Happy New Year

January 2, 2014

My Year in Review

I had a pretty busy year. Here's a review of my 2013.

I coached at nine MDTTC camps, six hours a day, totaling 44 days: March 25-29, June 17-21, 24-28, July 8-12, 15-19 (missed the last day), July 29-Aug. 2, Aug. 12-16, 19-23, Dec. 26-31 (missed the last day).

I ran approximately 120 junior training sessions, most of them 90 minutes long. I also did about 800 hours of private coaching. I was also a practice partner at about 80 training sessions - it would have been more except for various injuries. I also ran three table tennis birthday parties.

I had three more books come out, two on table tennis, one a humorous fantasy novel.

I also had 235 blog entries, exactly 50 Tips of the Week at TableTennisCoaching.com and PaddlePalace.com, 121 Tips of the Day at USATT.org, 10 articles in USATT Magazine, 1 article at Butterflyonline.com, 10 sold or published science fiction or fantasy stories, and 11 feature articles at OriolesHangout.com. I also created 12 MDTTC Newsletters and 1 Hall of Fame Program Booklet.

From Feb. 5-15, USATT Historian Tim Boggan stayed at my house as I did the page layouts and photo work (with him looking over my shoulder) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13. It was a mammoth job, totaling 448 pages with 918 photos. (We start Volume 14 on Jan. 13.) Here's the page where you can learn more about these books and buy them. (I created and maintain the page for him.)

I coached at 13 tournaments this year:

  • Mar. 2-3, MDTTC Open
  • Mar. 15-17, Cary Cup in Cary, NC
  • Apr. 6-7, MDTTC Open
  • Apr. 20-21, North American Hopes Trials at Westchester TTC in NY
  • June 8-9, Eastern Open in Princeton, NJ
  • July 2-6, U.S. Open in Las Vegas
  • Aug. 24-25, MDTTC Open
  • Sept. 21, Coconut Cup Under 1800 at MDTTC
  • Sept. 28, Coconut Cup Over 1800 at MDTTC
  • Oct 26-27, South Shore Open at South Shore, IN
  • Nov. 9-10, Potomac Open in Maryland
  • Nov. 29 - Dec. 1, North American Teams in Washington D.C.
  • Dec. 17-21, USA Nationals in Las Vegas

Early in the year I gave regular coaching sessions to U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Coach Audrey Weisiger, who was training to beat the other coaches at an upcoming summer gathering. Here are some blog entries on her sessions: Jan. 17, Feb. 7, May 16, Apr. 26 (where I convert her to long pips on the backhand), and May 3.

On May 13, JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson from the Baltimore Orioles visited MDTTC, and I gave both of them lessons. Here's my blog entry on it. I later coached pitcher Darren O'Day at MDTTC four times.

On Aug. 21, I visited the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse with our top junior players, and stayed for three hours. Here's my blog entry on it.

From Sept. 2-7, I attended the ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course at the Lily Yip TTC in NJ, and achieved ITTF Level 2 Coaching Certification, the highest level available right now in the U.S.  I had the only perfect score on the test. Here's my blog entry on it, and here's the ITTF article on it.

On Oct. 9, I spent the day on the set of the TV show Veep, which was doing an episode that features table tennis that should come out around March. Here's my blog entry on it.

I'm essentially retired as a player, but did play a couple of hardbat events this year, getting second place in Hardbat Singles at the Cary Cup in North Carolina (May 15-17), and winning Over 50 Hardbat Doubles with Jay Turberville at the U.S. Open in Las Vegas (July 2-6). (Here's a picture of Jay and I with our trophies, with "coach" Derek Nie.)

I was a panelist at two science fiction conventions: Balticon, May 24-26, in Baltimore, MD, and Capclave, Oct. 11-13 in Gaithersburg, MD.

From July 19-27 I attended the Never-Ending Odyssey Writers Workshop in Manchester, NH, which is an annual program for graduates of the Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop, which I attended in 2006.

I was interviewed twice this year, but strangely both times it was by science fiction magazines rather than in table tennis. Here's my interview in Weird Tales Magazine, and here's my interview in New Myths Magazine.

I saw over 50 movies at the theater - I generally see at least one every week.

I read 32 book in 2013, which is somewhat of a low for me. I also read the Washington Post each day, plus USA Table Tennis Magazine, Scientific American, and Bulletin of SFWA. Here are the books I read in 2013:

TABLE TENNIS (1)

  • ITTF Advanced Coaching Manual

NON-FICTION (3)

  • The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins
  • Which President Killed a Man by James Humes
  • Vietnam, A History by Stanley Karnow

ON WRITING (5)

  • Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy, Edited by Michael Knost
  • Words Fail Me by Patricia T. O'Conner
  • From Idea to Story in 90 Seconds: A Writer’s Primer by Ken Rand
  • Writing to the Point: A Complete Guide to Selling Fiction by Aldis Budrys
  • How to Write Funny edited by John Kachuba

FICTION (23)

  • Buffalito Buffet by Lawrence Schoen
  • Trial of the Century by Lawrence Schoen
  • The Mammoth Book of Time Travel SF edited by Mike Ashley
  • Edison's Conquest of Mars by Garrett Serviss
  • Julian Comstock by Robert Charles Wilson
  • Hounded by Kevin Hearne
  • Hexed by Kevin Hearne
  • Hammered by Kevin Hearne
  • Tricked by Kevin Hearne
  • Trapped by Kevin Hearne
  • Hunted by Kevin Hearne
  • Two Ravens and One Crow by Kevin Hearne
  • Grimoire of the Lamb by Kevin Hearne
  • Blockade Billy by Stephen King
  • Dawn of Dragons by James Maxey
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Apollo's Outcasts by Allen Steele
  • Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer
  • The Alien Within (Voyagers Series) by Ben Bova
  • Star Brothers (Voyagers Series) by Ben Bova
  • The Return (Voyagers Series) by Ben Bova

International Table Tennis

Want to read lots of articles on table tennis internationally? Then check out two places, TableTennista and the ITTF page

MDTTC Juniors Go Skiing

Here they are - L-R: Derek Nie, Darwin Ma, Amy Lu, and Crystal Wang. The four took a day off during our Christmas Camp. No broken legs.

ITTF to Ban Wood Rackets in 2015

Here's the article! (This is a satire on the ITTF's regularly changing the rules, including the upcoming ban of celluloid balls.)

Colorful Table

Here's the picture - imagine a club full of these!

Belated Happy New Year!

Here are some Table tennis Happy New Year images:

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December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

No blog tomorrow, see you on Thursday, Jan. 2.

MDTTC Christmas Camp

The highlight of the camp yesterday was, without a doubt, the candy game, which we did the last half hour of the camp, 5:30-6:00 PM. It's an annual tradition in our Christmas Camp - and sometimes other camps, though I can't afford to buy candy for all 12 of our summer camps. (Yes, I'm paying for the candy out of my pocket, not the club.) Here's how the candy game works. I bought several bags of Hershey's chocolate kisses and of Jolly Ranchers (a hard candy the kids like). I pour them all onto the table, and jam them all against the end of the table so they'll fall off easily. Then I feed multiball as the kids take turns trying to knock the candy off, three shots per turn. Anything they knock off they get to keep. (I allow switches, so if they knock off one type of candy, they can trade it for another on the table.) It's great fun, and since the kids know at least two days in advance that we're going to do it, the younger ones especially have incentive to practice their forehands. Essentially all the kids in the camp join in, but I strongly encourage the older, more advanced ones to share with the younger beginners if they win too many, and they go along with that. At the end, there was (as usual) a lot of candy still on the table, and so I let the kids split that up, keeping a handful of Hershey Kisses for myself.

As to actual table tennis, I gave lectures on pushing and an impromptu one for some of the better kids on serving. But for most of the day the focus was on footwork. I introduced the 2-1 drill to most of the younger kids, where they play three shots over and over: a backhand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the backhand corner, and then a forehand from the forehand corner. (This is the "perfect" drill, as you do three of the four most common moves in table tennis: cover the wide forehand, cover the wide backhand, and step around forehand. What's the fourth common move? Walk to the barriers to pick up the ball.)

The group of 6- to 8-year olds keeps growing, with ten in the camp yesterday, too many for me alone. So Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") assisted me much of the day, with each of us taking five and switching back and forth. There are about 30 in all in the camp.

Regarding the pushing lecture, where I used Crystal Wang as my hitting partner, I went over the basics first. Beginners should start out by letting the ball fall on their racket. As they advance, they learn to take it quicker off the bounce. The pushes should generally be quick off the bounce, with pretty good pace, have good backspin, be low to the net, go deep on the table, go wide to the corners, and players should be able to change directions at the last second. I also cited the importance of doing something with each push, such as rushing the opponent with an extra-quick push, or loading up the backspin against a player who has trouble with that. We also covered and demoed short pushes. I finished by showing them how to sidespin push, especially deep sidespin pushes that break into the opponent's backhand.

Now the bad news. First, the days of standing on my feet feeding multiball have begun to wear down my legs, especially since I had to take much of December off with arm problems, and so wasn't in as good physical shape as usual. Result?

First, I have a blister on my right foot, something I hadn't had in decades.

Second, at around 1AM Sunday morning I woke up in the middle of the night with an excruciating leg cramp in my right hamstring. It was pretty painful, and it's still very sore.

Third, and perhaps worse of all, came at the end of yesterday's morning session. I ended the session as I often do, gathering the younger kids and having them spread out on one side of the tables while I'm on the other. Then I side step side to side very quickly, with the kids trying to stay with me. It's great footwork practice and the kids love it. I only do this for about 30 seconds, and then let the kids take turns leading - all of them want a turn. Unfortunately, during the 30 seconds I led I managed to both wrench my right knee and strain something in the right calf. I was limping the rest of the day.

So my right leg currently has the following, from the bottom up:

  1. Blister in foot
  2. Strained calf
  3. Wrenched knee
  4. Strained hamstring

I don't think any of these things are going to be long-lasting, and since I've got the next few days off, hopefully all will be well by the time I get back to coaching on Fri or Sat.

The good news is the arm problems I battled all December seem to be over (key word: seem), though I won't know for sure until I start private coaching again.

2013 North American Tour Grand Final

It will take place Jan. 11-12, at the ICC club in Milpitas, California. Here is the current lineup of players, and here is the tentative schedule.

ITTF Star Awards

Here's where you can vote for the ITTF Star Awards, in the following categories: Male Star, Female Star, Para Male Star, Para Female Star, Fan's Male Star, Fan's Female Star, and Star Rally. There's also a 62 sec video. You can also reserve your seat for the awards dinner.

Top Spin Documentary

Here's a trailer (4:34) for the upcoming documentary, a "2014 feature-length documentary about American teenagers coming of age in the world of competitive ping pong." Players featured include Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Michael Landers.

Best Ping-Pong Commercials of the Year

Here's a compilation by Table Tennis Nation.

Ma Long & Zhang Jike Table Tennis Football

Here's 24 seconds of the two of them playing table tennis football. Sort of.

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January 2, 2013

Tip of the Week

Balance Throughout the Stroke.

Two Weeks

The last two weeks have been exhausting. I can divide them into four parts: the USA Nationals (Dec. 18-22: Christmas with Family (Dec. 22-25); MDTTC Christmas Camp (Dec. 26-31); and Reading in Bed (Dec. 31 - Jan. 1).

USA Nationals

I've been to every Nationals since the early 1980s, and this is the first one where I didn't play any events, just coached. Much of the tournament is now a blur, but much of it comes back when I look over the extensive notes I took on opponents. (I have to type them up soon for my ongoing coaching notes.)

Derek Nie, 11, played great. I coached him in all his matches as he made the National Mini-Cadet Team (under 13), finishing second (with the top four making the team). His matches from the quarterfinals on were spectacular, and gave meaning to the idea that tactics aren't very helpful if you can't executive. Well, he executed!!! Going in, he was seeded eighth at 2139, but in more recent ratings he was 2221, which would have put him third. He knocked off the second seed (rated 2314) at 7,4,7 in perhaps the best-played match of his life. His two-winged full-court looping game, and especially his counterlooping from all over the court, is especially impressive when you remember he's 4'5" and 65 lbs! (As noted previously, he's the best player in the U.S., pound for pound.) He has another year left in the Mini-Cadets, as well as four years in the Cadets. He trains regularly with Cheng Yinghua and the other MDTTC coaches, including me, although I mostly play practice matches with him so he can work on serve & receive - he's too fast for me in drills. 

Here's a picture of me coaching Derek and Seyed Hesam Hamrahian in doubles in the Junior Team competition. And yes, that's me, getting chased around the table by Derek as we loosen up before a practice session. It started as some easy jogging around the table, then it became a chase, and Bruce Liu (unfortunately) caught the last nine seconds of it.

Here's a nice quote I keep reminding Derek of during the tournament when he was passive in receiving long serves: "At the higher levels, looping a long serve is not a tactic, it's what you do. Not looping the serve is a tactic." Ironically, in one of his key matches, the opponent mixed in long topspin and backspin serves, and in that match the tactic was to push the backspin serve back, since the opponent would either push or loop soft, giving Derek the chance to loop or counterloop.

I didn't get to see much of the main matches in men's or women's singles as I was too busy coaching. I did manage to attend the annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday night. For the fourth year in a row I did the program booklet for them; here's the 2012 program, in high (1.7MB) or low (174KB) resolution.

Some of you might remember Mike Lardon, a junior star from the 1970s, and now a sports psychologist. He was at the Nationals, playing in the over 50 events. I introduced him to Derek, and he gave him (and signed) a copy of his sports psychology book, Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life. (I reviewed this in my Nov. 8, 2011 blog.) Derek read half the book that night. I've been told that most match coaches don't spend much time on sports psychology, which I believe is a huge mistake. It's often the most important aspect.

It's almost a joke how much strength and depth we now have in the juniors, especially up to about age 14. It's getting ridiculous - players who seven years ago would be battling for national titles are now struggling to reach the QF. The matches in the round of 16 are stronger than finals from ten years ago. They are routinely doing shots that were only rarely done back then. I still cringe every time an opponent power loop to Derek's FH, and Derek (and other players) routinely go for the counterloop, probably not realizing how difficult this is "supposed" to be!

Christmas

I spent Christmas with family in Santa Barbara, Dec. 22-25. No table tennis - sorry! Gave away lots of stuff, received lots of stuff (sorry, no table tennis stuff!). Highlights included my making my annual batch of Larry's Chili (my own secret recipe) for Dec. 23 dinner (and lunches thereafter); seeing The Hobbit on Christmas Day; and catching the annual red-eye flight on Christmas night so I can get back the morning of Dec. 26 for the MDTTC training camp.

We've run over 150 training camps at MDTTC since we opened in 1992, and this was our 21st Christmas Camp - I've coached at all of them. During the camp I gave lectures on ready position, grip, forehand, backhand, forehand loop, backhand loop, flipping, pushing, footwork, serve, receive, playing different surfaces, and doubles.

MDTTC Christmas Camp

The camp was held Dec. 26-31, starting with an afternoon session on Dec. 26, and ending with the morning session on Dec. 31. We had over 40 players. Because we have so many coaches at MDTTC (6), I was only needed in the morning sessions, where I gave short lectures before breaking out into multiball sessions. My highlight was getting a bunch of the kids on break to call out the names of the three great gods of table tennis until they got the secret meaning: Owa, Tegu, Siam. Say them over and over until you get the secret meaning. (If you are lost, email me, but really, you should get it if you keep saying it!) The kids' highlight was probably the candy game on Dec. 30, where I put hoards of candy on the table and fed multiball while the players rotated, two shots each, where they got to keep whatever they knocked off the table.

Reading in Bed

What is your "dream" vacation? For some it's the beach, or out sailing, or hiking in the mountains, or travel, or perhaps watching TV all day. For me it's spending all day in bed reading. I read two fantasy novels, "Hush" and "Witchbreaker," both by James Maxey. They were the second and third books in his Dragon Apocalypse series. (I read book one while in Santa Barbara for Christmas.) While I'm on the subject of writing, I'm sad to announce that I read fewer books in 2012 than any year since early elementary school - and I'm not happy about this. (However, I also read the Washington Post and about a dozen magazines.) But I still managed to read 24 books. Here's a listing:

FICTION (15)
Redshirts by John Scalzi
Firebird by Jack McDevitt
Moonfall by Jack McDevitt
Voyagers by Ben Bova
Ringworld by Larry Niven
The Religion War by Scott Adams
Specter Spectacular edited by Eileen Wiedbrauk
Into the Out Of by Alan Dean Foster
Dinotopia Lost by Alan Dean Foster
Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock
Barry's Tale by Lawrence Schoen
Burn Baby Burn: A Supervillain Novel by James Maxey
Greatshadow by James Maxey
Hush by James Maxey
Witchbreaker by James Maxey

NON-FICTION (4)
Building Your Book for Kindle
A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
Earth by The Daily Show (it's sort of non-fiction!)
How to Improve Your Speculative Fiction Openings by Robert Qualkinbush

TABLE TENNIS (5)
Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion, by Werner Schlager & Berndt-Ulrich Gross
Breaking 2000 by Alex Polyakov (See my review.)
Ping Pong Fever by Steve Grant (See my review.)
Get Your Game Face On! by Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon (See my review.)
The Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats, Volume, 1 by Fred Danner (See my review.)

2013 USA National Team Trials

Here is info on the 2013 USA Men's and Women's Team Trials, to be held Feb. 7-10 in San Jose at the Topspin Table Tennis Club. Here is the Prospectus and Entry Form, both in PDF format.

Whitney Ping on USOC Board of Directors

Whitney Ping, a member of the 2004 USA Olympic Table Tennis Team, a former player rep on the USATT Board of Directors, and an Athlete Service Coordinator for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, is now one of the 15 members of the USOC Board of Directors. Here's the article.

National Club Championships

Here are the results, with Chinese CC Flushing NY defeating Maryland Table Tennis Center in the final (in Las Vegas), 3-1. In the semifinals, they defeated Newport Beach TTC (CA) 3-0, while MDTTC defeated Los Angeles TTA, 3-1.

Zhang Jike

Here's a feature on the Chinese star and the great year he's had. He's only the second player ever to hold both the World and Olympic Men's Singles Titles. (The other was Chinese Men's Coach - and Zhang's coach - Liu Guoliang in 1996.)

Table Tennis Jump Smash

Here's a coaching video on the Jump Smash against lob from PingSkills (2:25). He recommends against it, and I generally agree. However, some players, such as Dan Seemiller, have perfected this shot, using a scissors-kick method with a running start. The example shown here shows the player jumping from a stationary position with less leg kick than Dan uses. I use this technique in exhibitions, and sometimes in matches.

The New Plastic Ball

Here's a video (16:16) where the new plastic ball is compared to current celluloid balls as well as the old 38mm ones. This is Part 1: Physical Differences.

Beyond Imagination Part 6

Here's Beyond Imagination Part 6 (7:02), a highlights reel of the best rallies from 2012. (Links to the first five appear on the right.)

Pongcast TV Episode 22 - Best of 2012

Here's the video (17:41).

Adam Bobrow in Asia

Here's the video (2:11) of his exhibitions in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea (I think South!)

Aloha 2013!

Here's Hawaiian Table Tennis wishing you a Happy 2013 with a table tennis cartoon! (Is that Rudolf the Red-nosed Moose?)

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