March 15, 2021

Tip of the Week
Do You Really Play the Middle?

The $10,000 Patty and Si Wasserman Junior Table Tennis Tournament
Once again I had a great time in Akron, Ohio, where I went this past Friday and Saturday to coach two of our junior players from Maryland. Here are complete results, care of TTLive. There were 116 players in the tournament, played on 18 tables.

Five juniors from the Maryland Table Tennis Center went to the tournament: Stanley Hsu, Ryan Lin, William & Winston Wu, and Tiffany Ke. I was in charge of coaching Stanley and Ryan; Cheng Yinghua had William & Winston; and I believe Tiffany's dad coached her. Here's a group picture (Tiffany missing) - L-R: Larry Hodges, Stanley Hsu, Ryan Lin, Winston Wu, William Wu, Cheng Yinghua.

Here's a Facebook posting by Stanley about the tournament, along with 16 pictures taken by his dad. Here are some of them:

Here are hordes of photos from the tournament, from CLJ Studio Photography. 

The tournament was sponsored by USATT Hall of Famers Patty Martinez and Si Wasserman, and held at the Samson Dubina TTA. Here's info on the tournament's history:

"This event was originally called the Nate Wasserman Junior Table Tennis Classic, this prestigious annual tournament initiated in 2007. It was dedicated to the memory of Si's younger brother Nate, who helped Si run the famous California Table Tennis Center in Hollywood, California in the 1950s. The tournament over the years expanded a number of events and has been conducted every year under the leadership of Danny Seemiller. This is the 14th annual classic. In 2016 the title was changed to the 'Si and Patty Wasserman Junior Table Tennis Championship' to commemorate the marriage of USATT's living legends. These cash awards are given each year to help inspire young champions to continue their table tennis success!"

I went up with Stanley and Ryan and their dads (Steve and Hung) on Thursday afternoon, returning on Sunday morning. We had a lot of fun in the ride - Stanley and Ryan both love brain teasers so I came supplied with hordes of them, and the time went by quickly.

As usual, the tournament was run very well by Samson & crew. The tournament staff was Steve Graber, Josh Graber, Dan Seemiller, Mike Boyd, Blake Cottrel, and Samson Dubina. It's a great facility, with rubberized floors on all 18 tables, and perfect lighting. Once again they offered free lunch (various deli sandwiches) and dinner (delicious pasta with tomato sauce and optional meatballs, I had two plates) on Saturday. All the expected Covid precautions were taken, with everyone's temperature taken on the way in, social distancing, and masks required except when actually at the table playing. The level of play was very high.

The tournament was divided into six time segments: 10AM, 2PM, and 6PM on Fri and Sat. Each time slot had two to four events, with a total of 18. With round robins often of seven, and with four advancing, it was a LOT of matches! Stanley ended up playing 34 matches in two days, Ryan 27, with both playing in five events. I coached 36 matches - fortunately, the matches were spread out enough, and there were enough non-competitive matches, plus matches where the Maryland juniors played each other (so no coach) that I was able to be there for essentially every match that mattered or was competitive.

Coaching at a tournament is both fun and scary. Fun, because you get to work with someone in helping them play well. Scary, because you don't want to be the one to mess up and cost them a match! But Stanley and Ryan are fun to work with. Stanley, 12, came in rated 2274, #1 in the US for 12 and Under. Ryan, 11, came in rated 1992, #2 in the US in 11 and Under, and #6 in 12 and Under. (Teammate Winston Wu is #1 in 11 and Under at 2001, and #5 in 12 and Under.) Both Stanley and Ryan had very nice tournaments, with Stanley winning 13 and Under and making the final of 15 and Under, and Ryan winning 11 and Under.

Stanley played two players named Kai with identical ratings of 2416: Kai Jiang and Kai Zarehbin. Against Jiang, he was up 2-1 in games and, despite some disappointing nets and edges, was up 10-9 match point in the fourth, only to lose 11-9 in the fifth. But then he turned it around and won against Zarehbin, also 11-9 in the fifth. (But Zarehbin would have his revenge, winning 3-0 in their rematch later in the tournament.) Stanley also lost 11-9 in the fifth to Sid Naresh (2492) - on a net ball!!! He had a number of other good wins. However, we ran into a problem on Saturday morning. On Friday, Stanley played the final of 15 and Under, losing to Nandan Naresh. It was the last match of the tournament for that day - but didn't end until 11:45PM. So Stan went to bed late, and had to get up early, just as he had had to do in his last tournament - and for the second time in a row, he woke up with a headache. He played with it on Saturday morning, and had two "bad" losses to 2200 players, before he got over it. But it means we have to make plans for future tournaments - no more late-night events followed by morning events; Stanley gets nine hours sleep for now on! When he gets his sleep, he's 2400 level. He won 13 and Under Boys by winning eight straight 3-0 matches, and gave Nandan Naresh a good battle in 15 and Under Boys.

I could write a book on the 11 and Under Boys' Event. Winston was top seed, followed by Ryan, and then Rignesh Padamanur, rated 1852 but about 2000 level. In the round robin, Ryan was caught off guard by Rignesh's excellent short pushes, strong backhand, and consistent forehand, and lost in five. Emotionally, it was a devasting loss, since he felt like he wasn't in control because he wasn't able to flip Rignesh's short pushes. But he got past it, and determined to play better, fought his way to the final, winning 3-0 against teammate Winston in the semifinals. Before the final, I had Ryan spend 20 minutes practicing with Stanley, where Ryan served short, Stanley pushed short, and Ryan flipped, forehand or backhand. It paid off - this time Ryan was more prepared for Rignesh's short pushes, and won the final, 9,8,7. Ryan played well in other matches, including a win over a 2152 player, and pushed some 2200 players pretty hard.

I got permission from Stanley's and Ryan's parents to write about their matches - but can't give out tactical secrets! Stanley generally dominates with his close-to-table two-winged looping game - few can withstand his relentless backhand loop, done so quick off the bounce it's on you before you can blink. His forehand is also close to table - when players loop there, his off-the-bounce counterloop is often past them before they can react. There are a few things he needs to work on, but I can't write about them here. Ryan plays a similar two-winged attack, with a more forehand-oriented game - but his backhand loop this tournament was very consistent. He gets frustrated when things don't go well, but was much, Much, MUCH better this tournament at dealing with adversity. I've been working with him on sports psychology, and it seems to be paying off. I like that he's taken to nodding his head in acknowledgement when an opponent plays a great point and so doesn't let it bother him. He can also separate disappointment at losing from judging his own play. So when he plays well but loses, he’s more okay with it. Fortunately, this tournament, he mostly played well!!!

There were a lot of tactical things that went on. For example, one thing I stressed with both was having a go-to serve. You should have a general one that you like to use against most players, but it may change, depending on the opponent. For example, back when I was an active player, my "go-to" serve was often a forehand pendulum short side-top serve that allowed me to follow up over and over with my forehand - it was tricky for opponents to attack it to my forehand side, and so I could edge over to my backhand side and cover nearly the whole table with my forehand, and not worry about them dropping it short since the serve had topspin. But against a player without a good backhand loop, my go-to serve might change to a big breaking serve to an opponent's backhand. Similarly, Stanley and Ryan both have go-to serves, but it sometimes changes, depending on the opponent.

I think Stanley and Ryan used their trophies as pillows on Saturday night. And then it was back to Maryland - and Covid tests before we can go back to the club.

Smash! Moments, Memories and Tips, by Dan Seemiller
I blogged about this two weeks ago. The book was done, and was actually up on Amazon - but since it's essentially a picture book, it's important that the pictures be as good as possible. Dan realized that the pictures he'd had scanned and sent to me hadn't been scanned at high enough resolution. And so, he had someone take pictures of 90 of the originals, at higher resolution and clarity. That means I have to go through all 300, do any needed fixing up, and then place them into the book again. Yikes - there goes my week! :) Hopefully, I'll get it done this week, and the book will be ready again by next week. I'll give an update next week.

USATT Coaching Certification and Licensing Fee
I blogged about this on March 1 - see segment on USATT Coaching Excellence Licensing Fee. As I'd feared, we lost a lot of coaches. According to the USATT listing, USATT is down to just 39 certified coaches in the whole country. Hopefully, that'll pick up soon. 

For perspective, on Feb. 28, the day before the licensing fee was required, there were 138 USATT certified coaches. And that was after huge losses in recent years, much of it due to SafeSport requirements. For further perspective, when I stepped down as coaching chair in 2017, there were around 400 USATT certified coaches. (I am still on the coaching committee.) Not all of them were active of course, but neither are all of the 39 who are now certified. (All of California now has only six certified coaches; New York two; New Jersey and Maryland one each.) Many of our most successful and most active coaches are no longer certified - in fact, the huge majority of full-time coaches in the US are no longer certified. Between the hassle of SafeSport (mostly unavoidable), and now the added $50 licensing fee, on top of the required $75 USATT "Pro" membership fee, in the middle of a pandemic when coaches (like many others) are already struggling, it's simply gotten to be too much. I hope I can convince USATT to cancel this licensing fee, and perhaps consider it later on, after the pandemic is over, when we have more USATT coaching courses (we only have ones for club level right now), and with a lower annual fee. We need to think of our coaches as a resource for bringing players into the game, not as a direct revenue source.

We really need to start focusing more on our sport's infrastructure. A few years ago, there were nearly 400 USATT sanctioned clubs. Now there are 161. Again, much of this was because of SafeSport, but USATT needs to find ways to overcome this. I'm fairly certain there are actually more clubs now than before, they just no longer find it in their interest to be USATT sanctioned. We need to find ways to change that because USATT needs them more than they need us. 

On a related note, in the new USATT CEO blog, March Chop and Smash Blog, it says, "Furthermore, requiring [bold is added] that all persons engaged in coaching activities at USATT Member Clubs are properly certified allows the organization to maintain the protections available to those Member Clubs under USATT's Comprehensive Liability Insurance Policy." I don't believe this is accurate - there is not and never has been a requirement for this. There are many dozens of full-time coaches who are not (and have not been) on the certified coaches list who coach at USATT sanctioned clubs. If a non-certified coach coaches at a club, then that club may not get the full benefits of USATT insurance, but that's different than saying that all persons engaged in coaching activities at USATT Member Clubs are required to be certified. (USATT insurance only helps some clubs - why not simply charge the clubs that need it instead of the coaches who usually don't?) I have emailed the chair of the coaching committee on this, but haven't received a response yet.

Serve & Attack Sequence
Here's the video (2:58) by Jishan Liang, featuring Yudi Jin.

Coaches Corner: The Hook Serve
Here's the USATT article by Shuang Wang.

Loop Against Underspin With Zelin Ye
Here's the video (3:16). Zelin, 13, is rated 2246, #5 for his age in the US.

Foundational & Advanced Skills
Here's the video (2:01) with Gabriel Perez.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

PingSkills Ask the Coach Podcasts
Here they are, on various topics.

ITTF High Performance & Development Webinar 38 - Coaching Pathway
Here's the video (76 min).


Lily Zhang at WTT Star Contender Doha
Here's the video (47 sec).

14-Year-Old Prodigy Will DOMINATE You In Table Tennis!
Here's the video (8:37) featuring Faith Hu. She is on the TTTeamUSA Female National Team.

2021 World University Games Selection Procedures
Here's the info page from NCTTA.

The Table Tennis Writer
Here's the article by Coach Jon. Hey, he's giving out our trade secrets!!!

Genius Skills in Table Tennis
Here's the video (8:03) from Table Tennis Central.


World Singles Qualification Tournament
The ITTF event is taking place in Doha, Qatar, March 14-17.

World Table Tennis Middle East Hub 2 - Coverage by Steve Hopkins

New from Steve Hopkins
(See also his articles on the WTT Middle East Hub)

Tomokazu Harimoto, Mima Ito Claim Singles Titles in Doha
Here's the article from the Kyodo News.

World Table Tennis
Here are lots of great videos! Here's a good one to start with: World-Class Table Tennis Rallies (6:18, Day Three at the WTT Star Contender Doha 2021).

Masters of Skill: International Women's Day Special
Here's the ITTF video (6:28).

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


Ping-Pong Ninja Shirt
You can get one at Amazon!

Multi-Sport Ping-Pong?
Here's the cartoon!

Ping-Pong Murder Mystery
Here's the cartoon! Long-pips Phantom users, take note!

German Speedrun Ends Here
Here's the video (10:38) from Adam Bobrow!

One Will Go Home HUNGRY - Stella or Simon? Chocolate Special!
Here's the video (8:36) from XOLAY Table Tennis!

Finally, a Real Chopper
Here's the video (28 sec)!

Quicksilver Plays Table Tennis

Butterfly Manyball Dance Battle
Here's the video (30 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!