Jungle Pong

May 23, 2014

Table Tennis Tips

My newest table tennis book is now published! Retail price is $14.99, but you can buy it at Amazon for $13.21, or $6.99 for Kindle. (Here's my personal Amazon page, and the Larry Hodges Books page.) Special thanks goes to the four who edited and critiqued the book, leading to many revisions. They are Kyle Angeles, Stephanie Hughes, John Olsen, and Dennis Taylor. (And they get thanked again below!)

Here's the Intro page from the book:

Welcome, fellow table tennis fanatics, to three years of worth of Tips of the Week, compiled in one volume in logical progression.

These Tips are online, available for free to anyone. I put them up every Monday on my website, TableTennisCoaching.com, and this volume contains all of them from January 2011 through December 2013. Feel free to browse them—but do you really want to have to call them up, one by one, in random order as far as content goes? I’ve updated quite a few of them, not to mention a lot of editing. Some had links to specific online videos, so I had to adjust the wording, inviting readers to go to YouTube.com and do basic searches for the appropriate technique.

They range over ten basic topics: Serving, Receiving, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, How to Improve, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Playing in Tournaments.

There are unavoidable redundancies in this book. They come in two types. First, the content of the Tips often overlap with other Tips. This is unavoidable as many of the Tips cover parallel material. For example, there are two Tips on developing the forehand smash, and while there is overlap between the articles, they cover it in different ways.

And second, I incorporated a number of these Tips in my previous book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. This is especially true of the Tips here in the chapters on Tactics and on Sports Psychology. But perhaps a second reading will be the key to really learning and understanding the material?

Finally, I’d like to thank those who proofed the book for me, pointing out numerous problems they found, from typos and grammar mistakes to better wording suggestions. They did an incredible job of making me look good! They are:

  • Kyle Angeles
  • Stephanie Hughes
  • John Olsen
  • Dennis Taylor

USATT Mailing

Over the past week there's been an ongoing discussion among a few USATT board members, tournament directors, coaches, and a few others on creating an Allstar Circuit or Finals for American players. The topic has drifted. When the discussion of how to raise $10,000 for a Finals event came up, I chimed in with the below.

Here’s an easy way for USATT to raise the $10,000 or more for such an Allstar Tour Finals, and increase membership as well. It’s the same recommendation I’ve made multiple times in the past at board meetings and strategic meetings. (Sorry if this takes us slightly off track.) Almost any successful organization knows that one of the most promising ways to get members is to go after past members, which is why we all get so many things in the mail from organizations we were once members of and magazines we once subscribed to. USATT has something like 50,000 past members on its database (not sure of current figure). I believe we do mailings (and now emails) to recently expired ones, but how often do we do mass mailings to ones from farther back?

Have it come as a personal letter from a prominent USATT person, where it explains the benefits of USATT membership. (Alas, having a print magazine was a primary benefit we can no longer use.) If it comes from Dan Seemiller, Jim Butler, or Sean O’Neill, or all three, it’ll get a much better response than if it’s some form letter coming from a USATT official. I’m sure they would put their name on something like this if they knew that the first $10,000 or more in profits would go to an Allstar Series or Final of some sort.

Let’s say there are 50,000 names and addresses on the USATT database, and that the cost of mass printing and bulk mailing is 30 cents each. (Letters sent bulk mail, if bar coded, will cost about 18 cents each, and when you print 50,000 copies, printing per piece is very cheap.) Then the cost of this mailing is about $15,000. Let’s suppose we get a 1% return, at $49 each. That’s 500 members, and nearly $25,000 in income. (Plus more in following years, depending on how many renew.) That’s a $15,000 profit the first year. (Break even is about .6%, or 1 in 160.) If we get a 2% return, that’s 1000 members, income is $49,000, and a $34,000 profit the first year. There are also hidden income in this. New members mean more players playing in tournaments (rating fees), entering the U.S. Open or Nationals, etc.

Yes, there’s increased staff time, but it’s not a huge amount of time to process 500 to 1000 new members. That’s an average of 2-4 per work day. There’s also staff time in putting together the mailing, or we can hire a service for a few hundred dollars.

Sure, there’s risk as we don’t know what the return will be. If we’re too scared to try new things, then we might as well accept that we’re never going anywhere. Except there’s nothing new about this – other organizations do this type of thing all the time, and they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t pay for itself. I still get all sorts of things in the mail from about five past magazines and several organizations, including regular things from USTA. They have 700,000 members, and know how these things pay off.

Also note that when we get these new members, we’ll also get their emails, and so will be able to communicate with them for free in the future.

Wang Liqin Trains Their Younger Players

Here's the story of the all-time great and 3-time Men's Singles World Champion working with the younger Shanghai team members.

Sports Illustrated Paddle Pushers: A 30-Year Climb to Semi-Visibility

Here's the article/graphic from page 22 of the current (May 26) issue of Sports Illustrated. (I had a short article published in Sports Illustrated on June 14, 1999 - "The Chinese Table Tennis Dynasty." I'm also a Sports Illustrated Photographer - I took the picture of Crystal Wang in the April 7, 2014 issue. (See photo credits underneath - I'm famous!)

Jungle Pong

Here's a video (17 sec) of the gang from JOOLA playing "Floor Pong." I don't think they realize that what they are playing is Jungle Pong, a game played by the kids at my club for many years (I'm guessing since the 1990s), passed on from generation to generation. They play it during breaks, especially during camps. The rules are pretty specific. I blogged about this (including the rules) on June 20, 2013 (see third segment).

Flipagram

Here's the music video "Wally Green - a Game Nobody Knows" (15 sec). It links to a program that apparently allows you to create your own table tennis music videos from still pictures.

Followers of the Bouncing Ball - San Antonio

Here's an article in the San Antonio News-Express on the San Antonia TTC in Texas.

Outdoor Table Tennis Near Me

Here are pictures of the outdoor ping-pong table and putting green at Freedom Park near Rosslyn Metro Station in Washington D.C., about 15 miles south of me.

Mini-Mini Table Tennis

Here's the picture. "I really don't think it can get smaller than that."

The Most Colorful Ping-Pong Table in the History of the Universe

Here it is!

Armin van Buuren - Ping Pong

Here's the music video (4:14) - it's hilarious! And it gets better and better as it goes along.

Non-Table Tennis - Baltimore Science Fiction Convention

This weekend I'll be a panelist at Balticon, the annual SF convention in Baltimore. It's actually four days long, Fri-Mon, but I'll only be there all day on Saturday, and possibly part of Sunday. You can find my bio there in the Bio Section. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.) There'll be about 600 participants, so while it's a small regional convention for the science fiction world, it's about the size of our U.S. Open (which this year has 596 entries).

I was put on five panels, two on Friday and three on Saturday (I'm moderating one), plus a reading and autograph session on Sunday. However, I had to drop the Friday and Sunday sessions due to coaching conflicts. The three I'm on for Saturday are:

  • Favorite Science Fiction Authors (Sat 10AM-10:50PM) - Moderator
  • Five Books for the Last Town on Earth (Sat 1:00-1:50 PM)
  • Titles Looking for Stories (Sat 4:00-4:50 PM)

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June 20, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Three Highlights

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. I did a short lecture and demo, both against backspin and block.

There are four ways to demo a forehand loop against backspin. You could just serve backspin, your partner pushes it back, and you loop. But then they only get to see the shot one at a time. Another way is to feed multiball backspin to someone with good form so they can see it over and over. Another way, if you can chop, is to serve backspin, partner pushes, you loop, partner blocks, and you chop. Then your partner pushes, and you loop again. (If your partner is the one who can chop, then adjust for this.) If you or your partner can really chop (i.e. against loops, not just against blocks), then one loops, the other chops. A good player with a sheet of antispin, long pips, or hardbat can often chop loops back over and over even if they aren't normally a chopper. (If they use long pips, it may put some strain on the looper since he's getting all his topspin back as backspin!)

Two of the players in my group had never looped before. One picked it up pretty quickly, though he had one of those ragged strokes with lots of extra movements. We worked on simplifying it. One thing I often tell players is that much of coaching isn't telling players what to do; it's telling them what not to do. In this case, there was a lot of excess motion to get rid of - sort of a waving backswing, extra wristiness, and too-jumpy feet.

The other player had hitting thoroughly ingrained, and had difficulty switching to looping against backspin. He had trouble dropping the racket or bringing the tip down and back, dropping his shoulder, and getting down in general to lift the backspin. He also had trouble grazing the ball for topspin, but as I quickly suspected, this was more because of his not dropping his racket than an inability to "roll" the ball with topspin. Once I got him to drop his racket (which wasn't easy), he began getting pretty decent topspins. He'll need a lot of practice on this.

One of the "highlights" I have fun doing when teaching the loop to new players is their first regular forehand drive or smash after doing lots of looping against backspin, where they are lifting the ball instead of driving forward. I always tell them that I'm going to now give them a regular topspin ball (I'm feeding multiball), and that they shouldn't drop the shoulder, just drive forward. But invariably, even though I warn them and predict they'll go off the end, sure enough their first few shots go off. This happened with all five players in my morning group, even the ones who had had done some looping before. I ended the session by having them all alternate looping backspin and hitting topspin so they could work on switching back and forth.

Fortune Cookie Frivolities

Now we find out if any of the kids in the camp read my blog. (Some do, but not each morning.) We have Chinese food delivered to the club at lunch each day, with the players making their orders in the morning, which we call in. At lunch yesterday I pulled a trick on them that I'd pulled in the last camp as well. Using Photoshop, I created a fake fortune cookie fortune that read, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." I opened my fortune cookie very publicly, made a surreptitious switch of the fortune with the fake one I'd hidden in my hand, and held it up and read it, and then showed it to them. The kids went crazy with disbelief. Five minutes later, when none were looking, I smacked a rock I'd snuck in against the ground and claimed it was a meteor that had just missed me. Today I've got another fake fortune ready, which read, "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." I'll report tomorrow on the response.

Jungle Pong

This is the all-time favorite game of the kids in every camp during breaks. I think I've described it before, but it's so popular I'll go over it again. I'm not sure, but I think the kids in our camp from years ago might have invented and named the game - I don't remember ever seeing this until it suddenly began popping up in our camps.

The rules are simple. You can have as many players on one table as you want, numbered in the order they will hit the ball. You start the rally with a player serving just like table tennis. From there on, whether off the serve or in a rally, the next player must wait for the ball to go off the table and bounce on the floor, even if it means waiting for the ball to bounce several times or roll across the table, and even if it hits the net. The player must then return the ball so it hits either side of the table, and the rally continues until someone misses. Then that person is out. You continue until there is only one player. The only other rule is no looping; they are almost impossible to return. Soft topspins are allowed, but nothing aggressive. If one does loop, it's a takeover.

There are some interesting tactics, such as faking a hit to one side and going the other way, or using various spins to make the ball do funny bounces - backspin is especially popular in throwing off the next player. Players sometimes smack the ball into the net so that the next player will break the wrong way, and then have to recover when the ball rebounds off the net. Some of the kids focus on just getting every ball back; others are more creative with their shots. Since it takes time for the ball to bounce both on the table and the floor, players have time to run down most shots. I watched them play for a while - at one point there were two adjacent tables going with about eight on each - and I've decided my next book will be "Jungle Pong Tactics for Thinkers."

Table Tennista and ITTF

As usual, there are lots of international news articles at Table Tennista and the ITTF News Page.

Serena Williams Table Tennis

Here's a picture of her where she "...trades her tennis racket in for a table tennis one on her way to Wimbledon." (If you can't see the Facebook version, try this.)

Pong-Style Beach Surfing

Here's Kim Gilbert doing a little beach surfing, pong style. 

Now That's a Lot of Ping-Pong Tables

Here's the picture!

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April 20, 2011

Counterlooping

This afternoon during our Spring Break Camp here at MDTTC, I spent some time counterlooping with Nathan Hsu, one of our top cadet players. (Age 14, rated 2239.) During the ITTF Coaching seminar I taught this past weekend I talked about counterlooping, and yesterday I wrote about how my counterlooping had improved as a result. But at age 51, I'm still much slower and stiffer than I used to be, and I was a bit reticent about wasting Nathan's time counterlooping, since it's a strength of his, and I wasn't sure if I could keep up. Lo and behold, I was able to stay with him - barely! But I also realized everything had to be just right for me to do so. As we started, I had to really focus on my hand and racket position, start my stroke earlier than I normally would, take a slightly longer swing than normal, and take the ball at just the right spot (just after top of bounce so the ball couldn't jump away from me). Once the counterloops starting hitting, I basically blanked my mind out and just let the shots happen. Mentally, I was just an observer. When I tried to intervene and get involved, I'd miss; when I sat back and mentally ate popcorn and just watched, I counterlooped better than I had in years. Afterwards, Nathan commented he'd never seen me counterloop with so much power. (Okay, Mr. Lupulesku, I'm ready for you now!)

Jungle Pong and Gnip-Gnop

Yesterday I wrote about some games we do in our training camps. During break, about 15 of the kids were playing "Jungle Pong." Basically the rules are you have to let the ball come off the table, and make your return after the ball has hit the floor. You can hit the ball to either side of the table - so the opponent has to be ready to change sides quickly. Since the ball has to bounce off the table and hit the floor, players have time to run it down. It's a rather strange game, but a lot of fun.

Another game they are playing is Gnip-Gnop, which I taught them a while back. The rules are simple: instead of hitting the ball directly over the net, you hit it onto your side of the table so that it then bounces over the net. I've been playing this game for 35 years. Perhaps it's time for a Gnip Gnop Training Camp?

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