MDTTC Open House

April 23, 2012

Tip of the Week

Reverse Forehand Pendulum Serve.

Congrats to the USA Olympians!

Making the Olympic Team for the U.S. were (L-R) Erica Wu, Lily Zhang, Ariel Hsing, and Timothy Wang. And here is the ITTF coverage, which has lots of article, pictures, and complete results. Special thanks to USATT as well for providing live online coverage. (Unfortunately, I was coaching nearly all day Fri-Sun, and so only saw a few minutes of one match.)  (Side note - I'm told Gao Jun dropped out because of a knee injury.)

Grassroots table tennis

There was a discussion at a USATT board meeting about eight years ago on the subject of grassroots development. While some wanted to focus almost exclusively on elite development, most were for grassroots development. And then the discussion began.

Several board members insisted that grassroots development meant developing national team members. When I pointed out that that was what elite development meant, I got some serious eye-rolling. They really and truly had the two confused. When I argued that grassroots development, to me, meant increasing USATT membership (primarily through leagues and junior development), they didn't think that was USATT's job - but thought it might be useful to bring in revenue for their own version of "elite" grassroots development.

We move forward a few years. The board is still split between elite development and grassroots development. Publicly, all are for both, but privately some are more for one than the other. But again, there's this disagreement over what it really means. The consensus now seems more toward recreational development. Technically, that is grassroots development, but it is not particularly relevant to what is needed to develop table tennis in the U.S.

After a board member explained his plan to create recreational players through leagues, and how he didn't care if they became USATT members or not, I asked him this. "If you got 1000 new players this way, would it be a success?" He said that would be a good start. Then I asked, "How about 10,000 new players?" That, he said, would be pretty successful. Then I pointed out that, according to surveys, there are already 15 million recreational players in the U.S., and if he brought in 10,000 new players that number would increase to 15.01 million. If he brought in 100,000 new players, that'd be 15.1 million. Not particularly helpful.

What USATT needs to focus on is the same thing successful table tennis countries all over the world focus on - increasing membership. And when I say membership, I mean paying membership. USATT has 8000. Germany has 700,000. England 500,000. France, Italy, Belgium, and others all have memberships in the multiple hundred thousands as well. (We won't even talk about Asia, where the numbers are even larger.) They did this through grassroots development. (Much of this is recreational development through leagues, but with a direct pipeline to membership by requiring membership to play in the leagues, and by setting up a national network of such leagues.) So did nearly every successful sport in the U.S. and around the world.

And yet several outspoken board members (with zero disagreement from others - do they agree or they just don't speak up?) have argued that the situation in the U.S. is unique, and that we cannot learn from what other countries and other sports have done successfully. It makes me sick when I hear this. While every country has a "unique" situation, people in the U.S. are not aliens, and are not so different than people in other countries. People in the U.S. pretty much respond to the same things people in other countries do. There's a lot we can learn from others, and apply to our own situation, but it seems we don't want to.

USATT will become a success when it learns these lessons. That means setting specific goals, and creating programs to reach those goals. (For example, the goal of 100 successful junior programs within five years, or a nationwide network of leagues with 100,000 players within ten years.) What it doesn't mean is creating task forces with vague goals, putting the first board member who raises his hand as the task force leader (rather than doing a serious search for the best qualified person, and then recruiting that person), and then terminating the task force two or three years later after it predictably hasn't accomplished anything, as we seem to do over and over. (See my blog entry on this from Sept. 26, 2011, exactly two years after USATT's 2009 Strategic Meeting. The Junior and "Grow Membership Through Added Value" task forces have since both been disbanded, with no programs implemented to accomplish their vague goals.)

Warren Buffett challenges Ariel Hsing to Rematch

Yes, the grudge match is on, and will take place on May 6. Ariel will also take on other challengers at the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting. Perhaps Mr. Buffett will bring his big paddle again?

MDTTC Open House

Here's Alan Lang's article on the MDTTC Grand Re-Opening & Open House. That's me on the microphone. On the table is Derek Nie (unseen on left) and Crystal Wang, with Nathan Hsu and Tong Tong Gong watching with their backs to us. The four did demonstrations as part of the Open House.

2012 Broward March Open Highlights

Here's a highlights video of Brian Pace winning the Broward March Open (5:06).

Six table tennis pictures

Here are six table tennis pictures: What society thinks you do, what my friends think you do, what Asians think you do, what Americans think you do, what you think you do, and what you really do.

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April 13, 2012

Planning Day - new programs

Today I'm planning out new programs for MDTTC. It used to be complicated doing this, with limited table space, but with the MDTTC expansion (10,000 square feet, 18 tables, more if we squeeze) we can run multiple programs at the same time. New programs include:

  • An expansion of our beginning junior program to all juniors of all levels, so that they train at the same time, though players are paired with players of roughly equal level. I may invite some advanced players to the program for free, provided they agree to practice 30 of the 90 minutes with beginning or intermediate players. 
  • A new ten-week adult beginning class.
  • An intermediate-advanced training program.
  • A serving seminar (three 30-minute sessions) followed by ongoing serving practice sessions (30 min per week).

Once the programs are set, I'll put together an MDTTC Newsletter to send to all those on our email list, as well as sending releases to local newspapers. (While we hope they'll do coverage, the primary purpose of sending to newspapers is to get in their calendar sections.)

One idea I'm considering is to invite parents of beginning younger kids to come in for a session where we teach them to feed multiball to their kids. They can't really rally with their kids both because the kids are unable to really rally very well yet, and the parents mostly aren't players. But it doesn't take long for even a non-player to learn to feed simple multiball fairly accurately, and then they can do this with their kids.

Or maybe I shouldn't be planning programs on Friday the 13th?

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

Yesterday I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, with 54 new pictures and 21 new celebrities. There are now 1388 pictures of 810 celebrities. (You may notice a bunch of pictures of baseball star Nick Swisher of the Yankees against comedian and Youtube celebrity KevJumba. Here's the hilarious 4:43 video of their challenge match!) New this month:

Politicians/Leaders

  • Hu Jintao, president of China (new photo)
  • Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State (new picture)
  • Dave Cameron, British Prime Minister (new photo)
  • Boris Johnson, mayor of London (2 new pictures)
  • Winston Lord, former U.S. Ambassador to China and Assistant Secretary of State
  • Ingo Wolf, former minister of the interior of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) (2 pictures)
  • Kevin Greene, Australian minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Major Events

Actors

  • Zac Efron, actor
  • Susan Sarandon, actress (new picture)
  • KevJumba, comedian and Youtube star (9 photos)
  • David Niven, actor (new picture)
  • Andy Lau, Hong Kong actor, singer, and film producer (new picture)
  • Thomas Gottschalk, German talk show host
  • Otto Waalkes, German comedian and actor

Singers

  • Justin Bieber, singer (new picture)
  • Cody Simpson, singer
  • Kwon Yuri, singer
  • Chris Martin, singer

Athletes

  • Tim Tebow, football player (5 new pictures)
  • Martina Navratilova, tennis player
  • Anna Kournikova, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Nick Swisher, baseball player (9 photos)
  • Evan Longoria, baseball player
  • Blake Griffin, basketball player (new picture)
  • Martin St. Louis, hockey player
  • Duncan Keith, hockey player
  • Xabi Alonso, Spanish soccer player
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Portuguese soccer player
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian boxer (new picture)
  • Sebastian Coe, former British middle distance Olympic Gold Medalist and member of parliament (new picture)

Cartoon Characters

  • The Flintstones, cartoon characters (7 pictures of Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, and Arnold the paperboy)
  • Pink Panther, cartoon character

Wang Liqin to leave Chinese National Team?

Here's an article about it.

Best points from the 2012 World Team Championships

Here's another highlights video of the best points from the 2012 World Team Championships (4:42).

MDTTC Open House

Here's an article by local junior Alan Lang on the recent MDTTC Open House.

On April 7, 2012, the Maryland Table Tennis Center (mdttc.com) hosted an Open house to commemorate its recent renovation and expansion. Over two hundred players and table tennis enthusiasts attended. They were given free merchandise, along with more valuable prizes that were raffled off. They were also given free entry into a three-point tournament (single elimination, all games to three points). Table tennis demonstrations featured several top players, including nationally decorated player Han Xiao (men's singles finalist and men's doubles champion at the 2011 Nationals), MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (last year's Eastern Open and Cary Cup Open champion), and USATT certified national coach and Hall of Famer Larry Hodges. The demos also included the club’s rising juniors, including Derek Nie, already participating at an international level at age 11 (and a finalist at the USA Nationals last year in 10 and under); U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Champion Nathan Hsu; USA Cadet (under 15) National Team Member Tong Tong Gong; and Crystal Wang, who last year achieved the highest rating of any under 10 player in U.S. history, boys or girls. Larry also gave a 30-minute seminar on serving with spin and deception, and he and John Hsu ran a 90-minute junior program for beginning juniors.

The Open House took place in the newly refurbished complex, which boasts several notable improvements. Most visibly, the club’s size has doubled to accommodate its rising activity. This has allowed for more and larger playing courts and larger spectator areas. Despite these augmentations, occupancy still seems be a problem due to the center’s rising popularity. “Even though we expanded, it’s still crowded,” notes long-time member George Nie, who won the three-point tournament. Other improvements include the relocation and expansion of the club store, higher quality restrooms and shower facilities, and the implementation of Wi-Fi Internet. Furthermore, a special red flooring, the “red carpet,” which offers improved traction and cushioning for players, has been expanded to cover the entire playing area.

With these enhancements, co-proprietor and USATT certified national coach Jack Huang hopes to create an environment that is both welcoming and conducive to serious play, intended especially for the club’s burgeoning junior population. As evidenced by those present at the festivities, the club still caters to a diverse population, including members from a wide array of ethnicities, age groups, and skill levels. Player Mohamed Youns describes this diversity as contributing to a “very enjoyable environment,” citing the pleasure that can be derived from competing against a variety of other players in a low stress setting. All said, the renovations come as a welcome rejuvenation of a table tennis center that furnishes precocious children and world-class table tennis players alike.

For more info on MDTTC (which opened in 1992), see their web page at www.mdttc.com, email them at marylandttc@gmail.com, or give them a call at 301-519-8580.

The Flintstones!

No collection of table tennis pictures is complete without The Flintstones. (This just went up in the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page - see segment above.) You probably recognize Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble playing (with Dino and Bamm-Bamm watching), but who is the other kid? That's Arnold the paperboy, the one who always outwits Fred. The pictures are from the episode Gloom Groom in season 4 in 1963. Here's the IMDB description: "Fred spends a fine afternoon in the backyard with little Pebbles. Arrive Arnold the News Boy who challenges Fred for a ping-ping game. Afterwards, Arnold offers to take care of Pebbles while Fred takes a nap on his hammock. He dreams that future years won't be good for old Fred, especially when an older Arnold begins to take his place in everything. And to make matters worse, Arnold gets engaged with Pebbles!"

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April 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

The 3-2-1 Placement Rule.

Seamless balls

As some of you may know, the ITTF is going to seamless balls. The first ones are out. Here's an analysis (5:44) by Australian star William Henzell - and it's not good. Some quotes:

  • "They sound broken."
  • "Bounce feels different and generally higher."
  • "The bounce will take some getting used to and the ball will be in a different position to what you're used to."
  • "We found there was less spin generally."
  • "The balls wobbled from side to side when spun."
  • "The new balls are definitely harder."
  • "The new balls feel heavier."
  • "After just a few minutes of play we had our first broken ball."
  • "We all hope this will improve."

Cheng gone, me busy

Cheng Yinghua is vacationing in China for three weeks (April 9-May 1). I'm subbing for a number of his students during this time (as are the other coaches), so I'll be rather busy and tired. But hey, I get paid for it!

MDTTC Open House and Spring Break Camp

The MDTTC Open House this past Saturday (10:30 AM - 4PM) was a big success. About 200 players showed up, including many new ones. Dozens of new kids showed up, most of them in the beginning junior class held at the start. Numerous prizes were given away in various raffles. The demos (featuring Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, plus Cheng Yinghua in a multiball demo) and exhibitions (me versus Derek in a humorous one, Han Xiao versus Jeffrey Zeng Xun in a more serious one) went off really well. The 30-minute service seminar I ran was jammed with new faces. And the three-point tournament (46 players) went great, with George Nie ($30 gift certificate) defeating Adam Yao ($20) in the all-junior final, with Lixin Lang and Kyle Wang ($10 each) in the semifinals. Here are pictures taken by raffle winner (and Tong Tong's dad) Chaoying Gong. The pictures show the club after the recent renovation and expansion.

Our five-day Spring Break Camp ended on Friday, with over 40 players. This is the 21st consecutive year we've had a spring break camp, ever since we opened in 1992. (As noted last week, it was the 150th five-day camp I've run or co-run.) Friday morning was the final training session; that afternoon we had practice tournaments. For the beginners, I put chocolates on the table and fed multiball, and they kept whatever ones they knocked off. (I had a little fun at one point, demonstrating the art of blindfold multiball - when you've been feeding multiball for 30 years you can close your eyes and still do it pretty accurately.)

Interviews

Here are some interviews (8:55) taken of local junior stars (or past junior star in Barbara's case) George and Derek Nie, Barbara Wei, and Lilly Lin, taken at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and Club JOOLA. (The MDTTC interviews of George, Derek, and Barbara were taken before the recent expansion that doubled its size.)

Jim Butler vs. Peter Li

A number of people were rather shocked when Jim Butler, after a few months practice, was able to upset USA National Men's Champion and Finalist Peter Li and Han Xiao at the recent Cary Cup. Part of the reason was they were more used to spinny backhands, and Butler's flatter backhand gave them trouble, as did his serves. Here's the video of Jim Butler versus Peter Li (35:57).

Baltimore Orioles Ping-Pong

I received an email this weekend from a PR person from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. It seems they are playing a lot of table tennis in the clubhouse, with shortstop JJ Hardy and former center field star and now trainer Brady Anderson the best. These two are interested in receiving coaching to improve. So they are hiring me to come to Oriole Park to coach them in the clubhouse, with coverage by MASN, the Orioles network! Wrote the PR guy of Hardy, "He seemed pretty serious about learning to play ping pong better." I'll post more info when the dates are finalized.

Tiger Woods on table tennis

Here's a quote from Table Tennis Nation from Tiger Woods:

Q: Is there any correlation between hand-eye coordination required in videogames and hand-eye coordination in golf?

Tiger: "Absolutely. I think that people don't realize this, but most golfers are really good at table tennis and pool. And I think it's just because of the fact that our sport is so hand-eye based, and guys just have a good feel with their hands. And those two sports, table tennis and pool, correlate to what we do in golf whether it's reflexes with table tennis or pool, which is like putting to us."

Easter Pong Bunny

Here's a cartoon of the Easter Bunnies playing ping-pong. And here's the Newgy Eastern Bunny. And here's a video of a real rabbit attacking a ping-pong paddle (1:43)!

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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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April 4, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting and Coaching

Yesterday we finished Day Two of the MDTTC Spring Break Camp. Anyone who thinks coaching is just about coaching hasn't done much coaching - at least not with younger kids. I had most of the beginning kids in my group yesterday, average age around 8 or 9. I've learned to referee fights about cups and dominoes (yes, it's a table tennis camp), about setting up doubles teams ("I won't play doubles with a girl" says one, and another says, "My mom says I have to play with her!"), and how best to get them to aim for a target on the table (either use candy they win if they knock it off the table, or use a drink bottle and tell them it's "worm juice" that I have to drink if they hit it).

Oh, and their shots are getting better and better!!!

Beginning kids often hit the ball off the end over and over when learning new strokes. The cure? I tell them, "Put the next ball in the net." With clockwork efficiency, they inevitably hit the next shot perfectly on the table, to their utter surprise.

One kid really, Really, REALLY wanted to learn to serve with sidespin, but no matter how hard he tried, all he got was backspin. After many tears were shed, something clicked, and now he's serving with sidespin.

There are 34 players in the camp, all but two 15 or younger. The strongest players in the camp are Tong Tong Gong (age 14, rated 2334) and Nathan Hsu (15, rated 2317). Also in the camp are 11-year-old Derek Nie (2080) and 10-year-old Crystal Wang (on right, as Barbara Wei smacks in a forehand; Crystal's rated 2079, but was recently an even 2150 before she began focusing more on looping). Coaches are myself (need to work on the kid's grip), Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (The pictures linked here are from the Coconut Cup tournament held this past Saturday - see "MDTTC Open House and Pictures" segment below.)

Fourteen-year-old Karl Montgomery (rated 1963) took me and my clipboard down on Monday, 11-6. Yesterday we went at it again twice, and this time I won 11-5, 11-9. He's tough - he can loop both hard and spinny over and over, moves me in and out with hard and soft loops and drop shots, mixes in backhand loops, and ends the point to my middle.

There are few things funnier than yelling out "Emily!" and watching the three inseparable girls with the same name, all about age nine, look up at the same time. We do this at least once every twenty minutes.

Chinese food (big portions) is delivered for lunch as part of the camp for $6. I had Chicken with Garlic Sauce. It was great! Only - friends don't let friends over age 20 eat an entire dish of Chinese food, as I lectured some of our players as I wiped the gravy off my face after eating it all. If I keep doing this all week I'm going to gain some weight.

MDTTC Open House and Coconut Cup Pictures

It's just three days until the MDTTC Open House! See you there this Saturday for demonstrations, exhibitions, a serving seminar, junior program, games, raffles, refreshments, and open play. Anyone who is anybody will be there; so should you. (MDTTC is in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.) Junior players should come for the 10:30AM-Noon junior training session. Adults should be there by noon, when the demonstrations and exhibitions begin. (Don't be late!)

Here are pictures taken at the recently renovated MDTTC this past Saturday during the Coconut Cup tournament by James Mu. I'm pictured in a few of them doing a group junior session on the back tables. Here's one of me and Jeffrey Zeng Xun working with a new kid. Even 2011 U.S. Men's Singles Finalist Han Xiao got in on the action (on right, playing doubles with Steve Hochman), as did the Over 50 Women's Champion Charlene Liu.

Reverse Penhold Backhands

After nearly a decade of playing against it semi-regularly, I still have trouble playing reverse penholders. I've played for 36 years now, and those first 26 pretty much ingrained my play against shakehand and "conventional" penhold backhands. I put conventional in quotes because what was once conventional is now unconventional as the new generation of penholders nearly all play with reverse penhold backhands. But when I play against it, something in my bring freezes up and I end up doing a lot of lobbing and fishing against these players. When I'm playing well I can sort of stick my racket out there and make solid counter-hits - I'm not hopeless against it - but I doubt I'll ever have the comfort level against this style backhand that I do against others. Here's world #3 Wang Hao's reverse penhold backhand in slow motion (2:16).

This segment was brought on by a practice match with a 12-year-old 1200-level junior who had a reverse penhold backhand, and while I won the match easily, I struggled to stay at the table with him in backhand exchanges. On a related note, while I know the basics of the shot, at some point I need to really learn the subtleties - probably by experimenting with it myself, as well as examining the grips and strokes of those who do it well.

World Team Championships Final

Here's a video (9:49) showing the men's final between China and Germany from a spectator's view (featuring the Zhang Jike-Timo Boll match), with a focus on the huge packed stadium (it's like an NBA basketball game) and all the pomp and ceremony of the event. When the Zhang-Boll match begins, the zoom lens puts you right in the action. (And here are some great photos taken during the Final.)

Justin Bieber vs. Ellen DeGeneres

Here's a picture and story about the two playing table tennis from Table Tennis Nation.

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