ITTF Trick Shot Competition

November 5, 2013

Junior Hamburger Incentives

A few days ago I promised Crystal Wang and Nathan Hsu that I'd eat a cheeseburger if she won Women's Singles at the Nationals or if he made the Junior Boys' Team. (EDIT: I've since promised the same to Derek Nie if he wins Mini-Cadet Singles or makes the Cadet Team.) Doesn't seem like much of an incentive, does it? Here's the story of my 33-year hamburger estrangement.

In 1980, when I was 20, I was living in Wilson, North Carolina, training every day at the Butterfly Table Tennis Center. My highest rating achieved at the time was 1954, but I'd been stuck at around 1850 for the past two years. I entered four events in the North Carolina Open - Open Singles, Open Doubles (with Tom Poston), Under 2100, and Under 22. I wasn't seeded in Open Singles or Under 2100, and I was one of the lower seeds in Open Doubles and Under 22.

After pulling off an early-round upset I ate a quarter pounder with cheese from the McDonalds down the street. When I pulled off another upset, I had another. Every time I pulled off an upset I ate one. We'll now jump all the way to the final of Open Singles. At this point, here is the situation:

  • I've won Open Doubles
  • I've won Under 2100
  • I've won Under 22
  • I've eaten nine quarter pounders with cheese in the course of about five hours
  • I'm bent over in agony with a stomachache and am nauseous
  • I'm in the final of Open Singles against Fred King, a 2100 player (that's 2200+ in modern ratings)
  • Fred is serving up 17-13 in the fifth (games were to 21 in those days and you served five times in a row)

Despite constantly clutching my stomach in agony between points, and attacking nearly every ball with my forehand (both looping and smashing), I win all five points on Fred's serve to lead 18-17, and finally eke out the win, 21-19 in the fifth. I swept all four events I entered, and it was a major event in my playing career as I jumped from 1850 level to around 2100. But I came out in such agony I almost went to the hospital. At that point the very sight of a hamburger made me nauseous.

Over the next twenty years I didn't eat a single hamburger or cheeseburger. I'd eat meatballs in spaghetti and sloppy joes, but somehow a straight hamburger or cheeseburger brought back memories of that intense stomachache and nauseousness. Then, at the 2000 Junior Olympics, I told the story to our group of 30 Maryland juniors at dinner the night before the competition. They asked me what they had to do to get me to eat one. I said if they won over half the gold medals, I'd do so. Guess what? They did. (Actually, they did this nearly every year in the 1990s through the early 2000s.) So at dinner afterwards, while everyone watched, I ate a cheeseburger. I put lots and lots of lettuce, tomato, and onions on it to drown out the hamburger, and managed to survive.

I haven't eaten another one since.

So here we are, 33 years after that epic comeback against Fred, and I've got two juniors gunning to make me eat another. I'll probably give the same incentive to a few of our other juniors if they reach major goals at the Nationals. And then I'll force myself to eat another cheeseburger. Ugh!

Pretty good junior incentive program!

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

The winner of the ITTF Trick Shot Competition is supposed to be officially announced tomorrow, but I just got an email from USA's Adam Hugh that, even though he led on nearly every objective criteria, the winner is Josep Anton Velazquez of Spain, with this entry, over this one from Adam. We should have more on this tomorrow.

USA's Kunal Chodri and Kanak Jha Win Bronze

They made the semifinals of Cadet Doubles at the ITTF World Cadet Challenge (which ended Sunday in Otocec, Slovenia), defeating Horacio Cifuentes and Gustavo Yokota of Argentina and Brazil in the quarterfinals, 11-8 in the fifth. In the semifinals they led 2-0 against Hwang Minha and Man Kwan of Korea and Hong Kong before losing in five, -12,-9,7,6,4.

Table Tennis Facts

Here are eight of them - but are they all really facts? The fifth items says players smash the ball over 100 mph, but there's been no test that I know of that shows this, while most show that few smashes go over 70mph. (Of course, this might have a lot to do with the testing procedure and definition of the speed. The ball may leave the racket at a high speed and rapidly slow down due to air resistance.) The last item says China, Sweden, and South Korea are the "current world powers," but it's been a while since Sweden was a world power.

Why Serve Variation is Vital

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

The Honeymooners Table Tennis

Here's a video (26 minutes, but you only need to watch the first 3-4 minutes) of a table tennis scene in the classic TV show "The Honeymooners." The episode, "Something Fishy," played on Dec. 17, 1955, and opens 32 seconds in with a roughly three-minute table tennis scene between the characters Ralph Kramden (actor Jackie Gleason) and Ed Norton (actor Art Carney), mostly involving Ed leading Ralph 19-2, with Ralph then pretending to lose the ball so as not to lose a ten-cent bet over the game. About a minute after the table tennis scene sewer worker Ed also quips about playing table tennis in the sewers. Special thanks to Steve Thoren for alerting me to this classic scene.

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October 23, 2013

Knee Update

I gave a 1.5 hour coaching session yesterday, but could only hobble around, and ended up doing multiball or serve practice for over half the session. As I blogged on Monday, I injured the right knee on Saturday. So I've had to cancel all my coaching tonight - three hours. (Every other week I have four hours on Wednesday nights, but this was an "off" Wednesday.) Coach Raghu is subbing for one of the hours, while the other two are taking the week off. (One is having arm problems and could use the rest.)

Coaching is one of those professions where you HAVE to stay healthy or you run into serious problems. Some remember all the back problems I had in 2011; I overcame that with a lot of stretching and specialized weight training. Then, other than a cold or two, I was healthy for two years. A few weeks ago I had to take most of a week off with arm problems. And now this.

For most of our 21 years, MDTTC had cement floors. This has no give, and so led to knee problems for me (and others) during the late 90s and early 2000s. Then, about 6-7 years ago, we went to the soft red flooring that's so popular at professional clubs and major tournaments. Since then I've had no knee problems until now. This injury wasn't because of the floor, however; I just put weight on it wrong.

Lefties at the 2013 LIEBHERR Men's World Cup

The Men's World Cup starts in three days, Oct. 25-27 in Verviers, Belgium. Here's an interesting tidbit: of the 20 players participating, 40% are lefties. (That's eight of them for the math challenged.) According to Wikipedia, about 12% of men and 10% of women are lefties. So here's my challenge to readers: Who can first name the eight lefties among the 20 players? (And no, I can't; I don't know all these players.)

Fantasy Table Tennis

Yesterday I listed the numerous table tennis excerpts from my upcoming novel, "Sorcerers in Space." Here's an article I wrote in 2009 that was published in Fantasy Magazine, "The Table Tennis Fantasy Tour." It gave a rundown of some of the fantasy table tennis in movies, TV, and books, such as movies "Forrest Gump," "Balls of Fury," "A Matter of Life and Death," and "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man"; TV shows "Gary Shandling's Show," "Ping-Pong Club," and "Get Smart," and the fantasy novel "Robot Adept" - as well as my own short story "Ping-Pong Ambition."

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

Because of recent arm problems, and now a knee injury, plus the inconvenience of not having a video camera (I was going to borrow one), and simply being too busy on other issues, I haven't been able to put together a video for the ITTF Trick Shot Competition, alas. The deadline is Friday, Oct. 25. I had two tentatively planned. But doing one now is mostly pointless as the online voting has gone on for weeks, and there's no way I can catch up.

For the first trick, I was going to stand 60 feet directly to the side of the table. I'd then do a high, sidespin serve that hits the table and jumps sideways so it hits both sides of the table, a legal serve (other than the fact that I would be standing in front of the extension of the end-line). I can do this either tomahawk style or pendulum style, but I get more distance with the tomahawk, with the ball curving to the left. I can do this serve pretty well over half the time. But it doesn't end there - I was going to prop up a ping-pong paddle on some books on the left side of the table, and try to hit it so the ball would bounce back to the right-hand-side of the table. But it doesn't end there either - I was going to try to make it land in a cup. (I'd put water at the bottom of the cup so it wouldn't bounce out.) I wonder how many tries it would have taken to get this done? One thing that would make it easier is that the big-breaking serve I do would always hit on the far left side of the table on the second bounce, so that's where I'd prop up the ping-pong paddle, angled just right.

For the second trick, I was going to push a table up against a wall, with the net parallel to it. I'd stand to the side of the table on the far side, with two balls in my hand. I'd then look up and blow one of the balls up in the air so it balances in the air - a trick I've done for years. Then, without being able to look down, I'd drop the other ball on the table and smack it against the far side of the table so it bounces up against the wall and back, and smacking the ball I'm balancing in the air.

Pretty good tricks if I could do them!!!

Table Tennis Charity Foundation

You can donate to this charity. "Our MISSION is to Raise Awareness of the THERAPEUTIC Value that Playing Table Tennis has for MENTAL HEALTH and BRAIN FITNESS! Our VISION is to Integrate Ping Pong Programs (as an educational & structured activity) for Senior Living Communities, Rehabilitation/Medical Facilities, AND our School Systems! And, as a 501(c)3 Non-Profit Organization, We Utilize the Brain-Stimulating Sport of Table Tennis to Raise Money for Charity Partners Who Directly Benefit Those Facing Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Depression and Mild to Moderate Intellectual Challenges."

Interesting Table and Exhibition

Here's a picture of Mike Meier doing a behind-the-back shot in an exhibition.

Krazy Table Tennis

Here's a 1920s table tennis set - and yes, it's called "Krazy Table Tennis."

Fiery Table Tennis

That's a lot of fire.

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September 19, 2013

Yesterday's Coaching Activities

I had three hours of private coaching, then a meeting with others to go over our new junior progress reports.

The first session was with an 8-year-old, about 1200 level, who's struggling to decide whether to be an attacker or defender. He may well be the best 8-year-old lobber I've ever seen; he can lob back my hardest smashes dozens of times in a row as long as I don't smother kill at wide angles. (There's something humorous about a little kid lobbing from way back at the barriers!) He also chops well. He's also got a nice loop from both wings, but has one serious problem on both: he's too impatient to do the same shot over and over, and so it's hard to get him to develop a repeating stroke. Unless I keep a firm hand on the drills, most rallies end up with him looping a couple balls, taking a step back after each, and then he's off lobbing and fishing, and looking for chances to suddenly counter-smash. He's recently faced the realization that if he's going to chop, he'll probably need long pips, which will take away his backhand lob - and he doesn't like that. So we're in a state of flux on whether to train him as an attacker or defender. Ultimately, I'm letting him make the final decision. I've advised him that, unless he very much wants to be a chopper/looper, he should focus on attacking, and he can always switch to more chopping later on. It's a big decision that'll affect the rest of his life!!!

The second session was with an 11-year-old, about 1200 level, who's about to finally start playing tournaments. He's playing in the MDTTC October Open and the North American Teams in November, and perhaps others. He's a big forehand attacker who likes to run around the table ripping forehand loops and smashes. Most interesting part of the session was when I urged him to really develop the backhand (while still focusing on the forehand) - and his reaction was he wanted to practice backhands for nearly half the session. We had some great rallies, and near the end it started to really click in. He wants to really focus on serves as well, and I promised we'd start off next session with that.

The third session was with a 12-year-old who was having only his second session since being away all summer. He's about 1000, but rusty. So we're focusing on fundamentals. He's doing really well in multiball drills, where we did a lot of looping against backspin (both wings) and combinations (loop a backspin, smash a topspin). In live drills he's still a bit too erratic, but it's getting better.

Then I met about what I've been calling the Junior Progressions. These are a series of criteria a beginning/intermediate player needs to fulfill to move from Level 1 to Level 5. At the lowest level, players need to bounce the ball on the racket a certain number of times, demonstrate proper grip and ready position, know the basic rules, hit a small number of strokes, etc. As they move up, it gets harder; at Level 5 they have to hit 100 forehands and backhands and demonstrate a few counterloops. We're still finalizing and testing them. We'll be using them for the first time later this fall. Once I'm more confident we have the right criteria, perhaps I'll publish them. (We'd been shown examples of how some other programs did this, such as AYTTO.

The Importance of Lobbing

Here's the latest USATT Tip of the Week, another of the ones I wrote.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course in Austin

Here's the ITTF article on the coaching course Richard McAfee ran in Austin, TX last week.

Adam Hugh's Juggling No-Look Target Serve

Here's the entry of former USA team member Adam Hugh to the ITTF Trick Shot Showdown Contest. "Your move." Here's the page showing videos entered so far.

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