TNEO

August 5, 2014

Tip of the Week

How to Move Up a Level.

TNEO and Table Tennis

This past weekend I returned from "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual eight-day writing workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, for graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. (I'm a 2006 grad.) This was my fifth TNEO - I went in '07, '08, '09, '13, and now '14. Here's a picture of me during a reading at the local Barnes and Noble. (There were about 30-40 listeners.) Here's a group picture. (If you have trouble seeing these Facebook photos, here are other versions for the reading photo and  for the group photo.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.) 

What does this have to do with table tennis, besides the fact that I'm a table tennis player at a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop? Actually quite a bit. During the workshop I had the first seven chapters of my SF novel "Campaign 2100" critiqued, and soon I will start the final rewrite on it. The novel has lots of table tennis! I blogged about this on June 13, where I even listed the table tennis scenes and changes in the sport, including "Spinsey pinhole sponge." (One of the main characters is a professional table tennis player who, up match point in the semifinals of the national championships, walks off the court to join - and eventually run - a worldwide third-party challenge for president of Earth in the year 2100. He also coaches the son of the presidential contender, and coaches and then does an exhibition for the Chinese leadership with an alien ambassador.) The table tennis scenes have mostly gone over well with readers and critiquers, even though they are not table tennis people. 

Since I was out of town for nine days, here's the question that comes up: What does one do to stay in table tennis shape when on vacation or out of town for an extended period for some reason? Assuming you can't arrange TT times at the new location, the answer is to shadow practice. (Here's my article Shadow Practice for Strokes and Footwork.) I brought my weighted racket to the writing workshop. (I bought it at the 2001 World Championships in Osaka, Japan.) At least once a day I shadow practiced forehand loops and smashes, backhands, and side-to-side footwork. 

Coaching Camp in Virginia

The writing workshop pretty much kept us on the go all day the entire time, so I was pretty tired when I returned - and with no break, I went right back to full-time coaching. We have a one-time camp in Virginia this week, 9AM-4PM, Mon-Fri, and so I'm leaving each day around 7:30 AM (because of rush hour) to make the journey. There are 15 kids in the camp, ages 6 to 14. Even though the camp was open to boys and girls, for reasons we still don't understand there are no girls in the camp. Only two are Asian (though two others are I believe part Asian). All 15 are right-handed. I'm head coach, assisted by John and Wen Hsu (the latter is the camp administrator as well). Since I have to leave so early, to do this blog I have to either do it the night before or get up very, very early.

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running a camp at MDTTC for disabled veterans, on Aug. 26-29. It's part of a USATT program, which has a grant for such camps. They have seven such camps scheduled - here's a listing. Special thanks goes to Jasna Rather for helping put these together!

Help Wanted - USATT National Volunteer Coordinator

Here's a new volunteer position with USATT - and an important one! 

Help Wanted - Austin Table Tennis Club Coach

Here's the help wanted article

Think Like a Coach

Here's a new coaching article from Oklahoma City coach Britt Salter. (The page is listed as Nov. 27, 2012, but that's when the page was apparently created for the coaching articles. The article just went up.) 

Contact Point for Maximum Backspin

Here's the video (3:14) from PingSkills.

Which Ball Should I Buy?

Here's the new blog entry from USATT Board Member Kagin Lee.

ITTF Coaching Course in Akron, Ohio

Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF Goes Plastic for Future Events

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. I was posting them all here, but while I was gone they went from #38 to #28. You can find them all on the USATT News page. I'll likely start posting them again tomorrow. 

Kanak Jha and the North American Championships

Here's the highlights video (1:36), by Jim Butler.

Lily Zhang's 2012 Olympic Thoughts

Here's the video (1:41). 

Dimitrij Ovtcharov on the Two-Colored Balls

Here's the article. "More than half of the balls were broken after practice." (Includes picture with the broken balls - looks like about ten broken balls, though there seem to be 11 white halves, 9 orange halves.)

Tampa Tries Free Pingpong in the Park

Here's the article

Table Tennis Touch

Here's a video (2:33) on this table tennis game you can play on your smart phone. 

Pong Was Never Supposed to Be Played By the Public

Here's the article on this revolutionary video game. 

Cartoon Woman Smashes Winner in Front of Big Crowd

Here's the picture - what should the caption be?

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July 24, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, August 5

This will be my last blog until Tuesday, August 5. Most people take vacations at beaches, or camping, or Disneyworld, or Las Vegas, etc. Me? I go to an annual science fiction & fantasy writing workshop for nine days of continuous writing, critiquing, classes, etc. I leave early tomorrow morning for "The Never-Ending Odyssey" (TNEO) in Manchester, New Hampshire for nine days, returning late on Saturday, Aug. 2. This will be the fifth time I've attended this, which is for graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, a six-week workshop for writers of science fiction & fantasy, which I attended in 2006. At the workshop I'm having the first seven chapters of my SF novel critiqued.

Getting TT on TV
(This is from a response I gave to a question on the forum.)

One of the major reasons table tennis isn't on TV much in the U.S. is there's nobody actively pushing for this to happen, or trying to create an attractive package for the TV people. USATT is an amateur organization, and doesn't have anyone devoted to this. So it's unlikely table tennis will get much TV exposure in the U.S. until the same thing that happened in other TV sports happens to table tennis - the top players get together and form a professional organization. Their top priority would be to bring money to the sport via sponsors, and to do that they need to get on TV - and so getting on TV becomes their top priority. They'd hire an executive director who would work to get the sport on TV so that he can bring in sponsors. But until this happens, table tennis is unlikely to be on TV much in this country. 

Wednesday's Coaching

I did 4.5 hours of private coaching yesterday. Here's a rundown.

  • Sameer, 13, about 1600 player (two-hour session): We pretty much covered everything, as you can do in a two-hour session. The highlight of the session, however, was when I introduced him to the banana flip. It only took a few minutes before he was able to do this in drills, and then we practiced it for about ten minutes. Since he just came off playing three tournaments in a row - see my blog about his progress in my blog on Monday - we're focusing on fundamentals as we prepare him long-term for his next "big" tournament - the North American Teams in November. We did a lot of counterlooping. As a special bonus that he begged and pleaded for, I let him lob for five minutes.
  • Tiffany, 9, about 1750 (70-min session as part of the MDTTC camp): Tiffany is the top-rated under 10 girl in the U.S., and the stuff she did in the session shows why. During those 70 minutes she did 55 minutes of footwork drills. The only interruption to her footwork drills was ten minutes when I looped to her block, and five minutes where we pushed. The rest of the time it was non-stop footwork drills for her. When she seemed to slow down between rallies at one point, one of the Chinese coaches playfully called her "lazy," and she immediately picked up the pace again. Today she'll be right back at it, while I'm still sore from the ten minutes of looping. Tiffany's in an interesting point in her game as she's gradually making the transition to all-out looping.  
  • Matt, 13, about 1600 (one-hour session, plus 30 minutes of games): He has an excellent forehand and good footwork, but is in the process of transitioning to a more topspinny backhand. We spent most of the session doing backhand-oriented drills. These included side-to-side backhand footwork; alternate forehand-backhand footwork (forehand from forehand corner, backhand from backhand corner); and the 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand corner, forehand from backhand corner, and forehand from forehand corner). I was planning to work on his receive after all this, but Matt wasn't happy with his 2-1 drill play, and wanted to do more of that. How many players volunteer to do extra footwork? (Perhaps he was inspired when I told him how much footwork Tiffany had done.) So we did another ten minutes or so of the 2-1 drill, about twenty minutes total. Then we did a bunch of multiball, focusing on backhand loop. It won't be long before he hits 1800 level.

    At the end of the session with Matt we played games - I stayed an extra 30 minutes for this, so it was really a 90-minute session. (I often do this when I'm through coaching for the day.) An astonishing thing happened here. After I won the first game, he came back in the second game on fire, and went up - I kid you not - 10-2!!! So on to the third game, right? Wrong. On his serve I switched to chopping (mixing in heavy chop and no-spin), and on my serve I pulled out an old Seemiller windshield-wiper serve (racket going right to left), which he'd never seen before. He got tentative both against the chops and serve, and suddenly it was 10-all. We had a rally there, where I chopped four in a row, and then I threw a no-spin chop at him, and he looped it softly. I tried smashing, but missed, and he had another game point. But he missed the serve again, and I finally won 14-12. He was very disgusted with blowing the game, and was now playing tentative where he'd been on fire just a few minutes before, and the result was he fell apart the next two games, even though I went back to playing regular. I finally had him do a few forehand drills to get his game back, and he ended it with a relatively close game. I'm feeling kind of bad about this because I completely messed up his game when I switched to weird play, when my job as a coach is to help him play well. But he's going to have to face "weird" players in tournaments, so he might as well get used to playing them now.

    The thing Matt needs to take away from this is that if he can play so well that he's up 10-2 on the coach (and I still play pretty well!), then it won't be long before he can do that all the time. The thing I need to take away from this is I better start practicing or Matt, Tiffany, and Sameer are all going to start beating me. (Age, injuries, and lack of real practice have dropped my level down to about 2100 or so, but that should be enough to beat these three, right? Maybe not…)

Liu Shiwen: Hard Work Always Produces Good Results

Here's the article. Liu is the world #1 ranked woman.

Twelve Curious Facts about Table Tennis

Here's the article.

U.S. Open Blog

Here's the final blog on the U.S. Open by Dell & Connie Sweeris.

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the latest overseas coaching course taught by USATT coach Richard McAfee.

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-two down, 38 to go!

  • Day 39: Ian Marshall Feels Privileged to Do What He Loves

Lily Zhang at the ITTF YOG Camp

Here's the video (34 sec).

Another Great Trick Shot

Here's the video (36 sec) of Shi Wei.

Craigslist Ping Pong Table Negotiation

Here's the text of this rather crazy discussion. (Side note - I once met Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.com. At the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention I was in the Science Fiction Writers of American suite - I'm a member - and after grabbing some snacks at the buffet table I joined two others sitting around a table discussing the future of the Internet. One of them began asking lots of questions about my science fiction writing. At some point the discussion turned to how we used online tools, and I mentioned I was in the process of renting out the first two floors of my townhouse, and that I was advertising it on Craigslist.com. The third person said, "Larry, do you know who you are talking to?" I said no, and that's when he pointed out that the guy I'd been talking with for half an hour was THAT Craig. He was at the convention as a member of several panels that involved the Internet.)

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July 29, 2013

Tip of the Week

Topspinny Backhands.

Last Week's Tip of the Week

I put up a Tip of the Week last Monday, but since I was out of town and not blogging, some of you may have missed it. If so, you get a special double-tip week! So here's the July 22 Tip of the Week: Pushing Change of Direction.

I'm Back!

It's been eleven days. I doubt if you missed me more than my dog, who went berserk at my return. (I had people taking care of her, but she tends not to eat much when I'm away.) As noted below, I was at a writers workshop in Manchester, NH, July 19-27. See segment on this below. And right after I finish this morning's blog I'm off to coach at the MDTTC camp. (We have ten consecutive camps this summer, each Mon-Fri; this is week seven. I should be at the rest of them - I missed two weeks, one for the writers workshop, one for the U.S. Open.)

Table Tennis Fitness

I just returned from nine days at a writers workshop (see below). While there was no table tennis there - other than my showing off my "blowing the ball in the air" trick, and one time showing off my ability to bounce a ping-pong ball up and down on a cell phone over and over - I did notice something related to table tennis.

The biggest difference between writers (as well as people I observed at the airport) and table tennis players, as well as people I observed at the airport, was the fitness level. There is a fitness epidemic in this country, and it's very noticeable at airports, and even more so at writers workshops. This isn't meant as an actual criticism of being overweight - to each his own - just an observation. But table tennis players in general are much more fit than the general population. Perhaps part of this is that there are so many Asian players, and they seem fitter than typical Americans. Or perhaps it's all those calories burned playing table tennis. Or perhaps it's fitness for the express purposes of improving their table tennis. Or perhaps it's because fitter people tend to seek out sports. Whichever it is, table tennis players, in general, and at all levels (at least beyond the beginning state) are far more fit than the average population.

At my worse, I once reached 196 pounds, and I currently am at 185. I'm now determined to get back to 175. Here's an article from Pongworld on training and fitness. Here's an article on table tennis and fitness by Australian star Greg Letts.

Non-Table Tennis - TNEO

TNEO is "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual gathering in Manchester, NH, of graduates of the six-week Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop. (I'm class of '06.) I just spent nine days there, July 19-27, where I was immersed with 27 others with story critiques, classes & lectures, readings, and lots of reading and writing. Three of my stories were critiqued; I've already rewritten them, and will be submitting them soon. Two other stories I have planned were plotted out, plus I wrote a brand new humorous story, "The Bat Nerd," which I read at the annual story reading at the local Barnes and Noble. Here's a Facebook picture (with comments) of the group in the workshop.

Flight Back from Manchester

The flights home were a disaster. Here's a short synopsis. I was scheduled for a 6:10PM flight Saturday night (July 27) on U.S. Air from Manchester to Philadelphia, with a connection to National Airport in Washington DC, arriving at 10:11PM. From there I'd take the subway to Shady Grove Metro Station where I had someone picking me up.

The 6:10PM flight was delayed to around 7:30PM due to both a crew problem (lack of a pilot) and weather. It became obvious I wouldn't be able to make my connection in Philadelphia, and there were no other non-full flights out of Philly that night. The earliest available flight the following morning was around 9AM. (Apparently U.S. Air wasn't able to get me on flights with other airlines.) They said they'd put me up in a hotel in Philly. However, a better option they said would be for me to spend the night in Manchester (again, they'd pay for the room), and catch a direct flight at 6AM the next morning. So I was sent back across the airport to the U.S. Air ticket office to get the hotel voucher and catch a shuttle to the hotel. However, after arriving there, they told me there were no available hotel rooms in Manchester! So they rushed me through security again so I could catch the delayed flight at 7:30PM. I reached Philly around 9PM. However, due to another glitch, they had trouble finding my checked-in bag, and it took them over 90 minutes before it was located. Then I took the shuttle to the hotel, arriving there around 11:15PM.

I now had a 7:55AM flight from Philly to DC. I got up a 5AM, was at the airport at 6:30AM, only to discover that due to another crew issue, the flight had been delayed to 9:40AM! Then it was delayed to 10:45AM. And then, at around 9:30 AM, it was cancelled! They put me on a different flight leaving at 11:30 AM. So I sat around the airport for about five hours before leaving. I arrived in DC at about 12:40 PM, took the subway to Shady Grove, arriving around 2:00 PM for my pickup. (The one who was going to pick me could no longer do so; Derek Nie's mom picked me up.)

Meanwhile, every step of the way as my flights changed I was calling the person who was to pick me up at Shady Grove. It got really frustrating as my schedule changed seemingly every ten minutes. On top of this, I had a 10AM coaching session scheduled for Sunday, which I had to miss. (It was a double - once a week on Sunday mornings I drive out to Virginia to coach, and they pay me double. So I'm out about $100 on top of everything else, plus a disappointed student.)

My Coaching Columns in USA Table Tennis Magazine

I've been submitting the best of my Tips of the Week to USATT Magazine, and they've been publishing them since January of 2012. Recently they've put together a page dedicated to them, with links to each article. If you've been reading my weekly Tips (every Monday morning) then you've read these.

Building Power and Weight Transfer

Here's a coaching article from Table Tennis Master.

Two Insane Pieces Of Luck Behind China’s Current Dominance

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on how China's dominance in table tennis may have come about due to two great pieces of luck!

Kenta Matsudaira's Show

Here are video highlights of the Japanese star (4:08).

The New Yorker

Here's the table tennis cover of this week's The New Yorker, which is dated today, though it came out a few days ago. I saw a copy at the airport, and paging through it, couldn't find anything on table tennis on the inside. Apparently the table tennis cover is an independent cover and doesn't actually illustrate anything from the inside.

Stéphane Veilleux Wins Smashfest

Here's a picture of the Minnesota Wild Hockey player holding up the huge table tennis trophy he won. Click on the picture and you'll see other pictures from the event.

Phil Mickelson Plays Matt Lauer on the Today Show

Here's the video and article from Table Tennis Nation.

Dragon on a Ping-Pong Table

Here's the latest artwork from Mike Mezyan. The title I've given it sort of tells you what it is - sort of like the movie Snakes on a Plane!!!

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July 18, 2013

Last Blog until Monday, July 29 - Off to Writer's Workshop

When most people go on vacation, they go to beaches, Disneyworld, or Las Vegas. When table tennis players go on vacation, they center it around a major tournament. When I go on vacation, I go to a science fiction writer's workshop in Manchester, NH, July 19-28. After non-stop table tennis action since early June (when kids got out of school), I need the physical and mental break. (Actually, it's been pretty much non-stop table tennis for 37 years!!!)

Back in 2006 I attended the Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer's Workshop, an intense six-week program for such writers. Every year a group of the graduates get together for nine days of intense workshopping, called "The Never-Ending Odyssey" or TNEO. I've got three stories getting critiqued, I critiqued dozens of others, plus we have a number of other programs, with two one-hour "master classes" each day, taught by various graduates.

It's a busy time right now. I'm juggling ten consecutive weeks of training camps (all Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, June 17 - Aug. 23); the U.S. Open (July 1-7); an ITTF Level 2 Coaching Seminar I'm attending (Sept. 2-7 in New Jersey); an ITTF Level 1 Coaching Seminar I'm teaching (Oct. 2-7 in South Bend, Indiana); the usual private and group coaching and general table tennis promotion (that's enough to fill my schedule alone); the daily blog and weekly tip; and the usual science fiction & fantasy writing that I do on the side. (I'm already gearing up to write the sequel to the novel I just sold - see my blog the last two days.) I'm also planning to do a rewrite of my book Table Tennis: Steps to Success (probably retitled "Table Tennis Fundamentals"), but for now that's on hold. Things will ease up dramatically by September, when the kids go back to school. 

Meanwhile, as if I didn't have enough already, two people solicited table tennis articles from me just yesterday. I had to say no to both, though both would have been paid. (I also had to turn down two requests for private coaching - I'm not taking on any new students until mid-September.) But I did find time tonight to (finally) update my coaching notes from the U.S. Open. Yep, I keep extensive notes on the matches I coach or watch, to help prepare for future matches I coach.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was the forehand loop. I had Raghu Nadmichettu demo it. Against backspin, I fed multiball; against block, I blocked, and had fun trying to convince the kids that the Chinese national coaches often fly to the U.S. to study my never-missing forehand block. (Confession: while I was explaining this, Raghu finally managed to loop one past me. Alas.) I also gave a lecture on return of serve, and spent half an hour working with a group on their serve and receive.

During breaks a new fad has caught on - the Chinese game of Go. Cheng Yinghua has always been an expert at it, and Nathan Hsu is now very good. A girl, about age ten, brought in a fancy set - turns out she's very good, I think has had coaching and so on. All this week she's been playing Cheng and Nathan during breaks, and even coming in early before camp to play, and others have joined in. (Players gather around to watch as they play.) I think there's a strong correlation between table tennis players and those who like tactical games such as Go, Chess, and Checkers. They definitely get players into the habit of thinking tactical. Sure, table tennis is much, much faster, and so you don't have time to contemplate your next move as you do in these games, but that misses the point that much of table tennis tactics is preparation so that you reflexively play smart tactics - and that starts by thinking tactically about what habits you want to develop. (But one part of table tennis is almost exactly like these games - serving, where you can take your time choosing the best tactical serve.) A number of players at our camps this summer have also worn chess shirts - we have a lot of table tennis players who play competitive chess. Tong Tong Gong, one of our top juniors - on the USA National Cadet Team in 2011-1012 - was a competitive chess player, even traveling to Ohio in 2010 to compete in the national chess championships. Here's a picture of him in action.

Today's focus is the backhand attack. I'm also going to give a lecture and demo on pushing. After the camp ends, I've got two hours of private coaching, so I'll be coaching today from 10AM-8PM, other than a lunch break. Then, if I survive, I'm off for TNEO. (See above.)

USATT Ceo Blog

Here it is, covering the recent U.S. Open in Las Vegas. 

Six Mistakes You Probably Make When Practicing Third Ball Attack (Part 2)

Here's the article. And in case you missed it in my July 11 blog, here's Part 1. The two parts cover the following topics:

  1. Pushing Serves You Really Shouldn’t
  2. Not Practicing Different Placements
  3. Not thinking about the fifth ball
  4. Serving With More Than One Ball In Your Hand
  5. Serving Differently Than You Would In A Match
  6. Not Using Your Best Return

Being Creative in Training

Here's an essay on creative training techniques.

Feeling Overwhelmed When Learning

Here's a video on the topic from PingSkills (5:23). The primary idea is to focus on one thing at a time.

Best Points of Table Tennis

Here's a new table tennis video set to music (5:10).

Portland Pong

Pips & Bounce pop-up parties fuel Portland pingpong passion.

Table Tennis Dreamscape

Here's another of Mike Mezyan's table tennis artworks. (If you can't see it on Facebook, try this.) I see the person on the left as an up-and-coming player contemplating making the leap into the unknown future - should he give it 100% effort and train full-time, and go for glory? But that's the black hole of disappointment in the background, ready to gobble up those who fall by the wayside if he doesn't have the skills to carry the big paddle into his dreams.

Four-Armed Ai Fukuhara

Now that she's better armed, can she become world #1? (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

Non-Table Tennis - Human Help Desk

My story "Human Help Desk" is now online at Abyss & Apex. When a computer's human is about to click on a link that'll load a virus that'll kill the computer, what can the computer do? Call the Human Help Desk, of course! A bittersweet tale of a computer's fight for survival. Since so many table tennis players are computer people, this might be of interest to many of them.

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