Pigeons

April 5, 2013

Equipment Reviews

Long ago I decided not to do equipment reviews here at TableTennisCoaching.com, because 1) it involves too many conflicts of interest, since I'm a sponsored coach; and 2) I'm more interested in technique and tactics than equipment. But I'm aware that I'm somewhat in the minority on this, as most table tennis players are divided into two camps: those obsessed with equipment, and those REALLY obsessed with equipment. For those EJ's ("Equipment Junkies"), visit Table Tennis DB, which specializes in equipment reviews - about 8000 of them!

When I meet a player who's obsessed with equipment and rated under 2000, I have a simple cure. I play them with a clipboard. I rarely lose. Technique and tactics beat equipment every time. (I've been playing with a clipboard during breaks in our junior sessions and camps for over 20 years, and am about 2100 now, mostly chopping and pick-hitting.)

It is important to get good sponge, especially for loopers. As I've blogged before, some of the modern looping sponges practically loop by themselves, and are well worth whatever you pay to get them, at least for serious players of the looping species. I often wish I could take a stack of these sponges and bring them back to the 1980s and early 1990s for myself.

And it is important for players to experiment with equipment to know what's out there. If you go to a club, there's a whole club full of players with rackets and sponge you can ask to try out. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it unless and until they come out with something truly better for you.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

I just finished updating and formatting this for Amazon. A proof copy is in the mail. If all goes well, it'll be on sale in a week, and I'll announce it here. The manual, which I wrote several years ago, is 44 pages long, and will sell for $10. (I'll probably do a Kindle version later.) It is intended for top players and coaches, and is about the professional side of coaching. Here's the Amazon description: "Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."

New World Rankings

Here are the new April rankings. There are few major changes at the top. On the Men's side, the top nine rankings were unchanged, with Ma Long at #1 for the second month in a row. On the women's side there were no changes in the top ten, and Ding Ning remains #1 for the 18th month in a row, since November 2011.

Crystal Wang

When the Cary Cup Championships was processed last week, there were a few mistakes, which primarily affected Crystal Wang, who is from my club. (I coach her in some of her tournament matches, including the key match at Cary Cup where she upset the top seed in her group to move into the "A" Division.) In the corrected ratings, Crystal, who just turned 11, is rated 2292. This makes her #1 in Under 12 (boys and girls), #1 in Under 14 Girls, #2 in Under 16 girls (6 points behind Tina Lin), #7 in Under 18 Girls, and #12 in Under 22 Girls. She's not quite back to the 2355 she achieved at age 10 (before that "blip" at the Nationals - she wasn't there mentally), but she's close. She's been causing havoc among 2300 players in our Elite League on Sundays for quite some time. 

Table Tennis Master

Here are three new coaching articles at Table Tennis Master.

Using Your Legs When Playing Forehand

Here's a video (2:14) from PingSkills on this. The key point - balance.

Chinese Table Tennis Team - Military Training

Here's a video from Dec., 2011, showing the Chinese National Team undergoing military training. It's in Chinese, but the video is rather interesting. Most of the "soldiers" shown training are Chinese team members, including the ones interviewed. How many can you recognize?

Artistic Picture of Ding Ning

Here's an artistic picture of World #1 woman Ding Ning, with an urban skyline background. I think that's New York City, but can anyone verify? Or perhaps it's Beijing or Shanghai? (EDIT - the artist, Mike Mezyan, has informed me it's the Chicago skyline! Shows how well I recognize our major cities.) 

Prince William and Kate Play Table Tennis

Here's a video (3:29) of Prince William and Kate of England playing table tennis. Someone needs to explain to Kate that high heels and table tennis don't mix well.

Improvised Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:30) with one of the more improvised nets I've seen - two boys grabbing hands across a table for the net.

Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong

You have to see this video (39 sec) - yes, actual pigeons playing "ping-pong," taught by behavior psychologist BF Skinner. As the narration explains, the pigeons were taught that they could eat whenever they won a point!

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November 5, 2012

Tip of the Week

Developing Your Forehand Smash. (Note - this is a greatly expanded version from a blog entry from Oct. 19, 2012.)

USATT's Newsletter Blog and a Possible New USATT Partnership with Clubs

My blog on Friday about the USATT's Newsletter and ways USATT could promote themselves and non-USATT table tennis programs around the country, was by far my most read blog ever, with 1690 reads (so far), versus 605 for the day before. It also led to some helpful email exchanges among USATT officials and myself, leading to a possible new emphasis on promoting leagues and junior programs around the U.S. with the newsletter and web page. The last paragraph of the blog was the key part, so I'll reprint it here:

Why not use the USATT eNewsletter (and webpage) to systematically promote the leagues and junior programs from around the country, even if they are not USATT programs? This brings players into the sport, and these players usually become USATT members. Specifically, they could have a central online listing of these leagues and junior programs, and use the eNewsletter to refer readers to them. (They already have this for tournaments, so they just need to refer to them in the eNewsletter. But there's far greater membership potential in leagues and junior programs, as demonstrated in Europe.) If a kid or parent gets the USATT eNewsletter (or goes to the USATT web page, for that matter), they don't learn about the great junior programs at clubs around the country. They don't learn about the great leagues in SF, LA, NY, and other regions, or in individual clubs. They don't even know these things exist. And so we lose them. Tennis and European table tennis actively refers people to these programs as their central focus. Why not use these non-USATT programs to promote table tennis, referring to them constantly in the eNewsletter and webpage, leading to a more prosperous USATT?

I think the key is that new players who come to the USATT home page or receive the newsletter have no idea there are leagues and junior programs out there, often right in their backyards. USATT doesn't have the resources to set up and run these programs, but others are already doing them - so a natural partnership is practically slapping us in the face, where USATT promotes these programs on their highly-trafficked web page, and these programs bring in USATT members. (In my emails, I explicitly pointed out I have a conflict of interest in this, since I run junior programs at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which also has leagues.)

Developing Your Deep Serves

Here's an article "Your Deep Serves Should be a Weapon" by Olympian and three-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Jim Butler. This is a must read for anyone who wants to turn their serves - long or short - into a weapon. Jim not only talks about how to make the long serve effective, but how it makes your short serves effective. (I find it almost astonishing how his thinking on this topic parallels my own - and he has the "moral" authority of someone who's beaten many of the top players in the world - including Waldner - with these serving tactics.) Here's my own article on the topic, "Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves," the Tip of the Week on Oct. 22, 2012.

World Cadet Challenge

The World Cadet Challenge in Guam ended yesterday. Here's the ITTF page where you can get full results, articles, and pictures, and see how the players from your country did. (Here's another page that has lots of pictures from the event.) And here's a highlights video (2:52) that features USA Cadets Jonathan Ou and Allen Wang.

Biba

Here's a video feature (1:35) of USA's table tennis star and model Biba. When you only need one name to be known, you're good!!!

That is Table Tennis

Here's a new table tennis highlights video (14:54) from ttGermany. The second point shown (between Kalinikos Kreanga and Tokic Bojan) might be the best counterlooping point of the year.

"Ping Pong Summer"

The filming in Ocean City for the upcoming movie "Ping Pong Summer" (starring Spin NY owner Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson, John Hannah, Robert Longstreet, Amy Sedaris, and of course the great Judah Friedlander - who I've coached several times!) just finished. Here's an article on it, and here's the IMDB page. "The story is a coming-of-age tale involving one boy's love of hip-hop and ping pong during a summer in Ocean City in the 1980's."

I'm Running for President of the United States

Yes, I, Larry Hodges, am throwing my paddle into the ring. Here is my platform where I answer the hard questions facing our illustrious nation. I'm ready to debate Obama and Romney anytime (today) and anywhere (within driving distance of my house in Maryland) - or we could just settle it, mano-a-mano, on the table.

  1. Foreign Affairs. We're too soft on the Chinese. Next time I see Zhang Jike I will punch him in the nose. This will show the world we're serious about these foreign affairs thingies and gain us respect so other countries will cower in fear and do our bidding.
  2. Immigration. If your name is Wang, come on in. (Penhold or shakehand?) If your name is Rodriquez, sorry.
  3. Economy. I will require all Americans to play table tennis for one hour every day. With 300 million people regularly buying exorbitantly priced table tennis sponge, rackets, shoes, and other table tennis necessities, it will spur the economy.
  4. Health Care. Who needs it when everyone's getting in such great shape from an hour of ping-pong every day?
  5. Energy Independence. I've tried oil, coal, even radium, and all it did was get my paddle all gooey, dusty, and gave me cancer. We'll just have to rely on Japan for our tenergy needs.
  6. Taxes. I will neither raise nor lower taxes. I believe taxes should stay right where they are, at street level, ready to transport Americans from airports and hotels to tournament playing halls every weekend. You should tip your hats to these hard-working Americans, and tip them well.
  7. Bi-partisanship. I am willing to work across the aisle with anyone, except those stupid pen holders who can't shake hands without jabbing you with their pen. Pen holders should be banned; we have things called word processors.
  8. Vice President. I want a vice president who is level-headed, thoughtful, and without ego. Marty Reisman is my choice. (We'll ignore for now that his name is an anagram for "Misery Mantra," "Remain Smarty," "Martyr is Mean," and "My Rat Seminar.")
  9. Service. I have nothing but praise for the service, whether it be pendulum, tomahawk, or backhand. The service is our front-line defense, and I have nothing but contempt for those who receive the service aggressively rather than give it the respect it deserves.
  10. Hard bat. I am very much in favor of the hard bat movement. In fact, I keep a toy plastic bat on my desk. Go ahead and wrap your knuckle against it, it's hard as rock.
  11. Core Values. Unlike some candidates, I do not flip based on the situation just to score political points. I pledge to you that I will only push against short balls. Let my opponents be the flippers we all despise.
  12. National Debt. We've been building up a national debt for many years, while China, Japan, Sweden, Hungary, and other countries have had an imbalance with us. I figure we should sweep the next ten World Championships, and we'll call it even.
  13. Self-sufficiency. There's an old saying, "Give someone a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach him to fish, and he eats for a lifetime." It's true - some of the best fishers play in the European leagues, and with their topspin defense, make hordes of money. They'll never go hungry.
  14. Capitalism or Socialism? Yes.
  15. Table Tennis or Ping-Pong? Yes.
  16. Size of Government. I want government to keep their dirty hands off our social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and off our streets and out of our schools and libraries. Why can't they just build ping-pong centers and leave us alone?

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