Brain Teasers

April 24, 2013

Looping Placement

Here's something interesting I noted at the Hopes Trials, which I've also seen in the past. When a player backhand loops, he is roughly facing his opponent, and so can see where the opponent's middle is. When a player forehand loops, he faces more sideways, and the opponent is no longer in clear view. Result? Especially at the junior level and below the elite level, players seem to have far more difficulty in attacking the opponent's middle when forehand looping then when backhand looping. (The middle, in table tennis terms, is the switchover point between forehand and backhand, roughly at the playing elbow.) I watched one player nail the opponent's middle over and over with backhand loops, but when forced to do forehand loops, the player was unable to do so. (This is all true as well for basic forehands and backhands, but to a lesser extent, since players tend to turn more sideways to forehand loop than for forehand hitting.)

The solution? Practice. Look to loop at the opponent's middle at least half the time, usually the weakest spot, and see how often you can nail it. Few opponents are actually moving as you are hitting the ball, so you should be able to see where he is just before you take the shot. With practice, you'll be able to hit the middle over and over. (If an opponent is moving, then usually aim behind him, since he'll have to stop and change directions. Unless, of course, he's way out of position, in which case go for the open area.)  

Table Tennis Commentating at the North American Cup

No, I didn't get to hear any of it - I was there coaching. (I'm told I was on video at least one time, coaching Crystal Wang in the Girls' Hopes Trials.) What I've heard and read over and over was what a great job Barbara Wei did through most of the tournament - and how she was then replaced for the "big" matches at the end by someone who spoke broken and heavily accented English, and various officials. C'mon, people, Barbara was on the U.S. Junior Girls Team, trained nearly full-time for years, and speaks very clearly and intelligently. Listeners raved about her performance. What were you thinking??? (Disclaimer: Barbara came from my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center.)

I've been asked numerous times over the years to do table tennis commentating for TV. I've always turned it down. Why? I don't think I have a good speaking voice for TV. When I first began doing group coaching many years ago, I also had trouble. My solution was to take a course in public speaking. This greatly helped for those group sessions. However, I don't think I could do hours of commentating with my "public speaking" voice. I'd fall back into my normal habits, which tends to be somewhat fast and not the type of voice you want on TV. I'm far better writing.

Answers to Brain Teasers

Here are the answers to the four brain teasers from yesterday:

  1. The opponent was a fish and they were playing underwater.
  2. When you play an opossum, you play possum.
  3. There isn't any room over the net for the ball to go over.
  4. The single hair was a hare.

Table Tennista

Once again they have more international articles. Perhaps the most interesting one is the eyebrow-raising first item, where European Table Tennis Union President Stefano Bosi, who is running for ITTF President, accuses the incumbent, Adham Sharara, with this: "We found that Adham Sharara has been involved in a long-term and serious breach of the ITTF regulations and ethical standards. It is even possible that he also has civil violations. In particular, he is involved in serious violations on the Olympic charter. In addition, Sharara has established a complex system to aid him and his relatives to seek benefits from the ITTF." It also accuses him of "abuse of power and malversation of funds amounting to 20 million US dollars." I'll post Sharara's response when/if it comes out.

Testing the Large Hadron Collider with a Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article from The Atlantic.

Receiving Options

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:07) on your basic options when receiving.

ITTF Ping Pong Paix at the 2012 WTTC

"Ping Pong for Peace" was a program at the Worlds in Dortmund, Germany, where kids from Burundi were brought in to learn about table tennis. Here's the video (7:58).

Ryu Seung Min vs Bojan Tokic (German League 2012/2013) Play-Offs

Here's the video (7:58).

Justin Bieber Table Tennis

Here's an article and a new short video (about 12 sec) from Table Tennis National of Justin Bieber playing table tennis. Yep, he's still using a two-handed backhand.

Ping-Pyong

Here's a nice cartoon of the U.S. and North Korea playing ping-pong on a nuclear missile, from the Washington Post, the result of a contest, with the caption, "Ping-Pyong: A high-stakes game in which two countries smack threats back and forth with lobs, spin and backhand shots."

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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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