July 12, 2018

NOTE - Due to technical problems, the site went down Friday morning and didn't come back up until Monday night. (The problem was the "Access Log," which went over 1 GB, causing an "overload of MySQL resources.") Now that it's back I'll be blogging again on Tuesday morning.

Tip of the Week
Pinpoint Your Weakness and Then Pinpoint a Drill. (I linked to this yesterday in my short blog, but thought I'd link again for those who missed it.)

Three Weeks in Las Vegas
I could write a book about all that happened these past three weeks in Las Vegas - or does what happen in Vegas stay in Vegas? In my last blog before leaving, June 13, I wrote about my schedule, and it pretty much went as listed. I spent the first week writing 23 articles on the World Veterans - see segment and links below. Then I had a four-day reading/writing vacation. Then we had a three-day camp for MDTTC juniors where they did two sessions/day, about 2.5 hours each. And then a week of coaching at the U.S. Nationals. (See segment below with results.) I'll likely do several blogs on the various happenings, such as the Hall of Fame Banquet, the norovirus stomach virus outbreak (I spent the day before the Nationals sick in bed, along with many others) the USATT board meeting, discussions on national team selection process and hidden serve enforcement, the mini-table tournament, and the $10,000 Jim Butler-A.J. Carney hardbat challenge match.

Since this is primarily a coaching blog, I'll start with coaching highlights. We had 16 junior players from MDTTC at the Nationals, with seven coaches. Each night Wen Hsu from the HW Global Foundation (which runs the Talent Development Program at MDTTC - I'm one of their coaches - and raised the money to fund our coaches to the Nationals) posted our coaching schedule for the next day. I was primarily responsible for three players.

The key to great coaching at a tournament is players who are prepared!!! Coaching a match can seem like pushing buttons, but if you push the button for a short serve and get a long serve instead, you aren't going to be successful in your "coaching." Fortunately, the players were well prepared, both before arriving in Las Vegas and during the three-day camp. It's the player's responsibility to be prepared, and the coach's responsibility to make sure they are prepared and to know what the player can do - and if they work together, you get pretty good results. Coaches often get credit for tactical advice, but the players have to have developed the tools needed, and be able to execute them under great pressure. That ain't easy!

MDTTC has a history of starting out poorly at the Nationals and Open in Las Vegas, for a very simple reason - the kids would often fly 3000 miles the day before, and so were disoriented by the change in time zone (three hours earlier), thinner air (1000 feet elevation, which affects the ball in subtle ways), and different playing conditions (tables, balls, and background). The three-day camp solved this problem, and our players played really well right from the start. I coached over 40 matches during the tournament over five days. (None of our players played on the last day, Saturday.)

I had two coaching highlights on the first day. A kid I was coaching was down 0-2 in games and 8-10 match point to a player rated over 200 points higher. I called a timeout and said, "Serve fast no-spin to his middle. If it works, do it again." I knew the player could do this serve - he'd been practicing it. Sure enough, the opponent missed it - both times! The player did it again at 11-10 to win the game and went on to win the match. Perfect execution.

Later that same day I had another kid down 0-2 in games and at 9-all in the third, also against a player about 200 points higher. (I mistakenly told some he was also down 8-10 match point, but had the score mixed up.) Again I called a timeout, and again said the exact same words: "Serve fast no-spin to his middle. If it works, do it again." Once again it worked, the player deuced it, and went on to win in five! Perfect execution.

Later in the tournament I coached a pair of kids in one of the rating doubles events. They were up against a pair of elderly penhold hitters. They were down 1-2 in games and 4-9 in the third, but I didn't call a timeout yet. They scored three in a row to make it 7-9. Then, controversially, I called a timeout. Normally you don't call a timeout when your team has just won three in a row, but I had my reasons. They were about to serve, and I wanted to go over the serve with them. The kid serving had a tendency to serve deep, which he sometimes got away with here since the receiver couldn't loop. But the previous time he'd served the opponent had hit those serves. I told him to focus on doing a slow, spinny sidespin tomahawk serve, and with his back to the opponents, even had him shadow-practice it. Then he went out and did the serve. Perfect execution! Sure enough, the receiver pushed it about five feet to the side - twice in a row! They went on to win the match.

Several of the kids discovered the value of a simple short no-spin serve to the middle, while faking backspin. They do this in practice, but against players who they play regularly and so are used to it. Against new players, the balls were often popped up, pushed back weakly, or flipped erratically, and without any extreme angled returns (as is easier to do against serves to the forehand or backhand). They were able to serve and attack over and over off this serve, especially by mixing the no-spins up with backspin and sidespin serves, and sudden deep serves, and by varying the placement.

We had some great results at the tournament. Our best result was in Under 10 Boys, where Stanley Hsu came in first, with Mu Du and Andy Wu both making the semifinals - we had three of the four semifinalists. They had come in seeded #1, #3, and #4. All three had great tournaments, both results- and rating-wise, and if others don't also go up, will likely come out as #1-3 in the country. (However, the #2 seed will likely go up as well.)

I also ran the USATT Coaching University Serve & Receive Tactics Seminar on Tuesday night. The lecture & demos went 90 minutes, then I stayed another 30 minutes working individually with players who stayed late to practice. I went pretty much by the topics listed on the flyer. One change - the flyer has "Long Serves" and "Short Serve," which I changed to "Long, Short, and Half-Long Serves."  

During my three-week trip I read nine books (often in the hot tub at night and in bed afterwards), wrote three new short science fiction stories (during the four-day reading/writing vacation), and saw two movies ("The Incredibles 2" and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom").

USA Nationals
Here are the results! (Set dropdown menu at top to "2018 US Nationals.") The event was held in Las Vegas, July 2-7. Here are two feature news articles by Matt Hetherington.

World Veterans Championships
They were held in Las Vegas, June 18-24. I was there doing daily online news coverage and ended up writing 23 stories. Here are some links.

Pan Am Junior Championships
Here's their home page, with results, etc. The USA Boys' Team is in the final against Argentina, the USA Girls' Team in the final against Canada.

Here's their news page - lots of stuff was posted during my 3.5 week hiatus. Most recent news items are on the Pan Am Junior Championships.

Focusing Forward, Top Coaches Meet with High Performance in Mind
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. Alas, I had to miss this meeting as it was inadvertently scheduled at the same time as my Serve and Receive Tactics Seminar (which had 33 players).

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Eli Baraty

New from Coach Jon

New from Fremont Table Tennis (Shashin Shodhan)

New from EmRatThich

New from PingSkills

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the most recent newsletter from Tom Lodziak.

What Should You Eat To Improve Performance In Table Tennis?
Here's the article from Ping That Pong.

Butterfly Amicus Prime Table Tennis Robot
Here's the article by Larry Thoman. (Disclosure: I'm sponsored by Butterfly.)

How Table Tennis Rubber is Made
Here's the video (3:34).

Maria Sharapova Tries Her Hand at Table Tennis After Wimbledon Exit
Here's the article from India Today.

Juggling Pong
Here's the video (2:24)!

Send us your own coaching news!