April 6, 2017

Kids and Blocking
It always surprises me at how quickly kids pick up on blocking against loops, at least in a drill. But there’s a simple method I’ve found that leads to this. As soon as I explain that blocking is just like playing a video game, they go into “game mode,” and suddenly they are blocking champions! I can loop over and over and they’ll get nearly all of them back, even if their level is in the 500-1000 range. I can even get a little practice out of this.

But there are obvious weaknesses. They can’t really adjust to changing spins – if I suddenly throw a super-slow spinny one at them, they usually block off. If I loop very deep on the table, they get jammed and miss. And they aren’t yet in the habit of stepping to the ball, and so have trouble if my loop goes outside a roughly 18-inch wide zone.

A key here is to teach them, right from the start, that they should step to each ball, even if it’s a one-inch step. If you allow them to develop the habit of reaching for the ball, it becomes a habit that’s harder to break. Even if my loop goes to exactly the same spot twice in a row, they should assume they have to move, flexing their knees as I’m hitting my shot in preparation for moving. You should also teach them not to jam the table – arm’s length is about right – or they’ll always struggle with deep balls.

Related to this is that while blocking, they can’t help but see how the coach or practice partner is looping the ball. My loop is a bit ragged and stiff, with my elbow too bent. I warn students not to copy those aspects. It gets the job done, and is both consistent and (when I’m in position) pretty powerful. The key is that I do it the same every time, so the stroke, timing, and contact are consistent, leading to a consistent shot. When I introduce players to looping, or loop to their blocks, I often look about to see if one of our top players or coaches is looping so they can get a visual image of what a smoother and looser loop looks like. On the other hand, despite its deficiencies, students quickly pick up on the idea that when looping, if you can touch it, you can loop it over and over almost without miss, since that’s something I can do, as can most top players – and so they come to think of that as the norm they should aspire to.

World Table Tennis Day: Celebrations in Full Swing
Here’s the ITTF article, and here’s the ITTF video (73 sec). Yep, it’s today! “The idea behind this day is to gather Table Tennis enthusiasts, attract people who usually don’t play table tennis, promote the love for our sport, and ideally engage new players to the practice in the long term. I can’t wait for the entire world to play table tennis on 6 April.” –ITTF President Thomas Weikert. Here are more links.

Understand Your Mistakes
Here’s the article by Carl Hardin.

The Perfect Stroke - Read about the 4 Elements!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Top Five Unique Services in Ping Pong
Here’s the video (2:13).

Jun Mizutani Training Serve | WTTC 2015 Suzhou
Here’s the video (22:46). It’s from the 2015 Worlds, but the video just went up.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge – Interview With Ed Hogshead
Here’s the interview by Barbara Wei.

Youth Excel at NJTTC Hopes Regional Camp and Trial
Here’s the USATT article.

College TT: Table Tennis Set for Nationals
Here’s the article featuring Western University in Ontario, Canada.

When Your Flight is Delayed at the Airport and It’s World Table Tennis Day
Here’s video (16 sec) of Matt Hetherington this morning when his flight was delayed five hours, but it was World Table Tennis Day. Here are some other airport videos!

  • Here’s video (2:47) of how a group of MDTTC junior players and I spent our time at the airport when our flight was delayed in 2012 .
  • Here’s video (4:20) of college players at the airport in 2010.
  • Here’s video (3:24) of college players at the airport in 2007.

Ping Pong Rabbit
Here’s the trailer (65 sec) for “Ping Pong Rabbit,” an animated movie currently being filmed here in the U.S.! “‘Ping Pong Rabbit’ tells the story of a young country rabbit who loves playing ping pong. Big city ping pong turns out to be a rougher game though, and he must battle evil monkeys to save the soul of the game. From the co-director of ‘Corpse Bride.’”

Jerry Seinfeld on Tennis and Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the video – link should take you to 46 sec in. "Tennis is basically ping-pong where you're standing on the table." Here are three clips of Seinfeld playing table tennis in a Microsoft ad – Bill Gates is in the video as well.

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