Spin

March 25, 2014

Smooth Acceleration + Grazing Contact = Great Spin

This came up last night in the Beginning/Intermediate Class I teach on Monday nights. The two most common mistakes players make in failing to create great spin are these two, which are the pillars of creating spin, especially when serving, pushing, and chopping. It's true for looping as well, but only for slow, spinny loops. When you loop faster, you sink the ball more into the sponge. (I'm mostly writing for players using inverted sponge, but the same principles apply to most pips-out surfaces as well, as long as they have some grippiness.) 

When serving and pushing, beginning and intermediate players often use a short stroke (to help with control) and sort of jab at the ball. They are thinking that the velocity they get with this jabbing will create great spin. Actually, it just leads to a loss of control as you can't control the racket this way. Plus, for physics reasons I won't get into (partially because I'm not a physicist), you get far more spin if you smoothly accelerate into the ball, and almost hold the ball on your racket as it carries it through the shot. This literally slings the ball out with tremendous spin.

But you only get this tremendous spin if you graze the ball - the second problem many players have. Too often players sink the ball into the sponge at an angle, which isn't the same as grazing the ball. To learn to graze the ball, just toss one up and graze it with your racket, making it spin. Generally do this with a pendulum serve motion, but contact the ball on the left side of the ball (for a righty), with the racket going mostly up and slightly left, so that the ball goes straight up. Catch it and repeat. It's important to spin the ball so it goes straight up, both so you can catch it and repeat, and so you can develop ball control. (If you can't control the direction the ball goes when you graze it with this exercise, how can you do it when actually serving?)

As always, I recommend beginning players get a colored ball (or put markings on a ball) so they can see the spin they are creating. This gives feedback on whether you are really spinning the ball or not.

For more advanced players, I recommend they also do the ball spinning drill I wrote about above. It's a great way to really develop those grazing skills so you can both spin the heck out of the ball and control it. Advanced players should also experiment with smooth acceleration and grazing on their spin shots, and see how much they can make the ball spin.

When you can put great spin on the ball with your serve, apply the same principles to pushing and slow looping. Don't be afraid to throw in some slow, spinny loops, even if you normally loop pretty hard. Slow, spinny loops are extremely effective at the beginning/intermediate level, but many forget or never realize how effective they are at the advanced level if not overused. They not only are effective on their own as the opponent struggles to adjust to the slower speed and higher spin, but the contrast makes your other loops more effective.

Snow

Yep, it's snowing again here in Maryland. We're supposed to get 2-3 inches, though it shouldn't stick on the roads and sidewalks, which are too warm. For once, schools and government offices are open - usually a single snowflake closes everything down. This has been one crazy winter, with one snowfall after another.

Reverse Pendulum Serve of Achanta Sharath Kamal

Here's the video (36 sec), which shows it first in slow motion, then in super-slow motion. This serve, combined with a regular pendulum serve (so you can spin the ball both ways) is an incredible one-two punch.

2014 Youth Olympic Games: Coach/Leader Selection

Here's the info. The 2014 Youth Olympic Games will be held Aug. 16-28 in Nanjing, China.

USATT Forum

With the demise of the about.com forum, USATT has set up their own forum.

No Hands Table Tennis?

Here's the video (6:47) of this unbelievable armless Egyptian star who plays with the racket in his mouth! Wow. Just wow. (Near the end he's even fishing and lobbing.) Interesting thought - how good would this player be against regular players, and how good would he be against a good player who went out of his way to go after the weaknesses of the "mouth" grip, such as serving super short, or with wide-angled breaking sidespin serves?

Waldner on David Hasselhoff Show

Here are two pictures of all-time great Jan-Ove Waldner on the David Hasselhoff Show, in a posting by Waldner himself. Alas, the video is not yet available. (I searched on Youtube.)  

Shot of the Day

Here's the video - see the shot nine seconds in, and the opponent's response!

Top Ten Shots

Here's a Top Ten Shots video (6:19) from Mrtheportal Tabletennisvideo. Includes a "bonus" eleventh (the first one shown) of a nice rally ending with a crazy side-post ricochet shot and a pair of smiling girls, one of them a little bit exasperated.

Bobby Flay's Ping-Pong Throwdown

Here's the video (3:07). "Chef Bobby Flay has been challenged to a throwdown, but this time it’s not in a kitchen! He's used to taking challenges there on his new Food Network show, *Beat Bobby Flay*, but now he’s up against 12-year-old ping pong prodigy Estee Ackerman in a battle with rackets and a ball. Will Estee take it easy on Bobby?"

Extreme Ping Pong

Here's the video (3:11) - you really have to see the acrobatics they show in the "making of" this video! And here's the actual final video (3:52)!

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March 7, 2013

Biggest Things Happening in Table Tennis

Here are the biggest things happening in U.S. table tennis right now. (I'm toying with putting in sandpaper table tennis, with all the new money events they are offering. I may feature them in an upcoming blog.)

  • The rise of full-time training centers. They are all over the place now. Ten years ago there were about ten. Now there are well over fifty, with more popping up regularly. The result is by far the strongest group of cadet players in our history. The depth of the competition these days is just mind-boggling. Now if we can just get them to continue training when they reach college age....
  • Influx of top Chinese players and coaches. This dramatically raises the level of play in the U.S., as our up-and-coming players get coaching, practice, and compete with these top players and coaches. My club, MDTTC, has Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun (currently out of the country, but returning full-time in June), Wang Qing Liang, Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), and our two newest, Chen Jie ("James") and Zhang Liang Bojun ("Brian"). This list doesn't include local Chinese players, only ones who came from China to coach and be practice partners at MDTTC. Clubs in New York, California, and other regions similarly rely on these Chinese coaches and players, and is one of the driving forces for the rise of full-time training centers.
  • Spin NY, LA, Milwaukee, Toronto. These bring a lot of publicity to the sport. By themselves, I don't think they'll make the sport big, but by keeping us on the media radar, they could help a lot when the time comes.
  • Strong team leagues in the SF, LA, and NY regions. This is long-term, since it'll take time for this type of thing to grow and expand in each region, as it did in Europe. MDTTC takes part in the NY league, and of course runs its own singles leagues. We plan a new junior team league starting this fall.
  • Publication of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Duh!!!

Book Signing

Reminder! Tomorrow (Friday) at 7PM I will be doing a book signing at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, in Germantown, MD, USA. I will be selling and signing four of my books - hope to see you there! All books will cost $15, with a Special - buy the Tactics book, get a copy of the Tales & Techniques book for only $5! Here's the info flyer. Below are the books - later I hope to go back to selling Steps to Success and Tales & Techniques online.

Table Tennis part of 2014 Youth Olympics

Here's the article. The event will be held in Nanjing, China, Aug. 17-28, 2014.

Wang Hao vs Fan Zhendong

Here's a video (4:44) of these two at the Chinese World Team Trials, with time between points removed.

Judah Friedlander on a Ping-Pong Paddle and NBC Sports

Here he is, Judah Friedlander (from 30 Rock and stand-up comedian), looking like he's just faced one of Ma Lin's ghost serves. The other paddle shown, "How to Beat Up Anybody," comes from Judah's book. And here's Judah on NBC Sports (2:34) giving a table tennis lesson to anchors Michelle Beadle and Dave Briggs. Since I've given Judah several lessons, that sort of puts me on NBC Sports, right?

Table Tennis Meme

Here's a great table tennis meme: "What society thinks I do ... What my friends think I do ... What Asians think I do ... What Americans think I do ... What I think I do ... What I really do."

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

My article entitled "Top Ten Reasons Brian Roberts Will Have a Monster Season" was the cover story at Orioles Hangout for much of the last two days. Here's the direct link.

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May 23, 2012

U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame

Have you ever visited the online U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame? There are 134 members - 87 players and 47 officials/contributors. It's a fascinating look back at the players and other people that dominated and influenced table tennis in the U.S. since the formation of USA Table Tennis (then U.S. Table Tennis Association) in 1933. Tim Boggan has written profiles of each of them, which are linked here - spend a day reading over them. Someday they should be made into a book.

I've met 79 of them. (I'm not sure how you could "meet" six of the "contributors" inducted - Detroiter, General Sportcraft, Harvard Table Tennis, Nippon Takkyu, P. Becker and Co., and Tamasu Co. Since I've used or played against equipment made by each of these companies, does that mean I've "met" 85?) Go over the list; how many have you met or seen? (And if you studiously read my blog, you can count me as "met"!)

There's also this U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame page, but its listings seem a few years out of date, only going to 2008. It lists the U.S. Hall of Fame Committee, history, retrospectives, annual banquet info, etc.

In addition to the 134 Hall of Famers, there are the 14 recipients of the Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award. (They are all also members of the Hall of Fame.)  I've met all but Leah Thall Neuberger. The recipients are: Bobby Gusikoff, Sol Schiff, Jimmy McClure, Dick Miles, Marty Reisman, J. Rufford Harrison, Leah Thall Neuberger, Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer, Joseph R. "Tim" Boggan, George Braithwaite, Danny Seemiller, Houshang Bozorgzadeh, Fred Danner, and Mal Anderson.

And since we're talking history here, don't forget to get your copies of History of U.S. Table Tennis, with twelve volumes published! (Volume 12 just came out.) Tim Boggan is already well into Vol. 13. He just sent me the first six chapters; I do the page layouts for him.

19th Maccabiah Games

If you are Jewish and would like to represent the U.S. in the Maccabiah Games in Israel, July 17-30, here's the info page.

MSNBC Visits Spin

Here's a video from MSNBC (4:09) in their "Sara in the City" segment, on Spin New York, the social table tennis club partially owned by actress Susan Sarandon.

Best of Table Tennis Video

Here's another great video (9:40) of great points. It's set to music, with lots of slow motion. One of the best compilation of great points I've seen.

Hunter Pence Table Tennis

Table Tennis Nation brings us this video of baseball player Hunter Pence of the Philadelphia Phillies playing table tennis. In the linked video the table tennis begins just past the eight minute mark.

Water Table Tennis

Here's the newest craze: water table tennis! Here's another picture.

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