November 29, 2017

Rules Questions at the Teams
A number of rules questions and issues came up at the North American Teams this past weekend. Here’s a rundown. (I coached two junior teams during the tournament, one with four players, and one with three.)

  • Late on the first day an umpire came by and watched the team I was coaching for a bit. Then he came over and said, “Yours is the first team I’ve seen where everyone is serving legally.” I’m not sure if this is a good thing – does this mean opponents are getting an advantage since we’re the only ones serving legally?!!!
  • In one of our team matches (not the one mentioned above), an opponent began to catch the serve of one of our junior players, saying his hand was cupped. The kid did have a tendency to cup his hand a bit on some serves, but it wasn’t anything worse than about half the players out there (see umpire comment above), and he didn’t get any advantage out of it. The problem was that rather than ask for an umpire, the opponent just kept catching the ball, over ten times in the first four games as they went into the fifth. Strangely, I was the one who finally called for an umpire after the fourth game, since I’d rather have an umpire call the serve than have an opponent who can catch the serve at any time, which was clearly bothering my player, who was nearly in tears. In the fifth game, no serves were called or caught, and my player won easily. Whether he served legally because the umpire was watching or because the serve wasn’t so bad, I don’t know. However, in this junior’s very next match against the same team, the opponent caught the very first serve, and once again I called for an umpire. Again, no serves were faulted and my player won. Afterwards, the umpire did warn the junior that his serves were borderline. We’ll fix that problem.
  • Hidden serves mostly takes place at the higher levels. I only saw one player hiding his serve against the teams I coached. In the past I would have called for an umpire, but I think the last ten times I’ve done that the umpire simply wouldn’t call hidden serves, thereby validating the opponent’s illegal serving. This type of cheating – yes, it is cheating, by definition – is now accepted as part of the game, to my great disdain. So calling for an umpire would have been pointless. All three of my players played him, and two managed to win. As to it being cheating, the general definition of cheating (and the first one that comes up on Google) is, “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.” So yeah, it’s cheating – unless your opponent does it first, in which case you can do so since you are no longer trying to “gain an advantage” – you are trying to keep your opponent from gaining an illegal advantage.
  • After one of the kids I was coaching won the first game, the opponent changed rackets. I immediately pointed out that that was illegal. He didn’t realize it wasn’t allowed, and switched back to his original racket without complaint. The pertinent rule is “A racket shall not be replaced during an individual match unless it is accidentally damaged so badly that it cannot be used; if this happens the damaged racket shall be replaced immediately by another which the player has brought with him or her to the playing area or one which is handed to him or her in the playing area.” This is also the reason why it is required that you leave your racket at the table between games, so a player doesn’t try to secretly change rackets illegally. The rule here is “Unless otherwise authorised by the umpire, players shall leave their rackets on the table during intervals; but if the racket is strapped to the hand, the umpire shall allow the player to retain his or her racket strapped to the hand during intervals.”
  • One opponent had long pips on one side with the label on the bottom mostly cut off. If we’d called an umpire, it might have been ruled illegal, but I didn’t think it was worth it. The pertinent rule is “Any ordinary pimpled rubber or sandwich rubber covering the racket shall be currently authorised by the ITTF and shall be attached to the blade so that the ITTF logo, the ITTF number (when present), the supplier and brand names are clearly visible nearest the handle.”
  • One player we didn’t play showed me his racket and asked if it was legal. It was likely illegal in two ways. First, the rubber had been chipped off along the edges, exposing the wood. The pertinent rule is 2.4.4: “The covering material shall extend up to but not beyond the limits of the blade, except that the part nearest the handle and gripped by the fingers may be left uncovered or covered with any material.” Also, it was pretty worn out in the middle, more than along the edges, and might have been declared illegal due to rule “Slight deviations from continuity of surface or uniformity of colour due to accidental damage or wear may be allowed provided that they do not significantly change the characteristics of the surface.”
  • A lot of team matches seemed to go on longer than needed as teams generally played one match at a time as soon as one team had won four matches. A lot of them didn’t know that you can still play two matches at a time at that point. If the first match is won by the team with four wins, thereby ending the team match, then the other match simply doesn’t count, even if it finished. (The rule on this has changed a few times over the years, so I checked with the referee at the start of the tournament to make sure.)
  • I was surprised nobody mistakenly complained about my coaching between points, which is now legal – I was often calling out or whispering advice, which became legal about a year ago due to the new rule “Players may receive advice at any time except during rallies provided play is not thereby delayed.” I still don’t like the rule, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared. There have been cases I’ve blogged about where coaches literally signaled every serve. I also used a few signals at times, mostly for specific serves.
  • One thing I like about team competition is that everyone can coach. The pertinent rule is “In a team event, players may receive advice from anyone authorised to be at the playing area.” So when we played two matches at a time, while I was coaching one player, often the other player would get coaching from the rest of his teammates, or others from his club. Often there’d be two or three kids coaching one of the kids between games, which is a great way for them to learn tactics – both for the player and the junior coaches. Some might think it’s confusing to have more than one coach in a match, especially if you have three kids coaching you, but I think they did a great job – the kids really got into it, and the very fact that they were coaching the matches meant that they were watching the matches closely and learning.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. USA Boys and Girls both lost in the quarterfinals, to Romania and Korea, respectively, but it was a great performance. The boy’s team lost 3-2, but in two of the losses Sharon Alguetti was up match point in the fifth game, including in the decisive fifth match - so close! Here’s the USATT article on it by Matt Hetherington, Valiant Efforts, Medal Finish Passes Within Points of USA. Singles and Doubles are next.

Chen Longcan Coaching at MDTTC
Here’s info (and picture of him playing doubles with MDTTC coach Cheng Yinghua back when they were teammates on the Chinese National Team), and here’s info on MDTTC camps. “Former Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion Chen Longcan visiting Maryland Table Tennis Center in December & January! He will be coaching at MDTTC Winter Camp: December 26 – 30, 2017 & giving private lessons. Register now for MDTTC Winter Camp! To schedule private lessons, please call 301.519.8580 or email us at” Chen won the gold medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1988 Olympics; Men’s Singles at the 1986 World Cup; Men’s Teams at the 1985 and 1987 World Championships; Men’s Doubles at the 1987 World Championships; and made the final of Men’s Singles at the 1985 World Championships (losing the final to teammate Jiang Jialiang).

2017 ITTF Star Awards: Who Will be the Table Tennis Breakthrough Star?
Here’s the video (75 sec).

2017 ITTF Table Tennis Star Coach Nominees
Here’s the article and video (75 sec).

2017 ITTF Para Table Tennis Star Nominees
Here’s the article and videos (male and female, 75 sec each).

Newgy Coaching Archives
Here’s their coaching page, with links to over 100 articles, including ten by me.

Plastic and Change
Here’s the article from Pro Table Tennis.

Returning to Table Tennis After a Long Break
Here’s the article by Sam Priestley at Eastfield.

Boll: We Are Closing Gap with China's Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Xinhua News. “Despite latest defeats and problems with the new ball used in international competition, China's table tennis stars are still the world's leading fraction, said German Timo Boll.” ‘We managed to close the gap a little bit, but they still rule table tennis,’ the German number two and former first of world rankings said in a recent Xinhua interview.”

The Korean Version of Ping-Pong Diplomacy
Here’s the article from Ozy.

Debut 2017 Xiom West Coast Teams a Success
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Fun, Exciting Matches All for a Good Cause at Pong for Harvey
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. “Nearly three months after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston with flooding rains and destructive winds causing an estimated $200 billion in damages, the area’s table tennis community came together for Pong for Harvey on November 18-19th at the Houston International Table Tennis Academy (HITTA).”

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 4
Here’s chapter four of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

World’s Biggest Table Tennis Tour Opens Bids for 2019
Here’s the info page if you want to sponsor the 2019 ITTF World Tour.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 German Open
Here’s the video (5:12).

The Boy Who Taught Dinosaurs to Play Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:38)!

Send us your own coaching news!