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Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each! Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational ficiton, 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!

November 3, 2016

High-Toss Backspin Serves Lead to Misreads
Yesterday during practice games with a student at the end of a session I pulled something on him that I used to do in tournaments – I pulled out the super-charged high-toss forehand pendulum backspin serve. By throwing the ball up higher, I'm able to get more backspin on the ball, and so opponents tend to put the ball in the net. It does take practice to graze the ball since it is moving faster at contact – you almost have to scoop it with a very open racket – but it really can make a difference by increasing the spin. However, if that's all one does, it's doesn't put much pressure on the opponent – they can adjust.

Instead, to raise the level of trickery up a notch, I also raise my elbow for the serve, even hunching my right shoulder up slightly. This gave the serve even more of a pendulum look, with the racket seemingly going more sideways, and so it looks like there's more sidespin. But the reality is that if you contact the ball on the downswing, and then vigorously go across after contact, it looks very sidespinny. The combination of this, and the extra backspin from the high toss, leads to a steady barrage of returns in the net. The actual serve, the way I do it, is probably 1/8 sidespin, 7/8 backspin. But receivers see it as the reverse, as a light backspin with lots of sidespin. (When I go for a pure backspin, I get more backspin, but it's too obvious to the opponent, and so less effective.)

This is especially effective against players who try to flip serve after serve, often with backhand flips. They simply aren't expecting that much backspin, and the sideways motion of the serve tricks them further.

However, to raise the level of trickery up still another notch, any time the receiver seems to figure the serve out, that's when you throw the no-spin version at them by contacting the ball near the handle. Watch them pop it up! And now that they are a bit uncertain about the spin, you go back to backspin, and watch it plop down into the net.

And you can raise the level of trickery up still another notch by moving the serve around, to both the forehand and backhand. You can also vary the depth. Your goal isn't just to win the point – it's to get that look of puzzled consternation on your opponent's face  as he struggles to figure things out, allowing you to dominate on your serve. (This should probably be a Tip of the Week – perhaps later.)

Here's my article The Decline of the High-Toss Serve and Why You Should Learn It.

Excuse Monsters: Learn about taking the blame
Here's the article from Samson Dubina.

The Most Successful Olympic Athlete of All Time
Here's the article, where the writer has Paralympics and Olympics confused! The article says, "Natalia also won Gold at the Olympics in Athens, Beijing and London – making this her fourth consecutive gold medal in 4 Olympic games. No table tennis player ever has achieved her success." Natalia Partyka has won four straight gold medals at the Paralympics, not the Olympics. She did represent Poland at the Olympics, the first Paralympian to do so (she is missing her right hand and forearm), but of course the Chinese win all the gold medals there. Here's the Wikipedia entry on Natalia, including her medal record. (I've emailed about this, and perhaps the article will be corrected by the time you see this.)
ADDENDUM: I was asked to correct the article, so an updated version should be up soon. 

Shadow Practice Training Music Video in China
Here's the video (15:15). I may have linked to a version of this once before, but this version just went up.

Bench-Jumping Pong
Here's the video (34 sec) of a rather unique type of table tennis training.

New Belgium Blue Paddle Beer – Real Beer Pong?
Here's the picture – with a worn-out blue hardbat paddle! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Chicago Cubs Ping-Pong Paddles and Grown-Up Cubs
Here's the picture – I hear they did something last night? This is what happens when one of those Cubs grows up and takes up table tennis.

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November 2, 2016

The Backhand Game Leads to Immediate Improvement
While coaching Daniel yesterday (he recently turned 12, is about 1700) I pointed out that when we go backhand-to-backhand, he keeps backing up, backhand looping over and over, but too soft to be really effective. He can also play it closer to the table, but is losing the knack as he simply likes backing up. How to get across to him how this was less effective? The Backhand Game!

For this I normally put a box on each side of the table, cutting off all but the backhand part of the table, so that each player covers about 40% of the table, backhand only. (The box is angled so the left side parallels the incoming ball.) We only had one box handy, and so rather than run up front to get a second one, I used my towel on my side – works just as well as a box. And then we went at it.

The rules are simple – I always serve, a straight topspin serve diagonally to his backhand. Then we go at it, backhand to backhand. No backspin or lobbing allowed. While the immediate goal is to win, the real goal is to have vicious rallies, where we bang it out ten to twenty or more times per rally. I've done this with many students, and it really leads to that.

But Daniel has been getting soft on the backhand, and when he does attack with it, he's gotten a bit erratic and jerky. Result? I won game #1, 11-1. Game #2 was the same, 11-2. All I'm doing is blocking, sometimes counter-hitting harder, but he can't maintain a rally. Game #3 is 11-0. I'm on him to be more consistently aggressive – stop playing soft or going for all-out winners, that there's a middle ground, that the rallies need to be bang-bang, where we press each other without actually trying wild shots. I can see he's trying, and in game #4 there's some improvement – I win 11-5.

But now he's getting it, that he has to fight to win long rallies, and be willing to go at it as long as necessary. Helped by a couple nets and edges, he pulls out to a lead in game #5. I fight back, and we're finally starting to go at it. It's 8-all, I go up 9-8, and then, somehow, someway, he's up 9-10 game point. I deuce it – and he goes up 10-11. I deuce it one more time, 11-all . . . and then, me, being the Grinch, I pulled it out, 13-11. But he's finally figuring it out. We're going to do this a lot more in future sessions. One other aftermath – we followed this with an improvised game where he serves backspin to my backhand, I push to his backhand, and he loops, usually backhand, sometimes forehand, and then POP (play out point). I always win this game – until now, where he wins the first time out, often following his loops with hammering backhands (care of The Backhand Game), except now he can put them anywhere on the table.

Why Blocking is a Vital Table Tennis Skill
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

How to Do Backhand Drive
Here's the new video (3:32). No coaching, just one player hitting backhands the entire time, but with good technique.

2016 World Cadet Challenge Photos & Results
Here are USA photos and results.

Amy Wang Captures North Americas First Gold Ever at World Cadet Challenge
Here's the article on Amy Wang teaming with Cho Daeseong of South Korea to win gold in Mixed Doubles at the World Cadet Challenge.

Athletes of the Month – October
Here's the article and pictures of Amy Wang, Sharon Alguetti, and Victor Liu.

2016 US Open Doubles Finder
Here's where you can find a doubles partner. Here's the U.S. Open home page.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 6! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

USA Table Tennis Offers Official Apology to Elaine Walquist
Here is the letter, plus pictures and video.

22nd Butterfly Cape Fear Tournament
Here's the USATT article.

Table Tennis Star Points
Here are three new videos from the ITTF.

Aerial Pong?
Here's the new table tennis art from Mike Mezyan. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Table Tennis Ninja
Here's the video (9 sec)!

Netless Around-the-Table Pot Pong
Here's the video (16 sec)!

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November 1, 2016

Tip of the Week
How Do You Win and Lose Points?

World Fantasy Convention
This does have a table tennis connection – USATT had two representatives at the World Fantasy Convention, which was held this past weekend, Oct. 27-30, Thur-Sun, in Columbus, OH. Attending as unofficial USATT reps were myself and Charles Richard "Chip" Patton. He's rated 1821, from Alabama, and like myself, we are both into science fiction and fantasy – especially reading and writing it. Chip also has published stories, and at the WFC signed at least one anthology with a story of his in it. As we walked the halls, I wonder how many others realized they were in the midst of two people who could destroy them in table tennis? If they'd known of our smashing and killing capabilities, would they have trembled in trepidation?

Here's a picture Chip took of me at the signing table. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I signed over 40 copies of my featured novel, Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, which has a number of table tennis scenes in it – here's my blog on that. I was also a panelist, and did a 25-minute reading. I also entertained guests at panels and in the hallways with my blowing ping-pong ball trick, where I balance the ball in the air by blowing on it, and do so sideways by spinning the ball with my breath. (What, you don't carry a ping-pong ball around with you when you go to science fiction and fantasy conventions???)

During the convention I also received some great news that I'd kept mostly secret until now. I've been co-writing a science fiction novel with the great Mike Resnick (a record five-time Hugo winner, 37-time nominee) and novelist Lezli Robyn, and sent in my part two days before the WFC. On Saturday night I received an email from Mike approving my part, without any major rewriting required. So our novel, with the working title "Golden Dream" (which will likely change – one possibility is "The Alien Inquisitor") will come out in spring, 2017. Sorry, no table tennis there.

And now I'm back, with a table tennis todo list that has been growing exponentially since I left on Friday morning, and now threatens to exceed the maximum capacity allowed in this universe for an itemized list, and so if I don't get to work pruning it down, the universe may very well pop out of existence like a soap bubble, and it'll be all my fault – though of course that would be one way of avoiding a Trump presidency. (Add smiley here.) Top priorities for now are mostly local stuff – arranging a Washington Post visit (they emailed me yesterday), the MDTTC November newsletter, doing the scheduling for our 2017 MDTTC tournaments (we're going to two days, plus doing rescheduling for the 2017 MD Closed), some organizational stuff for the two junior classes I teach. But there are also a number of USATT items I also have to take care of, and some private coaching tonight. I also need to make my US Open arrangements, an decide if I'm going to just coach, or actually play some events. 

Obama with Olympians and Paralympians
Here's the Facebook page where you can browse over all seven pictures (click on each to go to the next) of Obama shaking hands with Olympians Kanak Jha, Lily Zhang, Yijun "Tom" Feng, Timothy Wang, Yue "Jennifer" Wu, and Paralympians Tahl Leibovitz and Pam Fontaine. (Missing for some reason is Olympian Jiaqi Zheng.) If you can't get Facebook (as some always tell me), here are links to the Non-Facebook versions.

Coaching from Samson Dubina
Here are two new items.

5 Tips to Improve Your Long Push
Here's the coaching article from Table Tennis University.

One Myth About Attacking Backspin That You Probably Believe
Here's the coaching article from Table Tennis Spot.

My Biggest Table Tennis Failures (so far)
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Win a Free Membership to Table Tennis University
Here's the info page. They are giving away five.

USATT News Items
They have a plethora of news items since I blogged last week. Why not browse them over?

News Items from Butterfly
Here are four new ones.

Ask a Pro Anything - Petrissa Solja
Here's the video (5:25) from Adam Bobrow and the ITTF. Solja of Germany is #16 in the world (#13 earlier this year).

Oh Sang Eun - The Power of Block (Control and Placement)
Here's the video (5:55).

One of the Best Table Tennis Rallies You Will See
Here's the video (70 sec) of this point between Feng Tianwei and Seo Hyowon from 2014.

ITTF Announces 2016 Star Awards Male & Female Table Tennis Star Nominees
Here's the ITTF press release.

Oshonaike Reclaims African Title 24 Years After her First
Here's the ITTF press release.

Do You Recognize These Celebrities Playing Table Tennis?
Here's the video (2:50). A lot of the pictures likely came from my own Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page (which, alas, I no longer update).

Nandan Naresh and Ilija Lupulesku at the Jackson Chance Ping Pong Ball
Here's the video (53 sec). Nandan's the kid (and I like the mask he puts); Lupulesku (the lefty) is four-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion.

Tightrope Pong
Here's the video (29 sec) – or is it Slackrope Pong?

Ping-Pong Costumes
When you Google "Ping-Pong Costumes," this is what you get!

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October 27, 2016

No Blog on Friday and Monday
I leave early Friday morning for the World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, OH, where I'm a panelist, will do a reading, and will join other authors for a three-hour book signing on Friday night. See, I have a life outside table tennis! I return late on Sunday night. Here are two recent pictures of me at book signings, at the Lunacon SF Convention in NY and at the Capclave SF Convention in MD. (I'm toying with showing up at the full-time Columbus TTC on Saturday night, but am not sure yet if I'll be free.) Monday is Halloween, where kids everywhere dress up as little ping-pong players and go door to door singing, "Pong or Heat!", and if you don't play them a quick ping-pong match, they burn your house down. 

U.S. Open in Las Vegas
Here's the home page for the tournament, held Dec. 12-17. You can enter online or print out a paper entry form. Here's where you can see the growing list of entries, with the deadline Nov. 20. Want to know who's registered from your club or state? Click on the appropriate heading. You can list the players by name, by rating, or by event. So . . . why should you go to the U.S. Open? Here are 100 reasons.

  • #1-94: 94 Events to Play. Yes, you read that right, there are 94. They range from the Championship events (Men's and Women's Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles, plus a new "U.S. Citizens Open Singles") to Senior events (from Over 30 to Over 80, men and women, singles and doubles), to Junior events (from Under 10 to Under 21, boys and girls) to Rating Singles events (from Under 800 to Under 2700, some of them for adults or juniors only) to Rating Doubles events (from Under 2700 to Under 4200) to Hardbat events (ten of them) to Sandpaper events (four of them).
  • #95: Vendors. Lots of vendors selling equipment. If you are an EJ (Equipment Junkie), it's heaven. If you are a table tennis player, it's heaven. If you are looking for a pleasant way to spend a few hours, just choose one of the booths, browse over their rubbers and rackets, and call out the name of each one – that should take an afternoon.
  • #96: Spectating. When the level of play is so strong you have to have an Under 2700 rating event, you know there's going to be some really good rallies. And if you are tired of counterlooping, check out the hardbat and sandpaper rallies.
  • #97: Las Vegas. There are silly Internet rumors that there are exciting things to do in Las Vegas. Me, I'm a skeptic, and in over 50 U.S. Nationals and Opens I've attended in Las Vegas, I've only seen the hotel and playing site. But I'll keep an open mind, and of course you should investigate this wild rumor on your own.
  • #98: 1000 Table Tennis People. Come say "hi!" to us!
  • #99: Host Hotels - The Linq and Flamingo. Stay there and get 1) one free event; 2) free monorail pass; 3) $25 food credit; 4) one free shirt customization (i.e. have your name put on the back of your shirt); 5) 50% the cost of the Players' Lounge; and 6) A free USATT Ratings Pin! (But I'm going there for the hot tub.)
  • #100: My Table Tennis Books will be on sale, and I'll be there to autograph them! (Plus other table tennis books by Dan Seemiller, Richard McAfee, Tahl Leibovitz, Samson Dubina, and others.) Yeah, I had to put this in here – I'm a bookhead.

Have You Practiced Your Serves This Week?
Just asking. Here's my article Practicing Serves the Productive Way.

How to Win Crucial Points in Table Tennis Matches
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

The Science Behind How We Learn New Skills
Here's the article.

Table Tennis Exercises
Here's the video (3:20), care of the Sri Lanka TTA.

USATT Insider
Here's the most recent issue, which came out yesterday (Wednesday).

Vladimir Samsonov: The Evergreen Tree
Here's the highlights video (4:57).

Michael Maze vs Jon Persson (Champions League 2016/2017)
Here's the video (4:27). It turns out Maze only retired from international play, not from the Champions League. (Maze is the lefty.)

Ping Pong FM Turns Table Tennis Into a Jam Session
Here's the video (1:19) of this new game!

Pong Trick or Treat
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Rallying with Five Balls!
Here's the video (20 sec). And you struggle to keep a single ball in play???

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October 26, 2016

Larry's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
Yesterday was a uniquely bad day. How bad was it? Let me count the ways.

  1. TableTennisCoaching.com went down. It was a server problem involving unneeded data being collected from the site that led to three gigabytes of data slewing up the system in some technical way. I spent all day just trying to get in touch with my server, Godaddy. Each time I'd call I'd be on hold for a time, then I'd get a message they were busy and if I'd leave a message with my phone number, they'd get back to me. This started around 8AM, and after three calls where I'd wait on hold and finally end up leaving a message, plus two emergency emails, they got back to me around 4PM, and the problem is fixed, at least for now.
  2. USATT League went down. I woke up also to emails that the league software wasn't working, and as the chair of the USATT League Committee I of course got much of the blame, despite not actually having anything to do with this aspect. I sent off emails to the software people to fix the problem(s). (More on the League Committee soon – my two-year term as chair ends on Dec. 31, and it's time for someone else to chair the committee.)
  3. The Washington Post stood us up. They came in to do interviews at MDTTC recently, and yesterday was to be their follow-up, where they'd do more interviews, take pictures, and create a video. It was all supposed to start at 5:30PM. I arranged for most of our top players and juniors to be there in their best table tennis outfits, had our top coaches working with them, and prepped some of the nervous kids on what to do. And then we waited. And waited. And waited. At 6PM I called, texted, and emailed to check on them. At 6:40PM I gave up on them and left. I felt and probably looked a bit silly arranging all of this and nobody showing up. At 7:17PM I received an apologetic text message from the Post reporter that they'd been called away at the last minute to cover some championships basketball game, and he'd forgotten to tell us. (He said they'd reschedule with us. Great . . . get to arrange all that all over again.)
  4. Exhaustion and Injury. On Saturday I spent 14 hours setting up, running, and doing the paperwork for the MDTTC October Open, roughly 8AM to 10PM. On Sunday I coached seven straight hours. On Monday I coached "only" 2.5 hours, but by the end I was so exhausted I could barely stand – and I began compensating in my strokes, leading to a sore shoulder. I finally had to cancel my one session scheduled on Tuesday. Am I getting older or something?
  5. Frankenstein Movie. Disgusted with the Washington Post non-appearance, I went off to see a movie. The local theater was doing a special showing of an apparent 2011 Frankenstein remake starring Benedict Cumberbatch at 7PM, so I decided to watch it. All I can say is, "What the heck was that?" It turns out the "movie" was actually a video of a live performance at the Royal National Theatre in London. It started with the Frankenstein monster staggering about the stage for ten minutes, and it continued like that – it was more a ballet than a movie, and sorry, I'm not into ballet. I'm a movie buff who sees way too many movies, but yesterday I did something I had never done before – I walked out of a movie. I just couldn't take any more of it, and left after 30 minutes. The "movie" actually has high ratings, but I think that's more a matter that it's really liked by those who see it, and those who see (other than me) it really like it. (Try parsing that circular reasoning.)

On the other hand, in my non-table tennis world, yesterday I finished my work on the science fiction novel I'm co-writing with two others!

MDTTC October Open Ratings
Timeliness!

  • On Saturday I ran the MDTTC Open. (Here are results.)
  • On Saturday night I sent in the results.
  • On Monday morning the rating results were processed! Congrats to Jon Taylor at USATT headquarters. 

Win a Free Book and DVD – Just Describe the Tactics
Here's the Facebook page for this contest. Wrote Samson Dubina of the video of his match with Yong Ren in the final of the Millcreek Open. Said Samson, "I will send a FREE book and FREE dvd to the person who can best describe for me what effective tactics that I used against this inverted penhold blocker."

3 Reasons Why You Shouldn't Serve Short
Here's the coaching article from Table Tennis University.

How to Improve Your Reaction Speed in Table Tennis
Here's the coaching article from Matt Hetherington. (Includes 32-sec video of Fan Zhendong training.)

Table Tennis Excuses, Rationalizations, & Explanations
Here's the article by Jon Gustavson.

Reverse Pendulum Serves
Here's the video (25 sec) as Matt Hetherington practices these serves.

Asia Beats Host Chinese Team for Gold at ITTF World Cadet Challenge
Here's the ITTF press release. Here's the ITTF home page for the event.

Despite Strong Efforts 4th Place for North America at World Cadets
Here's the article.

"I'd Work on Player's Potential Rather Than Weaknesses"
Here's the article from India featuring former USATT National Coach Massimo Costantini, who said, "India should become the epicentre of training for its players, who go abroad randomly. The game shouldn’t be seen merely as hand skills but as a very athletic sport that requires high fitness levels."

Xu Xin vs Chuang Chih-Yuan (China Super League 2016)
Here's the new video (6:23).

Historic 2016 ITTF World Cups
Here's the ITTF press release.

Focus on Youth, Singapore Not to Renew Contract of Feng Tianwei
Here's the ITTF press release.

The 13th South Shore Sports/Butterfly Open
Here are the main results of this 4-star tournament. Here are complete results from Omnipong.

2016 Alabama Middle/High School Table Tennis Club Team Championships
Here are results and pictures. Nine high schools and five middle schools took part.

Table Tennis Squash (1959)
Here's the video (1:59) as top players of the time – including two-time world men's singles champion Johnny Leach – rally on this "new" version of table tennis!

Scrabble Pong?
Here's the picture from Jon Gustavson. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

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October 25, 2016

UPDATE - the problem, for now, is fixed, and I should have a regular blog again on Wednesday morning.

I'm aware of the problems on this site - it keeps going haywire - which is a server problem involving an accumulation of useless but problem-making data. TableTennisCoaching.com will likely come and go temporarily as my server works to fix the problem. I'm typing this in a short interval while it's up.
-Larry Hodges

October 24, 2016

Tip of the Week
Winning Cheap Points.

Tournament and Coaching
On Saturday I ran the 2-star Butterfly MDTTC October Open. We had 68 players. Here are the results, care of Omnipong. Congrats to Champions Chen Bo Wen, Klaus Wood, Tiffany Ke, Sam Berry, Ryan Dabbs, Hanfei Hu, and Yunhua Gong! And to Finalists Yan Zhang, Tiffany Ke (yep, two finals), Jessica Lin, Ara Sahakian, Jackson Beaver, Jackson Beaver (yep, two finals), and Thomas Sampson!

We're running into problems with the scheduling as the number of players entering Under 15 and Under 1350 have dramatically increased, mostly due to recent huge increase in kids in the 7-11 age group. The U1350 coincides with the Open, so we ran into trouble finding tables for everyone. I finally had to seed the top three players in U1350 out of the preliminaries to save us one table, which also meant that all the groups were of four players, but two of those players weren't happy with that, wanting to play more. But the event still ran long, and then we had both Under 15 and Over 50 starting, with a lot of overlap with U1350. Anyway, we're going to rework the schedule for next year to fix this, and most likely go back to running two-day events – easier scheduling and more events.

On Sunday I coached almost non-stop from 1-8PM. With Sameer, the focus is on more forehand consistency in rallies and in ending points – he's missing too many – so we did a number of drills for that. Once interesting one is where I'd serve side-topspin serves to his backhand, he'd backhand flip to my backhand, and I'd do an aggressive backhand down the line to his forehand, and then we'd continue the rally.

With Todd, we spent a lot of time working on his backhand backswing, where he tends to flip his wrist back way too much, aiming his racket down and sideways, and making timing difficult. So to adjust for this, we spent ten minutes where he went the other extreme – we played backhand-to-backhand where he had to keep his racket aimed at me throughout the stroke. The result was a much better stroke, plus he hit 100 in a row for the first time. (Here are articles on Changing Bad Technique, where the key is exaggerating the proper technique, and on Saturation Training.)

I taught the beginning junior class from 4-5:30PM. We focused on three things: fast, deep serves; forehand smashing; and then playing up-down tables, 11-point games. Some of the younger kids had never actually played a game before, so this was their introduction. Two of them hated losing, but kept losing because they kept missing their serve, which led to a lot of tears. But now they realize the importance of serving.

We now have 18 kids in the MDTTC "Talent Program," which is invitation only. The program meets on Sundays from 5:30-7:00PM, but because of my own schedule, I'm only there from 5:40-6:20PM, where I mostly feed multiball. It's great to work with them as they are our most dedicated kids.

In the adult training class (6:30-8:00PM), we did the usual drills – two footwork drills, serve & attack, etc. But one unique drill I pulled out was having them each take a box of balls to their side of the table, and tossing each ball in the air so it was a little above table level, smashing or looping killing it. It's a great way to practice the technique and precision of the shot. Most had trouble at first, but they quickly adjusted.

And then, after doing table tennis almost non-stop for two days, I straggled home in time to watch The Walking Dead!

Tactics for Beating a One-Wing Attacker
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Automatism and Servomechanisms: The Science of Training in Sports
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

What Makes a Top Table Tennis Player
Here's the article from Pong Universe.

Ryu Seung Min - The Best Footwork of All Time (Traditional Penhold King)
Here's the new video (6:32).

Jean-Michel Saive's Platform
Here's his platform, or at least an outline of it. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) He's running for ITTF President. "I want to make it clear that I am not running AGAINST anyone, I am running FOR table tennis and FOR the ITTF."

Lebesson Becomes First French European Champion Since 1976
Here's the ITTF press release. Here's the ITTF European Championships home page.

Samsonov Bows Out in 7 Set Stunner at Euro Champs 2016
Here's the video (10:18) as he loses to Robert Gardos.

Dyjas Thwarts Ovtcharovs Title Defense at Euro Champs 2016
Here's the video (7:47)

2016 World Cadet Challenge Commences Action in Shanghai
Here's the ITTF press release. Representing Team USA are Sharon Alguetti, Victor Liu, Crystal Wang, and Amy Wang.

Beetle Baily Makes Excuses
Here's the cartoon sent to me by Marv Anderson. It's dated 3-25, but I can't read the year. Here's my Sept. 28, 2016 blog where I link to all the Beetle Bailey table tennis cartoons I've found – 18 of them, including this one.

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October 21, 2016

Notes from Thailand by Richard McAfee
[Richard is a USATT National Coach and Hall of Famer, and an ITTF Coaching Course Conductor. Think of this as a "guest column." I was going to blog about "Some Funny Coaching Incidents," but decided to move that to the end of the blog and feature this instead.]

While recently in Thailand, I had the opportunity to run a training camp for the Thai National Junior/Cadet Teams and to also watch 3 days of the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships. As I knew many players and coaches, I was able to spend a lot of time in the training area. This was very interesting as this tournament highlights the best prospects from Asia and is also a look at how each country is preparing the next generation of players. I got the chance to talk to many of the coaches about how they are preparing their next generation of players and there are some definite trends

  • Emphasis is going to be on staying close to the table but with more power rather than time pressure (more balls played at the top of the bounce).
  • More physical training is being added during the year as a result of the demands of the new ball.
  • Against the opponent's first opening topspin, more blocking and less counter-topspin, the blocks tend to be either power blocks or off-speed. Counter-topspins are then played against the opponent's weaker second topspin. Not using counter-topspin as often against the first attack is a result of the unpredictability of the bounce of the new plastic balls. It is easier to block them.
  • The backhand banana flips are being played even more often and with even more speed.
  • Lots of strawberry backhand flips being played in the girl’s game but not in the boys.
  • The next generation of Japanese boys will have more power and stay closer to the table than the current national team.
  • The best Junior Male I saw was a left-handed Korean boy who had "Waldner" hands with Korean power. Korea defeated China in the Boys Team Final.

In comparing the skill set of the top Asian Players with what I saw at our July Super-Camp, the standout difference was in the serve and receive game. The top Asian Teams were much more advanced in both the quality of the serve and also the tactical use of their serves.

I thought that I would pass the above observations on to our group. I would also suggest that the main theme for the next Super-Camp be, "Serve and Serve Return."

One final observation regarding the Chinese Junior and Cadet Teams. It seems that while China sends a good competitive team to these events, they normally don't send their top athletes. Which leads to the question, "why do they attend"? While they hold-back their best players, they do send their top developmental and planning coaches who can be seen studying the top players from other countries. China is very interested in knowing what is coming up in the pipe-line for the other countries but doesn't want to let out to much information regarding their next generation.

The Importance of Match Practice in Table Tennis
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis University
You can still enroll for free!

USATT Tournament Website and Insider Feature
Here's the USATT news item, and a way to promote your tournaments. Speaking of which…

Butterfly MDTTC October Open
The MDTTC October Open is tomorrow (Saturday) at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, Maryland – don't miss it! I'm running it. Deadline to enter is 5PM today, though I'll likely take them until 7:30PM, when the MDTTC Friday night league starts. Events include Open, U2350, U2000, U1700, U1350, Over 50, and Under 15, with over $1300 in prize money.

2016 U.S. Open
Don't forget to enter!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers – Still Selling Big!
Here's a screen image I took a couple days ago, where the paperback and kindle versions hold the #1 and #2 top-selling table tennis spots at Amazon, with Table Tennis Tips at #8. (I'm not sure why they separate the print and kindle versions, since either one is a sale of the same book.)

These rankings are volatile and often change quite a bit each day. For example, this morning Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion (by Dan Seemiller) sold two copies of the kindle version, and that was enough to temporarily move it into the #1 position – despite being out of the top ten as of yesterday! (How do I know it sold two copies this morning? I created the book for Dan at createspace.com, and it allows me to track sales for both print and kindle. It's possible there were other sales not yet reported.) So thanks a lot, Dan, for knocking my Tactics book down to #2 – but I'll be watching sales closely today! (Readers, just buy both, okay?)

Table Tennis Equipment for Sale . . . 1940s
Here's the price list from Table Tennis Inc. (Lou Pagliaro) – as noted by Barry Meisel Table Tennis, "bats complete with rubber from 90 cents, real celluloid balls 144 from $6.50 and tables from $33." (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I remember when I started out in 1976 we could still buy the best table tennis sponge – Sriver and Mark V – for $5. Now a sheet of the best sponge is about $75. And I still look at modern table tennis balls with amazement – how can they cost $3 each? That's more than the average tennis ball!

USATT Insider
Here's the most recent issue, which came out on Wednesday.

Creating Spooky Halloween Ghost Lights from Ping-Pong Balls
Here's the video (43 sec).

Table Table Tennis?
Here's the video (42 sec) of a child playing table tennis while kneeling on the table – and he's pretty good!

Some Funny Coaching Incidents

  • I was recently coaching on the table adjacent to our table tennis robot. An elderly player was using the robot. It ran out of balls, so he began picking up balls using one of our Butterfly Ball Amigo Nets. However, he forgot to turn off the robot feed. As I watched, he put a netful of balls into the robot's ball catching net, then went to pick up more – but he didn't notice it shooting them out. So by the time he returned with more balls, all the balls he'd put in were gone, but again he didn't notice as he poured more balls into the net, and went back to picking them up as balls continued to shoot out. I finally walked over and pointed out the problem.
  • I wonder if I'm the only coach to get into a spirited debate (mostly while picking up balls) with a student who insisted peanut butter was the worst thing ever invented? The kid hated peanut butter, and almost went poetic as he listed the evils of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, both of which I absolutely love.
  • This is a little further back, but I don't think I've ever blogged about this one. Way back in the early 1980s I was the University of Maryland Intramural Singles and Doubles Champion for four years in a row. After winning the doubles three years in a row, I tried something interesting – I paired up with the worst player in my dormitory, a player who could barely keep the ball on the table. (For perspective, he's the guy I once beat with an ice cube as a racket, and also with my driver's license.) I forget his name, but he had an incredible resemblance to William Shatner (i.e. Captain Kirk). We managed to eke out the title, beating a pair of 1500 players in the final. Afterwards, he wore his Intramural medal and t-shirt everywhere – and constantly told people he'd won it for wrestling! We had some heated discussions about this.

Mostly Non-Table Tennis: Capclave Book Signing Picture
Here's a picture of me getting set for book signing at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention on Saturday, Oct. 7. See the nice banner on the right about my novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions! Also included on the table are my other four science fiction/fantasy books: Pings and Pongs (short story collection), More Pings and Pongs (another short story collection), The Spirit of Pong (fantasy table tennis novel!), Sorcerers in Space (humorous fantasy novel), and of course Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, the main one I'm promoting. As noted in previous blogs, Campaign 2100 has a number of table tennis scenes as one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who ends up running a worldwide campaign for president.

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October 20, 2016

No Regular Blog Today
Like all red-blooded, apple pie-eating, determined-to-beat-the-Chinese-in-ping-pong-someday Americans, I was up late last night watching the debate and the commentary afterwards, and so got a late start today. And now I have a non-table tennis writing project I need to finish before the weekend, and so no blog today. I'll be back tomorrow. Meanwhile, we now have the answer to the age-old question that voters have been asking since the election campaign began – who would win in table tennis between Clinton and Trump? According to this Washington Post article on Monday about Clinton, "In eighth grade, she learned to square dance, became a lifeguard, played plenty of table tennis." (Here's the famous picture of her playing husband Bill.) Oh, and here's a New Cats and Table Tennis Compilation (2:20)! 

October 19, 2016

Daniel's Inside-out Looping
I had a great session with 12-year-old Daniel yesterday. He's about 1700, but he's still struggling to be aggressive in games – he much prefers fishing and lobbing, and so usually lets his opponent attack first. He simply has zero confidence in his looping game. I've been working with him on this for months. In games he often will go for all-out smashes (forehand and backhand), but looping is just an occasional variation for him. He wins mostly by pushing, blocking, sudden smashes, and fishing & lobbing.

Yesterday might have been a breakthrough. When he forehand loops, he tends to bring his arm across his body, dissipating his power and causing occasional arm problems because of the strain it puts on his arm. Periodically we've fixed the problem, but then he falls back into the old habit. But yesterday I noticed something – when he loops inside-out to my backhand, the stroke is much smoother and technically far better. So I had him practice his inside-out loop for a time. Then I had him set up to do an inside-out loop to my backhand – but had him point to where the ball was going to go. Then I had him rotate his body so that his finger pointed crosscourt, i.e. essentially an inside-out forehand loop but crosscourt. Suddenly his technique was just right – though he said it felt funny. We spent about 60 minutes of our 90-minute session working on this with various drills, with me constantly harping on him to "loop inside-out to my forehand." Now he has that Easy Power I'm always talking about!

The problem really is two-fold. He has to both overcome the technical issues, and there's that zero confidence in looping problem, which doesn't really correlate, since he's pretty good doing it in practice. (He has a very nice backhand loop as well, which he also rarely uses in matches. In drills, he can backhand loop over and over to my backhand block.) Anyway, we'll keep working at it. With his ball control – he may be the best 12-year-old lobber in the country – he has potential if he can only develop an equally good looping game and the confidence to use it. (At the end of our sessions I always let him lob a bit, and many gather around, oohing and aahing as he returns my smashes over and over, sometimes 20 or 30 in a row.)

Cressy Goes to China
Here's the article on Gordon Cressy's upcoming 15-day table tennis training program at the Chinese National Table Tennis Training Centre in Shijiazhuang, China. He wrote me this morning saying, "Thought that you would like to know that your book "The Spirit of Pong" inspired me to take this journey." Gordon's in his 70s!

U.S. Open Online Registration
Here's the U.S. Open page, with a link to where you can now enter online.

New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Devising the Best Practices for a Winning Doubles Combination in Table Tennis
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

The 3rd Ball Attack Firework - Serve and Kill
Here's the video (5:14).

Table Tennis Ball Strength Test
Here's the video (1:54).

Tahl Leibovitz Maps Out His Future in Table Tennis
Here's the article.

11 Questions with Tina Lin
Here's the video (2:33) with the U.S. Junior Girls' Team Member.  

2016 Butterfly Teams Tournament Once Again Philadelphia Hosts High Profile Table Tennis
Here's the USATT article by Barbara Wei.

Excitement Brews as the 2016 Edgeball Chicago International Table Tennis Open Approaches
Here's the USATT article.

Never a Cross Word, Mind Over Matter, Halmstad Finding Solutions
Here's the ITTF article that features puzzlemaster Will Shortz and Jorgen Persson.

Follow Livestream from Budapest as Eurosport Broadcasts Events Worldwide
Here's the ITTF article.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2016 Women's World Cup
Here's the video (4:41).

Justin Bieber Preparing for Pong
Here's the video (58 sec).

Phoebe's First Lesson
Here's the video (60 sec) as the one-year-old takes her first intensive lesson from dad Samson Dubina. He's a slave-driver! But look at her hands going up and down – I'm worried we may lose her to basketball!

Casual Behind-the-Back Shot
Here's the video (22 sec) – and a pretty crazy backhand smash as well!

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