November 8, 2011

Day One at the Writer's Retreat

Yesterday was the first day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM. I'm working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide." Going into the retreat I'd done exactly 6222 words, and I was hoping to average 5000-6000 per day. On Day One, I did 8063, for a total of 14,285. That's actually a crazy pace, but it's only for five days. I'm guessing the book will total about 50,000 words, but we'll see - I'll probably keep writing well past that and end up with 100,000. I do have a publisher that's interested in the book, but whether I go that route or self-publish, it should be out next year, hopefully before the U.S. Open.

I spent much of today writing about conventional and non-conventional tactics (lots of examples of both), and on service tactics. For example, I gave ten ways to mess up your opponent with a short serve, and the thinking behind each. I'm also writing a lot about tactical (how to win the current match) versus strategic (how to develop your game) thinking. But the best part of the book is the chapter on Tactical Thinking, which I began last week, and finalized this morning. I put a lot into that chapter. Tomorrow I finish up service tactics, and move on to receive tactics. And there's a lot more coming after that.

I have a pretty extensive outline, and yet I'm barely using it. The book is basically written in my head, so I'm just transcribing it. I open the book with this: "The purpose of tactics is to mess up your opponent." The rest of the book is just elaborating. I've also got some ideas for the cover, but I won't go into that yet.

Finding Your Zone

This weekend I read the sports psychology book Finding Your Zone (156 pages, published in 2008) by Michael Lardon, M.D.  Some of you may recognize the name - he was a former junior star, who made the final of the 1977 U.S. Junior Championships. (In fact, he led Perry Schwartzberg 2-0 before losing in five.) I got to know Mike a bit in the late 1970s when he was at his peak and I was on my way up. He'd probably vaguely remember me.

The book gives ten core lessons for "achieving peak performance in sports and life." For table tennis, it gives many excellent and practical methods for getting "in the zone." As a coach and player, I can relate to what he is teaching, and I strongly recommend the book. Or at least most of it. - see my comments below on Lessons Eight, and to a lesser degree, Lesson One.

The ten lessons are:

  1. Dream
  2. Be Prepared to Overcome the Odds
  3. Transform Desire into Will
  4. Trust Your Brain, Keep It Simple, and Stay Positive
  5. Stay in the Now and Be in the Process
  6. Manage Your Emotions and Thoughts
  7. Keep Your Motivation Pure
  8. Acceptance and Faith Conquer Fear
  9. Build Confidence and Win
  10. Perform Under Pressure

I have one major nitpick with the book, Lesson Eight's "Acceptance and Faith Conquer Fear." A good portion of this chapter is basically religious in nature, where he explains why believing in God makes it easier to relax. That alone bothered me, but that wasn't the real problem. There was an entire page that argued that the second law of thermodynamics proves there must be a god, since otherwise all energy on earth would dissipate through the law of entropy. But this refers to a closed system, and earth is definitely not a closed system - the sun pours energy into it. If you want to see the law of entropy in action, enclose the earth inside a large hollow sphere so that no energy can get in or out (i.e. turn it into a closed system), and come back in a thousand or a million years. But what is all this doing in a book on sports psychology?

Parts of Lesson One were also a bit off-putting, since they were not about dreaming of greatness, but literally about dreaming, including listening to your dream, lucid dreaming, etc., and seemed the least applicable to sports psychology of the lessons, other than the parts in lesson eight I write about below. I'm not sure why he started with this chapter.

It's easy to get caught up in the parts of a book you disagree with when reviewing it, so let me be clear - I found eight of the ten chapters extremely valuable and I strongly recommend the book for those chapters, as well as for parts of Lessons One and Eight. And I'm sure some will find valuable the very parts I did not. Lesson Seven alone is worth the price of the book, where he talks about the different types of motivations, and why those who want the end product - fame - do not do as well as those with the more pure motivation of wanting to be the best they can be.

Other great sports psychology books include With Winning in Mind by Lanny Bassham; The Inner Game of Tennis by W. Timothy Gallwey; and Winning Ugly by Brad Gilbert.

Short, fast serves

Here's a video from Pingskills that explains how to do a short, fast serve (1:40). Yes, short and fast!

Song Hongyuan highlights reel

Here's a nice highlights reel (1:18) of China's junior star Song Hongyuan from cmetsbeltran15.

100-year old table tennis player

Here's a video (0:51) with commentary of Australia's Dorothy de Low, 100, at the 2010 World Veteran's Championships, the oldest player there. "I feel like a film star," she said. The headline is "100-year-old with a killer forehand," but she actually does a couple of nice backhand kills in the video.

USATT minutes

Here are the minutes to USATT's September 21-22, 2011 board meeting.

Kitchen Ping-Pong

Here's 33 seconds of kitchen ping-pong. "You can't play ping-pong in a suit." So, why don't you have a net strung across your kitchen or dining room table?


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