Visit to Spin TTC
On Saturday I visited the full-time Spin Table Tennis Club in New York City. (I was there for a writer's conference, but managed to get away for a few hours.) You may have heard of it - Susan Sarandon is one of the owners! When I got there a little before 6PM, Coaches Paul David, Ben Nisbet, and Tahl Leibovitz were all there. Paul had just finished coaching, while Tahl was with a student. When Tahl finished, we played some games - with sandpaper! Tahl's getting ready for the $100,000 "World Championships of Ping-Pong" (Feb. 7-8), where everyone will use sandpaper, and Tahl will represent Israel. Tahl's been practicing, and I hadn't, and so you can guess who won. (I think most others at the club were using regular sponge rackets.)
There were 17 tables, but it wasn't your normal table tennis club, even ignoring that Sarandon comes by to play several times a week. The lighting was poor, there was little room behind the tables (except for one "feature" table), there were no barriers, and there was loud music playing that made it hard to hear the ball hit the table. And yet, the place was jammed. You had to reserve a table in advance - none of this drop-in play like at other clubs, and yet many of the tables had parties going on, with 5-10 players on a table. (There was a bench next to the tables.) As to lack of barriers, each table had a large jar that probably held 100 balls. A full-time bellboy - a high school student - picked up balls full-time with a net, so there was little chasing of balls; you just grabbed another from the jar. There was also a bar next to the playing area where you could get drinks or sandwiches.
Your average table tennis aficionado would have been horrified by the playing conditions, and I had some trouble playing with the loud music, but you know what? This might be a good model for table tennis in large cities. I don't think it would work out in the suburbs or most smaller cities, but in a densely populated area like New York City or in a wealthy area where people can afford to pay extra, I think it might work. They have similar Spin Clubs now in Hollywood and Milwaukee, and presumably they use the same model.
I've put up five coaching videos by Coach Tao Li of Table Tennis University. The first three went up last week; the last two just went up.
- How to play long pips (10:38)
- How to return short no-spin serves (13:41)
- How to loop a dead ball (4:56)
- How to improve reaction time (3:51)
- Hitting your second topspin (3:21)
Send me your own coaching news!