Reading

July 14, 2014

Tip of the Week

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Table Tennis Players. (Note - this is a complete rewrite of an article I did on this long ago.)

Learning from Reading

Here's an interesting thought: I used to believe the way to improve in sports was primarily by reading books! In fact, that's how I got started in table tennis - I was looking for a book in the Track and Field section of the library to help improve my mile running. (I was 16.) Sure, I knew you had to practice, but deep down I thought there were "secrets" that would be more important than actually, you know, going out and running. I had the same ideas when I was even younger (around 12) and tried to become a great baseball player by reading.

As one who has written eight books, including six on table tennis (plus 1500 published articles plus 3.5 years of blogging and weekly tips), I want you to believe this as well, so repeat after me: "The way to improve in table tennis is through reading." Say that five times. Now go buy my books.

The truth, of course, is that reading does help, but is only one aspect. There are some aspects of table tennis that are pretty much perfect for learning from books, when combined with practical experience - tactics, for example. But whether it's tactics or technique, you need to put in the hours of practice to put what you learn into practice. The primary virtue of reading is it points you in the right direction for what you need to learn, and you then learn it by practicing it, whether it's technique or applying tactics.

I try to pick and choose topics for this blog and the weekly tips that are best suited to writing. An example of a topic that's not easy to write about is serving technique. I've written extensively about the tactics of serving, and have written about the various serves themselves and how to do them, but overall it's the most difficult part to teach in writing. There are just so many subtle things about serving that you need to see it demonstrated live (usually in slow motion) or on video (also in slow motion) or you'll miss most of it. Most of it can be demonstrated with photo sequences, but even there it's tricky catching the subtle aspects of how the racket moves deceptively. (However, a photo sequence with good commentary could suffice, especially if the player also watches top players executing the serve.)

My original belief that there were "secrets" I could learn from reading was true, it just wasn't a complete answer. I was hoping for secrets that would show me how to do something that would immediately lead to massive improvement, when all that reading can do is point you in the direction of what you need to learn to do - and learning to do it takes a lot of practice, alas. Reading opens doors but you have to go through those doors, and that's the hard part.

Maryland Junior Rankings

The new ratings came out a few days ago from the U.S. Open. Our juniors did pretty well. As noted in my blog on Monday, Crystal Wang won Cadet Girls' Singles (15 & Under), and Derek Nie won 13 & Under Boys' Singles. In the newest rankings, Crystal (2384) continues as the U.S. #1 ranked player in Girls Under 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18. Derek "sort of" regains his spot as #1 under 14 at 2336. (The depth in that category is incredible, with at least six  players who in previous years might have completely dominated that category - Derek, Jack Wang, Gal & Sharon Alguetti, Victor Liu, Michael Tran, with others not far behind. And just one year ahead of them is Kanak Jha. Jack Wang is #1 in Under 14, but wasn't eligible at the U.S. Open for that because he turns 14 this year.) Tiffany Ke takes over the #1 spot for Under 10 Girls at 1767. Here is a listing of Maryland juniors in the Top Ten (including Virginia players who train at MDTTC).

  • Crystal Wang, #1 in Under 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18 Girls at 2384
  • Derek Nie, #2 in Under 14 Boys at 2336 (but in ITTF rules, where it's ages as of the following Jan. 1, he's #1)
  • Tiffany Ke, #1 in Under 10 Girls and #5 in Under 11 Girls at 1767
  • Jason Lu, #2 in Under 11 Boys and #7 in Under 12 Boys at 1958
  • Alex Ruichao Chen, #3 in Under 17 Boys and #4 in Under 17 Boys at 2602
  • Daniel Sofer, #4 in Under 10 Boys at 1406
  • Jiu Lu, #6 in Under 12 Girls, #8 in Under 13 Girls, #10 in Under 14 Girls at 1924
  • Chen Bowen, #7 in Under 17 Boys and #9 in Under 18 Boys at 2513
  • Lisa Lin, #8 in Under 11 Girls at 1509
  • Jessica Lin, #9 in Under 11 Girls at 1411
  • Ryan Dabbs, #9 in Under 11 Boys at 1885
  • Amy Lu, #9 in Under 14 Girls, #10 in Under 15 Girls at 1937
  • Alexander Yang, #10 in Under 10 Boys at 1074

Top Player Serves

Here are animated gifs of the serves of 19 top players. You should study these and learn a few.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-one down, 49 to go!

  • Day 50: “We are blessed to have such a talented, caring and unique table tennis family.”
  • Day 51: Petra Sorling Discusses Para TT, ITTF Finances, and the Future

Nittaku ITTF Pongcast - June 2014

Here's the video (12:57).

Trick Shot of the Day

Here's the video (40 sec) by Kento Nomura.

Jorgen Persson and Famed TV Chef Tareq Taylor

Here's the picture.

Ghost in Pajamas

Here's a new artwork from Mike Mezyan, but this time instead of a drawing, it's a paddle! He calls it "Ghost in Pajamas," but to me it'll always be "Devil in a Blue Dress."

The Man, the Mountain, the Shots

Here's video (2:54) of Larry Bavly's top 15 shots at the U.S. Open. The Viper(s) never had a chance. (Yeah, that's a "Game of Thrones" reference.)

Blue Paddle Beer

Here's the article and picture of New Belgium Blue Paddle Beer, which features a ping-pong paddle on its packaging.

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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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