September 10, 2018

Tip of the Week
Develop Ball Control by Playing with Different Surfaces.

Shortened Tables
There seems to be an obvious way to develop great players that we're almost all missing. Because of the height of the table - 30 inches - kids can't really play until they are about five or six years old, and even then it's rather awkward. (It's especially hard hitting backhands at that age, until their elbow is over the table.) However, there are many stories about how top players started playing much younger, as young as two or three, on shortened tables. They then move to regular tables around six or seven. 

For example, the Japanese whiz kid, Tomokazu Harimoto, who is world #8 (and #6 last month) at age 15, started when he was two years old. Here's video of him playing on a shortened table, where he's at most three years old. (Video should take you ten seconds in, where you see this for about six seconds.) Is it any wonder how good he became? I've seen others start this way as well. I once hit 50 forehands in a row on a one-foot table with Barney J. Reed when he was three years old, who would go on to be a many-time U.S. team member. He'd obviously been playing for a while, probably starting at two.

Imagine your typical six-year-old starting out in table tennis. It takes him a year to learn the basics, and more years to perfect them. He also has to deal with a too-high table, which can lead to awkward strokes, especially on the backhand. Now imagine a kid starting at age two on a shortened table. At age six he's already mastered the basics and has three more years practicing to perfect them. He's four years ahead of his peers. Assuming they are equal in "natural talent," and work equally hard with equally good coaching and other aspects, how can the "late-starting" six-year-old catch up? Sure, he can work hard and get good coaching, but so can the one who started at age two.

Here's another video (61 sec) of a kid training on a platform, giving the same effect as a shortened table. This could also work, though I'm worried about the safety factor if the kid falls off. But watch this kid - take away the platform, and his shoulders would be even with the table, and he'd struggle to hit good shots. But he's obviously been playing for a while and has very nice shots and consistency - and so is years ahead of his future rivals, who start later and develop awkwardly on too-high tables.

Some might consider a mini-table, where the table itself is smaller, but I don't really see the value in that here - it's the height of the table that keeps kids from playing from ages 2-5. A smaller table means a smaller target for them, and it's hard enough at that age to hit on a full-sized table! Kids ages 2-5 aren't really playing competitively yet, they are playing for fun, and during that time they should focus on learning the basics and developing a foundation - while still, of course, having fun.

I remember when I used to play regular tennis in group training sessions I'd sometimes see group sessions of kids who were 2-5 years old, playing on shortened tennis courts with slower balls. It's the same idea, and allowed these kids to start much earlier.

I'm told that overseas there are adjustable tables for sale, where the table can be lowered for kids. (Alas, they probably cost more than normal tables.) At the moment I don't know of any distributors in the U.S. who sell adjustable tables. The other option is to make one by simply cutting part of the legs off a normal table. My guess is cutting off about 10-12 inches would be ideal, so instead of a 30-inch table, perhaps an 18- or 20-inch one.

Other Happenings

  • On Saturday night I went to the wedding of Barbara Wei and Cyril Lan, in North Beach, Maryland, about 75 minutes away. Many of you may know them. Barbara was a long-time member of the U.S. cadet and junior girls' teams and traveled around the world. Cyril broke 1800 as a junior, and his sister, Janice, was on the USA Cadet Team. Where did these two meet? As up-and-coming juniors at the Maryland Table Tennis Center!!! While I wasn't their personal coach, I coached both in group sessions, and Barbara in many tournaments when her primary coach, Jack Huang, wasn't available. Here are wedding photos.
  • On Sunday night we had the Team Trials for the Junior Talent Program, which is run by HW Global Foundation at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. (I'm one of the coaches.) During the trials I was in charge of the springs (where we watched for "explosiveness") and multiball with about ten kids, where I put them through a series of drills.

African Table Tennis Championships
Here's the home page for the event that finished this past weekend in Port Louis, Mauritius, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are articles on the two singles champions.

USATT's Ethan Figge to take Ponce De Leon Tour Ahead of 2018 US Open
Here's the USATT article.

How to Counter a Slow Spinny Topspin
Here's the video (8:06) from PingSkills from nine years ago - but it still shows the three main ways of dealing with these balls. If you have trouble blocking or attacking against these slow, spinny loops against backspin, then the answer isn't to do a drill where your opponent loops to your block, which is how most players practice their block. A loop against a block comes out differently than one that comes against backspin. Instead, get a coach or practice partner, and a bucket of balls, and do this drill. Your partner serves backspin, you push, partner loops slow and spinny, and you block or counter-attack. Do not continue the rally; as soon as your partner finishes his loop, he reaches for the next ball and does it again. This is a modified multiball drill that allows you lots and lots of practice against a slow, spinny loop in a short period of time. And your partner gets lots and lots of practice looping against backspin. (Then you switch and you do the looping.) So it's a win-win drill for both. (An expanded version of this will likely become a Tip of the Week.) 

How to Do a Forehand Fade
Here's the video (7:45) from Tom Lodziak, with Craig Bryant.

New from Samson Dubina

The 80/40 Rule – Setting Goals for This Season
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe. "You should play in one tough league, where your goal is to finish the season with a win percentage of 40%, and one easier league, where you’re aiming for an 80% average."

Liam Pitchford: The Perfect Table Tennis Game
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

September Table Tennis Skill of the Month
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Melton Table Tennis
Here's the September issue of this Australian newsletter, with a number of interesting articles. Here are their archives.

WAB Featured Club: Texas Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Manika Batra: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:05), featuring the world #56 from India, with Adam Bobrow. Lots of interesting and funny stuff, and make sure to watch to the end for the "I want the truth!" "You can't handle the truth!" part1

Six Years of Table Tennis Training
Here's the video (6:26). Here's the video of Marcel Dietl as he developed at the TSV Neuried club near Munich, Germany.

Omar Assar Training
Here's the video (21 sec) of the world #29 (#16 earlier this year) from Egypt.

How to Play Against Yourself
Here's the video (37 sec) - backspin control!

Your Basic Around-the-Net Backhand Sidespin Loop Receive
Here's the video (17 sec) by Adam Bobrow.

Wedding Pong
Here's the video (20 sec)!

Death or a Dark Hockey Goalie Does Footwork Drills
Here's the video (48 sec)!

Jimmy Fallon and Paul McCartney Surprise Elevator Riders - with Ping-Pong!
Here's the video (2:47). The table tennis starts 76 seconds in (lasting about 12 sec).

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