March 21, 2022

Tip of the Week
A Table Tennis Player's Guide to Toweling.

Cary Cup
I spent the weekend coaching at the Cary Cup Open in North Carolina. We had eleven kids from MDTTC there and three coaches (myself, Wang Qingliang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun). I ended up coaching eight of them in over 30 matches. Our players were Stanley Hsu (13, 2402), Mu Du (13, 2283), Ryan Lin (12, 2216), William Wu (16, 2140), Christian Funderberg (16, 2112), Winston Wu (12, 2079), Lance Wei, Todd Klinger, Kurtus Hsu, Aaron Zhang, and Liam Draper. AJ Carney did a great job running the tournament (as always). Here are complete results, care of Omnipong.

As usual, the results were all over the place. The down side was that some of our players kept playing players with "weird" styles, and that gave them difficulties. But that's all part of the learning process. While tactics are huge, another aspect is sports psychology - between games a coach not only has to tactically prepare the player for the next game, but also make sure they are ready mentally. It's a tricky balancing act. But most of the players I coach have been through this a lot and so are now pretty strong mentally, so we can focus on tactics - and that in itself does half the job of keeping them from worrying about winning or losing. You can't think about two things at once, so if you are thinking about what serve to use or where to attack, you aren't thinking about the rating points you'll lose if you lose and so aren't so nervous, and so play better.

One of my favorite moments was when I called a timeout. My player was down 1-2 in games, and 4-8 in the fourth. I told him two simple things (alas, I can't post it publicly, since they may play again), and he went back . . . and scored seven in a row! He went on to win the match. In two matches, I told my player to "throw every serve you have at them." Some players (myself included) can return any given serve effectively, but have great difficulty with sheer variety. Others have difficult with specific serves, or can't stop an opponent from attacking off certain serves. You simply adjust your serving game against your opponent.

One of our juniors was in the quarterfinals of Class D. He had to play a no-sponge long pips blocker, a style he'd never played. (He'd only played long pips choppers.) So I borrowed a racket with long pips no sponge and practiced with him for 45 minutes. After that, he had no trouble with the pips, and won 3-0, and went on to win the event. In the final, he played a player he'd played earlier. In that match, I had missed the first game, and arrived only in time to see game two. He was already down 0-2 before I talked to him. With a few simple tactical changes, he won the next two games, and was up 7-3 in the fifth - but alas, lost when the opponent got red-hot. But in the final, applying those same tactics, he won 3-0, at 2,7,3.

Two matches were won by a simple tactic. Both players were having trouble with deep, spinny serves. The answer? I told them to take the ball as late as possible so they'd have more time to see the serve, and to just topspin them back soft and easy. Such a simple thing, and it worked both times.

I've often said that "Tactics isn't about finding complex tactics to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." The mark of a good tactician is the ability to find a few simple ones that work. Some freeze up, either because there are so many possibilities and they can't decide which one is "best," or because it's not easy thinking at the table, and so can't think of any possibilities. You don't need to always find the "perfect" tactic, you only need a few that work enough to win that match. If you can't think of any possibilities, then you need to clear your mind because it's like looking at a field of corn and not being able to see a single cornstalk. There are so many!!! (Of course, it's helpful to spend time thinking about these things as they pertain to your game, so you will more quickly recognize the possibilities.)

At its most basic, at the higher levels, probably more matches have been won by two simple tactics than anything else: "attack the middle" and "serve short no-spin to the middle." I probably said one of those two things in about half the matches I coached. (There is more to it than that. For example, it's not just "attack the middle" - it might be "attack the middle and wide backhand"; "attack the middle and wide forehand"; or "attack all three spots" (wide forehand and backhand, middle). Keep in mind that "middle" means the mid-point between forehand and backhand, usually where the playing elbow is.

Why is short no-spin to the middle so effective? By going to the middle, it cuts off the extreme angles. A no-spin serve is harder to push short, harder to push heavy, and for some players, harder to flip since they can't use the incoming spin to help create their own topspin. But it's always more effective if varied with spin serves and sudden deep serves.

USATT News and the 2022 US Nationals
The main news is that the entry form and online registration for the 2022 US Nationals is now open. It will be held July 2-7 at the Forth Worth Convention Center. Immediately before that, from June 25-July 1, are the US Team Trials for Men, Women, and for Under 11, 13, 15, and 19. (No U17 - there should be an explanation for that in the info page.)

In July, 1999, I was hired for my second tenure (into 2007) as editor of USATT Magazine, the print magazine that used to go to all 8000 or so members. (It stopped print in 2014 and is now USATT Insider.) They asked me to proof the entry form for the 1999 US Open, and I found numerous corrections for them. Since then I've proofed for USATT the entry form for every US Open and Nationals entry form before it went public - 44 in a row. This year it wasn't sent to me for proofing in advance, but I proofed it for them a few hours after it went up and sent them a number of edits which they incorporated within a day. I also did some proofing of the prospectus for the Team Trials, which is supposed to go public this Wednesday (March 23). We've had three poorly run US Opens and Nationals in a row; hopefully, fourth is the charm!!!

I will be attending the Nationals, mostly as a coach (while likely playing some hardbat events on the side, though I'm normally a sponge player). I will also be coaching at the Team Trials, so I'll be there for two weeks. (Then I plan on doing a little sightseeing in Texas and Mexico.) I've been to every US Nationals and US Open from 1984 to present, and several before that, starting in 1976 (my first year), including the 1976 US Open in Philadelphia.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Samson Dubina

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Coach Jon

How to Serve Short with Purpose in Competition
Here's the video (7:18) from Ti Long.

Why you Should Have a Table Tennis Coach
Here's the video (15:12) from PingSunday/EmRatThich. (There's a lot of other new stuff on their regular home page, but it's no longer dated and so it's not easy figure out what is new.)

Shadow Practice
Here's the video (1:57) from Table Tennis America. This is similar to some of the training we do at our club in our junior program.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

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

Singapore Smash … Hit or miss?
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

New from Steve Hopkins


PingPod Closes $10 Million Series A Funding for Expansion
Here's the article from the Business Wire.

Russia, Belarus Banned From Multi-Sport Euro Championships
Here's the article from WTOP.

Atanda Musa Eyes National Table Tennis Team Job
Here's the article from The Guardian on former Nigerian star Musa.

Raising Awareness for Parkinson's at Singapore Smash
Here's the article from Sport and Development.

Table Tennis' New Spin: Coloured and Hexagonal bats
Here's the article from the Straits Times.

There Is No Ping Without a Pong
Here's the article from the Christian Science Monitor.

Teen Table Tennis Star Helps Plant First Trees for Amazing Commonwealth Forest Project in the Midlands
Here's the article from the Birmingham Mail.

Jill’s Part in Historic China Trip
Here's the article from Table Tennis England featuring Jill Parker.

"BACKSP!N" Features Over 60 Table Tennis Paddles Designed by Artists
Here's the article. It seems to showcase a book of these art designs, which is on sale for £15, but I can't find a link to where to buy it. There's a link where it says, "this exhibit will inspire even amateurs to master a Loop shot" - which links to one of my old articles! (It's dated July 19, 2021, but I think I wrote this article over 20 years ago. But still seems to apply.)

You're the Ping to My Pong
Here's where you can get the shirt at Amazon!

Kid Goes Airborne During this Backhand
Here's the video (26 sec) - and note the score!

I Challenged the INTERNET
Here's the video (18:46) from Adam Bobrow!

Zelensky Smashes Putin!
Here's the cartoon I put together! (I did a similar one a while ago, but this is simpler and better.) That's Judge Hofmański from the International Criminal Court in the Hague, who would preside over a Putin trial for crimes against humanity.

Ping-Pong on Family Guy?
From the description for Episode 20.16, "Prescription Heroin," coming up this Sunday, March 27, 9:30 PM Eastern Time on FOX: "Peter's ping pong table becomes the hot spot in the neighborhood."

Non-Table Tennis - "Madam Hitler"
My science fiction story "Madam Hitler" just went up at New Myths Magazine. (It's my seventh sale to them, and 127th overall.) Here's the situation: It's April 30, 1945, in Berlin, and the Russians are closing in on Hitler's underground bunker. He's about to commit suicide. Then an awestruck time-traveling tourist shows up. He has a device that allows him to trade bodies with Hitler, just so he can experience being Hitler. (He also gets a snippet of Hitler's mustache.) But Hitler takes the device and switches bodies with his real-life secretary, Traudl Junge, who's the story's main character. Hitler escapes in her body and becomes a rising star in West Germany politics. Junge is captured by the Soviets, in Hitler's body, and has to face a revengeful Stalin, who thinks she's the real Hitler. What can she do to convince Stalin of the truth, and will the real Hitler ever be caught? It features multiple appearances by the time traveler (who also visits Stalin and Mao, and gets a snippet of Stalin's mustache). The story has a wild culmination when all of the main characters are brought together in a room at the end. There's also a graphic at the very end that helps explain the various timelines. The story gets rather dark at time, but with the time traveler as comic relief. I researched the story by reading "Hitler's Last Secretary," the biography of Traudl Junge. 

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