Audrey Weisiger

May 16, 2013

Coaching Updates

I had some interesting coaching sessions yesterday. Here's a rundown on three of them, with their permission - plus a fourth who just won three titles!

  • Audrey Weisiger - She's the former USA Olympic skating coach I've blogged about before. She is determined to win against some of her fellow skating coaches, with one in particular in mind. As I blogged about recently, she's gone to long pips on the backhand, no sponge, and it's working really well. She is getting pretty good at keeping the ball in play, can block loops and drive back pretty consistently now, and can return my spinniest serves. (The coach she has in mind has a spinny serve, both forehand and backhand.) She also can do a consistent push-block against pushes, which comes back with topspin. She needs more work on the forehand. She can hit forehand to forehand pretty well, but her stroke tends to be too long, and she tends to wander off the table, which doesn't work well if you are blocking with long pips on the backhand. Also, since her backhand will tend to have backspin, many of her opponent's shots will be topspinny - and so she needs to be able to block those on the forehand with a short blocking stroke. She's also developing a somewhat spinny backhand serve. At first she had difficulty in doing this because she has to use the inverted side and flip, so we're working on her flipping skills.
  • Sameer - He's 11, and starting to improve quickly. He's about 1200 now, but will probably be much better soon. Because much of his practice is in his basement, where there's only four feet going back, I'm training him as a hitter - he loops backspin, this topspin, with inverted both sides. (I've toyed with pips-out, but I want him to be able to loop from both wings against backspin.) He tends to stand up too straight (and he's tall for his age), so we're focusing on that. And while he's quick to step around to attack with his forehand, he's a bit slow moving to the wide forehand right now - we're working on that. He also tends to be erratic with his forehand loop early in sessions, not using his whole body, but he gets into it quickly. He's very forehand-oriented, but has suddenly developed a very good backhand counter-hitting game. He's got pretty spinny serves, mostly side-backspin, but can't control them yet, so they tend to pop up a lot.
  • TJ - He's 12, and is also improving rapidly. Right now he's about 1000 level or so. He's definitely going to be a looper. However, he's a bit erratic on basic forehand smashes, so the last two sessions we've been focusing on that, with multiball and live drills where he smashes over and over, or loops backspin and follows with a smash. I've promised him that in a few weeks we'll focus more on looping. (I have him loop against block for about five minutes each session right now - he's pretty steady - but that will increase soon.) He has a natural backhand loop against backspin, and can already use it in games. He tends to rush, leading to many mistakes. Often, if I put the ball up, he'll rush and try to smash it on the rise, which is erratic. He likes to step around and forehand loop against backspin, but he has the same habit I had 30 years ago - he doesn't rotate fully around, and so can only loop down the line, plus it leaves him off-balanced with his weight moving away from the table. We're working on him rotating more so he can attack with his forehand to all parts of the table, stay balanced, and so be ready for the next shot.
  • And a fourth student, player and coach John Olsen, yesterday won the Virginia Senior Games, winning the 55-59 age category in Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles!

Orioles at MDTTC

I blogged about this on Tuesday. It's featured now on the USATT home page - that's me in the middle with Orioles star shortstop J.J. Hardy on left, former star center fielder and current VP Brady Anderson on the right. Here's the best photo! And here I'm instructing them on the intricacies of table tennis.

2013 World Championships

They are in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, live scoring, articles, video, pictures, etc.

Team USA at 2013 Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video. Alas, all USA players are now out.

Table Tennista

Lots of great coverage of the Worlds here.

Day Four Photos from the Worlds

Here they are!

Two Around the Net Shots in One Match at the Worlds

Here's the video (54 sec).

Adham Sharara Re-elected ITTF President

He defeats Stefano Bosi, the one who had accused him of corruption, but was silenced by ITTF at the Annual Meeting.

ITTF Museum to Move from Switzerland to China

Here's the article. Here's the museum.

Patent 8105183 B2 - Celluloid-free Table Tennis Ball

Here's the patent! We might be using these next year.

Pepsi Chasing and Chewing Ping-Pong Balls

Here's the video (1:18) of Jay Turberville's dog Pepsi chasing and chewing on ping-pong balls. You can see close-ups of the bite marks one minute in.

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May 3, 2013

U.S. Open - To Enter, or Not To Enter

I'm always stuck in a quandary about whether to play in the U.S. Open or just coach. I'm going there primarily as a coach, and that's my priority. I usually enter a few hardbat events, and over the years have won a number of events. However, I often have to default out of them if there's a conflict. I've done this repeatedly in singles over the years; only once has anyone complained that I know of. In doubles, I've never had to default, but I've always let my partner know in advance that there's that chance, if there's a conflict between our doubles and a major match of a student of mine.

This year I'm considering entering Hardbat Singles & Doubles, Over 40 Hardbat, and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles. I'm one of the favorites in Over 40 (I've won it four times), and I'm pretty good at Hardbat Doubles (I've won it 13 times), plus there's Over 50 Doubles. I can do well in Hardbat Singles as well - I've won it twice, though I'm not as fast as I was when I was winning the event. But is it fair to opponents who sign up for round robin events when a player doesn't show, and knows in advance there's a decent chance he might not be able to play? On the other hand, it means other players have a better chance of advancing.

I could go all in, and enter other events where I might be competitive, such as Over 50 and Over 40 Singles and Doubles. I made the final of Over 40 Doubles at the 2011 U.S. Open. I could go pretty deep in the singles events, though of course eventually I'm going to run into Dan Seemiller or some former Chinese champion. (I'd have to do some serious tactical magic to beat them - and of course play like a maniac.)  

I'm probably not going to enter the regular sponge events - just too many conflicts, and it would take my attention away from my coaching focus. But the hardbat events? I'm leaning toward playing them, and perhaps, just maybe, entering Over 50 Doubles as well. But I'd have to drop them like a shot if there's a conflict with my coaching.

One disadvantage for me in senior events - I'm considerably better against junior players. I've been playing them for years as a coach and practice partner, and I know exactly how to play them. My overall level these days is about 2200, but against juniors, it's closer to 2300. (This does not include those days, about once a week, where I'm so stiff I can barely move, and my level drops down into the earth's mantle.)

Here's the U.S. Open home page. Deadline to enter is May 11, though you can enter through May 18 with a $75 late fee.

1996 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Coach

Recently Audrey Weisiger, the 1996 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating coach (Google her if you want more) started taking lessons with me. She started out with inverted, but about ten days ago tried out long pips on the backhand (no sponge), and liked it. (I blogged about this on April 26.) This past week she took a trip to Minneapolis, where I gave her contact info for Mitch Seidenfeld, the world dwarf champion and a professional coach. Here's a short video (27 sec., see Audrey celebrate winning a point!) of them playing, and here's a picture.

Iron Man 3

I'm taking some of our junior players to see Iron Man 3 tonight after practice. Some of them have been dying to see this movie for weeks. Confession - I've been dying to see this movie for years (or at least since #2 came out three years ago). Popcorn, cherry coke, and 130 minutes of fun coming up! Any local juniors who want to join us, we'll be leaving from MDTTC at 7PM, eating a quick dinner at a fast food place, then going to the Germantown Theater for the 8PM 3-D showing. (I'm not high on 3-D, but the kids prefer it.) 

Hong Kong Cup Highlights

Here's a highlights video (2:49) of the Hong Kong Cup, put together by long-time Canadian National Team Member (and player at the tournament) Xavier Therien.

Love and Ping Pong in New York

Here's an article that came out in December in SB National that I just saw, "Table (Tennis) for Two: Love and Ping Pong in New York."

Table Tennista

Here are the latest headline international stories from Table Tennista.

Table Tennis Clock

Here's a really nice table tennis clock. (If you can't see it there in Facebook, try this.) Anyone know where we can buy one? On March 12, I blogged about and linked to 28 different table tennis clocks. (I just added this one, so now there are 29.)

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April 26, 2013

Audrey and Long Pips

A while back I blogged about how I was now coaching Audrey Weisiger, the former U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Coach. I gave her another lesson on Wednesday. She's getting steadier in rallies, can push, and can now create spin with her serves. At the start she was an all-backhand player, where she sort of slashed at the ball. Hitting forehands for her was like me trying to ice skate - i.e., not natural, and pretty much against the natural order of things. However, she now has a pretty good stroke, and has hit 50 or more in a row live.

But on the backhand she still tends to stroke down on the ball, often putting backspin on the ball with her downward-stroking backhand drive (more like a push). She also has trouble returning spin serves (as do all beginners), which is problematic as her primary goal at the moment is to beat a fellow figure skating coach who beats her over and over with his backhand sidespin serve.

So on Wednesday I tried an experiment. I pulled out one of my demo long pips rackets that I keep for students to practice against, the one without sponge on a Dr. Neubauer blade (designed for long pips blocking). She tried it out, and it was like me getting off a hated and not-designed-for-human-usage ice rink! She loved it, and was able to keep the ball in play much better and more effectively. Even better, she was able to return nearly all my spin serves with the long pips.

She'll keep the inverted on the forehand, and focus on steady drives and, when the ball's up, smashing. It also gives her an inverted side to serve with. I showed her how to use the inverted to serve backhand and then flip the inverted back to the forehand. I'm letting her borrow my long-pips racket for now, but soon she'll get one for herself.

Someday perhaps I'll blog about my bad experiences with ice skating.

Serving With Spin

I used to have a bunch of striped balls that I had beginning players use when they were learning to serve with spin. They gave much better feedback than a normal ball, where beginners can't really see how much spin they are getting. At some point I lost those balls. Well, I just ordered four six-packs of "sports" ping-pong balls ($3/pack), where they are colored to look like soccer balls, basketballs, and baseballs. This'll make it a lot easier to see what type of spin they are creating. They are also good for learning to read spin, especially off a serve. They are only one-star balls, but they are 40mm. I'll blog about this after they arrive and I start using them again.

Sharara Fights Back

On Wednesday I linked to the article at Table Tennista about the allegations of corruption against ITTF President Adham Sharara by European Union President Stefano Bosi, "Adham Sharara Accused Of Long-Term Corruption In The ITTF." Here is Sharara's response, "Sharara Fights Back Against Bosi's Allegations." Sharara says, "All the allegations concerning me modifying accounts or hiding the true income are all false," and "Anyone within the ITTF has the right to run for presidency. In addition, anyone also has the right to complain or clarify any issues. Unfortunately, some one is attacking me and at the same time campaigning."

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Vs Robert Gardos

Here's a great video (7:07) that just came out of these two playing in the Champions League in Europe, with the time between points taken out. Ovtcharov of Germany is world #7, Gardos of Austria is world #32. Watch some of the backhand serves of Ovtcharov. (But guess who wins this time?)

Stiga Videos

Stiga Table Tennis has a lot of videos on their webpage - the "Stiga Movie Channel." They are divided into:

A Touch of Magic

Here's a table tennis highlights music video (5:13) that came out last month.

The Misdirected Surprise Serve

Here it is (20 sec)! I've done this in exhibitions. ("Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! No . . . it's my serve." And then you quick serve.)

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February 7, 2013

Last Night's Coaching

After I finished working all day on Tim's book (see below), I went to the club to coach from 5-8PM. However, my 6PM student hurt his arm playing basketball and had to cancel. The 7PM came in early so I was able to do him from 6-7PM.

The 5PM student was Audrey Weisiger, the Olympic Figure Skating coach I blogged about on Jan. 17. She's coming along pretty well, can hit regular forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand pretty well. She still has a few bad habits on the forehand when she starts a session, but she gets over them quickly. She sometimes tends to rotate her body rigidly into the shot, and also often finds herself either jammed at the table or backing off, so I have to remind her to find that spot in between, about arm’s length from the table. Halfway through the session while doing multiball she suddenly caught fire and did side-to-side forehand footwork really well, hitting about 50 solid drives in a row.

I also introduced her to pushing, something she badly needed since she's been losing badly to a fellow figure skating coach who serves backspin, which she puts in the net over and over. (Now you know her incentive for taking coaching!) She's mastering backspin, both with her push (she learned quickly), and is getting some decent backspin on her serves now.

Here's the really interesting thing about this particular session. We started early, at about 10 minutes to 5PM, and went for 70 minutes. Now we weren't creaming the ball back and forth as she's still a beginner, but in the entire 70 minutes, excluding nets and edges - brace yourself - I didn't miss a shot!!! Not one. She'll verify this. (About 25 minutes of the session was multiball, the rest "live.") I also went ten minutes into my next session (where we were going at a faster pace) before finally missing.

The 6PM student was a 12-year-old who's beginning to master the loop. He still tends to use too much arm when looping (both forehand and backhand), but after a few minutes gets it right. His backhand loop in multiball is especially getting steady. One big breakthrough for him yesterday - he discovered that if he faked a smash to my forehand, then at the last second rotated his shoulders back and smashed to my middle or backhand, he could finally get the ball past me. (I'd told him about this before, but it didn't register until now.) Before all his smashes were predictable and easy to counter or fish back. This makes him a bit more dangerous!

After the two sessions, I showed another player how to use the robot, then left for home. Since I was done nearly an hour earlier than expected, I was able to put together the first draft for the upcoming ad in USATT Magazine for Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. I may also place the ad in other table tennis magazines. I also started work on the flyer for Tim Boggan's History of Table Tennis, Volume 13.

Status: Table Tennis Coaching for Thinkers

I got word from Amazon that print copies will be on sale in "5-7 business days." But I got the same note about Pings and Pongs, and they were online in two days. I'll post when they are up. Meanwhile, I ordered 110 copies for myself - ten to arrive next week, and 100 more the following week (to save on shipping).

Status: Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13

We've done the covers and the first five chapters out of 29. This puts us to page 86. Tim's been going crazy with the pictures - I've placed 218 of them so far on only 90 pages (including the outside and inside covers), or about 2.4 per page!!! The last volume had a record 837, but we're on pace for about 1100. Nearly all need fixing up in Photoshop, and many practically need surgery before they can be used. It's a long tedious process. We're working roughly from 7AM to 5PM each day, but while he's then done for the day, I'm off to coach, plus I need to do the blog each night, plus about ten other things that seem to come up each day.

New Table Tennis App

Here's a new table tennis app from Google. Here's how they describe it: "This is an info tool and mainly for trained table tennis players to check ratings, sanctioned tournaments, clubs, umpires as well as some basic info from USA and ITTF world rankings and events. It can also be used as a scoreboard and a simple coaching pad." So who wants to be our beta tester?

Timo Boll  vs. Chuang Chih Yuan

Here's video (5:26) of their match in the Champions League.

Mini-Table Tennis?

Here's a picture. Is it a game or statues?

Office Table Tennis

Ready for your Monday morning meeting?

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January 17, 2013

Coaching an Olympic Figure Skating Coach

Yesterday I had the honor of coaching for an hour Audrey Weisiger, the celebrated USA figure skating coach. (She was coach of the 1998 and 2002 USA Olympic Team, and coach of Michael Weiss, and has also coached Timothy Goebel, Lisa Kwon, Christine Lee, Parker Pennington, and Tommy Steenberg.) She plans on taking a series of lessons with me at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She was referred to me by John Olsen, a player/coach at the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Center.

Audrey had been playing with an extreme backhand grip, trying to cover the whole table with her backhand. Hitting a forehand was a completely new experience for her. When we started out, she sort of slashed at the ball with an open racket, and the balls sailed off the end. (Part of the reason for this was she was used to playing with a hardbat, not the sponge racket she was now using.) She also tended to either use no body rotation, or rotate the entire body stiffly as if it were one solid object.

The first half of the session was all multiball. The key to fixing her stroke was to have her start with the racket slightly lower and slightly closed, and stroke slightly upwards. I also had her rotate her upper body backwards a bit during the backswing. When we did these things, she went off the end with an awkward stroke. She still wasn't used to how the sponge racket grabbed the ball, and so was instinctively aiming too much up. So I had her try to topspin the top of the ball into the net. This she had no trouble doing - and miraculously, it led to a good stroke, just not enough lift. Next I had her do the same stroke but try to lift the ball just over the net. Bingo! From there on her stroke was correct, and she proceeded to hit lots of nice forehands (with decent topspin) in a row. (She also had a tendency to close the racket during the forward stroke, and to back off the table too much, but we mostly fixed those problems.)

We did a lot of forehands to ingrain the stroke, and then did some side-to-side stroking drills, occasionally going back to one spot to make sure she didn't lose the stroke. Finally, when she looked pretty comfortable, we went forehand-to-forehand live. Within minutes she was able to hit up to 20 in a row. It still needs work as she still sometimes backed off the table too much and the stroke sometimes gets erratic if she has to move, but the foundation is now there.

We also worked on her backhand, where she was much more comfortable. We had to change her grip from the extreme backhand grip she had been using, but she picked it up quickly. (At first she was using a different grip for forehand and backhand, but we got away from that.)

We won't talk about her serve as we only had a few minutes at the end, where I learned she'd been using a "bounce" serve where she bounced the ball on her side of the table and hit it directly to the other side, rather than have it bounce on her side first. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! But she was able to serve correctly before we finished, and promised to practice her serve for next time, along with shadow practicing the forehand and backhand strokes. She has to mix next week - out of town traveling - but will continue the next week.

It was interesting discussing the similarities in coaching between our sports. In both, there's a lot of training to develop muscle memory, and a lot of visualization.

Other celebrities I've coached at MDTTC include Jack Markell (governor of Delaware) and Judah Friedlander (standup comic and one of the stars of 30 Rock.)

Proofing

After I finish this blog and do some promised editing of a long table tennis article for someone, I either collapse into bed or start the final tedious line-by-line proofing of the pages of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. The book is 240 pages with 99,528 words. The bigger question is where do I do the proofing? Ledo's Pizza (pepperoni pizza)? Hong Kong Café (kung pau or sesame chicken)? Wendy's (chili with cheese and onion)? Or at MDTTC (no food, just lots of ping-pong on the side)? For some reason, I rarely do extensive paper proofing at home; I always like to go out somewhere for that, usually Ledo's.

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Two ITTF Coaching Seminars in the U.S. in 2013 are now scheduled, both in Austin, TX. There will be a Level 1 Course on June 10-14, and a Level 2 Course on Sept. 9-14. I took the Level 1 course in 2010, and in 2011 I taught one. There's a chance I may teach another one this year - not sure yet. I was going to take the Level 2 course last year but just didn't have the time or money for it. I really want to go, but to go I'd have to pay roughly $300 registration, $300 air fare, $300 hotel, and lose at least $500 in lost coaching fees, or $1400 total. I can't afford $1400. Anyone want to sponsor me?

USATT Annual Giving Campaign

It's time for the annual USATT Giving Campaign! USATT receives matching funds from the U.S. Olympic Committee for money donated.

Send Gary Schlager to the Maccabiah Games

Here's a nice page Gary's put together to raise funds for his trip. He's raised $5849 of the $10,000 needed. (Maybe I should put one of these together to solicit the money to send me to the ITTF Level 2 course? See segment above.)

$1,000,000 Sandpaper Tournament?

We've already had a couple of $100,000 World Ping Pong Championships, with sandpaper rackets only. Now promoter Barry Hearn is talking $ one million. "You're not going to get kids to pick up the game if it is not aspirational. So I need to get my tournament up to US$1 million prize money as quickly as possible. And then we will blow the whole table tennis world up with a bang." He described sandpaper table tennis this way: "It's rock 'n' roll. It's going to be high-fives, knocking balls into the crowd, interaction between the players and the crowd." And he aims to "catapult the game into the big league" and onto the international television stage, which he says has a potential audience of 700 million.

Timo Boll vs. the Chopper

Adam Bobrow's been posting daily videos on Facebook of Timo Boll, in anticipation of his visit to Spin LA this Saturday. Here's one showing a great point (47 sec) as Timo loops nearly 50 shots to win a point against chopper Ding Song.

Drinkhall's Multiball

Here's a video (7:37) and analysis of England's Paul Drinkhall doing a multiball training session, by Bar Lacombe of Expert Table Tennis.

Table Tennis Mural

They've put up a sports mural at the University of California at Berkeley at the Recreational Sports Facility - and it features a picture of Yau-Man Chan playing table tennis! Also shown are soccer and kayaking, and perhaps others not shown in the picture.

"Trust the Topspin"

I was teaching someone to loop yesterday and he kept looping into the net. I told him to sweep the ball upwards, and "trust the topspin" to pull the ball down. He looped the next ball way off the end. I said "Not that much!" Somehow this exchange struck me as hilarious at the time. Maybe you had to be there.

TT on TV

There were a pair of table tennis scenes on TV recently:

  • CSI NY, Jan. 4 episode, "Command + P," with a 50-second table tennis scene starting at 34:20.
  • Storage Wars New York, Jan. 15 episode, "I've Got a Bride to Sell You in Brooklyn," featuring table tennis player Will Horowitz. The table tennis starts at 16:45 and lasts about a minute as Will explains to two woman the value of their table tennis robot.

Chinese Women's Team Gangnam Dance

Here's the Chinese National Team doing a Gangnam Dance (1:22)!

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