September 10, 2014

From Pathetic to Perfect in Seconds!

I've been working recently with a new nine-year-old kid in our afterschool program. Right now we're only doing multiball. He has been struggling with the forehand. He starts off the stroke fine - I made sure of that, with his right foot slightly back (he's a righty), racket moves backward, and so on. But as soon as he starts his forward swing, he sort of lunges at the ball, driving his right shoulder forward, and then falls backward, with his left leg going back. Contact is basically a backspin slap. I've never seen such an awkward stroke! At first I thought he was too far from the ball, hence the lunging, with the falling back a compensation to keep his balance. We tried different distances from the table, but even if he jammed the table he'd lunge at the ball, as if he couldn't help himself. I also kept reminding him to imagine a vertical rod going through his head, and to rotate around it, but he couldn't as he was always lunging forward and then falling backward. (Falling backward after a forehand usually does mean the player was too far from the ball, with the left side falling back to compensate.)

Then I had a brainstorm. I told him to focus on dropping his racket on his backswing. This forced him to put more weight on his back foot. This led to a more natural weight shift from the back foot to his front foot, and a more natural rotation around the imagined rod in the brain. It also led to a topspin contact rather than the lunging backspin one from before. In the course of seconds, his forehand went from pathetic to perfect!!!

We worked on it for another fifteen minutes, and then I had him do more shadow practice. I'm working with him again today, and if all goes well, we might even try some live forehand-to-forehand - but only if I'm pretty sure he can maintain the newly "perfect" forehand.

His backhand is coming along pretty well, though he also has a tendency to slap at the ball, plus he tends to stand up too straight. We'll keep working on it. Today I also plan to introduce him to serving.

Physical Fitness and Headaches

Around the start of July my weight hit 195, tying the most ever for me. I was starting to feel slow on the court. I started dieting, and in six weeks got down to 181. My dieting secret? I'm a snacker, so rather than fight the snacking urge, when I diet I snack on cherry tomatoes, carrots, bananas, and plums. The key is to snack on them before I get hungry, since by that time I'll want something with more calories. For regular meals, my staples are a banana nut muffin for breakfast; and usually a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for lunch, with a slice of Swiss cheese and several carrots on the side. I eat a bit more for dinner, but when dieting keep that in the 500 or less calorie range.

But over the last month a strange thing has happened - even though my diet has stayed the same, I can't seem to break the 180lb barrier. I've basically been bouncing between 181 and 182 for four weeks. It's getting a bit irritating. My plan was to reach 170 by the end of September, but that's not looking likely now. I may have to get a bit more drastic on the calorie cutting. Maybe I'm eating too many cherry tomatoes? (I really do eat a lot!)

Meanwhile, I spent the last few days doing way too much reading. (Remember, I'm both a reader and writer of both table tennis and science fiction.) I read Dora Kurimay's "Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros!" (and will do a review here soon); I read and critiqued two short stories for fellow writers; I did about fifty "final" readings of a new short story I'm finalizing ("Tooth Apocalypse"); plus I've started reading The Dresden Files this past week, and am now well into book three. (Next up for table tennis reading: "The Next Step" by Alex Polyakov.) I sometimes use reading glasses to read as my right eye isn't that good close up, while my left eye is fine. Alas, I chose not to use the reading glasses for all this reading, and it led to several headaches, including one when I woke up this morning after a late-night reading session. When I read without them it seems to affect me more afterwards (i.e. headaches) than while I'm actually reading, where my right eye gets tired but doesn't actually hurt. I still don't like the bother of the reading glasses, but I might have to use them more often.

USA Nationals

They will be held Dec. 16-20 in Las Vegas. Alas, the entry form isn't out yet, which is surprising considering the tournament is in a little over three months - they lose people every year when they wait this long. Here is the 2014 USA Nationals home page, but there isn't much on it yet other than the hotel, which is the Westgate Resort. When I saw that I immediately Googled it since it's a new hotel for us, right? Actually, when I went over the hotel's home page, it looked sort of familiar - and then I discovered it was formerly the Las Vegas Hotel and Casino, which was formerly the Las Vegas Hilton, which is the hotel we've been using for years - so no real change there. 

Xu Xin Saddens Former Coach

Here's the article on the world #1 changing coaches.

Nice 54-shot Rally

Here's the video.

The Ultimate Guide to Ping Pong Nutrition: Maximize Your Table Tennis Potential

Here's the book. I just happened to find this while browsing.

Cow Pong

Here's the picture.

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In reply to by mts288

I eat pretty nutritious dinners - a huge salad at least three times a week, for example. (Plus a vitamin pill every morning, for what it's worth.) Plus lots of fruits and vegetables. The bread in my P&J sandwiches is 100% whole grain. The peanut butter (spread thinly) is 100% natural. The slice of swiss cheese is "ultra thin." I also drink grapefruit juice for breakfast, mostly water the rest of the day. I snack all day on vegetables and fruits. Then I have a "normal" dinner, with small portions (since I'm on a diet), usually a main course (i.e. protein source) and vegetables. Why don't you think this diet is very good? (I took Nutrition 100 in college, and am pretty familiar with most aspects of it.)