Kagin Lee

August 5, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Move Up a Level.

TNEO and Table Tennis

This past weekend I returned from "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual eight-day writing workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, for graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. (I'm a 2006 grad.) This was my fifth TNEO - I went in '07, '08, '09, '13, and now '14. Here's a picture of me during a reading at the local Barnes and Noble. (There were about 30-40 listeners.) Here's a group picture. (If you have trouble seeing these Facebook photos, here are other versions for the reading photo and  for the group photo.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.) 

What does this have to do with table tennis, besides the fact that I'm a table tennis player at a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop? Actually quite a bit. During the workshop I had the first seven chapters of my SF novel "Campaign 2100" critiqued, and soon I will start the final rewrite on it. The novel has lots of table tennis! I blogged about this on June 13, where I even listed the table tennis scenes and changes in the sport, including "Spinsey pinhole sponge." (One of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who, up match point in the semifinals of the national championships, walks off the court to join - and eventually run - a worldwide third-party challenge for president of Earth in the year 2100. He also coaches the son of the presidential contender, and coaches and then does an exhibition for the Chinese leadership with an alien ambassador.) The table tennis scenes have mostly gone over well with readers and critiquers, even though they are not table tennis people. 

Since I was out of town for nine days, here's the question that comes up: What does one do to stay in table tennis shape when on vacation or out of town for an extended period for some reason? Assuming you can't arrange TT times at the new location, the answer is to shadow practice. (Here's my article Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork.) I brought my weighted racket to the writing workshop. (I bought it at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.) At least once a day I shadow practiced forehand loops and smashes, backhands, and side-to-side footwork. 

Coaching Camp in Virginia

The writing workshop pretty much kept us on the go all day the entire time, so I was pretty tired when I returned - and with no break, I went right back to full-time coaching. We have a one-time camp in Virginia this week, 9AM-4PM, Mon-Fri, and so I'm leaving each day around 7:30 AM (because of rush hour) to make the journey. There are 15 kids in the camp, ages 6 to 14. Even though the camp was open to boys and girls, for reasons we still don't understand there are no girls in the camp. Only two are Asian (though two others are I believe part Asian). All 15 are right-handed. I'm head coach, assisted by John and Wen Hsu (the latter is the camp administrator as well). Since I have to leave so early, to do this blog I have to either do it the night before or get up very, very early.

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running a camp at MDTTC for disabled veterans, on Aug. 26-29. It's part of a USATT program, which has a grant for such camps. They have seven such camps scheduled - here's a listing. Special thanks goes to Jasna Rather for helping put these together!

Help Wanted - USATT National Volunteer Coordinator

Here's a new volunteer position with USATT - and an important one! 

Help Wanted - Austin Table Tennis Club Coach

Here's the help wanted article

Think Like a Coach

Here's a new coaching article from Oklahoma City coach Britt Salter. (The page is listed as Nov. 27, 2012, but that's when the page was apparently created for the coaching articles. The article just went up.) 

Contact Point for Maximum Backspin

Here's the video (3:14) from PingSkills.

Which Ball Should I Buy?

Here's the new blog entry from USATT Board Member Kagin Lee.

ITTF Coaching Course in Akron, Ohio

Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Goes Plastic for Future Events

Here's the article.

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. I was posting them all here, but while I was gone they went from #38 to #28. You can find them all on the USATT News page. I'll likely start posting them again tomorrow. 

Kanak Jha and the North American Championships

Here's the highlights video (1:36), by Jim Butler.

Lily Zhang's 2012 Olympic Thoughts

Here's the video (1:41). 

Dimitrij Ovtcharov on the Two-Colored Balls

Here's the article. "More than half of the balls were broken after practice." (Includes picture with the broken balls - looks like about ten broken balls, though there seem to be 11 white halves, 9 orange halves.)

Tampa Tries Free Pingpong in the Park

Here's the article

Table Tennis Touch

Here's a video (2:33) on this table tennis game you can play on your smart phone. 

Pong Was Never Supposed to Be Played By the Public

Here's the article on this revolutionary video game. 

Cartoon Woman Smashes Winner in Front of Big Crowd

Here's the picture - what should the caption be?

***
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June 16, 2014

Tip of the Week

Be a Perfectionist.

MDTTC Summer Camps

Our ten weeks of MDTTC summer camps starts today, Mon-Fri every week, 10AM-6PM. It's going to be a busy summer. I'll miss two of the weeks, June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writers workshop. I'm still doing my usual private coaching, plus this blog and Tip of the Week, and other writing, so it's going to be a hyper-busy summer. As usual.

Nittaku Premium 40+ Poly Ball

Paddle Palace sent me one of the newly created Nittaku Poly balls, the 3-Star Nittaku Premium 40+, made in Japan. These are the plastic ones that will replace celluloid balls later this year in many tournaments. This ball is of special interest because it's possibly the ball we'll be using at the USA Nationals in December, as well as other USA tournaments. (There will also be a Nittaku SHA 40+ ball that is made in China, but it's likely the Premium from Japan that might be used at the Nationals.) 

Why is this important to you? Because it's likely these are the balls YOU will be using soon. Might as well learn about them and get used to them.

I tried the new ball out on Sunday morning at MDTTC, hitting with Raghu Nadmichettu, Derek Nie, Quandou Wang (Crystal Wang's dad), John Olsen, and Sutanit Tangyingyong. There was pretty much a consensus on it. Here are my findings, based on my play with it and comments from the others.

  1. The ball sounds almost exactly like a regular celluloid ball - no more cracked sound like many of the previous versions.
  2. The ball is extremely sturdy, almost unbreakable. Unlike a celluloid ball, you could press your thumb on it and there was little give. No soft spots. These balls will last forever until someone steps on it.
  3. The surface of the ball is slightly rougher than a celluloid ball.
  4. It didn't have the powder that covers a new celluloid ball.
  5. It was seamed, but you could barely see it.
  6. The ball is heavier and slightly wider than the celluloid ones. I think to get rid of the crack sound they made the walls thicker. When you hit with it the extra weight is instantly obvious.
  7. I compared it to a 40mm ball, and it looks 40.5mm. That's why they label it "40+."
  8. It spins slightly less because of the extra weight and greater diameter. All shots initially have less spin - serves, loops, pushes, chops, etc. However, what spin you put on the ball tended to stay, as the extra weight allowed it to better overcome air resistance. At the same time the ball reacted to the spin slightly less, due to the extra weight.
  9. It was very easy to serve short with spin with it. I think this was because the extra weight meant the ball came off the racket slower when serving with spin.
  10. I did a bounce test, dropping it and a Butterfly 3-star next to each other. The poly ball bounced slightly higher every time.
  11. Even though it was technically faster on the bounce test, in rallies it played a touch slower, again presumably because of the extra weight, and because the lower trajectory off the racket (due to the extra weight) made the ball cross the net lower and therefore bounce lower on the other side. One player in backhand-backhand rallies kept putting it in the net.  
  12. The ball seemed especially heavy when looping, and a bit more difficult to spin. There was less loft - you had to aim slightly higher. Overall I found it a touch harder to loop against blocks, mostly because of the extra effort needed to overcome the extra weight.
  13. Counterlooping was easier, but the ball definitely felt heavier the more you backed off the table. But balls that might have gone off the end seemed to drop on the table like a rock. This was because even though the ball started with less spin than normal, the spin dissipated less, and so there was as much or more spin at the end than a normal counterloop. However, this was partially offset by the extra weight, meaning the ball reacted slightly less to the spin.
  14. It's very easy to block with it. The ball could bring back the quick-blocking game. But I think blockers with long pips are going to have trouble as the ball won't return with as much spin. Part of this is because the incoming ball will tend to have less spin. 
  15. I think hitting is about the same with it. Because there's less spin it's easier for a hitter to hit against a loop. But because the ball tended to have a slightly lower trajectory, the ball bounced lower, which might even things out. When an opponent loops close to the table, there's less spin with this ball than with a celluloid one. But as the looper backs off, the ball tends to come out spinnier since the spin doesn't dissipate as quickly due to air resistance. (Remember that many players thought going from 38 to 40mm balls would favor hitters, but it was the reverse. And now we've gone slightly bigger.)
  16. When I first tried chopping, balls that normally would have hit the table kept sailing off. (I'm about a 2100 chopper, though I'm normally an attacker.) There was noticeably less spin. Then I hit with Sutanit Tangyingyong, a 2300+ chopper, and he had no such trouble. His chops were extremely heavy, though he said they'd be heavier with the regular ball. (I struggled to lift and to read his chops, and then realized something - since I primarily coach these days, I haven't played a seriously good chopper in well over a decade!) He concluded that the ball would favor choppers who vary their spin - his no-spin chop with this ball was deadly - but choppers who rely on heavy backspin wouldn't do as well. I realized afterwards that part of the reason I had so much trouble with his chopping is that his heavy chops, while starting with less spin, kept the spin due to the ball's extra weight, and so the balls were heavier than I expected. Also, lifting a heavier ball against heavy backspin is more difficult.
  17. My conclusions - the new ball might affect players perhaps the equivalent of 25 ratings points at most. However, that's a 50-point swing, since one player might be 25 points better, another 25 points worse. (Note that 25 points means more at the higher levels. But at the lower levels, where 25 points doesn't mean as much, it'll affect play less as players are less specialized, and so it'll come out about the same.)
  18. The ball is going to help blockers and counterloopers. It's going to hurt long pips blockers, and looping against blocks. After the difficulty I experienced lifting against chops, I'm starting to think it might help choppers, the most surprising thing I found. 

Paddle Palace also gave me what five-time U.S. Men's champion and 2-time Olympian Sean O'Neill wrote about the ball. Here's what he wrote:

The Nittaku Premium 40+. Two words - "Game Changer."
a) Really round, others have noticeable wobble
b) Different matt finish. I don't think these will get glassy with age
c) Spin doesn't dissipate. Really true flight paths.
d) Hard as a rock. No soft spots at all. Feels if the walls are thicker than other 40+
e) Sounds good, no hi pitched plastic sound
f) Texture very noticeable. This makes for truer bounce especially on spin shots
g) Durable. These things are gonna last big time.

Orioles Host Frank Caliendo and Han Xiao

When I heard that famed stand-up comedian Frank Caliendo was in town doing shows, and was interested in playing the Orioles, I contacted their press manager. And so it came about that on Saturday morning Frank (who's about 1800) and Han Xiao (former long-time USA Team member) visited the Orioles clubhouse on Saturday morning to play the Orioles. I wasn't there, and don't have pictures or video, but I'm told they played a lot with Darren O'Day (who I've coached a few times) and others, but they weren't sure of the names. Alas, the Orioles best TT player, JJ Hardy (also around 1800), wasn't available. There was a 10-15 second video of them playing on the Orioles pre-game show. (Here's the link to my blog last August when I visited and played the Orioles in their clubhouse, along with some of our top junior players.)

Non-Table Tennis: Speaking of the Orioles…

This weekend they featured another of my Top Ten Lists. Except this one had 12: Top Twelve Ways That Orioles Fans Can Help Out. This is the 20th article of mine that they've featured. (It contains some inside jokes; feel free to ask about them in the comments below.)

Samson Dubina Coaching Articles

He's put up several more coaching articles on his home page. These include articles on Boosting Your Attack, Returning No-Spin Serves, and How Ratings Can Mentally Fool You.

Why Are the Chinese So Strong?

Here's the article. Includes links to numerous videos.

Lily Zhang Wins Silver in Korea

She made the final of Under 21 Women's Singles at the Korean Open, losing 4-1 in the final to Hitomi Sato of Japan. Here's the "playing card" picture of Lily!

Amy Wang and Michael Tran Winners at World Hopes Week

First, they won the Team Competition; here's the ITTF article. Then Amy won Girls' Singles while Michael made the finals of Boys' Singles; here's the ITTF article.

2014 U.S. Open Blog - A BIG THANK YOU!!!

Here's the blog by Dell & Connie Sweeris. They are co-chairs of the upcoming U.S. Open in Grand Rapids and are both members of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part Two. Kagin is on the USATT Board of Directors and is a Vice President for the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

USA Umpires Pass International Umpire Exams

Here's the story and pictures. Congrats to Ed Hogshead, Linda Leaf, and David Pech!

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. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-three down, 77 to go!

  • Day 78: A Special Father’s Day Remembrance: President Sharara Pays a Tribute to His Father
  • Day 79: Origination of the 100-Day Countdown

Table Tennis Company Competitions in Washington DC

Here's the story. Golden Triangle is organizing the competitions between June 6 and Sept. 19.  

Table Tennis Keeps Youth Out of the Streets

Here's the article and video (2:19).

Best of the Legends Tour

Here's the video (2:06), featuring Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jean-Michel Saive, and Jiang Jialiang.

Unbelievable Rally at the Korean Open

Here's the video (55 sec) of the point between Yu Ziyang of China and Romain Lorentz of France.

Table Tennis is So Simple

Here's the cartoon!

***
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May 19, 2014

Tip of the Week

Why to Systematically Practice Receive.

Return to Ready After Forehand Attack

During the Potomac Open this past weekend there was an interesting match that illustrated this. One was a lefty rated over 2400, the other about 2300. The lefty kept serving breaking serves to the righty's wide forehand. The righty would move to his wide forehand and loop these crosscourt to the lefty's backhand. Over and over the lefty would quick-block these to the righty's backhand, and the righty was caught out of position over and over. At first glance it would seem the righty just wasn't fast enough, that the lefty was just too quick. And so the lefty won the first two games.

But then a strange thing happened. I was commenting to some players sitting next to me how the righty was looping off his back foot when he looped these serves, and so finishing off balance. This kept him from getting a quick start to cover his backhand. But sometime in the third game, completely on his own, the player figured this out. The key was to get his right foot wider on the receive so he could push off it, and then he could use the momentum of his own forehand follow-through to help move himself back into position. Two things happened because of this. First, by getting his right foot farther out he was able to push into the shot harder, thereby getting more speed and spin on his loop, which gave the lefty problems. Second, and more importantly, he was now following through into position, and was set for those quick blocks to his wide backhand.

There's a video (which I just spent ten minutes unsuccessfully searching for) of Werner Schlager making this exact same adjustment to a player at the World Hopes Week in Austria a year or two ago. I remember it as several people commented that he was messing up the kid's technique. Actually, what Werner had done was show the kid, one of the top 12-year-olds in the world, how to follow-through back into position so he'd be ready for the next shot. It's one of those little things that many players don't understand, thinking only about the current shot, and not worrying about the next one. (EDIT - here's the 50-sec video I referred to above, care of Daniel Ring in the comments below. Notice how the kid forehand loops very well, but tends to stay in one position when he's moved wide? Werner shows him how to follow through back into position.) 

How often have you attacked with your forehand from the backhand side, only to get caught when your opponent quick-blocked to your wide forehand? (Or the reverse, attacked from the wide forehand, and got caught on the wide backhand, as discussed above?) Most often the problem isn't being too slow; it's finishing the forehand shot off balance, which dramatically slows down how fast you can recover back into position. The most common situation is a player steps around the backhand corner to use the forehand, but is rushed, and so ends up following through too much to his left (for a righty), leaving him wide open for the next shot. Instead, when attacking from a wide corner, whenever possible try to follow-through right back into position, and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to recover for the next shot, even if it's quick-blocked to the far corner.  

World Veterans Championships

They were held May 14-17 in Auckland, New Zealand, for players over age 40. Here's the home page for the event, with lots of news items, pictures, video, and results. Here's the ITTF Page with lots of articles. There were 1665 players entered, including 29 from the U.S. (see player listing, which lists them by country).

Here are the results. Do a search for if you want to see how players from a specific country did (for example, "USA"). Charlene Xiaoying Liu, who is from my club, finished third in Over 60 women, losing deuce in the fifth to the eventual winner (who would win the final easily 3-0). Charlene was actually up 10-8 match point in the fifth, alas, but struggled her opponent's serve at the end.

Alameda Table Tennis Club Offering Elementary School Kids $20,000 in Ping Pong Scholarships

Here's the article - wow!

Lily Yip Selected as USA Youth Olympic Games Coach

Here's the article.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part One. (Kagin is a member of the board of directors for USATT and National College Table Tennis Association.)

Cary, NC to Open 25,000 Square Foot Table Tennis Facility

Here's the article (on their home page). Here are some pictures of the new Triangle Table Tennis Center.

ITTF Has as Many National Associations as Any Sport

Here's the article. They now have 220 members, which equals the International Volleyball Federation.

ICC Table Tennis Fund-Raiser

Here's the article.

How to Choose a Table Tennis Bat

Here's the new video from PingSkills (14:45).

Best of Ma Lin

Here's the Video (3:13).

Circular Table Tennis

Here's the picture! I think I once ran a similar picture, but this one really shows how the "sport" is played!

***
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April 8, 2014

Great Spin on Serve

In my beginning/intermediate class last night the players were rather impressed by how much spin I could put on the ball when I serve with seemingly little effort. The spin comes from three things: smooth acceleration into the ball; wrist snap; and grazing with a grippy surface. Beginners lose spin because they tend to start with the racket right behind the ball rather than from the side. Intermediate players lose spin because they tend to think in terms of racket speed instead of acceleration.

I can't explain the physics, but it is acceleration that leads to great spin. It could involve the rubber surface grabbing the ball and, since it is accelerating at contact, it grabs the ball like a slingshot and practically spins it out of orbit. Or perhaps this acceleration leads to high velocity that you can control, but the smooth acceleration makes the racket appear to be moving slower than it actually is going. If you instead think in terms of velocity and try to snap the racket into the ball all-out rather than with this smooth acceleration might get more racket speed (not sure), but they can't control it and so lose the control needed for a fine grazing contact - and so lose spin.

But regardless of the reason, it is this smooth acceleration that leads to the great spin. However, there's a conflict here - for deception, you want sudden changes of racket direction. So top servers learn to smoothly accelerate into the ball with sudden changes of direction, essentially whipping the racket around the ball in very quick arcs.

Of course it's not all about spin. If you fake spin but serve no-spin, it's just as effective as a spin serve if the opponent thinks there is spin. So many serves do simple backspin-like serves, but sometimes it's backspin, other times they change the contact so there's no spin. (You do this by contacting the ball closer to the handle, and by changing contact from a grazing motion to sort of patting the ball while faking a grazing motion, often with an exaggerated follow through.)

So . . . have you practiced your serves this week?

Forehand Flip

Here's a tutorial video (5:10) on the forehand flip (usually called a flick in Europe) against short backspin by Coach Yang Guang, a former Chinese team member. He's explaining in Chinese, but several times the key points are subtitled in English. Plus you can learn just by watching. Note that when he does the demos, he's being fed slightly high balls, and so is flip killing. Against a lower ball you might want to slow it down and put a little topspin on the flip.

Why Don't Top Players Serve More Topspin?

Here's the video (2:17) from PingSkills. Ironically this very topic was covered in my beginning/intermediate class. I was teaching how to do fast serves, and explained why they are good as a variation, but how top players would attack them. They wanted a demo, so I had my assistant coach, the 2600 player Coach Jeffrey (Zeng Xun), demonstrate what he could do with my fast serves when he knew they were coming. It wasn't pretty! I have pretty good fast serves, but they have to be used sparingly against top players.

I once aced 1986 U.S. Men's Singles Champion Hank Teekaveerakit three times in a row with my fast down-the-line serve. He was a penholder who tried to loop everything with his forehand, and this happened the first three points of the match as he looked to loop my serves from the backhand corner. After the third ace, he broke up laughing, and said, "Larry, nobody serves fast down the line three times in a row!" He then began returning my serves to his backhand with his backhand, and caught up and won somewhat easily. Late in the match he went back to trying to loop all my serves with his forehand, and I obligingly played cat and mouse, serving fast and deep to all parts of the table, and abandoning my short serves, not for tactical reasons but just for the fun of challenging him to return all my fast ones with his forehand. Once he got used to my service motion, he was able to do so.

Crystal Wang in Sports Illustrated

She's featured in the Faces in the Crowd section. It came out in print last Wednesday. (While there, see the photo credits underneath and note the name of the Professional Photographer that took her picture.)

Deputy Referee Report, German Open

Here's the report from USA's Kagin Lee.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 14

Chapter one is up. This volume covers the years 1985-1985. Want to see more?

Great Rally at the College Nationals

Here's video (29 sec) of a great point between Ariel Hsing (near side) against Maria Castillo in the women's singles quarterfinals. Ariel went on to win the title.

Marcos Freitas

Here's a highlights video (3:29) featuring Marcos Freitas of Portugal doing numerous trick shots. He recently shot up to #12 in the world.

The Sayings of Coach Larry

A while back I jokingly posted a few of my favorite sayings when I coach. One of my students (who wishes to remain anonymous) quoted to me many more of my favorite statements, and I dutifully jotted them down. Here's the more comprehensive listing of my favorite quips.

  1. "Pick up the balls." (Spoken with the same tone as the infamous "Bring out your dead" scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.)
  2. "You are going up against the most powerful forehand in the world." (Spoken with the same tone as the quote from Dirty Harry, "…the most powerful handgun in the world.")
  3. "There's something you don't know. I'm really left-handed." (A paraphrasing of the quote from The Princess Bride. At the start of the scene, both swordfighters are fighting left-handed. Watch the video to see what happens.)
  4. "Time to get serious." (When I'm losing a game, usually against a student where I've spotted points.)
  5. "Time to take my watch off." (Meaning time to get serious.)
  6. "Balls in boxes!" (Told to students at the end of playing sessions, with balls scattered all over.)
  7. "I never miss that shot."
  8. "I cannot be defeated."
  9. "Time to pull out the unreturnable serves."
  10. "This serve cannot be returned."
  11. "No one can get through my block. No one!"
  12. "The most powerful forehand block in the world."
  13. "He cheats, he scores!" (When opponent wins a point on a net or edge.)
  14. "I cannot be scored upon." (Told to students repeatedly as a challenge.)
  15. "Don't think about it. Let the subconscious take over. It's better than you."
  16. "Even [insert name of top player within hearing distance] can make that shot!"
  17. "When I get angry…" (Followed by a short but detailed description of whatever I do the next point.)
  18. "This is for the world championship of the galactic universe."
  19. "Just because the point is over doesn't mean the point is over." (Said when my student hits a ball off the end, but I play it off the floor and the rally continues.)
  20. "Here comes a pop-up. You're going to flub it. Prove me wrong." (Usually said near the end of a multiball session with a beginning student.)
  21. "I'm too good to miss that shot!" (Said by me roughly whenever I miss a shot.)
  22. "I haven't missed that shot since 1987!" (Also said by me roughly whenever I miss a shot.)
  23. "Ten years ago I would have got that."
  24. "There's a probability greater than zero that I won't lose another point this match."
  25. "No coaching in coaching camps!" (When someone coaches against me in a practice match during a camp.)
  26. "Coaches from all over the world come here to study my [whatever shot I happen to be doing]." (I usually say this when blocking forehands, and often tell stories about how the top Chinese coaches journey to American to study my forehand block.)

***
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March 26, 2014

You Are What You Train

Most players understand this, but don't really absorb how important this simple lesson is. Here are two examples.

On Monday I was teaching the backhand loop to a beginning/intermediate class. I don't have a particularly good backhand loop, so I had assistant coach John Hsu demonstrate it. It seemed a good time to also teach the blocking, so I went over that as well as I blocked John's loop. Then I pointed how at the higher levels many players topspin their blocks, essentially mini-loops, and explained how while I blocked the normal way (relatively flat), John almost always topspins his blocks.

To demo this, I looped forehands from my backhand corner to his backhand and he backhand topspin blocked away. The rally went on for a time, and then I ripped one down the line to his forehand. John reacted quickly and forehand blocked to my wide forehand. I raced over and looped down the line to his backhand. He blocked back wide to my backhand, but not too aggressively. Now I'd just been teaching the backhand loop, and you'd think that at 54 years old I'd play an easy backhand winner (as John and most "top" players would have), but no - I did what I'd trained myself to do way back in the late 1970s and 1980s, and ran all the way over from my wide forehand to my wide backhand and ripped a forehand winner down the line for a winner. Afterwards neither I nor John nor the players in the class could believe I'd gotten over there so fast - and I was sort of surprised as well. But it was a simple matter of balance on the previous shot so I could recover quickly, proper footwork technique that got me there quickly, and the automatic instincts that led me to attempt that shot. (I just wish I could still do shots like that regularly in matches - technique aside, my legs aren't as fast anymore, mostly due to knee problems.)

Another example was two kids I watched play yesterday, both ten years old. One was the #1 10-year-old from Japan, about 2000 level, visiting for a week along with his older brother (about 12 and 2250 level). He was playing a 10-year-old from my club who was about 1900. The Japanese kid had been taught to attack relentlessly, and that's exactly what he did, attacking not only off his serve, but attacking nearly every serve as well, often with over-the-table backhand banana flips. For much of the match the kid from our club was constantly on the defensive as he could only push the Japanese kid's serve back, and his own serves were often slightly high and were getting pulverized. He tried attacking the serve, but unlike the Japanese kid, he hadn't really trained that shot, and so was pretty erratic, and went back to pushing. Then he simplified his own serve to a simple backspin serve so that he could serve lower, and the Japanese kid started missing - and it became apparent that if he couldn't attack the serve as he'd been trained to do, his game went down quite a bit as he didn't push or block well. And so what started out as a rout got close. The Japanese kid won, but it was a battle. And now our kid is going to learn to serve lower with his normal serves, and to backhand banana flip.

So we have me, forcing the forehand because it was what I trained to do, and two kids both doing what they were trained to do and being comfortable otherwise. If I could go back 38 years and talk to myself as I developed, the main thing I'd say was "Develop a backhand loop!" But because I trained as a one-winged attacker, and didn't train the backhand loop, I became what I trained - a one-winged looper with a relatively weak backhand loop that I developed only in later years. (Back in those days the theory was often "One gun is as good as two.") I've got forehand attacking so ingrained in me that I can't imagine ever being a two-winged looper - and ongoing arm and shoulder problems preclude me from even attempting any intense training at this point to develop a stronger and more instinctive backhand loop. (But that doesn't mean you can't - see Backhand Loop tutorial below!)

A few key lessons from all this - train to develop a complete game. Develop both forehand and backhand. Develop effective serves that are low to the net. Develop receives that handle all situations. And develop the ability to both attack and to handle the opponent's attack.

Backhand Loop Against Backspin Tutorial

Here's the video (5:28). Coach Yang Guang (former Chinese Team Member) demonstrates and explains, breaking down the shot to its most basic points, and with slow motion at the end. This is one of the best demos and explanations of the shot I've ever seen - I spent some time copying his form. The common mistakes he points out are the very same ones I commonly see. (Ironically, I just taught the backhand loop to my beginning/intermediate class on Monday. I will point out this video to them next time.)

The Impact of College Table Tennis

Here's an essay by Kagin Lee, USATT Board Member and National College TTA Vice President-External Affairs. He has some good stuff (from a college-oriented table tennis background), but the most important to me is item #3, which is where any discussion of developing the sport in this country should begin. (The only other way to really develop the sport is via club-based junior programs, which happens successfully all over the world in conjunction with leagues.)

Six Seconds of Physical Training

Here's the video. I've done this drill numerous times in training camps. Those "ladders" are great for physical training.

Two-Year-Old Player

Wanna play?

Water Pong

Here's the picture. Hey, let's go play table tennis out in the bay!

Cat That Wants to Play

Here's the video (1:37) - and don't get me started on analyzing the players' technique….

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March 4, 2014

Tip of the Week

Changing Bad Technique.

Change of Direction Receive

At the MDTTC tournament this weekend player I was coaching was having trouble against a much higher-rated player who had nice last-second change of directions on his receives. Over and over he'd start to push the ball one way - usually to the backhand - and at the last second, would change and go the other way. (Here's a Tip on this, "Pushing Change of Direction.") Although my player kept the first game close when the other player kept going for (and missing) some difficult counterloops, this last-second change of directions completely stopped my player's serve and attack. He'd see where the ball was going and start to move to attack, and then, suddenly, the ball would be somewhere else, and he'd be lunging to make a return.

Between games I told him to focus on three things. First, go completely two-winged to follow up his serve - if the receive was to his backhand, backhand loop, while if the ball was to the forehand, forehand loop. Players who can't do this when necessary have a major weakness in their games.

Second, since he wasn't trying to follow with the forehand, I told him to take his time and just wait and see where the ball was going. He was so used to reacting quickly that his own instincts were going against him as he reacted too quickly. This showed that most players are too obvious in their returns, telegraphing their receive way too early. It also showed how effective it is when a player learns the seemingly basic idea of not telegraphing the receive, i.e. changing directions at the last second.

Third, I told him to focus on varied backspin and no-spin serves short to the middle. (This, combined with sudden deep serves to his wide backhand, proved effective.) This helps in two ways. By going to the middle it cuts off the extreme angles. If my player served short to the forehand or backhand, the opponent could aim one way, and at the last second instead go for the extreme angle, which would be tricky to cover. And by varying the serve, the server loses some control of those last-second changes of direction. (Varying the serve, of course, is something you should do against everyone, but regular reminders help. But here the focus was on variation mostly between two simple serves, along with the occasional long one.)  

The tactics worked as my player won game two. Alas, remember those difficult counterloops the opponent missed in the first game? He stopped missing them, and managed to barely pull out two close games to win the match and avoid a major upset.

MDTTC Open Results and Raghu's Shot

We had a tournament this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. You can see the complete results - including every preliminary match - at Omnipong!

One thing you can't see is the shot of the year, by Raghu Nadmichettu, who's about 2400. He was playing against Nam Nguyen in the Open, a 2100+ player. (Both are righties.) Nam ripped a ball to Raghu's wide backhand, which Raghu fished back. Then Nam ripped another to Raghu's extreme wide forehand. Raghu raced over and made a lunging return from his wide, wide forehand, which left him stumbling into the adjacent court. Nam creamed the ball with a powerful sidespin kill-loop that broke wide into Raghu's forehand again. From the adjacent court, Raghu counter-ripped a backhand sidespin counter-kill-loop from his wide forehand (!). The ball came from outside the table, curving to the right as it went toward the table, and hitting right on Nam's backhand corner for a clean winner. Okay, maybe you had to be there, but page down below to the segment on Timo Boll's backhand passing shots and watch those examples. Now imagine them right-handed, at twice the speed, and done with a backhand from the wide forehand side from the adjacent court, with the ball smacking into the far right-corner.

1500 Published Articles

The new Winter 2014 USATT Magazine includes my article "Blocking Tips." It's a milestone - my 1500th published article. Here's a complete listing. This includes 1334 articles on table tennis. I've been in 145 different publications. (I don't include blog entries in this count, though I do include Tips of the Week.)

Chance Friend is a Pro Player

In my blog on Feb. 28, I wrote, "Right now there's really only one USA player who is basically a full-time professional player, Timothy Wang. I've been told that Chance Friend of Texas also makes a living as a full-time professional player, playing in the German Leagues. (I've amended the blog.) So perhaps it can be said that Timothy Wang is the only professional player in the U.S., since Chance is making a living at it overseas.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Here's his blog from last week where he talks about different types of ping-pong balls (celluloid vs. the new plastic ones, different sizes, and seamed vs. non-seamed). He covers the topics well, including how the various spinning balls move through the air and jump off the paddle.

One picky little thing not covered - how the ball would bounce off the table differently. One of the key hidden reasons looping is so effective is how it jumps when it hits the table, unlike a regular drive which goes at a more constant speed, making it easier to time against. It's also why off-the-bounce looping is so deadly, because you are already rushed to react to the shot and then it suddenly jumps even more quickly.

Mike Babuin's Blog

On Feb. 21, I blogged about USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's blog. Here's a discussion on about.com about it, where one player posts a lengthy criticism, and Mike responds, also in lengthy fashion.

Timo Boll's Backhand Passing Shot

Here's video (64 sec) of the German star snapping off backhand counterloop winners.

Great Drop Shots

Here's a video (35 sec) that features three great drop shots against topspin in one rally. Why don't players do this more often?

193-Shot Rally

Here's video (2:44) of a 193-shot rally (mostly pushing) between two top choppers. One of them finally and bravely finally ends the point! You don't see too many points like this anymore.

Boca Raton Table Tennis

Here's an article featuring table tennis in general and in Boca Raton, Florida.

Tampa Bay Rays

Now another team is playing table tennis! Includes a picture of Wil Myers playing David DeJesus.

Goran Dragic Playing Table Tennis

Here are photos of the Phoenix Suns basketball star hitting with Coach Matt Winkler.

Mythbusters and the Supersonic Canon

On the March 1 episode of Mythbusters asked themselves if supersonic ping pong can go lethally wrong. And so they created a supersonic ping-pong ball canon. I've linked to other such ping-pong ball canons, but Mythbusters took it to another level, with the ball reaching speeds in excess of 1100 mph! The ball went cleanly through a ping-pong paddle, leaving a ball-sized hold. However, after testing it against a giant pork shoulder, they concluded it did not do lethal damage.

Judah Friedlander Interview

Here it is, where he discusses ping-pong. "The thing with ping pong is, it’s a sport pretty much everyone has played. And everyone thinks they’re great at it. And I just like to show people the truth."

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December 11, 2013

USATT Candidate Statements and Board of Directors

If you are a USATT member over the age of 18, by now you've received the candidate statements and supplementary campaign statements from the two candidates running for the USATT Board, Jim McQueen and Ross Brown. I've read over them, and let's just say I'm dismayed. I blogged about this a few weeks ago after receiving the initial candidate statements, and now we have the supplementary ones. (As I blogged there, I voted for McQueen because I disagree with Brown on most major issues. At the 2009 Strategic Meeting, Ross and I argued about just about everything, and he "won" the day - nothing I pushed for was adopted, while he was on the "winning" side of nearly every decision. I blogged about this several times, such as here, though I didn't mention names. A few of the links in the blog to USATT news items are no longer valid, alas.) I'm not sure why they have these supplementary statements, but they are more of the same. To be clear, what I have to write here is about what they wrote, not about the candidates themselves - but alas, the candidate statements are for many voters all they have to judge them by.

The statements have no vision, no goals, no plans. They are mostly about how well and fairly they'd judge the issues that come before them as board members. It's as if they are running for USATT judge. To me, this may qualify them to be on certain USATT committees, where fairness issues need to be judged. We need to separate "Fairness Issues" from "Progressive Issues. I blogged about this in March.

We don't need more judges on the USATT Board; we need leaders, both executives and legislators, who will take our sport from its current smallness and make it big. Leaders do not grow a sport by sitting back and judging the issues that come before them; they do so by actively taking the actions needed to grow the sport.

To do this takes vision. Once you have a vision of where you want to go, you set goals to reach that vision. Once you have goals, you create plans to reach those goals. I don't see this in the campaign statements.

Members regularly discuss what USATT needs to do. Why is it that as soon as a member decides to run for office, he so often forgets this? Why would anyone want to be on the Board if the goal was status quo? If the goal isn't status quo, then what are their plans for changing the status quo? There's nothing in the campaign statements that shows any plans or desire to change this status quo, where our membership of 8000 (compared to where we want to be) is no more than a roundoff error.

The membership is hungry for someone with vision, with goals, with plans. There are many out there. I even blogged about ten easy things USATT could do that could pay off big if they'd just take initiative. At one time I tried to take initiative on some of these issues, but USATT wouldn't get behind them. That's the primary reason I resigned as USATT editor and programs director in 2007.

My vision is one of regional leagues all over the country, with hundreds of thousands of members competing in them (from the amateur to the professional level), with many hundreds of training centers dotting the country around every population center, with large-scale junior programs. The goal at the start might be 100,000 USATT League members and 200 Training Centers; more later on. As to plans to reach these goals, they are included in the "ten easy things" I blogged about. I've given presentations to USATT on how to reach these goals, but there just doesn't seem to be any energy to take initiative, even on the "easy" stuff.

The sad thing is there were others who wanted to run for the board, who seem to want to take the initiative, but were not put on the ballot by the USATT Nominating and Election Committee. I already blogged my thoughts on that in the links given above. There's something really wrong with the governing process when a board of directors can set up a committee to decide who can and can't run for the board, regardless of who the membership might vote for. A recipe for status quo. USATT, prove me wrong. Start by leaving that 8000 membership figure in the dust by learning how other sports have done it and how table tennis has done it in other countries and in some regions of this country.

While you explore ways to grow the sport, please, for the love of Ping-Pong, remember this.

(Addendum: I do NOT plan on getting involved in USATT politics, other than the above. I've had my say, and now plan to go back to talking about coaching issues.) 

Restrictions of a Drill Mindset

Here's the article. It's about not sticking to a drill when the rally changes unexpectedly.

Practical Advice on Rackets

Here's the article by Kagin Lee, which focuses on proper gluing and care of your racket.

Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Others Retire from Chinese Team

Here's the article. Others retiring from team are Chen Qi, Qiu Yike, Zhang Chao, Zhai Chao, Zhai Yiming, and Xu Ruifeng.

USATT Annual Assembly

It's at the USA Nationals, as usual, on Wednesday, Dec. 18, from 7-9PM. Here's the agenda. If I'm not coaching I expect to be there. Unlike past years, there doesn't seem to be time set aside for those who wish to address the assembly.

What is Magnus Force?

Here's a video (3:47) that explains the Magnus force, which is what causes a spinning ball to curve. It's actually a pretty simple concept - a spinning ball causes high density air on one side, low density on the other, and the high density air pushes the ball to the low density side.

Ping-Ping Balls on Fire

Here's the video (2:08). The bonfire begins about one minute in. Below the video is an explanation for while ping-pong balls are so flammable.

SnowPongPlayer

Here's the picture! One of the few good things to come out of the snow deluge of the last few days.

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October 31, 2013

Learning to Return Fast Deep Serves

Many players have trouble with them. How do you learn to return them? By practicing against them! I have a student, Doug, who was having trouble with them, especially when served to a certain spot I won't name since he may have to play some of my readers. So yesterday we played games where I started each rally off with a straight fast, deep topspin serve, and where I had only one shot to win the point. At the start he was horrible, missing the serve over and over. But guess what? Practice does make perfect (or at least better), and he improved and eventually won. (It's not easy trying to win on one shot when the opponent is looping your deep serve over and over!)

Now I wasn't using my best fast-breaking sidespin serves or the sometimes almost unreturnable dead ones, but few players have those serves except at the higher levels. But I'm going to press Doug on this, and soon he'll be facing these nightmares - and if history repeats, he'll get used to them.

I do a similar thing with other students. Sameer had trouble with a player's deep sidespin serve to his backhand in a tournament, so we played games where all I did was serve that serve. When he got used to it, I started throwing two variations at him and later more. Now he's comfortable with the serve when he sees it coming, and reacts to it pretty well even when I vary the serve.

One of our top juniors had fits with certain short serves to his forehand. So we played matches where I gave him that serve over and Over and OVER. Soon he was flipping it all over the table and I had to practically retire that serve against him in matches. Yes, my goal is to teach all my students to return all my serves so that soon they'll all be beating me.

It always amazes me that players win or lose more on serve and receive than anything else, and yet few actually practice these things systematically.

Ping-Pong Halloween

What are my Halloween plans? I teach a beginning table tennis class for kids on Thursdays from 6-7. I was thinking they'd want tonight off, but I was surprised last Thursday when all but one said they'd be here. (Three said they hated Halloween! Wow!!! Didn't like costumes and all that sugar.) I also have a private lesson from 7-8PM. So I'll be coaching from 6-8PM, and not getting home until close to 8:30PM, when most of the trick-or-treating will be over. Fortunately, the people downstairs will be around to give out the Snickers and Milky Ways I always give out. (I own a three-floor townhouse, and live on the third floor while renting out the first two.)

I won't miss Halloween completely. Besides bringing some of the candy to give out to the class (for those who like sugar!), I've got a Scream mask that I might put on during the class near the end. Or maybe I'll feed multiball in it. I've always had this dream of showing up at a club anonymously in some sort of costume (such as a gorilla suit, though a scream mask will do), and silently play matches all night and beat everyone.

Here's some table tennis Halloween stuff:

Orioles Player Taking Lessons

Another multi-millionaire Baltimore Oriole baseball player has arranged table tennis lessons with me. Ho hum. I've already given lessons to JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson, and hit with a bunch of their players at their clubhouse. For now, the new one wants to stay anonymous. However, after taking a few lessons, he plans to play in our leagues during the off season.

Polyethylene Balls

Yesterday I posted a link to USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's blog with his thoughts on the new polyethylene balls, which are supposed to replace the current celluloid ones in ITTF events on July 1, 2014. (USATT would presumably match them, as they usually do on rule changes.) Here's USATT Board Member Kagin Lee's blog about this last week. However, if you want to test these balls for yourself, JimT posted in the comments in my blog yesterday that you can order them from eacheng.net, which I just did. Cost for three balls was $7.99 plus $5 shipping, so $12.99 total. (Choose "BY AIR-small packet" for the $5 shipping, unless you are in a rush.) Once I have them I'll try them out, and let others from my club as well, and report back here.

Knee Update

Just a quick update - the knee seems fine now, though I'm still leery of making sudden moves, especially to my wide forehand. I'm wearing an Ace knee brace, and will probably keep using it for a while.

2013 Men's World Cup Best

Here's a video (4:25) of the best of the recent World Men's Cup. And here's the ITTF's Top Ten Shots (5:16) from the tournament. (It's really top ten rallies, shown from different angles and replayed slow motion.)

Roger Federer Wants to Play Lebron James in TT

Here's the story from Table Tennis World!

Funny Serves

So which of these three serves is the funniest?

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October 10, 2013

Veep

I had a wild day on the set of Veep yesterday. And when I say "wild," I mean sitting around doing nothing other than watching for 12 hours. It was fascinating and incredibly boring. Yes, I got to spend lots of time practically standing next to Julia Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Gary Cole, Matt Walsh, and the rest of the cast and crew. But most of it was watching rehearsal after Rehearsal after REHEARSAL, and then watching take after Take after TAKE!!! And in between these rehearsals and takes? Lots of waiting around.

As I've blogged about before, Veep had an episode that would feature table tennis: Episode 3.3, which would be the third episode in season three, which will run sometime early in 2014. They had contacted me, looking for "high-level table tennis players in their 20s." I had helped bring in Khaleel Asgarali, Toby Kutler, and Qiming Chen. (Khaleel, rated 2391, used to be over 2400 and was on the Trinidad National Team; Toby is rated 2154 and used to be over 2200; Qiming, rated 2113, is the University of Maryland Champion and a graduating senior.)

I'm 53 and didn't quite fit the age profile, but they told me to come in anyway. I assumed I was part of the table tennis. However, at about 10PM on Tuesday night all the extras received a long email giving instructions on things such as what to wear, when and where to park and meet, etc. In the listings they had Khaleel, Toby, Qiming, and three others I'd never heard of listed as "Table Tennis Players." I was listed along with two others as "Clovis Custodial Staff." Huh?

I left my house at 5:30 AM and arrived at the parking garage at University of Maryland just before 6AM. I was there early because I didn't want to get stuck in traffic; we were supposed to be there by 7AM. They had a shuttle for the extras starting at 6:30 AM, which took us to the Physical Sciences Building, the site of the shooting, where I'd be from 7AM to well past 7PM. (I believe this was the same building I took computer science classes in when I was an undergraduate there many years ago, but it looked very different now.) They had turned the front of the building, the lobby, and the second floor into "Clovis Corporation." It was pretty extravagant; I wish I had pictures of the setting, but photos weren't allowed. A lot of the stuff involved recreational stuff, including large Lego tables, foosball, some sort of golfing area, and yes, two ping-pong tables.

The ping-pong tables each had a pair of cheap hardbat rackets. But rather than a ping-pong ball, they both had a Koosh ball! This was about 1.5 times the diameter of a ping-pong ball, and very dead. When it bounced on the table it made little noise, and that's why they wanted it. However, to me, it looked very awkward, as there's supposed to be sound when the ball hits the table, and it's supposed to bounce, not die like these balls did, plus it was way too big. With a little practice, you could rally with them, but you had to take the ball right off the bounce (since there was little bounce) and hit it pretty hard to get it over the net. I mentioned there were three people listed as table tennis players I'd never heard of; it turned out they were actors who had put "ping-pong" down as things they were good at. One of them didn't show. The other two were just advanced basement players. They spend much of their time practicing hitting the Koosh ball back and forth.

There was also a large Snack Corner, which was where I'd spend the next twelve hours. Not to eat, but there was a sitting area behind it, and that's where many of the extras sat while waiting for their big moment. When the cameras were pointing the other way (which fortunately was most of the time) we were able to gather behind them and watch the shooting.

When I arrived, I was given a Clovis Corporation t-shirt to wear - white with a large colorful "C" on the front. I was also given a blue apron I was to wear. So much for my dreams of playing table tennis on Veep!

The next twelve hours gradually went from great interest to great boredom. It became obvious the ones doing the casting weren't sure what the ones doing the directing were interested in, and they were interested in people in their 20s, to fit the profile of techies. (I think they modeled "Clovis Corporation" on Google.)  The two others listed as "custodial" were both in their 60s; out of the 50+ extras, we were the only three not to be used. We just sat around all day. There was a 30-minute lunch break where they catered an extravagant feast - extremely well-seasoned chicken (I think Cajun style), what looked like prime rib, fish, all-you-can-eat salad, lots of vegetables, lots of desserts. I was surprised that everyone ate the same food - Julia Dreyfus and the rest of the stars, the directors, and the rest of the actors were right there with the extras. Then it was back to work - or in my case, to sitting around.

What were they actually filming? Basically, Julia (Vice President of the U.S.) and her staff were visiting some high-tech Google-like corporation. There was lots of playful banter between the cast members; Julia mistook some of the recreational activities as child care and launched into a campaign-type speech that got interupted; her assistant, played by Tony Hale, kept whispering things into her ear, often nearly word-for-word what she was being told, and she'd react sarcastically. She was shown around, then there was a short board-type meeting, then they met the big executive with the ping-pong going on in the background. And that got us to 7PM.

During one long break Khaleel and I did an impromptu exhibition with a real ping-pong ball. It got lots of "Oohs!" and "Aahs!", but the only ones that saw it were the extras and lower-level technicians. The main cast and crew were on the other side of the set and I don't think noticed. (It was a big set!)

During the first 2.5 hours they did the opening scene to their arriving at Clovis over and Over and OVER!!! It took that entire time to do what I timed to be a 90-second scene. Then they did the next scene, also about the same length, and it took hours. By the end of the day, with 11.5 hours on set, my guess is they got about five minutes of filming done. But that comes to 30 minutes in five days, and most episodes are about 23 minutes, so perhaps they are ahead of schedule.

While I wasn't getting used, they used Khaleel, Toby, and Qiming almost nonstop - but as regular Clovis employees! For example, in the opening scene, a Clovis director is showing the main cast around, and most of the scene is around two tables with five Clovis employees working at computers - and three of them were Khaleel, Toby, and Qiming. (This was done about 30 times over 2.5 hours.) Later there was a scene where they are meeting some Clovis executive, and all three of them were told to walk by in the background. It was kind of funny watching one of the assistant directors time when to send them. Qiming walked alone; they sent Toby and Khaleel together. They did this about 20 times, so they got lots of exercise.

During the scene where they are meeting the Clovis executive two of the actors who were listed as having "table tennis skills" were playing in the background. (It was a LOT of playing since they did the scene over and Over and OVER.) The irony is that this was the scene were Khaleel, Toby, and Qiming were walking by in the background, right past the table. So while they had the amateurs playing ping-pong, the real players walked by. However, we were told that they'd be playing some tomorrow. I was also told how the table tennis scene will culminate - but I think I'm sworn to secrecy. Let's just say that Julia will get involved, and it won't end well for her. (No, it's not something as simple as her getting beaten by a top player! If you ask me in person, I may be able to tell you what happens to her. Remember, this is a comedy.)

At the end of the day the extras had lots of paperwork to do, and then lots of waiting in line (almost an hour for me) to get our forms validated so they can mail us our checks. The normal rate for extras is $75 for nine hours work (so $8.33/hour), and 1.5 times that rate after nine hours (so $12.50/hour) Because we were listed as having "special skills," Qiming, Toby, and Khaleel all got double pay (so $16.66/hour), and for the 2.5 hours past nine hours, triple pay ($25/hour). I wasn't listed for that, but after I argued my case, and pointed out that I'd help bring in the three real players, they put me down as having a "special skill," even though I wasn't going to use it in the show except as an informal advisor. Then I drove home, returning around 8:30 PM - 15 hours after I'd left.

I was invited to come back today, but decided against it. First, I dreaded spending another 15 hours on this, most of it sitting around. Once you've hobnobbed with Julia and the others for a day it gets kind of old. Second, I've got lots and lots of things I need to work on, both table tennis and various writing projects. And third, I was EXHAUSTED. Yes, spend 15 hours like this and you'd be tired too.

I'll check with the three on what happened today and report back. Meanwhile, set your calendars for sometime in 2014 to watch the exciting table tennis action on Veep!

2013-2014 NCTTA League

Here's USATT Board Member Kagin Lee's blog about the upcoming NCTTA season.

Fundamentals of a Close to Table Game

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Tips for Playing Against Antispin

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Five Peculiarities to Become a Great TT Player (Revisited)

On Tuesday I linked to this somewhat tongue in cheek video. Here's a blog about it from Expert Table Tennis.

MIT Working on Robot Table Tennis Algorithm

Here's the article and links from Table Tennis Nation. Our Table Tennis Masters are in development, and soon even the Chinese National Team will have to bow before our Robot Ping-Pong Warlords!

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July 9, 2013

No-Coaching Policy Against Countrymen at ITTF Pro Tour

There is an unofficial policy at ITTF Pro Tour events that when two players from the same country play, there is no coach for either player. This makes sense in Europe and Asia, where the top players train together, often under the same coaches. But in the U.S., where players mostly train on their own with private coaches in private clubs, it doesn't really make sense. I was hired to coach MDTTC players at the U.S. Open, but didn't do so in many of the ITTF pro tour matches because of this. The following isn't really a complaint, but more of an observation of the problems that arose because of this that I hope can be resolved in the future.

Complications arose because it wasn't a rule, just a guideline. All ITTF Pro Tour participants received an email from USATT requesting that they not have coaches when playing other USA players. However, since it wasn't a rule, we would never know in advance if the other player would follow the guideline. And so I had to be available to coach these matches, just in case. The problem was that to do that, it meant someone else had to coach other players from MDTTC, and often that meant I wouldn't be coaching a player I normally would coach because someone else was assigned that match since we didn't know if I'd be available.

The first time an MDTTC player went up against another USA player I tentatively went out to coach, at the request of the parents. The umpire immediately told me it was against the rules, which was incorrect. Then an ITTF official came over and asked me not to coach, that it was against protocol. Then the USA Men's Coach, Stefan Feth, asked me not to coach the match. I agreed (he meant well and made a good argument about us all being USA players and the ITTF protocol against coaching against countrymen) and instead watched from the stands. (Meanwhile, another match in a non-ITTF Pro Tour match that I could have been coaching was instead coached by someone who had never coached that player before.)

Later an MDTTC player played a player from China I'd never seen before, a non-USA citizen, from a club 3000 miles from us, and again I was asked not to coach. The player did live in the U.S. and had entered through USATT (as all USA players were required to), but somehow there seemed something strange about my not being able to coach this match. But I decided not to create an "international incident" and so didn't coach.

Then things go tricky in another match. The ITTF Pro Tour referee, Bill Walk, sat down near me. He noticed I wasn't coaching an MDTTC player who was playing a U.S. player from another club, and asked why. I explained. He got very angry, said it was not a rule, and encouraged me to coach the match. He said he had explained this to the umpires in the official's meeting, and didn't believe coaches should be asked not to coach their players against USA players. I was tempted to coach the match, but not wanting to cause problems, decided not to. Obviously we're not all on the same page on this guideline that isn't a rule.

I hope that the powers that be can get together and either make this a rule or drop it as a guideline completely. I don't see how it's different coaching a Maryland player against a California player in a junior singles event as opposed to an ITTF event. However, I also know it's easy to make an argument for or against this guideline - but if we're going to do it, please make it a rule, and not a guideline that we never know will be enforced. And if we are going to not allow coaching against USA players in these big matches because we're all on the same "team," then we need to actually train together as a team and play as a team, rather than just pretend we are when we really are not at this time.

This reminded me of problems in the past in international events. In Europe and Asia, most top juniors train under the national coaches for at least several months a year, often year round. When they play at international events, the national coaches know the players. In the U.S., this doesn't happen; at most, the USA national coaches have a few days per year working with the National Junior and Cadet Teams. And yet, when USA plays international matches, our top juniors and cadets are normally coached by the national coaches, who don't always know their games, rather than their private coaches, who do, even when the private coaches are available. Our top juniors and cadets reached the levels they did with the work of their own coaches, and it doesn't make sense to then send them on the international stage and handicap them by using coaches who don't really know their games. This isn't a rap on the national coaches, but on the situation where our top juniors and cadets don't train together with the national coaches. I'm all for the national coaches coaching our top juniors and cadets in international events once USATT is able to have them work together for at least a month per year. Until that happens, why handicap our top juniors and cadets when they reach the international stage?

MDTTC Camp

We just started week four of our ten Mon-Fri camps this summer. I missed week three because of the U.S. Open. Yesterday's focus was the forehand; today it'll be the backhand. I'm missing four of the weeks because of travel (see below).

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Here's USATT Board Member Kagin Lee's blog on the U.S. Open.

Best of Asian Championships

Part 1 (8:29) and Part 2 (7:50). And here's a video of one of the semifinals (3:25, with time between points taken out) between Ma Long and Kenta Matsudaira, with Chinese commentary. Originally I listed this as the semifinal, as the video says it's the "Final 2," but that's incorrect. In the final Ma Long defeated Yan An.) 

Playing to Win

Here's an essay on the topic from Table Tennis Master.

Best of Penholder Players

Here's a video (5:56) of the best penholder plays.

$6600 Luxury Ping-Pong Table

Here it is!

Despicable Me 2

I saw it last night. The movie features a very short TT scene. Here's the description from IMDB: "There's a brief shot in the film in which Edith is playing ping pong with a minion, but uses a pair of nunchaku as opposed to a ping pong paddle. This is a reference to a famous Chinese Nokia commercial in which a Bruce Lee impersonator in a mock "lost home video" also plays a game of ping pong using only a pair of nunchaku." There's also a party scene where the minions are sitting about on the ping-pong table.

Here's an online video (11 sec) of the minions playing table tennis (tennis-style) that's not in the movie.

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