December 5, 2022

Tip of the Week
Lobbing.

Weekend Coaching, MDTTC Open, and Books
With the North American Teams over, the focus switches from preparing them for a major tournament to long-term development. Which means lots of foundational work! Footwork, strokes, serve, receive, and so on. I coached in the usual four group sessions this weekend. In two of them, I mostly fed multiball. In another, I did both multiball and hit with various players, working on consistency. In the other, I was a “walk around” coach, where the focus was on good technique. They played games at the end of the session, and I kept harping on some of them that this was the time to practice their shots, because this was practice. (Way too often some get “scared” and just push.) I also worked with players on serves, including working with two on how to do a really effective no-spin serve, i.e. “heavy no-spin,” where the serve looks like heavy backspin but is no-spin. As we demonstrated, receivers often push them as if they are heavy backspin, and so the ball pops up. The returns also have less backspin then returns actual heavy backspin serves. I also had a good discussion with one of our top juniors on sports psychology, and I gave him a copy of “The Inner Game of Tennis.”

November 29, 2029

Tip of the Week
What Comes First, Speed or Consistency?

JOOLA North American Teams
I spent Thanksgiving weekend coaching at the Teams at the National Harbor in Maryland. It was my 46th consecutive Teams – every year starting my first year in table tennis, 1976, back when it was in Detroit from the early 1970s to 1997. (It would be 47 years in a row, but they didn’t hold it in 2020 due to Covid.) I was a player or player/coach for most years, but in modern times I’ve only coached. (I’ve also been to every US Open and Nationals since 1984, plus a few before that.) Here are complete results. (Make sure to set the dropdown menu to 2022 JOOLA NA Teams.) Here is the list of entries.

November 21, 2022

Tip of the Week
Recovering from Forehand Attacks from a Corner.

Weekend Coaching and the JOOLA North American Teams
Our junior program at MDTTC is divided into four groups (66 players total), and this weekend I worked with one session for each. It was also an exhausting weekend as I acted as a practice partner for three of the sessions, for two reasons. First, we had an odd number of players, though we can work around that by doing multiball or bringing in another player. Second, and perhaps more important, we’re getting them ready for the North American Teams next weekend (Fri-Sun after Thanksgiving), and so it’s valuable they get a good practice session with a good player. (Yay, I’m the “good” player!) For drills, I mostly blocked – and boy, after a short time it really came together and I stopped missing. They rotated the players who hit with me, and each time I greeted them with the warning, “The rumors are true, I never miss.” And, of course, if I did miss, I’d explain I was only showing them what a miss would look like if I were to miss – after all, how could they identify a miss by an opponent if we don’t show them what it looks like?

November 14, 2022

Tip of the Week
Backhand Counter Domination.

Weekend Coaching
I coached in four group sessions over the weekend, as is my norm. As usual the focus was on fundamentals, technique, footwork, placement . . . yada yada yada. I did do extra down-the-line drills - too often players focus on crosscourt. I also worked with two players on their grip. One of them has begun changing his grip drastically between forehand and backhand, with a wristy finger-down-the-middle forehand - NO!!! (1967 Men's World Champion Hasegawa might disagree - he used that grip.) It's important to catch things like this early, and the player in question only started this past year. 

I had a realization during one session, which I explained to some of the players. If the players can't beat me after I've coached them for a full 90 minutes, I must be a bad coach. But if they can beat me after 90 minutes of training, I must be a bad player. Hmmm... Of course, I also explain to them that if they are tired during a drill, they must be out of shape and so we must work them harder. If they are not tired then we must not be working them hard enough and so we must work them harder. And if they won't answer us when we ask if they are tired, then we must punish them by making them work harder. Hmmm...

November 7, 2022

Tip of the Week
Coming Back or Beating Stronger Players.

Weekend Coaching
The hardest part of the weekend for me was in the last of four group sessions – three on Sunday – where they needed one more player for up-down tables. I’m out of practice, haven’t warmed up, and have been feeding multiball for hours, and suddenly I’m up against kids who make the Flash seem like a sloth. Fortunately, this wasn’t our top group, and fortunately, they couldn’t return my serves, and so I was able to win all my matches easily. Biggest scare - one kid made it to 4-all on four nets and edges! (He popped one serve back on the edge, and net-dribbled another.) One girl hits the ball so fast that any rally I didn’t win on the first two shots ended up with me lobbing, and she wasn’t bad against lobs. She also gave me a scare when she suddenly backhand flipped in two of my short side-top serves! (Apparently she didn’t get the memo that she’s supposed to misread them and push them straight up.) She was jamming the table, so I switched to deep breaking serves and fast, dead ones, and that ended that threat. (I also chickened out and chopped back some of her topspin serves, which worked.)

October 31, 2022

Tip of the Week
Increase Forearm Snap to Increase Smashing Speed.

US Open Hotel – How to Save Lots of Money
I just saved a thousand dollars. How? I will be going to the US Open, Dec. 16-21 in Ontario, CA. The official tournament hotel is the DoubleTree By Hilton Hotel ‐ Ontario Airport, which is 0.3 miles from the playing hall. It looks like a nice hotel, and if you can afford it, go for it!

I will be at the Open for seven nights, Dec. 15-21. At the Doubletree, after taxes, that came to $1576, or $225/night!!! Sorry, that’s way, Way, WAY too much. But I’ve been to every US Open and US Nationals since 1984 (with my first in 1976), so . . . is my streak coming to an end?

October 24, 2022

Tip of the Week
Treat Opponents Who Are Not Threats as Threats so They Do Not Become Threats.

Weekend Coaching and Coaching Between Points
I helped run four group junior sessions over the weekend. In three of them I mostly fed multiball – lots of fundamentals. However, once you get beyond the beginning stage, often the most important thing in multiball is feeding backspin so the player can practice looping. Why? It's easy to get lots of practice in topspin rallies with a practice partner, but in a regular drill, once a player loops against backspin, the rest of the rally is mostly all topspin. If you want repetitive practice against backspin, multiball is the way to go. In most of the sessions, players in the group did various drills while I took them three at a time, feeding backspin. (One player does the drill, usually combined with footwork; one shadow-practices behind that player; and the third picks up the balls.)

October 17, 2022

Tip of the Week
The Yin and Yang of Serving.

Cary Cup Open
I spent the weekend coaching at the Cary Cup at the Triangle Badminton and Table Tennis Club in Cary, NC. Here are complete results of the tournament, care of Omnipong. I was coaching two players, Todd Klinger and Christian Funderberg. I can't really go into details of most of the coaching – call it coach-player privilege – but here are some highlights. Ojo dominates the big events!

October 10, 2022

Tip of the Week
Ten Mini-Fixes.

Annexing Moscow
It has come to my attention that the Table Tennis Federation of Russia is in Moscow. While I am sure their players are very good at killing, I'm guessing they are more into killing ping-pong balls than Ukrainians. Therefore, by the power invested in me by USA Table Tennis, I am hereby annexing the city of Moscow. Henceforth, they will be the 51st US state and all residents of the city will be required to join USATT. We will also be granting immediate US citizenship to the 11 Russian men (including world #61 Kirill Skachkov) and 18 women (including #45 Elizabet Abraamian and #49 Polina Mikhailova) who have current ITTF world rankings. And here's Zelensky smashing Putin!

October 3, 2022

Tip of the Week
The Larry Line.

Weekend Coaching
I coached in four group sessions over the weekend, each 90 minutes long. The kids kept asking me, "Where have you been?" since I'd missed the last two weekends since I was down in Santo Domingo (see segment below on Pam Ams). I quizzed them – none knew where Santo Domingo was, and only about one-third knew where the Dominican Republic was. (This was mostly ages 8-12.) Now they all know.