December 11, 2012

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

The page layouts are done! Well, mostly. I still don't have the front and back covers, and I need to do a lot of proofing of the layouts. The book is 240 pages, with 76 photos/illustrations, and 99,425 words. Due to the upcoming Nationals (I leave for Las Vegas on Monday), I probably won't get much more done this week - lots of coaching activities over the next six days. If all goes well, the book will be out by the end of January.

I did the final three segments in the book yesterday, giving more examples of tactics used in actual matches. They include:

  • A player fell behind 0-2 in games because the opponent looped his deep serves, and either dropped short or quick-pushed at an angle his short backspin serves to the forehand or backhand. The solution? Short no-spin serves to the middle, which take away most of the angles and are difficult to push short.
  • A match won by simplifying a strong but erratic backhand loop by deciding to go relentlessly crosscourt, even though shots to the middle and forehand gave the opponent trouble, as well as a late-match change to short receive, which hadn't worked earlier, but did now for reasons explained in the text;
  • Turning a crosscourt 2500 monster into a down-the line 2200 mouse (and focusing on looping any slightly long serve, mostly down the line) leads to upsetting the top seed and making the U.S. National Cadet Team.
  • A player spends a week working on a specific doubles serve, which leads to winning a doubles title.
  • When paired with a two-winged ripper, a player learns to play control to set up his partner and win a major doubles title.

Note that none of these are complicated tactics. Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent; tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work

Regarding the cover, I'm running into a problem in that I need to get permission from a top player to use his image. I decided I would use Cheng Yinghua, my fellow MDTTC coach and former top player, and created this cover. However, Cheng surprised me by being embarrassed about it, and didn't want to be on the cover. I may try to talk him into it. Otherwise, I'm back at square one - any suggestions? (The back cover is tentatively a picture of me coaching Todd Sweeris at the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials. He made the team. I have to check with him on this - if he sees this, Hi Todd!)

Maybe I should just put myself on the cover. I don't want a cover that just shows a coach talking to a player; I want something that says table tennis, i.e. a table tennis shot. The head shot of "The Thinker" at the top signifies the thinking aspect. (Someone here suggested that - who was that? Comment here and take credit!!!)

Late Starters - Embrace It!

To become truly great at table tennis you need to start very young (and lots of other things as well). Most players start late, often well after their juniors years. (I didn't start until I was 16, alas.) You can still become very good, but you probably won't be world champion.

On the other hand, there's a huge advantage to starting late. Players who start very young peak (often at a very high level) by their 20s, and by age 30 can at best hold their level. They may continue to learn new things, but this only postpones the inevitable physical decline that comes with age. Late starters may never reach the heights of those who start early, but they can improve their level for nearly their entire lives. It may be a slow progression, but I know lots of players who started as non-juniors, played for many years, and got better well into their 50s and even 60s. It's a different perspective, of course. The steady improvement from beginner at age 20 to 2000 player at age 50 can be long and slow, and seemingly not as exciting as a journey starting at age 8 that leads to 2600 at age 20, but if the journey is the destination, then both journeys are exciting - one just lasts longer.

Playing in Less Than Ideal Conditions

Here's a short article by former top junior Vikash Sahu on the topic.

Angry Moments in Table Tennis

Here's a video (7:04) that showcases seven minutes of unhappy players. I don't think I've linked to this one before, though in June I linked to the "Top Ten Angry Moments in Table Tennis" (4:41).

Table Tennis Then and Now

This is a great video (10:48), showing table tennis as it evolved from the hardbat era to now. It's also inspirational, and will help calm you down after the preceding video on "Angry Moments."

This is Why They Call it Sandwich Rubber

But it's good to snack while you play!

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Re: December 11, 2012

That is a great cover.  Try to get him to let you use it.   He is a lot more photogenic than you are. (Note: I may be the only person less photogenic than you).   You would look good on the back cover so small children would not be frightened away when the book was displayed for sale :)

At first look I missed the ping pong ball "o".  That is a nice touch.

Of course I like the "Thinker" since it was my idea.  But your implementation is better than my original idea of using it full cover with a table tennis racket in his hand.

Looking forward to buying it when it comes out.

Good luck with all your students at Nationals.




Larry Hodges's picture

Re: December 11, 2012

I'm going to do my best to convince Cheng to let me use him on the cover. It might involve bribery and blackmail. :)