TJ

September 19, 2013

Yesterday's Coaching Activities

I had three hours of private coaching, then a meeting with others to go over our new junior progress reports.

The first session was with an 8-year-old, about 1200 level, who's struggling to decide whether to be an attacker or defender. He may well be the best 8-year-old lobber I've ever seen; he can lob back my hardest smashes dozens of times in a row as long as I don't smother kill at wide angles. (There's something humorous about a little kid lobbing from way back at the barriers!) He also chops well. He's also got a nice loop from both wings, but has one serious problem on both: he's too impatient to do the same shot over and over, and so it's hard to get him to develop a repeating stroke. Unless I keep a firm hand on the drills, most rallies end up with him looping a couple balls, taking a step back after each, and then he's off lobbing and fishing, and looking for chances to suddenly counter-smash. He's recently faced the realization that if he's going to chop, he'll probably need long pips, which will take away his backhand lob - and he doesn't like that. So we're in a state of flux on whether to train him as an attacker or defender. Ultimately, I'm letting him make the final decision. I've advised him that, unless he very much wants to be a chopper/looper, he should focus on attacking, and he can always switch to more chopping later on. It's a big decision that'll affect the rest of his life!!!

The second session was with an 11-year-old, about 1200 level, who's about to finally start playing tournaments. He's playing in the MDTTC October Open and the North American Teams in November, and perhaps others. He's a big forehand attacker who likes to run around the table ripping forehand loops and smashes. Most interesting part of the session was when I urged him to really develop the backhand (while still focusing on the forehand) - and his reaction was he wanted to practice backhands for nearly half the session. We had some great rallies, and near the end it started to really click in. He wants to really focus on serves as well, and I promised we'd start off next session with that.

The third session was with a 12-year-old who was having only his second session since being away all summer. He's about 1000, but rusty. So we're focusing on fundamentals. He's doing really well in multiball drills, where we did a lot of looping against backspin (both wings) and combinations (loop a backspin, smash a topspin). In live drills he's still a bit too erratic, but it's getting better.

Then I met about what I've been calling the Junior Progressions. These are a series of criteria a beginning/intermediate player needs to fulfill to move from Level 1 to Level 5. At the lowest level, players need to bounce the ball on the racket a certain number of times, demonstrate proper grip and ready position, know the basic rules, hit a small number of strokes, etc. As they move up, it gets harder; at Level 5 they have to hit 100 forehands and backhands and demonstrate a few counterloops. We're still finalizing and testing them. We'll be using them for the first time later this fall. Once I'm more confident we have the right criteria, perhaps I'll publish them. (We'd been shown examples of how some other programs did this, such as AYTTO.

The Importance of Lobbing

Here's the latest USATT Tip of the Week, another of the ones I wrote.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in Austin

Here's the ITTF article on the coaching course Richard McAfee ran in Austin, TX last week.

Adam Hugh's Juggling No-Look Target Serve

Here's the entry of former USA team member Adam Hugh to the ITTF Trick Shot Showdown Contest. "Your move." Here's the page showing videos entered so far.

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May 16, 2013

Coaching Updates

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

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

Orioles at MDTTC

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

2013 World Championships

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

Team USA at 2013 Worlds

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

Table Tennista

Lots of great coverage of the Worlds here.

Day Four Photos from the Worlds

Here they are!

Two Around the Net Shots in One Match at the Worlds

Here's the video (54 sec).

Adham Sharara Re-elected ITTF President

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

ITTF Museum to Move from Switzerland to China

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

Patent 8105183 B2 - Celluloid-free Table Tennis Ball

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

Pepsi Chasing and Chewing Ping-Pong Balls

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

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February 21, 2013

Preparing for Tournaments

Yesterday I coached two junior players who were getting ready for their first USATT tournament. (The MDTTC Open on March 2-3.) Neither have actual USATT ratings, but both have league ratings under 1000 - I'm not sure if they will use those or treat them as unrated. I coached a third this past weekend who is also getting ready for his first tournament, and who also has a league rating under 1000. What did I tell these players to do to prepare?

Sam, 11, a lefty, has a good forehand smash, and can forehand loop against backspin, though he's not too confident in the shot. He pushes and blocks well, and has decent serves, though he tends to have a short toss (under six inches) on his backhand serve, his best serve - we're working on that. Recently he's been learning to backhand loop. I told him to focus on practicing his serves, on steadiness with his backhand (pushing and blocking), and on steady hitting on the forehand side. Since he doesn't have great confidence in his forehand loop, I told him to focus on looping only on pushes to his forehand side. We also agreed to drop the backhand loop from his game for now. After the tournament, we'll get back to backhand looping, and work to increase his confidence in his forehand loop.

TJ, 12, a righty, likes to loop, and does so pretty well from both sides. I was at first unsure if he was ready to unleash his backhand loop in matches, but he has confidence in it, so he's going to be looping from both sides against most deep pushes in the tournament. He still has trouble controlling his serve when he puts spin on it, so we're going to focus on that more than anything else until the tournament. Because he's only recently learned to loop - though he has great confidence in the shot - he has trouble going from looping to hitting on both sides, so between now and the tournament we're going to focus on backhand hitting and forehand smashing. After the tournament we're going to focus more and more on mostly looping on the forehand side, while working his backhand loop into his game more and more. He already likes to spin the backhand even against fast incoming topspins, so he's undoubtedly going to become a two-winged looper.

Sameer, 11, a righty, most practices at home, where there's only about five feet behind each side of the table. Because of this he's mostly a hitter, though he has a decent loop against backspin. (He uses inverted on both sides, though I've considered having him try pips-out.) He's developing pretty good serves and a good follow-up loop or smash. Recently his backhand has gotten a lot better. In drills, his backhand loop is pretty good against backspin, but because he's so forehand oriented, he rarely uses it in games yet. For the tournament, I told him to focus on serves and following up his serve with his forehand (looping or smashing), which he has great confidence in. Once in rallies he needs to play a steady backhand until he gets a weak one to smash from either side. He's probably not going to be backhand looping at the tournament, but we'll work on that later. We worked a lot on his backhand push, since he can't step around to loop every ball with his forehand. We're also working on his balance - he tends to go off balance a bit when forehand looping from the backhand side, and so leaves the wide forehand open. (If he stays balanced, he'd be able to recover quickly to cover that shot with his forehand smash.)

What should YOU do to prepare for tournaments? Here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success.

Amazon Reviews

I'm still waiting for the first Amazon review of my new book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. If you really liked the book, what are you waiting for??? I will not eat or sleep until I get a great review there, at least until I get hungry or sleepy.  

Extraordinary Nets & Edges Match

I once blogged about how nets and edges don't really even out - some styles simply get more than others. Unfortunately, I have the type of style that rarely gets either. My shots are very clean - a mostly steady and arcing forehand (until I get the right shot), and a steady backhand. This past weekend I had a rather crazy match with one of our juniors. When she began getting net after net in the first game, we (or at least I!) began keeping track. For the match (four games), she got 17 net balls and zero edges, winning 15 of those points. I got zero nets or edges. Now I normally get a few, so my getting zero was rare, but 17-0? In one game she got eight nets, winning all eight of them.

How to Hold the Racket

Here's a video from PingSkills (4:03) on how to hold the racket, both shakehands and penhold.

The Power of Sweden

Here's a highlights video (10:48) that features the great Swedish players of the past.

Susan Sarandon: Ping-Pong Queen

Here's a feature article from England's The Guardian on Susan Sarandon and table tennis.

The Dodgers Playing Table Tennis

Here's an article in the LA Times on the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team having a table tennis doubles tournament.

NBA All-Star Week

Here are ten pictures at NBA All-Star Weekend, where they invited members of the Houston TTC to play table tennis. Included are pictures of Houston player Jim Butler and NBA star Jeremy Lin.

Mario Lopez Plays Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of actor and TV host Mario Lopez (middle) posing with his paddle and table tennis player/actor/stand-up comedian Adam Bobrow (left) and no-doubt a famous woman (or top table tennis player?) on the right who I don't recognize.

Harlem Shake

Here's a video (33 sec.) of . . . um . . . if I could figure out what is going on here, I will die happy. A bunch of people dancing around and on ping-pong tables.

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