June 24, 2011

Pushing those non-push receives

A lot of beginning/intermediate players tend to push back any serve that comes at them slow. This is fine at the beginning level where backspin serves come at them slow, while topspin serves come at them faster. At the higher levels, this is not true; intermediate players can serve with sidespin and topspin that goes out slowly, since they've learned to graze the ball, and so most of their energy goes into spin. And so if you push these serves, the ball flies off the end or to the side.

The problem is that beginners get it ingrained that they can push a slow serve, when they should be reacting to the spin, not the speed of the ball, and pushing only against backspin or no-spin balls. How do you teach them to break this habit?

I find it useful to have them put their racket down and simply watch (from a ready position) as I serve short sidespin and topspin serves, and to call the spin each time. (I simplify it to having them call out either backspin or side-top.)  They can't always pick it up from just contact, but between contact, and the way the ball travels through the air and bounces on the table, they can begin to read the spin. I stress that they should be looking to attack any serve that's mostly sidespin or topspin, and to look for those serves, rather than look to push. Then, if the serve obviously has backspin, they can choose to push.

Once they can call out the type of spin correctly, I then have them practice attacking the side-top serves. When they can do that, then I vary the serve, and they have to attack those serves, push the backspin serves. This seems a good way to break the "push anything slow" type of receive problem.

MDTTC camp happenings

Today's the last day of the MDTTC June Camp. (We have five this summer, all five days long - see schedule.) The camps are primarily for junior players - we have about 30 in the camp, average age is about 11, ranging from 7 to 18 - but all ages and levels are welcome. I mostly run the morning sessions (short lectures, multiball, games) with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang helping out; they run the afternoon sessions. We also have Jeffrey Zeng Xun (2612) and Sun Ting (2730) coaching, and in the afternoon sessions Raghu Nadmichettu (2390) and Vahid Mosafari (2284) as practice partners.

I'm always amazed at how so many new kids pick things up so quickly. Over and over I'll start one on something new, perhaps something basic like the forehand or something more advanced liked looping, and after a few minutes I'm starting to think, "He'll never get this." And then something clicks, and he gets it. One kid absolutely could not get looping for three days, and then, suddenly, yesterday morning something went "CLICK!," and he was looping over and over during multiball.

Balls are everywhere during the sessions. We have nets that are dragged across the floor to pick them up. While picking up balls yesterday, I told one kid who had a net full of balls that we'd picked up enough. He looked at me, sort of shrugged, and turned the net upside down, emptying the balls onto the floor. I exclaimed, "What did you do that for?" He looked at me defensively and cried out, "You said we had enough!"

Probably the funnest part of the sessions is when I take a number of the new players and we have target practice. They rotate, each hitting two forehands (one from backhand side, one from forehand side), aiming for a bottle I put on the table. I tell them it's full of worm juice (!), and whenever they hit it, I have to take a drink. They take great delight in making me drink the worm juice; I take great delight in trying to convince them that they aren't good enough to hit that tiny target, which turns out to be excellent reverse psychology. I get bloated from drinking too much . . . worm juice. I also bring out the cups - I put them on the table either in a bowling pin pattern or lined up on the endline, and they see how many shots it takes to knock them all down, or how many they can knock down with ten shots.

Ping Pong Power Puma Girl

She shows her magic powers over masses of ping-pong balls in this 48-second video. Do not try this at home; she's a professional. (See lots of other humorous videos in the TableTennisCoaching.com Fun and Games section.)

Why Sponge is Valuable

There are still a lot of players who use plain pimpled rubber (no sponge, i.e. hardbat) rather than jumping on the bandwagon and using sponge like just about all the top players. It’s time we settle this once and for all! So here are 12 advantages of sponge. (This is an updated reprint of something I wrote long ago.) 

  1. You can’t clean a table with pimpled rubber.
  2. You can’t pimpled rubber off a friend.
  3. Pimpled rubber baths hurt and leave abrasions on the skin.
  4. You can’t cleanse the oceans with pimpled rubbers.
  5. You can’t dress up Tim Allen as Santa Clause with pimpled rubber padding.
  6. PimpledRubberBob SquarePants just doesn’t have the same ring.
  7. Pole vaulting onto pimpled rubber hurts like heck.
  8. Pimpled rubber cake tastes like rubber.
  9. A child with a mind like a pimpled rubber will probably be in trouble.
  10. You can’t develop a complex brain from a pimpledrubberioblast
  11. Sponge flies can’t survive off of pimpled rubber, since they live off of fresh-water sponges.
  12. You can’t do public experiments in perception, phenomenology and desire at http://topologicalmedialab.net/xinwei/pimpledrubber.org – you need http://topologicalmedialab.net/xinwei/sponge.org. (You can look it up!)


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