Warren Buffett

May 7, 2014

Classes and Clinics vs. Training

On Monday we had the last session of a ten-week beginning/intermediate class I taught. The twelve players in the class ranged from beginner to about 1500. During those ten weeks we covered pretty much every major aspect of table tennis - forehand and backhand drives, forehand and backhand loops, blocking, smashing, pushing, flipping, ready stance, footwork, grip, serve, receive, equipment, tactics and playing styles, and even chopping and lobbing. And yet many of the players weren't really ready for some of the more advanced things I taught. As I explained to them, there's a difference between a class or clinic, and training sessions or a training camp. 

For the class, I wanted everyone in the class to have a good idea of most of the techniques. They might not be able to do some of the advanced serves I demonstrated, but now that they know what's possible they can systematically practice until, someday, they might be able to do so. The same is true of other "advanced" techniques, such as looping. If I had not shown them these more advanced techniques, they wouldn't even know what's possible, and wouldn't have something to work toward. I even prepared them for various racket surfaces with talks on each of the major ones - short pips, hardbat, antispin, and long pips (with and without sponge).

There's a difference between a class and a clinic as well. A class is something that you do more than once, such as what we did - every Monday from 6:30-8:00 PM for ten weeks. A clinic is more of a one-time thing, where you cover whatever you can in one day, or perhaps a weekend, or even a week. 

So what's the difference between a clinic and a training camp? There's a lot of overlap, but basically, in a clinic, you teach new techniques. In a training camp, you emphasize the training itself, with lots and lots of training drills and few lectures. In clinics you give a number of lectures to the group; in training your coaching is mostly one-on-one as each player trains.

I discussed with the members of the class continuing as a training program on Mondays, but two things happened. First, several said they couldn't do it right now, but would be available in the fall. And second, probably more important, I realized that with our summer training camps coming up, I'm going to be incredibly busy this summer. The camps are 10AM-6PM each day, and are in addition to my regular private coaching and three junior training group sessions each week. So I postponed it until this fall. Then I'll try to get a group together for training each week, probably on Monday nights. If it's popular, we can go to twice a week.

We'll have training camps all summer for ten consecutive weeks, Mon-Fri each week, starting June 16. (Here's the info flyer. I'll be at eight of the camps, missing June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writing workshop I'm attending in Manchester, NH.) While the emphasis is training, they are really both training camps for the more advanced players, and clinics for beginning/intermediate players. I give a few lectures/demos each day, and then we go into groups - usually three main groups, for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players. And they are then trained accordingly. 

Here's a good example of the difference between a clinic and a training camp. I went to a number of Seemiller clinics in the late 1970s. They were really both clinic and training camp, and I learned and improved a lot. Then in 1980, when I was 20 and only about 2000 level, I went to a two-week training camp held by Zoran Kosanovic. (Also at the camp were 12-year-olds Sean O'Neill and Scott Butler and 9-year-old Jim Butler.) I expected it'd be the same thing, with a mixture of lectures and practice, and perhaps a little physical training. Boy was I wrong!!! It was all training. We did at least an hour of physical training each day, plus two three-hour training sessions. It was exhausting, but it was exactly what I needed at that time, since I'd pretty much absorbed knowledge of the game until that point faster than I could learn the techniques. I improved dramatically during and after the camp. (For me, the focus was on forehand looping and on proper footwork when stepping around the backhand corner - I wasn't rotating around enough on my step-arounds.)

ITTF Legends Tour

It starts tonight in Belgium. Here's the home page for the event, and the Facebook page. Here's the ITTF article that came out this morning. Here's the draw for the six legends. Click on it to see a group picture, L-R: Jorgen Persson (1991 World Men's Singles Champion), Jean-Michel Saive (former World #1), Jiang Jialiang (1985 & 1987 World Men's Singles Champion), Jean-Philippe Gatien (1993 World Men's Singles Champion), Mikael Appelgren (former world #1), and Jan-Ove Waldner (1989 & 1997 World Men's Singles Champion). Here are more pictures as the Super Six prepare for the event by playing . . . golf. Breaking news - Waldner golfs left-handed!

USATT Teleconference on March 17

Here are the minutes.

Table Tennis is Serious Business at Texas Wesleyan College

Here's the article.

Chinese Training for the Worlds

Here's a video (4 min) set to music showing their training.

Interview with Kong Linghui

Here's the video (1:52) with the head coach of Team China and former superstar player.

Find a Coach (in the UK)

Here's a new site for finding a coach - but it's only for the United Kingdom right now. The creator told me he hopes to open it up to the rest of the world later on.

Choked by a Billionaire

For those who missed it from a group of photos I posted a few days ago showing Ariel Hsing playing Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, here's one where sore loser Uncle Warren (current worth: $58 billion) chokes the life out of Ariel.

Non-Table Tennis - Sorcerers in Space

My novel "Sorcerers in Space" got a pretty good review at Abyss & Apex. (It's a humorous fantasy that covers the U.S.-Soviet space race in the '60s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts. The protagonist, 13-year-old Neil, is forced to give up his dreams of table tennis stardom to save the world.) "Reading this book had me humming tunes from the 1960s, and smiling, for days. I don’t recommend reading Sorcerers in Space in bed next to your spouse. You’ll keep waking them up when you laugh." You can buy copies at Amazon or save a few dollars and buy it directly from Class Act Books.

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May 5, 2014

Tip of the Week

Returning Smashes and Loop Kills.

World Championships

The World Championships finished today, and by today I mean Tokyo time, meaning it's already over. And guess what? It's hard to believe, but once again China came out of NOWHERE to sweep everything . . . again. Okay, that's sarcasm; I figured there was about a 90% chance they'd sweep it all. It would have taken an earthquake to stop them - and there was an earthquake in Tokyo just yesterday, just not enough to stop the unstoppable from being unstoppable.

On the men's side, Germany gave them a good battle in the final, but Ma Long proved to be the Chinese hero. Ma started things off by defeating Timo Boll at 6,9,9. Timo actually led all three games but Ma came back each time. In the second match things got interesting as Dimitrij Ovtcharov upset reigning men's world champion Zhang Jike at 11,8,6. Then Xu Xin dispatched the German #3, Patrick Franziska, at 5,2,8. Then it was Dimitrij against Ma, with the German hoping to find lightning a second time and send things into the fifth and final set - but Ma was way too much, winning at 10,5,2.

Here are videos of the men's matches:

  1. Ma Long d. Timo Boll, 6,9,9 (4:07);
  2. Dimitrij Ovtcharov d. Zhang Jike, 11,8,6 (5:01);
  3. Xu Xin d. Patrick Franziska, 5,2,8 (3:33);
  4. Ma Long d. Dimitrij Ovtcharov, 10,5,2 (4:21).

The women's final between China and Japan was taking place as I write this, and I plan on posting this as soon as it's done. In the first match Ding Ning of China defeated Yuka Ishigaki at 5,-8,2,5. In the second match it was Li Xiaoxia over Kasumi Ishikawa, 8,7,7. In the third and final match (which just finished as I write this), it was Liu Shiwen over Sayaka Hirano at 4,2,5.

I'll post video of the women's final tomorrow - it doesn't seem to be up yet at TTCountenance. (I prefer to use them because they take the time out between points. It's possible others do this as well, but I'm not sure.)

China has now won Men's Teams at the Worlds seven consecutive times, and nine of the last ten. Due to a blip in 2010 where they were upset by Singapore, China has won Women's Teams "only" two consecutive times (ending a streak of eight consecutive wins) - but they've won it all but twice since 1975, including ten of the last eleven and 18 of the last 20.

You can get complete results and articles at the ITTF World Championship Page. You can find videos of all the great action at the tt-news page. (TTCountenance has also been putting the videos up, with time between points removed.) Here are Daily Video Reviews. And here are the daily World Championship Newsletters, with one more to come.

  • April 28
  • April 29
  • April 30
  • May 1
  • May 2
  • May 3
  • May 4
  • May 5 (this one is not yet up, but I know the address it'll have when ready, so you can keep checking on it until it goes up. It should be the final one, with news on the Men's and Women's Team Final.)

And speaking of Chinese domination…

ITTF Introduces Changes. Are They to Reduce Chinese Domination?

Here's the ITTF Press Release. And  here's an article on it. 

USA at the Worlds

You can get coverage of the USA Team at the USA at the Worlds Page. (The men finished tied for 49th, the women tied for 21st.) Here's a slideshow tribute to Team USA.

Bruce Liu did daily rundowns on the USA Team. Here they are:

  1. Day 1: Men and Women
  2. Day 2: Women Men
  3. Day 3: Women Men
  4. Day 4: Women Men
  5. Day 5: Men and Women

Lily Zhang was the women's team star. She went in with a world ranking of #109 from March (but off the list in April due to inactivity), and compiled the following 7-2 record (with special thanks to compiler John Olsen):

WINS:

  • Viktoria Pavlovich, world #11
  • Georgina Pota, world #35
  • Szandra Pergel, world #90
  • Ana-Maria Erdelji, world #101
  • Alexandra Privalova, world #102
  • Andrea Todorovic, world #157
  • Miao Miao, world #224 in February

LOSSES:

  • Yuka Ishigaki, world #38
  • Chen Szu-Yu, world #54

Day 7 Shot of the Day at the Worlds

Here's video (52 sec, shown twice from different angles) of an incredible rally in the Men's Semifinals between Japan's Jun Mizutani and Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov. Here are other Shots and Moments of the Day from the Worlds.

$16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open

Want more of a USA table tennis fix? Here are all of Barbara Wei's articles on the $16,000 Butterfly St. Louis Open, held this weekend. I linked to the early ones on Friday, but here are all eight articles.

Robots vs. Multiball

Here's the article and video (3:45) from PingSkills.

Meet Penn State's Own Marcus "Pingpong" Jackson

Here's the article on this former MDTTC prodigy!

Ariel Hsing vs. Bill Gates and Warren Buffett

As they do every year, at an annual gathering of gadzillionaires, they brought in Ariel Hsing to play the two she calls "Uncle Bill" and "Uncle Warren." (I think she won.) Here is video (after an irritating 30 sec commercial), and here are ten photos (click on photo to see the next one).

Phoenix - Trying To Be Cool

Here's video of this music video. The link should take you directly to 2:25, where there's several seconds of rather intense table tennis action!

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May 8, 2013

Sidespin Loops

In the late 1970s I went to several Seemiller camps. One of the things I learned there is that looping with sidespin was a good thing, and that a natural loop generally has something like 15% sidespin. This is for two reasons. First, the natural contact point of the ball is lower than the shoulder, so the arm is tilted down, and so it naturally contacts the ball somewhat on the outside, which puts sidespin on the ball. And second, if you meet a loop straight on with pure topspin, you are going up directly against the incoming topspin, and so it's better to contact it more on the side so as not to have to go up against it directly. (Here's a Tip of the Week I wrote last year on Sidespin Loops.)

There's even more to it than that. One of the things I've pointed out to some of my students is that you get a more natural hooking sidespin on your loop if you take the ball either early or late. If you take it early, your natural contact point will be more on the outside of the ball, since your arm will be tilted forward. (This is the right side for a right-hander.) If you take the ball late, you have a natural sidespin swing as your stroke tends to go more sideways. If you take it in the middle, then you'll get that natural 15% sidespin, but generally not as much as if you take it early or late.

There is value in these sidespins. If you take it quick off the bounce, and hook the ball as well, and go for a wide angle to the left (for a right-hander), the combination of these three make it an almost unreturnable shot - it combines quickness, sidespin breaking away, and wide angle.

If you take the ball late, the sidespin is effective in messing up your opponent - and you often need that extra something since you are giving your opponent more time. Watch the world-class players when they counterloop from way off the table, and see how they often load the ball with hooking sidespin.

You can also loop with inside-out sidespin, so the ball breaks to the right (for a righty). This tends to be most effective when taken off the bounce, well angled to the right, so you again get a combination of quickness, sidespin breaking away, and angle, leading to an almost unreturnable shot.

Personally I go for lots of hooking loops to the left (I'm a righty) at wide angles, which are often outright winners. The key is to learn to read your opponent and see what he's ready for. Few players can cover both corners effectively off a strong loop, and if you add sidespin so it breaks away from him, you'll often leave him flailing at the ball as it whizzes by.

USA World Rankings

I've put together a complete listing of all USA players with world rankings - Men, Women, and Boys and Girls in Under 21, Under 18, and Under 21. It's rather long, so I've put it at the end.

The Chinese National Team Training at the Werner Schlager Academy Blog

Here is Coach Donn Olsen's blog about the Chinese Team training for the Worlds, Days 1-3.

Ariel Hsing with Uncles Warren and Bill - the Video

Yesterday I showed pictures of Ariel Hsing playing table tennis with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates this past Sunday. Here's the video (1:07)! These three together are worth $120 billion, have won two U.S.

Women's Singles titles, and one's an Olympian.

Table Tennista

Here are the latest international headlines from Table Tennista. Of especial interest is the first item, where Stefano Bosi will not be allowed to speak at the upcoming ITTF meetings about his allegations against ITTF President Adham Sharara, who Bosi is running against for president.

2013 World Ping Tour

Here are Facebook photos from the ITTF of a table tennis festival they put on in Marseille, France.

Don Iguana

At the About.com table tennis forum, there's a thread about table tennis and pets. (Go to the first posting and you'll see a picture of someone using his pet dog as the net - here's the picture.) Someone mentioned the famous Don Iguana. Here's the story.

In the early 1990s I had a 3-year-old pet Iguana named Don. I was running tournaments at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which included an Under 12 event. So I entered Don in the tournament, including buying him a USATT membership. I didn't actually bring Don to the tournament, but when it was time for him to play, I sent the clipboard out, and the kids played along. They'd keep the clipboard for a few minutes, and then they'd return it with scores, invariable 21-0, 21-0. From this Don achieved an actual rating of 25. He "played" several tournaments. In his last one, Michael Squires (who now works for JOOLA USA) put down his win as 21-0, 21-1, thereby letting Don score his first and only point ever in tournament competition. Don also "lost" to a girl rated in the low 200's, and so lost a rating point, and dropped to 24, which is what he is listed as. (Alas, the ratings didn't go online until 1994, and this all took place in 1992 or 1993, so there is no official tournament record of his matches.) When the USATT Ratings Director found out about Don, he was furious, saying it make a mockery of the ratings, and was very unhappy that a player had gained a rating point in a match that didn't take place. He took Don out of the ratings. A few years later his successor put him back in. 

After this there were numerous online stories about Don. I told about how Don was always just happy to play, and how he stubbornly stuck to his strategy of standing absolutely motionless while waiting for the opponent to miss his serve, a tactic that finally achieved fruition against Squires. Others wrote romantic tales of Don's adventures around the world, often as a pirate (hi Alan and Dave Williams!). 

If you want to see his rating, go to the USATT ratings database and put in "Iguana."

Colorful Table Tennis

Here's a picture of either table tennis balls or buttons (I'm really not sure which, though I'm leaning toward buttons), with colorful pictures of players on them. (If you can't see the Facebook version, try this.)

USA World Rankings

Here's a listing of all USA players with ITTF world rankings. The first column is their world ranking. The second is their ITTF rating, which is similar to USATT ratings but with lower numbers. Here are Men's and Women's Rankings; Under 21 Rankings; Under 18 Rankings; and Under 15 Rankings. There are a lot of Californians on the list, especially from the Bay area, led by Lily Zhang and Ariel Hsing in the Women's and Junior Girls, and Kunal Chodri and Kanak Jha on the Boys' Side. I'm proud of all the Marylanders on the list:(or former Marylanders before they went off to college - Li and Song): Wang Qing Liang (#1 USA player in Under 18 Boys and #2 in Men), Peter Li, Chen Bo Wen, Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, Xiyao Song, and Crystal Wang.

WOMEN
94 2202 ZHANG Lily USA
95 2198 HSING Ariel USA
148 2061 ZHENG Jiaqi USA
160 2025 LIU Nai Hui USA
202 1919 WANG Huijing USA
236 1875 WU Yue USA
331 1710 TIAN Maggie Meng USA
351 1696 JHA Prachi USA
417 1593 ZHAO Jenny USA
420 1590 HUGH Judy USA
422 1588 WANG Xinyue USA
433 1578 WU Erica USA
470 1535 LI Tao USA
605 1382 KURIMAY Dora USA
633 1351 LIN Tina USA
657 1319 SONG Xiyao USA
716 1260 JIANG Diane USA
770 1207 GUAN Angela USA
780 1196 LI Joy USA
806 1176 CHU Isabel USA
835 1149 LIU Charlene Xiaoying USA
842 1143 WANG Crystal USA
933 1064 CHODRI Aditi USA
949 1042 LUO Michelle USA
982 1007 HUANG Laura USA
998 988 WANG Amy USA
1008 980 DEB Ishana USA
1035 949 LUO Yanan Vicky USA
MEN
378 1446 LIANG Jishan USA
393 1427 WANG Qing Liang USA
405 1416 WANG Timothy USA
435 1374 SEEMILLER Danny USA
496 1317 HUGH Adam USA
527 1291 ZHANG Yahao USA
593 1213 LANDERS Michael USA
595 1209 SHAO Yu USA
649 1147 BUTLER Jim USA
698 1092 GAO Yan Jun USA
701 1087 LI Peter USA
712 1076 LI Grant USA
870 964 FENG Yijun USA
939 895 LI Hangyu USA
943 892 WANG Can USA
971 869 CHODRI Kunal USA
984 857 JHA Kanak USA
1022 822 WANG Allen USA
1089 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
1104 764 LIU Dan USA
1104 764 JIN Ethan USA
1107 763 WANG Max Qinmin USA
1148 729 OU Jonathan USA
1179 701 REED Barney USA
1184 698 TRAN Theodore USA
1207 676 LI Fengguang USA
1252 638 PATEL Aashay USA
1287 612 HSU Nathan USA
1310 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
1342 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
1347 557 AZARSKY Asaf USA
1382 527 CROITOROO Mark USA
1415 506 PAK Kwang-Bin USA
1442 469 CLYDE Stephen USA
1448 464 GONG Tong Tong USA
1470 430 BUTLER Scott USA
1481 421 BOCKOVEN Chase USA
1499 403 GAO Baiyi USA
1531 367 OAK Niraj USA
1534 362 SEEMILLER Daniel USA
1534 362 WALK Michael USA
1612 184 PICCIOTTO Daniel USA
UNDER 21 GIRLS
24 2202 ZHANG Lily USA
25 2198 HSING Ariel USA
152 1696 JHA Prachi USA
197 1593 ZHAO Jenny USA
205 1578 WU Erica USA
366 1351 LIN Tina USA
389 1319 SONG Xiyao USA
439 1260 JIANG Diane USA
491 1207 GUAN Angela USA
500 1196 LI Joy USA
524 1176 CHU Isabel USA
553 1143 WANG Crystal USA
637 1064 CHODRI Aditi USA
653 1042 LUO Michelle USA
686 1007 HUANG Laura USA
702 988 WANG Amy USA
712 980 DEB Ishana USA
737 949 LUO Yanan Vicky USA
UNDER 21 BOYS
103 1427 WANG Qing Liang USA
175 1291 ZHANG Yahao USA
215 1213 LANDERS Michael USA
288 1087 LI Peter USA
297 1076 LI Grant USA
411 964 FENG Yijun USA
472 895 LI Hangyu USA
476 892 WANG Can USA
509 857 JHA Kanak USA
542 822 WANG Allen USA
604 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
619 764 JIN Ethan USA
619 764 LIU Dan USA
622 763 WANG Max Qinmin USA
659 729 OU Jonathan USA
691 698 TRAN Theodore USA
712 676 LI Fengguang USA
755 638 PATEL Aashay USA
788 612 HSU Nathan USA
809 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
840 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
878 527 CROITOROO Mark USA
911 506 PAK Kwang-Bin USA
937 469 CLYDE Stephen USA
943 464 GONG Tong Tong USA
975 421 BOCKOVEN Chase USA
993 403 GAO Baiyi USA
1101 184 PICCIOTTO Daniel USA
UNDER 18 GIRLS
6 2202 ZHANG Lily USA
7 2198 HSING Ariel USA
68 1696 JHA Prachi USA
101 1578 WU Erica USA
199 1351 LIN Tina USA
254 1260 JIANG Diane USA
296 1207 GUAN Angela USA
304 1196 LI Joy USA
319 1176 CHU Isabel USA
345 1143 WANG Crystal USA
413 1064 CHODRI Aditi USA
427 1042 LUO Michelle USA
454 1007 HUANG Laura USA
468 988 WANG Amy USA
477 980 DEB Ishana USA
UNDER 18 BOYS
40 1427 WANG Qing Liang USA
213 964 FENG Yijun USA
247 895 LI Hangyu USA
250 892 WANG Can USA
268 869 CHODRI Kunal USA
276 857 JHA Kanak USA
302 822 WANG Allen USA
347 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
359 764 JIN Ethan USA
391 729 OU Jonathan USA
417 698 TRAN Theodore USA
434 676 LI Fengguang USA
470 638 PATEL Aashay USA
498 612 HSU Nathan USA
517 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
544 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
635 464 GONG Tong Tong USA
663 421 BOCKOVEN Chase USA
681 403 GAO Baiyi USA
782 184 PICCIOTTO Daniel USA
UNDER 15 GIRLS
39 1351 LIN Tina USA
55 1260 JIANG Diane USA
71 1207 GUAN Angela USA
73 1196 LI Joy USA
84 1143 WANG Crystal USA
122 1007 HUANG Laura USA
131 988 WANG Amy USA
136 980 DEB Ishana USA
UNDER 15 BOYS
39 895 LI Hangyu USA
47 869 CHODRI Kunal USA
50 857 JHA Kanak USA
57 822 WANG Allen USA
66 773 CHEN Bo Wen USA
77 729 OU Jonathan USA
92 676 LI Fengguang USA
116 591 AVVARI Krishnateja USA
129 562 SHAH Aarsh USA
***
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May 7, 2013

Spammers

Due to massive spamming attacks, I've been forced to switch to requiring administrator approval for new accounts. Yesterday I had to block over 50 new accounts, each of which was posting spamming notes all over the comments section on my blog and the forum, which I also had to delete. (Fortunately I can generally delete all postings by a spammer with a few clicks - but it does take time.) So starting last night, new visitors can create accounts but administrator approval is required. It seems to be working - since last night 18 more accounts were created, but only two legit. (On a related note, anyone who has to constantly waste time battling these spammers believes in the death penalty.)

Table Tennis Leagues in the U.S.

Last night I had a debate on the MyTableTennis forum on the future of leagues in the U.S., and whether a nationwide network of local leagues is possible. Here's where I join the discussion. I ended up posting thirteen notes. (You can also read the previous postings of course.) I was thinking of copying and pasting the entire discussion here, but I'll just post my first note, and link to the rest. There's some lively discussion, so if you have any interest in leagues or the growth of table tennis in the U.S., I hope you read the rest of it.

The goal of a nationwide network of local leagues isn't to set up leagues for currently existing clubs. The purpose is to use the leagues spur the creation of new clubs and players. This is how it was done in places all over the world, including Europe. Germany didn't start with 11,000 clubs and 700,000 and then decide to set up leagues; the leagues are what spurred the development of these 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players. The whole point is to set up local leagues, so nobody needs to drive hundreds of miles. [Note: I'm responding to a note that said leagues wouldn't work in the U.S. because players might have to drive hundreds of miles to get to the next local club.]

I remember when we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center many years ago. Over and over we were told there weren't enough players to support a full-time table tennis center devoted to coaching, and that there was no way players would pay enough hours for coaching to make it pay for itself. They missed the point - we weren't going after current players, we were going after NEW players. Now we have seven full-time coaches and over 300 hours of private coaching per week (plus group sessions), and full-time clubs with full-time coaches are popping up all over the country (about 60 of them now, compared to about 10 just seven years ago). Similarly, the purpose of a nationwide network of local leagues would be to bring in new players and new clubs, not just for existing ones.

It will not an easy task, and it probably does need to start in populated regions. If there are local organizers, as tennis does in the U.S. and other countries do in table tennis, than any city can develop table tennis leagues, and from the players signing up for those leagues more clubs can pop up, just as they do overseas. Tennis has such local leagues all over the U.S. and huge numbers of players, and they started out just where we are now. There's no reason why table tennis can't do the same; in Europe, nearly every country sports associations have more table tennis members than tennis members.

Striped Balls and Backhand Flip

Yesterday I blogged about using colorful soccer-style ping-pong balls for table tennis, since it makes it easier to see the spin on the ball. Here's a video (3:25) of Ma Long's backhand flip (also called a flick) where he's using a striped ball so you can see the spin. The video quality isn't good enough to really see the ball spin with the stripes - you can see it much better in person. I wonder how it would show up on normal TV?

USOC Athletes of the Month

USATT has two nominees for USOC Athlete of the Month for April - Lily Zhang and Timothy Wang. Please vote for them! You can vote for both a male athlete and a female athlete. Here are short bios on both, provided by USATT Webmaster Sean O'Neill.

Timothy Wang, Table Tennis
Olympian Timothy Wang (Houston, Texas) battled to a silver medal at the 2013 ITTF-North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. Rising to the occasion, Wang registered an impressive 3-0 win over top-seeded Pierre-Luc Theriault of Canada. He followed with a 4-1 semifinal victory over 2011 U.S. champion Peter Li (Laurel, M.D.). Wang, the current U.S. men’s singles No. 1, will lead the U.S. men at the 2013 World Championships taking place in Paris in May.

Lily Zhang, Table Tennis
Olympian Lily Zhang (Palo Alto, Calif.) captured first place at the 2013 ITTF North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. With the tournament featuring some of the best players from the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, Zhang defeated Olympic teammate Ariel Hsing (San Jose, Calif.), 4-1, in the women’s singles final. The victory qualified Zhang to compete in the STARTS Women’s World Cup, while ending Hsing’s attempt to three-peat as the North American Cup winner. Zhang advanced to the final upon beating fellow world team member Tina Lin (Edison, N.J.), 4-0, in the semifinal. Zhang will be representing the U.S. at the 2013 World Championships in May in Paris.

Table Tennis Master

Here's another interesting coaching article from Table Tennis Master, "Mastering the Counterloop."

Chinese Ping-Pong Song for the Worlds

Here's a music video (4:37) of the Chinese National Team singing their Ping-Pong Song for the 2013 World Championships and thanking their fans. How many of the players can you name?

Jesse Metcalfe

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation where actor Jesse Metcalfe (best known for his work on Desperate Housewives and the remake of Dallas) says he sees ping-pong as the future of nightlife.

Six Pictures Preparing for the Worlds

Here are six Facebook pictures from the ITTF showing players preparing for the Worlds at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. How many of the players can you name?

Ariel Hsing with Uncles Warren and Bill

Here's an article and photos from Table Tennista on Ariel Hsing, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates playing table tennis at the annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting this past Sunday. They've been bringing her in annually for this since she was a little kid. And here are three more photos.
Ariel with Bill and Warren
Warren Holding Ariel
Warren and Bill Play Doubles
(If you can't see these on Facebook, try this, this, and this.)

Learn from a Pro

"Adam Bobrow Now on Table 1." Here's the Facebook picture. (If you can't see it there, try this.)

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July 10, 2012

Staying Low

This past weekend I watched a 10-year-old I coach in matches at the club. I was grimacing as I watched him stand up nearly straight while receiving and in rallies, leading to awkward shots, especially on the backhand drive and forehand loop. So guess what the focus was in his lesson yesterday? Yes, staying low. For much of the hour I harped on staying down, with knees slightly bent, legs a bit wider. The result? His backhand drive and forehand loop shot up, and he moved much better. Near the end, we played points, and he was able to serve and loop better than he'd ever done before. In rallies, he could cover his backhand and hit real backhands, which had been a serious weakness.

Staying low helps you in multiple ways. First, by bending your knees, it gives you a quicker start. If the knees are straight, then before you can move you have to bend them, which wastes time. Second, it lowers your center of gravity, giving you more leverage in moving quickly. Third, with the legs wider, it allows you to stay balanced even on the move, since it's easier to keep the center of gravity between the legs. Fourth, with the knees bent, it makes it easier to step to the ball rather than lean. And fifth, it gets the coach out of your hair.

Can China Sweep the Olympics (Again)?

Here's an article in the China Daily on their chances, as well as going over their players and the opposition. From a mathematical point of view, if the Chinese have a 84% chance of winning in each of the four events, then their chances of sweeping are (.84)^4=.498, or only about 50%. Even a 90% chance in each event gives them about a 66% of sweeping.

Ariel Hsing versus Uncles Bill and Warren

Here's a video (1:57) by the Wall Street Journal that revisits U.S. Women's Champion Ariel Hsing and her battles at shareholder meetings with Uncle Bill Gates and Uncle Warren Buffett, as well as against Wall Street Journal Reporter Jared Diamond.

Ping-Pong, Senior Style

Here's a video about a documentary on octogenarian table tennis. It has some nice sequences and interviews. The actual documentary, "Ping Pong: Never Too Old For Gold," is now out in limited release. 

Paralympic Backhand

So you think you have backhand problems?

The Ping Festival in England

The Ping Festival (2:56) features street table tennis, costumes, ducks playing table tennis, big paddles, long-handled paddles, mayors, and things I can't even describe.

Roger Federer vs. Ma Lin

On Sunday, Federer won Wimbledon. Now he's trying to beat the Chinese.

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May 7, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Play and Practice with Weaker Players.

Returning the tomahawk serve

This is the serve where you serve with the racket tip up, and contact the ball on the right side, so it curves to the left, and the spin makes the ball come to your right off the opponent's paddle. It's awkward for many to take a ball spinning away from them on the forehand side and aim to the right, especially if the ball is short - try it and you'll see why. Until you reach the advanced levels, nearly everyone returns this serve toward the forehand side, and often they miss by going off the side to the left, or they allow the opponent to camp out on the forehand side. (This is for two righties; lefties make the usual adjustments. Sorry.)

Now think about this. Have you ever missed returning this serve by returning off the right side? Probably not. So just take it down the line, to the (righty's) backhand, knowing the sidespin will keep you from going off the side. Contact the back of the ball, perhaps slightly on the left side, so that the ball goes to the right, down the line.

Keep the racket relatively high - don't lower it as you chase after it as it bounces and spins away from you, or you'll end up lifting the ball high or off the end. Better still, don't chase after it - anticipate the ball jumping away from you and be waiting for it, like a hunter ambushing his prey. It's often this last-second reaching for the ball that both loses control and forces the receiver to hit the ball on the right side, thereby making down-the-line returns impossible. (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 3  of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Making Your Service Count; 2) Ball Placement; and 3) Staying Low. It's given both in text form and video (2:05). (Here's Part 1 and Part 2.)

ITTF Global Junior Circuit

Here's info on the Global Junior Circuit Events to be held at the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30 - July 4.

Ariel Hsing takes on Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill

To find out who won in the Olympian's match-ups against the two richest people in the world (depending on the date - the rankings change regularly but Gates and Buffet usually lead the list), see the article, which includes a video of them playing (1:18). Here are some pictures. And here's an article about it in Chinese!

U.S. Olympian Erica Wu

Here's an article and video (2:28) on new U.S. Olympian Erica Wu from a demonstration at her school. (Here's another article about it, which I posted on Friday.)

Tara Profitt and the Paralympics

Here's a Fox New Video of wheelchair player Tara Profitt (4:33), who will be playing the 2012 Paralympics.

Trek Stemp and baseball

He's not in the big leagues yet, but here's an article about the young phenom, which includes the following quote: "A big thing that helps playing infield — it may sound weird — pingpong," Stemp said. "Me and my friends play a lot of pingpong. A big part of pingpong is hand-eye coordination. That ball comes at you so fast."

The first table tennis political ad

Now they are using table tennis officiating to criticize political opponents! Now they've gone too far....

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May 2, 2012

Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America by Steve Grant

During a break between coaching sessions I pulled out the book "Ping Pong Fever" (260 oversized pages, available at amazon.com, $15.95) and spent a fascinating afternoon learning about the 1902 American table tennis craze. (Here's the cover.) The basic story is this: table tennis swept America in 1902 as a huge fad, and then was nearly forgotten for over two decades. If you have any sort of historical bent, or simply want to read about table tennis and its beginnings, you'll want to read this book. You don't even have to read it, though that's highly recommended; just the pictures tell the story. And it's absolutely packed with vintage table tennis pictures, circa 110 years ago. (Now I know why Steve Grant is the #1 contributor of pictures for CelebritiesPlayingTableTennis.com.) A bunch of kids on break gathered around and spent a bunch of time browsing the pictures with me.

The book has an unbelievable number of excerpts from newspapers of the time, giving readers a flavor of just how the game was viewed in those days. Numerous Ping pong cartoons also adorn the pages. The book has 26 chapters divided into six sections: 1. Going Viral; 2. Changing Lives; 3. The Victims and Their Gatherings; 4. Serious Cases; 5. How It All Started; and 6. How It All Ended. There are also ten "Side-Spin" sub-chapters that cover various themes, as well as an epilogue with four sections.

One of the best chapters is the one titled "Who Really Invented It?", which explains that "As with many inventions, this one was evolutionary, not revolutionary." The chapter gives "...the true early history of table tennis and ping pong, the most complete and accurate yet published, beginning at the beginning." While the sport was developed incrementally, Steve traces the name Ping Pong back to 1884, and declares the actual inventor of the game: James Devonshire, an electrician, in 1885.

You'll learn that originally players served by hitting the ball directly to the opponent's court, like in tennis (i.e. the ball didn't have to bounce on your side first), but the serve had to be done underhand--and to thwart very tall players from smacking the ball downward, contact had to be no more than five inches above the table. Did you know that in doubles players once had to use one racket, and between shots place the racket on the table for the partner to grab? (You couldn't hand it to him directly.) And that scoring was at one time done tennis style ("40-love!"). You'll also learn about tiddledy wink tennis, balloon tennis, and other early versions of the game.

You'll read about ping pong perfume, ping pong drinks, twins named Ping and Pong, ping pong in Broadway shows, ping pong gambling, and ping pong on a train. You'll read about the early tennis champions that dominated early table tennis. You'll learn that a wedding was cancelled because a woman insisted that she'd continue to play ping-pong even after the wedding, and the non-ping-pong-playing husband-to-be thought that was unbecoming of a lady. Yes, ping-pong players were crazy even back then.

I'll close the review with the poem on page 1 (from a ping pong ad), one of several from the time:

That's Ping Pong dear---it's all the rage,
The Bar, the Church, the House, the Stage
All Ping pong now---it's quite the fashion,
And you don't know it? (with compassion).
"Such ignorance is quite a shame;
Come, you shall see us play a game!"
Alas, she saw---she caught the fever---
(And goodness knew when it would leave her.)

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I've updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 19 pictures of 9 new celebrities. This brings the total to 1407 pictures of 819 celebrities! This month's updates:

  • Andy Sonnanstine, baseball pitcher (4 pictures)
  • John Garfield, actor
  • Chris Gethard, actor, comedian, and talk show host (3 pictures)
  • Dave Haywood, Lady Antebellum band member (2 pictures)
  • Hillary Scott, Lady Antebellum band member (3 pictures)
  • Charles Kelley, Lady Antebellum band member (6 pictures)
  • Jason Slim Gambill, Lady Antebellum band member (2 pictures)
  • Redfoo, member of band LMFAO (2 pictures)
  • SkyBlu, member of band LMFAO (2 pictures)

Interview with Dora Kurimay

Here's an interview with Dora Kurimay, author of the ebook "Get Your Game Face On," the sports psychology book for table tennis.

Crazy table tennis shot

Here's one of the craziest table tennis shots you'll ever see (0:30) - the ball hits the net and goes off the side of the table at a crazy angle. The opponent scoops the ball off the floor besides the net, and hits a pop-up ball with backspin - but the ball lands very short, and bounces back onto her side of the table, unreturnable! (Wait a minute - I do versions of this shot every day while coaching kids, where I'll suddenly throw a backspin lob up, and if they don't get to the side of the table quickly (and pick the right side to go to), the ball bounces back to my side. Of course I don't normally scoop it off the floor....)

Warren Buffett's Olympic Discovery

Here's an article in this morning's Wall Street Journal on Warren Buffett and . . . Ariel Hsing! According to Ariel, "The luckiest moment of my life was meeting Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill." To find out why (and to find out who "Uncle Bill" is - Duh!), read on!

Pong . . . with Cars???

Remember the game that started the video game craze, Pong? Well, here's a video (1:30) of the new version of Pong that's sweeping the nation, "Smart E-Ball," i.e. Pong played with cars! We're talking real cars, driving back and forth to "hit" the ball on a video screen! 

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April 27, 2012

U.S. Nationwide Club Team League

As I noted in my blog yesterday, you can still enter your club in the league and save $75 if you do so by Monday - so enter now! Here's the web page with full info. I attended an hour-long online video presentation of the league yesterday with live audio as Attila Malek explained the league and answered questions. I expect we'll have a bunch of teams from my club playing in this first ever nationwide league. If a success, this will be the first step toward changing table tennis in the U.S. from a secondhand sport into a powerhouse.

The league is set up regionally so that teams don't have to travel far for their matches. They have sponsors, and are giving out $100,000 in prize money in the five divisions. As of yesterday, they had 104 teams signed up, as I noted in my blog. I just checked, and they are now up to 127 teams.

It is through such leagues that memberships and revenue skyrocket. Germany has 700,000 league members; England 500,000; several other countries in Europe have memberships also measured in the hundred thousands despite relatively small populations. The main difference is that in those countries, the national governing body took the lead in setting up developing these leagues, and so a share of the revenue went to them, which is used to develop their national teams. USATT chose not to get involved (despite my pleadings at the Strategic Meeting in 2009 and before and since), and so Attila Malek and a few others have instead stepped up to the plate and taken charge. Let's support them and who knows where this'll lead. But I can vouch that Attila is in it to develop the sport, and if the league grows, there'll be more and more money in the top division so that the "pro" players can actually make a living at this sport (finally), while all divisions spread to all parts of the country. If this sounds like a description of the highly successful European Leagues, then you are right.

Spread the word!!!

Email to Board about Committee and Task Force Minutes

Yesterday morning (about 10AM) I sent the following self-explanatory email to the USATT Board of Directors, staff, and committee chairs. So far one committee chair emailed me privately saying he actually kept minutes and sent them in, but USATT didn't publish them. Another person thanked me for bringing this up. Otherwise, no response. Will USATT continue to violate the very bylaws this board created five years ago, despite regular reminders for years, or will they fix the problem? (Will they shoot the messenger?)

The bylaws state that the minutes of all USATT committee and task force meetings be published within 30 days, as I've pointed out repeatedly for the past three years. Can someone direct me to these minutes? For example, I keep getting asked about certain decisions made by the High Performance Committee, but I can't find the minutes of any of their meetings, as required by the bylaws. I'm also trying to find the minutes of meetings by the task forces set up at the Strategic Meeting in Sept. 2009, where I also reminded everyone of the bylaw requirements. Has USATT had ANY committee or task force meetings over the past five years? 

-Larry Hodges

From the USATT Bylaws:
ARTICLE IX  COMMITTEES
Section 9.10. Minutes of Meetings.
"Each committee and task force shall take minutes of its meetings.  The approved minutes must be published within thirty (30) days of completion of the meeting."

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 12

Yes, you read that right, Tim Boggan's Volume 12 is out! So buy yours today, as well as the previous eleven! Here's the webpage with info. As some noted table tennis authority once wrote, how can any serious player not buy these books? (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and photo restoration for these books.)

Ariel Hsing on NPR!

Here's the article.

Warren Buffett versus Ariel Hsing

Here's 34 seconds of them playing in 2007, which includes a scandalous bribe.

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April 23, 2012

Tip of the Week

Reverse Forehand Pendulum Serve.

Congrats to the USA Olympians!

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

Grassroots table tennis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warren Buffett challenges Ariel Hsing to Rematch

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

MDTTC Open House

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

2012 Broward March Open Highlights

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

Six table tennis pictures

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

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