World Rankings

September 9, 2014

Teaching a Beginning Kid to Block

Recently I've had a lot of fun teaching two kids, ages six and seven, how to block. For some reason they find great joy in this. I'm teaching them all aspects of the game, even looping, but they keep begging to block against my loop - and so that's how we end each session.

Few kids at that age have the reflexes or coordination to really block against a ball with varying spin that moves around the table. It's worse if you serve topspin and then start looping, as they have to adjust to two different shots. So what I do to start the rally is to toss the ball up and loop the very first shot at them, right out of the air. Then I keep looping softly, trying to keep it to one spot with the same depth, while they block. (I'm focusing on backhand blocks, but also having them do forehand blocks.) To them it's like a video game, trying to keep the ball on the table against my heavy topspin. They're getting pretty good at it, and I'm getting some exercise.

2014 USATT Election Notice and Process

Here's the notice. And once again I'm pretty disappointed.

On Nov. 25, 2013, I blogged about how unfair it was that the USATT Bylaws were changed so that candidates can no longer get on the ballot by petition. The only way to get on is to have the USATT-appointed Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC) put you on. If they chose not to, potential candidates have no recourse. It used to be you could get on by petition, but no more. I blogged about this more extensively on Jan. 24, 2014.

On May 12, 2014, I wrote, "As I blogged about Jan. 24, 2014, the ICC Director, Rajul Sheth, wanted to run for the USATT Board, but the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee refused to put him on the ballot, with no reason ever given. I still find this unbelievable, both that they wouldn't put him on the ballot and that they have the power to do so, with no recourse such as getting on by petition - and no one from USATT has shown any interest in changing these silly dictatorial rules. It's an easy fix, as I pointed out in the blog. Which USATT board member will become a hero and make the motion to change this rule?"

This time I got a response that very day, as a USATT Board member (who shall remain nameless for now) emailed me that I was "mistaken," that the problem is being addressed, that there was a task force revising the election rules, and that they would be changed before the next election cycle. Well, the next election cycle is upon us, and there have been no changes, based on the election notice. As I pointed out in an ongoing email discussion I'm having this morning, "Only a bylaw change can change the election rules, and that has to come from the USATT Board. If the USATT Board has not approved a bylaw change, then the election rules haven’t changed. So unless there was a bylaw change at a board meeting whose minutes are not yet up, AND the NGB in defiance or ignorance of this put up this notice without USATT Board approval, nothing has changed."

In one of my emails this morning it took me about 60 seconds to write the following motion that any USATT board member could make, and would lead to changing the bylaws:

"I move that starting with the election cycle starting in Fall, 2014, that the Nominating and Governance Committee create wording for the USATT bylaws that allow potential candidates for USATT office to get on the ballot by petition with the signatures of 150 USATT members, and that they be allowed to get these signatures at the North American Teams and/or USA Nationals."

Sixty seconds. That's all it took. (Okay, I type fast, and I did make a minor wording change afterwards.) If no one on the USATT board can do something this simple, how can they do anything that's more difficult - you know, like develop the sport? (ADDENDUM: There was a motion by the board at the 2014 U.S. Open meeting - Motion 1 - to "recommend" that the NGC change the rules, but since it only recommended rather than directed, didn't specify that it was needed for the election cycle, didn't ask to allow candidates to be included by petition, and because the motion wasn't made until June - seven months after the issue was raised in November - it likely won't happen this election cycle.) 

Regarding the election, once again I'm toying with running. But I'd probably be a hypocrite if I did so. Why? Because I simply don't have time any more to do the things I've argued the Board needs to do. (See one such listing in my Nov. 25, 2013 blog, which I already cited above.) Anyone who's been around USATT for a while knows I've been a very active USATT volunteer (and sometimes staff person) for many years. But I have consistently failed to convince others there of the need to change our ways if we want to really develop the sport in this country. Every time we have one of these discussions at USATT Board Meetings and Strategic Meetings, there are convincing people who "look good in a suit" who argue the opposite, and nothing changes.

But if I did run, what would happen? Since other Board members aren't taking initiative to do what's necessary - if they did, they'd be getting done - I'd have to do so myself. But one of the prime requisites for running for the Board (IMHO) is to have the time to do the job. There was a time I could have done so, but these days I'm inundated, trying to do group and private coaching, promote my club, writing about table tennis, and my outside science fiction writing career. I have no interest in running for the Board and becoming another "judge" who sits back and simply judges things brought before them, as opposed to what's really needed - active legislative types who work to grow the sport. As I wrote in my Jan. 24, 2014 blog, "I want candidates who will pro-actively try to develop our sport, i.e. think of themselves as executives and legislators, not just as judges who sit in judgment of whatever comes before them. We need ones who will bring things before the board and make things happen."

And this whole election fiasco is a classic example of board members not making things happen. And it's so simple - all someone has to do is make the motion to allow candidates to get on the board by petition, perhaps using the past 150 signatures from USATT members as a requirement, and allowing them to get the signatures at the Teams in November or the Nationals in December. (They can even consult with the NGC first.) But it won't happen unless someone on the board stops being a passive judge and takes legislative action.

New World Rankings

In the September world rankings, on the men's side, China's 17-year-old phenom Fan Zhendong has moved up to #2 in the world, after Xu Xin. China now has the #1-4 and #6 players, with Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov breaking up the monopoly at #5 (down one spot from #4 last time as Zhang Jike passed him again). Timo Boll, the #2 German, remains at #9, while their #3, Patrick Baum, moved up from #17 to #14. Germany also has Bastian Steger at #18. China also has players at #10, 13, and 25. On the women's side, the top twelve remained unchanged except for a flip of the #6 and #7 positions. China still has #1-3 and #5-7, with Singapore's Feng Tianwei breaking up the monopoly at #4. One big jump - Romania's Elizabeta Samara jumped from #22 to #13, and is the top-ranked non-Asian woman.

Para World Championships

They are taking place right now in Beijing, China, Sept. 6-15. Here's the USATT page and the ITTF page for the event. Representing USA are Tahl Leibovitz and Sherri Umscheid, with Angie Bengtsson the USA Coach.

Jim Butler Wins 2014 Southern Open

Here's the article, results, and picture.

Xu Xin and Ma Long Training

Here's a video (7:25) from a year ago showing Chinese stars Xu Xin (#1 in the world, lefty penholder) and Ma Long (currently #3, former #1, righty shakehander) training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. You can learn a lot by watching both their form and the drills they do.

Table Tennis Unbelievable

Here's a highlights video (9:39) with some of the greatest shots and rallies of the past four years.

Clayton Kershaw and the LA Dodgers

Kershaw, the LA Dodgers pitching star, ran a table tennis charity event last Thursday. Here are pictures. The charity is Ping Pong 4 Purpose.

Two-Year-Old on Mini-Table

Here's the picture.

Elephant vs. Penguin

Here's the picture! Some nice artwork. (A search shows that I actually linked to this two years ago, but thought I'd show it again.)

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April 4, 2014

The Forehand and Saturation Training

On Wednesday I gave my weekly lesson to an up-and-coming nine-year-old, who (for the moment) is about 1400. He has incredible ball control for a kid his age - he has great lobbing, fishing, and chopping skills, better than most 2000 players. He also has a nice backhand attack, both looping and hitting. And he can keep the ball in play seemingly forever, even if the opponent keeps attacking. But his forehand can be awkward. So our recent training has been overwhelmingly on his forehand loop, where we spend about 35-40 minutes of each session on. (His level is only 1400 partly because of the forehand, where he likes to lob, and because he tends to play way too soft in general, letting opponents blast the ball at him, and at nine years old he's not always big enough to run them all down. I'm constantly working on teaching him to stay at the table, which isn't easy since he likes to play from the barriers.)

This saturation training is starting to pay off in drills, where he sometimes looks really good, but other times he falls back in his old habits, where every other shot is different, and where he often falls back and fishes. He also has a tendency to take the ball at different times in rallies - he might loop one off the bounce, one at the top of the bounce, one on the drop, and then one off the floor, and he'll often use different stroking techniques for each. He also likes to sometimes loop straight topspin, other times with sidespin, and he likes to suddenly hook the ball really wide and watch in glee as I try to get to it. All this shows fine ball control, but since we're trying to systematically fix his forehand technique, it's not so good in this context, where I want him to systematically develop the shot until he can do it in this sleep. At the same time, I don't want him to lose interest by forcing him to become a robot; it's a constant balancing act. I'm guessing whoever was Waldner's coach had to go through something similar.

Until recently he often resisted spending so much time systematically working on his forehand, but recently he's matured, and is starting to see the importance. So it's great seeing him so determined to develop his forehand to match the rest of his game. He's also very much into developing tricky serves. Watch out for him in a year or so.

Table Tennis Niches

I my blog yesterday I listed various people and their table tennis niche. Here's a note I received from Steve Grant, who should have been listed either in the history or writing niches, along with Chuck Hoey (curator of the ITTF history museum) in the history niche. (I added the links below.)

Hi Larry,

As you know, Steve Grant's (my) niche is both writing and history, as is clear from the many articles written for Table Tennis Collector (publication of the ITTF Museum) and of course the book Ping Pong Fever---the Madness That Swept 1902 America, which showed for the first time who really invented the game of table tennis and how the game really got the name Ping Pong..

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation filmed me this week, playing outdoors in Tomkins Square Park with 1902 drumhead rackets and later batting the ball with Spiderman in Times Square, for an hour-long documentary that will essentially be a humorous telling of my book. I also had to continually bat a ball on my racket while hailing a cab, opening the door and then shouting, Take us to the ping pong party! The driver replied, Sure, that's easy to find!

Oh, in the history niche, I would add Chuck Hoey too.

Regards,

Steve

MDTTC Coaching Staff

The MDTTC coaching staff here in Gaithersburg, MD keeps getting bigger! Yesterday marked the return of Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"), a 2600 player who coached at MDTTC for a couple of years before returning to China to work on his immigration status. He's back permanently, and so rejoins our staff, which now consists of me (USATT Hall of Famer!), Cheng Yinghua (USATT Hall of Famer and former Chinese team member and 2800 player), Jack Huang (former USA #1 and Chinese team member who should be in the USATT Hall of Fame), Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey," 2600 player), Wang Qing Liang ("Leon," 2600 chopper/looper), Chen Ruichao ("Alex," recently arrived lefty 2600-2650 player), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen," 2500 penholder), Chen Jie ("James," lefty 2300 player), Raghu Nadmichettu (2400 player), and John Hsu (2300 player). Of course ratings don't always indicate coaching level, but let's just say these player/coaches were carefully selected for both their playing skills (as practice partners) and coaching abilities.

National College Championships

As noted in yesterday's blog, the USA National Collegiate Championships start this morning, April 4-6, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, and here's where they will have results. They also have live-streaming, starting 9:30AM this morning.

Farewell to Joyce Grooms

Today is Joyce's retirement day. Hopefully they are throwing a party at USATT Headquarters for our long-time membership director! I've worked with her a lot over the past decade, and have nothing but praise for her efficient professionalism. Enjoy your retirement - maybe even play a little pong now that you have time to see it from the playing side! (Her picture is on the USATT staff page.)  

New World Rankings

Here are the new ITTF world rankings. On the women's side the top ten remain unchanged from last month, with Austria's Sofia Polcanova jumping from #16 to #11, just behind Germany's Petrissa Solja as the top two Europeans. The top three men remain unchanged (China's Xu Xin, Ma Long, and Fan Zhendong), but Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov moved from #6 to #4. This knocked Zhang Jike down to #5, which is surprising for the guy who keeps winning the Worlds and Olympics, and is generally acknowledged to be the best in the world, at least in a big tournament. With the rise of Ovtcharov, the question for the upcoming World Teams is if he and Timo Boll (world #9, former #1) along with Patrick Baum (#21) and Bastian Steger (#27), can challenge the Chinese.

Chinese Team Members Play with Poly Balls

Here's an article in Chinese (with an English translation here) about Chinese team members playing with the new poly balls. The four players competing with it were Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Xu Xin, and Fan Zhendong.

Kim Taek Soo: No Regrets

Here's the article from Table Tennista.

World Championships Promo

Here's the video (1:03) from the ITTF for the upcoming Worlds in Tokyo, April 28 - May 5.

Table Tennis Joke Ties

Here they are (along with some tennis ones), the perfect gift!

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December 5, 2013

Post Teams Coaching

Now that the North American Teams are over my coaching changes focus. The last few weeks before the Teams I was preparing players for the tournament. Now comes the long period where we focus on developing their games for the longer haul. In particular, I have several players who I'll be working on topspinning their backhands more. I also want to greatly improve serve and receive. And as noted yesterday, we're going to work more on sports psychology. But in general there's going to be a lot more work on fundamentals while setting and aiming to achieve long-term goals.

Arm Problems

HERE WE GO AGAIN!!! But it makes no sense. None. Nada.

I think it was a couple of months ago that I had serious arm problems and had to take two weeks off. I've had minor problems since then, but nothing serious. Then, last week, just before the North American Teams, the arm started hurting again. Part of it might have been the extra coaching hours getting players ready for the Teams. But it wasn't that bad, and I knew I'd be able to take a week off to rest the arm during and just after the Teams. (I coached at the Teams, but except for one session warming up a player for ten minutes didn't play any.) So I rested the arm for exactly one week, from last Wednesday until yesterday.

About five minutes into the session I was grabbing my arm. At first it just seemed tight. Then it began to hurt - badly - especially when I hit backhands. It was the same injury as two months ago, and the same one I'd had as a recurring problem in the 1980s, but not in between. HOW DID MY ARM INJURY GET WORSE WHILE RESTING IT FOR A WEEK???

I finished the session, doing lots of multiball and avoiding hitting backhands. I started my next session - I only had two hours scheduled fortunately - but could barely continue. "Fortunately" (in quotes) my student (Doug) was also having some shoulder problems, and we agreed it'd be best to take the rest of the night off.

I iced the arm last night and again this morning. I've already cancelled my session today. Tomorrow I'm a practice partner from 5-6PM, and have a private session afterwards. I'll skip the 5-6 session, but I think I'll try to do the 6-7PM one - but no backhands. When needed, I'll play forehands from the backhand side. Hitting backhands is what really causes the problems, but once I hit backhands repetitively for even a few minutes the arm swells up and I can't do much of anything. Fortunately, most of my weekend coaching is group sessions, where I don't have to use my arm except for multiball. But I have a few sessions in there.

I'm also going to (finally) make an appointment to see a doctor or trainer.

The good news? My knees seem totally healed from the problems I've had there this past month. The week off really helped. Also, with the Teams over, and with the Nationals and Christmas coming up, my coaching schedule isn't very heavy right now. (I leave for the Nationals Sunday, Dec. 15, returning the morning of Sunday, Dec. 22.)

New World Rankings

The new World Rankings are out. On the men's side, the big change is Fan Zhendong of China jumping from 11 to 5. Chinese men now hold the #1-5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 18, 22, 43, 58, 61, 91, and 100 spots. Germany has #6, 8, 24, 25, 49, 60, and 78. Taiwan has #9, 23, and 88. South Korea has #19, 26, 27, 35, 36, 39, 46, 56, 65, 68, and 83. Hong Kong has #21, 31, 96, and 98. USA's top three are #352 (Yuan Xiaojie), 367 (Timothy Wang) and 393 (Wang Qingliang).

On the women's side, the only major change near the top is Ai Fukuhara of Japan jumping from 14 to 9. Chinese women now hold the #1-3, 5-8, 11, 15, 22, 29, 34, 36, 51, 52, 65, 66, 83, 88, 89, and 97-99 spots. Singapore has #4, 20, 69, and 74. Japan has #9, 10, 26, 37, 50, 57, 63, 64, 75, 76, 78-80, 90, and 94. South Korea has #12, 17, 21, 24, 25, 35, 47, 66, 72, 73, 85, and 91. USA's top three are #80 (Ariel Hsing), 110 (Lily Zhang), and 171 (Zheng Jiaqi).

World Junior Championships

They are going on right now in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8. You can follow all the action at the ITTF World Junior Championships page. USA players are: Boys - Kanak Jha, Theodore Tran, Kunal Chodri, and Allen Wang; Girls - Prachi Jha, Tina Lin, Ariel Hsing, and Erica Wu

Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Here's the article, interview, picture, and link to a video (1:48) of the basketball star hitting with members of the Chinese Team, with commentary in Chinese. He's a penholder.

Table Tennis Doll

Here it is!

Head Table Tennis

Here’s the bizarre video (5:05, with the “table tennis” starting about one minute in) of a new version of table tennis, where players head mini-volleyballs back and forth.

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February 5, 2013

Tim Boggan Arrives

This morning at 9:30 AM Tim Boggan will arrive for a 10-14 day stay. I'll be doing the page layouts (500+) and photo work (800+) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13 (as I've done for the past ones). Here's Tim's page (which I created and maintain for him), where you can buy the previous volumes.

Since we'll be working all day, Mon-Fri, until it's done, and since I'll be mostly coaching nights and weekends, I won't have much free time the next two weeks. (I'll be doing most of the blog late at night instead of early in the morning, since Tim will be up and waiting to get started early each morning.) If anyone is dreaming of asking me to do a time-wasting favor for them, well, here's what I have to say about that.

Tactical Matches

Here are more examples of tactics used this past weekend in practice matches.

In one I played a player with a really nice forehand smash. Just about anything that went there he'd smash (even my pushes if I weren't careful), and if I put the ball slow to his backhand, he'd step around and smash that as well. What to do? I took most short serves right off the bounce to his wide backhand with banana flips, which kept his forehand out of play. If the serve went long, I looped, again always wide to the backhand. I varied my serve, following them up with attack - you guessed it - into his wide backhand. His backhand blocking wasn't nearly as strong, and he almost never got a chance to smash. This was a case where he was literally waiting for me to go to this forehand so he could smash, so I almost never did, not unless he wandered toward his backhand side.

In another match I played an extremely fast junior who could pound the ball from both sides to all parts of the table, and was much quicker than me. There's no way I could really cover the whole table in a rally against him. Since he was using standard placement tactics - every ball to the wide corners or at my elbow - I employed a tactic I've blogged about before. I stood in a slight forehand stance, but toward my backhand side. I covered the wide backhand and middle with my backhand, using his own pace to rebound the ball back, countering the balls back wide to his backhand to keep his forehand out of play. I could barely keep up the pace he was setting, but eventually he'd change directions and go to my forehand. The instant I saw the change, I would step to the wide forehand and counter-attack. The two keys to that forehand counter-attack were 1) I was already standing with my feet in a forehand position so I'd be ready, and 2) I didn't look to see where the ball would go on my forehand side - I anticipated it would go wide. Essentially this moves my middle toward my forehand side. If his shot went a foot inside the forehand corner, I'd have been stuck (like a player caught with a ball hit at their elbow), but that's not how players are trained - and so I won.

Other tactics used in this match - lots of receive variation to throw him off, with flips, loops, and short and long pushes. When I attacked (mostly by looping except in fast rallies), I went after his forehand, which took his angle into my backhand away so I was able to follow with another forehand.

In another match against a big-looping junior with a passive receive I served lots of varied short serves. He'd push them, even chopping down on the side-top serves so he could push them low. But the key was that he was predictable, as well as vulnerable to varied amounts of backspin, sidespin, and topspin, since he was trying to push or chop-block them all back. So I could anticipate slow backspin returns every time, and since I didn't have to guard against a flip, I could go for a forehand loop every time. (Whenever it got close, I'd throw a fast, deep serve at him for a free point - he was rarely ready for it.) On his serve (almost all short) I mostly flipped to his wide backhand or dropped it short. Sometimes he'd wind up and rip a backhand loop; when he did that, I knew he was anticipating it, and on the next receive I'd aim to his backhand, and at the last second flip to his wide forehand. It got him every time.

British Rock Band Challenges Justin Bieber

The band Lawson has challenged Justin Bieber at table tennis. Who will win?

Chico Table Tennis Club

Here's an article about the Chico TTC in Durham, CA.

Kong Linghui on the Women's Trials

Here's an article about Kong Linghui, the Chinese Women's Coach. "The Squad Trials is getting much harder!"

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new world rankings. Zhang Jike drops to third! Here are the new rankings.

Lunar Cup Matches and an Exhibition

The 2013 Lunar New Year Cup Challenge Match was held in China, with the top six Chinese players competing: Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long against Chen Qi, Wang Liqin, and Wang Hao. (Actual matches are Xu vs. Chen; Zhang vs. Wang Liqin; and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao.) Also featured is an exhibition by former superstars Guo Yuehua and Chen Xinhua. Here's where you can watch the videos.

The Best of Samsonov, Schlager, Boll, Kreanga, and Primorac

Here's a highlights video (7:53) featuring many of the best European players.

1946 U.S. National Ping-Pong Championships

Here's vintage video footage (1:06) from the 1946 U.S. Open. It features several clips of Laszlo Bellak clowning around for the camera, including blowing the ball sideways (hey, that's my trick!), rallying by kicking the ball back, and other tricks.

Air Gun Fires Ping-Pong Balls at 900 MPH

See what happens when a ping-pong ball traveling Mach 1.2 strikes a ping-pong paddle!

Table Tennis Cookies

Mmmmmmm...

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January 8, 2013

The Schools Petition

Hopefully by now you're one of the 951 people who have signed the petition to "Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka 'Ping Pong' as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice." I first blogged about this back on Dec. 13 the day after it was created by the enterprising Joel Mitchell (and I was the fifth person to sign), and I blogged about it again on Jan. 4 (Friday). It's now featured on the USATT home page. I think it's great that we're working together on this. 

Unfortunately, to get a response from the White House we need at least 25,000 signatures by Jan. 11, which is this Friday. We're only 24,049 away!!! (And in the time it took me to write this blog, we got two more signatures - we're up to 953!)

So let's be honest; unless someone famous (hi Susan Sarandon) gets this on some extremely watched TV show, we're not going to get those 24,000+ signatures in the next three days. But suppose we did? Are schools really the answer?

Schools are Not the Answer (Not Yet)

I would argue that schools may be Step Two in developing our sport, but not Step One. And we're a long way from even getting started on Step One, which is to develop the sport ourselves so the schools will be interested in taking us to the next level. Sure, someone might put together a school league or club, but the key is that one of us - a table tennis person - has to do it, not the school itself. They are quite willing to make use of the few people we have who can do this. But until we show them table tennis is a growing sport that everyone else is doing, they won't jump on the bandwagon. In other words, schools are not the way to go until we are a larger sport. The way to grow junior table tennis in the country is through club programs, as is done all over Europe. Here are the problems with going through the schools, in no particular order:

1. School systems are not interested in adopting a small sport and making it big. That's our job. When we are a bigger sport, then they will be interested.

2. School systems are not interested in adopting a relatively expensive sport like table tennis (tables, nets, rackets, balls, constantly breaking and needing replacement, lots of storage space needed for tables) unless the sport is already popular. They can toss the kids a soccer ball, basketball, etc., and it's easier and cheaper, and they already have facilities for these and other large sports.

3. No sport in the U.S. has ever gotten big through schools, although a number of big sports got bigger because of schools. (Lacrosse got big through colleges, but they are the exception, and we're talking about high school, middle school, and elementary school here.)

4. Table tennis has not gotten big through schools in any country in the world, except for communist countries like China where the leaders (like Chairman Mao in China) ordained it the national sport. (And Obama doesn't have that authority.) Worldwide, and especially in Europe, players start out in junior programs at local clubs, according to Stellan Bengtsson, Jorgen Persson, and dozens of others I've spoken with over the years. Every player and coach from Europe I've spoken to says the same thing. In the countries in Europe where table tennis has gotten big, there are school teams, but they are relatively unimportant there, since most of the players train at local clubs, where there's a professional coach and players from local schools, instead of just one school. Stellan said he didn't think a single member of the Swedish team started out at a school or ever trained seriously at one, unless it was part of a table tennis club separate from the school.

5. The best we can do with schools is set up some ping-pong clubs, but few are going to fund a real coach. So while the kids play ping-pong, it's just a game like Parcheesi to them. They don't take it seriously and they rarely if ever join USATT.

USATT has a long history of sending coaches to train teachers at large Physical Education Symposiums, but little ever comes of it. The teachers simply don't go back to their schools determined to set up serious junior programs. They go back and sometimes set up tables for a few sessions in PE, where the kids just play games.

At first thought, schools seem like a great way to grow the sport, and it looks good to the membership (so those who are big on going to the schools get elected), and so generation after generation of USATT board members have made schools a priority. The return on investment is incredibly small. (The old argument is often made, "It's better than nothing." If we are thinking small and want to stay small, then this is the way to go.)

This is one of those frustrating things through the years as we so often try to get someone else to fix our problems, i.e. hoping the schools will make us big, or Bill Gates or some other big sponsor will fund us, etc. We have to build our sport from inside before schools and large sponsors will be interested.

The key to junior development - both elite and grassroots (i.e. large numbers) - is to recruit and train coaches to set up and run junior programs, something that is done in successful table tennis countries all over the world.

Keep in mind that the goal is junior development. Schools and club programs are merely a means to this end. Too often people get attached to the means to the end rather than the end itself, and so we never reach the goal. Developing junior programs at clubs will raise us to the next level, and then we can approach school systems, and they will take us seriously. Then they can take us to an even higher level. But we have to do the groundwork first, like every other sport that got successful.

USATT Board Election Status & Update

Here's a notice from USATT on changes on the USATT Board.

The USATT Athletes Advisory Council recently held an election and as a result Han Xiao was elected to serve on the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Athlete Advisory Council replacing Ashu Jain and Para athlete Edward Levy was elected to serve as the second Athlete Rep on the USATT Board of Directors.  The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association recently informed USATT that Kagin Lee will serve as their representative on the USATT Board of Directors.  Kagin replaces David Del Vecchio in this capacity.  The Nominating and Governance Committee met in late 2012 and as a result voted that Anne Cribbs and Peter Scudner should continue to serve as Independent Directors on the USATT Board of Directors.  The one remaining Board seat to be filled is currently in a membership wide election that will conclude on Jan 21, 2013.  The announcement of that election result and the posting of the complete composition of the Board of Directors for the next two year term will be made on February 4, 2013.

At this time we would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to Ashu Jain and David Del Vecchio for their outstanding contributions to the governance process of USATT through their service as Board Members for the last two terms.  Thank you, Ashu and thank you, David!

Xu Xin New #1

Here are the new ITTF world rankings. Zhang Jike and Ma Long have been trading back and forth for a while as the #1 man in the world, but now there's a new gun in town. Yes, they are all Chinese, as is #4 Wang Hao, #6 Ma Lin, #7 "sort of Chinese" Chuang Chih-Yuan of Taiwan, and #9 Wang Liqin. But Germany's up there, with #5 Timo Boll and #8 Dimitrij Ovtcharov. On the women's side, the top four are also Chinese, with Ding Ning #1 for the 15th consecutive month.

USA doesn't have anyone in the top 100 in Men's rankings, but has three players in the top 100 in the women's - #76 Gao Jun, #88 Arial Hsing, and #96 Lily Zhang. USA is ranked #47 and #16 in Men's and Women's Team World Rankings.

USA is pretty strong in girls' top 100 rankings. In Under 21 Women, USA has #19 Ariel Hsing and #23 Lily Zhang. In Under 18 Girls, USA has a strong showing: #5 Ariel Hsing, #6 Lily Zhang, and #61 Prachi Jha. In Under 15 Girls, USA has #48 Diane Jiang, #54 Tina Lin, #69 Angela Guan, #75 Joy Lin, and #77 Crystal Wang. (Crystal is only 10, and is from my club, MDTTC.) In the Under 18 Girls' Team Rankings, USA is #4 after China, Japan, and Romania. (CORRECTION: As pointed out by Aaron Avery, USA is actually in a three-way tie for 2nd with Japan and Romania, but with the head-to-head tie-breaking system used by ITTF, they are #2. See the 2 in the left column - not sure why they have them listed fourth.)

We're not quite as strong on the boys' side. In Under 21 Men, USA has one ranked player - Wang Qing Liang, the chopper/looper from my club who made the semifinals of Men's Singles at last year's U.S. Open. In Under 18 Boys, he is also our only ranked player, at #37. We're a lot better in Under 15 Boys, with eight players: #33 Li Hangyu, #39 Kunal Chodri, #41 Kanak Jha, #55 Chen Bo Wen (from my club!), #63 Allen Wang, #68 Jonathan Ou, #75 Li Fengguang, and #99 Krishnateja ("Krish") Avvari. In Under 18 Boys' Team Rankings, USA is #35.

1400 Articles

I recently discovered I now have over 1400 published articles! Total is 1405 in 138 different publications, including 1263 on table tennis. This does not include blog entries. (If I did, it would put me over 1900!) It does include the weekly Tip of the Week, which is published not only here but also as a news item in the Paddle Palace Blog.

Yesterday's Todo List

Remember all that stuff I had on my todo list yesterday? (See second item.) I got it all done except for finalizing the entry form for our upcoming MDTTC tournaments. (I'm redoing the scheduling.) I expect to do that this morning.

USA Paralympic Team

Here's info on the 2013 USA Paralympic Team Procedures.

First USA ITTF Level 2 Coach

Congrats to Jef Savage of The Table Tennis Centre of Mercersburg, PA, who this past week became the first USA coach to be certified as an ITTF Level 2 coach. (Here's a news item on it.) I've worked with him a bit, and did his five hours of "supervised" coaching. The irony is that although I'm a USATT Certified National Coach, I'm only an ITTF Level 1 Coach. I may go for Level 2 certification later this year. (I was one of the first two ITTF coaches in the U.S., along with Donn Olsen.)

Woman of the Year

Ariel Hsing was named Table Tennis Woman of the Year by Table Tennis Nation. Read about her great year!

From Hardball to Hardbat

Here's an article on Adoni Maropis and his rise from TV villain (the evil Abu Fayed from season six of "24") to table tennis prominence in the hardbat and sandpaper world.

Zhang Jike vs Wang Liqin

Here's a nice match (7:07) between the current world champion Zhang and the past 3-time champ (and still #9) Wang in the Chinese Super League. (Wang is on the near side at the start.) Time between points has been taken out, so it's non-stop action! What can you learn from this match?

2012 Through Our Paddles

Here's a look at the past year - through ping-pong paddle images!

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August 24, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Four

Today's the final day of our eleven-week summer camp marathon. We had three new players join us yesterday (but three also left), giving us an even 40 players in the camp. I gave lectures on the backhand drive and flip against backspin (including banana flip, which I talk about in my February 15, 2012 blog), the backhand loop, and on third-ball attack.

In the lecture on third-ball attack I went over the serves different styles should favor. For example, a looper might want to serve a lot of short backspin and no-spin, with sidespin serves mixed in as well as occasional deep serves. A hitter might want to serve more sidespin and topspin, and challenge the receiver with more deep serves, especially breaking ones into the backhand. However, it's different for different players. For example, some loopers prefer looping against backspin (and so would serve more backspin), while others prefer looping against topspin, and so might serve more sidespin and topspin. I also spoke about depth - short serves, half-long serves (where the second bounce is right about the end-line), and long serves (where first bounce is near the end-line). Over and over I stressed that the purpose of the serve was to get the inniative, not just to get the ball into play. 

I also spoke about the importance of "trick" serves, where you have some serves you throw at opponent for "free" points. Your typical trick serve will work a few times before the opponent figures it out. If you don't have any such tricky serves, then you are giving away potentially free points; it's like spotting your opponent points. The problem with trick serves is once an opponent gets used to them, they are often easier to attack then other serves since most go long and can be looped, and so they should be used only a few times. (So focus on third-ball serves that allow you to get the innitiative.) Trick serves work best at the beginning and intermediate levels, but they are effective even at the advanced levels if used sporadically and at the right time. Examples of trick serves are a fast no-spin serve at the elbow or a tomahawk serve (a forehand serve with racket tip up) deep to the forehand so it breaks away from the receiver, causing him to reach for the ball and often miss-hitting off the end and side. 

I'm still in the neck brace. The most comfortable position is with my head back, nose in the air, which leads me to believe that stuck-up people aren't really stuck up; they just have whiplash.

Table Tennis Graphic Designers Wanted!

Uberpong is looking for graphic designers to create table tennis designs. "Are you a graphic designer, illustrator or just a wizard with crayons? Do you want your design to appear on an Uberpong ping pong paddle (table tennis bat)? We need you!!"

Clash of Titans

Here's a video (4:09) that contrasts Jan-Ove Waldner versus Ma Long.

As One

You can now watch the movie "As One" online, with English subtitles. It's the movie about the unified Korean women's team winning at the 1991 World Championships. Here's the IMDB info page.

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new World Rankings, and here are the rankings themselves. The article includes a link to a video of the Olympic Men's Final between Zhang Jike and Wang Hao for those who missed it.

Ping-Pong with Giraffes

In honor of my neck problems, here are all the ping-pong and giraffe connections I could find.

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May 8, 2012

Where do the best players come from?

There are many ways of answering this, but I saw Donn Olsen mention on a table tennis forum how Michael Jordan was described as a "gym rat," and realized that was the answer. Gym rats are people who live and breathe their sport, are the first to show up and the last to leave, and always want to stay longer. They are the ones who practice serves on break, who crave footwork drills, and always are playing at the end. We all know someone like this, and deep down, we all envy them.

Not everyone can be a gym rat. Maybe you can be a gym bird, someone who comes in when he can, then flies south to go back to work, school, or family, and so your table tennis forays are mostly flybys. So make the most of these flybys - practice and play hard! Maybe take a few lessons, practice your serves, and bring a racket to work so you can shadow practice on break. 

Orioles Ping-Pong

On the way back from coaching yesterday I was listening to the pre-show before an Orioles game, where they were interviewing Chris Davis. In the background I could hear them playing table tennis! As I've blogged before, I've been invited to coach the Orioles sometime soon, with JJ Hardy, Jake Arrieta, and trainer/former center fielder Brady Anderson three of the main ping-pong players. (It's been temporarily postponed as one of the players has a minor sore arm and so has put aside his ping-pong paddle temporarily. But when we do it, MASN, the Orioles TV network, plans to cover it!)

And speaking of the Orioles, I made the front page of Orioles Hangout again with my article "Ten Worst Things About Being an Orioles Fan." And just below that is my article "Twenty Reasons Matt Wieters is . . . The Most Interesting Man in the World." My other two there are "Top Ten Reasons the Orioles Have the Best Pitching in Baseball" and "Top Twelve Reasons the Orioles Have the Best Hitters in Baseball."

Children's Hospital Exhibition

Here are pictures from an exhibition at Children's Hospital by Soo Yeon Lee and Kim Gilbert. (Click on the pictures to see the next one.) Here is more information on Kim Gilbert's fundraising page for SMASH, a Rally for Kids with Cancer Foundation, with an event coming up on June 23.

2012 Paralympic Table Tennis China Open

Here's a music video (3:33) to the tournament, set to "We Are the World."

World Rankings

Here are the new world rankings, which actually came out on May 3. China has the top five men, the top five women, and the sun rose in the east this morning.

Classic Pong

Since we can't all be gym rats and spend our days at the table tennis club playing ping-pong, you can do the next best thing - sit at your desk at work and play Pong! Yes, the classic game that started the video game revolution. If you turn the sound off, then the boss won't hear.

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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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