Wider Stance

December 3, 2013

Tip of the Week

Use a Wider Stance.

North American Teams

It was a LOOOOONG weekend of playing (for 858 players and 213 teams) and coaching (for me and many others). I’m still recovering!!!

Here are the results. This should take you to the Summary page. You can use the second dropdown menu to see more detailed results of the Preliminaries on Friday and Division play on Saturday and Sunday.

I was primarily coaching Derek Nie, though I also coached seven other players at various times, including Derek’s teammates (Crystal Wang, Chen Jie, and Tony Qu). I can’t really discuss most of the coaching itself since they will likely play these players again. But there’s still a bunch of stuff I can write about. None of it is about the players in Division One (i.e. the Championships Division) since Derek’s team was in Division Two, where the average rating was a little over 2300 or so. I was so busy coaching that I never saw a single Divisions One match.

Derek had a strange tournament. He started out Friday by beating a 2300 player in five games, after being down 0-2. But then he lost five consecutive five-gamers over Fri & Sat, against players ranging from about 2280 to 2490. But on Sunday he was 2-0 in five-gamers against a pair of 2300+ players.

I called an interesting timeout in one of his matches, one which might have been a head-scratcher to observers. Derek had lost the first game badly, and was down 4-8 in the second and about to serve. (I generally like to call timeouts when my player is serving so we can discuss what serve to use while not letting the opposing coach tell the opponent what serve to use, and so didn’t call one at 4-6. Alas the opponent won both points on his serve.) Normally a timeout then is kind of a waste – he’s probably going to lose that game, so it’s better to save the timeout for later, right? The problem is I saw two ways of playing this player, and didn’t want to have Derek have to experiment at the start of the third game when he’d already be down 0-2. So I called the timeout so Derek could try out one of the new strategies. The timeout also had value in that if the new strategy worked, he might actually win the game before the opponent adjusted. If the strategy worked, then we’d not only have it ready for the next game, but it would give Derek confidence even if he lost the second game because of the 4-8 deficit. As it turned out, the strategy worked, and Derek quickly won two points. But the opponent played well and managed to win that game (I think at deuce). In the third, the new strategy almost paid off, but the opponent won 11-9.

I saw two of the strangest shots in two of his matches. There was a point where Derek got a net-edge off to the right, with the ball hitting the side edge near the net and jumping sideways. The opponent lunged for the shot, but completely mis-hit it off the edge of his racket – and the ball went around the net at table level, and just rolled unreturnably across the table. In his very next match, no more than ten minutes later, Derek mis-hit a ball that popped up, hit the top of the net, bounced up a foot, then dropped right back on the net again and rolled over for an unreturnable winner.

I also was able to watch and coach a few matches of “Larry’s Loopers,” which was named after me! Two of the players, Sameer Shaikh and Matt Stepanov (both 12), are students of mine, and they were teamed with Darwin Ma (13, who chops and loops, and only lost two matches on Sat & Sun). All three had great tournaments as they won Division 12, going 7-0 in their side of the Division, and then barely edging out TeamRacket (Ryan Dabbs, Patrick Chen, Spencer Chen, Michael Li, and Ronald Chen) 5-4 in an all-MDTTC junior final. John Hsu coached most of their matches. Here’s a picture of the three with their trophies (L-R Matt, Darwin, Sameer). Here’s another picture that includes John Hsu and me – as I indicate with my arms, what’s going on here? Here’s a picture of TeamRacket.

The final of Division 12 was one of the craziest and most entertaining I’ve ever seen. Since it was between MDTTC players, all kids ages 10-13 or so, the coaches and parents only watched while the kids coached themselves. It was great watching them as the players on both teams coached each other between games. I’ve learned that while kids sometimes aren’t tactically aware while at the table, they are surprisingly aware when watching, and can pick out what is and isn’t working. I could see their tactics change after each of these coaching consultations between games and timeouts, and almost always for the better.

In the first match, Sameer was down 0-2, then he was up 10-5 match point in the fifth – but lost six straight! The killer was at 10-9, when he absolutely ripped what should have been a winner, but somehow it came back, an unreturnable block. Down match point twice, he managed to win, I think 14-12 in the fifth! In another match, Darwin lost the first two games and was down 3-7 in the third. He’d been playing almost completely defensively. After a timeout, he went back and attacked, and won that game 11-8 (an 8-1 run), and the fourth. In the fifth he went back to pure defense, both chopping and lobbing, and was down 9-10 match point – but pulled it out, deuce in the fifth! In another match, Matt lost the first game and was down 7-10 in the next two games – but won both of them and the fourth game to win the match! In the end, Larry’s Loopers edged out TeamRacket, 5-4. Congrats to both teams!

USATT Pins Program

Here’s the new USATT Pins page. Make sure to click on “Eligibility Rules” and “USATT Merit Pins” so you can read about the program. I’ll likely blog about this sometime soon. Here’s their promo: “You’ve worked hard to get where you are. All these hours of practice, all the hard-fought matches – Let everyone know how far you’ve made it!” (I think it’s a great idea – but one thing that leaps out to me: the pins are color coded for each rating level. Wouldn’t it be better if they gave the rating number for each rating level attained, since that’s the whole point of it?)

Two Surprising Ways Your Brain Stops You from Winning

Here’s the article, which talks about lacking “skill experience,” and about how the brain sabotages you when you’re on the brink of victory. (I’m quoted in the article, including a link to “Larry’s Six-Month Law.”)

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

Here’s the report for Aug-Oct, from HPC Chair Carl Danner.

ITTF Training Camp at Lily Yip Center

Here’s the ITTF Article on the camp, held Nov. 23-28.

World Junior Championships

Here’s a write-up of it so far by Bruce Liu. Here’s the official website with results, articles, pictures, and videos. The event is taking place in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8. USA players are Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha, Allen Wang, Theodore Tran, Ariel Hsing, Erica Wu, Prachi Jha, and Tina Lin.

The Health Benefits of Table Tennis

Here’s the article. Sections include: Great physical exercise yet gentle on the body; Improved reflexes, balance, and coordination; Table tennis is the world’s best brain sport; Social bonding and fun at any age or level; and Fight obesity.

Last World Junior Championships for Ariel Hsing

Here’s the ITTF article.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter

Here’s the November issue.

Interview with Ulf “Tickan” Carlsson

Here’s the ITTF video interview (13:58) with the former World Doubles and Team Champion, where he talks about his career, coaching, and talent identification.

Fan Zhendong Forehand Training

Here’s the video (1:55). Watch how he moves his feet.

Saive and the Pope

Here’s a picture of Belgium star Jean-Michel Saive shaking hands with Pope Francis in Vatican City.

Indians and Pilgrims Paddle

In honor of Thanksgiving last week, here’s a paddle that commemorates the first Thanksgiving. Hopefully this led to centuries of good will between these two peoples.

Xu Xin Between Legs Shot

Here’s the video (15 sec).

World’s Most Incredible Trick Shots

Here’s the video (4:05). It’s a compilation of all the trick shots from the ITTF Trick Shot Competition (plus a few failed attempts).

Action-Packed Blindfold Table Tennis!

This video is hilarious. It’s blindfold table tennis at its best, including under legs and behind-the-back shots, all in rapid sequence. The video repeats after about ten seconds or so. This is how table tennis should be played - and of course it’s all real!

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October 2, 2013

Wider Stance

Because of my arm problems (see below), I only gave one lesson yesterday, and it was an all-multiball session. The 12-year-old player (hi Sameer!) has a tendency to stand up too straight when he plays. This leads to some awkward strokes. At first glance some would say he needs to loop more forward, or use less arm, or something similar, but that would be treating the symptoms. The problem was how straight he tends to stay, with his feet too close together. So much of the session was focused on not just staying down, but on keeping the feet wider. This gives extra stability and power. The results were good - his looping form was perhaps the best ever. It also helped when he took the ball a little later so he wouldn't be rushed. As he gets used to the wider stance he'll get quicker with it, along with the increase in stability and power. (Stability increases both the consistency as well as the recovery from the previous shot.)

This is true for most players. Watch videos of the top players and see how wide their stance is when they play. It does take some leg muscle, but not as much as you'd think; it's more a habit you have to develop. Once you get in the habit, I think it's actually less tiring as the extra stability means you aren't tiring yourself recovering from shots over and over.

Here's a video (5:37) of the Chinese team training earlier this year before the Worlds. Watch the very first drill sequence, and see how wide the players keep their feet - both the player moving and the one blocking. A few key things about a wider stance: feet should point slightly outward. Knees should be bent. Body should be bent slightly forward at the waist.

I spent some time this past weekend watching some of our top juniors train, especially Nathan Hsu and Derek Nie, whom I'll be coaching at the Nationals. Their stances were plenty wide, but the interesting thing they and our other top juniors all pretty much do is keep their feet mostly parallel to the end-line even on forehands, as they've been trained to do. In the past it was standard to have the right foot back some when playing forehands (for righties), and that's still how beginners are taught. But as players advance, more and more they keep the feet parallel, and rely on the wide stance (for stability and power) and flexible hips and waist to rotate around for most forehand shots. This has several advantages: it means they are equally ready to play forehand or backhand; it makes it easier to loop forehands close to the table; and it makes it easier to rotate the hips and body into the shot. They do bring the right foot back for some shots, but mostly when they have extra time. They also bring it back of course when stepping around the backhand corner, but not as much as players in the past.

Arm Problems

As expected, I had to cancel my three hours of private coaching scheduled today (Wednesday). The arm is still very sore, though I hope it'll be okay by the weekend. Other than a one-hour class I teach on Thursday (where I'll only feed multiball) I've cancelled everything until Saturday. The good news is two of the kids I normally coach today have made arrangements to meet to practice and play matches.

60 Full-time Table Tennis Clubs in the U.S.

I just added the King Pong TTC from NYC to the list of full-time table tennis clubs in the U.S. Let me know if there are any I missed! How did I find out about them? From this article in the Tribeca Citizen, "Our Friendly Neighborhood Ping Pong Parlor."

The Most Common Mistakes Made by Beginners

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

ITTF on Waldner and Waldner Stamp

Here's the ITTF article on Waldner and the new Waldner Chinese stamp.

Synagogue Welcomes Government Workers to Ping-Pong

With the government closed, this Synagogue is attracting "government refuges" for ping-pong and West Wing reruns. Here's the article.

Adam Bobrow Takes on San Francisco Mayor

Here's a video (17 sec) of Adam Bobrow and a partner (jumpy guy in striped shirt) he apparently chose at random from the crowd taking on San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and 11-year-old William Bai (rated 1970) in a doubles match. 

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