Spring Break Camp

April 17, 2014

Spring Break Camp

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day (and night). I'm trying to remember how I was able to do my daily blog during our camps the past three summers - there are just so many hours in a day, and just so much energy in the human body. I'm at my limit. But the camp ends Friday. I'll survive.

The camp was 10AM-6PM, with a two-hour lunch break from 1-3PM. However, we had a group of 16 kids who came in for a ping-pong party during our lunch break, and I gave a one-hour clinic for them. We started with some ball-bouncing - first on the forehand side, then the backhand, then alternating. It's always interesting to watch as some pick up on this very quickly, while others struggle. It's also an age thing as 6-year-olds simply can't do it, while 8-year-olds usually can. Then I taught them the forehand (taking them two at a time for very quick lessons). I covered the backhand and the serve very briefly, and then we went to games. First came the bottle game, where they had to hit a bottle to make me drink the "worm juice" inside. (Since they were beginners, I brought out froggy and balanced a bottle on him, and to make me drink it all they had to do was hit froggy or the bottle.) Then I brought out the paper cups and they built huge pyramids with them, which they then knocked down as I fed multiball and they smacked forehands.

The beginning group that I was working with did a lot of service practice yesterday. Two of the younger kids are still having difficulty with this, but they'll pick it up. Others are moving on to putting spin on the ball. (I used the soccer-colored balls so they could see their spin.) Today I will introduce them to serving bar, where they have to serve under the bar. (Here are pictures in the high and low settings.)

Several of our top juniors are working hard to improve their backhand banana flips. In match play, they tend to either spin them too softly, with the ball dropping short (giving advanced players an easy attack, usually a put-away), or chicken out altogether and mostly push. The problem is that many are still trying to lift short, heavy backspin serves head-on. One of huge advantages of the banana flip is that you don't have to lift the heavy backspin; you instead sidespin the ball, perhaps half sidespin and half topspin. This makes it much easier to lift over the net. In practice the top juniors are getting better at it, but need to develop that confidence that they can do this against any short serve.

After the camp was done I did a one-hour private lesson. Then I went to Best Buy to have them look at my laptop computer. For some reason the modem had been failing on and off all day, and the kids weren't happy. (I let them use it for games during breaks. Sometimes they let me use it to check email.) Alas, when I got to Best Buy, the modem worked perfectly, so there was nothing to fix. We'll see how it goes today. Then I was off to Planet Fitness to continue my secret physical training that'll allow me to soon challenge our best juniors again. (Shhh!) I go there Mon, Wed, and Fri, and have been doing this regularly ever since this past Monday.

I didn't get home until 9:30 PM. After going through email and browsing forums it was pretty late, so I once again put off the 246 things on my todo list, including 42 that have earth-shattering consequences if I don't get them done immediately.

MDTTC Coaching Staff

Here's a group picture of the entire MDTTC coaching staff, all ten of us, taken by Wen Hsu yesterday during our Spring Break Camp. L-R: Chen Jie ("James"); Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"); John Hsu; Larry Hodges; Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Ruichao ("Alex"); Cheng Yinghua; Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"); Jack Huang; and Raghu Nadmichettu.

Charlie Disney, RIP

Here's an email I just received. Charlie was one of the huge names in table tennis when I was coming up in the late 1970s. He will be missed.

Dear table tennis friends,

I am deeply saddened to report that Charlie Disney passed away at his home in Rio Verde , AZ yesterday.  I was called this evening by a friend in Rio Verde.   I have never met that acquaintance.

Charlie was one of my dearest friends in my life.  We knew each other for 52 years. We were tirelessly business partners in the Magoo’s (later Disney’s) Table Tennis Centers for 21 of the 26 years I was involved and we were real estate partners for 6 years with several properties.  Charlie and I remained the closest of friends for five-plus decades without a gap.  We discussed endlessly and regularly about how to get table tennis recognized as a major sport, and never gave up on that issue.  I am in deep sorrow.

More information will follow but I have no other as of now.  I had just talked with Charlie on Monday and purchased a plane ticket for him to return for the summer to his home in Roseville, on May 6.  Charlie had returned recently from a trip to FL to visit the entire Soderberg family.   I will never see him again.  He grew up in Edina, MN but he has no family alive except one distant sister, so I have no information as of yet regarding funerals or memorials.

I thought you all should know.

Regards,
Don Larson

ITTF Level 3 Course in Colorado Springs, USA

Here's the info page. I'm hoping to go to this, but am not sure I can afford it. It would mean missing two consecutive weekends of coaching plus the five days in between - that's a lot of hours missed.

World Championships Daily Newsletter

Here's the info page. Sign up now to have these daily updates sent directly to you.

Adam Bobrow the Voice of Table Tennis

As I blogged about yesterday, Adam won the ITTF Voice of Table Tennis Contest. Here's the ITTF article.

China Prepares for the Japanese Team

Here's the article. Here's the main excerpt: "Germany, with Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, is considered a big threat for the Chinese Team. According to Liu Guoliang, Germany, Japan and South Korea are their main opponents. However, he has placed emphasis on Japan who will be the hosting team in the 2014 World Championships. In order to cope with the challenges from the Japanese Team, China has prepared several players who can imitate the Japanese players and had them fight against their delegates in the Closed Training. This is to help their players adapt to the hosts."

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (33 sec, including slow-motion replay). If you are distracted by the player on the left making that body-spinning forehand rip at the end you may miss that the player on the right made the counter-smash.

Drinkhalls on TV

Here's video (6:53) of the English power table tennis couple of Joanna and Paul Drinkhall on BT Sport. 

Sold his PlayStation for Table Tennis

Here's the Facebook posting and picture of this 13-year-old Namibian player.

Ping-Pong Pepsi Max Challenge Video

Here's a hilarious video (3:52) by Parkour that I can't begin to describe. It's part of the Pepsi Max Challenges.

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March 22, 2013

Bar-T Exhibition

As noted in my blog yesterday, I did three hours of demonstrations and exhibitions at a health fair at a Bar-T yesterday. The location was about 200 yards from MDTTC, about a 3-iron shot away! They already had a table, so we physically carried over 14 barriers to create a playing court. I did all the talking, giving short intros, then stroke and footwork demonstrations, exhibitions, and then challenges from the audience (sometimes hitting around, sometimes playing games, and sometimes challenging them to return serves). We went through this routine every 30 minutes. My hitting partners were 2500 player Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") the first half, and 2600 player Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") the second half. John Hsu stayed the entire time to give out flyers and talk to potential players.

The actual turnout was not as great as I'd have hoped. When we do exhibitions for schools we typically get a gymnasium full of kids. (And we have plans now for doing a round of exhibitions at local schools - more on that when it comes up.)

One ironic moment - for one of our "shows," we only had about ten people watching. And then all but one had to suddenly had to leave - it turned out it was time for the belly dancing demo at the health fair, and all of them were either belly dancers or watchers! So we cancelled that segment and hit with the one viewer who remained, and others who came by shortly after. It's the first time in my 37 years in table tennis that I've ever lost an audience to belly dancing. Has this happened to you?

About halfway through, while reaching for a ball that had gone into some wooden shelves, I cut myself badly on my left index finger. It began to bleed pretty badly. Fortunately, being a health fair, they had a first aid kit available. I tried putting on a bandage from the kit, and it literally crumbled in my hand. How old was this kit? Older than my 37 years in table tennis? I grabbed a second band aid, and it too crumbled. I finally found one near the bottom that stayed together enough to cover the cut and stop the bleeding. It sufficed for the two hours before I was able to get home to clean it and put on a more recent vintage of a band aid.

Speaking of injuries, I'd pulled a muscle in my thigh during the hardbat competition at the Cary Cup last Friday. I'd been limping slightly since then, but able to coach against non-top players. I aggravated it a bit during the exhibitions, and will probably take today's session off. (Normally I'm a practice partner on Fridays from 5-7 PM for our Elite junior program.)

Explaining Spin to a Six-Year-Old

After the exhibition I still had two hours of coaching to do that afternoon. The most memorable memory of those two hours? Talking about spin for ten minutes with a very curious six-year-old. Literally every sentence out of his mouth began with "Why" or "How come," but I'd rather kids with such interest than ones without. And now the kid knows all about topspin, backspin, and sidespin, and their effects, advantages, and disadvantages - plus I taught him how to push for the first time, backspin to backspin, which he found fascinating. The funniest moment came after I explained and demonstrated sidespin, and he said that's how the earth spins! At some point I'll explain corkscrewspin to him.

Spring Break Camp

Our Spring Break Camp at Maryland Table Tennis Center is Mon-Fri next week, 10AM - 6PM. Come on out and join us! It's for all ages and levels, but will be pretty much dominated by local junior players on spring break from school. I mostly run the morning sessions, where I give short lectures and the mostly do multiball training. (Since it's mostly locals, the lectures will be very short - they've heard them all a zillion times.) We have a two-hour lunch break (with Chinese food delivered), and then the kids play various games, such as "Jungle Pong," while a dedicated few practice their serves or do other training. The afternoon sessions (run by Cheng and Jack) are about half drilling at the table, and half games. 

Table Tennista

Here are new articles at Table Tennista. They do great international coverage.

You Think Table Tennis Is Not a Sport Then Watch This

Here's a recent highlights video (9:13).

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Segun Toriola

Here's a video (8:59, with time between points removed) of an interesting match of two veterans from Belgium and Nigeria at the 2008 Olympics.

Aerobic Table Tennis in Spain

Here's a video (9:48) of an aerobic table tennis session with kids in Spain. Most of it takes place away from the table, but they hit the tables toward the end.

"Well, Kid, Ya Beat Me"

Here's one of my favorite table tennis cartoons, from the Far Side.

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April 6, 2012

MDTTC Open House

If you are within driving distance of Gaithersburg, Maryland, come to our Open House and Grand Re-Opening this Saturday! There will be free refreshments and raffles throughout the day, and it's your chance to talk table tennis with the MDTTC coaches and players, as well as to see the newly renovated and now gigantic MDTTC, which has doubled in size to 10,000 sq feet and 18 tables. Here's the schedule:

  • 10:30 AM - Noon: Junior Group Training (FREE!)
  • 12:00-1:00 PM: Demonstrations and Exhibitions (FREE!), featuring MDTTC Coaches and Top Players: Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Han Xiao, Tong Tong Gong, Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, Larry Hodges, others.
  • 1:00-1:30 PM: Service Seminar by Larry Hodges (FREE!)
  • 1:30-2:00 PM: Lucky Draw Mini Tournament (used to be called Parade of Champions), anyone can sign up (FREE!), single elimination with games to 3 points! Gift certificates to the Final Four.
  • 2:00-4:00 PM: Open Play (FREE!)

MDTTC Spring Break Camp Highlights

Here are the highlights from yesterday, Day Four of the five-day camp:

  • The "best" way to teach the backhand. I've found the most successful way to teach the backhand to beginning kids is to have them keep their rackets low to the table, slightly closed, and have them raise the racket as the ball hits the table, so that the racket and ball are always lined up. By doing this they learn to contact the ball with a topspin motion, and take the ball on the rise. When I just show them the stroke and guide them through it, often they end up with a very flat and awkward technique.
  • Backhand push and the violin. I learned from Cheng Yinghua a new way to teach the backhand push - he tells them the forward swing is like the downswing of the bow when you play the violin. I tried this out with several kids and it seemed to work.
  • Today was looping day. I introduced looping backspin to all the beginning kids. It's amazing how fast they pick it up.
  • Footwork practice. A new and popular footwork exercise was to pair the kids off, and have them take turns moving side to side quickly, with lots of starts and stops, with the other trying to match them. It quickly became exhausting - which was good, since it meant they weren't jumping up and down for the next half hour.
  • I introduced a new game to the kids. We often play a game where they rotate hitting two forehands, trying to hit my water bottle on the table. If they hit it, I have to drink it, and it's never just water - it's something like worm juice or (today) slug juice. The new version has one player hitting ten shots, and all the rest on the other side, along with two bottles. If the ball hits a bottle, they get 2 points. If it hits the table, and nobody catches it, they get 1 point. If the shot hits the table but someone catches it, or they miss the shot, then 0 points. Most of the kids seem to have more fun trying to catch the incoming shots than actually hitting them.
  • Open House exhibition with junior stars. I went over with several of the top junior players what we'd be doing at the Open House demos and exhibitions this Saturday.

New World Rankings

Here are the new world rankings after the recent World Team Championships. And here's an ITTF article about the new rankings and China's dominance - they hold the top five spots for both men and women. On the men's side their main challengers are Germany (with world #6, 10, 21), Korea (world #8, 14, 15) and Japan (world #7, 19, 20). On the women's side their main challengers are Japan (with world #6, 10, 12) and Singapore (world #7, 9, 14).

Want to bid to run the 2012 North American Championships?

Here are the specs!

Ping-Pong Door

Why have a door when you can have a door and a ping-pong table?

Eating a ping-pong ball

Here's a 31-second video of someone eating a ping-pong ball. I've eaten a lot of Chinese food this week, but does eating a ping-pong ball count?

Non-Table Tennis: Weird Tales sale

Yesterday I sold a story to Weird Tales, "Galahad Returns," 6300 words. It's a humorous fantasy about Sir Galahad (of King Arthur fame), who returns to Earth after spending 1500 years searching the galaxy unsuccessfully (on the Greek winged horse Pegasus) for the Holy Grail. He jousts with fighter jets and tangles with the U.S. president, nukes, and a painting of former president and unfortunate King Arthur namesake Chester Arthur. It's my 59th short story sale and my second sale to Weird Tales. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

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March 27, 2012

MDTTC Spring Break Camp

The Maryland Table Tennis Center will hold its first training camp of the year, our Spring Break Camp, April 2-6. You will be there. Otherwise we will talk about you, and it won't be pretty.

The camp coincides with spring break in local schools, which vary from region to region, so we don't get many out of towners for this camp. However, anyone is welcome to join us. It'll mostly be junior players, but all ages are welcome. Coaches will include myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. Hours are 10AM-1PM and 3-6PM each day, Mon-Fri. Chinese food is delivered for lunch for $6 (you order in the morning). The club just doubled in size, and will have about 18 tables set up (more if we squeeze), with all-new red flooring, showers, and wireless web.

If you need a place to stay, we're now allowing players to stay at the club (free for now) if you are willing to "rough it." I'll give rides to local restaurants and for groceries as needed. (Club has a microwave.)

We will be running camps continuously all summer, every Mon-Fri, from June 18 to August 24 (eleven consecutive five-day camps). Come join us!

What is the value of a table tennis camp? Most players spend years trying to improve, and it's a very slow and difficult process. The problem is that 1) you might be practicing bad technique, making it even harder later on to fix the problems, 2) you only get to work at various techniques in a sporadic way, and 3) you have other things on your mind and so can't really focus on table tennis. A camp solves all three problems as you live and breathe table tennis all week, learning proper technique from top coaches (as well as getting to see numerous top players demonstrate it), you practice all day long, and your sole focus is table tennis. If you are a serious table tennis player, I strongly suggest finding a camp where you can really hone your skills as well as have a lot of fun.

FASTT

Here's the Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis home page, where you'll find articles, results, and videos of this rapidly growing "underground" sport. (If regular table tennis is an underground sport in the U.S., then is sandpaper the underground sport of an underground sport?) News Item #29 is on the Cary Cup.

The Worlds on TV

You can watch the Worlds (Dortmund, Germany, March 25-April 1) on TV via Universal Sports, but it's gonna cost you about $10/day, or $40 for five days. Here's more info. Meanwhile, here's the info I posted yesterday:

Michael Landers on NPR

NPR did a radio interview with Michael Landers, "Ping-Pong Prodigy Seeks Olympic Glory." You can either listen to it (3:51) or read the transcript.

Free table tennis videos from Reflex Sports

I received the following email from Reflex Sports yesterday - so now's your chance to sample their huge video library for free!

"We very much appreciate your support of our subscription table tennis video site. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get enough subscribers to allow us to continue, at this time, to offer our videos this way. We have finally been able to set up a new site (tabletennisvideocentral.com). This new trial site is offering everything free in the hope of attracting enough viewers to have advertisers."

Boys Look at the Stars Ping-Pong

You can download this book for free. The book covers the history of world table tennis.

High Performance on a Budget

Can you create a high performance environment without spending any money? Sean O'Neill sent me and other coaches a link to this article on the topic.

Math Professor Larry Bavly teaches table tennis

Math and table tennis connoisseur Larry Bavly teaches a little girl all the important things about table tennis (4:26). The best part starts at 1:11 when Larry says, "What is the most important thing to learn to be a good table tennis player?" After the girl incorrectly says, "Placement and spin variations," Larry brings out the chart.

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March 8, 2012

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 12

As mentioned in this blog, USA Table Tennis Historian Tim Boggan moved in with me for two weeks starting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, so that I could do the page layouts and photo work on his next volume of History of U.S. Table Tennis. Yep, it's volume 12! I've done the layouts for all except the first one. I get to read a lot of it as we work, with him sitting next to me and pointing at the screen saying, "That photo goes there. No, I said there, you fool!"

We've now finished the covers, Acknowledgements, Introduction, and 25 chapters (370 pages) of the 31-chapter book. We should finish it all on Friday. He'll spend Saturday proofing the pages, and on Sunday and Monday we'll be making the corrections. Then I'll do all the pre-press work, and send the 500-page PDF file to the printer. Since we're not leaving for the Cary Cup until Thursday morning, we should finish two days early. What'll we do on Tues & Wed? I don't know. Movies, sight-seeing, maybe even some ping-pong.

Here's an excerpt, from page 332 on the Rochester Michigan Open between Danny and Ricky Seemiller (as written by Cody Jones), when matches were still best of three to 21:

Ricky won a seesaw first game from brother Danny, 28-26, and seemed to be in the driver’s—or looper’s—seat. Ricky was aggressive, took chances, while Danny played more of a control game. The second game Danny won at 14. In the third, at 22-21 his favor, Ricky missed a set-up kill—which, since Danny went on to win this game, might well have cost him the match.

Said Danny, "At ad down I had to lunge to my left to return the ball, and when I saw it float back high, I knew Ricky was going to put it away and that I had no chance to get back into position and return it. So it flashed into my mind that my only chance was to keep on going to my left and hope wildly that Ricky would be so surprised by my movement that he’d be watching me instead of the ball. And, unbelievably, that’s just what happened."

50 forehands, 50 backhands

I have a new informal "policy" for beginning/intermediate juniors I coach. They have to hit 50 forehands and 50 backhands in a row before we do anything else. This forces them both to groove their shots while improving their focus. (I also tell them that they don't really have a forehand or backhand until they can hit 100 in  a row, a goal I want them all to strive for.)

Another injury

As if having an injured arm weren't enough, on Tuesday night I strained my hip. I'm walking with a limp, and will have to somehow find a way to coach. It's not too bad, but these (mostly minor) injuries are a real problem. It's not easy coaching one-on-one when you're 52 and have very stiff muscles. The good news is the arm is healing nicely. I'm going to play as a chopper in some matches this weekend, and hope to start playing regular (i.e. lots of forehand hitting and looping) in perhaps two weeks.

Mark your Calendars for Saturday, April 7

That's the Grand Opening for the expanded and renovated Maryland Table Tennis Center. Lots of activities that day, starting around 11AM - demonstrations, exhibitions, coaching seminar, junior program, raffles, refreshments, parade of champions tournament, with lots of top coaches and players. Details coming soon! (If you would like to be on the MDTTC mailing list, send me an email.)

Spring Break Camp at MDTTC

We're having our first camp at the newly expanded and renovated Maryland Table Tennis Center, April 2-6, with coaches Larry Hodges (that's me), Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Xun Zeng. It's mostly for junior players (locals are off school that week for spring break), but all ages are welcome. Here's more info. Come join us!

Who was having a ball yesterday?

Yesterday I asked if anyone knew who this player was, with all the balls in the air. Aaron Avery emailed that it was Polish paralympic player Natalia Partyka, and sure enough her web page includes that photo. Thanks Avery!

Tampa Bay baseball and hockey stars playing table tennis

Here's baseball star Evan Longoria and hockey star Martin St. Louis playing table tennis (1:45). They play for the Tampa Bay Rays and Lightning, respectively.

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