October 26, 2020

Tip of the Week
Learn To Play Close to the Table.

USA Table Tennis Election
Here's the USATT announcement, including statements from all six of the candidates. There are four candidates running for the two At-Large positions, and two candidates running for the one Club Representative position. (For the latter, I always wonder why they don't have USATT certified clubs vote for this, since this person represents them.) Voting for these positions starts October 29 (Thursday) through December 13.

I wasn't planning to get involved initially, but after looking over the candidates, I've decided to write a little about them and give my endorsements. I know all six of the candidates - I bet there are only about a dozen who can say that!

Here's the short version: For the At-Large positions, I strongly endorse Khoa Nguyen and Thomas Hu. For the Club Rep position, I think we have two great candidates in Will Shortz and Mike Babuin, and would be happy with either, but will give my endorsement this time to Will Shortz. Here are my thoughts, and I will start with Thomas Hu, so I can say, "Hu's on first."

=>Thomas Hu is the founder of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA), one of the most successful table tennis organizations in the US. He is now the CEO of the American Youth Table Tennis Organization, also one of the most successful and fastest-growing table tennis organizations. (These are non-profit organizations.) These two alone show he's a table tennis doer running for a position in an organization that's infamous for not doing as much as we'd like. He also has an MBA and a master's in computer science as well, so he'd be a tremendous asset to the board for his business and technical skills as well. He would be a tremendous asset in growing our sport. And he can play a little too, with rating of 1857. (I've spoken with him on the phone at length recently about various table tennis issues.)

You should visit the Thomas Hu for USATT Board of Directions Facebook page, created by Sharon Lin. So far, 46 people have written testimonials supporting Thomas. Not just comments from random people, but 46 real testimonials from real people he has worked with. Why not read them over? You might know some of them: Susan Sarandon (yes, the famous actress who started up SPiN Table Tennis!), Willy Leparulo (president of NCTTA), Dora Kurimay, Matt Hetherington, Qiumars Hedayatian, Sydney Christophe, Edmund Suen, Angel Tang, Andrew Tang, James Budenholzer, Stephen Levin, Lydia Kwong, Tina Chen, Joanne Li, Allen Chen, Luz Brissett, Elisha Tang, Mira Gandy, Jasper Wong, Mike Clarke, Sharon Lin, Ashley Popp, Yasiris Ortiz, Kunal Shah, Steven Granaturov, Maximilian Kogler, Jeffrey Ku, Jody Gao, Brian Fong, Riaz Journey, Jason Chu, Takeo Suzuki, Thomas Suzuki, Michael Song, Mentor Wan, Kevin Li, Don Yang, Debbie Feiner, Evan Rabin, Angela O'Dowd, Brian Crisp, Adeel Rajput, Diana Bruno Perkins, Peter Fisher, Cathy Chen, and Wilson Cheah.

I read over some of the testimonials for Thomas, and here's an excerpt, from Edmund Suen (the USATT Northeast Sanctioning Coordinator, among many other table tennis positions):

"Your vote for Thomas is not just for him but for a common philosophy all of us believe in that table tennis is a life-long sport, a sport without boundaries and limitations. Most importantly, it is a Fun sport. He believes and builds opportunities for everyone, including team concepts and equal equity for all stakeholders. With USATT, he will build better integration between school, collegiate and professional table tennis. He will work closely with USATT management, NCTTA leadership and AYTTO to ensure a continuous pipeline of athletes into the college system. He will build platforms and mechanisms with hundreds of clubs and facilities nationwide to allow you to continue to enjoy the sport of table tennis after college."

=>Khoa Nguyen is best known as a two-time US Olympian, long-time US Team Member, and former 2700 player. I've known him since his junior days in the 1970s and early 1980s. It's hard to believe he's now 54 years old - and still rated 2443! He's been on the board before as a Player Rep, and I always respected his take on things and thoughtful votes. However, he's not running as an elite player, he's running on developing the sport, and in particular on focusing on the clubs, as his campaign statement makes clear. He brings to USATT both his table tennis and technical expertise. (He's already on the USATT Technology and Innovation Committee.) He also brings something that's badly needed - organizational knowledge. What is that? It means he knows what has been tried before and how it worked out, so we can learn from what has worked and not worked in the past. I really like his strong focus on clubs - he'll work well with whoever gets the Club Rep position. But note that focusing on clubs includes a focus on what goes on in clubs, so (as noted in his statement), he'll also be working closely with the Clubs and Leagues Committee, the Coaching Committee (I'm a member), the Junior Committee, and the Tournament Committee. 

=>For the Club Representative, we have two excellent candidates in Will Shortz and Mike Babuin. I can support either one. I respect Mike's many years on the board (including past chair of the board) and think he'd be great on the board again or on a USATT committee, perhaps as chair. However, in this case, I have to go with Will Shortz. He'll bring new energy to the board, really loves the sport, and has done great things at Westchester. He's the founder and owner of the innovative (and HUGE) Westchester Table Tennis Club. How many clubs in history have run monthly 4-star tournaments for years? (Answer: None.) He's also done something incredible: He's toured the US and visited 246 USATT clubs in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico, plus 118 clubs in 39 foreign countries! Here's the listing. Going to all these clubs and talking to club leaders is a HUGE asset for a Club Rep. He also has an iron-man streak going on, having played nearly 3000 consecutive days. That's dedication! I've had numerous table tennis discussions with him, and found him to be insightful and knowledgeable, and believe he'd be a tremendous asset to the board. Also, did I mention he's the famous crossword puzzle editor of the New York Times? Here's his Wikipedia page.

My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, by Dora Kurimay
I just read My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table, another great table tennis sports psychology book by mental performance coach Dora Kurimay. She knows something of the topic - she has a master's in psychology and another master's in sports psychology. She was also a member of the Hungarian national team for six years, and despite taking five years off from table tennis to focus on school, she reached top ten in the US as well. She's a professional player and coach at SPiN New York.

It's a relatively quick read, just under 100 pages packed with sports psychology and mental toughness nuggets. It comes in both paperback and kindle. It starts off with a foreword by Adam Bobrow, voice of the ITTF. Here's the description of the book from Amazon:

"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."

Then we get to the meat of the book, with chapters on the following: Introduction, Motivation, Goal Setting, My First Championship, Visualization, Adjusting, Pre-Performance Routine, Breathing and Remaining Calm, Distraction, Public Speaking, Recovery, Coaching and Mentorship, Conclusion, Recommended Reading and Videos, and Resources.

At the end of each chapter are a series of bullet points that recaps what the chapter covered, with key points on how to deal with various mental aspects of competition. I toyed with simply typing them all up as an outline of what the book covered, but that would be too much - plus, it's far better to read the chapters themselves first so you'll understand the key points.

My favorite quote in the book is one of those seemingly obvious things that is not so obvious to most, since few have really thought about it or looked into developing it. The quote: "Mental toughness can be learned."

Then we get into motivation: "Motivation is an inner drive. Intrinsic motivation means you do something because it's fun but challenging, and there is fulfillment from the activity itself. Extrinsic motivation is focusing on the outcome, fame, and money. The motivation is outside you. … Extrinsic motivation can lead to burnout … even when you are really successful. … The best is when it is combined with intrinsic motivation."

Then comes Goal Setting, with the SMART Guide to Goal Setting: Specific, Measurable, Realistic, Adjustable, Time-Based.

The chapter on Visualization is sub-titled, "How I used visualization as a pre-performance routine to qualify to the Hungarian National Team." Here's an excerpt:

"Before I went to sleep, I visualized how I'd play against her. In general, when you use visualization (also known as 'imagery') the best is if you use as many details and senses as you can. … I imagined the hall where we would play, the tables, and I visualized myself playing against her. I imagined that I was confident, I recalled the emotional feelings and also the bodily feel of how I was going to play. I imagined the rallies we would play, and, most importantly, I saw in my mind's eye the tactics that I was going to use against her. I also visualized my serves that I'm going to use and my opening forehand loops from underspin since it would be crucial to make those shots. Finally, I imagined myself being calm and being relaxed but confident during my match."

As she also explains, "Almost all high-level athletes use imagery before and during their games to manage their stress level, increase their confidence, concentration, and overall performance."

Here's another one that stood out for me:

"Many table tennis players think that the match starts with the serve. Technically that's correct, but, realistically, that's a serious blunder. What you had for breakfast, how well and the way you warmed up, and what you did right before your match - all powerfully influence your performance. Everything you do mentally and physically after you wake up until the game time influences your performance."

Then she got into the mechanics of how to prepare for a match: "My advice is to create your pre-performance routine and use it before you play." Here's a longer excerpt:

"To create your pre-performance routine, you can grab a piece of paper and write down what you usually do right before you play your matches. Next, write down what worked for you in the past. Think about a match when you were very focused and played well. What did you do exactly before the match?"

I gave my favorite quote above, but this last chapter gave one that gave it a run for the money: "So, let's go skydiving, just not the day before a competition!"

It was interesting that there was a chapter on public speaking, but think about it - public speaking is similar to sports competition in that both can lead to great anxiety. When I first opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center way back in 1992, I realized I would be doing lots of group coaching sessions - and so I took a course in public speaking. Not only did that help directly with public speaking, but many of the things you learn there apply directly to dealing with pressure in sports.

So there's a lot here to help your game, and so I can strongly recommend the book. Plus, you'll have to read the book to find out why I'm mentioned on page 17!

Dora also has a video version of the book, My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table – Video Series. Here are other Table Tennis Sports Psychology Books by Dora Kurimay:

Weekend Coaching
I introduced some of our younger players to random multiball on Sunday. The fundamental strokes have mostly been drilled into them, but now it's important to be able to react to an incoming ball. The main drill was simple multiball where I'd feed the ball to the forehand or the backhand, and as rapidly as I figured they could react. The key, as I kept harping on, was that the first move has to be the right move. The keys to that were good ready position, realization that you have more time than you think, and to just react, not guess or anticipate. At the end I did a lot of one-on-one rallying with them where I'd serve simple topspin to their backhand, and then we'd rally randomly.

USATT Town Hall Event with Club Administrators
Here's the video (36:34) of the online meeting they held last Tuesday, Oct. 20. Much of it was about the 2021 US National Table Tennis Championships State Qualification Tournaments (and requests for proposals).

Reflections on Excellence
Here's the new table tennis book by Michel Gadal. He was the long-time national coach for France and Canada, the Director for Performance for England, and the National Technical Director for France. Most famously, he was the coach of 1993 World Men's Singles Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien. He is also the author of the 1997 book, "Train to Win," which was almost a table tennis bible to many. I will have a review of the book in my blog next week.

Master the Backspin Ghost Serve in 4 Simple Steps
Here's the video (11:24) from MH Table Tennis (featuring Sam Walker).

New from Samson Dubina

  • Weak Points - Check them out!
  • New Power Pong Video - Backspin/Topspin Transition - Sarah Jalli...  Currently ranked #1 in Cadets and #10 in women's is now on a regular training program with the Power Pong 5000.  Check out one of her backspin/topspin transition drills!
  • The Think Circle - Learn the 4-Step Process

Looping Against Backspin and Then Topspin
Here's the video (37 sec). Notice how the shoulder goes down slightly against backspin, but not against topspin. It's one of those obvious things, but if you don't practice it in sequence like this, it's hard to get consistently right in a match. (The player is Matthew Chamblee, who I practice with quite a bit at the Ohio Mega Camp in August.)

How to Do the Big Forehand Slap Shot
Here's the video (7:11) from Tom Lodziak. "A forehand slap is where you hit the ball very hard and very flat. It’s a hard shot to do consistently, but if you can master this technique, then you can win a lot of points."

Multiball Training Against a Sidespin Banana Flip
Here's the video (21 sec). Far too often players rely on working against certain things only when they face it in a match, or in a drill where they face it only once per rally, instead of repeatedly, as you can do in multiball. You improve faster if you practice your techniques, and things you will face in a match, repeatedly in a multiball-type drill where you focus on one thing rather than multiple things at once. After you have perfected your play there, then move on to doing it in a game situation drill, and then in actual games.

Table Tennis Teaching Forehand and Backhand Conversion Skills
Here's the video (54 sec, in Chinese). I don't know who the player is, but he has good technique.

Ping Pong Serving Rules for Beginners
Here's the video (4:38) Joey Cochran at Table Tennis Junkie. "If you know anybody with illegal serves, this might be a good video to share with them."

New from Steve Hopkins

Ping Pong Vs Table Tennis: Is There A Difference?
Here's the article from Ping Pong Ruler.

Side Effects of 2020
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

The Aerobic Sports Dance and Music Exercises Group
Here's their page, which seems to focus on table tennis. Jules Apatini explains: "In the Apple and Google Play Store, the free APP AerobicSDM is there for downloading. That will explain all there is needed to know about this Aerobic Progressive Exercise Concept if anyone is interested to learn more about it. People will be able to exercise and keep active safely during this COVID 19 Pandemic and, at the same time, commit the proper strokes and moves used in Ping Pong/Table Tennis to muscle memory while they execute the exercises."

The Rise of Tomokazu Harimoto
Here's video (5:59) of the Japanese 17-year-old (world #4) from age four on. Note the early temper tantrums!

Inner Spin | from Lockdown to RESTART
Here's the ITTF video (37:06), featuring USA's Lily Zhang and Brazil's Hugo Calderano. "What do our world-class athletes think about the return of international table tennis and the arrival of WTT?"

Best Points of All Time
Here's the video (18:50). Get out the popcorn! Here are more videos from Table Tennis Ball.

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

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

ATTU Aim for the Stars Videos
Here they are.

Semi-Pro Man vs. USA Champion Woman
Here's the video (9:32) from Adam Bobrow, who takes on Jiaqi Zheng, the 2015 US Women's Singles Champion, who now coaches the Chinese Taipei Women's Team, including world #8 Cheng I-Ching.

Shadow Practice with a Squirrel and a Skeleton
Here's Jules Apatini doing strangely hypnotic aerobic table tennis with a:

Best Roller of the Year!? With LONG PIPS!
Here's the video (22 sec) of Konstantyn Salatov. Watch the reaction of Coach Wang Qingliang!

Can U Do This Trickshot by Grand Slam Champion Zhang Jike?
Here's the video (20 sec)!

Table Tennis Mouth Wall Bounce Guinness World Record
Here's the video (4:01)!

Paddle and Ball for Breakfast
Here's the video (19 sec)!

Over the Moon Movie Clip: Chang'e Vs Chin Pingpong Game
Here's the video (2:57)!

Send us your own coaching news!