King Pong

October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

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Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

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Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

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Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

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Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

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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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