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September 19, 2014

USATT Board of Directors August 2014 Teleconference and Stuff They Should Do

Here are the minutes. Here's the same question I ask after every such meeting: Was anything done that might lead to the serious growth of our sport?

I sometimes look at USATT as being perpetually like the U.S. in 1932, in the depths of a depression and with leadership who believed in doing things the same old ways. We need an FDR or TR type to come along and shake things up by actually doing things. But no one wants to be The Man in the Arena. Back on Nov. 13, 2013 I blogged about ten relatively easy things USATT could do to grow the sport (and I've referred to them a number of times since), but there just doesn't seem to be interest in doing such things - though as the new minutes show, they are interested in things like new formatting for the minutes. That's nice, but perhaps we should focus more on doing things rather than on how we format them?

Below is that same list from a year ago of things USATT could do to develop the sport. It's not rocket science. Note that the first three are just different ways of developing leagues, since that's where there is great membership potential. I'm personally most interested in #4 and #5, though #7 (along with any of #1-3) could lead to serious growth potential. And #8, by getting USATT leaders to focus on developing the sport, could be most important of all. Let's make things happen. Or we could continue in our Hooverish ways.

  1. Advertise to hire someone to set up Professional Leagues. Offer him 33% of revenues brought in, and the USATT's support with its web page, emails, magazine, and any other way feasible. It would be an historic position, similar to the first commissioner of sports such as baseball, basketball, and football.
  2. Redirect the purpose of the current "League" committee so that its primary purpose would be to actively increase the number and quality of leagues in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up such leagues. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author.
  3. Bring together the directors of the largest and most successful leagues in the U.S., figuratively lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they've put together a model for such leagues that can be done regionally all over the U.S.
  4. Create a "Training Center" committee whose primary purpose would be increase the number and quality of full-time clubs in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up and running such centers. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author. I already did a version of this with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, and have sold over one hundred copies and made over $100. This manual covers half the stuff a manual on setting up and running a full-time center would cover.
  5. Change the focus of USATT coaching seminars from just teaching technique to the recruitment and training of professional coaches and directors of junior programs. I've argued this one for years.
  6. Advertise for someone to bring in sponsorships for U.S. Open and Nationals, where the person gets 33% or more in commission.
  7. Recruit State and Regional Directors all over the U.S. to set up regional associations, which would include election of officers, and appointment of Coaching, League, Tournament, and Club Directors for each state or region. (Some regions or states already have such associations.) USATT would supply the basic bylaws for these associations, using bylaws that have been created for this very purpose multiple times in the past, or modeled on current successful ones.
  8. Direct that the USATT Board of Directors main focus will be the development of the sport, and that "fairness" issues will go to the appropriate committee, freeing up board time for actually developing the sport. (I blogged about this on March 19, 2013.)
  9. Require that all prospective USATT board members must give at least one major area where they will take initiative in developing the sport, and give their plan for doing so. Along with this they should allow people on the ballot if they get 150 signatures from USATT members, with a deadline set after the North American Teams, which is where they could get the signatures. (This is how it was done in the past.)
  10. Do a mass mailing to the 50,000 or so past USATT members on the USATT database, and invite them to rejoin. The letter should come from a top, well-known U.S. table tennis star. There's one catch - there has to be something new to invite these players back. See previous items on this list. Any such mailing, done properly, would pay for itself. There's a reason why I and others get inundated with mailings from organizations I once belonged to. I still get regular mail from the U.S. Tennis Association since I played in their leagues about ten years ago. (Eventually we can move to emailing past members, but we don't have the email address of most of these past members.) I blogged about this on Feb. 19, 2014 and May 13, 2014.

2014 USA Junior and Cadet Team Trials

Here's the info sheet. Minor nitpick: Can't anyone learn to proof and format these things so they don't look like they were thrown together by a third grader? I found 14 typos or formatting problems on the first page. Let's try to look professional! I've volunteered to proof USATT documents for them before they go public, completely in confidence, and they used to take me up on this, but not in recent years. The offer still stands. And I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing whoever put this together, but c'mon - we can do better. (Am I picking on USATT here, in the segment above, and in previous blogs? You bet I am - they need to get their act together and change the thinking and organizational funk they've been in for so many years.)

USA Nationals Entry Form

It's linked at the USA Nationals Home Pagehis came out two hours after I posted this blog, but I'm adding it late. I'll link to it again on Monday.

Practice Your Serves

Have you practiced your serves this week? Why not??? Few things are more under-practiced than serves, and time for time you probably get more from serve practice than just about anything else. Here are a few articles that might help out.

Covering Long Distances

Here's the coaching video (3:27) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Emad Barsoum Leading Player at 2014 Butterfly Badger Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

International News

As usual, you can find lots of international news at TableTennista (which covers the big names more) and at the ITTF news page (more regional news). 

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's the new video (4:01) of them as they trained for the 2014 World Team Championships.

Xu Xin - Pure Brilliance!

Here's a great point (22 sec). Xu is on near side, playing Germany's Dimitrij Ovcharov.

Ping-Pong as It Should Be Played

Here I am with playing with a vintage clipboard. (I'm about 2100 with it. Really! Challenge me at the Nationals - I'll have the clipboard ready!)

Getting Balled Out?

Here's the picture.

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August 1, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. We didn't have most of the beginners do this, though a couple of them badly wanted to and so I taught them the shot. Normally you give players at least a few weeks at least of regular forehand and backhand drives before introducing them to looping. The six-year-old I blogged about yesterday who had a pretty good backhand loop (at least in multiball) had an even better forehand loop! Very smooth and rather consistent. However, he's not ready to do this effectively in a game yet - he still loses head-to-head to other beginners who don't have his techniques, but are a couple years older and are more consistent.

One of the important points that came up several times yesterday is the importance of rotating mostly in a circle when forehand looping. Imagine a rod going through your head; you should rotate around it. The left side (for righties) should pull back and around as much as the right side goes forward. This doesn't mean you never move your head and upper body (i.e. follow through sideways), but that's usually done to create power when rushed, especially when stepping around the backhand corner. By rotating mostly in a circle you stay balanced and immediately ready for the next shot - which is how top players can pull off a series of powerful loops in quick succession, while intermediate players often struggle to do two in a row.

The younger kids in this week's camp absolutely have gone bonkers over Froggy. All they want to do is put it on the table so they can try hitting it while I feed multiball. I'm starting half the sessions by saying various versions of, "If you work hard for the first hour, I'll bring out Froggy and you can take turns hurting the poor amphibian." It's good target practice, as long as they use good form when hitting.

Over break I was challenged by a 2139 player to a clipboard match. We played best of three to 11. I won the first, 11-9. He won the second, 11-8. He was leading 6-4 in the third when we ran out of time and had to go off break. We plan to finish the match at break today. We're having great points - wish this were on video. (There are a couple videos of me playing clipboard matches on youtube, but neither are among my better-played matches.) Earlier that morning, before we started, another junior (about 1100) also challenged me to a match, so I played him with my cell phone, and won, 11-9.  He wants to play me again today - rematch!

(Note - I have to run over to the club an hour and a half earlier this morning for something, so this blog is shorter than normal - not as much time to scan the Internet for interesting articles and videos.)

The Art of Decisiveness

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

International Articles

Here's my periodic reminder that there are lots and lots of international articles at the ITTF and TableTennista sites!

Junior Olympic Results

I've been unable to find any online results from the Junior Olympic Games, which were held the last three days in Detroit, finishing yesterday. One of the parents there put together this listing of medalists from my club (MDTTC). I have a listing now of the results and if I can't find an online listing soon I'll probably format and post that. (They normally put the results online.) So . . . Congratulations to the following MDTTC'ers at the 2013 Junior Olympics!

GOLD
Girls U10 Singles - Lisa Lin
Girls U10 Doubles - Lisa Lin & Jessica Lin
Girls U10 Team - Lisa Lin, Jessica Lin & Helen Yao
Boys U12 Singles - Adam Yao
Girls U16 Doubles - Kaylee Zou & Shirley Hu
Boys U18 Doubles - Chen Bowen & Nathan Hsu
Division I - Sameer Shaikh
Division J - Jessica Lin
SILVER 
Girls U10 Singles - Jessica Lin
Boys U16 Singles - Chen Bowen
Girls U18 Singles - Lilly Lin
Boys U18 Team - Leon Bi, Chen Bowen, Nathan Hsu
Division H - Lisa Lin
BRONZE 
Girls U12 Singles - Helen Yao
Girls U14 Singles - Amy Lu
Girls U18 Doubles - Lilly Lin & Amy Lu
Girls U18 Team - Amy Lu, Kaylee Zou & Lilly Lin
Boys U16 Team - Jason Wei & Adam Yao

Table Tennis Balls - Never Leave Home Without 'Em!

Like this. (No, it's not my car!)

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March 9, 2012

Shouldn't there be an age limit for backhand looping?

Yesterday I coached one of our 7-year-olds for an hour. That in itself is rare - most at that age do only 30 minutes at a time. But this one was a bit ahead of the curve for the average kid in that age bracket. He loops just about everything on both sides. He regularly backhand loops 5-6 in a row against a block. And he can fish and lob with heavy topspin, often forcing me to miss smashes not because I couldn't handle the spin, but because I was having difficulty believing he was putting that much spin on the ball.

This is how the game is changing. There was a time when few kids would learn to loop before they were 9 or 10, and that would only be against backspin. Looping against topspin wouldn't start until even later. Now, with sponges that practically loop the ball for you, and with more and more full-time training centers with full-time coaches popping up around the country, the level of play is going up dramatically, and players fall behind if they wait until they are 9 or 10 to learn to do what others are doing earlier.

Many of the top sub-10-year-olds still mostly hit in matches, but the better ones are looping more and more in practice, and it's just a matter of time before they incorporate this into matches. It's scary watching a 10-year-old flawlessly backhand looping off the bounce over and over in drills, and knowing you will have to face that in matches.

Hitting the backhand is almost passé at the higher levels. At the world-class level, a hitter very quickly is turned into a blocker by a looping opponent; even smashes are often looped back. Even to me, playing at only a 2200 level, it's not hard to play a hitter - you just take a half step back to give yourself time to react, and then just rally them down, using their own pace against them as you move them around or pin them on their weaker side (usually the backhand), and look for balls to loop back. Against someone who loops everything you can't effectively back up to give yourself time to react (unless you can counterloop), and so you are stuck at the table blocking - and then the pace becomes overwhelming since you have no time to react that close to the table. Add that these kids are now looping right off the bounce on the backhand, and with more and more power on the forehand, and it's a nightmare out there.

Unless, of course, you are the one doing the looping. When I play these up-and-coming kids, the key is to use serve and receive so I'm the one initiating the attack, forcing them to react. It allows you to at least get in a few good shots before facing the inevitable blitzkrieg.

Injury checklist

  • Forearm: I injured that on Sunday, Feb. 26. Since that time I've rested it by not looping or hitting any forehands very hard, and avoiding repetitive forehand shots. (This is not easy since I'm coaching several hours each day, but I've had most students drill into my backhand.) It's coming along fine, and I expect to be back to normal in another week or so. Hopefully. This weekend I'm going to play matches chopping with a hardbat, as I will be doing at the Cary Cup next weekend.
  • Hip: On Tuesday, a few hours after I finished coaching, I began feeling an almost burning pain in my left hip. Since that time I've been hobbling about. I'm hoping this will heal on its own, but we'll see. It doesn't affect my coaching much except I can't move to my wide forehand very well.
  • Back: After spending many months last year partly debilitated by back problems, it's pretty much okay after doing lots of stretching and weight training. However, due to hip injury, I stopped weight training a few days ago, and already there are hints of returning back problems.
  • Knees: I've had knee problems periodically over the years, though never really bad. When I do, I wear knee braces, which really help. After some problems last fall, the knees have been fine for a while. Yippee!
  • Brain: After way too many hours these past ten days working all day with Tim Boggan on the layouts and photos of History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12, and coaching at night, the brain is toast.

Excerpt from Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12

This is from Chapter 27 - with USA Team Member Mike Bush writing about fellow teammate Eric Boggan's match with future U.S. Hall of Fame Player (and now fellow coach at MDTTC) Cheng Yinghua  at the 1983 Hungarian Open, when Eric was ranked in the top 20 in the world. Here's the photo of Cheng (by Mal Anderson) that accompanies the article, also from the 1983 Hungarian Open.

Eric played Cheng Yinghua in the last-16 round. Cheng, a righty shakehand topspinner, beat Sweden’s Waldner in five games in the round of 64 [some early match-up that was!]. I remembered Cheng’s versatile game from the German Open three years ago where he’d been spinning every ball against Dvoracek in the final of the Team event. Late in the second game, however, Cheng had gotten severe hamstring cramps and in the third had stayed up to the table and blocked Dvoracek down, sometimes blocking literally more than 40 topspins to win the point.

Eric went into the match with the same strategy that he’d beaten Gergely with. It was amazing what took place. Cheng had no problems moving in or out (or laterally for that matter). He could spin powerfully and with control from both sides, defend, block and counter. Eric blocked and dropped, blocked and dropped, looped and killed. The points were very long but Cheng kept winning them. He just kept putting in one more shot or making one more return than Eric. Match to Cheng, 10, 9, 13.

"A Throwback Player, With a Wardrobe to Match"

That's the subheading of this article yesterday in the New York Times on Marty Reisman.

"Rising from the Slumber, the Sleeping Giant Awakes"

That's the title of this article from the ITTF on Kanak & Prachi Jha, and the rise of American Table Tennis.

Clipboard Table Tennis

This is the Official Clipboard Promotional Video (1:52), featuring Tahl Leibovitz and Al Papp (the lefty) at the start, with Berndt Mann officiating, Wendell Dillon the referee who (humorously) objects to the illegal (i.e. non-Legal sized) clipboards, and then Marty Reisman (in the hat) and Berndt Mann play.

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