Ariel Hsing

July 18, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Two

The schedule yesterday was similar to the day before, except that the morning's focus was on the backhand, and my lecture after the break was on return of serve.

I did a lot of coaching on serves, where the focus was on creating spin. One thing I introduced was a way to practice spin with just the racket and ball. You toss the ball into the air and try to sidespin it straight into the air, catch it, and repeat. It's a simple exercise any player can learn to do, and it's a great way to practice your spin contact as well as control (since you have to hit the ball straight up).

One serve especially has gained interest - the reverse forehand pendulum serve, especially short to the forehand. I've explained that this is probably the most effective serves against junior players (because of their shorter reach, making it hard both to handle the serve or to return it anywhere except crosscourt to a righty's forehand), and this seems to have sparked interest. Here's a video (1:22) that features Men's Singles World Champion Zhang Jike doing the serve, with slow motion. Normally I'd recommend the serve to go wider to the forehand, but at the advanced levels that gives the receiver a very wide angle into the forehand, so at that level it is often done more to the middle. Learn the serve and experiment on what works best in your matches against different opponents.

Things weren't all lovey-dovey in the camp; we had our first real fight of the season. One kid wanted to share a chair with another (both about 9), for some reason didn't want to use the open chair five feet away. I had to pull them apart. Amazing how such little things can escalate at that age level. (I previously blogged about a fight over paper cups, I think about who got to stack them for knocking down with ping-pong balls.) But an hour later they were happily taking turns on the robot together, and later were teammates in Brazilian Teams, cheering for each other. I wish my memory were that short.

In the ongoing clipboard challenge matches during break, I haven't yet lost to anyone rated under 2200, and am now 5-0 against players rated between 2000 and 2200. However, I believe players are now conspiring together by studying videos late into the night, comparing notes, consulting with coaches, and doing early morning training, all for the express purpose of beating me and my clipboard.

Fundraising for Topspin the Movie

To do the documentary on Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang, they need to raise $75,000. As of this writing, 405 people have donated a total of $44,771. It's all or nothing - so they need you to donate! Here's the movie webpage, here's the fundraising site, and here's a link to the 48-hour Top Spinnathon they started Tuesday at 3:30 PM.

Ariel Hsing on CNN

Here's an article with a link to a two-minute video that ran on CNN yesterday. The person hitting with Ariel in the video is coach and practice partner Anol Kashyap.

Timothy Wang in the News

Here's an article on USA Olympian Timothy Wang.

What Vikash Learned at the U.S. Open

Vikash Sahu blogs about what he learned at the U.S. Open, in particular about attacking, playing different styles, and physical conditioning.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Chapter 14 of Volume 12 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis was featured yesterday on the USATT web page. The heading: "1983: New USTTA Editor Tom Wintrich Replaces 50-Year-Old 'Table Tennis Topics' with 'SPIN.' 1983: Boggan's Fury at President Schiff's Public Explanation as to Why Tim was Fired as 'Topics' Editor. 1983: Boggan Immediately Begins Renegade 'Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis.'  1983: Initial Responses to SPIN and 'Timmy's' from readers."

Why not buy a copy of this volume and/or the preceding eleven? Perhaps pick and choose the years you are most interested in. Here's Tim Boggan's table tennis page, where you can buy the books or just read about Tim. Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

Wheel of Fortune

Table tennis was on Wheel of Fortune yesterday, as related online by "jj4tt" at the about.com table tennis forum. As he narrates about "Round 2 - Same Letter" (and I presume Wheel of Fortune aficionados can make sense of this?):

Sarah instantly duds out w/ T while Karla goes BANKRUPT. Jed picks up that MDW with three N's. That's followed by $7,000 worth of L's, but he blows it with the C. Back to Sarah who finds the SL of four P's; that allows her to pick up a 1/2 KIA. She narrows the puzzle down to this...
P R O _ E S S I O N A L
P I N _ - P O N _
P L A _ E R
She solves PROFESSIONAL PING-PONG PLAYER for $2,500. Jed left a total of $8,300 on the table in this round.  ...

A Table at Spin NY

I think it's a drowning woman - the table top seems to be blocking her from surfacing. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be posting about Murder at Spin NY.

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July 17, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day One

Here's a quick rundown of the day's activities. There were 35 players in the camp. Coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and visiting Coach Liu (not sure of his full name) from New York. Wang Qing Liang (2641), Chen Bo Wen (2431) and Raghu Nadmichettu (2389) are practice partners. Players include Allen Wang (15, 2370), Nathan Hsu (16, 2349, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion); John Hsu (18, 2226 but usually higher, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 18 Boys' Singles Champion); Barbara Wei (2199, former U.S. Junior Team member), Derek Nie (11, 2170, U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys Champion), the Alguetti brothers (Adar 12, Gal 11, Sharron 11, rated 2081, 2089, and 2098), Lilly Lin (15, 1885); Amy Lu (11, 1838, U.S. #3 Under 12 girl), and many more.  (Regulars Tong Tong Gong, Crystal Wang, and Roy & Princess Ke are in China training.)

  1. Paperwork: making sure everyone's registered and paid, signing people up for lunch delivery (we have Chinese food delivered for $6/person, players order from a menu), etc.
  2. At about 10AM: stretching
  3. Introduce coaches, explain how the camp runs, go over rules, etc.
  4. Short lectures and demos on grip, ready stance, and the forehand.
  5. Divide players in four groups for about an hour and ten minutes of multiball training with the coaches.
  6. Pick up balls, then break.
  7. Take on clipboard challenges during break. (I played three players, with ratings of about 2000, 2080, and 2090, and won all three.)
  8. After break we divided players into two groups. New players (about 15) came with me for my service lecture and service practice. The rest did drills and then doubles with the other coaches.
  9. We finished the morning session with 30 minutes of Brazilian Teams, where we divide players into teams of 3-5. One player from each team plays a point, and the winner stays on the table, the loser goes to the end of his team's line. New person always serves. Game is to 41.
  10. At 1:00 PM, lunch. (I had chicken fried rice.)
  11. At 1:30 PM I took six kids to 7-11. (We had to jam in my car - two in front passenger seat, four in the back.)
  12. About 2:00 PM I went home, let my dog out, checked email, etc., then returned to club.
  13. We started up again at 3:00 PM with stretching.
  14. I took five beginners to two tables in the back while the rest of the players did regular drills on the other tables. We did an hour of multiball training, with the players alternating between me, ball pickup, and using the robot.
  15. Break.
  16. After break we did a few multiball drills, and then played games. We did around the world; bottle hitting (if they hit it, I had to drink it, and I assured them the red stuff in the Gatorade bottle was from my pet rhinoceros's nosebleed); cup pyramid destruction (we make pyramids of cups and knock them down, including a competition to see who can knock down the most in ten shots); and finished at with Brazilian Teams. Camp ended at 6:00 PM.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar

The first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar will be held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Oct. 30 - Nov. 6. I expect to participate. Here's the info page. To be eligible, you must fulfill the following:

  • Current USATT Members
  • Currently certified as a USATT Coach
  • Currently listed on the ITTF Coaches Registry as a Level 1 Coach
  • Must have attended the ITTF Level 1 Course before November 1st of 2011 (1 year between courses)

Cast Your Vote for Ariel Hsing USOC June Female Athlete of the Month!

She's up against 15 others in this USOC vote.

Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve (2:54).

The U.S. Open Sandpaper Final

Here's Ty Hoff and Adoni Maropis in the Sandpaper final (23:21). Lots of long rallies, with a mix of attack and defense. Check out the point at 15-18 in game one (at 8:54)! And yes, Adoni Maropis, in real life, is the guy (okay, the actor playing Abu Fayed in season six) who nuked Valencia, CA (and tried to nuke others) in the TV series "24." He was also in Troy, Hidalgo, and many other movies.

Samson Dubina on My Valley Sports TV

Here's a news video that features table tennis and Samson Dubina (1:44).

Another Full-time Club in the Bay Area

Here's the article about the upcoming Rossmoor Table Tennis Club.

Ma Long's Under the Net Return

Here it is, in regular and slow motion (0.38).

Practice Safe Pong

So says Steve Colbert in this picture of beer pong. Here's the video (4:19). Colbert introduces a new game called 'Who gave me herpes?"

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July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

Yes, it's Friday the 13th - and in honor of that, here's an extremely acrobatic black cat at the net (2:01). It's hilarious, and set to music. 

How Eric Messed Players Up

Yesterday I blogged about Eric Boggan's national and international record, and mentioned how some of the things he did are basically dying arts. Here is his Hall of Fame profile, written by father and fellow Hall of Famer Tim Boggan.

First, let's clear up one myth. Some believe Eric was only effective because he used inverted and anti, with the same color, so opponents couldn't see which side he used. The two-color rule came about in 1983, when Eric was 19 and not yet at his peak. He had his best results and highest world rankings after the color rule, where he reached #18 in the world. In fact, Eric went to two colors at least six months in advance, figuring he might as well get used to it, since two colors were the future. If not for the two-color rule, he likely would have reached top ten in the world. (But we'll never know.)

What exactly did he do that made his game so effective?

He had either the best, or close to the best, backhand block and overall blocking in the world. His Seemiller grip allowed him to jab block from all parts of the table at wide angles. The grip meant there was no middle weakness, which by itself put him above other blockers who had to guard the wide angles as well as the middle. Plus he regularly would flip his racket and dead block with the antispin side. His anti blocks sometimes double-bounced, and opponents who stepped off the table to loop against regular blocks were left thrashing about trying to react to blocks that died over the table or barely came off. And if they did topspin those ones, they were then stuck too close to the table to react to Eric's next shot, would either be another aggressive block or a smash. (While his loop wasn't great, he had a very nice smash from both sides.)

He also messed up opponents when receiving. Against short serves he'd usually use the antispin side and either drop it short or flip - and he'd hide which until the last second. Then he'd flip to the inverted side and start attacking or aggressive blocking. You haven't faced sheer terror until you face an Eric anti flip and try to loop it. (If you set up for it, he drops the ball short instead.)

His biggest strengths were exactly what were most players' weaknesses. Your typical world-class player liked to serve short and then attack to the middle or backhand. They also liked to return serves short. These tactics were often suicide against Eric - he was at his best against short serves and receives, and his blocking from the middle and backhand were just too good. Thinking players quickly realized they had to serve more long balls and attack his forehand, and to push long against his serves. (Few world-class players were in the habit of letting the opponent loop first, which is exactly what you often had to do against Eric.) Many players, such as Dan Seemiller, found success by chopping to get out of a losing rally since few could withstand his side-to-side jab blocks and anti dead blocks. Many found these tactics too different, and fell back on their old habits - often to their great regret.

Sandpaper News - $2000 Sandpaper Event at Nationals

You read that right - the top eight players will receive $2000 in total prize money, with $1000 going to the winner. Here's the press release, which reads:

July 12, 2012 Colorado Springs, CO and Palm Harbor, FL - Michael Cavanaugh, USATT CEO and Ty Hoff of FASTT announced the co-sanctioning of the Sandpaper event at the 2012 US Nationals in Las Vegas, NV December 18-22, 2012. The event will be the 2012 USATT/FASTT Sandpaper National Championships and will feature $2,000 in prize money for the top eight finishers with a top prize of $1,000.  

The USATT is the national governing body for the Olympic sport of Table Tennis.  FASTT is a national organization promoting the sport of Sandpaper Table Tennis.  These two organizations have come together to expand the base of players in the United States through this cooperative effort. 

Players interested in the Olympic sport of Table Tennis are encouraged to visit http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis.aspx.  Players interested in the sport of Sandpaper Table Tennis are encouraged to visit http://www.ttprotour.com/.  

The Backhand Topspin

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Backhand Topspin (1:38). (Yes, this is the backhand loop, but these days the dividing line between a backhand drive and a backhand loop is less clear than before as more and more players play topspinny backhands, which is made much easier by modern sponges.) 

USA Olympians Highlighted in Bay Area

The four (Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu) are highlighted in the San Francisco TV Station and web page KTSF. "This is a twelve-day series introducing twelve Chinese-American athletes in various sports who will represent US to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. KTSF chooses table tennis as its first four episodes. Timothy's was aired yesterday, Ariel's on July 12, Lily's on July 13, and Erica's on July 14. Once aired, the video clips will be also available from KTSF's website. Tune in at channel 26, cable 8 in the Bay Area."

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Table Tennis on TV

Their University Team, which won lots of hardware at the College Nationals, is featured in this video (1:53).

Which Olympic sport is the hardest? Fourth-Place Medal ranks all 32

They put table tennis at #27!!! They obviously don't know our sport. But then put Equestrian - riding horses - as the hardest sport. I don't think they know sports, period. (Earth Fourth-Place Medal - the horse is doing most of the work!!!)

Crazy Sidespin

Here's an extreme sidespin by Xu Xin versus Ma Long (0.36).

Ariel Hsing on Nickelodeon

They try to figure out what she does - Olympic Table Tennis Player! (4:20)

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July 10, 2012

Staying Low

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

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

Can China Sweep the Olympics (Again)?

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

Ariel Hsing versus Uncles Bill and Warren

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

Ping-Pong, Senior Style

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

Paralympic Backhand

So you think you have backhand problems?

The Ping Festival in England

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

Roger Federer vs. Ma Lin

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

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June 7, 2012

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's a note about upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminars that was sent to all USATT Certified Coaches from the USATT Coaching Committee. (I'm a member.) If you are interested, see the info page. I'm running my second one at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Aug 11-12, 18-19 (with possible Paralympic session on Aug. 25), so I hope to see you there! Here's the flyer for the one I'm running. 

Special Notice to All USATT Members, USATT Coaches, and USATT Clubs
From: Richard McAfee, Chairman, USATT National Coaching Advisory Committee

In the upcoming summer months, USATT Coaching is offering 5 regional ITTF-PPT Level 1 Coaching Courses.  USATT Coaching would like to urge anyone who is actively involved or has thought about becoming involved in coaching table tennis to plan to attend one of these courses.

Coaches completing all the course requirements of the ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course will become ITTF Certified and listed on the ITTF Coaches Registry.  In addition, coaches becoming ITTF Level 1 who are not currently USATT Certified (or certified at a “club” level) are eligible to become USATT “State” Level Coaches.  For current USATT Coaches, your ITTF Certification will be added to your name on the USATT Coaching Data-base.

Course Content:

The ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course focuses on preparing coaches to work with children and also on developing effective group coaching skills.  Topics include: how to conduct introductory programs for children, teaching in a school setting, how to teach all basic strokes, teaching serve and serve return, physical training, psychological skills, nutrition and energy systems, tournament organization, rules, and junior development planning.  In addition, the course includes a full day of instruction on working with Para athletes which includes: understanding the classification system, special equipment of the Para athletes, Para rules, and basic knowledge of Para techniques and tactics.

More Trained Coaches Needed:

Every USATT Club needs trained and motivated coaches if we are ever going to raise the standard of both our athletes and our clubs.  I would urge every USATT Club to look to recruit one or more persons who are interested in coaching and help sponsor them to attend one of these ITTF Courses.  The benefit back to your club of having more trained coaches will show itself for years to come.  The immediate benefit is the all coaches attending the ITTF Course must complete 30 hours of coaching at their local club of which 5 hours is supervised and graded.  This often results in many new coaching programs for the local club. 

More Advanced ITTF Courses Coming Soon:

While the ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course is an introductory coaching course it still covers a great amount of material that coaches of all levels will find interesting.  More importantly for the elite level coaches, the Level 1 Course sets the stage for the ITTF Level 2, ITTF Level 3, and ITTF High Performance Courses which will be coming to the USATT in the near future.  Regional Level 2 Courses will begin in 2013 and Level 3 in 2014. 

It is important to note that the ITTF does not “grandfather” anyone and every coach must start at Level 1 and work their way up.  Currently there are no USATT Coaches higher than Level 1 so now is the time to get in on the ground floor.  All coaches must be a Level 1 Coach for 1 year before they can apply for the Level 2 Course. 

Summer ITTF-PPT Level 1 Courses:

  • Fremont, CA – June 11-15, 2012
  • Champaign, IL – July 17-21, 2012
  • Pleasantville, NY - (8/4, 8/5, 8/11, 8/12, 8/18), 2012
  • Gaithersburg, MD - (8/11-12, 8/18-19, 8/25), 2012
  • Austin, TX (8/13 - 8/17, 2012)

For Complete Information, please see: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Coaching-and-Tips/Courses.aspx

Stuff I Did at Ledo Pizza Yesterday

As I do every few weeks, I spent an afternoon at Ledo Pizza yesterday getting work done. I did both table tennis and science fiction & fantasy stuff. What did I accomplish?

  • Reviewed printouts explaining the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League to prepare for an online meeting, which took place last night at 8PM for about an hour;
  • Edited and rewrote chapter 20 of my Table Tennis Tactics book, "Mental Tactics," based on suggestions from table tennis sports psychologist Dora Kurimay;
  • Proofed several rewritten chapters of the Table Tennis Tactics book;
  • Proofed two new stories, "The Nature of Swords" and "Death, the Devil, and the President's Ghost," which I submitted to markets last night;
  • Proofed rewritten versions of two stories, "The Purple Rose of Retribution" and "Nanogod," and submitted both last night;
  • Ate pepperoni pizza.

Update on Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

It's currently around 99,000 words (over twice as many words as Table Tennis: Steps to Success, my best-selling previous work, which sold over 28,000 copies), as I constantly tinker with it. However, except for some more work I plan to do today on chapter 20 (the Mental Tactics chapter), the written part is done. I've also worked out an agreement with a top table tennis photographer for use of his photos, plus I've ransacked my own photo files, so I'm well into finding the roughly 70 photos that I plan to use to represent various chapters or sections. Then I'll start creating the pages. The plan is to be able to do both POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks. The only thing I'm not sure of at this point is the cover. I have several ideas I'm playing with.

"As One" the movie

Here's a website with info on the movie (about the unified Korean Women's Team winning the 1991 World Team Championships), linked to a video preview (1:48). Later, after I see the movie, I'll blog about it. I do know they have changed history to add drama, apparently having Korea win the doubles in dramatic fashion in the final match to win the championships, when in fact the doubles was the third of five matches played, and they lost that! I'm told that in the movie, an umpire kept faulting the Koreans, but if I remember correctly, that really did happen, though it's likely the movie exaggerated this. I'll get the movie on Netflix when it's available, since it's not playing my area (Maryland).

The Shakehands Serving Grip

Here's an article, and linked video (2:55), that examines the intricacies of the shakehands grip for serving. I think one of the keys here is whether to use the middle finger on the handle to add extra snap, or hold the racket only between thumb and index finger for extra flexibility. I do it both ways, depending on the serve, but generally using the middle finger for extra spin, and taking it off for quicker motions leading to more deception.

Ariel Hsing Wins North American Cup Again

Here's the story.

Princeton Table Tennis Video

Here are video interviews (3:40) with four members of the Princeton Table Tennis Club - Amaresh Sahu, Kevin Ma, Thomas An, and Gabriel Reder. (Amaresh and Kevin are both alumni from my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center.)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Takes on Olympian

He's no match for Mo Zhang. Here's the article, linked to the video (1:07).

A Table Tennis Birthday Cake

Yes, you can have your table tennis cake and eat it too.

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May 30, 2012

Summer Table Tennis Training

Now's the time to start seriously thinking about your summer training, especially for those out of school, but also for the rest of you. There are training camps all over the USA. My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, will be running eleven consecutive weeks of camps, Mon-Fri every week from June 18 to Aug. 24. Here is info on the camps. I will be coaching along with Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Xeng Xun. We will also have several 2400-2600 practice partners.

Don't have time to come to a camp? Or don't feel comfortable training with a bunch of juniors? (Most camps are dominated by kids, though all ages are welcome.) Here's the list of USATT coaches, or if you are in the Maryland area, here's info on private coaching at MDTTC.

Many players practice for years and never improve as much as they'd like. The problem is that they rarely go through a period of intense training, which is where you can maximize improvement. Set aside a week or so for a training camp, arrange a couple months afterwards with both private coaching and a regular practice schedule, and it'll pay off for years to come.

Before undergoing any training, take some time to think about your game. What are your current or potential strengths? What are your weaknesses? How to you envision yourself playing later on? One thing I tell all of my students is that you should be able to write a book about your game, at least in your head. If you can't, then either you don't know your game or you don't have a game. In most cases, players have a game but haven't really thought it through. Do some thinking, perhaps consult with a coach or top player, and decide where you want to go in terms of style, level, and/or goals. Then start your journey. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and your journey to reach your table tennis goals starts with your next practice session.

"As One" movie

This is the first major "real" table tennis movie (as opposed to comedies that poke fun at the sport), about the joint Korean women's team that won the Worlds in 1991, upsetting China in the final. It opens tomorrow in three U.S. cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia), as well as in Toronto and Vancouver. It opens in Los Angeles one week later. Here is info on the theaters and times, as well as a link to the trailer. Here's info on the movie from the ITTF. Here's a photo gallery from U.S. umpire Michael Meier, who had a major role in the movie authentically playing a U.S. umpire. Here's the IMDB page on the movie.

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Backhand Counterhit (4:54)

USA Olympic Table Tennis Team

Here's an article with photo slideshow of the USA Olympic Team, with pictures and info on all four - Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu.

Mike Mezyan Table Tennis Art

Here's the page for Mike's table tennis artworks. Or you can go directly to the Album.

Jan-Ove Waldner: The Power of Blocking

Here's a highlights video showing the blocking skills of the great Jan-Ove Waldner. Watch the change of pace and placements he uses. Note how he often sidespin blocks.

Turning Trash into Table Tennis

Really!

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May 29, 2012

Tip of the Week

Make a game of your weaknesses.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Maryland

I will be running my second annual ITTF Coaching Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on two consecutive weekends, Aug. 11-12 and Aug. 18-19, with an optional Paralympics session on Aug. 25. The seminar runs from 9AM-Noon, 1-4PM each day. This is your chance to learn both how to coach as well as inner knowledge of how to play the game.

Here's the info flyer. If you are interested or have any questions, email me.

The seminar is featured this morning on the USATT web page. Yes, that's me on the left lecturing. There were 14 in the seminar - the rest are off to the right, no doubt spellbound by my oratory. My review of the book "Breaking 2000" is also highlighted on their home page, below and to the right.

Saturday - in the Zone

On Saturday I was coaching almost non-stop from 10AM to 4:00 PM, and then we had a 4:30-6:30 junior session, and then I had another one-hour coaching session from 6:30-7:30. It was an exhausting day. But an interesting thing happened.

During the 3-4PM session, I had a student working on his forehand block. So I did a LOT of looping to him. Before that I'd been playing poorly all day, feeling stiff and tired. The looping should have tired me out even more, but instead it sort of woke me up. But it eventually also wore me out, and when the session ended I collapsed on a sofa and pretty much lay down for an hour. I wasn't needed the first half of the junior session. In the second half I came out to play practice matches.

Based on how poorly I had been playing earlier, I was a bit leery of the junior I was about to play, even though he was "only" about 2050. He'd been giving me difficulties, and had recently won a deuce-in-the-fifth match. But something happened. All the play I'd done that day, combined with the hour of rest, seemed to put me in the zone, physically and mentally.

In the first game, up 8-0, I told him I wasn't giving him any points, if he wanted to score he'd have to earn it. Up 10-0, my reverse forehand pendulum serve to the forehand went slightly long, and the junior absolutely pulverized it. 10-1, he jokingly celebrated. I sort of fished and lobbed the next two points before winning 11-3.

I won game two 11-0. (There was one point where the junior literally creamed three balls in a row, which came at me in sort of slow-motion 100mph. I blocked the first two easily, then backhand counter-smashed the third for a clean winner. The junior screamed, "God!!!")

Between games I jokingly told a junior on the sidelines that "Right now, I'm the single greatest player in the history of the universe." Then I fell behind 4-5 in the third, mostly because I went for a few wild swats, plus a couple nets and edges. The junior on the sidelines said, "Larry, you're not playing so well now." I said, "Watch the rest of this game." I scored the next seven in a row with ease, despite some crazy rallies. (The rest of the session I played younger, beginning juniors, and so didn't get to test out my suddenly brilliant play, alas.)

How would I describe the way I played? I couldn't miss anything, not even my normally erratic backhand loop. The ball was traveling in slow motion. When my opponent ripped the ball, the ball came at me like a tortoise. Everything was easy.

I may try this again sometime, i.e. play hard all day, take an hour off, and then play.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

When I announced on Friday that the book was "done," it was 97,768 words. I've added another 500+ words (about two pages), so it's now at 98,304. I'll probably keep adding bits here and there. I'm fairly confident it'll end up breaking 100,000.

Over the weekend I went over it page by page, listing photos and graphics needed. Then I went through my own photo files to see which ones I had. (I have to get permission from photographers to use their photos.) Soon I'll be contacting one of the regular table tennis photographers to see if I can use some of their photos, with a listing of photos needed. (I'm willing to pay, but not too much!)

I also learned how to create an index in Word. Soon I'll be starting the page layouts.

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Forehand Counterhit (4:04)

Cary selected for North American Championships

Cary, North Carolina has been selected by USATT to run the North American Championships on Sept. 1-3. Here's the article. Cary is rapidly becoming a center for table tennis, having run both the U.S. and North American Olympic Trials this year, as well as the annual 4-star Cary Cup.

Xu Xin wins China Open

And here's the story!

U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Collectible Cards

Topps has created Olympic Table Tennis cards for USA Olympians Timothy Wang and Ariel Hsing. (Not sure why they haven't done Lily Zhang and Erica Wu.) The Ariel one is already listed as "out of stock," but you can still get Timothy for $2.95.

Ethan Jin

Here's a nice article on junior star Ethan Jin. (Go to page 28.)

Table Tennis joins Occupy Wall Street

Yes, table tennis joining the fray - and here's the Table Tennis Nation picture and article to prove it!

Non-Table Tennis - I share a table of contents with Asimov!

Wildside Press just put out their fourth Science Fiction Megapack, with 30 stories. They included a story of mine, "Tom the Universe." Look at the list of my "colleagues": Isaac Asimov, Kurt Vonnegut, Theodore Sturgeon, Murray Leinster, Ayn Rand, Philip Dick, and Harry Harrison!!!

Meanwhile, Flagship Magazine just started selling their magazines at Amazon (Kindle editions), including several issues with stories by me - including the Nov. 2010 issue, with my story "ggg.earth.gxy" the cover story.

And if you want to see a wild cover, here's my ebook "Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees"!

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May 24, 2012

Drop the arm and loop

Players are often too slow in responding to pushes that should be looped. (This assumes you know how to loop; if you don't, learn. Get a coach or watch top players, perhaps in the video section here.) When you see that an opponent is about to push, you should be preparing to drop down to loop, either forehand or backhand. (One-winged speedsters have a simplified world view; they are going to loop with their forehand, so they don't have to decide forehand or backhand, just which way to move. But that's a difficult way to play.) Players often miss their loops because they are slow to respond, and so end up rushed, which is the most common reason players miss loops.

This is something you can practice anywhere, without a table or racket. Go into a ready stance and imagine your opponent about to push. Visualize the push sometimes going to your forehand side, sometimes the backhand side. The instant you see where the opponent is going, lower your arm and playing shoulder (your whole body goes down some to loop backspin), and shadow practice looping it. Then repeat. Keep doing this until you feel like you are reacting almost instantly, or until the people in the office where you work have you committed.

"Is there a ping-pong coach around?"

I just watched a short CNN news video about a boy whose heart stopped after he was hit in the chest with a baseball during a game. The coaches started CPR, and then a nurse came out of the stands and took over, saving his life. This reminded me of a Nationals where a player had a heart attack in the middle of a match. Within thirty seconds he was surrounded by about ten doctors from among the 700 or so players. He survived.

I keep wondering when I'll be walking along, and suddenly there'll be cries of, "Is there a ping-pong coach around?" Then I'll leap into action. There'll be some poor fellow getting killed at table tennis, and only I can save him. I'll give him a few shrewd tips, he comes back to win, and then there'll be a CNN news video, "Table tennis coach saves life of player getting killed." (Note how my self-esteem went up at the end, as I switched from "ping-pong coach" to "table tennis coach"?)

New USATT web page

USA Table Tennis recently unveiled their new web page, created by Sean O'Neill. Here's the article, and here's the new web page. If you go to the old web page, there's a big sign saying, "We've Moved," and it shortly redirects you to the new page. Soon those going to the old site will be instantly redirected to the new one, so you don't have to unlearn www.usatt.org and memorize the more difficult "http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis.aspx".

Ariel Hsing in the news. . . . again

Here's another article, this time from the Associated Press, on U.S. Women's Champion and Olympian Ariel Hsing. Maybe it's time to put a moratorium on Ariel new articles? There are too many!!! (Just kidding - keep 'em coming, U.S. news media!)

U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Here's a picture of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq playing table tennis. They both seem to use the Hasegawa finger-down-the-middle grip. Obviously both have had extensive training in Japan. (1967 World Men's Singles Champion Nobuhiko Hasegawa was notorious for this unique grip, but nobody I know of has really used it successfully since.)

Werner Schlager versus dominating rival

Here's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager taking on a future rival, who uses his futuristic tennis-style net play to dominate the rallies. And he's standing on the table. And about 30 inches tall. But he seems to have a proper grip.

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May 22, 2012

Want a consistent forehand and backhand?

Then start off every session by hitting 50 (or even 100) in a row at a steady pace with good technique. Don't start counting until the shot feels comfortable. Don't go out there hitting at different speeds - to develop a repeatable shot you need to repeat it the same way over and Over and OVER, until it is so ingrained you find yourself absentmindedly practicing your forehand as you take your wedding vows, and after your prospective wife kills you, you'll reflexively smack the coroner with another forehand howitzer.

Once the shots are so ingrained, then you should focus on random drills that involve using these repeatable strokes when you don't know whether the next shot will be a forehand or backhand. For example, your partner hits the ball randomly to your forehand or backhand, and you respond by returning each shot with your forehand or backhand to the same spot he's hitting from. (Partner should be hitting all forehands or all backhands.) Take it slow - it's better to do this at a pace where you respond correctly each time then at a pace where your strokes begin to deteriorate and you practice bad form. As you improve, increase the pace. (Maybe an expanded version of this should be a Tip of the Week?)

U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League

In case you missed it when I posted it before, here's the promotional video for the new USNTTL (5:06). I'm now on their Advisory Board, though I don't know how I'm going to find time or energy to take on one more thing. (Hey, they left my best credential off my bio - I'm in the danged U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame!) Hopefully "Advisory Board" means just that, as opposed to say, a "Workory Board" (otherwise known as a Task Force). Why am I so busy these days? It has something to do with three careers. . . .

Three Careers

Why am I so busy these days? Somehow I've found myself working on three careers: table tennis coach, table tennis writer, and science fiction writer. (Technically, it's science fiction and fantasy writer, but we'll go with science fiction as shorthand.)

Table tennis coach: I coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, my primary source of income. (Though surprisingly, my SF writing income this past month has almost matched it due to a bunch of sales.) Besides private coaching, I run a pair of 90-minute beginning junior classes, act as a practice partner for two other junior training sessions, plus am a hired coach at major tournaments, such as the upcoming Easterns and U.S. Open. With summer coming up, the busiest time for coaches, thing are about to get even more hectic. (We're running eleven consecutive weeks of training camps, Mon-Fri each week, mostly for junior players, though adults who don't mind training mostly with juniors are welcome as well. Coaches mostly work nights and weekends, but during the summer it becomes a day job.) In addition to coaching, I'm also involved in numerous promotional and organizational matters with MDTTC. Starting this fall I'm also running the MDTTC tournaments.

Table tennis writer: I've got four books on table tennis, with a fifth almost done. I've also got over 1200 published articles on table tennis (1224 to be exact), and that does not include any of my 350+ daily blog entries. (Here's a complete list of my written work, updated yesterday.) I've been paid plenty for some of these writings over the years, but not as much as you might think. Over the next few months I'm planning to put all five books into both ebook and print on demand (POD) format and look to dramatically increase online sales. The good news is I've learned it's easy to convert from Word to ebook format, and I'm already an expert in page design so I can create the PDF pages for POD. (Don't you love acronyms?) The books are:

  • Table Tennis: Steps to Success. This is my all-time best-seller, with over 28,000 copies sold in English, and unknown numbers sold in five other languages, some legal, but mostly illegal bootleg copies sold all over China and other countries. It's now out of print from its original publisher, so I have complete rights to it again. It'll be the first one I turn into an ebook and POD. However, it'll mean a lot of page designing as well as arranging all the photos.
  • Table Tennis: Tales & Techniques. I self-published this a couple years ago and sold about a thousand copies. I still have about 500 more sitting in boxes. Since I designed the pages, it's pretty much ready for POD. However, I'll have to redo the pages in Word so I can convert to ebook format.
  • Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. I wrote this for USA Table Tennis. However, it's never really been used much except independently by coaches.
  • Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis. I wrote this in the early 1990s for USA Table Tennis as a guide for coaches on how to coach table tennis. I'm toying with combining this with the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. It will need a lot of updating, plus I'd have to recreate the pages in Word. I have the pages in PDF for POD. However, I'm not sure which photos to use with it - the originals I used, or the updated ones from Dan Seemiller and Mark Nordby, when they updated it for USATT. (I'd have to get permission to use the latter.)
  • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development. I'm in the final editing/proofing stages, and it should be done by the weekend. (It's now about 93,000 words, about 400 pages in double spaced 12-point Times. It'll be my longest book, with over twice the text as Steps to Success.) Then I have to decide whether to illustrate it with pictures or not. Also, I'm still debating whether to go to a professional publisher or self-publish. I'm leaning toward the latter. I'm also debating the final title. Here are the ones I'm thinking about - suggestions and recommendations are welcome.
    • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development (the current working title)
    • Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide (the working title until yesterday)
    • A Thinker's Guide to Table Tennis Tactics (the original title until someone told me it'd come earlier in Internet searches if I start the title with "Table Tennis.")
    • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development: A Thinker's Guide (a little of everything)
    • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Thinking (the one I'm now leaning toward, as of this morning)
    • Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (another obvious possibility that I didn't think of until ten seconds ago)

Science Fiction Writer: This is my "side" career. I've sold 62 short stories, and have two novels making the rounds. Recently there's been a lot of nibbles by agents and publishers on the novels - several read the opening chapters and requested the rest, which they are now reading. (You normally query agents and publishers with just the opening chapters.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.

Over the last couple months or so I've had a flurry of short story sales - nine to be exact, including ones to nice magazines like Weird Tales, Penumbra, Electric Spec, and Flagship. Yesterday I sold my 62nd short story, "The Dragon of the Apocalypse" to Penumbra, a "pro" market that pays well. (Despite the dragon in the title, it's actually science fiction, not fantasy. What should the president of the United States do when a huge dragon swoops out of the sky and lands on the U.S. Capitol, a seeming threat to congress and the American people? It's like King Kong on the Empire State Building, but attack helicopters instead of bi-planes - and things are not as they seem.)

My 30 best short story sales (circa 2010) are combined in an anthology, "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Larry Hodges." Buy it!!! I've almost sold enough new stories for its sequel, "More Pings and Pongs."

Other: And when I grow up, I still want to be a math professor, astronomer, presidential historian, cartoonist, and play second base for the Baltimore Orioles. See, I'm a realist; I'd really rather play shortstop (like Cal Ripken) or third base (like Brooks Robinson) but I know I can't make the throw to first, so I'm willing to compromise.

Ariel Hsing on CBS News

Here's a CBS article and video (2:09) on 16-year-old U.S. Women's Singles Champion and Olympic hopeful Ariel Hsing. Very nice presentation, and don't you love the mentions of Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill?

Oriole Table Tennis

As mentioned in past blogs, the Baltimore Orioles baseball team plays a lot of table tennis in their clubhouse. I've been invited to come in sometime to do some coaching (primarily with J.J. Hardy, Jake Arrieta, and trainer/former center fielder Brady Anderson), but the date is not yet set. Here's a quote from an article that mentions table tennis: "It's fun any time you're winning, no matter what the sport is," [Nick] Markakis said. "We have a bunch of competitive guys in this locker room, whether it's playing cards or ping pong or baseball."

The Google Ping-Pong Dragon

Since I sold a story called "The Dragon of the Apocalypse" just yesterday, in honor of that here's the Google Ping-Pong Dragon.

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May 18, 2012

Two times to shorten your stroke

Many players develop strokes that are too short, which costs them both power and control. (They lose control because to generate power they have to jerk into the shot instead of a smoother progression.) But there are two times when players should often shorten their strokes.

The first is when returning serves. The key here is control, so you don't need a lot of power. A shorter stroke also allows you to wait a little longer before swinging, giving you more time to read the spin. It also is easier to use a short stroke over the table against short serves. You can shorten your stroke a bit when looping a deep serve as well, as long as you don't get too soft. The basic rule is loop only as fast as needed to keep the opponent from making a strong counter-attack. (Of course, if you read the serve well - and know you have read the serve well - then you can put a little more on the loop. At higher levels many players often overpower the service spin with their own huge topspin, and so they do not shorten their stroke.)

The second time is against a loop. If you are blocking, you don't need to put too much force into it since the topspin will jump off your racket already. If you smash a loop, then you should also shorten your stroke. This allows you to wait as long as possible before starting your forward swing, and it makes timing easier against a ball that's jumping off the table with topspin. Unlike a normal smash, where you can get away with hitting the ball a bit late, against a loop if you are late smashing, the ball jumps away from you. The shorter stroke makes it easier to take it on the rise or top of the bounce.

You also might shorten your stroke in a very fast rally or against a smash, but here you are doing it because you are forced to, as opposed to by choice.

How To Prepare for Match and Win! - Mental Readiness

Here's a good article on mentally preparing for a table tennis match. The article covers nine topics:

  • Scout your opponent
  • Get a Coach
  • Ignore Distractions
  • Videotape your matches
  • Practice
  • Respect your Opponent
  • Physical Readiness
  • Flexibility
  • Over thinking

U.S. Open Entry Deadline extended to May 29

Enter the U.S. Open or else we'll kill this dog!

Behind the Scenes with Ariel Hsing

Here are pictures of Ariel during a photo session with NBC.

Table tennis going to the dogs

Since we're going to shoot a dog if you don't enter the U.S. Open (see above), here's a cartoon of a dog playing table tennis, 41 seconds of a kid playing dining room table tennis to the tune of "Who Let the Dogs Out" (he's pretty good), and 31 seconds of a Yorkie playing table tennis.

Non-Table Tennis - Nebula Awards Weekend

I'll be out all day today at Nebula Awards Weekend in Arlington, Virginia. It's Fri-Sun, but unfortunately I won't be able to go on Sat & Sun due to coaching commitments. I'm in a writing workshop, a writer's web page workshop, a couple of panels, and I'll be at the big book signing session from 5:30-7:30 PM where I and my co-authors will be signing copies of the "Awards Weekend Collector's Edition Anthology," which has a story of mine in it. (I'll be coaching both at MDTTC and at the Potomac Open.)

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