Michael Landers

November 7, 2013

Health Checklist, Sheeba and Me

Today I can say we're both a mess. Here's our checklist.

ME: I just came down with a cold (again!!!), though it's a minor one. (I'm living on Nyquil.) Both of my knees are bothering me, so I'm wearing knee braces when I play. And remember how I hurt my arm a month ago and had to take a week off? Yesterday it was hurting again whenever I played backhands with students. I iced it last night, and today I'm going to have to go easy on it. My weight, which regularly fluctuates between 180 and 190, is at the high end right now, so I'm going to have to diet. However, to any students reading this: I'm ready to take you on!!!

SHEEBA (my dog, who's 3/4 corgi, 1/4 some sort of hound): She'll be 16 in February, which is about 76 in human years. I've had her since she was four, when I got her at the local dog shelter. She has arthritis in her back legs, and so has great difficulty walking up and especially down stairs, and no longer can go for walks. She's completely deaf - I can clap my hands together right behind her head as loudly as I can and she won't even react. She's also nearly blind, and regularly walks into doors and walls. She normally weighs around 23 pounds, but she's been losing weight rapidly this year, and is down to about 17 - she just won't eat much anymore. Here she is a few years ago.

I'm not the only one with health problems. As noted in a blog last week, my 5PM Wednesday student (Daniel) hurt his arm, and is out for month. My 6PM Wednesday student (Matt) had an apparent concussion (hit by a door in school!) and was out for a week, but came back last night. Since my 7PM Wednesday student (TJ) was away and my 8PM student (Doug) only comes in twice a month and was off last night, that meant that last night I only had one student - so I gave him an extra 15 minutes, and then spent some time watching the players I'll be coaching at the upcoming USA Nationals as they trained (Nathan Hsu and Derek Nie).

"About Time" Table Tennis

Yesterday I saw the movie "About Time." While technically a time-traveling SF movie, it wasn't really a SF movie, and more of a relationship movie as a man learns to accept the world as it is rather than constantly trying to change it for the better. Along the way were several table tennis scenes. Early on they show him talking with his dad as they play table tennis. Later the dad, played by Bill Nighy, gives a humorous speech while he plays about the greatness of his and his son's play, as if they were in some championship match. (I hope to see this on youtube someday.) They mention table tennis several other times, including the dad at his son's wedding giving a speech where he jokingly says how bad his son is at ping-pong. (Spoiler Alert!) After the dad has terminal cancer, the son appears to often travel back to the times they played ping-pong to visit with his dad when he was healthy - including one last time when, because of the rules for time travel in the movie, he can't do it again.

U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Program Booklet

Yesterday I started work on this year's U.S. Hall of Fame Banquet Booklet. (What, you thought those things made themselves?) This will be the fifth consecutive year I've done this for them. This year's inductees (as noted previously in my blog) are Todd Sweeris (who I've known and sometimes coached since he was 13) and Terese Terranova, with Yvonne Kronlage getting the Lifetime Achievement Award.

ITTF Monthly Podcast

Here's this month's edition (12:03), covering ITTF events in the month of October.

Waldner-Grubba Point

Here's video (54 sec) of a great point from twenty years ago at the 1993 European Top 12, between greats Jan-Ove Waldner of Sweden and Andrzej Grubba of Poland.

Celebrity Table Tennis

  • Gael Monfils: Here's video (1:31) of tennis star Gael Monfils playing table tennis. He's currently #31 in the world, formerly world #7. He seems to play a driving forehand and a chopping backhand. They are using what appear to be sandpaper or cheap plastic blades.
  • Jamie Foxx: Here's video (1:23) of actor Jamie Foxx playing table tennis with table tennis star and model Soo Yeon Lee.
  • Deron Williams: Here's a picture of NBA star Deron Williams getting coached by 2009 U.S. National Men's Singles Champion Michael Landers.

Table Tennis Stats as Animated Gifs

Here they are!

Lots of Bouncing Ping-Pong Balls

Not sure what's going on here, but that's a bunch of balls bouncing around in what appears to be a bathroom with two woman who are oddly dressed for ping-pong.

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October 15, 2013

RGIII Response Video

On Friday, Robert Griffin III (alias RGIII, the Washington Redskins quarterback) put out a video (3:22) where he talked about his Olympic dreams. At the end of it (go to 2:57) he jokes that he might make the Olympics in ping-pong.

We at MDTTC decided we were not going to take this quietly. Here is the response video (1:15), put together by Nathan Hsu (17, 2303 but recently 2397), with players Derek Nie (12, 2297), Crystal Wang (11, 2267), and Roy Ke (14, 2261).

LET'S MAKE THIS VIDEO GO VIRAL!!! Post it wherever you can - on Facebook, Twitter, in blogs, any place you can. It's already the Video of the Day at USA Table Tennis, with RGIII's video featured on Friday.

Go Girls

Did you know that girls are dominating the lower age groups in the U.S. right now? Go to the USATT ratings, click on "Customizable Member Lists," and put in the proper settings (make sure to put in a number in the first field), and here's what you get.

In Under 9, the #1 player is Tiffany Ke of Maryland at 1749. (The #2 is Ted Chensheng Li of Texas at 1559.) Among girls, the #2 is Katherine Fang, also of Texas, at 819, almost a thousand points behind Tiffany.

In Under 10, the top two are Youruo Wu and Rachel Sung of California, both girls, rated 1978 and 1906. Tiffany Ke is #4 at 1749.

In Under 11, the #1 is Amy Wang of New Jersey at 2217. Youruo Wu is #4 at 1978, Rachel Sung #6 at 1906, Kelly Zhao #9 at 1796, and Tiffany Ke #12 at 1749.

In Under 12, the #1 is Crystal Wang of Maryland at 2267. Amy Wang is #2 at 2217. Youruo Wu is #12 at 1978.

Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team, Part 1

Here's a video (7:41), covering the forehand serve.

Best of Penholder Players

Here's a video (5:56) that shows spectacular rallies and shots by penholders, such as Ma Lin, Xu Xin, Wang Hao, and Ryu Seungmin. Some really great rallies here.

Ping-Pong Ball Fires

Here's an article about a beer-pong ball setting an apartment alight. But that's nothing. Here's a short article about a half million ping-pong balls bursting into flame. (Go to the "Noisier Than Bubble Wrap" segment, but the entire text follows.) "During a heat wave in Hong Kong this summer, a metal container packed with more than half a million ping-pong balls burst into flames. 'The blast was probably caused by air expansion inside the ping-pong balls,' a police spokesperson said."

Alternate Piggyback Pong

Here are two attempts at this incredibly difficult and dangerous version of table tennis. Here are Yahao Zhang and his wife (15 sec), and here are Adam Hugh and Michael Landers (20sec). Do not try this yourself - these are trained professionals!

Non-Table Tennis - Cover of My Novel

My novel "The Giant Face in the Sky" comes out Nov. 15 from Class Act Books. It's a humorous fantasy that parodies the U.S.-Soviet space race of the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts. It's Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race. Here's the cover. And here's the blurb on the back cover:

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world.” Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

President Kennedy puts together a motley crew that includes Neil, Gus, Buzz, a dragon, a 2-D sorcerer, and the sorceress Jackie Kennedy. Can they make it to the Face before the Soviets, and before Buzz kills Neil?

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April 12, 2013

Wet Balls

I saw a discussion on the OOAK forum about whether it's a let if the ball is wet during a rally, and so slides off your racket into the net. The question comes up all the time. The answer is yes. Here's the rule:

Rule 2.09.02.04: [Play may be interrupted] "because the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally."

If a ball is wet, "the conditions of play are disturbed in a way which could affect the outcome of the rally." The only question is how to judge this. A wet ball normally slides off the racket into the net. But so does a misread backspin serve. So it's a judgment call. The best indication is if there's a wet spot on the racket - but again, it's a judgment call since that wet spot might have been there before the point started or have been hit with sweat during the point. But normally it's pretty obvious if the ball went into the net because of a wet ball, and checking a wet spot on the racket is just verification. I have had opponents put my heavy backspin serve into the net and call "wet ball" when they had simply misread the serve, as indicated by their racket angle. (If you serve backspin but the split second after contact pull your racket up, this'll happen a lot. But it takes practice.)

I believe the wording used to be that it would be a let "if the ball was fractured or imperfect in play," but at some point it was changed. With both wordings the main reasons for calling a let because of the ball is because it is wet or fractured. (Or, of course, if another ball rolls into your court.)

How do you avoid wet balls? When it's hot & humid, I always advise players to have two towels. (Yes, I'm doubling up on "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.") One for you, and one for the ball and your racket. If you use the latter towel regularly, you'll rarely have wet balls. However, having two towels doesn't mean just bringing two towels - you might need to bring a third, since towels get damp when it's hot & humid. You might be able to use a damp towel for yourself, but drying a ball with a damp towel only makes the ball damp. I often bring an extra towel or two for students I coach at tournaments, who always seem to forget to bring one (not to mention two). 

There's still a flaw in this two- (or three-) towel strategy - your serving hand tends to get damp when it's hot & humid, which means every time you serve you start with the ball lying on your damp hand. My solution? I use my regular towel to dry my serving hand off. When that towel becomes damp, then I use the ball & racket towel to also dry off my serving hand. This gradually dampens that towel, and eventually you will need to go to your third towel. Or a fourth. Or a fifth. (Practically speaking, I've never needed more than three towels in a day to keep the ball, racket, and serving hand dry - one for me, and two for the ball, racket, and when needed, serving hand.)

There's a simple solution for all this. It's called AIR CONDITIONING.

Table Tennista

As usual, there are a lot of new international articles at Table Tennista (mostly featuring China), including the following:

Very Fast Training with Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's the video (24 sec) - why can't you do this? Of course, Dimitrij is #7 in the world.

USA National College Championships

They start today in Rockford, IL - follow the action (results and video) at their home page!

Richard McAfee Paddle Picture

Here's a picture of former USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee. (If Facebook won't let you see it, try this.) As he describes it, it was "given to me from a table tennis coach in Thailand in appreciation for my work leading the ITTF Tsunami Relief Project in 2005. Besides being a top junior coach he also teaches art." And yes, the shadow on the lower left is a silhouette of Thailand.

David Bowie Playing Table Tennis

Here he is - but what is that he's wearing? (If Facebook won't let you see it, try this.) It's like a psychedelic version of Neo from The Matrix

Airport Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of Michael Landers (R, 2009 USA Men's Singles Champion) and Patrick Wu playing on improvised tables at Chicago O'Hare Airport. (If Facebook won't let you access it because you aren't "friends" with the owner, try this.) What, you've never seen Airport Ping-Pong? Here's a video (2:48) at Houston Airport last August after the Southern Open and Junior Olympics (held back to back). At the start you see Amy Lu (the lefty) and Lilly Lin playing, with me in the background catching balls for them. Then Nathan Hsu starts to play. At 1:14 I start hitting with Nathan.

"I'm Pinging in the Rain!"

Here's the picture!

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December 17, 2012

Last Blog Until January 2

This will be my last blog (and Tip of the Week) until Jan. 2, 2013. I leave in a few hours for the USA Nationals in Las Vegas (Dec. 18-22), then Christmas with family in Santa Barbara (Dec. 22-25), then I'll be coaching non-stop at the MDTTC Christmas Camp (Dec. 26-31). Then I'm going to sleep in on Jan. 1. See you in 2013!

Tip of the Week

Distance from Table.

Ratings - Crystal and Derek

Wow. Just wow. The North American Teams were processed, and two of our MDTTC juniors have mind-boggling ratings. Let me once again start off by reminding readers (and myself) that ratings are just indicators of level, and fluctuate up and down quite a bit. But there are times when they are a lot of fun.

We'll start with Crystal Wang, 10, who saw her rating go from 2245 to 2353. (I coached three of her matches, where she went 2-1.) This makes her the following:

  • The highest rated 10-year-old in U.S. history, boys or girls, breaking the record that had been set by Kanak Jha, who was 2265 as a 10-year-old two years ago. (The 2245 had already made her the highest rated 10-year-old girl ever and second highest overall.)
  • #1 Under 11 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 12 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 13 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 14 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 15 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 16 Girl in the U.S.
  • #2 Under 17 Girl in the U.S.
  • #4 Under 18 Girl in the U.S.
  • #9 Under 22 Girl in the U.S.

Here's her record at the Teams, where she went 23-3 in leading her team (which included Derek Nie, below, Bernard Lemal, and Heather Wang) to winning Division Two:

Wins
2347: 7,13,-7,9
2291: 7,5,-4,6
2287: -10,7,10,-7,3
2256: -11,9,6,-5,7
2223: 8,-2,5,-9,6
2199: 7,3,10
2194: 8,3,7
2183: 6,-8,6,10
2183: -10,7,8,3
2160: 7,9,-3-10
2156: 8,9,7
2152: 5,6,4
2149: 5,12,-4,-8,7
2123: 8,4,6
2119: 4,5,8
2113: 9,5,4
2097: 6,6,10
2092: 4,-7,7,7
2091: -9,5,7,-10,4
2064: 5,6,4
2064: -5,9,3,1
2014: 7,4,3
1902: 8,10,5
Losses
2369: 10,3,-18,7
2319: -5,6,7,6
2280: 9,10,6

Between Crystal and New Jersey's Amy Wang (2177, just turned 10), the east coast has a dynamic duo following in the footsteps of the west coast's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang.

Meanwhile, Crystal's teammate, Derek Nie, 11, the U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion, saw his rating go from 2139 to 2221 as he went 17-9 at the Teams. (He's been as high as 2170 recently. I coached about a dozen of his matches at the Teams.) While this "only" brings him up to #3 in Under 12 Boys in the U.S., it does something else. At only 65 pounds, he is almost for certain the best player in the U.S., pound for pound, and the lightest player ever to break 2200. We're talking 34.17 rating points per pound!!! (I come in at 11.67 points per pound. How about you?) Derek might be the shortest to break 2200 as well, at 4'5". (Mitch Seidenfeld, how tall are you?)

I must also point out that it was a crime against humanity that John Olsen, after training so hard with the goal of breaking 2000, came out of the Teams in Baltimore with a rating of 1999. The table tennis gods are laughing!

Nationals

I'll be coaching at the Nationals, primarily Tong Tong Gong and Derek Nie, and sometimes other MDTTC players. I usually play in the hardbat events, where I've won a bunch of titles, but this year I'm just coaching - just too busy to play. I'll also be attending some meetings, since I'm on several USATT advisory committees, plus the USATT Assembly (Tuesday 7:30 PM) and the Hall of Fame Banquet, assuming it doesn't interfere with my coaching duties (Thursday 6:30 PM).

This year's Nationals has a lot of players (781), and a lot of players in Men's Singles (160). There's no single standout player this year, with the top seed Mark Hazinski at 2621), followed by Timothy Wang (2601), Jim Butler (2583), Adam Hugh (2567), Stefan Manousoff (2560), Han Xiao (2536), Dan Seemiller (2521), Li Yu Xiang (2510), Zhang Yahao (2509), Razvan Cretu (2508), and Shao Yu (2503). In newer ratings after the Teams in Baltimore and Columbus and the ICC tournament last weekend, Hazinski is down to 2590, and Timothy Wang is down to 2585. In fact, in the newer ratings, Adam Hugh would be top seed at 2599. I'm pretty sure it's been literally decades since we had a Nationals where the top seed in Men's Singles was under 2600. (And this despite an apparent slow inflation of the rating system!) 

Who are my picks to win? In Men's Singles, I'm biased, so I'm picking the same two finalists from last year when we had the all-Maryland final with Peter Li winning over Han Xiao in the final. (But Peter, now in college, has dropped to 2475.) However, putting aside biases, I suggest viewers watch Jim Butler. The current top U.S. players simply don't know yet how to play the recently un-retired Butler, with his tricky serves and big backhand smash. Another to watch is Adam Hugh, who's been playing very well recently, now that he's out of college and (I'm told) coaching and playing full-time.

On the women's side, the top four seeds easily lap the other players: Jasna Rather (2588), Ariel Hsing (2538), Judy Hugh (2533), and Lily Zhang (2520). However, in new ratings, Judy is back out of the stratosphere with a 2394 rating, while Jasna has mostly been around 2400 for years until one tournament shot her up to 2588. Perhaps she's back to her former world-class level, but for now, I'd bet on an Ariel-Lily final for the third year in row. Who will win? One of them. I'll leave it at that.

World Junior Championships

USA's Lily Zhang made the quarterfinals of Under 18 Girls' Singles at the World Junior Championships, held in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here's the home page, with complete results, articles, and photos. This is probably the best showing of a U.S. junior at the World Junior Championships. (They didn't have them in the old days, when the U.S. was a power.) In reaching the quarterfinals, Lily knocked off the #5 seed (Bernadette Szocs of Romania) and #6 seed (Petrissa Solja of Germany), before losing to the #4 seed (Gu Rouchen of China).

Alas, the eight members of the U.S. Junior Team (which included Crystal Wang - see above - the youngest player at the tournament) will have to fly back and compete at the USA Nationals two days after finishing in India. They will face major problems with the time zone changes and jet lag. 

Prachi Jha

Here's an article from the ITTF that features USA's Prachi Jha and her performance in the team competition at the World Junior Championships.

The Backhand Push

Here's a 45-second video from U.S. Men's Singles Champion Peter Li explaining the basics of the backhand push.

Hitting a Forehand from Below Table Level

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:21) on returning a ball from below table level.

ITTF Development Funds

Here's an article on new funding from the ITTF for continental development. "A quite staggering sum of $1,000,000 is to be made available annually for continents affiliated to the International Table Tennis Federation for development in the next four years, the period from 2013 to 2016."

Look what Michael Found at the Supermarket!

Yes, it's a picture of Michael Landers on the Kelloggs Corn Flakes box! It breaks a 76-year cereal box drought for table tennis since George Hendry made the Wheaties box in 1936.

Santa Claus

In honor of Christmas, here are two pictures of Santa Claus playing table tennis. Here he is with rock star Alice Cooper on right, and here he is again with actress Ginger Rogers on right.

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July 9, 2012

Tip of the Week:

Telegraphing Serves.

My Favorite Statements at the U.S. Open

After one of my players lost a close match I told him, "Except for a few careless points, you played really well. But that's like telling a tightrope walker he did really well except for the part where he fell off and got killed."

Another Maryland junior was tied 2-2 in games. I had been coaching another match, and came over just as she lost game #4, and so didn't see any of the match, and I didn't know the opponent. Her mom asked if I'd coach before the fifth game. I told her, "Keep doing the things that are working, and stop doing the things that are not working." She won the fifth game and the match. (Actually, I also had her tell me what was working and what wasn't working so she it would be clear in her mind what she should do.)

One of our top juniors didn't have to play until late that afternoon, so for breakfast I told him he could have whatever he wanted. He had a chocolate donut, a chocolate pastry, and hot chocolate. I asked him, "You are what you eat. Your opponents are going to eat you up." (That was the last time I let him have final say on his food.)

Table Tennis Players on Cereal Boxes

Name: Michael Landers

Rank: Rated 2634 and 2009 U.S. Men's Singles Champion

Serial Number, I mean Cereal: Here he is on the lower left on the back of this Kelloggs cereal box. And here he is again on the front of a Wheaties box. So tell us Michael - what's your favorite? Kelloggs Vanilla Flavored Multigrain Cereal, or Wheaties?

Michael now has a 2-1 lead over Hall of Famer George Hendry, who appeared on the back of a Wheaties box in 1936.

Tennis and Table Tennis

Roger Federer just won Wimbledon for the seventh time. Here are three pictures of Federer playing table tennis: photo1photo2, and photo3 (as a child), and . But guess who else won Wimbledon, and in fact won eight tennis grand slams, tied for eighth place all time (with Andre Agassi, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, and Ken Rosewall)? Yes, it's Fred Perry. After winning the 1929 World Table Tennis Championships, he went on to win the Australian Open (1934), French Open (1935), Wimbledon (1934, '35, '36), and US Open (1933, '34, '36).

World Veterans Championships

In case you missed it, here are the results of the World Veterans Table Tennis Championships, held in Stockholm, Sweden, June 25-30. I haven't gone through the results to see if there are any USA medallists, but if someone puts together a list, I'll post it in my blog.

How to Play Ping Pong with Soon Yeon Lee

Here's a basics coaching video (3:57) from the famous table tennis player and model.

Ping-Pong 3-D Game Revisited

On Friday I linked to this online ping-pong game and wrote, "I don't think it's possible to win, but you can spend endless time trying." Well, Aaron Avery won, and sent me a screen shot to prove it. He wrote, "Hang back in a defensive location to give yourself some time to mouse.  Swinging left or right does allow you to go for angles, unlike many online TT games."

Ping-Pong Balls of Fire

Table Tennis Nation brings us ping-pong balls on fire. (But I like the "of Fire" in my title.)

Non-Table Tennis: "The Dragon of the Apocalypse"

Despite the fantasy-sounding title (with the word "dragon") it's actually a science fiction story, and it's now published in Penumbra Magazine as their #1 story in their table of contents. They are one of the higher-paying "pro" magazines, so I was pretty happy when they bought it. The story is about the decisions the president of the U.S. faces when an apparent dragon lands on the U.S. Capitol. My name is on the cover. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

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April 24, 2012

USATT Minutes of Committee & Task Force Meetings

From the USATT Bylaws, Section 9.10, Minutes of Meetings:

"Each committee and task force shall take minutes of its meetings.  The approved minutes must be published within thirty (30) days of completion of the meeting."

I've pointed this out to the USATT board multiple times over the past few years, via email to the board, at the 2009 Strategic Meeting, at board meetings, and I blogged about this on October 11 last year. [See segment"2009 USATT Strategic Meeting (and Task Force Minutes)."]

Either none of the USATT committees or task forces have met even once over the past five years or so, or they simply aren't following the bylaws, even after the problem was pointed out. (I happen to know that a number of these committees and task forces have met.) Alas, the very board that crowed so much about creating these new bylaws (circa roughly 2007, with updates since) has not followed them. Don't believe me?

Then here's a challenge. FIND ME THE MINUTES OF THESE MEETINGS. First person who can find them by 4:30 PM this afternoon when I leave to coach (and no cheating by someone putting them online today) gets a free copy of any one of my books (see below) and public acknowledgement here. (One exception - I'm fairly certain I remember seeing minutes online of an Officials meeting, but am not sure. But if anyone can find those minutes, no book, but I'll acknowledge your finding in my blog tomorrow.) Here are the USATT minutes for USATT board meetings, and the USATT committee listing. (The committee listing includes task forces, some of which have met over the past few years and since been dissolved, such as the "Grow Membership Through Added Value" task force.) Other than board meetings, there are minutes for a Hall of Fame Committee meeting listed on "December 20, 2011" (they mean 2010) - and they are not actually a USATT committee. 

Note that not all committees meet, especially "advisory" committees. I'm on the USATT Coaching, Club, and Editorial Advisory Committees, but none of them have had a formal meeting since I was appointed. However, others have met to formulate various policy, such as the High Performance Committee, which meets to set policy and schedule for the National Teams, and of course the various Task Forces meet to accomplish their various tasks. (At least I hope they do!)

Books by Larry Hodges

Hey, that's me! Since I mentioned my books above (and it's been a while since I listed them here), here's a listing. Note that Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook and Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis (which are really handbooks) are online (free). And this fall I hope to have my new book out, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide." (I'm doing the final rewriting right now, but other table tennis issues keep intervening.) 

2012 North American Olympic Table Tennis Trials Press Conference

Here's the video of the press conference with all the players from North America who made the Olympics (19:53). Unfortunately, I can barely hear them even at full volume. Maybe others have louder speakers.

Ariel Hsing slideshow

Here are eight photos with captions of U.S. Women's Champ and Olympian teenager Ariel Hsing at the Olympic Trials.

Michael Landers and the Kelloggs Corn Flakes Box

Here's more on Michael Landers on the Kelloggs Corn Flakes box, including a picture of both the front and back.

"As One" movie

Here's a preview of "As One" (1:48), with English subtitles, the story of the joint Korean 1991 World Women's Team Champions

Nashville Predators vs. Detroit Red Wings

Here's another article on hockey's Predators vs. Red Wings table tennis "feud."

Adam Bobrow Highlights

Here's two minutes of Adam Bobrow, mostly from movie and TV roles, including three table tennis scenes. (He's not just a comedian and actor - he's rated 2115, and was recently up to 2172.)

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April 19, 2012

Ruing the Rise of Redundant Rubber Releases

It has recently come to my attention that there are just too many types of table tennis rubber. At the U.S. Open or Nationals the racks of rubber reveal a ruinous range of revolutionary renown. (Okay, I've used up my quota for R's today.) What am I, a full-time professional coach of some renown, supposed to say as my eyes glaze over when someone looks at me with big brown eyes and asks, in all innocence, "Coach Larry, could you explain the differences between Sapphira, Selvid, Solcion, Speedy P.O., Spin Art, the ten types of Sriver, Stayer, Solo, the nine types of Sonex, the three types of Supersonic, Special Defence, Super 729FX, Samba and Samba N-tec, Shark, Snabb, Spring Thunder, the five types of Scramble, Spark, the four types of Spinspiel, Screw One and Screw Soft, Spiral, the three types of Specialist, Samurai, Serie 2000, the three types of Sinus, the eight types of Speedy, Standard, Storm, the two types of Super Defense, and Supra?"

And these are just the ones that start with an S. (See, I've moved on from the R's. Soon I'll make it to the T's, where we can discuss table tennis, topspin, and tomahawk serves.)

I remember the good old days, circa mid-to-late late 1970s (I started in 1976), when everyone used Sriver or Mark V, with the occasional weirdo who used some strange stuff from China or an old-fashioned sheet of D-13, or even some orthodox hard rubber. You could buy Sriver or Mark V (then the top-of-the-line stuff) for about $6/sheet. And then along came Tackiness, the first of the specialized rubbers ("super sticky!") and then long pips, and the floodgates opened. (Where do they get these names? I think they use the Fantasy Name Generator.)

Here's a listing of USATT approved equipment. Reading it either makes you laugh out loud or fall asleep. And just to make you suffer (or lol?) as I, here's the complete rubber listing, with the admonition that this blog does continue afterwards, so you have no choice but to read through it entirely so as to get to the really good stuff in the blog below. (Or you could just page down, but that wouldn't be nearly as fun.)

Butterfly - Addoy, Allround-C4-A002, Allround-C4-A003, Allround-D13, Bryce, Bryce FX, Bryce Speed, Bryce Speed-FX, Catapult, Catapult Hard, Cermet, Challenger-Attack, Challenger-Chop, D'or, Ekrips, Ekrips Soft, Feint FG, Feint-Long II, Feint-Long II-OX, Feint Long-III, Feint-Long III-OX, Feint-OX, Feint-Soft, Flarestorm, Flarestorm II, Flextra, Impartial, Large 44DX, Magnitude, Magnitude-Kawa, Morim, Orthodox, Pan Asia, Raystorm, Rein, Relop Attack, Relop Attack-OX, Resilon, Resilon-Flex, Resilon-Kawa, Roundell, Roundell Hard, Roundell Soft, Sapphira, Selvid, Solcion, Speedy P.O., Speedy P.O. Soft, Spin Art, Sriver, Sriver-EL, Sriver-FX, Sriver-G2, Sriver-G2-FX, Sriver G3, Sriver G3-FX, Sriver-Kawa, Sriver Killer, Stayer, Super Anti, Super Anti-Special, Super Sriver, Tackifire-Drive, Tackifire-Special, Tackifire-Special Soft, Tackiness-C, Tackiness Chop, Tackiness Chop II, Tackiness-C-Kawa, Tackiness-C Soft, Tackiness-D-Kawa, Tackiness-Drive, Tempest, Tenergy 05, Tenergy 05-FX, Tenergy 25, Tenergy 25-FX, Tenergy 64, Tenergy 64-FX, Wakaba, West Will

Donic - Acuda S1, Acuda S2, Acuda S3, Akkadi L2, Akkadi Taichi, Alligator Def, Alligator Soft No Sponge, Anti A40, Baracuda, Baxster D25 Short Pips, Baxter F1-A, Blues, Blues F5, Coppa, Coppa JO, Coppa JO Gold, Coppa JO Platin, Coppa JO Platin Soft, Coppa JO Silver, Coppa Speed, Coppa Tagora, Coppa Tenero, Coppa X1, Coppa X1 Gold, Coppa X1 Turbo Platin, Coppa X2, Coppa X3, Desto F1, Desto F1 HS, Desto F2, Desto F3, Desto F3 Big Slam, Gallardo Power Sound, Gallardo Sound, Gallardo Speed, J.O. Waldner, Liga, Pirania Formula Tec Slice 40, Quattro, Quattro A'Conda Medium, Quattro A'Conda Soft, Quattro Formula, Solo, Sonex 40, Sonex Formula, Sonex Formula X40, Sonex Formula XF45, Sonex Formula JP Soft, Sonex JP, Sonex JP Gold, Sonex X40, Sonex X45, Supersonic M40, Supersonic S40, Supersonic SG40, Twingo, Twister, Vario, Vario Big Slam, Vario Cooper S, Vario Cooper ST, Vario Gold, Vario Soft, Vario Soft ST, Vario ST, Zicco

Dr. Neubauer - A-B-S, Anti-Special, Boomerang Classic, Diamant, Domination, Domination Speed, Domination Tuned, Fighter, Goliath, Gorilla, Gorilla Special, Grizzly, Grizzly ABS Sponge, Inferno Classic, Leopard, New Gorilla, Pistol, Special Defence, Tornado Ultra, Pistol, Monster Classic

Friendship - 563, 563-1, 729 40H, 729 40S, 729 Dr. Evil, 729 Cream, 729 FX (EL), 729 Faster, 729 Faster 2, 729 Faster 3, 729 FX Lightening, 729 GeoSpin, 729 GeoSpin Tacky, 729 Higher, 729 Higher 2, 729 Higher 3, 729 SP, 729-08, 729-5, 729-AAA, 755, 755-2, 799, 802, 802-1, 802-40, 804, 837, Focus 1, Focus 2, Focus 3, RITC 2000 Tack Speed, RITC 729, RITC 729-2, RITC 729-3, RITC 729 Tackspeed, Super 729FX

Gambler - Aces, Four Kings, Outlaw Pre-Tune, Peace Keeper, Reflectoid, Shadow, Six Shooter Pre-Tune, Wraith

Hallmark - Friction Special 2, Frustration, Green Power, Half Long, Magic Pips, Mirage, Panther, Phoenix, Podium, Power Spin

JOOLA - 4 All, 4 You, Air, Amy Anti Classic Version, Amy Anti Control Version, Antitop Toni Hold, Badman Reloaded, Brave, Drum, Drum CWX, Energy, Energy X-Soft, Energy Xtra, Express One, Express Two, Express X-Soft, Mambo, Mambo C, Mambo GP, Mambo H, Octopus, Orca, Phoenix, Samba, Samba N-tec, Shark, Snabb, Spring Thunder, Tango, Tango Defensive, Tango Extrem, Tango Ultra, Topspin, Topspin C Express Ultra, X-plode, X-plode Sensitive

Juic - 889, 889 Neo, 889 Neo, 889 SV, 999 Attack, 999 Defense, 999 Elite, 999 Elite Defense, 999 Elite Hardtype, 999 Elite Nano, 999 Elite SV, 999 Elite Ultima, 999 Elite Ultima SV, 999 Hardtype, 999 Turbo, Air Condle, Air Condle Sound, Air Condle Speed, Anti Super Spin, Dany III, Dany V, Dany V Ultima, DrivaSmash, DrivaSmash Ultima, DrivaSmash Ultima SV, Hirubia, Kaiza, Leggy Defense, Masterspin 40, Montjuic Super, Montjuic Super SV, Nano Cannon, Nano Spin, Neo Anti, Offense, Offense Ultima, Patisuma, Patisuma II, Patisuma 3, PipsAce 03, Scramble, Scramble 21, Scramble 21 SV, Scramble 21 Ultima, Scramble EX Ultima, Shenron, Spark, Spin Spiel, Spinspiel Hardtype, Spinspiel SV, Spinspiel Ultima, Varites, Diva Smash SV, Couga and Masterspin Special

LKT - Black Power, Pro XP, Pro XT, Rapid Power, Rapid Soft, Rapid Sound, Rapid Speed, Recoil, Red Diamond, Torrent-Gold

Newgy - Omega

Nittaku - Best Anti, Express, Graffiti, Hammond, Hammond FA, Hammond FA Speed, Hammond Pro Alpha, Hammond Pro Beta, Hammond X, Hurricane II, Hurricane III, Magic Carbon, Magical Spin, Micro, Midship, Midship SC, Milford, Moristo, Moristo 44, Moristo 2000, Moristo 2000 NX, Moristo DF, Moristo FG, Moristo LP, Moristo LP One, Moristo RS Hard, Moristo RS Soft, Moristo SP, Narucross, Narucross Ex Hard, Narucross Ex Soft, Narucross GS Hard, Narucross GS Soft, Narucross GS Super Soft, Narucross Tension, Nodias, Pimple Mini, Pimple Mini One, Refoma, Renanos Bright Hard, Renanos Bright Soft, Renanos Hard, Renanos Hold, Renanos Soft, Screw One, Screw Soft, Spiral, Specialist One, Specialist Soft, Specialist Soft HS, Tracer

Stiga - Almana, Almana Sound, Almana Sound SynergyTech, Boost TC, Boost TP, Boost TS, Boost TX, Calibra LT, Calibra LT Sound, Carbo, Carbo MC, Carbo Sound, Cenno, China Extreme, Chop & Drive, Clippa, Cobra 2000, Destroyer, Doer, Energy Absorber, Evo, Future, Innova, Innova Premium, Innova Ultra Light, Innova Ultra Light SynergyTech, JMS EVO 1, Magic, Magna, Magna TC 2, Magna TS 2, Mendo, Mendo MP, Mendo Energy, Neos, Neos Sound, Neos Sound SynergyTech, Neos Synergy Tech, Neos Tacky, Optimum MP, Premium, Radical, Syncro 45, Royal, Stream, Taiphoon, Triumph, Tween

Tibhar - Black Techno, Cata-Inazuma-Spin, Cata-Spin, Control Spin, Dang, Defense, Ellen, Extra Long, Genius, Genius+Optimum, Genius+Optimum Sound, Genius Sound, Grass, Grass Defense, Grass D-Tec, Grass Flex, Grass Offense, Grass Spezial 2000, Grass Spezial 3000, Grass Ultra, Grip-S, Intra, Learn Cont, Learn Spin, Legend, Makss, Mythik, Nianmor, Nimbus, Nimbus Medium, Nimbus Soft, Nimbus Sound, Nimbus VIP, Norm, Primus, Rapid, Rapid D. TecS, Rapid D. TecS Soft, Rapid Soft, Red Power, Rookie D. TecS, Samurai, Serie 2000, Sinus, Sinus Alpha, Sinus Sound, Speedy S/L, Speedy Soft, Speedy Soft D. TecS, Speedy Soft D. TecS VIP, Speedy Soft Pro, Speedy Spin, Speedy Spin Premium, Spico Speedy Spin, Standard, Storm, Super Defense, Super Defense 40, Super Defense 40 Soft, Supra, Torpedo, Torpedo Soft, Vari Spin, Vari Spin D. TecS, VHP Speedy Spin, Volcano

Yasaka - A-1.2, Anti Power, Cobalt, Do Up, Fusion, Mark V, Mark V30, Mark V GPS, Mark V HPS, Mark V HPS Soft, Mark V M2, Mark V XS, New Era, Original, Original Extra High Grade, Original T-Version, Orthodox, PB-1, Phantoom 0011, Phantoom 0012, Phantoom 007, Phantoom 008, Phantom 009, Pryde, Pryde 30, Pryde 40, Rally, V-Stage, Xtend, Xtend HS, Xtend SG

The Michael Landers Kellogg's Video

Here's a video from Kellogg's (3:47) on Michael Landers. Best quote: "The secret sauce is a lot of hard work, some luck, determination, and of course a great breakfast." (Hey, it's for Kellogg's!) As noted here on Monday, he's going to be on the Wheaties box.

101-year-old Dorothy Delow

"Scientists are mapping the genomes of centenarians to help unlock the secrets of longevity and a 101-year old Australian table tennis player is helping." ABC did a story on Dorothy Delow, the world's oldest active table tennis player at 101.  Here's the article and video (6:07).

London Mayor Boris Johnson's ping-pong speech

Here's a video of his hilarious 59-second speech given after he took possession of the Olympic flag in Beijing. Here are two quotes from the video:

  • "I say this respectfully to our Chinese hosts who have excelled so magnificently at ping-pong. Ping-pong was invented on the dining tables of England."
  • "The French looked to the dining table and saw an opportunity to have dinner. We looked to the dining table and saw an opportunity to play Wiff Waff. And that is why London is the sporting capital of the world."

And here are eight photos of Mayor Johnson playing table tennis, from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page: photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4 photo5 photo6 photo7 (only the back of his head; author Howard Jacobson on far side) photo8 (on left, Sebastian Coe on right)

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April 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Where to Place Your Spin Serves.

Modern juniors

I blogged on last Wednesday (April 11) about how modern sponges make looping so much easier. Even younger kids in the U.S. are playing looping games that would have been almost unimaginable 5-10 years ago. While the sponge makes much of this possible, much of this is because there are far more full-time training centers now than before, and so far more full-time junior programs, and so far more juniors training regularly at a high level. The level and depth of cadets and junior players is now stronger than ever in our history. (I blogged about this on Jan. 4, 2012).

The down side is that, at any given level, while the looping is spectacular, the table game is probably a bit weaker, especially return of serve. For example, I think previous generations of juniors were more sophisticated in their receive, since they couldn't rely on all-out attack and counterlooping as much, plus their sponge wasn't as bouncy, so they had more touch. This is especially true on short serves to the forehand, where many modern junior players in the U.S. seem weak. I think previous generations could push short better, while the modern generation can attack short serves better.

I'm tempted to say blocking is not as good among modern juniors, but that's not quite true - there's so much looping going on that this generation of juniors is probably as good blocking as previous ones, at least on the backhand. However, on the forehand, where everyone's mostly counterlooping, the somewhat infrequent blocks aren't as good.

College Championships results

The National Collegiate Championships were held this past weekend - and here are the results!

Michael Landers Wheaties box

Following the footsteps of George Hendry (who appeared on the back of a Wheaties box in 1936 at age 15, before they started putting athletes on the cover), 17-year-old Michael Landers will be on the cover of an upcoming Wheaties box - and here's the picture!

Ma Long Multiball

Here's a video (1:08) of China's world #1 Ma Long doing backhand loop multiball with China's men's head coach Liu Guoliang. Look at the power of those shots!

Primorac vs. Maze

Here's a TV news report (1:06) from 2008 of a great point played at match point between Zoran Primorac of Croatia and Michael Maze of Denmark.

AAAA

At our recent Spring Break Camp, we had three inseparable girls, all about age 9, and all named Emily. (I blogged about this.) Now I'm teaching a small group of four beginners, and their names are Ava, Anton, Ambo, Anmo. Forget Triple A; we've got Quadruple A!

Top Ten Signs Your Table Tennis Club is Too Big

The following was inspired by watching a bunch of kids actually playing hide and seek at the newly expanded Maryland Table Tennis Center. The place is huge, and full of prime hiding spots.

  1. The kids play hide and seek on break. The hiders usually win.
  2. Opponents can't hear you call the score because of the echo.
  3. If they raise the Titanic, they plan to store it at your club.
  4. Lewis and Clark are exploring the club.
  5. The club has its own zip code, its own area code, its own flag, and in the morning kids at school put their hands over their hearts and say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Club.
  6. From the front you can't see the tables in the back because of the Earth's curvature.
  7. Lobbers James Therriault and Nison Aronov have enough room to play.
  8. White balls aren't allowed because when you play a lobber you can't see them against the cumulus clouds in the rafters.
  9. There's a football stadium in the lobby.
  10.  You can fit about 90 million ping-pong balls in the club, according to Kepler's Conjecture. (Assuming 10,000 square feet, 15' ceiling, 74% packing efficiency, and the volume of a ball at 2.14 square inches.)

Ultrabook Table Tennis Tournament

Here's a hilarious video (4:59) of the Toshiba Intel Ultrabook Challenge - a tournament where players used these super-thin laptop computers are rackets!

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March 27, 2012

MDTTC Spring Break Camp

The Maryland Table Tennis Center will hold its first training camp of the year, our Spring Break Camp, April 2-6. You will be there. Otherwise we will talk about you, and it won't be pretty.

The camp coincides with spring break in local schools, which vary from region to region, so we don't get many out of towners for this camp. However, anyone is welcome to join us. It'll mostly be junior players, but all ages are welcome. Coaches will include myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. Hours are 10AM-1PM and 3-6PM each day, Mon-Fri. Chinese food is delivered for lunch for $6 (you order in the morning). The club just doubled in size, and will have about 18 tables set up (more if we squeeze), with all-new red flooring, showers, and wireless web.

If you need a place to stay, we're now allowing players to stay at the club (free for now) if you are willing to "rough it." I'll give rides to local restaurants and for groceries as needed. (Club has a microwave.)

We will be running camps continuously all summer, every Mon-Fri, from June 18 to August 24 (eleven consecutive five-day camps). Come join us!

What is the value of a table tennis camp? Most players spend years trying to improve, and it's a very slow and difficult process. The problem is that 1) you might be practicing bad technique, making it even harder later on to fix the problems, 2) you only get to work at various techniques in a sporadic way, and 3) you have other things on your mind and so can't really focus on table tennis. A camp solves all three problems as you live and breathe table tennis all week, learning proper technique from top coaches (as well as getting to see numerous top players demonstrate it), you practice all day long, and your sole focus is table tennis. If you are a serious table tennis player, I strongly suggest finding a camp where you can really hone your skills as well as have a lot of fun.

FASTT

Here's the Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis home page, where you'll find articles, results, and videos of this rapidly growing "underground" sport. (If regular table tennis is an underground sport in the U.S., then is sandpaper the underground sport of an underground sport?) News Item #29 is on the Cary Cup.

The Worlds on TV

You can watch the Worlds (Dortmund, Germany, March 25-April 1) on TV via Universal Sports, but it's gonna cost you about $10/day, or $40 for five days. Here's more info. Meanwhile, here's the info I posted yesterday:

Michael Landers on NPR

NPR did a radio interview with Michael Landers, "Ping-Pong Prodigy Seeks Olympic Glory." You can either listen to it (3:51) or read the transcript.

Free table tennis videos from Reflex Sports

I received the following email from Reflex Sports yesterday - so now's your chance to sample their huge video library for free!

"We very much appreciate your support of our subscription table tennis video site. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get enough subscribers to allow us to continue, at this time, to offer our videos this way. We have finally been able to set up a new site (tabletennisvideocentral.com). This new trial site is offering everything free in the hope of attracting enough viewers to have advertisers."

Boys Look at the Stars Ping-Pong

You can download this book for free. The book covers the history of world table tennis.

High Performance on a Budget

Can you create a high performance environment without spending any money? Sean O'Neill sent me and other coaches a link to this article on the topic.

Math Professor Larry Bavly teaches table tennis

Math and table tennis connoisseur Larry Bavly teaches a little girl all the important things about table tennis (4:26). The best part starts at 1:11 when Larry says, "What is the most important thing to learn to be a good table tennis player?" After the girl incorrectly says, "Placement and spin variations," Larry brings out the chart.

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March 12, 2012

Tip of the Week

As I also write one week ago, for a while I've been bothered by two blog posts that really should have been Tips of the Week. As blog items, they were read and then lost in the avalanche of daily blog postings. As Tips of the Week, they'd be more accessible in the future as coaching articles. Since I'm currently working eight hours a day with Tim Boggan on the page layouts and photo work for his latest table tennis history book (we hope to finish today), as well as my usual coaching and other duties, last Monday and today I'm putting up these two items, with some updating/expansion, as Tips. So here is: Developing a Smash.

Exhaustion

Today is Day 14 of doing the page layouts and photo work on Tim Boggan's History of Table Tennis, Volume 12. No days off, no half days, usually getting up at 5AM and starting work at 6AM, and going until about 5PM or until I have my coaching scheduled. Since I'm also subbing for Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun, I've been coaching nearly seven nights a week. (Jeffrey was in China for two months, but returned Friday, and starts coaching again today.) I've also been involved in various aspects of the MDTTC expansion project, tutor calculus two hours a week, and sometimes sleep and eat.

So I'm TIRED. As in EXHAUSTED.

Fortunately, we should finish the book today, and with Jeffrey back, my coaching schedule is back to sanity. There's a thing in my room called a bed, and I hope to have a long, first-hand acquaintance with it soon. (I'm off to the Cary Cup this Thursday, where I'm playing hardbat Friday morning and coaching the rest of the way, so that should bring back some of the no-doubt sorely missed exhaustion.)

USATT Junior & Cadet Training Camp

USA Table Tennis is looking for someone to run a one-week training camp for the USA National Junior and Cadet Teams, June 23-29, 2012. I'd actually like to see a longer camp, more like 2-3 weeks, but one week is better than none. Here are the bid specs.

There is no financial incentive, and the club that hosts the camp would likely have to absorb many expenses as well as putting in huge amounts of time. I was thinking about putting in a bid from Maryland Table Tennis Center. MDTTC is currently in the process of expanding to 18 courts (more if we squeeze), along with showers, weight room, all new red flooring, air conditioning, etc. And we have a number of top players/practice partners in the area, including Han Xiao, Peter Li, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, probably a new top Chinese player/coaching coming in, and lots of 2300 players, such as Raghu Nadmichettu, Nathan Hsu, and others. We also have Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong, and Mini-Cadet members Derek Nie and Crystal Wang. Since it's during summer, we'll also probably have others such as Marcus Jackson and Amaresh Sahu back from school. So I think we'd have a pretty strong bid.

However, we probably won't put in a bid. Why? The bid includes this part: "Venue must be exclusive available for National Teams players and coaches only. No other activities to be conducted in the venue during the NT practice time." (Note the word "must.")

We're a full-time training center. The bid estimates that they would want the hall from 9AM-noon and from 4-7PM. The latter are peak hours for our junior training, and we're not about to tell our full-time coaches (me, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, probably one other coach) that they can't coach during peak hours for a week at the club where they make a living. (Not to mention all the junior players who suddenly can't practice after school.) The training camp only needs 12 tables, no problem. We just need 3-4 of them, leaving at least 14 for the camp.

I don't want to go through the time and effort of a bid if this is a "must," as the bid says, especially if there are going to be rival bidders who on paper will sound better because they aren't full-time training centers and so can offer the "exclusive." (Of course there might also be a full-time center out there willing to close down their coaching during these hours for a week.) We're also running camps all summer long starting June 18, and the camp is June 23-29. So we'd have to cancel a camp, meaning the club and coaches would be out several thousand dollars, in addition to other expenses and time spent to accommodate such a camp.

Coaching Videos

Here are two more short but excellent coaching videos from PingSkills:

Michael Landers Highlights Video

Here's the Landers Highlights Video (7:41) from the U.S. World and Olympic Team Trials!

Cat dominates mini-table play

Who's dominating this game? (0:53)

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