USA Nationals Entry Form

August 30, 2013

NOTE - While I'm away at the ITTF coaching course (see below) I'm taking time off from blogging. I'll have lots to report when I return next Monday, Sept. 9!

ITTF Coaching Course

I'm off to an ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course next week, Mon-Sat, at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in Dunellen, NJ. The course is six days long, six hours/day and so 36 hours total. Here's the info page. The course is taught by Richard McAfee.

Coaching the Forehand

I had a new student last night, a 62-year-old semi beginner. He'd take a few lessons before, but had an awkward forehand - he'd drop his back shoulder during his backswing (and so tended to lift the ball instead of drive it forward), and lean toward the ball (so was off balance for the shot, not to mention this killed his timing). The stroke needed some serious rehab.

Rather than have him start off by hitting forehands, I had him do the following sequence.

  1. First we shadow stroked the shot over and over to get it right. This means practicing the stroke without a ball.
  2. Next I had him stand by the table with a ball, then toss the ball up and hit it with the proper stroke so the ball hit my side. This was surprisingly difficult - his timing had been built up based on a faulty stroke, and so he had to learn new timing with the new one. But by doing it this way he was able to hit off a nearly stationary ball. We did this over and over until he felt comfortable doing it.
  3. Next I fed him multiball to one spot as he continued to ingrain the new stroke.
  4. Next we did live hitting, going slow so he could use the new stroke. I focused on keeping the ball to the same spot. We were in no rush to increase the speed; the focus was on doing it right.
  5. Finally we did some side-to-side footwork, again going slowly so he could make sure to use the new stroke.

The entire training sequence took half an hour. By that time he was stroking the ball properly. It'll take more time to really ingrain the stroke so muscle memory will default to this in a game situation, but now he's on the right path.

He had a pretty good backhand, could actually topspin it pretty well. However, when I increased the pace, the shot fell apart. We worked on meeting the ball more straight on as the pace increased, which helped his rallying skills tremendously.

Observing Top Players and Coaches

After I finished coaching last night I found a perfect spot to sit and observe the action on three tables. On one table was Coach Cheng Yinghua working with Nathan Hsu (16, about 2350). They again were doing the short push drill I blogged about on Wednesday. (USATT featured that blog entry on their home page.) They went through various other drills after that.

On another table Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") was working with Derek Nie (12, rated 2297). They were doing a drill where Bowen served and looped, and Derek counterlooped off the bounce with his forehand, and then they'd play out the point. While most of Derek's counterloops were crosscourt, he was also working on going down the line. Afterwards I talked to Derek, who I coach in tournaments, and pointed out how important it would be for his game if he could master that down-the-line off-the-bounce counterloop. (They also sometimes do a similar drill to Derek's backhand, where Derek topspin blocks aggressively.) Everyone's game is different, but for technical reasons I won't go into here (his rivals might be reading this!) this shot fits his game perfectly.

On another table three players were playing winner stay on: Harold Baring (2414), Raghu Nadmichettu (2321), and Larry Abass (2316, but 2362 before his last tournament). What most caught my attention there was how Harold's third-ball forehand attacking style was similar to how I used to do it 20+ years ago. Alas, the good old days!

You don't really need to be a top player to be a top coach or to be really knowledgeable about the game. But only rarely can a non-top player have the circumstances where they spend huge amounts of time observing top players and coaches as they train. You can't learn this from just watching videos of tournament matches; you need to watch how the players got there to really understand the game at a higher level. Players and wannabe coaches should look for chances to observe top players and coaches in training sessions every chance they can. 

USA Nationals Entry Form

The USA Nationals entry form came out yesterday. And here's the home page for the 2013 Nationals (not much is there yet), to be held in Las Vegas, Dec. 17-21. They really do need to get these things out earlier; some people make vacation plans well in advance. At minimum, it should be distributed at the U.S. Open in July, just as the 2014 U.S. Open entry form should be distributed at the Nationals in December. There are complications in doing this, but they need to overcome those complications.

For perspective, I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA). The World Science Fiction Convention starts today, in San Antonia, TX. (I can't believe I'm missing it!!! I've been to three. About 5000 people attend each year, though the number fluctuates based mostly on location.) Here's the World Science Fiction Convention home page. And already they are featuring next year's World Con in London! If you go to that page, you'll see it's pretty extensive. They even have the guests of honor for next year already signed up so they can advertise them - seven of them! People are already making plans to attend. Even more importantly, they take advantage of the excitement of this year's World Con to get people to sign up for next year's. USATT should do the same.

Two Tips to Increase Forehand Power

Here's another tip of mine from long ago that USATT ran yesterday. (I did 171 Tips of the Week for them as "Dr. Ping-Ping," 1999-2007.) Has anyone noticed that the length of my tips have increased over the years? They used to be short things; now each one's practically a feature!!!

Jorgen Persson: The Story

Here's a video (5:19) that tells the story of 1991 World Men's Singles Champion Jorgen Persson of Sweden. Those who followed his career will recognize the many scenes, including the many Sweden-China confrontations back when Sweden was the dominant table tennis country. Yes, it wasn't always China! (But the few times since 1960 when China wasn't #1 they were the country that others had to beat to become #1.)

Adam Bobrow on TV

Here's an episode of the TV show "Code." As Adam describes it on Facebook, "Check out my dance battle with rugby superstar Liam Messam! My main segment is from 25:45 – 31:30 plus a moment getting crazy on the turntables at 33:14. The show was a BLAST! I am so happy I showed up for the live taping."

iPhone Ping-Pong

Here's a video (3:11, but starts with an irritating 30-sec commercial) showing plays table tennis with an iPhone on the Today Show. As described by Table Tennis Nation, "Franck from SPiN went on the Today Show yesterday to show off some bar tricks and demonstrated how you play ping pong with an iPhone (the ping pong starts at 2:05)."

"As One" Outtake?

I think this five-second video is an outtake from the movie "As One," which tells the story of the unified Korean team winning Women's Teams at the 1991 Worlds. I thought I'd seen everything in table tennis, but this is new - a player's toss in doubles hitting her partner in the head? But I think these are actors, not actual players, playing the part of real-life players Hyun Jung Hwa of South Korea (played by actor Jiwon Ha) and Li Bun Hui of North Korea (played by actor Doona Bae). Someone correct me if I'm wrong.


Here's a hilariously spectacular video (2:56) with lots of great special effect that went up yesterday. Perhaps the best part is when the woman looks in and we see the reality.

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July 8, 2011

USA Nationals entry form

The long national wait is over; the USA Nationals entry form is online! (Just kidding; the U.S. Open just finished a few days ago.) Here's the USA Nationals page. (Strangely, you have search around to find the dates, and even the location is in small print. Shouldn't that be in a large headline?) For once I get to drive to the tournament, about three hours away; there's going to be a massive Maryland caravan going there. See you in Virginia Beach, VA, Dec. 13-17!

Top Ten Reasons Why Coaches Fail

Here's an interesting Top Ten List of why coaches fail. I don't necessarily agree with all of them. For example, #1 says not to compromise. But sometimes you must listen to your athletes and learn, i.e. compromise. For example, I told a player recently to use his backhand serve short to the forehand, since I knew the opponent had trouble with that serve. The player looked unhappy so I asked why. He said he hadn't used his backhand serve in a while, and didn't have confidence in using it. So we compromised - I had the player use the backhand serve sparingly, so the opponent would have to think about it, which made the other serves more effective. (I also told the player to start using the backhand serve again so it'd be ready when needed.)

I also disagree with #3, about not copying other coaches. I'd say you should copy what works, and expand on it to make it even more successful. To use a classic example, when the Europeans began dominating the Chinese in table tennis in the early 1990s, the Chinese copied their two-winged looping game, expanded on it, and have pretty much dominated the game since. If they hadn't done so, where would they be now? Still playing with pips-out?

I'm also slightly skeptical of #6, which says not to use the same programs over and over and over. It's partially right, but what works before often will work again, in the same situation, as long as you understand why the program worked before, and make any needed adjustments. For example, many pro athletes have very specific habits that prepare them to play their best. There's no reason to not use the same program over and over and over - if it works. At the same time, as the situation changes you might have to make adjustments; for example, older athletes might need more stretching to avoid injury as their muscles tend to be tighter.

The Absolute Last Adoni Maropis Segment (until later)

Adoni still didn't like the pictures I put up of him two days ago, and when an actor from "24," Hidalgo," "Troy," and "Mortal Kombat: Conquest" talks, we sometimes vaguely listen when not hitting ping-pong balls. Yesterday he emailed me, writing "I thought I would include a pic where I didn't look pregnant and/or feminine in any way." He sent me this one and that one. Now we get the real Fayed Abu sinister look!

We also discussed the idea of a "Celebrity Team" at the North American Teams in November, perhaps made up of Adoni (2110 in hardbat ratings, with an 1881 USATT rating from a while back), Frank Caliendo (comedian, about 1900 level now), Will Shortz (puzzlist, about 1800), Julian Waters (about 1900-1950, famed calligrapher), and Judah Friedlander (comedian/actor, and the runt of the lot at about 1500 level, though he still wears those "World Champion" shirts). Maybe they'll even consider Delaware Governor Jack Markell, currently rated 1223 - or is that too low? And there's also Susan Sarandon, co-owner of the Spin NY team - but she's about 800. Will they put together a Fab Five (or Four) team? If they do, remember you heard about it here first! (They are all pictured, along with 700+ other celebrities, at the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page.)

Jan-Ove Waldner - coordinated?

Here's all-time great Waldner showing his ball-bouncing abilities! (0:32) His opponent is Jorgen Persson (1991 Men's Singles World Champion); the second announcer speaking is five-times U.S. Champion Dan Seemiller.


Yes, that's what I weighed this morning. On Dec. 26, 2010, I weighed 196. Despite all my fame and fortune, my goal of becoming a nobody is rapidly becoming a reality. This should strike fear in all my opponents who used to move me around, especially all the kids at the club (many of whom I coach) who used to think it was funny to move me side to side. Try it now! On to 165.

Nibble on my Novel (non-table tennis)

YesterdayI got a major "nibble" on my YA humorous fantasy novel, "The Giant Face in the Sky." The agent - from one of the large NY agencies - wrote: "Well, this is a weird one, but the mere prospect of a buddy comedy where one of the buddies is a meteor is cracking me up, and you’ve got great comic timing, to boot…would you send me the full manuscript when you get the chance? Much obliged!"


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