June 29, 2011

Thoughts on the U.S. Open

I leave for the U.S. Open in Milwaukee in just a few hours. Here are a few last-minute thoughts.

  • Will the umpires at the U.S. Open enforce the service rules, in particular the one that states, "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he complies with the requirements of the Laws." I am so tired of opponents hiding their serves against players I'm coaching, with the umpire saying they weren't sure if the serve was visible to the receiver and so didn't call it. If you aren't sure if the serve is visible to the receiver, then the server has failed "to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he complies with the requirements of the Laws." Umpires, please reread that ten times, and consider: if a server is serving so that it's so close to whether the receiver can see contact that you aren't sure, that means the server is trying to hide the serve. Are you going to let him cheat? (And to be fair, umpires are among the hardest workers at a tournament doing one of the most thankless jobs, so let me thank you in advance - but only if you call those faults!!!)
  • I keep getting accused of coaching during matches at major tournaments, something I've never done. If I clap, they think it's a signal. If I fidget, grin, frown, or so much as breathe, I'm told I'm coaching. The players I coach think it's hilarious when I get warned, but it's rather irritating. It happened twice at the North American Championships and twice at the Nationals.
  • Just how good are Sun Ting and Jeffrey Zeng Xun? Jeffrey, 23, started coaching at my club (MDTTC) in December, and won the Cary Cup and Easterns, despite being out of practice. He's rated "only" 2612. He's been practicing for the Open, often with Sun Ting, so we may finally see how good he is. As to Sun Ting, 27, he's rated 2730 from the 1999 Teams when he was just 15. Has he improved? (I've nicknamed him "The Sun King.")
  • Should I spend Wednesday at the hotel hot tub, lounging around the hotel room reading and watching movies, lounging around the playing site, helping with the Paralympic training camp, touring Milwaukee, surfing the web, practicing, walking about looking important, or writing? (I arrive around 8AM.)
  • Should I have gotten a haircut before the Open?

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I just updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. There are now 1204 pictures of 707 celebrities. In the last month I've added pictures of Barack Obama, David Cameron (prime minister of England), Wen Jiabao (premier of China), Nicolas Sarkozy (president of France), basketball player Yao Ming, tennis players Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, alpine skiers Lindsey & Thomas Vonn, Vince Coleman (former senator of Minnesota), Milwaukee Brewers baseball players Zack Greinke, Corey Hart, and John Axford, and new pictures of tennis player Bobby Riggs, boxer Rocky Marciano, and financier Warren Buffett. This is just a small taste of what's there, which includes sections on Politicians/Leaders, Athletes, Talk Show Hosts, Writers, Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Cartoon Characters, and Other. Two celebrity players at this year's U.S. Open are pictured - acter Adoni Maropis and calligrapher Julian Waters. Now go explore the 707 different celebrities caught in the act of playing table tennis! (Top table tennis players do not count as celebrities here.)

Full-time training centers and junior programs

Twenty years ago there were no full-time training centers in the U.S. devoted to full-time training. So we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center.

Four and a half years ago I made a proposal to USATT urging them to make it a goal to have 100 successful junior programs in the U.S. in five years. The plan involved recruiting and training coaches to become full-time coaches and run junior programs. At the time there were at most ten junior programs in the country that I'd call successful. USATT had no interest. This was a major reason why I resigned all my positions with USATT - editor, webmaster, and programs director.

Now we have a number of full-time training centers and junior programs around the U.S. The result is that the competition in junior and cadet events is much stronger than before. Imagine if USATT had taken the initiative by recruiting and training coaches, instead of sitting around and watching while every now and then someone would take the initiative and create such a program, usually having to reinvent the wheel from scratch. (Actually, they learned from each other; I've spent a huge number of hours talking and emailing with coaches and promoters interested in opening such centers and running junior programs, as have others.) If USATT had made this a priority, there would be far more successful junior programs and the competition could have been even tougher - and since I'm coaching there, I'm thankful at least for that.

Penguin playing ping-pong

Yep, here's a 40-second video of a penguin playing table tennis. Enjoy.


Send us your own coaching news!

You should spend Wednesday at the hotel hot tub, lounging around the hotel room, reading and watching movies. I want to say you have never been in a hot tub, but I am not sure. Hanging around a tournament site a day early is something you do all the time. Expand your horizons! Plus, the hot tub may help your back. The tournament site won't.


In reply to by jfolsen

My flight landed around 8AM, and I reached the hotel at 8:40. At 8:45 I was told the room wouldn't be available until sometime between noon and 3PM. So I took a taxi to the high school where they were holding the paralympic training camp and helped out for two hours as a practice partner and coach. Then I returned, checked in around 1PM, and discovered that someone had spammed the forum and blog again. It all came from the same server, so I was able to block them easily, but I had to spend 45 minutes deleting all the messages. When I return to Maryland it looks like I'm going to have to set up a registration process to sort out these automated spam attacks.

The playing hall isn't open today, and won't be open until around 11:30AM tomorrow. (First event is at 2:15.) So I'm going over to Spin Milwaukee shortly with Tong Tong and others to get some practice in.

Then, maybe, hot tub.

Re: Serves...

I was in a tournament this last weekend and the eventual runner-up in the Open Division was a former top junior player who was once on a national team in South America (I will spare the name to protect the guilty). He is now forty-something so is coming back after a 20 year hiatus and obviously missed all of the rule changes in that time.

Well, I pointed out to the Tournament Director (who is a friend of mine and we can talk frankly) that this player was leaving his left arm out and serving directly under it. There is no way that his opponents could have seen the point of contact. Now I think (before my time) that this was once legal and I'm sure that's what he learned so long ago. But no one seemed to care. The TD just said "if his opponents don't complain then I'm not going to say anything." I guess that's why we in the USA need to stop the self-officiating and use umpires. The problem is especially bad if your opponent with the illegal serve is a member of your club because some people get offended too easily and carry a grudge.

Postscript: I waited until the final match was over and all the awards were handed out (the player above was in the final and lost). Then I decided to be bold (since I had never seen this player before and he's not in my club) and talk to him about the issue. My approach was to try and make it "informative" and not confrontational. I said I was understanding that he was coming back to the sport after a long lay-off and might not realize that the rules have changed. I told him I just wanted to make sure he knew the rule so he could have time to practice serving correctly to avoid faults in future tournaments. He just laughed and said he'd been told about the rule change before--not hiding the ball under the extended arm--but that was how he had always served and he wasn't going to change. Well, in my opinion that's the kind of attitude that should be punished real-time at his next tournment. Unfortunately, in most cases only we-- the opponents--can force these players to serve legally by calling them on it in a match!