2013 College Championships

April 10, 2013

How Can You Practice By Yourself?

"Seeknshare" asked me this question on the forum, "How can one practice alone (all by himself). I do not have a partner...but would like to better my skills. I remember seeing Tom Hank's 'Forrest Gump' movie where he practices on his own..not sure if it was real or meant as parody. Any help/suggestions?"

There are a number of ways you can practice by yourself. Here are a few:

  1. Shadow practice. Top players do this regularly. It means practicing your strokes and footwork without the ball. Some do it at a table, but you don't need a table for this - just imagine one in front of you. At the more basic level, you shadow practice the basic strokes, perhaps 50 strokes at a time - forehand and backhand drives, loops, and any other shot you regularly use. Then practice the movements you use in a game - side to side where you alternate backhands and forehands, side to side where you use just your forehand, etc. You can do the 2-1 drill (Falkenberg drill) where you do a forehand from the forehand side, a backhand from the backhand side, and then a forehand from the backhand side, and then repeat. (That's the three most common moves in table tennis - cover the wide forehand, cover the wide backhand, step around forehand.) You can also do more advanced versions, such as stepping in for a short ball to the forehand, then stepping back for a forehand or backhand loop. Or just play out imaginary rallies where you never miss! Here's an article I wrote, "Shadow Practice For Strokes and Footwork."
  2. Serve practice. Just get a box of balls and serve. Take your time on this - don't serve rapid-fire. As I've said many times, this (along with receive) is the most under-practiced aspect of the game. Here's an article I wrote, "Practicing Serves the Productive Way."
  3. Robot play. The more expensive modern ones have programmed drills that move you around, such as side-to-side footwork, and many others. Or get one of the less expensive ones and be creative. For example, instead of just hitting backhands or forehands, put the balls to your backhand and alternate backhands and forehands (and so work on your footwork). And just the net with a robot is valuable for practicing serves, so you don't have to pick them all up!
  4. You can practice some shots against a wall. This isn't very common anymore, but 10-time U.S. Champion Dick Miles says he spent a lot of time developing his chopping this way. He'd draw a line on the wall at net height, then practicing chopping against it, letting the ball bounce on the floor each time and then chopping it, trying to keep it low to the net line. You can do versions of this with topspin. I demonstrate this sometimes by putting a table a few feet from a wall, sideways to it, and stand to the side of the table and just rally against the wall, hitting each shot so it hits the wall, bounces on the table, and then I hit it again. Or, with some tables, you can just lift up one side and play off that, as Forrest Gump did.
  5. Ball bouncing. This is more for kids developing hand-eye coordination and racket control, but it's good practice for anyone to develop that. First just bounce up and down on the forehand side. Then on the backhand side. Then alternate. Then go to what I call the Graduate level, and alternate bouncing on the forehand side, and the edge of the racket (!). Then you can go to the Ph.D level, and bounce over and over on the edge of the racket. (My record is 17 in a row.) 

Want To Win a FREE Signed Copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers?

They are running a contest at Expert Table Tennis. All you have to do by this Sunday is answer the question: Why do you deserve to win a free copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers? I will personally sign and mail out a copy of the book to the winner. 

To elaborate, it says, "Feel free to tell me a story of your latest and greatest table tennis tactical nightmare, or describe your complete lack of ability to engage your brain at the table. You can be funny, you can be serious. It’s up to you. I’ll be choosing the person that I believe most deserves (desperately needs) their own copy of the book."

MDTTC April Open

Here's a write-up of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend. Congrats to Open Champion Chen Bo Wen, U2400 Champion Raghu Nadmichettu, U2250 Champion Roy Ke, U2050 Champion Josiah Chow, U1900 Champion Robert Gabay, U1650 Champion Deapesh Misra, U1400 Champion Tony Wang, U1150 Champion Darwin Ma, and Under 12 Champion Frank Xie! (And while we're covering MDTTC, here's the April Newsletter that went out a week ago.)

College Championships Coming to Rockford

Here's an article and video (3:16) on the National College Table Tennis Championships to be held in Rockford, Illinois, April 12-14. Also featured is a Celebrity Doubles Tournament to be held on Thursday, April 11.

Samson Dubina and Robopong

Here's a video (3:12) of a news feature on WKBW ("Exercise While Playing With Toys") where Samson demonstrates the Robopong.

Judah Friedlander Wins Celebrity Madness

Judah wins! He defeated former basketball star Christian Laettner in the final, based on online voting at Table Tennis Nation. Take a look at the draw and results of other celebrity match-ups, and see if you agree with the voting.

Includes a link to a hilarious new video (3:41) where comedian Judah "takes us on a grand tour of table tennis, with special guest Tahl Leibovitz."

Tiger Table Tennis

Here's a picture of a tiger playing table tennis, set against a green paddle in a green forest, by Mike Mezyan.

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April 3, 2013

Update on the Plastic Ball

As some of you know, the ITTF has plans to replace the celluloid ball with a new plastic one. (Yes, celluloid is a type of plastic, but let's not get technical.) This is apparently because they believe the celluloid ball is too flammable, causing problems in shipping. (Put in "Plastic ball" in the search engine on the left to see previous articles on this topic.)

Readers, feel free to comment below with your opinions and any links you have on this topic. This could be a big change to our sport.

ITTF Coach John Olsen was able to try them out this past week. Below is his report, and here's the picture he took of the "new" plastic ball, where you can see the seam.

I recently attending the March 2013 Stellan and Angie Bengtsson training camp at the Willamette Table Tennis Club in Salem, Oregon. The subject of the new plastic balls came up, and Stellan had a surprise for us. Not only did he have one of the plastic balls passed out at the 2012 Worlds, there was also a new one he had received from Japan just a couple of months ago.

First up was the "old" plastic ball. The first thing you notice is that this ball is seamless. There were no markings on it, but Stellan said it had come from DHS. As others have described, the sound it makes when it bounces was just awful, like it was badly cracked. The surface was very smooth, similar to how a Nittaku will get after much playing. Stellan couldn't remember if it was just worn or had always been that way. The ball was also fractionally larger than the current balls, what we play with now is just under 40 mm and Stellan said these plastic balls are slightly over 40mm. We didn't have any way to measure them accurately, but if you held a regular and a plastic ball in your hand, you could see a small difference in size. Hitting with the seamless ball felt like playing at high altitude, spin had significantly less effect on bringing it down. I couldn't tell if it was the size difference, the lack of texture or some other factor like weight that was causing the lack of spin effect. It also felt slower, but this could just be a subjective opinion on my part. One surprise was that, even with the terrible sound, it did bounce higher. We did some side-by-side drop tests, and the "old" seamless ball had a significantly higher bounce than a regular ball. I can't comment on how fragile it was, I mostly hit medium speed loops against a block.

The "new" plastic ball has a seam! There were no markings on this ball either, and Stellan did not know which company in Japan had manufactured it. Both plastic balls appeared to be the same size. The "new" one had a much more normal texture on the surface and sounded similar to a normal ball. The new plastic ball played closer to a celluloid ball than the seamless did, but still seemed to have less spin and felt a little slower. We didn't do a bounce test, but I didn't notice anything unusual when I was hitting, unlike with the seamless ball.

ITTF Presidency

Long-time ITTF President Adham Sharara has competition. Stefano Bosi of Italy, the current president of the European Table Tennis Union, announced plans to run against him in the upcoming ITTF election. Here's an article from Table Tennista on this, which says that "Bosi criticized the lack of transparency and the strategy of ITTF to help continents to improve their level."

Amazingly, the ITTF has had only six presidents since its founding in 1926 - see list below. Here's info on all six. I met the last two. President Xu's son, Xu Huazhang, was a member of the Chinese National Team when he came to the U.S. for most of the 1990s, achieving a rating at one point of 2777 while getting a degree in computer science at University of Maryland. He and I shared a house for a few years. When Huazhang introduced me to his father at the Worlds in China one year, President Xu gave me a watch with his picture on it! (I just spent 20 minutes trying to find that watch, but couldn't. I've got table tennis mementos lying about all over the place; I just put it on my todo list to organize them. I'll find that watch.) I believe Xu is still president of the Chinese Table Tennis Association.

  1. Ivor Montagu, 1926-1967
  2. H. Roy Evans, 1967-1987
  3. Ichiro Ogimura, 1987-1994
  4. Lollo Hammarlund, 1994-1995
  5. Xu Yinsheng, 1995-1999
  6. Adham Sharara, 1999-present

2013 USA College Table Tennis National Championships

Here's the home page for the upcoming College Championships, to be held in Rockford, IL, April 12-14.

Table Tennis Played with the Foot

Here's a picture of an armless player who plays with his racket held in his foot. Caption: "Never give up on your dreams."

Interview with Joo Se Hyuk

Here's an interview with Joo Se Hyuk of South Korea (just out this morning), the best defensive player in the world. He was a Men's Singles finalist at the 2003 World Championships. Currently ranked #12 in the world, he's been as high as #5.

Chris O'Dowd Plays Ping Pong

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on actor Chris O'Dowd (Bridesmaids, This is 40) and his table tennis. Unfortunately, it includes this statement from O'Dowd: "Ping-Pong is one of those sports where you don't have to have any fitness level." I hope to get him into one of my training camps and see how long that attitude lasts!!!

World Team Classic Top 10 Shots

Here's the video (3:46). Some of the shots and rallies are replayed in slow motion.

Crazy Japanese Table Tennis Stuff

Here's a video (9:47) showing Japanese players doing crazy things, such as using human faces as targets, spinny serves that curve around objects, playing on improvised tables (small roughly one-foot square tables about 6-8 feet apart with a net in between - here's a picture), and lots of other stuff.

Non-Table Tennis - After Death Anthology

"After Death," an anthology of fantasy and horror stories about what happens after death, is out, and on sale at Amazon. It includes my story, "The Devil's Backbone." It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape? (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.)

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