Bush versus Gore

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
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)
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
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
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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