USATT Tips

November 27, 2013

Last Blog Until After the Teams

This will be my last blog until Monday. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, so I’m taking the day off, and Fri-Sun I’ll be coaching at the North American Teams in Washington DC. I’ll have lots to write about when I return! Here’s a picture of the facility as they are about to set up the tables.

Preparing for the Teams

This week I’m preparing players for the Teams. Compared to normal, that means fewer rote drills, and more random drills. I do a lot of multiball training, but the focus now is on random shots and simulating match play.  We’re also doing a lot of game-type drills, such as where the student serves backspin, I push back anywhere, he loops, and we play out the point. I’m also making sure they are ready to do the “little” things, such as pushing, blocking, and serving. And we play more games at the end of each session. There’s also the psychological aspect. I keep reminding the players that they need to go into the tournament with their minds clear and ready to play. I also want to keep the sessions fun – I don’t want the players too stressed out over getting ready for three days of almost non-stop competition. I want to see determination, but not grim determination.

USATT Magazine and Membership Rates

I blogged yesterday about the problem with USATT likely moving USATT Magazine in-house. A separate question that comes up periodically is whether it should continue as a print magazine or just go online. There’s an easy solution: go online, with a print option. The editor simply does the magazine as if it’s going to print, which means a PDF version. Then he puts the PDF version online, perhaps with a password required so only members can access it. Those who want a print version, such as myself, would pay extra – and with “print on demand” publishing, it’s easy to send the PDF to the printer and print out only as many copies as needed. This is an obvious solution I’ve pointed out over the years.

The real question is whether current members who are already paying $49/year (too much) should pay still more for the print version, or whether those choosing not to receive the print version should get a discount. I’m for the latter. We keep raising our membership rates and keep wondering why membership stays stagnant; gee, I wonder why? I remember a while back when USATT raised the annual rate in one year from $25 to $40 – and they budgeted as if membership would stay constant! At the time membership had reached 8800. I got into a heated debate with the entire room – all 13 board members – both on the silliness of constantly raising the rates while simultaneously trying to find ways to increase membership, and on the even further silliness of expecting membership to stay constant. All 13 believed raising the rate would have little effect on membership numbers, with one of them explaining to me, “If they’re willing to pay $25, they’re willing to pay $40.” I pointed out that based on that logic, every item in a store that costs $25 should cost $40 (and the logic really applies to all items), but I was told I was wrong. I’m just a coach and a writer, so what do I know about business?

One year later membership had dropped to 7000, and the USATT board spent a marathon session cutting everything since they had budgeted for 8800 members. I was in the room snickering as they did this. And you wonder why I can never convince USATT to do the obvious stuff, not to mention the more difficult things? Maybe if I’d worn a tie at that meeting instead of a warm-up suit I could have been more convincing. (I’m told that, after a decade of slowly recovering, membership is again now close to 9000 or so, though I haven’t seen any membership reports anywhere. I’m guessing at any time the rates will go up again, and we’ll see another big drop. Alas.)

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Friday. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Nov 26, 2013 Tip of the Day - Inside-Out Forehand Floppy Wrist Flip
When an opponent serves short to the forehand, many players reach in and return it with a nearly stiff wrist, and invariably go crosscourt with a forehand flip.

Nov 25, 2013 Tip of the Day - Back Up Slightly When Opponent Backs Up
Suppose you’ve hit a quick, hard shot, and your opponent has moved five feet back to return the ball with a counterdrive or soft topspin. 

Nov 24, 2013 Tip of the Day - Aim One Way, Go the Other
Many players develop strong rally shots. However, they are often very, very predictable. An opponent can anticipate where each ball is going early in your stroke, and so always has lots of time to get to the ball.

Nov 23, 2013 Tip of the Day - Go Down the Line From Wide Forehand
When an opponent goes to your wide forehand, they give you an extreme angle into their wide forehand.

ITTF Coaching Course in Singapore

Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 Course that was just taught in Singapore by USA’s Richard McAfee. (I linked to the photos yesterday.)

Best of the Chinese Super League

Here's the video (7:31).

Xu Xin on the Mini-Table (and an Interview)

Here’s the video (4:18) of world #1 Xu Xin of China versus TableTennisDaily’s Dan, on a mini-table with over-sized rackets! (And yes, Xu the penholder is playing shakehands here.) And for the more serious-minded, here’s Dan’s interview with Xu.

Little Girl Phenom

Here’s video (21 sec) of a girl, maybe five years old, drilling at a rather high level – watch out China! I believe she’s from the Mideast; can anyone translate what the comments say?

Ma Long’s Amazing Shots

Here’s the video (42 sec), with four Chinese players all counterlooping crosscourt, including Ma Long (near right) with Wang Liqin. Watch what happens right after 30 sec. First, Ma Long does a rather interesting forehand sidespin chop-block. Then he switches hands and counterloops the other two player’s ball.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots

Here’s the video (1:57) of someone with a series of great trick shots! I especially like the very last one, where he’s rallying with a girl with two balls, but catching each of her returns and quickly feeding it to continue. I may try that out in my coaching sessions today.

Happy First Birthday to Uberpong

Here’s their birthday cake!

How to Make a Ping-Pong Ball Turkey

Here’s the article!

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November 8, 2013

Playing at a Club with Great Conditions

One of the problems with playing at a very nice club with very nice conditions is you get used to it. So when you go to tournaments, where the conditions often aren't so nice, you have problems. For example, at my club we have this nice rubberized red flooring, which is great for moving on, as well as having enough give so that it doesn't hurt your legs from the constant movement. But many of us will be playing at the Teams in three weeks, where we'll spend three days playing on somewhat slippery and unforgiving concrete. How do we prepare?

Recently I've been doing "shoe checks." I've been checking the bottoms of everyone's playing shoes to make sure they are in good condition. On our red floors you can wear your shoes down and it doesn't affect the grip on the floor. But on concrete floors (and most wood floors) the floor is more slippery, and you need grippy shoes. So I've been urging those with worn-out shoes to get new ones. Otherwise they'll be sliding all over the place at the Teams.

There are other ways of adapting. You've probably seen players on slippery floors step on a damp cloth between points to increase traction. There are also non-stick sprays you can put on your shoes - in table tennis, I think only Butterfly sells these. (I just ordered a bottle to try out, though I'm not playing in the Teams, just coaching.)

Of course, if you are not from my club, I urge you to show up with nicely worn-out shoes. I mean, c'mon, don't you want shoes you are used to? You'll have three days to learn how to slide into position.

On a side note (and I think I once blogged about this but can't find it), it is a huge advantage to play at a club with nice conditions. The conditions are conducive to high-level play, leading to, yes, high-level play, which helps you improve faster. If your club has poor conditions (bad lighting, bad background, slippery floors, bad tables, etc.), it limits the level of play, and so you don't improve as fast. There is the benefit that if your club has poor conditions, you are ready for tournaments, but that benefit pales in comparison to the higher level of play you'll be able to reach in good conditions.

Non-Table Tennis: Novel and Philcon

If all goes well, I should have copies of my novel "Sorcerers in Space" sometime this morning. Then I drive up to Philcon, the annual Philadelphia Science Fiction Convention, to spend Friday afternoon and night attending panels and (hopefully) promoting the novel. I come back late Friday night as I'm coaching at the Potomac Open on Saturday all day. (On the other hand, I'm still feeling the effects of that slight cold I wrote about yesterday, so I'm considering spending the day in bed. I'll decide later.)

Addendum added 20 minutes after posting blog: I got a phone call, and discovered my voice is completely hoarse this morning. So I'm apparently sick again. No Philcon, but I'll get a lot of reading in bed today....

USA Cadets at the World Cadet Challenge

Here are results and pictures.

Interview with USA's Kanak Jha

Here's the ITTF's interview (1:45) with Kanak at the World Cadet Challenge.

Coaching Articles from Table Tennis Master

Crazy Point Between Wang Liqin and Oh Sang Eun

Here it is (38 sec).

USATT Tips of the Day

USATT has been putting up as "Tips of the Day" the 171 Tips of the Week I wrote for them a few years ago as "Dr. Ping-Pong." I was going to put up links each Friday to the previous week's Tips, but forgot last Friday. So below are the 16 Tips since the last time I linked to them all - enjoy!!! (Click on link for complete tip.) 

Nov 07, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Backhand Attack Placements
The strength of most backhand attacks is that they usually involve a quicker, shorter stroke, and so are harder for opponent’s to react to.

Nov 06, 2013 - Tip of the Day - How to Vary Your Receive Against Short Backspin Serves
Most players return short backhand serves with a simple push, without much thought to it.

Nov 05, 2013 - Tip of the Day - How to Win
You can't win unless you can find tactical match-ups where you are better than your opponent.

Nov 04, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Placement of Aggressive Shots
When attacking, you should generally put all your shots to one of three places: wide forehand, wide backhand, or middle (opponent’s playing elbow).

Nov 03, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Inside-out Backhands
Want to really tie your opponent in knots not to mention win a lot of points? Aim your backhand crosscourt with a normal backhand stroke.

Nov 02, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Place Your Quick Backhand Attacks
When attacking a ball right off the bounce with their backhands, most players automatically go crosscourt to the opponent’s backhand. That’s not usually the most effective place to go.

Nov 01, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Blocking Tips
One of the most common reason players have trouble blocking against heavy topspin is because they hold the racket too high.

Oct 31, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Anticipate an Opponent’s Direction
Get in the habit of watching how an opponent hits the ball. Does he change direction at the last instant ever?

Oct 30, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Use Practice Matches to Practice
Exactly as the heading says this is the time to try out new things, develop new techniques, and generally improve your game.

Oct 29, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Play the Middle Against a Two-Winged Hitter
Some opponents hit well from both sides, seemingly taking a big swing and smacking in everything, both forehand and backhand.

Oct 28, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Don’t Give a Quick Player a Short Ball
If your opponent is quicker than you, than the last thing you want to do is let him rush you.

Oct 27, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Playing the "Unique" Style
You’ve probably all had the experience of playing someone who plays "different."

Oct 26, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Watch Top Players to Raise Your Own Level of Play
One of the best ways to improve your shots is get a good visual image of what your shots should look like just before playing.

Oct 25, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Footwork Against Off-Table Player
A player with good footwork doesn’t wait to see where the ball is going before he prepares to move.

Oct 24, 2013 - Tip of the Day - On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Go Down the Line
Assuming two right-handers play, a common rally starts with a short serve to the forehand. Many receivers don’t understand the strategies in receiving this shot.

Oct 23, 2013 - Tip of the Day - Fool Your Opponents - Forehand Position for Backhands?
When playing close to the table, you have very little time to make a transition from forehand to backhand shots, and vice versa.

Octopus Table Tennis

Yes, that's an octopus playing table tennis, and yes, you can put it on your shirt.

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