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!

March 18, 2019

Tip of the Week
Challenge an Opponent's Strength.

USATT Election
As I write this, I am a member of the USATT Board of Directors. However, very likely later today I will no longer be on it as they will be counting the ballots in the current election. (I chose not to run for re-election.) The result will be announced on the USATT news page, though I don't know for sure if it will go up today. (I'll link to it directly from here when it goes up.) BREAKING NEWS - Bruce won, 260-208. Congrats to him!

The two candidates in the final runoff are Bruce Liu and Mike Babuin. While both have been sharply critical of USATT in many ways, I'm fine with either of them; I know I can talk to either of them. But that might not be the case for some of the people with USATT - there's going to be some friction involved with either of them. But maybe that's a good thing as it makes us really look at what we're doing.

When I ran for the USATT Board, I made it clear that I wanted to focus on "Progressive" issues, not "Fairness" issues. Both are equally important, but due to the nature of USATT, Fairness issues tend to dominate at the expense of Progressive ones. Here's where I blogged about this, USATT: Fairness Versus Progressive Issues. Unfortunately, during my four years on the board, Fairness issues completely dominated - every week there'd be another "emergency" issue of this nature, many of which few people even know about. Board members dealt with these time-consuming issues consciencously, but it took up much of our meetings. A huge amount of my board time (not just in meetings) was spent on issues such as SafeSport; the fairest and best way to choose National Teams (including the recent controversies over how the Olympic Team will be selected); whether USATT should get involved in trying to resolve the hidden serve problem (see below); changes in the Nationals and Open (and whether the Board should get involved, as most of these issues are currently decided at headquarters, not by the Board of Directors); dealing with disgruntled USATT members (including one member who managed to take up more board time in one year than the other 8000 combined - I spent 110 hours on his issues); numerous confidential personnel and legal issues; and many more.

In the end, I did set up a USATT League page, with a Prototype Regional Team League (and hope that eventually this will lead to something); got started on a USATT Education and Certification Program (with USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio, who is in charge of the developing program); and a zillion other smaller things. Back in 2015 I tried to set up a Professional Players Association, but ran into so many problems (mostly involving whether non-citizens could play) that I finally dropped that one. We had a "Table Tennis Academy" at the Nationals, but with a small turnout, we didn't continue it. I'm still involved in a number of issues - I'm on the USATT Committee Selection Task Force, and have a teleconference this afternoon (Monday) at 3PM. (Addendum - and another Tuesday at 6:30PM.) I chaired the USATT coaching committee the last two years, and will likely stay on as a member.

Anyway, there are a lot of things that our sport needs, and whoever wins the election today will likely have plenty to do their first year. Good luck to both!

Pan Am Team Trials - Hidden Serves
I've blogged about this many times. Here are some of the serves in the recent final between Victor Liu and Nikhil Kumar, using the same illegal serving techniques used by most top players, including Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and so on. (I don't like posting this since they are both juniors, but this was the Men's Final.) It's a big advantage to be able to hide the ball during the serve as it makes it much harder for the receiver to read the spin. (At the highest levels, they get used to this since it's so common, and it actually is a major weapon against up-and-coming players, who aren't as used to them yet - which is a reason most top players don't make an issue out of this.)

Before I get to the videos, let me be clear:

  • I don't blame the players or their coaches. If they don't learn to serve like this they are at a disadvantage since most of their opponents do so. If the rules were enforced, they too would serve legally. As it is, every coach has to take his junior student aside at some point and explain to him that if he wants to compete at the high levels without being handicapped, he too has to serve illegally. It's a ridiculously bad situation coaches and players are stuck in.
  • I don't blame the umpires. Almost no other umpires are calling these serves, so why should they? When they do, not only do fans boo, but most referees ask them to stop. It's even unfair to the players, who would never know if the serving rules would be enforced in any given match. It's also unfair to the umpires, who no doubt want to enforce the rules but are under great pressure not to.
  • I only partially blame the referees. They aren't enforcing the serving rules because few other referees are. I just wish they'd get together and decide, as a group, to require umpires to enforce the rules as they are written.  
  • I do blame the ITTF Umpires and Referees Committee for ignoring this issue. I also blame USATT for not asking them to do so. I've tried to get the USATT Board, Umpires and Referees, and Rules Committees to act or to ask the ITTF to do so, but haven't been able to get them to do so. I tried. Twice I've made it a USATT Board issue, and both times I was unable to get them to act on this issue. And so we are stuck with a sport where our top players openly break the rules (i.e. cheat), and we do nothing about it.

Some will argue that regardless of what an opponent does, one should follow the rules, even if it means losing a match. To them, I ask this question. Suppose you have trained since you were a little kid as a sprinter, and now are the fastest sprinter in the world. You go to the Olympics. As they are about to start the race, all the other sprinters take two steps forward. The officials allow it. The spectators and fans don't notice it. You have trained all your life for this, but can't win if you start two steps behind everyone else. Do you take the two steps forward? It's pretty easy to sit on the sidelines and take the high road if you aren't the one about to throw away a lifetime of training. The blame here isn't the athletes taking the two steps forward or who hide their serves; it's the officials who, worldwide, allow such travesties.

Now to the videos! And note that most of the serves are like this, with the hard part in most videos finding good camera angles. When you watch them I suggest freezing the video, then advancing it one frame at a time by hitting the period key. You can go back one from with the comma key. Notice the head dips that help hide the ball and contact.

The pertinent rules - and is really the key one that is rarely enforced, i.e. if the umpire isn't sure about the legality of the serve, rather than fault the serve, they allow it, thereby allowing hidden serves. Yes, this means some non-hidden serves will be called, but that's the fault of the player who should be following rule 2.6.6. 

  • 2.6.4 From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry.
  • 2.6.5 As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net. The space between the ball and the net is defined by the ball, the net and its indefinite upward extension.
  • 2.6.6 It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect.
  • If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect.

Ping-Pong Restaurants
I know of four table tennis themed restaurants in the U.S. - places where you can have a regular sit-down meal and play table tennis. (So I'm not including bars that have ping-pong tables.)

  • Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company, a nationwide chain based on the Forrest Gump movie. I've been to three of them. They have 48 restaurants worldwide, 29 in the U.S, and others in Mexico, Japan, Malaysia, Colombia, London, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada, the Marianas and the Philippines. They are table tennis themed, even serving food on ping-pong paddle trays, and with table tennis pictures all over the walls. Here's their Wikipedia listing with more info. Interesting trivia there - Actor Chris Pratt was discovered in 2000 while working as a waiter at the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. in Maui, Hawaii. He waited on the table of actor/director Rae Dawn Chong, who had starred in one of Pratt's favorite films, Commando. Chong offered Pratt a role in a short movie she was directing at the time.
  • Comet Ping Pong is a pizza restaurant in Washington DC, which I've visited a couple of times, though not in a few years. They have three ping-pong tables in their basement, and everything is ping-pong themed, even serving the pizza's on what look like big ping-pong paddles. They were also the site of the crazy Pizzagate conspiracy theory and 2016 shooting, showing that table tennis is not the only group that has crazy people. Here's their Wikipedia listing with more info
  • Ace Eat Serve is an Asian table tennis themed restaurant in Denver, which also has ping-pong tables. They have Tuesday night tournaments and regular open play.
  • Spin Table Tennis is an upscale social table tennis club with an extensive menu and bar, with locations in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Toronto, Philadelphia, Seattle, Austin, and Washington DC. Here's the DC menu. The chain was primarily founded and owned by actress Susan Sarandon. Here's their Wikipedia entry. They have professional coaches and open play. They are more of a table tennis club with a kitchen than a table tennis themed restaurant. I've been to the one in New York City twice, but haven't made it to the local one in Washington DC yet - they just recently opened. (There's a second one opening in New York City.)

Spanish Open
Here's the ITTF page for the ITTF Challenge event in Guadalajara, Spain, March 22-24 (with preliminaries March 20-21).

Oman Open
Here's the ITTF page for the ITTF Challenge Plus event in Muscat, Oman, March 22-24 (with preliminaries March 20-21).

RIP: Ulf Bengtsson
Ulf Bengtsson died yesterday at age 59. He was the 1984 European Men's Singles Champion, won bronze at the 1984 World Men's Cup, and was on the Swedish Men's Team that won Silver at the 1983 and 1985 World Championships. There will likely be an Obit on the ITTF news page sometime soon. Here's one from the English TTA. (Don't get him confused with Stellan Bengtsson, who is alive and well, and coaching in San Diego. As far as I know, they are not closely related.)

Here's Jan-Ove Waldner's Facebook tribute: "A good friend, fantastic teammate and master have left us yesterday. My thoughts go to your children and your family. The memories are many but I will never forget our time in Kalmar when we took Swedish championship gold together! Obviously, the European championship gold in Moscow in 1984 was the most memorable one! An amazing achievement from a fantastic player! Rest in peace my friend you will always be missing!" Here are four photos Waldner posted:

ITTF Executive Committee Statement on Former President Mr Adham Sharara
Here's the article. "The International Table Tennis Federation [ITTF] Executive Committee today confirms the suspension of Mr Adham Sharara, former President and current Honorary President of the ITTF, from all activity within or in connection with the ITTF for four years."

Strangely, Sharara seems to have recently been elected or named president of Table Tennis Canada (the Canadian TTA) - click on "Board of Directors." (Sharara is a former member of the Canadian national team and I think president of the Canadian TTA many years ago.)

3 Easy Drills To Improve Timing in Table Tennis
Here's the video (6:30) from Table Tennis Academy Coaches Dan Ives & Tom Maynard. "One of the biggest challenges in table tennis in our opinion is not technical but timing and rhythm of the shots, so we've released this coaching tutorial which has 3 exercises to help improve your timing and demonstrates the importance of getting this area in your game right."

New From Tom Lodziak

New From Eli Baraty

One Trick to Get More Spin on Your Sidespin Serves
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe.

Learnin' Experience - Read about 4 main keys to improvement
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Finding Your Table Tennis Identity
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Visual Perception Training for Table Tennis Athletes
Here's the article and video (10:50) from Richard McAfee.

Inside My Mind | Ma Long
Here's the ITTF video (61 sec).

Heming Hu Videos
Here they are! Lots of instructional ones. He is the #1 ranked player from Australia (world #126) and a 2016 Olympian.

Timo Boll's Reverse Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (52 sec).

Timo Boll | Top 10 Shots | Table Tennis Legend
Here's the video (5:21).

Timo Boll vs Patrick Franziska | 2019 German National Championships | FINAL
Here's the video (6:36, time between points removed).

Who Will Host the Future ITTF World Table Tennis Championships Finals?
Here's the ITTF article.

Players Confirmed for Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

Omar Assar and Quadri Aruna to Lead African Charge
Here's the ITTF article.

Setting the Example: Chuang Chih-Yuan
Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF March Rankings – And a Peek at April
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

How One Woman Brought Ping Pong — And Feminism — To Work
Here's the article and podcast (7:19).

2019 Maryland Hopes Regional Camp and Tournament
Here's the USATT news item - this was from my blog last week.

Double-Ball Gnip-Gnop Doubles
Here's the video (31 sec)! "Gnip-gnop" - yeah, ping-pong spelled backwards - is the informal name of the game where you hit the ball downward and then over the net, instead of directly over the net. Give it a try! But maybe with one ball to start.

Blondie Table Tennis
Here are four Blondie comics that feature Dagwood and table tennis. (There are a couple of others that mention table tennis, but don't feature it.) 

  • August 13, 2017 - my favorite, on the wall at MDTTC. Elmo returns from table tennis camp and annihilates poor Dagwood!
  • July 7, 2017 - Dagwood suggests ping-pong tables in the break room to the Boss.
  • August 20, 2016 - table tennis and archery as a combined Olympic sport?
  • March 8, 2009 - Dagwood and Herb go at it, with trash-talking.

Benny the Bull Does Multiball
Here's the video (12 sec) as Mimi Bosika "destroyed him." Benny the Bull is the mascot for the Chicago Bears basketball team.

Send us your own coaching news!

March 11, 2019

Tip of the Week
How to Beat a MUCH Stronger Player.

U.S. Open and Nationals
The entry form for the US Nationals recently went up at the 2019 US Nationals Home Page. It's in Las Vegas, June 30 - July 5, and I'll be there! I'll mostly be coaching, though I'm toying with entering Over 40 Hardbat Singles - I've won it five times, and from the schedule it won't conflict with my coaching. (I'd like to play Hardbat Doubles, which I've won 14 times, but it would conflict with events I'd be coaching in, alas. Note that I normally use sponge, but like hardbat on the side.)

There's been some controversy about the cut in prize money. For example, first place in Men's and Women's Singles last year was $7000 each; this year it's only $3000. Overall, prize money dropped from last year's $44,725 to this year's $27,700. However, $7050 of this year's prize money is in the form of vouchers for junior events, which can only be used for "payment towards ITTF Tournaments, USATT National Ranking Tournaments and/or TTTeam USA / USATT Training Camps. Such vouchers are non‐transferrable." If you exclude the vouchers, prize money this year is $20,650, less than half of last years. I don't think we need to get into exact numbers; roughly speaking, prize money is about half of last years. (Here is the 2018 US Nationals entry form for comparison.)

I'm a member of the USATT Board of Directors (for another week, until they finish the current election, since I chose not to run for re-election). The decision to make these cuts was made at USATT headquarters (obviously as a cost-cutting change, we do have to operate within a budget), not by the Board of Directors or the USATT Tournament Committee. There was no board discussion about this and the USATT Tournament Committee chair says they were not consulted. (I was shown some sort of internal memo that said there would be "some changes in the prize money compared to the past," but I've checked and triple checked my email, and I wasn't CCed on that memo - and it's rather vague anyway, with nothing about the drastic cuts.) 

There is an internal debate going on right now on whether this was a policy decision (which would come under the jurisdiction of the USATT Board and Tournament Committee) or part of the day-to-day running of the sport (which is run by USATT headquarters). It does seem like a big policy change, but at this point, with only one week left in my four-year term, I'm going to let my successor and others on the board debate on this issue. But there really are two questions: Who should make this type of decision, and whether it was the right decision.

Below is the email I wrote to the board when we started receiving emails complaining about the cut in prize money - I since found a copy of last year's entry form. The James is James Therriault, who first emailed the board on this issue.

I confess that I proofed the Nationals entry form in advance and didn't pick up on the prize money cuts. No one said anything about this big change and I proofed mostly the wording, and so didn't catch it. (I also didn't have a copy of last year's entry form to compare it to. Does anyone have a copy, or is there one still online? The 2018 US. Nationals page doesn't seem to be online anymore.) The first I knew about it was from the letter from James. Presumably these were cost-cutting changes from headquarters, but I really don't know - it wasn't a board decision. Like James and Dan, I'm a little leery on what the effect is going to be for members when they see the cuts in championships events, and how it will affect entries.

There has been other discussion about the Nationals and Open. Here's what Carl Danner wrote about the Nationals (reprinted with his permission), and my response. (Carl chairs the USATT High Performance Committee and is president of the USATT Foundation. I did some minor formatting.)

I think it's a good time for a broader discussion about the Nationals.  When I stand in the middle of the playing hall, it's hard to tell by looking around what year it is (or even decade).  That seems somewhat odd.   

To me, today's Nationals:

  • is a service that USATT provides to its members at a typical financial loss -- because even where there is a profit on the books, that generally doesn't count all the paid time that USATT staff also puts in;
  • is not growing as it has drawn about the same number of players for decades, plus or minus a hundred or two depending on particular circumstances;
  • provides pretty good conditions for the advanced players (at a cost, including floor mats and many of the umpires), and mediocre ones for everyone else;
  • is run well, something that's easy to overlook except for those of us who remember what a poorly-run event feels like;   
  • has typically offered perhaps $40,000 - $60,000 in prize money, largely provided by the participants themselves; as an example, $40,000 divided by 800 players is an added $50 per person in entry fees;     
  • has been consistently hampered in hotel sponsorships because many players don't use the tournament hotels and rates; 
  • is not spectator-friendly and makes little from paid admissions;
  • does meet the needs of many regulars who want to play some matches, socialize with friends, and watch some good players also;
  • has been able to draw some sponsorships (thank you, partners!), but not enough to transform any significant aspect of the event.

Now a few things have been tried in recent years, including the separate finals venues and all-court floor mats at the World Vets and the Open.  But none of those have been transformative either, and the notion that we should just find someone who will rain sponsorship money on the event is a nice idea that's been tossed around forever without consistent results. 

Throw into the mix what we have been hearing about Las Vegas as a venue, that it's getting more costly as a site and that our really good deals there may be gone.  

What are some questions and options? 

  1. Why is the event so costly to run?  The financial losses seem real despite the high level of entry fees.  Maybe it's easier to explain in light of the number of matches or some other variables, but it's probably worth understanding better.   
  2. Would splitting off some other events make sense and permit more growth?  Perhaps it's time to consider a separate junior or senior Nationals.  The World Vets seemed to bring out many U.S. players who don't go to the Nationals, what was better about that? 
  3. Should we aim to elevate the top player aspect of the event, with better presentation, prize money and a push for spectators?  Or enhance the average player's experience, as they are most of the base and paying most of the freight?  Or should these be two different tournaments?   
  4. Should players continue to be able to enter the Nationals directly, or should there be regional qualifications in some way?  Perhaps these could be a source of growth.   
  5. What about small cash prizes for ratings and age events (the topic of these emails)?  Are they essential, or would nicer awards and some enhanced prestige factors be an effective substitute? 
  6. What about local organizing committees that might want to build the event over time?  For example, Grand Rapids did a nice job with its Opens in local sponsorship and publicity, but some players said they didn't like going there.  Are we better off in a bigger destination city, but mostly ignored?
  7. Do we care about growth, or is this just a good service to members in its present form (with only fine-tuning needed)?      
  8. USATT HQ staff are pressed already with all they have to do, and the Nationals and Open activities absorb up a great deal of their time and thus limit other services they could provide.  Is that ok? 

And of course, there is no need to go drastically in any of these directions all at once -- but it might be helpful for us to figure out if there is a direction that we intend to move over time.  

As an innovation, our current Nationals mostly dates from the 1970s.  Is it time to innovate further?

Here is my response:

Very good points, Carl. An underlying problem is that we are trying to satisfy two masters - the USATT membership that wants to play in the event, and the top players and spectators that want a more professionalized event. I suggest we consider what our vision for the Nationals and the Open should be. Here's mine. 

US Open: Aim to turn this into a huge annual professional event, like the U.S. Open Tennis Championships. Bid it out, look for entrepreneurs with a vision and action plan to make it so, one that would be enticing to TV and major sponsors. Hiring a CEO with the vision and ability to get this done should be key. USATT's willingness to give up some control of the event may also be needed. A one-day Giant or Tiered RR run in conjunction, perhaps at the very start or end, might be possible to draw players/spectators and raise revenue (if we can get enough tables), but otherwise only "championship" events. (This could include senior and junior events, run single elimination.) This is our "Professional" event, and hopefully a major ITTF event. 

US Nationals: Keep this as the classic historical event we've had for many years, with the goal of a thousand or more USATT members getting together each year in lots of events, with progressively more prize money in the major events as the numbers and sponsors go up. By having only one such event each year, instead of running both the Nationals and Open this way, means we'd get more players at the Nationals as "The Event" the members all go to each year. With a thousand players, we not only get much more in entry fees, but we can also charge sponsors more for booths and for sponsoring tables, balls, and clothing, as there would be more players. With all this extra revenue, we can afford very good prize money in major events while giving USATT members a great annual event that everyone will want to attend. We should also consider bringing back some historical things we stopped doing, such as the huge players party, as well as clinics, "Meet the Pros," and other features that would turn it into a "must attend" event for members. This is our "USATT members" event. 

2019 Maryland Hopes Regional Camp and Tournament
Here is my write-up of the Hopes Camp and Tournament we just held at MDTTC - I was one of the coaches and ran the tournament. (There are a LOT of links afterwards, so don't miss those!)

2019 Maryland Hopes Regional Camp and Tournament
March 8-10, 2019 at Maryland Table Tennis Center
By Larry Hodges

Forty-two kids, the large majority ages 9-11, congregated at the Maryland Table Tennis Center for two days of training on Friday and Saturday, and (for those born after Jan. 1, 2007, i.e. 12 and under) the regional Hopes tournament on Sunday. Here's a group picture. Here is a photo gallery by Jay Chelur.

Running the camp was USATT National Team Coach and Alameda TTC Coach Pieke Franssen, who flew in from California - taking an all-nighter to Charlotte, NC, and then to Dulles Airport in Virginia around noon, where I picked him up. Wang Qingliang was the main assistant coach - he's on the USATT National Coach Development Team. Others assisting were myself, Lidney Castro, Jeffrey Zheng, and two new Vietnamese Regional Team Members who just moved to Maryland, the brothers Khai and Khoi Dinh. (Khoi Dinh was #2 player on the Vietnamese Junior National Team this year before their family immigrated to the U.S. three weeks ago.) Also hosting were organizer Wen Hsu, and Carolyn Klinger, who took charge of meals at the club. (Here's her non-Facebook picture.) The camp had four sessions, Friday 4:30-6:30PM and 7:30-9:30PM, and Saturday 12:00-2:30PM and 5:30-7:30PM. (Players in the Hopes Tournament were required to come to the camp.)

Each session started with jogging, followed by agility exercises. This usually took up to 30 minutes. Pieke had a range of different ones, all involving various side-stepping. Then we got the tables. The level of play was very high, with two rated over 2140, eight over 1890, and nineteen over 1700. Here are pictures and video (from Facebook). (The kid running side to side in one video is U.S. Open and Nationals 10 and Under Champion Stanley Hsu, who is demonstrating the drill for others. They then broke into six groups and everyone did this and other speed drills.)

How do you run a camp with 42 players on 17 tables? Pieke and Wang organized it so that for the first three sessions, about one-third of the players would do multiball. We had four multiball tables, with Lidney, Jeffrey, Khai, and Khoi feeding as I called the drills. We generally had 14-16 players, so each table had 3-4 players. For many drills, we'd do two players at a time (the others doing ball pickup), with the players doing a footwork/stroking sequence and the rotating out so the player did the drill. Other times one player would do the drill while one or two others stood behind them, shadow-stroking the drill. We also did some interactive drills, where 2-3 players would sometimes get involved. We finished each multiball session with the "box" challenge, where we'd put a box (actually a spaghetti colander) one racket length from the far end of the table, and the players on each table would do drills where they took turns, 2-4 shots each, trying to knock it off the end. It took a number of hard shots, but when they did it, the winning team each got a "trillion dollar bill" (I had a collection of them), or, later in the camp, their choice of that or a Jolly Rancher candy.

The rest of the tables were one-on-one practice, with Pieke and Wang calling the drills and coaching. Alas, I rarely got to see that since I was back in the multiball area. However, I had a copy of the practice schedule, with lots and lots of drills that were mostly centered around serve, receive, and footwork. The players worked hard! (We didn't really give them a choice, did we?)

On Sunday we had the Hopes Tournament, with 20 boys and 7 girls. The girls played a complete round robin while the boys played five groups of four, with two advancing from each group to single elimination. Congrats to the Champions and Final Four! Here are the main results:

  • BOYS: 1st: Patryk Zyworonek; 2nd Mu Du; 3rd Andrew Cao; 4th James Zhang
  • Here's a group picture of the Boys - L-R the players are Andrew Cao (3rd), Patryk Zyworonek (1st), Mu Du (2nd), and James Zhang (4th). Coaches are Jack Huang, Wang Qingliang, Larry Hodges, Pieke Franssen.
  • GIRLS: 1st: Michelle Kang; 2nd Rachel Wang; 3rd: Rachel Ku; 4th: Alyssa Kang
  • Here's a group picture of the Girls - L-R the players are Rachel Ku (3rd), Michelle Kang (1st), and Rachel Wang (2nd) (Alyssa Kang missing). Coaches are Wang Qingliang, Pieke Franssen, and Jack Huang.

After the Hopes events, we had three rating events - Under 2300, 1900, and 1400. Here are complete results (including Hopes), care of Omnipong. And here are the ratings, processed by USATT on Monday. Below are the main results, linked to pictures:

A big thanks goes to all those who helped with the camp, to the superlative job of fellow coaches Pieke, Wang, Lidney, Jeffrey, Khai, and Khoi, and to Referee Paul Kovac and Umpire Stephen Yeh, to Jackson Beaver (and half the local junior program!) for helping at the control desk, and to sponsors USATT, MDTTC, JOOLA, and HW Global Foundation.

Little Rock Hopes
Here's the article by Michael Lauro about the Regional Hopes camp and tourament in Arkansas, with pictures and video.

USATT At-Large Board Director Election - Round 1 Results
Here's the USATT article. If you think about it from a purely political point of view, Lily might have been handicapped. Why? Let's assume, for the sake of argument, that East Coast voters tend to vote for East Coast candidates (Mike and Lily), while West Coast voters tend to vote for West Coast candidates (Bruce). Let's also assume that Chinese voters tend to vote for Chinese candidates (Bruce and Lily), while non-Chinese voters tend to vote for non-Chinese candidates. (Remember, we're talking tendencies in a political framework.) Giving these assumptions, Bruce gets most of the west coast vote and splits the Chinese vote; Mike gets most of the non-Chinese vote and splits the east coast vote; while Lily only gets to split both the east coast and the Chinese vote. Now if someone wants to look deeper into this, they could investigate if there are tendencies, as I hypothesize here, or other ones, and also the number of voters in each of these demographics - but I'll leave that to someone else.

Here are the first-round results, with a second round this Wed-Sun (March 13-17) to decide who takes my current position on the Board. (When I blog next week they will likely be counting the votes, and hopefully they'll know the winner by the end of the day.)

  • Bruce Liu: 140
  • Mike Babuin: 119
  • Lily Yip: 116

HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program - They need your support!
I'm one of their coaches on Saturdays and Sundays, and I hope some of you can help out! Here is their GoFundMe page, where they are trying to raise $15,000. Until April 1, Hans & Wen Hsu, the HW Foundation founders, will match all donations for this Campaign, up $10,000.

USATT Nominates Players for the 2019 World Table Tennis Championships in Budapest, Hungary
Here's the USATT article.

How to Do a Forehand Flick – with Paul Drinkhall
Here's the article and video (5:43) from Tom Lodziak. (A flick is another term for a flip, i.e. an attack against a short ball.)

More Spin
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

New from EmRatThich

ITTF Level 3 Coaching Course - September 4-11, 2019 - Akron, Ohio
Here's the USATT info page. From the USATT Coaches Courses Page, there are three upcoming courses:

Lauro's Passion Rewarded with National Volunteer Coach of the Year Award
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Why is Boll Strong? #6
Here's the article and video (4:08).

Is There a Table Tennis Offseason? Should There Be?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Atmosphere
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Big Matches Upcoming for US Players in Europe
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, featuring Lily Zhang, Kanak Jha, Michael Tran, Victor Liu, and Rachel & Joanna Sung.

Canadian Championships Underway
Here's an info page.

Hugo Calderano: The Brazilian Looking to Take Budapest by Storm
Here's the ITTF article.

Pitchford Aims to Open Dialogue Around Depression and the Pressures and Expectations of Succeeding in Sport
Here's the article from MH Table Tennis. English #1 Liam Pitchford is world #17.

Díaz Sisters on Female Idols and Celebrating International Women's Day
Here's the ITTF article featuring Puerto Rican stars Adriana and Melanie Diaz.

China’s 2019 Championships Team: Not Marvellous?
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Germany Still Chasing First Singles Gold, Will 2019 Be the Year That Changes?
Here's the ITTF article.

Olympian & Paralympian Business Development Program
Here's the info page.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast | February 2019
Here's the ITTF video (16;24).

WAB Club Feature: California Table Tennis
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

JOOLA Sponsors ICC
Here's the article. They recently sponsored my club, MDTTC. They also just signed Triangle TTC.  

Navin Kumar's Movie Character Publicity Poster
He recently had his first film role in the upcoming movie, "Attack of the Unknown," as Atul, the SWAT Team Driver. Here's the publicity poster. (Here is the non-Facebook version.) Navin is "The Bionic Man" from table tennis. (He's actually be in a number of news videos.)

Scoop Off Floor, Backspin Comeback Return
Here's the video (19 sec)!

We Don't Have Exhibitions Like This Anymore
Here's the video (1:53) of the famed French players Jacques Secrétin and Vincent Purkart.

Jason and Alex Piech at the 2019 Arnold Sports Festival
Here's the video (3:09)! Here are some of their past videos.

Ping-Pong Trickshots
Here's the video (3:35)! These are some incredible and crazy trick shots. (I think I can do any individual trick shown, but doing them all together, in sequence . . . how many attempts would it take?)

Advice, Skill, or New Rubber?
Take your choice! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

March 4, 2019

Tip of the Week
Be an Olympian - In Your Mind.

USATT Election, Coaching Committee, and the USATT Committee Selection Task Force

  • The election ended yesterday for my position on the USATT Board of Directors. (As noted previously, I decided not to run for re-election.) Today they are counting the votes between Mike Babuin, Bruce Liu, and Lily Yip. If one of them gets a majority then he/she wins and takes my spot immediately. If none get over 50%, then there will be a run-off between the two highest finishers, which will take about two weeks. Whoever wins, can you PLEASE get 50%+ so we can get this over with???
  • As also noted previously, I decided not to continue as USATT Coaching Chair. (I was appointed to the position two years ago, my second time - I also chaired it for four years in the 1990s.) My term ended on March 1, but according to the bylaws, I would continue as chair until my successor was named. Since they likely wouldn't do this until the in-person board meeting in Milpitas, CA, March 29-31, I took matters into my own hands and called an email vote to approve Pieke Franssen as my successor. (He was the only one who applied, but is highly qualified.) The vote was 9-0, and so he took office on March 1, last Friday. As I pointed out to him via email, at midnight eastern time on Friday night, he became the chair only for the Eastern Time Zone, while I continued in the rest of the country. And then, as the night went on, each hour another time zone hit midnight and March 1, and he took over another region, until finally, after five hours, my coaching chair powers ebbed away as he became coaching chair in Hawaii.
  • Regarding the USATT coaching committees, over 30 people applied to serve as chair or members of our 19 committees, with many applying for multiple positions. This was too much for the USATT Board, so they appointed a USATT Committee Selection Task Force to go over all of them and make recommendations. Board Chair Anne Cribbs called me up and convinced me to join the task force, along with Gary Schlager and Erica Wu. We had a long teleconference Thursday on this, and figured most things out, but there are about three committees that will likely have a lot of debate at the board meeting March 29-31.

Show Biz Pong!
Back in 2013 I had a wild day as a table tennis consultant on the set of the TV show Veep. Here's my blog about it. At their request, I also brought in three other local players, Khaleel Asgarali, Toby Kutler, and Qiming Chen. We all got paid, and I know at least Toby appeared in the episode - but none of us got any official credit, and so didn't get our own IMDB pages. Dang!!! (IMDB = Internet Movie DataBase, which also includes TV shows.)

Recently a student of mine, Navin Kumar, had his first acting and producing job, as "Atul," a "SWAT driver" in the movie Attack of the Unknown. I started wondering how many other USA players have IMDB pages.

I knew of some of the more obvious ones, and others who had bit roles in table tennis movies. But how many were there? So I asked on Facebook - and found there were a lot more than I expected! The reality is that, based on how many I got just from my Facebook friends, there are a LOT more that I don't have here. So if you have an IMDB page and have ever had a USATT rating (my minimum standard), feel free to comment below, including the web address of your IMDB page. Here are the ones I know of.

  • Judah Friedlander - he has 77 credits just as an actor! I've coached him several times, including back when he was a kid. He was in Star Wars 7, 30 Rock, Fresh off the Boat, Rio, Meet the Parents, Zoolander, Along Came Polly, and Ping-Pong Summer - and those are just the ones I saw him in. (We won't talk about Sharknado movies.)
  • Adoni Maropis - he has 48 acting credits, including 15 episodes in "24" as the terrorist Abu Fayed, who nukes Santa Monica. I've also seen him in Troy, The Scorpion King, and Lazarus Rising. I've had many battles with him at the table - he's won a number of hardbat titles at the Open and Nationals. He has a USATT rating of 2103, and that's playing with a hardbat.
  • Adam Bobrow - he has 26 acting credits, including Ping Pong Playa and Balls of Fury. He's now the Voice of Table Tennis for the ITTF, doing commentating at all their major tournaments. He has a USATT rating of 2143, had been as high as 2183.
  • Graciella Evelina Martinez (formerly Tomiko Ly) - she has 20 acting credits. As Tomiko Ly, she was also one of the top junior table tennis players in the late 1980s. She was a member of the Resident Training Program back when I was (at various times) manager, director, and one of the coaches. I practiced with her many times.
  • Frank Caliendo - he has "only" 17 acting credits, but he's better known for his standup comedy and impersonations. I played doubles with him once. He has a 1665 rating.
  • Alex Mayzlin - he has 11 acting credits.
  • Soo Yeon Lee - she has 9 acting credits - and a USATT rating of 2468!
  • Yichi Zhang - he has 3 acting credits. He has a rating of 2631.
  • Elmira Zainabudinova - she has 3 acting credits, including "Entourage" and "Balls of Fury." She has a rating of 2188, has been as high as 2228.
  • Laura Paglin - she has 7 credits as a Producer, 6 as a Director, 3 as a Writer, 2 as an Editor, 4 as a Cinematographer, and 7 as camera and Electrical Department.
  • Will Shortz - he has 3 acting credits, 13 as "Self," and one each for Producer, Cinematographer, Soundtrack, Miscellaneous Crew, and Archive footage.
  • Yau-Man Chan - he was in "Creep," "Reality Obsessed," and 19 episodes of "Survivor." Has a rating of 1573.
  • Chi Ngo - he was in six episodes of "It's Gary Schandling's Show," 1988-1990. He was also a member of the USATT Resident Training Program in the late 1980s, when I was (at various times) manager, director, and one of the coaches. I practiced with him many times - he was about 2200 at his peak.
  • Navin P. Kumar - he has 1 acting credit as Atul, the SWAT Driver in Attack of the Unknown. He is also credited as an executive producer. He's a student of mine, with a rating of 1385 (was 1434).
  • Barney D Reed - he has 1 acting credit for "Ping Pong Playa," and 2 as Self for the documentary Top Spin and with "Late Night with Conan O'Brien." I've known him since he was a kid. He was on the 1994 U.S. Junior Team that I coached that upset a bunch of teams to make the semifinals of the World Youth Cup Championships in Taiwan. He was on the USA Men's Team for many years.
  • Eric Finkelstein - he has 7 producing credits and 1 writing credit. I coached him at training camps when he was a kid! He is rated 2235 and has been as high as 2293.
  • Diego Schaaf - he was a consultant and technical advisor for Ping Pong Playa and Balls of Fury. He has a short cameo play in the latter. He was 1800-1900 at his peak.  
  • Wei Wang - she was a consultant and technical advisor for Ping Pong Playa and Balls of Fury. She has a short cameo play in the latter. She was the 1990 U.S. National Women's Singles Champion and about a 2400 player at her peak.
  • Jimmy Pelletier - he was in Ping-Pong Summer (actor and crew). He's a sandpaper expert, also plays hardbat. I've hit with him before.
  • Mike Meier - he played an umpire in the movie "As One" - and in real life, is an International Umpire! He has a rating of 1652.
  • Steve Hoch - he was a writer and producer for "Whacked!" I've played him a few times. He has a rating of 1963 and has been as high as 2101.
  • Wally Green - he has 2 acting credits, "Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis" and "Grand Theft Auto IV." He has a 2331 rating. I've hit with him before.
  • Nicky Garratt - he has 2 credits for Sound Track, and one for "Self. He has a USATT League rating of 1798.  
  • Biba (Todorovic) - she has 1 acting credit for "Ping Pong Playa," and for crew in "Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis."
  • Sid Naresh - he has 4 credits as "self" as a star table tennis junior - he's on the USA National Team as a Cadet. He has a rating of 2426.
  • Nandan Naresh - he has 4 credits as "self" as a star table tennis junior - he's on the USA National Team as a Cadet. He has a rating of 2291.
  • Arcot Naresh - he has a credit as "self" in "No Days Off" - he's the father of Sid and Nandan. He has a rating of 2057.
  • Sangita Naresh - she has a credit as "self" in "No Days Off" - she's the mother of Sid and Nandan.

HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program - They need your support!
I'm one of their coaches on Saturdays and Sundays, and I hope some of you can help out! Here is their GoFundMe page, where they are trying to raise $15,000. Until April 1, Hans & Wen Hsu, the HW Foundation founders, will match all donations for this Campaign, up $10,000. Here's the first paragraph from their page:

"Continuing last year's fundraising success, which brought our coaches to the U.S. Nationals in Las Vegas, this year we are establishing the HW Global Foundation Annual Campaign. Our annual campaign will partially fund the participation of our talented, young athletes in training camps and tournaments all year long. To stand out among other rising stars, our kids work hard all year to qualify for these special events, and we do not want their families' inability to pay for these events to hinder their progress. It is important to note that our annual campaign will not cover any operational costs HW Global Foundation may have; 100% will go to our young athletes to allow them to train and compete at a high level at national training camps and tournaments. We will have a process for families to request funds to help their worthy kids attend special training and competition events. We will summarize these events on our website."

Weekend Coaching
Or should I say - non-weekend coaching? I did coach the Thursday Beginning Junior Class, where we introduced pushing. The Saturday Junior League (which is half league, half coaching) was on hiatus as there was this big Chinese Alumni Tournament at MDTTC all day and night. Meanwhile, we were watching the weather forecasts, which predicted snow all day on Sunday, starting around noon and going past midnight, with up to six inches. By Sunday morning the forecasts had changed, with mostly rain, and then snow starting around 3PM. But that was still a problem, with a Beginning Junior Class at 4PM and the advanced Talent Development Program at 5:30PM. So we ended cancelling both around 11AM on Sunday. But it turned out we were right on the edge of the storm, and after we cancelled, it took a slight turn - and almost completely missed us! There was light snow, but not enough to stick on the roads.

Table Tennis Books by Larry Hodges
Yep, this is one of those periodic postings where I ask you to support a poor (relative to Jeff Bezos), starving (I had a small breakfast and it's almost lunchtime) table tennis (and science fiction) writer by buying my books! Here are my table tennis books that are currently sold on Amazon:

Or you can try out Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis series; Dan Seemiller's Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion; or Samson Dubina's 100 Days of Table Tennis.

2019 USA Nationals in July
The USATT page and entry form are now up! The Nationals will be in Las Vegas, June 30- July 5. (The first day, Sunday, June 30, is only for Junior and Mini-Cadet Teams.)

2019 Pan American Games Trial and First Adult National Ranking Event Tournament Homepage
Here's the USATT page with complete results, video, and photos. Here's an article on it, Pan Am Games Team Trial Review, by Steve Hopkins.

ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S.
There is a Level 1 and a Level 2 course coming up in Tigard, Oregon - see below. (Here's a USATT news item on the Level 2 course.) There is also a Level 3 course scheduled September 4-11 at the Samson Table Tennis Academy in Ohio, but info on that is not out yet.

Simple Foundations of Balance and Movement in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Backhand to Forehand Grip Change and Footwork
Here's the video (5:32) from Eli Baraty.

New from EmRatThich

New from Tom Lodziak

Friction Videos
Here are the two video (3:31 and 3:04) from Samson Dubina.

'Inside My Mind': Bernadette Szocs
Here's the ITTF article and video (1:12). She's the world #21 (previously #12) from Romania.

Timo Boll Signs Off in Style on Dramatic Weekend of National Championships Action
Here's the ITTF article on Timo Boll winning Men's Singles at the German Nationals for the 13th time.

Fan Zhendong and Chen Meng Book Budapest Places
Here's the ITTF article on the two winning the Trials to represent China at the Worlds. Includes results at the end. Here's a related article, Ding Ning responds, Fan Zhendong stands alone. Here is another, Marvellous Twelve Review, by Steve Hopkins.

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

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Eleven of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "1996 U.S. Open." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Unbelievable - Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:14) from GT Table Tennis.

The Incredible Boy Harimoto
Here's the video (6:02). Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN) is #4 in the world (and #1 outside China) at age 15. (He'll turn 16 on June 27.)

John Travolta vs. John Travolta Pong
Here's the video (24 sec)! It's really about a 2-sec video repeated over and over, but it's kind of mesmerizing.

Happy Table Tennis Birthday
Here's the video (1:23)! Make sure to send it to table tennis friends and family on their next birthday. (Now I can't get that irritating tune out of my head…)

Goping Pong
Here's the video (30 sec) of this huge lawyer vs. insurance adjuster battle!

Around-the-World Against Lob
Here's the video (35 sec) with Adam Bobrow doing the nonchalant lobs.

Super Trick Shot
Here's the video (16 sec) of one of the more elaborate and impressive trick shots I've seen. I especially like the rebound shot off the block!

Non-Table Tennis - "Plop Plop"
My humorous science fiction story "Plop Plop" is now up at Galaxy's Edge! What happens when you are trying to murder your skydiving father and uncle, but they must hit the ground in the right order ("Plop Plop") to get your inheritance . . . and unexpected visitors from the future keep dropping by?

Send us your own coaching news!

February 25, 2019

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Turn a Match Around.

Weekend Coaching
This past week in my two Beginning Junior Classes (Thursday and Sunday nights) the focus was on smashing. We started the sessions (which are two different groups of players) with about 30 minutes of basic stroking and footwork drills. Then came the demo and lecture on smashing. Then the players went into their groups, and either smashes against multiball, or against coaches who fished. (My assistants on Thursday are Lidney Castro and Aron Zhang; on Sundays Lidney and John Hsu.)

At the Saturday Junior League (which is half league, half coaching), we did the usual doubles and singles matches, often with improvised rules to force players to work on specific aspects of their games. For example, one segment, for the lower-ranked players, had them serving backspin to the backhand, the receiver pushed down the line to the forehand, the serve forehand looped, and they played out the point. For the advanced players, they had similar drills, such as serve and backhand loop, or serve and loop against a deep push anywhere.

At the Sunday Talent Program (more advanced juniors), as usual I did lots and Lots and LOTS of multiball in my station. (We often break them into rotating groups.) We also had them play up-down tables, except (like the Saturday league), the server served backspin, receiver pushed to forehand, and server forehand looped. Then came physical training and then Brazilians. And then I raced home to watch the Academy Awards! (I've seen every movie nominated for Best Picture and nearly every other movie nominated for anything.)

USATT Committees
Here's the USATT news item. Here's my January 28 blog on this. Alas, just when I thought I was almost done with my USATT work as a board member, I was pulled back in! I was asked to be on the USATT Committee Selection Task Force, along with Gary Schlager and Erica Wu. I now have 35 resumes and/or letters of intent to go through from an even 30 people who have applied to be chair or a member of one or more of 19 committees.

How did I get pulled into this? Oh yeah, I said yes….

I also have an excel spreadsheet with the 30 names along the left, and the 19 committees across the top, with a "c" for those interested in chairing a committee, or an "m" if interested in being a member. There are a total of 51 committee requests. Guess what I'll be doing this afternoon?

USATT Election
(I told all three candidates that I'd run links to all of their campaign items, and will run this election segment every week until the election on March 3.)

A USA Table Tennis election is taking place. I just received the USATT election email, and presumably so did all adult USATT members. If you did not, contact USATT. If USATT doesn't have your email address or your DOB, you wouldn't have received the email, so contact them and give them this info.

There are three candidates running for my current position - Mike Babuin, Bruce Liu, and Lily Yip. (As I've blogged about, I chose not to run for re-election. It's someone else's turn! I expect to stay neutral in the election.) My term was supposed to end Dec. 31, but for various reasons it was postponed, and the bylaws say I stay on the board until they finish the election. That should happen either in about a week (if one of the three gets over 50%), or about three weeks or so (if they have to do a runoff between the top two finishers).

Here is the USATT Election News Item. Here is the pertinent info from it:

  • Voting will start on February 25, 2019, and end on March 3, 2019. Voting will be on-line only.  
  • Eligible voters must have a current USATT membership that has been valid for at least 60 days prior to February 25, 2019, be in good standing with the association and be 18 or older. 
  • The ballot will be emailed to USATT members on February 25th.
  • Members should vote for only one candidate. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the eligible votes cast, then there will be a run-off election between the top two candidates who received the most votes.

Here is election info from each. They are alphabetized, but please see info on all three.




2019 ITTF Junior Circuit, Swedish Junior & Cadet Open
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Orebro, Sweden. (I think it was held in conjunction with the Safir International junior event.) Team USA won one gold and five bronze:

2019 ITTF Swedish Youth Open

  • Mini Cadet Girls: Bronze Emily Tan
  • Junior Boys : Bronze Nikhil Kumar

2019 Safir International

  • Under 14 Boys: Gold Ted Li
  • Under 14 Girls: Bronze Linda Shu + Swathi Giri
  • Under 16 Girls: Bronze Sabrina Zhu

2019 Pan American Games Trial and First Adult National Ranking Event Tournament Homepage
Here's the USATT news item.

Capital Area League
The Capital Area League is for players in the Maryland/DC/Northern Virginia area. Here's the note just sent out: "Today, February 25th is the last day for the $50 Early-Bird savings. Don't miss out! If you were thinking of forming a team, take advantage of the savings and register by 11:59 pm today. You have until March 5th to finalize your player roster. If you have already submitted a team and paid your fee, thank you. Need a team? We may be able to help. Send us a note. Register now." (Final deadline is March 5.)

Pongmobile Cup
Here's the video (5:35) of the tournament highlights of the Pongmobile Cup held this past weekend in Washington DC. Here is the recorded livestream (9 hours 46 min - but you can jump around), and here are the results! Here's the Butterfly news item.

Ten Things That Require Zero Talent
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Reverse BACKHAND Pendulum Serve
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Rules
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. (And someone spent some Photoshop time getting Arnold from "Commando" into a table tennis picture!)

A Tale of Three Tournaments
Here's the article by Coach Jon. Article and video features 1949 English Open (Reisman vs. Barna), 1997 Worlds (Waldner vs. Samsonov), and 2017 Worlds (Ma Long vs. Fan Zhendong).

Talented Left Handers, Major Challengers
Here's the ITTF article that features USA cadet start Nikhil Kumar.

Table Tennis Tidbits #44
Here's the article and video (40min) from Robert Ho. "Not Losing vs Winning: At the 2018 China Championships, Wu Yang, currently the top woman chopper in the world played teammate Ding Ning, twice Women’s World Champion, and an Olympic champion.  Although they have had numerous close matches, I’m not aware that Wu has ever beaten Ding."

WAB Featured Club: NYITTC
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Backhand Serve Against a Left-Handed Player
Here's the video (2:05) from Viktor Tolkachev. The same serves work for a lefty against a righty.

The Deadly Strawberry Flip
Here's the video (3:41). (From last year, but I don't think I ever linked to it.)

Inside My Mind | Quadri Aruna
Here's the ITTF video (64 sec).

Daniel Habesohn | Behind-the-Back Master
Here's the video (60 sec). He's world #37 from Austria.

Liebherr 2019 ITTF World Table Tennis Championships
Here's the ITTF promo video (31 sec) for the event coming up April 21-28 in Budapest, Hungary.

World Rankings Video
Here's the video (59 sec) featuring the world top ten from 2016 to present.

Is China's Dominance in Table Tennis Real? Ranking History of Table Tennis (2001-2019)
Here's the video (5:37).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - January 2019
Here's the video (12:55).

Birmingham Man Holds World Record in Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:20) featuring Homer Brown.

Philip and Parkinson's
Here's the video (2:23). "I made a film about my friend Philip, his battle against Parkinson's disease and how table tennis helps him through it. Not an easy watch but I hope you take a look."

Ma Long Withdraws from Marvelous 12
Here's the ITTF article.

Chinese Table Tennis Chief Will Give Up Pay for 'Poor" Games Preparation
Here's the article featuring Liu Guoliang.

Africa Signs Memorandum of Understanding
Here's the ITTF article. "Earlier in February the European Table Tennis Union signed a Continental Development Memorandum of Understanding; now Africa has followed suit."

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Ten of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "May-July 1996 Tournaments." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

A Little Side-to-Side Footwork . . . with Paddle in Mouth?
Here's the video (1:30)! That's Egyptian Paralympic star Ibrahim Hamadtou.

Ping Pong: The Animation Opening
Here's the video (1:29).

Mirrored Pong Maneuvers
Here's the video (29 sec)!

Table Tennis Whacks Climate Change Deniers
Here's the cartoon!

How the Sport Was Named - and the Third Choice
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 18, 2019

Tip of the Week
Judging the Depth of a Serve.

Offensive Clothing
At some point I'm guessing we are going to be faced with the following situation. Someone shows up at a tournament wearing something that, to some, is offensive, while to others, it is not. Before I get into this, here's the pertinent rule:, Clothing shall not carry designs or lettering which might cause offence or bring the game into disrepute.

The tournament referee has to judge this, and they will have varying judgments. So where do we draw the line? I'm fairly certain every referee will rule Nazi symbols are offensive, and not allow it. But how about someone wearing a Confederate flag? Would it make a difference if they do this in, say, South Carolina as opposed to New York? Some might find Islamic or Christian symbols offensive, so how does the referee judge this? Would he allow someone wearing a shirt with a picture depicting Allah? (It is offensive in the Islamic faith to show pictures of Allah. People, especially cartoonists, have been murdered for doing so.)

Remember the Charlottesville matches, where one group on video was chanting, over and over, "Jews will not replace us." What if someone shows up at a tournament with that slogan on his shirt? I don't think the referee would allow this. He also probably wouldn't allow, say, profanity. I once saw a player wearing a profanity-laced shirt at a one-star tournament, and the referee allowed it, saying it was free speech. But I don't think most referees would agree. I once saw a player who had the "F" word written on the front of his left shoe, and "You" on the right. Nobody complained and I don't think the referee even knew about it. If I were coaching a junior against this player, should I complain to the referee? Probably not, but only because the distraction of bringing in the referee would probably distract my player more than the opponent. But I might mention something to the player or the referee after the match.

One thing that I'm sure will happen, if it hasn't happened already - someone will show up at a tournament wearing a MAGA hat - yes, a Trump "Make America Great Again" hat. (No, I'm not going to get into the politics here, but remember that it's not the words that many find offensive, but that it's a symbol for something they find offensive.) However, this isn't really a problem as hats normally aren't allowed in tournaments, due to this rule: Playing clothing shall consist of a short-sleeved or sleeveless shirt and shorts or skirt or one-part sports outfits, socks and playing shoes; other garments, such as part or all of a tracksuit, shall not be worn during play except with the permission of the referee

Note that hats are not part of the playing clothing listed, and it says "other garments" shall not be work except with the permission of the referee. Most referees do not allow hats, so it's likely the referee simply won't allow hats, MAGA or otherwise. Of course, someone will then wear a MAGA shirt, and someone's going to get offended. If I were the referee, I'd allow the MAGA shirt, but not the MAGA hat - but then I'd have to be evenhanded about it, and normally not allow others to wear hats either.

But what happens when, say, a bald player insists on wearing a hat? Or many-time U.S. Champion Patty Martinez, who wears a visor when she plays because the light from the ceiling bothers her eyes? Or a Jewish player who wants to wear a yarmulke, or an Islamic women who has to cover her head? Things get complicated. I know in the case of Martinez that she's normally allowed to wear the visor, but at least one referee at the Open or Nationals a few years ago wouldn't allow it. Islamic women are normally allowed to wear headgear in tournaments.

Of course, if a MAGA hat or shirt is offensive to some, what if someone shows up wearing pro- or anti- Republican or Democratic clothing? God, I hope we never get USA politics mixed into USATT politics. It could get rather heated. (I've already had my share of such heated arguments. Frankly, I'm tired of them since there is roughly a zero chance that arguing is going to change anyone's political opinion.)

I have a "Make American Smart Again" hat. If I wore that at a tournament, perhaps on the sidelines, would that offend anyone, since it's somewhat of a sarcastic response to a MAGA hat?

How about a shirt that says, "Death to America"? Or the more mild "Down with America"? Or one that shows the American flag in a disrespectful way? At one U.S. Open or Nationals many years ago, Pete May wore USA flag clothing, I think shirt and shorts, that were I think the same ones used by members of the USA Track and Field Team at the time. The referee wouldn't allow it. Others would. It's the referee's judgment. Would these shorts be allowed? Here's the US Flag Code - it specifically says:

"No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform. However, a flag patch may be affixed to the uniform of military personnel, firemen, policemen, and members of patriotic organizations."

And yet the online gift shop for the U.S. Olympic Committee sells flag shirts. How about this jacket, which I have in my closet, which I bought at the gift shop at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs? How about Rocky flag shorts? Or how about this picture of the 2018 Olympics USA Flag Bearer, and this one of a 2014 USA Olympic Team Opening Ceremonies Outfit? The code says, "No part of the flag shall be used as a costume or athletic uniform" - and those aren't just flag patches!

Weekend Coaching
I've managed to keep our Thursday and Sunday Beginning Junior Classes in synch. In both classes this past week we introduced them to spin, and in particular spin serves. I always start the class by having them volunteer to try to return the serves, so they have a good idea of what's going on before I start the lecture and demo. Then, as I always do, I break out the JOOLA spinballs, which are half white, half orange, and allow beginners to see spin. This way I can demonstrate the various spins and they can see how they react on the table. For them, it's like a magician show as I do backspin serves that come back into the net, sidespin serves that curve about and hit targets, and topspin serves that jump.

Then I distribute the spin balls, one per player, and have them practice spinning the ball - spin and catch; spin and catch; spin and catch. The younger kids usually can't do this, and for them, I let them just bounce the ball up and down. After a few minutes of this, I collect the balls, demo some of the specific types of serves (forehand pendulum, forehand tomahawk, and backhand serves), and then do a recap of fast & deep serves (which we covered two weeks ago), and then give them the choice of working on spin serves or fast serves.

I told the class that there's no chance any of them would be able to serve with enough backspin to make the ball come back into the net. As always, someone proved me wrong - in this case, two kids were able to do it. One even managed a serve that bounced back over net to his side! (I was a witness, and he was only eight years old.)

On Saturday night in the Junior League (which is half league, half coaching) I worked with a number of players on doubles. In singles, a number of players were having trouble backhand looping so we did a number of league matches where players had to serve backspin, receiver pushes to backhand, and server had to backhand loop.

One kid stayed later to practice serves on Saturday night (yes, Saturday night!!!), and I worked with him for a time. He's a lefty and was working on breaking his serves wide to a righty's forehand. I pointed out that there are three versions of this he should learn - ones that double bounce short to the forehand, ones that bounce short but go off the side of the table very wide (so table is in the way if receiver tries to loop it), and ones that go very long, with a big break into the forehand. Different players have trouble with different ones, or have trouble if you vary these three.

In the advanced Talent Development Program, as usual I did lots of multiball. Then I got to work with a number of the kids on serves - that's always my favorite topic, along with tactics. One kid is developing a really good backhand serve, but was hesitant to use it as someone had told him he wasn't tall enough to do the serve. Paddlesticks!!! But there is some truth to the idea that some kids have trouble doing forehand pendulum serves until they are older - for them, it's better to start out with a forehand tomahawk serve. One kid was developing that serve so I worked with him on that for five minutes.

Portugal Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event that took place this past weekend in Lisboa, Portugal, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the article, Major Upsets at the 2019 Seamaster ITTF Portugal Open.

USATT Sad to Announce the Passing of Former National Coach Zhang Li
Here's the USATT news item. Here's the Butterfly news item. This is very sad news. I knew her pretty well from coaching camps and major tournaments. A lot of players never realized we had a coach and former player of such high level - and a great person as well. Here's a picture of her as the USA Women's Coach at the 1993 Worlds - she's front middle. (Husband and Men's Coach Li Zhenshi is back row, second from right.) Here's the non-Facebook version.

USATT Announcement Regarding Committee Invitation
Here's the USATT news item. Here's my January 28 blog on this.

USATT CEO Position Information and Job Description
Here's the USATT news item. Want to be the next USATT CEO? Here's your chance!!!

USATT Election
(I told all three candidates that I'd run links to all of their campaign items, and will run this election segment every week until the election on March 3.)

A USA Table Tennis election is taking place, with three candidate running for my current position - Mike Babuin, Bruce Liu, and Lily Yip. (As I've blogged about, I chose not to run for re-election. It's someone else's turn! I expect to stay neutral in the election.) Here is the USATT Election News Item. Here is the pertinent info from it:

  • Voting will start on February 25, 2019, and end on March 3, 2019. Voting will be on-line only.  
  • Eligible voters must have a current USATT membership that has been valid for at least 60 days prior to February 25, 2019, be in good standing with the association and be 18 or older. 
  • The ballot will be emailed to USATT members on February 25th.
  • Members should vote for only one candidate. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the eligible votes cast, then there will be a run-off election between the top two candidates who received the most votes.

Here is election info from each.




2020 USA Table Tennis Olympic Selections
USA Olympian Wang Chen created a "We the People" White House petition about the 2020 Olympic Games Athlete Selection Procedures. As I blogged on January 7, I don't agree with them either. All three of the candidates running for my position on the board are also against them. It's unlikely they'll get the 100,000 needed, but who knows. (NOTE - I put this up a few hours after the blog went up, so initial readers might not see this.)

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Samson Dubina

  • Hired! Chance Friend is the new coach at the Samson Dubina Academy
  • Look. Listen. Feel. Learn to somewhat-predict the future

New from Tom Lodziak

Develop Your Table Tennis Belief
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Times Change But Some Things Never Change
Here's the ITTF article on Vladimir Samsonov - still competing near the top at age 42!

Success Cannot Be Achieved Without Failure – Lily Zhang’s Pan American Cup Reflections
Here's the article by Lily Zhang.

Banana and Strawberry Flips
Here's the video (54 sec). The ones that go to our left are the more conventional "banana" flips, while the ones that go to our right are rarer, somewhat unconventional "strawberry" flips, so-named and popularized by Stefan Feth. (A banana flip stroke goes through the shape of a banana; for a strawberry flip, Stefan just needed another type of fruit for the name!)

Table Tennis for All
Here's the new video (38:15) from PingSkills, #272.

Paddle Du Jour
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

Final Call for Sports Science Congress Abstracts
Here's the ITTF article. "Staged immediately prior to the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, organized in conjunction with the University of Pecs and the Hungarian Table Tennis Association, the 16th ITTF Sports Science Congress will be held on Friday 19th and Saturday 20th April. The final submission of abstracts has been extended; the deadline date is Friday 8th March."

National Collegiate Table Tennis February Newsletter
Here's the new issue.

LI Table Tennis Phenom Estee Ackerman, 17, Eyeing 2020 Olympics
Here's the article from the NY Newsday.

Elite Table Tennis Athletes – How Do They Do It?
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot - with a great, colorful action drawing!

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Nine of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "International News." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Behind-the-Back Chop-Lob That Comes Back!
Here's the video (58 sec) from Arnaud Scheen!

My Dream [Table Tennis] House
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

This Ping Pong Kid Has Incredible Moves!
Here's the new video (3 min).

Three-Sided Ping-Pong
Here's the video (26 sec).

Pyramid Mini-Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

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

Zhang Jike's Insane Birthday Celebrations
Here's the video (25 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 13, 2019

Tip of the Week
Wanting to Win Versus Hating to Lose.

Pink Eye
As noted the last couple of days, I've been sick in bed with Conjunctivitis, i.e. "Pink Eye." I'm 80% over that, and no longer look like Frankenstein's monster. There's still a lot of puffiness, I'm still going through Kleenex faster than a coach can feed multiball, and I have the energy of a smooshed ping-pong ball, but I'm back in action. Alas, my stomach seems perpetuall queezy right now. 

USATT Election
A USATT election is taking place, with three candidate running for my current position - Mike Babuin, Bruce Liu, and Lily Yip. (As I've blogged about, I chose not to run for re-election. It's someone else's turn! I expect to stay neutral in the election.) Here is the USATT Election News Item. Here is the pertinent info from it:

  • Voting will start on February 25, 2019, and end on March 3, 2019. Voting will be on-line only.  
  • Eligible voters must have a current USATT membership that has been valid for at least 60 days prior to February 25, 2019, be in good standing with the association and be 18 or older. 
  • The ballot will be emailed to USATT members on February 25th.
  • Members should vote for only one candidate. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the eligible votes cast, then there will be a run-off election between the top two candidates who received the most votes.

Here is election info from each.

Mike has produced eleven videos where he covers various USATT issues. (He told me he's recorded about 30 so far, and the rest will go up regularly over the next couple of weeks.)



USATT Teleconference
USATT had a teleconference on Monday night (Feb. 11, 7PM to about 9:30PM), which will likely be my last USATT meeting. Up until a couple hours before it began I wasn't sure if would be able to attend, or at least speak in the meeting due to my voice being a croak due to "pink eye" (see above and previous blogs). But my voice miraculously cleared up late that afternoon, probably due to the antibiotics I'd started taking the day before. Here's a rough synopsis. (I think all nine board members attended, plus a number of staff and committee chairs.)

  1. After roll call, we voted to approve the minutes of the October, 2018 meeting. Normally this should have been done long ago. We were supposed to vote on it in a previous meeting, but at the time it came up, we only had four board members on the call and so didn't have a quorum. There was one major point of discussion as the minutes included mention of the discussion we had of the "Board Election, and Nominating and Governance Committee." I remember this clearly, as it pertained to me since the election is about those running for my position, and several others also remembered this. But Rajul Sheth vehemently insists we never had this discussion, and so voted against approving these minutes. (This wasn't out of the blue - we've had a copy of the draft of the minutes for months, and he brought this up long ago.)
  2. We received a written High Performance Report by HPD Jörg Bitzigeio.
  3. There was an update on the CEO search. Most likely CoGeo - the firm hired to help with the search - will send recommendations to the CEO Selection Committee in about four weeks, which will then do its own evaluation, which could take up to another six weeks. So most likely the board will be voting on the hiring of a new CEO around late April.
  4. We had a financial update. There had been financial discrepancies found in USATT accounting, likely caused from the transition from our previous accountant to our new one, Chris Mauro. The main problem pertained to something like $500,000 in entry fees received in 2017 for the 2018 World Veterans Championships, making it look like we had a huge amount of money in 2017 that was then lost over the next year. To make absolutely sure, we had hired an outside accounting firm to go over the books, which they did, and nothing nefarious was found. USATT will also have its annual outside audit, which for 2018 will come out around September. (As an accounting layman, I don't know why it takes so long, but I'm assured that's normal.) 
  5. I led a long discussion on the USATT Board Code of Conduct. There are some silly things in it, as I explained. For example, it requires board members to "support" all decisions by the board, whether they voted for them or not. The problem is that "support" has many meanings. Using Webster's, the board could "weaponize" this by insisting it meant that board members had to "defend as right" and "argue for" decisions they don't agree with. Or, as I also pointed out, we could define it as meaning "to uphold or defend as valid," which is a bit more reasonable. As I pointed out, with the current wording, if a board member is asked his opinion on a decision he disagrees with, he has to lie and say that he believes the decision is right and argue for it, or he could be found in violation of the Code of Conduct! So I proposed changing board members will "Respect and support the decisions of the board" to "Respect and uphold…" Ed Hogshead disagreed, arguing that outside of meetings, the board should speak with one voice. (He and I have a fundamental disagreement here.) I also proposed a change to the part where it says that board members shall not "be critical, in or outside of a board meeting, of other board members or their opinions." I want to take off "or their opinions." There were a few other similar items I wanted changed. However, while it looks like the board will overwhelmingly approve these changes, there were some disagreements on language. So this was set aside, and board members were directed to email their recommendations to me, board chair Anne Cribbs, and USATT attorney Dennis Taylor. (So far none have been received.) I discussed this issue at greater length in my January 14 blog, in the segment on the teleconference.
  6. We received a short report on the status of a proposed General Membership Code of Conduct.
  7. There was a long discussion about a proposed "Understanding between USATT - ITTF North America and TT Canada." Tony Kiesehofer, ITTF regional director for North America, was on the call to take questions. In simple terms, the ITTF hopes to run more events in North America.
  8. We had an executive session to discuss personnel/legal issues. I can't believe that XXXXX did XXXXX to XXXXX!!! Wow!!! :) See, if you were on the board you'd get to know all about this!
  9. We discussed a proposal to change the USATT mission statement to match the new one listed in the new USATT Strategic Priorities. Surprisingly, most of the discussion here and previously (via email and our last teleconference) was over whether to use a comma or semicolon at one part. Yeah, this was, IMHO, a Dilbert moment. It didn't affect the meaning, just the emphasis, in the opinion of some, though I don't agree. I stayed out of the discussion, though previously when asked I said it didn't matter. We voted to approve the new mission statement, with the "comma" version. So, are you on Team Comma or Team Semicolon? (Or maybe Team Previous?) You decide - here are the two"versions"; I'll let you find the change. 
    "The Mission of USATT is to support, develop, grow, and inspire the table tennis community, and to provide resources that enable athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and pursue Olympic and Paralympic success." (This was the approved version.)
    "The Mission of USATT is to support, develop, grow, and inspire the table tennis community; and to provide resources that enable athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and pursue Olympic and Paralympic success."
    =>Here was the previous Mission Statement:
    "The Mission of the USATT shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic/Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American Games, and other international competitions, and to promote and grow the sport of Table Tennis in the United States, while creating a lasting value for our members."
  10. There was a proposal by the Ethics and Grievance Committee to make several changes the bylaws to protect USATT from obvious nuisance grievances. Few people realize that USATT board and staff spent more time over about one year on one single person than the other 8000 members combined - because this person discovered that he could use loopholes to force USATT to address every single one of about 100 nuisance "grievances" he filed. He lost on every single case, but I personally spent over 110 hours on this issue, and others spent even more. (It was one of a number of reasons I decided not to run for re-election.) It was one of the biggest wastes of USATT time and resources in modern history. I was one of the ones who asked the EGC to look into fixing this problem, and I am grateful that they have done so. I agreed with all of the proposals, but several board members still had questions on some aspects and others hadn't had time to review them, and so it was tabled until next meeting. As to the changes themselves, there were several, but one in particular was a simple solution: it allowed the EGC, in consultation with the USATT attorney, to judge whether a complaint has merit rather than being forced to go through a formal hearing, etc., that forces the accused parties to spend huge amounts of time and money on their defense. A nuisance grievance may seem like something you can ignore, but if you don't defend against even baseless accusations, you could lose and you don't get a second chance.
  11. There was a short discussion of the problem of match dumping, but that'll be taken up again at a future meeting, with possible recommendations from the tournament committee.
  12. Update on the Board of Directors Election. (See segment above.)
  13. Update on Committee membership process and status. The number of people who volunteered for USATT committees was disappointing, so there is going to be another push for such volunteers. (See my January 28 blog on this, and this news item that just went up.)
  14. We had a written Foundation and Fundraising report from Carl Danner.
  15. Chief Operating Officer Mark Thompson gave a US Nationals update. Entry form was delayed as they are trying to add some new events, such as mini-cadet teams, which I hope they can fit in. (It'll likely be out next week.) The official hotel will be the Renaissance Hotel. The tournament is July 1-6 in Las Vegas.
  16. There was discussion of the upcoming USATT board meeting, March 29-31 at the ICC club in California. This will likely be the first meeting with someone taking my place on the board.

2020 USA Table Tennis Olympic Selections
USA Olympian Wang Chen created a "We the People" White House petition about the 2020 Olympic Games Athlete Selection Procedures. As I blogged on January 7, I don't agree with them either. All three of the candidates running for my position on the board are also against them. It's unlikely they'll get the 100,000 needed, but who knows. (NOTE - I put this up a few hours after the blog went up, so initial readers might not see this.)

Portugal Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event taking place now through this weekend in Lisboa, Portugal.

USATT and ITTF News Items
Rather than redundantly link to every one of their main news items, here are their news pages. I've linked directly in segments below to many of the most interesting ones.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Eli Baraty

New from EmRatThich

Creativity in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Backspin Back Through the Duct Tape
Here's the video (18 sec, with slo-mo replay) of Matt Hetherington. I tried this once and hit the tape a zillion times on the way back before I was able to get it through one time. But seriously, this type of practice is great for developing spin and serve control. Put various targets on the table and spin your serves so the ball hits them on the way back or swerves around them. (Here's a good place to link to Matt's Coaching Blog index.)

Loop, Loop, Smash Combo
Here's the video (5 sec) - a loop against backspin, a loop against block, and then a smash.

The First Episode of ITTF's Inside My Mind, Featuring Ding Ning
Here's the video (68 sec).

Timo Boll | Training 2019 Table Tennis
Here's the video (7:12).

Training with Adrien Rassenfosse
Here's the video (13:57) of the Belgium player, from Arnaud Scheen.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2019 Hungarian Open
Here's the video (6 min).

Half a Century of Playing the US Open Started in a Red Mustang and a Road Trip
Here's the USATT article featuring Homer Brown, by Richard Finn. In December Homer competed in his 50th consecutive U.S. Open. (I'm chasing him - I've been to every Open and Nationals since 1984 - 35 in row for both - and every North American Teams (previously called the U.S. Open Teams) since 1976 - 43 in a row.

Royals Induct Former Broadcasters Into Wall of Honor
Here's the article on USATT Chief Operating Officer Mark Thompson as he is inducted into the Reading Royals (hockey team) Wall of Honor.

WAB Featured Club: Han-In Table Tennis Club
Here's the article on this New Jersey club, by Steve Hopkins.

Boston Bruins’ Pucks & Paddles Raises $119,000
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Eight of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "Reader's Views." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Let's Get More Females Playing Table Tennis!
Here's the USATT video (2:15), featuring Lily Zhang and Wu Yue.

Table Tennis, Best Of
Here's the video (7:33).

Table Tennis - "Never Give Up!"
Here's the video (5:41).

2018 Table Tennis Year Review
Here's the video (5:12) from Pong Universe.

Enter the Snake: Twist of Fury
Here's the video (2:45) featuring Adam Bobrow. It's pretty hilarious - why don't more players use this shot? My guess is it'd be pretty effective up to perhaps the 2000 level, and sometimes beyond that! You should be able to read the bounce of the ball by the way it's spinning in the air toward you, but since you are not used to seeing this shot, few players can react correctly. Strong players who are nimble on their feet and don't react prematurely can adjust at the last second after seeing the bounce - but it's tricky!

Table Tennis Challenge w/ Timo Boll | Müller vs. Hummels
Here's the video (14 min) - I'm not sure what's going on as it's in German, but it has Timo Boll, and involves "around the table" play and some sort of challenge match. Presumably Müller and Hummels are some sort of celebrities? Comment below if you have any idea of what's going on.

Sunny Bunnies Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon video (31:52, with the first 3.5 minutes featuring table tennis)!

Space and Table Tennis
Here's the cartoon!

Crazy Funny Table Tennis Ping Pong
Here's the video (2:19)!

The Funniest Moments of Table Tennis 2018
Here's the video (23:59)!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 11, 2019

TUESDAY MORNING UPDATE - I need at least one more day off. I'm 50-50 about doing the blog tomorrow or just waiting until the next one on Monday. My voice is mostly back and so I was able to attend the USATT board teleconference last night. Left eye got better, now both eyes look only slightly reddish and saggy. Strangely, the infection seems to have moved into my lower left lip, which is now swelling and puffing out like a cartoonish snarl. I'm still going though Kleenex like former world #1 Mikael Appelgren used to go through sponge. (He was known for changing the sponge on both sides of his racket before every match.) About every half hour I go into a hacking fit as I cough up strange looking stuff. I may do an emergency supermarket run today for Kleenex and soup. Meanwhile, here's a new video: Never Give Up! (5:41).


Alas, I've come down pretty sick with Conjunctivitis, i.e. pink eye. It's an almost cartoonish name and I didn't know anything about it until yesterday. I came down with what I thought was a cold early last week. On Saturday morning my left eye was literally crusted shut, and all red and puffy. It was also spreading to my right eye. I was coughing up green stuff and going through boxes of Kleenex. My voice was down to a croak and my throat is on fire. Making things worse, I had to run the MDTTC February Open this weekend. On Sunday early afternoon I finally left and saw a doctor - at that point I looked like Frankenstein's monster. Assistant Director Klaus Wood took over, with help from Greg Mascialiano and half a dozen of our local juniors, who are great at data input.

I went to Medical Access, which is open seven days/week. After examining my eyes, ears, and throat, the doctor's exact words were, "Wow! It's spread everywhere." (Both eyes, both ears, sinuses, throat, lungs.) I'm now on what she called the strongest antibiotics available and some sort of anti-bacterial eye drops. So . . . does anyone want to come over and shake my hand?

Here are the results of the JOOLA MDTTC February Open - and now I'm going back to bed. (UPDATE - the ratings were processed already on Monday afternoon.) No blog today, and I'll wait until tomorrow to see if I can do it then. We have a USATT Teleconference tonight at 7PM. I'll probably attend, but my voice will be pretty bad. And here's a new Table Tennis, Best Of video (7:33).

February 4, 2019

Tip of the Week
Straighten the Belt, and the Rest Falls into Place.

Weekend Coaching
In the Thursday Beginning Junior Class, we introduced the players to fast, deep serves, using the same method I'd used previously: I put a water bottle on all four corners of each table, and a piece of string across the table about ten inches from the end-line. The players then tried to serve and hit the bottles where the first bounce was past the string. We also did a recap on forehands and backhands. We then finished with the usual games - up-down tables for the older ones, build and then knock down pyramids of cups for the younger players.

In the Sunday Beginning Junior Class, we focused on footwork, and demoed most of the main types. Near the end of the training segment we had a forehand-to-forehand contest, where they tried to see how many they could get in a row. (I think the high-score was 82.) We finished with the same games as the Thursday class.

In the Talent Development Program on Sunday (advanced juniors), we did lots of multiball training, and then a number of table drills, followed by physical training with various ladder drills. We finished with Brazilian teams. One of the players surprised me by his improvement - when we chose up teams, I thought he was one of the weakest, but he started by scoring the first six points in a row, and was consistently the best player the rest of the game. He practices regularly with his dad, a 2000 player, and is moving up fast. Another player surprised me with how good his serves are getting. I told him I could see he had been practicing them, and he pleasantly surprised, but couldn't figure out how I knew, at first thought I must have been spying on him! I explained that a coach can always tell if someone has been practicing their serves by how much their serves are improving!!!

JOOLA MDTTC February Open
I'll be running the tournament next weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Events often fill up by Thursday or even Wednesday, so enter early! Most events have a 24-player limit. Use the Omnipong link and enter online!!!

I probably did at least 30 hours of pure volunteer work this past week. Something has to give - it's just way too much, on top of all the other things I do. (This is one of the reasons I decided not to run for re-election on the USATT board or continue as coaching chair, with both of my terms ending around March 1.) I spent my week:

  • Editing the first draft of the USA Nationals entry form (8 pages). It'll likely be out by Feb. 15.
  • Creating the MDTTC February Newsletter. 
  • Updating the USATT coaching tests, which not only are out of date (they still have USATT Magazine listed as a USATT benefit and other things like that), but to my horror I found that some of the answers on the answer key aren't correct, and some of the questions misleading. (I inherited this - who knows how long it's been like this.) So I had to go through the 20 questions each on the Instructor, Club, and State coaching tests and do updates. Also, USATT had lost the originals, so I had to copy from PDF versions and then reformat. We are working to get away from using such open-book written tests as part of coaching certification. We have been using the ITTF coaching certification process, but USATT is also working on developing our own Coaching Education and Certification Process. I was involved with this at the start, working with HPD Jörg Bitzigeio, but he's taking the lead on this, and we hope to have something within a year.
  • Reading and emailing with USATT board members on various issues, such as the U.S. Olympic Selection Procedures and on Fund-raising. I was more active in the Olympic Selection Procedures discussion previously, but I've had my say and for now am mostly out of it. As I blogged about previously, it's not even a board decision since the High Performance Committee makes these decisions.
  • A bunch of time helping one of our coaches with college homework.
  • Working on a feature article on a Chinese coach who needs the article to help with his visa.
  • Updating and printing hundreds of flyers for MDTTC. (Many changes and updates.)
  • Updating, uploading, and printing flyers for the upcoming Hopes tournament at MDTTC.
  • Cleaning the Newgy robot at MDTTC.
  • Sorting through the 96 trophies just ordered and received for the five MDTTC tournaments this upcoming year to make sure all are correct. (Technically this isn't volunteer, since I get paid to run tournaments, but I actually have someone taking over starting in April, so it's mostly volunteer now. Training begins next weekend at the MDTTC February Open - see above. I've run 204 USATT sanctioned tournaments, it's someone else's turn!)
  • Reviewing the latest draft of a possible letter to the ITTF on enforcing the service rule.
  • Reviewing the latest draft of my recommended changes to the USATT board code of conduct, which I hope we can vote in the Feb. 11 teleconference, likely my last meeting as a board member.
  • The weekly blog and tip of the week.
  • A myriad of other small issues and emails that add up, and allow me to use the rarely used word "myriad."

USATT Election
I'm not planning on taking sides in the upcoming USATT election, where three powerful table tennis people are in a Game-of-Thrones Battle-to-the-End No-Holds-Barred Punching Extravaganza over who will get the At-Large position I currently hold on the USATT Board of Directors. (Okay, I made most of that up and they all get along fine, but they are running for the position.) The three running for the position are Mike Babuin, Bruce Liu, and Lily Yip. All have long and extensive table tennis backgrounds. I'll link to their online election items as they come up. There should be a USATT news item on this soon. If you are an adult USATT member, you will receive the ballots, presumably sometime this month. Here are some election links that just went up.

  • Mike Babuin put out a video, Episode 1: Strategic Priorities (11:37), and said he plans to put out such videos regularly this month. (Here's the Facebook version, where you can discuss the video if you are on Facebook.) I agree with most of what he says in the video - I made many of the same arguments about the Strategic Priorities. (One small clarification - Gordon resigned as USATT CEO as of Dec. 1, 2018.)
  • Lily Yip has a news item on her running for the USATT board, which includes a link to her Campaign Statement. She's here in Maryland for a psychology seminar. She will be stopping by MDTTC this afternoon to watch our afterschool program.

Key Positions Advertised at the International Table Tennis Federation
Here's the ITTF news item. Here are current open positions - yes, YOU can work for the ITTF!!!

  • World Ranking Manager
  • Regional Director – Latin America
  • ITTF Foundation – Field Programs Coordinator
  • ITTF-ETTU Competition Manager
  • Website Editors
  • Senior Web Developer
  • Database Administrator

JOOLA Sponsors Maryland Table Tennis Center
Here's the news item on my home club. Butterfly was the MDTTC club sponsor since it opened in 1992, but JOOLA, which has been sponsoring the Talent Development Junior Program that trains at MDTTC, is now the club's official sponsor, as of Feb. 1. I'm still sponsored by Butterfly.  

2019 Pan Am Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held this past weekend (Feb. 1-3) in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, with results, articles, video, and pictures. USA's Kanak Jha won silver in Men's Singles, losing the final to world #6 Hugo Calderano of Brazil, 2, -12, 3,8,10. USA's Wu Yue won Bronze in Women's Singles. Here are some links.

2019 Europe Top 16 Cup
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Montreux, Switzerland, with results, articles, video, and pictures. SPOILER ALERT - Congrats to Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER), who won deuce in the seventh over Vladimir Samsonov (BEL), while Petrissa Solja (GER) came back from down 1-3 to win in seven against Bernadette Szocs (ROU). Here are three articles by Steve Hopkins:

Table Tennis Serve - Where Should the Ball Bounce on Your Side of the Table?
Here's the video (4:24) by Eli Baraty.

Backhand Loop Against Backspin
Here's the video (60 sec) by Heming Hu.

How to Prevent Injuries When Playing Table Tennis
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Brazil's Standout Champion is Pushing the Boundaries: Interview with Hugo Calderano
Here's the interview with the world #6 from Brazil, by Matt Hetherington.

Hugo Calderano Training
Here's the video (34 sec). Great angle. Note the placements - he's going mostly to the forehand and middle here. Here's the world #6 from Brazil (the highest ranked South American player ever), and just won Men's Singles at the Pan Am Cup over USA's Kanak Jha. Now you see what Kanak was facing!

Liu Guoliang Clear the Air on Ma Long's Current Situation
Here's the article with links to video.

New from Lily Zhang

New from Samson Dubina

New from Steve Hopkins

TTTeam USA ITTF World Ranking Report - February 2019
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis Culture in Belgium
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Extrospection in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Baggaley on Top of World Again
Here's the article on Andrew Baggaley winning the ping pong world championships for the third time. (That's a $100,000 tournament with sandpaper rackets.) Here's the home page for the event, which I linked to last week.

Thanh Banh Memorial Open
Here's the article and lots of videos.

Smash Ping Pong Bar Opens on Long Island
Here's the article and video (52 sec) from NY Newsday.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Seven of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "Annual US Table Tennis Youth Cup, 1996." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Windy City LIVE -- Amazing Kids: Table Tennis Superstars
Here's the video (5:50) featuring Sid and Nandan Naresh.

Jim Butler at the Dynamic Sports Training 3rd Annual Ping Pong for Charity
Here's the video (6:52). Others there (besides 4-time U.S. Men's Champion and Olympian Butler) include Houston Astros 1st Baseman Tyler White and Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey.

Pong on the Promenade
Here's the video (1:42). Toward the end a dinosaur shows up!

Truls Möregårdh and Alex Naumi Battling on a Rather Large Table
Here's the video (35 sec) of the two stars from Sweden and Finland. It must be a hot day!

Chinese Mini-Pong Training
Here's the video (11 sec)! Can you name the players?

The Ping-Pong Man
Scott Preiss is The Ping-Pong Man. Here's a new video (69 sec) featuring him by Jim Butler. "Scott Preiss "The Ping Pong Man" is the most entertaining man in table tennis. Just recently in a tournament, he made one of the most amazing shots in table tennis. (Jim also shows this in his video.) I'm not sure what the odds are of pulling this shot off, but it's close to impossible because Scott has to guess his opponent is going to the exact spot he attempts the acrobatic shot, and all the timing must happen perfectly. What a shot!"

The Ping Pong Kid Has New Moves!
Here's the video (3 min), from George Takei Presents.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 28, 2019

Tip of the Week
Progressive Drills to Improve Your Rallying Skills.

Invitation to Members Interested in Committee Service
Here's the USATT news item. There are 17 USATT Committees. (Some are currently vacant and so are not listed.) The USATT news item gives a description of what each committee does. Here are the Super 17:

  • Classic Table Tennis Committee
  • Clubs Committee
  • Coaching Committee
  • Ethics and Grievance Committee
  • High Performance Committee
  • Juniors Committee
  • Leagues Committee
  • Membership Development Committee
  • Nominating and Governance Committee
  • Para High Performance Committee
  • Resource Development Committee
  • Rules Committee
  • Selection Committee
  • Technology Committee
  • Tournaments Committee
  • Umpires' and Referees' Committee
  • Veterans Committee

So why would you want to serve on a USATT Committee? Other than that it's much more fun than jamming a red-hot poker down your throat while dancing on a ping-pong table in the vacuum of outer space? Well, it's either serve on a committee or go practice, and we all know how hard it is to practice.

Many people complain about USATT, but few actually step in to help out. This is your chance to not only help out, but you can get your "I can now complain about USATT without being a lazy hypocrite" membership card. There's a good chance you are an "expert," or at least reasonably knowledgeable, about one of these 17 areas. Take your pick!!!

I've served my time, many times over. Besides being on the USATT Board of Directors, I've chaired the Coaching Committee the last two years, as well as from 1991-95. (My terms for both expire around March 1, and then I'm free to practice and swallow red-hot pokers while dancing on a ping-pong table in the vacuum of outer space. I've told USATT powers-that-be that I don't want to chair any more committees, though I may consider staying on the Coaching Committee.) I've also chaired the League Committee, Club Committee, and Resident Training Program Committee, and have been a member of the Junior, Senior, Grassroots, and Ratings Committees, as well as a member of the Coaching and Club Committees when I wasn't chair.

Much of committee work is setting or recommending policy. Other times the committee takes the lead in an activity. Some of them work closely with the full-time staff members. For example, the High Performance Committee, Coaching Committee, and Junior Committee all work closely with the USATT High Performance Director.

Committee work can be both greatly rewarding and terribly frustrating. Some of my favorite moments in table tennis have been when something from a committee became a reality that changed the course of USATT history, and with no red-hot pokers involved. We did some ground-breaking stuff in my first term as coaching chair and when I chaired the club committee. You can do the same. If you have some great idea you want to work on and develop, here's your chance!

There have been down moments as well. Once, in a USATT Strategic Meeting, we broke up into smaller groups to focus on specific areas. I was in the Full-Time Training Centers group with five others. (So technically, this wasn't committee work, but it was the same thing.) At the time there were only about five such full-time training centers in the country, the first of which was the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which I co-founded in 1992 and still coach at. I'd created a successful model that was copied by others, and I could see the future was in such centers. (I was right - there are now 94 full-time training centers that I know of.) So I could reasonably say I was an "expert" on the topic. So what happened? One person took over the meeting. We could barely get a word in as this one person, who had never run a full-time center or even a club, and literally had no idea what he was talking about, went on and On and ON about what we had to do. When I managed to get a few words in pointing out some realities that contradicted his world-view, it only got him more assertive. I finally sat back and gave up, and only sort of listened as the four others bickered with him for 60 minutes. When we reported back to the main group, the Type A Personality who had taken over the meeting gave a report on his views, and I then pointed out that these were his views, and that the others in the group had very differing views. It was a wasted meeting and a wasted opportunity.

Don't be that person.

On the other hand, I've been in committee meetings where people came prepared, they respectfully listened when others spoke, they discussed various experiences, ideas, and visions for the sport, we came up with great plans and policy, and unicorns nuzzled our hands and we played ping-pong with angels.

Be those people.

Weekend Coaching
It was a rather "easy" weekend as two of the three group sessions did season-ending practice tournaments. For these two, I ran part of the tournament while observing the players. We also had the season-ending part for the Talent Development Program, where awards were given, much food was eaten, and the kids got to play table tennis without any adult supervision, often with mini-paddles and hardbats, and with their own rules. Here's the group picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) You can see me in the back in the light blue shirt with a white stripe on the sleeves, toward the left.)

In the Beginning Class on Wednesday, we did forehand and backhand review, and started some on side-to-side footwork. However, the focus was on deep serves. Before the session began I cut twelve five-foot pieces of string. I also brought in a case of water bottles and a ruler. I put 24 water bottles on the four corners of six tables. Then I put the string across the end of each table, ten inches from the end-line. Then, after a demo, they spent ten minutes trying to serve and hit the bottle, with the first bounce past the string. (In the demo, I kept asking the kids if they thought I could hit the bottle, and three times we bet push-ups. I hit the bottle all three times. Our kids will have superior upper-body strength due to my serving accuracy. I can hit a bottle on the far corner probably 80% of the time with my normal forehand pendulum fast serve. ) As usual, we finished with games, with the older kids playing up-down tables while the younger ones did various target practice games, mostly involving stacked cups.

Upcoming International Events

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event held in Budapest, Jan. 15-20. (I linked to it last week.) Here are three new links:

Japanese Championships
Here are two articles and video of the men's final. (Note - in the original posting there were two incorrect links that went to articles on the Japanese Championships in 2017, which led to an incorrect summary of results.)

$100,000 World Ping-Pong Championships
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in London, where they players use sandpaper rackets. Congrats to Andrew Baggaley (ENG), who defeated defending champion Wang Shibo (CHN) in the final to win for the third time.

2019 US Table Tennis Hall of Fame Nominations Open
Here's the USATT news item by Hall of Fame Chair Sean O'Neill.

The Tactical Mindset: Post-Tournament Analysis
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "Just like any other table tennis skills, developing a tactical mindset takes discipline."

How Long Does It Take to Become a Pro at Table Tennis?
Here's the article by EmRatThich. "Let's learn the secret to be a very good player in table tennis."

Table Tennis Balls
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "How important are table tennis balls and do the characteristics and different ball companies, truly affect your game?"

Beyond Stereotypes
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Every now and then a lightning bolt of an idea strikes."

Four Killer Serves to Destroy Your Opponents
Here's the video (11:37) with Craig Bryant, from Tom Lodziak.

Backhand Serve Deception
Here's the video (16:35, in Japanese, with English subtitles).

"Ghost Serves" by Patrick Franziska
Here's the video (17 sec) of the world #15 from Germany as he does backspin serves that bounce back into the net.

Kanak Jha, Aiming to Add to Pan American Success
Here's the ITTF article. "Winner last year of the boys’ singles title at the Pan American Junior Championships in Santo Domingo, four months later the same record of success at the senior version in Santiago; even though only 18 years old Kanak Jha of the United States heads the challenge from north of the border at the forthcoming Universal 2019 ITTF Pan America Cup."

Kumar's Table Tennis Passion Lifting Him to New Heights
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "When it comes to the battlefield of life, Navin Kumar is a warrior. The Bionic Man has faced more than his share of challenges, but has the attitude of a winner and a big passion for the sport of table tennis." (I was Navin's coach until I hurt my shoulder last year. He has Parkinson's and a partially artificial heart.)

Japanese Table Tennis Star Ai Fukuhara Awarded
Here's the article.

Table Tennis to Feature at Paris 2024 Paralympic Games
Here's the ITTF article.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Five and Chapter Six of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. They are subtitled "The Old and the New" and "March - April Tournaments." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Sofia Polcanova | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (4:42) with the world #16 from Austria and Adam Bobrow.

2018 Pan American Junior Championships - Sharon Alguetti Highlights
Here's the video (4:15).

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

Wausau Table Tennis Club Breathes New Life into Wausau Center Mall
Here's the article and video (2:38) on this Wisconsin club.

Time to Bounce: The Port City Ping Pong Throw Down is Back
Here's the article and videos featuring the Wilmington TTC in North Carolina.

The Jolly Green Giant Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:45)! Also playing is his apprentice, The Little Green Sprout.

Novak Djokovic Plays Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:14)! He uses both a ping-pong paddle and a tennis racket; hits under his leg; imitates John McEnroe; and demonstrates "The Fantasma"!

Trump Shuts down USA Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:06)! (Can you figure out who he is? Hint - he's rated about 2000, has been rated as high as 2387.)

Non-Table Tennis - "Christmas GI Joes"
The story just went up at Factor Four Magazine. (Alas, you have to buy a subscription to read it.) What happens when there is an alien invasion, and there's only one person with the distribution system to get the needed weapons to everyone to defend Earth? He didn't want to do it, but after calls from the presidents of every major country begging for his help, Santa Claus gave in and instead of toys, distributed AK-47's and Glocks to the world on Christmas eve. . . and one other thing.

Send us your own coaching news!

January 21, 2019

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

Sunday Coaching
I ran two group sessions on Sunday. The first was Week #2 of this season's Beginning Junior Class. (Lidney Castro and Aron Zhang are assistant coaches, with Todd Klinger a practice partner.) We did forehand review for 20 minutes, and then the focus was on the backhand. As usual, we finished with games, with half the class playing "King of the Table" (no girls there so we can use the "King" title), and the other half (the younger kids) building the usual pyramids and walls out of paper cups on the table and then knocking them down as I fed multiball.

The advanced junior program at MDTTC is the Talent Development Program, which is run by the HW Global Foundation, using mostly MDTTC coaches. Normally John Hsu runs groups 3-4, but he was out of town this weekend so I ran them. It was mostly a multiball session, where we went through a series of nine different drills. Most of the groups were of three, where one player did the drill while the other two stood behind, shadow-stroking and shadow-moving. Then we did ten minutes of serve practice, and then Brazilian Teams. Then we had a big meeting, where the 30+ kids voted for "Best Teammate." I've never been thrilled with this type of vote as those who don't get votes may feel left out, and it's basically a popularity contest between the stronger kids. But the winners here were deserving - Stanley Hsu came in first, Stefanie Zhang second, Hanfei Hu third.

Afterwards the coaches, as usual, went out for dinner where we discussed the players. I excitedly told them about one of the players in the Beginning Class who likely will be in the Talent Program soon. And there are other possible ones as well. One six-year-old already mimics the top players in his stance and strokes, and it won't be long before he develops consistency to go with that.

USATT Statement on 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures
Here's the USATT statement. I blogged about the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures extensively in my Jan. 7 blog, and more in my Jan. 14 blog (about the USATT teleconference). I am not happy with these Procedures, nor was I too happy with one part of the USATT Statement. (I'll get to that.) However, there's not a whole lot that can be done about the Procedures. According to the USATT Bylaws, the responsibilities of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC) include:

9.16.c.1: Approve selection Procedures or other policies as needed for national teams and international events, or the operation of the High Performance Program

So even if the USATT board were to vote against this, it would be meaningless as the bylaws make it clear the HPC has this authority, not the USATT board. (Changing that would require a bylaw change, which requires 2/3 of the board, which has zero chance of happening.) As I noted before, I'm on the USATT board and never saw these procedures until after they were published.

The HPC seems pretty set on staying with the current procedures, even though it means there's a good chance that we might end up with four out of six members of the 2020 Olympic Team selected by committee. I've already blogged about that and am not going to rehash it here. (If you do have questions or comments, you should politely contact USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio and/or the HPC - see the USATT Committee listing.)

Here's the part about the USATT statement above that bothered me. It includes the following statement: "…those raising concerns would prefer that more, or all of the team positions be filled by the Olympic Trial result only." (I bolded the word "only.")  I want to make it absolutely clear that this is NOT what I've argued for, and that the USATT response is NOT a response to what I've argued for.

This same statement was made in the USATT teleconference on Monday last week, and I very vehemently explained that this was NOT what I (and many others) have been pushing for – the word "only" completely changes the meaning of the USATT statement. In my blog, for example, I wrote:

"But if we believe they [top USA players] are good enough to have earned their spots, doesn't that imply they have earned that right by showing they are medal contenders by their international performance? So why not simply put it in the pre-qualifying rules that whatever it is they did to earn that right means they pre-qualify?"

I also wrote:

"I envision a future where we have trials for only one spot because the other spots are all taken by players who prequalify by being medal contenders. But we haven't reached that spot yet."

What I have argued for is that, if we get six players (3 men, 3 women), that at most only one player per team be selected by committee. That leaves two spots on each team by pre-qualifiers AND Trials, and we could adjust the pre-qualifier rules so we are assured that our best players make the team. They would, of course, likely be selected anyway by the committee, but this gives the committee more leeway in the final selection, including taking doubles into account. At no time did I say anything like "Olympic Trial result only."

I emailed the four signees to the letter, and I was assured that the USATT Statement was NOT a response to me, but to the numerous others who have voiced objections. I just don't think that the "only" part of the USATT statement accurately reflects the arguments made by a lot of people, including me. It's only one word, but it dramatically changes the meaning of the statement.   

USA Table Tennis Sets New Strategic Direction Through to 2024
Here's the new USATT Strategic Priorities. Originally this was the USATT Strategic Plan, but I pointed out that in its current state, there are no plans, just a listing of priorities and goals, and I refused to vote for it. So it was renamed "USATT Strategic Priorities." I do commend those who put in the time in coming up with these. However, I have misgivings on two areas here. First, listing priorities and goals are extremely easy; creating implementable plans to achieve them is the hard part. Many think we've accomplished a lot here, but it's like taking the first step up Mount Everest and then celebrating. In my mind, nothing has been accomplished until we actually have plans to implement. Second, there are too many things listed, practically a laundry list of priorities. It would be better to focus on fewer and do them well. (I blogged about past USATT Strategic Meetings in my Oct. 29, 2018 blog. So far - and let me emphasize the so far - they are falling into the exact same traps as all past USATT Strategic Meetings. I'm assured this time it will be different, but I was also assured that in past ones when I raised the exact same objections as I have done here. C'mon, let's break the cycle!)

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event this past weekend Budapest, Jan. 15-20, with results, news, video, and pictures. Here's the Day Four review (1:42), covering the finals.

ITTF-PTT Level 1 Coaching Course: March 18-22, 2019, Tigard, Oregon
Here's the USATT info page.

New from Matt Hetherington

New from Tom Lodziak

New from EmRatThich

Why Having a Table Tennis Coach is So Important
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Barrier Forehand Coaching Technique
Here's the video (43 sec) as Gary Fraiman uses a barrier to get a student to stroke forward and up, to put topspin on the ball.

Jim Butler Interviews Timothy Wang, Daryl Morey, and Niraj Oak
Here's the video (3:51).

Serendipitous Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "If serendipity is a chance occurrence in a happy or beneficial way, table tennis appears to be a very serendipitous sport. Even if you remove all the nets and edges, there are times when players are just in the right place at the right time."

Ma Long Injury "more serious than expected"
Here's the ITTF article. "Over five months have passed since Ma Long last completed a match of international Table Tennis: his round of 32 defeat to Liam Pitchford at the ITTF World Tour Bulgaria Open on 16 August 2018." … "When Ma Long injured his knee last year, at first he did not realise that it was especially serious. He thought that he would be able to make a quick recovery."

Sharath Kamal
Here are two articles about and by the great Indian champion.

New from Steve Hopkins

National Collegiate Table Tennis January Newsletter
Here it is.

A Ping-Pong Robot at CES 2019 Made Me Wonder: Could I Go Pro?
Here's the article. "CNET's Katie Collins gets a glimpse of the elite sporting career she might have had."

Three Month Suspension for Zhou Yu
Here's the ITTF article on the world #61 (previously #11) from China.

Jamaica Building a Base for High Performance
Here's the ITTF article by Richard McAfee.

Raising the Bar to Reign Supreme
Here's the article by Johnathan Humbles on Canadian stars Eugene Wang & Mo Zhang in Mixed Doubles at the Canadian Championships.

Picture This: Willy Leparulo's View at the US Open
Here's the article.

LRTTC 2019 Winter Giant Round Robin
Here's the article and pictures by Mike Lauro.

Table Tennis Tidbits #42: Stockholm Syndrome 11-1—4-18
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter Four, subtitled, "Readership offered two magazines." (The second option? Table Tennis World, a new independent magazine I started that lasted three issues.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Jimmy Pelletier Takes a Ping-Pong Bath
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Adam Bobrow vs TableTennisDaily's Dan!
Here's the video (14:54).

ITTF Table Tennis Stars do the 10 Year Challenge!
Here's the ITTF video (53 sec)!

Crazy Roller by Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (24 sec, with slo-mo instant replay). The best part is the expressions on their faces! (Fan of China is world #1; Simon Gauzy of France is world #32, but was as high as #8 in March of 2018.)

Bowling Pin Pong
Here's the video (32 sec) - they make good targets!

Literal Table Tennis
Here's the video (20 sec) of playing table tennis . . . with a table!

Jean-Philippe Gatien Having Fun at a Ping-Pong Bar!
Here's the video (44 sec) of the 1993 World Men's Singles Champion goofing off.

Music Ping-Pong Show
Here's the video (3:39), featuring French stars Jacques Secrétin, Patrick Renversé, Francois Farout, Patrick Mozola, and Jean-Marc Boiteux.

Non-Table Tennis - My 100th Science Fiction Sale!
Last week I sold my 100th short story! "Confederate Cavalry on a Plane" sold to the Space Opera Libretti anthology, which will come out this fall. It's a humorous SF romp through physics, time, and alternate universes, about a physicist on a Boeing 737 who claims that, with essentially infinite universes, anything you can imagine happens somewhere. So his student bets him there is no universe where there are Confederate cavalry running down the plane's aisle. Um . . . yes there is! The story is 4700 words long, about 22 pages double spaced. (Sorry, no table tennis.) I've also sold four novels. Here's my science fiction page.

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