January 19, 2015

Writing Sabbatical This Week

As I wrote on Friday week, I'm taking a writing sabbatical this week, so this will be my last blog until Monday, January 26. I plan to write "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," and if I have time after that, work on my table tennis fantasy novel "The Paddle of Pong." It's going to be a busy week. Besides all the writing and the usual coaching, there's a bunch of USATT stuff going on, including a USATT board teleconference on Wednesday night. Tonight (Monday night) I'm doing an exhibition at SmashTT at 8:30PM (come join us!), after which we're having a meeting of the Capital Area Super League Organizing Committee. On Saturday night I'm helping with a fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis at MDTTC, where I'll be doing an exhibition and clinic with Sameer Shaikh, and helping run a recreational tournament. (The tournament is NOT for USATT members or advanced players.)

Tip of the Week

The Lost Art of Messing People Up.

Breaking News Added One Day Late - Exhibition!

Here's the video (25:08), with a great opening, of the demo and exhibition I did Monday night with Stefano Ratti at Smash TT in Sterling, VA - with a great opening!!! Lots of trick shots and humorous exchanges. 

Things I Was Told Would Never Happen

  • I started playing early in 1976 when I was 16. By that Fall I had reached about 1500. A local coach began coaching one of my main practice partners for $5/hour (about $20 in 2015 dollars), who had started at the same time I did and was about the same level - but was four years younger. I asked the coach if he'd coach me as well, and he agreed, but said he'd charge me $15/hour ($60/hour in 2015 dollars), since I was older and had less potential. I couldn't afford it. A year later another higher-level coach began coaching this younger player for free. I asked him if he'd coach me as well, but he said no, said he only had time to coach one player and had to go with the younger one who had more potential. I ended up not taking coaching from either, and in fact relied on coaching camps (including a series of Seemiller camps). In the end, the younger player got good, but I got better - and only one of us made the USATT Hall of Fame!
  • Deng Yaping, who was 4'10", was kicked off the Chinese National Team three times because they thought she was too small to ever be any good. She went on to win Women's Singles at the Worlds three time and the Olympics twice. (Okay, I wasn't "told" this, but it was too good to leave out.)
  • When I started playing in 1976, the idea of table tennis - "ping-pong" - being an Olympic sport was a joke. There simply was no way. But a few people didn't believe that, and primarily through their efforts (and especially Fred Danner's), we became an Olympic Sport.
  • I started out as a forehand hitter, with a big smash, but a weak, awkward loop. I worked with a number of coaches on this, but over and over they concluded that my hitting was so much better I should just focus on that. One even said, "Forget looping, just hit." I was determined to learn to loop effectively, and kept at it, even stagnating at the 1850 level for three years while I did this. Then it all came together! It still doesn't look as sharp as my hitting, but it gets the job done.
  • In 1992 I teamed with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang to open the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (We were originally called the National Table Tennis Center.) There had been several attempts to open full-time table tennis training centers, and all had failed. (There had been some successful ones that relied primarily on leagues.) Over and over I was told that there simply weren't enough serious players in the U.S. for a full-time table tennis training center to survive. And here we are, 23 years later! (They didn't get the idea that you don't rely just on current players, you bring in and develop new ones.)
  • In December, 2006, at a USATT Board Meeting I gave a presentation where I tried to get them to get involved in recruiting and training coaches to open full-time training centers. At the time there were only about 8-10 in the entire country. The idea was met with complete skepticism. Two board members openly argued that the ones that existed were "special cases" or ones that simply hadn't closed down yet, and that there simply weren't enough serious players in the country for there to be more than a few full-time training centers. Others were silent. I resigned my positions as USATT Editor and Programs Director primarily because of this. And here we are, eight years later, and there are now almost 80 full-time centers in the country, with new ones popping up every month or so.
  • If I got started on how many people have argued that table tennis team leagues won't work in the U.S., I'd have to devote the rest of blogs this year to the topic. Suffice to say it's met with the same skepticism as much of the above, despite the great success of such team leagues overseas. Once again they argue there aren't enough players, again not getting the basic idea that you develop new players. Over and over I've asked why they believe people in the U.S. are so different than people overseas, and over and over I'm told the situation is different, usually involving more distractions, other sports, video games, etc., as if they don't have these things overseas. It's rather bizarre, and sort of reflects the mindset of the status quo. This is the great opening USATT has coming up to develop the sport in this country. I'll have a proposal to USATT on this probably by the end of this year. (I'm currently working with a local group - in particular two players who played in the European leagues - who are developing the Capital Area Super League. My experiences here will help in developing a regional prototype that can spread to other regions.)

Navin Kumar - the Bionic Parkinson's Man

For now on I'm just going to introduce myself as "Navin's coach." Here are three new segments on him, plus a recent one in the Washington Post and three from USATT:

  • Here's a new interview with Navin Kumar, "The Bionic Man, Ping Pong's Ultimate Inspiration." I'm mentioned in the article as Navin is a student of mine. Here's how it starts: "I was born with a congenital heart condition that has required 5 open-heart surgeries throughout my life to correct. My heart is now mechanical and made of the same carbon fiber material that you see in some table tennis paddles and I also have a pacemaker implanted inside me which is cool because occasionally I get to have software downloaded inside me so I feel like my old childhood bionic hero, The Six Million Dollar Man. A year and half ago I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease which affects me 2 ways – muscle stiffness and right hand tremors."
  • Here's a new video (2:35) from yesterday where we had a breakthrough in his forehand technique. Watch the subtle turn of his foot and knee that turns his body into the shot.
  • On Saturday from 10AM to 1:30PM I helped Peter Scudner do a videotaping of Navin Kumar, "The Bionic Man." The video will be out in a week or so - I'll post it here.
  • Here he is in the Washington Post on Dec. 2, 2014, "Table Tennis: It Might Be Time to Take It Up Again."
  • Here are three USATT articles that feature him:

USATT Board Seeks Nominations for Committee Appointments

Here's the notice from USATT, which you probably also received via email last week. (I also linked to this on Friday.) See if there's anything that matches your interest an expertise. I hope we get some great volunteers!

The Importance of a Loose Elbow

Here's the new coaching article by Matt Hetherington.

Two New Coaching Articles from Samson Dubina

Ask the Coach

Episode #60 (12:50) - Serving Slow or Fast?

  • Previous #PQOTD  - 0:47: What is your favourite activity apart from Table Tennis?
  • #PQOTD  - 1:57: What are the most important muscles in Table Tennis?
  • Question 1 - 2:22: Hi Alois, on my attacking forehand topspin strokes, is it ok that when i get to my finish position to open the angle of my bat while getting to it or it should stay the same angle? Pasquale
  • Question 2 - 4:19: I am an attack player. What serve should I use? Nick
  • Question 3 - 7:00: I have been training for a long time on a pendulum serve. The results are converging to a 80% success rate, about 15% into the net and 5% single bounce. How to improve the numbers and restore confidence so that I can use the same serve in matches? Dieter
  • Question 4 - 10:50: I'm an attacking player and rely a lot on speedy topspin shots. I was playing with a spare old bat. I've recently got a new bat which is much lighter and while it's easier to control the spin shots when I try to generate any speed it flies off. Shinjini

New USATT Ratings Page

Here it is. I haven't had a chance to test it, and don't have time right now. So why don't you test it, and report on it? (I did notice one thing - it's confusing trying to find your rating history. Turns out that clicking on your name doesn't work. You have to click on your rating to find it. There should be a note there explaining this. I'll explore this later.)

Butterfly Aurora Open

Ruichao "Alex" Chen (a coach/practice partner from my club, rated 2667) won Open singles ($1500), 11-8 in the fifth over USA National Men's Champion Jimmy Butler ($750). I watched the match - what a battle! Both have great serves, but use them somewhat differently. The lefty Alex has perhaps the most vicious third-ball attack in the country - he relentlessly follows each serve with a forehand loop, and it's nearly unstoppable. Jim uses his serves for outright winners and to control points, though of course he'll rip a forehand or backhand smash if the return is weak. Alex serves short over and over, while Jimmy serves long much of the time - which is risky unless you have very good serves. (Here is the online video of the Saturday afternoon session, which included the Open Final near the end, just before the Open Doubles Final - but for some reason the video blanks out starting at 1:37:16. Anyone know where we can see the video?)

Top Fifteen Ways My Life Will Change Now That I'm on the USATT Board of Directors

This was in my blog on Jan. 8, but a lot of people have asked about it, so I'm posting it again.

  1. I get to move into theUSATT Mansion. (Look closely at this!)
  2. I get to cut the salary of every USATT volunteer who has ever snubbed me. Oh wait…
  3. Hobbies like eating, sleeping, and breathing will go on hold.
  4. Robert F. Kennedy's quote now scares me: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
  5. I get a free USATT tie!
  6. All those people who call me a crazy fool now have to call me a crazy foolsir!
  7. To make time for my USATT volunteer work all that pesky paid stuff like coaching and writing will go on hold.
  8. I get to scientifically test the theory that "absolute power corrupts absolutely." I believe it does, and I'm never wrong.
  9. I can schedule the U.S. Open and Nationals at my club.
  10. If I'm thinking about USATT stuff when I order a pizza, I can send the bill to USATT, right?
  11. Next time at I jump on the table at a USATT board meeting and start ranting about coaching and leagues they'll wait a little longer before calling security.
  12. Now that 8000 USATT members have access to my email I'll get peace and quiet.
  13. Soon USATT members will know why my last name is just an anagram for "He's God." After a few months they'll realize that "USATT Board" is an anagram for "Oust bad rat." Squeak squeak!
  14. To those who voted against me - you'll get the 100 rating points back after you apologize and practice your serves 15 minutes.
  15. Strange how the day after I'm elected my new USATT rating is 2811.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).

Service Rules

Here's the video (5:31) from PingSkills. Just a basic intro to the serving rules.

NCTTA January Newsletter

Here's the January Newsletter of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Teddy Tran - Gab Talk

Here's the video (11:46) with the USA star. "Without ping-pong, my life would be like a broken pencil - pointless." It's about following your dreams, and having perspective.

The Marty Reisman Racket

Here's the article and pictures

The Difference Between a Master and a Beginner

Here it is!

One of the Best Points Ever - Yep, by Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the video (33 sec). Not sure who the other player is, on near side with back to us - can anyone tell?
BREAKING NEWS! Bernard Lemal and Stefan Fangmeier both emailed to inform me that the other player (near side) is German star Georg Boehm. 

Craziest Table Tennis Rally of All Time?

Here's the video (42 sec) as Ma Long and Xu Xin (the lefty penholder) put on an impromptu exhibition where they do just about everything.

SPiN New York "Schools" Students on the Joys of Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Susan Sarandon Talks SPiN at Brooklyn Tech

Here's the video (2:34).

Ping Pong the Animation Tribute

Here's the video (3:09) - this is great!!!

Armin van Buuren - Ping Pong

Here's a 41-sec table tennis video from the music producer Armin van Buuren. It's rather interesting, but only because of the music and graphics. (Watch it a second time where you ignore the music and graphics, and you'll see what I mean.)  

Jimmy Fallen Faces Off Against Beer Pong Robot

Here's the video (1:48) - "Yes! Finally! We've Done it! USA! USA!"

Unicorn Pong

Here's the cartoon.


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