Training in China

April 23, 2013

Tip of the Week

Proper Practice Progression Prevents Poor Play.

Hopes Trials

The Hopes Trials were held in conjunction with the North American Cup this past weekend in Westchester, NY, at the Westchester Table Tennis Club. And here's an article (lots of photos) on the players at the North American Cup.

I saw very little of the North American Cup since I was alternating coaching matches in the Hopes Boys and Girls Trials. (There was also an all-day USATT Board Meeting on Saturday, but I missed all of that as well.) I did see some spectacular play by 2406-rated 15-year-old Allen Wang - he's moved up to where he's challenging the best players in the country, despite being roughly six feet twenty inches tall. He beat Canada's Xavier Therien (rated 2517), went seven games with Peter Li (2557), and had a spectacular match with eventual North American Cup winner Andre Ho (2522), including an incredible game which Ho finally won, 25-23 (!). I saw some of the women's final - as usual, Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang put on a show, with Zhang winning.

I wrote a lot about the tournament in my blog last Thursday, so I won't repeat all of that. I coached Crystal Wang and Derek Nie in all of their matches, which roughly alternated every hour all day long. Most of the time they practiced together to prepare for their matches, but I also joined in a lot, especially with Derek, where we had a lot of nice counterlooping duels as well as lots of serve & receive and serve & loop practice.

Crystal, rated 2292, won Girls' Singles without losing a game. She beat Ivy Liao of Canada (rated 1939) in the semifinals at 7,3,7. In the finals, she faced Amy Wang of New Jersey (rated 2168, but recently over 2200, and with a winning record against Crystal). However, this time Crystal won at 8,7,8 in a battle of Crystal's two-winged looping (often off the bounce) against Amy's more traditional hitting. Amy is looping more than before, but is forced to block when Crystal starts looping, and Crystal's loops into the forehand and middle were effective.

There were two umpires - the main umpire, and the assistant umpire, who was the scorekeeper. Throughout this match, for some reason, the scorekeeper seemed to stare at me almost continuously between points. Every time I'd glance at the scoreboard he'd be staring - almost glaring. I have no idea why; I'm not even sure if I've met him before. Perhaps he thought I was signaling or something. Several others noted this as well. Neither he nor the main umpire were staring or glaring at the other coach. 

I've never used signals when coaching; they are illegal. (Here's proof: I've been coaching matches for over 30 years, and I've many hundreds of players in tournament matches. ATTENTION, all players I've ever coached - if I've ever used signaling when I coached, please step forward now and let everyone know. But nobody's going to step forward because it never has happened.) Some umpires are overzealous in guarding against signaling, but it's somewhat silly. Any coach could get away with signaling if he wants. For example, no umpire is going to tell a coach he can't clap after a point. So a dishonest coach can, for example, work out with his player that one clap means serve short to the forehand; two claps mean short to the middle; three claps short to the backhand, and so on. Elbows up for topspin, down for backspin, and perhaps clap with the tips for no-spin. (I'm making this up as I go along. Really.) Or use innocuous words of encouragement that mean something. However, all this is rather counter-productive as signaling a player over and over is a really good way to mess up their concentration as well as training them to not be able to think for themselves.

Derek (rate 2215, was 2234 before a bad Cary Cup) made it to the semifinals of Boys' Singles. There he faced Victor Liu (rated 2226). It was a seesaw battle, where one player seemed to dominate every game. Derek led 9-7 in the fifth. The last time these two had played (at the 2011 Nationals) Derek had led 9-6 in the fifth and lost five in a row. Two of the best times to call a time-out are when the player is losing focus, and when the player is serving and on the verge of winning an important game. In the latter case, you do so to make sure the player is completely focused and knows what serves to use to lock up the game. So I called a timeout - but Derek, feeling he was okay, shook it off. He lost the next four points, including an easy loop, a push, and an easy block. Sheer agony as he lost, 8,-5,7,-7,9. We'll never know if the timeout might have helped. Victor went on to win the final over Gal Alguetti at 13,7,9.

With Victor, Derek, and the Alguetti twins (Gal & Sharon, rated 2283 and 2271), I don't think we've ever had such a strong group of players at that age group, all 11 or 12. Add in Kanak Jha (2457) and Jack Wang (2329), who were one year too old for the Hopes Trials, and several others in the 2150-2200 range, and we have a powerhouse group coming up. Not to mention the twin towers on the girls' side of Crystal & Amy Wang! (No relation, though Amy is the younger sister of Allen, mentioned at the start.)

Brain Teasers at the Hopes Trials

It wasn't all table tennis, however. During the five-hour ride to and from the tournament, and also at meals, Derek and Crystal became addicted to brain teasers. I know hundreds of them, but I'd used many in past trips, and so began to make ones up. I think Derek may major in college in brain teasers.

Here are some brain teasers involving table tennis that I made up. Email me your answers, and tomorrow I'll publish whoever gets them right! (I made up many more, but can't remember them, alas.)

  1. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a lion, a giraffe, a raccoon, and an elephant. Then he played another animal, but over and over the animal served wet balls. Why?
  2. A player liked to play table tennis with various animals. He played a chimpanzee, a dog, an ostrich, and a snake. Then he played another animal, but over and over, rather than playing, the player would drop his paddle, fall to the ground, and lay still. Why?
  3. A group of miners had dug tunnels to extract diamonds from the ground. They decided to set up a ping-pong table in their tunnel. The tunnel was exactly six feet wide, so just wide enough for the table and net (which extends six inches on both sides). It was very long, so there was plenty of room on each side. It was exactly thirty inches tall, and so just enough room for the table and net. However, once it was set up, they were unable to play. Why?
  4. Here's a non-table tennis one I made up. Remember, this is being said out loud, so ignore the actual spelling. An old man with one hair went to a barber and asked him to cut the hair. The barber was outraged, and called the police. Why?

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Featured by Australia TTA

Here's the article. Copies of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers are going fast!

Largest Club in the Country

The Westchester Table Tennis Club has been the largest full-time club in the country for several years, at 13,000 square feet with 18 tables. (My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, is "only" 10,000, with 16 tables, alas. Though we sometimes jam in 18 tables for training.) However, a new club has just opened in Portland, Pure Pong, with 16,500 square feet and 20+ tables. Here's the article.

Table Tennista

Here are the headline international stories at Table Tennista.

Stiga Tisza Table Tennis Camp in Hungary

Here are three short videos from the camp.

Training in China

Here's a training video (3:38) in China from Tony Table Tennis.

The Lord of the Ping

I think he's cupping his hand - but he doesn't have to follow no rules.

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August 12, 2011

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Four

  • Yesterday we focused on footwork. Actually, we do that every day, since - as I regularly remind everyone - all table tennis drills are footwork drills. I gave a short talk on footwork, and on the progression from rote drills to random drills. I also gave them my standard "Are you a tree or a squirrel?" talk.
  • Quote of the day: one kid (about 9) was doing a drill that involved stepping around his backhand corner to hit forehands. He looked awkward and kept losing his balance. I came over, but before I could say anything he looked at me and said, "I can't do the drill. I'll step on my drink." I looked down, and realized the reason he was so awkward and was losing his balance was because he was trying not to step on his drink, which sat on the floor on his backhand side. I moved the drink off to the side, and his improvement was immense.
  • Sometimes I'm more babysitter than coach. There are two kids in the camp who interact like fire and gasoline. I think I spend half my time telling them to stay away from each other and the other half tuning out the constant cries of, "Larry, Larry, look what he did!"
  • We have one 7-year-old kid who's a walking hazard. He's oblivious to others when he plays. When he goes to pick up balls, he constantly walks right into other player's backswings, and keeps getting hit. I keep reminding him not to go near anyone who's playing, but he can't seem to remember.

Broken Bat Open

Yesterday I had the single greatest idea ever in the history of table tennis. I've figured out a way to bring in major table tennis sponsors for tournaments - with the Broken Bat Open! (©2011 by Larry Hodges!) It's very difficult to get major sponsors in table tennis - there just isn't enough money in the sport to make it worthwhile for big sponsors. But here's a way to change that and turn table tennis into the high profit-making sport that sponsors crave!

All we have to do is add one simple rule for tournament play: whoever loses a match must break his racket. Yes, you read that right - he must snap it over his knee, burn it, put it through a wood chipper, or whatever, the exact method doesn't matter as long as the racket is destroyed. Here's why.

Suppose a player enters an average of slightly more than three events per tournament. Since the large majority of players do not win an event, we'll assume that the player loses in an average of three events per tournament. Since most events are round robin, let's assume he loses an about twice per event. That means he will have to break six rackets. Let's assume we're running a four-star tournament with 200 players. That's 1200 rackets broken (and replaced) per tournament. Let's assume the average racket costs about $70. (We're ignoring sponge for now, and let the player take the sponge off his racket and put it on the new one.) Let's assume the distributor pays about $20 for that racket, and so makes a $50 profit each time they sell a racket. (They will be the sole distributor allowed at the tournament.) That's a profit of 1200 x $50 = $60,000! So we go 50-50 with the distributor - they put up $30,000 prize money sponsorship, and make $30,000 profit, and we're all winners!

Training in China

Here's a nice article by U.S. National Junior Champion and Men's Singles Finalist Peter Li on training in China.

Twisted Table Tennis

Yes, sometimes our sport gets a little twisted and seems to be going to the dogs, which is discouraging to us eager beavers, but if we stick to more concrete things and stay above water, we can meet and find devilish ways to develop our sport, and then someday we can all crow* like a rooster.
*Needed: picture of a crow playing table tennis.

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