October 12, 2020

Tip of the Week
Don't Telegraph the Direction of Your Attack.

USA Table Tennis Announces New Membership Programs for 2021
Here's the USATT news item. Here are the first two paragraphs:

"USA Table Tennis, the National Governing Body for the sport of table tennis, today announced that the organization is implementing a new, simplified membership structure, which will take effect on January 1, 2021. Under the new program, members can select one of two available annual memberships – "Basic" and "Pro" – depending on each particular member's playing goals."

"The Pro Plan, which will cost $75 per year, will allow the member to play in all USATT Sanctioned Tournaments and Leagues, including the US Nationals and US Open. The Basic Plan, which will cost $25, permits the member to play in 0 – 4 Star Tournaments, which will include a new event – the US Nationals State Qualification Tournament – and USATT Leagues. All members will continue to receive the historical benefits of USATT membership including coverage under an accidental medical insurance policy, voting privileges, travel and sponsor discounts, access to the USATT newsletter, and full access to the complete USATT rating system."

This could be a good idea, but a lot of it will come down to execution and communication. A key thing here is that USATT will now be requiring the $25 membership to play in the USATT League. Until now, it has been free, some will not like this. How to turn USATT League players into USATT members has been an ongoing question for years. One of the keys here is that they don't have to pay the full $75 membership, only $25.

HOWEVER . . . and here's the part that's important. In just over eleven weeks, USATT clubs all over the country might be running USATT Leagues. (I say "might" because of the pandemic, which is a separate issue.) If League Directors don't know about the change, they will likely show up in January to run their leagues as always . . . and get caught when they find non-USATT members can't play, or at least can't get their ratings processed. What will happen if they have some non-members playing? Will that stop the entire league rating processing? Non-members will also show up, not realizing they have to be USATT members, and some will be unhappy at this. I think the $25/year is fair, but they key is to not have lots of leagues play with non-members, and then discover they weren't eligible.

So COMMUNCATION will be key. USATT needs to inundate clubs and league directors with info on the new policy so they can prepare by alerting their players. They will need a lot of lead time on this since often they may not even communicate with the players except when they show up at the club. Ideally, USATT could even produce simple flyers that clubs can put up, showing the benefits of the USATT League, with the key part that they get a LOT for that $25.

One irony is that, in this case, the pandemic might have helped USATT. Normally, such a change would take place while leagues are running every week all over the country, and so it would cause problems. But with the pandemic, most leagues are currently on hold, and so it's a natural time to make such a switch.

One problem, of course, is that many league directors might simply choose to look around and find other free table tennis league software. Ideally, USATT will cut that off by communicating to the clubs and league directors the value of the USATT League, as part of a nationwide league, along with the ease of league ratings, submitting, and processing. Lowering the membership for leagues to $25 is a big help.

One thing that might help is if clubs get a percentage of the new $25 memberships. The problem there, of course, is that $25 isn't a lot, and when you split it up, it becomes even less. Of course, if USATT were to give clubs 40% of that ($10), clubs might simply charge $15/year to play in the league.

One nice thing - USATT has eliminated the hated Ratings Access Subscription plan, so USATT members can again look up the ratings of anybody, even former members whose memberships have expired.

A little history. I initiated USATT League about 20 years ago, and co-founded it with Robert Mayer. At the time we started it, "winner stay on" was the norm all over the country, with very few leagues. So the question was: How could we jumpstart a league system? And so the USATT League system was born - and now it is used every week in club leagues all over the country. A key part was that the ratings were separate from the USATT Tournament ratings, since players are very protective of that. However, at some point (and it might already be happening - not sure), some leagues can run using regular USATT ratings, if they choose. One goal of the USATT League was to allow players to get initial ratings from the leagues, and use that as their starting rating when they play their first USATT tournament. That way they don't have to go through what most have to do, play in rating events their first tournament where they can't advance, since they are unrated.

There is also info in the news item on the new Regionalization of the Nationals, where players qualify in regional events. I'll look into that sometime later. The next USA Nationals is now scheduled for July 4-9, 2021, at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Weekend Coaching
In the Sunday Class, I worked mostly with the younger kids, and continued to work on fundamentals. At the end of the session, I put a water bottle on the table, and put a trillion dollar bill under it. I'd feed each of them three balls (wide backhand, middle, wide forehand), and if they knocked the bottle over, they got a trillion dollars! I lost four trillion dollars, my entire life savings...

On Saturday I spent much of the session with Navin Kumar working on forehand loops followed by smashes. But we also spent a lot of time on his blocking, making sure he's solid on both sides, and able to cover the whole table in random drills. Here are two videos from the session (41 and 74 sec). Navin also posted two videos of himself, side by side. The first was of him before I started coaching him, and the second a recent one. Forehand has improved!!! He also did this video (2:20) for a Parkinson's group.

USATT Board Teleconference
They have one tomorrow (Tuesday, Oct. 13) at 8PM Eastern Time, using Uberconference. Here's the USATT Agendas and Notices page, which includes a link to the info for this teleconference if you would like to listen in and perhaps participate. (You can ask questions in the chat box, and then they may respond or allow you to speak.) The current agenda is sparse, just CEO Report, High Performance Report, and Committee Reports and Updates, but more may be added later. (Here's the USATT Minutes page, where you can see the minutes of past meetings.)

USATT Coaches Meeting
USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill has been organizing bi-monthly Zoom meetings for all USATT Coaches. They are normally the second and fourth Friday every month, usually at noon eastern time (though they sometimes have to vary that due to coaches' schedules), and last about 30 minutes. Sean announces each meeting, including agenda and the link to attend, on the USATT Coaches Facebook Page. I attended the one last Friday, which went a little longer than previous ones, about 50 minutes. Attending were Sean O'Neill, Doru Gheorghe, Samson Dubina, Mike Lauro, Sameh Awadalla, Wang Qingliang, and Larry Hodges (me). Here is a video of the meeting (50 min), along with links about the items covered in the meeting. Some of the items discussed included:

  • USATT Hopes Program
  • US Nationals and regionalization
  • International and National Teams
  • Thursday Night Challenge
  • Coaches reported on their clubs

Table Tennis Books Out This Year
There are at least eight new books on table tennis out this year! Here's a listing. Time to do your Christmas shopping! (Here's my table tennis book collection of 269 books.)

  • My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, by Dora Kurimay. "I believe that the principles of sports psychology can be applied to all aspects of your life. Whether with public speaking, being a great parent, or developing your skills as an athlete. This collection of 11 stories from my life offers insight on gaining a psychological edge and attaining mental toughness."
  • Winning Table Tennis, by Dan Seemiller and Mark Holowchack, reprinted in 2020. "Whether you're a competitive tournament player or a serious recreational player, Winning Table Tennis: Skills, Drills, and Strategies will help you improve your game. Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. singles and 12-time doubles champion, shows you all the shots and strategies for top level play. This book features 19 drills for better shot-making, plus Seemiller's own grip and shot innovations that will give you an edge over the competition. Featuring the most effective table tennis techniques and strategies Winning Table Tennis shows you how to: choose the right equipment; serve and return serves; use proper footwork and get into position; practice more efficiently; prepare for competitions; make effective strategy decisions in singles and; doubles play, and; condition your body for optimal performance."
  • Spin: Tips and Tactics to Win at Table Tennis, by Tom Lodziak, 2020, "Table tennis is a weirdly addictive sport. All over the world, an army of amateur table tennis players compete in leagues, tournaments, pub battles, work challenges and 'friendly' family games. A 78-year-old can beat a 28-year-old. A 10-year-old can make a grown man cry. To win, you need ninja-like reflexes, the control and coordination of a tightrope-artist, and the tactical dexterity of a chess grandmaster. In this book, coach Tom Lodziak will help you improve your table tennis skills, win more points and win more matches. Tom shares tips on training, service, returning serves, winning points, tactics, playing matches and continual improvement. These are tips which work at amateur level. Tips which are achievable. Tips which will make a difference, even if you only play one hour per week. Are you ready to transform your table tennis game?"
  • It Takes Balls to Play Table Tennis, by Gerard Desmond Flanagan, 2020. "A sports journey with a reflective look back at how the Troubles in Northern Ireland have shaped everything. Des has somehow talked himself into writing a book about table tennis of all things. After deciding to try and play international table tennis after a small gap of forty odd years, it is not long before his mind is off all over the place. The effects of living through 'The Troubles' soon appear and events shape his journey. The various journeys to and from the tournaments via his past become a form of a 'mens shed' on wheels."
  • Table Tennis From Then Till Now, by Rowden Fullen, 2020. "This book is about our great game of table tennis. But in fact it's not a book as such, rather a series of articles, lectures and seminars, delivered over many decades which chart the journey through time and many differing eras. Over almost eighty years of involvement in the game I have had the great fortune to meet many of the greatest coaches and their stars and have tried to absorb their thoughts and ideas. Equally in these articles I have tried to chart the way the game has changed and evolved over the decades."
  • Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis, by Graham Frankel, 2020. "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."
  • Why Table Tennis?: 10 Aspects of the Sport That Will Change Your Life, by Samson Dubina, Jacob Boyd, and Sarah Jalli (editor - Larry Hodges), 2020. "The Olympic sport of table tennis is well-respected worldwide for the dexterity of the athletes, the speed of the rallies, and the excitement of watching players of all ages and nationalities compete for world titles. Here in the US, very little is known about table tennis … Until Now! Why Table Tennis takes you on a one-hour journey where you will explore the vastness of the sport, understand how it is healthy for the mind and body, how it has impacted world history, and why it can impact your life too!!! Buckle up for this one-hour journey… The Olympic Sport of Table Tennis!"
  • Still More Table Tennis Tips, by Larry Hodges, 2020. "Here are 150 Tips to help your table tennis game, by Larry Hodges - a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame and a National Coach. They compile in logical progression three years' worth of Tips of the Week (2017-2020) from TableTennisCoaching.com. They cover all aspects of the game: Serve, Receive, the Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (This is a sequel to "Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2011-2013, and "More Table Tennis Tips," which covered the 150 Tips from 2014-2016.)"

31,000 Reads!
The last week's blog was the first to break 30,000 reads in a week, and went over 31,000 this morning. It's been getting about 28,000 the last few weeks.

Benefits of Becoming a USATT Certified Coach
Here's the USATT article by Joshua Dyke. "The USATT Online Coaching Certification program is an excellent opportunity for those who wish to teach the game they know and love. Whether you want to coach table tennis players that compete on the national stage or be joined by friends and family to have weekend matches in your recreation room; these are moments where coaching certification would be a welcome addition to enhance the quality of play and the spirit of the game."

2020 US Hopes National Finals
Here's the info page. They will be held in Akron, OH, at the Samson Dubina TTC, Dec. 2-5. This is for kids born in 2008 or after. My club (MDTTC) will likely be sending six kids - Stanley Hsu (just turned 12, 2286, #1 in Hopes), Mu Du (12, 2020, #4 in Hopes), Winston Wu (10, 1935, #7 in Hopes), Ryan Lin (10, 1926, #9 in Hopes), Arjun Kumar (9, 1585, #1 in US in Under 10, lives in PA but trains with us once a week) and Aaron Zhang (11, 1516, #22 in Hopes). I hope to go as one of the coaches, but we have a lot of coaches at our club, so we'll see. 

USATT Hall of Famer George (Gus) Kennedy Passes Away
Here's the USATT article. Although he was on the USATT Board of Directors the first few years I worked for them, I never really knew him well, alas.

Interview with USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill
Here's the video (50:22) from Kevin Table Tennis.

"In the Loop" Table Tennis Research Roundup
Here's the info page. "Ready to CHOP down your competition and PUSH your game to the next level? Join my FREE monthly "research roundup" and get concise breakdowns of the latest research pertaining to table tennis players."

Do Your Serves Complement Your Playing Style?
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from Samson Dubina

Special Training China's Table Tennis
Here's the video (8:15).

Reverse Tomahawk Serve
Here's the video (63 sec, includes slo-mo) of Ding Ning.

Table Tennis Player Has Got Crazy Skills
Here's the training video (3:01).

Jimmy Butler vs. Daniel Tran
Four-time US Men's Champion Jim Butler has been posting videos of his practice matches with US MiniCadet star Daniel Tran and others. You should go to the Jimmy Butler Facebook page and have a look!

New from Steve Hopkins

Chinese Nationals
Here's the ITTF Article: Fan Zhendong wins singles gold; Chen Meng and Wang Manyu secure women's doubles title. See also Steve Hopkins' article above.

All of the Dragons in The Table Tennis Dungeon
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Adriana Diaz, Puerto Rico's "Athlete of the Decade"
Here's the ITTF article.

Vladimir Samsonov - The European Legend!
Here's the video (6:22).

INCREDIBLE Table Tennis Backhands! Who Did It Best?
Here's the ITTF video (1:50).

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

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

Tahl Leibovitz Racket at the Olympic & Paralympic Museum
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Want to know more about Tahl? Here's his 2017 book, Ping-Pong for Fighters. Here's another Facebook posting that shows both Tahl's racket and a racket signed by USATT's first three Olympians (from 1988), Sean O'Neill, Insook Bhushan, and Diana Gee. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

US Table Tennis Championships (1940)
Here's the video (1:21), including a lot of Lou Pagliaro vs. Sol Schiff.

Ping-Pong Paddle Shirts from Amazon

I Played Against World No. 8 Cheng I-Ching
Here's the video (14:44) from Adam Bobrow!

Top 10 Table Tennis FAILS of 2020
Here's the video (4:04) from Table Tennis Daily!

A Little Ping Pong Madness
Here's the music video (4:13)!

Hand Sanitizer Backboard Basketball Pong
Here's the video (3 sec)!

Table Tennis Funny Collection
Here's the video (2:52)!

Table Tennis Trickshots Maharu Yoshimura Edition
Here's the video (6:14)!

Split Table Tennis Racket
Here's the video (5:10) from Pongfinity!

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