January 17, 2014

Flu and Coaching

I'm mostly recovered from the flu, but still pretty exhausted by it. What have I learned from this experience? 1) Flu bad; 2) Get Flu shot; 3) Flu very bad; 4) Flu very very bad; 5) Flu VERY very very bad.

On Wednesday I could barely eat anything. I managed to eat a blueberry muffin for breakfast, but almost threw it up. For lunch I tried a bowl of chicken rice soup, but gave up after two spoonfuls. I then realized there were only two things I could imagine eating at that time - fruit and vanilla pudding. I'm not kidding. So I sent Tim Boggan to the supermarket. And so for dinner I had a bowl of fruit and two cups of vanilla pudding.

After a height of 103 on Tuesday night, my fever hovered around 102 all day on Wednesday, dropping to about 101 a few times. I have an electronic thermometer, and having nothing better to do, I compulsively took my temperature about every two minutes or so. (Well, it seemed that often.) Late on Wednesday night the temperature dropped to about 100. Thursday morning it was down to 99, compared to my norm of about 97, which is where it's at now.

Besides nonstop agony, there was the extreme boredom. My head was on fire, and reading or watching TV made it worse. I tried a crossword puzzle, and my head almost exploded. I couldn't get out of bed without nearly collapsing in exhaustion after five steps. When I did get out of bed, I'd need ten minutes in bed to catch my breath. When I heard I'd won one of the Coach of the Year awards, did I go, "YAY!"? No, I went, 'yay,' and crawled back into bed, groaning.

Did I mention anywhere that the flu isn't fun?

So here's my public service announcement to all humankind: Get Your Flu Shots!!!

And to John Olsen and Kevin Walton, who were surprised several months ago that I hadn't had a flu shot, and who I told I hadn't bothered because I hadn't had the flu in decades, well, let's keep that a secret between us, okay?

I do have to make a decision this morning on my coaching tonight. I'd already cancelled all my Wed and Thur sessions; I've got 1.5 hours scheduled Friday night, but can I do it? The flu is basically gone, but I don't know yet how much energy I'll have, plus I could still be infectious; I don't know. The same goes for the weekend. There is the argument that when coaching, you spend much of your time ten feet from your player, but not always. Maybe I should wear one of these paper masks you sometimes see people wearing on the streets; I think it's more common in China than the U.S. (Who is that masked man? It's a bird! It's a plane! No, it's just Coach Larry; move along, nothing to see.)

Now that I'm getting over the flu, hopefully my blog can go back to featuring coaching again, instead of adventures in fluland. It's the daily coaching that gives the fuel for the blog. I was planning on blogging this morning about "Do as I say, not as I do," but I'll do that one in a later blog, when I have more energy and my mind is clearer. (This is regarding coaching, i.e. a good coach knows what to say, but can't always do it himself the way he wants you do so. I'm jealous of many top coaches who were former top players with near perfect technique; they can usually teach it as "Do as I do." For example, my forehand loop may get the job done at a 2200 level, but is rather ragged because of muscle stiffness, and I'd never want a student to copy that.)

Tim Boggan

Now the bad news. Tim (83) began coughing yesterday afternoon, and it got worse during the night. I'm taking him to see a doctor this morning. He had his flu shots.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14

We missed all of Wednesday since I was sick in bed (did I mention flu is bad?), so we're way behind. However, I got up on my own at 5AM Thursday, and we somehow did four chapters yesterday. So we've done the covers, the preliminary stuff (foreword, acknowledgements, etc.), and the first nine chapters out of the 30. The bad news is we were scheduled to at least twelve done by now. So we're almost a day behind. (Because of my coaching hours, we don't expect to get much done on weekends.) We were planning on finishing by next Friday, but that's doubtful, since we need at least a day or two to input corrections and do pre-press work.

The latest chapter is fascinating as it covers some of the behind-the-scenes squabbling that took place at the 1985 World Championships, which culminated in the USA team leader taking two players and two officials to the USTTA disciplinary committee, and that official getting taken there as well by one of the officials he'd taken there. Lots of "he said, she said" stuff, but the disciplinary committee dismissed everything, and everyone lived happily ever after. Well, not really; some of these people have great animosity toward each other to this day. (For the record, I wasn't involved in any of this, but I knew all the people involved rather well.) The Team Leader accused players of not trying, of bad language, and other unsportsmanlike conduct; he in turn was accused of various transgressions, the most interesting was opening rooting for an opposing player (a friend of the USA team leader) against a U.S. team member who the team leader didn't get along with.

Sound interesting? Volume 14 should be available in a few weeks! (No, I don't get any commission.) Here's where you can find more info on Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books. (I maintain the page for him.)

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Video

Here's a video (6 min) on Five Things You Should Know about Ping-Pong Diplomacy." I watched it with Tim Boggan, who said there was only one inaccuracy. According to the video, Zhuang Zedong waved Glenn Cowan onto the bus. However, Tim said that Glenn didn't recognize the one who waved him on (a seminal moment in table tennis history, added Tim), and he would have recognized Zhuang, and that whoever actually did so is an historical mystery.

2014 Aurora Open

Here are two more of Barbara Wei's article featuring the Aurora Open this weekend. Here's one on the powerhouse Lindenwood team, and here's one that features 3-time U.S. Men's Champion Jim Butler, who hopes to cause a few upsets. Wish I could be there! (There should be another going up later this morning, but too late for the blog, alas - though I might add it later. And here it is: 2014 Aurora Cup a Family Affair for Top Seeded Junior Nathan Hsu. Nathan's from my club! I sometimes coach him at tournaments.)

RIP Warren Wetzler

Here's the article. Many know him from tournaments, or via his son, John.

David's Story - an ITTF Documentary

Here's the video (4 min) of a Papua New Guinean table tennis player and his quest for gold.

Swing Ping?

Here's the picture!

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January 16, 2014


Another short blog due to the flu. I'm mostly over it, with my temperature back to normal, but even standing up is exhausting. Here's your chance to say, "Larry, you fool, why didn't you get your flu shot?" (And if I weren't so tired, I'd google a video of people throwing tomatoes at someone, presumably me.) Next time I will. But it had been decades (I think) since I last had the flu, as opposed to way too many colds.

Coaches of the Year

Yesterday, USATT announced their Coaches of the Year - and I won the Doc Counsilman Coaching Award! Other awards were Coach of the Year to Lily Yip, Developmental Coach of the Year to Stefan Feth, and Paralympic Coach of the Year to Angie Bengtsson.

I was a bit surprised the announcement didn't explain what each of the four awards are for, or why the coach won it, or any bio info on the coaches. I've already received a lot of notes that basically say, "Congrats, Larry, but what the heck is the Doc Counsilman Award?" So here it is:

The “Doc” Counsilman Award is for a coach that utilizes scientific techniques/equipment as an integral part of his/her coaching methods, or has created innovative ways to use sport science.  The “use of science in sport” includes, but is not limited to, biomechanics, nutrition, psychology, technology, strength and conditioning, exercise physiology, etc.

I believe I won it primarily for TableTennisCoaching.com, though I've also used other new technology, such as Print on Demand to publish my coaching books. This is the second time I've been a Coach of the Year - I was Developmental Coach of the Year in 2002. I was also runner-up three different times, according to a selection committee member a few years ago.

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January 15, 2014

Unbelievable. I've come down with the flu. I'm in continuous agony, with my fever reaching 103 last night, and 102.1 this morning. It's non-stop chills while my head is roasting. I'm pretty much going to stay in bed all day, staying warm with my warmups and a heavy quilt. Poor Tim Boggan is stuck here with nothing to do. Hopefully I'll be okay tomorrow.

I've had more illnesses and injuries this past year than any other year, and it's not even close. I'm living on DayQuil and NiQuil.

I'll have to cancel my coaching tonight. I'm also supposed to pick up two kids from school this afternoon and take them to our afterschool program. I'll probably do that, but leave as soon as I've dropped them off. I feel like the sole ping-pong ball in the Ping-Pong Afterlife.

So a short blog today. Below are things I already had ready to go.

Forehand Topspin Follow Through

Here's the video (2:33) from PingSkills.

Three Reasons Why You Should Not Third Ball Attack

Here's the article from TableTennisMaster.

Samson Dubina's Coaching Articles

Samson's put up some new articles - here they are!

2014 Aurora Open

Here's the first of a number of daily articles coming up from Barbara Wei on this 4-star tournament.

Clayton Kershaw Plays Ping-Pong

Here's a video (5:04) of LA Dodger pitcher Clayton Kershaw as he dominates in a friendly game with Graham Bensinger. Sorry, Clay, but it's obvious from the video that the Orioles JJ Hardy and Brady Anderson would easily win against you, and I'm pretty sure Darren O'Day would as well.

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March 4, 2013

Tip of the Week

Should You Use a Neutral Grip?

The Flu, Late Players, and James Bond - Oh My!

As readers know, I battled with the flu most of last week, and was pretty much out of commission from Sunday afternoon through Thursday. I was tempted to coach on Wednesday - my 53rd birthday - but I got a call from my dad, and when I answered it, my voice was a croak. (I didn't know since I hadn't talked to anyone that day.) And then it got worse, so I got Raghu Nadmichettu to substitute for me.

It wasn't all bad - I spent part of the time watching James Bond movies which I'd borrowed from ITTF coach and student John Olsen. There are 23 James Bond movies, and I thought I had seen all but two or three. I discovered I had not seen five of them, and only had vague memories of three others. So I spent much of Tuesday through Thursday watching eight of them:

  1. From Russia with Love
  2. Thunderball
  3. You Only Live Twice
  4. On Her Majesty Secret Service
  5. Diamonds are Forever
  6. Live and Let Die
  7. The Man with the Golden Gun
  8. Moonraker

I got back into action on Saturday, running a junior session that morning and two hours of private coaching that afternoon. On Sunday I did two more hours of private coaching and ran another junior session. I also discussed with Wen Hsu plans for starting a junior team league this fall, tentatively on Saturday nights.

The junior session on Sunday was one of the more hectic ones I've run. It's a beginning junior class, so we need a higher ratio of coaches to players, with lots of multiball training. Normally we get 12-15 in this session, and I have two assistant coaches - for this session, Rocky Wang and John Hsu. The session began at 4:30PM, and there were only five players. I figured it was because we were running a tournament this weekend, and so many assumed there would be no session. I'd decided to start the session off with a short talk about the club's other programs - it seemed a good time, since the club was jammed with players for the tournament. (That's the advantage of a 16-table facility - you can run a tournament, a junior program, and have private coaching going on all at the same time!) I spoke for about five minutes to the five players and their parents. A sixth kid showed up in the middle.

I normally break the group into four smaller groups that rotate among the three coaches and the table tennis robot. However, with only five, I could pretty much run it alone, along with the robot. But since Rocky and John were already there, I decided we'd use two coaches and use two tables. So we took the robot down. Rocky volunteered to drop out, so he left. Then a strange thing happened - as we started, two more kids showed up. Then another. And then three came in - and it was now 15 minutes into the 90 minute session! I managed to grab Rocky before he left, and we hurriedly put the robot back up, but it wasted a lot of time for the others. With twelve players (beginners), I put them into four groups of three, and rotated as we always do. Since we had the late start, we only had three rotations, so not all the players worked with all the coaches or the robot. It also meant, due to lost time, we didn't get to work on all that I wanted, so we skipped pushing. After an hour of training, we played 11-point games (where they move up or down the table, depending on whether they win or lose, with 11-10 ending a game - no deuce).

Later today I'm sending out an email to the junior parents reminding them again of the importance of being on time.


I didn't get to see much of it as I was busy coaching. Wang Qing Liang (age 17, rated 2598) came from behind to defeat Chen Bo Wen (age 14, rated 2494) in the final. Wang won the first, Chen won the next three, then Wang won the last three to win 4-3. Crystal Wang, who turned 11 the week before, won Under 2250 and was up 2-0 on Raghu Nadmichettu (2366) in the Open before losing in five.

Amazon Review

Just got the first Amazon review of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - and it's a 5-star one! Below is the review, titled "It Made Me Think!" He is correct that there are times when the book is necessarily repetitive. For example, in the chapter about choppers, some of the material covered in the chapter on non-inverted surfaces (especially long pips) is covered again, so readers don't have to page back and forth.

Very enjoyable read. The whole time I was reading this book, my mind would kind of drift off as I was picturing the aspects of my game in whatever part of the book I was reading.

The topics are laid out in a very logical order and explained in great detail.
The verbiage makes the book very conversational, so it doesn't drag on or feel like a sermon.
Many examples are used making it easy to visualize each subject.
Styles are broken down into various subsets - each containing their own goals and strategies
Excellent tactics are provided against a wide variety of styles - I highly recommend the section on non-inverted surfaces!

A little repetitive at times, but this kind of comes with the territory

Book signing

This Friday at 7PM I will be doing a book signing at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I will be selling and signing four of my books (see below) - hope to see you there! All books will cost $15, with a special - buy the Tactics book, get a copy of the Tales & Techniques book for only $5! Here's the info flyer.

Put the Ball on the Table!

Here's an article by Samson Dubina, along with a video used as an example (Ma Long vs. Ryu Seung Min, 8:02) on the importance of keeping the ball on the table, which features the importance of positioning.

Table Tennista

Table Tennista is a great site for articles and videos on international table tennis. They do especially good coverage of China. I've linked to their articles many times. Their current features includes lots of coverage of the Chinese World Team Trials, as well as coverage of the German Nationals (Timo Boll was upset in the final) and Swedish Nationals (Waldner and Persson lost early).

German Nationals Highlights

Here's a video (2:45) with highlights from the German Nationals that finished this weekend. Big upset - Stefan Mengel upset Timo Boll in the Men's Singles Final!

Believe in Yourself

Here's a table tennis highlights motivational video (8:11) on the importance of believing in yourself.

Friendship Trophy for Women

Here's info from the ITTF's Women's Development Program on the Friendship Trophy, an event organized to help promote the participation of women and girls in Table Tennis. Each organizer can create a unique format to best celebrate the contribution of women and girls in Table Tennis.

Tribute to Women Players

Here's a video (59 sec) from ITTF that highlights the best women players in the world.

Hottest Chick in Table Tennis

Since we have two segments above on women, here's the hottest chick in table tennis! (Yes, I made this; blame me.)

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February 28, 2013


It looks like what I thought was a cold is actually the flu. The difference is I'm feeling constant muscle aches and soreness, which apparently is a flu symptom, not a cold's. So how am I feeling? Other than the constant coughing, runny nose, green stuff coming out of my lungs, entire body encased in aches, and complete exhaustion, I'm fine, thanks for asking. (I got Raghu Nadmichettu to substitute for my coaching last night as I spent my 53rd birthday in bed.) 

Playing While Sick

Way back in the fall of 1979, when I was 19, I had my big breakthrough tournament at the North Carolina Open. I was rated about 1850, but was way under-rated, and knew it - and so I was somewhat excited in the days before the tournament, so much so that I couldn't sleep. Making it worse is I came down sick. I used to be an insomniac, and often went a night without sleeping. This time I didn't sleep the last two nights before the tournament (Thur and Fri), and I came down with a fever of 101.

Early in the tournament I pulled off a nice win, and celebrated with a quarter pounder with cheese. When I won another match, I had another quarter pounder with cheese. Eventually I found myself in the Open Singles final (despite not being among the top eight seeds). As the match began, my head was burning up - several people had put their hands to my forehand and verified it was pretty bad. I had a horrible stomachache from all the quarter pounders - something like nine of them in one day, and having to play right after eating them. I faced Fred King, who in modern ratings would have been about 2200. Anyway, down 13-17 in the fifth on Fred's serve (games were to 21 back in those days, and you served five times in a row), I scored all five on his serve, and ended up winning 21-19 in the fifth. I also won Under 22, Under 2000, and Open Doubles, all four events I'd been entered in.

I spent the next few days in bed recuperating - I was pretty sick. I also became so sick at the idea of eating hamburgers that I've never eaten another hamburger or cheeseburger since, except at the 2000 Junior Olympics. The kids knew about my aversion to hamburgers, so I made a deal with them before the tournament: if they won over half the gold medals, I'd eat a cheeseburger. They did, and I did. That was the only one I've had since 1979.

Now that I'm as sick as I was that day back in 1979, perhaps I should enter a tournament this weekend?

Paris 2013

Here's the table used at the Chinese Team Trials for the upcoming World Championships in Paris.

Pongcast Episode 24

Here's another Pongcast (15:24). "In this episode: Results and analysis of the 2013 Qatar Open, Project Runway finds style in table tennis, Extra TV gets their pong on, and find out what it's like to be Timo Boll in practice!"

Wang Hao's Around the Net Loop

Here's a video (22 sec) of Wang Hao doing an around-the-net no-bounce loop at the Qatar Open against Germany's Patrick Baum.

Spin Move and Backhand Counterloop

Here's a video (27 sec) showing Kenta Matsudaira who both does a complete 360 spin after one shot, and a few shots later pulls out a winning backhand counterloop.

Trick Shots

Here's a video (2:29) of trick shots.

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