September 19, 2014

USATT Board of Directors August 2014 Teleconference and Stuff They Should Do

Here are the minutes. Here's the same question I ask after every such meeting: Was anything done that might lead to the serious growth of our sport?

I sometimes look at USATT as being perpetually like the U.S. in 1932, in the depths of a depression and with leadership who believed in doing things the same old ways. We need an FDR or TR type to come along and shake things up by actually doing things. But no one wants to be The Man in the Arena. Back on Nov. 13, 2013 I blogged about ten relatively easy things USATT could do to grow the sport (and I've referred to them a number of times since), but there just doesn't seem to be interest in doing such things - though as the new minutes show, they are interested in things like new formatting for the minutes. That's nice, but perhaps we should focus more on doing things rather than on how we format them?

Below is that same list from a year ago of things USATT could do to develop the sport. It's not rocket science. Note that the first three are just different ways of developing leagues, since that's where there is great membership potential. I'm personally most interested in #4 and #5, though #7 (along with any of #1-3) could lead to serious growth potential. And #8, by getting USATT leaders to focus on developing the sport, could be most important of all. Let's make things happen. Or we could continue in our Hooverish ways.

  1. Advertise to hire someone to set up Professional Leagues. Offer him 33% of revenues brought in, and the USATT's support with its web page, emails, magazine, and any other way feasible. It would be an historic position, similar to the first commissioner of sports such as baseball, basketball, and football.
  2. Redirect the purpose of the current "League" committee so that its primary purpose would be to actively increase the number and quality of leagues in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up such leagues. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author.
  3. Bring together the directors of the largest and most successful leagues in the U.S., figuratively lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they've put together a model for such leagues that can be done regionally all over the U.S.
  4. Create a "Training Center" committee whose primary purpose would be increase the number and quality of full-time clubs in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up and running such centers. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author. I already did a version of this with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, and have sold over one hundred copies and made over $100. This manual covers half the stuff a manual on setting up and running a full-time center would cover.
  5. Change the focus of USATT coaching seminars from just teaching technique to the recruitment and training of professional coaches and directors of junior programs. I've argued this one for years.
  6. Advertise for someone to bring in sponsorships for U.S. Open and Nationals, where the person gets 33% or more in commission.
  7. Recruit State and Regional Directors all over the U.S. to set up regional associations, which would include election of officers, and appointment of Coaching, League, Tournament, and Club Directors for each state or region. (Some regions or states already have such associations.) USATT would supply the basic bylaws for these associations, using bylaws that have been created for this very purpose multiple times in the past, or modeled on current successful ones.
  8. Direct that the USATT Board of Directors main focus will be the development of the sport, and that "fairness" issues will go to the appropriate committee, freeing up board time for actually developing the sport. (I blogged about this on March 19, 2013.)
  9. Require that all prospective USATT board members must give at least one major area where they will take initiative in developing the sport, and give their plan for doing so. Along with this they should allow people on the ballot if they get 150 signatures from USATT members, with a deadline set after the North American Teams, which is where they could get the signatures. (This is how it was done in the past.)
  10. Do a mass mailing to the 50,000 or so past USATT members on the USATT database, and invite them to rejoin. The letter should come from a top, well-known U.S. table tennis star. There's one catch - there has to be something new to invite these players back. See previous items on this list. Any such mailing, done properly, would pay for itself. There's a reason why I and others get inundated with mailings from organizations I once belonged to. I still get regular mail from the U.S. Tennis Association since I played in their leagues about ten years ago. (Eventually we can move to emailing past members, but we don't have the email address of most of these past members.) I blogged about this on Feb. 19, 2014 and May 13, 2014.

2014 USA Junior and Cadet Team Trials

Here's the info sheet. Minor nitpick: Can't anyone learn to proof and format these things so they don't look like they were thrown together by a third grader? I found 14 typos or formatting problems on the first page. Let's try to look professional! I've volunteered to proof USATT documents for them before they go public, completely in confidence, and they used to take me up on this, but not in recent years. The offer still stands. And I'm sorry if I'm embarrassing whoever put this together, but c'mon - we can do better. (Am I picking on USATT here, in the segment above, and in previous blogs? You bet I am - they need to get their act together and change the thinking and organizational funk they've been in for so many years.)

USA Nationals Entry Form

It's linked at the USA Nationals Home Pagehis came out two hours after I posted this blog, but I'm adding it late. I'll link to it again on Monday.

Practice Your Serves

Have you practiced your serves this week? Why not??? Few things are more under-practiced than serves, and time for time you probably get more from serve practice than just about anything else. Here are a few articles that might help out.

Covering Long Distances

Here's the coaching video (3:27) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Emad Barsoum Leading Player at 2014 Butterfly Badger Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

International News

As usual, you can find lots of international news at TableTennista (which covers the big names more) and at the ITTF news page (more regional news). 

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's the new video (4:01) of them as they trained for the 2014 World Team Championships.

Xu Xin - Pure Brilliance!

Here's a great point (22 sec). Xu is on near side, playing Germany's Dimitrij Ovcharov.

Ping-Pong as It Should Be Played

Here I am with playing with a vintage clipboard. (I'm about 2100 with it. Really! Challenge me at the Nationals - I'll have the clipboard ready!)

Getting Balled Out?

Here's the picture.

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November 13, 2013

Potomac Open Serves

There were a number of serving "incidents" at the Potomac Open this past weekend. Here's a summary.

In one match a player accused another of hiding his serve. He called for an umpire. The problem was the umpire didn't feel there was enough room between the tables for him to sit without getting in the way of the players on the adjacent table. So he suggested they move to another open table that was on the side of a row of tables, where he could sit without getting in anyone's way. The player who was accused of hiding his serve didn't like that, saying that the lighting for that table wasn't as good. The umpire and two players argued for a time. They were playing on table #2; the players on table #1 interjected and said why not switch tables with us, so the umpire could sit on the far side away from table #2 and so not interfere with anyone. So they switched tables, and all was well. (Ironically, the server accused of hiding his serve was faulted, not for hiding the serve, but for dropping his hand below the table when he served. The other player was also warned for some serving infraction.)

Another player, rated about 1950, had developed a short, high backspin serve that bounced back into the net, sometimes back over the net. A lot of top players fool around with serves like that, but they don't really work against top players, who can reach over the table for the ball, and often smack a winner off it since the serve is high. But this player had two matches where he used the serve effectively over and over. The first was against Charlene Liu, the U.S. Over 50 Women's Champion, rated about 2000 but not much more than five feet tall. She couldn't reach many of the serves, and they had a long battle. Charlene finally pulled the match out, mostly because she was able to barely reach some of the serves.

However, in his very next match he was up against a very short junior player who was rated higher than he was. But the kid couldn't reach these serves. Three years before they had played in the final of Under 1900 and the player had beaten him in five by using the same serve over and over. He still couldn't reach most of them, and had a tough battle on his hands since he was spotting about five points a game to this serve. But he managed to win 3-1, deuce in the fourth (down several game points in the last game, so it almost went five). There was much debate on the sidelines about the sportsmanship of this serve. It's legal, of course, but sort of makes a mockery of the game since it's basically unreturnable by anyone under five feet or so tall. You can run around the side of the table, but the server can do it on either side and by the time you see which side he does it on it's usually too late. He usually does it short to the forehand, and if you do go around to the side to return it, he returns it quickly for a winner to the wide backhand. I also have this serve, but I've never used it in a serious tournament match.

I was coaching Derek Nie in the tournament. The referee told me that he was quite impressed with Derek's serves, which he said were extremely legal. Ironically, the message I got from that is perhaps Derek needs to push the rules a bit more! Most top players have borderline legal serves (and often illegal ones). Even if the serve is (barely) legal, they might nearly obscure contact with their arm or body so the receiver has some difficulty in seeing it. Or they might toss the ball sideways into their body or into their racket. Or toss the ball so it's barely six inches. All of these give the server some advantage.

In 37 years of tournament play (since 1976) and about 600 tournaments, I've been faulted on my serve exactly once - and as both the umpire and referee agreed, it was a mistake, the serve I was faulted for was legal. I blogged about this in February of 2012, but here is the story again.

In the early 1980s I was about to play another player about my level, around 2200 or so at the time. This was just before the color rule was passed, and so many players used different racket surfaces with the same color. Often they would flip the racket and serve with either side, and about the only way to tell which side the server used was by sound. And so many players with combination rackets began stamping their foot as they served to hide the different sound. It became a serious problem with all the loud distracting foot stomps, and so foot stomping during the serve became illegal. The wording of the rule roughly said that if the umpire believed you stomped your foot to hide the sound of contact, the serve would be a fault.

Before the match my opponent reminded the umpire of this rule, and incorrectly said that if I lifted my foot during my serve, it was a foot stomp and I should be faulted. I was using inverted on both sides, and did not stomp my foot during my serve - but I did left my left foot slightly off the ground when doing my forehand pendulum high-toss serve, my primary serve.

On the very first point of the match the umpire faulted me for foot stomping. I pointed out the actual wording of the rule, and the umpire looked confused. So I called for the referee. The referee explained the rule to the umpire, and the umpire then changed his ruling, saying that in he had gotten the rule wrong, and that I hadn't tried to foot stomp to hide the sound of contact. So it's a let, right?

Wrong. The opponent then argued that foot stomping is a judgment call, and that an umpire cannot change a judgment call. After thinking it over, the referee agreed, and so the fault stood.

I won the match.

Backhand Counter-Hitting and Topspinning

Here are two nice videos that show these two shots, from William Henzell at NetEdge. Backhand counter-hitting is how most players should start out, and is how most players (including me) played their backhand when I was coming up. These days essentially all top players topspin their backhands from close to the table, as shown in the second video. (In the backhand counter-hitting video Henzell has a rather wristy follow-through; most players wouldn't follow through off to the side quite so much.)

ITTF World Cadet Challenge

Here's the ITTF Report on the event (pdf). USA's Victor Liu is in several pictures.

Top Ten Points at the Polish Open

Here's the video (4:45)! The Polish Open was held this past weekend.

Maryland Beer Pong Sex Scandal

Here's the story from the Washington Post this morning. We've had people suggest we run beer pong tournaments at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, but I think I'm going to continue to veto that idea. 

The Funny Faces of Table Tennis

Here's the article and photo gallery!

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October 1, 2013

USATT Taking Over U.S. Government

With the U.S. government shutting down, there's a huge power vacuum. So USATT is stepping in to save the day. Obamacare will now distribute health insurance and a wide variety of ping-pong products. Social Security now means that if you are 65 or older, you no longer have to pay membership at your ping-pong club. And the NSA will no longer spy on Americans; they are now secretly taping the Chinese National Team as they train.

Mike Babuin, chair of the USATT Board of Directors, has been sworn in as the new U.S. President. CEO Mike Cavanaugh has been sworn in as Vice President.

The rest of the USATT Board of Directors replaces congress as the Legislative Branch of the U.S. government. They are Anne Cribbs, Peter Scudner, Jim Kahler, Kagin Lee, Edward Levy, Attila Malek, and Han Xiao.

USATT pro bono lawyer Dennis Taylor has been sworn in as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

The President's Cabinet has 15 departments - and by a strange coincidence, there are 15 USATT Committees. Effective immediately:

  • Agriculture Department will be taken over by the USATT Editorial Committee, chaired by Jim McQueen. A lot of what the Agriculture Department does is sending out written info to farmers. First release will be instructions on the growing of table tennis sponge, a highly lucrative crop whose street value is higher than crack cocaine.
  • Commerce Department will be taken over by the USATT Marketing and Fund Raising Committee, chaired by Jim Kahler. The dollar bill will be replaced by the ping-pong ball, the new international monetary standard.
  • Defense Department will be taken over by the USATT High Performance Committee, chaired by Carl Danner. The current secret plans to invade Syria, Iran, and North Korea have been shelved; instead, we will invade China and kidnap Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Wang Hao, and Xu Xin and make them practice partners for the U.S. Team.  
  • Education Department will be taken over by the USATT Junior Committee, chaired by Rajul Sheth. We'll finally get table tennis into the schools by executive order.
  • Energy Department will be taken over by the USATT Coaching Committee, chaired by Federico Bassetti. (It takes a lot of energy to coach!) With Big Oil now dominating the coaching committee, all coaches will be required to wear logos signifying which oil company controls them, i.e. ExxonMobil, BP, Chevron, PetroChina, etc.
  • Health and Human Services will be taken over by the USATT Ethics and Grievance Committee, chaired by Jim Coombe. First step will be to bring back speed glue, right?
  • Homeland Security will be taken over by the USATT Hardbat Committee, chaired by Alberto Prieto. Hardbat people have a lot of experience defending their game.
  • Housing and Urban Development will be taken over by the USATT League Committee, chaired by David Del Vecchio. New housing law: all houses must contain a ping-pong table.
  • Interior Department will be taken over by the USATT Club Committee, chaired by Attila Malek. First act will be to declare the U.S. one big ping-pong club. The U.S. has an area of 3.794 million square miles, or about 4 x 10^14 square feet. Assuming 40'x20' courts, that's enough room for 132,213,312,000 ping-pong courts.
  • Labor Department will be taken over by the USATT Compensation Committee, chaired by Mike Babuin. Henceforth all government payments shall be made in ping-pong balls.
  • State Department will be taken over by the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee, chaired by Bob Fox. Why? Because Bob's been the USATT Team Manager at about 10,000 international events, and so has traveled the world and personally knows all seven billion people on earth.
  • Transportation Department will be taken over by the USATT Tournament Committee, chaired by Larry Rose. You have to travel to tournaments. Plans are coming for bullet trains to connect all the major tournament cities.  
  • Treasury Department will be taken over by the USATT Audit Committee, chaired by Peter Scudner. First act will be to look into how a sheet of table tennis sponge can cost $80. Second act will be to sell enough sheets of $80 sponge to raise the money to import the 132,213,312,000 ping-pong tables and nets from China needed for the Interior Department's plan to turn the U.S. into a ping-pong club (see above). Third act will be to raise the debt ceiling to one zillion ping-pong balls (see Commerce Department above) so that we never have to deal with it again.
  • Veterans Affairs will be taken over by the USATT Seniors Committee, chaired by Gregg Robertshaw. Everyone over age 50 must now use long pips.
  • Attorney General will be taken over by the USATT Officials and Rules Committee, chaired by Roman Tinyszin. Congress shall be red-carded.

Oh, and since they have nothing else to do, the U.S. government is taking over USATT. I'll let readers decide who is now in charge of each USATT function. (It's times like this that I have to bite my tongue and not write my views on this whole government shutdown. This is a table tennis blog, not a political blog, and so I'll restrain myself.)

Arm Problems

My arm is still bothering me. I have a 90-minute coaching session scheduled today which I was going to cancel. However, the student agreed to do 90 minutes of multiball and serve practice, so I'm going to go ahead and do the session. I'm 90% that I'm going to have to cancel my three hours of private coaching on Wednesday. I'm pretty sure the arm will be fine by the weekend.

2014 USA Junior & Cadet Team Trials

Here's info on the Trials, to be held at the USA Nationals in December.

Make Your Serves More Effective

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

The Amazing Block of Kenta Matsudaira

Here's the video (1:50). He's world #18. Note how his normal block has good topspin.

Krazy Table Tennis

Someone just sold a 1920s Krazy Table Tennis set! For just £49.99 (that's $81.15) they got net and brackets, 4 original branded balls, 6 different and really strange shaped wooden bats, and instructions.
Send us your own coaching news!

August 12, 2013

Tip of the Week

Service Contact Point.

When and Where to Learn to Loop

One of the toughest decisions for a coach is when to start a player on looping. There is the "Chinese" theory, which is that you focus on the fundamentals - forehand and backhand drives - for a long period, while teaching the loop only against backspin. When the drives are well developed, then the player just extends his backswing and changes his contact and the shot becomes a loop, and soon the player is looping everything. Then there is the "European" method, where players often learn to loop almost from the start. This allows even smaller kids to loop the ball as they let the ball drop down to their level and spin it on the table. (Of course they have to first learn to hit the ball, so even here they first learn basic forehand and backhand drives.) I put the two methods in quotes because this isn't an exact thing; some Chinese coaches teach the "European" method, and vice versa.

I generally go with Chinese theory, but teaching the loop a bit sooner than most Chinese coaches. However, some kids seem to take to looping very easily, and for them, we go to looping much sooner. More and more Chinese coaches are also introducing looping earlier. Those who learn looping early tend to have more natural loops. Those who go the "Chinese" method tend to have more powerful loops. However, these are just tendencies.

There's also the question of whether to loop from off the table when learning to loop, so as to give time to develop the stroke before trying it closer to the table (which can lead to rushing and a poor stroke), or learning it close to the table from the start. I prefer to have players learn from farther off the table and gradually move in as they improve. Others think they should be topspinning close to the table very early on. I find that in a faster rally, those who try learn to loop close to the table are rushed, and so learning this way often leads to awkward strokes.

These questions have come up a few times because some local juniors have gotten conflicting advice from coaches and top players. The conflicting advice they get isn't wrong, it's just different ways, and you can't do two contradictory things at the same time.

MDTTC Camp and Montgomery County Fair

Last Friday ended Week Eight of our ten weeks of camps; today we start Week Nine. Lots of stuff was covered, as usual. When one kid wasn't using good for when hitting forehands, this is what I told him:

"Don't use bad form because then you miss. When you miss, you get irritated. When you get irritated, you bicker with others. When you bicker with others, it makes me go crazy. When I go crazy, I kill small children. Don't let me kill small children. Use good form."

After the camp ended at 6PM on Friday I took a group to the Montgomery County Fair - lots of rides and games. Here are some pictures, all taken by Celina Wu (except when she's in the picture!)

New Ball Confirmed by ITTF for 2014

Here's an article/forum discussion, which links to the ITTF study and announcement. We're going non-celluloid in 2014!!! (I'd say we're going plastic, as the article states, but technically celluloid is a type of plastic.)

Liu Shiwen and Guo Yan Training

Here's a short video (33 sec) of Liu Shiwen (on right, world #2, world #1 for nine months in 2010) and Guo Yan (world #6, world #1 for five months in 2010-2011) in training.

The Power of Block

Here's a video (3:25, I might have posted this once before) of Jan-Ove Waldner that demonstrates his incredible blocking skills.

How a Nittaku Table Tennis Ball is Made

Here's the video (14:01).

Timo Boll vs Liu Guoliang

Here's a video (5:55) from the 2013 Shakehand vs. Penhold Challenge. The match was Boll vs Ma Lin, but the rules allowed for another player to come in as a substitute for 2 points, and so Liu Guoliang came in. The former World and Olympic Men's Singles Champion, the last of the "great" pips-out penholders, retired in 2001, and is now the Chinese Men's National Coach, but can still play a little at age 37.

Table Tennis, the People's Sport

But usually you don't have a people as the net!

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April 25, 2012

Set-up serves versus point-winning serves

I was teaching serves to a new student recently, and started to launch into my usual speech about the purpose of serves. Before I could finish, he interrupted and said, "I don't want to focus on serves that opponents miss. I want serves that set me up to do my best shots." He then explained how he wouldn't feel comfortable if he tried to win points on the serve outright, since if the serve did come back it likely wouldn't be setting up his strengths. Instead, he wanted serves that allowed him to use his relatively strong backhand. He also wanted to use serves to help set up his developing forehand and backhand, since the practice he'd get from using these serves and following up with a loop would make his attack stronger. 

I was stunned - this was exactly what I was about to explain, and this relative beginner already understood this. (Okay, he later admitted he'd read some articles of mine on the subject, such as this one, and in past blogs.) But that meant he'd done his research before signing up for lessons with me, which is always a good thing.) The key point is that while your serves should put pressure on an opponent (and thereby win many points outright), they should primarily be used to set up your best shot, or to help develop your attacking shots (which then become your best shots).

Because of his strong backhand, I showed the player how to serve various sidespin and topspin serves, both short and long, and with placements that would primarily favor returns to his backhand. (I also gave him the example of Dave Sakai, a USATT Hall of Fame player with a similar style of play that favored the backhand, and explained how Dave served to force opponents into backhand exchanges, often with short side-top serves to the backhand.) We also worked on short backspin serves that would set up his forehand and backhand loops, often placing these shots so as to force returns to his backhand. By mixing up these type of serves he'll develop a strong set of tactical weapons to use against anybody.

But we didn't completely leave out "trick" serves - as I explained (and he'd already read), you are handicapping yourself if you don't develop some trick serves that are designed to win points outright. Such trick serves tend to either win points outright or give opponents a ball to attack, so if they are over-used they lose their value. But used here and there, they not only win points, they give the opponent one more thing to watch for, thereby making your other serves even better.

Tim Boggan seeing red

Poor Tim Boggan. He was quite comfortable in the typewriter age, and then the world had to go and invent the computer. He uses one for his writing now (using Microsoft Word), along with that Internet thing (for email), but he and the computer have an adversarial relationship. Yesterday all of the text of the article he was writing turned red. In a state of hysteria, he called me and pleaded for help. (He called my cell phone, another device that continually amazes him. Keep in mind that he gave me permission to make fun of him in return for my help.) I was in the middle of a coaching session, but I called him back later that day. At first thinking he had actually turned the text red, I explained how to change font colors. However, that didn't work. I finally figured out that he'd somehow gotten into "Track Changes" mode, and the red was how Word kept track of changes, i.e. new text. I painstakingly explained what was happening and how to fix it, which is similar to explaining calculus to my dog Sheeba. Fortunately, Sheeba is very smart, and Tim is as well (well, in non-technical matters), and we finally got the text back to normal. But I fear it won't be the last time he will see red in his interactions with that confounded computer thing.

ICC's Three Olympians

There are zillions of articles on the USA Olympic Trials and the four Americans who qualified. Here's a good one that features the three that trained at the ICC club.

Koki Niwa upsets Ma Long

Here's the video of Koki Niwa of Japan, world #19, upsetting world #1 Ma Long of China (8:00) 4-2 (-8, 4, 8, 10, -5, 9) at the Asian Olympic Qualification, Apr. 19-22, with the time between points removed.

The most nonchalant point-winning block ever made

Watch this 28-second video and see Waldner basically stroll over and block a forehand winner against Timo Boll!

Adoni Maropis being silly

Yes, this is Adoni Maropis, the guy who nuked Valencia, California (on "24," season six) and is the reigning National Hardbat Champ. Click on the pictures and you'll see two more of Adoni, and if you keep clicking, you'll find a bunch more, including a number of table tennis action shots.


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November 10, 2011

Talking Table Tennis with the Teens

When I discuss table tennis with our top junior players, two things jump out at me.

First, they know the best players in the world inside and out. Name a top player, and they can mimic his strokes and serves, his favorite tactics, recite his best titles, and tell me what they had for lunch.

Second, if I ask them what tactics they use against a specific player they have recently played, often a dazed look comes over their faces. After a short "senior" moment, they'll usually say something vague like, "I serve short and loop" or "I attack his backhand." (There are exceptions. Some can discuss in great detail what they do.) If I draw them out, they often admit they hadn't really thought about it. It turns out they are thinking a lot about their strokes, but little about their tactics. They know more about Ma Long's tactics than their own!

It always amazes me how much our juniors know about the top players, and how little they know about their own games. This is an area where we can improve - but their knowledge of the top players is a huge asset if they can incorporate it into their own games.

Day Three at the Writer's Retreat

Yesterday was the third day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM, where I'm working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

It was another historic day as I broke my previous day's word count record, with exactly 11,000 words. (I was about ten words short when I stopped, so I typed one more sentence, which happened to be exactly ten words long.) Since 10AM on Monday, I've done over 29,000 words, for a total of 35,419! (This includes about 6000 words I had done in advance.) I'm over halfway through; I'm guessing the first draft will be around 60,000 words, but we'll see.

Today I'm going to be incorporating a lot of past articles, so that may give me a bloated word count. (Some of those 11,000 words were from past articles, but it had to be rewritten and updated.)

I haven't decided whether to use the following line on in the Introduction: "You are about to enter into another dimension, a dimension not only of speed and spin, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of creativity. It is an area we call . . . table tennis tactics." Too non-serious?

The real question is this: Will "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide" become the cherished bible to billions of ping pologists, or will it be laughed to oblivion?

On a side note, Jennifer Crawford, the wife of Parris Glendening, former governor of Maryland (1995-2003), stopped by on Tuesday.

Coaching Seminar at the Nationals

USATT will hold a coaching seminar at the USA Nationals in Virginia Beach on Tuesday, Dec. 13, from noon to 2PM. You need to register in advance to attend. Two major topics will be:

  • "Modern Trends in the Serve and Serve Return Game," by USA Men's Coach Stefan Feth.
    • Serves with elbow involvement and higher ball toss like Mizutani, Ryu Seung Min and Ma Long;
    • After motions on ball contact during serves (fake motions);
    • Inside out serves (hook serves) like Timo Boll, Liu Shiwen, Zhang Jike;
    •  More sidespin motions on returning serves;
    • Backhand receives with banana flicks like Zhang Jike, Timo Boll, Petr Korbel;
    • Hook drop shots;
    • Reversed banana returns.
  • "The Use of Half-Pattern Drills to Teach Anticipation Skills," by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.
    • Come and learn what “half-pattern” drills are and how they can prepare your athletes for tournament play.

How to Execute the Ma Lin Serve

Ma Lin has one of the heaviest backspin serves imaginable. This Pingskills video (2:14) explains and shows how he does it.

Have you practiced your serves this week?

Well, have you?

Juic International Junior and Cadet Championships

Here's where you can find all about the tournament, which was held last weekend in Milpitas, CA - results, news, videos, pictures.

Top Ten Shots of all time?

You decide. (2:57)

Spectacular trick-shot exhibition

Or is this exhibition by three Norwegian women all fake? You decide. (2:21)


Send us your own coaching news!

July 20, 2011

Varied serves

Have you been practicing your serves? (Yes, I like to ask this question on my blog every couple of weeks or so, which should indicate its importance.) At any time, can you (or your students) serve short or long, with sidespin going either way, with backspin or topspin, or with no-spin, to all parts of the table? Can you disguise these spins? Can you also serve fast and deep with varied spin (or no-spin) to the corners and middle? If the answer to any of this is no, get practicing!

Table tennis training tools

Yesterday I used two table tennis training tools in our MDTTC training camp. First, there was the ball spinning device for teaching a player to loop. (I think I wrote about this briefly in a previous blog.) It basically consists of a ball that spins freely on top of a short pole that attaches to the table with a suction cup. The player can then practice spinning the ball. If they mishit, the ball has a spring mechanism so it can bend forward instead of breaking the device. The kids had a great time with it, and learned to spin the ball. I bought the device at the U.S. Open from Newgy Table Tennis, who had gotten it from Masir Table Tennis in China, but I couldn't find it anywhere on either web site. (If you can read Chinese, take a look at the Masir site and see if you can find it so I can link to it in another blog - you'll get credit here for finding it!)

The second tool was a serving height device made by local player and coach John Olsen. It consisted of two adjustable height brackets, one on each side of the net (by the net brackets), and a pole that you balanced between them over the net. (Sorry, no picture - maybe later.) Since the brackets are adjustable, you can move the pole up or down. Then you challenge the players to serve so the ball goes between the net and the pole, i.e. they learn to serve low. I demonstrated the device on its lowest setting, where you had to serve with the ball within about half an inch or so of the net to get it through. I was going to raise it for the beginning/intermediate players, but they protested as a group - they all wanted to try the lowest setting. I said sure, be my guest, figuring none would be able to do it but that they needed to learn the hard way how hard it was to serve at that setting. Oh boy, was I wrong! While none could do it consistently, nearly all managed to do it several times. I plan to use the device again in the camp, at a higher setting, this time with the players hitting forehand to forehand or backhand to backhand, and see if they can do that. No chance, right? We'll see.

A third "device" was a bunch of paper cups. I put ten on the table and the kids take turns getting ten shots at knocking them down. (I feed them the ten shots multiball style.) I've written about this before, but it's rapidly become the most popular game in our camps, even though the players spend much of the time waiting for their turn. Ideally, I should bring in more cups and teach the kids to feed the balls to each other so they can all do this.

Disney's Ariel

Here's U.S. Women's Champion Ariel Hsing on a Disney TV commercial! (2:50) No, not this Ariel - this Ariel! Explained Rajul Sheth from ICC Table Tennis, "They've aired it since Sept 2010. It was done during 2010 ICC summer camps when Stellan was one of our visiting head coaches." (I was a visiting coach at ICC in 2009, so I missed being in the commercial, dang.)

Seeing doctor today

As I've noted a few times in my blog, I'm having major upper back problems. It is getting more and more painful to rotate for forehand shots, especially forehand loops and my forehand pendulum serve (which I use 90% of the time when I serve), as well as regular serves. It also hurts when feeding backspin in multiball, where I have to dig into the ball, though feeding topspin doesn't affect it much. (And I'm feeding multiball several hours a day right now in our training camp.) I saw a doctor a week ago and he thought I probably have two discs rubbing against each other, and referred me to an orthopedist, who I'm seeing this afternoon. Hopefully he'll figure out what exactly what the problem is and cure it by tonight, and all will be well.

Ironically, when I woke up this morning my neck was in pain, and as I type this, I can barely move my head. I think I slept on it wrong. I'm also having some knee problems. With this trio of inconveniences, this is going to be a fun day!!! (How does one get through such a day? I've resolved to have pepperoni pizza from Little Caesars tonight for dinner. Whenever my back/neck/knees remind me of what it's like to be dipped in a bed of lava, I'll just think about that pizza.)


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July 13, 2011

Why do beginners aim up?

Is there a logical reason why beginners not only open their rackets and hit off the end (with inverted sponge), but after seeing ball after ball go off the end, they continue to keep their rackets too open? I invariably have to point out they've hit 20 off the end, 0 in the net, so perhaps they should aim lower? Is there some primordial fear of closing one's racket or hitting into the net? I'm asking this after 35 years of watching beginners all do the same thing, over and over. C'mon, beginners of the world, all 6.7 billion of you, aim lower!!! (You can probably guess I'm in the middle of a training camp, Mon-Fri this week and next, with lots of beginners who . . . oh never mind.)

Playing pips-out sponge

(I posted a version of this on the forum yesterday.) The only way you'll learn to play against pips-out sponge is by playing against it. The ball from pips-out sponge is deader than you are used to, so you have to either open your racket slightly or lift slightly. (Many players overdo this, and hit many balls off the end.) The only way to learn to do this comfortably is to practice against it. At first, it might be difficult, but soon playing pips will be no big deal - you simply aren't used to them yet.  

In general, don't try to be quicker than the pips-out player (except perhaps on the first shot) as that is their strength. Instead, focus on making stronger and more consistent shots. Keep the ball deep as they will jump on a short ball, rushing you when you need more time to react to a ball you are not used to. Balls that go deep - especially loops - give pips-out players trouble as they don't put as much topspin on the ball to make the ball drop, and so they have to hit a smaller target from farther away. A shakehander with pips on the backhand often is weak in the middle because he needs to stroke the ball more than an inverted player, who often can cover his middle by simply sticking the racket there and letting the inverted rebound it back. Also, it's a good idea to actually play into the pips early in the match to get used to them.

Serve practice

Did you practice your serves yesterday? Are you going to practice them today? (Coaches, ask your students these questions.) If the answer to these questions is no, then have you ever wondered why your serves aren't better? Get yourself a box of balls and find a place to do ten minutes a day, 4-5 times a week, and watch your level improve. Better serves not only make you better, but they improve your attack (since you are following up the serves), and both of these raise your level so you play better players - which also make you better. It's a snowball effect. So start snowballing.

Back problems

I finally saw a doctor yesterday afternoon about back problems I've had for about two months. It's mostly in the middle/upper back area, and comes from forehand looping and hitting, and also from too many forehand pendulum serves. It sometimes makes playing excruciating, even when coaching. The doctor thinks two of the disks are grinding together, or something like that, and referred me to an orthopedist who I'll see next Wednesday (July 20). Until then, I'll just live on Advil.

USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh's blog

The Blog in Chief? He discussed the Ping-Pong Diplomacy's 40th Anniversary festivities around the country, and the recent U.S. Open in Milwaukee.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's one of the more interesting articles on Ping-Pong Diplomacy and its 40th Anniversary. The entire previous sentence is linked to the story, so you know it must be good.


Yes, an iguana can play table tennis.


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