim Boggan (USATT Hall of Famer and 2006 USATT Lifetime Award Recipient) has been keeping me up to date on his wife, Sally. They've been married for 60 years. She had a stroke last August, and is totally paralyzed on one side, and unable to speak, and needs a feeding tube. Tim wrote, "For 7 and 1/2 months she's shown remarkable courage, and has functioned well enough to think, write, and give a thumbs-up or down response to questions. But now...more bad news. Almost 87, she's become a victim of the coronavirus sweeping Long Island, and on Apr. 14 was transferred from her nursing home to a local hospital." Tim also adds that he and Sally very much appreciate the support the TT community has shown them for almost eight months. Here's the USATT article on their GoFundMe page.

History of US Table Tennis
Tim Boggan's long-time labor of love has been his History of US Table Tennis series, now with 23 volumes. However, at this point he plans to soon stop distributing them personally, and rely on Amazon and possibly regular table tennis distributors to sell them. However, he has a number of volumes left which he wishes to sell first. Normal price is $40/volume, but he's selling the remaining copies for $30/volume. He has the following copies left. If interested, email Tim Boggan directly.

  • One left: Volumes 2, 3, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 19, 20
  • Two left: Volumes 6, 8, 13, 14, 18
  • Three left: Volumes 4, 9
  • Four left: Volume 22

USATT Weekly Town Hall Meetings - Next One This Tuesday April 21, 7PM Eastern Time

USA Table Tennis to Host Weekly Virtual Town Hall Meeting With Club Owners and Administrators this Tuesday. That's pretty self-explanatory. I attended the first one last Monday and took some notes. The meeting, UberConference lasted about 50 minutes. (They are switching to Zoom for the one linked above.) The attendee counter fluctuated as people got on and off, with about 50 attendees most of the meeting, with a maximum of 52. (Afterwards, there was an official log that said there had been 74, so presumably that meant 74 total, but not at the same time.) Attendees were listed by state, and came from exactly 20: AL, AZ, CA, CO, CT, FL, GA, MA, MD, NC, NH, NJ, NV, NY, OK, PA, RI, TN, TX, WI.

  • USATT CEO Virginia Sun opened with a message about the coronavirus and USATT efforts to deal with it.
  • USATT COO Mark Thompson introduced staff and board member Tara Profitt, who was on the call.
  • USATT HPD spoke about training at home, and what USATT team members are doing to train during this time. He gave out the TTTeamUSA link, which has numerous home training exercises.
  • Questions that came up included ones on insurance financial help and whether events could be run at the end of May if local health officials agree. The consensus seemed to be that following local guidelines should be okay in running events. There was also a question on unemployment benefits, and it was explained that while this is a federal program, it is administered by the states, so you should contact your state government on this.

The Longest Table Tennis Serve
Here's the video (1:47). I do this serve all the time in exhibitions and to entertain the kids in our beginning class, where they line up and try to return it. (It's got loads of sidespin and backspin, so they mostly miss.) Here's a video of me doing it in an exhibition, but my distance is limited by the wall where I'm serving from. I think you can get more distance overhead, with a tomahawk serve, as I do in the video, though I can do it both ways. (Scott Preiss also does this regularly in his table tennis exhibitions.) It's really a matter of arm strength and technique - with some practice, any top player can do this serve. I'm pretty sure I can match the one in this video, or at least come close, but I'm betting some of the top table tennis athletes in the world can do it from even farther, especially if he's big and strong. Who do you think could do this from the farthest away?

New from USATT

New from the ITTF

New from Samson Dubina

New from eBaTT (Eli Baraty)

New from Table Tennis Academy

Training Tips: Jorg Bitzigeio Footwork Drills Video
Here's the article and video (2:09).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from Steve Hopkins

The Sticky Stuff
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

National Collegiate Table Tennis April Newsletter
Here it is.

From Near-Extinction to the National Championships: How U.Va. Club Table Tennis Rebuilt Their Team
Here's the article.

Table Tennis World Ranking Men
Here's a video (3:43) from EmRatThich that graphically shows the top 13 men in the world as the rankings changed from January, 2018 to present.

Pongfinity Match Highlights 6
Here's the video (4:20)!

T-Rex Playing Table Tennis Filter Mask
Here it is!

Coronavirus Pong: Trump vs. Xi Jinping
Here's the cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I don't think USA is going to beat China at this game.

Epic Rap Battle Table Tennis - Ma Long vs Tomokazu Harimoto
Here's the video (5 min) from EmRatThich!

Super Skill! Double-Opposite Bounce
Here's the video (31 sec) of Eli Baraty!

Card Pong
Here's the video (4 sec)!

Quarantine Solo Pong
Here's the video (12 sec) of Khaleel Asgarali - but (sorry Khaleel) the one-piece suit might make them forget about the Obama tan suit!

Mom and Son Sink Incredible Ping Pong Ball Trick Shot
Here's the video (61 sec)!

The Great Gronk is a Beast with a Paddle...or Two!
Here's the video (11 sec)!

Kulpong Ball on the Road Around the World
Here's the video (3:20) - lots of quarantine pong!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
The Grinding Mentality - How to Play It and Against It.

Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt
My book on this is out!!! Some of you may remember I did a seven-week tour of Europe and Egypt last Fall, Aug. 13 - Sept. 28. It wasn't a table tennis tour, though table tennis came up a number of times. I visited ITTF Headquarters in Switzerland (there's a picture of me there), wore my "T-Rex Playing Table Tennis" hat everywhere, found some TT places in Berlin, and was recognized by a table tennis player at Stonehenge. 

The full title is, "Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt: Seven Weeks Following Tour Guides with Little Flags and Funny Hats, and the Quest for the Elusive Dr Pepper." There's a lot of humor, including my often futile search for Dr Pepper in Europe. The book is 180 pages, with 253 pictures, in full color.

I saw Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Normandy Beaches, the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, Catacombs of Paris, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Alps, Venice, Florence, Siena, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Ancient Rome and Greece, the Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Checkpoint Charlie, Auschwitz, Great Pyramids, Great Sphinx, and countless other sites, including a plethora of ancient castles, cathedrals, and more museums than I knew existed.

I visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City (yeah, that’s a country), Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt.

I toured Lisbon, Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Naples, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Athens, and Cairo.

I walked the beaches of Normandy, Lake Geneva, and the Mediterranean, the banks of the rivers Liffey, Thames, Seine, Arno, Tiber, Spree, and Nile, and the Grand Canal in Venice.

And took a camel ride around the Great Pyramid! So why not come and share my adventures?

The downside is that full color is expensive. I created the book with KDP, a subsidiary of Amazon, and according to the automatic rules at Amazon, the cheapest price I could sell it for was $21.42. So I went with $21.50. Until now, all my books have been color on the covers, but black and white on the inside. I toyed with doing a black and white version, but the pictures are so much of this that, without the color, you don't get the real picture. So I decided to stick with all color. There's also no kindle version - just way too time-consuming to create one with this many pictures.

NOTE - Yeah, this makes three books in two weeks - two weeks ago I announced publication of two others books, Still More Pings and Pongs and Trump Tales: A Taunting. In late May I will have still another, my 17th book, and this time it's pure table tennis: Still More Table Tennis Tips. I've been busy.

USA Table Tennis High Performance Committee
At last week's USATT board meeting (see below), they created the High Performance Committee (HPC), which is in charge of general policy toward developing players in the US. (They work with the High Performance Director and top coaches from around the US.) The new members are: Bruce Liu (chair), Khoa Nguyen, Jim Butler, Amy Feng, Angela Guan. This is an illustrious group. (And note that this is all volunteer - they do not get paid.)

However, when I saw it, I did a doubletake. Individually, they are all highly qualified. Khoa, Jim, and Amy are Olympians, and they and Angela were all members of the USA World Team. Jim won Men's Singles at the Nationals four times. Bruce has been instrumental in the development of table tennis in the Bay Area in California. So why the doubletake?

None of them are USATT certified coaches. While all have undoubtedly done some coaching, I think Amy Feng is the only one that might be considered a professional coach - I believe she coaches at the EC Sports club in Marietta, Georgia, which is a joint table tennis-fencing club.

My general thoughts on putting together a High Performance Committee is that it should be made up first of high-level coaches and elite players. The purpose of an HPC is to develop elite players, and isn't that what high-level coaches are experts at?

Again, these members are individually highly qualified. It's just that the committee is lopsided. It's like putting together a baseball team where you bring in 25 great sluggers, and then realize you didn't bring in any pitchers. (It's also quite possible that some high-level coaches were asked, but turned it down. But there must be others.)

I think Bruce, the chair, will work hard to do a good job - I know him well and we've worked together many times, including at the recent USA Olympic Trials, where I wrote the articles and he took pictures. But one potential problem - as some might have noticed, over the last few years, USATT was sort of split between two groups. Roughly speaking, one group supported former High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio (who resigned last September) and his policies, and generally supported USA Teams with a balance between Trials and Selections (using selections to make sure we sent our best players, not just who played best at the Trials, plus taking doubles into consideration). The other group did not support Joerg (or more specifically, his policies), and wanted to minimize Selections, since they can be subjective and sometimes unfair. Bruce was one of the leaders of the latter group, and as I jokingly told someone, making him chair will make a few heads explode!

But hopefully he and the rest of the HPC will do a great job for USA Table Tennis, working with the new HPD Sean O'Neill (a staff position). Sean is a USATT Certified National Coach (highest level) as well as an Olympian and five-time US National Men's Champion. They have over a year to prepare USA for the now-2021 Olympics, so if we don't win gold, they are all out, right? :)

But I really hope they will consider expanding the HPC to seven and adding a couple of high-level coaches who can bring a wealth of coaching experience and expertise. (No, I'm not volunteering.) (Side note - I was told the HPC may also have sub-committees.)

USATT Board Meeting
Here are the minutes of the USA Table Tennis Board meeting held on April 6, last Monday night. It was a virtual meeting, which anyone could attend either online or by phone via Uberconference. Only board members and staff could speak, though you could request to speak on something, and if the board chair allowed it, you were given voice. I did this one time. There were exactly 20 people attending. Some highlights from my notes:

  • USA Nationals postponed - surprise! - see segment below under USATT News.
  • There's a new USATT coaching certification program being developed. 
  • The upcoming USATT election is postponed "until it is safe," due to coronavirus, since some candidates have to get signatures to be eligible. This is where I spoke up, suggesting they waive the signature requirement this year, since most years only a few apply. Unless you get a large number, just this one time, under extraordinary circumstances, they could waive the signature requirement and see how many apply. If too many, then postpone the election. 
  • The approved the chairs and members of three committees: High Performance, Nominating and Governance, and Ethics and Grievance. 
  • The meeting finished with a closed session, where they discuss personnel or legal matters.

The Critical Difference Between a Table Tennis Player and a Table Tennis Athlete
Here's the article from Matt Hetherington.

New from Samson Dubina

Coping with Covid-19 from a Psychotherapist's Perspective
Here's the article by Tahl Leibovitz.

New from EmRatThich

New from eBaTT

The Backhand Punch
Here's the video (1:35) from Rory Scott.

Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article and videos (six of them) from Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Footwork Exercises You Can Do at Home Right Now!
Here's the video (8:11) from Louis Levene.

Aerobic TT at Home with Steve Rowe
(Numbers 1-4 were in last week's blog.)

Table Tennis Daily Academy
Here's an excellent site, both for informative articles and videos as well as for their online courses.

Where Medicine Stops
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from USATT

Pong Positive Interview Series
Here's the page, with new video interviews going up every day or so, all about 9-18 minutes. Current ones include Kanak Jha, Tom Feng, Sharon Alguetti, Lily Zhang, Han Xiao, Eve Yen, Huijing Wang, and Jennifer Wu. They also taped one with me that should go up soon.

Rockville Man’s Ping Pong Company Making Masks for Health Care Workers
Here's the video (1:44) from NBC News, featuring Richard Lee and JOOLA USA, which has revamped its local office into a mask-making facility. Here's JoolaMedical, where you can buy them - it's a new branch of JOOLA.

Mouse Traps and Ping Pong Balls to Show Powerful Message: 'Social Distancing Works'
Here's the video (30 sec). "The Ohio Department of Health has a powerful message for the public: Social distancing works. The agency tweeted a video illustrating a demonstration of chain reactions using ping pong balls and mouse traps to get its point across as people nationwide are urged to practice social distancing in an effort to battle the spread of COVID-19."

A Message from the ITTF CEO
Here's the letter. See item #3 especially, where there's a proposal to do away with individual (singles and doubles) events at the World Championships (make them Teams only), and instead have 3 to 4 "Grand Smashes" per year. I don't think this is a good idea - a huge part of any sport is its history, and this would be like football doing away with the Superbowl or baseball the World Series.

New from the ITTF

High-Level Looping Dining Room Pong
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Target Practice - Cup and Rolling Tape
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Make a Table at Home
Here's the video (24 sec)!

Multi-Layered, Multi-Tables, Multi-Dimensional Pong
Here's the video (42 sec)!

Zhang Jike Free Style 2020
Here's the video (3:52) from Zhang Jike, the 2011 and 2013 World Men's Singles Champion. Now 32, I've heard rumors of a comeback!

Relaxing Hammock Pong
Here's the video (32 sec)! The lefty in the hammock is Jean-Philippe Gatien, 1993 World Men's Singles Champion.

Ten Seconds of Weird Table Tennis
Here's the video (link should take you to 2:06 of this long and strange animated movie)!

Multi-Level and Floor Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:04) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Analyze an Unorthodox Style from the Opponent's Point of View.

The First Pong
Here it is! It's my contribution to World Table Tennis At Home Day (see segment below), with apologies to Leonardo da Vinci, Umpire Jesus, and Biblical table tennis stars Bartholomew and Simon. (Here's the original.)

Coaches Training and Certification
The ITTF is revising its coaching accreditation system. (See segment below.) It's been rather successful in terms of numbers, with over 650 courses taught since it started in 2004, and over 6000 coaches certified, including me. (I also certified 14 coaches when I taught one of their courses.) I've blogged before about several problems with the system, from my experience in going through the first two levels and teaching the first level. I think it's a potentially great system, but there are at least three things that need to be fixed, and that should be addressed in any future system.

First, the English version of the advanced training manual is poorly written and edited. I'm not sure how much of this is from the original or the translation, but there are parts that leave you scratching your head. I think the content itself, once you figure out what is being said, is generally good.

Second, it's written for a coach teaching in a school setting, when the large majority of serious table tennis coaching takes place in clubs. It's very different. When I approached ITTF long ago and asked if I could make some adjustments, so as to focus more on coaching in a club, I was told not to make any changes, stick to the program as listed. That's a primary reason why, after teaching one course, I stopped doing it. In the course I taught, I discussed this problem with the players, and they all agreed I should focus more on club-based coaching. And so I sort of did that, trying to do that and still do all that was in the ITTF course. But I didn't feel comfortable doing this essentially in secret, and so decided not to teach any more of them.  (If I got started writing about the differences between school-based and club-based coaching, that would be a blog by itself. Setting up and running such a program in club is very different than one where you essentially are teaching a PE class to recreational players that you don't have to recruit. Teaching a PE class is very different than teaching, say, Little League Baseball or the equivalence in other sports.)

Third, there was seemingly no Chinese input into the courses, which meant some took it less seriously - and with Chinese input, what and how things are taught might have been different. China is both the strongest table tennis country and the biggest market, so we need them involved. China never adopted the ITTF system. They need buy-in from the biggest table tennis countries - China, Japan, Korea, and Germany in particular, not to mention countries like England and Sweden and others.

Besides the ITTF revamping their coaching accreditation system, USATT is doing so as well - in fact, they've been working toward doing so for a number of years. In January, 2018, during my second tenure as USATT Coaching Chair, I flew out to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs to meet with then-High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio and a number of USOC officials about setting up a new USATT Coaching Certification Program. (Here's my blog on this.) We did put some time into this, and afterwards Joerg took the lead. Alas, after he resigned last year, that particular program came to an end. But I've heard they are looking into creating such a system again.

Some quick history of the USATT Certification Program. The current system is basically the version of the one I set up in my first tenure as Coaching Chair, 1990-95. However, the situation in the US has dramatically changed since that time - back then, there were essentially no full-time training facilities or full-time coaches. Now we have over one hundred full-time clubs and hundreds of full-time coaches. So the system I set up was pretty good for back then, but like a Model T Ford these days. (I wrote about this in the blog I linked to above.)

I've toyed with getting involved again in setting up an updated USATT (or ITTF) coaching system, but I think I'll let others have their turn. For one thing, I'm way too busy these days to take on something major like that. For another, there must be plenty of others who can do this - it's their turn! (I'm still on the USATT coaching committee, but I chose not to continue as chair about a year ago, when my term ended.)

There are some things anyone setting up such a system should be careful of. Keep in mind that, these days, with more resources, the goal isn't just a Coaching Certification program - the goal is a Coaching Training and Certification program. So such a program is two-fold. Here is a short list of things to consider in setting up such a program.

  1. Make sure to have Chinese table tennis involvement. It both brings in expertise and buy-in from coaches, where the majority are Chinese. It would also be helpful to get involvement and buy-in from other major table tennis countries, such as Japan, Korea, Germany, and others from Europe, with apologies to those not listed.
  2. Don't get stuck trying to teach all sorts of little things that rarely come up in actual coaching. It's very easy to get stuck where half of the material taught covered maybe 1% of what's actually used in a coaching program, so you had to cover the other 99% in the other half. I really and truly don't need to know about mitochondria to be a top coach! The problem is that it might take as much time to master that 1% as the other 99%, meaning it's far more efficient to focus on the 99%, and become generalists on the 1%, where you can bring in a specialist when needed - or, simply by coaching and learning for many years, you might pick it up on your own. The 1% might sometimes be important, but not if it comes at the expense of the 99%, and should become a focus only at the highest levels of coaching, after the 99% is mastered. 
  3. Make sure the program matches what is needed. That means mostly training coaches for coaching in professional clubs. It might also be helpful to train the coaches on how to set up a professional club where they can coach - the more of those the better.
  4. In this day and age, we can do a lot of coaches training with video, including using Skype, Zoom, or similar programs. However, as it moves up to the higher levels, more of it needs to be more in person. Sometimes the biggest weakness of developing coaches (excluding top players who become coaches) is lack of experience in an elite training environment. Watching top players on video is very helpful, but doesn't replace watching them in training as they develop into top players. So any coaches training program should include requiring coaches to observe such training, if they don't already have a strong background in that. (You don't need to be a top player to be a top coach - though it's helpful. But what you do need is a huge amount of time observing training programs, where you see how top players are developed. The problem is that, unless you were a top player in one of these programs, it's rare for a non-elite player to get that needed experience. But some make the effort and become excellent coaches as a result.)
  5. Make sure any manuals are well-written and user-friendly!

ITTF Coach Accreditation System Revision
Here's the info page. This came out a while ago, but I'm not sure where it stands right now. (I don't see any updates in the ITTF Coaching Development page.) It says that project delivery was due on Dec. 16, 2019, which means they must be well into this now. They are, or were, looking to revise or change the current coaching accreditation system. There was a time when I'd have jumped into this, but it's time for The Next Generation to work these things out. One thing that jumped out at me that raised alarms is where it says, "Administer and supervise the translation of the complete material into French, Spanish and Arabic." Since the original would presumably be in English, this means they are not emphasizing Chinese, not to mention Japanese, Korean, and German, which are the languages of the biggest table tennis countries in the world. Without buy-in from those countries, they are looking at a very uphill struggle.

High Quality Face Masks
Here's JoolaMedical, where you can buy them - it's a new branch of JOOLA. Just Say No to Corono[virus]! The two speaking in the video are siblings Richard (owner of JOOLA) and Dr. Vivian Lee. Both were former US National junior champions.

USATT Teleconference
Here's the USATT Agenda and Notices page, which includes a link to the agenda and dialing info for the USATT Teleconference tonight (Monday at 8PM Eastern Time). Any USATT member is allowed to listen in. On the agenda:

  1. CEO Report
  2. USOPC update
  3. Audit committee report
  4. Payroll Protection Program under the CARES Act
  5. New 2020 SafeSport Code revisions
  6. Delay of USATT Permanent Board Election due to Coronavirus
  7. Appoint Nominating and Governance Committee member
  8. Appoint High Performance Committee members
  9. Appoint Ethics and Governance Committee members

Celebrating 2020 World Table Tennis At Home Day!
Here's the ITTF article. It links to this Incredible Video (5:46), "World's Longest Rally Ever," where a huge number of players make "returns" with anything from a banana to a light saber - you have to see this one! Make sure to watch the name and country listed underneath for each player - see how many you recognize! (There's a smattering of top players mixed in, from Kanak Jha to Zhang Jike, with Ma Long starting it off.) 

World Table Tennis at Home Day Contest!
Here's the USATT info page. "With the majority of people staying indoors due to the world-wide pandemic of COVID-19 and practicing social distancing, World Table Tennis Day on April 6th, 2020 will be transformed to World Table Tennis at Home Day 2020!"

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Samson Dubina

New from Table Tennis Daily Academy

New from eBaTT (Eli Baraty)

The Tomahawk Serve (And Why You Should Learn It)
Here's the article by Alex Horscroft at Expert Table Tennis.

The Last Word On Anti Spin Rubber
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Improve Your Attitude
Here's the article by John Hsu.

Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

How Many Levels in Table Tennis
Here's the article from PingSunday.

Top Ten Mistakes in Table Tennis
Here's the video (19:15) from EmRatThich.

Backspin Comeback Push Practice
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Amicus Training Tips with Richard Prause

Aerobic TT at Home with Steve Rowe

Table Tennis in the Time of Coronavirus
Here's the podcast (49:45), Episode #12 from Table Tennis Talk. "...we discuss the impacts to the table tennis world from the coronavirus pandemic. We also cover the Hungarian Open, Qatar Open, and the US Olympic Trials. Also a T-League Update, Joey's Coaching Corner, and a documental Weird World of Table Tennis!"

Online Table Tennis Workout
Here's the page, from Tom Lodziak. "During April and May, I will be running daily group table tennis workout sessions, via an online video stream.  We will do a mixture of aerobic exercises and shadow play to improve your table tennis footwork, fitness and technique. Each session will be 30 minutes of high energy table tennis fun! No fitness equipment needed, although you can bring your table tennis bat if you want. Watch the video at the top of the page to get a visual idea of what to expect."

Quarantine Ping Pong Challenge
Here's the video (2:44) from PingSkills.

Aerobic Table Tennis
Here's the page, where they will be doing daily table tennis aerobic exercises. "From 1 April 2020, Aerobic TT will be available for you to view in your own home. It’s for both children and adults, it will be a fun and exciting way to keep fit indoors. Fun and fitness along with bat and ball skills."

Play at Home Ping Pong Shadow Training Challenge (Covid Free!)
Here's the video (19:07) from Wally Green. 

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

New from USATT

New from ITTF - They've Been Busy!

New from Steve Hopkins

Betting on Ping-Pong? Really?
Here's the article. "The coronavirus is a sports gambler’s nightmare."

Message from Timo Boll on Coronavirus
Here's the video (72 sec).

Training Little Girl on Mini-Table with Ball Prop
Here's the video (60 sec). It sounds funny, but it's actually pretty effective training!

Happy World Table Tennis Day from the Dubinas
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Best Rally
I still consider this rally (41 sec) to be the best rally of the past year.

Who is the Real GOAT? Ma Long vs J.O Waldner
Here's the video (12:42).

Smart & Genius Plays in Table Tennis- IQ 300+ (Creative Moments)
Here's the video (5:54)!

Table Tennis Funny: Balls of Fury
Here's the video (5:54) from Malong Fanmade Channel! It's a compilation of the best table tennis scenes from the 2007 comedy movie Balls of Fury. Now that you have lots of time on your hands (hi coronavirus!), now's the time to watch or rewatch it! It's available on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

Funny Match, France vs. Philippines
Here's the video (4:17)!

Houston Rockets Mascot Pong
Here's the video (57 sec) as two of them go at it - and one is pretty good with his tricks! (Why in the Great Loops of Pong does a basketball team called the Rockets have a bear as its mascot?)

Passionate About Table Tennis - Living Room Double-Table Pong 
Here's the video (25 sec)! At the end, I'm told they are saying (in Spanish), "Table Tennis, we are passionate about, gives you worldwide energy, play with the family, STAY HOME!" That's Juan Antonio Vila Reinoso, past president of ULTM and a table tennis legend in the Caribbean, with his family. (ULTM is the Unión Latinoamericana de Tenis de Mesa, i.e. Latin American Table Tennis Union.)

The Best Improvised Mini-Table Rally Ever?
Here's the video (68 sec)! The two kids are brothers from England.

Spectacular Kitchen Pong
Here's the video (1:38) of some of the best "kitchen" rallies I've ever seen!

More Living Room Pong
Here's the video (14 sec)!

Pong Dominoes
Here's the video (23 sec)!

Amazing Trick Shots
Here's the video (58 sec)!

Skills To Learn During Lockdown
Here's the video (4:38) from Pongfinity! And there are some really good ball-control skills taught here.

Non-Table Tennis - Reviews of "Blood Wars" and My Two New Books
Two reviews have now come out for my story, "Blood Wars," which came out last month in Galaxy's Edge. It's my first vampire story! But it's really a satire about corporate America.

"Blood Wars" by Larry Hodges is a fantasy set in an alternative reality where vampires rule the world. The narrator is a board-level vampire executive in a blood producing company whose evil-tempered chairman and proprietor is Dracula. The concept of a reality where humans are farm animals, securely caged and regularly bled to supply their vampire owners may appear to be repugnant, but the tongue-in-cheek style of writing converts it from a potential horror story into a light-hearted poke at Corporate America. Tangentonline

In a world run by vampires, the best-selling drink is Dracu-Blood, owned by the old Count himself. But their chief competitor, Vampu-Blood, is catching up. What to do? Our narrator, who is CEO, comes up with an idea. Hilarious with a great pay-off! SFRevu

And perhaps consider buying a copy of one of my two new books that came out last week:

  • Still More Pings and Pongs, 192 pages. This is a collection of the best 25 science fiction & fantasy stories I've sold from 2016-2020. It is the third in the series, after Pings and Pongs and More Pings and Pongs. Alas, table tennis only shows up sporadically in these stories!
  • Trump Tales: A Taunting, 112 pages. This includes 11 SF & Fantasy stories I've written that satirize Trump, seven of them previously published, four new. If you are, somehow, a Trump fan, stay away! 

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Tactics at the End of a Close Game.

Larry Hodges TT Academy Opens on Wednesday - Only Coronavirus-Safe Center in the World
=>(EDIT - After two days of fun, I've added certain bolds below.)
And now it can be told! This Wednesday I will be opening the Larry Hodges TT Academy. Its
purpose is to allow players from around the world to train during these pandemic times. I've
reached out to countries all over the world, and starting Wednesday, the national teams from
Italy, Germany, China, Japan, Korea, Vatican City, Canada, and USA will start training at the
Larry Hodges TT Academy. It's the only truly safe place in the world for them to do so.

For health purposes, there will be a number of rules followed. Players must always maintain an
obligatory nine-foot separation, the length of a ping-pong table. There will be a cleaning service
on hand at all times, constantly cleaning the tables and balls with Mr. Clean's new coronavirus
liquid sanitizer. Players will wear gloves and masks at all times while playing. We will stress
safety at all times. Instead of handshakes or fist bumps, we will do paddle high-fives.

A serious problem is that the coronavirus permeates a table tennis sponge. For this reason,
players will only use hardbat or sandpaper. The ITTF has approved this drastic measure for
rackets, and for the next six months those are the only approved racket surfaces to be used
in ITTF tournaments. Many of the best players in the world, including Fan Zhendong, Ma
Long, Timo Boll, and others have already made the switch.

Fan said, "I grew up reading Larry's articles. Training with him will be a dream come true. If
only he lived in China!" USA Champion Kanak Jha added, "I can't wait to resume training - I'm
on a red-eye flight tonight. I can't wait to try out the new hardbat Larry recommends!" "Without
Larry, where would we train?" asked 11-time Vatican City Women's Champ Paril Sofol. Some,
such as World Ping-Pong Champ Andrew Baggaley, have already arrived and started training.

Coronavirus and Table Tennis, and Other News

  • Coronavirus and Table Tennis. Everything is closed, clubs are closed, tournaments cancelled, but dogs everywhere are confused but very happy. But I've gotten a lot done - I finally had time to finalize two new books, with two more coming, plus lots of other articles, tips, and short stories.
  • US Nationals. You should be receiving news soon on its status - whether it'll be run as scheduled in July or postponed. (The latter is more likely.) If postponed, then USATT has some difficult decisions to make. Should they run it in December, and cancel the US Open? Run the Nationals and Open back-to-back or in conjunction? Or find some other time this Fall to run the Nationals? Stay tuned!!! (If news comes out, I'll add it here later.)
  • New Books. I have two new books that just came out this weekend, "Still More Pings and Pongs" and "Trump Tales: A Taunting." These are non-table tennis, so see segment at end of blog. In late April I will have another book coming out, "Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt" (231 pages, 251 pictures, I'm currently proofing it), about my seven weeks there last Fall, with limited table tennis. In May I'll have still another book coming out - and this one's table tennis! - "Still More Table Tennis Tips," ~200 pages, third in the series that includes Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips. Yes, I've been busy during this pandemic!
  • Spoken English and Messages. I may soon forget spoken English. In the last ten days, until yesterday, I had just one short (five-minute) phone call, a few hearty discussions at a Wendy's drive-through ("extra onions, please"), and that's it. Yesterday I had a weird experience shopping at Giant, where I had invigorating disagreements with a guy preaching outside (blaming coronavirus on gays and lesbians), and with a cashier who didn't quite understand what six feet means. Here's my Facebook posting on this. I do get lots of emails and other messages, though some of them are rather weird and/or irritating. It seems everyone in the world has something they need me to watch or read, and if I watched and read all that people send me, that's all I'd do. Some take it rather personally when I don't. Some are even insulting. I also get many dozens of emails/messages each week which are basically from someone who just wants to say "Hi" or "Hey, what's up?" and exchange small talk, which I'm not really into. It means I have to either A) sit there and go through all the small talk until it's done, with me mentally tapping my foot, or B) try to work on something else, where every minute or two my thoughts are interrupted. (I have no problem with actual questions.)
  • Physical Training. My daily training involves five minutes of shadow-stroking with a weighted ping-pong paddle, and 23 hours 55 minutes of mostly writing, editing, reading, or watching something on TV or my computer. I do go for occasional walks outside. However, this morning Maryland Governor Hogan announced that, as of 8PM tonight (Monday, March 30), no one is allowed to leave their homes except for food or medicine. So I guess that means going for walks or jogging is out!

Breaking News - Tokyo Olympic, Paralympic Games Awarded New Start Dates: July 23 And Aug. 24 Of 2021
Here's the article.

New from Matt Hetherington
Some people, when faced with spending weeks indoors, alone and isolated from the world, turn into couch potatoes and watch the latest thing from Netflix or HBO. Matt? He's taken to doing daily table tennis coaching videos!

New from Samson Dubina

  • Skype Lessons - " As a service to the table tennis community, I'm going to be doing some FREE Facebook Live Q & A sessions as well as offering discounted skype lessons!  Want to join us for the facebook live?  ...join us every Monday at 1pm Eastern Time through the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy Page!  Want personalized coaching?  Try out a SKYPE!"
  • Fitness Friday (16:38)
  • 10 Ways to Perfect Your Serve
  • 11 Ways To Improve at HOME

Daily Table Tennis Workout with Eli Baraty
Here's his Youtube page - they start TODAY at 6PM UK Time (1PM US Eastern Time)

Dora Kurimay
She's a Sports Psychologist, or more formally, a Mental Performance Consultant. She's also a professional table tennis coach and former professional player!

Attitude is Everything
Here's the article by John Hsu.

Forehand Short Push | Return Backspin Serve
Here's the video (4:28) from the Malong Fanmade Channel.

Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak, with links to video.

New from eBaTT

Exploring the Tomahawk Serve
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Interviews

USATT Club Features

Jenson Van Emburgh Emphasizes Positivity and Friendship Midst these Times of Uncertainty
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from the ITTF

New from PingSunday

How Many Athletes Just Lost Their Shot At Olympic Glory?
Here's the article from It turns out that table tennis has one of the highest rates of returnees.

Flatten the Coronavirus Curve - Ping-Pong Style
Here's the image! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Apparently, we need less lobbing and more looping!

2020 World Table Tennis At Home Day!
Here's the ITTF Info Page. "In light of the global spread of COVID-19, World Table Tennis Day – the annual celebration of the sport, taking place on 6th April 2020 – will be taking on a very different form to previous years. Instead of the traditional social gatherings, casual table tennis activities and charity events taking place around the world, this time people will be engaged in the sport like never before via special initiatives planned on social media."
"The longest rally in history?! Create history and contribute to the longest table tennis rally! In true World Table Tennis Day spirit, anyone can take part! All you need to do is respond to this social media teaser by sending in your video of hitting a table tennis ball. One hit is enough, but be creative! You can use any random objects that you can find around the house to hit the ball, or why not perform a trickshot! Whether you’re in your bedroom, the kitchen, living area, garden, garage, or even outside, you can film your video from anywhere! The craziest, funniest video clips will be combined to create the longest ever rally online, which will be published on ITTF and ITTF Foundation social media channels on 6th April 2020."

Table Tennis Sports Betting Taking Over
Here's an article from Trib Live, Online Sports Bettors Turn to Pingpong as Leagues Postpone Seasons. "For bettors in Pennsylvania, that left pingpong, known professionally as table tennis, and Australian rules football." ... "Table tennis also dominated bets cast through that app, accounting for 79% of the total sports betting handle Sunday, the statement said."

Here's an article from ESPN about how, with casinos closing and sports events cancelled, they are starting to bet on table tennis. "U.S. sportsbook have begun offering odds on table tennis and sumo wrestling, among other sporting events. In Pennsylvania, online sportsbook reported the TT Cup Men's Singles table tennis tournament was the most-heavily bet event offered Sunday."

Here's a Pennsylvania page where they are gambling on Men's Singles events in Russia! As explained in an email to me by Ron Klinger, "In case you are not familiar with betting terminology, if it's a negative number, you have to bet that amount to win $100. If it's positive, you need to bet $100 to win that amount. So for example, if it's -148, you have to bet $148 to win $100. If it's +105, you have to bet $100 to win $105. What's interesting about this is that they also have "in-game" betting odds, so you will notice that for the games currently being played, the odds change with each point that is scored!"

1960 Junior Table Tennis and 1959 Table Tennis Championships
Here's the video (4:38). It's hard to believe that those kids are now sixty years older.

Crazy Table Tennis - Sharon Alguetti
Here's the video (8:12).

Houston TTA
Here's their new feature video (1:55).

Wang Chen's Physical Training with Son
US (and formerly Chinese) table tennis star Wang Cheng has adjusted nicely to training at home during these pandemic times. Here are a series of videos where she does her physical training with her son!

Kevin Hart and Keegan Michael-Key Do Multiball Training with Matt Hetherington and Nikhail Kumar
Here's the video (15 min, but link should take you to 11:32, where they do table tennis for three minutes).

Nandan Naresh Shows Off His Ball-Bouncing Skills
Here's the video (15 sec)!

New from Pongfinity

River Pong
Here's the video (13 sec)!

Four-Chair Footwork Pong
Here’s the video (37 sec)!

Living Room Pot Pong
Here's the video (44 sec) to music!

Mini-Table Dog Pong
Here's the video (39 sec - but jump about 6 sec in).

Crazy Rally Shots
Here's the ITTF video (23 sec)! It's also a contest - send in your own entries!

Guy Uses Random Things To Play Ping Pong With
Here's the video (31 sec)!

Funny Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:24)!

Non-Table Tennis - Two New Books
I have two new books out, both coming out over the weekend. They are both short story collections. Hope you'll buy one or both! They are:

  • Still More Pings and Pongs, 192 pages. This is a collection of the best 25 science fiction & fantasy stories I've sold from 2016-2020. It is the third in the series, after Pings and Pongs and More Pings and Pongs. Alas, table tennis only shows up sporadically in these stories!
  • Trump Tales: A Taunting, 112 pages. This includes 11 SF & Fantasy stories I've written that satirize Trump, seven of them previously published, four new. If you are, somehow, a Trump fan, stay away! 

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Ten Table Tennis Truisms: Larry's Laws.

BREAKING NEWS - Olympics Postponed (Apparently)
Literally as I was about to post this, the following came up: 2020 Tokyo Olympics Will Be Postponed Due to Coronavirus, Says IOC's Dick Pound. So apparently the Olympics will apparently be postponed until 2021. Here's the original article from USA Today, though you may have to turn off your ad blockers to see it. "The 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, likely until 2021, International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told Christine Brennan of USA Today." Pound says, "On the basis of the information the IOC has, postponement has been decided. The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24, that much I know." However, let's wait for the official announcement from the IOC. (I've already got a flight and housing in Tokyo - I was going to do coverage for USATT and USOPC.) 

Coronavirus, Table Tennis, and the Olympics
Below are some articles about the status of the Olympic Games and other events. However, much of what you see publicly is just posturing. The first article, from the Washington Post, hints at the reality, which I've heard from others involved. There's a simple reason the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is hesitating to cancel the games, or even give a deadline for when they'll make the decision. The Olympics, like most major events, is insured. The IOC has paid a lot for that, and usually it's money with no return - but this year shows why insurance is important. If the Games are cancelled, then insurance is supposed to reimburse the IOC for the huge amount of money they will lose by postponing them. (Cancelling is off the table - see articles below.) But there's a catch - to collect, the IOC has to "make every effort" to hold the Olympics. If the insurance companies can show they didn't, they don't have to pay, or they pay a lot less. So the IOC, even if they are almost certain they will have to postpone the Olympics, can't say that or they'd likely lose billions of dollars.

The good news is that, under tremendous pressure from athletes, National Governing Bodies (for sports), and from Olympic Committees from various countries (with Canada and Australia already pulling out), to set a date for when they'll make a decision. According to the insurance documents, if they are going to cancel, they must do so at least two months before the start of the Games (July 23, so May 23). Most of us thought they'd wait until May 23, but under pressure, they now say they will make the decision by "mid-April." (See for example, the last article, from The Bleacher Report.)

Han Xiao and Letter to the Washington Post
Long-time USA Table Tennis Team Champion Han Xiao (also 4-time US Men's Doubles Champion) chairs the USOPC's Athletes' Advisory Council. He's been quoted a lot in some of these articles, including the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Olympics Everywhere. (Some of these may require subscriptions.) He's been one of the primary voices calling for the IOC to set a date when they'd make a decision, more transparency, and other issues. (I've been messaging with him on these issues - he started out at my club when he was seven, and is now 34.) Here is a letter Han wrote to the Washington Post.

Hi Barry [Washington Post Reporter],

We don't have an official vote or position, but based on what we are hearing from athletes we know the following about postponement/cancellation in general:

1. Athletes do not support the Games being canceled.

2. More and more athletes are open to the Games being postponed, especially as their training has been severely impacted with the closures of facilities and their competitions have been cancelled.

3. Athletes who have yet to qualify for the Games are concerned about how they will qualify for the Games given that many qualifying events are likely to be postponed or canceled in the near future.

4. We would like more certainty and transparency from the IOC in terms of the process that will be used to come to a decision and when that decision is likely to be made. Although it's correct not to speculate, the message that we are going full steam ahead is speculation. We still have no information about when the decision will be made whether to postpone, and how the IOC will make that decision. What conditions need to be met, for example, for the Games to proceed? This is the type of information that we would like in order to have certainty that athletes and the general public will be appropriately protected.

5. Athletes are in a no-win situation where they are trying to continue to prepare for the Olympic/Paralympic Games, but they are finding it more and more difficult to do so and will need to take more and more risks in order get the appropriate training. They will eventually be endangering both themselves and the public in order to prepare to compete, and it will not be their fault. The decisions the IOC is making and the way they communicate those decisions is not just affecting people 4 months in the future, it is impacting them right now. We hope that the IOC starts to acknowledge that and adjust their communication strategy.

These are just some basic thoughts. Not sure what aspects of this you're most interested in, but I'd be happy to talk later if necessary.


Online Table Tennis Games
Stuck at home, unable to play table tennis? Here are a bunch of online table tennis games you can try!

Table Tennis Books
(Non-readers - skip this segment!) Now that you are all stuck at home, unable to play table tennis, here's your chance to catch up on your table tennis reading!!! Here's a listing of my current 13 books, with links to Amazon. Here are the table tennis ones that are currently in print:

I also have four more books coming out in the next two months! (You can thank the coronavirus for giving me more time to work on these.) The first one below is table tennis, the next three are not.

Here are some other books you might try:

USATT Clubs and Tournaments Status Updates
Here's the page with links to USATT Clubs Status and USATT Tournaments Status. Or you can use the direct links to both:

Messages from USATT on the Coronavirus Crisis
Here's the video (7:34) from the USATT Staff - plus it's your chance to sort of meet them! Starring USATT CEO Virginia Sung, Marketing and Communications Director Chad Knasinksi, Director of Para Programs Jasna Rather, Marketing Specialist Tina Ren, National Team Coach/Manager Teodor "Doru" Gheorghe, COO Mark Thompson, Director of Business Administration Tammy Kuypers, Safesport Specialist Josh Dyke, and High Performance Director Sean O'Neill. "With the COVID-19 affecting our way of life, we at USATT want to express our concern for the safety of our athletes, their family and friends through this tough time. We will get through this together and we want to say to Stay #PongPositive!"

The Last Points at the Nationals
Here's the video (9:42) - from Jim Butler, it shows the winning point at Nationals going back to 1976. "Former USATT magazine editor and current editor of News and WAB Club Sections Steve Hopkins, chatted with me about putting together a video for great American matches. I thought to myself, "what's my favorite part of a match?" I decided it's watching match point, because of the emotions we get to see from the athletes. The USA Table Tennis National Championships made its official debut in 1976. I researched and pulled all available footage from 1976 to 2020. USA Table Tennis started doing live streaming in 2011. Finding any footage before 2011 is hit or miss. Anyone you don't see before then is because there's no available footage of that match. If National TV wasn't there doing the broadcast before 2011, then in most cases we have footage due to Sean O'Neill filming it with his personal video camera, or due to the winning athlete's parents filming it. At the end of this video our two young stars, World #25 Kanak Jha and World #28 Lily Zhang, explain why the U.S. Championship Title means so much to American athletes.

3 Steps to Learn and Develop Reverse Pendulum Serve Technique in Table Tennis
Here's the video (11:34) from Matt Hetherington.

New from Samson Dubina

Tip Tuesday | Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the ITTF video (2:57) - with Elizabeta Samara from Romania, world #34 (formerly #13).

Five Tips to Make Adversity Plus Failure Equal Success!
Here's the article. Here's the short version - but I suggest reading the article.

  1. Remind your athlete this is a journey
  2. Teach your athletes a growth mindset
  3. Deal with the challenges the best you can
  4. Highlight ALL the positive things that happen 
  5. Make sure your athlete has a passion for what they do!  

Coaching and Coronavirus
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Pandemic Ping Pong - How to Deal with Your Anxiety
Here's the video (1:46) from Dora Kurimay (sports psychologist and table tennis champion) - plus some improvised table tennis with a pot with books for a net.

US Olympic Trials Photos
Here they are! The first nine album here are all from the US Olympic Trials. The first eight albums are from Bruce Liu, which include: Women's, Men's Parts 1 & 2, The People, The Team, Liu Juan and Wang Huijing, Nikhil Kumar and Zhou Xin, and Danny Seemiller. The ninth one, titled "2020 US Olympic Trials," is by David Zhang, with 2773 photos. (No relation to six-time US Men's Champion David Zhuang.)

Back Off! – The Table Tennis Hokey Pokey
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

USA Table Tennis Videos of the Day
They've started putting up Videos of the Day.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

New from Black Jack Table Tennis

New from the ITTF

Dark Knight Rises! Lin Gaoyuan Top Shots
Here's the ITTF video (3:22).

Top Ten Points at the Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF video (6:22).

Olympian Tom Feng Steals Fashion Runway Stage
Here's the article and photo of the 2015 US Men's Singles Champion.

The Table Tennis Family
Here's the video (10:04) from Adam Bobrow.

Table Tennis Meets MAGIC
Here's the video (2:16)!

Mini-Paper Pong with a Finger Racket
Here's the video (12 sec)!

Funny Moments in Training
Here's the video (4:10)!

Beetle Baily Table Tennis
Here's their March 23, 2020 cartoon - yep, today! Here's a listing of all known Beetle Baily Table Tennis Cartoons from my Sept. 28, 2016 blog, which I've been updating as new ones come up.

Ways to Play Table Tennis During the Coronavirus Pandemic
These are great - you have to watch them all! (All are recent, no repeats.) Many are set to music.

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Practice Attacking the Middle in Rote Drills.

<Start Coronavirus Section>

Everywhere you turn, all we hear is "Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Coronavirus!" It's like this Brady Bunch clip. So we'll start off with an entire section just on coronavirus items. As to me, I'm so used to going out to local restaurants in the afternoon where I combine lunch and 3-4 hours of writing-related work that I'm not sure what to do. Yesterday I finally ventured out and spent two hours at a Wendy's - but is this appropriate in the Age of Coronavirus?

Why the Coronavirus Hates Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon by yours truly! (Yeah, that's me, at the 1983 Pan Am Trials, age 23, where I made the Final 16. Thirty-seven years ago. Wow. Photo by Donna Sakai.) Also, a reminder that Coronavirus is an anagram of Carnivorous! (I think I was the first person- in the world? - to notice that when I put it in my blog last week. They are coming for us!!!)

USATT Announcements on Coronavirus
They've been busy. We also had to postpone the Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament that was supposed to be held at my club, MDTTC, this past weekend.

ITTF Coronavirus News

From Steve Hopkins

Japan's Efforts to Host China Table Tennis Team Face Challenges
Here's the article from the Japan Times (English version).

Cancelled or Postponed Events
I started keeping track of events cancelled due to coronavirus, and then I realized it would be much, much easier to just list things that are not cancelled. Like breathing, eating, sitting around watching TV (but carefully keeping six-foot distance from anyone else, lest they secretly have the coronavirus and are conspiring to infect you). Some cancelled or postponed events include (and many of these are repeated elsewhere in this blog):

What Is Left to Do for a Poor Table Tennis Player
Well, there's always online table tennis! I Googled "Online Table Tennis Games," and an enormous number of such games appeared. There is Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000, which I wrote about last week. At the other extreme is classic Pong, good for many hours of mesmerizing mesmerization. But there's so many it was like looking into the abyss - just way, way too many for me. But I'm guessing there are some out there with some experience in these online games. And so...

...Is there anyone out there who'd like to create a Guide or Review of Online Table Tennis Games? On behalf of millions of table tennis players desperate to do anything pong-related during these hard times, we thank you! It would make a great USATT news item. If interested, contact me, and I'll try to get it published.

Who Says You Can't Play Table Tennis in the Age of Coronavirus?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)
</End Coronavirus Section>

US Table Tennis Hall of Fame Class of 2020
Here are the four new members and the Lifetime Achievement Award Winner!

USA Table Tennis Board of Directors Teleconference
It happened last Monday, March 9. I listened in on the call - there were about 15 of us, including I think four other USATT members who were just listening in. (My only current "official" connection with USATT, besides being a member, is as a member of the USATT Coaching Committee, which I've also chaired.) It's an open meeting, so whatever was discussed outside of executive session is pubic.

After the roll call and call for conflicts of interest, there were updates on the US Olympic Trials, an upcoming USATT Audit (which they hope to move from May to April), the US Nationals (prospective almost done, over 100 events, I helped proof a draft of it), and SafeSport. Next came committee updates. This included the one vote of the meeting, one of major consequence - by a 5-0 vote, the interim USATT Board of Directors voted to "reconstitute" the High-Performance Committee. The committee (before the vote) was chaired by Carl Danner, with members Stellan Bengtsson, Wen Hsu, Erica Wu, and Khoa Nguyen. Presumably they will soon appoint a new chair and new members, though of course they could invite any of these members back.

There was also some discussion of the timeline for the upcoming USATT election for two board positions. Presumably there'll be a news item on that soon. If you are interested, keep checking the USATT news page! I'll post it here when it comes up. The board then went into executive session (to discuss legal or personnel issues), and so I, along with most other non-board members, had to get off. I was on the call for close to an hour.

Non-Coronavirus News from USATT - Yeah, there is some!

Oman Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Muscat, Oman, March 11-15, with complete results, articles, photos, and video. It's probably the last major ITTF event for a while!

Polish Open
They played two days of the Polish Open, and then cancelled, due to coronavirus. That's a first! Here's the ITTF home page for the event partially held on March 11-12 in Gliwice, Poland, with some results, news articles, photos, and video. (See article by Steve Hopkins in Coronavirus section above.)

Other ITTF News

New from Samson Dubina

Table Tennis Footwork Challenge
Here's the video (4:45) from eBaTT.

Ball Control & Ball Brushing 1000 Reps Challenge
Here's the video (13:23).

New from Steve Hopkins (see his other two coronavirus-related articles above)

The Table Tennis Control Freak
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

"I Take the Winner!
Here's the cartoon! (The caption is the headline above in French. Here's the non-Facebook version.)

New from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - New Story in New Myths Magazine
Here's High Plains Centaur, a new fantasy story I wrote that was just published by New Myths. (Yeah, they pay me!) It's a humorous western as a gunslinging centaur canters into town to run for mayor - but has to face off with the current mayor and his two sidekicks, a vampire and the red-eyed unicorn! The other story I had that came out this month is Blood Wars, which came out in Galaxy's Edge earlier this month. It's about a world where vampires have taken over, with humans as farm animals they raise for our blood, with corporate wars between the major blood brands. It's a satire on the Coke-Pepsi cola wars.

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Proper Forehand Technique - Circling and From Side.

The Height of a High-Toss Serve
The question that has plagued the world for many centuries is just how high you should toss a high-toss serve. After all, the higher you toss it, the faster it'll be traveling when you contact it, giving you more spin, right? 

Actually, not really. Due to air resistance, any falling object in an atmosphere has a terminal velocity, but it varies based on its mass, cross-sectional area, drag co-efficient, air density, and gravity. For example, a little Googling tells us that a human body reaches terminal velocity in around 12 seconds - about 200 mph if falling feet- or head-first, about 125 mph if falling stomach- or back-first, with arms and legs spread out to maximize air resistance.

But how about a ping-pong ball? I found this online Terminal Velocity Calculator. For a ping-pong ball, the mass is 2.7 grams. The cross-section area is easy to calculate - it's the area of a circle with the diameter of a ping-pong ball, 40mm. Since A=Πr^2, and with radius 20mm, the cross-section area is about 1256.6 m^2. Some Googling found that the drag co-efficient for a sphere is about 0.5. Plugging these in, and using Earth's gravity and air density at sea level, we find that the terminal velocity of a ping-pong ball is about 18.55 mph.

But this doesn't tell us how high we have to throw the ball to get this maximum velocity. So I turned to my brother, Dr. Steven Hodges, a physicist and non-TT player (but great sailor!). He created this Excel file that does it for us.

So how high do you have to throw the ball to get to that magical 18.55 mph? Here's how my brother answered it - the first paragraph tells you most of what you need to know, the next rest are technical details.

Really, really high; falling objects approach terminal velocity asymptotically so, like Zeno, they never quite get there. But there is an answer to the practical question, how high do you need to throw the ball so when it falls back to the paddle (assuming the starting toss and paddle heights are the same) it is at, say, 90% terminal velocity.  The answer to that question is, using the parameters you provided below, about 20 ft.  If you want 99% of terminal velocity, throw the ball 40 ft high.

The attached spreadsheet shows the details.  Inputs are in red in cells C4 thru C7.  Terminal velocity is in C17 (ft/s), E17 (m/s), and G17 (mph).  The time from the ball's highest point (i.e., the height you throw it to, your input C6) to when it's back at the paddle is C19.  

If you change height thrown (C6) from 20 to 10 ft, the ball will only be at about 75% (between 74 and 79%) terminal when it gets back to the paddle.  You can find this by looking for the row where the height y(t) goes negative - y=0 is at the paddle; the fraction of terminal velocity is in column D.  

You can also play with the coefficient of drag to get an idea of how robust the model is. If CD is increased, you don't have to throw the ball as high to get a given fraction of terminal velocity, and vice versa.

Of course, this is all an approximation.  Probably good enough for what you're looking for, but the reality is much more complicated because the drag coefficient, air density, and even the ball shape, are not really constants - they vary during the fall.  So more exact solutions require simulations.  Here's an example that hints at the complexities involved: 

So there is our answer! In practical terms, I think most high-tossers throw the ball up at most ten feet, which gets the ball to 13.9mph. (If you throw much higher than this, you start to lose control and can't keep the ball low or skim it finely for maximum spin. Also, it's harder to be deceptive since if the ball is moving too fast, you can't do deceptive racket motions around contact and still control the grazing contact.) However, I am pretty sure some players have been known to toss the ball up to 20 feet (16.7mph), though it's probably hard to control. My club has 18-foot ceilings, and for fun I've done tosses that reach them - but since the toss is measured from where you toss the ball from and contact it, about three feet above the ground, that means a 15-foot toss. 

Here's video of the high-toss serve of Ma Long of China, the world #1 almost continuously from 2010-2019. Alas, I couldn’t find a video of anyone showing just how high it goes. (When they video top players, they zoom in, not out.) But you can tell it goes pretty high by how long he has to wait for it to come down. Here's a pretty high one by Shan Xiaona of Germany (world #50, formerly #14), but it also cuts off the highest part of the serve.

USATT Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament at MDTTC
See the link in Omnipong in the USATT section at the top for The 2020 USATT Hopes Program / Road to LA - MD. It's this weekend at my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center. I'll be coaching in the camp on Friday and Saturday, and running the Hopes Tournament on Sunday. This is for kids born in 2008 or after.

USA Table Tennis Teleconference Scheduled for Monday, March 9, 8:00 pm EDT
Here's the info page. Yes, it's tonight (Monday night)! I will probably listen in. As I wrote in my comment below this, I hope they will publish the agenda in advance (UPDATE - it's been added!), as well as put in the names of the current board in the Board Listing, which currently only has two of them, Niraj Oak and Tara Profitt. There are at least five right now - three others were named in this USATT news item on Jan. 31, Richard Char, Kristy Connelly Campbell and Kelly Watson. Even if they can't get their pictures up right away, it would be helpful to update the names, since they've been on the board for over five weeks now.

Coronavirus and Table Tennis
It's getting pretty serious! Many clubs around the country and the world have cancelled events because of it. Because there were three cases of it here in Montgomery County, MD, some of the local Chinese Schools closed this past weekend, and because of parents' concerns, our advanced junior program (Talent Development Program) cancelled their group session this past Sunday. My Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes normally have 14 and 10 players, but both had only seven this time. For both, I was told it was because of coronavirus concerns. (In both of these junior classes, the focus was on pushing and smashing.) I've heard that players have taken to fist bumps or even "air bumps" rather than shaking hands - and I've adopted fist bumps as well.

I'm heard private estimates that it's 50-50 the Olympics in Tokyo will be postponed or cancelled, though I have no idea how accurate these estimate are. (I'm supposed to fly out to do USATT coverage on July 23.) Here's an article on it from the BBC, Will coronavirus cancel the Tokyo 2020 Olympics? (Long-serving IOC member Dick Pound "last week admitted a decision to cancel could be made as late as May.") But the World Championships have already been postponed, and the Italian and Japan Opens in April and the Australian and South Korea Opens in June have also been postponed. (Here's the ITTF calendar where you can see which ones have been postponed.) C'mon, people, wash your hands - we don't want to postpone or cancel the Nationals in July!!!

Am I the only one to notice that "coronavirus" is an anagram for "carnivorous"? Very dangerous virus indeed!

USA Olympic Team Trials
In my blog last week I linked to the 16 articles I wrote on this. While there will always be debate on the format, I actually liked this format. After the various preliminaries (which got the players down to 16, for both men and women), there were two groups of eight. After they played it out, the top four went to a Final Four. The good part? The large number of high-quality matches was incredible for bringing out the best from the best, who rarely play that many that close together. It's like a month of intense training condensed into 3-4 days. Of course, the downside of such RR formats is that there's always the problem of dumping in the final rounds - partially fixed by having players from the same family or club play early, and having the top seeds play each other at the end.

I heard someone thought I got paid a bunch for this trip. Actually, I was a 100% volunteer - I didn't get paid a penny except for expenses. I came two days early and stayed two days late to do some sightseeing, but I paid for my hotel, food, and everything during that time.

As to the sightseeing in the Santa Monica/Los Angeles/Hollywood region, I visited the Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Hard Rock Café, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records, Hollywood Wax Museum, Paramount Pictures, La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles Zoo, Los Angeles Natural History Museum, California Science Center, and spent the last day at Universal Studios.

I was also on a 70-minute teleconference on Tuesday morning with the press people from the USOPC (interfering with my time at Universal Studios, grumble, grumble). Assuming the Olympics takes place on time, I'm flying to Tokyo on July 23 to do coverage for USA Table Tennis (again, as a volunteer, with only my expenses paid - I think USOPC is covering much of that, not sure).

Invitation to Members Interested in Committee Service
Here's the USATT press release. They are looking for the following:

  • Ethics and Grievance Committee (3-5 members, including the Chair)
  • Nominating and Governance Committee (1 member)

Forehand Loop Demo
Here's the video (3:30) by Dora Kurimay.

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Samson Dubina

New from eBaTT

Together and Apart, Eugene Wang and Zhang Mo Book Tokyo Places
Here's the ITTF article. There was a USA-CAN Mixed Doubles match for the North American Mixed Doubles spot at the Olympics, with Zhou Xin and Liu Juan for USA, Eugene Wang and Mo Zhang for Canada. Canada won, 4,7,-10,5 - here's the video (30:37, play actually begins around 4:30).

Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event held in Doha, Qatar, March 3-8, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

It's been two weeks since I last linked to their articles (since I was away last week), so why not browse the ITTF News Page?

New from Butterfly

World Table Tennis
Here's the ITTF's new World Table Tennis. See their Vision/Mission page, Key Benefits page, and Info Video (1:24).

Here's their page - "Stay in the loop, find everything table tennis. Search new or used equipment, places to play, coaches and events."

ICC Table Tennis Center Hosts USATT Hopes Tour Appropriately Coinciding with Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Local Senior Athletes Find a Lifetime Sport in Table Tennis
Here's the article, featuring the Washington DC Table Tennis Center, and past owners Charlene Liu, Changping Duan, and new owner Khaleel Asgarali.

11-year-old Syrian Table Tennis Player Hend Zaza Qualifies for Olympics
Here's the article and video (1:26) from CNN. It mentions that she's 155th in the world, but that's misleading - that's her ranking for Cadets (under age 15).

Anyone Can Try Out for the U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team, So We Did — and Here's How It Went
Here's the article from Fox Sports - but the author was not just any player, it was Martin Rogers, rated 2288 - a top player by most standards, just another amateur by Olympic standards.

USA Table Tennis Bans Hitler from Olympic Trials
Here's the video (20 sec)! Yep, I put this together, and linked to it before, but thought this was a good time to link to it again. (I also wrote, "Releasing Hitler"!)

Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000
Here's the info page and video (1:44) for this new table tennis game! Here's their press release. I emailed with the inventor, and she wrote me, "One cool thing is that you can actually play against Al Alcorn, the original creator of Pong (the very first video game!) - when we reached out to him about the game, he jokingly sent us a voice message saying 'Oh my God, what have you done to my Pong?!' but also really loved it and thanked us for caring about Pong, and said 'have fun with it'..."

Here's what one reviewer wrote:
"Hypergalactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000 is a game of pong with a few twists. It starts out as simple pong but you soon start leveling up which allows you to increase your size and learn skills. Keep playing and battling and you'll soon be shooting fireballs, teleporting, and reading minds. There are a variety of enemies that you face over the course of the game. Each game you play to three vs the AI. There are two hundred levels in a loop and after that you can either new game plus it or you can start from scratch. You can also go through romance dialogues with the bosses. You hit a boss every ten levels or so; so that makes 20 romancable paddles. You can stylize yourself with fancy treasure you find along the way which is neat."

New from Coach Jon

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association
They've been busy, holding their regionals.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel

2019 ITTF Parkinson World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the highlights video (2:46). I coached Navin Kumar at the tournament - Silver in Doubles, Bronze in Singles. (You can see me briefly at 1:43 on the right.)

Chen Xingtong | Ask A Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:05) from Adam Bobrow.

New from Pongfinity
No humorous videos this week - instead, it's video of one of their players, Miikka O'Connor (world #845, but #439 last year), from the Finnish Championships! He made it to the final before losing to World #95 Benedek Olah.

Kim Taek Soo vs. Jang Woojin Exhibition
Here's the video (11:38), both from South Korea. Woojin is world #16. Kim was a big star in the 1990s - here's his Wikipedia entry. Check out his Medal Record on the right, and you'll notice something extraordinary. At the Olympics, he won two medals (Singles and Doubles), both Bronze. At the World Championships, he won nine medals - one for Singles, four each for Doubles and Teams - and all nine are also Bronze! Then you go to the World Cup for Singles, and he has three medals - all Silver! He did win Gold at the World Cup and Asian Championships, twice each for Doubles and Teams. I believe he reached #3 in the world. He is now the head coach for the South Korean Men's Team.

Engineers Design 3D-Printed Table Tennis Paddles for Oculus Touch Controllers
Here's the article and videos!

Amazing Kids - Game Show Table Tennis in China
Here's the video (3:19)! It's in Chinese with English subtitles.

Three-Paddle Pong
Here's the video (16 sec) featuring a "cheating" Matt Hetherington.

Z Table Pong
Here's the video (3:39)!

Ellen DeGeneres Challenges Child Ping-Pong Star Yiyi as Melissa McCarthy Refs
Here's the video (4:17)!

Happy Table Tennis Birthday
Here's the video (1:23) of the table tennis birthday song!

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Tip of the Week
Drill the Fundamentals and the Specifics.

Santa Monica and the US Olympic Trials
I spent the last five days here in Santa Monica, California, doing coverage of the US Olympic Trials - 16 articles in all. See links below or visit the USATT News page. I flew in last Monday night (Feb. 24), and did sightseeing in LA and Hollywood for two days, did four days of coverage, and now I've got two more days of sightseeing before I fly home Tuesday night on an 11PM flight. So far I've visited the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica Pier, Hard Rock Café, Ripley's Believe It or Not, Guinness Book of Records, Hollywood Wax Museum, La Brea Tar Pits and Museum, and did the Paramount Pictures tour. Today I'm visiting the LA Zoo and the Natural History Museum of LA County. Tuesday I'm taking the Universal Studios tour and theme park.

Had a great four days working with the USATT and US Trials Staff, the players, and with master photographer Bruce Liu! Here's a picture of us at work (here's the non-Facebook version) - but if he's in the picture, who's taking the picture? (Thank you, Kathleen!)

So just a short blog today. I'll be back next Monday. But here are direct links to all 16 of the articles I wrote on the Trials - find out who made the US Olympic Team! Plus a few items below that.

2020 US Olympic Trials Articles

Happy Birthday Ping Pong Song
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - New SF Story!
The new issue of Galaxy's Edge has my story, "Blood Wars." While I called it a "SF" story above, it's really a mix of SF and fantasy. It's about a world where vampires have taken over, with humans as farm animals they raise for our blood, with corporate wars between the major blood brands. It's a satire on the Coke-Pepsi cola wars.

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