Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

November 15, 2012

Incentive Table Tennis

Yesterday I made use of the infamous snickers bar incentive to help kids achieve specific goals. (Fun-size only.) 

The first was a 7-year-old girl, Linda. She's hit hundreds of forehands and backhands in a row, and can loop from both sides, but yesterday I challenged her to do something seemingly simple: hit 50 forehands in a row while moving side to side, covering about half the table. (That's a lot of table when you're seven.) She's done this before with multiball, but now we were going to do it live, where the ball doesn't come out exactly the same every time, and at a pretty good pace.

She struggled at first, kept missing in the 20s. (She does like to go fast!) Seeing her frustration, I told her I had a snickers bar in my playing bag that was hers if she could get 50. (I also made it clear it was a one-time offer.) Her eyes lit up, and she went at it again. Unfortunately, twice she made it to the 40s - once to 48 - and missed! Now she was too frustrated to concentrate. So I went to my bag and brought out the snickers bar, and put it on the table by the net. Her eyes went wide as she stared at the prize.

I said, "At the end of this session, one of us is going to eat that snickers bar right in front of the other. Which one of us is going to do that?" Having the candy bar right in front of her had a way of focusing her attention. She got 54 on her very next try. (Would have gotten more but the instant she reached 50 she was too excited to keep going much longer.)

Immediately following that session I had another with an 11-year-old boy, Thomas. He'd been picking up balls and cheering for her, and now it was his turn. (She was now picking up balls and cheering for him. They're not related, but they are both in a junior class I teach on weekends.) However, being older, I challenged him to do 100 forehands, moving side to side. He tried and tried, and kept getting into the 40s without getting to 50 (including 49 once). He wanted to know if he could have a snickers bar if he got to 50. I made a judgment call; I was certain he could do more than 50. So I stuck by the challenge to get to 100. He broke 40 several more times, but something always went wrong. I believe he did 40 to 49 at least eight times without breaking 50, so hadn't even made it halfway to 100. I finally said, "Two more tries, and then we'll have to give up on it for now." Then, just as before, I went to my bag and brought out the candy bar and put it on the table by the net. Once again, this really helped focus the attention - and on the very next try he did 124 in a row!

A key for both of them was I kept reminding them not to guide the shot, not to aim or think about it. The key was to blank the mind out, watch the ball, and just let the shots happen.

Pongcast TV Episode 20

Here's the latest Pongcast Episode (14:42). "In this episode: A Jan-Ove Waldner TV commercial, more TT robots, ping-pong for a good cause, and the German team goes GQ. Highlights and results from the 2012 Polish Open, including a screaming match. Has the ITTF been watching? Is there a new fan favorite to watch?"

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the Facebook Page for Aerobic Table Tennis. They are about "Aerobic Table Tennis. A new workout experience. Burn calories. Have fun keeping fit." Their mission? "To help women keep fit, and take up the game of table tennis. There is a shortage of women playing table tennis. The sessions will be fun, include aerobic exercises, and will help you burn those calories. No table tennis experience is required. Why not have fun, burn calories, and learn the game of table tennis?"

Here's a video (4:48) of an actual aerobic table tennis class taught at a school (St. Joseph Sliema), with 100 girls. It's sort of a mixture of table tennis, dancing, regular aerobics, and singing, all done to music. (If you look at the links listed to the right in youtube, there are a number of other examples of aerobic table tennis in schools.)

Stina Kallberg of Sweden

Here's video footage (6:09) of the latest junior phenom, 10-year-old Stina Kallberg from Sweden. (What, you thought all junior phenoms came from China?) What really jumps out is how well she moves about the court as she loops nearly everything. Far too many kids at that age just stand at the table, moving only side to side and hitting.

Table Tennis Wine Bottle

Here's a picture of a table tennis wine bottle that was presented to the Chinese National team.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I did a recent update of the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page, which now has 1440 photos of 870 different celebrities. This month's update includes 51 new pictures of 33 new celebrities. New ones are:

Actors & Directors 
Oliver Stone, movie director
Wallace Ford, actor
Terrence Howard, actor
Trevor Jackson, actor
Richard Narita, actor
Actresses
Kim Kardashian, actress 
Khloe Kardashian, actress (6 pictures)
Jessica Alban, actress (new picture)
Susan Sarandon, actress (new picture)
Kate Upton, actress & model (4 pictures)
Lynn Bari, actress
Shay Mitchell, actress
Shirley Temple, actress & UN Ambassador (new picture)
Singers
Justin Bieber, singer (new picture)
Lady Gaga, singer
Michael Jackson, singer/dancer (new picture)
Nick Jonas, singer (3 pictures)
Booboo Stewart, singer, dancer & actor
Dinah Shore, singer & actress
Adam Yauch, Singer for the Band "Beastie Boys"
Yelawolf, rapper
Athletes
Roger Federer, tennis star (new picture)
Rory McIlroy, golfer
Manny Pacquiao, boxer
Ramil Akhadov, boxer
Ken Norton, boxer
Jesse Owens, Olympic sprinter & long jumper
Ronald Belisario, baseball player (2 pictures)
Justin Sellers, baseball player (2 pictures)
Wayne Rooney, English soccer star (3 new pictures)
Rio Ferdinand, English soccer star
Theo Walcott, English soccer star
Joe Hart, English soccer star
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, English soccer star
John Heitinga, Dutch soccer star (2 pictures)
Nani, Portuguese soccer star
Miguel Veloso, Portuguese soccer star
Zoran Tošić, Serbian soccer star
Gojko Kačar, Serbian soccer star
Miscellaneous
Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William of England (3 pictures)
Ellen DeGeneres, talk show host (new picture)
Snoopy, cartoon dog (new picture)

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November 6, 2012

Teaching the Loop

Recently I've taught a lot of new kids how to loop. It always amazes me that some coaches will not teach the loop for the first year, and by that time hitting has been ingrained, and looping will never be as natural. I generally teach kids to loop against backspin as soon as the player can hit 100 forehands and 100 backhands in a row. I usually teach the forehand loop against backspin first, and once that is done properly and consistently (usually a few weeks), the backhand loop against backspin. Both are taught with multiball, with serve and loop against push drills when they are ready.

However, there are two caveats to this. First, I always stress with the player that I will pickier about getting the loop right than with any other technique. It's probably easier to learn a messed-up loop stroke than any other stroke. Once ingrained, poor looping technique is harder to fix than just about any other technique since every aspect of the stroke relies so heavily on every other aspect. If you get one thing wrong, a lot of it will be wrong, and fixing one problem means fixing up all the other problems at the same time, not an easy task.

What often happens is that coaches who teach the loop early to a relative beginner have bad experiences with the player learning bad technique. This is because they weren't picky enough with the student in making sure they get it perfect from day one.

And second, there's the problem that a drive and a loop are rather different strokes, and trying to perfect both at the same time can be tricky. With drives, you are mostly hitting top of the bounce (earlier for most backhands), with the shoulders even, and driving mostly forward with the ball going almost straight into the sponge. With a loop you are taking the ball a little later, dropping the back shoulder, lifting more, and grazing the ball for spin. How do you handle this?

Again, by letting the student know in advance that while learning the loop, we'll be obsessing over the drive strokes as well, doing lots of basic stroking drills so as to ingrain both shots. Also, once the player can both drive and loop reasonably well, I introduce combination drills where they do both, to emphasize the differences in the strokes and the ability to use either one. For example, using multiball, I'll feed backspin to the middle of the table and then topspin to the forehand. The player forehand loops the first, and forehand smashes the second. (As they get better, they likely loop the second as well, but that comes a little later.)

There's another reason to teach the loop early - players will often experiment with the shot on their own, and often learn it poorly. It's a lot harder fixing poor technique than teaching it right the first time. Kids especially will try looping on their own if you don't teach it early enough, so it's better to teach it early and get it right.

To make sure they get it right, I've adopted a policy where I actually let the player know how picky I'm going to be with the shot, and make sure we have a good half hour at least to work on it the first time. I let them know that even if they do it pretty well, I'm going to keep on them to get it perfect on the first day. I also let them know that while working on the loop, most of our other drills will focus on basic forehand and backhand drives, since we don't want the player to mess up these strokes while learning to loop. If they don't feel ready for this, we postpone it until they feel ready.

One kid didn't feel ready for it even though he could hit 100 forehands and backhands. He kept worrying about the shot, thinking it was too advanced, and we ended up postponing it for about three months. Now he can loop against backspin both backhand and forehand, and he's gaining confidence that he's almost ready to learn to loop against block.

Others are the opposite. One kid really wanted to learn to loop after taking only three lessons. He's done about 50 forehands and backhands, and normally I'd postpone it a little longer. But he's already been experimenting with the shot, and I was worried he'd get it wrong. So last week I taught him to forehand loop against backspin. We did lots of multiball, and at first he struggled to get it just right. And then, after about ten minutes, it all fell into place. We did about ten more minutes of multiball to ingrain the stroke. Then, at the end of the session, we came back to it for another five minutes. And he's already dying to learn to backhand loop!

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I've updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 51 new pictures of 33 new celebrities. Look at some of the famous names below! Better still, browse over the 1440 pictures of 870 celebrities now in the collection. (And special thanks goes to super contributors Steve Grant and Benjamin Ott.)

Actors & Directors 
Oliver Stone, movie director
Terrence Howard, actor
Wallace Ford, actor
Trevor Jackson, actor
Richard Narita, actor
Actresses
Kim Kardashian, actress 
Khloe Kardashian, actress (6 pictures)
Jessica Alban, actress (new picture)
Susan Sarandon, actress (new picture)
Kate Upton, actress & model (4 pictures)
Lynn Bari, actress
Shay Mitchell, actress
Shirley Temple, actress & UN Ambassador (new picture)
Singers
Justin Bieber, singer (new picture)
Lady Gaga, singer
Michael Jackson, singer/dancer (new picture)
Nick Jonas, singer (3 pictures)
Booboo Stewart, singer, dancer & actor
Dinah Shore, singer & actress
Adam Yauch, Singer for the Band "Beastie Boys"
Yelawolf, rapper
Athletes
Roger Federer, tennis star (new picture)
Rory McIlroy, golfer
Manny Pacquiao, boxer
Ramil Akhadov, boxer
Ken Norton, boxer
Jesse Owens, Olympic sprinter & long jumper
Ronald Belisario, baseball player (2 pictures)
Justin Sellers, baseball player (2 pictures)
Wayne Rooney, English soccer star (3 new pictures)
Rio Ferdinand, English soccer star
Theo Walcott, English soccer star
Joe Hart, English soccer star
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, English soccer star
John Heitinga, Dutch soccer star (2 pictures)
Nani, Portuguese soccer star
Miguel Veloso, Portuguese soccer star
Zoran Tošić, Serbian soccer star
Gojko Kačar, Serbian soccer star
Miscellaneous
Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William of England (3 pictures)
Ellen DeGeneres, talk show host (new picture)
Snoopy, cartoon dog (new picture)

The Surprising Play of Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's a new highlights video of the great Jan-Ove Waldner (7:26).

$45,000 Black Rubber Table

The table is made of black rubber. Here's a picture of the table, here's a close-up, and here's an interview (1:46) with the creator.

Bush Versus Kerry & Gore

Here are two election cartoons I did in 2000 and 2004. Here's Bush and Gore battling over Florida in 2000 (gee, Gore's technique looks just like Chiang Peng-Lung, and Bush's resembles Wang Liqin!), and here's Bush and Kerry in 2004 - see if you get all the side jokes in this one!

Non-Table Tennis: Election Predictions

Obama wins the electoral college, 332-206, winning eight of the nine the battleground states (winning OH, VA, NH, FL, CO, WI, IA, NV, losing NC, with FL the toughest pick), and wins the popular vote approximately 50.5% to 48.5%, with 1% going to small party candidates. Yes, there's been a surge toward Obama the last few days, and all reports indicate a high voter turnout, which also favors him. Contrary to many news reports, he's been solidly favored in the electoral college for some time. 

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May 2, 2012

Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America by Steve Grant

During a break between coaching sessions I pulled out the book "Ping Pong Fever" (260 oversized pages, available at amazon.com, $15.95) and spent a fascinating afternoon learning about the 1902 American table tennis craze. (Here's the cover.) The basic story is this: table tennis swept America in 1902 as a huge fad, and then was nearly forgotten for over two decades. If you have any sort of historical bent, or simply want to read about table tennis and its beginnings, you'll want to read this book. You don't even have to read it, though that's highly recommended; just the pictures tell the story. And it's absolutely packed with vintage table tennis pictures, circa 110 years ago. (Now I know why Steve Grant is the #1 contributor of pictures for CelebritiesPlayingTableTennis.com.) A bunch of kids on break gathered around and spent a bunch of time browsing the pictures with me.

The book has an unbelievable number of excerpts from newspapers of the time, giving readers a flavor of just how the game was viewed in those days. Numerous Ping pong cartoons also adorn the pages. The book has 26 chapters divided into six sections: 1. Going Viral; 2. Changing Lives; 3. The Victims and Their Gatherings; 4. Serious Cases; 5. How It All Started; and 6. How It All Ended. There are also ten "Side-Spin" sub-chapters that cover various themes, as well as an epilogue with four sections.

One of the best chapters is the one titled "Who Really Invented It?", which explains that "As with many inventions, this one was evolutionary, not revolutionary." The chapter gives "...the true early history of table tennis and ping pong, the most complete and accurate yet published, beginning at the beginning." While the sport was developed incrementally, Steve traces the name Ping Pong back to 1884, and declares the actual inventor of the game: James Devonshire, an electrician, in 1885.

You'll learn that originally players served by hitting the ball directly to the opponent's court, like in tennis (i.e. the ball didn't have to bounce on your side first), but the serve had to be done underhand--and to thwart very tall players from smacking the ball downward, contact had to be no more than five inches above the table. Did you know that in doubles players once had to use one racket, and between shots place the racket on the table for the partner to grab? (You couldn't hand it to him directly.) And that scoring was at one time done tennis style ("40-love!"). You'll also learn about tiddledy wink tennis, balloon tennis, and other early versions of the game.

You'll read about ping pong perfume, ping pong drinks, twins named Ping and Pong, ping pong in Broadway shows, ping pong gambling, and ping pong on a train. You'll read about the early tennis champions that dominated early table tennis. You'll learn that a wedding was cancelled because a woman insisted that she'd continue to play ping-pong even after the wedding, and the non-ping-pong-playing husband-to-be thought that was unbecoming of a lady. Yes, ping-pong players were crazy even back then.

I'll close the review with the poem on page 1 (from a ping pong ad), one of several from the time:

That's Ping Pong dear---it's all the rage,
The Bar, the Church, the House, the Stage
All Ping pong now---it's quite the fashion,
And you don't know it? (with compassion).
"Such ignorance is quite a shame;
Come, you shall see us play a game!"
Alas, she saw---she caught the fever---
(And goodness knew when it would leave her.)

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I've updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 19 pictures of 9 new celebrities. This brings the total to 1407 pictures of 819 celebrities! This month's updates:

  • Andy Sonnanstine, baseball pitcher (4 pictures)
  • John Garfield, actor
  • Chris Gethard, actor, comedian, and talk show host (3 pictures)
  • Dave Haywood, Lady Antebellum band member (2 pictures)
  • Hillary Scott, Lady Antebellum band member (3 pictures)
  • Charles Kelley, Lady Antebellum band member (6 pictures)
  • Jason Slim Gambill, Lady Antebellum band member (2 pictures)
  • Redfoo, member of band LMFAO (2 pictures)
  • SkyBlu, member of band LMFAO (2 pictures)

Interview with Dora Kurimay

Here's an interview with Dora Kurimay, author of the ebook "Get Your Game Face On," the sports psychology book for table tennis.

Crazy table tennis shot

Here's one of the craziest table tennis shots you'll ever see (0:30) - the ball hits the net and goes off the side of the table at a crazy angle. The opponent scoops the ball off the floor besides the net, and hits a pop-up ball with backspin - but the ball lands very short, and bounces back onto her side of the table, unreturnable! (Wait a minute - I do versions of this shot every day while coaching kids, where I'll suddenly throw a backspin lob up, and if they don't get to the side of the table quickly (and pick the right side to go to), the ball bounces back to my side. Of course I don't normally scoop it off the floor....)

Warren Buffett's Olympic Discovery

Here's an article in this morning's Wall Street Journal on Warren Buffett and . . . Ariel Hsing! According to Ariel, "The luckiest moment of my life was meeting Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill." To find out why (and to find out who "Uncle Bill" is - Duh!), read on!

Pong . . . with Cars???

Remember the game that started the video game craze, Pong? Well, here's a video (1:30) of the new version of Pong that's sweeping the nation, "Smart E-Ball," i.e. Pong played with cars! We're talking real cars, driving back and forth to "hit" the ball on a video screen! 

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April 13, 2012

Planning Day - new programs

Today I'm planning out new programs for MDTTC. It used to be complicated doing this, with limited table space, but with the MDTTC expansion (10,000 square feet, 18 tables, more if we squeeze) we can run multiple programs at the same time. New programs include:

  • An expansion of our beginning junior program to all juniors of all levels, so that they train at the same time, though players are paired with players of roughly equal level. I may invite some advanced players to the program for free, provided they agree to practice 30 of the 90 minutes with beginning or intermediate players. 
  • A new ten-week adult beginning class.
  • An intermediate-advanced training program.
  • A serving seminar (three 30-minute sessions) followed by ongoing serving practice sessions (30 min per week).

Once the programs are set, I'll put together an MDTTC Newsletter to send to all those on our email list, as well as sending releases to local newspapers. (While we hope they'll do coverage, the primary purpose of sending to newspapers is to get in their calendar sections.)

One idea I'm considering is to invite parents of beginning younger kids to come in for a session where we teach them to feed multiball to their kids. They can't really rally with their kids both because the kids are unable to really rally very well yet, and the parents mostly aren't players. But it doesn't take long for even a non-player to learn to feed simple multiball fairly accurately, and then they can do this with their kids.

Or maybe I shouldn't be planning programs on Friday the 13th?

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

Yesterday I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, with 54 new pictures and 21 new celebrities. There are now 1388 pictures of 810 celebrities. (You may notice a bunch of pictures of baseball star Nick Swisher of the Yankees against comedian and Youtube celebrity KevJumba. Here's the hilarious 4:43 video of their challenge match!) New this month:

Politicians/Leaders

  • Hu Jintao, president of China (new photo)
  • Henry Kissinger, former U.S. Secretary of State (new picture)
  • Dave Cameron, British Prime Minister (new photo)
  • Boris Johnson, mayor of London (2 new pictures)
  • Winston Lord, former U.S. Ambassador to China and Assistant Secretary of State
  • Ingo Wolf, former minister of the interior of North Rhine-Westphalia (Germany) (2 pictures)
  • Kevin Greene, Australian minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Major Events

Actors

  • Zac Efron, actor
  • Susan Sarandon, actress (new picture)
  • KevJumba, comedian and Youtube star (9 photos)
  • David Niven, actor (new picture)
  • Andy Lau, Hong Kong actor, singer, and film producer (new picture)
  • Thomas Gottschalk, German talk show host
  • Otto Waalkes, German comedian and actor

Singers

  • Justin Bieber, singer (new picture)
  • Cody Simpson, singer
  • Kwon Yuri, singer
  • Chris Martin, singer

Athletes

  • Tim Tebow, football player (5 new pictures)
  • Martina Navratilova, tennis player
  • Anna Kournikova, tennis player (2 new pictures)
  • Nick Swisher, baseball player (9 photos)
  • Evan Longoria, baseball player
  • Blake Griffin, basketball player (new picture)
  • Martin St. Louis, hockey player
  • Duncan Keith, hockey player
  • Xabi Alonso, Spanish soccer player
  • Cristiano Ronaldo, Portuguese soccer player
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian boxer (new picture)
  • Sebastian Coe, former British middle distance Olympic Gold Medalist and member of parliament (new picture)

Cartoon Characters

  • The Flintstones, cartoon characters (7 pictures of Fred Flintstone, Barney Rubble, and Arnold the paperboy)
  • Pink Panther, cartoon character

Wang Liqin to leave Chinese National Team?

Here's an article about it.

Best points from the 2012 World Team Championships

Here's another highlights video of the best points from the 2012 World Team Championships (4:42).

MDTTC Open House

Here's an article by local junior Alan Lang on the recent MDTTC Open House.

On April 7, 2012, the Maryland Table Tennis Center (mdttc.com) hosted an Open house to commemorate its recent renovation and expansion. Over two hundred players and table tennis enthusiasts attended. They were given free merchandise, along with more valuable prizes that were raffled off. They were also given free entry into a three-point tournament (single elimination, all games to three points). Table tennis demonstrations featured several top players, including nationally decorated player Han Xiao (men's singles finalist and men's doubles champion at the 2011 Nationals), MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (last year's Eastern Open and Cary Cup Open champion), and USATT certified national coach and Hall of Famer Larry Hodges. The demos also included the club’s rising juniors, including Derek Nie, already participating at an international level at age 11 (and a finalist at the USA Nationals last year in 10 and under); U.S. Junior Olympic Under 16 Boys' Champion Nathan Hsu; USA Cadet (under 15) National Team Member Tong Tong Gong; and Crystal Wang, who last year achieved the highest rating of any under 10 player in U.S. history, boys or girls. Larry also gave a 30-minute seminar on serving with spin and deception, and he and John Hsu ran a 90-minute junior program for beginning juniors.

The Open House took place in the newly refurbished complex, which boasts several notable improvements. Most visibly, the club’s size has doubled to accommodate its rising activity. This has allowed for more and larger playing courts and larger spectator areas. Despite these augmentations, occupancy still seems be a problem due to the center’s rising popularity. “Even though we expanded, it’s still crowded,” notes long-time member George Nie, who won the three-point tournament. Other improvements include the relocation and expansion of the club store, higher quality restrooms and shower facilities, and the implementation of Wi-Fi Internet. Furthermore, a special red flooring, the “red carpet,” which offers improved traction and cushioning for players, has been expanded to cover the entire playing area.

With these enhancements, co-proprietor and USATT certified national coach Jack Huang hopes to create an environment that is both welcoming and conducive to serious play, intended especially for the club’s burgeoning junior population. As evidenced by those present at the festivities, the club still caters to a diverse population, including members from a wide array of ethnicities, age groups, and skill levels. Player Mohamed Youns describes this diversity as contributing to a “very enjoyable environment,” citing the pleasure that can be derived from competing against a variety of other players in a low stress setting. All said, the renovations come as a welcome rejuvenation of a table tennis center that furnishes precocious children and world-class table tennis players alike.

For more info on MDTTC (which opened in 1992), see their web page at www.mdttc.com, email them at marylandttc@gmail.com, or give them a call at 301-519-8580.

The Flintstones!

No collection of table tennis pictures is complete without The Flintstones. (This just went up in the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page - see segment above.) You probably recognize Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble playing (with Dino and Bamm-Bamm watching), but who is the other kid? That's Arnold the paperboy, the one who always outwits Fred. The pictures are from the episode Gloom Groom in season 4 in 1963. Here's the IMDB description: "Fred spends a fine afternoon in the backyard with little Pebbles. Arrive Arnold the News Boy who challenges Fred for a ping-ping game. Afterwards, Arnold offers to take care of Pebbles while Fred takes a nap on his hammock. He dreams that future years won't be good for old Fred, especially when an older Arnold begins to take his place in everything. And to make matters worse, Arnold gets engaged with Pebbles!"

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August 2, 2011

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

Yes, it's that time of month again - the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis site gets updated around the first of each month. There are now 1234 pictures of 720 different celebrities playing table tennis - and any short listing of the Who's Who of Celebrities Playing Table Tennis just wouldn't do it justice! There are sections on Politicians/Leaders; Actors and Actresses; Athletes; Musicians; Talk Show Hosts; Writers; Cartoon Characters; and many more!

New celebrities playing table tennis pictures this month include actors Tom Hanks, Haley Joel Osment, Justin Timberlake, Sam Rockwell, Claudette Colbert, Esther Williams, Broderick Crawford; Prince Akihito of Japan (now Emperor); Ed Lee, Mayor of San Francisco; John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister of England; Ed Nixon, brother of Richard M. Nixon; golfer Tiger Woods; tennis players Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; Chinese Olympic Gold Medalist Hurdler Liu Xiang; pool star Mika Immoren; talk show host Regis Philbin; singers Lil Jon and Anne-Marie Godart; English socialite Lady Norah Docker; and cartoon character Donald Duck.

Short sidespin serve to the forehand

Can you serve a short sidespin serve to the forehand that breaks away from a right-hander? A LOT of players have great difficulty with this serve, and many can't return it except crosscourt, i.e. into a right-handed server's forehand. If you play one of these players and can't do this, you are handicapping yourself. Shouldn't you be ready to throw this serve at these people? Three common ways of doing this serve: the forehand tomahawk serve (i.e. racket tip up); reverse forehand pendulum serve; and the regular backhand serve. (This may be expanded into a Tip of the Week.)

New USATT logo

In case you haven't noticed, USATT recently got a new logo. They went from this to this. (The new one is now up on the USATT home page.) One USATT board member told me at the U.S. Open last month that this symbolizes the "new" USATT, and that things were now different.

To quote the oft-used phrase from the fantasy novel "A Dance with Dragons," words are just wind. (Not always, of course, but words that aren't backed up by action are.) To expand on this, logos are just pixels. Things will be different when USATT addresses the real problems of expanding the sport in this country - and that means accepting that our 8000 or so members is (as noted at the infamous Strategic Meeting in 2009) a round-off error, and that we need to find ways to expand on this - like countries like Germany and England have done through leagues (700,000 and 500,000 members respectively), or how they and other countries like Sweden and France developed top players and large junior membership through club-based junior programs. (I'm using the European examples because their situation is more similar to the U.S.'s, as opposed to, say, China, where table tennis became popular because it was decreed to be the national sport by Chairman Mao.)

New Players, Tennis versus Table Tennis

When a new player walks into a typical tennis club in the U.S., he can sign up for a league with players at his level, for private or group coaching, and kids can sign up for junior training programs. When a new player walks into a typical table tennis club in the U.S., they tell him to call winners on a table, where he gets killed by experienced players, and since there are few leagues where he can compete against players his level, little group or private coaching, and few junior programs for kids, they rarely return. The solution, of course, is a new USATT logo. :) At some point, I'll expand more on this novel concept of table tennis clubs actually addressing the needs of new players as a way of getting new players.

Tennis has been my "side sport" for many years, and I spent years going to a training program twice a week where 3-5 of us would work with a coach, who ran us to death. I also competed in USTA tennis leagues (I'm up to about 4.0 level now), and discussed the tennis situation with tennis coaches extensively. We could learn a lot from tennis if we were only willing to listen.

Ping-Pong for Poverty

If you are anywhere in the vicinity of Virginia Beach Sept. 30 - Oct. 1, why not play in the Ping-Pong for Poverty charity tournament?

The Traveling Ping-Pong Parlor

Yes, a truck that brings table tennis to the masses! Who'd have thunk it. (1:52)

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June 29, 2011

Thoughts on the U.S. Open

I leave for the U.S. Open in Milwaukee in just a few hours. Here are a few last-minute thoughts.

  • Will the umpires at the U.S. Open enforce the service rules, in particular the one that states, "It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he complies with the requirements of the Laws." I am so tired of opponents hiding their serves against players I'm coaching, with the umpire saying they weren't sure if the serve was visible to the receiver and so didn't call it. If you aren't sure if the serve is visible to the receiver, then the server has failed "to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he complies with the requirements of the Laws." Umpires, please reread that ten times, and consider: if a server is serving so that it's so close to whether the receiver can see contact that you aren't sure, that means the server is trying to hide the serve. Are you going to let him cheat? (And to be fair, umpires are among the hardest workers at a tournament doing one of the most thankless jobs, so let me thank you in advance - but only if you call those faults!!!)
  • I keep getting accused of coaching during matches at major tournaments, something I've never done. If I clap, they think it's a signal. If I fidget, grin, frown, or so much as breathe, I'm told I'm coaching. The players I coach think it's hilarious when I get warned, but it's rather irritating. It happened twice at the North American Championships and twice at the Nationals.
  • Just how good are Sun Ting and Jeffrey Zeng Xun? Jeffrey, 23, started coaching at my club (MDTTC) in December, and won the Cary Cup and Easterns, despite being out of practice. He's rated "only" 2612. He's been practicing for the Open, often with Sun Ting, so we may finally see how good he is. As to Sun Ting, 27, he's rated 2730 from the 1999 Teams when he was just 15. Has he improved? (I've nicknamed him "The Sun King.")
  • Should I spend Wednesday at the hotel hot tub, lounging around the hotel room reading and watching movies, lounging around the playing site, helping with the Paralympic training camp, touring Milwaukee, surfing the web, practicing, walking about looking important, or writing? (I arrive around 8AM.)
  • Should I have gotten a haircut before the Open?

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I just updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. There are now 1204 pictures of 707 celebrities. In the last month I've added pictures of Barack Obama, David Cameron (prime minister of England), Wen Jiabao (premier of China), Nicolas Sarkozy (president of France), basketball player Yao Ming, tennis players Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, alpine skiers Lindsey & Thomas Vonn, Vince Coleman (former senator of Minnesota), Milwaukee Brewers baseball players Zack Greinke, Corey Hart, and John Axford, and new pictures of tennis player Bobby Riggs, boxer Rocky Marciano, and financier Warren Buffett. This is just a small taste of what's there, which includes sections on Politicians/Leaders, Athletes, Talk Show Hosts, Writers, Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Cartoon Characters, and Other. Two celebrity players at this year's U.S. Open are pictured - acter Adoni Maropis and calligrapher Julian Waters. Now go explore the 707 different celebrities caught in the act of playing table tennis! (Top table tennis players do not count as celebrities here.)

Full-time training centers and junior programs

Twenty years ago there were no full-time training centers in the U.S. devoted to full-time training. So we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center.

Four and a half years ago I made a proposal to USATT urging them to make it a goal to have 100 successful junior programs in the U.S. in five years. The plan involved recruiting and training coaches to become full-time coaches and run junior programs. At the time there were at most ten junior programs in the country that I'd call successful. USATT had no interest. This was a major reason why I resigned all my positions with USATT - editor, webmaster, and programs director.

Now we have a number of full-time training centers and junior programs around the U.S. The result is that the competition in junior and cadet events is much stronger than before. Imagine if USATT had taken the initiative by recruiting and training coaches, instead of sitting around and watching while every now and then someone would take the initiative and create such a program, usually having to reinvent the wheel from scratch. (Actually, they learned from each other; I've spent a huge number of hours talking and emailing with coaches and promoters interested in opening such centers and running junior programs, as have others.) If USATT had made this a priority, there would be far more successful junior programs and the competition could have been even tougher - and since I'm coaching there, I'm thankful at least for that.

Penguin playing ping-pong

Yep, here's a 40-second video of a penguin playing table tennis. Enjoy.

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