June 10, 2019

Tip of the Week
Should You Play Differently at Deuce?

USA Players Training and Competing in Europe
Here are two new articles on this, both by Matt Hetherington:

This is HUGE news - from the first article, we now have 23 USA players, mostly juniors or under 20, all training and playing in Europe (mostly Germany), representing clubs in professional leagues. This is GREAT news, and here's why.

I've always thought that for a USA players to reach the highest levels, either USATT needs to find a way to set up professional leagues across the country (very difficult and expensive, and you have to attract lots of top overseas players to raise the level), or we need to send our players overseas to those professional leagues. Since we can't get do the former, we are now doing the latter. When USATT was looking to hire High Performance Directors twice in the last few years, I had one very strong recommendation - that we include in the job description that the HPD would be in charge of finding overseas opportunities for our top players and juniors.

You can get good training in the U.S., but to really reach your highest potential, you have to train and compete regularly at a high level - and by far the best way to do that is to be part of a team that trains together, with regular professional league matches. The best U.S.-born players in modern history all went this route, training in Europe as part of a team representing a club - Dan Seemiller, Eric Boggan, Sean O'Neill, Jim Butler, and in recent years, Kanak Jha. (Those five have combined for 19 U.S. Men's Singles titles, and some pretty good international results.) And now we have 23 of them doing this! Just think about their training situation - they are on a team that works together to improve as they strive to win those professional league matches. It gives them incredible incentive to work hard and improve as they train full-time with two, maybe three sessions per day, plus physical training.

I wrote a few years ago that the U.S. had the strongest group of players in the mini-cadet range in our history, and it wasn't even close - and now that generation is getting some serious overseas training. This bodes well for our future. Our HPD, Jörg Bitzigeio, has done a lot of things, but in my mind, connecting these players with these overseas opportunities could end up being the most consequential one.

Summer Training Camps in the U.S.
There are lots of clubs running training camps this summer. Some are mostly for kids, others for all ages. Here is a listing of some of the major ones. I put a note in my blog last week asking for clubs running camps to let me know. Only a few responded. Those, and a few others I know about (I did some quick browsing of major clubs looking for camp info), are listed below. I'm sure there are many others - if you email me with a link, I'll add it to the list below.

  • Maryland Table Tennis Center, Gaithersburg, MD. This is my club, but since I will be traveling most of July and August, and we have nine full-time coaches and a number of part-time ones, I'm not really needed. We will be running camps every week all summer, Mon-Fri, starting June 17 and ending Aug. 30, except for the week of the U.S. Nationals (July 1-5). Camps are primarily for kids of all ages, but all ages are welcome. Other coaches include Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qingliang, Bowen Chen, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Martin Jezo, Lidney Castro, and others.
  • Dan Seemiller Camps in South Bend, IN. The five-time U.S. Men's Champion will be running camps July 25-27 and Aug. 22-24.
  • Ohio Mega Camps in Akron, OH, June 20 - Aug. 9, with Samson Dubina and others.
  • Farmington Hills TTC in Farmington Hills, MI, runs four five-day camps this summer.
  • Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, runs camps all summer, June 10 to Aug. 30. Here is their registration form.
  • Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC, runs camps all summer, June 12 - Aug. 23. These camps focus on table tennis, but also have basketball, soccer, badminton, dodgeball, cricket, and board games.
  • Atlanta TTA in Atlanta, GA, runs camps most of the summer, June 3 - Aug. 2.
  • World Champions Academy in Santa Clara, CA, runs camps June 10-14, 17-21, and 24-28, with coaches Li Zhenshi, Nan Li, and Stefan Feth. Here is their camp flyer.
  • India Community Center in Milpitas, CA, runs camps all summer, June 20 - Aug. 23.
  • Fremont TTA in Fremont, CA, runs camps all summer, June 10 - Aug. 23, with Shashin Shodhan. Here is Online Registration.
  • USATT Training Camps at Lily Yip TTC (Dunellen, NJ, July 15-28) and SITTA (Sacramento, CA, Aug. 4-17), USA team members get priority, others may apply for open spots. Contact USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio

Maryland State Championships
They were held this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here are complete results. Sometime later today the tournament should be processed for USATT ratings. (Addendum added on Tuesday: Here's the write-up by Klaus Wood.) 

I was still co-director, but in reality, 90% of it was run by Klaus Wood and Greg Mascialino. I did a lot of the preliminary work (along with Klaus), and helped with setting up on Friday night and Saturday morning, but after that they took over, with a number of our local juniors helping with data entry. Starting with our next tournament in August they will be completely in charge as I retire from running tournaments - after running exactly 207 USATT tournaments! All but a few were two-day events, so that's well over 400 days running tournaments. I decided it was someone else's turn, and they stepped up and did a great job. Klaus will take over doing all the work that's done before and after the tournament, while he and Greg will run them together. They have learned all about running tournaments now, and are now coming up with all sorts of ideas to make me look bad to improve the tournaments. I spent much of the tournament in the back room working on some writing projects, plus coached a few matches.

Stephen Yeh also took over as referee for the first time, replacing long-time referee Paul Kovac, who retired and moved to Ohio. Steve did an excellent job, and umpired several of the big matches. (When he umpires, I take over as the acting referee.)

I did make one serious mistake this tournament. Because of shoulder problems I retired from private coaching over a year ago. (I still do group sessions.) I also had knee problems. But I'm mostly over those problems. However, I hadn't played an actual table tennis match in over a year! In classes I regularly do demonstrations and I often warm players up, but no actual matches. On Sunday morning, noting that the top seed in Over 40 was inexplicably was only rated 1763 (though a bit under-rated), and knowing that I don't think I've lost to a player rated under 2000 in a tournament since 1983 (about 400 tournaments ago), on the spur of the moment I decided to enter Sunday morning. So I played four matches, but when you haven't played a match in a year, you lose certain things - and my return of serve, my attack (kept missing both high balls and opening loops), and my footwork (especially covering the wide forehand) were poor, and at age 59 I wasn't quite as fast as I used to be. So I ended up with a big 50-point loss and a second-place finish. Oops!

On the other hand, here's a strange thing. For decades I've worn glasses when I play serious matches as my distance vision wasn't very good. But in recent years I've noticed it getting better. I don't even wear the glasses anymore at movies or when driving. I also didn't wear glasses in this tournament as I don't really need them now. I saw an optometrist last week, and discovered that over the last three years, the vision in my left eye has gone from 20-150 to 20-60, and in my right eye from 20-40 to 20-25! However, for reading, my eyes have gotten worse, and I now use reading glasses or I get a headache after a short time.

Hong Kong Open
Here's the home page for the event held this past week, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are some links.

Exclusive Interview with Reigning World & Olympic Champion Ma Long
Here's the ITTF interview (5:37), in Chinese with English subtitles.

How Important Is It to Take a Table Tennis Break?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Top 10 Ways to Make Improvements This Year!
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

How to Do a Legal Table Tennis Serve
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from EmRatThich

Ma Long Serve Analysis vs Tomokazu Harimoto
Here's the graphic and discussion at Table Tennis Daily. Apparently 100% (!) of his serves in the fifth game were short to the forehand.

The Science of Success (and Failure) – Ri Science Podcast
Here's the podcast (81 min) featuring former English star Matthew Syed.

How to Forehand Counter in Table Tennis
Here's the video (67 sec) by Jason and Alex Piech. (I put this in last week's blog, but it went up half a day late, and so am including it again. It features this fantastic coaching duo - ages 12 and 9, and already rated 1746 and 1552!)

Chatting with Jiwei Xia
Here's the USATT article by Jay Crystal.

Tran Triples Down and Chan Tops Group at ITTF North American Hopes Challenge
Here's the ITTF article featuring USA's Daniel Tran and others.

WAB Club Feature: Washington DC Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Picking NBA Winners… with Table Tennis Logic
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Clubbing in Atlanta
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Defying Statistics; Left Handers in the Majority
Here's the ITTF article. "Statistics suggest and of course they may vary that approximately 10 per cent of the world’s population is left handed; statistics in the men's singles event at the Seamaster 2019 ITTF World Tour Hang Seng Hong Kong Open suggest that it's not a bad idea to be left handed. At the quarter-final stage of proceedings the minority is the majority; overall 62.5 per cent of those competing in the round of the last eight on Saturday 8th June are left handed." . . . "So, if the percentage is high for male left handers, why have only three ever won the men’s singles title at a World Championships and not one of them Chinese or Hungarian, the two most successful countries in the history of the sport?"

Why Walker Owes So Much to First Coach
Here's the article featuring English star Sam Walker and his first coach, Howard Knott.

Registration Open for Full Slate of 2019 ITTF World Veterans Tour Events!
Here's the info page. This includes a stop in Florida in October. The events are:

The Great Escape! Lin Gaoyuan vs Dimitrij Ovtcharov | 2019 China Open
Here's the video (13:52 and 3:22).

Best Point of Each Day | 2019 China Open
Here are four videos.

2019 Polish Super League Final - Highlights
Here's the video (5:18).

Paddle Palace Atlanta Summer Open
Here's the article and results.

Paddle Palace Rose City Open
Here's the article, results, pictures, and video.

History of USATT – Volume 22
Here is Chapter 25 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "On/off-court action." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 22 is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1996-97 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Trump administration Cancels English Classes, Soccer, Legal Aid for Unaccompanied Child Migrants in U.S. Shelters
Here's the article from the Washington Post - and the key part is this: "While they wait in the shelters, minors attend school, study math and English, and participate in extracurricular activities such as table tennis, soccer and other sports." Wait, he's cancelled the table tennis?!!! (On a side note, I'm tempted to fly out there and volunteer - I can teach math, English, and table tennis.)

What Our Sport Should Be Called?
Here's the cartoon!

Broken Table Pong
Here's the video (16 sec)! Did termite engineers, using precise measuring equipment, eat the rest of the table?

Pongfinity Plays Mini Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:42)!

Toddler String Pong
Here's the video (27 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - Wormhole Videos, Great White Walls, and Cadet Bone Spurs!
I had three science fiction stories come out this past week. One of them is The Apocalyptic Wormhole Video at Flame Tree Press, which is rather short and features an alien who comes to earth to sell us a video made of the Earth's upcoming destruction.

I usually keep politics out of my blog, but I also link to the science fiction/fantasy articles I get published, with the "Non-Table Tennis" tag. Recently a new anthology came out, "Alternative Truths III: End Game," which is a collection of science fiction & fantasy satires about the aftermath of the Trump presidency. I have two articles in it. One is a satire on the future of the Mexican wall, "The Great White Wall." (This is one of my favorite stories, but you'll have to buy the anthology to read it - print or ebook.) The other is "The Ballad of Cadet Bone Spurs," which are the new, satirical lyrics for the famous opening song (53 sec, "The Ballad of Jed Clampett") for The Beverly Hillbillies, a TV comedy that ran from 1962-1971, with 274 episodes. At the Soonercon Science Fiction Convention this past weekend in Norman, Oklahoma, Melinda Lafevers sang the song with my new lyrics! Here's the video (58 sec)!

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