Xavier Therien

September 11, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching

Here's a rundown of my coaching yesterday. I left my house at 2:30 to pick up two players for our afterschool program (Willie and Jessie). From 3:30-4:00 PM I worked with Andrew, the nine-year-old I blogged about yesterday who was rapidly learning how to hit forehands. Today's goal was to hit 20 forehands in a row. Believe it or not, he got 19 in a row and then missed three times in a row! Obviously it was mental - and sure enough, as he approached 20 each time he fell back into his old habit of lunging at the ball, thereby swatting the ball off the end. I had him shadow stroke some more, and we tried again - and this time he not only got 20, he went right on up to 54. Not bad for this fourth 30-minute lesson. From 4-4:30 PM I fed multiball to him and Willie.

I was supposed to coach Daniel from 5-6 PM (nine-year-old, rated about 1600), but his dad called around 4:30 and said that his wrist was bothering him from some accident at school, and so needed to rest it. Between 4:30 and 5:00 I helped Willie and Andrew with their homework. Then I got in my car and drove to McDonalds where I had a chicken sandwich and read for nearly an hour.

Then I coached Matt (13, about 1600) from 6-7:15PM. Matt has a lot of power on his forehand, and doesn't seem to realize it and his shots wander about a bit, so when we do drills it's often hard for me to adjust to them and block back as accurately as I'd like. We spent a lot of time doing the 2-1 drill - backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side, with all his shots going to my backhand - and because of the pace he kept, we had trouble with consistency. It got better as we went along. When I said it was time to switch to some multiball practice, he wanted to continue, so we probably did over 20 minutes straight of the 2-1 drill. When you do this drill, if you have trouble covering the wide forehand it's usually because you were off-balanced when you finished the previous shot, the forehand from the backhand side, with your weight off to the right (for a righty). Also, if you go too fast and the balls spray around, then even a coach can have difficulty placing the balls correctly!

Last up was Sameer (13, also around 1600). This was only his second session after taking a month off because of knee problems. His goal was to do 50 forehand loops and 50 backhand loops (or off-the-bounce topspins) in a row. On the forehand side he kept missing between 35 and 40, but eventually he got it. He got the 50 on the backhand pretty quickly. After taking the time off, the biggest hurdle is he's fallen back into his old habit of standing up too straight, so we're working on that.

Today's going to be just as busy. Once I again I leave at 2:30 to pick up kids, then coach the afterschool program from 3:30-4:30. Then I coach pretty much continuously until 8:15PM, including a new junior training program from 6-7PM with an even ten kids.

After today I'm going to focus on my science fiction writing for a few days - primarily doing the absolutely final rewrite work on my Campaign 2100 novel (which, as I've blogged before, features table tennis!). It was critiqued this summer at a writing workshop, but I haven't had time until now to do the rewriting. There's a chance - just a chance - that I might take a few days off next week from blogging to focus on the novel. It depends on how much I'm able to do over the next few days while still doing my regular coaching, blogging, and other TT writing and work. Friday I have about 3.5 hours of coaching, but only about two on Saturday. But things get busy again, coaching-wise, on Sunday.  

USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame

They've announced the 2014 USATT Hall of Fame Inductees. (It's not "officially" announced, but it's been posted on Facebook and verified by Hall of Fame Committee members.) They are Sheila O'Dougherty, Lisa Gee, Tawny Banh, Richard Butler, and Lifetime Achievement Award Donna Sakai. Congrats to all! (Here's the USATT Hall of Fame.)

Juggling and Table Tennis

I've found juggling to be a great tool to develop hand-eye coordination, whether for table tennis or other racket-type sports. Long ago I learned to juggle three ping-pong balls, and to go under the leg or bounce on the floor in mid-juggle, as well as to do two in one hand. I've seen others in table tennis as well who learned juggling, including one of Maryland's top juniors (well, he's 18 now), Nathan Hsu. So I was impressed with Xavier Therien's juggling/table tennis contraption video (and note that he's juggling four balls at the start), which is his entry in the ITTF Stiga Trickshot Showdown. (The final five for the contest is judged based on views, so by watching his video or others you are voting for it!)

Match Strategy Playing as a Chopper

Here's the new video (10:10) from PingSkills.

Great Point between Wang Liqin and Werner Schlager

Here's the video (1:07) of the point between these two legends.

The Power of Lob

Here's a highlights video (7:52) from four years ago that I don't think I've ever posted.

Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari - USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the article.

Players Announced for Upcoming ITTF World Cups

Here's the ITTF Press Release. Representing North America are 14-year-old Kanak Jha (USA) on the men's side, and Mo Zhang (CAN) on the women's side.

21 Gold Medals Handed Out at ITTF Para World Championships

Here's the ITTF Press Release. (Sadly, no USA winners in singles, which just completed.)

Members of Chinese National Team at Triangle Table Tennis

Here's the info flyer. Members of the Chinese team will be at the Triangle TTC in Morrisville, NC, Sept. 24-26, to do exhibitions, clinics, and private lessons. Chinese players attending are Fang Bo (world #25), Wu Hao, Liu Jikang, Wen Jia, Feng Yalan, and Mu Zi. This isn't the Chinese "A" Team, but anyone on the Chinese Team is a superstar in the U.S.!

Header Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (3:36) of this new version of table tennis that's sweeping the world, or least Germany! It's a combination of table tennis, soccer, and insanity. I get a headache just watching.

Waldner and Persson Goofing Off

Here's video (1:23) of the two goofing off in Moscow, with Waldner impersonating former top players.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 28, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the four-day camp at MDTTC. We started with a contest - the players paired up to see who could get 100 forehands in a row. As I explained to them, we often say that a player doesn't have a forehand or backhand until he's hit 100 in a row, and so everyone was determined to do so. 

For inspiration I told them the story of 13-year-old practice partner Sameer Shaikh. About a year before he was struggling to get 100 forehands in a row in a session with me. He got 99 in a row, and missed! Then he got 97, then I think it was 94, and each time, just as he approached 100, he'd miss. It was torture for him! But we decided we'd devote the entire session to this, and he finally got 100 in a row. But once he did that, he relaxed and stopped trying to guide the shot. Result? The rally continued, and he actually hit 1000 in a row!!! I caught the ball and told him he'd done enough, and we'd continue later. (We never did get back to it. I'm not sure if my arm could take another 1000.) The purpose of the drill/contest was both to develop the stroking technique, timing, and consistency, but also to develop concentration and confidence. 

We rotated the players regularly so everyone hit with everyone else, including practice partner Sameer. Then we did the same thing with backhands. Everyone hit at least 100 in a row on one side, and several managed to do it on both sides. We finished with a smashing drill, where players would hit two forehands in a row, then smash and continue smashing, while the other tried to return them. 

Then we went to the main focus of the day - serving. I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin, and showed them how much spin could be created on a serve, as well as showing them various "tricks," such as backspin serves that bounced back into (or over) the net, and sidespin serves that broke almost directly sideways. Then I had them practice spinning the soccer balls in the air - spin and catch, spin and catch. It's one of the best ways to learn to spin the ball. Then I gave several lectures/demos on the rules, creating spin, deception, the main service motions, and fast serves. Between the lecture/demos they practiced serves, with each getting a table and box of balls to themselves.  

Next on the agenda was more smashing. After a lecture and demo with Sameer, the players formed a line, and in rapid-fire fashion took turns smashing forehands as I fed multiball, three shots each, one to the backhand, one to the middle, one to the forehand, and then the next was up. 

We finished with a receive "game." They took turns trying to return my serves, and stayed up until they'd missed two. The catch was that I got to make fun of them when they missed, while they got to make fun of me if they got them back. I'd mostly serve and quickly put my racket on the table and step to the side of the table my sidespin would force their return to - so if they did return the serve, I'd be stuck rallying with my hand. Or I'd say, "Don't put this in the net!" as I served backspin. Or I'd serve fast aces at the corners. Tomorrow we'll be covering return of serve, along with pushing and looping. 

It was a long day. After the camp I had another 2.5 hours of private coaching. Had some nice breakthroughs - Willie is learning to loop, Daniel's loop is getting powerful, and Matt's is even more ferocious! 

Here's the group picture, which I also linked to yesterday. Using a high-quality version, I printed out copies for everyone on photo paper, which I'll give out today. 

New Two-Toned Ball Undermines Chopper's Advantage

Here's the article and video (2 hours!). 

Interview with German National Coach Jörg Rosskopf

Here's the article

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Ninety-seven down, three to go!

  • Day 4: Latin American Ascending to New Found Heights

Ping-Pong Balls for Children's Therapy

Here's the article

Ping-Pong Table Sound System

Here's the article - yes, a sound system that doubles as a ping-pong table!

Xavier Therien - STIGA 2014 ITTF TrickShot Showdown

Here's the Canadian National Team Member's juggling and table tennis with a crazy contraption trick shot (1:22)! And here are more - there are so many that I haven't really gone through them. Here's the home page for the competition.

Backhand of the Year?

Here's video of Nelson's Backhand (52 sec) - see the shot 7 seconds in!

Around-Net Rolling Return

Here's the video (22 sec) of some rather incredible staged shots. 

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (32 sec).

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ping-Pong Cupcakes Anyone?

Here's the picture

Tricky Serve!

Here's the video (6 sec).

Send us your own coaching news!

July 16, 2014

Celebrities I've Met

Because of table tennis I've met an inordinate number of celebrities. Here's a listing.

TABLE TENNIS PLAYERS. I've met most of the top players in the U.S. and the world since the 1980s, and many from before that. If I were to list all those players it'd be an endless list. It'd be easier to list the ones I haven't met. I've had lunch and dinner with the Swedish team when they were at their heyday (Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Lindh, Carlsson, etc.); met the top Chinese at the Worlds, U.S. Opens, at MDTTC when they came in early to train, and during my twelve years as editor of USATT Magazine I interviewed nearly every top 20 player in the world. I've known essentially every top U.S. player for many years, either by actually meeting them, coaching them, or (more often) coaching against them when they play MDTTC players. I've met nearly every living USATT Hall of Famer, and every Men's and Women's Singles National Champion since the Nationals began in 1976. 

Men's Singles World Champions I've met: Wang Liqin, Werner Schlager, Liu Guoliang, Jan-Ove Waldner, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jorgen Persson, Seiji Ono, Stellan Bengtsson, Ichiro Ogimura.

Women's Singles World Champions I've met: Zhang Yining, Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, Qiao Hong, Tong Ling, Angelica Rozeanu.

But the list of celebrities I've met through table tennis gets more interesting when I look at the non-TT celebrities I've met. Here's a listing.


  • David Robinson, basketball star - played poker with him at Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, circa 1988, when I was (at various times) the manager, assistant coach, and director of the Resident Table Tennis Program.
  • Errict Rhett, football star (running back for Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Cleveland Browns) - met and hit with him at an outdoor table tennis exhibition at Baltimore's Inner Harbor in 1999.
  • Jeanette "Black Widow" Lee, world #1 women's billiards player in 1990s - met her at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Ted St. Martin, world record holder for most consecutive free throws (5221) - met him at a table tennis exhibition at a sporting good show.
  • Audrey Weisiger, USA Olympic Figure Skating Coach - coached her summer of 2013.
  • JJ Hardy, Darren O'Day, Brady Anderson - coached these three Baltimore Orioles players at MDTTC in 2013.
  • Met most of the rest of the Baltimore Orioles at a demo in their clubhouse on Aug. 21, 2013, including: Manager Buck Showalter, Coach Terry Crowly, position players Chris Davis (talked to him for 20 minutes about athlete and skill development), Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Nate McLouth, Chris Wieters, Steve Pearce, and pitchers Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day, Jim Johnson, Tommy Hunter, Brian Matusz, and Troy Patton.
  • Met numerous members of the USA Tae Kwon Do and Archery teams in the late 1980s at the Olympic Training Center during the four years I was resident there, including several national champions, but don't remember any of their names. I shared the dining hall with Olympic athletes from essentially every other sport, and probably met a few that I don't remember.


  • Susan Sarandon - met her at the North American Teams circa 2008 or so.
  • Julia Dreyfus, star of Seinfeld and VEEP. Met her at the VEEP filming on Oct. 9, 2013, as well as others on the set. (I was brought in as a table tennis advisor for a TT scene.) Other than saying "hi" as I walked by, didn't actually talk to her, but stood next to her numerous times while she talked to others - and made eye contact!!!
  • Adoni Maropis, actor (best known as villain Abu Fayed in "24") - met and played tournament matches with him three times. Have since practiced with and played him many times.
  • Judah Friedlander, actor and comedian, best known for his role in TV show "30 Rock" - coached him in the 1990s/early 2000s, and several times at MDTTC.  
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian/impersonator. Met him at 2009 USA Nationals, and played doubles with and against him in practice matches at MDTTC in 2014.


  • Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State - met him at 25th Anniversary Ping Pong Diplomacy Festivities in 1996.
  • Jack Markell, governor of Delaware (took office Jan. 2009) - coached him at five-day table tennis camp in 1990s before he was famous, and again at our Christmas camp in December 2009, along with his son. His son came to several more of our camps.  
  • Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington DC (1999-2007) - met him at a table tennis exhibition.
  • Oscar Goodman, mayor of Las Vegas (1999-2011) - met him at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas.
  • James McClure, senator from Illinois (1973-1991) - met him in the early 1980s while helping Chinese coach Liguo Ai get his visa.


  • Will Shortz, world-famous crossword puzzle editor for the New York Times - met him at several table tennis tournaments, including at the Westchester, NY club that he owns.
  • Tom McEvoy, 1983 world poker champion - met him at a table tennis tournament.
  • Julian Waters, world-famous calligrapher - coached and played matches with him for many years at MDTTC.

I've also met a lot of celebrities through my non-TT sideline - science fiction writing, mostly at SF conventions and writers workshops. Here's a short listing for that. When I say "met," at minimum it means I actually spoke with them and shook hands.


WRITERS: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, George R.R. Martin, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, John Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Joe Haldeman, Connie Willis, Robert J. Sawyer, Frederick Pohl, Ray Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, George R.R. Martin, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Harry Turtledove, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Jack McDevitt, James Morrow, Gregory Benford, Robert Asprin, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Carry Vaughn, Nancy Kress, David Louis Edelman, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder.

EDITORS: Stanley Schmidt, Sheila Williams, George Scithers, Gardner Dozois, Gordon Van Gelder, Ellen Datlow, Shawna McCarthy, Eric Flint, Scott Andrews, Jeanne Cavelos.

ACTORS: Walter Koenig. (Also Leonard Nimoy - see below.)

OTHERS: Craig Newmark, founder and owner of Craigslist.com - met and talked to him for 30 min at the SFWA suite at the World Science Fiction Convention in 2006.

I've also met a few outside TT and SF:

  • Solomon Snyder, world-famous neurologist from Johns Hopkins - he's my uncle!
  • Jim Palmer, Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher for Baltimore Orioles - met him at Camera Day at a Baltimore Orioles game in 1972, when I was 12. He patted me on the back. I never washed that t-shirt again, and ended up hanging it on my wall.
  • Leonard Nimoy, actor best known as Mr. Spock from Star Trek. According to my mom, when I was three years old I ran between his legs at a bank while both were standing in line!

ICC Coaches/Players Resign

Here's the note received last night about the two ICC coaches/players. Zhou, rated 2718, has spent much of the last few years as the #1 rated player in the U.S., with Tian Meng ("Maggie"), rated 2527, near the top of the women's rankings. I'm told they are looking to start their own table tennis center. (Here's the press release on this.)

I regret to announce that Zhou Xin and Tian Meng have resigned from ICC to pursue other opportunities effective tomorrow July 15th. We really appreciate their service for the past three years. We wish them do well pursuing their dream. In the mean time we will continue with our current team Massimo Costantini, Liang Yong Hui, Dan Liu, Huang ZiHoang, Anal Kashyap, Indeebar Chaterjee and Opendro Singh to train ICC students. Furthermore, we are also actively seeking another high level player/coach to strengthen our team. You will hear from us on that soon. Bon Voyage, Zhou and Maggie. We'll miss you.

Here's the noted from the two coaches/players:

Appreciate the blessing from ICC. Also appreciate many people who have taken care of and guided us - too many to list. All good things must come to an end. The past few years is an important journal for both Maggie and myself. The next step will be a challenge. However, we are preparing for the challenge. Hope very soon we will be able to contribute to the sport of table tennis as ICC has been.
Zhou Xin and Maggie Tian

Forehand Flips

Here's video (72 sec) of some world-class flips off short balls, mostly forehands, with a few backhand flips as well.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov - Off the Table

Here's a video (3:27) that shows the off-the-table Ovtcharov. His English is excellent. He even mentions Lebron James (along with Novak Djokovic) as his favorite non-table tennis athletes that he looks up to.

Xavier Therien vs. China at the 2014 Canada Open

Here's the video (1:08) - lots of action!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-four down, 46 to go!

  • Day 47: Melecio Eduardo Rivera Brings a Wealth of Experience to the ITTF’s EC

Table Tennis Exhibition Between Saive and Grubba

Here's the video (7:35).

Kiernan Shipka Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and pictures of the 14-year-old actress playing table tennis in high heels. She's best known for her role as Sally Draper in "Mad Men."

Reacting to Pingpong Mishap at Blackfoot Pride Days

Here's the article from the Idaho State Journal. Here's a picture. "Ping-pong balls rained down on Interstate 15 north of Blackfoot last Saturday when an annual giveaway event for Blackfoot Pride Days went terribly wrong."

New Dance Move: The Ping Pong

Here's the article and video (24 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 8, 2013

Nostalgia - The Top Players of Today and Yesterday

Mondays is usually my day off. However, since I'm going to be away at the Veep taping on Wed and Thur (see yesterday's blog), I asked my five students on those days if we could reschedule, and all five obliged. So yesterday I did two hours coaching, the first time I've done so on a Monday in a long time. I've also got two extra hours today, so I'll be coaching almost non-stop from 2:45-8PM. (Fortunately I'm over my arm problems.)

I was coaching on one of the front six tables. (We have 16 tables, sometimes 18 for training camps, but the front six are extra-large.) During the first hour I looked around at the other five tables, and couldn't help but reminisce. I remember back when I was starting out at the old New Carrollton Table Tennis Club (in Maryland) in the late 1970s. Between matches I'd watch as the club's star players played on the tables on the far right - we had something like 9-10 "great" players, all in the 1800-2000 range! Wow! This was back when I was about 1100, and to me they were the greats of table tennis - Herb Horton, Bob Kaminsky, Jim Verta, Carl Kronlage, Jim Mossberg, Ron Snyder, Gary Akinsette, Tim Ang, Barbara Kaminsky, Donna Sakai, Yvonne Kronlage - wow, were they good! Not to mention up-and-coming juniors Brian Masters, Mike Shapiro, Curt Kronlage, and Phil Shaw. Oh, and me, though I didn't start until I was 16.

But the world has changed, and I'm now a coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. I still have that same sense of "Wow!" when I look about. And now back to the present, and those five other tables.

On tables 1-5 was Nathan Hsu and Chen Jie ("James"); Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Derek Nie; Raghu Nadmichettu and Harold Baring; Dong Yiming ("Steve") and Roy Ke; and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") and Crystal Wang. I'm not going to give all their ratings, but they range from 2250 to 2600, and six of the eight are under age 18, including such phenoms as Crystal (11, 2267, formerly 2355) and Derek (12, 2297). And hovering over tables one and two was Coach and former Chinese team member Cheng Yinghua, former 2850 player, not playing this time, just coaching. (Coach Jack Huang, former 2800 player and Chinese team member, would normally be there but was in China on a three-week vacation.) 

There are other clubs in the U.S. with such high levels of play; I'm just lucky to be in one of them.

ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2013

Here's the video (11:34).

Five Peculiarities to Become a Great TT Player

Here's the video (5:11). This is not technical advice, but a list of five attributes most of the top players have. The short list? Shakehands, lefty, attack, Butterfly, Asian.

Table Tennis Score Keeper
Here's a new scorekeeper app. "Table Tennis Score Keeper app is a simple application which helps players, their parents or friends in scoring matches. It can be used in local tournaments, leagues, college, or practice games. Scorekeeper app can score Best of 7, 5, 3 or 1 games. It records which player will serve next. You can add the player names and also extend by adding club or country name. Once a game in a match is completed it can be added and the next game can be scored. The app works on Portrait mode and also is tested on landscape for Nexus 7 and Nexus 4. It is best suited for parents, coaches or friends who are scoring for their player during a match."

Internet Calls Bluff on Incredible Ping-Pong Video

Yesterday I posted a link to the video "Amazing Ping-Pong Tricks with a Knife." I also asked if you thought it was real. (In the comments below Doug explained why he was sure it was not.) Well, the Internet has called its bluff and says it is not real - here's the article. So who are these people? They are the Tumba Ping Pong Show, and they need a segment of their own....

Tumba Ping-Pong Show

Here's their home page. I've linked to some of their staged videos before. They have lots and lots of these spectacularly staged table tennis videos - take a look!

This Is How You Hang Out with Friends

The title of this video is longer than the video (5 sec) but it's pretty funny. Someone called it shaolin ping-pong.

Are We Twins?

Here's a hilarious video (2:23) starring Samson Dubina and Xavier Therien. I know them both so well (mostly from coaching against them) that it never occurred to me that they were twins - until now!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 5, 2013

Tip of the Week

Blocking Tips.

Back Stiffness

My back is now so stiff I've been offered money to use it to carve stuff on diamonds. There's a rumor it's made of collapsed matter.

I spent most of July feeding multiball and hitting with beginners, then spent nine days at a writers workshop (mostly sitting down), and then another week at another camp mostly feeding multiball or hitting with beginners. When I finally had several sessions with more advanced players this weekend (John, Kevin, Sameer) I could barely move. At some point in the last month or so the wide forehand has moved another three feet away. The backhand corner is now somewhere way off in the distance to the left. And looping with power is like trying to lasso someone with a hundred-pound dumbbell.

If I weren't so busy with MDTTC camps, private & group coaching, a new tenant just moving into my townhouse (I live on third floor, rent out first two floors), battles with previous tenant (who left without paying rent, cleaning the place, and left numerous damages), plus an incredible amount of time now devoted to my novelist career (my first one's coming out Nov. 15 - see my July 30 blog), this blog and Tip of the Week, a pair of upcoming ITTF coaching seminars, promoting Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (as I just did!), and a few jillion other things, I'd focus on getting back in shape and back to my normal 2200 level - not easy at age 53.

This morning we start another camp, Week Eight of our ten weeks of camps. We have stronger (i.e. younger) coaches who act as high-level practice partners, so most of my coaching time will likely be giving the usual group lectures, demos, and feeding multiball.

Seven Days, Seven Trophies!

One of my students, Sameer Shaikh (who just turned 12) had an incredible week. At the Northern Open in Detroit last weekend, he won Under 800, Under 950, and Under 1100, and made the final of Under 1250. (That's four trophies.) On Monday, at the Junior Olympics (also in Detroit), he won Division I (that's five). This past Saturday he won Under 1200 and Under 1400 at the Maryland Circuit (that's seven). So how many of you have won seven trophies, six of them for first place, in one week? (Disclosure - while I'm his primary coach, I wasn't at the Northern Open or Junior Olympics, where he was coached by John Hsu. Also, while I was away at a recent writers workshop he had several sessions with Raghu Nadmichettu.)

He's mostly been taking one lesson a week this past year, but recently upped that. Yesterday I gave him a two-hour lesson. His shots have really smoothed out. I think much of it is confidence - he now knows he can make his shots. He's even challenging me in these backhand games where we go backhand to backhand only - and we do that because that's his weak side. (He's primarily a forehand attacker, both looping and smashing.) We're now working hard on the backhand attack, especially backhand looping, as well as more serve variations. Yesterday I started him on reverse pendulum serves to go with his normal pendulum serve.

Here's a picture of Sameer with the four trophies from the Northern Open, with Coach John Hsu.

Breaking Bad Footwork Habits

Here's a new coaching video from PingSkills (2:13).

The Pyramid Rule - Playing Close to the Table

Here's a new coaching article from Table Tennis Master.

USOC Athletes of the Month - USATT's Nominations

Here's your chance to vote for Lily Zhang and Tahl Leibovitz! Here are their credentials, from the article:

Lily Zhang (Palo Alto, Calif.) reached the women’s singles semifinals at the 2013 U.S. Open, held July 2-6 in Las Vegas. Zhang defeated current Pan American champion Mo Zhang of Canada, 4-3, in the quarterfinals before losing to top-seeded Elizabeth Samara of Romania, 4-1. The 17-year-old also claimed the 18U singles title with a 3-1 victory over Ge Chi of China, and concluded her impressive campaign by earning the bronze medal in the U21 singles, eventually losing to teammate Ariel Hsing (San Jose, Calif.), 4-1. 

Four-time Paralympian Tahl Leibovitz (Queens, N.Y.) breezed through preliminary and final rounds without dropping a game en route to the gold medal in the first men’s para table tennis event at the 2013 Maccabiah Games, held July 17-30 in Jerusalem. Leibovitz defeated Aviv Gordon of Israel, 3-0, in the semifinals and notched a 3-0 victory over Israel’s Neal Sharon in the final.

Sweden's National Table Tennis Team is Deteriorating

Here's the article. Sweden was a powerhouse for decades, but no more. (This is one of many articles at TableTennista.)

Why Table Tennis is the Sport for You (Women)

Here's the article from the British online magazine Female First.

World 2013 Site Tour

Here's the video (1:43) by Canadian star Xavier Therien.

Santa Fe's First Tournament

Here's the article in the Santa Fe New Mexican.

6mm Ping-Pong

Here's the video (1:19)! And some thought the 38mm ball was too small...

Send us your own coaching news!

June 28, 2013

Last Blog Until After U.S. Open

I'm off soon to the U.S. Open in Las Vegas, returning on Sunday, July 7. As usual, I don't blog when I'm at tournaments - just too busy. I'll start up again on Monday, July 8. (It'll be a hectic time as I also have a new Mon-Fri training camp starting that morning.)

U.S. Open

It looks like a record number of entries. There are currently 913 players listed as entries for the U.S. Open, but this does not include entries to the ITTF U.S. Open World Tour. (The actual U.S. Open doesn't include Men's or Women's Singles or Under 21 Boys or Girls, which are part of the ITTF World Tour.) The ITTF U.S. Open World Tour Page shows 181 entries, but there are overlaps between that and the regular U.S. Open entries. However, it looks like there'll be more entries in all than the 1000+ from the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens in Oklahoma City and Houston. However, the 1990 U.S. Open in Baltimore included the World Veteran's Games and a special Junior Championships, and in all had something like 2700 entries if I remember correctly, though I may be off. (Anyone have better numbers for 1990?)

You can follow the action of the World Tour events at the U.S. Open at the ITTF U.S. Open World Tour Page.

MDTTC Camp, My Back and Foot, Fortune Cookies, and White House Down

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I gave a short lecture on that as well as on the backhand drive against backspin and the backhand smash, and used Roy Ke as my demo partner. I also introduced the beginners to returning serves, mostly with a return serve game where they'd line up and try to return my serve. If they did, they stayed until the missed. Then I explained the way to return the various spins I was giving them. If I told them in advance what the spin was, most were able to return the serve about half the time. I also gave them fast serves (they did not like those!) as well as my infamous backspin serve that bounces back over the net to my side. (I let them do a takeover when I do that. Top players see it coming and smack it in from the side of the table.)

Unfortunately, my back hasn't gotten much better. I tried giving a private lesson, but after hitting two minutes I went to multiball, and then brought in Raghu Nadmichettu to do the last 30 minutes. The problem is the back has really stiffened up, and when I try hitting, I'm like a block of granite. Worse, this put a strain on the rest of me as I compensated - and in those two minutes I managed to aggravate the back problem as well as hurt my foot. Yes, I'm limping now. But I've got substitutes for my coaching sessions today and this weekend so I'll have three days off (Sat-Mon), other than one session with a six-year-old on Sunday where hopefully I'll survive.

For lunch, I created another fake fortune that I snuck into my fortune cookie, which said, "A giant panda will sit on you and crush you." The day before I had one that said, "A giant wolverine will eat you today." Previous ones included "A meteor will kill you in five minutes" and "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." Today's says, "Today you will be shot, electrocuted, burned, drowned, eaten, and a giant squid will choke you. Have a nice day." I create these in Photoshop, and have mastered the art of surreptitiously opening the plastic around a fortune cookie, breaking the cookie in half, replacing the real fortune with the fake one, putting it back together again so it looks unbroken (with the fake fortune sort of holding it together), and sneaking it back inside the wrapper. I think the kids are getting suspicious!

After the camp finished at 6PM I took five of the players (Derek Nie, Roy Ke, Leon Bi, Raghu Nadmichettu, and Allen Lin) to see the 7PM showing of White House Down. (Three others - Crystal Wang and Princess & Tiffany Ke - went separately and I believe saw Monsters University.) It went over really well - a nice action movie. As an amateur presidential historian, I loved the White House scenes, including recognizing all the presidential pictures and statues.

How to Cut Table Tennis Rubber

Here's a new article from Paddle Palace on this.

Pong XT - Europe on Fire

Here's a great new video (4:05) set to music that showcases the best points from the 2013 World Championships. Edited by Canadian star Xavier Thérien!

Saving Norman

Here's a great short film just out (10:30, actual movie is about 9 min) on table tennis, starring Willem Dafoe. It actually takes table tennis seriously. Spoiler Alert! It's about a former table tennis star who missed his big chance at the World Championships 25 years before, who's become a recluse, and how someone helps him resolve these issues - and how it all affects his parrot, Norman. From a serious table tennis player's point of view, the actual table tennis scenes are pretty weak - the first one because the level is obviously very low with poor technique, the second because the computer special effects are poor and obviously fake, as are the actors attempts to fake real table tennis strokes.

Ping-Pong Ball Mouth Juggling

Here's a video (1:04) of a guy setting the record for the most consecutive pong-pong ball juggling with his mouth - 212.

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May 3, 2013

U.S. Open - To Enter, or Not To Enter

I'm always stuck in a quandary about whether to play in the U.S. Open or just coach. I'm going there primarily as a coach, and that's my priority. I usually enter a few hardbat events, and over the years have won a number of events. However, I often have to default out of them if there's a conflict. I've done this repeatedly in singles over the years; only once has anyone complained that I know of. In doubles, I've never had to default, but I've always let my partner know in advance that there's that chance, if there's a conflict between our doubles and a major match of a student of mine.

This year I'm considering entering Hardbat Singles & Doubles, Over 40 Hardbat, and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles. I'm one of the favorites in Over 40 (I've won it four times), and I'm pretty good at Hardbat Doubles (I've won it 13 times), plus there's Over 50 Doubles. I can do well in Hardbat Singles as well - I've won it twice, though I'm not as fast as I was when I was winning the event. But is it fair to opponents who sign up for round robin events when a player doesn't show, and knows in advance there's a decent chance he might not be able to play? On the other hand, it means other players have a better chance of advancing.

I could go all in, and enter other events where I might be competitive, such as Over 50 and Over 40 Singles and Doubles. I made the final of Over 40 Doubles at the 2011 U.S. Open. I could go pretty deep in the singles events, though of course eventually I'm going to run into Dan Seemiller or some former Chinese champion. (I'd have to do some serious tactical magic to beat them - and of course play like a maniac.)  

I'm probably not going to enter the regular sponge events - just too many conflicts, and it would take my attention away from my coaching focus. But the hardbat events? I'm leaning toward playing them, and perhaps, just maybe, entering Over 50 Doubles as well. But I'd have to drop them like a shot if there's a conflict with my coaching.

One disadvantage for me in senior events - I'm considerably better against junior players. I've been playing them for years as a coach and practice partner, and I know exactly how to play them. My overall level these days is about 2200, but against juniors, it's closer to 2300. (This does not include those days, about once a week, where I'm so stiff I can barely move, and my level drops down into the earth's mantle.)

Here's the U.S. Open home page. Deadline to enter is May 11, though you can enter through May 18 with a $75 late fee.

1996 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating Coach

Recently Audrey Weisiger, the 1996 U.S. Olympic Figure Skating coach (Google her if you want more) started taking lessons with me. She started out with inverted, but about ten days ago tried out long pips on the backhand (no sponge), and liked it. (I blogged about this on April 26.) This past week she took a trip to Minneapolis, where I gave her contact info for Mitch Seidenfeld, the world dwarf champion and a professional coach. Here's a short video (27 sec., see Audrey celebrate winning a point!) of them playing, and here's a picture.

Iron Man 3

I'm taking some of our junior players to see Iron Man 3 tonight after practice. Some of them have been dying to see this movie for weeks. Confession - I've been dying to see this movie for years (or at least since #2 came out three years ago). Popcorn, cherry coke, and 130 minutes of fun coming up! Any local juniors who want to join us, we'll be leaving from MDTTC at 7PM, eating a quick dinner at a fast food place, then going to the Germantown Theater for the 8PM 3-D showing. (I'm not high on 3-D, but the kids prefer it.) 

Hong Kong Cup Highlights

Here's a highlights video (2:49) of the Hong Kong Cup, put together by long-time Canadian National Team Member (and player at the tournament) Xavier Therien.

Love and Ping Pong in New York

Here's an article that came out in December in SB National that I just saw, "Table (Tennis) for Two: Love and Ping Pong in New York."

Table Tennista

Here are the latest headline international stories from Table Tennista.

Table Tennis Clock

Here's a really nice table tennis clock. (If you can't see it there in Facebook, try this.) Anyone know where we can buy one? On March 12, I blogged about and linked to 28 different table tennis clocks. (I just added this one, so now there are 29.)

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