April 1, 2024

Tip of the Week
What Makes a Great Doubles Partnership?
(Excerpt from Table Tennis Doubles for Champions by Larry Hodges. April is Doubles Month!)

=>BREAKING NEWS - I’ve Been Hired as Head Tactical Coach for the Chinese National Team
After 48 years coaching in the US, next week I start my new job coaching the top Chinese
professional players as the new Head Tactical Coach for the Chinese National Team. I’ve
reviewed videos of their players for months, and after weeks of emailing back and forth,
I wrote up a detailed report with my tactical analysis last week to China’s head coach,
Liu Guoliang. He read my book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, and says he’s its biggest
fan. I look forward to working with Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Wang Chuqin, and the
others. I fly to Beijing on April 8 – I’m already packed. So, to all my fellow coaches and
other US friends, when you next see me, I’ll be coaching China. They’ll use my tactics against
Lily Zhang, Amy Wang, Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, the Naresh brothers, and other US players.
Sorry! (The whole Chinese team is now required to read Table Tennis Doubles for Champions!)

Table Tennis Doubles for Champions
What, you mean you still haven’t bought my new book!!!??? I’ve been patient with you, but if you don’t buy it today, tomorrow you will be docked 100 rating points.
=>SPECIAL NOTE – if you have a table tennis site and would like to feature or review the book, let me know and I can send you a free copy (print or pdf).

US Junior Trials – Part 1
I flew down to West Monroe, Louisiana, March 24-30, for the first of the two US Junior Team Trials. (Part 2 is at the 888 Club in Burlingame, CA, May 24-27 – I expect to be there.) Here are complete results of Part 1. The tournament ran well, run by Vlad Farcas with referee Linda Leaf. They even provided me with a chair when I explained that (when spectating and not coaching) I couldn’t sit in the bleachers for more than five minutes without straining my back, since they had no back support. The hotel was a seven-minute walk away. The playing facility was excellent, with good lighting and flooring, and extra tables for practice. On the down side, getting to West Monroe is tricky – not a lot of flights going there.

Here are two USATT articles:

I ran into difficulties prepping our players before the Trials. Why? Let’s see, first I injured my neck while chopping to a player (to prepare him for a chopper at the Trials), and wore a neck brace for four days, until four days before we left for the Trials. Then, the day before leaving for the Trials, while stepping a barrier, I put my foot down wrong and sprained my right ankle. I hobbled around for the rest of the session, then went straight to Walgreens, where I bought an ankle brace that I would wear throughout the Trials. It worked – I was able to play, though I had to wear running shoes for the extra support, which felt like playing on stilts. While the ankle problem made movement and forehand shots tricky, it didn’t affect my backhand blocking, and so I ended up doing lots of that – my backhand blocking in a drill is still a wall. Another problem is that since I was favoring my right ankle, it put pressure on my knees and back, which also began to hurt. But I survived.

We had six players from MDTTC competing – Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, Ryan Lin, Winston Wu, Richik Ghosh, and Carmen Yu. I coached all but Ryan and Carmen in some matches, along with fellow MDTTC coaches Cheng Yinghua and Wang Qingliang. Coach Lai from Taiwan coached Ryan. (Ryan spent much of the last year training in Taiwan.) Carmen was coached by her dad, Thomas Yu. As usual, there were many ups and downs. It was jaw-dropping watching some of them pull off great wins and then lose to seemingly weaker players – playing in a Trials isn’t easy! Lots of pressure. Stanley (15) won the Under 17 Boys’ Trials and finished sixth in Under 19. Mu Du (15) finished sixth in Under 17 Boys. Carmen finished third in Under 15 Girls and sixth in Under 17.

As usual, I spent a bunch of time watching videos of opponents and taking notes. I also brought my giant racket case, the one with six rackets of different surfaces. All but the hardbat racket have regular inverted (Tenergy) on the reverse side. I used two of the rackets to prepare players for opponents, the long pips chopping racket and the short pips racket. The six rackets had:

  1. Long pips with thin sponge (chopping blade)
  2. Long pips with no sponge (push-blocking blade)
  3. Medium long pips
  4. Short pips
  5. Antispin
  6. Hardbat

As usual, lots of tactical issues came up. Here are a few.

  • One opponent ate up any serve that went the least bit long, even ripping serves that were half-long, where the second bounce was right over the white line – he had enough power to right over the table. So we had to go to shorter serves. Fortunately, the opponent didn’t have a good short game, and so returned the short serves long, which gave my player the attack. Many of the short serves were no-spin and were popped up. He started leaning in over the table as my player served, so a few sudden deep serves paid off.
  • One bad loss came about for one simple reason – the opponent would serve backspin, my player would push long to the backhand, and the opponent would backhand down the line. The backhand loop itself wasn’t that strong, but my player felt uncomfortable against it and missed it over and over, leading to a close loss.
  • One of Stanley’s opponents had short pips on the forehand. Before the match I pulled out my short-pips racket and warmed him up with it for 20 minutes. It paid off.
  • There was a lot of focus on ball placement, both for rallies and serves.
  • Heavy pushes to the backhand were effective in a surprising number of matches, but not always. Against short serves, it’s almost always best to mix in short and long pushes, and flips, and adjust the percentages based on the opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and their serves.

US Olympic Trials
Here are the results. Here are some links. (I wasn’t there.)

Ping Pong Leadership: 18 Principles to Succeed at Any Table in Business, Sports, and Life
Here’s the new book by Justin Bookey, 293 pages. I’m in the book, where I told Justin about a match I once played where I used all sorts of theatrics, faking difficulties and missing on purpose, to convince the opponent to keep chopping (which I was very good against) rather than attacking (where he might have challenged me). The section is titled, “When Deception is Fair Play.” Here’s the book’s description from Amazon:

Tens of millions of people worldwide enjoy ping pong on some level. And if you’re looking to enhance your leadership skills, ping pong offers surprisingly relevant lessons for success.

Justin Bookey has spent decades in both worlds. As an Emmy-nominated content creator and strategist, he’s worked with leaders at global companies to accomplish their business goals. As a competitive table tennis player, he’s trained with national and world champions and won medals at the US Open.

Those two worlds rarely overlapped—until Bookey realized that the core principles he learned while training to compete at the table also apply to success in business and leadership.

In the 1970s, the leaders of the US and China famously used friendly table tennis matches as a first step in thawing decades of icy relations—an effort dubbed Ping Pong Diplomacy. Ping Pong Leadership takes the next step, showing leaders of all types how to envision and create meaningful change, from small business to the Fortune 500 and broader communities.

Along with exclusive insights from leaders in commerce, culture, and technology, this book distills lessons from the world’s most-played sport into 18 actionable and unforgettable “Pong Principles.”

For leaders, entrepreneurs, and competitors of all kinds, Ping Pong Leadership is a powerful guide to success at any table.

Dana Hanson RIP
The long-time table tennis aficionado left us two days ago. Here's In Memory of Dana Hanson by the Virginia, Maryland and North Carolina Table Tennis Community. Here’s what USTT Hall of Famer Sean O’Neill wrote of him on Facebook:

The entire table tennis community lost one of our greatest supporters and lover of the game with the passing of Dana Hanson this evening. Dana played out of the Richmond Table Tennis club, but was a regular at the US Open, US Nationals and United States Table Tennis Hall of Fame annual dinners. Dana loved to play singles and doubles. Condolences go out to the members of RTTC, Moni Rot, and David + Donna Sakai who were close friends of Dana. Our sports brings together players of all kinds, young and old, big and small, and kind and generous. Dana possessed all of the best attributes of our game and he will be sorely missed by all that had the pleasure to hid the ball and play a match against him.

Major League Table Tennis
Follow the action! They have two events left this season, a West Division event in Wichita, KS, Apr. 5-7, and the Championship Weekend at Loyola University, Chicago, IL, Apr. 27-28.

News from All Over
Since I’ve been away two weeks (coaching at US Junior Trials), as I often do when I’m away for more than a week, rather than try to list every interesting article, here are links to some of the main news and coaching pages that have been active in that time, and you can pick and choose.

Chop Block in Table Tennis: How-To & When To Use It
Here’s the article by Alex Horscroft at PingPongRuler.

Fan Zhendong Slammed
Here’s the article from the South China Morning Post (in English). The full title is, “Champion China table tennis player slammed for losing crucial Singapore game after ‘joyfully singing’ at Taylor Swift gig.”

Chess at Light Speed
Here’s the article from the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, WA. The full title is, “Ping-pong players from all skill levels, ages and countries of origin flock to play ‘chess at light speed’ in weekly club gathering.”

The Talent Has Arrived
Here’s where you can buy this table tennis shirt at Amazon!

Crowd Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

It’s Safe to Say I’m Winning: Rwanda Ping-Pong
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Beat Me, Win $100 [China]
Here’s the video (15:20) from Adam Bobrow!

Tennis Stereotypes
Here’s the video (9:08) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis -  Confederate Cavalry on a Plane
My humorous science fiction story, “Confederate Cavalry on a Plane” was published at Metastellar on March 20. A physics professor and his student on a passenger plane argue about the possibility of infinite alternate universes, while being robbed blind by a bratty kid. The professor bets the student that even the most unlikely event possible must happen, leading to three very confused Confederate Cavalry charging down the aisle of the plane.

Send us your own coaching news!