Table Tennis Art

November 2, 2012

USA Table Tennis Newsletter

USATT's monthly eNewsletter came on Wednesday. (Go here to join their mailing list.) Kudos to USATT and editor Andy Horn for putting this together!

Now a little history and comments. The newsletter was "born" at the Strategic Meeting held in Colorado Springs in September, 2009. I put "born" in quotes because there were already plans to create it before the meeting, since nearly every other Olympic sport was already doing them. During the meeting we came up with three "priorities," with a task force for each: Communication, Juniors, and "Grow Membership Through Added Value."  (I wrote a lot about this in my blog on the two-year anniversary, on Sept. 26, 2011.) At the meeting I was initially against making Communication one of the three Priorities, but was convinced otherwise by attendees. However, I argued that Communication as a Priority would be meaningless unless we had programs to communicate about. I thought the three priorities should have been Leagues, Club-based Junior Programs, and (with those two to communicate about) Communication.

Unfortunately, nothing came of the Junior and "Grow Membership Through Added Value" task forces, and so we were left with just Communication. We did get a new website, as well as the eNewsletter. But my point from 2009 is still the same - Communication is somewhat pointless if you don't have programs to communicate.

The current eNewsletter has interesting stuff, with headlines about the USATT's Athletes Advisory Council Accepting Applications; Remembering Olga Feingold Kahan; News on the US Cadets medaling in international tournaments; Ping-Pong film making debut in New York City; Ariel Hsing competing against a celebrity; Playing table tennis with Peter Gabriel; the Annual Giving Campaign; and an item on Renewing Your Membership. These are all nice items, but they do not promote any USATT programs.

Contrast this with the October newsletter I received from the U.S. Tennis Association. Their first headline is about the 2012 League Division Champions (i.e. like a USATT rating event but with teams). It includes a picture of the "2.5 Men's National Champions," which is roughly the equivalent in table tennis of "Under 1500 Men's National Champions." Their second item is titled "Get Your Kids Active - Attend an Event!", which is about "Play Day," an event to bring kids into tennis. Below that there's a headline "10 and Under Tennis - a Whole New Ballgame," which also promotes kids to play tennis. And then there's a link to "The Road to Jr. Team Tennis Nationals." (They also have an item about USTA membership, which includes the headline "Enjoy a Sport for a Lifetime." They also include a tennis coaching tip in each issue.)

All of these items are geared toward getting people to play tennis and join USTA. Over and over in their newsletters USTA focuses on promoting their core programs - leagues, junior programs, and the U.S. Open (which is highlighted in most newsletters, but not this one). The key is that USTA has nationwide leagues and junior programs to promote. USATT does not. So there's not much to put in the newsletter regarding USATT programs. (I'm talking about programs for the masses, not just elite players, which USATT tends to focus on.) This is why Andy gets kudos for putting the issue together, despite it not really promoting USATT programs that don't exist.

USATT does have the U.S. Open and USA Nationals (promoted in the previous eNewsletter), but haven't really made any serious attempt to increase the number of entries at these events, which get far fewer entries these days than the 1000+ players at the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens or the 700 or so many years in the 1990s, and the 800+ at the Nationals in 2005-2006. (This year's U.S. Open had 564 players, one of the worst showings ever, while the last Nationals had 502 players, the second worst ever ands the lowest since the ratings went online in 1994, which allows us to see the number of entries for each tournament).

I run a monthly eNewsletter for the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Every issue focuses on promoting our programs - private and group coaching, junior programs, leagues, and tournaments. Mixed in with these are interesting news items, like the ones USATT does. Other major table tennis centers do the same. The key is to have a core focus, and focus on promoting it.

USTA has a membership of 700,000, USATT about 8000. By contrast, Germany, England, and France, which focus on leagues and junior programs, have table tennis memberships of 700,000, 500,000, and 300,000. Think about it.

Since USATT doesn't currently have many of its own programs to promote to the masses, other than the U.S. Open and USA Nationals, here's an idea: why not use the USATT eNewsletter (and webpage) to systematically promote the leagues and junior programs from around the country, even if they are not USATT programs? This brings players into the sport, and these players usually become USATT members. Specifically, they could have a central online listing of these leagues and junior programs, and use the eNewsletter to refer readers to them. (They already have this for tournaments, so they just need to refer to them in the eNewsletter. But there's far greater membership potential in leagues and junior programs, as demonstrated in Europe.) If a kid or parent gets the USATT eNewsletter (or goes to the USATT web page, for that matter), they don't learn about the great junior programs at clubs around the country. They don't learn about the great leagues in SF, LA, NY, and other regions, or in individual clubs. They don't even know these things exist. And so we lose them. Tennis and European table tennis actively refers people to these programs as their central focus. Why not use these non-USATT programs to promote table tennis, referring to them constantly in the eNewsletter and webpage, leading to a more prosperous USATT?

Bids Wanted for 2013 National Team Trials

Here's the info sheet. Deadline to apply is Nov. 15, 2012. This is for clubs or cities to bid to run the 2013 USA National Team Trials, scheduled for Feb. 7-10, 2013.

Call for Nominations - Annual Coach of the Year

Here's the info sheet. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 15, 2012. "The U.S. Olympic Committee annually conducts a Coach of the Year recognition program within the family of Olympic and Pan American sports. There are five categories for which nominations may be made and they are: Volunteer, Developmental, National, Paralympic and the Doc Counsilman (Technology) area. USA Table Tennis takes this opportunity to solicit nominations from our membership for these categories."

Opening Ceremonies for World Cadet Challenge

Here's the opening ceremonies to the World Cadet Challenge currently being held in Guam (54:32). The World Cadet Challenge is going on right now in Guam, Oct. 27 - Nov. 4. Team North America (USA and Canada) marches in at 5:41, and are announced at 6:01. Here's the ITTF World Cadet Challenge page, with schedules, results, articles, and pictures.

Fantasy Table Tennis Artwork

Here's the latest fantasy table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. Click on the picture and you'll through a whole series of his works. Better still, go to his home photo page, and see all the thumbnails.

Pongress: International Ping Pong Congress

Yes, they almost done with the second "International Ping Pong Congress," and I've never even heard of it. Here's their description - and there's a bit of exaggeration when they say the event "brings together the world's best players." (Somehow I can't picture the Chinese team being there.) "The second International Ping Pong Congress has just taken place at the Cumberland Arms in Newcastle. Ping pong players from around the world came together to celebrate 'Pongress,' a week-long event which brings together the world’s best players (or should that be beer drinkers!). Pongress runs until 3rd November." Make sure to watch the linked video!

Twelve Animals Playing Table Tennis

They may not be Da Vinci's, but they are hilarious! Here are color drawings of 12 animals playing table tennis, including five dinosaurs, an alligator, dolphin, tuna, swordfish, shark, octopus, turtle, and one grouping of six of them.

Ghostly Table Tennis

Here's an animated gif of two ghosts playing table tennis - Happy Belated Halloween!

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September 12, 2012

Do You Loop "Like a Girl"?

I found the article and illustrations from "You Throw Like a Girl" in the Washington Post yesterday fascinating as much of it applies to table tennis in explaining why some players can loop with power while others cannot. There is a real phenomenon that boys throw much harder than girls, and it's because of technique. Boys often learn to throw properly early on and practice it regularly, while girls often do not. To quote the article:

"A right-handed boy steps first with his left foot. Hips rotate first, then shoulders. He involves most of his body. His arm and hand whip around as he releases the ball. A right-handed girl steps much later in the sequence, often with the right foot. The motion is limited mainly to her forearm. Her shoulders and hips rotate at the same time, if at all."

In table tennis, players who forehand loop with power use almost the same technique as described in the boy throwing above. The ones who have trouble generating power tend to follow parts of the description of the girl above, with limited use of legs and hip rotation, and with a stroke that focuses on upper body and arm. (I've seen a few beginners try to step with the wrong foot, but that's not too common.) Many of those who cannot produce much power do a lot of shoulder rotation, but they tend to start with that rotation instead of it being a natural continuation coming from the legs and the hip rotation. The proper technique is like a rocket ship going to the moon, starting with the largest rocket at the bottom, then it drops off and the next largest one at the bottom fires, all the way to the last one (the arm and wrist). Those without much power essentially start with the second or third rocket, skipping the largest ones at the bottom.

I've had arm and shoulder problems since I was a little kid, and never could throw very hard. Why? Because I hadn't learned to throw properly, and until I was older I always threw "like a girl." (How embarrassing!!!) When I was twelve I badly wanted to play third base (like Brooks Robinson), but couldn't make the throw from third to first and so had to play second. For some reason no baseball coach ever tried to correct how I threw.

PIPS - Table Tennis and Art

PIPS is a rather interesting combination! From their About section: "PIPS is a unique venue that combines Art from emerging contemporary artists and the highly social sport of Table Tennis. This street level storefront space brings monthly art exhibitions as well as thematic table tennis tournaments and open play daily."

There is sort of an underground table tennis racket art movement, which I've blogged about a few times. Here are three interesting table tennis racket art sites - just remember you are getting these rackets for the art, not for high-caliber play!

Or you could just draw something on your paddle (35-second video) or this!

Great Table Tennis Point

Here's a great point (34 seconds) that looks real, not exhibition. The near player is apparently Evgueni Chtchetinine of Belarus (world #79, just try pronouncing his name, I dare you!); I don't know who the other is.

Table Tennis Troll

Here he is! His name is Grot.

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July 25, 2012

MDTTC Camp

I won't bother giving you the week and day number (okay, yesterday was week six, day two), since they start to blend together when you are doing eleven straight weeks of camps.

This week we have about 30 players, mostly advanced, with only 4-5 "beginners." Since it's a more advanced group (and since I could work with the beginners separately), I decided not to bother my usual stroke lectures. So yesterday I gave a talk on ball placement - playing the corners and middle, when to go for the extreme wide angles (outside the corners), opening up the wide angles by playing the middle, taking away the forehand by playing to the forehand first (often short) and then going to the backhand, moving players in and out, etc. After the break I gave short talk on doubles strategy - what types of serves to use (mostly short and low backspin and no-spin) and where to place them (mostly toward the center of the table), how to receive (forehand or backhand, as long as you can loop the deep ball), where to place the ball, etc.

Last week a reporter from the Washington Post came in to do a feature on Derek Nie, the U.S. Open Boys' 11 and Under Champion. (It looks like they are featuring Nathan Hsu as well, and other MDTTC players.) He's coming back this morning, along with a photographer. Not sure yet when the story will run.

On top of that the Baltimore Sun is doing an interview with Derek this morning for a feature in this Sunday's paper. I don't think Derek even knows about this one yet. We also have a local TV station that arranged yesterday to come in and do a special on us on Aug. 16. Plus the local Gazette is doing a special on us, not sure when they are coming in. Plus there was that CCTV American special on us last week. So it's been a busy media week. Meanwhile, I'll be coaching at the Junior Olympics next week (Mon-Wed), and will send out a whole new slew of press releases afterwards.

On break I saw Derek, Allen Wang, John Hsu, and Leon Bi playing a winner-stay-on game where they started each game at deuce, and you didn't have to win by two. (In other words, first to win two points. Leon, who's about a thousand points lower, only had to win one point.) I joined in, and did surprisingly well, winning at least the first game all five times I went on the table, and winning three in a row one time. I had a nice counterlooping point with Derek, and won a point chopping against John.

Larry's Law

This has come up several times recently, so I'll give it again. "Larry's Law" is a law I came up with years ago. Often as a player trains and improves they start challenging stronger players, but still lose most of these matches close, though they'll occasionally win one. The reason is that while they may now be playing at the same level as the other player, the other player has more experience at that level, and so is tactically and mentally more prepared to win the close games. In other words, if you are challenging stronger players and keep training and playing matches against players at that level, it means that in six months or so you'll have the experience to consistently win at that level

Interview with Jerome Charyn

Here's an interview with Jerome Charyn, table tennis player and author of the table tennis book "Sizzling Chops and Devilish Spins: Ping Pong and the Art of Staying Alive" (2001). The book is "part memoir and part history," and "...bounces from Manhattan in the 1940s (where unheralded lions of the game, like Marty Reisman and Dick Miles, hustled their way through the ping-pong underworld) to China in the 1960s (when Nixon used ping pong as a tool of diplomacy) to present-day France (where Charyn, our faithful guide, battles his way through the lower-division tournaments)."

Table Tennis Center Sprouts Up in South Carolina Mall

Here's an article about a table tennis center that opened up Richland Mall in Columbia, South Carolina.

Jan-Ove Waldner Tribute

I don't think I've posted this Waldner Tribute Video (4:21), with lots of great points from the Master.

Table Tennis as It Should Be

On a makeshift wooden table balanced on barrels.

Uberpong: Table Tennis Paddles Artwork

Here's an article and video (3:52) on Uberpong's numerous table tennis paddle artworks.

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