Alex Soth

September 23, 2013

Tip of the Week

Saturation Training.

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Certification

Yesterday I completed all requirements for ITTF Level 2 Coaching Certification. I'd taken the six-day, 36-hour course at the Lily Yip TTC two weeks ago, but was also required to do 50 hours of coaching afterwards. I finished that yesterday. I sent the paperwork in last night, and shortly afterwards received notification that it had been approved. So I'm the 11th U.S. coach to achieve this, joining Roger Yuen (who took the Level 2 course with me) and Duane Gall, Mike Mui, Chong Ng, Juan Ly, Federico Bassetti, Iuliana Radu, Ray Pestridge, Jef Savage, Joel Mitchell, and Roger Dickson. Interestingly, I'm the first USATT certified National Coach (the highest U.S. level) to achieve this. There are no Level 3's in the U.S. yet; they haven't taught the course for it here yet, though I hear they are tentatively planning one next year.

Junior Class

We started a new season of our beginning junior class on Saturday morning (10:30AM-Noon) and Sunday afternoon (4:30-6:00PM). One new thing is that we now require all players to register in advance so we know (at least roughly) how many kids will show up, so we know how many coaches to have on hand. For the Sunday class, we only had six pre-registered, a disappointing number. So I arranged for one other coach (John Hsu) to assist. However, since people don't seem to listen (AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!), 16 showed up.

I quickly recruited Raghu Nadmichettu to help out. You need a higher coach to player ratio when working with beginners, especially beginning kids, since they don't yet have the racket skills to practice among themselves - and if they try to, they aren't going to have very good form so they'll be practicing bad habits. So I put them 16 in four groups, four each with me, John, and Raghu, and four on the robot, and did lots of multiball. I rotated the groups every 20 minutes or so. (Three of the four starting on the robot had had some coaching, but one was a complete beginner, so I spent some time jumping back and forth between my players and the robot table.) At the end of session I broke them up into three groups - those who wanted more practice with John (1 player), those who were more advanced and wanted to play "King of the Table" (6 players) and those who wanted to stack pyramids of paper cups and knock them down as I fed multiball (9 players).

Coconut Cup

On Saturday MDTTC had the Coconut Cup Under 1800 Tournament, which I believe they do twice a year. (Next Saturday is the Over 1800 Tournament.) It's a three-person team, non-USATT sanctioned event (no ratings), with all profits going for Chinese books for Chinese schools. I spent most of the day on a back table coaching. When I was done I watched some of the matches. The team that won included John Olsen, who's both a coach and a student of mine. (He's rated 1999, but the "Under 1800" is a team average, and John was the team's "ace.") If you are interested in playing the Over 1800 Coconut Cup next Saturday, email the organizer.  

I was watching one of our junior players in the fifth and final match of a team match. He won the first two games, but then lost the next two. He completely fell apart emotionally, and could barely play. One of his teammates asked me to coach him. So I called a timeout in the fifth game when he was down 2-6. He was breathing rapidly and could barely think straight at this point. I told him to just clear his mind, and think of it as just another match at the club. Don't even try to play; just be a spectator and watch as your subconscious takes over. It couldn't have been easy for him as once a player gets emotional they often lose the deep-down desire to win, or at least the ability to do what's necessary to do so. But he managed to take some deep breaths and cleared his mind. I told him not to play a single point until his mind was clear, which he would do. I did give him two tactical items, very generic ones as the key was mental focus, not tactics - I told him to serve long backspin and loop (opponent was pushing them all back), and to just control the serve back, don't try to attack it since the opponent was steady but passive. As he went back to the table I told him to ball up any nervousness inside him and spit it out, and leave it on the sideline. Anyway, except for an edge ball, he won the next eight points in a row and won the game 11-8. Many people don't understand that coaching between games is at least 50% sports psychology.

The Next Step

Alex Polyakov, author of "Breaking 2000," has come out with another book on table tennis, "The Next Step." Right now there's only a Kindle version, but Alex told me there's a paperback version coming in a month or so. Here's the book's description: "This book provides detailed insights on four essential parts of the game - technique, strategy, tactics, and the mental game. The aim of this book is to create a different type of an artifact and go beyond common basics. This book's goal is to describe numerous principles of table tennis and to show how to apply vast amount of table tennis knowledge to construct player’s most effective game using the skills that the player has already mastered as well as to describe many other skills that the player may choose to develop to take the next step onto higher levels."

More Tips of the Day

Here's a link to the numerous Tips of the Day of mine that USATT is putting up daily. These were all written from 1999-2004 for USATT under the pseudonym "Dr. Ping Pong." I'm a bit leery of this since I haven't seen some of these tips in over a decade, but so far my decade-old self hasn't embarrassed me. The last three tips: "Reading Spin," "Use Ball Placement and Variation Against Short Serves," and "Attack Deep Serves." The picture of me they use for the Tips is me coaching Seyed Hesam Hamrahian (2126, has been over 2250) and Derek Nie (2297 despite his size and age!) in doubles at the 2012 USA Nationals. (I coach Derek regularly at tournaments, but Seyed is normally a student of Samson Dubina.)

Two Table Tennis Obsessives Go Back and Forth

Here's an article in the NY Times where crossword editor and table tennis aficionado Will Shortz interviews photographer and fellow TT aficionado and Alec Soth about his new book, "Ping Pong," which features table tennis photographs.

How Ping Pong Saved the World

Here's info on the film, including a trailer, 1:53. "How Ping-Pong Saved the World is a feature length documentary that recounts the events of April 1971 when a US Table Tennis team became the first Americans invited into communist China in more than two decades. For eight days 15 Ping-Pong diplomats captivated the world with their visit behind the Bamboo Curtain and in the process helped reshape world history. Ping-Pong Diplomacy soon became a metaphor for the on-going difficult relations between two ideological opposites on the brink of détente. Their unlikely invitation paved the way for President Richard Nixon's landmark visit to China just eight months later in February of 1972."

Late Note - here's the entire How Ping Pong Saved the World Documentary online (74 min). I actually linked to this last Tuesday but forgot about it.

Table Tennis - Simply the Best Sport

Here's a highlights and motivational table tennis video (7:53) that came out a year ago that I somehow never saw before. It features

Pittsburgh Steelers Decide Only Vets Can Play Ping Pong in Locker Room

Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation! This is one of the great injustices of the century . . . we shall march on Pittsburgh, and we shall overcome, because I dream of a time when ping-pong players will be judged by their ratings and not by their football seniority.

Jimmy Fallon on Playing Table Tennis with Prince

Here's a video (4:58) of Fallon telling a funny story on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno about playing table tennis with Prince. "It's like spinning, it's like flames are coming out!"

The Ping Pong King Kong

Here's a video (1:51) that shows some of the fastest and best table tennis I've ever seen! (And the facial expressions are great.) Watching this video will wake you up - it's fast and hilarious.

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