Equipment Reviews

April 5, 2013

Equipment Reviews

Long ago I decided not to do equipment reviews here at TableTennisCoaching.com, because 1) it involves too many conflicts of interest, since I'm a sponsored coach; and 2) I'm more interested in technique and tactics than equipment. But I'm aware that I'm somewhat in the minority on this, as most table tennis players are divided into two camps: those obsessed with equipment, and those REALLY obsessed with equipment. For those EJ's ("Equipment Junkies"), visit Table Tennis DB, which specializes in equipment reviews - about 8000 of them!

When I meet a player who's obsessed with equipment and rated under 2000, I have a simple cure. I play them with a clipboard. I rarely lose. Technique and tactics beat equipment every time. (I've been playing with a clipboard during breaks in our junior sessions and camps for over 20 years, and am about 2100 now, mostly chopping and pick-hitting.)

It is important to get good sponge, especially for loopers. As I've blogged before, some of the modern looping sponges practically loop by themselves, and are well worth whatever you pay to get them, at least for serious players of the looping species. I often wish I could take a stack of these sponges and bring them back to the 1980s and early 1990s for myself.

And it is important for players to experiment with equipment to know what's out there. If you go to a club, there's a whole club full of players with rackets and sponge you can ask to try out. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it unless and until they come out with something truly better for you.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

I just finished updating and formatting this for Amazon. A proof copy is in the mail. If all goes well, it'll be on sale in a week, and I'll announce it here. The manual, which I wrote several years ago, is 44 pages long, and will sell for $10. (I'll probably do a Kindle version later.) It is intended for top players and coaches, and is about the professional side of coaching. 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."

New World Rankings

Here are the new April rankings. There are few major changes at the top. On the Men's side, the top nine rankings were unchanged, with Ma Long at #1 for the second month in a row. On the women's side there were no changes in the top ten, and Ding Ning remains #1 for the 18th month in a row, since November 2011.

Crystal Wang

When the Cary Cup Championships was processed last week, there were a few mistakes, which primarily affected Crystal Wang, who is from my club. (I coach her in some of her tournament matches, including the key match at Cary Cup where she upset the top seed in her group to move into the "A" Division.) In the corrected ratings, Crystal, who just turned 11, is rated 2292. This makes her #1 in Under 12 (boys and girls), #1 in Under 14 Girls, #2 in Under 16 girls (6 points behind Tina Lin), #7 in Under 18 Girls, and #12 in Under 22 Girls. She's not quite back to the 2355 she achieved at age 10 (before that "blip" at the Nationals - she wasn't there mentally), but she's close. She's been causing havoc among 2300 players in our Elite League on Sundays for quite some time. 

Table Tennis Master

Here are three new coaching articles at Table Tennis Master.

Using Your Legs When Playing Forehand

Here's a video (2:14) from PingSkills on this. The key point - balance.

Chinese Table Tennis Team - Military Training

Here's a video from Dec., 2011, showing the Chinese National Team undergoing military training. It's in Chinese, but the video is rather interesting. Most of the "soldiers" shown training are Chinese team members, including the ones interviewed. How many can you recognize?

Artistic Picture of Ding Ning

Here's an artistic picture of World #1 woman Ding Ning, with an urban skyline background. I think that's New York City, but can anyone verify? Or perhaps it's Beijing or Shanghai? (EDIT - the artist, Mike Mezyan, has informed me it's the Chicago skyline! Shows how well I recognize our major cities.) 

Prince William and Kate Play Table Tennis

Here's a video (3:29) of Prince William and Kate of England playing table tennis. Someone needs to explain to Kate that high heels and table tennis don't mix well.

Improvised Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:30) with one of the more improvised nets I've seen - two boys grabbing hands across a table for the net.

Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong

You have to see this video (39 sec) - yes, actual pigeons playing "ping-pong," taught by behavior psychologist BF Skinner. As the narration explains, the pigeons were taught that they could eat whenever they won a point!

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August 15, 2011

Tip of the Week

Can you write The Book on Your Game?

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Five

  • Day Five was actually last Friday. Day Six of the two-week MDTTC Camp is today. A number of new players are joining us - this'll probably be our biggest summer camp, with over 30 players, quite a jam on 12 tables. (We do lots of multiball so we can have more than two players on a table.)
  • As noted in previous blogs, one of the favorite games we do in the camp is to put ten paper cups on the table in various configurations, and see how many a player can knock down with ten shots. Unfortunately, on Friday this degenerated into "cup wars." During break, several of the kids took the whole stack of cups (about 50) and created a huge pyramid on the table they planned to knock down by hitting it with ping-pong balls. Another kid walked by and knocked it over with his hand. The others were angry, but couldn't really do much about it. They created another pyramid, and again the same kid came over and knocked it down. Then he wanted to join them in creating a new pyramid, but they wouldn't let him. (Gee, I wonder why?) So the kid grabbed a bunch of the cups. Then we had various chase scenes as the others tried to get the cups back, and it ended up with some punching and a lot of shoving. I finally had to intervene, and took the cups away from the destructive kid - which led to a total meltdown. "I just want to play with the cups!" he wailed. It's easier teaching a beginner how to beat the world champion than trying to explain to a screaming 8-year-old that they wouldn't let him play with him because he kept knocking down their cups - and he vowed he'd keep knocking them down. Alas. Someday I'll ask Stellan Bengtsson if refereeing cup wars is part of table tennis coaching.
  • On the brighter side, a 7-year-old girl couldn't hit one shot in a row when she started on Monday. By Friday, she was smashing winners.
  • Week One was a great success - and Week Two'll be even better!

Ball bouncing

For beginners, one of the best things they can do to develop hand-eye coordination in table tennis is ball bouncing. We have them bounce the ball up and down as many times as they can on their forehand side. It's very difficult for a typical 7- or 8-year-old, though by age 9 or 10 it becomes much easier. After they master this, we introduce the next step: ball bouncing on the backhand side, which is a bit more difficult for most players. When they master that, then we have them alternate, bouncing on the forehand and backhand sides.

We also have advanced players join in this, and have competitions between the beginners and advanced players. The advanced players have to alternate hitting one on their racket's surface, and one on the edge of their racket! I've taken on many of the beginners with this handicap, and it's often a close battle. Try this out and see how many you can do. I usually average about ten shots before missing; my record is 31. But if I practice, I think I can break that, and so should you.

Equipment reviews

One of my students in the camp we're running is looking to change his racket and sponge. I knew basically what he wanted - he loops just about everything on the forehand, both hits and loops on the backhand - but to help with the decision-making I had him do two things. First, he tried out every racket and sponge he could from players at the camp and club. (One problem with that is you often have to try out sponge on an unfamiliar racket, and so aren't sure how it'll play on your own racket.) Second, we researched them online at the Table Tennis Database. It's a great place to find equipment reviews!

When you're starting out, it's a good idea to really learn what's out there by trying out as many rackets and sponges as possible. Once you find the right equipment for you, I urge players to stick with it unless their game changes or there's a real equipment breakthrough (which happens about once every five to ten years).

My web pages

I maintain a number of web pages, mostly for table tennis. Here are the main ones. 

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July 26, 2011

Table tennis equipment reviews

I have a new student who is interested in table tennis robots. While I'm familiar with them and have hit with most of the major brands, I'm no expert. I told the student I'd investigate them and see what the best values were - he was hoping for one under $1000, and I was hoping for one that could alternate hitting the ball in at least two places (i.e. one to forehand, one to backhand) so he could do a side-to-side footwork drill on it. And lo and behold, I was referred to Denis' Table Tennis World, which reviews just about all table tennis equipment, including robots. Very useful! If you are interested in equipment reviews, then stop by this site and browse away.

I've browsed the robot reviews, and later today plan to go over them more carefully so I can make a recommendation to the student. (They don't seem to have a review yet for the ipong, the newest but coolest looking low-end model.) No, I'm not going to make my recommendation public; I don't have enough first-hand knowledge of the robots to do that. All I can do is go by what others say.

Two Months Notice to USATT

In exactly two months, it'll be two years since USATT finished its "Strategic Meeting" at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs on Sept. 25-26, 2009. The focus of the meeting was how to increase membership. Everyone agreed our membership (in the 8-9000 range) was a "round-off error." Many slogans were created (*sigh*), and three strategic priorities: Juniors, Grow Membership Through Added Value, and Communications. (I consider the Communications priority pointless unless one of the first two gives USATT something to communicate about.) Three task forces were created for these three priorities.

This was the fourth such "Strategic Meeting" I've attended with USATT. All four times I've argued that to be successful, specific goals needed to be created, and specific plans to reach those goals. However, each time others disagreed, and so we were left with just generic priorities. I also argued that the Junior priority should be about recruiting and training coaches to create club-based junior programs, as has been done so successfully in table tennis and other sports worldwide, and that the "Grow Membership" priority should instead be Leagues, as that's how other countries have grown their membership in table tennis and other sports worldwide. However, I was unable to persuade the majority of this view. 

And so on Sept. 26 this year, two years after the meeting, I will ask USATT what they have accomplished since that time. Have we taken our game "to the next level"? I absolutely won't want to hear of things they plan to do; the time for that is well past. I'm going to ask them what they have done. I hope they have an answer. If they don't, perhaps it is time they revisit the way table tennis and other sports have successfully grown worldwide and try to emulate it, rather than constantly and poorly trying to reinvent the wheel?

Back problems and the Search for the Physical Therapists

As I blogged last week, I saw a orthopedist sports medicine doctor on Wednesday last week about upper back problems that are interfering with my table tennis playing and coaching. He referred me to the Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, which was conveniently located near me. (I even stopped by to see the place, and it's pretty nice.) So I called on Thursday morning to schedule my twice-weekly meetings. No answer, and no answering service; it just rang and rang. I called numerous times that day, no answer. I tried again all day on Friday, still no answer. I tried again Monday morning, still no answer. So that morning I called back the doctor's office and told them what was happening. They said they'd never had a problem calling them, and that they'd contact them and get them to call me. No one called back. Now it's Tuesday, five days since I first started calling the place. *Sigh*.

Politicians are playing ping-pong with our economy

So why not take a look at the Politicians and Leaders section of the "Celebrities Playing Table Tennis" page? Here's an alphabetical listing - see how many you recognize! (I've bolded some of the more interesting ones, with apologies to those unbolded.)

Prince Akihito, Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Yasser Arafat, Princess Beatrix, Enrico Berlinguer, Tony Blair, Camilla Parker Bowles, Charles Wayland Brooks, Gordon Brown, Andy Burnham, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Felipe Calderon, Dave Cameron, Juan Carlos, Fidel Castro, Prince Charles, Chiang Kai-shek, Chou En-lai, Jean Chrétien, Bill & Hillary Clinton, Norm Coleman, Irvin Cotler, Bao Dai, Jean-Louis Debre, Alexandra Dinges, Ian Duncan-Smith, Dr. Katharina Focke, Tipper Gore, Stephen Harper, Michael Howard, Mike Huckabee, Princess Irene, Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin, Boris Johnson, John Kerry, Henry Kissinger, Horst Koehler, Alexandre Kwasniewski, Richard Lagos, Martin Lee, Li Lanqing, Li Zhaoxin, Ma Ying-Jeou, Princess Marta Louise, Chairman Mao, Jack Markell, George McGovern, Mette-Marit, Walter Mondale, Fabio Mussi, Benjamin Netanyahu, Richard Nixon, Kwame Nkrumah, Michael Nutter, Barack Obama, Martin O'Malley, Geun-Hae Park, Pope John Paul II, Göran Persson, Vladimir Putin, Liu Qi, Ronald Reagan, Jacques Rogge, Lenore Romney, Juan Antonio Samaranch, Nicolas Sarkozy, Denis Sassou-Nguesso, Eunice Shriver, Sargent Shriver, Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, Queen Silvia, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza, Silvan Shalom, Maria Shriver, Goh Chok Tong, Walter Veltroni, Princess Victoria, Prince of Wales, Lech Walesa, Wen Jiabao, Prince William, Anthony Williams, Yang Jiechi, Lee Kuan Yew.

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