Topspinny backhands

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.

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July 29, 2013

Tip of the Week

Topspinny Backhands.

Last Week's Tip of the Week

I put up a Tip of the Week last Monday, but since I was out of town and not blogging, some of you may have missed it. If so, you get a special double-tip week! So here's the July 22 Tip of the Week: Pushing Change of Direction.

I'm Back!

It's been eleven days. I doubt if you missed me more than my dog, who went berserk at my return. (I had people taking care of her, but she tends not to eat much when I'm away.) As noted below, I was at a writers workshop in Manchester, NH, July 19-27. See segment on this below. And right after I finish this morning's blog I'm off to coach at the MDTTC camp. (We have ten consecutive camps this summer, each Mon-Fri; this is week seven. I should be at the rest of them - I missed two weeks, one for the writers workshop, one for the U.S. Open.)

Table Tennis Fitness

I just returned from nine days at a writers workshop (see below). While there was no table tennis there - other than my showing off my "blowing the ball in the air" trick, and one time showing off my ability to bounce a ping-pong ball up and down on a cell phone over and over - I did notice something related to table tennis.

The biggest difference between writers (as well as people I observed at the airport) and table tennis players, as well as people I observed at the airport, was the fitness level. There is a fitness epidemic in this country, and it's very noticeable at airports, and even more so at writers workshops. This isn't meant as an actual criticism of being overweight - to each his own - just an observation. But table tennis players in general are much more fit than the general population. Perhaps part of this is that there are so many Asian players, and they seem fitter than typical Americans. Or perhaps it's all those calories burned playing table tennis. Or perhaps it's fitness for the express purposes of improving their table tennis. Or perhaps it's because fitter people tend to seek out sports. Whichever it is, table tennis players, in general, and at all levels (at least beyond the beginning state) are far more fit than the average population.

At my worse, I once reached 196 pounds, and I currently am at 185. I'm now determined to get back to 175. Here's an article from Pongworld on training and fitness. Here's an article on table tennis and fitness by Australian star Greg Letts.

Non-Table Tennis - TNEO

TNEO is "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual gathering in Manchester, NH, of graduates of the six-week Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop. (I'm class of '06.) I just spent nine days there, July 19-27, where I was immersed with 27 others with story critiques, classes & lectures, readings, and lots of reading and writing. Three of my stories were critiqued; I've already rewritten them, and will be submitting them soon. Two other stories I have planned were plotted out, plus I wrote a brand new humorous story, "The Bat Nerd," which I read at the annual story reading at the local Barnes and Noble. Here's a Facebook picture (with comments) of the group in the workshop.

Flight Back from Manchester

The flights home were a disaster. Here's a short synopsis. I was scheduled for a 6:10PM flight Saturday night (July 27) on U.S. Air from Manchester to Philadelphia, with a connection to National Airport in Washington DC, arriving at 10:11PM. From there I'd take the subway to Shady Grove Metro Station where I had someone picking me up.

The 6:10PM flight was delayed to around 7:30PM due to both a crew problem (lack of a pilot) and weather. It became obvious I wouldn't be able to make my connection in Philadelphia, and there were no other non-full flights out of Philly that night. The earliest available flight the following morning was around 9AM. (Apparently U.S. Air wasn't able to get me on flights with other airlines.) They said they'd put me up in a hotel in Philly. However, a better option they said would be for me to spend the night in Manchester (again, they'd pay for the room), and catch a direct flight at 6AM the next morning. So I was sent back across the airport to the U.S. Air ticket office to get the hotel voucher and catch a shuttle to the hotel. However, after arriving there, they told me there were no available hotel rooms in Manchester! So they rushed me through security again so I could catch the delayed flight at 7:30PM. I reached Philly around 9PM. However, due to another glitch, they had trouble finding my checked-in bag, and it took them over 90 minutes before it was located. Then I took the shuttle to the hotel, arriving there around 11:15PM.

I now had a 7:55AM flight from Philly to DC. I got up a 5AM, was at the airport at 6:30AM, only to discover that due to another crew issue, the flight had been delayed to 9:40AM! Then it was delayed to 10:45AM. And then, at around 9:30 AM, it was cancelled! They put me on a different flight leaving at 11:30 AM. So I sat around the airport for about five hours before leaving. I arrived in DC at about 12:40 PM, took the subway to Shady Grove, arriving around 2:00 PM for my pickup. (The one who was going to pick me could no longer do so; Derek Nie's mom picked me up.)

Meanwhile, every step of the way as my flights changed I was calling the person who was to pick me up at Shady Grove. It got really frustrating as my schedule changed seemingly every ten minutes. On top of this, I had a 10AM coaching session scheduled for Sunday, which I had to miss. (It was a double - once a week on Sunday mornings I drive out to Virginia to coach, and they pay me double. So I'm out about $100 on top of everything else, plus a disappointed student.)

My Coaching Columns in USA Table Tennis Magazine

I've been submitting the best of my Tips of the Week to USATT Magazine, and they've been publishing them since January of 2012. Recently they've put together a page dedicated to them, with links to each article. If you've been reading my weekly Tips (every Monday morning) then you've read these.

Building Power and Weight Transfer

Here's a coaching article from Table Tennis Master.

Two Insane Pieces Of Luck Behind China’s Current Dominance

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on how China's dominance in table tennis may have come about due to two great pieces of luck!

Kenta Matsudaira's Show

Here are video highlights of the Japanese star (4:08).

The New Yorker

Here's the table tennis cover of this week's The New Yorker, which is dated today, though it came out a few days ago. I saw a copy at the airport, and paging through it, couldn't find anything on table tennis on the inside. Apparently the table tennis cover is an independent cover and doesn't actually illustrate anything from the inside.

Stéphane Veilleux Wins Smashfest

Here's a picture of the Minnesota Wild Hockey player holding up the huge table tennis trophy he won. Click on the picture and you'll see other pictures from the event.

Phil Mickelson Plays Matt Lauer on the Today Show

Here's the video and article from Table Tennis Nation.

Dragon on a Ping-Pong Table

Here's the latest artwork from Mike Mezyan. The title I've given it sort of tells you what it is - sort of like the movie Snakes on a Plane!!!

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July 22, 2011

Topspinny backhands (Topspinny ®2011 by Larry Hodges)

Yes, I'm trademarking the term "topspinny." Any time you say it, you have to pay me a quarter. (To the humor-challenged: I'm joking.) I like to use the term to describe players who use a lot of topspin on their backhands, as opposed to others who hit flatter, such as myself. Flat backhands used to be the norm, but these up-and-coming junior players are mostly taught topspinny backhands, sort of half drive, half loop, right off the bounce. I can demonstrate the shot easily, but I don't naturally use it in a match, not after 35 years of hitting "normal" backhands. The shot is highly effective; the ball just jumps at you like a normal backhand loop, with all the quickness of an off-the-bounce flat backhand.

Adjustable height device

On Wednesday, I blogged about new training tools, including a serving height device made by local player and coach John Olsen, with adjustable brackets that hold a pole over the net. We've used it as an exercise both for serving and stroking low to the net. Here are two pictures, set high and set low.

100 degrees

That's how hot it got yesterday here in Maryland, and it's supposed to get a touch hotter today. Aren't we glad table tennis is an indoor sport, and that the Maryland Table Tennis Center bought a new $8000 air conditioning system a month ago? For the last twenty years our air conditioning left something to be desired, but now it's nice and cool inside. Then you step outside and it's like walking into a furnace.

When humidity strikes

However, with lots of players training, it still gets a bit humid inside sometimes, and of course it often does so at tournaments. What does one do when their inverted sheet becomes slick with moisture? First, always have two towels - one for you, and one for the racket and ball only. (Hitchhiker's Guide had that half right.) You could just wipe the racket off every six points or so, and you'd get most of the moisture off. However, since the moisture doesn't form evenly over the surface, I've found that you can dry it off better by first blowing on the racket surface, giving the entire surface a light moisture. Then the towel slides evenly over the surface, drying it much more thoroughly. Yes, it sounds counter-productive to blow on the surface, adding moisture when the goal is to remove moisture, but I've found that it works. This is also good for general cleaning of your racket. 

Xu Xin multiball training

Here's a 39 second segment of Chinese Team Member Xu Xin doing multiball. He makes it look so easy; try this yourself.

First back, then neck

In my ongoing attempts to find a comfortable position to sleep at night with my back problems (I blogged about that yesterday), all I've managed to do is hurt my neck. (I think I slept on my stomach, with my head on its side on a pillow.) When I woke up on Wednesday, it was hurting, but it gradually went away. This morning I woke up in agony; I can't turn or tilt my neck in either direction. So today I answer the age-old question that's been pondered since the time of Aristotle and Confucius: Can one feed multiball in a table tennis training camp when he can't move his back or neck and is in constant agony? (Today's the last day of the two-week MDTTC training camp.)

Confluence (non-table tennis)

Tomorrow morning at around 5AM I'm hopping into my car (or rather gingerly lowering myself into the driver's seat after a bowl of Ibuprofen and milk for breakfast, due to back and neck problems) and driving to Pittsburgh (four hours away) for the Confluence Science Fiction Convention. They seem to have two websites, this and that. I'll return late that night. The guest of honor is Robert J. Sawyer, who was the writer in residence at the Odyssey Writer's Workshop I went to in 2006, and a best-selling SF writer. (Here's my SF writing page.)

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