Training Camps

August 17, 2012

Weird Camp Happenings

Lots of strange things happen in regard to table tennis camps. Here's a sampling.

  • Someone once emailed interest in our camps, and asked if they could stay at my house to save money. I reluctantly agreed (since I didn't know the person). They thanked me profusely, and then asked me to arrange their travel and every other aspect of the trip. I emailed back agreeing to let him stay at my house, but that they'd have to make their own travel arrangements. I didn't hear back from them.
  • A player made all the arrangements to attend one of our camps, and only at the last minute emailed asking if we really were teaching table tennis. He thought he had signed up for a tennis camp.
  • Over the years I've received dozens and dozens of emails from Nigeria and other countries trying to arrange for large numbers of players to attend our camps. All involve me sending out invitations, after which they'd send payment. Of course they only wanted the invitation so they could get into the country. We went along with this a few times in the 1990s, then were contacted by the State Department, who asked us to stop.
  • Every few months we get an email from someone letting us know that a "top junior player" from some other country would like to attend our camps, and asking us how much we'd pay for the honor.
  • One 1800 player caused great havoc in our camp. He refused to do the drills, instead insisting on randomly hitting the ball all over the table with a hardbat while aggressively lecturing others about the wrongness of their using sponge and other apparent shortcomings. After two days of this, a delegation of players approached me and said they'd no longer hit with this player. I was going to have to talk to the player the next morning, but he didn't show up. I later learned he'd gotten into his car and driven halfway across the country to another camp, where he caused equal havoc.
  • During lunch at Lake Forrest Mall, one kid disappeared. After an hour we asked security to search for him. They searched everywhere, and couldn't find him. Finally, after several hours, we called his parents, who said "Oh, we didn't tell you? We picked him up at the mall."
  • At the end of one camp we arranged for a group to go to Kings Dominion. While there one player disappeared. After a few hours of looking for him along with security, I finally called his parents to ask if he'd called home. The mom went into hysterics. We finally found him - he'd wandered off and had spent the day on his own in the water park area, ignoring all the very loud announcements calling his name.
  • There are many more - perhaps in another blog. I have to go coach.

2006 vs. 2012

Yesterday I blogged about how much junior development has improved in the last six years, and compared the junior top 15 rankings from the Nov/Dec 2006 issue to the current one. Here's a chart that shows this even better, comparing the #1 and #15 then and now, showing just how dramatic the improvement has been since the advent of full-time training centers all over the country. It's amazing to me that, for example, the #15 junior in the country today would be #2 in 2006! The depth has exploded.


2006 #1

2012 #1

2006 #15

2012 #15

Under 18 Boys

2418 (would be #13 in current rankings)



2387 (would be #2 in 2006)

Under 16 Boys

2418 (would be #6 in current rankings)



2310 (would be #6 in 2006)

Under 14 Boys

2323 (would be #6 in current rankings)



2153 (would be #5 in 2006)

Under 12 Boys

2044 (would be #10 in current rankings)



1916 (would be #3 in 2006)

Under 10 Boys

2044  (would be #1 in current rankings, but the #2 was only 1495)


(#2 is 1920)


1170 (would be #5 in 2006)

Under 18 Girls

2330 (would be #4 in current rankings)



2112 (would be #4 in 2006)

Under 16 Girls

2113 (would be #7 in current rankings)



2002 (would be #3 in 2006)

Under 14 Girls

2029 (would be #7 in current rankings)



1786 (would be #4 in 2006)

Under 12 Girls

2029 (would be #3 in current rankings)



1213 (would be #9 in 2006)

Under 10 Girls

894 (would be #12 in current rankings)


80 (!)

372 (would be #4 in 2006)

ITTF Coaching Seminar

Here's an ITTF article about the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar Richard McAfee ran in Austin, TX, the ninth one to be run in the U.S. (I ran one of them.)

Waldner - Through the Years

Here's a video (6:21) that shows Jan-Ove Waldner through the years, starting when he's a kid, including interviews and showing his development. (Doesn't actually start until 18 seconds in.)

Owen Wilson's Late-Night Ping-Pong

Here's the article from People Magazine.

Bryan Brothers to Play Table Tennis for Charity

Here's a very short article about the Bryan Brothers (world #1 tennis doubles team) playing in a charity ping-pong tournament at Spin NY on Aug. 23 to benefit FDNY.

Hardbat From the Past

Here are three clips I saw recently posted showing hardbat from the past.

The Movie Ping Pong

You can now watch the movie online - but it'll cost you 9.99 pounds (about $15.68). The documentary features "8 players with 703 years between them compete in the World over 80s Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia." More info, and a preview, are at the link.

A Handy Table Tennis Racket

Let me re-emphasize - this is a Handy Table Tennis Racket!


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April 3, 2012

Wang Liqin didn't show up

Alas, Wang Liqin didn't show up at the airport yesterday. (See my blog yesterday about this.) Neither did I, since it was of course an April Fool's Joke. I couldn't actually do it on April 1, since that was a Sunday and I blog Mon-Fri, so I started the blog off by writing, "As reported yesterday..." The story spread through the Internet like wildfire. Several players at our Spring Break camp heard about it and thought it might be true. I received dozens of emails. This despite my talking about his nine-year-old superstar son Tongtong (Tong Tong Gong is the top rated cadet in Maryland), about his science fiction writing career (including "a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons" - I'm a SF writer, not him!), and so on.

Strangest and weirdest shots in table tennis

I would rarely, if ever, do these shots in a serious match - but in practice? Why not. I do all of these sometimes, especially near the end of practice matches against lower players, especially kids, who often enjoy the variation from the norm.

  • Backspin lobs. Not against smashes - I do these against serves and pushes. The goal is to make the ball land as short as possible, and to bounce backwards. Then either the opponent is caught off guard and can't even touch it as it bounces backwards, or they go to the side of the table and cream it. In the latter case, however, they often hit downward so much that there's little forward motion, and so all I have to do is run to where the ball will drop and either lob against or perhaps counter-attack. I do this shot against most of the kids in practice matches, usually the last point or two.
  • Forehand tomahawk lobs. If some smashes to your wide forehand, why not do one of these? With the racket tip up, sidespin lob the ball back so that when it hits the opponent's side, it bounces nearly sideways to the left (away from a right-handed opponent). It's almost impossible for most players to smash this ball anywhere except cross-court - especially since they often make a last-second lunge at the unexpected sideways jump - and so they keep smashing to the wide forehand, allowing you to keep tomahawking your lobs. (Interesting note - James Therriault, the premier U.S. lobber from the late 80's and 90's, lobbed like this on his forehand rather than the conventional way, with the tip down.)
  • Backspin comeback serves. You serve the ball high, but with so much backspin it bounces back. (Sort of like the backspin lob described above.) If done properly, the ball bounces back over the net. If the opponent doesn't come around to the side, he gets aced. Even if he goes to the side of the table he's often late and can't make a strong shot. But if he does get there in time, it's an easy kill for him at wide angles. Of course if you serve it really high, then it's like a chop lob, and if the opponent mistakenly smashes straight down, you may be able to run it down.
  • Fifty-foot serve. If you have fifty feet between tables (or even if you don't), why not try this serve? It's great for exhibitions. Serve from about fifty feet away, directly from the side of the table. You can do it either forehand tomahawk (racket tip up, so it curves to the left for a righty) or forehand pendulum (racket tip down, so it curves right for a righty) style, though you can probably get more distance tomahawk style. Serve high into the air well behind the table, and let it curve back, and bounce on both sides of the table. If you actually practice this serve, you'll find it easier than it looks, assuming you can put good spin on your serves. Once you land one the others become easier.
  • Underhand counter-smash. When lobbing, if the opponent smashes to your middle but not too hard, why do a conventional return? Counter-smash underhanded. I saw Jan-Ove Waldner do this in a match once, and have added it to my annual repertoire of shots. (Annual as in I land one about once a year. I did one in a tournament one time and won the point.)
  • Forehand pendulum return. If you have a good forehand pendulum serve, and you get a ball hit at your middle, why not return it with the forehand pendulum motion? I've done this a few times even in serious matches. I first saw this shot in the late 1970s by Charles Butler, a two-winged looper rated about 2300, who was about 6'4" with very long arms. He had a huge middle, and sometimes used this shot to cover for it.
  • Scissors-kick smash. Against a lob, why not jump in the air and do a mid-air scissors kick as you smash the ball? Dan Seemiller is very good at this - it's how he smashes most lobs. And it looks great in exhibitions. It's actually a serious shot, as it allows you to hit the ball from a higher point than normal, and the scissors kick adds power.
  • Blowing the ball back. This should be the standard way to return high, no-spin balls. My record is 33 in a row.

150th five-day camp

I believe the Spring Break Camp I'm running this week at the MDTTC (along with my co-coaches, with 30+ players) is the 150th five-day camp I've run. It's possible I forgot a few from the 1990s, in which case I've done more than 150. That's 750 days of running training camps, or over two years of my life. Not to mention yesterday, today, and the next three days, with six hours of coaching in the camp per day, plus private coaching.

This summer we'll be running camps all summer long, Mon-Fri, starting June 18 and ending Aug. 24 - that's eleven straight camps. Co-coaches are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. See you there!

A faster forehand topspin

Here's a video from PingSkills on developing a faster forehand topspin (2:15).

Keith Pech to College Nationals

And here's the article!

Martina Navratilova playing table tennis

Here's a 32-second video of the tennis great playing table tennis - and check out her smash five seconds in!


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