JJ Hardy

August 21, 2013

Exhibition and Challenges with the Baltimore Orioles!!!

Today I'm leaving the MDTTC camp at 11:30 to pick up some players so we can go to Orioles Park at Camden Yards (about an hour away), where from 2-3PM we're giving a demo for and taking challenges from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team! They have a huge clubhouse which includes a nice table with lots of room. We'll be surrounded by (on average) 6'3" 230lb multimillionaires. (Average major league salary in 2012 was $3.4 million; the Orioles are a little above that. Here's their listing.)

This all started in May when Orioles star shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder and now vice president of operations Brady Anderson visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where I gave each a lesson and then they played our local juniors. (Here's my blog on that.) They, along with Jeff Lantz, the Orioles Manager for Media Relations, invited us for a return visit. It took a while, but we finally got it arranged. We even had to get approval from Manager Buck Showalter - who I'm hoping to meet, along with a few others, such as Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis, Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, and others.

I discussed with Jeff the idea of bringing in a large contingent of players, who'd get a tour of the Orioles clubhouse, then stay for the game, with a few of us giving the demo and exhibition. However, he and Buck discussed it and decided it'd be better to keep it a smaller affair so it wouldn't be a big distraction, and suggested we bring in three top juniors. So I invited Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie. (See listing below.) Tong Tong, Derek and I plan to stay for the game - they're giving us free tickets. Nathan had a previous commitment; he'd volunteered as a guide for the incoming freshman class at his high school. (Bravo!) So he has to leave as soon as we're done at 3PM. His mom quickly recruited Qiming Chen to give him a ride to and from the event since she'd be out of town at the time. I explained the situation to the Orioles, and they agreed to add him to the list.

A number of locals (both juniors and adults) had asked if they could go on the reciprocal visit to the Orioles park, and I'd hoped I could, but it was not to be.

MASN TV (Mid-Atlantic Sports Network), home of the Orioles and Washington Nationals, is planning to do coverage and turn it into a pre-game show. One thing we hope to catch on video - JJ Hardy and Jeff are planning a "surprise" for one particularly brash player (the Orioles third best TT player after JJ and Brady), who won't know what he's getting into when he agrees to play a "friendly" game with a visiting kid, Derek Nie, 70 lbs, rated 2291.

Since all four of the players I'm taking are Chinese (and at least two have parents from Taiwan), they were pleasantly surprised to learn that Wei-Yin Chen of Taiwan will be pitching for the Orioles in tonight's game. (Well, Tong Tong and Derek were, since they're staying to watch with me.)  We're playing the Tampa Bay Rays, with who we're in a pennant/wild card race.

Players going with me:

  • Derek Nie, 12, 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (and looks about 10, only 4'7" and 70 lbs)
  • Nathan Hsu, 17, 2011 USA Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion and 2012 USA Junior Olympic Under 18 Boy's Singles Finalist, #1 Under 18 player in Maryland (U.S. citizens)
  • Tong Tong Gong, 16, member of USA Cadet National Team (15 & Under), 2011-2012, who lives only 15 min from Camden Yards in Ellicott City, and is a big Orioles fan
  • Qiming Chen, 21, University of Maryland Champion and President of the Univ. of Md. Table Tennis Club 

I'll write more about this in my blog tomorrow.

Speaking of the Orioles, there was an article in the Washington Post Sports section on Monday that said, "[Adam] Jones has at least 25 home runs in three consecutive seasons, joining Hall of Famer Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to accomplish the feat."

On Tuesday there was a correction: "An Aug. 19 Sports article about the Baltimore Orioles' 7-2 victory over the Colorado Rockies incorrectly said that Adam Jones joined Frank Robinson as the only Orioles to hit at least 25 home runs in three consecutive seasons. Eddie Murray also accomplished that feat."

I just sent in a correction yesterday: "Dear Washington Post, the correction in the Post this morning (Aug. 20) about Eddie Murray also hitting 25 or more home runs at least three consecutive seasons for the Orioles (as well as Adam Jones and Frank Robinson) left out Cal Ripken, who did it six years in a row (1982-1987), Rafael Palmeiro four years in a row (1995-1998), and Lee May three years in a row (1976-1978). Jim Gentile and Miguel Tejada both missed it by one home run."

As of this morning, they haven't run my correction  For the record, Ripken from 1982-87 hit 28, 27, 27, 26, 25, and 27 HRs. Palmeiro from 1995-98 hit 39, 39, 38, and 43 HRs. Lee May from 1976-78 hit 25, 27, and 25 HRs. How could they miss this? Especially Hall of Famer Cal Ripken??? (Who, by the way, used to play table tennis with Brady Anderson; both have their own sponge rackets.)

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was the backhand. We had some interesting sessions. One kid had pretty good control, but kept sidespin swiping the ball; I finally took him aside for 15 minutes and straightened that out. Another also had good control, but had a very backhand grip and just jabbed at the ball. I also took him aside for a while and straightened that out. Both had some difficulty making the change as their old stroke was pretty ingrained. It's always easier when working with someone who hasn't played much. One older player had a pretty good backhand but almost no forehand; we worked on and off all day on his forehand, and it's gradually improving.

There's one girl who's a complete beginner, and perhaps the only one who can't really play games yet. All day long for two days she's struggled to hit forehands or backhands. Then, late yesterday afternoon when we played the "cups" game, where we stack the cups and let the kids take turns knocking them down, something happened. Out of the blue she kept smacking them, over and over! Before this she had about a 20% success rate in hitting the table, not to mention a three-inch wide cup. This time she knocked more cups off the table than anyone else (about ten players) two games in a row!

USATT Tip of the Day - Serve Violently!

Here's a tip on serving from Dan Seemiller, five-time USA Men's Singles Champion and former USA Men's Coach.

Table Tennis Good for the Brain

Here's a nice compilation of articles on this from Table Tennis Nation, with five links and a video (4:26).

Ping Pong Only Gets Better When You Add Crazy Visuals

Here's a video (1:12) of some serious psychedelic ping pong.

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June 26, 2013

Injured Back and MDTTC Camp

As to the MDTTC camp, yesterday's focus was on the backhand, and that was my only lecture for the day. As usual, I went over the basics, and pointed out the various types of backhands - tip down or more up, flatter or more topspinny, etc. My demo partner was 8-year-old Tiffany Ke, way under-rated at 1430. I also made the discovery after the daily trek to 7-11 after lunch that a strawberry-lemon Slurpee is the single best thing ever invented by mankind. All other things are bland by comparison.

Unfortunately, yesterday morning I also injured my upper right back just below the shoulder blade while feeding multiball. I was feeding rapid-fire loops to an intermediate player so he could work on his blocking when I felt a gradual tightness that slowly became inflamed. It didn't seem too bad at first, but minutes later it as pretty painful, and now I can't loop or even hit forehands, or lift any serious weight with my right arm. I spent the afternoon awkwardly picking up balls lefthanded with our ball nets. 

This is not good.

During the MDTTC camps (Mon-Fri, 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM) I mostly feed multiball or supervise activities. However, I have a one-hour private coaching session each day from 2-3PM. Yesterday I did only half the private session, playing only backhand and multiball, and then brought in Coach Leon (Wang Qing Liang) to do the final 30 minutes. I'm probably going to have to get a substitute for the rest of the week for the 2-3PM sessions, as well as a bunch of coaching sessions Wed-Sun.

Let me repeat: This is not good.

I leave for the U.S. Open on Monday morning. My primary focus there is coaching (mostly Derek Nie, Nathan Hsu, and Sameer Shaikh), but I'm also playing in four hardbat and one sandpaper events. (I can go from coaching to hardbat/sandpaper rather easily, but it's more difficult going to sponge, since I can't loop without a lot of warm up. I'm pretty much retired from playing in sponge tournaments, where I focus on coaching.) I'm currently listed as the top seed in Over 40 Hardbat and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles; second seed in Hardbat Doubles and Open Sandpaper; and fourth seed in Open Hardbat.

I normally play with sponge, but my serve & receive, footwork, and especially my forehand work well with hardbat, especially after some extensive practice with it back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the Open or Nationals, I've won Hardbat Singles twice; Over 40 Hardbat four times; and Hardbat Doubles thirteen times, nine times with Ty Hoff and four times with Steve Berger. This year I'm playing for the first time with Jay Turberville, in both Hardbat Doubles and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, the first time I've played this event. (Jay, if you're reading this, I'm going to make every attempt to play, injury or not!) However, as usual, I haven't played any hardbat since the Nationals in December. But it's all there in muscle memory. Or, to be more accurate right now, in injured muscle memory.

One more time: This is not good.

Orioles JJ Hardy and Table Tennis

Here's an article featuring Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy and his table tennis. Alas, see the last line. Ever since J.J. and Brady Anderson visited and took lessons from me at MDTTC from me on May 14 he's been on a hot streak.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association June Newsletter

Here it is.

Kitten Table Tennis

This might be the funniest 23 seconds ever of a kitten trying to play table tennis.

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May 15, 2013

Play With Creativity - Do Something Different!

In my blog yesterday I wrote about how some of our players had trouble with Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy's serve. It was a pretty good forehand pendulum serve, but there wasn't anything seemingly special about it. He actually used less wrist motion than he should, and had just two versions - side-top and side-back - though he did vary the depth well. As I watched it, I began to see why they were having trouble with it, and there were two reasons.

First, he wasn't changing his grip to unlock his wrist, and so he had less spin than he could have. But because he has such quick wrists and a good grazing contact, it was sufficient spin to make it effective, and the different grip seemed to give players difficulty in reading it.

Second, he served it over and over from his forehand side. We're all used to players serving forehand pendulum serves from the backhand side, since that allows a player to more easily follow up against a weak return with a forehand attack. And so when the same serve came at them from the forehand side, crosscourt into their forehand, they struggled. It wasn't something they had seen very often.

But I had - or at least I from JJ's side of the table! While I usually serve from the backhand side, at key moments in matches I often do forehand pendulum serves from the forehand side, both regular and reverse pendulum. It's a great way to get a free point or two. It was also a tactic I'd used in a pair of key matches years ago, which I described in my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers in Chapter 7, Tactical Examples:

Changing Service Position

At the North American Teams one year I was playing with slightly lower-ranked players as a player/coach. I was one of the three undefeated players in the division. The other two were two junior players from Canada. Our teams played in the final. Both of the Canadian juniors played the same style, which had created havoc throughout the division: big forehand looping attacks, but medium long pips on the backhand which they used to flat hit shot after shot. They quick-hit every short serve with their backhands (spin didn’t take on their pips), even short ones to their forehand, and followed with their big forehands.

As I watched them play, I realized that they would have little trouble with my best serve, a forehand pendulum serve I do from my backhand corner, which sets up my forehand. No matter where I’d serve it, if it was long, they’d loop it; if it was short, they’d backhand hit it. I could use a tomahawk serve to their forehand, but that would take away my big serving strength. What to do?

When I went out to play the first of the two, I set up like I normally do to serve, in the backhand corner. Then I took two steps to my right, and spent the whole match serving forehand pendulum serves from my forehand corner. This gave me an angle into his forehand so that he’d have to receive with his forehand (or risk me going down the line to his open backhand side if he tried to cover the short forehand with his backhand), and so I was able to use my pendulum serve to his inverted forehand, something he had probably rarely had to deal with. Since he couldn’t return it aggressively, I was able to move back into position after each serve to attack with my forehand. The same strategy worked against the other Canadian junior, and I won both matches. (Ironically, before the last match, the perceptive Canadian coach took the other junior off to a table and mimicked my serve over and over from the forehand side so the kid could practice against it, but it wasn’t enough.) I won all three of my matches, but alas, we lost the final 5-3.

The key point is that often you have to think outside the box to find the right tactics, and that often it is an advantage to do something different. So try and do things different - it really messes up an opponent's strokes and timing. I know; I do it all the time! Vary where you serve from; use sidespin on a push or block; dead block; aim one way and at the last second change directions; play a backhand from the forehand side; fake spin and serve or push no-spin; vary the height of the toss on your serve; open up your wrist on a forehand shot so the ball goes to the right (for a righty), perhaps putting some sidespin on it as well; vary your contact so it's sometimes off the bounce, or later than usual; put a little topspin in your blocks; or something else. Be creative!

Jan-Ove Waldner is considered by many to be the greatest player of all time. He's also considered the most creative of players, constantly doing different shots to mess up opponents. So be like Waldner - and J.J. Hardy! - and do something different, and mess up your opponents.

2013 World Championships

They started yesterday, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Team USA at 2013 Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video.

For USA, the last one standing is Lily Zhang.

Table Tennista

Lots of great coverage of the Worlds here. Included among the articles - China's head coach Liu Guoliang proposes an international training camp in China, and Table Tennista starts a new magazine.

ITTF Daily Show

Here's the World Table Tennis Championships Daily Show - Day 1 (3:05), Day 2 (5:02).

Orioles Hangout

I blogged yesterday about Baltimore Oriole shortstop JJ Hardy and former centerfielder/current VP Brady Anderson at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I wrote a short article on this for Orioles Hangout, with a link to the blog. It's their front-page story this morning.

Ultimate Edge to Edge

Here's a video (43 sec) of Tomas Pavelka (CZE) against Bastian Steger (GER, world #25) at 8-9 in the first game. Pavelka mishits a ball high into the air off his racket's edge and turns his back to the table in frustration. Watch what happens!

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May 14, 2013

J.J. Hardy and Brady Anderson at MDTTC

J.J. Hardy is the star shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. (He's the reigning gold glove winner with 52 homers the last two seasons and a former All-Star.) Brady Anderson was the Orioles star center fielder for 13 of his 15 major league seasons, where he was a 3-time all-star, and once hit 50 homers in a season. They are true baseball stars.

But they are also pretty good at table tennis! With the Orioles having a day off from playing, they spent four hours at the Maryland Table Tennis Center last night, 4-8PM. I gave them a private coaching session the first two hours, and then they hit with our local juniors. I knew in advance that JJ was the Orioles best TT player - they have a table in their clubhouse, and NOBODY beats JJ. Brady is their #2. But how good could they be, considering they hadn't had coaching? I was expecting "basement stars," perhaps 1200 level at most. Boy was I wrong! Both came with their own sponge rackets in racket cases.

JJ's around 1850. Strengths: fast rallying and good serves, and adjusts quickly to opponents. Weaknesses: return of serve and against spin in general. He's very fast and aggressive at the table, with nice forehand and backhand hitting and blocking. He tends to hold his racket tip up on the forehand, which costs him some power, but his bang-bang rallying and reflexes allow him to rally at a 1900+ level - even better if you counter with him instead of looping. He also tends to reach for the ball instead stepping, which allows him to block but means he doesn't end the point as well as he could. He can loop against backspin from both wings, and follow with quick hitting.

He has a surprisingly good forehand pendulum serve. He doesn't change his grip for the serve, and so loses a bit of spin since his wrist is locked up, but it's very deceptive. He does the serve from the forehand side, which seemed to make the serve more effective for him since most players do this serve from the backhand side. He has two main variations, side-backspin and side-topspin, and they both look similar. His depth varies (not sure if it's intentional, need to ask him), so some are long, some are short, and some are half-long, with second bounce right around or just past the end-line.

He played a practice match with Tony Li, 11, rated an even 1800. Tony won the first two as JJ had trouble with his serves, but JJ came back to win, deuce in the fifth! You could pretty much see his mind at work as he figured out how to get Tony's various spinny serves back, and how to block his constant forehand looping. I also played JJ, and while I won easily, 11-3, 11-4, the key was that I was experienced enough to recognize how good he was at rallying, and so rarely let him get into a rally - I serve and looped everything, and looped his long serves while pushing his short ones back heavy, and looping the next ball. I wasn't going to be nice and risk losing!!!

How did he get so good without coaching or playing at a club with top players? His dad was a tennis coach and good table tennis player, and he learned from him. He picks up things very fast, as I saw both in his lesson with me and his adjustments in his match against Tony.

Brady Anderson was a level or so weaker, about 1500. He's a lefty who likes to cover almost the whole table with his forehand - he returned almost all my serves with his forehand. He has very nice footwork and range. He has a pretty good forehand, and can almost match JJ in rallies except that he has great trouble with JJ's serve. He can do a soft loop against backspin with his forehand. Brady also serves almost always from the forehand side, with a tomahawk sidespin serve, which was pretty spinny but without a heavy backspin variation, and so was easier to read than JJ's pendulum serve variations. He's very mobile, and even if you return his serve to his wide backhand, he manages to step around from where he's serving from on the forehand side to play his forehand from the backhand side.

Brady tends to hit the forehand with his arm jammed in too much, raises his elbow as he hits the ball, and often tries to muscle the ball instead of relaxing the arm and shoulder and letting the body do the work. We worked on fixing these problems, and he was quick in making the adjustments in drills. At the start he had sort of a wristy backhand, but I quickly corrected it. While his backhand isn't as good as his forehand, it's technically sound once he made the change, though he'll need a lot of practice to ingrain the stroke. Brady has a deceptive forehand - he usually goes crosscourt, and then he'll suddenly change in mid-stroke and go inside out the other way, which was almost unreturnable, even for me.

The racket Brady was using was too slow, so I lent him my backup, which he liked. He ended up buying a racket from the club, with Coach Cheng Yinghua doing the sale and putting the racket and sponge together for him. (They were in awe of Cheng when they learned he'd been #1 in the U.S. for over ten years.)

Brady also played a practice game with the 1800 Tony Li. Tony was very nervous, and Brady led 10-8 game point, but Tony won in deuce. Later Brady played 8-year-old Tiffany Ke, the #2 ranked Under 9 girl in the U.S. with a rating of 1439. (She trains seven days a week!) Brady was using the new racket and wasn't quite used to it, and seemed mesmerized that this little girl, whose head barely stuck up over the table, was so good, and so lost 0-3. (See their picture below.) I also played Brady, and I won 11-3, 11-1 - but a lot of that was because he couldn't get my serve back, and couldn't handle my spinny loops off his serves. Most 1500 players wouldn't have high-level serves or be able to loop serves, and so they'd rally - and once he gets used to his new paddle, Brady will be in the 1500 range again.

It's tricky giving rating estimate for these two, due to their lack of experience against players with proper coaching. For example, while I estimated JJ at 1850, I'm taking into account how fast he adjusts and learns in each match - he'd probably often lose the first game and have to come back, and might even struggle at first with 1700 players.

Here are some pictures taken via someone's cell phone. (We have a group picture, but I haven't got it yet.)

They hit with many of our top junior players: Nathan Hsu (16, rated 2397), Derek Nie (12, 2215), Roy Ke (13, 2229), Princess Ke (11, 1954), Tiffany Ke (8, 1439, and Tony Li (11, 1800). They were great with the kids, and posed with pictures with all of them as well as signing autographs. I think JJ and Brady were as much in awe of the kids' skills as the kids were of them. By the end of their time at the club, they and the kids were having fun and talking like old friends. These were two very nice athletes; their stardom has not gone to their heads. They were as excited about playing table tennis as a kid playing baseball. Both were interested in coming more often for lessons and regular play, but JJ can't because of the team's schedule. But Brady can, and plans to come regularly. I'm looking forward to working with him - once we've made a few adjustments on his forehand, I can already see him running around looping forehands.

One interesting tidbit - when JJ was hitting with the 2400 Nathan Hsu, Nathan of course dominated with his two-winged looping. But when they played points, Nathan actually had trouble with JJ's serve. Part of this was because he was nervous, and wasn't expecting good serves. I told him to stop thinking about it and just react, and then he began looping them in. I also missed a few of JJ's serves at first, but then stopped missing them.

The Orioles have a table at their clubhouse. Besides JJ and Brady, the other regulars are Manny Machado, Steve Pearce, and Nick Markakis. Nick plays with a hardbat and chops! They've invited us to come in and play at their clubhouse, though we haven't set a date yet. They were also interested to learn that two-time USA Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong lives about 15 minutes from Orioles Park, and may invite him to come in and hit with them. (Tong Tong doesn't know this yet!)

I've been an Orioles fan since 1972, when I was 12, so it was an exhilarating experience hitting with these two. They were extremely nice, and very fast learners. When I made adjustments to their strokes, both picked them up fast, though they'll need more practice to ingrain the changes. You could see how their baseball skills transferred to table tennis with their fast reflexes and ability to learn new skills quickly. Both could react to my best smashes and loop kills. They didn't most back, but they got their rackets on them over and over, and JJ made some nice blocks. Some of you may remember Brady's range as a center fielder. Well, you could see both when he ranged around playing his all-forehand game, and when I taught him how to lob. He'd never done this, but he picked it up very quickly, and with me smashing at 80% speed to his forehand he was not only lobbing ball after ball, but he began counter-smashing, making the shot over half the time.

I gave them both autographed copies of three of my books: Table Tennis: Steps to Success, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques, and Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. They gave the kids autographed copies of baseball cards, and offered free tickets to games. We'll take them up on that sometime soon.

All in all, a great day at MDTTC. The kids have a great story to tell at the school, as well as lots of pictures.

World Championships

They started yesterday, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Team USA at Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video.

ITTF Sports Science Congress

Here's Donn Olsen's report on the Congress, with lots of stuff of interest to coaches and players.

Table Tennista

Table Tennista has lots of Worlds coverage.

Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training

Here's a video (1:47) of these two Germans training for the Worlds taken just yesterday. (Timo is the lefty.) They are ranked #5 and #7 in the world, the two highest Europeans in the rankings.

Rally of the Month

Here's a video (23 sec) of a great video between two kids in the last point of their match.

Pongcast Episode 26

Here's the video (3:45). In this episode: Killerspin promotes table tennis in high schools, Ariel Hsing plays with her friends Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, plus Zhang Jike and Liu Guoliang give us insight on their careers, relationship with each other, and hopes for the future.

The Four Elements of Match Basics

Here's the article - the elements are serve, receive, first attack, and first block.

Degree Deodorant

Here's a video (33 sec) of a new commercial for Degree Deodorant that features table tennis. It shows up 11 and 26 seconds in, both times for about 3 seconds.  

Kasumi Ishikawa Photo Shoot

Here's a rather funny video (23 sec) of Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan during a photo shoot taken just this morning at the Worlds. She's not used to doing these shots without a ball! Ishikawa finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics in Women's Singles (just one short of a medal!), but got the Silver Medal in Women's Teams. She is currently #8 in the world, but reached #5 for two months last year.

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May 13, 2013

Tip of the Week

Beat Weaker Players with Fundamentals.

Coaching Opponent to Victory

I had an interesting practice match with one of our top juniors this past weekend. Going into the match he appeared irritated and tense. Against someone like that all you have to do is vary your shots like crazy - placement, depth, spins, etc. - and watch him fall apart. He was too irritated to even think, and served short to my backhand over and over, which isn't smart - I'm very good there, where I can push short or long, and flip either regular or banana flip (with extra topspin or sidespin). I often messed him up by faking a long push to the backhand and at the last second dropping it short to his forehand. When he guarded against the short ball to the forehand I'd flip to his backhand, taking his service game away. I won the first game 11-3. (I'd also beaten him I think 3-0 the last three times we'd played.)

Between games I went over and asked him what was wrong. He said he'd just lost to someone else and was playing poorly. I told him the obvious - that he had to forget previous matches and focus on his current match. However, more important, I gave him practical ways to do this. I told him to take a walk around the court and not stop walking until his head was clear. Then I told him that once his head was clear, he needed something else to think about so he wouldn't be thinking about his previous match - and of course in table tennis the best thing is to think about tactics. So I told him focus on what serves he was using against me, since the way he'd been serving obviously wasn't working. (Note that you should think about tactics between points, but once the point starts, you have to stop thinking and let the subconscious take over, including tactical play. Serving is the one time where you can easily make a conscious tactical decision, i.e. what serve to use.)

Three things happened. First, the rest of the match he played the best I'd seen him play in months. Second, he began to use smarter serves, mixing in short serves to my forehand and long ones to my backhand, and once I was focused on those two (not easy), he mixed in short ones to the middle, often no-spin. He also pulled two new serves on me he'd been working on, a reverse backhand serve and a reverse forehand pendulum serve. And third, he won three straight games. (And I was playing pretty well!)

JJ Hardy

Today I'm giving a private lesson to the Baltimore Orioles star shortstop, JJ Hardy. When and where I won't disclose until afterwards so the place won't be swarmed by paparazzi, not to mention table tennis/baseball fans. (Only exception - junior players who contact me can come watch and get autographs.) I'll give a full report tomorrow.

Spam Count

As noted in my blog last Tuesday, I was getting hit with so much spam that I had to finally institute a registration system where I had to approve all accounts before they went active. For perspective, since I started this one week ago, I've had 377 account requests, of which about ten were legitimate. Without the approval system, all the rest of those would have registered and started posting automatic spam all over the place, in the comment section of the blog and in the forum.

Three Reasons Not to Serve Short

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

World Championships

They start today, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Chinese Training Before the World Table Tennis Championships

Here's great video (1:56) of the Chinese team training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria as they prepare for the Worlds. (From 1:27 to 1:32 you can see Donn Olsen, a USA coach, taking notes in a corner.) Here's another page at Table Tennis Daily with a number of videos of the Chinese team training.

U.S. Open Deadline Extended

The deadline is now May 21, with a late deadline of May 24 (the latter requiring a $75 late fee). Here's the U.S. Open page. You can also see the list of currently entered players, either by event or alphabetically.

Bill Gates to Help Promote Table Tennis in U.S.

Here's the article in the China Daily's USA version (in English) - but why is it in a Chinese paper?

Lindenwood Head Coach Wanted

Want to be a College Table Tennis Coach? Lindenwood University in Saint Charles, Missouri, is looking for one. Info is here. Strangely it doesn't give salary offered or any contact info, but I found that separately - if interested, you contact Mike Elam, Director of Student Life Sports.

USATT CEO Blog

Here's the blog of USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh for the week May 6-10. I think this is new - I don't see previous entries. (He has been doing a bi-monthly CEO Report, which was published in USATT Magazine.)

ITTF President Sharara to do United Nationals Presentation

Adham Sharara, ITTF President, has been invited to attend the Third International Forum on Sport for Peace and Development to be held at the United Nations in New York on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th June 2013. He will make a presentation during Session IV which is dedicated to the theme Sport and Social Development Legacies; the scheduled time for the address is from 10.00am on Thursday 6th June. Here's the article.

Lefty Ma Long

Here's a video (56 sec) of China's Ma Long (a righty) smashing left-handed against teammate Wang Liqin's lobs (he's playing his normal right-handed), where they change sides twice, during practice sessions as they prepare for the Worlds. Yes, Chinese team members like to goof off during practice breaks.

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May 16, 2012

MDTTC Featured

The Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured in a story in the Montgomery Gazette this morning. I'm quoted several times. Make sure to click on the pictures! We've been featured in various media hundreds of times over the years.

How does one go about getting press coverage of your table tennis events? It's not difficult, but it does take some time. First, have something to feature. It can be an actual event (tournament, clinic, big league match, etc.), a person (player or coach), or just table tennis in general. (All reporters need an "angle.") Get a listing of all the local media by Googling your city and state along with "newspapers," "TV stations," and "radio stations." Go to their web pages and compile a list of contact emails. Then write a press release about your event, person, or table tennis in general, and send it off.

If you have a really big event, contact the national press - CNN, MSNBC, FOX, USA Today, Associated Press, etc.

If you don't get any nibbles, do it again a week later. You may have to hit them a few times before you get their attention.

How do you write a press release? Just write about what you hope to feature. Make sure to include all the info - the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then check it for spelling and grammar - there are few quicker ways to turn off literary types (and anyone from a newspaper, TV, or radio considers themselves "literary types") than with misspellings and awkward grammar. Write clearly and focus on the facts and anything that you think might interest people. Let them do the color - after they've come and interviewed you!

Sean O'Neill named U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach

Here's the story. Sean was previously the U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach from 2004-2008.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Atlanta

Here's a story about the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running. (I ran one last April, and plan to run another one at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, MD, tentatively scheduled Aug. 26-30. Let me know if you are interested.)

"As One" breaks 1.2 million

Over 1.2 million in South Korea have seen the new film "As One" in the ten days since its release, according to the Yahoo story. The movie chronicles the joint Korean team that won Women's Teams at the 1991 World Championships. Apparently that's a lot for Korea. I wasn't able to find when the movie opens in the U.S. - anyone know?

King of the Table Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar is the best player in the PGA, according to tweets by fellow golfer Jason Dufner. However, Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy "would give him a good match." Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. (As noted in previous blogs, I may be coaching Hardy soon. More on this when it's finalized.)

Profile of the Over 80's

Here's a video (3:48) that features eight players from around the world (with 703 years between them, ranging from 81 to 99 years old, including players from England, Australia, Sweden, and China) competing in Over 80 in the World Veteran Championships in Inner Mongolia. Over 3500 players compete in the tournament.

Ping-Pong Offices

Here's a CNN story from Monday (2:11) about modern offices in Silicon Valley with all sorts of perks - including table tennis!

Paulini and the Ping Pong Song

Here's a new song from Paulini - the Ping Pong Song (2:43)! Sample lyrics: "You're playing ping pong with my heart." Okay, probably not the greatest table tennis song - the first comment underneath says, "For the sake of humanity, please someone shoot this woman." The greatest table tennis music is, and always will be, "Magic Ball," the theme song to the 1989 World Championships (3:09).

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April 12, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Commuting Table Tennis Coach

Normally I do nearly all my coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, about fifteen miles north of Washington D.C.  However, there's an afterschool program in (somewhat) nearby McLean, Virginia, at Spring Hill Elementary. I was asked I could take over the program and coach there twice a week, Wed and Fri from 3:30-4:30. It sounded like a great idea. I'd even coached the son of the person in charge of the program. So I agreed to come in yesterday to help out, with the possibility of taking over starting Friday. (They currently had three people running the program, but none were serious players or coaches.)

The problem was traffic. To get there I'd have to drive down 270 and then on 495 (the Beltway) . . . during RUSH HOUR! The Washington DC metropolitan area is one of the most congested traffic areas in the country, which is why I bought a house eight minutes from MDTTC. (Most rankings put us #2 behind Chicago, but we hope to overtake them someday . . . I think.)

According to Google maps, the driving time would be 33 minutes. But that assumed steady driving, not bumper-to-bumper traffic. I left my house at 2:25 PM - and while 270 was fine going down, I quickly hit that infamous bumper-to-bumper traffic on 495, despite being a bit early for rush hour. It took 58 minutes to get there, arriving at 3:23 PM.

The session went fine. And then it was off to face the real brunt of rush hour. I left at 4:35 PM, knowing I had 85 minutes to make the "33 minute trip" or else I'd be late for my 6PM coaching session.

At 6PM, still mired in traffic on 495, and still a distance from even reaching 270, and knowing that even without traffic I was still 20 minutes away, I called the club and talked to the father of my 6PM student. We agreed we had to cancel the lesson.

This was the first time in the 20 years since we'd opened the club that I'd ever been late for a session, a record I'd been proud of - I always like to arrive at least 15 minutes early. (Once I had times mixed up on a session, and so missed that one, but that's different. I think.)

I finally arrived at the club at 6:40 PM, 2 hours and 5 minutes after leaving the school. (I made my 7PM session.) But I don't think I'm going to be able to do the McLean afterschool program. I will instead likely train their current coaches on the basics, as well as introduce them to Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis.

Ma Lin not on China's Olympic Team

China will have Ma Long, Zhang Jike, and Wang Hao as their representatives to the Olympics in London, the world's top three ranked players. They also have #4 Xu Xing and #5 Ma Lin, but since they are limited to three players, these latter two will not be on the team. Here's an article about Ma Lin not being on the team.

JJ Hardy, Jake Arrieta, and table tennis

There's a lot of table tennis going on at the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse, with these two (along with former centerfielder and now trainer Brady Anderson) are among the best. As noted in previous blogs, I've been contacted about coming in to coach them, with MASN (the Orioles network) doing coverage. The times are not yet set, but I'll post when I know. In the last email I received from the Orioles, they wrote, "J.J. and Brady are going to get together in the next week and try to figure out a couple of dates that might work and we will be in touch. They are pretty excited about this!"

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on Jake Arrieta's table tennis. Here's a picture of Hardy playing table tennis, with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart on right. And here are articles on JJ Hardy's table tennis (there are more!):

Table tennis videos

Table Tennis Video Central is like, well, a table tennis video central. Lots and lots of table tennis videos for your viewing pleasure. Between this and Youtube, you can pretty much see any table tennis video ever made.

Table tennis going to the Birds

In honor of the Baltimore Orioles playing table tennis, here are other birds playing table tennis.

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