January 13, 2020

Tip of the Week
Don't Learn to Play Every Style - Learn to Adjust.

Tim and Sally Boggan Need Your Help!
Here's the GoFundMe page. Sally, wife of USATT Historian Tim Boggan (former president, editor, father of two U.S. Men's Singles Champions (Eric and Scott), Hall of Famer, and pretty much everything else table tennis-wise), had a stroke last year. She is paralyzed on one side and unable to speak. Many people have known and loved Sally for decades. Let's show how much we appreciate Tim's contributions to our lives through his many table tennis ventures and joyfully support Tim and Sally during her recovery process. The medical bills are huge, and not all covered by insurance. Sheri Cioroslan (formerly Sheri Pittman, former USATT president) created the GoFundMe page for them (which includes their picture), with the goal of raising $20,000. It only opened a week ago but has already raised $2414. Can you pitch in? Here's a note from Tim:

"Four and a half months ago my wife Sally suffered a stroke--blood clot on the brain that can't be removed because the arteries are all tangled. She's paralyzed on her left side, can't speak, has a tube in her stomach that brings enough nourishment to keep her alive, gets oxygen through her nostrils. She remains in a nursing home, getting some therapy, and I'm with her 5 days every day. She's often sad, often tired, but she can still think well, can write (quite legibly if she prints), and gives a thumbs up or down to simple questions. So Sally (going on 87) and I (going on 90) are functioning but have considerable problems, and much appreciate whatever help anyone can give."

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapters 25
Here is Chapter 25 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "1998 U.S. Closed Part 1." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - 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!

Weekend Coaching
It's always strange how the numbers fluctuate in the two Beginning Junior Classes I teach. Historically, the Sunday class (4-5:30PM) has more players, typically twelve or more. But the new ten-week session, which started this past Sunday, only has six. Meanwhile, the new ten-week Thursday session (6:30-7:30PM), which starts this Thursday, already has 13 players signed up. The previous Thursday session finished this past Thursday (nine players), with the focus on Player's Choice (they choose what they need or want to work on), and smashing lobs. The focus of the first meeting of the new Sunday session was grip, ball control (ball bouncing), stance, and forehand. We'll do roughly the same for the new Thursday session this week.

I also coached in the more advanced Junior League (Saturdays, 5-7 PM, half league, half coaching) and Talent Development Program (Sundays, 5:30-7:15 PM). Here's an interesting exchange. Coach Wang told me on Saturday that I'd be working that session with the strongest players, "which is much easier than working with beginners." I disagreed, saying working with beginners is easy - "Far easier to find things to work with them on, since they're all working on fundamentals." Working with the top players is more difficult because at that point, they pretty much have the fundamentals down, and there's more subtle and subjective work - and you have to be careful not to get stuck in one of those, "But Coach [Fill in Name] said I should do it this way!" But it's pretty rewarding working with the stronger players. I spent some time working with one who, when he looped from the forehand side, often didn't move back quickly, so I got him to focus on following through back into position. (See Follow Through Back Into Position After Forehand Looping.)

Another focus was players avoiding shots they have trouble with. As I explained to several of them, if you have trouble with a shot, then don't avoid it - use it every chance you can! This is practice, and if you can't practice the shots you have trouble with in practice, when can you practice them?

USATT Board of Directors
Here's USA Table Tennis CEO's USATT Statement to Membership on Reform Process. (It went up last Tuesday, the day after my blog, so I linked to it from that blog one day late.)

So all nine USATT board members resigned. This past week, two Athlete Representatives were elected, so we currently have a two-person board of directors. Here's the article Athlete Representatives Appointed to Interim Board of Directors. Here's the USATT Board of Director's Listing, with (as of now) just the two of them, Tara Profitt (who was one of the player reps from the nine from before) and newly elected Niraj Oak. I'm told that by the end of January, USOPC will appoint three more members, and then, using USATT bylaws, the board will go to the full nine, probably by the end of March - including a USATT election for two spots. (Other than the two player reps, the other seven members of the previous board are not eligible for the new board.)

Here's the interesting thing about this. I don't know if Tara and Niraj know this, but based on our bylaws, a quorum is "The presence of a majority of the directors of the Board of Directors at the time of any meeting shall constitute a quorum for the transaction of business." We only have two board members right now. This means that if the two agree, they have both a quorum and a majority. They can't change the bylaws, which takes a majority of the "full board" - which is defined as having nine members, and so six votes are needed - but they can do just about anything else. They can vote to fire or hire people, change committees, decide where the Open or Nationals will be, approve a budget that puts 100% of our money into Paralympics, name me Coach of the Millennium and my forehand the greatest of all-time, or vote that pi equals 3. C'mon, Tara and Niraj, let's have some fun!

I left the USATT Board of Directors early in 2019 after a four-year term - but things seemed to have changed a lot after I left, which likely is part of the reason why the USOPC intervened. There were always political disagreements, but during my tenure, it wasn't too nasty. This past year? Here's a pair of quotes from the December 15, 2019 minutes.

Bruce Liu: since I joined the Board in January every board meeting has been acrimonious.
Carolyne Savini: I have been on this board since August 2015 and have experienced many healthy debates in board meetings in the last few years but not dysfunction like this until recently. 

Why the Chinese Dominate
I was recently asked why I think China dominates in table tennis. Here was my response (with a few edits).

The Chinese dominate because they have several advantages. Briefly:

  • They have more players training at an early age with top coaches and practice partners than the rest of the world combined. 
  • Those who finally make the Chinese national team are perhaps 2900-level players, who get to train on a daily basis with multiple other players at that same level - something no other country can match. (As Waldner once famously quipped, "When do I get to practice with someone my level?" The Chinese don't have that problem.)
  • There are more Chinese coaches than probably the rest of the world combined, working with more players than the rest of the world combined, and so the result is that the ones that rise to the top are among the best, or the best, coaches in the world. (Unless politics intervenes.) 
  • The top Chinese coaches get to study the best players in the world - those 2900-level players mentioned above - on a daily basis, along with watching tapes of their competitors, and from that, work out strategically what they need to do to beat the rest of the world. (Which, I will add, includes training their players tactically so they can use those strategic plans.) Coaches from other countries do not have the opportunity to work with on a daily basis this many players at that level. (Strategic in this context means overall plan; Tactical means what you do in a given match to apply that strategic plan. I wrote about this extensively in my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book, much of which was based on my experiences working with Chinese coaches and players.) 
  • They have the team aspect down pretty well, where they work together to beat their common foes. 

With all of the above, it's easy to see why China dominates. As long as politics doesn't intervene, it's difficult to match these advantages. I don't think the actual match coaching is a huge deciding factor for the Chinese - it is what happens strategically before the match (sometimes in the years before) that makes the main difference, and is why the best Chinese are, on a whole, technically better. 

On a related note, I'm fine with China dominating right now - as long as they continue their policy of allowing top players and coaches to go to other countries to begin careers as professional coaches, thereby helping other countries develop. The depth and level of play in the US is stronger now than at any time in the sponge era (going back to the 1950s), and that's due to the rise of full-time training centers with professional coaches - and Chinese coaches staff most of those facilities.

Utilizing Body Mechanics in Table Tennis Techniques
Here's the article by Meng Lingshuai

How to Play Against Awkward Long Pips in Table Tennis
Here's the video (12:17) from Louis Levene.

U.S. Ping Pong Legend Hopes for 2020 Olympics
Here's the CBS video (4:35) featuring the legendary five-time US Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller! Here's his GoFundMe page ($12,620 raised out of $15,000 needed as of this writing) and his book, Revelations of a Ping-Pong Champion. And here's the article, Technique Over Age Is Mantra for Dan Seemiller’s Inspirational Tokyo 2020 Run, by Michael Reff.

US Team for 2020 World Team Table Tennis Championships Announced
Here's the USATT Announcement. Here's the ITTF article, United States Announces Busan Team, Five Teenagers on Duty.

Princeton Pong - NJ's Premier Table Tennis Club
Here's the video (1:21). While I'm sure one or two clubs in New Jersey might contest the "Premier" part, it's a pretty nice video! And yeah, that's six-time US Men's Singles Champion David Zhuang shown in the video, head coach at the club.

Santa Monica College with Prominent Ponging Past Excited to Host Olympic Trials
Here's the USATT article by Michael Reff.

Special National Team Uniform Offer for USA WVC 2020 Competitors
Here's the USATT article.

ITTF Articles
Here are some interesting articles and videos from ITTF.

New from Steve Hopkins

New from Tom Lodziak

Finding Table Tennis Equipment in Tokyo
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

USA Players Overseas
Here are two videos.

New Videos from MALONG Fanmade Channel
They put new videos every week featuring the Chinese National Team.

Navin Kumar on ABC News!
Here's the video (1:54) from ABC 7. 

The Decade Meeting With My Table Tennis Family
Here's the video (4:16). It's in Vietnamese, with English subtitles.

Nick Sundberg Hopes Redskins Can 'Earn Back' Ping-Pong Table in the Future
Here's the article. And here's the article I linked to last week about the head coach taking the table away.

Table Tennis for Everyone, Everywhere
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

It Made Things Easier for the Guards
Here's the cartoon!

Today Anchors Face Off in a Game of Ping-Pong
Here's the video (4:47).

Bizarre Follow to a Whiffed Smash
Here's the video (31 sec)! It's hard to see the ball because of the white background, but if you watch closely, he completely whiffs the smash, then does a 360 while making the return on the second try!

Ping Pong Stereotypes (Dude Perfect Parody)
Here's the video (4:57)!

This Man Just Invented His Own Sport
Here's the video (18 sec)!

Table Tennis for Everyone, Everywhere
Here's the mini-pong ski-lift video (2:01)!

Rallying with . . . Everything!!!
Here's the video (27 sec)!

Double Bladed Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:36) from Pongfinity! So . . . how does this compare with Darth Maul?

Non-Table Tennis - Sale to Galaxy's Edge
Last Wednesday night, I sold a story, "Prototype Solar System with Strings Attached," to Galaxy's Edge, one of the big science fiction and fantasy magazines. (I have a story in the current issue, "Releasing Hitler.") The editor is the famous Mike Resnick, who holds the record for the most Hugo nominations in history (37, with five wins), the big prize for science fiction writers. It was the 18th story he's bought from me. But now the sad and morbid aftermath - I'm told my story was the last he bought for the magazine. Shortly after midnight that night he died in his sleep at age 77, from lymphoma cancer, which he had kept mostly secret from others. Mike had helped me a lot in my career, both by buying my stories and from a five-day writing workshop I attended that he helped run, plus ongoing email discussions on various topics. He will be greatly missed.

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