January 27, 2020

Tip of the Week
Looping Slightly Long Balls.

I'm Going to Santa Monica and Tokyo!!!
I will be doing online coverage for USATT of both the US Olympic Trials in Santa Monica, CA (Feb. 27-Mar 1) and the Olympics in Tokyo (July 25-Aug. 7). I've done the coverage at (pause while I do a quick count...) approximately 20 US Opens, 20 US Nationals, 12 US Team Trials, two World Championships, and dozens and dozens of 4-star events.

The entry deadline for the US Olympic Trials is Feb. 15, but here is the list of entries so far - they'll continue to grow until the deadline. Here's the entry form, which includes info on who makes the Olympic Team. The #1 world-ranked USA players automatically qualify, so Kanak Jha n the men's side [world #27] and either Lily Zhang [#26] or Wu Yue [#33] on the women's side will automatically qualify and so won't be at the Trials. Rankings might change after the German Open. Once we reach the deadline, perhaps we'll have a WWW USATT news item - "Who Will Win?"

The info on the entry form about making the Olympic Team might change, since there is a Wang Chen grievance against USATT about the selection process - she's posted about this numerous times on Facebook. I'll post a link to any news on that when/if it comes up. 

I agreed to do the coverage at both events as an unpaid volunteer. However, I'm taking advantage of the opportunities to do some sightseeing. I plan to arrive in Santa Monica several days early and stay a few days late (at my own expense) so I can tour nearby Los Angeles and Hollywood - Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame, Hollywood Sign, Griffith Observatory, LA Zoo, Santa Monica Pier, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Battleship Iowa Museum, La Brea Tar Pits - and of course Universal Studios and Disneyland!

I'll be staying at least four days afterwards in Tokyo as well (also at my own expense), though I haven't put together my sightseeing list yet. (I've been to both LA and Tokyo - the latter after the 2001 Worlds in Osaka - but have never really done any sightseeing at either.)

Of course, the real reason I'm going to LA and Tokyo is to add to my souvenir magnet collection! Many people shell out lots of money on souvenirs when they sightsee; not me. I always buy a souvenir magnet (usually $3-5), and I'm done! I have them divided into two parts, with 55 US magnets on my refrigerator, and 93 International magnets (grouped by country) on a magnetic board on my wall. Soon this will be mine!!!

UPDATE - 2020 Olympic Selection Procedure Update Announced by USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT news item, which went up on Tuesday. Basically, the new rules are simple - the highest world-ranked man and woman from the ITTF February rankings make the Olympic Team, while the top two men and women at the Olympic Trials get the other spots (3 men, 3 women). I'm told the February rankings will go up on Feb. 4, which is after the German Open (which ends Feb. 2), but I don't know if they will include those results. Lily Zhang and Wu Yue are both entered in it. Here's the link to the ITTF rankings.

BREAKING NEWS - Lily Zhang and Wu Yue both lost in the third round of the preliminaries at the German Open, so presumably their respective world rankings won't change, meaning Lily (along with Kanak Jha on the men's side) will get the automatic spot on the Olympic Team, based on world ranking. The rest will play in the US Olympic Trials, Feb. 27-March 1, for the final two men's and women's spots. (I'll be there!)

Weekend Coaching
We had Week #2 for both the Thursday (14 players) and Sunday (9 players) Beginning Junior Classes. (Spencer and Ronald Chen, and Todd Klinger, assist me on Thursdays; Lidney Castro on Sundays.) The focus was forehand review (which was a focus on Week 1) and the backhand. And then each class finished with the usual games.

For the Thursday class, we only had ten minutes, so we played the "Worm Juice" game - I put a bottle of Gatorade on the table and explained that I had gathered up all these fat worms from my lawn that morning, taken them inside, and squeezed their guts out, and then strained the liquid into an empty Gatorade bottle - "worm juice." They lined up, two shots each as I fed multiball, and if they hit it, I had to drink it. (As I constantly reminded them, "Friends don't make friends drink worm juice." Whenever someone hit it, they were no longer my friend.)

For the Sunday class, we had more time. First, I stacked ten cups into a pyramid (four cups for the base, etc.), and they each had ten shots to see how many they could knock down. Then we broke into two groups. One group played up-down tables (winner moves up a table, loser moves down), while the rest (the younger ones) took turns stacking the cups in to giant walls or pyramids (I keep a LOT of plastic cups for this), and then I fed multiball as they knocked it down. This latter is the perennial favorite for the kids under 12 or so.

In the more advanced Talent Development Program, we ran a practice tournament, so I didn't do as much coaching. But I did have a little fun - before their match, I tried coaching two girls (both about nine) to glare at each other, and tried to convince them that they were enemies. Of course, all I got was a gigglefest. Table tennis is so much fun when it's, um, fun.

I wonder if the kids realize how much different the coaches look at their play than they do? In the groups I watched, three players stood out - not because they won, but because they played with high-level technique and shots. I think my mouth dropped to the floor a few times while watching a pair of four-footers play each other, racing about and looping and counterlooping like Ma Long at half power!

Technical Problems
(Mostly non-table tennis, so skip if not interested in my Trials and Tribulations)
This last week has been a MAJOR headache. After many months of seeming bliss, everything mechanical or electrical fell apart. Here's a summary.

  • The hinge on my laptop computer broke on Thursday - the part that connects the screen to the base. I do most of my writing on the laptop, either in my lounge chair or at local restaurants. Not having it puts a major cramp on my routine. It's supposed to be repaired by Tuesday.
  • I received an email from my server (Godaddy) that due to suspicious activity, I should change my email password. I did so. But then a strange thing happened - my desktop computer wouldn't send email (I use Outlook), could only receive it. This went on for a couple of days. I finally switched back to my old password - and the result was my computer no longer would send or receive emails! And neither would my smart phone! It was weird and frustrating because I had the password correct on both devices, and yet it wouldn't work. I spent hours trying to fix the problem. I finally called technical support, and after some time with them, they were also unable to fix the problem. I finally called John Olsen, a 2000+ player and student of mine from Virginia and a true computer expert. He came over - and still couldn't get it to work, though he figured out that the problem was on Godaddy's end. He called the same technical support I'd called, and again they went over the problem, testing everything, and nothing seemed to work. After about 90 minutes, however, they basically deleted and recreated my email account, and finally got it to work. We're still not quite sure what happened - but if John hadn't come over and basically twisted Godaddy's arm over this, I don't know how it could have been fixed.

    John Olsen, by the way, has won a lot of medals - he won three golds at the 2019 Virginia Senior Games (60-64 Men's Singles and Mixed Doubles with Ergita MacLaughlin, Over 50 Men's Doubles with Kevin Walton, a total of 20 over the years), and at the 2019 National Senior Games he got silver in 60-64 Mixed Doubles (with Ergita MacLaughlin) and bronze in Over 50 Men's Doubles (with Kevin Walton). He also won Over 60 hardbat at the 2018 US Open, the last time they held the event.

  • I had a recent minor car accident, so my car's in the shop. (It was raining, the road was slippery, and as I went around a curve, my car spun off the road and into a light pole.) Insurance covers most of it, but I'll be paying at least $1000. I'm using a rental, the first time I've driven anything but my own car in decades. Car is supposed to be ready on Tuesday.

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $5784 so far, with 53 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) Tim hopes that, with enough donations, "it might be possible, with round-the-clock care, to get Sally home--give her new life." The fundraiser has definitely raised Tim's spirits!

German Open
Here's the home page for the event to be held Jan 28-Feb. 2, in Magdeburg, GER, with lots of news articles already. (Jan. 28-29 are preliminaries.)

USATT Presents 2019 Annual Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT article. Here are the winners!

  • National Coach of the Year: Gao Jun and Stefan Feth (jointly awarded)
  • Developmental Coach of the Year: Wang Qingliang
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year: Dr. John Chen
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Mitch Seidenfeld
  • Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year: Not Awarded

Sean O'Neill Appointed Permanently to USATT High Performance Director Position
Here's the USATT article.

Thank You, Team
Here's the article by USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill.

Looeelooee Table Tennis Lessons Q and A - Why Good Rubbers Suck
Here's the video (15:35) by Louis Levene. There's a note underneath the video, from Louis, which I think clarifies this: "It's the combination of having both a very hard and very springy rubber that you should try to avoid until you are an advanced player; it makes any touch shot (blocking, pushing, spinning, touching, serving) much more difficult."

I agree that these hard sponges are not good except for advanced players, who drive hard into most rallying shots and still control these and other shots. On the other hand, if you are getting regular coaching (so as to avoid bad habits), and train regularly (as opposed to just playing games), I think it's best to go to advanced sponges at a relatively early level (1200-1500), but go with the softer or regular versions, not the hard ones - and don't get a super-fast racket. This makes it easier for a player to develop those advanced shots. A sponge like Tenergy FX (the softer version of Tenergy) is great for players at this level. (Alas, I only really know Butterfly equipment - I'm sponsored by them - but other brands have their equivalent.)

New from Samson Dubina

How to Read the Amount of Spin – with Mark Mitchell
Here's the video (7:03) from Tom Lodziak.

Scheduling Peak Performances
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Liam Pitchford in Training Mode Ripping Backhands... Unreal
Here's the video (16 sec) of the English #1 and world #22 (#12 in August). Why can't you do this?

2020 USATT Hopes Program - Road to LA
Here's the USATT article. "The USATT Hopes Program- Road to LA is a series of activities at regional, national and international level featuring education, training camps, competition and, talent identification, designed to spark motivation and interest for aspiring young table tennis athletes born on or after January 1, 2008 who have a love for table tennis and who wish to become high-level table tennis players."

2020 Para Program Initiatives
Here's the USATT article.

U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee Athlete's Advisory Council Sign Historic Agreement To Aide Athletes
Here's the USOPC article. The agreement was signed by the USOPC Athletes' Advisory Council Chair Han Xiao, who is quoted several times in the article. Han was a long-time member of the US National Team, 4-time Men's Doubles Champion, and 2011 Men's Singles Finalist at the US Nationals. (I was one of his coaches during his junior years!)

$100,000 World Championships of Ping-Pong
Here's the home page for the annual event held this past weekend in London - with sandpaper rackets. Here's the article Baggaley is Record-Breaking Betvictor World Champion. "Andrew Baggaley has won the BetVictor World Championship of Ping Pong for a record-breaking fourth time after beating Alexander Flemming 3-2 in an incredible final which will live long in the memory of the 1,500 capacity crowd in attendance at Alexandra Palace, London."

ITTF Articles

WAB Club Feature: Broward Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Cape Fear TTC: Slow and Steady Development Is the Way to Go!
Here's the article by Michael Reff, featuring the Cape Fear TTC in Fayetteville, NC.

Fan Zhendong Interview
Here's the ITTF video (5:50) of the world #1 from China, in Chinese with English subtitles.

Interview with Wong Chun Ting on 2020 World Team Qualification
Here's the video interview (60 sec) of the Hong Kong world #19 (formerly #6).

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong
Pigeons Playing Ping Pong is the name of an actual band from Baltimore, Maryland! Here's video of one of their concerts - sorry, no actual table tennis, though the image at the start is of a pigeon with a ping-pong paddle smacking an egg, and 38 seconds in someone in the audience on the right seems to be waving a purple mini-ping-pong paddle!

Salah vs Lovren: Lunar New Year Table Tennis Challenge
Here's the video (11:06)! Mohamed Salah and Dejan Lovren both play on the Liverpool Football team (that's soccer for Americans); Salah is a member of the Egypt National Team, Lovren a member of the Croatian National Team.

The Funniest Moments of Table Tennis 2019
Here's the video (24 min)! "A selection of the funniest moments of Spanish table tennis during the year 2019."

Highlights and Funniest Table Tennis Moments
Here's the video (10:10)!

The Golden Challenge
Here's the video (10:10) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!