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June 18, 2013


Starting yesterday we have ten consecutive weeks of camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, each Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, with a 1-3PM lunch and rest break. Here's info on the camps.

I'll be coaching at most of them. I will miss at least two of them: July 1-5 for the U.S. Open, and July 22-26 for a science fiction writer's workshop I'm attending in Manchester, NH, July 19-27. (Call it my annual vacation.) I might also miss July 29 - Aug. 2 for the Junior Olympics - not sure yet. If there's a small turnout in some weeks, I may miss some of those sessions as well - I could use the rest break. The camps are dominated by junior players (mostly Chinese), but there are usually a few adults who take part. The camps are for all ages and levels.

This is our 22nd consecutive year of running camps at MDTTC, which started in 1992. Coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and I have been there from the start. Also coaching (or acting as practice partners) at the camps are Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Chen Jie ("James"), and Raghu Nadmichettu.

From the start we've had a basic system. I mostly run the morning sessions (10AM-1PM), where I give short lectures, and then we break into groups doing lots of multiball. Until two years ago the players were divided pretty much randomly in each group.  Then Cheng and Jack asked if I could focus on the beginners in the camp, since they tended to slow things down in other groups - they need more individual attention - and I agreed. So now I generally get all the beginners in my group. We end the session with games, often 11-point games moving up and down tables, either singles or doubles.

Then lunch is served - Chinese food that each player orders for $6 in the morning. (Some go out for lunch or bring their own, but most order the Chinese food.) After lunch I generally take a group to our customary 7-11 trip.

Cheng and Jack run the afternoon session. This is mostly table practice, and then games at the end. We usually finish with Brazilian Teams, where you have teams of 3-6, with one player at a time from each team playing a point. If you win the point, you keep playing; if you lose the point, you go to the end of your team's line, and the next player is up. New player always serves. We generally handicap the top players against the weaker players, for example only giving them one shot to win the point.

Day One Camp Highlights

We focused on grip, stance, and the forehand on the first day. (Advanced players were grouped separately.) I had an interesting mix in my first group on Monday morning. Here's a listing of five of them:

  • Jumpy two-fingers grip kid. He's 13 years old, and had two fingers on the racket's surface instead of just the index finger, and tended to jump around a bit as he hit forehands. (Anyone remember Jills Hammersly of England?) It took some urging to convince him to take the second finger off, but by the end of the session his forehand was greatly improved, care of the better grip and a more balanced stance.
  • Wrist back forehand kid. He was the youngest in the camp, five years old. No matter what you say to him or how many times you adjust his shot, he likes to tip his wrist straight back on forehands. By the end of the day we'd mostly fixed the problem, but not completely - I still had to remind him every few minutes. Okay, more like every 30 seconds.
  • Big backswing forehand kid. He's about 10, and took a backswing that brought his racket back to about California before sweeping forward through the USA heartland before eventually arriving in Maryland just in time (usually) to hit the ball. We spent some time shortening his stroke, and he met with much greater success.
  • Stand-sideways forehand guy. He's about 20, and stood completely sideways for his forehand shots. He was self-taught, but was open to change. I fixed his stance so that his right foot was only slightly back (otherwise you can't really get any body rotation into the shot without looking pretty much backwards, plus you don't have time to go into this stance in a fast rally). He picked up the change pretty fast.
  • Out-of-practice backs-off-the-table-too-much kid. He's 13. I was his coach for a year (he reached about 1400 with a good loop from both sides), but then he stopped playing for almost two years. Now he's back. He's hitting and looping his shots well, but we do need to get him to stay a little closer to the table.

In the afternoon session I worked with eight beginners, including Jumpy Two-Fingers, Wrist-Back Forehand, and Big Backswing Forehand. We did a lot of practice and a lot of games.

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's a listing of upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S., both Level 1 and Level 2. I'm teaching one in South Bend, IN on Oct. 2-6, 2013. I'm also attending the Level 2 course in New Jersey, Aug. 26-31.

Hopes Week

Here's a video (2:37) with highlights from the ITTF Hopes Week in Austria (where many of the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the world trained and competed together for a week).

Homer and Adam Brown Earn Guitars

Here's the article on their getting guitars from the country music group Lady Antebellum.

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