Ping Pong Summer

June 19, 2014

Is the USATT Rating System Inflationary, Deflationary, or Stable?

I don't have exact numbers on this, but it's fairly obvious that, over the years, the ratings have inflated. When I started out in 1976 there were only three players rated over 2400 (Danny Seemiller, D-J Lee, and Gil Joon Park, with the latter two from South Korea); now there are 116, and this is only among USA players. There are more foreign players now listed as USA players than before, so this is part of the reason, but the bulk of these 2400+ players are just as much USA players as those back in the late 1970s. Dan Seemiller had just reached top 30 in the world with a rating just over 2500. Insook Bhushan (then Insook Na) had just come to the U.S. from South Korea, and was top ten in the world among women, but was rated only about 2250. These days top ten in the world among women would be about 2650. At one point I was 18th in the country among U.S. citizens with a 2292 rating; these days it wouldn't make the top 100. So yes, the ratings have inflated. (My impression, however, is that any inflation has decreased or stopped in recent years. For one thing, the highest rated USA players now are actually a bit lower than some from the previous generations, but that's offset by the fact that the previous generations had players with higher world rankings and deserved the higher ratings.)

But wait, some of you are thinking, hasn't the level of play improved, and that's why there are so many more higher-rated players these days? That modern players have improved is absolutely true - but that has no bearing on the ratings. As players on average improve, so do their opponents. Think of it this way. If everyone were to suddenly improve 100 rating points in level, there would be no effect on the ratings themselves since opponents would also be 100 points better. And so even though everyone's about 100 points better, the ratings themselves would stay the same. 

The level of play has improved because of more training centers, more coaches, better equipment, and more advanced techniques. For example, backhand play these days is far stronger than it was when I started out. Players attack from closer to the table, making it harder to keep a rally going. And if I could have had some modern sponges back in the early 1980s, I (and most top players) would have caused some serious havoc.

The interesting question here is what has inflated faster, the rating system or the level of play? It's a tough call. I would say a 2000 player from the 1970s is more skilled than a 2000 player of today, but that doesn't mean he'd beat the 2000 player of today, who makes up for his lesser skill with more modern techniques and better equipment. (For this, I'm not going to worry about details like the larger ball, different serving rules, etc.) To use a simple example, I'm fairly certain that any modern 2300 player could go back in time to the 1940s with a sponge racket and be World Champion. The very best players from the 1940s were more skilled than a modern 2300 player, but the 2300 player would have modern sponge, looping, serves, etc. (To put it another way, at my peak, and with my sponge racket, I could have beaten the best players in the 1940s, but I don't think I was a more skilled player than the best hardbatters of that era. An interesting question is how long it would take the best players of that era to adjust?)

So why has the system inflated? Actually, the system would be a deflationary system except the adjustment factor is too high. The inflation comes from all the points pumped into the system from the adjustment factor, where any player who gains 51 or more points in a tournament is adjusted upwards. (There are no downward adjustments.)

If there were no adjustment factor, the system would be deflationary, and the average rating would be dropping. Why? Because the average player improves after his initial rating. Assuming no adjustment factor, let's say that the average first rating is 1200, and that the average player then improves to 1500. That means the player takes 300 rating points from others in the system. Result? Assuming the same number of players in the system, there are now 300 less points distributed among them, and so the average rating goes down - even though the average level of those players has stayed the same. This should be true of any rating system where there's a direct or indirect exchange of rating points.

Let's assume that the average player instead got worse on average. Then they'd be giving the system points, and so the system would be inflationary

One distinction to make here is the difference between the ratings going down on average while the average level stays the same (a deflationary system), and one that goes down because there is a large influx of new players with lower levels. The addition of all these lower-rated players would lower the average rating, but deservedly so since the average level will have gone down. But among the established players, where the level has stayed the same, the ratings wouldn't change, and so the system isn't really deflationary, though the average rating has dropped. 

"Can You Predict the Odds in a Match from their Ratings?" Revisited

Yesterday I blogged about the above. In it I showed why a rating system will always have more upsets at the lower levels than at the higher levels, even if statistically it appears that the odds should be the same at all levels. Here's an easy way of explaining this, using 100-point upsets as an example.

The most accurate rating system in the world is still going to have more 100-point upsets at the lower levels (and upsets in general) for the simple reason that no matter how accurate the rating is at the time the player last played, players at lower levels are more likely to have major improvements than players at higher levels. In other words, the ratings might be accurate at the time the players played, but they become inaccurate at lower levels more quickly than at higher levels. 

Here's a simple example. Suppose you have a highly accurate rating system that accurately rates 20 players. Ten are accurately rated at 1000, and ten are accurately rated at 2500. The next time these 20 players play, the ten who were rated 1000 are more likely to have improved to 1100 than the ten players rated 2500 are to have improved to 2600, and so it's more likely the 1000-rated players are going to be beating 1100 players than the 2500-rated players beating 2600 players. Therefore, it is more likely that these 1000 rated players are going to pull off 100-point upsets than the 2500 players. 

Here's still another way of looking at it. The odds of a 1000-level player beating an 1100-level player may be the same as the odds of a 2500-level player beating a 2600-level player, i.e. 1 in 6. The problem is that it's more likely that a player listed as 1000 is actually 1100 in level than a player listed as 2500 is actually 2600 in level. 

Playing the Middle

Here's a new coaching article from Samson Dubina, "Are You in a Jam?"

Help Wanted - USATT CEO

Here's the job description and application info for CEO of USA Table Tennis. I read over the listing - that's a LOT of requirements!!! I'll probably blog about this tomorrow.

Review of the Nittaku Poly Ball

My review of the ball in my blog on Monday is now an ITTF featured article. (I did a few minor updates to the blog yesterday when they asked if they could use it.)

Follow Your Favorite Players on Facebook

Here's the article, with links to these player pages.

Lily Yip's China Trip Photo Album

Here's the photo album of Coach Lily Yip in China with Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari.

2014 U.S. Open Foreign Players

Here's a chart of the number of players attending from each country. Here's the U.S. Open Home Page. Here's the where you can see who is entered and who is entered in each event. There are 713 total entries.

Ping Pong Summer Openings

Here's a list of scheduled openings for the movie around the country, including Ocean City; Omaha; San Francisco; Phoenix; Miami; Louisville; Grand Rapids; Athens, GA; Goshen, IN; and Winston-Salem.

Table Tennis Camps for Veterans & Members of the Armed Forces with Disabilities

Here's the listing.

Table Tennis Nemesis

Here's the article about author Geoff Dyer and table tennis.

Promotional Video for Waldner & Appelgren's Club Sparvagen in Sweden

Here's the video (1:57).

Table Table Tennis

Here's the video (11 sec) - they are playing with two tables set a distance apart.

Earthly Table Tennis

This is what I call an out-of-this-world ping-pong table. I want one!!!

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June 5, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching

I had a number of coaching sessions yesterday. (This was after running around picking some of them up at two schools for our afterschool program.) The last two were rather interesting in that I introduced them to playing against long pips. I keep a huge racket case with five different rackets inside. (I've had this racket case since 1988 – Cheng Yinghua gave it to me the year he came to the U.S. as a practice partner/coach for our resident training program in Colorado Springs, where I was at various times manager/director/assistant coach.)

The rackets are: A long pips with 1mm sponge chopping racket; a long pips no-sponge pushblocking racket; a racket with antispin and inverted; one with short pips and inverted; a pips-out penholder racket; and a defensive hardbat. (I also have an offensive hardbat that I myself use in hardbat competitions, which I keep in a separate racket case in my playing bag.) I pull these rackets out as necessary for students to practice against or with.

I pulled the rackets out at the end of the first player's session, and invited the other player who was about to begin to join in. Then I went over the rackets, explaining each one. (The players were Daniel, age nine, about 1450, and Matt, about to turn 13, about 1650.) Neither had ever seen antispin before. They had played against long pips a few times, but didn't really know how to play it. They had seen hardbat and short pips, but hadn't played against them much, if at all. (I found it amazing they hadn't played against short pips, which used to be so common, but that surface has nearly died out. Just about everyone at my club uses inverted. I know of only one player at the club using short pips, the 2200+ pips-out penholder Heather Wang, who practices and plays against our top juniors regularly, so they are ready if they ever play pips-out players.)

I pulled out the long pips racket with no sponge, and let them play against it. They quickly figured out that when they looped, my blocks came back very heavy and often short. They also discovered that if they gave me backspin, my pushes had topspin. After I suggested trying no-spin, Daniel quickly became proficient at giving me a deep dead ball to the deep, wide backhand, and then stepping around and loop killing my dead return.

Since Matt was my last session and I could go late, I let them hit together for a while. They took turns with the rackets, with Daniel especially trying out all the rackets. He likes playing defense, and ended up using the chopping blade with long pips for about ten minutes against Matt's looping. When learning to play these surfaces, it's important not only to practice against them, but also to try using them so you can see first-hand what the strengths and weaknesses are.

One results of all this - Daniel's dad bought him a copy of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Soon they will know all the intracacies of playing long pips and all other tactics as well!

On Monday in the segment about the WETA filming I blogged about how I'd hurt my right knee and shoulder. I was toying with getting someone to do my hitting in my private sessions yesterday, but decided the injuries weren't too bad. I managed to get through the sessions without aggravating them. The knee and shoulder are still bothering me, but I think if I'm careful I'll manage to get by. Just don't let any of my students know or they'll start lobbing (exit shoulder) or going to my wide forehand (exit knee). Shhh!

Tactics for Playing Backhand Dominant Players

Here's the article.

2014 Stiga Trick Shot Showdown

It's back! Here's the info page, and here's info video (1:16). The Grand prize is $4000, a trip to the World Tour Grand Final, and a one-year Stiga sponsorship. Second is $2000, third is $500 in Stiga gear. Deadline is Sept. 5. But let's be clear – the rest of you are all playing for second because nobody, Nobody, NOBODY is going to beat the incredible trick shot I will do this year . . .once I come up with one.

Liu Guoliang Criticizes Reform on World Championships.

Here's the article. I've always had mixed feelings on Chinese domination of our sport. It's true that it takes much of the interest away. However, China has done about all it can to help the rest of the world. It's opened up and allowed its top players to go to other countries as coaches – pretty much anyone who makes a Regional team in China (and they have over 30, with most of them stronger than the USA National Team) can become a lifelong professional coach in some other country. A major reason for the increase in level and depth in U.S. junior play in recent years is the influx of Chinese coaches, who have been opening up full-time training centers all over the country. It sort of reminds me of martial arts back in the 1960s and '70s, when Korean and Chinese coaches opened up studios all over the U.S.

ITTF China World Tour Interview with Ariel Hsing

Here's the video (1:04).

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirteen down, 87 to go!

  • Day 88: Interview with Vladimir Samsonov, Chair of the Athletes Commission

Zhang Jike Multiball

Here's the video (1:55) of him training just before the 2013 Worlds. I don't think I've posted this, but if I have, it's worth watching again.

Table Tennis Physical Training

Here's the video (21 sec). Why aren't you doing this?

News from New York

Here's the article.

Incredible Rally

Here's video (27 sec) of one of the more incredible rallies you'll ever see. It doesn't say who the players are, though the player on the near side might be Samsonov – I can't tell, though it looks like his strokes. (You see his face right at the end of the video, and I'm not sure but I don't think that's him.) (EDIT: several people have verified that the player on the near side is Samsonov, and the one on the far side is Kreanga. [Alberto Prieto was the first to do so.] Kreanga's a bit blurry in the video, but I should have recognized his strokes!)

Ping Pong Summer in Maryland

Tomorrow I'm seeing the 7:30 PM showing of Ping Pong Summer at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. Anyone want to join me? (Email me or comment below.)

Ping Pong Summer Challenge

Here's video (2:58) where members of the cast of the movie are challenged to drink a soda while bouncing a ping pong ball on a paddle. Those challenged were actors Marcello Conte, Myles Massey, Emmi, Shockley, and writer/director Michael Tully.

Octopus Playing Table Tennis

Here's the video (34 sec) – and this might be the funniest table tennis video I've ever seen! It's an extremely well animated giant octopus playing table tennis simultaneously on four tables. You have to see this.

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June 4, 2014

New USATT Ratings Portal

USATT has a new ratings portal. Prepare to be let down.

One of my students gets out of taking PE at school because of his age ranking in Maryland, and instead does extra hours of table tennis training. Last night I had to fill out a form for his school, and needed to look up his current Maryland ranking for his age. I went to the USATT ratings page, and there it was – the new USATT Ratings Portal, created by RailStation, who does our new membership system. For comparison, here is the old USATT Ratings Portal. I don't know if the old one will stay up or not, but there no longer is a link to it from the USATT webpage. I suggest you bookmark it. (If you haven't used it before, here's your chance to have some fun and create your own lists by clicking on the Customizable Members List link near the top on the right.)

Let's do a point-by-point comparison. I'm using Chrome for this, but I checked it out on Explorer as well and seemed to get the same results. Feel free to test it yourself.

In the old version, it showed what date the ratings were through, and listed tournaments before that date that were not yet processed, and even gave the reason why. It also listed the ratings by year so you could click on the year and choose any tournament from that year, with the tournaments listed chronologically, even listing the number of players and matches in each one. The new version has none of this. Want to find the results from a specific tournament? You can't. (My first reaction to this was You've Got to Be Kidding!!!) Want to see what tournaments were processed? You can't.

In the old version, if you wanted to look up someone's rating, you put in their last name, hit enter, and chose the person from the alphabetical list. In the new version, you also put in their last name, but if you hit enter, it doesn't work. You have to manually hit submit. The new version also has a field where you put in state, but if you do, it ignores the name you put in and gives you the entire alphabetical listing for that state rather than just those in the state with that last name. Also, the old version had the name field at the top of the screen. Now, unless you have a large screen, you have to scroll down to it.

The old version had the Customizable Membership Lists, which I use regularly. With that you could create just about any ranking list. You could chose the age (under or over); gender; choose only players who played since a certain date (or before); only those over or below a certain rating; by USATT members only or all past members; and from specific states, USA only, or all. Now you can barely do any of this. In the new version, you cannot narrow down the selection by multiple criteria, and you have to use the ages they give. For juniors, you can only choose under 18 or under 20; for seniors, only in five-year increments. Or you can choose just men or women. You cannot choose these as USA only, or by state. You can't create an age ranking list by state, for example.

If you want a simple ranking list of, say, top men, that was easy in the old version – and you could do it by USATT members or not, USA only, or by state, age, gender, etc. In the new version if you click the handy Top Men Singles Button, you get as the #1 player Thomas Keinath of Germany. The #2 is Ilija Lupulesku, who hasn't played a USATT tournament in four years. Meanwhile, USA Team Member Timothy Wang is left out, presumably because his membership is currently expired – and there's no option to list non-members. If you want a listing of only top USA men or women who are active (say, played in the last year) – good luck. You can't.

The new version has several fields. The first one is Ranking Category, but there is only once choice – USA Table Tennis. Why is there a field when there's only once choice? If there are going to be other choices later, then put the field in later. But what other choices would we want than USA Table Tennis in the USA Table Tennis ratings portal? The next field is Game, and again there is only one choice – Singles-Adult. (Apparently we don't have juniors?)

The next field is the Ranking Group, which I already covered above. But when I actually tried out each field, a number of them didn't work. The Men's, Women's, Under 18, and Under 20 fields wouldn't work, but after I'd tried them several times, the Under 18 and Under 20 suddenly worked – but not the Men's or Women's. One problem is that when you release on a ranking category, you assume the page will bring you that list, but it doesn't unless you also manually hit Submit. (Again, Enter doesn't work.) Also, the next field, Season, caused problems as nothing worked unless you chose a season – but there was only one season to choose, 1994-2014. The problem is that the one choice there kept disappearing, and to get it back I had to choose another category, and then it would reappear.

Below this is the Search for a Member field, which I discussed above. If you want a state listing, you have to use the Select State field, which doesn’t make sense – why would you go to Search for a Member fields to find a state listing? In the old version there was a listing of each state, and you just clicked on the state to get an alphabetical listing. Or you could add criteria for this in the Customizable Members List.

Anyone care to create a list of, say, Under 14 Boys in Maryland, or any other age listing by state? (Preferably only ones who have competed in the last year?) Or just about any other ranking list that involves more than one criteria (and in most cases, even one)? You can't in the new system.

I'm sure the ones who put this together will say they plan to fix these problems. But why would we switch to this when IT'S NOT READY YET??? It's not ready for prime time, and is a massive downgrade from what we had before. It's like going from Tenergy to sandpaper. Didn't anyone from USATT test it before they decided to go live with it?

I strongly urge USATT to go back to the old portal until the new one can match what we had before.

Tips for Effective Receiving

Here's the article.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. I linked to the first nine on Monday (I'd been linking to them earlier as they went up), and here are three more. Twelve down, 88 to go!

  • Day 89: ETTU President Ronald Kramer Enjoys Taking on Challenges
  • Day 90: Interview with Incoming ITTF President Thomas Weikert
  • Day 91: Interview with ITTF President Adham Sharara: “I am motivated to do the best for our sport.”

USOC May Athlete of the Month

Here's where you can vote for Lily Zhang and Tahl Leibovitz as USOC Athlete of the Month. Lily has some tough competition – the voting shows the leaders are a triathlete and someone from track and field. Tahl's up against athletes from triathon and diving who currently lead the men's voting. 

Interviews with Table Tennis Manufacturers

These interviews are mostly with makers of non-inverted surfaces: TSP, Avalox, Dr. Neubauer, Xiom, and Re-Impact.

Around Net Shot

Here's the video – but watch the table off to the left! (The link should take you directly to 3:22 in the video.)

Top Ten Shots

Here's the video (4:50).

Ping Pong Summer Smashes Its Way to Theaters

Here's the article and video (1:34). There's a showing of the movie in my area this Friday at 7:30PM that I'm planning to see. I'll probably blog about it next week.

The Story Behind the Paddles in Ping Pong Summer

Here's the article. Apparently they are using hardbat rackets in the movie, which takes place in 1985. (Note to non-TT historians – the hardbat era mostly ended in the 1950s, and by the 1960s all the top players were pretty much using sponge.)

Susan Sarandon Plays Table Tennis on Today Show

Here's the video (2:06, starts with 30sec commercial), where she plays doubles with actor Ansel Elgort against Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb.

Kids Play Piano at ICC Fundraiser

Here's video (1:52) of kids at the recent ICC club fundraiser showing off their piano skills.  

Facebook v Spotify v Moshi Monsters

Who will win Tech City's Ping Pong Fight Club? Here's the article.

Why I'm Bad at Ping Pong – Illustrated!

Here's a drawing by Lance, a 7-year-old student of mine.

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May 22, 2014

Playing Modes

You can divide players into two types. There are those who are ready for anything, and can do any appropriate shot in their repertoire at any time. This pretty much describes all world-class players, but also many who are nowhere near that level. They are often just considered athletic or coordinated, since they can do just about anything anytime. And there are those who switch from one "mode" to another. I'm one of the latter. What does this mean?

When I play, I'm often in one of the following modes: forehand looping mode, forehand hitting mode, two-winged hitting mode, steady backhand/looping forehand mode, steady blocking mode, or defensive off-table defensive mode (fishing, lobbing, chopping). What this means is that I'm much better at any of these if I focus on that shot, but weaker at other shots. The problem is if I don't go into one of these modes, I'm often weaker at everything, and have no strengths to challenge my opponent.

This doesn't mean a "mode" player can't switch modes in a rally. I can - but it's not so easy, and often the switch is from an offensive mode to off-table defense. But once in a mode in a rally, it's often hard to switch. For example, once they start blocking in a rally many players have difficulty doing anything but block the rest of the rally.

Ideally, you don't want to be a "mode" player. It's much better to be able to effortlessly switch from one shot to another, doing the appropriate shot rather than the one you are looking for (i.e. in the "mode" for).

I've often wondered why I have to resort to these various modes to play my best, knowing it's also a big handicap. I think it was because in my early years I did lots and lots of rote drills, where I'd do some footwork drill where I'd move from A to B to A to B to A to B to A, and so on. If I could go back, I'd tell myself to do more random drills as well, where you don't know where the ball is going each time, and have to just react to the incoming ball with the appropriate shot. This develops the reactions to any shot so you don't have to sort of anticipate what you'll do by going into a "mode." (Random drills will likely be the topic of the next Tip of the Week on Monday.)

A simple version of a random drill is your partner backhand blocks or counters the ball to your backhand or forehand, but randomly, and you keep driving the ball back to his backhand. (You can also do this to his forehand, of course.) When you become comfortable with this, then have him go to all parts of the table, including your middle. There are many variations.

Teaching the Banana Flip

I had an interesting session Wednesday with a student who was learning how to backhand banana flip against a short serve. There's nothing greater in coaching than seeing that look of shock and awe when they realize how easy it is to banana flip even a very low, heavy, short backspin serve! In practice, he picked it up pretty quickly, but he'll need to do it regularly in matches for a while before it becomes consistent - and then he'll be a terror against short serves.

Junior Class at MDTTC

Here's a short video (14 sec) taken at the start of last Sunday's junior class by my assistant coach for the class, Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (Jeffrey added the music.) I especially like the shot of the little kid on the left shadow practicing his forehand near the end! I think I can name all the players, but it's never easy as there are so many of them, and there are more kids off to the left you can't see. According to Google Translate, the caption in Chinese says, "Each week the most troublesome Training has begun. Filling it! Jeffrey! Too cute little mixed race." I think something got lost in the translation. Can anyone give a better translation?

Table Tennis Tips

My newest book is officially published. However, just to be safe, I ordered a copy to check out. (It's print on demand, so I can still make corrections.) According to the post office tracking system, it'll be delivered today. Assuming all is well, I'll "officially" announce it tomorrow, and you can all buy a copy!

ITTF's Developmental Program

Here's an article on the ITTF's Developmental Program.

Ping Pong Summer

The movie was officially released on January 18, but there's been no wide release. But there's a showing in my area on Thursday, June 5, at 7:30 PM, at the Carroll County Arts Council in Mount Airy, Maryland. Any locals want to join me? (I teach a junior class on Thursday nights from 6-7PM, but by great luck the current ten-week session ends the week before, and there's no session scheduled on this date. So I'm off that night after a coaching session that ends at 5PM.) Here's a picture of the theater where it'll be play - it's already advertised in big letters! The movie stars Susan Sarandon, Judah Friedlander, and others. Here's the Ping Pong Summer Facebook page. The IMDB page. The Rotten Tomatoes page. (It's at 83% fresh!) And here's the trailer (2:10).

Yasiel Puig Plays Table Tennis

Here's an article and video (1:42, plus some short gif videos) of LA Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig playing table tennis.

Mattress Table Tennis Commercial

What's the connection between table tennis and selling mattresses? Here's the 30-sec commercial! "Honey, I quit my job to become a professional ping-pong player."

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April 24, 2014

Wednesday Coaching

I had four sessions yesterday (and sort of a fifth), plus I picked up two kids from school to take to our afterschool TT program.

Session #1: This was with a 7-year-old, where we continued to work on the basics. He gets impatient pretty quickly and asks how much time is left about every sixty seconds. (And so my standard answer is, "One minute after the last time you asked.) He's more into videogames than table tennis, alas. However, he is improving. Yesterday he hit 30 backhands in a row, and I told him his backhand was better than Han Xiao's. (Former U.S. Team Member and four-time Men's Doubles Champion and Singles Finalist Han was practicing on the next table.)

Session #2: This was with a 12-year-old. Last week's session didn't go so well - he wasn't playing well and wasn't happy about it - but this time it was a great session as he played about the best he's ever played. He's about 1600 but could be 1800 this year. His forehand keeps getting better, and this time his backhand was pretty good as well. He's in that in between stage where he's both hitting and looping backhands. We played two games at the end, and he shocked me by taking a 6-2 lead the first one. This sort of woke me up, and I came back to win both games. The first step to beating a stronger player is to force them to play their best. The second step is consistently battle with them. The third step is to beat them. He's passed step one.

Session #3: This was with a 9-year old, the one I've blogged about before who likes to lob. He's listed as 1300, but that won't last. He has too much ball control and too strong a backhand. We've been working hard on his forehand, which can be erratic as he likes to loop or hit it about six different ways. One problem is that he's had some shoulder problems, and so there are times where we have to go easy on his forehand drills. Sometimes it's difficult to get him to focus on attacking as he likes lobbing and chopping so much, but yesterday he was more into attacking, and we had a great session. (I believe I've blogged about why we're not turning him into a chopper. He was interested until he discovered he'd probably have to go to long pips, and he wants to stick with inverted so he can lob. I toyed with turning him into an inverted chopper, but we discussed it and he decided against it.)

Session #4: This was with an 11-year-old who's a relative beginner who's attended some of my junior classes. This was his second private session. He's just started looping, and not only does it pretty well in multiball, but did it surprisingly well in drills where he serves backspin, I push, and he loops. It was the follow-up shot against my block - smashing - where he had problems. Soon he'll start looping the second ball as well. We also worked hard on serving, where he'd been unable to get spin, but we had a breakthrough (using the soccer-colored balls so he can see the spin better) and he began producing decent sidespin and backspin. Next step is to learn to serve them lower while increasing the spin even more. He has a table at home and is going to practice this on his own.

Sort-of-Session #5: This was basically a long discussion on what was needed for one of our up-and-coming juniors to become a top player over the next couple of years. New focus (for this player - everyone is different) will be on physical training, serve, receive, and becoming a student of the game. (Much of being a student of the game means studying and learning from videos of yourself, of top players, and of potential rivals.)

USATT Chairman's Blog: CEO Update

Here's the blog entry, and see my comment below (and follow up comments). As you can see, I'm not happy with my posting about this being so trivialized.

Ariel Hsing Will Play the 2014 Super League in China

Here's the article in Chinese (including a picture of her posing with Bill Gates and Warren Buffett), and here's another one, also in Chinese. Here's a summary in English of both by Bruce Liu, which I'm pasting below:

  • Ariel is referred as Jeremy Lin in Table Tennis in one the article titles.
  • Ariel will join the Jinhua Bank Team, the only women's team in the Super League in Zhejiang Province.
  • There is a possibility to have one of the home court contests in the US someday, according to the club owner.
  • Playing to gain experience, not for money.
  • Got admissions from both Yale and Princeton. She chose Princeton because there is no table tennis team in Yale.
  • Her match vs Li XiaoXia in 2012 London Olympics.
  • Friendships with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates.
  • Won't play in the season opening in May 18 due to school but will probably join the team at the end of May.
  • Her playing position will be determined later. She may play singles or doubles.

Jun Mizutani Admits Better Mental Strength

Here's the article.

Wang Hao Doesn't Want His Son to Be in Table Tennis

Here's the article. One interesting thing - it says Nan Li (daughter of Li Zhenshi and Zhang Li) "serves as a secretary of the US Table Tennis Association," which I don't believe is true. She and her parents are professional coaches at the World Champions Club in San Jose, CA.

Poly Ball Test Results

Here's a list of test results on the diameter and weight of the new Doublefish poly ball, put together by Larry Thoman, General Manager for Newgy Table Tennis and former long-time chair of the USATT Tournament Committee.

Charlie Disney Led as Landlord and Table-Tennis Champ

Here's the obit. As noted in my blog on April 17 (with words from Disney's long-time business partner Don Larson), the long-time table tennis organizer and entrepreneur passed away last week.  

World Team Championships

Here's the promo video (1:03) for the upcoming Worlds in Tokyo, April 28 - May 5.

The Incredible History of Olympic Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:35). I don't think I've ever posted this.

Table Tennis Spin Wheel

Here's the video (4:01) of this training tool for players learning to loop. I had a smaller, cheaper version of this, but it broke. I was tempted to buy one and did some searching, and found you can buy one from Tees Sports - but cost is £67.99, or about $114, a bit much.

Trailer for Ping Pong Summer

Here it is (2:10), just came out! Looks like a great movie. (I put this in yesterday's blog late, so I'm putting it up again for those who missed it.)

Happy Birthday Hannah!

Here's another TT birthday cake, this time for Hannah Ricci Tayad - and yes, I now officially put in pictures of all birthday cakes when birthdays come up! (Sorry, only current ones, not past ones.)

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April 23, 2014

Beginning/Intermediate Class, Racket Surfaces, and Herb Horton

In the class on Monday night I introduced the class to non-inverted surfaces by bringing out the huge racket case where I keep six rackets: hardbat; short pips/inverted; pips-out penhold; anti/inverted; long pips no sponge/inverted (for blocking); and long pips thin sponge/inverted (for chopping). My plan was to talk about the characteristics of each for perhaps 15 minutes, and then introduce them to doubles. However, there was so much interest that, after a brief discussion and unanimous vote, we instead adjourned to the tables so they could all experiment playing with and against the various surfaces. (This is an adult class, with most of them ranging from about 25 to 60, plus one 13-year-old. Playing level ranges from about 800 to 1500.) 

The long pips without sponge was the biggest hit as the players lined up to play me as I stood at the table and just blocked everything back, covering the whole table with my backhand, "chicken wing" style. At the start they all had difficulty with my "heavy" backspin serves with the long pips, which they all popped up since there was actually no spin. Similarly, when they served backspin and I pushed it back vigorously, they all went off the end, thinking there was backspin when it was light topspin. They found this amazing, but all of them eventually learned to react properly. However, once we got into a rally and they gave me a topspin, and I blocked it back, over and over they went into the net. They just couldn't react to the backspin, which they didn't see coming since they had never seen a block with heavy backspin. 

Another player spent much of the time using the pips-out shakehands blade. These days it's practically a no-no for a coach to teach a kid to use short pips. After all, how many short pips players are there at the world-class level? (Off hand, I can't think of a single man in the top 100 with short pips - readers, let me know if I'm correct. I think there are a few women.) However, for recreational play short pips is still a good choice. Remember, USA's David Zhuang held on to his 2700 level well into his 40s, and most players aren't looking anywhere near that high. I do miss the variety of the past, where we'd see more short pips as well as antispin. 

If you have trouble playing against any of these surfaces, one of the best ways to learn to play them is to experiment using them yourself. That way you learn first-hand what it's like using them, and what works and doesn't work against them.

Personally, I think the most fun table tennis in the world is to put antispin on both sides of your racket, and just chop everything back. The anti with its slick surface makes it easy to return just about anything, but it also is easy for the opponent to keep attacking, since the anti doesn't really return much of the spin, unlike long pips. (There are some new antispins that are nearly spinless that play like long pips, but I'm talking about "normal" antispin.) I used to have an all-antispin racket, but at some point it disappeared - I think another anti fan "borrowed" it. 

I also find it great fun playing against an anti chopper. I started playing in 1976, and the first 2000+ player I ever played was Herb Horton, who chopped with anti on both sides. I'd just started playing (I was 16), and thought I was pretty good. He was very nice to play me, but also "respected" me by playing his best as he won 21-1, 21-0, 21-2! He continued to play me regularly as I improved, and he's a primary reason I developed a strong forehand. So kudos to him for helping out this beginner! It was a little over a year later, as I approached the 1700 level, that he became the first 2000+ player I ever beat in a tournament - and it only happened because he'd played me so much I was used to his anti chopping. I'm sure he wasn't happy about losing that match, but we had so many great matches that hopefully he enjoyed those more than the cost of his willing to play me so much. Another result of all those matches with Herb was that I became better against choppers than any other style, and I went about 20 years without losing to a chopper under 2500 while beating five over 2400. Herb continued to play, and was a regular at the Maryland Table Tennis Center which I opened (along with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang) in 1992. Around the mid-1990s, I think in his mid-70s, he died of a heart attack while playing at the club. 

2014 U.S. Open Blog - It's a Roller Coaster Ride

Here's a new blog entry on the U.S. Open by co-chairs Dell & Connie Sweeris.

USATT Staff Changes

It's been nearly a month since the news item that CEO Mike Cavanaugh and Membership Director Joyce Grooms would be leaving USATT. Three changes to their staff directory went up yesterday. First, Doru Gheorghe, who was listed before as (I think) Technical Director and USA Women's Coach, is now listed as Interim CEO & Chief Operating Officer. Second, Andy Horn, who I think was listed as Ratings Director (and something else?) is now listed with Joyce's old title, Membership Director. And third, there's a new person, Tiffany Oldland, listed as Administrative Assistant/Ratings. Welcome to USATT, Tiffany!

Trailer for Ping Pong Summer

Here it is (2:10), just came out! Looks like a great movie. 

Golf Pros Take on Pong Pros in China

Here's the article, pictures, and video (1:54) from pga.com. Reigning PGA Champion Jason Dufner and former world #5 Ian Poulter take on table tennis legends Jan-Ove Waldner (1989 & 1997 World Men's Singles Champion from Sweden), Jorgen Persson (1991 World Men's Singles Champion from Sweden), and Jiang Jialiang (1985 & 1987 World Men's Singles Champion from China). Note that the table tennis players use golf clubs as rackets!

School Hit by Ferry Disaster Wins National Table Tennis Title

Here's the article from the Wall Street Journal. Weird coincidence.

College Ping Pong Lures Chinese Students

Here's the article from China Daily.

Coach Calls for Table Tennis League in India

Here's the article from the Times of India.

Table Tennis Federation of India Hires North Korean Coaches to Train Youngsters

Here's the article from NDTV Sports.

Highlights of Steffen Mengel's Upset over Wang Hao

Here's the video (7:20) as Mengel (then world #102, now #49) defeats Wang (then world #5, now #6, former #1) in the quarterfinals.

Aussie Paralympian Makes Able-Bodied Team

Here's the article and video (1:32) about Melissa Tapper. 

Happy Birthday Steven!

Here's a Mario Brother ping pong cake.

Animals Playing Pong

Here's the picture - there's a swordfish, dolphin, alligator (or is that a crocodile?), killer whale, shark, turtle, and octopus. I think I once posted a different picture of these same seven ping-pong playing animals, but it's been a while.

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February 10, 2014

Tip of the Week

Never Give a Server What He's Looking For.

Developing Good Technique

Table tennis clubs are full of players with poor technique. And there's nothing wrong with this, if the player doesn't care, or at least doesn't put a high priority on it. There are also lots of good players with poor techniques, though few of them get beyond good and become very good. That's subjective, of course; I can name a number of players who have reached 2200 and 2300 levels despite poor technique. The key is they developed a game around that poor technique, and didn't get good because of the bad technique, but in spite of it.

Here's comes the part a lot don't realize, and it's a three-parter.

1) You will not reach your potential unless you develop good technique. This doesn't mean everyone plays with exactly the same technique. There are some techniques where there's clearly a "best" way, and there are others where there are multiple options. Often it depends on the rest of the player's game. Some players have developed such unorthodox games that what is proper technique for others might not be proper technique for them. But that's a rarity. Almost always, to reach your potential, you need to develop good technique.

2) Anyone can develop good technique. I don't care how poor your current technique is, you can fix it, and have good technique. This doesn't mean you'll have great technique - that's almost impossible once you've developed bad habits. But you don't need perfect technique in this sport (except in most cases at the highest levels), and good technique will take you pretty far.

3) It will take lots of time and effort to develop good technique if you currently have bad technique. You'll also lose to a lot of players if you continue to compete while changing your technique. (I usually advise against that.) It takes a lot of saturation training to fix bad technique, and you'll probably need a coach - which usually costs money. But it's a one-time fix, because once it's fixed, it's fixed for a lifetime, as long as you continue to play regularly.

So, do you have bad technique? It's your choice whether to keep it that way, or make it a goal to fix that technique once and for all.

Chinese Team Squad Trials Ranking and Videos

Here's a short article with the final ranking of the Chinese Team Squad (men and women), with links to numerous videos of them in action. 

Zhang Jike on the New Plastic Balls

Here's the article, where he says the speed dropped some. Unfortunately, the article doesn't say which of the new balls they were using. There are at least three ITTF approved plastic balls. Leaving that out sort of makes the article somewhat less useful, and I hesitated in including it here.

USATT Criteria and Procedures for Entering US Athletes in International Competitions

Here's the article from USATT.

NCTTA Newsletter

Here's the Feb. 2014 National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter.

Ping Pong Summer

Here's video (2:45) of a preview of the coming-of-age comedy coming this summer, starring Susan Sarandon and a break dancing, rapping and ping-pong playing 13-year-old.

European Cup Highlights

Here's video (6:52, with time between points removed) of Denmark's Michael Maze's (world #28, but formerly #8) win over Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #6) in the semifinals of the European Cup this past weekend. (Ovtcharov defeated teammate Timo Boll, world #8, in the semifinals - they were the top two seeds, so presumably one of them was upset in preliminaries?) Here's video of the other semifinals (5:09) where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #15) defeats France's Adrien Mattenet (world #52). And here's video of the final (4:54) where Freitas defeats Maze.

Unreal Counterlooping Rally - Ovtcharov vs. Boll

Here's video of the rally (48 sec, includes replays), which took place at the 2014 Europe Cup this past weekend.

Wheelchair Player Cindy Ranii

Here's the article from the San Jose Mercury News, "She may be in a wheelchair, but Cindy Ranii is a ping-pong powerhouse."

Shopping Mall Exhibition

Here's video (40 sec) of an exhibition in a shopping mall, with lots of lobbing and changing of sides during rallies.

Holy TT Racket

Here's the racket I lend out to my opponents. 

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December 6, 2013

Seeing Doctor

I'm one of those people who hates seeing doctors. But alas, my arm not only didn't heal during the week I had off playing at the Teams, it somehow got worse. So I finally made an appointment with an orthopedist/sports medicine doctor, for 1PM today. I'll report on this on Monday. I'm pretty sure I have tendinitis.

I'm also considering possible scenarios if I can't do any serious playing for a while, which mostly affects private coaching. I already do a number of group coaching sessions, but I have a number of private students as well. One scenario is I group them in two-hour segments, and bring in one of our practice partners for the middle hour - the second half of the first one-hour session, the first half hour of the second one-hour session. Then I focus on multiball and serve & receive in my thirty minutes, and just coach (while practice partner does the playing) in the other thirty minutes. In an ideal world, I'd have the practice partner do all the hitting the entire hour, but I'd have to pay him for it. This 50-50 arrangements lowers that cost 50%, and should be workable as I can still feed multiball and do most serve & receive drills as long as we don't play out the point.

Jorg Rosskopf and Me

At the about.com forum, Jim Butler quotes German coach and former star Jorg Rosskopf as saying, "When I play with the German Team I only practice playing the first ball against them.  After this I just let the ball go." This was because he's older and so not as fast as before, and so can't rally as fast as he used to. This is exactly what I sometimes do with the top juniors at my club. I don't play at the level I used to, but my serve and receive is still very strong, and so often I let them practice against just that, and don't continue the rally.

Returning Short Serves (and Playing Penholders)

Tuesday's USATT Tip of the Day was "Returning Serves Short." This was one of the 171 tips I wrote for USATT back in 1999-2003. Nearly all of them are still pertinent, as is this one, but the opening line says, "At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push..."  While it is still important to learn the short push if you want to reach a very high level, and you will be handicapping yourself at even a moderately high level if you don't develop it, it is no longer the "most common return of a short serve." In the last ten years we've seen the rise of the backhand banana flip, and that is now the most common return of a short serve. 

The best players all have excellent short pushes, but these days more and more top players look to return many or most short serves by attacking with their backhands with a banana flip.

When I coach high-level players, much of the receive tactics against short serves is the proportion of flipping, pushing short, and pushing long. Against some players it's best to mostly push long to the backhand over and over, a nice safe return if they can't attack it effectively. Against others you have to find ways to stop their attack, or to take the attack, and that's where pushing short and flipping come in. Most often a player should choose two of these three returns as the main two, and the third as an occasional variation. 

At lower levels it's all about consistency and placement. It's also about reading the serve as many players at the beginning/intermediate levels still find themselves pushing topspin serves. 

And yet, the foundation of a good receive is good fundamentals, i.e. good technique and footwork. If you have those, then it gets a lot easier. Many players think they are misreading the spin when they push topspin serves high or off the end, but often they have actually read the spin, but don't have confidence in driving or flipping the ball, whether forehand or backhand, and so fall back on "safe" pushing - which, against a topspin serve, isn't so safe.

So develop those fundamentals and they'll greatly help your receive. 

NOTE - today's Tip of the Day, "General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking," also has one thing I might want to expand on now. Against penholders, it says, "They are less vulnerable in the middle, but still have to choose between forehand and backhand, and so are still weak there. Most penholders tend to be weak on one corner." This was aimed more at conventional penholders, but since that time we've seen the rise of the reverse penhold backhand, which plays pretty much like a shakehander, and is typically as strong in the corners and weak in the middle as a shakehander.

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Wednesday, when I left for the North American Teams. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Dec 05, 2013 General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking
Key places to land the ball to win your next match!

Dec 04, 2013 Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?
The situation: Your best shot is missing, and you are losing because of this. Should you keep using it, or abandon it?

Dec 03, 2013 Returning Serves Short
At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push, even against a sidespin serve. At the lower levels, most players just push them deep, giving opponents the chance to loop.

Dec 02, 2013 Playing Against Seemiller Style Players
No two players play alike, and this applies to those with the Seemiller grip as well.

Dec 01, 2013 Tournament Experience vs. Practice
Many players practice for many months, not playing in any tournaments until they feel they are completely ready. They then enter a tournament … and flop.

Nov 30, 2013 Power Player Control Shots
There’s nothing an experienced and tactical player likes better than facing a player with big shots but little else. On the other hand, there’s little more scary than an opponent with big shots and ball control to set the big shots up and withstand opponent’s attacks.

Nov 29, 2013 In a Lopsided Match, What Should the Higher-Rated Player Do?
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 28, 2013 Increase Forearm Snap to Increase Smashing Speed
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 27, 2013 Flat Flip vs. Topspin Flip
Suppose you face an opponent who serves short, and loops your long returns, even if you flip them. 

Nominations for USATT Coaches of the Year

Here's the notice from USATT.

What is the Effect of Sponge Thickness in Table Tennis Rubber?

Here's a series of answers to this question by top coaches, including Stellan Bengtsson, Massimo Constantini, Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Tahl Leibovitz, Scott Lurty, and Sara Fu.

ITTF Monthly Podcast

Here's the new video (12:24), covering November.

Kanak Jha Interview

Here's the article and video interview (2:28) with USA's Kanak Jha at the World Junior Championships.

Erica Wu Interview

Here's the article and video interview (1:45) with USA's Erica Wu at the World Junior Championships. She had just upset Laura Pfefer of France.

Liu Shiwen is Technically Flawed

Here's the article.

"Ping Pong Summer" to Premiere at Sundance

Here's the article. The movie stars Susan Sarandon as well as Judah Friedlander.

Mike Mezyan's Newest Table Tennis Artwork

Here's "Be Bruce," as in Bruce Lee. It's a "…huge 8 foot by 11 foot wall mural at the new Bruce Lee lounge in Chicago. (Here are other table tennis artworks by Mike.)

More of Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Yesterday I posted a short video of basketball star Yao Ming playing table tennis with the Chinese National Team in China. Here's a better and longer video (4:23).

Table Tennis Jokes

Here's a collection!

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November 5, 2012

Tip of the Week

Developing Your Forehand Smash. (Note - this is a greatly expanded version from a blog entry from Oct. 19, 2012.)

USATT's Newsletter Blog and a Possible New USATT Partnership with Clubs

My blog on Friday about the USATT's Newsletter and ways USATT could promote themselves and non-USATT table tennis programs around the country, was by far my most read blog ever, with 1690 reads (so far), versus 605 for the day before. It also led to some helpful email exchanges among USATT officials and myself, leading to a possible new emphasis on promoting leagues and junior programs around the U.S. with the newsletter and web page. The last paragraph of the blog was the key part, so I'll reprint it here:

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?

I think the key is that new players who come to the USATT home page or receive the newsletter have no idea there are leagues and junior programs out there, often right in their backyards. USATT doesn't have the resources to set up and run these programs, but others are already doing them - so a natural partnership is practically slapping us in the face, where USATT promotes these programs on their highly-trafficked web page, and these programs bring in USATT members. (In my emails, I explicitly pointed out I have a conflict of interest in this, since I run junior programs at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which also has leagues.)

Developing Your Deep Serves

Here's an article "Your Deep Serves Should be a Weapon" by Olympian and three-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Jim Butler. This is a must read for anyone who wants to turn their serves - long or short - into a weapon. Jim not only talks about how to make the long serve effective, but how it makes your short serves effective. (I find it almost astonishing how his thinking on this topic parallels my own - and he has the "moral" authority of someone who's beaten many of the top players in the world - including Waldner - with these serving tactics.) Here's my own article on the topic, "Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves," the Tip of the Week on Oct. 22, 2012.

World Cadet Challenge

The World Cadet Challenge in Guam ended yesterday. Here's the ITTF page where you can get full results, articles, and pictures, and see how the players from your country did. (Here's another page that has lots of pictures from the event.) And here's a highlights video (2:52) that features USA Cadets Jonathan Ou and Allen Wang.

Biba

Here's a video feature (1:35) of USA's table tennis star and model Biba. When you only need one name to be known, you're good!!!

That is Table Tennis

Here's a new table tennis highlights video (14:54) from ttGermany. The second point shown (between Kalinikos Kreanga and Tokic Bojan) might be the best counterlooping point of the year.

"Ping Pong Summer"

The filming in Ocean City for the upcoming movie "Ping Pong Summer" (starring Spin NY owner Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah, Robert Longstreet, Amy Sedaris, and of course the great Judah Friedlander - who I've coached several times!) just finished. Here's an article on it, and here's the IMDB page. "The story is a coming-of-age tale involving one boy's love of hip-hop and ping pong during a summer in Ocean City in the 1980's."

I'm Running for President of the United States

Yes, I, Larry Hodges, am throwing my paddle into the ring. Here is my platform where I answer the hard questions facing our illustrious nation. I'm ready to debate Obama and Romney anytime (today) and anywhere (within driving distance of my house in Maryland) - or we could just settle it, mano-a-mano, on the table.

  1. Foreign Affairs. We're too soft on the Chinese. Next time I see Zhang Jike I will punch him in the nose. This will show the world we're serious about these foreign affairs thingies and gain us respect so other countries will cower in fear and do our bidding.
  2. Immigration. If your name is Wang, come on in. (Penhold or shakehand?) If your name is Rodriquez, sorry.
  3. Economy. I will require all Americans to play table tennis for one hour every day. With 300 million people regularly buying exorbitantly priced table tennis sponge, rackets, shoes, and other table tennis necessities, it will spur the economy.
  4. Health Care. Who needs it when everyone's getting in such great shape from an hour of ping-pong every day?
  5. Energy Independence. I've tried oil, coal, even radium, and all it did was get my paddle all gooey, dusty, and gave me cancer. We'll just have to rely on Japan for our tenergy needs.
  6. Taxes. I will neither raise nor lower taxes. I believe taxes should stay right where they are, at street level, ready to transport Americans from airports and hotels to tournament playing halls every weekend. You should tip your hats to these hard-working Americans, and tip them well.
  7. Bi-partisanship. I am willing to work across the aisle with anyone, except those stupid pen holders who can't shake hands without jabbing you with their pen. Pen holders should be banned; we have things called word processors.
  8. Vice President. I want a vice president who is level-headed, thoughtful, and without ego. Marty Reisman is my choice. (We'll ignore for now that his name is an anagram for "Misery Mantra," "Remain Smarty," "Martyr is Mean," and "My Rat Seminar.")
  9. Service. I have nothing but praise for the service, whether it be pendulum, tomahawk, or backhand. The service is our front-line defense, and I have nothing but contempt for those who receive the service aggressively rather than give it the respect it deserves.
  10. Hard bat. I am very much in favor of the hard bat movement. In fact, I keep a toy plastic bat on my desk. Go ahead and wrap your knuckle against it, it's hard as rock.
  11. Core Values. Unlike some candidates, I do not flip based on the situation just to score political points. I pledge to you that I will only push against short balls. Let my opponents be the flippers we all despise.
  12. National Debt. We've been building up a national debt for many years, while China, Japan, Sweden, Hungary, and other countries have had an imbalance with us. I figure we should sweep the next ten World Championships, and we'll call it even.
  13. Self-sufficiency. There's an old saying, "Give someone a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime." It's true - some of the best fishers play in the European leagues, and with their topspin defense, make hordes of money. They'll never go hungry.
  14. Capitalism or Socialism? Yes.
  15. Table Tennis or Ping-Pong? Yes.
  16. Size of Government. I want government to keep their dirty hands off our social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and off our streets and out of our schools and libraries. Why can't they just build ping-pong centers and leave us alone?

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September 13, 2012

Forehand Foibles:
Wrist Flopping, "Smashing Like a Girl," and Returning to Ready Position

In my blog yesterday, I wrote about an article in the Washington Post entitled "You Throw Like a Girl," and wrote about how this applies to table tennis. Last night was a perfect case.

I was coaching an 11-year-old girl who had taken ten classes in my beginning junior class, and was now taking her second private lesson. She already has a pretty steady forehand and backhand, and can hit 50-100 in a row. However, she had two problems on the forehand. The first was a tendency to flop her wrist back as she stroked the ball, leading to a lack of control, with the ball often spraying out to the right. We spent some time on that, and she's mostly fixed up that problem. (I had her keep the wrist back and firm, and focus on driving the racket tip through the ball instead of letting it hang back.) I assigned her to shadow-stroke the shot correctly 50 times each day. That problem is, or will be, fixed.

The second problem was right out of the Post article. When we went to smashing, she couldn't hit the ball hard because, to quote the article, "Her shoulders and hips rotate at the same time." This meant she didn't have much acceleration in her forward swing, which should get the arm moving, and so wasn't able to snap her forearm into the ball much either. Unlike the wrist flopping back problem, which we fixed immediately (and practice will make it a habit), this will take some time as she gradually learns to rotate properly into the shot for power. I have no doubt she'll develop enough power to put the ball through most players, but it'll be interesting to watch as it develops.

Another player I coached last night had a different forehand problem - he had great difficulty recovering from a smash so he could hit the next one if the ball came back. This was because he followed through off-balance, with his head and whole body moving too much forward. We spent some time focusing on rotating more in circle, as if there were a rod through the head and you rotate around it. By doing this, you finish the stroke more balanced, and can return to ready position almost instantly, even after a powerful smash. I demonstrated how to hit at full power and be back at the ready position before the ball even hits the far side of the table.

Extras for Ping Pong Summer

Here's an article about all the extras that came out for parts in the upcoming Susan Sarandon movie Ping Pong Summer, coming out next summer. According to the article, "The film is set in Ocean City in summer 1985, and revolves around a boy on vacation with his family. Ping-pong and hip-hop music are said to figure prominently in the script." Here's the IMDB.com entry, which describes the movie as "A family vacation during the summer of 1985 changes everything for a teenage boy obsessed with ping pong."

Americans Are Better Than Europeans at Table Tennis

At least that's what English golf star Lee Westwood (world #4, and #1 for much of 2010 and 2011) said in this article about the players getting together after the Ryder Cup. ''Unfortunately, the Americans are slightly better than us at table tennis. I think the Europeans have the edge on the drinking.''

Great Points from the Worlds

Here are the best points from the 2012 World Championships (10:57). I don't think I posted this one before.

Ping-Pong Action Figures!

Here they are! Yes, you can order yours online. You can also order them at here at Amazon.com, which says there are only 9 left. (Make that 8 - I just ordered a set!)

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