October 21, 2016

Notes from Thailand by Richard McAfee
[Richard is a USATT National Coach and Hall of Famer, and an ITTF Coaching Course Conductor. Think of this as a "guest column." I was going to blog about "Some Funny Coaching Incidents," but decided to move that to the end of the blog and feature this instead.]

While recently in Thailand, I had the opportunity to run a training camp for the Thai National Junior/Cadet Teams and to also watch 3 days of the Asian Junior and Cadet Championships. As I knew many players and coaches, I was able to spend a lot of time in the training area. This was very interesting as this tournament highlights the best prospects from Asia and is also a look at how each country is preparing the next generation of players. I got the chance to talk to many of the coaches about how they are preparing their next generation of players and there are some definite trends

  • Emphasis is going to be on staying close to the table but with more power rather than time pressure (more balls played at the top of the bounce).
  • More physical training is being added during the year as a result of the demands of the new ball.
  • Against the opponent's first opening topspin, more blocking and less counter-topspin, the blocks tend to be either power blocks or off-speed. Counter-topspins are then played against the opponent's weaker second topspin. Not using counter-topspin as often against the first attack is a result of the unpredictability of the bounce of the new plastic balls. It is easier to block them.
  • The backhand banana flips are being played even more often and with even more speed.
  • Lots of strawberry backhand flips being played in the girl’s game but not in the boys.
  • The next generation of Japanese boys will have more power and stay closer to the table than the current national team.
  • The best Junior Male I saw was a left-handed Korean boy who had "Waldner" hands with Korean power. Korea defeated China in the Boys Team Final.

In comparing the skill set of the top Asian Players with what I saw at our July Super-Camp, the standout difference was in the serve and receive game. The top Asian Teams were much more advanced in both the quality of the serve and also the tactical use of their serves.

I thought that I would pass the above observations on to our group. I would also suggest that the main theme for the next Super-Camp be, "Serve and Serve Return."

One final observation regarding the Chinese Junior and Cadet Teams. It seems that while China sends a good competitive team to these events, they normally don't send their top athletes. Which leads to the question, "why do they attend"? While they hold-back their best players, they do send their top developmental and planning coaches who can be seen studying the top players from other countries. China is very interested in knowing what is coming up in the pipe-line for the other countries but doesn't want to let out to much information regarding their next generation.

The Importance of Match Practice in Table Tennis
Here's the new coaching article from Matt Hetherington.

Table Tennis University
You can still enroll for free!

USATT Tournament Website and Insider Feature
Here's the USATT news item, and a way to promote your tournaments. Speaking of which…

Butterfly MDTTC October Open
The MDTTC October Open is tomorrow (Saturday) at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, Maryland – don't miss it! I'm running it. Deadline to enter is 5PM today, though I'll likely take them until 7:30PM, when the MDTTC Friday night league starts. Events include Open, U2350, U2000, U1700, U1350, Over 50, and Under 15, with over $1300 in prize money.

2016 U.S. Open
Don't forget to enter!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers – Still Selling Big!
Here's a screen image I took a couple days ago, where the paperback and kindle versions hold the #1 and #2 top-selling table tennis spots at Amazon, with Table Tennis Tips at #8. (I'm not sure why they separate the print and kindle versions, since either one is a sale of the same book.)

These rankings are volatile and often change quite a bit each day. For example, this morning Revelations of a Table Tennis Champion (by Dan Seemiller) sold two copies of the kindle version, and that was enough to temporarily move it into the #1 position – despite being out of the top ten as of yesterday! (How do I know it sold two copies this morning? I created the book for Dan at createspace.com, and it allows me to track sales for both print and kindle. It's possible there were other sales not yet reported.) So thanks a lot, Dan, for knocking my Tactics book down to #2 – but I'll be watching sales closely today! (Readers, just buy both, okay?)

Table Tennis Equipment for Sale . . . 1940s
Here's the price list from Table Tennis Inc. (Lou Pagliaro) – as noted by Barry Meisel Table Tennis, "bats complete with rubber from 90 cents, real celluloid balls 144 from $6.50 and tables from $33." (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I remember when I started out in 1976 we could still buy the best table tennis sponge – Sriver and Mark V – for $5. Now a sheet of the best sponge is about $75. And I still look at modern table tennis balls with amazement – how can they cost $3 each? That's more than the average tennis ball!

USATT Insider
Here's the most recent issue, which came out on Wednesday.

Creating Spooky Halloween Ghost Lights from Ping-Pong Balls
Here's the video (43 sec).

Table Table Tennis?
Here's the video (42 sec) of a child playing table tennis while kneeling on the table – and he's pretty good!

Some Funny Coaching Incidents

  • I was recently coaching on the table adjacent to our table tennis robot. An elderly player was using the robot. It ran out of balls, so he began picking up balls using one of our Butterfly Ball Amigo Nets. However, he forgot to turn off the robot feed. As I watched, he put a netful of balls into the robot's ball catching net, then went to pick up more – but he didn't notice it shooting them out. So by the time he returned with more balls, all the balls he'd put in were gone, but again he didn't notice as he poured more balls into the net, and went back to picking them up as balls continued to shoot out. I finally walked over and pointed out the problem.
  • I wonder if I'm the only coach to get into a spirited debate (mostly while picking up balls) with a student who insisted peanut butter was the worst thing ever invented? The kid hated peanut butter, and almost went poetic as he listed the evils of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, both of which I absolutely love.
  • This is a little further back, but I don't think I've ever blogged about this one. Way back in the early 1980s I was the University of Maryland Intramural Singles and Doubles Champion for four years in a row. After winning the doubles three years in a row, I tried something interesting – I paired up with the worst player in my dormitory, a player who could barely keep the ball on the table. (For perspective, he's the guy I once beat with an ice cube as a racket, and also with my driver's license.) I forget his name, but he had an incredible resemblance to William Shatner (i.e. Captain Kirk). We managed to eke out the title, beating a pair of 1500 players in the final. Afterwards, he wore his Intramural medal and t-shirt everywhere – and constantly told people he'd won it for wrestling! We had some heated discussions about this.

Mostly Non-Table Tennis: Capclave Book Signing Picture
Here's a picture of me getting set for book signing at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention on Saturday, Oct. 7. See the nice banner on the right about my novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions! Also included on the table are my other four science fiction/fantasy books: Pings and Pongs (short story collection), More Pings and Pongs (another short story collection), The Spirit of Pong (fantasy table tennis novel!), Sorcerers in Space (humorous fantasy novel), and of course Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, the main one I'm promoting. As noted in previous blogs, Campaign 2100 has a number of table tennis scenes as one of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who ends up running a worldwide campaign for president.

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