Howard Tong

September 27, 2012

Last-Minute Looping: Learning to Loop

Yesterday I taught an 11-year-old girl to forehand loop. She'd attended ten junior group sessions I'd taught, and this was I think her fourth private session. Her forehand and backhand drives are getting pretty steady, and of course we'll continue to work on them to make them "perfect."  

Sometimes it's good to wait longer to really ingrain the forehand and backhand drives before starting them on looping, but I'm a believer in getting to looping (at least against backspin) as soon as possible. Otherwise, they tend to become pusher/blockers (since they can't attack backspin), their loops aren't as natural (since they ingrain drive strokes early on rather than topspin strokes), and they don't take advantage of a characteristic that gives them the advantage at that age - they are shorter, and so looping is a bit more natural since they can let the ball drop down to their level. Plus, it gives them something to get excited about when they begin doing shots that match what the best players in the club are doing, and that excitement leads to more focus and determination, which leads to faster improvement.

I started her on looping in the last ten minutes of the session, feeding backspin with multiball. At first she had difficulty. Sometimes she wouldn't bring her racket down enough, or she wouldn't sweep up enough and would instead start up, then switch to a more forward-driving stroke. The result was flat strokes with little topspin. The scary part here is that since I'm giving her the same spin over and over, it's pretty easy to drive the ball with light topspin, and to believe that it's a good shot. (And it would have - in the hardbat era.) So I have to explain how a drive against backspin without great topspin isn't that good and will rarely be as consistent or effective in a match situation as looping. She understood, and kept trying.

When the time for the session came to an end, she was so close, and had managed to make two shots that I would charitably describe as loops, but most of the others were still just topspin drives. I went to her side and said let's just shadow practice the shot for two minutes so she can get the feel for the stroke, so she could shadow practice on her own all week and be ready next time. (We'd been doing shadow stroking, but usually for 10-20 seconds at a time at most.) We did so, and her stroke looked better and better. So I asked the dad if we could stay a little late, and he said sure. I fed her more multiball - and from the first ball, after that two minutes of shadow-practice, she was looping!!! She was grazing the ball and getting good topspin. She did seven in a row, missed a few, and then made a bunch more. I wanted to ingrain the stroke, so we did it for another five minutes. We were both very excited over this.

Now I'll be working on both her drives and loops. (As much as I like to get to looping, it's equally important to get those drive shots down - the fundamentals are key.) When I feel she's ready, I'll have her try them in combination - loop a backspin and then smash a topspin. Eventually, we'll have her looping against topspin as well. And yes, the backhand loop will be coming up as well in a few weeks.

Henzel's World Cup Blog

William Henzel of Australia is keeping a blog of his trip to the Men's World Cup in Liverpool, England, where he arrived yesterday - the tournament is Fri-Sun, Sept. 28-30. Here's Day One, where he arrives and ponders the expense of hiring a coach for his matches.

Documentary on the Rise of Sweden

Here's a documentary of how Sweden rose to challenge and defeat the Chinese at the 1989 World's. They would continue to dominate the world for about six more years, and would battle with the Chinese for nearly 15 more years. The only problem is the video, about an hour long, is in Swedish, without English subtitles. I watched much of it, and though I didn't know what was being said, you could figure much of it out from the context. Plus it was nostalgic for those of us who were around back then! The video features Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Erik Lindh, Stellan Bengsston, Kjell Johansson, and other Swedish players and coaches, as well as Chinese players such as Jiang Jialiang and Chen Longcan.

ITTF Coaching Seminar - in India

Stopping by India anytime soon? Or already live there? USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee will be teaching three ITTF coaching seminars in India, in Ajmer (Oct. 3-7), in Bangalore (Oct. 10-14), and in Bangalore (Oct. 17-21). Here's the ITTF announcement.

Howard Tong Video

Here's a video (2:58) featuring 12-year-old Howard Tong of the World Champions Table Tennis Club in the San Francisco Bay area.

Orioles J.J. Hardy - "No one can beat me."

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is the best pingpong player on the team, according to an article in ESPN on Tuesday. The article says Hardy is the best athlete on the team, and says "He also is the best pingpong player on the Orioles." It then quotes Hardy:

"The next-best is Brady [Anderson, a special instructor]," Hardy said, half joking. "I've played him 100 times. I've beaten him 100 times. He'll never beat me. No one can beat me."

Some may remember that earlier this season the Orioles contacted me about doing a table tennis special with the Orioles for their TV network (featuring Hardy, Anderson, and pitcher Jake Arrieta, another table tennis enthusiast. However, it was put off when Hardy began having wrist problems, and now they are in a pennant race. So I don't know when or if this will happen. I've been in email contact with them, and my best guess is it'll be put off until next year. We'll see.

Inmates at the Teams

That's me scratching my head as I'm literally surrounded by "inmates" playing in the 2006 North American Teams in Baltimore. Yes, that was their team uniform - and there are at least eight of them, so it might have been two teams. The ones in "uniform," L-R, are: Unknown (you can just see his hat and leg); Ray Mack; I think Fong Hsu; Unknown; Connie Sweeris (short one with back to us); Unknown; I think Jim McQueen (or was the one I thought was Fong Hsu actually McQueen? Hard to tell); and Alan Fendrick.

MDTTC Goes to the Birds

Earlier this month a bird visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center. No, not the Baltimore Orioles mascot or Larry Bird; an actual bird! Here's the video (3:47), starring Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong, and a seemingly very tame (but probably just traumatized) bird. I can't believe I missed all of this, but I wasn't there for the big event.

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