International News

July 22, 2014

Two-Colored Balls

On July 17 I linked to an article on the Chinese trying out two-toned balls. I wrote, "This is a great idea - I've blogged in the past how silly it is that in such a spin-oriented sport, we have a ball where you can't see the spin, and suggested we use a soccer-colored one or something like that." 

I don't know why they are calling them two-toned balls when the more accurate term is two-colored balls. So I'm going to call them two-colored balls. Personally, I'd like to see them try out soccer-colored balls (like the ones in this picture), or have a contest for "best design," with the soccer-colored balls an inspiration for designers. 

However, there are pluses and minuses to using such a ball. Overall, I like the idea of both players and spectators better able to see spin in this spin-oriented Olympic sport. But there are downsides as well, the largest being how this would affect choppers. The only way to find out for sure how a two-color ball would affect the game is to try it out, as the Chinese are doing. I look forward to seeing the results. Here are what I see as the advantages and disadvantages of a two-color ball.

Advantages:

  1. Better appreciation of our sport by spectators. Few understand just how much spin is on the ball, and so have little appreciation for what's actually happening. 
  2. More interesting for spectators. Colorful balls are more interesting than bland one-color ones. Kids will especially like more colorful balls. 
  3. More rallies. Players will be more consistent in returning serves and getting into rallies.
  4. Better rallies. Players will make fewer errors in rallies from misreading spin. 

Disadvantages:

  1. May hurt choppers. This, to me, is the biggest possible problem, and why I'd like to see some testing first to see just how much it would affect them. High-level choppers do rely on mixing up the spin to force mistakes, and two-colored balls might make that more difficult. However, it's hard to say how much, both because by the time the attacker reads the spin (especially no-spins) it might be too late, and because the chopper will also be able to better read the attacker's spin. But overall it's likely to hurt choppers at least some. 
  2. Tradition. You shouldn't make changes in the sport unless there's a very good reason. 
  3. Developed skills no longer needed. Established players may find some of their hard-earned skills in reading spin no longer needed so much. 
  4. New skills needed. Players would have to develop the new skill of reading spin directly from watching the ball, something that can only be done to a small extent with the current one-color ball. I'm guessing this will have less effect than some may believe as by the time you read the spin directly off an incoming ball it's likely too late to adjust most strokes, except perhaps passive returns.

Comparison of Plastic ("Poly") and Celluloid Balls

Here's a report from the ITTF that compared plastic to celluloid balls. It's dated April 2013, based on testing from November, 2012. Keep in mind that the plastic balls since that time have improved, but this shows how much testing was done, and the info that ITTF had when it made the decision.

North American Cup on TV

One World Sports will broadcast the recent North American Championships next week. Here's the schedule, including the listing of providers.

July 2014 National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter

Here it is.

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. Sixty down, 40 to go!

  • Day 41: Attention to Detail, Organisational Skills Produce First Class Result
  • Day 42: The Reliable Committee Man for Over Half a Century, Chérif Hajem

American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age

Volume IV of this series is now out, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. This one features Bernie Bukiet, Bobby Gusikoff, Erwin Klein, and Leah & Tybie Thall. Here are reviews of Volumes I-III. They are all on sale at Amazon: Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III, and Vol. IV.

Matt Winkler: Six-Time Arizona Champion

Here's the article.

International News

As usual, there are lots of great international articles at TableTennista and at the ITTF page. Tabletennista tends to cover the big names more, while ITTF has more regional news.

Unbelievable Point in Swedish League

Here's the video (32 sec). The attacker/chopper on the left is Fabian Åkerström. I believe the lobber/attacker on the right is Mattias Översjö.

Table Tennis: A Way of Life

Here's a nice table tennis highlights video (6:37), set to music. 

Table Tennis in Space

Here's a cartoon on table tennis apparently played in a spaceship in zero G. With no gravity, you need topspin to pull the ball down!!!

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June 5, 2013

Glasses

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?

Dentist

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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