Dean Johnson

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.


  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. 


  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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August 8, 2013


Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. It's always my favorite day as this is when players really begin the route to becoming top players. As I explain in my lecture, starting at the intermediate level looping dominates the game, and everyone's game is based either on looping or stopping the other guy's loop.

I had a player who was having trouble positioning his feet when he stepped around his backhand to play his forehand. I showed him how to solve this problem with what I call the "Hop" method of foot positioning. I demonstrated by first showing him how I positioned my feet when playing a forehand crosscourt from the forehand side. He had no trouble doing this on his side. Then, while standing in the forehand ready position on the forehand side, I pointed my non-playing hand crosscourt. (We're both righties.) Then, while holding my body, arms, and legs as rigid as possible, I literally hopped over to the backhand side and rotated my body until my non-playing hand was pointing crosscourt toward his backhand side. This put me in exactly the same positioning for hitting a forehand from the backhand side crosscourt as hitting a forehand from the forehand side crosscourt. But the hopping part looks pretty comical!

I mentioned last week how the younger kids all loved Froggy, the large latex frog (actually a toad) I bring out for various target practice games where I feed multiball. In previous weeks they went crazy for various cup games, where we'd stack paper cups in pyramids and then knock them down. This week the craze is for the Gatorade game, where I put a Gatorade bottle on the table, tell them it's something disgusting (worm juice, beetle juice, snake blood, dog saliva, etc.), and if they hit it, I have to drink it. We play all these games at the end of sessions in all the camps, but it's interesting how certain ones become the favorite one week and others in other weeks. This week I'm getting absolutely sick of Gatorade - the kids are getting too good at hitting the bottle. (Plus I have to act shocked and disgusted when they do - I'm running out of different ways to do this comically.)

How to Play a Backhand Table Tennis Drive

Here's a four-part series on the backhand by English Level 4 Coach Jim Clegg.

Part 1 - Control (5:05)
Part 2 - Speed (5:11)
Part 3 - Wrist (4:18)
Part 4 - Posture (2:54)

Shot Selection Mentality

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master. The primary points: avoid a safe game; placement over power; reading the spin; and don't rush.

World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age, Volume I

From the USATT article:

World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age, Volume I, authored by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan, is the first of a new series to be published by United States Table Tennis Hall of Fame. The Series covers the players, officials and contributors of the period 1931-1966.

Volume I contains 182 pages of profiles, 170 Photos and Articles of two of the earliest players from the period – Ruth Aarons and Jimmy McClure, two of our greatest Legends. Many of the photos are from the private collection of renowned photographer Mal Anderson who retains the largest collection of U.S. table tennis photographs in the world taken over almost half a century, some of which were never-before published. Many photos are in full color.

Much of the material in Chapter 1 is from Ruth Aarons’ personal album. The book features detailed Profiles by Tim Boggan author of the multi-volume Treatise on the “History of U.S. Table Tennis” -- the single most comprehensive work published to date on the sport.

In addition to the Profiles are career highlights and complete records of Ruth Aarons and Jimmy McClure. Ruth Aarons is the only American player to win world singles titles (1936/1937); Jimmy McClure is holder of 3 World doubles titles – 1936, 1937 and 1938 – and U.S. National Championships in 1934 and 1939.

Foreword is by Mike Babuin, current Chairman of the Board for USA Table Tennis and President of the Cary Table Tennis Association and the Curator and Founder of the Cary Table Tennis Museum – one of the largest private collections of table tennis artifacts, memorabilia, and publications in the USA.

Available at Amazon Bookstore. Proceeds from sales of all books in the Series will benefit the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Museum.

Never Give Up the Point!

Here's a video (44sec) that shows a top player literally falling to the floor and crawling about as he gets back into the point - which he wins!

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