2012 World Team Championships Highlights

April 11, 2012

Modern sponges make looping easy

Some of the paradigms about teaching the loop are crashing down, with the advent of the modern "super looping sponge." There are modern sponges that make looping so easy that little kids can now topspin the ball in ways that little kids (and most adults) of yesteryear could only dream. Speed glues (now illegal) made looping both easier and more powerful (both speed and spin), but these modern sponges are a level better. (I shutter to think what would happen if you speed glued one of these super sponges - I think the universe would spin out of orbit as it zipped past some cosmic player.)

I asked Coach Cheng Yinghua what would have happened if he had these sponges back in his peak playing days (on Chinese National Team, 1977-1987), and he had a gleam in his eye as he said he'd have beaten everyone.

Yesterday I was coaching a man in his mid-60s, rated about 1500. A decade ago I wouldn't have dreamed of him seriously counterlooping. Instead, the guy came at me like a 2200 player might have in the past, effortlessly counterlooping most of my best loops back. (This was not a former top player - he was at his peak now after several years of practice.) Sure, it was just a drill, and I doubt if he could do this consistently in a match, but if I'd given him a typical sponge from ten years ago, you could glue it all you want and he wouldn't have been able to do this. And it's like this at all ages and levels. Kids aged 10-12 are looping at levels that would be unheard of before.

With these sponges all you have to do is sort of wave at the ball and it goes back with back-breaking topspin that twist Newton and Einstein physics into a quivering mass of torqued rotation. The game has changed. 

Even the basic forehand and backhand have become mini-loops for many. When you warm up with someone forehand to forehand or backhand to backhand, you expect basic drives with light topspin, but now many players don't even have that shot - their basic drives have become topspinny. Even fishing and lobbing are easier and more effective as the sponges just shoot the ball back with topspin.

Of course the downside is that opponents can also loop more easily, and many of your loops will be looped right back, as will even your strongest blocks. There are now counterlooping rallies at the 1800 level that were pretty rare in the past. Even during the gluing age few intermediate players bothered to go through the hassle of gluing. Now it's built into the sponge, making looping that much easier for the masses. 

For me, while I don't cover as much ground as I used to or react to fast incoming balls as quickly, I find that nearly anything I can react to and touch with my forehand I can loop back.

What does this mean for coaches and players?

  • You teach the loop much sooner to beginning kids, and counterlooping not long after.
  • You teach the loop against a block even to older players, who in the past might have just looped against backspin and hit against blocks or topspin. Now they can loop over and over with far less effort than was needed in the past.
  • Aging loopers can continue to loop effectively well into their golden years.
  • More players can develop games where they simply loop everything that comes long to their forehand.
  • Looping off the bounce is easier, especially on the backhand, and many players now essentially loop nearly everything off the bounce, even on the backhand.
  • Fast blocks and even smashes are easier to loop back.
  • Forehand blocking becomes almost obsolete for many athletic players from the intermediate level on. If you can see it, you can loop it. (Forehand blocking is still important, but more as a reflex return against powerful shots when you don't have time to swing.)

Forehand Flip

Here's a video from Table Tennis University on the forehand flip (4:23).

Plastic balls
The ITTF had planned to switch from celluloid to plastic balls after the 2012 Olympics. According to this notice, "For production reasons, the plastic ball will be introduced not before July 2014."

Highlights from the 2012 World Team Championships Highlights

Here's a highlights video from the 2012 World Team Championships, set to music (9:49).

"I Love Table Tennis"

Here's a video promoting college table tennis (1:05) that features players saying, "I love table tennis." (One of the players saying this is Mark Hazinski.) The ones I like are the guy saying, "I love table tennis and math" (my bachelor's is in math), the little girl saying, "I sort of like it," and Adam Bobrow interjecting, "He loves table tennis." And if you go to the NCTTA home page you'll see that the College Nationals are this weekend, April 13-15, in Plano, TX. (A bunch of players from my club, MDTTC, are going, representing University of Maryland.)

Rally for Kids with Cancer

There will be a SMASH Celebrity Ping-Pong Tournament for Kids with Cancer Foundation on June 23, 2012 in LA. Includes a 30-second video from actor Terrence Howard.

Keith Pech on TV

Here's a video of Keith in a TV feature (1:50) yesterday from Channel 19 Action News on his going to the College Nationals.

Table tennis hoax

Here's a story about a hoax pulled off about a University of Akron Table Tennis Team in 1974. The team had a great winning record and received lots of press coverage - but there was no team! It was all made up.

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