Top Ten Points

January 30, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching Events

Had a lot of interesting things happen yesterday - here's a rundown!

  • For the second time, those months when I was about twelve where I learned how to pick locks paid off, making me a hero. On Tuesday night someone accidentally closed the bathroom door while it was locked. We have two bathrooms at MDTTC, but this was the one where we stored paper towels and toilet paper - and the other bathroom was running low. When I came in Wednesday afternoon they hadn't been able to open it, and were about to call a locksmith. So I grabbed a credit card and a paper clip, and picked the lock. I was a hero!!! For future cases, I taught Coach Jack how to pick that particular lock. The previous time my lock-picking made me a hero was about 15 years ago at a U.S. Open or Nationals, where nobody came to unlock the playing hall at 8AM, and about 100 of us were stuck outside, with events to start at 9AM. I picked the lock, to thunderous applause.
  • During a practice session a student mentioned that some of my blocks against his loop came out flatter than others. There's a simple reason for that - when the ball lands at normal depth or deep, a player blocks normally. But when the ball lands shorter and you have to reach forward, there is sometimes a tendency to block flatter. This is also why players who block right off the bounce tend to block flatter. 
  • One student tended to block from about five feet off the table. So we spent some time working on blocking within an arm's length. There are generally two types of blockers: those who take it right off the bounce (and go for quickness, consistency, angles, and change-of-pace - penholders with conventional backhands are notorious for this) and those who take it a bit later, but still on the rise, and focus on blocking more aggressively.
  • I did drills with one player where he had to loop to my middle. This is easier when backhand looping then with forehand looping. Why? For the simple reason that when backhand looping the opponent is in front of you, clearly in sight, while for forehand looping you are looking to the side, and so can't see the opponent. I know several top players who are great at finding my middle with their backhands, but aren't so good at doing this with their forehands.
  • One of the sessions was a lot of fun. Why? The student had had recent problems against players who lobbed and fished. And so I spent a good 20 minutes lobbing and fishing to him! This happens to be a strength of mine, and so we had some vicious rallies. I can lob down pretty much anyone under 1800 level, and (at my peak, when I was faster) most 2000 players.
  • Had one of the most interesting conversations ever while driving kids to the club - see next segment!

Blue Whales at the MDTTC

Recently we've started an afterschool program where I pick up some of our students from their schools and take them to the club. Yesterday I picked up a 7-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl. What follows is a rough synopsis of the conversation, mostly with the 7-year-old. Be forewarned - it gets silly, and if you're not in a silly mood, skip ahead or it'll ruin your non-silliness by making you laugh. (And there's plenty of other table tennis stuff afterwards.)

Me: "I'm going to drive the car up the Washington Monument, which is 555 feet tall, and drive off the top."
7-year-old: "No, don't do it! We'll all die! And the police will arrest you!"
Me: "I'll drive off the top so fast we'll land in the Atlantic Ocean and get swallowed by a blue whale."
7-year-old: "You won't make it to the Washington Monument because the police will stop you with their bazookas!"
Me: "They'd arrest me for driving off the top of the Washington Monument?"
7-year-old: "Yes!"
Me: "But then they'd have to wait until I'd actually driven off the Washington Monument before they could arrest me for driving off the Washington Monument. Then they'd only have three seconds to do so. Besides, the hungry blue whale will stop them from arresting us."
7-year-old: "Blue whales don't eat people, they eat plankton!"
Me: "Ah, I see you know your whales. But this is a special man-eating whale that's realized that in one bite, it can save hours of scouring the ocean for plankton."
7-year-old: "The police will kill the blue whale with their bazookas!"
Me: "No way. In a fight between a 100-foot blue whale weighing 200 tons, and a few puny humans with bazookas, the blue whale would win."
7-year-old: "Not if I bring in the army!"
Me: "If you bring in the army, I'll bring in a gang of octopuses with machine guns. And I think the plural of octopus is octopi."
7-year-old: "Then I'll bring in all the rest of the animals in the world!"
Me: "Then I'll bring in blood-sucking vampire cheetahs, since you missed them since they are dead."
7-year-old: "I'll bring in tanks!"
Me: "I'll bring in super-plankton, this little plankton that's been lifting weights and beating up blue whales everywhere! He's small but deadly."
7-year-old: "I'll eat your plankton!"
Me: "I'll bring in the planet Mars, and smash your policemen, armies, animals, and tanks."
7-year-old: "I'll smash your Mars with Jupiter!"
10-year-old, joining in for first time: "I'll smash Mars and Jupiter with my Jupiter-sized fists, which are made of rock."
Me: "Okay, now I'm scared."
[We arrive at club.]
Me: "But this raises the age-old question: How many blue whales could we fit in the Maryland Table Tennis Center?"
7-year-old: "None, they're too big."
Me: "I think we could fit four across the floor, and stack four more on top, so we could fit eight of them."
7-year-old: "How are you going to get them into the club? You can't carry eight blue whales!"
Me: "I'll toss them over my shoulder, one by one, of course."
10-year-old: "I'll smash your blue whales with my giant fists."
7-year-old: "But blue whales won't fit in the club!"
Me: "Let's find out." 

And so I paced off the club, and got its dimensions: 77' wide and 126' long. By measuring the size of the panels on one wall that went up to the ceiling, I calculated the height at 18 feet. (Technically, we have two bathrooms sticking out of one wall, which reduce the volume, but we also have a back room of about the same size.)

Now according to my Internet research, an adult blue whale is roughly 100 feet long, and (when lying out of water on dry land) about 10 feet tall and 25 feet wide at its widest. The 10 feet tall thing is problematic since that would make it difficult to stack them since the ceilings are 18 feet high, but I'm going to assume we can squeeze them down a bit more and stack them two high - but this would make them wider, perhaps 30 feet wide. Since the club is 77 feet wide, we would be able to fit two side by side, and two on top of that. Then we'd have 17 feet left on the side. We should be able to squeeze one more in there. But the club is 126 feet long, so we have an area 26 feet by 77 feet left over. Taking into account that the whales don't take up as much space with their flukes, and being careful to load them into the club fluke first, we should be able to jam in one more blue whale, left to right, if we fold its flukes back over. So that makes us a six blue whale club.

Here's another way of looking at this. A blue whale's density is pretty close to water. A blue whale can weigh up to 200 tons, let's assume we have a very large one at 200 tons. Now if MDTTC's dimensions are 77x126x18, then it has a volume of 174,636 square feet. A square foot of water weighs about 62.4 pounds. So MDTTC could hold up to 10,897,286 pounds of water, or about 5448 tons, which equates to 27.24 blue whales at 200 tons each. Suddenly I'm realizing that my blue whale packaging above wasn't very efficient. So now we're a 27 blue whale club, assuming we can fold and perhaps cut up the whales to make them fit. The key question - will they pay membership?

Balancing Training of Strengths and Weaknesses

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

The Laughmaster of Ping-Pong - Adam Bobrow

Here's an article on this entertaining player, "The Laughmaster Of Ping-Pong, Adam Bobrow Combines Comedy And Table Tennis And Tours The World In Leopard Print," which includes a link to a video (4:08) that compiles some of his adventures.

Liu Shiwen Criticized by Liu Guoliang

Here's the article, which includes a link to a video (18:06).

Top Ten Table Tennis Points of 2013

Here's the video (3:37).

Top Ten Shots of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals

Here's the video (4:24) from the ITTF.

Eager Thief Tries to Gift Wrap Table Tennis Table

Here's the article! (Alas, it links to a video that is no longer available, which I saw last night, with video footage of the hapless criminal actually trying to wrap the table.)

Cat Smacking in Forehands

Here's the latest cat-playing-table-tennis video (27 sec) starring an acrobatic cat with a world-class forehand, I mean forepaw.

Will Ferrell Playing Table Tennis

Here's the picture, where he demonstrates his unique penhold grip - while wearing white with a white ball, the cheater.

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November 22, 2013

What I Did Yesterday

Normally I coach from 6-8PM on Thursdays, but the ten-week 6-7PM class I teach ended last week and doesn't restart until January, and my 7-8PM person was out of town. So what did I do on my "day off"?

  • I mostly finalized the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet Program Booklet, which I sent to the HoF Committee to proof. It'll go online at the USATT web page at some point, as well as the printed version for those at the banquet. This year's inductees are Todd Sweeris and Terese Terranova, with Yvonne Kronlage getting the Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • I updated my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. I'd found a few typos, as had Jeff Smart, and Mark Dekeyser found a zillion or so, so I inputted all the corrections to both the print and kindle versions and uploaded both. The new versions are online now. Other than the typos (and adding a few words in the Choppers chapter to emphasize even more the importance of attacking the middle) there were no other changes. (If you have a copy of the book, look at the title page and a couple lines under my name, just after the copyright 2013 notice, it has a "v" followed by a date. That's the version number. So the new version is v11-21-13. If you don't have a copy of the book . . . buy one!!!
  • I prepared for the testing aspect for our Junior Progress Reports in our Beginning/Intermediate Junior Classes, which I teach. This weekend we'll be testing the kids on various TT skills, from ball-bouncing and rules questions (for the younger kids) to looping and counter-looping for the older and more advanced ones. This is the first time we've done this.
  • I set up the new computer I got from John Olsen and copied over all my files. Today I'm going to make the big transition from my current one to that one.
  • I responded to about a dozen emails asking table tennis questions, mostly coaching related.
  • I had a battle with Nuance.com, where they sell Dragon Speaking Naturally software. I decided to give it a try and ordered it last Friday morning. I paid extra to have it one-day UPS expressed, but it still hadn't arrived six days later. So I gave them a call. They explained that even though I'd paid extra for express shipping that didn't mean they'd ship it any sooner - just that it would ship faster once they got around to actually shipping it. They also admitted it still hadn't been shipped yet. They said it should go out "soon," and promised to send me a tracking number "within three business days." I wonder if Dragon Speaking Naturally software could translate what my thoughts were at this point?
  • I sent out 29 review copies of my novel Sorcerers in Space to possible reviewers. 15 were hard copies mailed at the post office, 14 were PDFs emailed.
  • The cover of Sorcerers in Space features a sorcerer's apprentice, but his lips are rather bright red and some thought it looked like he was wearing lipstick. So yesterday I opened the cover in Photoshop and slightly desaturated and lightened the lips, and sent the new version to the publisher. The new version should be up soon.
  • Got news that I'm now one of the 15 novels and 14 authors featured on the Science Fiction Writers of America website. (See box on lower right.) It's a rotating thing so you might have to hit reload a few times before I come up, both with my picture as an author on top, and the cover of "Sorcerers in Space" on the bottom. Or just click on the "More Member Authors" or "More Titles by Members" links and I come up with the others.
  • Since I had no coaching last night, I watched "Big Bang Theory" on TV, and then saw the new Hunger Games movie.
  • Oh, and I wrote my morning blog!

USATT Tips of the Day

USATT has been putting up as "Tips of the Day" the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them from 1999-2003 as "Dr. Ping-Pong." Here are the Tips they put up this past week. (Click on link for complete tip.) There are actually ten this time - I think the ones from Nov. 12-14 weren't up yet last Friday (Nov. 15) when I last put these up.

Nov 21, 2013 Tip of the Day - Improving a Level
What does it mean to move up a level in table tennis? I’d define two players to be on different levels if it would be a major upset if one defeated the other.
  
Nov 20, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Backhand Sidespin Push
You’re out of position, and your about to do a backhand chop to stay in the point.
 
Nov 19, 2013 Tip of the Day - The No-Spin Backhand Chop
You’re out of position, and your about to do a backhand chop to stay in the point.
 
Nov 18, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Quick Backhand Topspin Receive
One of the more effective ways to receive backspin serves to the backhand is with a right-off-the-bounce backhand topspin flip.

Nov 17, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing With Everyday Objects
What could be more impressive than beating your non-table tennis friends and relatives very badly in table tennis? Beating them with ordinary household objects?

Nov 16, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Pre-Match Calm-Down
To play table tennis effectively, you need to have a calm, clear mind. How often have you actually played a tournament where you entered every match with a calm, clear mind?

Nov 15, 2013 Tip of the Day - Play the Middle Against Tall Players; Wide Angles Against Short Players
A tall player’s forehand and backhand shots are farther apart than a short player’s. So he is weaker in the middle area, where he has to decide whether to hit a forehand or backhand.

Nov 14, 2013 Tip of the Day - Play Against Conventional Wisdom
Conventional wisdom is usually correct that’s why it’s conventional. The problem is that if everyone follows conventional wisdom, opponents get used to it, and so become strong against what should give them trouble.

Nov 13, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing Choppers
There is nothing more infuriating than losing to a patient chopper who lets you beat yourself with your own errors.
 
Nov 12, 2013 Tip of the Day - How to Play Against Hardbat
Let’s start out by realizing that if your opponent is using hardbat, and you are using sponge, you have an advantage. If it weren’t so, most players would be using hardbat!  

Positioning to Return a Smash

Here's the video from PingSkills (2:52).

22 Awesome Table Tennis Stamps

Here they are!

World Cadet Challenge

Here's a video (3:40) from the ITTF on " Table Tennis Future Stars - World Cadet Challenge | Faster Higher Stronger."

Top Ten Points

Here's a Top Ten Points video (6:11) from last year that I don't think I posted.

Outdoor Table Tennis

Here's a video documentary "Ralliers" (2:10) about outdoor table tennis in London.

Ma Long and Ball Collision

Here's a video (18 sec) showing Ma Long about to get smacked by a ball. Did it hit him in the face or did he manage to block it in time?

Ping-Pong Topiary Sculpture

Here it is, from China (of course)!

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October 2, 2012

Table Tennis Centers in Maryland, the U.S., and Belgium

On Friday at the Maryland Table Tennis Center I was wondering how USATT would be different if all their board members were required to spend a week at one of the "elite" training centers. Their perspective on table tennis in the U.S., and where it could go, might be a bit different from what they are used to.

There are about 50 full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. (Current count: 53; let me know if I'm missing any.) Of these, perhaps 5-8 can be considered "elite," i.e. ones with large junior development programs that consistently develop strong players. Key here is both the elite aspect and the large number of players they have.

Recently someone posted on a table tennis forum that "The USA has 50+ full time clubs." Someone responded, "Are you serious about the 50+ or do you mean 500+? In Belgium, there are about 50 clubs for each of the ten regions." Yes, that's 500 full-time clubs in Belgium, which has an area slightly smaller than Maryland (both about 12 thousand square miles), with a population about double Maryland's (about 11 million vs. 5.8 million). (And Belgium's numbers are dwarfed by Germany, England, and of course China and most Asian countries.) Now Maryland is, size for size and population for population, probably the most successful table tennis state in the U.S., with a higher percentage of its population USATT members than any other state. (They have 263 members out of a population of 5.8 million, or one member for every 22,053 people. Only New Jersey is close, with 351 members out of 8.8 million, or one for every 25,071.) Maryland also has one of the most successful junior programs in the country. And yet Maryland has only two full-time training centers to Belgium's 500! They have a full-time center for every 22,000 people, while Maryland has one for every 2.9 million. The U.S. has one for every 5.9 million people.

Of course the biggest difference is Belgium and other successful countries focus on leagues and junior programs. So does Maryland. Here's a rundown of the strongest of the 40+ junior players at MDTTC on Friday during a junior training session and the Friday night league (name, age, rating):

  • Wang Qing Liang, 16, 2644
  • Chen Bo Wen, 14, 2441
  • Tong Tong Gong, 14, 2334
  • Nathan Hsu, 2296 (was recently 2356)
  • Anthony Qu, 12, 2194
  • Roy Ke, 13, 2188
  • Derek Nie, 11, 2149
  • Crystal Wang, 10, 2099 (was 2166 before playing a tournament with a fracture wrist!)
  • Michael Ding, 13, 1989
  • David Varkey, 17, 1882
  • Lilly Lin, 15, 1874
  • Amy Lu, 11, 1852
  • Lisa Cui, 13, 1804
  • Princess Ke, 12, 1776
  • Jason Wei, 14, 1768
  • Adam Yao, 10, 1739
  • Wesley Duan, 12, 1685
  • Tony Li, 11, 1618

Between these, and all the little kids smacking forehands and backhand back and forth (not to mention all the non-juniors in the league - it's not just juniors), it's a different environment than what most in the U.S. sees unless they are at one of these "elite" training centers . . . or perhaps in Belgium.

$100,000 World Championship of Ping-Pong

The inaugural event will be held in London on Jan. 5-6, 2013. Players are required to use sandpaper rackets. $100,000 for sandpaper table tennis - yes, my friends, the world is changing.

ITTF Inaugural Level 3 Course

Here's an ITTF article about the first ITTF Level 3 Coaching Course, held in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Sept. 21-28. It was immediately followed by a two-day Level Three Course Conductor Training Seminar. Attending both were USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Table Tennis Artwork

Here is more table tennis art by Mike Mezyan. The four here are labeled "Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind," and feature Chen Qi, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin. Here's a larger version. And here's his Facebook page for all his artwork.

Orioles Make Table Tennis a Priority

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on how the Baltimore Orioles baseball team (and their manager, Buck Showalter) made table tennis a priority. "Where is the ping-pong table?" Showalter asked when he showed up in spring training. Meanwhile, you can read my "Top Twelve Things Happening the Last Time the Orioles Had a Winning Season" article at Orioles Hangout, where it's a featured front-page story. I've had eight front-page articles there. My favorites are "You're No Good, Baltimore Orioles" and "The Wonderful World of O's."

Phil Mickelson and Table Tennis at the Ryder Cup

Here's an article on golfer Phil Mickelson and table tennis at the Ryder Cup. Here's the table tennis excerpt:

Ask anyone about the team room, and Mickelson's name invariably comes up. He talked of his and Woods' dominance on the Ping-Pong table Wednesday, boasting that few of their U.S. teammates can touch them.

''Put us together on that table, and we're rocking it,'' Mickelson said.

(That's only partly true, Steve Stricker said. Matt Kuchar is actually the Roger Federer of the U.S. Ping-Pong table, and Stricker said Mickelson is putting off that matchup until Sunday. ''He doesn't want to get any bad mojo going before the tournament starts.'')

Top Ten Points

Here's a Top Ten Points video (6:12) from recent years (Worlds, Olympics, World Cup). Includes lots of slow motion.

The Amazing Race - Downgrading to a Sauce Pan

As near as I can tell, "The Amazing Race" is a Chinese show where people compete for prizes. In this segment (1:37), they had to score a point - a single point! - against a little girl who was obviously an elite junior. She played them using a sauce pan and a tambourine, and rarely lost a point.

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