Mike Babuin

August 14, 2014

USATT Chairman's Blog - Plastic Ball Update

Here's the new blog entry by USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin. It's mostly about USATT's policy toward the new non-celluloid balls. One item that jumps out is that apparently they will be using celluloid balls at the Nationals in December, but non-celluloid balls in the Team Trials there. That would likely be a serious mistake - some players are training for events that will be using different balls, and so won't be able to play their best. Besides messing up player's games, we might not get the best possible USA teams in the various trials for men's, women's, and junior, cadet, and mini-cadet boys' and girls' teams. Players used to one ball aren't going to play as well using the other. Since the players that do make the various teams will have plenty of time afterwards to adjust to the poly balls, there's no need to use both at the Nationals.

The Men's and Women's Team Trials are normally held separately from the Nationals, but the blog seems to imply they may be held there this year. Do we really want our top players to have to use one ball for Men's and Women's Singles and other events (such as Under 22), and another for the various team trials? Or are they planning or considering combining the Men's and Women's Singles events with the Men's and Women's Team Trials, and so use the non-celluloid balls in all of the "top" events? If so, that would be a rather important piece of info that should be included in the blog. But even then we'd be forcing players to switch back and forth between the balls in various events - for example, nearly all the players in the Junior Team Trials (played with non-celluloid) would normally be playing in Under 22 (played with celluloid). Do we really want to force our top junior stars like Kanak Jha and Crystal Wang (defending champions in Under 22 Men and Women from the last Nationals) to switch back and forth, or to not defend their titles? If we really want our top players to get used to the non-celluloid balls, do we believe the best way of doing this is to have them switch back and forth in the middle of a tournament? This whole thing seems to me a self-inflicted problem by choosing to use two types of balls in one tournament. Hopefully common sense will prevail here.

On a side note, Mike states that the two balls are "closely aligned" in their playing characteristics. However, that's not quite true as nearly every tester, including myself, has reported that the non-celluloid balls are more difficult to spin, and so will take some time to adjust. Here's my own review of the Nittaku non-celluloid ball (i.e. poly ball) where I and all five players who tried it out found it was harder to spin the ball - see items #8 and #12. With practice, players can adjust to the non-celluloid ball, but not in the middle of a tournament, going back and forth. 

MDTTC Camp Happenings

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camps. As noted, we have a large turnout this week, with over 40 players. I'm primarily working with the beginning juniors. We worked on all the techniques we've been working on all week - forehand, backhand, footwork, serves, etc. Then I gave a lecture and demo on pushing, and we worked on that. 

We had a lot of interesting happenings yesterday, most of them only somewhat table tennis related. Here's a rundown. 

Willy, age 8, had been coming to all our camps all summer, but had to miss the last half of the camp last week and the first two days this week as he was on vacation in Alaska. (He said it was cold.) When he walked in the door, he was mobbed by about ten others his age. I keep picturing these same kids about ten years from now. Which of them will be dominating play in this country? Many of them, I hope!!!

During the morning break a large moth flew into the club. Perhaps this moth chose the wrong club to blunder into! We have about 15 ball pickup nets at the club. They are made (or at least distributed) by Butterfly Table Tennis, our club's sponsor. So that makes them butterfly nets. The minute that poor moth showed up a pack of kids with butterfly nets went after it. They went back and forth all over the club, but that moth was pretty fast. After about fifteen minutes of racing about, the moth won - the kids couldn't catch it, and we were off break. We couldn't find the moth later, so perhaps it had found its way out with a scary stories to tell its caterpillars. 

Right after lunch I took a group of players to the 7-11 down the street. Because I bring our players there regularly they always give me a free Slurpee. But since I'm on a diet, I only take a few sips through a straw and then give it to the kids in the camp when we return to the club. (I bring back a bunch of extra straws.) Yesterday was hilarious as seven kids, roughly 7-9 in age, circled and drank the Slurpee together, each with a straw. I called it the "Circle of Slurp." 

A few months ago I started doing crossword puzzles from the Washington Post somewhat regularly. I usually solve the entire thing about half the time, but it takes way too long. This summer I've taken to bringing it to the club and doing it during the two-hour lunch break. Yesterday I set a record, solving the entire thing - 124 answers in all - in under an hour as about a dozen kids watched. I was pretty proud! (I'm sure Will Shortz would have solved it in five minutes, or perhaps just a glance and the thing would have filled itself in. In the Shortz-owned Westchester TTC vs. MDTTC crossword championships, they still hold the edge, but we're closing in.)

After solving the puzzle I was sitting on the sofa and was asked how I knew some of the answers. I explained that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." This sort of blew their minds. They made me write out my name so they could rearrange it themselves to verify. One even insisted on seeming my driver's license to prove the spelling of my name. This was all followed by about 15 minutes of questions and answers as they tried to prove I wasn't God. (I wish we had taped it!) 

We also had a slightly more somber conversation when I asked if any of them had heard of Robin Williams. In the age 7-12 crowd (twelve of them that I asked), eight had never heard of him, and four said they had heard of him but didn't really know who he was. None of them could name a single movie he'd been in. When I mentioned Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, Mork and Mindy, and about half a dozen others, all I got were blank stares. I'm starting to feel old. 

Near the end of the afternoon session I introduced the younger kids to "Cup Ball." There are a few variations, but the one we did was as follows. I placed four cups on one side of the table, lined up from left to right. Four kids stood at the end-line, roughly one behind each cup. Another kid stood at the other side, and served as fast as he could. If the ball hit both sides of the table and made it past the "catchers" on the other side (i.e. hit the floor before they could catch it), the server scored a point. If the ball hit a cup but was caught, he'd also get a point. If it hit a cup and then made it past the catchers, he'd score three points. Each player gets ten serves, and then they'd rotate. I have a feeling this is going to be a favorite for this group - they actually liked trying to catch the ball more than serving it. 

USATT's 2013 Financials

Here's the report. It includes both the 2013 IRS 990 Form and the 2013 Independent Audit Report.

Serve and Receive Practice

The following is a public service reminder. Every point begins with a serve and a receive. Yet most players spend nearly all their practice time practicing only the shots that come after this. This is downright silly. Have you practiced your serve and receive recently? If not, please continue in case you ever play someone I'm coaching. 

Learn Various Training Methods to Boost Your Level

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Poly 40+ Balls Info

Here's a Facebook page devoted to info on the new plastic balls, which are slightly larger than 40mm. 

2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open Provides High Level Competition for Top US Player Timothy Wang

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Princeton Pong Opens in West Windsor, NJ

Here's the article. David Zhuang is the head coach. 

Why Not Get Yourself a Backyard (Concrete) Ping-Pong Table?

Here's where.

Jan-Ove Waldner-Jorgen Persson Exhibition

Here's the video (10:34) of the new exhibition by these two legends!

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-three down, 17 to go!

  • Day 18: 1953 World Champion Ferenc Sido Inspired Judit Farago

Congressional Pong

Here are five ping-pong paddles with the faces of congressional leaders. Who can name all five? (It comes from this article.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

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."

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 21, 2014

USATT President's Blog

Here's USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's new blog on "Changes for 2014."  It's mostly good stuff. Many of the items he writes about we can't really judge until we know more about the programs, and see if they will actually be implemented. USATT historically doesn't have a high batting average in that regard. Here are my short comments on each.

  • On Change. Mike quotes Einstein: "Madness is best described as doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results." He also talks about how some are resistant to change. I've been arguing the same type of thing for decades as I've watched one administration after another do the same type of stuff while expecting different results. However, not all change is good. Change for the sake of change isn't going to help things; there has to be a specific reason for each change. Some changes are obvious; others are experimental as you don't always know if something will work until you try it. Often leaders are afraid of the latter type because they'll get blamed if their program doesn't work. Solution - try a number of programs, and if you think them through and plan them out, some will work. The alternative is to do nothing, which is most of USATT's history.
  • On the Polyethylene Ball: He says USATT is still evaluating the change. Personally, I'm ambivalent about it. I'd prefer celluloid, but the new poly ball I tried at the Nationals (see second item in this blog entry) is pretty similar. But even the subtle differences will take time to get used to. Some say that the new ball gets less spin, but it's not clear if they were using the same ball I tried, or another type, since they're not all the same. Also, as I noted in the blog entry, when I tried out the ball I was having serious arm problems and couldn't loop very hard, and partially relied on others to tell me how the ball played.
  • On RailStation Roll-out: We'll have to wait and see on this one. USATT has periodically gotten infatuated with various softwares, such as one I think used by the Brazilian TTA that we talked about adopting for years but never did so. I have no idea if this will useful.
  • On Creation of a Recreational Division and Website: I'm all for both. However, it's not clear what the program constitutes. If it's just informational, then it's somewhat helpful but not much. What's needed is something that a new player can immediately get into on a regular basis - i.e., a league. I've blogged about this so many times it's repetitive, but it's one of those obvious things that many don't get. When a new player comes into a club, you can't toss him in with the experienced players and expect him to have a positive experience as he's getting killed. You need leagues for all levels, as well as available coaching (classes or private coaching). Without that, we're just waving our hands. Recreational players are recreational players until we give them a reason to become serious players and join USATT. I once joined the U.S. Tennis Association for one reason only, as did the vast majority of their 700,000 members - to play in their tennis leagues.
  • On the Digital Magazine: I've blogged about this several times, such as here and here. I'm all for it. Some still don't get it that you can be for the online magazine, as I am, while still against canceling the print one. I'm also a bit peeved that members who paid expecting the magazine, and especially life members, will have to pay a fee to get a printed version. As to the magazine eventually being members-only again (the online version), that might be a good idea as it at least returns some added value to memberships.
  • On Tournament Sanction Process Roll-Out: I haven't studied the new sanctioning procedures - they changed right at the time I stopped running tournaments at MDTTC (Charlene Liu took over). However, it is a good idea to go to the quality of the tournament, not just the prize money. However, I'm a little reticent about their removing any regional protection for tournaments. That's one of the primary reasons to sanction a tournament. It means higher risk for tournament directors and clubs. Some clubs rely on revenue from tournaments to finance their club; if someone suddenly decides to run a competing tournament locally on the same date, they have a serious problem.
  • On the $5-million Quad Roll-out: We'll need a lot more info on this to figure out what it is. Announcing a plan to raise $5 million is about five million times easier than actually raising $5 million. It's been a long time since USATT has raised any serious money, as they used to do in the 1980s with a series of large sponsors.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in USA

There are two coming up, a Level 1 Course in Akron, OH (July 28-Aug. 1) and a Level 2 Course in Austin, TX (Aug. 25-30). For more info, see the USATT Coaching Courses Page

2016 Olympic Rio Qualification System

Here are the rules for qualifying.

2014 Friendship Trophy

This is part of the ITTF's Women's Development Program, where they encourage you to "… find a way to celebrate women and girls in Table Tennis."

Chinese Retirement Ceremony

Here's an article with a link to a video trailer (4:49) where retiring Chinese team members give messages to their teammates (in Chinese, alas).

Mike Meier to Umpire at Worlds

Here's the article.

Amazing Table Tennis Serves

Here's a video (4:03) where a player demonstrates his tricky spinny serves. I think the commentary is in Chinese. Note that the serve where the ball bounces back into the net is more for show, and is easy to return; in a real match, it's better to serve the ball so second bounce is near the end-line.

Orioles' David Lough and Table Tennis

Here's an interview with new Baltimore Orioles left fielder David Lough. See third item:

Hidden talent: I thought I was good at ping-pong until I saw some of these other guys playing in here. [Laughs]. I don't have anything else cool, I'm boring.

Adam Bobrow on Table Tennis, Comedy, Excessive Celebrations

Here's the video (20:49). Here's more about Actor, Comedian, and Table Tennis Player Adam Bobrow.

Qatar Open's 20th Birthday

Here's their 20th Birthday Cake. (Here's the home page for the Qatar Open in Doha, held Feb. 18-23 - yes, right now!)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 14, 2013

Fundamentals and a Strong Foundation

I had a 1200-rated 11-year-old student recently at a tournament who faced long pips for the first time, against a higher-rated player. The opponent was a long pips blocker, no sponge, and pretty much covered the entire table with the long pips on the backhand, i.e. a "pushblocker." My student went in having no idea what to do, other than my admonition to give lots of deep no-spin, play steady, and patiently wait for an easy ball to put away. However, it became obvious very quickly that even against a high ball, he wasn't going to be smashing the high balls with any consistency; the long pips returns were just too different for him.

So pretty much on his own he stopped smashing, and simply rolled ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after . . . (I think you get the idea). The rallies were extremely long, but his patience won out; he won, 11-9 in the fifth. (The opponent went on to have a great tournament - probably because my student warmed him up!)

Later, in a training session, I mentioned that in tournaments you are going to face all sorts of different and strange styles like this one, and there were just too many to prepare him for everything. I also told him that at some point, I'd bring out a sheet of long pips for him to practice against, but not now; it wasn't worth it, and would just take away from other training. I wanted to install strong fundamentals, not worry about learning to play all the different styles this early in his development. He'll learn that later.

I told him something that I thought should be highlighted for others developing their games:

"If I try to prepare you for everything, you'll be prepared for nothing. If I give you a solid foundation, you can adjust to anything."

The point was that if I tried to prepare him for [and here I started to write a LONG list of weird styles, but decided I'd leave it to your imagination instead - there's a lot], then he'd know what to do against all of them, but would have less of a foundation in his game since we'd have wasted so much time preparing for things he'll rarely face. And so even if he knew how to play these weird styles, he wouldn't have the foundation to execute what was needed to win, and so he wouldn't be prepared against anyone. Instead, I told him to develop the foundation of his game (i.e. the fundamentals) so that his foundation is stronger than his opponents, and learn to adjust to them. If he did, I assured him he'd go right through opponents that he would otherwise have struggled with.  

Another way to think of it is this: if the opponent has a "weird" game, then he's not playing like most players. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's a reason certain techniques are considered "good" and others "not so good." If you have "good" technique, and the other has "not so good" technique, then his only overall advantage over you is the very weirdness of his game. His weakness is that his technique is flawed, and if you have better technique, then you can adjust to his weirdness and win because of the sounder technique.

Rest assured there are many players with so-called "not so good" technique who are very good. They have honed these "not so good" techniques to the point where they are pretty good. But overwhelmingly they would be even better if they had spent the same amount of time and energy developing more proper technique. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, there's a reason why good technique is considered as such. (The biggest exception to this might be the very style mentioned above, "pushblockers," where players who are not as physically "athletic" as others can often reach a pretty high level by just blocking with long pips instead of conventional technique - but with long pips no sponge, that could be considered "proper technique." But that's a whole other essay for another time.)

I do believe that players should experiment and learn to do a few things different, especially on the serve, and perhaps on at least one receive or rally shot. Having something different can throw off an opponent. Just don't overdo it for the sake of doing it if your goal is to reach your maximum potential.

Yesterday

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Due to near-hurricane thunderstorms, three of my four students cancelled (normally not "good," but I needed the rest); I got a bunch of writing and reading done; the Orioles, in a four-team AL East Divisional race, beat the rival Red Sox while the other two in the race, the Yankees and Rays, both lost (and as noted in yesterday's blog, Orioles Hangout published my Top Ten List); and I got to see the midnight showing of "Man of Steel."

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's an ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 coaching seminar in Austin, Texas run by Richard McAfee, starting last Monday and ending today. I ran a similar one in Maryland in 2011, and am running another in South Bend, IN, Oct. 2-6. More info on that soon - probably Monday.

Chinese Versus European Loop

Here's an article that highlights the difference between the "Chinese" and "European" loops.

USATT Board Chair Blog

Here's a blog entry posted yesterday by the Chair of the USATT Board Mike Babuin. Here's the opening paragraph: "Recently I had the distinct pleasure to introduce table tennis into Valor Games. For those unfamiliar with Valor Games it is a competition designed and geared towards military personnel and veterans who are physically disabled and/or who have suffered from one of several conditions, traumas, or disorders as a result of their service to our country.  While many people may be familiar with the Wounded Warrior Program, Valor Games is a similar yet distinct competition that is gaining in recognition and participation across the United States."

The Pongcast

Here's the latest Pongcast (18:46). "This month the Pongcast reviews the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships and looks at what has been happening at the ITTF in May."

Lily and Ariel at China Open

Below is a summary of how the USA girls are doing in the China Open, as posted this morning by Bruce Liu. (Here's the ITTF China Open Page with results, pictures, and articles, and here are a few matches of Lily, Ariel, and Wu Yue on iTV. The China Open ends this Sunday.)

June 14 (China time) Summary:
Women's Singles:

  • Lily upset the #16 seed BARTHEL Zhenqi (#66 in the world) in the round of 32. It was another wild 7-gamer (11-5, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-1).Her round of 16 opponent will be World Champion/World Cup Champion/Olympic Gold Medalist, aka the Grand Slammer, GUO Yue from China. We will see how wild Lily can be. It will be tough for sure. But that why it is worth fighting for.
  • Ariel fought hard as usual. She lost to GUO Yan (#5) in 5 (9-11, 5-11, 11-9, 5-11, 5-11). A great effort. 

Women's Doubles:

  • Lily and Ariel are in the quarterfinals at the China Open! Not too shabby for two 17-year-old. Due to their busy schedule, they really did not have much time practice doubles. Imagine if they can practice more together... Their opponents in the quarterfinal will be GUO Yue(#16) / LIU Shiwen (#2) from China. I'm pretty sure other than Lily and Ariel, all other players still in the Women's Doubles are full-time professional players! In fact, most likely the majority of the players in the whole tournament are professional players. 

U21 Girls' Singles:

  • Lily played twice today in the event. In the round of 16, she duly stopped the dangerous HIRANO Miu 3-1 (8-11, 11-8, 14-12, 18-16). Alas, lost to ZHOU Yihan (#102) from Singapore 4-1 in the quarterfinals. It is a great accomplish already, especially in China.
  • Ariel lost 0-3 to the red hot So Eka is out but don't let the game counts fool you. It was a highly competitive match. You can see it yourselves from the score (13-15, 9-11, 8-11).

Go girls! 

Musical Ping-Pong Table

Yes, an interactive musical ping-pong table, on display at Union Depot in St. Paul, MN!

Apparently this table plays music as the ball hits the surface.

Kim Kardashian Plays Ping-Pong With Her Family

Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. The apocalypse has occurred.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

March 18, 2013

Tip of the Week

Dummy Loops.

$16,700 Cary Cup Championships

It's been a long journey. I left for the Cary Cup Championships in North Carolina, five hours drive away last Thursday morning, going down with Tim Boggan, who drove down from New York. (After the tournament he and his wife, who met him there on Sunday, go on vacation in various locations down there.) Tim had some early problems in that his credit card stopped working, most likely because he was suddenly using it in Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina, when he usually uses it in New York. But he's traveled extensively, using the credit card all over, and he said this had never happened. I had to put his hotel room for the first night on my credit card.

Here's the Cary Cup Championships web page, which includes complete results.

One major thing that jumped out at me this tournament was that the Maryland players who had played in recent tournaments tended to do well, while those who hadn't played tournaments in a while didn't do so well. This is actually an ongoing thing, as all the training in the world doesn't make up for a lack of "tournament toughness." When you play lots of tournaments, you get used to tournament pressures, to adjusting to different serves and playing styles, and to figuring out what serves and rallying shots you should use against various players. Players who hadn't played tournaments since, say, the Nationals in December didn't seem to have this tournament toughness, and it showed, especially in return of serve.

Two players from Maryland played great. Roy Ke, 13, rated 2174 (but perhaps a bit under-rated) won the "B" Division, going 11-0 in the division and defeating Bin Hai Chu (2233) in the final. Here's a picture of the Final Four - that's Roy on the far right, holding the biggest trophy, with Chu on the far left. I kept running into Chu this tournament. I played him in the final of the Hardbat event (see below), coached Crystal Wang in her "upset" win against him to make the "A" Division, and told Roy how to play him in the "B" Division final.

Crystal Wang also had an excellent tournament. At age 10 she'd reached 2355 in rating going into the Nationals in December. As 10-year-olds sometimes do, she wasn't there mentally that tournament, and had an almost historic rating loss, dropping all the way to 2112. Now that rating is sort of a joke for her, as she's been competing and sometimes winning the Elite League on Sundays at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, often beating 2400 players. (She'd won the Elite League the week before, with wins over two players over 2350.) She'd also won Under 2250 at the MDTTC Open two weeks before (and was up 2-0 in the Open on Raghu Nadmichettu, rated 2363), which was just processed last night - and she was up to 2264, a bit closer to her real level. In the "A" Division, where she was seeded last in her group of nine players, she pulled off three big wins, including one player over 2400, and should be back over 2300 after the tournament is processed, which will cause many sighs of relief among rating-worried players in the 2200 range who were terrified of that 2112 rating. Not bad for someone who turned 11 just a few weeks ago!

Much of the tournament I was coaching Derek Nie (12, 2234) and Tong Tong Gong (15, 2258). Neither had played a tournament since the Nationals in December, and neither had good tournaments. Both had Houdini-like escapes in the preliminaries to make it to the "A" Division. Derek's was especially scary. Against D.J. Settle, rated 2140, Derek lost the first two games and was down 10-6 quadruple match point in the third! But he came back to win, 11-9 in the fifth. Tong Tong was down 2-1 in games to Corey VanWagner (2063) before also winning 11-9 in the fifth. We found out afterwards that Corey had studied Tong Tong on video, which explained why he played such smart tactics and could have easily pulled off the upset. Both had trouble receiving serves this tournament, and Derek's looping game was off - and he picked up this nasty habit of missing pop-ups when up game point!

For the fourth year in a row I came up early to play the Hardbat Event on Friday before switching to coaching the rest of the way. I'd won the event in 2010 and 2011, defeating Bin Hai Chu (see above) in the 2011 final. I'd lost to him in 2012. Once again I played him in the final (going 8-0 to get there). He's a pips-out penholder already, so going to hardbat is rather easy for him. He won the first game easily as he played well and I kept missing. After I fell way behind I switched to chopping to see if that would mess him up. We had some good points, but he played great and won 21-10. (Matches were best of three to 21, using 38mm balls supplied by Tournament Director Mike Babuin that were made in 1958 - I kid you not! But they played fine.) In the second game I was on a rampage, and played one of my best hardbat games ever. However, life and table tennis are not fair, and neither are nine nets and edges to my zero, including two pop-up net-edges. Match to Chu, 21-10, 21-16. Alas, but I did get a huge trophy and $200 (to Chu's $400). I also managed to pull a muscle in my left thigh halfway through game two. I ignored it and it didn't affect my play, but I was limping the rest of the tournament. Fortunately I wasn't needed as a practice partner as we had plenty of players.

My only minor gripe about the tournament was a meaningless match I had to play in hardbat. The event had 14 players, two groups of seven, with the top two advancing to a final RR of four players. The problem was there was no carry-over, and so I had to play the runner-up from my preliminary RR a second time. That wasn't a problem. The problem was that I had to play him in the last match of the preliminary RR, where we had both clinched a top two finish. Since there would be no carry-over matches, despite my protest before the event began, it meant that this match was meaningless - and what would count would not be this match, but the one we'd play shortly afterwards, in the Final Four RR. I don't mind playing an occasional meaningless match, but the problem was I didn't want the player to get used to my serves and rallying tactics. So I found myself mostly holding back on my best serves and tactics. I won the first at deuce, lost the second 21-11, before winning the third 21-14. When we played again, I no longer had to hold back, and this time won 21-7, 21-14. He probably did play better the first time around, but I was gritting my teeth as I mostly avoided using certain serves and tactics. Hopefully next year we can either have carry-over matches or go to direct single elimination after the preliminary RR's.

Because I was busy coaching I didn't get to see many of the big matches. I coached Tong Tong and Derek in matches against Eugene Wang (who'd win the tournament) and Jim Butler (with Derek almost winning a game), and hopefully they learned something there - especially about Wang's receive and Jim's serve.  

On the drive back I entertained Derek Nie with non-stop brain teasers. He solved most of them, and I had fun giving humorous hints.

A special thanks goes to Mike Babuin (recently elected the Chair of the USATT Board of Directors) and the Cary staff for putting on a great event. I look forward to going down again next year to this great tournament and continuing my rivalry with Bin Hai Chu!

Twenty Winning Tips

Here are 20 winning tips from Tahl Leibovitz, and top player and coach from New York City. I especially like the first three, which I'm always stressing to players.

Asia Defeats Europe

Here's an article on the first leg of the 2013 Asia-Euro All Star Challenge, where Asia wins, 7-3. Perhaps the most interesting match was a rare loss by Zhang Jike to a non-Chinese player - here's the video (15:25, with time between points removed, and some of the better points replayed in slow motion) of Vladimir Samsonov's win over Zhang.

The Health Benefits of Table Tennis

Here's an article on the health benefits of table tennis, from the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA). "It's like aerobic chess. It's great for hand-eye coordination and reflexes (cerebellum and parietal lobes). You have to focus (prefrontal cortex) so you can track the ball through space (parietal lobes and occipital lobes), figure out spins (parietal lobes and occipital lobes), and plan shots and strategies (prefrontal cortex and cerebellum). Then you have to follow through and execute those tactics successfully (prefrontal cortex and cerebellum). All the while, you have to stay calm so you don't get too nervous on game point (basal ganglia). And you can't dwell on the point you blew a few minutes ago (anterior cingulate gyrus) or blow your top when you make a mistake (temporal lobes)."

Han Xiao Marries

Here are the wedding pictures of the event where Han (many-time U.S. team member, 3-time Men's Doubles Champion and one-time Men's Singles Finalist) and Genna Shaw tied the knot on Saturday, March 16 (two days ago).

2013 BATTF Tour Grand Final Trailer

Here's the trailer (1:16) for the 2013 Bay Area Table Tennis Federation Grand Final.

The Making of Table Tennis Bats and Rubbers in Japan

Here's a video (13:09) on how the manufacturing process in Japan. It's a fascinating process. I once toured a Double Happiness factory in China and watched them make sponge and rackets.

Young Ping-Pong Zen

Here's a picture of kids - future monks? - playing table tennis in full monk attire. Both players seem to be standing on stones to increase their height!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 6, 2013

Feb. 4 USATT Board Minutes and Tournament Sanction Changes

Late last night the minutes of the Feb. 4, 2013 board meeting went up. Part of it was the election of Mike Babuin as the new chairman of the USATT Board of Directors, and the Advisory Committee Chair Appointments (see segment below). However, the bigger news is the new sanctioning standards for USATT tournaments, from zero to 5-star. Here are the new rules. When I get a chance I'll go over them and give my own thoughts. I'll be glad to hear your own - feel free to comment.

Mike Babuin New Chairman of the USATT Board of Directors

The USATT Board chose Mike as the new Chair. I've had many discussions with Mike, and I think they've made a good choice. Here's the article, and here's the actual board minutes, both of which also discuss advisory committee chairs. Here is the list of all newly appointed or re-appointed USATT Advisory Committees chairs.

High Performance Committee   -   Carl Danner
Nominating and Governance Committee   -   Bob Fox
Ethics and Grievance Committee   -   Jim Coombe
Compensation Committee   -   Mike Babuin
Audit Committee   -   Peter Scudner
Athletes Advisory Council   –   Han Xiao
Officials and Rules Advisory Committee   -   Roman Tinyszin
Seniors Advisory Committee   -   Gregg Robertshaw
Tournaments Advisory Committee   -   Larry Rose
Editorial Advisory Committee   -   Jim McQueen
Clubs Advisory Committee   -   Attila Malek
Hardbat Advisory Committee   -   Alberto Prieto
Juniors Advisory Committee   -   Dennis Davis
Coaching Advisory Committee   -   Federico Bassetti
Marketing and Fund Raising Advisory Committee   -   Jim Kahler

Book Blatherings

  • Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13. It's pretty comprehensive, covering the year 1984. We got started on it late Tuesday morning. On Day One, we completed the front and back covers, the inside front cover, and the first 40 pages (through the first two chapters). Tim's on a photo binge - I've already put in 85 photos! At this rate every member of USA Table Tennis, circa 1984, will be in it. I'm doing the page layouts and much of the photo work. The majority of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who scanned all his photos, saving us a huge amount of time.  We'll be working on this for the next 10-14 days. It will be on sale in a few weeks, along with the previous twelve already on sale, at TimBogganTableTennis.com.
  • Homestretch on Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Yesterday I received the review copy. All looked well. I did make a few changes that I'd already planned, replacing two photos with two new ones, and tweaking a few pages. I've submitted the final version. If all goes well, print copies will be on sale this Friday. It's absolutely amazing how the printing industry has changed - they'll get the final version on Wednesday, and have copies on sale two days later!
  • TableTennisBooks.com? I recently bought the rights to the page, along with LarryHodgesBooks.com. I plan on selling my books on the latter, but am toying with someday becoming a table tennis book dealer on the former. After all, there's nothing we like to do better at a table tennis club than to curl up under a table and read table tennis books!
  • Want more books? Here's a list of all 213 books I have on table tennis. I just added Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.

Ma Long vs. Zhang Jike

Here's video (4:40) of their match at the 2013 Chinese Team Trials.

Pool-Pong

This is what happens when you combine pool and ping-pong (39 sec).

Underwater Table Tennis

With a shark!!! But of course sharks can play table tennis. Sometimes they even infest the table.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content