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April 30, 2013

U.S. Open

The U.S. Open this year is in Las Vegas, NV, July 2-6. The entry deadline is in eleven days - May 11. (There's a late deadline of May 18, which requires a $75 late fee.) Have you entered yet? Here's the U.S. Open webpage. I'll be there as a coach. I'm toying with entering some of the hardbat events as well, but not sure if I have time. (I normally play sponge, but have won a bunch of hardbat titles on the side.)

One of my annual pet peeves is that there is rarely any advertising or advance notice about the top players coming. This year the U.S. Open is part of the ITTF World Tour, and we know a bunch of top players are coming - but there's no publicity about who is coming. Year after year the entry deadline comes, and it is only after the deadline that prospective players (i.e. potential cash-paying entries) find out who the top players are. For all we know the Chinese National Team is coming, or the top European players - but we just don't know. Rather than wait and see who enters, and announcing it after the deadline, it would be a lot better if USATT pro-actively found out at least some of the top players who are coming before the deadline, and the publicized it. They did this in the early 1990s, and it seemed to lead to increased entries, as well as happy participants who came both to play and watch (as well as to buy stuff, with all the table tennis venders at the Open).

I hope to see many of you at the Open. There are so many reasons to attend - you get to play, see the top players, see friends, see a huge convention center filled up with a hundred tables and 800 players (and hundreds of family members, coaches, officials, staff, volunteers, etc.), explore the many equipment booths, and oh yeah, it's in Las Vegas!

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

For two months in a row I've made more writing about table tennis than actually coaching. So please jump on the bandwagon and buy your copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers! Or any of the other fine books sold on my Amazon page. I also made a sizeable chunk last year writing science fiction & fantasy - about $2000 total. I'm not sure if it's a profitable hobby or a low-paying job. Here's my Science Fiction & Fantasy page.

Me and Marty

Here's a picture posted on Facebook by Bruce Liu of me with the late great Marty Reisman, taken at my U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame induction in 2003. Marty was given the Lifetime Achievement Award at the banquet, while Eric Boggan and David Zhuang were my fellow inductees. (If you can't see it on Facebook, try this.)

Ping Pong Candy

Alabama's Michael Wetzel (that's International Umpire and Certified Referee to you) sent me a pair of Ping Pong Candies, made in Venezuela. Here's the picture! They seem to be chocolate covered nuts or something like that. I haven't decided whether to eat them or keep them as a souvenir.

Table Tennista

Here are the international headline stories right now at Table Tennista

The Inspiring Chinese National Team

Here's a video (2:39) from a year ago on the Chinese National Team in training that I don't think I've ever linked to. It has inspirational narration (rapping?) by "Hiphoppreacher." I think I may have linked to something by him once before, but I'm not sure.

Table Tennis Can Be Really Awesome

Here's a new video (1:20) of shot-making and trick shots, from the "Piing of Power." (Not sure why there are two i's.)

A Boy and his Cat

Here's a continuous gif image of a boy playing table tennis with his cat (really!), with a seven-shot sequence repeated over and over.

USATT Minutes

[NOTE - I usually save the fun stuff for the end - like the boy and cat video above - but I decided to stick the USATT stuff here at the end so as not to scare people away.]

Here are the motions from the USATT Board of Director's April 20, 2013 meeting at Westchester, NY (during the North American Cup). You can see the minutes and motions from meetings going back to 1999 at the USATT Minutes page.

  • MOVED to appoint Rajul Sheth as Chair of the Juniors Advisory Committee.
  • MOVED to appoint David DelVecchio as Chair, and to appoint Adam Bobrow, Alex Figueroa, Willy Leparulo, and Han Xiao (athlete) as members, of the Leagues Advisory Committee.
  • MOVED for USATT to review Diego Schaaf’s Merit Pin Proposal, to incorporate Board comments into a revised draft, and to submit the revised draft to Diego Schaaf.
  • MOVED to deny North American Table Tennis’s request to vacate the Board’s December 19, 2012 Motion regarding the sanctioning of a Butterfly Teams Championship in 2013.
  • MOVED to direct the Clubs Advisory Committee to design a strategy for implementation of the club equipment package proposed by Attila Malek.
  • MOVED to affirm the February 17, 2013 Final Decision of the Board’s Special Committee in the disciplinary matter In re Chui, Case No. 2012-003.
  • MOVED that any service of Roman Tinyszin on the Officials and Rules Advisory Committee prior to December 31st, 2008, was ultra vires; therefore, the waiver approved on March 25, 2013, is inapplicable.
  • Respectfully submitted, Dennis Taylor, Secretary

USATT High Performance Committee

Here are the Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC) for March by Chair Carl Danner.

During March, the HPC did not hold any formal meetings or conference calls. However, the following summary of its actions and discussions is offered to inform USATT members about the HPC’s activities conducted by email, and through participation in the USATT Board’s March conference call meeting.  

  1. The selection process for the Youth Olympic Games was approved by the Athlete Advisory Council (AAC) and forwarded to the USOC for its approval – which was still pending as of the date this summary was prepared. The HPC reviewed the YOG code of conduct, and approved it subject to one wording change regarding possible serious criminal acts by athletes.  
  2. The HPC continued its discussion about the selection and review of National Team Coaches (NT Coaches). During the Board meeting, Board members advised that the responsibility for selecting, retaining, and opening positions for NT Coaches is the responsibility of the CEO. The HPC and other relevant committees would provide support for that process. The Board also asked the HPC to prepare a memo with its recommendations for the hiring process for able-bodied NT Coaches. As of this writing, it has not yet been determined by the CEO which able-bodied NT Coach positions will be open for applications, or on what schedule. A number of HPC members did emphasize the importance of having defined criteria for the evaluation of the performance of NT Coaches.  
  3. The HPC had some initial discussion of the concept of using multiple trials or tournaments to select national team members, starting first perhaps with the junior and cadet teams. This item will require further research and development prior to being implemented, including identifying specific events that will be counted. No decisions were made in this regard during March.  
  4. Another point of discussion was the potential of requiring some tournament participation during the year in order to validate a player’s rating as current for purposes of seedings in the Nationals Men’s and Women’s Singles events. Lacking that, the tournament committee might be authorized to seed a player based on estimated playing strength instead. Mr. Danner will identify the appropriate USATT committee to forward this proposal.  
  5. HPC members consulted with the CEO and the head of the Coaching Advisory Committee, Federico Bassetti, to help draft position announcements for Para Head NT Coach, NT Coach, and Junior NT Coach positions. USATT Para Program Manager Jasna Rather prepared the announcements, which were posted on the website with an application deadline of May 1.  
  6. The selection discussion for the April ITTF North America Cup in Westchester, NY raised some questions for future consideration about how to select teams for such events. These included understanding the relationship between the members of a U.S. adult team who represented us at a given event (such as the World Championships), the National Team Trial finishing order, and also how the coach’s pick for the World Championship team might fit in. Future selection policies will be more explicit about how priorities will be established among these criteria. 

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April 9, 2013

Covering Up the Weak Spots Against Fast Hitter/Blockers

Here is an excerpt from Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, from Chapter Seven: Tactical Examples, pages 78-79. Recently I've been using this tactics a lot against our top juniors, to great success. (Maryland juniors, do not read this. Go play video games or do homework or something.)

Here is an unconventional tactic I and some players I coach have used for years against fast hitters and blockers, especially in fast exchanges with junior players. Typically these players hit hard, quick shots over and over to the wide backhand, middle, and wide forehand. The tactic assumes you have a decent forehand and backhand, and can keep the ball in play pretty well, and can attack with your forehand against a quick shot if you see it coming and know where it’s going to go.

As soon as you get into a fast rally, stand toward your backhand side with your feet in a slight forehand position, but rotated to the left so you are facing the table in a backhand position. By rotating at the waist or taking a short step with the left foot, you should be able to cover the wide backhand and middle with your backhand, using the incoming ball’s speed to rebound it back. Watch the opponent until you see him about to go to your forehand. Immediately step over to the wide forehand and counter-attack. (This is where having your feet in a slight forehand position helps.) The key is you don’t try to cover the entire forehand side with the forehand; you anticipate that it’ll go to the wide corner and move there immediately to counter-attack. If the ball comes to your middle forehand, where you’d normally be comfortable, you’ll have difficulty since you are anticipating it going to the wide forehand, since that’s what top players and up-and-coming juniors are trained to go. What this strategy effectively does is move the middle weakness into the middle forehand, where few strong players will place the ball. Since your opponent is probably hitting down the line with his backhand, an aggressive counter-attack to his wide forehand usually wins the point.

Since I coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where we have lots and lots of up-and-coming juniors who are extremely fast, I use this tactic in practice matches on an almost daily basis, to great success. I usually just counter-hit the crosscourt winner, but sometimes I loop it. It works either way. (Beware—if you use this tactic against a junior I’m coaching, I’ll tell him to put the ball to your middle forehand. Hah!)

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

It's now on sale at Amazon! There are two versions, one for Print ($7.99), and one for Kindle ($5.99). It's supposed to be one page with two versions, but there's some sort of blip on the system, and it instead is coming up on two different pages. (For example, here's the page for my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book - one page with both versions, paperback and kindle.) I've contacted Amazon about fixing this.

So what is this Coaches Handbook? It's a 44-page manual I wrote a few years ago. I use to give it away at coaching seminars, but it was just a rough printout. Now it's professionally published. See book description below.

"Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."

I now have five books on my Amazon page:

  • Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. This came out in February, and is selling like popcorn at a movie theatre. (You wouldn't watch a movie without popcorn, and you wouldn't play table tennis without this Tactics book, right?)  
  • Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. This came out yesterday. Here's the Amazon description: ""Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."
  • Table Tennis: Steps to Success. This is my fundamentals book, originally published in 1993 and updated in 2007. It's sold 28,000 copies in six languages. I plan a new version this year, with all new photos and major updates, probably retitled as Table Tennis Success.
  • Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. This is a compilation of my best work, with both essays on technique and stories about table tennis, often humorous.
  • Pings & Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges. (This has my 30 best short story sales. I've sold 66 in all. See my Science Fiction & Fantasy page.)
  • Also listed is Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees. This is actually a short fantasy story of mine that was published as an eBook by Musa Publications. "What if William Shakespeare was a demon with ten trillion captive chimpanzees in his basement, where time is sped up a trillion-fold, and where they are forced to randomly type as they produce the works of Shakespeare? And then the chimpanzees rebel...."

Note shown is Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, a manual for coaches that I wrote a while back that teaches coaches how to coach table tennis. I'm planning a rewrite and publication later this year. For both this and the upcoming rewrite of Table Tennis: Steps to Success, I have a major photo session planned.

2013 World Table Tennis Championships

Here's the Trailer (1:45). The Worlds are in Paris, France, May 13-20. These are the individual championships - Men's and Women's Singles & Doubles, and Mixed Doubles.

Join the Conversation - the 2013 Worlds

Join them on Twitter, at #ITTF Worlds! (Disclosure - I have a twitter account, but haven't used it or read anyone else's in about two years.)

Young Table Tennis Player

Start 'em early!

Table Tennis Muffins

Mmmmm . . . Good!

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