India

November 6, 2013

Do Something Different

These days it seems like everyone's trying to be like everyone else. That's a pretty successful way of getting good, if you copy the top players. But many are missing the benefits of doing something different. Give your opponent a different look, at least on some shots, and guess what? He might begin to struggle. This doesn't mean changing your whole game to some unorthodox mess; it means developing certain "pet shots" that are different than the norm. They give you more variation on certain shots than if you only have "orthodox" shots. Some, of course, naturally do something different, by having a non-inverted surface, a different grip (Seemiller grip, or even penhold grip for some), an unorthodox stroke (not usually good unless it's just as a variation), or even something as simple as being left-handed. But for most players, you'll want to do something "different" while sticking to your normal righty shakehands inverted on both sides game. And there are lots of ways. Below are ten examples - and I do all of these on occasion, though less now than when I was an active tournament player and honed these variations by actually using them regularly. Pick out one or two, and give them a try! (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

  1. Serve from forehand side. Nearly everyone serves from the backhand corner these days, with a few tomahawk serves from the forehand. Throw in a few forehand pendulum or backhand serves from the forehand side. The surprise factor will often make up for your starting a bit out of position. (I do this all the time.)
  2. Serve short sidespin to the forehand. So many players serve over and Over and OVER to the middle and backhand it's almost silly, and when they do serve short to the forehand, it's a simple backspin ball. Instead, learn to do this with sidespin that pulls the ball toward your forehand, making it awkward for the opponent to return the ball down the line. You can do this with a backhand serve, a reverse pendulum serve, or a forehand tomahawk serve.
  3. Slow, spinny loop. Most people these days loop either hard or harder. Try letting the ball drop a bit more, and go for a slow, super-spinny one. If it goes deep, it'll drive blockers crazy. If it lands short, it'll drive counter-loopers crazy.
  4. Dead loop. Fake spin, and instead give a dead loop. You sell this by using an exaggerated follow-through right after contact, making it seem spinny.
  5. Dead push. Push without spin, but with an exaggerated follow through to fake spin.
  6. Sidespin push. Come across the ball as you push. This is especially easy on the backhand, with a right-to-left motion (for righties), with the ball breaking to the right. It's especially effective wide to the right, breaking into a righty's opponent's backhand.
  7. Ginzo push. Most players push to keep the ball in play. Thrown in a few super-ginzo (i.e. extremely heavy) pushes, and watch opponents struggle. It's easier if you take the ball a little later for this.  
  8. Dead block. Block it dead, chop block, sidespin block - these will frustrate many opponents and set you up for a conventional attack. They are especially effective and easy on the backhand side.
  9. Countering change-of-pace. Rather than bang every ball in a fast counter-hitting rally, sometimes hit one soft. Either keep it low and short to the net, or deep on the table.
  10. Flatter flip. Most players flip short balls with topspin. (It's called a flick in Europe.) Try a flatter one. Hit it a bit softer since you don't have topspin to pull it down, but not too soft. (Recently I've seen a number of top players at my club experimenting with this variation, with help from our coaches.)

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

Here's the ITTF press release on the competition, won by Josep Antón Velázquez. It's a somewhat controversial choice. The winner was to be decided by four criteria: Youtube views, Youtube likes, Facebook votes, and Expert Opinion. USA's Adam Hugh led in the first three criteria, but the "Expert Opinion" chose Velázquez. Here's Adam's announcement of the result on Facebook and ensuing discussion.

India's Level 2 Coaching Course

Here's an article from the ITTF on the first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in India, run by USA's Richard McAfee.

Darren O'Day at MDTTC

Here's the picture of Baltimore Orioles pitcher Darren O'Day at MDTTC recently - it's now USATT's Image of the Day. Note the video below it showing O'Day's unique submarine pitching style. Photo by Chris Zhang.

Samson Dubina's Website

Here it is - it has several coaching articles.

Backhand Footwork

Here's a good example of a backhand footwork drill (15 sec), demonstrated with multiball by Daniel Sabatino, current #15 in Italy, former #7.

Table Tennis - the Hardest Sport

Here's a new highlights video (8:36) that features both matches and training.

Great Point with Boll on Floor

Here's video (32 sec) of a great doubles point that includes Timo Boll falling to the floor, then getting up in time to continue the point. He's playing doubles with China's Ma Lin.

Fantasy Table Tennis Receipt with Harry Potter, Gandalf, Captain Kirk, and Oompa Loompa!

Here's Michael Mezyan's recent shopping receipt. It's legit, right? You decide. But I sure hope that Captain Kirk glue is legal! 

***
Send us your own coaching news!

October 18, 2012

MDTTC October Open and Tournament Scheduling

This weekend I'm running the MDTTC October Open in Gaithersburg, Maryland (that's USA). Come join us for a weekend of competitions! Top entries so far include Wang Qing Liang (2621), Chen Bo Wen (2516), Raghu Nadmichettu (2328), and Nathan Hsu (2310), and I expect a few more. We're giving away $2600 in prize money, and much larger trophies than before. If you are playing in the tournament, here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success.

For those of you scared of facing under-rated juniors who spent all summer training in our camps, relax - most gained a zillion points in our last tournament. Besides, if you do lose to a 60-pound kid with a rating 500 points lower than his level, it'll be something to talk about years from now when that player becomes a superstar. It's sometimes fun to watch these up-and-coming kids and guess which ones are going to become the superstars. Also, remember that if one of these kids has a really good tournament - including a win over you - he'll get an adjusted rating, and you'll only lose rating points to the adjusted rating, not his starting one. In fact, by losing to him in an upset, you greatly increase the chances of his getting adjusted!

There's a downside to my running these tournaments - it conflicts with my coaching schedule, where I'm busiest on weekends. Each time I run one I have to do a series of cancellations, postponements, reschedulings, and substitutions. For some players with less flexible schedules, it means they miss their weekly session, which isn't always fair to them. I may have to recruit someone to take over to run our tournaments next year. (Any volunteers? You do get paid! Not a huge amount, but at least $200 per tournament, more if there's a good turnout.)

We could also use a few more umpires. We have a referee, of course, but for umpires we often have to hen-peck someone into going out there. There are only a few certified umpires locally. I'm a certified umpire, but I'm running the tournament. (For those not clear on this, referees make sure the rules are followed - legal draws, clothing, rules interpretations, etc. - but do not umpire unless they can assign someone else to take their place as referee. Umpires are the ones who go out to the table to keep score and make sure rules are followed in individual matches. Directors do the actual running of the tournament.)

I ran all the MDTTC tournaments in the 1990s and early 2000s. (I've run over 200 USATT sanctioned tournaments lifetime, mostly at MDTTC and at the Northern Virginia Club in the 1980s, plus a few at nearby Club JOOLA, and in Colorado and North Carolina, as well as the 4-star Eastern Open in 1998.) Last month was the first one I ran in nearly a decade, and this will be my second.

There are a few minor problems with the scheduling that I hope to work out for next year, but for now we'll have to go with the event schedule. The main problem is that the events are scheduled each day so the lowest event starts first, then the next lowest, and so on. This means that the players who advance to the playoffs in each event are usually the highest rated players in the event, and they are also the ones most likely to be playing in the next highest event - and so there's a lot of conflict as the same players are in the playoffs and the new event.

If, instead, the highest events were to go first, then the ones advancing to the playoffs, usually the highest rated in the event, usually aren't not eligible for the next lowest event, which would be the next one starting. The downside to this is that it would mean the first event starting would be the highest event, which on one day would be the Open - and for some reason, the "top" players often don't like playing early in the morning. Alas. So instead it might be best to start with the highest rating events and work down, and schedule the Open a little later in the day.

The other option is to alternate events, i.e. a high one, then a low one, etc.  The downside to that is that players have to wait longer between events if they are playing in two consecutive rating events.

Pictures from ITTF Coaching Seminar in India

Here are more pictures from the ITTF coaching seminars that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in India.

Backspin/No-Spin Serves

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:56) on varying your serve between heavy backspin and no-spin.

Incredible Shots

Here's a highlights video of great shots that I hadn't seen or put up before (6:05).

Ping/Pong the Palindromic Book?

Here's the book, and below is the description they give. That's all I know, folks!

PING/PONG is the first palindromic book. It may be read the same way in either direction. The book stages a thrilling game of table-tennis in which the front and back covers face off in an never-ending rally. A unique and interactive reading experience! This 200 pages book was my contribution to the project Babel on demand: a monumental manifesto initiated by Étienne Hervy and Émilie Lamy for the International Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont.

"Life with Elizabeth" Ping-Pong, Part 2

Yesterday I linked to a video of a humorous ping-pong routine from the 1952-1956 TV show "Life with Elizabeth," starring Betty White. (It starts about 30 seconds in and lasts about four minutes.) It turns out they had another one, in the episode entitled "Remorse Code." Here's the video, with the link taking you directly to where the table tennis starts (at 16:19). There's a short break from the table tennis, but watch to the end (at 25:38). You'll meet the dumbest and most literal-mined ping-pong player ever. (Special thanks to Scott Gordon for finding the "Life with Elizabeth" video from yesterday, and to Jay Turberville for finding the one today.)

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 15, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Handle the First Loop Off Backspin.

A Commuting Weekend - Table Tennis and SF

I spent the weekend shuttling back and forth between coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and being a panelist at the annual Capclave Science Fiction Convention. By great luck (or was it?), Capclave was held at the Hilton in Gaithersburg, about five minutes from MDTTC. I managed to cancel or postpone some coaching that conflicted with panels at Capclave. By simple good luck, my morning coaching on Saturday and Sunday were with beginners, meaning I didn't get all sweaty and so was able to just change into normal clothes and rush over to Capclave. So here's how my weekend went. (Panels are usually one-hour affairs where 3-5 writers or others talk about a topic in front of an audience.) Here's my online Capclave Bio - note the table tennis ice cube mention!

Panelists are allowed to display their books, and so I displayed on a mini-bookstand in front of me my collection of SF & Fantasy stories, "Pings and Pongs," and explained the title pertained to my table tennis background - which usually brought a few questions.

FRIDAY

I'm normally in a 5-7 PM Elite Junior session, but I was able to get out of it. I was in one Capclave panel, on "Comic Relief" (in science fiction), from 4-5PM. Here's a picture of the panel - L-R: Me, Lawrence Schoen, Doug Fratz, and James Maxey. We talked a lot about the comic relief in "The Big Four" (Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, and The Hobbit/Lord of the Rings), and other humorous characters. The rest of the night I attended other panels and toured the Dealer's Room, with its extensive number of booths selling books and other SF & fantasy items.

SATURDAY

I coached a junior class from 10:30AM - Noon, then changed, ate a quick lunch, and rushed over to Capclave for my 1-2 PM panel, "21st Classics," which was on what books since 2000 will become classics, and why. (Lots of nominations!) Then I rushed back to MDTTC, changed back to my TT clothes, and coached from 2:30-4:30. (In that session we did a lot of the improvised multiball drill I describe in this week's Tip of the Week - see above.) Then I went home, let my dog out and fed her, showered, and was back that night for a few panels, including my own late-night one from 11-12PM, "Shortest Fiction," which was on flash stories (under 1000 words) and twitter stories (under 140 characters or less). Here's a twitter story I wrote and sold: "Droid for sale. Minor space damage, memory wiped. Pesky hologram feature disabled."

SUNDAY

Sunday morning I coached a beginning 7-year-old from 10-11AM, and watched him make a big breakthrough when he hit 45 backhands in a row (live, not multiball). Then I changed, ate, and rushed over to Capclave for my 12-1PM panel, "My First Time," about the first SF and fantasy books we read and how they brought us into the world of SF and fantasy reading and writing. (For me, it was three very specific books. For SF, it was "The Forgotten Door." For fantasy, it was "The Ghost of Dibble Hollow." For horror, it was "The House on the Square," a short story in "Chilling Stories from the Twilight Zone.") Then I went back to MDTTC to coach from 3-7PM. I finished off the day eating a late dinner while watching the third season premier of "The Walking Dead" on TV.

Ginny's...Where East Meets West

The television program "Ginny's...Where East Meets West" did a 30-minute feature on Maryland table tennis recently, where they interviewed Wen Hsu (MDTTC officer and Nathan Hsu's mom), Barbara Wei (former member of U.S. Junior Girl's Team), and Nathan Hsu (2011 U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Gold Medalist). The show is about the intersection of the East (i.e. table tennis) and the West (i.e. table tennis in the U.S.). Yes, it's in English!

ITTF Coaching Seminar #2 in India

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee just finished the second of three ITTF coaching seminars in India. Here's the ITTF article on it. (Here's the article on the first one, which I posted last week.)

2012 Chinese National Championships

So who was in the final of the Chinese Men's Singles Championships that finished yesterday? World #1 Zhang Jike? World #2 Ma Long? World #3 Xu Xin? World #4 Wang Hao? World #5 Timo Boll? (No wait, he's from Germany!) World #6 Ma Lin? World #9 Wang Liqin? World 14 Hao Shuai? World #16 Chen Qi?

None of the above. After they were all eliminated, the two left standing, and showing the depth of Chinese table tennis, were Fang Bo (world #69) and Zhou Yu (world #85). Here's the shortened video of the final (12:14), with Zhou winning 4-1.

Ping-Pong Wedding

Here's a picture of Czech star Dana Hadacova (world #97, #86 in July) playing ping-pong on a mini table at her wedding with her new husband. Anyone know who the husband is? (My quick googling didn't find anything.) She seems to go by two last names, Hadacova and Cechova (which is how the ITTF lists her) so presumably one was her previous name, and the latter is the name she took on after marrying. (Here's her official home page.)

***

Send us your own coaching news!

October 4, 2012

Coaching Footwork

Someone posted on the about.com table tennis forum on how difficult it must be to coach footwork in the U.S., since most coaching here is done one-on-one rather than in groups. Because of this, he thought that coaches can't really see what the student is doing, and so can only coach strokes, not footwork.

It's a good point, but it's not really a problem for good coaches. You teach footwork one-on-one by having the student do it without the ball, where you often do it together, with the student matching the way the coach does it and making corrections as necessary. If you have a student shadow practice footwork this way regularly, they learn it. Then, when you get to the table, you can tell by their body posture and positioning if they are doing it correctly.

The most important aspects to stress are foot and body positioning; balance (which involves moving with your feet, not with your hands, i.e. reaching); and the idea that you don't decide whether you have to move, you assume you will always have to move. 

Yesterday Was a Bad Day (mostly non-table tennis)

Let's see, Obama didn't perform well in the debate, the Orioles lost, the Yankees won, two of my three TT students cancelled, I had a headache half the day, a new online video of our club got our web address wrong (see below), the sole of my shoe broke, and from my todo list I didn't update the "Celebrities Playing Table Tennis" page or work on the Codex contest SF story I started last night. Can we have a Groundhog Day replay?

MDTTC Video

County Cable Montgomery in Maryland runs a regular TV segment called Parks Rec n Roll. They did a feature on racket sports here in Montgomery County, featuring tennis, badminton, racquetball, and of course table tennis at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The entire video is 30 minutes long, but here are the table tennis segments, which are a little under six minutes total. The video features me, Tong Tong Gong, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, Amy Lu, Nathan Hsu, Wen Hsu, Timmy La, Chen Bo Wen, Mort Greenberg, and Sammy Snitskovsky. (One little problem: at 28:05 it puts the MDTTC web address on screen, but they got it wrong, putting in "org" instead of the "com" in www.mdttc.com.) Here are links:

Ariel Hsing for USOC Female Athlete of the Month

You can vote online for USOC's Female Athlete of the Month. Ariel is up against 19 other athletes - but she's currently in the lead! Okay, she has 8 votes, two more than three of her competitors (hmm, 6-6-6?), so it's still early. Ariel's had a good month, as verified by this ITTF article. You can also vote for Male Athlete of the Month and Team of the Month, though strangely there aren't any table tennis players there.

Richard McAfee in India
USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running ITTF coaching seminars in India. (Here are some photos.) Here's his Facebook postings about the first two days:
Day One: I am getting ready to start day two of the ITTF-PTT Level 1 Course in Ajmer, India. There are 14 coaches taking part and we are mixing in some of the local juniors during some of the practical sessions. The facility we are using is a full-time table tennis academy with 14 tables, wood flooring, good lighting, and a large conference room/class-room. There is also an attached hotel where I am staying. Most of the coaches are very experience and some have travel 36 hours by train to reach the course. Ajmer is an ancient and beautiful city.
 
Day Two: I just finished day two of the Ajmer, India ITTF-PTT Level 1 Course that I am conducting. The second day is the hardest one (physically) for me as it is on "on the table". We have had a group of 12-16 kids hanging around watching our course in the afternoons and it seems that they do not receive coaching. There is a very high level (national team members) of junior training at the academy but these kids are not good enough to be in the coaching group. Today, I couldn't stand the longing in their eyes any longer and after our 6 hours of course work, I stayed and did another session for these kids. One of the other coaches in the course also helped out. What fun! There is nothing more gratifying than to watch sheer joy in the faces of kids playing a sport they love. Now for a much needed rest. I understand that more kids will be coming tomorrow so I will try to continue our little training group while I am here.

Table Tennis Boosting - Our Version of Doping?

Here's an article in the Huffington Post from August about table tennis boosting. I haven't tried boosting myself, but I should probably do it just to see what it's like. (I'm retired from tournaments so it's not like it's going to "boost" my rating!)

The Real Housewives of New York City Play Pong

In last night's finale, the characters in the show visited Spin New York to play table tennis with Marty Reisman and others. Here's the report from Table Tennis Nation.

What's Really on His Mind on a Date

Yes, the truth.

Another Weird Table Tennis Dream

Last night I dreamed I was playing in the North American Teams. I'm not sure who my teammates were; they were sort of shadowy. As I went out to play my first match, I realized I was carrying a thick sheaf of papers and a keyring full of keys. So rather than play the match, I decided I needed to go home to drop these things off. I ran outside and began jogging. Then I seemed to go through a montage of cars, buses, and running through an airport. Finally I arrived "home" - except the house was from the haunted house picture I had just yesterday made my computer's background picture. I ran inside and pushed the elevator button for the 15th floor (which doesn't make sense since the haunted house didn't have 15 floors, but perhaps it was bigger on the inside). I kept waiting and waiting impatiently, worried that if I didn't hurry I'd get defaulted from my match. Finally, I got to my room, which seemed some sort of dormitory room, I think from my years at the Olympic Training Center. I opened the door with the keys and went to a mirror. Looking into it I saw that I was wearing the funny hat that Q wore when we first met him in Star Trek: The Next Generation. I tore it off, tossed the keys inside, and left, closing the door as I went out, thereby locking myself out with the keys inside. (But I didn't realize this at the time.) I went outside and began to run as fast as I could, worried again that I'd get defaulted. I ran faster and faster in a panic, and finally, in a nervous sweat, arrived back at the Teams. I hurriedly went out to play the match, and found that the other guy was there, waiting for me. I then realized I was still carrying the sheaf of papers I'd had at the beginning. I decided to use them as my racket, and got set to play. Then I stopped, realizing just then that I'd locked myself out. I began to panic again, thinking I had to run home again to get my keys, and that's when I woke up.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content