USATT

January 18, 2012

Down the line

Players do not practice down the line nearly enough. (Yes, I've blogged about this before, but it needs emphasis.) This means:

  1. They are inconsistent going that way since they aren't used to doing so;
  2. They are hesitant to go that way when it is the right tactical shot;
  3. Opponents only have to cover mostly crosscourt shots;
  4. Since they are drilling mostly crosscourt, so is their practice partner, and so they aren't used to down-the-line shots, and so are vulnerable to them in matches;
  5. They are losing the training benefits of hitting down the line.

What are the training benefits of hitting down the line (#5 above)? First, if you can control your shots down the line, then going crosscourt is easy. (It's 9 feet down the line, 10.3 feet crosscourt, which is 10 feet 3.5 inches, or about 15.5 inches more table, meaning nearly 8 more inches on the far side, your target.) Second, hitting down the line with the forehand from the forehand side forces you to turn your shoulders (if done properly), which is a good habit to develop.

At the cadet trials at the USA Nationals in December, a player I coached went up against a higher-ranked player. I'd watched the player on video in advance, and realized he was a vintage crosscourt player. The primary rallying strategy was to go down the line every chance. The opponent struggled with this, which help lead to an upset.

Lagging rackets

An intermediate player I coached yesterday for the first time had difficulty hitting balls crosscourt, both forehand or backhand. His shots tended to stray in to the middle. The problem? "Lagging racket syndrome"! On both forehands and backhands his racket tip lagged behind when it should drive through the ball. (This also leads to a lack of power.) The cure is to really focus on the racket tip leading the stroke. It took him only minutes to fix this problem, at least in drills. I think this is a relatively easy fix, and he should be able to do this in matches quickly.

USA Table Tennis minutes

The minutes of the USATT Board meeting at the USA Nationals, Dec. 15-16, 2011, are now online.

Help Wanted - Paralympic Program Manager

USA Table Tennis has posted a help wanted news item, for Paralympic Program Manager. Position pays $1600/month.

Train your brain with pong

Here's a video from "Fitness on the Run" (1:56) that emphasizes the benefits of table tennis for the brain. Some quotes:

  • "If you want to be your best, you need to train your brain."
  • "Ping Pong is actually the number one thing you can do for your brain. The constant calculations your brain needs to make in order to identify different spins, angles, attacks and defense are just like doing a math equation with the added benefit of the blood flow from all the agility and movement."

Table tennis 2012

Here's a highlights reel (3:45) that features "players who are likely to dominate table tennis in the coming season."

Serena Williams versus Matthew Syed

Here's a video (1:31) of tennis star Serena Williams introducing you to her table tennis game as she takes on English star Matthew Syed.

Non-Table Tennis: My movie rankings

I saw exactly 52 movies in theaters in 2011. Below is my ranking of how I liked them. Let me emphasize - this is not a critical listing, but a listing of my personal preferences. One listing might need explaining - I put "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" dead last. Why? I'm guessing that I was daydreaming a bit at the start, and missed important dialogue, but halfway through I realized I had no idea what was going on, and almost walked out. I stayed, but even now I'm completely lost. Others say it's a great movie. (NOTE - I'm told that the numbering below isn't working for Explorer 9, alas. I don't know why. It works for Chrome, Firefox, and Explorer 8.)

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  2. Rango
  3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  4. Hugo
  5. Moneyball
  6. War Horse
  7. X-Men: First Class
  8. Puss in Boots
  9. The Adventures of Tintin
  10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  11. Captain America: The First Avenger
  12. Paul
  13. Arthur Christmas
  14. Super 8
  15. The Thing
  16. Thor
  17. The King's Speech
  18. Cowboys & Aliens
  19. Water for Elephants
  20. Kung Fu Panda 2
  21. Real Steel
  22. The Three Musketeers
  23. Source Code
  24. Contagion
  25. The Ides of March
  26. Hanna
  27. We Bought a Zoo
  28. Horrible Bosses
  29. Green Hornet
  30. Mr. Popper's Penguins
  31. Conan the Barbarian
  32. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
  33. Warrior
  34. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
  35. Drive
  36. Tower Heist
  37. 50/50
  38. Battle: Los Angeles
  39. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  40. Cars2
  41. Apollo 18
  42. The Muppets
  43. 30 Minutes or Less
  44. Limitless
  45. The Debt
  46. Green Lantern
  47. J. Edgar
  48. Unknown
  49. Arthur
  50. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  51. Your Highness
  52. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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November 2, 2011

Frustrating emails

I spent much of yesterday, and already a chunk of this morning, responding to highly frustrating emails. There's an email discussion going on among USATT board members and some committee members about coaching that I won't elaborate on. I'd love to quote the emails, but that would be inappropriate. It's more about the type of thinking behind the emails than the specifics of the current argument that I find so mind-numbing and representative of the same type of thinking that has stagnated table tennis in this country for so long. Let's just say that times like this I am deeply pessimistic about whether USATT can ever take the lead in developing table tennis in this country. Almost for sure it's going to have to come from outside individuals and clubs by setting up leagues and coaching programs independently from the national governing body for table tennis in the USA.

Strategic Versus Tactical Thinking

Here's an excerpt from the book I'm working on, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

"What's the difference between Strategic and Tactical thinking? Strategic thinking is how you develop your game. Tactical thinking is how you use what you have to win. For example, if you have a good loop, a strategic thinker would think about what types of serves will set up your loop, and develop those serves in practice sessions. A tactical thinker would think about what serves will set up your loop in a match against a given opponent. Strategic thinking takes place during the developmental stage of your game--which never ends as long as you are still practicing. Tactical thinking takes place while preparing for and playing a specific match.

"Suppose you have a weak forehand attack against backspin. When an opponent pushes heavy to your forehand, you have to tactically choose whether to use your weak forehand attack (perhaps using good ball placement to make up for the weakness of the attack), or whether to just push it back. Tactically, these are probably your only options. Strategically, you should note this weakness in your game, and go practice it so next time you aren't so limited tactically."

In an email on coaching mixed in with the aggravating ones I mentioned above, I wrote the following, which I think is pertinent to the above. 

"One important distinction is the difference between tactical and strategic coaching. Tactical coaching is what you do at the table in a match. Strategic coaching is how you coach the player to develop their games. In this country, we need coaches like Bengtsson and Constantini (and others - I'm not going to make a comprehensive list) who can take the lead in strategic development of our players. For example, when our players go overseas, they get clobbered on receive. So we need someone at the top to work with the coaches so that they will better train the aspects of the game where our players are lacking. As Sean [O'Neill] wrote, our players tend to train to be USA champions or team members, and so aren't prepared when they play outside the U.S., where players are trained with higher aspirations. In other words, in the U.S. we train to be 2600, while overseas players train to be 2900."

From Stiff and Slow to Loose and Juiced

I played some practice matches yesterday with a hardbat against Ty Hoff, who was in town for a few days. At first, I felt stiff and slow. Then, as I got tired, my muscles began to loosen up. Suddenly, I was tired, and yet loose and juiced! (When I say "juiced," I mean I was moving fast, but that doesn't rhyme with "loose.") It was a grueling match where I was racing around the court attacking with my forehand, and I began to tire. The more tired I got, the faster I got! By the end, I was exhausted but moving like a cheetah. I wonder if this was unique to me, who's pretty stiff, or if others have had this experience? (We won't talk about Ty's three net winners at the very end as Ty pulled it out, 21-18 in the fifth.)

Designing Your Table Tennis Game Plan

Here's a nice article by Samson Dubina on planning game strategy. He asks the following questions about your opponent, and elaborates on each.

  • How are their serves better than mine?
  • How are their serve returns better than mine?
  • How are their attacks better than mine?
  • How is their defense better than mine? 
  • How is their footwork better than mine? 
  • How are their game patterns?
  • How are they able to adjust to the playing conditions?

Zhang Jike versus Timo Boll

Here's a nice video of World Champion Zhang Jike of China versus world #2 Timo Boll of Germany, the best European. The time between points has been removed, so you get it all in 6:13. (It's from two years ago at the Danish Open.) 

The Mouse That Toured

Yesterday, after finishing a table tennis session, I pulled open my playing bag to put my racket back inside. A mouse jumped out! Apparently the mouse had climbed in while I was at the table, perhaps after taking a tour of the club. Should we set out cheese to feed the mouse, or mousetraps?

Here's a 34-second video of what happens when 100 ping-pong balls meets 100 mousetraps.

And since we're on the subject of mice, if you want a ping-pong mouse, here are seven. Here's another.

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October 3, 2011

Tip of the Week

Returning Long Serves with the Backhand.

Chinese players in slow motion

Here's a video (3:30) that showcases top Chinese players in slow motion, which especially showcases their serves - though initially it mostly just shows their strokes. Serves are especially hard to learn by watching at normal speeds since the contact motion by a top server is so fast - it is designed not to be read very easily.

Charity Table Tennis

Practicing, weight training, stretching, and a new blade

Between actually practicing, weight training, stretching, and a new blade, I'm suddenly playing the best I've played in years. (My equipment: Timo Boll ALC flared, with Tenergy 05 FX black 2.1 on forehand, Roundell red 2.1 on the backhand.) Suddenly I'm eyeing the tournament schedule, thinking maybe, maybe.... (Conflict: I coach at most local or major tournaments. Need a tournament that's not local or major, but within driving distance.) Regarding the blade, I discovered it the way most players should find out about different blades - I tried out someone else's racket, in this case Tong Tong Gong (a member of the USA National Cadet Team that I coach at tournaments), and really liked it. As I told him, he can have the blade back when he pries it from my cold, dead fingers. (I'm using one of his backups.)

Update on glasses

Last week I blogged about how I was experimenting by playing without glasses. I read without glasses, but have to put them on to see distance. When I played without them for the first time in decades, I found that I could see the ball better on slow shots - my own serve and when attacking pushes. However, opponents serves and loops became blurs, and I couldn't read the spin. I was fine for the two hours I coached without glasses and a two-hour practice session, but when I played matches, things didn't go so well. So I'm back to the glasses. Anyone else have experiences like this, where they have to trade off on distance versus near vision?

Boys Look at the Stars

Just a reminder that you can download this free table tennis book.

Another USATT Rant

I don't plan to keep harping on the problems with USATT, though I'm obviously peeved about things not going on. It wouldn't be much of a blog if I avoided such issues. Whenever I do write about USATT, I tend to get so aggravated that, well, it's simply not worth writing about too often. (And there are people there who are trying, though they often don't speak up or aren't sure what to do.) But here goes! Here's a posting (with a number of changes and additions) that I did at about.com a few days ago.

There have been many times in USA history where Ping-Pong Diplomacy, the Olympics, TT on TV, features in Boy's Life and other major magazines, etc., brought out droves of players. If it were tennis or most other successful sports, they'd put the kids in a junior training program and later leagues. If it were adults who wanted to learn, they'd put them in a class or group training. If they wanted to compete, they'd put them in a league with players their level.

In table tennis, the large majority of USA clubs will tell them, "Call winner on a table." The new person gets killed, he sees little potential to improve or have fun, he leaves, and we never see him again. The next day, another player goes through the same experience and leaves. There is no infrastructure to get these new players together for coaching or leagues for beginners. (Getting new players into a club isn't that hard; it's keeping them that's the trick.)

There are also limited numbers of clubs in the U.S., so few potential players are near a club, not to mention one that's conducive to new players. While Germany has 11,000 clubs in an area half the size of Texas and 1/4 our population, we have about 300 or so. Their 700,000 members are almost all league members - and nearly all the clubs came about BECAUSE OF THE LEAGUE. Reread that last part a few times. Some of the leaders in our sport think those clubs just came about by themselves, and so they decided, "Hey, let's start up a league!" It was the other way around. And while there are always differences between countries, there is no magical gene that makes Germans play table tennis, or the British (500,000 players, nearly all league players, in an area the size of New York with one-sixth our population), or the rest of Europe, or of course the zillions all over Asia.

We should be able to do what countries like Germany, England and others do in several densely populated regions of the country, such as the northeast, the great lakes area, Florida, Texas, and the entire west coast. It's not that we're too spread out; we are like a bunch of Germany's knitted together.

The U.S. has only 8000 members because we completely, positively, and absolutely refuse to learn the lessons that table tennis and other sports in the U.S. and around the world have learned. From the perspective of developing our sport, we're complete idiots, unable to learn even the most basic lessons from those who have.

This is obvious stuff to those who work at our sport, especially those, like myself, who make a full-time living coaching and organizing. It's been explained to USATT leaders numerous times for decades, but there is little interest from that direction in organizing any type of nationwide league, or in recruiting and training coaches to set up and run junior and other coaching programs at a club as professional coaches, as tennis and other sports do. And so while the problem is obvious, and the solution is obvious, nothing gets done. It's not that USATT doesn't do anything, it's that they focus on things that sound nice but don't develop the sport. Since they have no goals in terms of increasing membership, more junior members, more clubs, etc., they can't be held accountable, and aren't.

USATT runs periodic "Strategic Meetings" to solve problems - I've been to four - where they spend the time coming up with slogans and vague priorities, while refusing to make any specific goals or programs to reach the never-created goals. When nothing is accomplished and membership stays at 8000, with about 1200 junior members (the vast majority non-serious, without coaches or regular training), we get a new logo and crow about how "this symbolizes the new USATT." (This latter is an exact quote from a board member.)

If we can't do the obvious stuff, how can we do the hard stuff? Is it any wonder that we can't get the sport going in this country? Is there anyone here who can talk sense to the people who run our sport? I've tried over and over and failed miserably. It's someone else's turn.

I've written about some of this in my blog, and this last week I emailed the board and others from the 2009 Strategic Meeting to ask what programs had been implemented from that meeting two years ago, but of course the answer is pretty much nothing, as was predictable (and predicted) at the time. About the only thing they could come up with as a result of bringing in 30 people from around the country for a weekend of meetings (at USATT expense) was that they now do a monthly e-newsletter (about one page), which really had nothing to do with the Strategic Meeting. (They were planning the e-newsletter before the meeting - we were one of the last Olympic sports to do this.) The newsletter is "nice," but since we have no serious programs to promote, it doesn't accomplish much of anything.

But we have a new logo!!!

I wrote about the 2009 Strategic Meeting and the lack of follow-up in my daily blog on Sept. 26, the two-year anniversary of the meeting. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter if USATT leaders talk big about the things they are going to do if they act small, which keeps the sport small. Big thinking isn't that big a deal, it's just a matter of understanding what's been successful in making the sports big in table tennis and other sports all over the world, adapting it to our situation, and then making it top priority to do the things necessary so our sport can become big in this country. While making the sport will not be an easy task, the things need to be done to do so is rather obvious.

Suppose there are 50 countries that have small table tennis associations. One of them sets up a league, and gets a large membership as a result. So a second country sets up a league, and it too gets a large membership. Then others follow, and soon there are a number of countries with large memberships from these leagues. (This roughly what has actually happened.) And then USA look at this and wonders, "Gee, how can we get a large membership?" And the really startling thing is they really do not know.

I was asked earlier this year to be on the USATT Coaching and Club Committees, and because the chairs of the committee are well-meaning and serious (Richard McAfee and Attila Malek), I agreed. However, I'm contemplating resigning both since it is a waste of time, since USATT simply is not ready to commit to the obvious steps needed to develop our sport. To USATT's credit, despite my obvious displeasure in some of my blogs and online postings, they haven't asked for my resignation.

Tennis growth

Mitch Seidenfeld, a professional table tennis coach and league director from Minneapolis, posted the following recently. "The Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association (ALTA) was founded in 1934 to promote the development of tennis through tournaments and junior tennis programs in the Atlanta, GA area. ALTA started league play in 1971 with less than 1,000 players. It grew to almost 10,000 players by 1975, 35,000 by 1982, over 51,000 in 1988 and 71,000 in 1992. Today ALTA has approximately 80,000 league members. It has evolved from a small group of volunteers to a large non-profit corporation."

Now how does this apply to table tennis? Keep in mind that the U.S. Tennis Association has 700,000 members, and they didn't get these members and then start a league; they started a league, like the one in Atlanta, and that led to the 700,000 members, nearly all of them league players. Just as sports all over the world have done, including table tennis.

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September 22, 2011

USA Table Tennis Infrastructure

No sport can get big without infrastructure. In countries like Germany and England (700,000 and 500,000 members of their respective table tennis associations), the focus is on their leagues, with a secondary focus on junior development. The U.S. Tennis Association (700,000 members) also focuses on its leagues and junior development, as well as the U.S. Open. Little League Baseball, pretty much by definition, focuses on leagues and junior development, and has millions of players. The United States Bowling Congress, with over 2.5 million members, has over 70,000 leagues administered by 35,000 volunteers in 2900 local and state associations. I could go on and on and on, with country after country, sport after sport, but it's always the same message. What can USA Table Tennis (8000 members) learn from this?

A number of times in our past we've had huge media coverage, and a large influx of players. Each time it was temporary because, predictably, without the infrastructure to absorb the players - leagues for all levels, junior programs for kids - the players came, didn't find what they wanted, and they left. And so the media coverage from Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1971 and 1972, the Olympic debut in 1988, the Olympics in the U.S. in 1996, even Forest Gump in 1994, didn't help; we simply weren't ready. We've been on national TV numerous times, from the ESPN coverage circa 1980, Prime Network in the early 1990s, various times during the Olympics, and more recently Killerspin ESPN broadcasts. Again, it didn't help without the infrastructure. USATT is like a shoe store with bad shoes; until they fix the shoes, TV and other promotions aren't going to develop a membership base. If we were a shoe store, we'd be out of business. Since we're a non-profit, we stay open, a monument to how not to grow a sport.

USA Table Tennis, don't just say leagues and junior programs are priorities, and create task forces to look into these issues, and then do nothing, as we've done over and Over and OVER. If you can't make these your top priority (or make a strong argument for something else), and act like they ARE your top priority by actually making it your, *cough* *cough* TOP PRIORTY, by actually implementing something - then you are just caretakers for a sport waiting for true leadership.

I've blogged about this numerous times, so here it is in a nutshell. Create the prototypical USA League, make it available to potential league directors, recruit volunteers, and promote the heck out of it. Recruit and train coaches who wish to run junior programs. See sport grow. Grow sport grow.

This is not a sport where talking the talk will get anything done; we need to walk the walk. There is a well-trod path to success; to quote the great Yoda, "Do or do not." Which will it be?

Returning short serves to the forehand

Having trouble with those short serves to the forehand? Often find yourself barely getting them in time, since you also have to be ready to cover deep serves? Try practicing in and out movement. Go into your regular receive stance. Then step in, with the right foot well under the table (for righties), and shadow-practice flipping or pushing that serve. Do this a few dozen times, in and out, in and out, in and out. It can be tiring, but it'll pay off if you do this regularly, perhaps a few times a week.

How to Be a Champion

Required reading for all players and coaches. (I posted this once before, but I should post this a few times a year.) These are from the May/June 2005 USA Table Tennis Magazine "How to Be a Champion" issue.

Werner Schlager

Here's a profile of 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager.

iPhone table tennis app

This seems to be table tennis, but since I use a phone designed to make, you know, phone calls, I'm not really sure.

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September 16, 2011

Wang Liqin forehand loop

In regular and slow motion (0:46) The perfect loop? Note the smooth weight transfer and body rotation as he creates torque. He's a three time World Men's Singles Champion (2001, 2005, 2007), world #1 for 25 consecutive months (second most ever), and winner of 21 Pro Tour singles events, the most ever. And I once interviewed him (through a translator) and shook his hand. Yes, my playing hand touched his. Regrettably, I've washed it since.

Service practice reminder

The following is a public service address. Remember that serve that let you down at the last tournament? The one that was going slightly high, or slightly long, or that nobody seemed to have trouble with? Isn't it time you go out and fix that problem for next time? Get a bucket of balls and practice. Here's a ten-point plan to serving success. I've got a bunch of other articles on serving here

USA Table Tennis Leagues

Yesterday there was an email exchange among USATT and other officials regarding the USA League Finals at the USA Nationals. Should they be an open event, where anyone can show up representing a region, or should they only allow teams representing a region with an established regional league? I'm strongly for the latter. There are established leagues in some areas (such as BATTF, LATTF, and NYTTL, representing the bay area (San Francisco region), Los Angeles, and New York (which includes teams from states as far away as Maryland). Here's my response.

"I really, Really, REALLY hope we can turn these leagues into a national thing. This is how many European countries developed huge memberships. I strongly recommend going with only allowing regions that have established leagues; otherwise, it's just another open event at the Nationals, and there's no incentive to grow. We need a nationwide network of leagues like these or we'll always struggle to gain membership. I also hope that those developing these leagues (BATTF, NYTTL, LATTF, others) have studied or will study how the European and Asian leagues started up and grew so that we can steal ideas from them in developing a USA model."

In another email, I wrote:

"I think there are some misconceptions about leagues. First, setting up leagues should not be a primary goal; they are the MEANS to a primary goal, which is to drastically increase membership, as has happened in other countries all over the world and in other sports. (They are an intermediate goal on the way toward this primary goal.) Our membership has been described as a round-off error, and that's not going to change until we do something to change it."

"Second, leagues are not set up for the benefit of the few existing clubs. They are set up to bring in new players which leads to new clubs set up primarily for league play. Germany, for example, didn't create its leagues for the benefit of its 11,000 clubs, which didn't exist at the time. It was the leagues that led to the 11,000 clubs. Before they created their leagues, they were in a similar situation as the U.S."

"Leagues and full-time training centers with full-time coaches and junior programs are beginning to take off around the U.S. . . . and that is the most promising thing I've ever seen in our sport."

I also wrote some strongly worded criticism of USATT's lack of effort in the league department, but I won't post that here at this time. Suffice to say they were severely reprimanded. Severely!!!

U.S. and NA Olympic Trials in Cary, NC

Here's your chance to buy tickets to see the U.S. Olympic Trials (Feb. 9-12, 2012) and North American Olympic Trials (April 20-22, 2012), both in Cary, NC.

Golf Pong

Yes, it's Golf Pong as former junior star Grant Li takes on golf pros Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, and Frederick Jacobson. Jacobson was a nationally ranked player in Sweden twenty years ago, who still plays in San Diego occasionally with Stellan Bengtsson in San Diego. (3:33, but doesn't get to the table tennis until 2:12.)

Machete Pong

Yes, it's Machete Pong as Comedian Jimmy Fallon takes on English adventurer, writer and television presenter Bear Grylls. (2:47, but starts with a 16-second commercial.)

Car Pong

Yes, it's Car Pong. Really. (0:14)

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September 7, 2011

They Called Me Mad

I recently read a really interesting book, "They Called Me Mad," which highlights about twenty famous scientists who in various ways were misunderstood or thought of as "mad scientists." On page 226 there's this quote from physicist Max Planck: "A new scientific truth does not as a rule prevail because its opponents declare themselves persuaded or convinced, but because the opponents gradually die out and the younger generation is made familiar with the truth from the start." (In Wikipedia there's a slightly different variation attributed to him: "A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.")

What does this have to do with table tennis? First, to be clear, I'm not advocating anyone in table tennis dying. However, this is exactly the problem USA Table Tennis faces. Generation after generation of often well-meaning USATT leaders come and go, but over and over they try variations of the same failed ideas--often relying on the advice of the same table tennis "experts" who advised previous generations of unsuccessful leaders--and USATT goes nowhere. (There are always some among the USATT leadership that see the light, but they are few, they are outnumbered, and they usually have given up being that pesty person that tries to convince the unconvinceable.) Trying to convince USATT to adopt the methods to develop the sport that have been used successfully in other countries and other sports--and that have been used successfully in some regions of the U.S.--doesn't work; see the Planck quote. I know, I've tried and Tried and TRIED. (So have others.)

In recent years, however, independent of USATT, we suddenly have full-time training centers popping up all over the place (from 5-10 just five years ago to about 50 now), and regional leagues around major cities (NYC, SF, LA) that could grow and become national. (The ITTF coaching seminars created by the USATT coaching committee are promising, though I'd like to see more emphasis on recruiting and training of those who would like to be professional coaches and run junior programs--with an equal emphasis on the professional side (recruiting students, setting up clubs and programs, etc)--and on club-based junior programs.) This is exactly how other countries and other sports developed, and this is the "younger generation" developing our sport. If these same people someday ran USATT, imagine how fast our sport would progress. 

Reverse Pendulum Serve

Many players develop forehand pendulum serves, the most common serve in competitive table tennis. But not so many develop reverse pendulum serves. Why not? It gives you a huge variation to your serves. Not having one is a huge handicap. Not only does the variation make your other serves more effective, but many players--probably most--have great difficulty with this serve, partly because they rarely see it. (It's especially effective short to the forehand, along with sudden long ones to the backhand.) So here's a video (1:48) that shows the serve from multiple angles and in slow motion. Now go practice.

Samsonov and the ITTF Players' Commission

Here's a short article on Samsonov on the ITTF Players' Commission.

Top players analyze their own games

Here's a video (10:25) of Australian star William Henzell analyzing his match against French star Adrien Mattenet. See if you agree with his analysis. Do you do this type of analysis with your own matches? Why not?

Tutoring

In addition to coaching and writing, I've added a new sideline. I've been hired as a private tutor for four hours a week (two hours twice a week) at my regular coaching rate. I'm tutoring calculus, English, and creative writing. It actually means a bit more than four hours a week since I have to review and plan everything in advance. I'm also relearning calculus since my bachelor's in math was from 1985, though I've done some tutoring on and off since then. I'm especially looking forward to teaching creative writing since, outside table tennis, I'm a science fiction & fantasy writer.

Funny table tennis rackets

Here are some funny table tennis rackets. And here's a holy one.

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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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