November 28, 2017

Tip of the Week
The Non-Playing Arm.

JOOLA North American Teams
I spent all day Fri, Sat, and Sun at the Teams in Washington DC, coaching two junior teams from MDTTC. It was my 42nd consecutive year at the Teams, starting in 1976 when I was 16. That year I played with Mike Shapiro and Jackie Heyman. The next year I played with Jim Mossberg and Mort Greenberg (and I think someone else – can’t remember) – and both of them were in action at the teams this year! Most of those years I played, but in recent years I’ve just coached.

Here are complete results. There were 963 players on 238 teams on roughly a zillion tables. Because I was busy coaching the whole time, I didn’t get to see any of the big matches, but here’s the excellent article on the tournament by Matt Hetherington, ASV Grunwettersbach Top the Field in World Class JOOLA Team Championships, with a link to a video of the final. Matt also created a “High-Speed Tour” of the tournament (35 sec)!

As usual, there were lots and lots of tactical things going on. I could write about this for hours. Here are just a few.

  • While warming up, I saw one opponent had this rather long, awkward, flat forehand stroke. I told our players, “With that forehand stroke, there’s no way of making a consistent strong return against a serve that breaks away to the wide forehand.” And so all three players used a steady diet of breaking serves to that player’s forehand, and all three won.
  • Kids tend to be weaker at the corners, while adults tend to cover the corners better but struggle with shots at their elbows. Because many of our juniors play each other a lot, they get into the habit of mostly playing to the corners. (They play adults in league play on Tues and Fri.) So I regularly reminded them to go after opponents’ elbows. By the third day, a couple of them were becoming masters at this, and will now make this a huge part of their arsenal. One player in particular started the tournament out as a forehand looper with no confidence in her backhand loop, and ended it with a series of wins as she discovered the value of a backhand loop to the opponent’s elbow. (“Like Crystal Wang” I told her.) Several players won matches when I told them to put an X on their opponent’s elbow and just keep going after it.
  • A key thing in each match was finding the right balance of serving short (or half-long) and looping, versus serving out (long). They got better and better at this as the tournament went on. Two of them even developed fast, no-spin serves to the opponent’s middle in mid-tournament, and it won them a lot of points.
  • Time-outs were really successful this tournament. I think there were at least five times where I called a time-out, and the player immediately scored three or more in a row. In one match, I called a time-out at 4-6 in the fifth, and the player won 11-7. The key was choosing what serves worked best (including placement), what types of receives to use, placement of their first attack, and (often most important), mental focus and control. Sometimes I called time-outs when a player was obviously nervous, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes, to calm players down and clear their minds, I’d call a time-out and we’d spend half of it discussing their favorite movie or TV show.
  • I took full advantage of the ITTF rule of one year ago where you can coach between points, often whispering what serve to use. In one match, at I think 9-all in the fifth, my player walked over to pick up the ball. We’d already used the time-out, so I whispered, “Serve fast no-spin to middle, then short backspin to forehand.” He did both serves, and the opponent missed both serves outright! That might have been my favorite moment of the tournament.
  • There was an obvious difference coaching at different levels. When coaching players under 1600, the best winning tactic was often mostly pushing and letting the opponent make mistakes. I don’t like coaching that since it’s not good long-term, but tactically it was often the way to win. At the higher levels, the key to winning was often whoever used tactics to be the aggressor, which meant good choice of serve and receive and looking for chances to loop first to a well-chosen location, usually the elbow.
  • I took a huge amount of notes on the seven players I coached, and will be typing up these notes soon.

Here are some tidbits on the tournament from my perspective.

  • Bundesliga Match. On Friday there was the Bundesliga team match, where ASV Grunwettersbach defeated Post SV Mulhausen. There was a break from team play for this, so I got to watch this. There was a short intermission between matches where a number of local juniors (mostly ages 9-11) played “around the table,” with Wally Green (with a mini-bat) keeping the ball in play for them as they ran about, one by one dropping out until there were just two left – and the eventual winner was Ryan Lee over Kurtus Hsu.
  • Ryan’s Shot(s). That same Ryan Lee pulled off perhaps the Shot of the Tournament. He’s 10, and came in rated 1496, but picked up a lot of points this tournament. In one of his matches that I was coaching he stepped around his backhand – he’s a lefty - and looped a forehand down the line. The opponent blocked it very wide, outside the corner, to Ryan’s extreme wide forehand, an apparent winner. The stepped away from the table, thinking the point was over. Ryan raced to his left, going very wide (not sure how he got there so fast!), and with a last-second lunge, caught the ball very wide of the table, at about table height, with a big sidespin loop. The ball went around the net, hit the table about six inches short of the far left corner, and rolled across the corner. His stunned opponent tried to recover and return to the table, but even if he’d been there it was an unreturnable shot, so he just clapped. Dozens of people were watching, and we all gave it a big ground of applause.
    Ironically, Ryan had another show-stopping shot about five points later. The opponent dribbled a ball over the net to Ryan’s wide backhand. Ryan stepped way around his backhand to attack with his forehand, reached in, and literally smashed the ball after it dribbled over and hit his side. His shot hit the net as well, and dribbled over and hit the edge on the far side for a winner.
  • The Case of the Non-Missing Coat. On Friday morning after I arrived I put my coach around a chair and forgot about it. Throughout the day I moved to various locations in the convention center as I coached at different tables, and as far as I know I never moved or even saw the coat again. Late that night I returned home. Then I realized I was wearing the coat. But I have zero memory of how I came to be wearing the coat, or where and how I got it. It’s like a subconscious table tennis thing, where you rely on muscle memory for a shot – somehow while thinking table tennis thoughts all day I presumably moved the coat to the new table for each team match without ever really thinking about it.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. USA Boys and Girls both reached the quarterfinals, with the Girls losing to Korea, with the Boys playing Romania later today. The USA Boys team is Adar and Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, and Nikhil Kumar. The USA Girls’ Team is Ishana Deb, Rachel Sung, Amy Wang, and Crystal Wang. Here are related articles.

Adjusting Tactics in Tournament Play
Here’s the article by Brian Pace. “In competition players go for the shots they are the most comfortable with, the shots that we have mastered, as well as the shots that expose your opponent. Tactical conflict is created when the players doesn’t acknowledge that the shot they are playing is not being effective. This will result in a bad string of points, as well as playing in a way that benefits your opponent. Adjusting Tactics is one of the skills you have to master, and it is not a technical or physical skill. It is by far a mental and emotional skill that needs to be developed. This blog post will take you through the process of implementing tactics, surveying the outcome, and adjusting tactics. These are the major 3 aspects that create the language behind HOW you get to 11 points before your opponent.”

New from Samson Dubina

Why You Should Make Notes About Your Opponents
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

How to Train Off the Table
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty, where he covers seven aspects: Physical, Nutrition, Visualization, Learn from the best by watching, Information, Serve, and Mindset. (Yeah, I changed “Visualisation” to the American spelling!)

New Articles and Video from EmRatThich

The Hand
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Performance or the Win – Which is More Valuable?
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Drop Shot Off Chop
Here’s the video (4:07) from PingSkills.

New Podcasts from PingSkills

10 Christmas Gift Ideas for a Table Tennis Player
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Melton Table Tennis Association Newsletter
Here’s the December issue, with lots of articles, including coaching articles. Here’s their archives page, with links to past issues. Make sure to read the table tennis adjusted movie quotes as conversation starters on page 7! Such as, “I love the smell of table tennis in the morning.”

US Players Win Medals At Australian National Veterans Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article by Dan Green.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup to be seen by 500 million and will boost table tennis in Britain
Here’s the article from Inside the Games.

Get to Know the Chinese National Team When They Are More Relaxed
Here’s the video (59 sec) from Adam Bobrow. “From smiles and laughter to karaoke with Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin to Chen Xingtong's face during my basic beatbox (she's hilarious), I thought it was a fun night to share with table tennis fans. This was after the finals at The Swedish Open.”

Ping Pong with Water in Space
Here’s the video (10 sec)!

A Little Centaur Pong?
Here are two pictures, centaur 1 and centaur 2.

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