Lobbing

September 11, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching

Here's a rundown of my coaching yesterday. I left my house at 2:30 to pick up two players for our afterschool program (Willie and Jessie). From 3:30-4:00 PM I worked with Andrew, the nine-year-old I blogged about yesterday who was rapidly learning how to hit forehands. Today's goal was to hit 20 forehands in a row. Believe it or not, he got 19 in a row and then missed three times in a row! Obviously it was mental - and sure enough, as he approached 20 each time he fell back into his old habit of lunging at the ball, thereby swatting the ball off the end. I had him shadow stroke some more, and we tried again - and this time he not only got 20, he went right on up to 54. Not bad for this fourth 30-minute lesson. From 4-4:30 PM I fed multiball to him and Willie.

I was supposed to coach Daniel from 5-6 PM (nine-year-old, rated about 1600), but his dad called around 4:30 and said that his wrist was bothering him from some accident at school, and so needed to rest it. Between 4:30 and 5:00 I helped Willie and Andrew with their homework. Then I got in my car and drove to McDonalds where I had a chicken sandwich and read for nearly an hour.

Then I coached Matt (13, about 1600) from 6-7:15PM. Matt has a lot of power on his forehand, and doesn't seem to realize it and his shots wander about a bit, so when we do drills it's often hard for me to adjust to them and block back as accurately as I'd like. We spent a lot of time doing the 2-1 drill - backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side, with all his shots going to my backhand - and because of the pace he kept, we had trouble with consistency. It got better as we went along. When I said it was time to switch to some multiball practice, he wanted to continue, so we probably did over 20 minutes straight of the 2-1 drill. When you do this drill, if you have trouble covering the wide forehand it's usually because you were off-balanced when you finished the previous shot, the forehand from the backhand side, with your weight off to the right (for a righty). Also, if you go too fast and the balls spray around, then even a coach can have difficulty placing the balls correctly!

Last up was Sameer (13, also around 1600). This was only his second session after taking a month off because of knee problems. His goal was to do 50 forehand loops and 50 backhand loops (or off-the-bounce topspins) in a row. On the forehand side he kept missing between 35 and 40, but eventually he got it. He got the 50 on the backhand pretty quickly. After taking the time off, the biggest hurdle is he's fallen back into his old habit of standing up too straight, so we're working on that.

Today's going to be just as busy. Once I again I leave at 2:30 to pick up kids, then coach the afterschool program from 3:30-4:30. Then I coach pretty much continuously until 8:15PM, including a new junior training program from 6-7PM with an even ten kids.

After today I'm going to focus on my science fiction writing for a few days - primarily doing the absolutely final rewrite work on my Campaign 2100 novel (which, as I've blogged before, features table tennis!). It was critiqued this summer at a writing workshop, but I haven't had time until now to do the rewriting. There's a chance - just a chance - that I might take a few days off next week from blogging to focus on the novel. It depends on how much I'm able to do over the next few days while still doing my regular coaching, blogging, and other TT writing and work. Friday I have about 3.5 hours of coaching, but only about two on Saturday. But things get busy again, coaching-wise, on Sunday.  

USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame

They've announced the 2014 USATT Hall of Fame Inductees. (It's not "officially" announced, but it's been posted on Facebook and verified by Hall of Fame Committee members.) They are Sheila O'Dougherty, Lisa Gee, Tawny Banh, Richard Butler, and Lifetime Achievement Award Donna Sakai. Congrats to all! (Here's the USATT Hall of Fame.)

Juggling and Table Tennis

I've found juggling to be a great tool to develop hand-eye coordination, whether for table tennis or other racket-type sports. Long ago I learned to juggle three ping-pong balls, and to go under the leg or bounce on the floor in mid-juggle, as well as to do two in one hand. I've seen others in table tennis as well who learned juggling, including one of Maryland's top juniors (well, he's 18 now), Nathan Hsu. So I was impressed with Xavier Therien's juggling/table tennis contraption video (and note that he's juggling four balls at the start), which is his entry in the ITTF Stiga Trickshot Showdown. (The final five for the contest is judged based on views, so by watching his video or others you are voting for it!)

Match Strategy Playing as a Chopper

Here's the new video (10:10) from PingSkills.

Great Point between Wang Liqin and Werner Schlager

Here's the video (1:07) of the point between these two legends.

The Power of Lob

Here's a highlights video (7:52) from four years ago that I don't think I've ever posted.

Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari - USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the article.

Players Announced for Upcoming ITTF World Cups

Here's the ITTF Press Release. Representing North America are 14-year-old Kanak Jha (USA) on the men's side, and Mo Zhang (CAN) on the women's side.

21 Gold Medals Handed Out at ITTF Para World Championships

Here's the ITTF Press Release. (Sadly, no USA winners in singles, which just completed.)

Members of Chinese National Team at Triangle Table Tennis

Here's the info flyer. Members of the Chinese team will be at the Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC, Sept. 24-26, to do exhibitions, clinics, and private lessons. Chinese players attending are Fang Bo (world #25), Wu Hao, Liu Jikang, Wen Jia, Feng Yalan, and Mu Zi. This isn't the Chinese "A" Team, but anyone on the Chinese Team is a superstar in the U.S.!

Header Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (3:36) of this new version of table tennis that's sweeping the world, or least Germany! It's a combination of table tennis, soccer, and insanity. I get a headache just watching.

Waldner and Persson Goofing Off

Here's video (1:23) of the two goofing off in Moscow, with Waldner impersonating former top players.

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June 30, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 8, and the U.S. Open

This morning I'm flying out to the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, along with a large group of other Maryland players. So no more blogs until after I return next week. I'm mostly coaching, though I'm entered in two hardbat doubles events (Open and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, but I normally play with sponge). When I'm free I'll probably be watching matches or hanging out at the Butterfly booth - stop by and say hello! Better still, buy one of my books (likely on sale at the Butterfly and Paddle Palace booths), and I'll sign it. Prove to me that you read my blog by saying the secret password: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers." (Better write that down!) 

Here's the U.S. Open press release, which went out on June 18. Here's the U.S. Open Program Booklet. And here's the U.S. Open Home page. Here's the player listing of the 705 players entered (click on their name and you can see what events they are entered in), the event listing (which shows who is entered in each event), and the results (which won't show results for this Open until events start coming in on Tuesday, though can see results of past Opens and Nationals there).

Tip of the Week

Forehand or Backhand Serve & Attack.

Tactics Coaching

I had my final tactics coaching session with Kaelin and Billy on Friday. We revisited the tactics of playing choppers to go over how to play chopper/loopers, which are a bit different than playing more passive choppers. (For one thing, you can't just topspin soft over and over or they'll attack.) Then we went over playing long pips blockers, and I pulled out one of my long pips rackets, the one with no sponge, and demonstrated what good long pips players can do if you don't play them smart - not just blocking back loops with heavy backspin, but also how they can push-block aggressively against backspin, essentially doing a drive with a pushing motion.

Next we covered the tactics of pushing. The thing I stressed most is that it's not enough to be very good at a few aspects of pushing; you have to be pretty good at all aspects. This means being able to push pretty quick off the bounce, with pretty good speed, pretty good backspin, pretty low to the net, pretty deep, pretty well angled, and be pretty good at last second changes of direction. If you do all of these things pretty well, you'll give even advanced players major fits. If you do four or five these things well, and perhaps even very well, but are weak at one or two of them, a top player will make you pay for it. We also went over pushing short, and how you can also change directions with them at the last second.

Then we covered the tactics of playing different styles - loopers (both one-winged and two-winged loopers); the "flat" styles (blockers, counter-hitters, and hitters); and playing fishers & lobbers. When you play a fisher or lobber, mostly smash at the wide backhand and middle. The goal isn't to win the point outright, though that'll often happen with a good smash. The goal is to get a lob that lands shorter on the table, which you can smash for a wide-angle winner, either inside-out with sidespin to the wide backhand, or a clean winner to the forehand. You don't want to challenge the forehand of most lobbers as they usually have more range and spin on that side, and can counter-attack much better there.

I'd given them an assignment the day before to come with an example of one player that they had trouble playing against so we could go over the tactics that might work there. By an amazing coincidence, they independently chose the same player, a top lefty from their club. So we went over how to play that player. Poor guy doesn't know what's about to hit him!

And so ended our five hours of tactics coaching. But it's all written down in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Coach Chen Jian

The last few days before the U.S. Open we had some guests from China, who came to MDTTC to train before the U.S. Open. Heading the group was Coach Chen Jian. He's the former National Junior Coach for China, who coached Zhang Jike and Ma Long as juniors in international events. Now he's the head coach of the full-time Ni Rui club in Hang Zhou, China. Since I was busy coaching in our camp, I only barely noticed him the first few days. But on Friday, after the camp finished, I got to watch him do a session with one of our top players, Nathan Hsu. Nathan just turned 18, and is about to spend three months training in China, including at least a month under Coach Chen. The session was great to watch as he made some changes in Nathan's footwork and strokes. It was all in Chinese, but Ryan Dabbs gave a running translation for me, and Nathan told me about it afterwards.

MDTTC Camp

On Friday we finished Week Two of our ten weeks of summer camps. Because of the U.S. Open I'll be missing Week Three, but coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run that, along with Raghu Nadmichettu and others.

During a short lecture and demo on forehand looping against heavy backspin, I demoed the stroke, and as I often do, held a ball in my playing hand as I did this, releasing it at the end of the stroke to show how the power is going both forward and up. Except this time the ball went up and got stuck in an air conditioning fixture! The kids found that very funny, and we're out another ball.

I also verified something I've always known: given a choice, younger kids seem to like scorekeeping with a scoreboard more than actually playing matches. We did an informal tournament on Friday, and I brought out a scoreboard, which some of them had never seen before. At least two kids were near tears when told they had to play matches, and so couldn't scorekeep. ("But I want to keep score!!!") They battled over control of the scoreboard, and most matches ended up with two or three kids simultaneously and together flipping the score each time.

As I've noted in past blogs, I spend most of these camps working with the beginners and younger players. It wasn't like this for most of our 22 years, but three years ago coaches Cheng and Jack asked if I'd do that during our summer camps. But on Friday I finally did a session with some of the advanced players, and had a great time. We focused on multiball training where I fed backspin followed by topspin, and the player had to loop the first, and either loop or smash the second (depending on their style and level of development).

Table Tennis Lawsuit

Here's a strange one. I received an email this weekend from a lawyer representing a woman who was injured while playing table tennis on a cruise, and was suing the cruise ship! They asked if I could be their table tennis advisor. I don't think that knowing about table tennis is going to help deciding whether the ship was liable for the woman's injuries. She apparently received her injury when she went to retrieve the ball and "struck her face on an unmarked stairwell railing immediately adjacent to the table where she was playing." I told them I didn't have much experience in the safety aspects of table tennis pertaining to this and didn't have time anyway, and gave them contact info for USATT. (Sorry, USATT!)

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Physical Training

Here's the page with links to numerous videos - his trainer is creative!

Kanak Jha and Mo Zhang win North American Titles

Here's the ITTF article.

Photos from the North America Cup

Here they are

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-six down, 65 to go!

  • Day 64: The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part I
  • Day 65: Dr. Amen Questions: "Table tennis is the perfect brain exercise"
  • Day 66: Junior Commission Chair Dennis Davis

Zhang Jike Used Ma Long to Prove Something

Here's the article.

Thomas Weikert on Chinese Domination

Here's the interview with the incoming ITTF President. 

Table Tennis: Like a Fish and Water

Here's the article on junior star Michael Tran. 

Xu Xin Shows the Power of Lob

Here's the video (50 sec) as he lobs and counter-attacks against Ma Long.

Ariel Hsing - Photos from Princeton

Here are seven photos of our three-time National Women's Singles Champion in various poses, including some table tennis ones.

Justin Timberlake Plays Table Tennis!

Here's the picture

Miller Light Commercial

Here's video (31 sec) of a new Miller Light Commercial, with "water" table tennis four seconds in (but only for a second). 

Net-hugging Cat Playing Ping-Pong

It's been a while since I've posted a new video of a cat playing table tennis, so here's 27 seconds of a cat playing while hugging the net.

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September 19, 2013

Yesterday's Coaching Activities

I had three hours of private coaching, then a meeting with others to go over our new junior progress reports.

The first session was with an 8-year-old, about 1200 level, who's struggling to decide whether to be an attacker or defender. He may well be the best 8-year-old lobber I've ever seen; he can lob back my hardest smashes dozens of times in a row as long as I don't smother kill at wide angles. (There's something humorous about a little kid lobbing from way back at the barriers!) He also chops well. He's also got a nice loop from both wings, but has one serious problem on both: he's too impatient to do the same shot over and over, and so it's hard to get him to develop a repeating stroke. Unless I keep a firm hand on the drills, most rallies end up with him looping a couple balls, taking a step back after each, and then he's off lobbing and fishing, and looking for chances to suddenly counter-smash. He's recently faced the realization that if he's going to chop, he'll probably need long pips, which will take away his backhand lob - and he doesn't like that. So we're in a state of flux on whether to train him as an attacker or defender. Ultimately, I'm letting him make the final decision. I've advised him that, unless he very much wants to be a chopper/looper, he should focus on attacking, and he can always switch to more chopping later on. It's a big decision that'll affect the rest of his life!!!

The second session was with an 11-year-old, about 1200 level, who's about to finally start playing tournaments. He's playing in the MDTTC October Open and the North American Teams in November, and perhaps others. He's a big forehand attacker who likes to run around the table ripping forehand loops and smashes. Most interesting part of the session was when I urged him to really develop the backhand (while still focusing on the forehand) - and his reaction was he wanted to practice backhands for nearly half the session. We had some great rallies, and near the end it started to really click in. He wants to really focus on serves as well, and I promised we'd start off next session with that.

The third session was with a 12-year-old who was having only his second session since being away all summer. He's about 1000, but rusty. So we're focusing on fundamentals. He's doing really well in multiball drills, where we did a lot of looping against backspin (both wings) and combinations (loop a backspin, smash a topspin). In live drills he's still a bit too erratic, but it's getting better.

Then I met about what I've been calling the Junior Progressions. These are a series of criteria a beginning/intermediate player needs to fulfill to move from Level 1 to Level 5. At the lowest level, players need to bounce the ball on the racket a certain number of times, demonstrate proper grip and ready position, know the basic rules, hit a small number of strokes, etc. As they move up, it gets harder; at Level 5 they have to hit 100 forehands and backhands and demonstrate a few counterloops. We're still finalizing and testing them. We'll be using them for the first time later this fall. Once I'm more confident we have the right criteria, perhaps I'll publish them. (We'd been shown examples of how some other programs did this, such as AYTTO.

The Importance of Lobbing

Here's the latest USATT Tip of the Week, another of the ones I wrote.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in Austin

Here's the ITTF article on the coaching course Richard McAfee ran in Austin, TX last week.

Adam Hugh's Juggling No-Look Target Serve

Here's the entry of former USA team member Adam Hugh to the ITTF Trick Shot Showdown Contest. "Your move." Here's the page showing videos entered so far.

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August 19, 2013

Tip of the Week

Height of Service Toss.

How to Promote Major Tournaments

Over the years there have been numerous discussions on how to promote the U.S. Open and Nationals so as to bring in more players, more spectators, more press, and make it a better experience for all. There are many good ideas out there, and I read some excellent ones in a threat at about.com over the last few days.

But all of these excellent posters are missing the point - ideas don't get the job done. If you want to improve on these things, don't start by pushing ideas, no matter how good they are. Start by pushing to have someone officially in charge of implementing improvements. For example, if you think we need to present matches at the Open and National better, perhaps with more scorekeepers or better communication, don't press for more scorekeepers or better communication; press for someone to be in charge of presentation. Then there is an official person in charge of this, and he can officially push for these things, and they are far more likely to happen.

Want to increase the number of entries at the Open or Nationals? Have someone officially in charge of increasing entries. Want to have more spectators? Have someone officially in charge of bringing in spectators. Want more press coverage? Have someone officially in charge of media coverage.

You won't find success this way every time since not everyone officially in charge of something will do the job well. If they don't, then thank them for their services and put someone else in charge.

How do you find these people with a limited budget? You ask for volunteers. This is one of the most untapped areas for USATT. For example, I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America. They have about 1500 members, less than 1/5 the USATT membership. And yet they have an elaborate web page, run huge conventions (far larger than anything in table tennis - we're talking 5000 people in the biggest ones), have a fancy magazine, and do all sorts of membership services, far more than USATT - and they have exactly one part-time employee. It's essentially all volunteer run. (Why do they only have 1500 members? Because they have very exclusive and difficult membership requirements - to join, you have to sell a SF or fantasy novel to a select group of "professional" publishers - i.e. the highest-paying ones - or sell three short stories to a select group of "professional" magazines - i.e. the highest-paying ones.)

Coaching and Playing Idiosyncrasies

Every player and coach has his major idiosyncrasies. What are yours? Here are some of mine.

  1. I rarely have a coaching session where I don't blow the ball back at least one time. (I do this less with long-established players - it gets old after a while - but new students beware!)
  2. I rarely have a coaching session where I don't throw up at least one backspin lob that comes back to my side of the table.
  3. I entertain the kids by blowing a ball in the air so it floats in the air over my head and to the side. (By using spin I can make it balance sideways.)
  4. When telling a student how to hit the ball, I regularly say "bang" at the point where they contact the ball.
  5. With beginners I often hum in rhythm to the ball going back and forth. It helps their timing.
  6. I end many group sessions with the kids trying to smack a bottle as I feed multiball. If they hit it, I have to drink what's in the bottle - and it's never just Gatorade or water; it's always worm juice, beetle juice, dog saliva, etc.
  7. I end most multiball segments with a high ball for players to smash.
  8. As a player, when I'm serving I always start by rolling up my right sleeve slightly with my left arm, then swing my right arm underneath me one time (to loosen it up), then I come to a stop for a moment as I visualize my serve, and then I serve.

Learning the Side-Swipe Serve Return

Here's a video (10:24) of Chen Weixing showing his infamous side-swipe serve return with long pips.

New USATT Feature - Video of the Day

USATT's webpage has a new feature: Video of the Day. Today's Video is Getting Down to Basics (Tips from U.S. Olympic Coach Doru Gheorghe). Yesterday's was Top 10 Hand Switch Shots.

Video Review of Table Tennis: Steps to Success

Here's a video review (49 sec) of one my first book, Table Tennis: Steps to Success. The book first came out in 1993, with a new version in 2006. This video came on July 2, 2012, but this is the first time I'd heard of it. I'm working on a new version, which hopefully will be out by early next year. For now, if you are looking for a table tennis book, try Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!

Great Lobbing Point

Here's a video (25 sec) of Xu Xin and Ma Long lobbing in doubles at the Harmony China Open. Did Ma Long make that sudden counter-smash at the end? I can't tell.

The Perfect Swimming Pool

Here it is.

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April 20, 2012

Get your feet moving by lobbing

The large majority of players rarely lob. It's not that they don't like to lob - just about everyone finds lobbing fun - but most simply do not have the mobility to effectively lob, and so they don't. (Many of these players stand like a tree when they should be moving like a squirrel.) But isn't this backwards?

If you don't have the mobility to lob, why not practice lobbing to develop that mobility? It's not a hard concept; if you practice moving, you learn to move better. And the nice thing is that if you develop mobility off the table lobbing, you will also improve your general mobility, both close to the table and away. Not only that, but if you learn to lob, you add a new tool to your table tennis toolbox. Plus lobbing is just one step away from counterlooping, a more offensive and valuable off-table weapon.

Here's an article on lobbing, an article on smashing lobs, a more general article on topspin defense, and an article on counterlooping. Study these articles; you will be tested! (If not by me, then by your opponents in matches.)

North American Olympic Trials

They start today in Cary, NC, Fri-Sun, and here's the page where you'll find Draws, Live Streaming, Participants, Prospectus & Schedule. Here's an article about it. Here are 14 pictures from Thursday's practice and meeting day.

Werner Schlager Special

Here's a 53-minute video on 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager, still a member of the Austrian National Team. Schlager is speaking German, and the commentators Japanese, but there's a lot of nice table tennis footage.

Table Tennis Artwork

Here's Mike Mezyan's latest table tennis artwork. Of this one he wrote, "My Latest Artwork 'Prehistoric Paddle' (Paddle Sounds Like Battle) Inspired By Larry Hodges, I Read This Line in His Blog 'Our Ancestors Carried Around Ping-Pong Paddles To Fend Off Arial Attacks From Large Man-Eating Eagles' the rest was history..or was it?" (The line was from my blog on April 17, in the "Close the Racket!" segment.) If you click on the picture and subsequent ones you'll see about twenty other works of table tennis art he's done.

Funny table tennis pictures

Let's finish today with some funny table tennis pictures. Have a good weekend!

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April 17, 2012

"Close the racket!!!"

These three words are the most common ones spoken to kids when they first learn to play. I've come to understand the millions of years ago our ancestors carried around ping-pong paddles to fend off arial attacks from large man-eating eagles. And so it is in our genes to aim the paddle upward to defend against avian attacks. Adults can overcome this ingrained instinct, but kids, being smaller, apparently are more afraid of eagles. No matter how many times I lead them through the proper stroke and have them shadow-practice the shot, as soon as I feed them a ball multiball style most invariably flip their wrist back and aim the paddle up, and hit the ball high into the air, apparently in an attempt to shoot down those ferocious eagles. (Okay, it's usually not that bad, but most kids start with this tendency, and some have great difficulty breaking it. I have one 5-year-old girl who after two lessons still can't stop herself from launching eagle-bound ping-pong balls toward the ceiling.)

Exhibition at MDTTC Open House

Here's a video (8:44) of the exhibition I did with Derek Nie at the MDTTC Open House on April 7. (Derek, 11, is rated 2090 and was a finalist in 10 and under at the 2011 USA Nationals. That's Crystal Wang umpiring and standing up to me no matter how much I harass and bribe her.) I do humorous exhibitions with lots of trick shots and props. This one went decently, but I missed too many times with the clipboard and big paddle. Also, the video cuts off before the game is over. (We played one game to 15, since one 11-point game is too short to get all the tricks in.) In the unseen video afterwards I blew one ball back, aced Derek with a backspin come-back-over-the-net serve, led the crowd in the world's first table tennis wave (I've done that about 200 times), and did a bunch of lobbing while lying on the floor as I "almost" come back. (Derek knew in advance that he gets to win.)  Later on we had another "straight" exhibition between Han Xiao and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (Here are pictures from another exhibition I did at nearby Lake Forrest Mall.)

French Hardbat

Here's a poster that appears to promote a French Hardbat tournament. (I don't read French, sorry.)

Joo Se Hyuk's sidespin chop

Here's an interesting video from PingSkills that teaches world #8 (and the #1 chopper) Joo Se Hyuk's curving sidespin chop against a smash (1:53).

Lobbing video

Here's a video (7:53) that showcases great lobbing points by many of the best players in the world, both in real matches and exhibitions.

Cat playing table tennis

Here's a new video of a cat playing table tennis (1:49). He doesn't just hit forepaws, he has four paws. And things get really interesting when the net goes down.

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