King Kong

September 30, 2014

Table Tennis Ball Pickup Devices

When MDTTC first opened 22 years ago we didn't have any ball pickup devices. Correction - we had our hands. Two of them, in fact, and that's how we picked balls up our first couple of years. What were we thinking???

Then we got the Butterfly ball amigos, and life became much better. They are great for picking balls up quickly, which is big when you are coaching or training long hours. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, and usually have two nets per court, so that's a lot of nets. Most of the major companies sell some sort of ball pickup net or similar device. (We have ball pickup nets, table tennis nets on each table, and nets to catch balls on the robot. We're practically a net club. Wonder what our net worth is?)

There are now a number of ball pickup devices on the market. Most come in three types: nets to scoop them up (probably the fastest); tubes to pick them up one at a time (not as fast, but easier to get balls in tricky spots like in corners); and the "ping-pong buddy," which grabs the balls a bunch at a time. (The kids love these.) There's a nice review of all three types at the Breaking 2000 page, which includes pictures. It also has video of three ball-picking up robots. Here's another (1:30).

Back in the 1990s or so there was sort of a ball pickup wars, where Newgy introduced their ball pickup tubes. There were a number of ads in USATT Magazine for these tubes and ads by other companies for net pickup devices. Personally, I've been using the nets for about twenty years, and swear by them. During training sessions I often have ball pickup contests with students to see who can pick up the most.

You can also make your own ball pickup device. Here's a page showing how to make one that's similar to the Newgy tube device, but made from a fluorescent tube box.

Here's video (2:37) of another ball pickup device that picks ping-pong or golf balls up one at a time when you are playing, and hangs on the table or your belt while you play. Alas, I don't see order info in the video. I wouldn't mind ordering one of these.

European Team Championships and the Nittaku Premium 40+ Ball

I blogged yesterday about the European Team Championships. One thing I didn't think to mention was that they were the first tournament (or at least major one) to use the Nittaku Premium 40+ plastic ball - the same ball that we'll be using at the USA Nationals. The last time Germany lost in the European Team Championships was back in 2005 - they've been that dominant - but this time they were upset in the final by Portugal. Make of that what you will. (Here are European Championship results going back to 1958.) Here's video (13:02) of the final match where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #12) upsets Germany's Timo Boll (world #9).

China Sweeps Asian Team Titles

Here's the article from Tabletennista. Here's the ITTF Asian Championships page. (They still have singles and doubles events.)

Ping Pong Diplomacy and Training Visit by Chinese National Table Tennis Team

Here's the USATT article and pictures of their visit to the Triangle Table Tennis in Morrisville, NC.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:37).

Amazing Table Tennis Tricks

Here's the video (3:04).

A Little King Kong Ping Pong?

Here's the picture.

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October 3, 2012

USA vs. Belgium Clubs

Someone emailed me yesterday saying he was pretty sure Belgium didn't have 500 full-time clubs, as I'd quoted someone posting yesterday. There's no way to judge from here. But the key is that both seem to agree they have 500 clubs in an area about the size of Maryland with about twice the population. Maryland, the state with the highest percentage of USATT members among its population, has only six clubs. That's about an 83-1 ratio by area, or 42-1 by population. I think we're outgunned.

The writer also pointed out that clubs in Europe are organized differently and said there's no point in comparing numbers, but I disagree. People are people, and if we create a good product, they will come. Every time someone has opened a nice table tennis club in the U.S. and run it properly, the people have come. The limiting factor isn't the U.S.; it's the small number of people in the U.S. able and willing to create such clubs. Sure, Belgium and other European countries have more government support, but entrepreneurs in the U.S. have shown over and over that professional table tennis clubs can make it in the U.S.  Look no further than the San Francisco Bay area, where new full-time clubs seem to pop up every week.

There's a reason why so many can open in a relatively small area and be successful. While more dedicated players will travel longer distances to play at a nice club, something like 90% of a club's business is with players within five miles. That's five miles in both directions, so call it a square with a ten mile diameter, or 100 square miles. You could ring most major cities with full-time clubs, as they have in the Bay area, and they'd barely affect each other. Plus the major cities themselves, with their much denser populations, can support a larger percentage. (The Maryland Table Tennis Center, my club, is about 15 miles north of Washington D.C.  I once estimated that the D.C. area could support 20-30 full-time clubs.)

Of course, from the point of view of each club, do we really want more local clubs that will take away some business? Of course it hurts a little bit, but not nearly as much as you'd think. More clubs means more players, and more players mean a larger field to draw when running leagues and tournaments. The simple reality is that most of a club's business is not only local, but from locals they develop themselves by promoting the sport and setting up programs that meet the needs of the players, i.e. leagues, coaching programs, etc.

Here's the current list of full-time clubs in the USA. I really wish USA Table Tennis had chosen to get involved in recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to set up these centers (as well as leagues), but my proposals to them over the years haven't convinced them. So we're on our own. Why not take an online virtual tour? Each of these clubs is the result of someone who took the initiative. They are the heroes of our sport, the ones who will take it to the next level.

The Orioles Excuse

Some readers may remember my back problem tribulations of last year. I got over them from a regimen of weight training and stretching. After the back was better, I stopped weight training, and so far my back has survived. However, the weight training did something else - it made me play better. In particular, my upper body and legs were stronger, and this led to my better play. I found myself looping with mobility, consistency, and power that I hadn't had in years.

Now it's mostly gone and I'm back to futilely waving at balls as they whip past me. The solution? Back to weight training. However - I'm going to put it off a few more days, possibly a few more weeks. I've been following Baltimore Orioles baseball, and now they are in the playoffs. I usually did weight training at Planet Fitness on the way home from coaching sessions at the club, which often finish as the Orioles are about to play. They could be done as early as Friday (if they don't win the AL East today over the Yankees and then lose in the one-game wild-car playoff), or they could continue all the way to the World Series, with a potential seventh game scheduled on Nov. 1.  

So here's my vow. Starting after the Orioles finish their season, I will start up weight training again. Opponents beware!!!

USA Junior and Cadet Team Selection Procedures

Here is how USATT will selection their 2013 junior and cadet teams.

Ryder Cup Table Tennis

It seems the real reason USA lost to Europe at the Ryder Cup is the golfers spent all their time playing ping-pong. Here's another article on the topic care of Table Tennis Nation. (Yesterday I wrote about Phil Mickelson at the Ryder Cup; last Thursday I wrote about how table tennis was the heart of Team USA bonding at Ryder Cup.)

The Ping-Pong Round Table

I'm not sure if this is a conference table or King Arthur's table, but it looks like fun.

The King Kong of Ping Pong

Yes, King Kong plays ping-pong. Guess what he uses for balls?

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