Liquid Nitrogen

September 17, 2013

Junior Program

Monday was my "off" day - the only day I don't coach. But it never really is an off day. First, I did the Tip of the Week. Then I did the blog. Writing a feature article and then blogging should be enough, but that just started my day. Then I spent much of the day doing accounting, planning, and organizing for new MDTTC junior programs.

We have two changes coming up. Until now we've had a system where juniors in my beginning/intermediate sessions bought ten sessions at a time, and came whenever they wanted. This meant that we never really knew how many players would come in a session, and so never knew for sure how many coaches would be needed. With beginners, you need to have a rather low player-to-coach ratio as they can't really practice effectively among themselves yet. So starting this weekend players are required to pay for ten consecutive weeks at a time, either the Saturday session (10:30AM-noon) or the Sunday session (4:30-6:00PM). We will allow players to transfer back and forth from one to the other as long as they let me know in advance so I know who's coming each session. This is similar to how we already set up our school program with local schools, which meets Thursdays 6-7PM and Saturdays 9:30-10:30AM. Yesterday I sent out an email explaining the changes to parents, and emailed back and forth with those who had questions.

The second change is we're adding junior progress reports. This means that at the end of each ten-week cycle the players will be given a series of tests to see how they've improved. At the beginning levels this will involve things such as how many times they can bounce a ball up and down on a paddle, balancing a ball on the paddle while walking about, and explaining and demonstrating the service rules. As they advance it becomes more table tennis specific as they see how many of each shot they can execute in a row, etc. As players improve they will advance from Level 1 to Level 5. Wen and John Hsu were very helpful in putting these together; I'm meeting with them soon to go over and finalize them.

I also spent some time thinking about some of the things some of our juniors need to focus on. For example, I coached one of them in a tournament on Sunday and have a specific list of five things I want him to focus on. It's not always weaknesses you focus on; in this case I was so impressed with his backhand loop in matches that I want to focus more on it as a strength to build around. There was also a serve he did that I think shows promise, and we're going to work on that. (But he also needs work on staying down and driving forward when forehand looping, pushing, and returning serves.) I watched several others in league matches on Friday and have some ideas on things I want them to work on as well. When you give private or group coaching, you can't just watch your players when you work with them; you have to see them in action in real matches against other players to really see what they do.  

How Ping-Pong Saved the World

Here's the full-length documentary (74 min), just released. Description: "How Ping-Pong Saved the World" is a feature length documentary that recounts the events of April 1971 when a U.S. Table Tennis team became the first Americans allowed to enter communist China in over two decades. Their invitation paved the way for President Nixon’s landmark visit just eight months later in February of 1972. For eight days these Ping-Pong diplomats discovered the little known world behind the Bamboo Curtain and in the process reshaped world history. "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" soon became a metaphor for the on-going difficult relations between the United States and China --- two ideological opposites on the brink of detente. It marked the beginning of a new relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China; one that over the next 40 years would evolve into the world’s most important bilateral alliance.

PongPlexed - Twisted Table Tennis

Here's PongPlexed: "Based in Brighton, England, a highly skilled team of artists, designers and Ping Pong lovers have created a range of Tables that are bringing people together through the medium of Table Tennis."

Ping-Pong Balls and Liquid Nitrogen

Here's a video linked from Table Tennis Nation that shows what happens. Or just watch the repeating gif image they show below of the actual explosion.

Table Tennis on a Moon of Saturn

Here's what it looks like! Cool image.

Non-Table Tennis - Capclave SF Convention

On Oct. 11-13 (Fri-Sun) I'll be bouncing back and forth from coaching and attending the local Capclave Science Fiction Convention. It's held annually at a Hilton Hotel about five minutes from MDTTC. For the sixth straight year I'm a panelist. I'm on three panels, two of which I'm moderating. I'm also doing a reading from my upcoming novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." (I plan to read an excerpt where the sorcerer and his apprentice are going through security at an airport, and meet up with the very literal-minded and bureaucratic sorceress Jackie Kennedy, who moonlights as a security agent. The novel takes place in the 1960s, but the scene satirizes modern airport security.) Any table tennis players want to join me at the convention? You'll get to meet some big names in the SF and fantasy world, including guest of honor George R.R. Martin, author of Game of Thrones! Plus lots of panels and other events to attend, as well as the always great Dealer's Room. Here's the programming schedule. Here's the list of panelists. Here's my Capclave bio. And below is my schedule. (It's also online.)

Fri 4-5PM: God Emperor of Capclave - The Politics and Religion panel (Moderator)
Fri 9-10PM: Amazon: Hero or Villain? (Moderator)
Sat 12-1PM: 1001 uses for an unpublished story
Sun 3-3:30: Reading from my upcoming novel

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May 21, 2013

Muscle Fatigue and Backspin

Recently my muscles have been feeling bone-tired, especially the legs. I feel like I've run a marathon before I even start. (I know; I ran one when I was 17, and went to my table tennis club that night just to prove I could do it - and could barely play at all.) The muscles are both tired and stiff. I'm hoping this is just a stage. I eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. (On the other hand, my dog, Sheeba, 15 years old, no longer can last the night without going out, and she gets me up around 4AM every single morning to go out. Maybe there's a connection. Or maybe I'm just an "old" 53.)

One result, of course, is I haven't been playing well. In fact, right now I'm probably playing the worse I've played since the 1970s. I'm a practice partner for our top juniors, but let's just say the last two weeks have been great confidence boosters for some of them. I've been going back and forth between trying to force the muscles to operate properly ("Move or else, you stupid legs!") or falling back on tactics. ("Age and treachery defeats youth and skill every time." Or so the saying goes.) There's a reason why this week's Tip of the Week was "Tools and Tactics for the Physically Challenged."

One solution I used over the weekend was lots of heavy backspin play. I'd recently lost to one of our up-and-coming juniors for the first time, primarily because she kept going after my forehand, and my legs preferred to lounge around my backhand side despite my threats, and so I kept waving as balls went by. (Or maybe we're just great coaches and this hard-working junior was getting better?) Anyway, when I played her this weekend I was again struggling in the first game, and finally decided enough was enough. Instead of looping her mostly long serves, I began to chop them back heavy. I already do that sometimes on the backhand, but she was giving me these lefty serves that break into my forehand, and I began chopping them back with my forehand. I also backed up and often chopped her first loop back. Net result - I won 3-0, though two of the games were close.

You don't need to be a chopper to win with backspin. Here's my article Winning with Backspin for the Non-Chopper.

Non-Table Tennis - Dental Dinero

Yesterday I saw a dentist and had the shock of my life. I brush and floss regularly, and have had only occasional problems. I did have one cavity in 2012, and one back in 2009. I'd been seeing the same dentist every six months for over ten years. However, she recently sold her practice, and a new one took her place. After the usual examination and x-rays, the new one said I had ELEVEN (11!) cavities!!! This makes no sense. I'm not feeling any pain or discomfort, I hadn't changed my brushing or eating habits or anything, and yet now, apparently, I have seven that need immediate attention, and four others that are growing and also need care. Total bill for all of them would be about $2300. Anyway, I'm still stunned by this. I'm going to see another dentist for a second opinion. Anyone have this type of experience? Anyone got $2300 they want to donate to a poor ping-pong coach? (Yes, I have health insurance, but no, it doesn't cover dental.)

World Championships

Below are videos of the singles finals at the Worlds, with time between points removed. There are also a number of follow-up articles on the Worlds, which ended yesterday, at both the ITTF Worlds Page and Table Tennista.


Here's USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh's blog about the Worlds, which went up yesterday. It covers the ITTF meetings, elections, and appointments, including a number of U.S. appointees.

Ping-Pong and Human Rights in Syria

Did you know they were using ping-pong balls in the civil war in Syria? Here's the article - see paragraph four. (Note - in the original version of this morning's blog I included a letter from a human rights group that was soliciting people to send ping-pong balls to Syrian groups, with an address given. They just informed me they don't want to go public on this yet, so I've taken down the letter.) 

Table Tennis Genius Touch

Here's a highlights video (2:40) from a year ago that I've never posted, set to the piano music of Yann Tiersen - La Valse d'Amélie. It features both great touch shots and great shots in general.

Spinning Liquid Nitrogen Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article and video (40 sec). I think I posted a similar video once, but this one's pretty spectacular.

Just for Men Commercial and Oversized Paddles

Here's a video (31 sec) of a Just for Men commercial that features table tennis played with oversized paddles. The table tennis takes place in the first two seconds and against 20 seconds in. I have my own oversized ping-pong paddle which I use for exhibitions. I'm using it on the cover of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. None of these are as big as the one swung by Warren Buffett.

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January 9, 2013


As I've blogged about numerous times, they key to huge USATT membership figures is leagues, along with coaching development. But the U.S. is too big to try to set up leagues all at once. The key is to break the country into numerous regions. Even England, about the size of Alabama, has nine regions. (The English TTA has over 500,000 members, with a population of 53 million, about 1/6 of the U.S., which has 9000 members.)

USATT has tried regionalization a few times. I did so in the early 1990s with the Club Catalyst & Creation Program, which had pretty good results. I explained this program at the 2009 Strategic Meeting and at other times to board members. Here are excerpts from an email where I explained this to a board member yesterday.

We actually started regionalization in the early 1990s. I created the program, called the Club Catalyst & Creation Program. (That was my sense of humor at work - the acronym was CCCP. Google it if you don't recognize it, and note that the CCCP fell right about this time.) Dan Seemiller was president at the time, and strongly supported the program.

I was chair of the Coaching Committee, and started the process by appointing (if I remember my numbers correctly) 43 state coaching directions. Then I switched to chairing the Club Committee, and appointed 47 state club directors. (All of these appointments were made with consultation of locals.) The next stop was to appoint state league directors, which we were about to do before disaster struck in 1995 (see below).

The purpose of all these directors was to set up a club in every city with a population over 50,000 (I created a list), then a coach and league for each club. Once we had the state league directors set up, I was going to get a group of them together to plan out the actual creation of a nationwide network of regional leagues.

With all this infrastructure set up, the next step would be to set up the actual regional organizations, which I thought would be difficult to do effectively without a few years creating the needed infrastructure. (It would also allow those interested in developing their region to get active, and we'd be able to identify these people and encourage their work.) The various aspects of the program would play off each other, catalyzing an increase in the number of clubs, coaches, and leagues, and the leagues would lead to major membership increases. Once the regional organizations were set up, they would have open elections for their own officers. Those officers would then select future league, club, and coaching directors.

During the four years of this program (1991-1995, though we started work on it in 1990 when Dan was elected president) we increased the number of clubs from 223 to 301, greatly increased the number of coaches, and USATT membership went from about 5500 to 7500 - the only major membership increase we've had in modern memory. But those are still very small numbers in comparison to the potential of leagues. Superficially, this program started with clubs, but that was short-term and was for the explicit purpose of setting the structure for leagues and coaching programs. As I wrote before, they all go together.

Unfortunately, this program ended when Terry Timmins defeated Dan Seemiller in the 1995 election. When he came in, he brought in his own people and ideas, and all the regional stuff I'd been working on came to an end. (Ironically, he wanted to set up regional elections, but that didn't work out.) A lot of work went to waste, and a lot of state directors were left pretty angry.

We wrote back and forth a few times on this and related issues. I believe that the key is that we can't just set up regional organizations and hope things work out. USATT or some other organization needs to set up league and coaching programs so the regional people can implement them. They do this very well in table tennis overseas, and in other sports in the U.S. such as tennis.

Number of Daily Readers

We've had at least 500 readers for 25 consecutive blogs now, going back to Nov. 19 last year. I've been doing the blog for over two years now; this is the 477th blog. (I've also done 101 Tips of the Week - here's the Archives, with links to them all.) It started slow, and I spent a long time averaging 300 or so, but now we're averaging over 600. The topics vary quite a bit. I tend to jump around a bit. While it's usually coaching-centered, I also write a lot about related topics. Any suggestions on what type of stuff you'd like to see blogged? Here are the daily reader totals:

  1. Jan. 8: 539
  2. Jan. 7: 692
  3. Jan. 4: 924
  4. Jan. 3: 577
  5. Jan. 2: 584
  6. Dec. 17: 2884
  7. Dec. 14: 900
  8. Dec. 13: 615
  9. Dec. 12: 597
  10. Dec. 11: 658
  11. Dec. 10: 815
  12. Dec. 7: 1073
  13. Dec. 6: 599
  14. Dec. 5: 644
  15. Dec. 4: 528
  16. Dec. 3: 506
  17. Nov. 30: 732
  18. Nov. 29: 577
  19. Nov. 28:  573
  20. Nov. 27: 557
  21. Nov. 26: 825
  22. Nov. 22: 1060
  23. Nov. 21: 564
  24. Nov. 20: 660
  25. Nov. 19: 471

USATT Committee Openings

Want to serve on a USATT Committee? Here's a call for volunteers! Here's a link to the USATT Committee listing which the notice inadvertently leaves out. (I emailed about this, and presumably it'll be added soon.)

USATT Committee Reports

Here's a link to the 2012 USATT Committee Reports. (Minutes for USATT Board meetings are here.)

Top Ten Table Tennis Points of 2012

Here they are! (7:27) They replay each of the points in slow motion, which is why the video is over seven minutes.

1940 U.S. Open

Here's vintage footage (1:31) of the 1940 U.S. Open and the final where Lou Pagliaro defeats Sol Schiff.

Liquid Nitrogen vs. 1500 Ping-Pong Balls

Here's the video (1:08). The explosion takes place 22 seconds in, and is then replayed from different angles and in slow motion.

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June 28, 2012

Last Blog Until After U.S. Open

This will be my last blog until I return from the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. I should start blogging again on Friday, July 6. I know it will be difficult, but there must be other stuff on the Internet to read. I've heard rumors.

I'm mostly coaching at the Open (primarily Derek and George Nie), though I am entered in one event, Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. (I've won it twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty, four times with Steve Berger.) There's just too many time conflicts in trying to play multiple events while coaching multiple players, and I had to make a choice on whether I'm primarily a player or a coach. (Duh!) Normally I'd also coach Tong Tong Gong, but he's on the National Cadet Team, and so will be mostly coached by the U.S. National Cadet Coach, Keith Evans.

I'm driving up with the Nie family on Friday morning, leaving around 7AM, and should arrive by 5PM or so. I should arrive in time to attend both the ITTF Jury Meeting at 6PM (where they make the draws and go over rules, etc.) and the USATT Coaching Committee Meeting at 8PM (I'm on the committee). The Nie's are staying in Michigan after the Open for a few days of vacation, so I'm flying back on the fourth of July.

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Three

The focus yesterday was on the forehand loop, though as usual we varied this depending on each player's level and playing style. I also gave a lecture and demo of various racket surfaces (pips-out sponge, hardbat, antispin, long pips with and without sponge), grips (penhold, both conventional and with reverse penhold backhand, as well as the Seemiller grip) and how to play choppers.

One 12-year-old beginner really liked the antispin, and asked to borrow it for the day. He's now using it on his backhand in all his drills and matches, dead-blocking with the backhand, attacking with the forehand. I've converted him to the dark side!!! If he stays with this style, most likely he'll eventually "graduate" to long pips (no sponge) on the backhand and become a pushblocker.

There is also a kid, about ten years old, who is developing a chopper/looper style. He spent a lot of time yesterday with Wang Qing Liang, our 17-year-old 2567-rated chopper/looper.

Today's focus will be the backhand attack, especially the backhand loop. Then we'll have the ever-popular "How many paper cups can I knock down in ten shots?" challenge, where we stack the cups in a pyramid and I feed them the balls multiball style.

China and the Timo Boll-Zhang Jike Rivalry

Here's an article that discusses these two players, with insight from Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang.

Top Table Tennis Points

Here's a video (14:12) of top table tennis points. Included in the video are players Adrien Mattenet, Chuang Chih Yuan, Kaii Yoshida, Ryu Seung Min, Jun Mizutani, Chen Chien-An, Fengtian Bai, Christian Suss, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Alexey Smirnov, Michael Maze, Timo Boll, Jean Michel Saive, Robert Gardos, Christophe Legout, Chen Weixing, Tiago Apolonia, Taku Takakiwa, Patrick Baum, Seiya Kishikawa, Andrej Gacina, Vladimir Samsonov, Gao Ning, Feng Tianwei, Ding Ning, Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Ding Song, Chen Qi, Lee Jung Woo, Roko Tosic, and Romain Lorentz.

Wanna see a ping-pong ball spin at 10,000 rpm?

Here it is (0:40), care of liquid nitrogen!

Adam Bobrow Reviews the New Plastic Ball

In this new video (0:31), Adam breaks through the window of silence and discovers the shattering truth about the new plastic ball.


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