January 3, 2013

Beginner's Topspinny Backhand and Forehand Looping

I'm coaching an 11-year-old who is developing well on the forehand, but has sort of a topspinny backhand. Instead of snapping the shot off in fast rallies he mostly rolls it softly, and so can't rally too fast yet. I've been working on this with him, but now I'm thinking perhaps I should just forget backhand counter-hitting and teach him to backhand loop almost from the start. We might have a close-to-table backhand looper in the making.

I've already taught him to loop against backspin, both forehand and backhand. Now he really wants to get into looping in rallies, though mostly on the forehand. (Despite his rolling backhand, I don't think he realizes yet that you can backhand loop over and over just as on the forehand.) He's already experimenting with looping against blocks when he hits around with others, so it's better if I start him off properly.

In our next session I'm going to explain Chinese versus European philosophy on this. (This is a generalization, of course.) In Chinese philosophy, you teach the basic forehand and backhand until they are so strong the player can do them in their sleep - and only then do you teach them to loop, which they consider an extension of the regular forehand and backhand. In European philosophy, you get to looping as early as possible, since that's eventually going to be their primary shot, so why not focus on it from the start? I'm sort of in between these philosophies, as I want the player to get the basics down first, but also want to get to looping as soon as possible. In this case, I think the kid is pretty much setting the course with his rolling backhand and determination to loop in rallies with the forehand.

New Year's Resolutions

  1. Weight down to 170 lbs by April 1 (no April Fools joke!), and stay under 175 all year. (Current weight is 184.)
  2. Rating over 2200, and overall level to 2250.
  3. Write a new novel or other book, and at least 12 new short stories.
  4. Read five classic novels - tentatively Hamlet, Dante's Inferno, Don Quixote, Paradise Lost, and Catch 22. If I find one of these boring, I may replace it with The Count of Monte Cristo.
  5. Get all six of my books ready for sale in both ebook and print on demand formats by June 1 at larryhodgesbooks.com.

A few notes on these resolutions. Regarding #2, I'm basically retired from tournaments, but have decided to get in shape ONE MORE TIME and then play some tournaments. For one thing, I long for the days when I dominated against the local cadet players; now I feel like a punching bag half the time when I play them. (Thank god for serve and receive, where I still dominate, but that can only take you so far.)

However, I also feel somewhat cheated by my current rating, as it came about from two fluky events. First, at the 2012 U.S. Open, when I was rated 2193 (which is about right for me, since I'm almost 53, out of shape, and don't practice anymore - coaching isn't the same practicing), I played the sandpaper event. After playing with sandpaper all day, I finished my last match only to find my opponent and an umpire waiting for me for a long-delayed sponge match. I had two minutes to warm up, and that wasn't nearly enough, and there went 40 points. Then, last year, I did get into shape, was playing really well - close to 2300 level - so I decided to play a tournament. Unfortunately, I'm used to great playing conditions at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, and the tournament I went to had slippery orange-ish floors, and so I couldn't move or see the orange ball. I dropped out of the tournament halfway through, but not before dropping another 16 points, to 2137. At the recent Teams, the only other tournament I've played since 2007, I gained a few to get to 2145, but even there I felt cheated, as I lost a pair of close five-gamers to players rated 2314 and 2178, and to a 2266 player 0-3 at 9,9,10. (The online ratings have me losing to the 2178 player at 7,7,7, but it was actually 11-9 in the fifth. How'd that happen?) I felt that if I were in better shape I could have won all three of these. So . . . I need to get in better shape. So I'll be losing weight, doing weight training (again), and practicing. And then I'll be looking for tournaments with good playing conditions - especially the floors. (I did 40 minutes of weight training last night, as well as a 10-minute run.)

Regarding reading classics, I've read a few over the years. (I mostly read SF & Fantasy, plus some history and science.) The final list was made with help from Tim Boggan, who taught the classics for years as an English professor. Here are "classics" I've already read: Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, Siddhartha, Moby Dick, The Old Man and the Sea, The Catcher in the Rye, King Lear, Robinson Crusoe, Frankenstein, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Metamorphosis, The Stranger, Nineteen Eighty-Four, Charlotte's Web, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Of Mice and Men, and A Christmas Carol.

The six books of mine I hope to have online by June 1 are Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers; Table Tennis Success (former Table Tennis Steps to Success); Table Tennis Tales & Techniques; Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; and Pings & Pongs: The Best SF & Fantasy of Larry Hodges.

You'll note there is nothing in my resolutions about my students - that's because that's for THEIR resolutions. Of course, I'll do whatever I can to help them reach those!

Coaching Insects Dream

I do have the strangest table tennis dreams - perhaps it's because I not only coach and write table tennis full-time, but I'm also a SF writer. This is just a snippet - I'm sure there was more, but I don't remember it. I dreamed I was coaching insects (!) on little tables on the floor that instead of the normal 9'x5' were 9"x5" (still a bit large for an insect). I was coaching a tiny beetle against this much larger one when the larger one suddenly grabbed my protégé in its jaws and ran through a crack in the wall, where it presumably ate my student. I called out in horror and slammed my fists on the wall, but there was nothing I could do. I woke up feeling very sad.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Other than the covers and proofing, the page layouts are done. (Final version is 242 pages.) I hope to have them ready for sale online by February.

USA Nationals Video Recap

Here it is (1:57), care of JOOLA USA!

Mike Dempsey Memorial Championships

Here's an article My Experience at the Mike Dempsey Memorial Championships by Igor Botkin.

Forehand Counterhit Accuracy

Here's a coaching video on forehand counterhitting accuracy from PingSkills (2:30). Two methods are given for increasing accuracy.

Slow Motion Table Tennis

Here's some slow motion TT set to piano music (1:37) by PingSkills.

Best Table Tennis Shots of 2012

Care of  Table Tennis Daily (3:14).

The Best Table Tennis Commercials of 2012

Table Tennis Nation chose the top seven commercials that featured table tennis from 2012, ranking them in order, as well as six other finalists. The top seven, in order: McDonalds, Miller64, DirecTV, Maybelline, Snapples, JC Penney, and Bounty. (The Williams sisters commercial - see below - came out after they did their listing.)

Venus & Serena Williams Table Tennis Commercial

Here's an ad for the Apple iPhone 5 (31 sec) featuring the Williams sisters.

Table Tennis Action Shot of the Year

Look . . . up in the sky . . . it's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's just Super Cat leaping for the ball.

Send us your own coaching news!

Re: January 3, 2013

"Catch 22" is good, but as an Army veteran it seemed a bit "goofy" to me even as an anti-war parody. It seemed more anti-bureacracy than actually anti-war.

As a more serious alternative, I'd recommend the truly classic anti-war novel "All Quiet On The Western Front" by Remarque. That book will leave some indelible impressions and, interestingly, it is written from the perspective of the German "enemy"...if one is an American, French, or British. The novel's theme is that on the ground, every soldier is just some poor sucker doing the dirty work for those in power.


Larry Hodges's picture

Re: January 3, 2013

Catch-22 is actually supposed to be a satire on bureacracy, set in the military. I'll consider "All Quiet on the Western Front" as possibly something to read later - I've heard a lot about it. 

Re: January 3, 2013

What do we want -  " Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"

When do we want it - "NOW !"

What do we want -  " Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"

When do we want it - "NOW !"

What do we want -  " Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers"

When do we want it - "NOW !"

Work quickly Larry.  The people are starting to gather in the square. They will only wait so long.



Larry Hodges's picture

Re: January 3, 2013

Put down the pitchforks and torches, I'm working on it!!! (Actually, I'm catching up on stuff left over from while I was away at Nationals/Christmas/MDTTC Christmas Camp, and plan to finalize the book next week. I should be able to do the final proofing next week, and I know what's going on the back cover, but I still haven't finalized what to put on the front cover - which will be top priority starting Monday.)