June 5, 2013


On June 4 I blogged about seeing an optometrist last week. Until recently I could read easily without glasses, but as I wrote on June 4, it's getting harder to focus on near items, and my right eye especially is getting worse. Yesterday I got the new reading glasses, and they work great. I don't need them at my computer, but now I can read books comfortably again. And there is nothing more important than that, right? Other than table tennis, of course.

I'm a bit nearsighted, so without glasses things in the distance get blurry. I discovered this on my first day in college back in 1980. I'd taken two years off after high school before starting college, and apparently my eyes had changed during that time. I sat in the front row, and could barely see what was on the blackboard - I spent the whole class squinting. Immediately afterwards I saw an optometrist, and within a couple of days I had glasses. Normally I only need them for classes, when driving, when watching TV or a movie. I take them off at home, and at most times when not doing something that requires seeing in the distance. They often are perpetually perched on top of my head, where they seem to balance well, ready to be brought down when needed.

I do wear them for table tennis. I simply can't see my opponent's contact with the ball otherwise, or see the ball clearly as it approaches. It means I don't see things as well close on my side - such as my own contact - but that's not quite as important as it would seem, as by the time you are contacting the ball you can't really react anyway. It doesn't seem to affect my serves, where the ball is traveling slower. I've tried progressive/graduated lenses, but the changeover in the lenses as the ball approaches was too much for me - it hurt my eyes and I'd lose track of the ball.

I tried contacts in the late 1980s, but they weren't for me. I never could get used to having something in my eyes, which kept drying up. Plus it's a hassle putting them in and taking them out. They'd put me in a permanent state of seeing things in the distance, but everything near would be blurry, which I don't like.

I wear croakies eyeglass holders (plain brown or black) to keep the glasses in place. Some or most people don't seem to need this, but if I don't, the glasses jump about for me. I have two pairs of distance glasses - my normal ones, and my playing ones with the croakies, which I keep in my playing bag.

I'm so used to wearing glasses when I play that when I feed multiball (which I do a lot), I'd feel uncomfortable without them. Why? Because I'm barely five feet from the player I'm coaching, with little time to react if he accidentally smacks me in the eye. So the glasses are now my eyeguards. I know Coach Jack Huang had serious eye problems for a time when someone hit him in the eye.

What are your eyewear experiences in table tennis?


On May 21, I blogged about seeing a dentist. I'd been averaging one cavity every three years (one every six trips to the dentist), and hadn't changed my brushing or eating habits. I'd been seeing the same dentist for a decade, but she'd left, and I had a new one. Out of the blue the new one said I had 11 cavities, with seven of them needing immediate attention! Total bill would have been $2300.

Yesterday I saw a different dentist to get a second opinion. His verdict? I had zero cavities, though he said there was "one very slight gray area on the x-ray that we'd have to watch, and might be the beginning of a cavity."

Effective Training for Recreational Players

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

History of U.S. Table Tennis - 1984

USATT is once again serializing Tim Boggan's most recent book, "History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. XIII," which covers 1984. Here's Chapter One, with a new chapter going up each week. This is just the text version. If you want the full version (918 photos, 448 pages), go to Tim Boggan's history page, where you can buy any of the 13 volumes.

International News

As usual, check out the news headlines at the ITTF and at Table Tennista. Lots of stuff!

World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper) and Hardbat

Here's the info page. This is the Sandpaper World Championships, which had $100,000 in prize money last year, and (I've heard) will have the same next year - Jan. 4-5, 2014, in London again. In addition to sandpaper, hardbat is pretty active in the UK - here's the European Hardbat Tour 2013 page, presented by the English Association of Table Tennis.

Inclusion: The Future of Table Tennis?

Here's the article and video (1:03), at Kickstarter (they are looking for funding). "INCLUSION combines Table Tennis and Racquetball to create a newly dynamic, fast-paced playing experience. The revolutionary side walls extend the playing surface and function as "bumpers" for novice players to help them enhance their skills.  Expert players similarly benefit from the added dimension which allows for a greater variety of angled shots and a more challenging, intensified gaming experience."

Table Tennis Rally Sculpture

Here's a sculpture that really shows a table tennis rally! (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

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May 21, 2013

Muscle Fatigue and Backspin

Recently my muscles have been feeling bone-tired, especially the legs. I feel like I've run a marathon before I even start. (I know; I ran one when I was 17, and went to my table tennis club that night just to prove I could do it - and could barely play at all.) The muscles are both tired and stiff. I'm hoping this is just a stage. I eat healthy and get plenty of sleep. (On the other hand, my dog, Sheeba, 15 years old, no longer can last the night without going out, and she gets me up around 4AM every single morning to go out. Maybe there's a connection. Or maybe I'm just an "old" 53.)

One result, of course, is I haven't been playing well. In fact, right now I'm probably playing the worse I've played since the 1970s. I'm a practice partner for our top juniors, but let's just say the last two weeks have been great confidence boosters for some of them. I've been going back and forth between trying to force the muscles to operate properly ("Move or else, you stupid legs!") or falling back on tactics. ("Age and treachery defeats youth and skill every time." Or so the saying goes.) There's a reason why this week's Tip of the Week was "Tools and Tactics for the Physically Challenged."

One solution I used over the weekend was lots of heavy backspin play. I'd recently lost to one of our up-and-coming juniors for the first time, primarily because she kept going after my forehand, and my legs preferred to lounge around my backhand side despite my threats, and so I kept waving as balls went by. (Or maybe we're just great coaches and this hard-working junior was getting better?) Anyway, when I played her this weekend I was again struggling in the first game, and finally decided enough was enough. Instead of looping her mostly long serves, I began to chop them back heavy. I already do that sometimes on the backhand, but she was giving me these lefty serves that break into my forehand, and I began chopping them back with my forehand. I also backed up and often chopped her first loop back. Net result - I won 3-0, though two of the games were close.

You don't need to be a chopper to win with backspin. Here's my article Winning with Backspin for the Non-Chopper.

Non-Table Tennis - Dental Dinero

Yesterday I saw a dentist and had the shock of my life. I brush and floss regularly, and have had only occasional problems. I did have one cavity in 2012, and one back in 2009. I'd been seeing the same dentist every six months for over ten years. However, she recently sold her practice, and a new one took her place. After the usual examination and x-rays, the new one said I had ELEVEN (11!) cavities!!! This makes no sense. I'm not feeling any pain or discomfort, I hadn't changed my brushing or eating habits or anything, and yet now, apparently, I have seven that need immediate attention, and four others that are growing and also need care. Total bill for all of them would be about $2300. Anyway, I'm still stunned by this. I'm going to see another dentist for a second opinion. Anyone have this type of experience? Anyone got $2300 they want to donate to a poor ping-pong coach? (Yes, I have health insurance, but no, it doesn't cover dental.)

World Championships

Below are videos of the singles finals at the Worlds, with time between points removed. There are also a number of follow-up articles on the Worlds, which ended yesterday, at both the ITTF Worlds Page and Table Tennista.


Here's USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh's blog about the Worlds, which went up yesterday. It covers the ITTF meetings, elections, and appointments, including a number of U.S. appointees.

Ping-Pong and Human Rights in Syria

Did you know they were using ping-pong balls in the civil war in Syria? Here's the article - see paragraph four. (Note - in the original version of this morning's blog I included a letter from a human rights group that was soliciting people to send ping-pong balls to Syrian groups, with an address given. They just informed me they don't want to go public on this yet, so I've taken down the letter.) 

Table Tennis Genius Touch

Here's a highlights video (2:40) from a year ago that I've never posted, set to the piano music of Yann Tiersen - La Valse d'Amélie. It features both great touch shots and great shots in general.

Spinning Liquid Nitrogen Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article and video (40 sec). I think I posted a similar video once, but this one's pretty spectacular.

Just for Men Commercial and Oversized Paddles

Here's a video (31 sec) of a Just for Men commercial that features table tennis played with oversized paddles. The table tennis takes place in the first two seconds and against 20 seconds in. I have my own oversized ping-pong paddle which I use for exhibitions. I'm using it on the cover of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. None of these are as big as the one swung by Warren Buffett.

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