April 26, 2021

Tip of the Week
Looping a Push is Not Going for a Shot.

Three Things Table Tennis Can Learn from Nomadland and the Oscars
I'm a movie buff. I sometimes go several years in a row where I see over 100 movies at the theater - yes, two per week, with a Dr Pepper and small popcorn. Before they closed down due to the pandemic, they were my primary source of throwing away hard-earned money.

Last week I saw Nomadland, which won Best Picture at the Oscars last night. My thoughts on this movie? I had always thought that to be the best picture of the year, a movie shouldn't be boring. It shouldn't be nearly two hours of mundane activities, mostly by amateur actors, and all this allowed because it is a "character movie." ("The Trial of the Chicago 7" should have won.) Here are three things the world of table tennis should learn from this.

  1. Boring is Good. Nomadland got rave reviews from those who were able to stay awake for the nearly two hours of mundane activities. For now on, table tennis tournaments will be limited to backspin play only, with no expedite. No more smashing, looping, or counter-hitting, no more attack vs. defense, only pushing duels allowed. The ultimate highlights reel will be a two-hour pushing duel.
  2. Expertise is Not Needed. The main professional actor in Nomadland was Frances McDormand. There were many supporting actors, but only one of them (David Strathairn) was a professional. The supporting actors even went by their real names. And yet, these amateurs got rave reviews, showing that expertise is not needed. Table tennis should learn from that. From now on, teams at the World Table Tennis Championships can only have one professional. The rest of the team will be chosen from people randomly found in the countryside, with one simple question to filter them out: "Have you ever played table tennis before?" If the answer is yes, they are disqualified. China has the top three men in the world and six of the seven top women, but they will have to choose one of each and send the rest home. USA will send Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang, and the rest of the team will be chosen from some random bar that has no ping-pong table.
  3. Tactics Are Not Needed. Nomadland was nearly two hours of random activities. If that's all that's needed to make a great movie, why do we need tactics to play high-level table tennis? Instead, all play will be random, with no thought to any type of strategy.

Weekend Coaching and Sports Psychology
I had two group junior training sessions on Sunday. I did a lot of multiball where I had one player forehand loop while another player blocked the loop, and repeat. Halfway through I had them play out the points, crosscourt only. The bigger highlights of the weekend were two sports psychology sessions with two of our top junior players, where we went over their matches at the Butterfly Invitational last weekend in Cary, NC, and re-enforced some of the sports psychology techniques we'd been working on. As usual, I ended the sessions with serve practice. I'm working with one of them on what I call the three "Holy Grails" of deep serves - big breaking serves to the backhand that spin away from the receiver; fast no-spin at the elbow; and fast down-the-line where you disguise the direction right up until contact.

My "pet" topics in coaching are serve, receive, tactics, and now sports psychology. (I'm also pretty good at teaching the foundation to beginning kids while keeping it fun.) Why is sports psychology so important? If you are just slightly nervous or tense and it throws you off just 1% - well, 1% off in table tennis often means a 100% miss.

I have five more sports psychology sessions this next week with five of our junior players. (I'm now working with eight of them.) I do have to prepare for each session - probably ten minutes outlining what we'll go over. But first sessions are now easy as I know exactly what we'll cover. Follow-up sessions take more preparation. For example, to prep for one of the sessions on Sunday, I watched video of two matches in Cary by one of the players.

I use Dora Kurimay's "Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros" as a text. However, I am planning this week to reread "The Inner Game of Tennis" - the classic book on sport psychology, which uses tennis as an example but is for all sports, and is the most-read and most-recommended book on sports psychology. Soon I will introduce it to some of our junior players.

Periodic Reminder About My Books
Since you, as a table tennis person, is way, Way, WAY above average in intelligence, and of course you read a LOT (you are smart, right?), this is my periodic reminder to support this poor, starving table tennis writer by buying my books!!!

On Tuesday, I'll Be Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank Ma Long Almighty, I Will Be Free at Last!
Yes, tomorrow at 11:45 AM I get the second Pfizer vaccine.

The Original European Table Tennis Union
Q: What ancient Roman first named the European Table Tennis Union?
A: Julius Caesar, who said to Brutus as he was being stabbed to death, "Et tu?"
(You may tar and ping-pong ball me at your leisure. Yeah, I made this up.)

Houston World Championships in November 2021 and Chengdu 2022
Here's an article from Sports Travel Magazine. "The event is currently being planned without spectators and will follow strict COVID-19 protocols for participants. All events will be held at the convention center, with the finals staged in the venue's General Assembly Theater."

Hopefully, they will find a way to allow spectators. Otherwise:

  • If you run the Worlds in the US and nobody sees it, was it actually run?
  • If you run the Worlds and we see no points, was it pointless?

As noted in my blog last week, since the Worlds in Houston coincide with the Teams in Maryland, and I'm committed to coaching our kids at the latter, I will likely be missing the Worlds this year. However, I'm now planning on attending the 2022 Worlds in Chengdu, China. It hasn't been scheduled yet, but will likely be in April or May of 2022. (I may volunteer to do some writeups.) Immediately afterwards I'm going to take two tours - one of the Shanghai region of China, and then one of Japan. I went to the 2001 Worlds in Osaka, Japan, but basically saw the hotel, the huge gym, and the walk between. I only got to spend a few hours randomly walking the streets of Osaka. In 2005, I attended the Worlds in Shanghai, and again, mostly saw the hotel, gym, and the walk between. Immediately afterwards I took a bullet train to Beijing, where I had a memorable three-day tour of that region (with Tom Nguyen and Alan Williams, arranged by Richard Lee), which included The Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Tiananmen Square. Now I'm hoping to go back and tour the Shanghai region and Japan.

USATT Coaches' Catch-up - 04/23/21
Here's the video (one hour). As always, we met on Friday at noon eastern time. High Performance Director Sean O'Neill questioned me extensively about the sports psychology sessions I'm running at MDTTC, so I spoke at length about that.

Forehand Topspin Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (4:40) from the Performance Biomechanics Table Tennis Academy. "Biomechanics is the science of movement of a living body, including how muscles, bones, tendons, and ligaments work together to produce movement. Biomechanics is part of the larger field of kinesiology, specifically focusing on the mechanics of the movement. Today, Today it is a tool, to decipher the best of each table tennis player."

Learn and Improve the Basic Backspin Serve
Here's the article and video (13:36) from Matt Hetherington.

New from Dora Kurimay

New from Edges and Nets

New from Ti Long

New from Samson Dubina

Seth Pech vs Hector Berrios 2021 Presper Financial Architects Open
Here's the video (9:17) with Seth's point-by-point analysis.

The Under-Used, Under-Valued "Strawberry" or "Reverse Banana" Shot
Here's the video (63 sec).

5min Basic Table Tennis Shadow Practice
Here's the video (4:10) from Ultimate Table Tennis.

A Different Path to Better Serves
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "I've practiced serves for years. They have gotten better, but not as much as I would have hoped. When I do practice, I almost always gain new insights into serving; but the overall quality (speed and spin) rarely improves. I’ve read about serving and watched videos. Nothing seemed to help. I was just about to concede that there might not be any improvement in my future. But, I may have stumbled onto a different approach that shows real promise."

Eight Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Racket
Here's the article from EmRatThich/PingSunday. I agree with most of these. The only one I'm hesitant about is "Never choose a too-soft rubber," which also says, "If you want to improve fast, choose the hardest rubber that you can manage to hit. The harder you choose, the faster you improve. Chinese kids always play with hard rubbers." My club is full of Chinese coaches and Chinese kids, and few use really hard sponges. Using a softer sponge often makes it easier to learn to loop. I may talk to some of the Chinese coaches about this one.

More from EmRatThich/PingSunday

Table Tennis Participation Report 2020
Here's the preview.

  • In 2019, there were 14,908,000 total Table Tennis participants 
  • 4.92% of the total U.S population aged 6 or older played Table Tennis in 2019
  • 2.8% of core participants were between the ages of 13 to 17

NCTTA Internships - Available for Summer 2021
Here's the info page. "Wondering how you’re supposed to get experience when you need experience to get an internship? Do you want to gain real-world skills while helping your favorite sport? Or are you perhaps even frustrated with aspects of NCTTA and want to change things? Apply to our one of summer intern roles! We are offering internships in technology, media, marketing, and grassroots."

New from USA Table Tennis

New from Steve Hopkins

Ping Pong in the Parks?
Here's the article from the Sun Times in Dexter, Michigan. "Dexter residents Jim and Lori Sprague have come up with a fun idea to encourage them to get outside, get moving in a low-impact way, and socialize in a socially distant way. The couple has taken the concept of outdoor Ping Pong that has been successfully implemented in other cities and presented the idea to the Dexter City Council at its April 12 meeting."

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Turning the Tables: Why the ITTF Believes World Table Tennis Will Revolutionise the Sport
Here's the article from Pro Sports Media. "Despite being played in hotel lobbies, WeWork offices and underground bars around the world, table tennis has until now struggled to gain a regular foothold outside of Asia. But with a new commercial model and revamped event structure in place, the International Table Tennis Federation believes the sport is finally in a position to realise its global potential."

New from the ITTF
They have a of new items, so why not browse their news page, and video page ("World Table Tennis"), along with their home page.

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

Jorgen Persson's Top Shots - Birthday Showreel
Here's the video (3:48) of the 1991 World Men's Singles Champion.

Table Tennis Star's Alleged Illicit Romance Bouncing All Over Asia
I really don't want this blog to turn into a gossip column about top player romances . . . but, through gritted teeth, here's the article from Japan Today, about Ai Fukuhara and Chiang Hung-chieh.

Crazy Pong - Do You Have This Ball Control?
Here's the video (1:22)!

Fight Club Table Tennis
Here's the video (10:56) from Adam Bobrow! The muscle-bound guy he plays, Jayden Wang, is a body-builder and looks about 2100.

Missed Shots in Table Tennis: Funny & Fail Moments
Here's the video (3:10)!

Kids Consulting TT Book

Sinking Boat Pong
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) The caption is, "Ricominciare," which apparently means "start over" in Italian. I have no idea what that has to do with the cartoon. Here are my suggested captions:

  • "Let! The ball was wet!"
  • "The point isn't over until the ball hits the ground!"
  • "Better go expedite. The rescue boats are almost here."
  • "My stupid coach taught me footwork but never taught me to swim."
  • That sinking feeling as the ball goes past you that you've lost the point.

Ping-Pong Shirts from Etsy
You know you want one!

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