October 8, 2019

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Reasons You Might Not Be as Good at Table Tennis as You Could Be.

Europe and Egypt Tour
I'm back!!! From Aug. 12 to Sept. 28 I did a once-in-a-lifetime tour. I wrote about it extensively on Facebook, and now plan to put it all together in a book, which (hopefully) will be out this fall. I visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City, Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt. I saw all the famous sites, from Stonehenge to the Great Pyramids and Great Sphinx, from the beaches of Normandy to the Eiffel Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the ancient sites of Athens, Rome, and Pompeii, the sobering tour of Auschwitz and other Holocaust museums and monuments, and the many other sites of Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Siena, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, and Cairo, with short stopovers in Lisbon and Budapest as well. I saw a zillion museums (from the British Museum to the Louvre to the Cairo Museum) and more ancient cathedrals than there are bits of sand on a beach. I even did a camel ride around the Great Pyramid!

Because I was traveling "light," I didn't bring my table tennis stuff, and didn't play any table tennis. However, there were two table tennis episodes in my travels. Amazingly, someone recognized me while we were walking on the path toward Stonehenge. He said, in I think an eastern European accent, "Excuse me, are you Larry Hodges?" It turned out he was a table tennis player who reads my blog - I get 14,000 reads per blog, so I guess there are a lot of people out there. I wasn't wearing any table tennis stuff except for my T-Rex Playing Ping-Pong Cap. That drew his attention, and suspecting it was me, he googled my picture to verify. (It's a great hat - combines my two worlds of table tennis and science fiction, though a T-Rex is real so not actually SF.)

In Lausanne, Switzerland, I visited the ITTF headquarters. This used to be the only ITTF headquarters, but now they have a second one in Singapore. Alas, the one in Lausanne is gradually phasing out, and now is down to three employees. There I meet Jordi Serra, the ITTF Head of Operations and former Executive Director. He's very friendly and helpful, showed me around, and gave tips on what to see in Lausanne. He introduced me to the two others there, Silvia Bernhard (Office Manager) and Emese Barsai (Program Manager). He also took a picture of me - don't I look like an American tourist? Though most American tourists don't wear a 2019 U.S. National Table Tennis Championships shirts or a hat with a T-Rex playing table tennis! (During my tour I've been wearing both TT and SF shirts.)

When I visit each famous site, I always buy a souvenir magnet. It actually saves money - others spend $20 on a t-shirt while I spend about $4! I now have my magnet collection organized into two groups - International (on a large magnet board) and USA (on my refrigerator).

USA Sweeps Olympic Qualifier with Canada
Here are two articles by Matt Hetherington.

The women's match was pretty one-sided and was never in doubt. However, on the men's side, USA looked to be only slightly favored, with Canada's Eugene Wang their key to potential success. Here's video of the two team matches:

The format was three-person teams, with one player on each side playing two singles, and the other two players playing one singles and one doubles. USA was obviously going to put their #1 player, Kanak Jha, in the singles spot, with Zhou Xin and lefty Nikhil Kumar in the doubles spot, with one singles each. And Canada, of course, would put Eugene Wang in the singles spot, with Hongtao Chen and lefty Jeremy Hazin in the doubles spot, playing one singles each, right?

But no, Canada instead put lefty Hazin to play two singles matches, with righties Wang and Chen playing doubles and only one singles each. This seemed to make zero sense. Were they hoping to avoid Wang against Jha, thereby getting two wins from Wang (doubles and singles)? But that wasn't it - they must have known that Jha would be playing two singles for USA, and they put Wang against him in the fourth match. And they sent up a pair of righties for doubles, putting their lefty to play two singles. (Lefty-right in doubles is an advantage.) If Wang was injured, but still able to play two matches, then shouldn't he play two singles, with the lefty/righty playing doubles?  I have no idea why they did this. Is there some info we are missing here?

It did start off sort of well for Canada in the opening doubles, match, with Canada winning the first game and getting to deuce in the second. Kumar didn't play well early on, but then he got back to his normal self and USA not only won the doubles rather easily in the end, with a stronger short game and better angle play. Hazin gave Jha a good match, but lost 3-2, and Zhou won 3-0 over Chen, giving USA a 3-0 sweep in both men's and women's. So the strange Canadian tactic did not work. And we also missed the fireworks of the Kanak Jha-Eugene Wang match that never happened.

Many of you know how often I've complained about illegal hidden serves. If you watch the matches, you'll see that in nearly every serve the player throws the ball backwards and juts his head forward as the ball is dropping, obscuring the ball and contact from the opponent, which is of course illegal. However, some of the serving was ridiculously illegal. I don't want to pick on him, but look at all of Hazin's serves - he blatantly hides the ball with his free arm every time, and is never called. Here is Rule 2.6.5: "As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net." Here is Hazin's very first serve of the match against Jha - they are all like this. (Note that in YouTube, you can freeze the image and then move up or back one frame at a time by hitting period or comma. Check out other serves and see how often the ball is obscured by the head, and sometimes the nose - I guess having a big nose is an advantage in table tennis!) However, the rules are very clear that if an umpire isn't sure if a serve is legal, then it is illegal, and the player should be faulted (or warned the first time). This is rarely done, especially when the ball goes behind the head and the umpire has no idea if the ball remained visible to the receiver, as it legally must be.

Forehand Smashing Seminar
I will be running a Forehand Smashing Seminar on Wednesday, Oct. 16, 7:30-9:00PM, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. 100% of fees goes to the HW Global Junior Program at MDTTC. (I am taking no money for this.) If interested, email me to reserve your spot! Seminar will alternate between lecture/demos and table practice. Topics covered will include:

  • Should You Smash or Loop?
  • Technique
  • Balance and Recovery
  • Muscle Memory and the Subconscious
  • Drills to Develop a Great Smash
  • Smashing Backspin
  • Smashing Loops
  • Smashing Lobs
  • BONUS - at 9PM we'll have a smashing competition!

Weekend Coaching
After being gone seven weeks, two big questions loomed: Would I still remember how to play table tennis? Would anyone at the club still recognize me? The answer to both was, well, mostly yes!

This past week we had week one of both the Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes. They are for kids, roughly ages 6-14. We primarily covered the grip, stance, and the forehand, and then games - King/Queen of the Table for the older kids, smacking pyramids of cups for the younger ones.

The last two Sundays I also coached in the more advanced HW Global Junior Program. (I returned from my European trip on Saturday, Sept. 28, and began coaching the next day.) On the first Sunday I worked with the older, more advanced kids; this past Sunday I worked with the younger ones.

Although I'm retired from private coaching, I came out of retirement to give a session last week to Navin Kumar to help prepare him for the upcoming World Parkinson's Table Tennis Championships coming up this weekend at the Westchester TTC. (I'm coaching him there.) We have another session today at 4PM at MDTTC.

Bouncing Around the Globe to Ping-Pong Pinnacle
Here's the article from the China Daily News, featuring Kai Zhang, Cheng Yinghua, Will Shortz . . . and me! Well, I'm quoted many times.

2nd US Youth National Ranking Tournament Homepage
Here are the results and, Final Standings, and Photo Gallery of the tournament, held this past Thur-Sun at the Westchester TTC in New York.

German Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event starting today in Bremen, Germany, with results, articles, photos, and video.

Table Tennis News
It's been about two months since I last blogged, so lots of news and coaching articles have piled up. Rather than link to them all, why not browse over these news pages?

How to Do Backhand Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (16:08) from Louis Levene. He has a series of other coaching videos on the Looeelooee TT Youtube Channel. (He started this series while I was gone.)

Table Tennis at the Olympic Games
Here's the video (46:53) from PingSkills. It covers Tip of the Week (How to get off to a good start in matches); Drill of the Week (Forehand anywhere); and nine other segments.

Running Around Table Stroking and Footwork Drills
Here's the video (54 sec) from Samson Dubina!

How To Win Gold and Have Fun Doing It
Here's the article by Tahl Leibovitz

Maintaining China's Grip at the Top of the Table Tennis Rankings - requires solidarity and innovation, says former national team coach
Here's the article.

Pong Universe Blog
They now have a weekly blog. Topics covered so far:

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter

The Fountain of Youth Has a Net
Here's the article from Southwest Magazine.

10 Reasons Why Ping Pong is Good for Your Brain
Here's the article.

Ping-Pong and the Riddle of Victory
Here's the video (12:44). "Growing up in England, Pico Iyer was taught that the point of a game was to win. Now, some 50 years later, he's realized that competition can be "more like an act of love." In this charming, subtly profound talk, he explores what regular games of ping-pong in his neighborhood in Japan have revealed about the riddle of winning -- and shows why not knowing who's won can feel like the ultimate victory."

Playing Table Tennis With The World's Oldest Bats
Here's the video (4 min) from Table Tennis Daily.

Miss the Backhand, Stroke the Forehand!
Here's the video (24 sec).

Side Pong
Here's the video (16 sec)!

When Superheroes Play Table Tennis
Here's the video (32 sec)!

T-Rex Pong!
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) And here's Tyrannosaurus Rexes Playing Table Tennis from 2016 (see last segment).

Spider-Man vs. Venom
Here's the video (4 min)!

They put up hilarious table tennis videos every week. Here are ones that went up recently.

Non-Table Tennis - "Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer"
My story Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer was published at Galaxy's Edge. (It's short, about 1000 words.) It's already been reviewed twice:

  • Tangent Online: "The narrator of 'Death for the Cure: A Comedy about Cancer' by Larry Hodges is a woman who dies of breast cancer. At the time of her demise, the incarnation of Death shows up. For unclear reasons, the Grim Reaper disappears, and she takes over his role. In addition to her duty of sending souls on to their final destinations, she also raises money for cancer research by delivering pizza. This doesn't quite work out, so she comes up with a much better plan.
  • SF Revu: "A crusader against cancer dies from it and becomes Death. She finds a way to use this to continue the fight against cancer. Nice twist."

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