March 22, 2021

Tip of the Week
Rally Down Faster & Quicker Players.

Coaching Niches
Recently, I've sort of fallen into four "niche" coaching roles. I used to coach all aspects of the game to all levels, but that's gradually changed. More and more these days at the Maryland Table Tennis Center I've been doing these four things:

  • Coach the Beginning Junior Classes. I've been doing this for years. A look at the USATT ranking pages show that kids that started out with me currently are #1 in 11 and Under; #1, 4, and 6 in 12 and Under; #4 in Under 16 Girls; and a whole slew of others among the top twenty or so of their age group. (Many thanks to the great coaches who continued their development!) There are two keys to success at coaching at that level: Give them a good foundation, and keep it fun. Some think that you put the least experienced coach in charge of beginners, but that's a recipe for huge headaches later on when the "experienced" coaches have to fix all those problems! But you don't need to be a top player to teach beginning juniors - you need to have a solid foundation on how to teach the basics, and know how to teach it. (And again, half of that is keeping it fun!)
  • Coach at Tournaments. Since I did write Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, this has always been a big focus of mine. Even in the pandemic, I've coached our top juniors at two recent tournaments in Ohio, and will be doing so next month at the Butterfly Invitational in North Carolina next month. (A big part of this is also doing writeups for other coaches on what the kids need to work on - both to fix up weaknesses and to develop overpowering strengths. Plus, I've had Covid tests afterwards each time, both negative.) I also spend a lot of time talking tactics with our junior players. Of course, much of coaching matches isn't just tactics; there's also a lot of sports psychology, which leads to...
  • Sports Psychology. I've been doing this for decades, both when coaching matches and in training sessions. I'm not a trained psychologist - they are expensive! - but I've took a number of sports psychology sessions at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs when I was at varying times there as a player, manager, coach, and director. I've also read about ten books on the subject. More importantly, I have many decades experience at it. So recently I've been working with our kids, one-on-one, using Dora Kurimay's Get Your Game Face On Like The Pros! as a reference. Since I know the players pretty well, I know which aspects to focus on for each. For example, one player I'm working on doesn't really get that nervous, but he gets very frustrated when things don't go well (hint - that happens in every competitive match), and so we work on that. Another simply gets nervous and so doesn't play as well as he should.
  • Serves. Along with receive and tactics, this has always been one of my favorite topics. I've taken to mixing this in with the sports psychology sessions. Serves have always been one of my big strengths, and so I'm able to demonstrate by having the kids - often 2000+ players - try to return them, and they miss over and over. (The last two kids I worked with - both rated over 2000 - missed my first five serves. In a game situation, those are called "free points"! It opens their eyes to the possibilities, and pretty quickly they were learning those serves.) They all have good "third-ball serves" the primary serves you should use to set yourself up for an attack (often varying backspin-sidespin and no-spin), and the serves that should be emphasized if you want to get good. But I'm also teaching them "trick" serves - serves designed to often win the point outright, if used as an occasional surprise, and which also make your other serves more effective since the receiver has to guard against the "trick" serves. (Most of these serves are long serves.) So I'm teaching them serves like fast no-spin to the elbow or wide backhand; big breaking serves to the wide backhand, both fast and slow; sudden down-the-line serves to the forehand; and innocent-looking short serves that look like backspin but are actually topspin. You always assume these serves will come back and prepare for that, but if used occasionally, they often are free points, either from outright misses or pop-up returns.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Plagiarized!
Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers has been the best-selling table tennis book for much of the past eight years - and now some no-good crook has plagiarized it! Someone alerted me to it last night - and there it was, published in January on Amazon, with a different title and cover, and someone else's name! When you do the internal search on Amazon, you can see it's my book - the words, pictures, and every page layout. (The person with the book also verified this.) I googled the "author" of the this "new" book, but nothing came up - likely a fake name. I'm contacting a lawyer later today to see what my options are, and of course will be contacting Amazon. I grudgingly ordered a copy as evidence, and as a memento and reminder of the lowlifes of humanity. (This isn't my first experience with plagiarism - someone also did this in both China and Indonesia with my book Table Tennis: Steps to Success. The book is from 1993, a bit out of date, and out of print - the only ones on sale now are used copies that I don't get royalties on - so I hope to someday go back and update it.)

USATT Board of Directors Seeks Member Comment on Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws
Here's the USATT news item. "Proposed Amendments Seek to Increase Athlete Representation and Expand List of Eligible Elite Athletes." Deadline to comment is March 30. (USOPC now requires us to have 1/3 athlete representation on the board. This segment went up on Tuesday afternoon, when USATT put it up.) 

Tournament 5-Star Sanctioning
There's something weird going on with USATT tournament sanctioning. I'm sure they are following the rules in assigning star values, but when the result of those rules don't make sense, it's time to re-examine the rules. Let's take a look at two tournaments that were both held last weekend:

  • Patty and Si Wasserman Junior Table Tennis Tournament: $10,000 in cash & prizes; 115 players; 964 matches; played on 18 tables; 18 events; nine players rated over 2400, 21 over 2200, 37 over 2000.
  • 2021 US National TT Championships North Carolina State Qualifier: Zero prize money; ten players; 24 matches; two events held (Men's Singles, over 65); zero players rated over 2000.

What is strange about this? The first one was a 2-star tournament (and seemed like a 4-star); the second a 5-star tournament!!! (This is from the USATT listing; in the Omnipong listing, the NC tournament is listed as 4-star for some reason.) It doesn't make sense. There's nothing wrong with holding regional qualifiers, like the one in North Carolina, and there's nothing wrong with the tournament itself, which I'm sure was run expertly (and this has nothing to do with the tournament itself, just its star designation). But it's NOT a 5-star tournament (or 4-star, for that matter), not in any way that makes sense. The US Nationals and US Open are 5-star tournament, the highest level; they are national tournaments with large prize money and typically 800 players. The NC Qualifier is, by definition, a State tournament. Calling a state tournament with ten players and zero prize money a 5-star tournament simply doesn't pass the smell test. I hope USATT or the USATT tournament committee - hard-working volunteers all - can take a look at this - something is out of whack here. (Note also that when people go to the USATT tournament listing and see something listed as a 5-star event - or even search for 5-star events - they are expecting something big.)

The State Qualifiers do have a list of 31 potential events to be held, if they get a minimal number of entries, which range from 2 to 8 (most require 4), but in a state qualifier, most states won't reach the minimum in the vast majority of events. Here, for example, was the NC Qualifier entry form - see page 4.

USATT Coaches Meeting
We had our weekly USATT Coaches Zoom meeting on Friday at noon (eastern time). Here's the video (45 min). We only had four this time - Sean O'Neill, Ty Hoff, Britt Salter, and me. Topics discussed included traveling (especially cross-country) and how to deal with it; US Team Trials, Nationals, and Olympics; and Covid testing.

Smash! Moments, Memories and Tips, by Dan Seemiller
As I wrote last week, the book was done, but many of the photos in it had been scanned at a lower resolution than was optional. So I spent the past week redoing a lot of it, both from scans by Dan's son, Dan Jr., and scanning others myself. The new and final version of the book, with photos scanned at higher resolution, should be up and ready by the end of this week. It's actually done, but a test copy is being sent to Dan for final proofing. I'll update here when the book is available. Once ready, you can order autographed copies directly from Dan Seemiller!

No-Look Forehand
Here's the video (6 sec) as Matt Hetherington pulls it off against John Hsu. The shot was made famous by USATT Hall of Famer Tim Boggan, who demonstrates and explains the shot in his 1976 book Winning Table Tennis. (Amazon doesn't show the actual cover - here it is.) The book is both instructive (circa 1976) and autobiographical. Tim, 90, also has his History of US Table Tennis series.

Fundamentals by Abid Sheikh at the Newton TTC.

Butterfly Training Tips

3 Very Common Mistakes in Table Tennis
Here's the video (2:41) from Pingponged TV.

New from Ti Long

Seth Pech Vs Gabriel Perez 2021 Petty Si Wasserman Tournament
Here's the video (7:30) where Seth analyzes the points.

Magical Number 7
Here's the video (2:32) by Dave Fullen. "Mental preparation for a table tennis match, and all racket sports. Short term memory. Mental focus during competition."

A Practical Path to Table Tennis Improvement
Here's the article by Coach Jon. It's an interesting take from someone who, as he wrote, started at age 40. Most top players start very young. I'm sort of in the middle, since I started at the relatively "old" age of 16. (But I started training many hours almost from the start, and from the start, was a student of the game instead of just practicing and hoping to get better.)

THE Honest Most Complete Blades Guide
Here's the video (13 min).

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

New from Samson Dubina

  • NEW Record - featuring Sarah Jalli, now rated 2467. (Technically, USATT ratings began I believe in 1974, 47 years ago, but they did have rankings before that.)
  • Sponsorship Secret (This one does contain some religious content, which I try to avoid here, but on the whole, it's mostly about how to get sponsors.)
  • Tournament Videos
  • NEW Training Videos

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

New from Steve Hopkins

New from the ITTF

Missed Serve, Flying Racket
Here's the video (47 sec) of these two serves as Mima Ito (JPN, world #2) serves to Yu Mengyu (SGP, world #48).

Explosive Rackets
Here they are!

Guys Play Ping Pong With FIVE Balls | Racquet Sports Compilation
Here's the video (8 min)!

Quincy The Cat Plays Ping Pong And He Can Probably Whoop Your Tail, Too
Here's the video (14 sec)!

XOLAY vs. JENGA - Who is the KING? + Funny Rap Outtakes
Here's the video (7:12) from XOLAY!

World's Most Ridiculous Ping Pong Serves
Here's the video (3:49) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!