Zhuang Zedong

March 5, 2013

Table Tennis Online

As ITTF Coach John Olsen recently pointed out to me, we live in the golden age of online table tennis. You can watch just about any major table tennis match online these days, both live and afterwards. Over the last few days (and below) I've given links for many of the major matches taking place at the Chinese World Team Trials. During major USA Table Tennis events (Nationals, Open, Team Trials), you can watch the matches live as well. And you can go to youtube and find just about anything - just put in "Table Tennis" and anything else you are looking for. Over the weekend John watched the live streaming of the Swedish Nationals, the English Championships, and the Norwegian Championships. (Note that some of the links here that gave the live streaming still have the videos online.)

The availability of videos of the top players is one of the biggest advantages this generation of players has over past ones - along with more coaches and better sponge. On the other hand, there's also a disadvantage to the easy availability of these videos - players tend to watch a video and then move on to the next, and so don't really learn all that's going on. In the old days, there were fewer videos around, and so players would watch the same ones over and Over and OVER - and would pretty much memorize every point, not to mention really learning what the players did from sheer viewing repetition. I remember back in the late 1970s (when I was learning to play) having trouble with pips-out penholders. Then I got a copy of the famous Stellan Bengtsson vs. Mitsuro Kohno tape from the quarterfinals of the 1977 Worlds, and watched it endlessly, and my level against that style went up dramatically. (Pips-out penholder Kohno won, 19 in the fifth, in what many considered the "real" Men's Singles final as it was likely the best match of the tournament. Kohno went on to win the title.)  

Jim Butler on Serves

Here are some nice quotes from four-time U.S. Men's Champion Jim Butler on serving, which he posted yesterday on the about.com table tennis forum. He used to have the best serves in the country, and now, at age 42, he's made a comeback - and he may once again have the best serves in the country.

"I've decided to put a lot of time into practicing my serves.  Improvement there takes the least physical energy.  I have the motion and understanding already down.  To have great serves, they must be practiced daily in order to make them a weapon."

"I'm working on the forehand pendulum right now.  I want to have a good chop and topspin mix like that young Chinese kid in Westchester.  His serves destroyed me, and I'd like to have those.  Easiest way to be competitive in Table Tennis is to have dominating serves."

The Amazing Tomahawk Serve of Kenta Matsudaira

Here's the video (1:09). Note how he can break it both ways - and see the side-by-side slow motion of the two versions. The real question for all you serious table tennis players: Why haven't you developed equally good serves? It's just a matter of technique and practice! If you don't have the technique, see a coach or watch videos and learn. (You don't need to match Kenta's serves - there are many other good serving techniques.) If you don't practice . . . well, then you'll never have the serve of Kenta Matsudaira, and you'll never be as good as you could have been. (This type of serve has been around for a long time. Dean Doyle specialized in this serve when he made the U.S. Pan Am Team over 30 years ago.)

Remembering Zhuang Zedong and Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's the article.

ITTF President Election

ITTF President Adham Sharara is running for re-election - but he's unopposed so far. The election will take place during the upcoming World Championships in Paris, May 13-20, 2013.

Hunter Pence and Ping-Pong

Here's an article about how the Hunter Pence, an outfielder with the LA Dodgers, builds confidence with ping-pong.

The Terminator vs. Scottie

Here's a picture of Arnold Schwarzenegger and table tennis exhibition star Scott Preiss just after their game ended in a "3-3 tie" at the Arnold Sports Classic in Columbus, OH this past week.

Chinese World Team Trials

Here are some nice matches, with time between points removed so it's non-stop action.

Swedish Men's Singles Final

Here's the video (6:53, with time between points removed) as Fabian Akerström upsets Jens Lundquist in the final. Akerström plays with long pips on the backhand - but he's so forehand aggressive it's sometimes difficult to notice.

More TT Videotapes

Here's a Facebook page devoted to collecting table tennis videos.

The Dirty Dozen Throwdown

It's on, this Friday at 9PM: Gideon "The Pigeon" Teitel (17-year-old 150-lb lobber) vs. Sam "the Rock" Rockwell (13-year-old 81-lb attacker). Between them they've had three and a half years of intense training, all leading to this moment.

Monsters University

Monsters University, the upcoming sequel to Monsters Inc. from 2001, will be the greatest movie of all time. How do we know? Here's an animated scene from the movie showing the characters playing table tennis!

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September 20, 2012

Preparing for Tournament This Weekend

When I say this, I mean both for my students and for myself.

Students: Yesterday I had one-hour coaching sessions with two junior players who are about to play in their first USATT tournament. (I had a third session with another who might play in our October tournament.) How does one prepare someone for their first tournament? First off, I direct them to this article I wrote a while back, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your First Table Tennis Tournament … But Didn’t Know Where to Ask!"

But you are probably more interested in how to prepare a player to play well? Here's my article "Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success." In the case of these two students, we did about 30 minutes of regular drills (footwork, steady stroking drills, multiball), and then went to game-type situations. For example, I'd rally steady into the student's backhand, and he'd pick a shot to either step around and smash, or hit his backhand down the line. As soon as he did one of these it was free play. Then we got to even more game-type drills, such as straight serve and attack (he serves backspin, I push it back, he loops, then free play). We did a lot of pushing and loop against push drills. I also had them do a lot of serve practice, always the most under-practiced aspect of a game, especially just before a tournament.

We also talked a bit about tactics, stressing keep it simple - use serve and receive to get their strengths into play and avoid the opponent's strengths while going after their weaknesses. You'll note I didn't emphasize guarding their own weaknesses. That's something more experienced players should do, but at this stage I don't want to enforce in their minds that they have weaknesses they should be guarding since we want those weaknesses to become strengths. The other three aspects are enough for now, and if you get your strengths into play, then you are not using your weaknesses so much.

Me: I'm getting ready to run the tournament with a new software, Omnipong. So far I've set up the tournament (setting all the events, how they should be run, etc.), inputted entries received (47 so far, expecting a bunch more today), and got the new printer to work with it (don't ask, but thanks to John Olsen who figured out that I was trying to print using a printer driver for a 32-bit computer but I had a 64-bit computer . . . or something like that). Today I'm going to test other aspects of the software, such as setting up draws, printing them out, and printing match slips. I've already done some of this, but want to make sure everything's set.

Two Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? Or are you part of the 47% who are dependent on USATT to protect their ratings, who believe that they would be victims if they entered the tournament, who believe that they are entitled to their high rating without defending it . . . people who do not compete? (Now if I could only charge all of you $50,000 each for reading this.)

Note that official deadline is 5PM today. But I'll take entries until I do the draws sometime on Friday. Send your entry in NOW!!!

Zhuang Zedong Battling Cancer

Here's an article about Zhuang Zedong (often called Chuang Tsetung, the three-time World Men's Singles Champion from 1961-65, often called the greatest player ever, who initiated the events that led to Ping-Pong Diplomacy) and his battle with cancer and his other passion, calligraphy.

Ping-Pong Balls in Space!

Here's the article. That's one small roll for a ball, one giant spin for ballkind.

Now That's a Forehand!!!

Like father, like son - here's little Nick Schlager showing incredible form as dad Werner (2003 World Men's Singles Champion) looks on in amazement. And the form looks strikingly like Daddy's.

My Big Forehand

I have a big forehand too, just like little Nick above. Really, it's true. Here's the picture to prove it.


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