Ariel Hsing

November 12, 2013

Tip of the Week

Pushing Short.

Potomac Open

Here are the basic Potomac Open results, held here in Maryland this past weekend. Winning the tournament (for the third straight time) was chopper/looper Wang Qing Liang, rated 2545 (but who spent most of last year over 2600), over Chen Bowen, rated 2509. Chen had upset Wang the last two times they had played, and looked to win for the third straight time here - he led 8-2 in the seventh! Then something happened. Chen had a match point at 10-9, but to no avail as Wang came back with a 10-2 run to win 12-10 in the seventh.

In the semifinals Wang defeated another local player/coach, Steve Dong, under-rated at 2370. Dong won the first two games, but then Wang's forehand caught fire and he played about half chopping, half ripping everything (seemingly never missing) the rest of the way in winning the next four.

Local player/coach Zhang Jake (only one letter away from the World Champion!) also made the semifinals of the Open (losing in seven games to Chen Bowen). He's about 2450, maybe 2500. But he also won Under 2300, and was in the final of Under 2150. (He's listed as second in Under 2150, but I'm guessing he defaulted or split the final - too tired from all his other matches.) What was his rating coming into the tournament? 2088!!!

How did this happen? He'd played in the recent JOOLA Virginia Open, his first tournament, and went 7-0. Here are his results at the tournament. Though he did lose an 11-9 game to a 1947 player (after winning the first two games), there simply isn't enough info in these results to give an accurate rating, hence the 2088 rating, which was about 400 points off.

Here are some videos from the tournament, care of "Bogeyhunter" (Sutanit Tangyingyong, himself a quarterfinalist in the Open).

Doubles Multiball

Here's a video (2:27) of Coach Roger Yuen feeding multiball to Ariel Hsing and Shirley Fu at Princeton University TTC. (Note the collision 18 seconds in!)

Receive Tips from Pierre-Luc Hinse

Here's a video (6:26) of North American Champion Hinse giving tips on returning serves.

New Full-time Clubs

There's still another full-time club in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Pleasanton Table Tennis Club. This makes approximately one million clubs in that general area. (Side note - full-time clubs are also popping up here in Maryland. Last month the Howard Country Table Tennis Club opened. Another one is opening later this month in northern Gaithersburg, just a few miles from the Maryland Table Tennis Center, making five full-time clubs with 40 minutes of MDTTC.)

Table Tennis Good for Seniors

Here's the article in the Chicago Tribune. "Belsky, 54, a former mayor of Highland Park, recently engaged in a non-stop, hour-long workout with ranked table tennis professional Lukasz Fita, 35, at Deer Creek Courts, until he was soaked with sweat but still matching monster serves and slams from nearly 20 feet behind the table."

Around the Net Shot by Fan Zhendong

Here's video (46 sec, including slow motion replay) of Fan making the shot of the day at the Polish Open this past weekend, where the 16-year-old from China became the youngest player ever to win Men's Singles at an ITTF Pro Tour Event.

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

Here's a video (3:39) of Soo Yeon Lee coaching the Kardashians. Now all we have to do is get Honey Boo Boo to play table tennis and the world will be complete!

Cat Gives High Five

Here's a repeating gif image of a player smacking in a forehand and then getting a high-five from his cat!

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August 13, 2013

MDTTC Camp and The Pongs of Power

There are lots of younger kids at the camp this week, which is Week Nine of our ten weeks of summer camps. It's the youngest group of the summer, maybe ever. We have about 30 kids, with about 20 of them under age 10. I'm in charge of the beginning under 10 crowd. In most past camps I pretty much worked with them on my own, but this time there are just too many - 12 of these under 10's are beginners - so coaches John Hsu and Chen Jie ("James") are helping me with them.

The focus yesterday was on the forehand. There were the usual problems - many want to put their index finger down the middle, don't turn their shoulders, lunge for the ball, try to take the ball too quickly, stand up too straight, and above all, won't close their rackets. (I probably said "Aim lower" five hundred times.) I'm always amazed that until about age 8 or 9, most beginning kids don't really understand that the ball is going to go where their racket is aiming. They understand it when I point it out to them, but it's something that doesn't really occur to many of them on their own.

We ended the day with the ten-cup challenge, where I set up a pyramid of 10 paper cups, and each kid had 10 shots (fed multiball) to see how many they could knock down. Several got 7 or 8, but four missed all 10. They now have something to work for. By the end of the week they'll be the terror of paper cups everywhere.

I called this week's beginning under 10 group "The Pongs of Power." What does that mean? I don't know, and neither did the kids, though they debated it. But it has a ring to it, and would be a great name for a music band.

We have a large collection of beginning sponge paddles. However, the rubber on about 2/3 of them was starting to come off the sponge, and so would flap about as they kids rallied. About half were essentially unusable. So yesterday during lunch break I took about 20 of them and glued them all back on. Most came out okay, though a few had bubbles, since I had to glue them wet and then flatten out the sponge by placing them on the table, some with weights on top. But most are now usable. This is what table tennis coaches do - they glue rackets, lead expeditions to 7-11, come up with group names, stack paper cups, and every ten seconds yell "Aim lower!"  

I've had one day off since June. I'm coaching Mon-Fri 10AM-6PM (with a two-hour break in the middle), along with about one private coaching hour per day. Weekends are even busier, and are mostly private coaching, which is physically more tiring. My hair, fingernails, and toenails are the only parts of me that don't ache. But I have this Friday off. (I did leave for that nine-day writer's workshop in July, but that wasn't "time off" as I was pretty much writing and attending workshops and classes all day. Somehow those aren't great for the back either - when I returned to Maryland, my back was solid neutronium.) After our summer camps end next week, I'll catch up on rest and life will return to normal, or as normal as it can be for a table tennis coach and writer.

World-Class Serve Training

Here's a video (5:01) that demonstrates a number of advanced serves.

Why Ping Pong Just Might Be the Elixir of Youth

Here's the article, and here's the opening paragraph: "Table tennis, ping pong, wiff-waff: call it what you will, it's increasingly popular in the UK, with 2.4 million players. Now there are suggestions it could even help with conditions like dementia."

Table Tennista

Periodically I like to list the current international articles at Table Tennista - and there are a lot of good ones right now! Here's a listing.

Country Ping-Pong Showdown

Here's a video (1:57) of Ariel Hsing on the CMA Musicfest last night on ABC TV. She plays two men from the music group Lady Antebellum.

Top Ten Hand-Switch Shots

Here's the video (6:01).

Ping-Pong Strike

The most powerful loop ever - at a bowling alley? Here's the video (14 sec)!

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June 25, 2013

John and Kevin's Backhands, Forehands, and Receives

A couple of years ago John Olsen was a low-1800 player with a weak backhand but strong forehand. Kevin Walton was a 1750 player with a strong backhand but a weak forehand. Both had strong receives. I've been coaching and training them since then, usually a two-hour joint session every Saturday that focuses on multiball. John is in his mid-50s, Kevin his late 40s. Both are inverted shakehand players. (John can be "difficult" to coach as he has very good technique, and so not a whole lot to say to him, and mostly just needs practice and physical training.)

One of my coaching mantras is, "Practice everything, but focus on your strengths and weaknesses." In John's case, the focus has been on fixing his main weakness - the backhand - while making his strengths - forehand loop and receive - even stronger. Besides multiball, we'd play backhand-to-backhand games to force him to rally with his backhand, often putting boxes on the table to block off the non-backhand part of the table. We'd also play games where I served all the time so he'd make his receive even better. We worked on making his forehand even stronger mostly with multiball. The result? He often wins the backhand-to-backhand games that I once easily dominated, can mostly shut down my third-ball attacks off my serve, his forehand can be deadly efficient, and he is now rated 1999. In practice he plays even with the local 2100 players. (The initial backhand-to-backhand work had almost immediate effect, and brought him to a 1950 level about 1.5 years ago.) 

In Kevin's case, the focus was on fixing his weak forehand, while making his backhand and receive even stronger. Since he's left-handed, we often played crosscourt games, my forehand to his backhand or vice versa. We'd also play regular games so he could work on receiving my serve. The result? He now dominates in those my-forehand-to-his-backhand games that I used to win all the time, and like John, he can mostly shut down my third-ball attacks off my serve. His forehand looping still doesn't have penetrating power, but he can now play strong, aggressive rallies with it. His rating hasn't caught up to him yet because he hasn't played many recent tournaments, but I expect he'll be into the 1900s when he does. (At the Teams in November, his last tournament, he played on a stronger team and so mostly played much stronger players, but did beat a 1903 player, and was up 2-0 on both a 2224 and a 2034 player before losing to both in five. And he's improved since then.)

It's almost eye-opening how much stronger their backhands have become. John's always had a pretty good backhand loop but couldn't exchange backhands very well; now he can go bang-bang backhand to backhand with just about anyone. Kevin's always had that strong backhand, but now can both hit and topspin it, which makes it very hard to play against, and is why he can dominate those crosscourt rallies to my (or others) forehands. As to receive, let's just say that if other players returned my serves as well as they do now, I'd be in serious trouble.

MDTTC Camp Day One - Again

Once again we're into another five-day camp, the second of ten consecutive ones this summer, all Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM. Our routine is fairly set; on day one we focus on the forehand. I gave short lectures on grip, ready stance, and the forehand. In the afternoon session I worked with the beginners. Last week we had about 30 players during most sessions; this week we seem to have even more.

ITTF World Hopes Team Selected

Here's the article. USA's Crystal Wang was among the five girls selected.

ITTF World Tour

Here's the article from Inside the Games, "Top Table Tennis Players Gear Up for Return to Lucrative ITTF World Tour." They will give out $2.5 million in prize money this next year. Here's the ITTF Calendar for it - note the U.S. Open, July 3-6.

Shadow of the Pong

Here's an inspirational table tennis image.

Ariel Hsing vs. Doo Hoi Kem

Here's the complete video (59:14) of their match in the Junior Girls' Final at the Egypt Junior & Cadet Open this past weekend. Spoiler Alert! Ariel is up 10-9 match point in the sixth and seventh games, and leads 6-0 in the seventh before losing 12-10 in the seventh.

Sidespin Serving Trick Shot

Here's a video of a serving trick shot (40 sec). I may add a version of it to my own bag of exhibition tricks.

Monster University Ping-Pong

Don't forget to see the movie Monster University - just for the table tennis scene! Here's a gif image of it. Here's more on it at Table Tennis Nation: "The website even mentions ping pong and school champ Zane 'Great Wall' Xiao who appears in the GIF above. PING PONG Multi-paddled behemoth Zane 'Great Wall' Xiao defends his singles title in his single year. Sports Monstrated called Xiao 'ruthless at the table, with his omnidirectional vision and octo-dextrous hand-eye coordination. He’s a force to be reckoned with.'"

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June 24, 2013

Tip of the Week

Feet and Grip.

Exhaustion Times a Thousand and MDTTC Camps

That's how tired I seem to be most of the time, with the sudden increase in coaching hours due to the MDTTC camps. I normally coach or act as practice partner about 20 hours/week. Add six hours/day, Mon-Fri on top of that, and suddenly my legs feel like dried out sticks. Meanwhile, I've got a zillion things on the side I have to do - prepare for the U.S. Open next week, prepare for the ITTF coaching seminar I'm attending in August and the one I'm teaching in October, prepare for the writer's workshop I'm attending in late July, work on the planned rewrite of my Table Tennis Steps to Success book (tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals), promote the MDTTC junior program, set up the planned Maryland Junior League for the fall, plus the usual daily blog and Tips of the Week. Anyone got some sleep or extra hours each week for sale? (I think the Steps to Success rewrite will probably be the first casualty; I'll probably postpone that until the fall.)

I actually went to bed early last night with a headache, and woke up with a headache at 6:45AM. I went to my computer, and the first thing I wrote was, "I went to bed with a headache and woke up with a headache, so no blog today." Then I reconsidered, and did the blog after all. The headache's still there, but more of a background thing.

On Friday we finished the first week of our ten weeks of summer camps, each of them Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM. I gave short lectures on pushing and doubles. We did our usual Friday's "player's choice," where players chose what they wanted to work on in multiball, with the coaches ready with a suggestion if the player wasn't sure. In the afternoon we ran a practice tournament.

Over the weekend I coached about ten hours, which was less than during the camps, but still exhausting. In the Saturday group session, 4:30-6:30, where we play practice matches (I'm a practice partner for it), I was exhausted. So I played a very conservative blocking game, with a bunch of tricky serve and one-shot finals added in, and somehow won all my matches easily (mostly against 1900-2100 players). In the end, consistency is king. (That's true at all levels - it's just at the highest levels it's consistency in loop-killing winners that's king.)

This morning we start a new camp. As usual, I mostly run the morning sessions, with Cheng and Jack running the afternoon sessions. In the afternoon, I'll be working with the beginners. This week will be even more exhausting than last week. The camp hours are 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM, so there's a two-hour break in the middle where we eat lunch, I take the kids on the daily trek to 7-11 (five minute walk), and then rest. But this week I have a one-hour private coaching scheduled every day from 2-3PM.

I'm looking forward to the U.S. Open next week, where I'll finally get to "rest." After all, I'm only coaching three players, attending meetings, and playing in five events! (Only hardbat/sandpaper events - I may have to drop some if they conflict with coaching. I'm normally a sponge player.)

Japan Open

Who'd have thunk it? A chopper, a Japanese player ranked 188 in the world, wins Men's Singles at the Japan Open this weekend in Yokohama. Here's the ITTF home page for it, with articles, pictures, and results. Here's a video of the final (5:13, with time between points taken out), where Masato Shiono defeats China's Xu Chenahao 4-0. Here's more on the final from Table Tennis Daily. Here's a video (5:03) of the Top Ten Shots at the Japan Open. Here's video (50 sec) of a great doubles rally.

Ariel Hsing at Awards Ceremony

Here's video of Ariel at the Awards Ceremony after reaching the final of Under 18 Girls at the Egypt Junior and Cadet Open this past weekend. She was all gracious and professional despite losing a close final - she was up 10-9 match point in both the sixth and seventh games, and was up 6-0 in the seventh before losing to Doo Hoi Kem of Japan, 12-10 in the seventh. Here's the ITTF page for it, with articles, pictures, and results.

Timo Boll Defeats Zhang Jike

Here's the article, pictures, and video (3:55) of his great win at Chinese Super League just yesterday.

Behind-the-Back Shot of the Day

Here's the video (19 sec). And then he just nonchalantly walks away! It's the other guy who reacts.

Hermione Plays Table Tennis

Okay, it's really Emma Watson, who played Hermione in the Harry Potter Series. Here's the article from Table Tennis Nation. Here's what she tweeted: "I just got rid of my sofa and replaced it with a ping pong table. I think this is the best decision I have made in months.#gameon!"

Lady Antebellum at the Country Music Festival

Here's the article, pictures, and video links. That's Homer and Adam Brown playing two of the band members, with Michael Wetzel umpiring.

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June 19, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Two Highlights and Improving Girl

Yesterday's focus was on the backhand. Most of the players in my group, unlike some of the bizarre forehands I saw yesterday, were a bit more orthodox, and all either had pretty good backhands or picked up on it pretty quickly. How boring! I had several of them work on backhand accuracy, hitting shots side to side. I also worked a bit more on forehands, since this seems to be this week's major prevailing weakness.

For the talent versus training debate, here's an interesting story which could seemingly argue both sides. On Monday I worked with an eight-year-old girl who literally struggled to even hit the ball in multiball, not to mention trying to get it on the table or hit it properly. At the same time I was working with a five-year-old boy, with one standing on the forehand side, the other on the backhand side, both hitting forehands. The five-year-old also struggled at first, but he was at least hitting the ball, and by the end of the session was hitting the ball on the table somewhat consistently, though he kept letting his wrist drop back. (I wrote about that yesterday. He also has a tendency to stand completely sideways to hit backhands, and I'm having a hard time convincing him otherwise.) But the girl, despite being older and much bigger, continued to struggle, and seemed to make little progress.

We finished training part of the morning session with serve practice, and again I worked with these two together, along with a few others. Again, the five-year-old picked up on it, and was serving on the table over and over. (That's actually somewhat rare - at that age most struggle to serve.) The eight-year-old absolutely could not serve. I worked with her for fifteen minutes, and she did not make a single serve. Her toss was spastic with no control, and then she'd lunge to hit the ball, and usually completely miss it. Sometimes she'd hit it, but it would go straight sideways or even backwards. I tried to stay positive, but it was pretty frustrating on both sides. I've never had someone struggle this much just to serve.

We finished the session with Brazilian Teams (2-5 players on a team, one player plays until he loses a point then next person on the team comes up). The girl still couldn't serve, and never made a return, and so didn't even come close to winning a point. (She began letting her opponent serve when she came up.) Because of her serving struggles, about ten minutes before the end of the session I pulled her aside to work on her serve. Again she struggled, though she finally made one mostly lucky serve. Since she seemed in a mood to learn, I finished the session feeding her a few balls multiball to see if she could at least get a few on the table. She got a few, but it was still a mostly random thing - she'd miss the entire ball half the time, and the rest she'd spray all over the court with a spastic stroke. Her dad came in at the end and watched, and while he didn't say anything, you could tell he was a bit disappointed in her inability to hit the ball on the table.

Now we continue her story on Tuesday. I worked with her again in multiball, and she finally started to get a few on the table. It wasn't a gradual process; something must have clicked, and suddenly she was able to get the ball on the table. We're not talking great shots here, or even a great stroke, but she was hitting the ball on the table, which was a great victory for her. Later we worked on serves, and she continued to struggle. She made two or three serves in about ten minutes of trying. She skipped the Brazilian Teams and instead practiced serves again, and this time (drum roll!) she began to make a few. She was finally getting the knack of tossing the ball and meeting it with her racket in front of her instead of randomly tossing the ball all over and lunging at it.

Tuesday afternoon I worked with her more on both stroking and serving, and she improved on both. Finally, halfway through the afternoon session, she began making half her serves. So I challenged her to a "match," with games to seven - she would serve, and if she made the serve, she scored; if she missed, I scored. Alas, I won the first game something like 7-2. Then something again clicked, and she won the second game by about the same score. I won game three in a nail-biting 7-5 when she missed her last three serves in a row. Then, miracle of miracles, she won game four 7-0! Then she lost it, and I won game five 7-1 when she only made one serve out of eight. I suggested we play best of seven, and we continued - and she won the last two games 7-3, 7-1. She was the champion!

Halfway through the afternoon session we played Brazilian Teams, and she won two points - both times when opponents (in the beginners group) failed to return her serve. (Alas, she has yet to make an actual return in a game, but hopefully that'll come.) Afterwards, when several others had to leave early, I worked with her one more time, one-on-one for fifteen minutes. I brought out the giant rubber frog I sometimes let the younger kids use for target practice, and fed her multiball. At first she missed over and over, but the balls were at least hitting the table. We kept track of her hits. And then she started hitting it! About that time, as if in a TV movie, her dad came in, and saw her hitting it - including three times in a row one time. She hit it 20 times before we stopped. Her dad was unbelievably happy. "I can't believe how much she's improved!" he exclaimed. The contrast from Monday, when she was lucky to even hit the ball, to Tuesday afternoon was rather extreme.

She still has a long way to go, but after seeing her on Monday I would never believe that on Tuesday she'd be hitting the frog about one-third of the time, or making her serve 75% of the time. She has yet to make a return in an actual rally, other than when fed multiball to one spot, so that's next on the agenda. (She has to miss today - Wednesday - but will be back Thu and Fri, and I think she said she's coming next week as well.)

USATT High Performance Committee Report

Here are the Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee (April-May, 2013)

Two Weird Things Science Says Make You Better At Table Tennis

Here's the article. Wearing Red and Training Under Bright Lights?

Penhold Beats Shakehands

Here's an article on the annual "Penhold Versus Shakehand" team match in China. This year Ma Lin, Wang Hao, and Xu Xin defeated Zhang Jike, Timo Boll, and Dimitrij Ovtcharov. There were some interesting rules for the competition. (And where was Ma Long???)

Interview with Ariel Hsing

Here's an interview (3 min) that just went online with Ariel Hsing as well as Coach Dennis Davis, from the 2012 USA Nationals in December.

Zhang Jike Point-Winning Foot Shot

Here's a video (40 sec) of an exhibition where World Champion Zhang Jike scores a point against Xu Xin with a drop shot with his foot!

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June 14, 2013

Fundamentals and a Strong Foundation

I had a 1200-rated 11-year-old student recently at a tournament who faced long pips for the first time, against a higher-rated player. The opponent was a long pips blocker, no sponge, and pretty much covered the entire table with the long pips on the backhand, i.e. a "pushblocker." My student went in having no idea what to do, other than my admonition to give lots of deep no-spin, play steady, and patiently wait for an easy ball to put away. However, it became obvious very quickly that even against a high ball, he wasn't going to be smashing the high balls with any consistency; the long pips returns were just too different for him.

So pretty much on his own he stopped smashing, and simply rolled ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after . . . (I think you get the idea). The rallies were extremely long, but his patience won out; he won, 11-9 in the fifth. (The opponent went on to have a great tournament - probably because my student warmed him up!)

Later, in a training session, I mentioned that in tournaments you are going to face all sorts of different and strange styles like this one, and there were just too many to prepare him for everything. I also told him that at some point, I'd bring out a sheet of long pips for him to practice against, but not now; it wasn't worth it, and would just take away from other training. I wanted to install strong fundamentals, not worry about learning to play all the different styles this early in his development. He'll learn that later.

I told him something that I thought should be highlighted for others developing their games:

"If I try to prepare you for everything, you'll be prepared for nothing. If I give you a solid foundation, you can adjust to anything."

The point was that if I tried to prepare him for [and here I started to write a LONG list of weird styles, but decided I'd leave it to your imagination instead - there's a lot], then he'd know what to do against all of them, but would have less of a foundation in his game since we'd have wasted so much time preparing for things he'll rarely face. And so even if he knew how to play these weird styles, he wouldn't have the foundation to execute what was needed to win, and so he wouldn't be prepared against anyone. Instead, I told him to develop the foundation of his game (i.e. the fundamentals) so that his foundation is stronger than his opponents, and learn to adjust to them. If he did, I assured him he'd go right through opponents that he would otherwise have struggled with.  

Another way to think of it is this: if the opponent has a "weird" game, then he's not playing like most players. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's a reason certain techniques are considered "good" and others "not so good." If you have "good" technique, and the other has "not so good" technique, then his only overall advantage over you is the very weirdness of his game. His weakness is that his technique is flawed, and if you have better technique, then you can adjust to his weirdness and win because of the sounder technique.

Rest assured there are many players with so-called "not so good" technique who are very good. They have honed these "not so good" techniques to the point where they are pretty good. But overwhelmingly they would be even better if they had spent the same amount of time and energy developing more proper technique. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, there's a reason why good technique is considered as such. (The biggest exception to this might be the very style mentioned above, "pushblockers," where players who are not as physically "athletic" as others can often reach a pretty high level by just blocking with long pips instead of conventional technique - but with long pips no sponge, that could be considered "proper technique." But that's a whole other essay for another time.)

I do believe that players should experiment and learn to do a few things different, especially on the serve, and perhaps on at least one receive or rally shot. Having something different can throw off an opponent. Just don't overdo it for the sake of doing it if your goal is to reach your maximum potential.

Yesterday

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Due to near-hurricane thunderstorms, three of my four students cancelled (normally not "good," but I needed the rest); I got a bunch of writing and reading done; the Orioles, in a four-team AL East Divisional race, beat the rival Red Sox while the other two in the race, the Yankees and Rays, both lost (and as noted in yesterday's blog, Orioles Hangout published my Top Ten List); and I got to see the midnight showing of "Man of Steel."

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's an ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 coaching seminar in Austin, Texas run by Richard McAfee, starting last Monday and ending today. I ran a similar one in Maryland in 2011, and am running another in South Bend, IN, Oct. 2-6. More info on that soon - probably Monday.

Chinese Versus European Loop

Here's an article that highlights the difference between the "Chinese" and "European" loops.

USATT Board Chair Blog

Here's a blog entry posted yesterday by the Chair of the USATT Board Mike Babuin. Here's the opening paragraph: "Recently I had the distinct pleasure to introduce table tennis into Valor Games. For those unfamiliar with Valor Games it is a competition designed and geared towards military personnel and veterans who are physically disabled and/or who have suffered from one of several conditions, traumas, or disorders as a result of their service to our country.  While many people may be familiar with the Wounded Warrior Program, Valor Games is a similar yet distinct competition that is gaining in recognition and participation across the United States."

The Pongcast

Here's the latest Pongcast (18:46). "This month the Pongcast reviews the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships and looks at what has been happening at the ITTF in May."

Lily and Ariel at China Open

Below is a summary of how the USA girls are doing in the China Open, as posted this morning by Bruce Liu. (Here's the ITTF China Open Page with results, pictures, and articles, and here are a few matches of Lily, Ariel, and Wu Yue on iTV. The China Open ends this Sunday.)

June 14 (China time) Summary:
Women's Singles:

  • Lily upset the #16 seed BARTHEL Zhenqi (#66 in the world) in the round of 32. It was another wild 7-gamer (11-5, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-1).Her round of 16 opponent will be World Champion/World Cup Champion/Olympic Gold Medalist, aka the Grand Slammer, GUO Yue from China. We will see how wild Lily can be. It will be tough for sure. But that why it is worth fighting for.
  • Ariel fought hard as usual. She lost to GUO Yan (#5) in 5 (9-11, 5-11, 11-9, 5-11, 5-11). A great effort. 

Women's Doubles:

  • Lily and Ariel are in the quarterfinals at the China Open! Not too shabby for two 17-year-old. Due to their busy schedule, they really did not have much time practice doubles. Imagine if they can practice more together... Their opponents in the quarterfinal will be GUO Yue(#16) / LIU Shiwen (#2) from China. I'm pretty sure other than Lily and Ariel, all other players still in the Women's Doubles are full-time professional players! In fact, most likely the majority of the players in the whole tournament are professional players. 

U21 Girls' Singles:

  • Lily played twice today in the event. In the round of 16, she duly stopped the dangerous HIRANO Miu 3-1 (8-11, 11-8, 14-12, 18-16). Alas, lost to ZHOU Yihan (#102) from Singapore 4-1 in the quarterfinals. It is a great accomplish already, especially in China.
  • Ariel lost 0-3 to the red hot So Eka is out but don't let the game counts fool you. It was a highly competitive match. You can see it yourselves from the score (13-15, 9-11, 8-11).

Go girls! 

Musical Ping-Pong Table

Yes, an interactive musical ping-pong table, on display at Union Depot in St. Paul, MN!

Apparently this table plays music as the ball hits the surface.

Kim Kardashian Plays Ping-Pong With Her Family

Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. The apocalypse has occurred.

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June 13, 2013

Staying Low Revisited

The Tip of the Week this past Monday was Staying Low. It was inspired by a student of mine, Sameer, 11, who tends to stand up straight when he plays. I've been on him about this for some time, and usually he gets lower - but only in practice drills if I constantly remind him. Once he plays points, he stands up again. At the Eastern Open this past weekend he won Under 800 and made the final of U950, but there were times where he didn't look so good since he was standing up so straight. (In newer ratings from before the tournament, he's rated 1181.)

So I told him that for the next month, our sessions are going to be very "boring," that we're going to focus almost exclusively on staying low. It's not just getting low, it's how you do it. When he does get low, his tendency is to simply bend his knees while leaning backwards from the waist, instead of forward. Also, his feet tend to be too close together, his feet pointing too much forward. You can't fix any one of these; they all go together. He also tends to either let his free arm tightly at his side, either hanging down or jammed up to his chest. Keeping the free hand out for balance is closely related to the ready position as you need it to stay balanced when you move.

So yesterday we started off by spending about ten minutes just shadow practicing with the proper stance. Once he looked comfortable doing this, we hit forehand to forehand at a very slow pace - it almost drove him crazy since he likes to play fast (like most kids), and every now and then in exasperation he'd smack one in. But we did this for twenty minutes, just forehand to forehand, adding some side-to-side footwork near the end. Then we did the same thing, backhand to backhand.

Then we played some points. The key was that he wasn't to play table tennis; he was to play "low table tennis," where he had to play the points in his newer stance. I expected problems, and kept the rallies simple - but lo and behold, he'd developed the habit during those excruciatingly slow rallies! Normally when I spot him 6 points I win over and over. This time he did something unthinkable - he won four out of five! Now I probably did miss a few shots, and was keeping things simple, but it was by far the best he's ever played. As a side bonus, by staying low he was able to see and react to my serve better than before, and returned them better than ever, even the "trick" serves I threw at him near the end of most games.

Table Tennista

Here are this week's headlines at Table Tennista:

China Open

Here's an ITTF story that features USA player Ariel Hsing - unfortunately, it features her upset loss. Here's the ITTF home page for the China Open, with results, articles, photos, and videos.

Behind the Scenes at the 2013 China Open

Here's a 38-second video with a few action shots and short interviews with Chinese players at the China Open. Interesting to watch, even more interesting if you understand Chinese, which I do not. Feel free to translate anyone!  

Three More Books Coming Out By Next Year

By the end of the year I'll have enough Tips of the Week to put them together in one volume, "Table Tennis Tips." (Highly original title - have a better suggestion?) It'll clearly be marked as a compilation of my previously published Tips of the Week. So far I've done 123 Tips of the Week here at TableTennisCoaching.com, one every Monday since Jan. 11, 2011. (Confession: a few didn't go up until Tuesday.) I anticipate doing 29 more this year, for a total of 152, plenty for a book. Sadly, I'm running out of topics, and so anticipate ending the Tips of the Week at the end of this year. (I also did 169 much shorter Tips of the Week, which were published near the back of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques - took up only 54 of the book's 272 pages. The Tips I do here are considerably longer, more like features than simple tips.)

Next year I'll also be publishing "More Pings and Pongs," the second anthology of my best published science fiction & fantasy stories. "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" came out in 2010 with my 30 best; I've now sold enough new stories for a new volume. The only problem is that typically when you sell a story, the buyer generally has sole rights to the story for six months, and so I anticipate I won't have rights to all the stories I'd like to use until April of 2014.

As a special, I've lowered the price for the Kindle version of Pings and Pongs to $2.99 - buy yours today!!! (I'd lower the price of the print version, but due to printing costs and other issues, the lowest I can sell it for is $8.35 - a bargain!!! It includes "Ping-Pong Ambition," a table tennis fantasy story.)

I have one other book also planned - "Table Tennis Fundamentals," the rewrite of "Table Tennis Steps to Success."

Here's my Amazon page that lists all my books, other than the USATT manual "Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis," which I plan to rewrite and have professionally published sometime in the future.

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

Orioles Hangout published another of my infamous Top Ten Lists. This one was "Top Ten Ways the Orioles Can Get a TOR Starter." (For you non-baseball people, "TOR Starter" means "Top Of Rotation Starter," i.e. a pitching ace.) It's the eleventh article of mine they've published - nine "Top Ten" lists and two regular articles.

Non-Table Tennis - Sheeba

Yesterday I did 3.5 hours of coaching, and was pretty exhausted afterwards. I got home around 8:15PM, and let Sheeba, my dog, outside. She's 15 years old, which puts her in her eighties in human years. She's almost completely deaf, and half blind - almost completely blind without bright light - and has arthritic back legs so she hobbles around. When I went down around 8:30 PM the gate was open. One of the tenants downstairs had just left, and likely left it open, not realizing she was in the yard. Sheeba was nowhere to be seen.

I spent the next hour and 45 minutes circling the neighborhood and expanding outward, trying to find her. Calling for her was pointless since she's deaf, though I found it was a good way to indicate to people that I was searching for a lost dog. I kept asking around, and twice I found people who had seen her going by. Finally, at around 10:15 PM, I got a call from someone who had found her. I thanked her profusely, and walked the evil, naughty dog back home, where she demanded (and got) a bacon snack.

My legs are exhausted this morning, partly from 3.5 hours of coaching, but mostly from walking around for an hour and 45 minutes.

Table Table Tennis and Office Table Tennis

My legs are so tired from coaching and searching for Sheeba that for now on I'm going to play table tennis like this. Or perhaps like this.

***
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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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March 27, 2013

Spring Break Camp

We had 47 players in camp yesterday, all at the same time. How did we accommodate them all with 18 tables? In the morning session, we had 7 coaches feeding multiball, leaving 11 free tables. With 22 players on those 11 tables, that meant we had 25 players at any given time on the 7 multiball tables, rotating around between doing multiball, picking up balls, or practicing on the free tables. In the afternoon session the advanced players did more live play (two to a table), while younger beginners were grouped on a few tables for multiball and various games - such as hitting a bottle supposedly filled with my dog's saliva, where I had to drink it if they hit it. (I'm working with the beginners mostly this camp.)

The coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Jie ("James"); and Raghu Nadmichettu. Jack Huang used to be Huang Tong Sheng ("Jack"), but he's been Jack so long we no longer use his Chinese name.

While most of the players are local from Maryland or Virginia (since Spring Break Camp coincides with spring break in local schools), we have a bunch from out of town. There's a nine-year-old from Japan who's about 1900; four members of the University of Missouri team; and several from New Jersey and New York.

One of the beginners who was having so much trouble yesterday did a bit better today. However, he's still got a ways to go - every now and then he'll do a series of proper strokes, and then he'll fall back into bad habits. The other also showed some signs of learning, but doesn't seem too motivated to learn. Surprisingly, the latter one picked up serving pretty well, while the first one is struggling with that.

I gave lectures on the backhand, on serving, and on doubles tactics. However, since most of the players are local juniors, I kept the lectures short. I had a problem with a few overly excited kids who kept talking among themselves during the doubles lecture, which took place right after we got off break.

I got to talk some with the University of Missouri team for a bit. Their best player is about 2100, the other three somewhere in the 1700-1800 range or so. One (I think the 2100 player) was having trouble covering the table after stepping around his backhand to do a forehand penhold loop. Many players have this trouble because they don't position themselves properly so that they'll follow through in a balanced position, which is what allows a player to recover quickly. Players often follow through with their weight going off to the side, which means they waste precious time recovering. Instead, players should position themselves so their weight is moving more toward the table as they loop, putting themselves right back into position to cover even a block to the wide forehand. I can still do this at age 53 (well, against most blocks!), not because of foot speed, but because of proper footwork technique.

I'm getting a bit banged up. (This is me.) Here's a roll call:

  • Sore throat and hoarse voice from lecturing and coaching.
  • Slight limp from an injured right toe. I can't really put any weight on it. It feels like I've fractured it at the base (though it's probably something less serious), but I have no idea when or how. If it persists, I'll have it x-rayed after the camp.
  • Slight limp from pulled upper front left thigh muscle, which I originally injured at Cary Cup on March 15, and keep aggravating. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Major infection from that cut on left index finger I got during the exhibitions last Thursday. (See my blog from March 22.)
  • Jammed middle finger on my right (playing) hand. This has been bothering me for months, and I don't know how I hurt it originally, though I know I aggravated it recently giving someone a high-five, where we missed and I rejammed it against his hand. I can't make a fist with my right hand - the middle finger won't bend all the way. (Insert appropriate middle-finger joke here.) If it were any of the other four fingers (including the thumb), this would affect my playing, but this one doesn't.
  • Growing upper back problems from being too busy to do my regular back stretching. This one's my own fault.
  • Exhaustion from my dog getting me up at 4AM to go out (see yesterday's blog), while trying to coach all day at our camp, do various paperwork and other stuff at night, and still do the daily blog.

Returning Serve: Part One

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master. I'll post part two and others as they come up.

ITTF Level 2 Course in New Jersey

Richard McAfee will be running an ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course at the Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, Aug. 26-31. Here's a listing of all upcoming ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S.

Ariel Hsing Article

Here's a feature article on her from the ITTF.

Table Tennista

Here are four new articles on China Table Tennis.

Multiball Training in Hungary

Here's a new video (3:18) featuring multiball training with members of the Hungarian Woman National Team and with some young players in the Hungarian Table Tennis Centre in Budapest. This is roughly what I do all day long at our MDTTC training camps.

Multiball Training in China

Here's a video (7:09) showing multiball training in China. There are many styles of multiball feeding; I was fascinated to see that the man in red feeding multiball uses almost the exact technique I do, i.e. first bounce on the table. Even the drills he does are about the same as the ones I do.

The Correct Way to Finish a Point

Here's a six-second video where Richard Lee demonstrates your basic serve and zillion mile per hour loop kill. Do not try this in your basement; he's a professional.

Best of Xu Xin vs. Ma Long

Here's a video (8:29) of the best rallies between these two Chinese superstars. Many of these points are truly impressive - are we reaching the pinnacle of human performance in table tennis? (I'm sure someone will quote this back to me someday when someone makes these two look like amateurs.)

Artistic Table Tennis Pictures

Here's an interesting and artistic table tennis picture. And here's an artistic table - it's like playing bumper ping-pong.

Staged Shot-Making

Here are 13 spectacularly staged trick shots.

One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Six
Seven
Eight
Nine
Ten
Eleven
Twelve
Thirteen

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