Sandpaper

September 22, 2014

Tip of the Week

Power in Table Tennis.

USATT Hires New CEO

Here's the USATT announcement. Gordon Kaye is a USATT member rated 1469, who's played in 32 processed USATT tournaments since 2009, plus the Badger Open in Wisconsin this past weekend. (Highest rating: 1510.) Our paths even crossed once - he and I were both at the 2010 Eastern Open in New Jersey, him as a player, me as a coach. Here's his tournament record. He's a standard inverted shakehands player, who likes to attack but doesn't always have confidence in his loop, and so often blocks and counter-attacks. Here's an interview with him at the Badger Open by Barbara Wei, which includes an action picture. Here's another picture of him posing with Barbara.

I'm told he successfully transformed two failing organizations before coming to USATT. One was a minor league hockey team. Here are some online articles I found on him:

What does he need to do to be successful as USATT CEO? I'll write at length about this later. But the most important things are the following:

  1. Recognize the doers and the "empty suits" in our sport. I don't really like the phrase "empty suit," but it gets the idea across. Some "empty suits" are successful in some non-table tennis activities, but it doesn't always cross over. Doers are those who do table tennis things and get results, who understand how to develop the sport. Empty suits are far better at selling themselves than doers, who are better at selling the sport than themselves. Historically, guess which type has had the most influence in USATT policy?
  2. Understand how table tennis grew overseas, and how other sports grew in the U.S., and then come up with a model that'll work for USATT.
  3. Set specific goals to develop the sport, and create and implement plans to reach them.
  4. Think long-term.
  5. Break out of USATT sponsorship logjam. There are two main ways for USATT to find sponsors:
  • Find a rich table tennis person who will give us money. We've been trying that for 81 years. How has that worked?
  • Find a business person who believes he can make money by sponsoring USATT. To do this we need to convince him that USATT is growing, and that he should get in on the ground floor. If we were focusing on developing the sport (developing regional leagues, recruiting and training coaches, etc. - all the stuff I've been arguing for the last two decades or more) this would be a lot easier. In the late 1980s Bob Tretheway raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for USATT (more when adjusted for inflation) - with the selling point that table tennis had just become an Olympic sport in 1988, and so was about to take off in the U.S. (it didn't). How do we sell it now? I believe that the best way to convince a business person that USATT is growing is by USATT actually growing. Getting the process started doesn't take much funding. (I've blogged about this many times, and will elaborate on this tomorrow.)

One obvious problem is that Gordon will face what all USATT CEOs face - conflicting direction from the USATT Board of Directors. Some are forward thinkers; some are not. Should his primary focus be raising money? Developing the sport? I know that at least one board members believes the primary focus of the CEO should be as office manager!!!

Anyone who reads my blog knows I believe the focus for now should be to develop the sport. Rather than trying to sell faulty shoes, fix the shoes first, then sell them. USATT has even had Strategic Meetings about growing the sport (i.e. fixing the shoes), and I've attended several. Somehow the main focus of these meetings has been vague generalities with no follow-up, slogans, and lots of self-congratulatory back-slapping for such a productive meeting.

So how did Gordon do at the Badger Open? Here are the complete tournament results. He had a pretty good tournament, with wins against players rated 1741 (congrats!), 1490, 1221, 1138, and 962, and losses to players rated 2073, 2056, 1879, 1705 (went five!), 1689, 1652, 1603, and 1562. Since he went in rated 1469, my ratings calculations say he'll pick up 49 points, and so come out at 1518 - a new high for him. (See, we know what's important.)

Now that we've read about him, know his rating and playing style, and know how he did at the Badger Open, we have to judge him. And I prefer to judge a person by anagrams. (After all, "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God.") So what do we get from Gordon Kaye?

  • Okay Go Nerd
  • Gone Ya Dork
  • Rake Yon God

So he's either a nerdy dork or a God. Only time will tell. Let's support him, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be the one to break the long-time USATT lethargy.

Celluloid vs. Non-Celluloid - Who's Using What?

While for the time being most tournaments in the U.S. are still using celluloid, the two upcoming big ones are both using non-celluloid. The North American Teams just announced they will use the non-celluloid balls, presumably the JOOLA Super-P 40+ balls they were selling at the U.S. Open. And as noted in previous blogs, the USA Nationals will use Nittaku Premium 40+ balls. (They aren't on sale yet, but should be available in mid-October. Don't mistake this for the Nittaku Sha 40+ ball, which is on sale now but plays differently.) My guess is that most tournaments will switch to non-celluloid sometime in 2015.

$10,000 Butterfly Badger Open

Here are the results of the tournament, which was held this past weekend in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with 204 players. (Included among the players was Gordon Kaye, the newly hired USATT CEO.) Butterflyonline has video and a photo gallery. Here are three articles on the tournament by Barbara Wei. (She tells me she has three more coming.)

The Forgotten Skill - Blocking

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

How to Receive Serves from Opposite Handed Players

Here's the coaching video (2:32) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Ma Long Serving Technique Slow Motion

Here's the video (3:03).

Sandpaper Qualifiers for $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong

Here's the news release.

Nothing is Impossible Video Reaches Two million Views

Here's the ITTF press release on the video (2:44) of armless Egyptian player Ibrahim Hamato.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here are two more videos from Nathan in China. (All eight are linked from the initial video, China Day 4.)

Zhou Xin Table Tennis Academy Physical Training

Here's the video (64 sec) by Bruce Liu.

George Brathwaite

The USATT Hall of Famer called me a few days ago to discuss USATT issues. He might be getting active in USATT again. Here's his web page.

Ping-Pong 4 Purpose

Here's another article on the charity event that was held Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium, by Kim Gilbert.

Adam Bobrow Exhibition at Bloomingdales

Great Point

Here's the video (61 sec) - the point lasts about 40 seconds!

Katy Perry - This Is How We Do

Here's the music video (3:29), which includes three table tennis segments - seconds 19-24, second 33, and seconds 1:21-1:23. In the first segment she sings, "Playing ping-pong all night long."

Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Ryder Cup, and Ping-Pong

Here's the CNN article. The eighth and final picture shows Tiger playing table tennis penhold style, with the caption, "But with Mickelson's erstwhile ping pong partner Tiger Woods missing the Ryder Cup with injury, could self-confessed table tennis fan Fowler partner up with "Lefty" in Scotland?"

Teasing a Dog, Ping-Pong Style

Here's the cartoon.

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January 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

Holding Back on Serves.

Why You Should Play in Events Where You Are a Top Seed

It all depends on whether your goal is to be a Champion or a Spoiler. Champions have a burning desire to win, and enter tournaments with the intent of winning events. Spoilers have a burning desire to pull off a major upset now and then and so gain temporary rating points, and so they avoid the events where they would be seeded.

If your goal is to be a Champion, then you must think like one, and learn to execute like one. Consider:

  • You’ll never learn to play under pressure unless you put yourself in that position regularly, by trying to win the events you can win. There’s little pressure in playing higher-rated players.
  • You’ll never learn to defeat lower-rated players regularly unless you play them regularly, and learn to mow them down. Every time you lose to a lower-rated player is a lesson on something you need to work on; every time you avoid playing a lower-rated player to avoid losing is a lesson lost.
  • When you learn to mow down lower-rated players, you can apply these same techniques to higher-rated players.

So you have to ask yourself: are you playing to be a Champion, or to be a Spoiler looking to pick up a few temporary rating points?

Here's a longer article I wrote on the topic, "Juniors and Ratings."

Sheeba problems

Recently I've been feeling rather tired, and it's affected my work. But there's a simple reason for it. My dog, Sheeba, a corgi mix, will be 15 next month. She often cannot go the entire night without being let out. So recently, about every other night, she's been waking me up at 3-4AM so I can let her out to do her business. I sure hope this is a temporary thing!

U.S. Open in Las Vegas

It's official, according to the USATT Tournament Schedule: the U.S. Open will be held in Las Vegas, July 2-6, 2013.

Physical Training for Table Tennis

Here's a new article from Table Tennis Master that focuses on Building Cardio and Stamina; Building Explosive Leg Power; and Core Strength

Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness

Here's a video (3:18) of 2013 USA Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness.

Timothy Wang on His Matches at the Nationals

Here's a video (7:09) where 2013 USA Men's Singles Champion Timothy Wang talks about his matches at the Nationals.

Houshang on Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:27) where USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh talks about table tennis during the recent Iowa Games.

World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper)

Here are videos of the Final between Maxim Shmyrev and Sule Olaleye. Here's Part 1 (29:41, includes introduction) and Part 2 (21:47, includes awards ceremony). This took place at the World Championships of Ping Pong, which was for sandpaper only, in London, Jan. 5-6, 2013. Winner received $20,000, runner-up $10,000, out of a total prize fund of $100,000.

Polkaroo Plays Table Tennis

Here's a picture Polkaroo (one of the stars of the long-running children's show Polka Dot Door) playing table tennis, along with an article, as part of a promotion for the film Ping Pong. Yes, the white spot is the ping-pong ball! (See also the animated picture of Polkaroo playing at the bottom.)

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January 14, 2013

Tip of the Week

Learning to Counterloop.

USA Nationals and Open Entries

The return to Las Vegas for last year's Nationals in December led to a 48% increase in entries, from a modern low of 502 in 2011 in Virginia Beach to 743 in 2012, the most since 2006's 837. (The data used here only includes those who played in USATT rated events, and does not include players who only competed in doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper events.) The online ratings database gives the number of entries for every year back to 1994, with the event held in Las Vegas every year except 2011.

Here's a graph of the Entries at the USA Nationals, 1994-2012. Here's one for the U.S. Open. And here's a chart showing the location of every USA Nationals and U.S. Open ever. (While others watch Honey Boo Boo in their free time, I coach and compile lists.) 

From 1994 to 2002, USA Nationals entries were somewhat stagnant, ranging from 592 to 686. Then began a slow increase from 2002-2006, with 678, 707, 755, 829, and 837. Then it dropped to 730, then 604 and 597. After a jump back to 686 in 2010, there was the huge decline in Virginia Beach to 502, followed by the 743 in Las Vegas in December.

What do these numbers tell us? The obvious answer is that you get more entries at the Nationals if you run it in an obvious "vacation" place, such as Las Vegas. USATT had similar experiences with the U.S. Open, getting relatively large numbers when it's run in Ft. Lauderdale (785 in 1997, the most since 1994) or Las Vegas (769 in 2007, second most), with considerable drops when it was run in Charlotte in 2006 (only 455, a modern low) and somewhat surprisingly, only 524 in 1998 when they ran it in Houston. Of course, how they promote the tournaments make a big difference. There were over 1000 entries at the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens in Oklahoma City and Houston, with master promoter Ron Shirley in charge. Similarly, they did a pretty good job of promoting the Open in 2010 in Grand Rapids, leading to a decent 645 entries, probably a hundred more than would be expected in a city not known as a vacation destination.

I had mixed feelings about the Nationals in Virginia Beach. It was nicely run, and it's only three hours from my club. With the reduced traveling time and playing in the same time zone, our players did much better than they often do in Las Vegas, 3000 miles away, where they usually fly in the night before. However, it's hard to argue with 743 entries to 502.

We're still waiting to see where the 2013 U.S. Open will be, but I've been told it's either Las Vegas or Ft. Lauderdale - announcement coming soon - and so either way it'll be a vacationland. (If it's in Ft. Lauderdale, I'm going to arrange a mass trip to Disneyworld - anyone can join us. I've been there once, way back in 1987.)

Marty Reisman Burial and Memorial

Marty Reisman was buried yesterday (Sunday) at Mount Richmond Cemetery on Staten Island. There will be a memorial tribute to him this Friday (Jan. 18) at SPIN New York at 7:30 PM. Info is here.

FASTT Table Tennis

Here's a release from FASTT (Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis) on the sandpaper events at the recent USA Nationals.

How to Handle Drop Shots

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:49) on how to handle drop shots off lobs from under the table by giving a "wobbly" return.

The Beauty of Table Tennis

Here's a new highlights video (8:04) that just came out from ThePerfectionisTT.

Venus & Serena Williams

Table Tennis Nation brings us pictures of the Williams sisters playing table tennis at the Australian Open. As noted in last Thursday's blog, the two were also recently featured playing table tennis in an iPhone 5 commercial.

Table Tennis for the Masses

Is this Quadruples or Octuples?

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October 2, 2012

Table Tennis Centers in Maryland, the U.S., and Belgium

On Friday at the Maryland Table Tennis Center I was wondering how USATT would be different if all their board members were required to spend a week at one of the "elite" training centers. Their perspective on table tennis in the U.S., and where it could go, might be a bit different from what they are used to.

There are about 50 full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. (Current count: 53; let me know if I'm missing any.) Of these, perhaps 5-8 can be considered "elite," i.e. ones with large junior development programs that consistently develop strong players. Key here is both the elite aspect and the large number of players they have.

Recently someone posted on a table tennis forum that "The USA has 50+ full time clubs." Someone responded, "Are you serious about the 50+ or do you mean 500+? In Belgium, there are about 50 clubs for each of the ten regions." Yes, that's 500 full-time clubs in Belgium, which has an area slightly smaller than Maryland (both about 12 thousand square miles), with a population about double Maryland's (about 11 million vs. 5.8 million). (And Belgium's numbers are dwarfed by Germany, England, and of course China and most Asian countries.) Now Maryland is, size for size and population for population, probably the most successful table tennis state in the U.S., with a higher percentage of its population USATT members than any other state. (They have 263 members out of a population of 5.8 million, or one member for every 22,053 people. Only New Jersey is close, with 351 members out of 8.8 million, or one for every 25,071.) Maryland also has one of the most successful junior programs in the country. And yet Maryland has only two full-time training centers to Belgium's 500! They have a full-time center for every 22,000 people, while Maryland has one for every 2.9 million. The U.S. has one for every 5.9 million people.

Of course the biggest difference is Belgium and other successful countries focus on leagues and junior programs. So does Maryland. Here's a rundown of the strongest of the 40+ junior players at MDTTC on Friday during a junior training session and the Friday night league (name, age, rating):

  • Wang Qing Liang, 16, 2644
  • Chen Bo Wen, 14, 2441
  • Tong Tong Gong, 14, 2334
  • Nathan Hsu, 2296 (was recently 2356)
  • Anthony Qu, 12, 2194
  • Roy Ke, 13, 2188
  • Derek Nie, 11, 2149
  • Crystal Wang, 10, 2099 (was 2166 before playing a tournament with a fracture wrist!)
  • Michael Ding, 13, 1989
  • David Varkey, 17, 1882
  • Lilly Lin, 15, 1874
  • Amy Lu, 11, 1852
  • Lisa Cui, 13, 1804
  • Princess Ke, 12, 1776
  • Jason Wei, 14, 1768
  • Adam Yao, 10, 1739
  • Wesley Duan, 12, 1685
  • Tony Li, 11, 1618

Between these, and all the little kids smacking forehands and backhand back and forth (not to mention all the non-juniors in the league - it's not just juniors), it's a different environment than what most in the U.S. sees unless they are at one of these "elite" training centers . . . or perhaps in Belgium.

$100,000 World Championship of Ping-Pong

The inaugural event will be held in London on Jan. 5-6, 2013. Players are required to use sandpaper rackets. $100,000 for sandpaper table tennis - yes, my friends, the world is changing.

ITTF Inaugural Level 3 Course

Here's an ITTF article about the first ITTF Level 3 Coaching Course, held in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Sept. 21-28. It was immediately followed by a two-day Level Three Course Conductor Training Seminar. Attending both were USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Table Tennis Artwork

Here is more table tennis art by Mike Mezyan. The four here are labeled "Earth, Fire, Water, and Wind," and feature Chen Qi, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and Wang Liqin. Here's a larger version. And here's his Facebook page for all his artwork.

Orioles Make Table Tennis a Priority

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on how the Baltimore Orioles baseball team (and their manager, Buck Showalter) made table tennis a priority. "Where is the ping-pong table?" Showalter asked when he showed up in spring training. Meanwhile, you can read my "Top Twelve Things Happening the Last Time the Orioles Had a Winning Season" article at Orioles Hangout, where it's a featured front-page story. I've had eight front-page articles there. My favorites are "You're No Good, Baltimore Orioles" and "The Wonderful World of O's."

Phil Mickelson and Table Tennis at the Ryder Cup

Here's an article on golfer Phil Mickelson and table tennis at the Ryder Cup. Here's the table tennis excerpt:

Ask anyone about the team room, and Mickelson's name invariably comes up. He talked of his and Woods' dominance on the Ping-Pong table Wednesday, boasting that few of their U.S. teammates can touch them.

''Put us together on that table, and we're rocking it,'' Mickelson said.

(That's only partly true, Steve Stricker said. Matt Kuchar is actually the Roger Federer of the U.S. Ping-Pong table, and Stricker said Mickelson is putting off that matchup until Sunday. ''He doesn't want to get any bad mojo going before the tournament starts.'')

Top Ten Points

Here's a Top Ten Points video (6:12) from recent years (Worlds, Olympics, World Cup). Includes lots of slow motion.

The Amazing Race - Downgrading to a Sauce Pan

As near as I can tell, "The Amazing Race" is a Chinese show where people compete for prizes. In this segment (1:37), they had to score a point - a single point! - against a little girl who was obviously an elite junior. She played them using a sauce pan and a tambourine, and rarely lost a point.

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July 17, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day One

Here's a quick rundown of the day's activities. There were 35 players in the camp. Coaches are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and visiting Coach Liu (not sure of his full name) from New York. Wang Qing Liang (2641), Chen Bo Wen (2431) and Raghu Nadmichettu (2389) are practice partners. Players include Allen Wang (15, 2370), Nathan Hsu (16, 2349, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion); John Hsu (18, 2226 but usually higher, 2011 Junior Olympic Under 18 Boys' Singles Champion); Barbara Wei (2199, former U.S. Junior Team member), Derek Nie (11, 2170, U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys Champion), the Alguetti brothers (Adar 12, Gal 11, Sharron 11, rated 2081, 2089, and 2098), Lilly Lin (15, 1885); Amy Lu (11, 1838, U.S. #3 Under 12 girl), and many more.  (Regulars Tong Tong Gong, Crystal Wang, and Roy & Princess Ke are in China training.)

  1. Paperwork: making sure everyone's registered and paid, signing people up for lunch delivery (we have Chinese food delivered for $6/person, players order from a menu), etc.
  2. At about 10AM: stretching
  3. Introduce coaches, explain how the camp runs, go over rules, etc.
  4. Short lectures and demos on grip, ready stance, and the forehand.
  5. Divide players in four groups for about an hour and ten minutes of multiball training with the coaches.
  6. Pick up balls, then break.
  7. Take on clipboard challenges during break. (I played three players, with ratings of about 2000, 2080, and 2090, and won all three.)
  8. After break we divided players into two groups. New players (about 15) came with me for my service lecture and service practice. The rest did drills and then doubles with the other coaches.
  9. We finished the morning session with 30 minutes of Brazilian Teams, where we divide players into teams of 3-5. One player from each team plays a point, and the winner stays on the table, the loser goes to the end of his team's line. New person always serves. Game is to 41.
  10. At 1:00 PM, lunch. (I had chicken fried rice.)
  11. At 1:30 PM I took six kids to 7-11. (We had to jam in my car - two in front passenger seat, four in the back.)
  12. About 2:00 PM I went home, let my dog out, checked email, etc., then returned to club.
  13. We started up again at 3:00 PM with stretching.
  14. I took five beginners to two tables in the back while the rest of the players did regular drills on the other tables. We did an hour of multiball training, with the players alternating between me, ball pickup, and using the robot.
  15. Break.
  16. After break we did a few multiball drills, and then played games. We did around the world; bottle hitting (if they hit it, I had to drink it, and I assured them the red stuff in the Gatorade bottle was from my pet rhinoceros's nosebleed); cup pyramid destruction (we make pyramids of cups and knock them down, including a competition to see who can knock down the most in ten shots); and finished at with Brazilian Teams. Camp ended at 6:00 PM.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar

The first ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar will be held at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Oct. 30 - Nov. 6. I expect to participate. Here's the info page. To be eligible, you must fulfill the following:

  • Current USATT Members
  • Currently certified as a USATT Coach
  • Currently listed on the ITTF Coaches Registry as a Level 1 Coach
  • Must have attended the ITTF Level 1 Course before November 1st of 2011 (1 year between courses)

Cast Your Vote for Ariel Hsing USOC June Female Athlete of the Month!

She's up against 15 others in this USOC vote.

Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Returning a Heavy Backspin Serve (2:54).

The U.S. Open Sandpaper Final

Here's Ty Hoff and Adoni Maropis in the Sandpaper final (23:21). Lots of long rallies, with a mix of attack and defense. Check out the point at 15-18 in game one (at 8:54)! And yes, Adoni Maropis, in real life, is the guy (okay, the actor playing Abu Fayed in season six) who nuked Valencia, CA (and tried to nuke others) in the TV series "24." He was also in Troy, Hidalgo, and many other movies.

Samson Dubina on My Valley Sports TV

Here's a news video that features table tennis and Samson Dubina (1:44).

Another Full-time Club in the Bay Area

Here's the article about the upcoming Rossmoor Table Tennis Club.

Ma Long's Under the Net Return

Here it is, in regular and slow motion (0.38).

Practice Safe Pong

So says Steve Colbert in this picture of beer pong. Here's the video (4:19). Colbert introduces a new game called 'Who gave me herpes?"

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July 13, 2012

Friday the 13th

Yes, it's Friday the 13th - and in honor of that, here's an extremely acrobatic black cat at the net (2:01). It's hilarious, and set to music. 

How Eric Messed Players Up

Yesterday I blogged about Eric Boggan's national and international record, and mentioned how some of the things he did are basically dying arts. Here is his Hall of Fame profile, written by father and fellow Hall of Famer Tim Boggan.

First, let's clear up one myth. Some believe Eric was only effective because he used inverted and anti, with the same color, so opponents couldn't see which side he used. The two-color rule came about in 1983, when Eric was 19 and not yet at his peak. He had his best results and highest world rankings after the color rule, where he reached #18 in the world. In fact, Eric went to two colors at least six months in advance, figuring he might as well get used to it, since two colors were the future. If not for the two-color rule, he likely would have reached top ten in the world. (But we'll never know.)

What exactly did he do that made his game so effective?

He had either the best, or close to the best, backhand block and overall blocking in the world. His Seemiller grip allowed him to jab block from all parts of the table at wide angles. The grip meant there was no middle weakness, which by itself put him above other blockers who had to guard the wide angles as well as the middle. Plus he regularly would flip his racket and dead block with the antispin side. His anti blocks sometimes double-bounced, and opponents who stepped off the table to loop against regular blocks were left thrashing about trying to react to blocks that died over the table or barely came off. And if they did topspin those ones, they were then stuck too close to the table to react to Eric's next shot, would either be another aggressive block or a smash. (While his loop wasn't great, he had a very nice smash from both sides.)

He also messed up opponents when receiving. Against short serves he'd usually use the antispin side and either drop it short or flip - and he'd hide which until the last second. Then he'd flip to the inverted side and start attacking or aggressive blocking. You haven't faced sheer terror until you face an Eric anti flip and try to loop it. (If you set up for it, he drops the ball short instead.)

His biggest strengths were exactly what were most players' weaknesses. Your typical world-class player liked to serve short and then attack to the middle or backhand. They also liked to return serves short. These tactics were often suicide against Eric - he was at his best against short serves and receives, and his blocking from the middle and backhand were just too good. Thinking players quickly realized they had to serve more long balls and attack his forehand, and to push long against his serves. (Few world-class players were in the habit of letting the opponent loop first, which is exactly what you often had to do against Eric.) Many players, such as Dan Seemiller, found success by chopping to get out of a losing rally since few could withstand his side-to-side jab blocks and anti dead blocks. Many found these tactics too different, and fell back on their old habits - often to their great regret.

Sandpaper News - $2000 Sandpaper Event at Nationals

You read that right - the top eight players will receive $2000 in total prize money, with $1000 going to the winner. Here's the press release, which reads:

July 12, 2012 Colorado Springs, CO and Palm Harbor, FL - Michael Cavanaugh, USATT CEO and Ty Hoff of FASTT announced the co-sanctioning of the Sandpaper event at the 2012 US Nationals in Las Vegas, NV December 18-22, 2012. The event will be the 2012 USATT/FASTT Sandpaper National Championships and will feature $2,000 in prize money for the top eight finishers with a top prize of $1,000.  

The USATT is the national governing body for the Olympic sport of Table Tennis.  FASTT is a national organization promoting the sport of Sandpaper Table Tennis.  These two organizations have come together to expand the base of players in the United States through this cooperative effort. 

Players interested in the Olympic sport of Table Tennis are encouraged to visit http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis.aspx.  Players interested in the sport of Sandpaper Table Tennis are encouraged to visit http://www.ttprotour.com/.  

The Backhand Topspin

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Backhand Topspin (1:38). (Yes, this is the backhand loop, but these days the dividing line between a backhand drive and a backhand loop is less clear than before as more and more players play topspinny backhands, which is made much easier by modern sponges.) 

USA Olympians Highlighted in Bay Area

The four (Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu) are highlighted in the San Francisco TV Station and web page KTSF. "This is a twelve-day series introducing twelve Chinese-American athletes in various sports who will represent US to compete in the 2012 London Olympics. KTSF chooses table tennis as its first four episodes. Timothy's was aired yesterday, Ariel's on July 12, Lily's on July 13, and Erica's on July 14. Once aired, the video clips will be also available from KTSF's website. Tune in at channel 26, cable 8 in the Bay Area."

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi Table Tennis on TV

Their University Team, which won lots of hardware at the College Nationals, is featured in this video (1:53).

Which Olympic sport is the hardest? Fourth-Place Medal ranks all 32

They put table tennis at #27!!! They obviously don't know our sport. But then put Equestrian - riding horses - as the hardest sport. I don't think they know sports, period. (Earth Fourth-Place Medal - the horse is doing most of the work!!!)

Crazy Sidespin

Here's an extreme sidespin by Xu Xin versus Ma Long (0.36).

Ariel Hsing on Nickelodeon

They try to figure out what she does - Olympic Table Tennis Player! (4:20)

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March 27, 2012

MDTTC Spring Break Camp

The Maryland Table Tennis Center will hold its first training camp of the year, our Spring Break Camp, April 2-6. You will be there. Otherwise we will talk about you, and it won't be pretty.

The camp coincides with spring break in local schools, which vary from region to region, so we don't get many out of towners for this camp. However, anyone is welcome to join us. It'll mostly be junior players, but all ages are welcome. Coaches will include myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. Hours are 10AM-1PM and 3-6PM each day, Mon-Fri. Chinese food is delivered for lunch for $6 (you order in the morning). The club just doubled in size, and will have about 18 tables set up (more if we squeeze), with all-new red flooring, showers, and wireless web.

If you need a place to stay, we're now allowing players to stay at the club (free for now) if you are willing to "rough it." I'll give rides to local restaurants and for groceries as needed. (Club has a microwave.)

We will be running camps continuously all summer, every Mon-Fri, from June 18 to August 24 (eleven consecutive five-day camps). Come join us!

What is the value of a table tennis camp? Most players spend years trying to improve, and it's a very slow and difficult process. The problem is that 1) you might be practicing bad technique, making it even harder later on to fix the problems, 2) you only get to work at various techniques in a sporadic way, and 3) you have other things on your mind and so can't really focus on table tennis. A camp solves all three problems as you live and breathe table tennis all week, learning proper technique from top coaches (as well as getting to see numerous top players demonstrate it), you practice all day long, and your sole focus is table tennis. If you are a serious table tennis player, I strongly suggest finding a camp where you can really hone your skills as well as have a lot of fun.

FASTT

Here's the Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis home page, where you'll find articles, results, and videos of this rapidly growing "underground" sport. (If regular table tennis is an underground sport in the U.S., then is sandpaper the underground sport of an underground sport?) News Item #29 is on the Cary Cup.

The Worlds on TV

You can watch the Worlds (Dortmund, Germany, March 25-April 1) on TV via Universal Sports, but it's gonna cost you about $10/day, or $40 for five days. Here's more info. Meanwhile, here's the info I posted yesterday:

Michael Landers on NPR

NPR did a radio interview with Michael Landers, "Ping-Pong Prodigy Seeks Olympic Glory." You can either listen to it (3:51) or read the transcript.

Free table tennis videos from Reflex Sports

I received the following email from Reflex Sports yesterday - so now's your chance to sample their huge video library for free!

"We very much appreciate your support of our subscription table tennis video site. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get enough subscribers to allow us to continue, at this time, to offer our videos this way. We have finally been able to set up a new site (tabletennisvideocentral.com). This new trial site is offering everything free in the hope of attracting enough viewers to have advertisers."

Boys Look at the Stars Ping-Pong

You can download this book for free. The book covers the history of world table tennis.

High Performance on a Budget

Can you create a high performance environment without spending any money? Sean O'Neill sent me and other coaches a link to this article on the topic.

Math Professor Larry Bavly teaches table tennis

Math and table tennis connoisseur Larry Bavly teaches a little girl all the important things about table tennis (4:26). The best part starts at 1:11 when Larry says, "What is the most important thing to learn to be a good table tennis player?" After the girl incorrectly says, "Placement and spin variations," Larry brings out the chart.

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December 19, 2011

Tip of the Week

Time-out Tactics.

Christmas Sabbatical

As noted last week, I'll be away for Christmas, so my next blog entry will be right after Christmas. Then I'll return to blogging every morning, Mon-Fri.

USA Nationals

I had a great time last week at the USA Nationals in Virginia Beach. Here are the results. (Make sure to set the tournament field to "2011 US Nationals.") Ty Hoff and I won Hardbat Doubles (my 12th time at the Nationals or Open, eight of them with Ty, the other four with Steve Berger). However, I was mostly there to coach. Below are a number of segments about the Nationals.

USA Cadet Trials

Tong Tong started out poorly, losing numerous close games and matches the first three days, Tues-Thur, Dec. 13-15. However, the BIG event for him was the Cadet Trials, which were on days four and five. Last year he had gone in seeded #9 in the ratings, but made the team (top four) by pulling off four upsets to grab the fourth spot. This year he went in seeded #10 in the ratings, but made the team (finishing third) by pulling off five consecutive upsets! So he made the team two straight years by pulling off nine upsets without losing to anyone below him - not bad. If he had lost any of those nine matches or to anyone below him, he wouldn't have made the team that year. He's the only one to make the team both years. Key to his turnabout in the Trials - stronger mental focus and more two-winged attack. (He'd been playing too much forehand.) We also came very prepared tactically.

Between matches we spent as much time discussing NCIS and the Baltimore Ravens as we did table tennis tactics. He knew that I was doing this just to get his mind off table tennis, making it easier to clear his mind and focus when the time came, and he was smart enough to play along.

All-Maryland Men's Final

18-year-old Peter Li made an incredible comeback in the semifinals against defending champion Timothy Wang - who had beaten him in the final the year before - coming back from down 0-3 in games and from two match points in the fifth (after blowing a 9-4 lead!) to win, -6,-6,-4, 9,10, 8, 14. This led to an all-Maryland final between Peter and Han Xiao. (Han had his own deuce-in-the-seventh win in the quarters over Michael Landers.) During their junior years I played Han and Peter probably 700 matches and countless hours of training. (They were both primarily students of Cheng Yinghua.) Han also won men's doubles for the third time, teaming this time with Timothy Wang. Peter made the final of Mixed Doubles with Lily Zhang.

Other Marylanders who did well: Derek Nie made the final of Boys' 10 and Under Singles, losing the final 11-9 in the fifth (after leading 9-7, alas). Crystal Wang made both the cadet and mini-cadet girls' teams and got second in Girls 10 and Under Singles. Amy Feng made the quarters of Women's Singles. Charlene Liu won Over 50 Women's Singles. Mort Greenberg won over 80. Steve Hochman and Jeff Smart pulled off a flurry of upsets to make the final of Over 50 Doubles. Timothy La got second in Standing Disabled. And as noted, Tong Tong Gong made the National Cadet Team. 

Enez

Several people were calling this Nationals the Enez Nationals. Enez is the device that reads whether a racket has illegal vapors coming out of it, indicating illegal gluing or some other substance. There are some problems with this as sometimes new sponge right out of the package fails the test, so you have to air the rubber out for a bit. The device devastated the men's draw. Here's a short rundown - I'm sure I'm missing some, so feel free to chat if there are any I missed. Top seed David Zhuang was defaulted when both his rackets failed the test. Dan Seemiller's primary racket failed the test, so he had to use a backup. Barney Reed's racket failed the test, and he had to play with a borrowed racket.

Umpiring at the Nationals

Nearly all of the umpires did a fantastic job, and I tried to remember to thank them after each match (though I sometimes forgot in all the excitement - my apologies). They are often the forgotten and unthanked ones. We should make it a policy to really thank umpires when they do a good job, and understand the pressures they are under when they don't seem to be doing so well. It happens.

There were some problems. One cadet in the final twelve used illegal hidden serves over and over, and many of the umpires wouldn't call it. Ironically, his serves were faulted numerous times - forcing him to change to a legal motion - in the match before and after playing Tong Tong, but in their match the umpire wouldn't call the serves, putting Tong Tong at a huge disadvantage. However, Tong Tong persevered and barely won, deuce in the fifth after being down match point. The umpire graciously admitted after the match that he simply couldn't tell that the serves were hidden, that the motion was simply too fast, and in a future match he was scheduled to umpire that involved that cadet, he switched with another umpire. (I actually came prepared with printouts of this cadet's serve, showing it was illegal, but it really does happen so fast that umpires are hesitant to call it - but there is that rule that says the umpire must be satisfied that the serve is legal, so if he's not sure, he should warn and then fault.)

If Tong Tong had lost this match because of these illegal serves, it would have knocked him off the team. But how can you enforce the hidden serve rule in the cadet trials when anyone could see that many or most of the top men were clearing hiding their serves, and that it wasn't being called?

During one break, I chatted with an umpire, and made the jaw-dropping discovery that he thought that the service rule said that receiver must only see contact, and that there was no rule about removing the playing arm as long as it doesn't hide contact. Actually, receiver must be able to see the ball throughout the service motion (not just the split second at contact), and the non-playing arm must be removed immediately after tossing the ball up from the area between the ball and the net. (I'm just paraphrasing the rules.) I showed him the actual rules, and he was rather surprised.

Tong Tong got faulted in one match for dropping his hand below the table level while projecting the ball upward. In that situation, it's a rather petty rule, and yet it's a rule, correctly called - but few umpires call this. I'd never noticed how Tong Tong sometimes drops his hand during his toss, but it was an easy fix. This same umpire was one of the few who also correctly faulted players for hiding their serves.

The big umpiring problem in the Cadet Trials

There was one really serious umpiring problem that's going to bother me for a long time. In the crossovers for the top four, Tong Tong was faulted several times by an umpire for apparently hiding his serve, which he absolutely does not do. During the match, I was stunned by this, as was Tong Tong. He was forced to change his well-practice and legal service motion. After the match, which Tong Tong lost 11-8 in the fifth, I asked the umpire why he had faulted Tong Tong's serve. He said that the rules state that throughout the service motion, the ball must be visible to the receiver and the umpire! That simply is not true. (However, I wish it were a rule - but if it were, players would learn to serve that way.) A number of people probably saw my reaction to this in the arena, and it wasn't happy time.

I pulled out the USATT rules and showed him the actual wording of the rule, but he brushed that off, saying that the tournament was being played under ITTF rules, and that their rules were different. I was quite surprised that the USA Nationals would be using ITTF rules instead of USATT rules, but it didn't matter - the service rules for both are identical, as was shortly verified at the control desk. The umpire said it didn't matter, that it was impossible to tell if the serve was visible to the receiver unless the umpire could see the ball throughout the serve - again, this is false. A player hides the ball from the receiver by sticking his arm or shoulder out, or turning his back partly to his opponent at contact, and if he doesn't, then he's not hiding the serve, even if the umpire cannot see the ball throughout the serve. When a player lines up sideways to serve forehand, the umpire often cannot see the ball, but it's obvious to the umpire that the ball is visible to the opponent, which is what the rules require. If the intent of the rule was that the receiver and the umpire should both see the ball throughout the serve, then that's what the rule would say.

By this umpire's definition, essentially every forehand serve would be illegal on one side of the table if there were one umpire, including Tong Tong's opponent, whose serves were not called, despite his also having his back to the umpire when he started this serve. (Perhaps because Tong Tong is bigger and turns his back more to the umpire, but in both cases there is no way the umpire saw the ball throughout the service motion of either player when they were on the umpire's right.) If umpires do want to rule that they must be able to see the ball throughout the serve, then make that clear so players can practice their serves that way - and then enforce the rule with everyone.

The umpire said that if there had been an assistant umpire, then the serve would have been legal. And sure enough, in Tong Tong's next and final crossover match (for third and fourth), the same umpire was sent out. I requested a second umpire, and it was approved. Tong Tong went back to his regular service motion, neither umpire warned or faulted him, and he won the match.

One of the more experienced umpires explained to me later what almost for certain happened here. The current rules say that the umpire must be satisfied that the server is serving legally. However, the wording used to be that the umpire must see that the server is serving legally, and this had been misinterpreted as saying that the umpire must see the ball throughout the service motion. Because of this common misinterpretation, the wording was changed from "see" to "satisfied." It is likely that the umpire was going by the misinterpretation of the previous rule. I actually feel bad for the umpire - he must realize by now that he made a mistake, and that Tong Tong's serve was completely legal. Calling the service rule is by far the hardest thing to do in umpiring, and I don't envy their jobs. 

Alas, we'll never know what would have happened in that match had the umpire not improperly intervened. The two were about as evenly matched as possible; they had played earlier in the tournament in a different event, and that time Tong Tong had been up 10-8 match point before losing deuce in the fifth. It's possible the service interruptions hurt the opponent's focus as well. Without the service problem, it might have been another deuce-in-the-fifth battle. Who knows.

Regardless of that match, the cadets this year were without a doubt the strongest ever in U.S. history in terms of depth. Players that made the team a few years ago likely wouldn't have made the final twelve this year. Congratulations to the four team members - Teddy Tran, Kanak Jha, Tong Tong Gong, and Kunal Chodri!

Sandpaper

I was primarily coaching Tong Tong Gong. However, I was also coaching Ty Hoff in the sandpaper event - yes, I'm now a "professional sandpaper coach" - but he unfortunately lost in the semifinals. I also coached several others.

Table Tennis Videos from Elie

Here's a series of short table tennis coaching videos from Coach Elie Zainabudinova from the Gilbert Table Tennis Center. (Some of them start with a short advertisement.)

Table Tennis Dance

Here's a dance tribute to table tennis (2:40)! (Starts with a short ad.) And here's the St. Louis Junior Team Table Tennis Dance at the 2005 Chinese New Year Festival (3:55), and the Adam Bobrow's Victory Dance (1:11, make sure to watch to the end, starts with short ad).

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August 1, 2011

Tip of the Week: Jerky Strokes and Jerkyitis

Yes, you can cure that terrible disease that plagues table tennis - Jerkyitis. Here's how.

Comments on this Blog

While there are a lot of readers on this blog - we're averaging well over 300 per day - there are few comments. Feel free to express yourself! It doesn't have to be Q&A, where readers grill me over what I wrote. Feel free to comment with your own experiences, suggestions, dumb puns or jokes, etc.

Funny table tennis terms

Table tennis has some funny terms. Here are three examples:

  • Heavy no-spin - a serve where you use an exaggerated motion to make it look like there's spin but instead serve no-spin.
  • Fishing - if you don't know what this is, it's explained here.
  • Inside-out off-the-bounce sidespin forehand counterloop - say that fast five times.

What are your own favorite table tennis terms, either real or made up?

Americans in China

A lot of USA juniors are training in China this summer, and it's getting lonely at the club without the pitter-patter of their feet as they race around ripping winners past me. Six top juniors from the Maryland Table Tennis Center (my club) are in China training this summer - Tong Gong, Linan Liu, Pamela Song, George & Derek Nie, and Crystal Wang. Others, like John & Nathan Hsu, stayed home, and are training daily with Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Sun Ting, and others.

Table tennis movie

The movie "Korea" is coming out next year. It is based on the true story of the South Korean and North Korean women’s table tennis teams combining forces at the 1991 World Table Tennis Championships in Chiba, Japan, where they upset the dominating Chinese team. (At the time, China had won women's teams at every worlds since 1973, when South Korea had won. China would go back to winning afterwards, winning every time until the Singapore team upset them in 2010, with a team made of mostly former Chinese players.)

Problems with the "Winner Stay On" club format

Scott Gordon explains why this isn't such a good format; I concur. Scott also gives his own club's solution to the problem.

Zhang Yining plays the Milwaukee Brewers

Find out how Corey Hart, John Axford and Zack Greinke fare against one of the greatest women players of all time (2:28). (Here's info on Zhang Yining.)

2011 US Open Sandpaper Finals  

In case you missed it - and let's face it, these rallies are great! Alas, there are few such rallies in sponge table tennis.

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