ITTF Video World Cup

December 10, 2012

Tip of the Week

Body Movement During the Forehand Loop.

Marty Reisman, Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012

The great showman of the hardbat age, as well as in the sponge age (but always with hardbat or sandpaper), died on Friday at age 82. The sport will never be the same.

Marty had a huge influence on my life. In fact, he ruined it! How did he do that? Here's my write-up from Table Tennis Tales & Techniques on how I got started on table tennis, my first meeting with Marty, and his response.

How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life
By Larry Hodges
Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on "Track & Field." I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing "basement" ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? "Great ... another life I've ruined!"

Volkswagen 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championship

They started yesterday, and are in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which has the schedule and results, articles, and pictures. Team USA has a Boys' Team (Grant Li, Teddy Tran, Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha) and Girls' Team (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Isabel Chu, and Crystal Wang). In doubles, the boy's teams are Li/Chodri and Tran/Jha, and the girls' teams are Zhang/Jha and Chu/Wang.

Faking a Shot

Here's a video from PingSkills on faking a shot. One key thing they say early on: "It's really important first that you get the basic shots right." But once you have the fundamentals, this is one of the most under-used tactics in table tennis from the intermediate level up. For example, even against advanced players when I serve backspin, I can see where they are going to push or flip well before they contact the ball - rarely do player change directions at the last second. This makes it much easier to attack. Instead, at the last second just change directions and watch the havoc it creates!

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore

Here's the ITTF story on the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore that was taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Want to Bring World-Class Table Tennis to U.S. Television?

Here's where you can learn about this. Excerpt: "Reflex Sports and Alpha Productions, two well known names in US table tennis, are planning  a series of action-packed, fast-paced 1-hour shows of World-Class Table Tennis for broadcast on U.S. Network TV! These will include action from the WTTC, World Junior Championships, World Cup, Pro Tour, European Championships & more!"

ITTF Video World Cup

Here are the five finalists at the ITTF Video World Cup. They average from around two to four minutes, so you can watch them all in about fifteen minutes.

Table Tennis Dream

I had another of those weird table tennis dreams last night. It started as I landed with a group of others at Los Angeles Airport for some huge international tournament. (I have no idea why it was Los Angeles.) After getting off my flight - carrying four huge bags - I stopped at a restaurant. The others with me disappeared, and I found myself at a table with Matt Damon, who was explaining health care to me, but using table tennis terms like "2-1 drill" and "Falkenberg drill." I finally got away from him, and was suddenly at the playing hall, still lugging around four huge bags.

People kept asking me to hit with them, and I kept saying I can't, I have to do my blog. So I'm sitting there at a table in the middle of the hall, surrounded by my four huge bags and lots of tables as players competed, furiously trying to think of something to write about in my blog.

Then I was told the tournament was over, and I realized I had to catch a bus to the airport. I randomly got on a bus, which drove for a while, then let me off at a hotel. I checked in. Almost immediately after getting to my room I realized it was the following morning, 7AM, and I had a 6AM flight back home! Somehow I thought I could still catch the flight. Then I realized I'd left two of my huge bags at the playing all, and two at the previous hotel. (I have no idea how that happened since I'd been lugging all four about with me until now.) I ran to the lobby, and while eating breakfast with a bunch of table tennis players, Dan Seemiller was suddenly sitting across from me, and he said, "Larry, you can catch a taxi to the playing hall, pick up your bags there, then take the taxi to the hotel, pick up your other bags, and still catch your flight."

Right about now I realized that since it was 7AM (it still was 7AM), and that it was too late to catch the 6AM flight. But Dan started calling me a chicken, so I grabbed my four huge bags (which had reappeared), and rushed out to catch a taxi to go pick up the four huge bags (which were apparently both with me, and at the playing hall and previous hotel, at the same time). After tossing all four huge bags into the trunk of a taxi, I closed the trunk - and the taxi took off without me! I ran after it, yelling for it to stop, and then I woke up in a sweat. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn't in Los Angeles anymore.

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November 21, 2012

Quick Note on Malware

Most or all of the malware warning problems I blogged about previously seem to be gone, but there might still be some traces left of whatever got the site blacklisted on Google. If you are reading this, you arrived here successfully, so all's well with the world.

Merit Badges for Table Tennis?

As noted in my blog on Monday, there's a great proposal on the USATT web page (by Diego Schaaf and Wei Wang) to award "merit badges" for achieving various rating levels. Read it over and see what you think.

I've always argued that players take ratings way too seriously, and that they are, in general, a very bad thing for junior players. (Here's my article Juniors and Ratings.) Because of ratings players (especially juniors) tend to focus on immediate results instead of long-term improvement; it makes them nervous when they play as they worry about their rating (and this nervousness becomes a habit); and it often causes them not to play tournaments so they can protect their rating (thereby losing valuable tournament experience and so falling behind their peers).

I've always found the bridge system to be intriguing. In bridge, you cannot go down in rating; you only go up. This gives incentive to play more as you try to go up. It's not as accurate a system, but it incentive to compete. Given a choice between an inaccurate system with zillions of players (such as the American Contract Bridge League with 160,000 members), or a more accurate one with 8000 (USATT says hi), I have 152,000 reasons to go with the less accurate system. (This is a simplistic version of a more complex argument I won't go into here.)

The strength of the proposed system by Diego and Wei is that it gives incentive to keep playing as you get merit badges for going up, but unlike rating points, they aren't taken away when you go down. Sure, you might blow your current rating, but you'll still have that merit badge to show how good you were, plus every time you go out there you know there's a chance you might have that great day where you beat everyone and win ANOTHER merit badge!

As I wrote in my blog on Monday, similar suggestions have come up in the past, but three things always stopped it: 1) What should be awarded for these achievements - belts, like in martial arts? Pins? Badges? Certificates? etc.; 2) Few ever put together an actual proposal such as this eon, and 3) No one ever follows up on it.

There is the question of who pays for the merit badges, but that's a no-brainer to me. It's the responsibility of the player who achieves the new level to apply and pay for the merit badge. If it's not worth the small payment needed to pay for the badge and the office time to deal with them, then it's not worth their having.

There's also the transition period - at the start, why not let players send in proof of their highest rating achieved? It's all online since 1994, and before that there are magazines that can be copied. (Sorry, USATT doesn't owe you that. But I'm sure there are USATT members who might help out with this at the start.)

I hope someone from USATT follows up on this.

Last-minute coaching and preparation for Teams

Lots of last-minute training for the Teams in Baltimore and Ohio! I'm writing this blog the night before (Tuesday night) because I have to be up early to coach this morning. (Or should that be tomorrow morning since I'm writing it tonight, the night before the morning that the blog goes up? Never mind.) I've even got some coaching on Thursday. (I expect to blog on Thanksgiving morning, but perhaps a shorter one.)

I'm primarily going to be coaching, but I was talked into playing as a part-time fifth player by two of my students. I'm only committed to playing about one team match per day. The rest of the time I'll be coaching. (I'm mostly coaching Tong Tong Gong. At the Nationals I'll be working with him and Derek Nie.)

ITTF Video World Cup

There are now 17 entries in the ITTF Video World Cup. Take some time and watch them - they're pretty good. Of course the one I most like is "TTism (in slow motion)," by Richard Heo. Why? Because I'm in it!!! (I show up for about three seconds at 1:29, cheering silently and motionlessly for Raghu Nadmichettu, who is celebrating a win silently and motionlessly. That segment was filmed at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.) Here's the info page for the contest. First and second places are $5000 and $2500. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30. Oh, and it turns out you can vote once every 24 hours! So vote, and vote often.

2013 USA Team Trials

Here's a short news item from USATT: "The 2013 National Team Trials will be held on February 7-10, 2013, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. Prospectus and entry form will be posted on USATT webpage."

Reverse Forehand  Pendulum Serve

Here's an article and photo sequence on a version of the reverse forehand pendulum serve by world #27 Sayaka Hirano.

Ma Long Dong a Split?

Now here's a great picture of China's Ma Long looping from the backhand corner. Not sure if he's going to recover for the block to his wide forehand.

Table Tennis iPhone App

Here's the new TTProPlanner Promo - "for those of you who would like to plan/review your Table Tennis training" - on video, or read about it at the app store.

Terese Terranova in Broward County Hall of Fame

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation on wheelchair player and coach Terese Terranova's induction into the Broward Country Hall of Fame.

The Passion of Table Tennis

Here's another new highlights video (4:18). This one starts off by building tension as we watch the players get up and prepare for the tournament.

Ariel Hsing, Athlete of the Year

Here's a video about a minute long showcasing Ariel Hsing as the 2012 San Jose Female High School Athlete of the Year.

The Ping-Pong Dance on ABC Good Morning America

Here it is! (It's about one minute long, where they show Adam Bobrow doing one of his patented celebratory dances after winning a point.)

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November 14, 2012

Looping or Handling the Loop?

Is your game centered around looping or handling the loop? At the intermediate and advanced levels, the game is dominated by looping. Most players center their games around looping. But some take the reverse approach, and center their game around handling the loop. This includes both defensive players (choppers, fisher/lobbers, and blockers) as well as hitters.

Often players who center their games around handling the opponent's loop (or simply not letting him loop, at least not effectively) make the mistake of going too far, and never developing their own loop. Even if looping will never be their strength, it's a great variation at minimum, forcing the opponent to deal with one more thing. It's almost always the best way to deal with a deep backspin ball. Even players with short pips and hardbat can loop against backspin, and if the opponent has to adjust to both your drive and loop against backspin, he's got a lot to deal with.

Players who do loop often make the mistake of also going too far, centering their game around looping but not learning to deal with the opponent's loop very well, both in terms of keeping him from doing it (or doing it effectively) and from dealing with it when the opponent does loop. It always amazes me how many players with strong loops will serve or push long over and over, letting the opponent loop rather than serve or push short to set up their own loop.

Some are so loop happy that they try to counterloop any incoming loop. This can lead to problems as it's not easy trying to counterloop an opponent's opening loop against backspin (often very spinny) if the opponent is mixing up the speed, spin, direction, and depth. That's way too many variables for any but the very best players. If you are one of the very best players (or if you aspire to be, and are training at least 4-5 days a week), then perhaps you can learn to do this. Otherwise, consider blocking against more aggressive loops, and perhaps jab-blocking (i.e. aggressively blocking) or even smashing against loops that land short. A loop that lands short is easy to jab-block or smash (if you don't hesitate), but it really rushes a looper, and unless you are able to jump all over that ball with a full swing in a split second, counterlooping it is not easy. (Remember that you also have to wait and see if the ball is going to your forehand or backhand, and then judge the depth, speed, and spin before you can properly react.)

On the other hand, some players learn to shorten their counterloop stroke against shorter balls and sort of soft-spin off the bounce. This can be effective but takes lots of practice to get the timing down. This is especially effective if you use some of the modern high-end looping sponges (i.e. expensive ones). If you use more of a hitter's sponge, then it's better to jab-block or smash.

The main advantage of counterlooping anything that goes long, including an opponent's loop? You don't have to hesitate since you know what you are going to do. You just have to decide forehand and backhand, and then let the shot go. (You do have to decide how hard and what direction you are looping, but that's relatively easy.) This works for many world-class players, but remember - it takes lots of practice and perhaps some physical training as well.

TopSpin's Charity Benefit

Here's an article in Forbes Magazine on the TopSpin Charity Benefit being held tonight, and here's the opening paragraph: "Over 1,000 members of the sports, entertainment and media communities will be hoisting ping-pong paddles in New York City tomorrow at TopSpin’s fourth annual Ping-Pong Tournament.  And they will be doing so in an effort to benefit three city programs for under-served students.  Among the confirmed guests are Hakeem Nicks, Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas of the New York Giants, and Gerald Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse of the Brooklyn Nets."

ITTF Video World Cup

Here are the twelve entries received so far for the ITTF Video World Cup. You can view them and vote for the winner! Of course, the best one is "TTism (in slow motion)," by Richard Heo. Why? Because I'm in it!!! (I show up for about three seconds at 1:29, cheering silently and motionlessly for Raghu Nadmichettu, who is celebrating a win silently and motionlessly. That segment was filmed at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.) Here's the info page for the contest. First and second places are $5000 and $2500. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30.

Sampson Dubina's Favorite Serving Videos

Former USA Men's Singles Finalist Samson Dubina posted links to his favorite videos of top players serving. (And here's his article "Perfecting Your Serve.") I've added names/descriptions. Here are the serving videos:

John Ping Pong

Here's a ping-pong song (2:44) I hadn't heard before. It's set to some old-time music.

Non-Table Tennis - "The Devil's Backbone"

The new anthology "After Death," which features fantasy stories about what happens after you die, includes my story "The Devil's Backbone." (Anthology comes out in March, but they just announced the table of contents.) It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape?

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