January 23, 2018

Weekend Coaching
It was a busy coaching weekend for me. On Saturday I coached nearly eight hours straight - from 11AM to 7:30 PM, with only a break from 5-5:30PM. To prepare, I had a big spaghetti brunch at 10:15AM. I ate a granola bar halfway through. I brought some food to eat at 5PM, but after all that exertion, I didn't feel hungry, and so didn't eat then, deciding to wait and have a real dinner later.

The coaching began with two "beginners," a mom and her 15-year-old son, 30 minutes each. I put that in quotes because while neither had ever had coaching or been to a club, they were avid tennis players and played table tennis regularly. The son had picked up playing penhold (saw it on youtube I think), and had a natural topspinning forehand, and will get into looping very easily - his forehand is already basically a loop. He had a bit more trouble on the backhand, which he took too much from the side. He could do both conventional and reverse penhold backhand, so we went with reverse. The mom was a hardbat player who hit everything - and she did it surprisingly well, obviously from her tennis. She switched to a sponge racket, and after a few minutes was smacking in shots. She too hit the backhand from the side too much, so we worked on that.

After that came Brian (lots of work on looping, and on serve and receive); Serguei (30 min, mostly on looping and serving - he's got good serves, wants to make them great); and Anna (30 min, also lots of work on looping against backspin - she always starts slow, then gets it together). Serguei and Anna are husband and wife, and come together. While one is with me, the other is with Coach Jack, and halfway through they switch, so they actually both get an hour.

Then came two hours with John and Kevin, all multiball. We have a regular progression of drills, nearly all involving footwork, two minutes each. John was about 1750 when we started about nine years ago, and is currently 2014. His backhand used to be a big weakness, and his receive was too erratic - tried too many advanced receives - but both have improved dramatically.

Next up was Todd (12), who is in the midst of that infamous "Larry's Six-Month Law," which roughly says that when you play well in practice, six months later it'll show up in tournament matches. This is because it takes time to translate what you do in practice into matches, plus when you suddenly improve a lot, you tend to lose most of your close matches against players at your new level, since they are experienced at that level and you are not, and so they are more confident and experienced at what to do to win at that level. So he keeps losing close ones to "stronger" players, but is on the verge of shooting up. He's most improved at forehand looping in rallies, where he was erratic before.

Then, after the 30-min break, we had "Junior League." I put that in quotes because it's both a league and a coaching session. They played both doubles and singles, with coaches sometimes stopping play to coach, and doing extensive coaching discussions after each match. For example, Ryan, who is about 7 or 8, has a nice forehand - but he almost always serves from the forehand side, and so players just return to his backhand. I spent half the session reminding him to serve from the backhand side so he could more often follow up with a forehand. With Jason, it was a constant reminder to attack, as he tends to push and block otherwise - and this time he played very aggressive, looping every chance even though it probably cost him at least one match. (Tactically, he should push and block since he has a better chance of winning now that way. Strategically, he should attack since he'll get much better that way.) Kyle, who had a tendency to serve and go into a passive backhand position (often following up his serve by backhand pushing against pushes to his forehand!) has broken that habit, and went undefeated in his group by serve and attacking relentlessly.

Then it was off to eat, or as I call it, Saturdays at Subway! I had a 6" Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki on a 9 grain honey oat.

And that's just Saturday. On Sunday I had three consecutive 90-minute group sessions.

For the Beginning Junior Class, with John Hsu assisting the focus was on serving. I put them into three groups, rotating around. In one group, they had to serve under the service bar, i.e. keep their serves low. In the second group, they served fast and deep, aiming at bottles I put on the table. In the third group, they worked on spin serves.

In the Advanced Junior Group, I mostly coached serves, then served multiball as the kids moved around, station to station. For my station I fed the 2-1 drill, i.e. backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, then forehand from forehand side, and repeat. Then I supervised the younger kids as they competed to see who could do the most shots in a row with side-to-side forehand footwork.

In the Adult Training, I usually just call out the drills and coach. However, we had a small turnout this tie, so I spent much of the session hitting with the players, rotating from one to the other, about 10 minutes each. We had one beginner who spent much of the time on the robot. We also had each player take a turn practicing serves for 15 minutes each.

Then it was off to eat - and that Sweet Onion Chicken Teriyaki was so good that I went back for another, so it was Sunday at Subway!

This is a really busy time for me, with all this USATT work, plus the regular coaching and blogging, plus (as noted in my blog yesterday), I'm in the middle both a three-week online writing workshop and a five-week online writing competition. (I'm also informed that I'll be getting a visit from Tim Boggan in March for two weeks to work on Volume 21 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. So I'll barely get a breather in February.) But on the good side, my shoulder is 80% healed, my heel injury is getting better (I'm barely limping now), and I've gone from 200 to 188 pounds since Christmas - lots of dieting, with a goal to get to 180.

Video Conference Call on Coaching Education and Certification
Yesterday, from noon until just after 2PM, I was on a online video conference with USATT, USOC, and others on online software and other resources we may use for USATT Coaching Education and Certification. We are looking at software from the USOC and from a German company that specializes in online webinars for sports. (Our High Performance Director is experienced in the latter.) It's all a part of "Blended Learning," where you combine online and in-person teaching of coaches.

Mastering the Pivot
Here's the article (with links to a number of videos) by Brian Pace.

Ma Lin Ghost Serve
Here's the video (1:40) of how to do the backspin serve that comes back into the net. I might have posted this video before, or one similar to it, but it's still something you should learn to do as an exercise in creating great backspin.

What is Miu Hirano’s Equipment?
Here's the article on the world #6 from Japan, from EmRatThich.

The Battle for Top Spot, Fan Zhendong Closes Gap on Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here's the ITTF article. "Dimitrij Ovtcharov will remain at the summit of the Men’s World Rankings table for February but Fan Zhendong could potentially rise above the German in the following month’s publication."

Two Japanese Table Tennis Players to Benefit From Cisco Technology
Here's the article, featuring Kasumi Ishikawa (world #4) and Tomokazu Harimoto (the whiz kid, age 14, world #11).

Best of 2017: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (4:25), with interviews by Adam Bobrow.

Loop - Push Drill by Little Girl
Here's the video (41 sec) - she looks about four!

Under-Table Snake
Here's the video (36 sec) as Niwa Koki of Japan (World #6) fools an opponent.

Table Tennis Funny
Here's the video (7:25). It's narrated in (I think) Chinese, but you don't need the narration - and it gives "thought balloons" in English.

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