2013 Hopes Trials

April 23, 2013

Tip of the Week

Proper Practice Progression Prevents Poor Play.

Hopes Trials

The Hopes Trials were held in conjunction with the North American Cup this past weekend in Westchester, NY, at the Westchester Table Tennis Club. And here's an article (lots of photos) on the players at the North American Cup.

I saw very little of the North American Cup since I was alternating coaching matches in the Hopes Boys and Girls Trials. (There was also an all-day USATT Board Meeting on Saturday, but I missed all of that as well.) I did see some spectacular play by 2406-rated 15-year-old Allen Wang - he's moved up to where he's challenging the best players in the country, despite being roughly six feet twenty inches tall. He beat Canada's Xavier Therien (rated 2517), went seven games with Peter Li (2557), and had a spectacular match with eventual North American Cup winner Andre Ho (2522), including an incredible game which Ho finally won, 25-23 (!). I saw some of the women's final - as usual, Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang put on a show, with Zhang winning.

I wrote a lot about the tournament in my blog last Thursday, so I won't repeat all of that. I coached Crystal Wang and Derek Nie in all of their matches, which roughly alternated every hour all day long. Most of the time they practiced together to prepare for their matches, but I also joined in a lot, especially with Derek, where we had a lot of nice counterlooping duels as well as lots of serve & receive and serve & loop practice.

Crystal, rated 2292, won Girls' Singles without losing a game. She beat Ivy Liao of Canada (rated 1939) in the semifinals at 7,3,7. In the finals, she faced Amy Wang of New Jersey (rated 2168, but recently over 2200, and with a winning record against Crystal). However, this time Crystal won at 8,7,8 in a battle of Crystal's two-winged looping (often off the bounce) against Amy's more traditional hitting. Amy is looping more than before, but is forced to block when Crystal starts looping, and Crystal's loops into the forehand and middle were effective.

There were two umpires - the main umpire, and the assistant umpire, who was the scorekeeper. Throughout this match, for some reason, the scorekeeper seemed to stare at me almost continuously between points. Every time I'd glance at the scoreboard he'd be staring - almost glaring. I have no idea why; I'm not even sure if I've met him before. Perhaps he thought I was signaling or something. Several others noted this as well. Neither he nor the main umpire were staring or glaring at the other coach. 

I've never used signals when coaching; they are illegal. (Here's proof: I've been coaching matches for over 30 years, and I've many hundreds of players in tournament matches. ATTENTION, all players I've ever coached - if I've ever used signaling when I coached, please step forward now and let everyone know. But nobody's going to step forward because it never has happened.) Some umpires are overzealous in guarding against signaling, but it's somewhat silly. Any coach could get away with signaling if he wants. For example, no umpire is going to tell a coach he can't clap after a point. So a dishonest coach can, for example, work out with his player that one clap means serve short to the forehand; two claps mean short to the middle; three claps short to the backhand, and so on. Elbows up for topspin, down for backspin, and perhaps clap with the tips for no-spin. (I'm making this up as I go along. Really.) Or use innocuous words of encouragement that mean something. However, all this is rather counter-productive as signaling a player over and over is a really good way to mess up their concentration as well as training them to not be able to think for themselves.

Derek (rate 2215, was 2234 before a bad Cary Cup) made it to the semifinals of Boys' Singles. There he faced Victor Liu (rated 2226). It was a seesaw battle, where one player seemed to dominate every game. Derek led 9-7 in the fifth. The last time these two had played (at the 2011 Nationals) Derek had led 9-6 in the fifth and lost five in a row. Two of the best times to call a time-out are when the player is losing focus, and when the player is serving and on the verge of winning an important game. In the latter case, you do so to make sure the player is completely focused and knows what serves to use to lock up the game. So I called a timeout - but Derek, feeling he was okay, shook it off. He lost the next four points, including an easy loop, a push, and an easy block. Sheer agony as he lost, 8,-5,7,-7,9. We'll never know if the timeout might have helped. Victor went on to win the final over Gal Alguetti at 13,7,9.

With Victor, Derek, and the Alguetti twins (Gal & Sharon, rated 2283 and 2271), I don't think we've ever had such a strong group of players at that age group, all 11 or 12. Add in Kanak Jha (2457) and Jack Wang (2329), who were one year too old for the Hopes Trials, and several others in the 2150-2200 range, and we have a powerhouse group coming up. Not to mention the twin towers on the girls' side of Crystal & Amy Wang! (No relation, though Amy is the younger sister of Allen, mentioned at the start.)

Brain Teasers at the Hopes Trials

It wasn't all table tennis, however. During the five-hour ride to and from the tournament, and also at meals, Derek and Crystal became addicted to brain teasers. I know hundreds of them, but I'd used many in past trips, and so began to make ones up. I think Derek may major in college in brain teasers.

Here are some brain teasers involving table tennis that I made up. Email me your answers, and tomorrow I'll publish whoever gets them right! (I made up many more, but can't remember them, alas.)

  1. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a lion, a giraffe, a raccoon, and an elephant. Then he played another animal, but over and over the animal served wet balls. Why?
  2. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a chimpanzee, a dog, an ostrich, and a snake. Then he played another animal, but over and over, rather than playing, the player would drop his paddle, fall to the ground, and lay still. Why?
  3. A group of miners had dug tunnels to extract diamonds from the ground. They decided to set up a ping-pong table in their tunnel. The tunnel was exactly six feet wide, so just wide enough for the table and net (which extends six inches on both sides). It was very long, so there was plenty of room on each side. It was exactly thirty inches tall, and so just enough room for the table and net. However, once it was set up, they were unable to play. Why?
  4. Here's a non-table tennis one I made up. Remember, this is being said out loud, so ignore the actual spelling. An old man with one hair went to a barber and asked him to cut the hair. The barber was outraged, and called the police. Why?

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Featured by Australia TTA

Here's the article. Copies of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers are going fast!

Largest Club in the Country

The Westchester Table Tennis Club has been the largest full-time club in the country for several years, at 13,000 square feet with 18 tables. (My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, is "only" 10,000, with 16 tables, alas. Though we sometimes jam in 18 tables for training.) However, a new club has just opened in Portland, Pure Pong, with 16,500 square feet and 20+ tables. Here's the article.

Table Tennista

Here are the headline international stories at Table Tennista.

Stiga Tisza Table Tennis Camp in Hungary

Here are three short videos from the camp.

Training in China

Here's a training video (3:38) in China from Tony Table Tennis.

The Lord of the Ping

I think he's cupping his hand - but he doesn't have to follow no rules.

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April 18, 2013

No Blog Tomorrow (Friday)

I'm off to the Hopes Trials in at the Westchester TTC in Pleasantville, New York. See you on Monday!

Hopes Trials at Westchester TTC in NY

I'm going up to coach the two Maryland players who qualified, Crystal Wang and Derek Nie. We've been training for this for weeks! I did a 90-minute session with Derek just last night, while other coaches worked with Crystal. What is it?

Every year the ITTF has Hopes Week. This year it's going to be at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria, June 10-16. (I think it was there last year as well.) The best 11- and 12-year-olds from around the world will be invited there for a week of training, culminating in a tournament. The North American Hopes Trials are this weekend, coinciding with the North American Cup. Here are some info links:

For the Hopes Trials, USATT chose the top four boys and girls born in 2001 or 2002, so they are all 11 or 12 years old. Canada did the same. (USA is only sending three girls - I don't think others applied - but the top two girls are going, Crystal Wang and Amy Wang, as are the top four boys. No, Crystal and Amy are not related.) Because ITTF requires a joint Trials for each continent, the Trials are combined. The top finishing player from each country then qualifies for Hopes Week. (So if USA players finish first and second, and a Canadian third, then the Canadian goes, not the #2 USA player. At least that's my understanding.)

BOYS
Gal Alguetti (NY, 2283)
Sharon Alguetti (NY, 2271)
Victor Liu (CA, 2226)
Derek Nie (MD, 2215)
Edison Huang (CAN)
Alexander Bu (CAN, 2093)
Edward Ly (CAN)
Boris Kalev (CAN)

GIRLS
Crystal Wang (MD, 2292)
Amy Wang (NJ, 2203)
Estee Ackerman (NY, 1721)
Benita Zhou (CAN)
Laura Yin Lai (CAN)
Sophie Gauthier (CAN)
Christian Lin (CAN)

Backswing Practice

Having trouble smashing against medium-high balls, or (for more advanced players) low topspin balls? One of the keys is to have the exact same backswing every time. Here's a way to learn to do that, as shown to one of my students last night. This is also how I developed my smash many years ago.

First, do a few smashes with someone (ideally have them feed multiball, or just serve topspin, they return the ball, and you smash), and when you make good ones, note where you backswing to. The question is how to repeat this over and over? Go near a wall and shadow practice the shot. Do your backswing just like you did in the good smashes. Then find a mark on the wall and move so the mark is just above where your racket is when you backswing. (You might have to put a mark on the wall yourself, alas.) Once you've done this, you can backswing to that same spot over and over. Get a feel for where the backswing should be. If you do this enough, it'll become so automatic that backswinging any other way will feel awkward.

Expert Table Tennis

Two new articles are up at Expert Table Tennis:

Table Tennista

Lots of new international articles at Table Tennista, mostly featuring China. Here are the current front-page stories:

Table Tennis Spectacular

Here's a new video (1:54) of some nice exhibition play between Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson, with Dan Seemiller giving animated commentary.

Ping-Pong Ball in the Face

Here's a new video (25 sec) of someone getting smacked in the face by an opponent's mis-hit smash. Shown in slow motion!

One Twisted Table

Maybe they Hopes Trials should be held on these tables?

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