July 27, 2020

Tip of the Week
When Playing an Unfamiliar Player, Focus on Serve & Receive.

I'm Back!!!
My two-week writing workshop vacation is over. I basically spent nine days in online Zoom meetings in "The Never-Ending Odyssey" writing workshop, an annual workshop for graduates of the six-week Odyssey science fiction writing workshop. The meetings started around 10AM and went to dinner time, with optional meetings at night. They included critique sessions, classes, readings, and salons where we discussed various topics. I had a great time - and even managed to sneak table tennis into one of my stories!!! (It's way, Way, WAY in the future, and someone finds a pack of ping-pong balls - "Plastic lasts forever" - and it ends up being central to the story.) Here's a group picture on Zoom of the 21 of us in the workshop! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I'm on the top right, the only one without a big smile. (That's a virtual background from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH, where the workshop normally takes place - I've been there now for eleven TNEOs plus the original Odyssey workshop in 2006.)

2021 World Championships in Houston
Alas, Houston has withdrawn from running the 2021 World Singles and Doubles Championships. (It would have been the first Worlds in the US.) I'm told it's not directly because of the pandemic, but because the Olympics in Japan are now scheduled to start July 23, 2021, which would be just after the Houston Worlds in June. (They would, in fact, be sandwiched between the World Team Championships in South Korea, which moved from 2020 to Feb. 28-Mar. 7, 2021, and the Olympics, and they'd no longer be the premier event of the year.) This was discussed at the July 13 USATT board meeting (held online on Zoom, which I attended). Here is the USATT minutes page, and here is a direct link to the minutes of that meeting. Here's the pertinent info - "Ms. Sung" is USATT CEO Virginia Sung:

"Ms. Sung noted that two very important factors will impact the financial analysis for USATT. The first is the decision with respect to the 2021 Table Tennis World Championships, which were scheduled for Houston, Texas in June of 2021. However, Houston has withdrawn its offer to serve as a host the World Championships, and USATT is still awaiting the official decision of the ITTF as to how the international governing body for table tennis would like to proceed in this matter."

"Ms. Sung stated that there are several possibilities of how things will proceed, including the possibility that the ITTF will honor the contract that is already in place – and make the corresponding payments due to USATT under that contract – on the presumption that the US will host the World Championships at some future date. There is also the possibility that USATT will work out a different arrangement with the ITTF for a future World Championships in the United States."

I know that USATT is now actively looking for another site, but I have no idea if they would be able to do it now in 2021. We'll see. Alas, I was hoping to attend and do coverage, and then some sightseeing.

As I noted in a previous blog, I was supposed to go to the Olympics in Japan this year to do table tennis coverage for USA (both USA and international teams), and would be there now - but then the pandemic came. I may be going next year instead.

Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis by Graham Frankel
I started reading Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis around midnight, and ended up reading it cover-to-cover, finishing in the early morning hours, and the result was I got up late this morning, which is why this blog went up late. So you can blame Graham! 

The book, which came out June 29, has an interesting format. It alternates between Graham's autobiographical table tennis history in England (as a player, organizer, and finally as a coach who focuses on multiball training), and the history of technical changes in table tennis. Both were equally fascinating. There were even some similarities in our table tennis backgrounds! Like him, I didn't get into "serious" table tennis until rather late (age 16 for me). More eerily, we both got into the sport indirectly because of "failures" in other sports - for him, it was numerous sports other than table tennis; for me, it was an unfortunate happening in baseball, which I blogged about on June 15 ("The Play That Changed Everything"). He and I were also both long distance runners.

The chapters on technical changes focused on equipment, and included the coming of sponge (1952 and before); the seven-year war on whether to ban sponge (1952-59); the compromise reached in 1959 and the new sandwich rackets; the loop, made possible by grippy inverted surfaces; antispin (which he calls "antiloop"); long pips; racket twiddling and the two-color rule; gluing; and the changes to the ball (from 38mm to 40mm and switching from celluloid to plastic).

My only peeve was the font size is a bit small and the inner margins a bit too narrow. I ordered the paperback version, but there's also a kindle version. The book is a "quick" read, 95 pages plus index, with plenty of pictures. Here's the book's Amazon description:

"Table tennis, the sport that almost everybody has played at one time or another, has a unique position among all other popular world sports. The evolution of table tennis at a competition level has been dominated by changes in equipment. This fascinating story is punctuated by moments of drama where unknown players have burst onto the international scene upsetting established champions and setting the sport into a new direction. These pivotal changes sparked bitter conflicts – sometimes drawn out over decades - between the authorities, players, and those with commercial interests in creating new products. Set against the historical background, Ping! is also a very personal story, charting the experiences of how a young boy whose humiliating failures in other sports led to a lifetime commitment to table tennis."

A Fire Took Ojo's Home
Here's the GoFundMe page for championship player and coach Ojo Onaolapo, in San Antonio, Texas. The page gives more info on the situation. "How would you feel if you returned home to find out that everything is gone? Everything. Pictures of friends and family. Clothes. Everything you worked hard to build your entire life, only to have what's on your back. This is what my coach, Ojo Onaolapo felt like."

Professional Online Coaches
I'm creating a list of professional table tennis coaches who do online coaching, where they analyze and coach players by watching them on video. So far I know of the following: Samson Dubina, Cory Eider, Judy Hugh, Matt Hetherington, Christian Lillieroos, and Sean O'Neill. If you know of others, or do so yourself, please email me, including contact info and any web link. I'll post the list in my blog next week. 

USATT Announces Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

11 Reasons Why Table Tennis is Great for Your Health
Here's the article from the Augusta Free Press. The first item is, "It dramatically improves your reflexes." Yesterday I snatched a fly out of the air, which I've been doing regularly for decades, due to my table tennis reflexes. I think we should do a drill at our next junior session where we release hundreds of flies in the club, and the kids have to snatch them out of the air with their playing hand!

New from Samson Dubina

Basic Skills is the Key
Here's the video (6:28). This pretty much shows all the basic techniques, at an advanced level. One thing that jumped out to me - at 52 seconds in, for about 25 seconds (interrupted by the "yin pei" part), they do a drill where one loops off backspin, and the other counterloops. But they don't continue the rally - instead, the one who did the first loop is already reaching for the next ball. This way they both get to rapid-fire practice their loops, one off backspin, the other counterlooping. Then they switch who loops which. Most players simply play out the point in such drills, and so don't get the systematic training needed to develop the shots at a higher level.

Ding Ning Serve
Here's the video (18 sec, in slo-mo). Ding Ning at the World Championships won gold eight times (including Women's Singles in 2011, 2015, and 2017), silver five times, and bronze three times, and also won three golds and a silver at the Olympics (including Women's Singles in 2016). So . . . why don't more players serve like this?

Fake Flip Push
Here's the video (6:58, but link should take you to 4:30, where the technique is demonstrated). I used to do this occasionally, but sort of forgot about it and stopped doing it. I wonder why it's not used more often - it's a quick way to pick up a free point!

Kanak Jha: How I've Developed Into a 'Top Player' in Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:17).

Ask A Pro Anything: Lily Zhang
Here's the video (5:34), with Adam Bobrow.

Ask the Coach Table Tennis Podcasts from PingSkills
Here's their latest Ask the Coach podcast (27:02), covering questions about the Drill and Tip of the Week, On this Day section, Spin on the Tomahawk Serve, How to Spin the Ball, and Tables. Here's the page for all 327 of them, going back five years.

eBaTT in collaboration with Everything Table Tennis and ELTT

Table Tennis is Back!
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. It's worth visiting just for The Simpsonish table tennis cartoon at the top!

New from Coach Jon

USATT has redone its web page. What do you think of the new design? I haven't gone over it much myself. However, I do think it might be better to have the menu items along the top, like they were before, rather than having to click "Menu" to get to them. But I'm not picky. Since I've been away for two weeks, they've had a number of new news items and videos. Rather than my linking to them all, why not browse over them?

New from Steve Hopkins and Butterfly
Here's their News Page. Normally I link to each article, but rather than link to each article over the past two weeks, why not browse over them?

National Collegiate Table Tennis July Newsletter
Here it is!

New from ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Who Did it Best? Around the Net
Here's the video (2:08).

My Greatest Moments on a Table Tennis Table
Here's the video (49 sec).

Jenson Van Emburgh - Bay News 9 Story
Here's the video (3:49).

Para-Table Tennis Player Leibovitz to Compete at Sixth Paralympics
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

Happy Birthday Stellan Bengtsson!
Here's a Stellan cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) The 1971 World Men's Singles Champion and San Diego coach turned 68 yesterday (on Sunday, July 26). Here's his Wikipedia page.

New from Adam Bobrow

Ping Pong Story & Dance Academy Collaboration
Here's the video (6:51)!

My BEST Ping Pong Trickshots
Here's the video (3:25), sub-titled, "took days to make."

Big Net Pong
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Water Pong
Here's the video (29 sec)! Here's a version I found at Amazon, Poolmaster Floating Table Tennis Game Toy.

Cat Ping-Pong
Here's the video (38 sec). It's an old video and I linked to it at least once before, but it's a classic. I think it's from the 1960s, and yes, it's a cat essentially playing table tennis! Or is it Paw Pong?

Nice Save, as He Tumbles Off the Skyscraper
Here's the cartoon! It doesn't actually have a caption, so make up your own.

Ping Pong with Coronavirus
Here's the cartoon - Trump vs. Chinese President Xi Jinping, with problematic paddles! Here's a similar cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

New from Pongfinity!

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