NCTTA

July 22, 2014

Two-Colored Balls

On July 17 I linked to an article on the Chinese trying out two-toned balls. I wrote, "This is a great idea - I've blogged in the past how silly it is that in such a spin-oriented sport, we have a ball where you can't see the spin, and suggested we use a soccer-colored one or something like that." 

I don't know why they are calling them two-toned balls when the more accurate term is two-colored balls. So I'm going to call them two-colored balls. Personally, I'd like to see them try out soccer-colored balls (like the ones in this picture), or have a contest for "best design," with the soccer-colored balls an inspiration for designers. 

However, there are pluses and minuses to using such a ball. Overall, I like the idea of both players and spectators better able to see spin in this spin-oriented Olympic sport. But there are downsides as well, the largest being how this would affect choppers. The only way to find out for sure how a two-color ball would affect the game is to try it out, as the Chinese are doing. I look forward to seeing the results. Here are what I see as the advantages and disadvantages of a two-color ball.

Advantages:

  1. Better appreciation of our sport by spectators. Few understand just how much spin is on the ball, and so have little appreciation for what's actually happening. 
  2. More interesting for spectators. Colorful balls are more interesting than bland one-color ones. Kids will especially like more colorful balls. 
  3. More rallies. Players will be more consistent in returning serves and getting into rallies.
  4. Better rallies. Players will make fewer errors in rallies from misreading spin. 

Disadvantages:

  1. May hurt choppers. This, to me, is the biggest possible problem, and why I'd like to see some testing first to see just how much it would affect them. High-level choppers do rely on mixing up the spin to force mistakes, and two-colored balls might make that more difficult. However, it's hard to say how much, both because by the time the attacker reads the spin (especially no-spins) it might be too late, and because the chopper will also be able to better read the attacker's spin. But overall it's likely to hurt choppers at least some. 
  2. Tradition. You shouldn't make changes in the sport unless there's a very good reason. 
  3. Developed skills no longer needed. Established players may find some of their hard-earned skills in reading spin no longer needed so much. 
  4. New skills needed. Players would have to develop the new skill of reading spin directly from watching the ball, something that can only be done to a small extent with the current one-color ball. I'm guessing this will have less effect than some may believe as by the time you read the spin directly off an incoming ball it's likely too late to adjust most strokes, except perhaps passive returns.

Comparison of Plastic ("Poly") and Celluloid Balls

Here's a report from the ITTF that compared plastic to celluloid balls. It's dated April 2013, based on testing from November, 2012. Keep in mind that the plastic balls since that time have improved, but this shows how much testing was done, and the info that ITTF had when it made the decision.

North American Cup on TV

One World Sports will broadcast the recent North American Championships next week. Here's the schedule, including the listing of providers.

July 2014 National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter

Here it is.

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 down, 40 to go!

  • Day 41: Attention to Detail, Organisational Skills Produce First Class Result
  • Day 42: The Reliable Committee Man for Over Half a Century, Chérif Hajem

American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age

Volume IV of this series is now out, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. This one features Bernie Bukiet, Bobby Gusikoff, Erwin Klein, and Leah & Tybie Thall. Here are reviews of Volumes I-III. They are all on sale at Amazon: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, and Vol. IV.

Matt Winkler: Six-Time Arizona Champion

Here's the article.

International News

As usual, there are lots of great international articles at TableTennista and at the ITTF page. Tabletennista tends to cover the big names more, while ITTF has more regional news.

Unbelievable Point in Swedish League

Here's the video (32 sec). The attacker/chopper on the left is Fabian Åkerström. I believe the lobber/attacker on the right is Mattias Översjö.

Table Tennis: A Way of Life

Here's a nice table tennis highlights video (6:37), set to music. 

Table Tennis in Space

Here's a cartoon on table tennis apparently played in a spaceship in zero G. With no gravity, you need topspin to pull the ball down!!!

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December 3, 2013

Tip of the Week

Use a Wider Stance.

North American Teams

It was a LOOOOONG weekend of playing (for 858 players and 213 teams) and coaching (for me and many others). I’m still recovering!!!

Here are the results. This should take you to the Summary page. You can use the second dropdown menu to see more detailed results of the Preliminaries on Friday and Division play on Saturday and Sunday.

I was primarily coaching Derek Nie, though I also coached seven other players at various times, including Derek’s teammates (Crystal Wang, Chen Jie, and Tony Qu). I can’t really discuss most of the coaching itself since they will likely play these players again. But there’s still a bunch of stuff I can write about. None of it is about the players in Division One (i.e. the Championships Division) since Derek’s team was in Division Two, where the average rating was a little over 2300 or so. I was so busy coaching that I never saw a single Divisions One match.

Derek had a strange tournament. He started out Friday by beating a 2300 player in five games, after being down 0-2. But then he lost five consecutive five-gamers over Fri & Sat, against players ranging from about 2280 to 2490. But on Sunday he was 2-0 in five-gamers against a pair of 2300+ players.

I called an interesting timeout in one of his matches, one which might have been a head-scratcher to observers. Derek had lost the first game badly, and was down 4-8 in the second and about to serve. (I generally like to call timeouts when my player is serving so we can discuss what serve to use while not letting the opposing coach tell the opponent what serve to use, and so didn’t call one at 4-6. Alas the opponent won both points on his serve.) Normally a timeout then is kind of a waste – he’s probably going to lose that game, so it’s better to save the timeout for later, right? The problem is I saw two ways of playing this player, and didn’t want to have Derek have to experiment at the start of the third game when he’d already be down 0-2. So I called the timeout so Derek could try out one of the new strategies. The timeout also had value in that if the new strategy worked, he might actually win the game before the opponent adjusted. If the strategy worked, then we’d not only have it ready for the next game, but it would give Derek confidence even if he lost the second game because of the 4-8 deficit. As it turned out, the strategy worked, and Derek quickly won two points. But the opponent played well and managed to win that game (I think at deuce). In the third, the new strategy almost paid off, but the opponent won 11-9.

I saw two of the strangest shots in two of his matches. There was a point where Derek got a net-edge off to the right, with the ball hitting the side edge near the net and jumping sideways. The opponent lunged for the shot, but completely mis-hit it off the edge of his racket – and the ball went around the net at table level, and just rolled unreturnably across the table. In his very next match, no more than ten minutes later, Derek mis-hit a ball that popped up, hit the top of the net, bounced up a foot, then dropped right back on the net again and rolled over for an unreturnable winner.

I also was able to watch and coach a few matches of “Larry’s Loopers,” which was named after me! Two of the players, Sameer Shaikh and Matt Stepanov (both 12), are students of mine, and they were teamed with Darwin Ma (13, who chops and loops, and only lost two matches on Sat & Sun). All three had great tournaments as they won Division 12, going 7-0 in their side of the Division, and then barely edging out TeamRacket (Ryan Dabbs, Patrick Chen, Spencer Chen, Michael Li, and Ronald Chen) 5-4 in an all-MDTTC junior final. John Hsu coached most of their matches. Here’s a picture of the three with their trophies (L-R Matt, Darwin, Sameer). Here’s another picture that includes John Hsu and me – as I indicate with my arms, what’s going on here? Here’s a picture of TeamRacket.

The final of Division 12 was one of the craziest and most entertaining I’ve ever seen. Since it was between MDTTC players, all kids ages 10-13 or so, the coaches and parents only watched while the kids coached themselves. It was great watching them as the players on both teams coached each other between games. I’ve learned that while kids sometimes aren’t tactically aware while at the table, they are surprisingly aware when watching, and can pick out what is and isn’t working. I could see their tactics change after each of these coaching consultations between games and timeouts, and almost always for the better.

In the first match, Sameer was down 0-2, then he was up 10-5 match point in the fifth – but lost six straight! The killer was at 10-9, when he absolutely ripped what should have been a winner, but somehow it came back, an unreturnable block. Down match point twice, he managed to win, I think 14-12 in the fifth! In another match, Darwin lost the first two games and was down 3-7 in the third. He’d been playing almost completely defensively. After a timeout, he went back and attacked, and won that game 11-8 (an 8-1 run), and the fourth. In the fifth he went back to pure defense, both chopping and lobbing, and was down 9-10 match point – but pulled it out, deuce in the fifth! In another match, Matt lost the first game and was down 7-10 in the next two games – but won both of them and the fourth game to win the match! In the end, Larry’s Loopers edged out TeamRacket, 5-4. Congrats to both teams!

USATT Pins Program

Here’s the new USATT Pins page. Make sure to click on “Eligibility Rules” and “USATT Merit Pins” so you can read about the program. I’ll likely blog about this sometime soon. Here’s their promo: “You’ve worked hard to get where you are. All these hours of practice, all the hard-fought matches – Let everyone know how far you’ve made it!” (I think it’s a great idea – but one thing that leaps out to me: the pins are color coded for each rating level. Wouldn’t it be better if they gave the rating number for each rating level attained, since that’s the whole point of it?)

Two Surprising Ways Your Brain Stops You from Winning

Here’s the article, which talks about lacking “skill experience,” and about how the brain sabotages you when you’re on the brink of victory. (I’m quoted in the article, including a link to “Larry’s Six-Month Law.”)

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Here’s the report for Aug-Oct, from HPC Chair Carl Danner.

ITTF Training Camp at Lily Yip Center

Here’s the ITTF Article on the camp, held Nov. 23-28.

World Junior Championships

Here’s a write-up of it so far by Bruce Liu. Here’s the official website with results, articles, pictures, and videos. The event is taking place in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8. USA players are Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha, Allen Wang, Theodore Tran, Ariel Hsing, Erica Wu, Prachi Jha, and Tina Lin.

The Health Benefits of Table Tennis

Here’s the article. Sections include: Great physical exercise yet gentle on the body; Improved reflexes, balance, and coordination; Table tennis is the world’s best brain sport; Social bonding and fun at any age or level; and Fight obesity.

Last World Junior Championships for Ariel Hsing

Here’s the ITTF article.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter

Here’s the November issue.

Interview with Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson

Here’s the ITTF video interview (13:58) with the former World Doubles and Team Champion, where he talks about his career, coaching, and talent identification.

Fan Zhendong Forehand Training

Here’s the video (1:55). Watch how he moves his feet.

Saive and the Pope

Here’s a picture of Belgium star Jean-Michel Saive shaking hands with Pope Francis in Vatican City.

Indians and Pilgrims Paddle

In honor of Thanksgiving last week, here’s a paddle that commemorates the first Thanksgiving. Hopefully this led to centuries of good will between these two peoples.

Xu Xin Between Legs Shot

Here’s the video (15 sec).

World’s Most Incredible Trick Shots

Here’s the video (4:05). It’s a compilation of all the trick shots from the ITTF Trick Shot Competition (plus a few failed attempts).

Action-Packed Blindfold Table Tennis!

This video is hilarious. It’s blindfold table tennis at its best, including under legs and behind-the-back shots, all in rapid sequence. The video repeats after about ten seconds or so. This is how table tennis should be played - and of course it’s all real!

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October 10, 2013

Veep

I had a wild day on the set of Veep yesterday. And when I say "wild," I mean sitting around doing nothing other than watching for 12 hours. It was fascinating and incredibly boring. Yes, I got to spend lots of time practically standing next to Julia Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Gary Cole, Matt Walsh, and the rest of the cast and crew. But most of it was watching rehearsal after Rehearsal after REHEARSAL, and then watching take after Take after TAKE!!! And in between these rehearsals and takes? Lots of waiting around.

As I've blogged about before, Veep had an episode that would feature table tennis: Episode 3.3, which would be the third episode in season three, which will run sometime early in 2014. They had contacted me, looking for "high-level table tennis players in their 20s." I had helped bring in Khaleel Asgarali, Toby Kutler, and Qiming Chen. (Khaleel, rated 2391, used to be over 2400 and was on the Trinidad National Team; Toby is rated 2154 and used to be over 2200; Qiming, rated 2113, is the University of Maryland Champion and a graduating senior.)

I'm 53 and didn't quite fit the age profile, but they told me to come in anyway. I assumed I was part of the table tennis. However, at about 10PM on Tuesday night all the extras received a long email giving instructions on things such as what to wear, when and where to park and meet, etc. In the listings they had Khaleel, Toby, Qiming, and three others I'd never heard of listed as "Table Tennis Players." I was listed along with two others as "Clovis Custodial Staff." Huh?

I left my house at 5:30 AM and arrived at the parking garage at University of Maryland just before 6AM. I was there early because I didn't want to get stuck in traffic; we were supposed to be there by 7AM. They had a shuttle for the extras starting at 6:30 AM, which took us to the Physical Sciences Building, the site of the shooting, where I'd be from 7AM to well past 7PM. (I believe this was the same building I took computer science classes in when I was an undergraduate there many years ago, but it looked very different now.) They had turned the front of the building, the lobby, and the second floor into "Clovis Corporation." It was pretty extravagant; I wish I had pictures of the setting, but photos weren't allowed. A lot of the stuff involved recreational stuff, including large Lego tables, foosball, some sort of golfing area, and yes, two ping-pong tables.

The ping-pong tables each had a pair of cheap hardbat rackets. But rather than a ping-pong ball, they both had a Koosh ball! This was about 1.5 times the diameter of a ping-pong ball, and very dead. When it bounced on the table it made little noise, and that's why they wanted it. However, to me, it looked very awkward, as there's supposed to be sound when the ball hits the table, and it's supposed to bounce, not die like these balls did, plus it was way too big. With a little practice, you could rally with them, but you had to take the ball right off the bounce (since there was little bounce) and hit it pretty hard to get it over the net. I mentioned there were three people listed as table tennis players I'd never heard of; it turned out they were actors who had put "ping-pong" down as things they were good at. One of them didn't show. The other two were just advanced basement players. They spend much of their time practicing hitting the Koosh ball back and forth.

There was also a large Snack Corner, which was where I'd spend the next twelve hours. Not to eat, but there was a sitting area behind it, and that's where many of the extras sat while waiting for their big moment. When the cameras were pointing the other way (which fortunately was most of the time) we were able to gather behind them and watch the shooting.

When I arrived, I was given a Clovis Corporation t-shirt to wear - white with a large colorful "C" on the front. I was also given a blue apron I was to wear. So much for my dreams of playing table tennis on Veep!

The next twelve hours gradually went from great interest to great boredom. It became obvious the ones doing the casting weren't sure what the ones doing the directing were interested in, and they were interested in people in their 20s, to fit the profile of techies. (I think they modeled "Clovis Corporation" on Google.)  The two others listed as "custodial" were both in their 60s; out of the 50+ extras, we were the only three not to be used. We just sat around all day. There was a 30-minute lunch break where they catered an extravagant feast - extremely well-seasoned chicken (I think Cajun style), what looked like prime rib, fish, all-you-can-eat salad, lots of vegetables, lots of desserts. I was surprised that everyone ate the same food - Julia Dreyfus and the rest of the stars, the directors, and the rest of the actors were right there with the extras. Then it was back to work - or in my case, to sitting around.

What were they actually filming? Basically, Julia (Vice President of the U.S.) and her staff were visiting some high-tech Google-like corporation. There was lots of playful banter between the cast members; Julia mistook some of the recreational activities as child care and launched into a campaign-type speech that got interupted; her assistant, played by Tony Hale, kept whispering things into her ear, often nearly word-for-word what she was being told, and she'd react sarcastically. She was shown around, then there was a short board-type meeting, then they met the big executive with the ping-pong going on in the background. And that got us to 7PM.

During one long break Khaleel and I did an impromptu exhibition with a real ping-pong ball. It got lots of "Oohs!" and "Aahs!", but the only ones that saw it were the extras and lower-level technicians. The main cast and crew were on the other side of the set and I don't think noticed. (It was a big set!)

During the first 2.5 hours they did the opening scene to their arriving at Clovis over and Over and OVER!!! It took that entire time to do what I timed to be a 90-second scene. Then they did the next scene, also about the same length, and it took hours. By the end of the day, with 11.5 hours on set, my guess is they got about five minutes of filming done. But that comes to 30 minutes in five days, and most episodes are about 23 minutes, so perhaps they are ahead of schedule.

While I wasn't getting used, they used Khaleel, Toby, and Qiming almost nonstop - but as regular Clovis employees! For example, in the opening scene, a Clovis director is showing the main cast around, and most of the scene is around two tables with five Clovis employees working at computers - and three of them were Khaleel, Toby, and Qiming. (This was done about 30 times over 2.5 hours.) Later there was a scene where they are meeting some Clovis executive, and all three of them were told to walk by in the background. It was kind of funny watching one of the assistant directors time when to send them. Qiming walked alone; they sent Toby and Khaleel together. They did this about 20 times, so they got lots of exercise.

During the scene where they are meeting the Clovis executive two of the actors who were listed as having "table tennis skills" were playing in the background. (It was a LOT of playing since they did the scene over and Over and OVER.) The irony is that this was the scene were Khaleel, Toby, and Qiming were walking by in the background, right past the table. So while they had the amateurs playing ping-pong, the real players walked by. However, we were told that they'd be playing some tomorrow. I was also told how the table tennis scene will culminate - but I think I'm sworn to secrecy. Let's just say that Julia will get involved, and it won't end well for her. (No, it's not something as simple as her getting beaten by a top player! If you ask me in person, I may be able to tell you what happens to her. Remember, this is a comedy.)

At the end of the day the extras had lots of paperwork to do, and then lots of waiting in line (almost an hour for me) to get our forms validated so they can mail us our checks. The normal rate for extras is $75 for nine hours work (so $8.33/hour), and 1.5 times that rate after nine hours (so $12.50/hour) Because we were listed as having "special skills," Qiming, Toby, and Khaleel all got double pay (so $16.66/hour), and for the 2.5 hours past nine hours, triple pay ($25/hour). I wasn't listed for that, but after I argued my case, and pointed out that I'd help bring in the three real players, they put me down as having a "special skill," even though I wasn't going to use it in the show except as an informal advisor. Then I drove home, returning around 8:30 PM - 15 hours after I'd left.

I was invited to come back today, but decided against it. First, I dreaded spending another 15 hours on this, most of it sitting around. Once you've hobnobbed with Julia and the others for a day it gets kind of old. Second, I've got lots and lots of things I need to work on, both table tennis and various writing projects. And third, I was EXHAUSTED. Yes, spend 15 hours like this and you'd be tired too.

I'll check with the three on what happened today and report back. Meanwhile, set your calendars for sometime in 2014 to watch the exciting table tennis action on Veep!

2013-2014 NCTTA League

Here's USATT Board Member Kagin Lee's blog about the upcoming NCTTA season.

Fundamentals of a Close to Table Game

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Tips for Playing Against Antispin

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Five Peculiarities to Become a Great TT Player (Revisited)

On Tuesday I linked to this somewhat tongue in cheek video. Here's a blog about it from Expert Table Tennis.

MIT Working on Robot Table Tennis Algorithm

Here's the article and links from Table Tennis Nation. Our Table Tennis Masters are in development, and soon even the Chinese National Team will have to bow before our Robot Ping-Pong Warlords!

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June 26, 2013

Injured Back and MDTTC Camp

As to the MDTTC camp, yesterday's focus was on the backhand, and that was my only lecture for the day. As usual, I went over the basics, and pointed out the various types of backhands - tip down or more up, flatter or more topspinny, etc. My demo partner was 8-year-old Tiffany Ke, way under-rated at 1430. I also made the discovery after the daily trek to 7-11 after lunch that a strawberry-lemon Slurpee is the single best thing ever invented by mankind. All other things are bland by comparison.

Unfortunately, yesterday morning I also injured my upper right back just below the shoulder blade while feeding multiball. I was feeding rapid-fire loops to an intermediate player so he could work on his blocking when I felt a gradual tightness that slowly became inflamed. It didn't seem too bad at first, but minutes later it as pretty painful, and now I can't loop or even hit forehands, or lift any serious weight with my right arm. I spent the afternoon awkwardly picking up balls lefthanded with our ball nets. 

This is not good.

During the MDTTC camps (Mon-Fri, 10AM-1PM, 3-6PM) I mostly feed multiball or supervise activities. However, I have a one-hour private coaching session each day from 2-3PM. Yesterday I did only half the private session, playing only backhand and multiball, and then brought in Coach Leon (Wang Qing Liang) to do the final 30 minutes. I'm probably going to have to get a substitute for the rest of the week for the 2-3PM sessions, as well as a bunch of coaching sessions Wed-Sun.

Let me repeat: This is not good.

I leave for the U.S. Open on Monday morning. My primary focus there is coaching (mostly Derek Nie, Nathan Hsu, and Sameer Shaikh), but I'm also playing in four hardbat and one sandpaper events. (I can go from coaching to hardbat/sandpaper rather easily, but it's more difficult going to sponge, since I can't loop without a lot of warm up. I'm pretty much retired from playing in sponge tournaments, where I focus on coaching.) I'm currently listed as the top seed in Over 40 Hardbat and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles; second seed in Hardbat Doubles and Open Sandpaper; and fourth seed in Open Hardbat.

I normally play with sponge, but my serve & receive, footwork, and especially my forehand work well with hardbat, especially after some extensive practice with it back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. At the Open or Nationals, I've won Hardbat Singles twice; Over 40 Hardbat four times; and Hardbat Doubles thirteen times, nine times with Ty Hoff and four times with Steve Berger. This year I'm playing for the first time with Jay Turberville, in both Hardbat Doubles and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, the first time I've played this event. (Jay, if you're reading this, I'm going to make every attempt to play, injury or not!) However, as usual, I haven't played any hardbat since the Nationals in December. But it's all there in muscle memory. Or, to be more accurate right now, in injured muscle memory.

One more time: This is not good.

Orioles JJ Hardy and Table Tennis

Here's an article featuring Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy and his table tennis. Alas, see the last line. Ever since J.J. and Brady Anderson visited and took lessons from me at MDTTC from me on May 14 he's been on a hot streak.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association June Newsletter

Here it is.

Kitten Table Tennis

This might be the funniest 23 seconds ever of a kitten trying to play table tennis.

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March 20, 2013

Fairness Versus Progressive Issues Revisited

In my blog yesterday I wrote about "USATT: Fairness Versus Progressive Issues." I had an email discussion with someone who believed that it would be interpreted by the average reader as criticism of the current Chair of the USATT Board of Directors, Mike Babuin. To anyone who read it that way - Poppycock!!! Mike was only voted in as Chair at the December board meeting, and his first meeting as chair will take place in April.

It could be read as criticism of past leaders. Some of them left USATT better than when they arrived, and some left it worse. There are many "Fairness" issues that they might have resolved, for the betterment of the sport. What no past leaders has done is find a way to either dramatically grow the sport or consistently develop players that can compete with the best players in the world. The point of my blog was that nearly every past USATT leader got bogged down in the "Fairness" issues, and so weren't able to focus on "Progressive" issues. It is a nasty cycle I hope will come to an end.

What are the progressive issues USATT could focus on? I've argued strongly for two specific ones: a nationwide system of leagues, and more junior training centers.

  • Nationwide System of Leagues: I don't think USATT can set up a nationwide system of leagues on its own. What it can do is take the initiative in getting current league directors together to develop such a system of leagues. We already have successful ones growing around the Bay Area, LA, and NYC. We need them to continue to grow, both in their current regions and to other populated areas. But first a model for such a league must be developed that other populated regions can use as a prototype. If someone wanted to start up such a league right now, there are no models; he'd have to start from scratch. That's a terrible way to grow a sport. USATT needs to be the catalyst in creating such a prototype that can be emulated everywhere.
     
  • Junior Training Centers: When I gave a presentation to the USATT Board in December, 2006, arguing that USATT should get involved in the growing of junior training centers, it got a mixed reaction. At the time, there were about ten full-time table tennis centers in the country with junior programs. Most board members liked the idea, but didn't take action. Two actively spoke out against it, saying there weren't enough players to support such full-time training centers. They didn't understand the most basic principle of any sport that wants to grow, which is that you don't rely on current players - you promote the sport and bring in new ones. I was so disgusted at the reaction that it was the primary reason I resigned shortly afterwards as USATT editor and programs director.

    While USATT didn't get involved, the success of those early centers attracted other promoters and coaches, and now there are well over fifty such full-time centers, each with their own base of players, both adult and junior players. It's been an amazing six years since I gave the presentation as these centers began popping up all over the place, contrary to the arguments made by those two board members. The result has been a dramatic increase in the level and depth of our top cadet players, who in a few years will be dominating table tennis at the highest levels in this country. (Here's my blog on the topic from January, 2012.)

    And yet, we're still in the same situation as with leagues - when someone wants to set up a full-time center, he has to start from scratch. There are no manuals out there on setting up and running a full-time table tennis center. Again, this is a terrible way to grow a sport. This is where USATT should jump in and develop one. (And no, I'm not volunteering; at one time I might have, but I don't have time these days.)

NCTTA

Here's the March issue of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter.

New Table Designs

Here's an article and pictures from the ITTF on Project M48 - new table designs.

Oriole Ping-Pong!

Here's a picture of Baltimore Oriole baseball players filling out their "March Madness" brackets in the Orioles clubhouse - using the club's ping-pong table to work on! I was supposed to do a demo and clinic for the Orioles last year, but the team's best player, J.J. Hardy, hurt his shoulder (that's why he hit so poorly last year - I was sworn to secrecy!) and so they postponed it. We've been in contact, and it will probably happen this year. They've told me I can bring a few of our top juniors to the session. J.J. Hardy has expressed interest in coming to the Maryland Table Tennis Center for some coaching; I'll let you know when/if that happens.

Samsonov's Upset of Zhang Jike

Here's an article and video on Vladimir Samsonov's upset win over Zhang Jike at the recent Asia-Europe All-Star Challenge. Here's another one, where Samsonov talks about the win and how it inspired him.

Trick Shot Video

Here's a video (4:46) showing non-stop trick shots. Most are around-the-net shots, but they get trickier as the video goes on, including behind-the-back and under-the-legs shots, no-look shots, kicking shots, and doing these shots between barriers.

Big Table Tennis

Here's a video (13:01) of the "biggest" segment of table tennis! The commentary is in German. Things get interesting (visually) 42 seconds in. (Note - I believe these are the same players who did the trick shot video segment above.)

Intense Table Tennis

Very intense picture, and a lot of orange. Perhaps this is a symptom of climate change? Anyone know whose picture that is in the background?

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