Sharara

August 27, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was the first day of the four-day Disabled Veterans Camp I'm running at MDTTC. We had six players plus three volunteers. One of the players was in a wheelchair, the others were standing disabled. All of the standing disabled were in good enough condition to do footwork. The ages ranged from 32 to 79. All of them were experienced players, with the playing range from about 800 to 1500 in level.

Players in the camp are Marvin Bogie, Anthony Floyd, Bernard Gibson, Honicliff "Cliff" Nitchew, Talmadge "Cash" Nowden, and Crystal Young-Terrell. Volunteers were Steve Hochman, Sameer Shaikh, and Wendy Brame-Bogie. Steve (rated about 2000) and Sameer (age 13, about 1600) acted as practice partners while Wendy did ball pick-up the whole time. Their help was greatly appreciated! Here's a group photo. I got caught with my mouth open wide. As the picture is taken I'm leading the group in a chorus of, "Steve can't smash!"

The camp was made possible by a grant to USATT from the USOC. Not only is the entire camp paid for - the players don't pay a cent - but they sent a large box of goodies for the players, via Paddle Palace. Each of the players received a very nice Stiga blade and sponge. I don't remember the model or types as I'm more versed with Butterfly equipment, but it was top-of-the-line rackets and sponge. The sponge was a type of tensor sponge, and probably retails at $50 to $60 a sheet. I spent a large chunk of time on Monday night putting the rackets together. I'll try to remember to jot down the type for tomorrow. Besides the rackets and sponge, they received Paddle Palace racket cases, free lunches, and each received a one-year membership to MDTTC. 

The focus on the first day was the basics - grip, stance, forehand, and backhand. The main difference from other camps was that we can't be as strict on technique, both because of disabilities, and because some of them have played many years. For example, the oldest, Bernard, 78, has been playing for longer than I've been alive (I'm 54), and uses an extreme backhand grip, and uses the same side for both forehand and backhand. Rather than try to change that the focus for him is to make sure he strokes the ball from both sides, and not just keep the ball in play. From his grip I thought he'd be very backhand oriented, with a weak backhand - but it turned out to be the reverse, with a soft backhand but a very aggressive forehand. So when I worked with him the focus was to play his backhand more aggressively. It reminded me of the story of how Dan Seemiller as a junior went to Dell Sweeris for coaching, and rather than change Dan's "Seemiller" grip, Dell just made sure he stroked the ball rather than just block - and of course Dan went on to be a five-time USA Men's Singles Champion with the grip, where he also hit both forehands and backhands with the same side. 

I set up a six-player rotation, where players had six stations: multiball with me, robot, hitting with Steve, hitting with Sameer, and two of them hitting together (the last counted as two stations). 

We ended the first day with the "ten-cup challenge," where I stacked the cups in a pyramid, and each player had ten shots to see how many they could knock down. One player did all ten, and I think two others did nine. All got at least five. 

New Full-time Club

I've added the Boston TT Academy to the list of full-time clubs in the U.S., raising the number to 74. 

Table Tennis Tutorial in Chinese

Here's the video (59 min), a "Table Tennis Tutorial from Beginner to Advanced, the Secret of the Chinese Team."

Side-to-Side Footwork

Here's the video (2:39) of kids in a junior program doing it really well.

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. Ninety-six down, four to go!

  • Day 5: Why President Sharara Can Leave the ITTF Presidency with Satisfaction 

IOC President Thomas Bach Gets TT Lesson from Jorgen Persson

Here's the ITTF article and picture.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the new trailer (35 sec).

Another Superstar USA Junior Girl

Forget Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang, and all the others not mentioned. Here's the future of USA Women!

Spiderman Pong!

Yep, the superhero plays, and so does Pikachu - here's the proof! "P is for Peter Parker Playing Ping-Pong with Pikachu."

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June 24, 2014

MDTTC Camp and Tactical Coaching

Yesterday was Day One of Week Two of our Ten Weeks of Camps at MDTTC. As I've blogged about, I'm in charge of the beginners and younger kids, a group of 6-7 this week, ranging in age from 5-9. As usual, we focused on the forehand on the first day, though we varied this for those who have had coaching and were more advanced. 

It always amazes me the range of skill in these players. Some kids struggle and struggle, while others pick it up about as fast as you can show them. The youngest in the camp, age five, started playing in the junior program I coach a few weeks ago. Because of his age and tiny size - he's small even for his age - I figured he wasn't quite ready for real games. So I put him in a group of three that would do various target practice games (knocking over cups, etc.) while the other four played "King of the Table." He begged to be with the group with the bigger kids playing "King of the Table," and I skeptically let him. He ended up being one of the dominant players. (There's another kid who's been to both weeks who's on the opposite end of the spectrum. It took six days for this player to make a successful serve, after a cumulative total of over an hour of trying.) 

There's a new type of coaching that I'm doing this week. There are two kids in the camp from out of town, Kaelin and Billy, ages 15 and 16 and both about 2000. Besides the regular six hours of daily training these two are taking an hour of tactics coaching during lunch break each day. (Lunch break is 1-3PM, so we still have an hour off.) Normally we teach tactics more or less "on the job," teaching it as the players play, both in practice matches and even more so in tournaments. I've also assigned many of my students and other players at MDTTC to read my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. (But you should not as then you might beat our players!!! No, don't even think of getting it. Put that credit card away!) Now I'm doing straight tactics coaching, and will do at least five hours of it, possibly more if we do some on the weekend. 

I put together an outline of what we should cover in these sessions, using my Tactics book as the guide. (Both of the players had already started reading it, but hadn't finished it.) We mostly just discussed the various subjects, though I grabbed my racket a number of times to give examples. We intentionally went off on tangents to discuss various situations. Tomorrow we're going to jump ahead and cover doubles as they are playing Under 4200 doubles at the U.S. Open next week, and are practicing it here in the camp. After that we'll get back to regular singles tactics, and gradually work from the theoretical to the specific. As we do so we'll also gradually move from discussion to table time. Below is what we covered in today's session.

  1. Tactical Thinking vs. Strategic Thinking. (Tactical thinking is how you use what you already have to win. Strategic Thinking is how you develop your game and playing style. We discussed the specifics of how these related to their games.)
  2. Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work.
  3. Tactical thinking is a habit
  4. Tactics are not rigid rules, just guidelines
  5. The myth of thinking too much. The problem is thinking at the wrong time.
  6. "The faster you play the more important subconscious tactical decisions become." - Werner Schlager
  7. Tactics and the Subconscious
  8. Much of strategic development is doing what's uncomfortable to make it comfortable. (Pushing short or counterlooping are examples.)
  9. Develop what you do well, and develop what you need to do well.
  10. Develop a "B" and "C" game.
  11. The book on your game.
  12. We discussed the current tactical and strategic thinking of both players, going over their playing styles, common tactics, and strategic thinking for how to develop their games. 

New Chinese Wonder Boy - Yu Ziyang

Here's the article (including a link to the 44-min video of the Japan Open Final) about Yu Ziyang, who turned 16 one month ago and follows on the footsteps of another Chinese 16-year-old, Fan Zhendong (world #4). Yu had a ranking of #180 before winning the Japan Open.

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-one down, 69 to go!

  • Day 70: Adham Sharara Discusses the ITTF’s Commitment to Peace and Sport

Mind Pong to Raise Awareness for Brain Tumor Charity

Here's the article.

Tom Hiddleston's Table

Here he is with his unique sized pink table. He's an English actor best known as Loki in the Avengers movies.

Eight Stylish Guys Playing Table Tennis

Here's the article and photos

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June 16, 2014

Tip of the Week

Be a Perfectionist.

MDTTC Summer Camps

Our ten weeks of MDTTC summer camps starts today, Mon-Fri every week, 10AM-6PM. It's going to be a busy summer. I'll miss two of the weeks, June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writers workshop. I'm still doing my usual private coaching, plus this blog and Tip of the Week, and other writing, so it's going to be a hyper-busy summer. As usual.

Nittaku Premium 40+ Poly Ball

Paddle Palace sent me one of the newly created Nittaku Poly balls, the 3-Star Nittaku Premium 40+, made in Japan. These are the plastic ones that will replace celluloid balls later this year in many tournaments. This ball is of special interest because it's possibly the ball we'll be using at the USA Nationals in December, as well as other USA tournaments. (There will also be a Nittaku SHA 40+ ball that is made in China, but it's likely the Premium from Japan that might be used at the Nationals.) 

Why is this important to you? Because it's likely these are the balls YOU will be using soon. Might as well learn about them and get used to them.

I tried the new ball out on Sunday morning at MDTTC, hitting with Raghu Nadmichettu, Derek Nie, Quandou Wang (Crystal Wang's dad), John Olsen, and Sutanit Tangyingyong. There was pretty much a consensus on it. Here are my findings, based on my play with it and comments from the others.

  1. The ball sounds almost exactly like a regular celluloid ball - no more cracked sound like many of the previous versions.
  2. The ball is extremely sturdy, almost unbreakable. Unlike a celluloid ball, you could press your thumb on it and there was little give. No soft spots. These balls will last forever until someone steps on it.
  3. The surface of the ball is slightly rougher than a celluloid ball.
  4. It didn't have the powder that covers a new celluloid ball.
  5. It was seamed, but you could barely see it.
  6. The ball is heavier and slightly wider than the celluloid ones. I think to get rid of the crack sound they made the walls thicker. When you hit with it the extra weight is instantly obvious.
  7. I compared it to a 40mm ball, and it looks 40.5mm. That's why they label it "40+."
  8. It spins slightly less because of the extra weight and greater diameter. All shots initially have less spin - serves, loops, pushes, chops, etc. However, what spin you put on the ball tended to stay, as the extra weight allowed it to better overcome air resistance. At the same time the ball reacted to the spin slightly less, due to the extra weight.
  9. It was very easy to serve short with spin with it. I think this was because the extra weight meant the ball came off the racket slower when serving with spin.
  10. I did a bounce test, dropping it and a Butterfly 3-star next to each other. The poly ball bounced slightly higher every time.
  11. Even though it was technically faster on the bounce test, in rallies it played a touch slower, again presumably because of the extra weight, and because the lower trajectory off the racket (due to the extra weight) made the ball cross the net lower and therefore bounce lower on the other side. One player in backhand-backhand rallies kept putting it in the net.  
  12. The ball seemed especially heavy when looping, and a bit more difficult to spin. There was less loft - you had to aim slightly higher. Overall I found it a touch harder to loop against blocks, mostly because of the extra effort needed to overcome the extra weight.
  13. Counterlooping was easier, but the ball definitely felt heavier the more you backed off the table. But balls that might have gone off the end seemed to drop on the table like a rock. This was because even though the ball started with less spin than normal, the spin dissipated less, and so there was as much or more spin at the end than a normal counterloop. However, this was partially offset by the extra weight, meaning the ball reacted slightly less to the spin.
  14. It's very easy to block with it. The ball could bring back the quick-blocking game. But I think blockers with long pips are going to have trouble as the ball won't return with as much spin. Part of this is because the incoming ball will tend to have less spin. 
  15. I think hitting is about the same with it. Because there's less spin it's easier for a hitter to hit against a loop. But because the ball tended to have a slightly lower trajectory, the ball bounced lower, which might even things out. When an opponent loops close to the table, there's less spin with this ball than with a celluloid one. But as the looper backs off, the ball tends to come out spinnier since the spin doesn't dissipate as quickly due to air resistance. (Remember that many players thought going from 38 to 40mm balls would favor hitters, but it was the reverse. And now we've gone slightly bigger.)
  16. When I first tried chopping, balls that normally would have hit the table kept sailing off. (I'm about a 2100 chopper, though I'm normally an attacker.) There was noticeably less spin. Then I hit with Sutanit Tangyingyong, a 2300+ chopper, and he had no such trouble. His chops were extremely heavy, though he said they'd be heavier with the regular ball. (I struggled to lift and to read his chops, and then realized something - since I primarily coach these days, I haven't played a seriously good chopper in well over a decade!) He concluded that the ball would favor choppers who vary their spin - his no-spin chop with this ball was deadly - but choppers who rely on heavy backspin wouldn't do as well. I realized afterwards that part of the reason I had so much trouble with his chopping is that his heavy chops, while starting with less spin, kept the spin due to the ball's extra weight, and so the balls were heavier than I expected. Also, lifting a heavier ball against heavy backspin is more difficult.
  17. My conclusions - the new ball might affect players perhaps the equivalent of 25 ratings points at most. However, that's a 50-point swing, since one player might be 25 points better, another 25 points worse. (Note that 25 points means more at the higher levels. But at the lower levels, where 25 points doesn't mean as much, it'll affect play less as players are less specialized, and so it'll come out about the same.)
  18. The ball is going to help blockers and counterloopers. It's going to hurt long pips blockers, and looping against blocks. After the difficulty I experienced lifting against chops, I'm starting to think it might help choppers, the most surprising thing I found. 

Paddle Palace also gave me what five-time U.S. Men's champion and 2-time Olympian Sean O'Neill wrote about the ball. Here's what he wrote:

The Nittaku Premium 40+. Two words - "Game Changer."
a) Really round, others have noticeable wobble
b) Different matt finish. I don't think these will get glassy with age
c) Spin doesn't dissipate. Really true flight paths.
d) Hard as a rock. No soft spots at all. Feels if the walls are thicker than other 40+
e) Sounds good, no hi pitched plastic sound
f) Texture very noticeable. This makes for truer bounce especially on spin shots
g) Durable. These things are gonna last big time.

Orioles Host Frank Caliendo and Han Xiao

When I heard that famed stand-up comedian Frank Caliendo was in town doing shows, and was interested in playing the Orioles, I contacted their press manager. And so it came about that on Saturday morning Frank (who's about 1800) and Han Xiao (former long-time USA Team member) visited the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday morning to play the Orioles. I wasn't there, and don't have pictures or video, but I'm told they played a lot with Darren O'Day (who I've coached a few times) and others, but they weren't sure of the names. Alas, the Orioles best TT player, JJ Hardy (also around 1800), wasn't available. There was a 10-15 second video of them playing on the Orioles pre-game show. (Here's the link to my blog last August when I visited and played the Orioles in their clubhouse, along with some of our top junior players.)

Non-Table Tennis: Speaking of the Orioles…

This weekend they featured another of my Top Ten Lists. Except this one had 12: Top Twelve Ways That Orioles Fans Can Help Out. This is the 20th article of mine that they've featured. (It contains some inside jokes; feel free to ask about them in the comments below.)

Samson Dubina Coaching Articles

He's put up several more coaching articles on his home page. These include articles on Boosting Your Attack, Returning No-Spin Serves, and How Ratings Can Mentally Fool You.

Why Are the Chinese So Strong?

Here's the article. Includes links to numerous videos.

Lily Zhang Wins Silver in Korea

She made the final of Under 21 Women's Singles at the Korean Open, losing 4-1 in the final to Hitomi Sato of Japan. Here's the "playing card" picture of Lily!

Amy Wang and Michael Tran Winners at World Hopes Week

First, they won the Team Competition; here's the ITTF article. Then Amy won Girls' Singles while Michael made the finals of Boys' Singles; here's the ITTF article.

2014 U.S. Open Blog - A BIG THANK YOU!!!

Here's the blog by Dell & Connie Sweeris. They are co-chairs of the upcoming U.S. Open in Grand Rapids and are both members of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part Two. Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors and is a Vice President for the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

USA Umpires Pass International Umpire Exams

Here's the story and pictures. Congrats to Ed Hogshead, Linda Leaf, and David Pech!

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-three down, 77 to go!

  • Day 78: A Special Father’s Day Remembrance: President Sharara Pays a Tribute to His Father
  • Day 79: Origination of the 100-Day Countdown

Table Tennis Company Competitions in Washington DC

Here's the story. Golden Triangle is organizing the competitions between June 6 and Sept. 19.  

Table Tennis Keeps Youth Out of the Streets

Here's the article and video (2:19).

Best of the Legends Tour

Here's the video (2:06), featuring Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jean-Michel Saive, and Jiang Jialiang.

Unbelievable Rally at the Korean Open

Here's the video (55 sec) of the point between Yu Ziyang of China and Romain Lorentz of France.

Table Tennis is So Simple

Here's the cartoon!

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May 27, 2014

Tip of the Week

Random Drills.

Perfectionism

If you work with top players, one of the things that quickly jumps out at you is that they are nearly all perfectionists. They developed their nearly perfect techniques because they weren't satisfied with anything less than perfection - and so they worked at it, year after year after year, until they got as close to it as it was humanly possible.

If you want to reach a decent level, you too should be a perfectionist when you practice. This doesn't mean everything has to be perfect; it means as close to perfect as can reasonably be done. The operative word here is "reasonably." If your goal is to be world champion, then your goal is true perfection in all your shots because if you aim for absolute perfection, you'll get a lot closer to it than if you aim lower. But for most people who are not striving to be world champion, "reasonably" is a flexible term. For example, most players do not have the foot speed to cover as much of the table with their forehands as many of the top world-class players. Trying to do so is an exercise in futility. So instead of trying to play a "perfect" game like Zhang Jike or Ma Long, you might settle for something more within your abilities - and yet you might still strive to have their stroking techniques.

Even the stroking techniques are subject to the "reasonably" guideline. For example, if you are primarily a blocker/hitter and have played that way for many years, you might find looping in a fast rally awkward to learn. So you might only want to loop against backspin - and if so, you might not want to copy the great counterlooping techniques of the top players, but instead develop a good old-fashioned loop against backspin only. (Which sometimes means a more concave up stroke, i.e. the path of the racket curves upward.) Or you could spend a lot of time developing that loop in a rally, if you so choose. It all depends on your physical abilities and how much time you can "reasonably" put toward this training.

It also sometimes comes down to whether you want to develop a technique for the sake of learning that technique, or whether you are focused strictly on winning. Many players want to play like the world-class players, style-wise, even if they might be better playing some other way. There's nothing wrong with that. Others are more focused on winning, and there's nothing wrong with that either - but here the key is the timetable, i.e. how long are you willing to focus on perfecting your game now so you can win later.

I started out as a shakehand inverted all-out forehand hitter my first few years. (I was a late starter, starting at age 16.) Looping was difficult for me at first, but I decided I wanted to play like the top players, and so I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing looping. Eventually I reached the point that I could play both looping or hitting, which became valuable tactically. It also made me a much better coach since I went through the same process as most up-and-coming players do as they learn to loop - only it's more in my memory as I went through this when I was around 19 or so. I've always thought that was an advantage I have in my coaching as I'm teaching things I learned around that age while other top coaches are teaching stuff they learned when they were perhaps eight years old, and so I have a better memory of the process.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Cioroslan (formerly Pittman) is doing a 100-day countdown daily article through the end of ITTF President Adham Sharara's tenure as president of the ITTF. As she explains it, "Over this 100-day period, I will share a series that features the past, present and future of the ITTF, with a particular emphasis on news and developments during the Sharara era." Here are the first three.

Winning Deuce Games

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Ariel Hsing Joins JinHua Bank Team for the 2014 China Super League

Here's the story.

The Expert in a Year Challenge is Heading to Denmark

Here's the article, and info on the camp in Denmark.

Table Tennis Does Not Get Any Better Than This!

Here's the video (52 sec) of this great point in the fifth game between Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Japan's Jun Mizutani in the Team Semifinals at the recent World Championships in Tokyo. Mizutani would go on to win the match, 11-8 in the fifth, but Germany would win the Team match 3-1 to advance to the final against China.

Ping Pong the Animation

There are now seven episodes in this table tennis cartoon. Here's where you can see all seven.

X-Men Table Tennis

There's a scene about midway into the movie where we meet the super-fast Quicksilver. How did they introduce us to him and his speed? By having him play table tennis by himself! Here's an animated gif of him playing as Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background) and Wolverine look on.

Non-Table Tennis - Baltimore Science Fiction Convention

I spent Saturday at Balticon, where I was a panelist in three different one-hour panels. Here's a picture of me with my fellow panelists in one of them, with my two science fiction/fantasy books on display. You can't tell from this angle but there's a sizeable audience there. This panel was on "Favorite Science Fiction Authors." My other two panels were "Five Books for the Last Town on Earth" and "Titles Looking for Stories." (This latter involved audience members choosing titles, and each panelist coming up with a story synopsis on the spot.) (Here's my science fiction page.

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April 26, 2013

Audrey and Long Pips

A while back I blogged about how I was now coaching Audrey Weisiger, the former U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Coach. I gave her another lesson on Wednesday. She's getting steadier in rallies, can push, and can now create spin with her serves. At the start she was an all-backhand player, where she sort of slashed at the ball. Hitting forehands for her was like me trying to ice skate - i.e., not natural, and pretty much against the natural order of things. However, she now has a pretty good stroke, and has hit 50 or more in a row live.

But on the backhand she still tends to stroke down on the ball, often putting backspin on the ball with her downward-stroking backhand drive (more like a push). She also has trouble returning spin serves (as do all beginners), which is problematic as her primary goal at the moment is to beat a fellow figure skating coach who beats her over and over with his backhand sidespin serve.

So on Wednesday I tried an experiment. I pulled out one of my demo long pips rackets that I keep for students to practice against, the one without sponge on a Dr. Neubauer blade (designed for long pips blocking). She tried it out, and it was like me getting off a hated and not-designed-for-human-usage ice rink! She loved it, and was able to keep the ball in play much better and more effectively. Even better, she was able to return nearly all my spin serves with the long pips.

She'll keep the inverted on the forehand, and focus on steady drives and, when the ball's up, smashing. It also gives her an inverted side to serve with. I showed her how to use the inverted to serve backhand and then flip the inverted back to the forehand. I'm letting her borrow my long-pips racket for now, but soon she'll get one for herself.

Someday perhaps I'll blog about my bad experiences with ice skating.

Serving With Spin

I used to have a bunch of striped balls that I had beginning players use when they were learning to serve with spin. They gave much better feedback than a normal ball, where beginners can't really see how much spin they are getting. At some point I lost those balls. Well, I just ordered four six-packs of "sports" ping-pong balls ($3/pack), where they are colored to look like soccer balls, basketballs, and baseballs. This'll make it a lot easier to see what type of spin they are creating. They are also good for learning to read spin, especially off a serve. They are only one-star balls, but they are 40mm. I'll blog about this after they arrive and I start using them again.

Sharara Fights Back

On Wednesday I linked to the article at Table Tennista about the allegations of corruption against ITTF President Adham Sharara by European Union President Stefano Bosi, "Adham Sharara Accused Of Long-Term Corruption In The ITTF." Here is Sharara's response, "Sharara Fights Back Against Bosi's Allegations." Sharara says, "All the allegations concerning me modifying accounts or hiding the true income are all false," and "Anyone within the ITTF has the right to run for presidency. In addition, anyone also has the right to complain or clarify any issues. Unfortunately, some one is attacking me and at the same time campaigning."

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Vs Robert Gardos

Here's a great video (7:07) that just came out of these two playing in the Champions League in Europe, with the time between points taken out. Ovtcharov of Germany is world #7, Gardos of Austria is world #32. Watch some of the backhand serves of Ovtcharov. (But guess who wins this time?)

Stiga Videos

Stiga Table Tennis has a lot of videos on their webpage - the "Stiga Movie Channel." They are divided into:

A Touch of Magic

Here's a table tennis highlights music video (5:13) that came out last month.

The Misdirected Surprise Serve

Here it is (20 sec)! I've done this in exhibitions. ("Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No . . . it's my serve." And then you quick serve.)

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June 8, 2012

Too tight when you play?

I'm one of the roughly way-too-many-to-count players who often struggle to get loose before playing, whether in matches or practice. But I have found a solution that works most of the time, and works for many players I coach.

When you start a session (practice or matches), have fun at the start. Let yourself go. If it's practice, start out with something you do really well (preferably something physical, like looping or smashing), and have fun doing it. If it's a match, take it lightly and have fun. The goal in both cases is to relax and loosen up. Once you feel loose - and this shouldn't take too long - then take deep breath, clear your mind, and focus.

When I say focus, this doesn't mean to get super-serious. You can have a clear mind and still smile on the inside. The best players may often look impassive on the outside, but on the inside they are having the time of their life. So lighten up at the start of your sessions, loosen up, then focus, and you may surprise yourself by how well you play.

At the Easterns last weekend, the kid I was coaching, Derek Nie, started the tournament off very nervous, and played horribly in his first match. Afterwards I took him to a back table where we did some counterlooping for a while, joked about, and then played challenge matches where we trash talked. ("I cannot be beaten!" I'd say whenever I win a point," which of course just spurred him on.) In his matches shortly afterwards, he played the best of his life. (See next item.)

Eastern Open Recap

Here's a nice video recap of the Eastern Open last weekend at Rutgers University (2:50). Alas, they somehow missed me, but at 2:25 you can see Derek Nie, the kid I was coaching, who won Under 13, beat players rated 2258 and 2142, and was up double match point on a 2233 player. Not bad for a 60-pounder! (We already have a list of things he needs to work on before the U.S. Open in a few weeks, and he's been training much of this week on them. Sorry, can't report on them here, there are rival coaches reading! Perhaps after the Open. But last night he had a great session with Jeffrey Xeng Xun, one of our 2600-rated coaches, and he seemed to be playing like he had at the Easterns.)

Waldner-Persson Exhibition Point

Here's another nice exhibition between Sweden greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson (1:53), with five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller doing the commentary. (On Monday I'd linked to another exhibition they'd done.)

Why does Waldner come up so often when showing spectacular shots and exhibitions? Actually, today has three items pertaining to Sweden, so we'll belatedly declare today National Day of  Sweden, an national holiday in Sweden that was actual celebrated two days ago, on June 6.)

The Power of Sidespin

Here's a five-minute compilation of spectacular points that feature sidespin, mostly sidespin looping. Perhaps the best one is the one (shown in slow motion) of Sweden's Jan-Ove Waldner that starts right at the one minute mark.

Sweden #1 Denied Olympic Spot?

Matilda Ekholm of Sweden qualified for the Olympics, but the Swedish Olympic Association apparently didn't believe she was good enough or competitive to win an Olympic medal, and so denied her a spot on the Olympic team. She is ranked 51 in the world, the highest ranked Swedish woman. (The next best is Daniela Moskovits, #399 in the world.) For comparison, on the men's side, Sweden is sending, in singles, Par Gerell (world #80) and Jorgen Persson (#88, though of course World Men's Singles Champion in 1991, 21 years ago), and a men's team of Persson, Gerell, and Jens Lundqvist (#48). (Sweden didn't qualify for an Olympic Women's Team.)

There's been a huge outcry about this, culminating in these two letters yesterday to the Swedish Olympic Committee by ITTF President Adham Sharara and Vladimir Samsonov, chair of the ITTF Athlete's Commission (and former world #2 and current #14). There's a Facebook page devoted to her cause. And here's a discussion of the situation on the about.com table tennis forum.

Rapper Yelawolf Plays Table Tennis

Here's a three-minute video interview of rapper Yelawolf, which goes back and forth between him performing and the interview, which seems to take place as he's playing table tennis. You can see him actually playing at 1:09 and 2:20, but at other times he seems to be playing as he talks, though they only show his head (you can hear the ball bouncing back and forth in the background).

Fun with Robots

Here's 33 seconds of someone having fun with a robot at full speed, set to music. Reminded me of a sequence from Forrest Gump, but this wasn't computer generated.

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