Sameer

October 21, 2014

Coaching Happenings

I hope you enjoyed the PBS video I showed yesterday that featured Crystal Wang and Derek Nie. (I said it was a WETA video, but it was actually produced by PBS.) I showed it at MDTTC on my laptop yesterday to a number of players. The video is currently featured on the USATT home page.

Lots of coaching happenings yesterday. The biggest news was Sameer's breakthrough on the backhand loop. Sameer (13, about 1600) has been topspinning his backhand pretty well this past year. But yesterday something clicked, and suddenly he was just ripping backhand loops off the bounce with ease - at least in practice. He was doing it both in rallies against my backhand block, in side-to-side footwork drills (including the 2-1 drill), and in multiball against backspin.

Technique-wise, he's now hitting pretty much the same as Ma Long in this video (1:55, far side). Note the nice, relaxed power with this stroke, with the small body rocking motion that creates power. (Here's a Tip on "Easy Power," demonstrated in the video by Ma Long, which Sameer is now learning.) Sameer still goes through stages where they all hit and then they all miss (often when he tries to muscle the ball), and it'll take time to incorporate this into a match, but now he's on a really scary path (for opponents). Since I wanted him to really ingrain this, we spent about 45 minutes of our two-hour session on this, and we'll continue to focus on this for a time - yes, a little Saturation Training.

Near the end I played Sameer a few games where I chopped, using my regular inverted rubber (Tenergy both sides). He's much better against me when I play regular, and since I'm almost as good chopping as attacking, let's just say things didn't work as well here as it did for his backhand loop. He did throw a lot of backhand loops at me, but he kept putting the balls into my forehand or backhand corners - easy returns for a 2100 chopper. I finally hinted that he needed to go after my middle. He served and looped there several times, and I missed four chops. He said, "Are you messing up on purpose?" He was wondering if I was missing to show him the importance of playing the middle, as opposed to my missing because he was going to my middle. It was the latter!

I've been playing for 38 years, and coaching for 34. And yet, yesterday was the first time I ever had to tell a student (age 7) to stop chewing on his shirt during points.

Plastic Ball Problems

We're facing serious problems at the club because of the changeover to plastic balls. The ITTF really jumped the gun on this - they should have waited until the new plastic balls ("40+") were standardized and there were training balls available. Right now we have different players training with different balls, and players have to check on what the other players are using before they can play or practice. Since Butterfly doesn't have plastic training balls yet, we're still mostly using regular Butterfly celluloid balls for most coaching. Players used to have to contend with going from Butterfly balls to the slightly harder Nittaku balls, but the difference there is only a fraction of the difference between the various plastic balls.

All of the plastic balls are white, as are most of our training balls, which seems to be the preference of most players. At the moment, though, I wish all our training balls were orange so we could tell them quickly from the white plastic ones. A training center is not like a typical club, where players use just one ball on each table. Players train at our club with buckets of balls, and so balls are scattered everywhere. (For an example of this, see the Multiball Footwork segment below.)

Yesterday, at the same time, we had players training with Butterfly celluloid (used in last weekend's 4-star North Carolina Open and MDTTC Open, in next weekend's 4-star South Shore Open and Wasserman Junior Championships, and along with other celluloid balls, still used in most USATT tournaments), JOOLA plastic (for the upcoming North American Teams), Nittaku Premium plastic (for the Nationals) and Nittaku SHA plastic (for the Nationals for players who didn't have the Premium yet). Meanwhile, Crystal Wang is training with various plastic balls to prepare for the World Cadet Challenge which starts next weekend, which will be using Butterfly plastic balls, but we don't have any since they aren't available in the U.S. yet. Players were running about trying to keep the same balls in each court and sifting through balls in boxes and on the floor to find the ones they were training with. And yesterday someone was practicing with DHS plastic balls for some other tournament. This is crazy!!!

One that'll help a little - USATT is requiring all tournament entry forms must list the ball material used in the tournament. Here's the news item.

Is Search Engine Showing Up?

I need help on something. Tell me if you see the search engine on the top left - it should read "Search this site:" with a field underneath it. It shows up for me on both my desktop and laptop computers on all the major search engines, but it's not showing up on someone else's laptop computer for some reason. (Right now it should only show up if you are logged in. I've asked my web page expert to fix that so that the search engine shows up no matter what.)

Multiball Footwork

Here's 34 seconds of some serious multiball footwork. Can you do this? (Note the wide stance - without it, you can't.)

Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team

Here's a video library that's a MUST for all players. It has 14 videos of the Chinese National Team or coaches demonstrating and explaining techniques. (This includes seven videos in the "Drill Your Skills with the Chinese National Team" series. There's a Part 8 that just came out but isn't yet listed, "Forehand Serves and First Attack by Yan An" (7:43).

Contact Point for Maximum Backspin

Here's the new video from PingSkills (3:13).

Ask the Coach

Episode #12 (9:55):

  • Question 1: I play inverted and will play against a hardbat penhold player. He has no problem hitting through chops, and various spins. What I find most difficult is returning his general shots. I hit many balls into the net. Any suggestions? Bob Van Deusen
  • Question 2: There is an attacking shot in badminton called dropshot from the rear court. I haven’t seen it in table tennis where one player is away from the table, slows down shortly before contact so the ball drops short. Is it possible in table tennis? Peter Habich
  • Question 3: Being not a terribly strong guy, I've always preferred blades on the lighter side. Recently I switched to one which weighs only 5 grams less, and the difference is remarkable. I can't be sure yet which to prefer, so what's your view on this? Andrej K
  • Question 4: My issue is that I'm practicing drills mostly at the club with ITTF standard sized tables and the one at my office is one that lays on top of a billiards table, which is about 9cm higher. How I can adjust my strokes so that I can perform better? Gregory S

Photos from the First ITTF Level 3 Course in the U.S.

Here's the photo album from Shashin Shodhan. Photo #17 shows that they stayed in the same dormitory (Building 87) that I stayed in from 1986-1990 during my years as manager/director/assistant coach for the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center. Others that lived there included Sean O'Neill, Jim Butler, Eric Owens, Todd Sweeris, Dhiren Narotam, Diana & Lisa Gee, and many more.

Butterfly Teams

Here's an article by Barbara Wei on the upcoming Butterfly Teams in Hobart, Indiana, to be held on Thanksgiving weekend. (Not to be confused with the 4-star South Shore Open to be held this weekend in Highland, Indiana - I'll be there coaching - or with the North American Teams, also to be held on Thanksgiving weekend in Washington D.C.)

World Women's Cup

Here are two more videos on the Women's World Cup held this past weekend in Austria.

Who Will Win the Men's World Cup Contest

Here's the blog entry on this from Matt Hetherington. The Men's World Cup is this upcoming weekend in Dusseldorf, Germany, Oct. 24-26. The basic challenge is to guess the two finalists and the total number of points the losing player will score in the final. Winning prize is two sheets of Butterfly Tenergy.

ITTF Timo Boll Puzzle Contest

Put poor Timo Boll back together again, and win a signed blade from him.

Top Five Reasons Why Ping Pong Rocks by Susan Sarandon

Here's the video (1:04). #1: "I like ping-pong because Richard Nixon had to leave the country for at least two weeks during Ping-Pong Diplomacy."

Olympic Power Table Tennis

Here's the cartoon!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

August 28, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the four-day camp at MDTTC. We started with a contest - the players paired up to see who could get 100 forehands in a row. As I explained to them, we often say that a player doesn't have a forehand or backhand until he's hit 100 in a row, and so everyone was determined to do so. 

For inspiration I told them the story of 13-year-old practice partner Sameer Shaikh. About a year before he was struggling to get 100 forehands in a row in a session with me. He got 99 in a row, and missed! Then he got 97, then I think it was 94, and each time, just as he approached 100, he'd miss. It was torture for him! But we decided we'd devote the entire session to this, and he finally got 100 in a row. But once he did that, he relaxed and stopped trying to guide the shot. Result? The rally continued, and he actually hit 1000 in a row!!! I caught the ball and told him he'd done enough, and we'd continue later. (We never did get back to it. I'm not sure if my arm could take another 1000.) The purpose of the drill/contest was both to develop the stroking technique, timing, and consistency, but also to develop concentration and confidence. 

We rotated the players regularly so everyone hit with everyone else, including practice partner Sameer. Then we did the same thing with backhands. Everyone hit at least 100 in a row on one side, and several managed to do it on both sides. We finished with a smashing drill, where players would hit two forehands in a row, then smash and continue smashing, while the other tried to return them. 

Then we went to the main focus of the day - serving. I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin, and showed them how much spin could be created on a serve, as well as showing them various "tricks," such as backspin serves that bounced back into (or over) the net, and sidespin serves that broke almost directly sideways. Then I had them practice spinning the soccer balls in the air - spin and catch, spin and catch. It's one of the best ways to learn to spin the ball. Then I gave several lectures/demos on the rules, creating spin, deception, the main service motions, and fast serves. Between the lecture/demos they practiced serves, with each getting a table and box of balls to themselves.  

Next on the agenda was more smashing. After a lecture and demo with Sameer, the players formed a line, and in rapid-fire fashion took turns smashing forehands as I fed multiball, three shots each, one to the backhand, one to the middle, one to the forehand, and then the next was up. 

We finished with a receive "game." They took turns trying to return my serves, and stayed up until they'd missed two. The catch was that I got to make fun of them when they missed, while they got to make fun of me if they got them back. I'd mostly serve and quickly put my racket on the table and step to the side of the table my sidespin would force their return to - so if they did return the serve, I'd be stuck rallying with my hand. Or I'd say, "Don't put this in the net!" as I served backspin. Or I'd serve fast aces at the corners. Tomorrow we'll be covering return of serve, along with pushing and looping. 

It was a long day. After the camp I had another 2.5 hours of private coaching. Had some nice breakthroughs - Willie is learning to loop, Daniel's loop is getting powerful, and Matt's is even more ferocious! 

Here's the group picture, which I also linked to yesterday. Using a high-quality version, I printed out copies for everyone on photo paper, which I'll give out today. 

New Two-Toned Ball Undermines Chopper's Advantage

Here's the article and video (2 hours!). 

Interview with German National Coach Jörg Rosskopf

Here's the article

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

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

  • Day 4: Latin American Ascending to New Found Heights

Ping-Pong Balls for Children's Therapy

Here's the article

Ping-Pong Table Sound System

Here's the article - yes, a sound system that doubles as a ping-pong table!

Xavier Therien - STIGA 2014 ITTF TrickShot Showdown

Here's the Canadian National Team Member's juggling and table tennis with a crazy contraption trick shot (1:22)! And here are more - there are so many that I haven't really gone through them. Here's the home page for the competition.

Backhand of the Year?

Here's video of Nelson's Backhand (52 sec) - see the shot 7 seconds in!

Around-Net Rolling Return

Here's the video (22 sec) of some rather incredible staged shots. 

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (32 sec).

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ping-Pong Cupcakes Anyone?

Here's the picture

Tricky Serve!

Here's the video (6 sec).

***
Send us your own coaching news!

July 24, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, August 5

This will be my last blog until Tuesday, August 5. Most people take vacations at beaches, or camping, or Disneyworld, or Las Vegas, etc. Me? I go to an annual science fiction & fantasy writing workshop for nine days of continuous writing, critiquing, classes, etc. I leave early tomorrow morning for "The Never-Ending Odyssey" (TNEO) in Manchester, New Hampshire for nine days, returning late on Saturday, Aug. 2. This will be the fifth time I've attended this, which is for graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, a six-week workshop for writers of science fiction & fantasy, which I attended in 2006. At the workshop I'm having the first seven chapters of my SF novel critiqued.

Getting TT on TV
(This is from a response I gave to a question on the forum.)

One of the major reasons table tennis isn't on TV much in the U.S. is there's nobody actively pushing for this to happen, or trying to create an attractive package for the TV people. USATT is an amateur organization, and doesn't have anyone devoted to this. So it's unlikely table tennis will get much TV exposure in the U.S. until the same thing that happened in other TV sports happens to table tennis - the top players get together and form a professional organization. Their top priority would be to bring money to the sport via sponsors, and to do that they need to get on TV - and so getting on TV becomes their top priority. They'd hire an executive director who would work to get the sport on TV so that he can bring in sponsors. But until this happens, table tennis is unlikely to be on TV much in this country. 

Wednesday's Coaching

I did 4.5 hours of private coaching yesterday. Here's a rundown.

  • Sameer, 13, about 1600 player (two-hour session): We pretty much covered everything, as you can do in a two-hour session. The highlight of the session, however, was when I introduced him to the banana flip. It only took a few minutes before he was able to do this in drills, and then we practiced it for about ten minutes. Since he just came off playing three tournaments in a row - see my blog about his progress in my blog on Monday - we're focusing on fundamentals as we prepare him long-term for his next "big" tournament - the North American Teams in November. We did a lot of counterlooping. As a special bonus that he begged and pleaded for, I let him lob for five minutes.
  • Tiffany, 9, about 1750 (70-min session as part of the MDTTC camp): Tiffany is the top-rated under 10 girl in the U.S., and the stuff she did in the session shows why. During those 70 minutes she did 55 minutes of footwork drills. The only interruption to her footwork drills was ten minutes when I looped to her block, and five minutes where we pushed. The rest of the time it was non-stop footwork drills for her. When she seemed to slow down between rallies at one point, one of the Chinese coaches playfully called her "lazy," and she immediately picked up the pace again. Today she'll be right back at it, while I'm still sore from the ten minutes of looping. Tiffany's in an interesting point in her game as she's gradually making the transition to all-out looping.  
  • Matt, 13, about 1600 (one-hour session, plus 30 minutes of games): He has an excellent forehand and good footwork, but is in the process of transitioning to a more topspinny backhand. We spent most of the session doing backhand-oriented drills. These included side-to-side backhand footwork; alternate forehand-backhand footwork (forehand from forehand corner, backhand from backhand corner); and the 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand corner, forehand from backhand corner, and forehand from forehand corner). I was planning to work on his receive after all this, but Matt wasn't happy with his 2-1 drill play, and wanted to do more of that. How many players volunteer to do extra footwork? (Perhaps he was inspired when I told him how much footwork Tiffany had done.) So we did another ten minutes or so of the 2-1 drill, about twenty minutes total. Then we did a bunch of multiball, focusing on backhand loop. It won't be long before he hits 1800 level.

    At the end of the session with Matt we played games - I stayed an extra 30 minutes for this, so it was really a 90-minute session. (I often do this when I'm through coaching for the day.) An astonishing thing happened here. After I won the first game, he came back in the second game on fire, and went up - I kid you not - 10-2!!! So on to the third game, right? Wrong. On his serve I switched to chopping (mixing in heavy chop and no-spin), and on my serve I pulled out an old Seemiller windshield-wiper serve (racket going right to left), which he'd never seen before. He got tentative both against the chops and serve, and suddenly it was 10-all. We had a rally there, where I chopped four in a row, and then I threw a no-spin chop at him, and he looped it softly. I tried smashing, but missed, and he had another game point. But he missed the serve again, and I finally won 14-12. He was very disgusted with blowing the game, and was now playing tentative where he'd been on fire just a few minutes before, and the result was he fell apart the next two games, even though I went back to playing regular. I finally had him do a few forehand drills to get his game back, and he ended it with a relatively close game. I'm feeling kind of bad about this because I completely messed up his game when I switched to weird play, when my job as a coach is to help him play well. But he's going to have to face "weird" players in tournaments, so he might as well get used to playing them now.

    The thing Matt needs to take away from this is that if he can play so well that he's up 10-2 on the coach (and I still play pretty well!), then it won't be long before he can do that all the time. The thing I need to take away from this is I better start practicing or Matt, Tiffany, and Sameer are all going to start beating me. (Age, injuries, and lack of real practice have dropped my level down to about 2100 or so, but that should be enough to beat these three, right? Maybe not…)

Liu Shiwen: Hard Work Always Produces Good Results

Here's the article. Liu is the world #1 ranked woman.

Twelve Curious Facts about Table Tennis

Here's the article.

U.S. Open Blog

Here's the final blog on the U.S. Open by Dell & Connie Sweeris.

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the latest overseas coaching course taught by USATT coach Richard McAfee.

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. Sixty-two down, 38 to go!

  • Day 39: Ian Marshall Feels Privileged to Do What He Loves

Lily Zhang at the ITTF YOG Camp

Here's the video (34 sec).

Another Great Trick Shot

Here's the video (36 sec) of Shi Wei.

Craigslist Ping Pong Table Negotiation

Here's the text of this rather crazy discussion. (Side note - I once met Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.com. At the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention I was in the Science Fiction Writers of American suite - I'm a member - and after grabbing some snacks at the buffet table I joined two others sitting around a table discussing the future of the Internet. One of them began asking lots of questions about my science fiction writing. At some point the discussion turned to how we used online tools, and I mentioned I was in the process of renting out the first two floors of my townhouse, and that I was advertising it on Craigslist.com. The third person said, "Larry, do you know who you are talking to?" I said no, and that's when he pointed out that the guy I'd been talking with for half an hour was THAT Craig. He was at the convention as a member of several panels that involved the Internet.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

July 21, 2014

Tip of the Week

Overplaying and Underplaying.

Sameer's Tournaments

On Saturday I coached one of my students at the Howard County Open. Sameer, who just turned 13 last week, has played about two years, but mostly just once a week the first year. He's had an interesting run recently, playing in tournaments for three straight weeks. This was after taking over seven months off from tournaments to work on his game as he transitioned to looping nearly everything from both wings.

Two weeks ago he played at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He went in rated 1378. In match after match he was nervous, and unable to play well. Occasionally he'd put it together. As I pointed out to him afterwards, there were two Sameers - the 1200 Sameer when he was nervous, and the 1600 one when he wasn't. (When he's nervous, he rushes, stands up straight - which makes all his shots awkward - and smacks balls all over the place.) He beat one player over 1600 and battled with some stronger players, but way too often was too nervous to play his best. He came out rated 1409.

I tell my students not to worry about ratings, but after all the work he'd put in, and all the improvement in practice, it was a major disappointment to play at barely a 1400 level. We both knew he was 200 points better than that. We'd worked on various sports psychology techniques since he'd had this problem before, but after months of league play at our club I'd hoped he was over it. So we went back to working on sports psychology. But overall, as I explained to Sameer and his mom, the solution was to play a bunch of tournaments until he got more used to them, and was able to play more relaxed.

The following weekend he played in the Lily Yip Open in New Jersey. I'd like to say he turned things around, but not really. He started out just as nervous, unable to perform properly, and lost his first two matches to players rated in the 1100s. This was a disaster - two 50-pointers to start things off. (Partly because of their wins over Sameer, the two players would be adjusted to about 1300 and 1400.) But then, with nothing to lose, he started to turn things around. He beat a 1450 player, then a 1500 player. Since they were using older ratings, he was eligible for Under 1400. He made it to the final where he had to play a "ringer" - the guy had already won Under 1600! But Sameer pulled out a close deuce in the fourth match to win Under 1400. It was a good finish, and yet once again there'd been two Sameers - one about 1200, the other about 1600.

This past Saturday he played in the Howard County Open. Playing three consecutive tournaments paid off - he went in determined to do better, and this time only the 1600 Sameer showed up. He had three 1550+ wins, beat several 1400 players, and his worst loss was to a 1660 player - and more importantly, he won Under 1600! The hard work was finally beginning to pay off. To the 1200 Sameer who stayed away this weekend - you're a loser and we don't like you, so get lost!!! (Here's a picture of Sameer with his U1600 $50 prize money, which I obviously want. Here's a picture of him with his U1400 Trophy at the Lily Yip tournament the week before.)

Even better than winning Under 1600 what that while he finally played in tournaments at the level he could play in practice, he showed potential to go beyond that level. When you have good technique, it's just a matter of executing the technique and you control the games and your fate - and soon you realize you can beat even the players you are currently losing to. Sameer may be 1600 now, but it won't be a big jump for him to jump up to 1700 level, then 1800 level, and so on. (Note that I'm referring to level, not rating. If you play 1800 level, and play it in tournaments, then you'll get that 1800 rating, but that's secondary.)

There were some tactical lessons from the tournament. Sameer often relies on mixing in short serves (that he follows with a forehand or backhand loop) and deep serves (that often win the point outright or set up winners). Doing a fast, deep serve under pressure is not easy. So I had him practice the fast serves quite a bit just before the tournament, and while warming up for it.

One of the most important things I kept reminding him before each match and between games was for him not to overplay. (See today's Tip of the Week.) Under pressure he'll often swat at shots rather than play the shots he can make, i.e. nice, strong loops, without trying to rip everything for a winner. Tactically, some of the keys for him was to vary and move his serves around; attack the opponent's forehand and middle; and just control the serves back to force rallies. Perhaps most important for him, he stayed down, breaking that nasty habit of standing up straight while playing that we've battled against for months.

Opportunity for Clubs to Host Camps for Veterans with Disabilities

Here's the info page. USATT has a grant to pay for these camps.

Coaching Articles by Samson Dubina

He's been writing up a storm recently on his Article Page. Here are his more recent coaching articles.

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-eight down, 42 to go!

  • Day 43: Khalil Al-Mohannadi: “The language of sports is a universal human language and a message of love” 
  • Day 44: Shi Zhihao Is Committed to Making TT More Popular

Ma Long Chop Block

Here's the video (2:26) showing him using the shot in competitions. I have one student who screams bloody murder whenever I do this shot, says nobody else does it! It is a dying shot, but many top players still do this as a variation, as shown here by world Ma Long (currently world #2, formerly world #1 for 30 months, as recently as February this year).

Ball Control Practice with Bouncing and Balancing

Here's the video (1:28) showing various bouncing and balancing drills you can do with a paddle and ball.

Incredible Point at Match Point

Here's the video (1:28, including slow motion replay) as Germany's Timo Boll (world #10, formerly #1) battles to win that last point against Croatia's Andrej Gacina (world #30).

Houston Rockets GM Donated Thousands of Dollars so He Could Whoop Us in Ping-Pong

Here's the story.

Mini-Table Doubles

Here's the video (2:25) - pretty good doubles play!

Chinese National Team Trick Shots

Here's the video (1:07).

***
Send us your own coaching news!

May 21, 2014

USATT Board Minutes and the CEO Search

Here are the minutes to the USATT Teleconference on April 21, 2014. Probably the most interesting thing is they are hiring an executive search firm for $10,000 to find our next CEO. While this is the way to go if you want a conventional CEO, on April 18 I blogged about why, at this point, we should hire someone internally (i.e. a table tennis expert) to fix up our sports infrastructure so we have a better product both for players and for sponsors (via leagues, junior programs, coaching programs, etc.), and then go the conventional route with a CEO who can bring in sponsor money. (I blogged about an alternate idea for our new CEO on May 16, near the end of the "What to do at age 18?" essay, where I suggested the new CEO partner with outside table tennis groups to raise money for them to develop the sport.)

We used (and paid for) executive search firms several times in the 1990s, and each time the goal was to hire a CEO who could raise lots of money, but none of them were able to do so. We've gone through about ten CEOs in our history (all in the last 30 years or so - we didn't have one throughout most of our history), and none have been able to raise any serious money. Keep in mind that it's not just raising money - they have to raise money well in excess of how much they cost. I'd guess we'll have to pay at least $30,000 more per year for a conventional CEO than if we hire from inside our sport, in addition to the $10,000 search fee. (I'm probably being generous here - if we hire a truly good CEO, he'll probably cost us a lot more than this. If we hire a cheaper one, we get what we pay for.) But it's more than that - we're also giving up the service we'd get from someone who could fix our sport's infrastructure by starting the process of setting up regional leagues (both recreational and professional), junior programs, coaching programs, etc., which would make our sport so much more saleable, as well as bring in money from increased membership fees as membership shoots up, as it did when table tennis associations all over Europe focused on leagues, leading to memberships measured in the hundreds of thousands (to our 8000) in countries with populations a fraction of ours.

So the new CEO will cost us the search fee, the extra salary, and the loss of the badly needed development of our sport. From the current USATT's point of view, they believe they need to raise money to do all the things I suggest. Both of us believe the other has it backwards. I believe a shoe salesman should fix the shoes before trying to sell them; they believe they need to sell broken shoes to raise the money needed to fix the shoes. But it doesn't take that much money to start the process of developing the infrastructure of our sport, and that would only take a few years. It's when we are actually developing these programs that sponsors will more likely want to get in the ground floor. It's much easier selling a sport that has growing leagues and coaching programs to entice sponsors than one that does not.

Also, just to end the rumor mills, no, I am not applying for the USATT CEO position, not that the board would have ever considered a mere table tennis coach/writer/organizer/ promoter like myself. I have no interest in working with USATT to develop the sport without near 100% support from the board (otherwise you spend most of your energy battling with the board), and the board is once again going the "conventional" route, while believing, based on several discussions, that they are doing something new in hiring a CEO whose primary purpose is to raise money. Déjà vu.

Lastly, I do not plan on harping about this over and over and beating USATT over the head with this. They've made their decision, so now we have to accept it and hope that this time we'll get a CEO who can actually sell our sport as it is. Hopefully they will be right this time, soon we'll be squabbling over how to spend the hordes of money the new CEO brings in.

Expert Table Tennis Tips

Here are 18 short tips from top coaches (all pictured) from all over the world - including one from me!

Terminology: Loop vs. Topspin

Here's a new video from PingSkills (1:02) that talks about the terminologies used - loop, loop drive, and topspin. I've seen some really vicious arguments about this!

Charlene Liu Wins Bronze

On Monday I blogged about the World Veterans Games, and mentioned that Charlene Xiaoying Liu (from my club, MDTTC) got the bronze for Women's Singles 60-64. I sent out a press release to local media. Butterfly published the press release.

"The Rumors are True. I Never Miss"

This is one of those silly little mantras I often tell students during drills where I'm blocking for them, after I've gone for a while without missing. Yesterday, in a session with Sameer (12-year-old student) I had a new version. We were doing the 2-1 drill, where he does a three-shot sequence: A backhand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the forehand corner, and then repeat. (He's doing this all looping, even spinning the backhands off the bounce.) In multiball he's pretty consistent with this, but when we go live, where I'm blocking, his consistency goes down. This is what I told him after I'd gone a while without missing a block. "The rumors are true. I never miss. But your goal is to reach the point where eventually, you can look me in the eye during this drill and say it right back to me, and I won't be able to deny it."

Potomac Open

It was held in Potomac, MD, this past weekend. Here are the main results. The final was between a pair of 2600 players, with Chen Ruichao ("Alex") defeating Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") 4-0 in the final. Here is video of the matches - Alex is the lefty, Leon the chopper/looper.

Game 1; Game 2; Game 3; Game 4.

Blocking Against a Spinny Loop

There's an interesting discussion going on at the mytabletennis.com forum about blocking against spinny loops. Here's the link to the start of the discussion. (EDIT: I just posted links in the discussion to videos of top players blocking, in post #45. You might want to watch them.) I posted several times in the thread where I point out the importance of blocking firmly, i.e. aggressively, since the spin takes on your racket less this way as well as giving you a more effective block. (You'll note that there are differing opinions on this. Some believe you should just hold the racket out absolutely still, but I disagree, as noted in the postings.) In one posting I wrote the following in the hopes of winning the Nobel Prize for Sports Psychology:

This is huge, stepping to the ball when blocking. When players reach for the ball instead of stepping, they often open their racket as they do so. I think it's because they are no longer doing a shot they have practiced regularly, and so their subconscious no longer knows what racket angle to reflexively use, and so falls back on beginner habits.

Below is a long posting I did on the topic.

What they are demonstrating in this video [referred to by another poster], and what the opening posting asks, are different things. The opening poster isn't a beginner - he even asked if he should try counterlooping against slow, spinny loops. If all he wants to do is pop the ball back weakly, where he's not worried about popping the ball up, then all he has to do is stick his racket out and block back softly, and he'll develop a consistent but weak blocking game. The spin would take on his racket more, so he'd have less control, but if he just pops the ball back weakly then the very slowness of his return would keep it on the table. If he wants to make an effective block that hits consistently, then he needs to block more firmly (i.e. more aggressively). 

If he puts a little pace on the ball but not too aggressively in a misguided attempt to be consistent, that's when it'll probably go off the end over and over. That's why beginners and intermediate players have so much trouble with slow, spinny loops. Instead, they need to block more firmly, more aggressively, so the blocks are both consistent and effective. 

You can go for a soft and low block by just sticking the racket out with a more closed angle, but this is harder to control than if you block more firmly, and will tend to pop balls up. Since the spin takes on the racket more, you have to get the racket angle almost perfectly right, while you have more leeway if you block firmly and somewhat aggressively. (On the other hand, a slower, dead block that stays low is rather easy with most non-inverted surfaces, or with less lively or less grippy inverted surfaces.) 

The video is showing something different, i.e. teaching beginners how to adjust their racket angle against heavy topspin. However, where he says the racket does not move forward, I disagree. I saw this video a few years ago when I first started my blog, and chose not to link to it for that reason. While you can block that way, it's teaching a rather poor habit, and makes things more difficult for beginning and beginning/intermediate players. A more firm block, with the racket moving forward, is easier and more consistent in making decent blocks (not pop-ups), since spin takes on it less. Players with very good slow, spinny loops usually struggle with players who block aggressively as that mostly counteracts their topspin. 

At my club, we have eight full-time coaches, seven of them from China, two former Chinese national team members, the rest former province team members. (I'm the lone non-Chinese full-time coach.) All teach blocking against spinny loops with a firm, aggressive stroke. When I slow loop in practice matches with the kids, they are taught to block aggressively (or counterloop), and they have been pretty successful in this. When they block off, over and over the Chinese coaches tell them to block more aggressively. It is against faster loops that you can mostly just stick your racket out and play off the opponent's own pace. 

When I face an inverted player who just sticks his racket out to block my loop, I'm not going to feed into this by trying to loop hard with my opening loop; I'm going to throw my slowest, spinniest loop deep on the table, and watch them block off or pop it up. I can also mess up these type of blockers by varying my spin (even dead loops) as they have to get their racket angle almost perfect to make an effective block, and that's not easy against heavy or varying spin. 

I think the opening poster was asking how he could block these spinny loops back consistently so he could win the point, not so he could just pop the ball back and hope for the best. Otherwise I'd tell him to just block as weakly as possible so the ball pops back on the table, slow but high. Instead, he should block more firmly, which will lead to consistent and effective blocks. 

Coaching Scams

On Feb. 14 and Feb 27 I wrote about these coaching scams that many coaches are receiving via email. I received another one yesterday. Hint - when you receive a vague request for coaching from some overseas person, and it's addressed to "Undisclosed Recipients," you should be very suspicious. Read my previous blogs for how this works. Here's the one I just received:

To Undisclosed Recipients:
Hello,
I want to make an inquiry for table tennis intensive training for 10 youngsters .
DUE DATE: 14th July until 2nd of August 2014; 6 days per week Mondays through Saturdays total of 18 days.
Kindly check the rates and availability for the period requested.
Best regards.
George Wong

Playing Table Tennis with a Light Bulb Commercial

Here's video (40 sec) of a commercial for Cree LED light bulbs, where the actor shows that some bulbs are good for playing table tennis while others (theirs) are only good at being light bulbs.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

February 3, 2014

Tip of the Week

Winning with Ball Control.

Topspinny Backhands: When to Learn?

Yesterday was a pivotal moment in one young player's table tennis career. One of the tougher decisions for some coaches is when to have their up-and-coming junior players begin to topspin more on the backhand in rallies. At the start, you teach basic backhand drives. But at the higher levels, most players these days topspin the ball, basically a backhand loop with a shorter swing, often right off the bounce. It's not easy to learn to do this in a rally, where it's tricky enough playing a regular backhand, but to topspin the ball off the bounce, practically a backhand loop, against an often fast incoming ball?

Some coaches advocate teaching this starting at around the 1800 level; others do so much earlier. But everyone's different. If a player seems to have a knack for it, and is training regularly, then perhaps he can start earlier. The problem is that in a fast rally, you have little time to topspin the ball, and players who try to do so before they're ready will make lots of mistakes.

I've got several students who are reaching the stage where they're ready to really topspin on the backhand in faster rallies. Yesterday's breakthrough was for Sameer, 12, rated 1378 after the Teams in November. He's developed a pretty nasty backhand drive, especially in drills, though he sometimes still has trouble getting the drilling backhand into games. Sameer already has a pretty decent backhand loop against backspin, but was he ready to do this over and over in rallies?

We tried it out yesterday, and he surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. We did it first in multiball, and then live, and in both cases he seemed comfortable doing so. He's also ready for the rigors of reality - that he'll probably have some bad losses over the next few months as he incorporates this into his game, especially against players who rush him on the backhand. (If you are an opponent of his, please use go ahead and rush him on the backhand - it gives him the practice he needs!) But we have a longer-term goal - the U.S. Open in July. He's going to focus on just training until then, with the plan to show up with a devastating backhand topspin, as well as (hopefully) a few other devastating shots. Maybe he'll be a true basher by then. (See Tip of the Week article above.)

Banana Flip

This video (3:22) may be the best tutorial I've seen on the backhand banana flip. Lots of slow motion and clear explanations.

Pushing

Here are two videos from PingSkills on the Backhand Push (3:14) and the Forehand Push (3:19).

Table Tennis Strategy Page

Here's a new page, Table Tennis Strategy. It includes pages on Strategy, Fun Facts, Jokes, and others.

Superbowl Ad with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here's the complete ad (3:44), which ran in several parts. The table tennis starts exactly two minutes in. "Prepare to be crushed in tiny tennis," says the long-haired wigged Arnold.

CNN Features Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:57), which ran on Friday, and is on the growing trend to play table tennis. Features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Sarandon, and Soo Yeon Lee, and with clips of Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Biba Featured

Here's a feature article on Biba Golic in Women's Fitness Magazine.

Bounce Back Shots

Here's a video (57 sec) that compares a desperation backspin shot by Ding Ning that unreturnably bounces back over the net to win the point to a similar shot by Roger Federer in tennis.

Table Tennis on a Boat

Here's video (12 sec) of two men playing table tennis on a boat that's not much bigger than a canoe.

Hit the Card Trick Shot

Here's video (24 sec) of a trick shot where the player smacks a card out from under a ball without knocking the ball off.

When Table Tennis Gets Angry!

Here's the video (1:41) of some very angry players.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 25, 2013

Examples of Saturation Coaching

My Tip of the Week on Monday was on Saturation Training, where a player focuses on developing one aspect of his game. I thought I'd give some examples of this.

Probably the most famous example was Istvan Jonyer. He made the Hungarian National Team in the early 1970s mostly by blocking. While on the team he developed his powerful forehand loop and became Hungarian National Champion. But he had a weak backhand, and couldn't really compete with the best players in the world. Then he spent six months up in a mountain training, where he did essentially nothing but backhand loop. When he finished, he had a great backhand loop - though other aspects of his game had deteriorated, and he had to practice them to get them back. About two years later he became the 1975 Men's World Champion, and was #1 in the world for two year and a dominant top ten (usually top five) player for over a decade.

Another example is Todd Sweeris, who just yesterday was selected as one of the two inductees this year into the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame. (See my blog yesterday.) Todd made the 1996 and 2000 U.S. Olympic Teams - but through much of 1995 it didn't look like he had a chance. Only the top three U.S. players would make the team, and he couldn't even get games off the top three U.S. players: Jim Butler, David Zhuang, and Khoa Nguyen. He figured his best chance was against Khoa, and that the main thing he could really dominate in would be receive. (That was my suggestion!) So he spent nearly all of that year training overwhelmingly on receive, and with practice partners who copied Khoa. (Sorry Khoa!) He became one of the best serve returners in the country. The strategy worked as Todd beat Khoa 3-0 to make the team. (Fortunately Khoa would, after years of tribulations, make the Olympic team in 2004, and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2006.)

I've got three students right now where I'm using saturation training. Sameer, 12, has a tendency to stand up too straight when he plays, and as a result uses too much arm when he forehand loops. So we're focusing on forehand loop in all our sessions, where he has to stay lower (for all shots), and use more lower body when he loops. Another is Matt, 12, who has a strong forehand but weaker backhand, and so we're focusing on backhand right now. Another is Jim, an older player with a strong backhand but awkward forehand, so we're focusing on that, often spending 30-40 minutes of our one-hour sessions on that.

I've used saturation training myself. I've never had a strong backhand attack, but I've always been steady. In the early 1980s, Dave Sakai (now a fellow Hall of Famer) was steady but didn't have a strong forehand attack. So we often drilled and Drilled and DRILLED with him forehand looping and hitting into my steady backhand, which made my backhand so steady that I could literally rally forever with it. That, combined with my strong forehand attack and serve & receive game, became central to my game. I've used saturation training with other aspects of my game as well. I even went through a one-year period (circa 1980) where I practiced my serves 30 minutes/day, seven days/week, and really developed them that way.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Reviews

Haven't bought a copy yet? WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU?!!! Here's where you can buy a copy at Amazon. (You can also buy it from Paddle Palace.) Oh, you need some convincing?

Here's a really nice review of the book that just came out by Ben Larcombe of Expert Table Tennis. It's probably the most extensive review yet. He lists the seven most important key points he got from the book - a pretty nice summation - and gives a detailed explanation for each of them. He brings up such good examples of these points that I strongly recommend you read this - it's like an addendum to my book. 

There have been a number of other reviews. Here's one from Alex Polyakov (author of Breaking 2000 and The Next Step - see his webpage). There are 24 at amazon.com (twenty 5-star, four 4-star) and two more at Amazon UK (both 5-star). The reviews at amazon have headlines; here are the 23 headlines given, most recent first. (One person just put in his username, so I left that out.)

  1. Bible of Table Tennis
  2. My best table tennis purchase so far
  3. Excellent addition to table tennis library
  4. Definitely for thinkers
  5. A very good book covers a broad range of table tennis tactics
  6. Good book for someone transitioning from basement star to begin playing at higher levels
  7. Excellent Advice Lies Herein
  8. An outstanding book
  9. Very useful info
  10. Solid on many aspects of tactics and strategy
  11. Maybe the Best Table Tennis Book Ever Written
  12. A MUST for table tennis players who play club and tournaments
  13. Great Book from a Great Guy
  14. Playing smart
  15. For all skill levels
  16. Finally I can think!
  17. Very good book on under-covered subject
  18. Great for the developing (or established) player!
  19. A tremendous amount of info!
  20. Highly recommended!
  21. Hard to find sources on tactics other than Mr. Hodges
  22. Great Resource For Improving Your Table Tennis Results
  23. It Made Me Think!

Here are a few other quotes from notable table tennis coaches:

"Larry has done an excellent job in breaking down the skills needed by all players to improve in these areas. This book should be on every table tennis player’s mandatory reading list."
-Richard McAfee, USATT National Coach, ITTF Trainer, and USATT Coaching Chair, 2009-2013 

"Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is a must read for any player serious about winning. This tactical Bible is right on the mark, and is exactly how I was taught to put together game-winning tactics and strategies."
-Sean O'Neill, 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion, 2-time Olympian 

"Larry Hodges' book on table tennis tactics is the best I have ever seen on this subject. This is the first book that explains how to play against the many styles of the game."
-Dan Seemiller, 5-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion and long-time U.S. Men's Team Coach 

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Here's the Report (PDF), by Chairperson Carl Danner, covering June and July.

Ping Pong While Playing Drums?

Here's the story and video (3:02) from Table Tennis Nation! A guy sets the "world record" for most consecutive table tennis hits against a wall while playing the drums.

Curvy, Mirrowy Table

Here's the picture! I think that based on the way the table is curved, balls will tend to bounce inward, and so it'll be easy to keep the ball in play - I think. Unless, of course, you are admiring your funhouse mirror image on the table.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

September 16, 2013

Tip of the Week

Real Tactics versus Parroting Tactics.

Tournament Tactics

I coached at a tournament this weekend, which inspired this week's Tip of the Week. Some strange things took place at this USATT-sanctioned tournament. The first match my student played was against a player using sandpaper (!), which isn't allowed in USATT tournaments, but they allowed it. We decided not to protest, and simply played (and won) the match. There was also a group of four that started at 1PM. One player didn't show, and so the other three finished at 2PM, and were returning the clipboard to the desk when the fourth showed, a kid about 13, over an hour late. Rather than default him, the players were told to return to the table and play it out. Again, we didn't protest - I mean, it was just a kid - so we just played it out. (My player barely pulled it out in five games.)

I was coaching a 12-year-old named Sameer, who was rated 1131 but was somehow still eligible for Under 1100 since they were using older ratings. He won the event. The strange thing about his matches (other than playing against sandpaper) was that over and over his opponents had strong backhands but weak forehands. Sameer tends to serve into the backhand, and so struggled in the first game in match after match. Over and over between games I'd tell him to serve to the forehand, and over and over it worked.

Tournaments are great for bringing out strengths and weaknesses. My eyes were opened to just how effective Sameer's backhand loop is getting - and I was wondering if it would be read for the Teams in November! But his forehand loop, while generally strong, has a hitch in it sometimes that we need to work on. When he's not confident, he tends to stand up straight, almost falling back as he lifts the ball.

No-Luck Matches

John Olsen told me an interesting idea this weekend. Players often complain about nets and edges, and let's face it, certain styles get more of them than others. So John had recently played some matches where the rule was if the ball hit the net or edge, the point is a let. He found there was little difference in the results. However, as noted, there are certain styles that will get more of these than others, such as anyone with a dead surface (such as long pips or antispin), which tends to get more net balls than others. A rule like this might make a bigger difference for them. Style also affects the value of these shots. For example, a chopper probably gets more nets than most players, but since their balls are coming in slow (so opponents can react), and since the chopper is often off the table (and o unable to take advantage of weak returns of these nets), a chopper's net balls aren't as effective as some other styles.

Two More Full-Time Table Tennis Centers

I've added two more clubs to the list I maintain of full-time table tennis centers in the United States, bringing the number to 58. (In December of 2007 there were only about ten of them, and that's when I made a proposal to the USATT that they get involved in recruiting and training of coaches to create full-time centers - and was told that there wasn't a demand for such centers.) The two new ones:

USA Men's Champion Timothy Wang Versus Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar

Timothy took on the two PGA golfers. Here's the video (Wang vs. Kuchar, 1:40), and here's a photo gallery.  

Great Block by Dimitrij

Here's a video (12:36, time between points removed) of the recent LA Open Singles Final between Champion Dimitrij "Dima" Ovtcharov and Runner-up lefty Li Tianyu. See the great block by Dima in the point starting at 8:46! in the point starting at 8:46! (See the slow motion replay afterwards.) 

Spooky Pongers

Here's a spooky group of ping-pong players. Maybe this should have gone up on Friday the 13th, but better late than never. Kind of look like Star Wars Jawas, don't they?

***
Send us your own coaching news!

June 13, 2013

Staying Low Revisited

The Tip of the Week this past Monday was Staying Low. It was inspired by a student of mine, Sameer, 11, who tends to stand up straight when he plays. I've been on him about this for some time, and usually he gets lower - but only in practice drills if I constantly remind him. Once he plays points, he stands up again. At the Eastern Open this past weekend he won Under 800 and made the final of U950, but there were times where he didn't look so good since he was standing up so straight. (In newer ratings from before the tournament, he's rated 1181.)

So I told him that for the next month, our sessions are going to be very "boring," that we're going to focus almost exclusively on staying low. It's not just getting low, it's how you do it. When he does get low, his tendency is to simply bend his knees while leaning backwards from the waist, instead of forward. Also, his feet tend to be too close together, his feet pointing too much forward. You can't fix any one of these; they all go together. He also tends to either let his free arm tightly at his side, either hanging down or jammed up to his chest. Keeping the free hand out for balance is closely related to the ready position as you need it to stay balanced when you move.

So yesterday we started off by spending about ten minutes just shadow practicing with the proper stance. Once he looked comfortable doing this, we hit forehand to forehand at a very slow pace - it almost drove him crazy since he likes to play fast (like most kids), and every now and then in exasperation he'd smack one in. But we did this for twenty minutes, just forehand to forehand, adding some side-to-side footwork near the end. Then we did the same thing, backhand to backhand.

Then we played some points. The key was that he wasn't to play table tennis; he was to play "low table tennis," where he had to play the points in his newer stance. I expected problems, and kept the rallies simple - but lo and behold, he'd developed the habit during those excruciatingly slow rallies! Normally when I spot him 6 points I win over and over. This time he did something unthinkable - he won four out of five! Now I probably did miss a few shots, and was keeping things simple, but it was by far the best he's ever played. As a side bonus, by staying low he was able to see and react to my serve better than before, and returned them better than ever, even the "trick" serves I threw at him near the end of most games.

Table Tennista

Here are this week's headlines at Table Tennista:

China Open

Here's an ITTF story that features USA player Ariel Hsing - unfortunately, it features her upset loss. Here's the ITTF home page for the China Open, with results, articles, photos, and videos.

Behind the Scenes at the 2013 China Open

Here's a 38-second video with a few action shots and short interviews with Chinese players at the China Open. Interesting to watch, even more interesting if you understand Chinese, which I do not. Feel free to translate anyone!  

Three More Books Coming Out By Next Year

By the end of the year I'll have enough Tips of the Week to put them together in one volume, "Table Tennis Tips." (Highly original title - have a better suggestion?) It'll clearly be marked as a compilation of my previously published Tips of the Week. So far I've done 123 Tips of the Week here at TableTennisCoaching.com, one every Monday since Jan. 11, 2011. (Confession: a few didn't go up until Tuesday.) I anticipate doing 29 more this year, for a total of 152, plenty for a book. Sadly, I'm running out of topics, and so anticipate ending the Tips of the Week at the end of this year. (I also did 169 much shorter Tips of the Week, which were published near the back of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques - took up only 54 of the book's 272 pages. The Tips I do here are considerably longer, more like features than simple tips.)

Next year I'll also be publishing "More Pings and Pongs," the second anthology of my best published science fiction & fantasy stories. "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" came out in 2010 with my 30 best; I've now sold enough new stories for a new volume. The only problem is that typically when you sell a story, the buyer generally has sole rights to the story for six months, and so I anticipate I won't have rights to all the stories I'd like to use until April of 2014.

As a special, I've lowered the price for the Kindle version of Pings and Pongs to $2.99 - buy yours today!!! (I'd lower the price of the print version, but due to printing costs and other issues, the lowest I can sell it for is $8.35 - a bargain!!! It includes "Ping-Pong Ambition," a table tennis fantasy story.)

I have one other book also planned - "Table Tennis Fundamentals," the rewrite of "Table Tennis Steps to Success."

Here's my Amazon page that lists all my books, other than the USATT manual "Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis," which I plan to rewrite and have professionally published sometime in the future.

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

Orioles Hangout published another of my infamous Top Ten Lists. This one was "Top Ten Ways the Orioles Can Get a TOR Starter." (For you non-baseball people, "TOR Starter" means "Top Of Rotation Starter," i.e. a pitching ace.) It's the eleventh article of mine they've published - nine "Top Ten" lists and two regular articles.

Non-Table Tennis - Sheeba

Yesterday I did 3.5 hours of coaching, and was pretty exhausted afterwards. I got home around 8:15PM, and let Sheeba, my dog, outside. She's 15 years old, which puts her in her eighties in human years. She's almost completely deaf, and half blind - almost completely blind without bright light - and has arthritic back legs so she hobbles around. When I went down around 8:30 PM the gate was open. One of the tenants downstairs had just left, and likely left it open, not realizing she was in the yard. Sheeba was nowhere to be seen.

I spent the next hour and 45 minutes circling the neighborhood and expanding outward, trying to find her. Calling for her was pointless since she's deaf, though I found it was a good way to indicate to people that I was searching for a lost dog. I kept asking around, and twice I found people who had seen her going by. Finally, at around 10:15 PM, I got a call from someone who had found her. I thanked her profusely, and walked the evil, naughty dog back home, where she demanded (and got) a bacon snack.

My legs are exhausted this morning, partly from 3.5 hours of coaching, but mostly from walking around for an hour and 45 minutes.

Table Table Tennis and Office Table Tennis

My legs are so tired from coaching and searching for Sheeba that for now on I'm going to play table tennis like this. Or perhaps like this.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

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.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content