Tips of the Day

December 13, 2013

Last Blog Until After the Nationals (Monday, Dec. 23) 

I leave for the USA Nationals this Sunday, Dec. 15, and don't return until the following Sunday, Dec. 22. So the next blog will be on Monday, Dec. 23. One thing that might help to keep track of when I don't have a blog is to friend me on Facebook, assuming you have a Facebook account. Every morning as soon as the blog goes up I put a note out on Facebook, which always starts off, "This morning in my table tennis blog I wrote about…" I'm easy to find on Facebook; I'm right here.

Happy Friday the 13th!

Jason Voorhees, table tennis player, says hi!

The Hobbit and Early-Morning Writing

I saw the midnight showing of The Hobbit Part 2, and didn't get to bed until after 4AM. (I still can't believe that Gollum is Gandalf's father!!!) And I still got up at 8AM to write this blog and do other table tennisy stuff. So if my mind wanders off I have a doggy and I start repeating myself or saying weird things or repeating myself Gollum Gollum loopsy please bear with me I said bear okay?

USA Nationals

I'm off to the USA Nationals in Las Vegas this Sunday for a week. I'm not playing, only coaching, but I'll be incredibly busy. How busy can a coach be since he's only working when one of his players is playing? Extremely! Because there's a lot more to it than just showing up for each match. (Plus I'm coaching two top juniors who are entered in numerous events.)

Before the tournament I have to make sure they are mentally and physically ready. The mental part could take up a book (and of course there are many good books on sports psychology). Suffice to say it's a coach's job to make sure the players go into the tournament with the right frame of mind, as well as well rested and fed. I also have to make sure their equipment is ready. Is the sponge on their rackets new? Do they have backup rackets? Did they remember their shoes? (You wouldn't believe how often junior players forget their playing shoes.) Do they have backup shirts for each day? Are the shirts all different colors than the ball?

Of course I have to prepare for the tournament as well, such as reviewing likely opponents so my players are ready to face them. Plus I did the all-important trip to the grocery store for trail mix, which is what I live on when I'm coaching at tournaments.

Once in Las Vegas I have to arrange practice sessions for the players. At tournaments players and coaches are constantly calling each other to make arrangements, or just to let the other know where they are. How did players survive before there were cell phones?

The tournament starts on Tuesday, but we're flying in on Sunday. That gives us Monday to practice, get used to the conditions, and to the three-hour time difference. When the kids aren't practicing, I want them to relax and have fun. Swimming pool and video games are musts.

When we check in I generally have to pay a few extra dollars for copies of my players' schedules. Once I have them, I sit down somewhere and plan out my schedule for the tournament. It can get complicated, since sometimes there are time conflicts. That's why I consider it important to arrange in advance the guidelines for who I'll coach when. I already know which of my players I'll favor in any given event, though there are judgment calls at any given time, based on the opponent. For example, I may decide that one match isn't as meaningful or competitive as another, and choose what match to coach based on that. However, each player has their priority events, and I'll coach them in every competitive match in that event.

Besides coaching, I'm hoping to attend the USATT Assembly on Wednesday night, and the Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday night. It all depends on my players' schedules. I'll also spend some time hanging around the Paddle Palace booth, since they sponsor me, where I'll perhaps sign copies of my various table tennis books on sale there.

Coaching is a nerve-racking profession at tournaments. Players may be nervous before a match, but once the match begins most relax and just play. (If they don't, then there's some sports psychology sessions needed.) But coaches don't get to play, and watching is definitely more nerve-racking then playing. Who do you think is more nervous on Sunday night football when the game is on the line, the players or the fans watching? Or the coaches?

I've done this so many times it's all sort of second nature now. Even packing is easy as I have a standard "To Pack" list, which I update for individual tournaments.

This year I've given incentives to some of the Maryland players. Read about them on my Nov. 5 blog. My stomach is already growling in agony just thinking about it.  

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.) Note that the Dec. 8 tip is by Carl Danner. The rest are by me.

Dec 13, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing Dead Blockers
Dead blockers slow the ball down (throwing off your timing), and keep it shorter than you are used to.

Dec 12, 2013 Tip of the Day - Practice Service Spin on a Rug!
It’s often difficult to judge how much spin you are putting on the ball when you practice serves. Without this feedback, it’s not easy to improve your serves. So try this find a large, carpeted room, and practice serving there! 

Dec 11, 2013 Tip of the Day - Think Strategy, Then Let the Shots Happen
Between points, think about what you want to do, especially at the start of the rally what serve to use, what type of receives.

Dec 10, 2013 Tip of the Day - Shoe Grippiness "El Dente"
If your shoes aren’t grippy enough, you slide when you play, and so can’t move properly.

Dec 09, 2013 Tip of the Day - Inside-Out Forehand Serve
Many players use the forehand "pendulum" serve. It’s the most popular serve in table tennis. 

Dec 08, 2013 Tip of the Day - Getting Run Off the Table by Carl Danner
Whoops, you're down a game and this one's going badly, too. How do you stop the bleeding in time -- assuming this is an opponent you might expect to beat?

Dec 07, 2013 Tip of the Day - Backhand Serve Deception
The key to deception on the backhand serve is the elbow. 

Dec 06, 2013 Tip of the Day - Get the Back Foot Around when Stepping Around
When stepping around the backhand corner to play a forehand (usually a loop or smash), many players don’t get their back foot around enough.

Table Tennis Club Survey

Georgia State University PHD student Yi Zhang is doing a research project to study the reasons that players join and attend a table tennis club. The survey is a bit lengthy but goes pretty fast - it didn't take me very long. I'm sure she'd appreciate your help. Here's the survey.

ITTF Was Founded in 1926

And so I can write . . . Four score and seven years ago table tennis players brought forth on this world a new federation, conceived in ping-pong, and dedicated to the proposition that table tennis should dominate the world.

I could go on, but I'll let someone else pull up the Gettysburg Address and rewrite the rest of it in table tennis lingo. I just wish I'd thought of this on Nov. 19, the 150th Anniversary of the speech.

China Prepares for 2014 World Team Squad Trials

Here's the article.

Win a Signed Blade from Fan Zhendong

Here's the contest page at Table Tennis Daily.

Reggie Miller vs. Nate Robinson

Here's video (37 sec) as the two NBA players prepare to have it out at ping-pong on the TV show NBA Inside Stuff.

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December 6, 2013

Seeing Doctor

I'm one of those people who hates seeing doctors. But alas, my arm not only didn't heal during the week I had off playing at the Teams, it somehow got worse. So I finally made an appointment with an orthopedist/sports medicine doctor, for 1PM today. I'll report on this on Monday. I'm pretty sure I have tendinitis.

I'm also considering possible scenarios if I can't do any serious playing for a while, which mostly affects private coaching. I already do a number of group coaching sessions, but I have a number of private students as well. One scenario is I group them in two-hour segments, and bring in one of our practice partners for the middle hour - the second half of the first one-hour session, the first half hour of the second one-hour session. Then I focus on multiball and serve & receive in my thirty minutes, and just coach (while practice partner does the playing) in the other thirty minutes. In an ideal world, I'd have the practice partner do all the hitting the entire hour, but I'd have to pay him for it. This 50-50 arrangements lowers that cost 50%, and should be workable as I can still feed multiball and do most serve & receive drills as long as we don't play out the point.

Jorg Rosskopf and Me

At the about.com forum, Jim Butler quotes German coach and former star Jorg Rosskopf as saying, "When I play with the German Team I only practice playing the first ball against them.  After this I just let the ball go." This was because he's older and so not as fast as before, and so can't rally as fast as he used to. This is exactly what I sometimes do with the top juniors at my club. I don't play at the level I used to, but my serve and receive is still very strong, and so often I let them practice against just that, and don't continue the rally.

Returning Short Serves (and Playing Penholders)

Tuesday's USATT Tip of the Day was "Returning Serves Short." This was one of the 171 tips I wrote for USATT back in 1999-2003. Nearly all of them are still pertinent, as is this one, but the opening line says, "At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push..."  While it is still important to learn the short push if you want to reach a very high level, and you will be handicapping yourself at even a moderately high level if you don't develop it, it is no longer the "most common return of a short serve." In the last ten years we've seen the rise of the backhand banana flip, and that is now the most common return of a short serve. 

The best players all have excellent short pushes, but these days more and more top players look to return many or most short serves by attacking with their backhands with a banana flip.

When I coach high-level players, much of the receive tactics against short serves is the proportion of flipping, pushing short, and pushing long. Against some players it's best to mostly push long to the backhand over and over, a nice safe return if they can't attack it effectively. Against others you have to find ways to stop their attack, or to take the attack, and that's where pushing short and flipping come in. Most often a player should choose two of these three returns as the main two, and the third as an occasional variation. 

At lower levels it's all about consistency and placement. It's also about reading the serve as many players at the beginning/intermediate levels still find themselves pushing topspin serves. 

And yet, the foundation of a good receive is good fundamentals, i.e. good technique and footwork. If you have those, then it gets a lot easier. Many players think they are misreading the spin when they push topspin serves high or off the end, but often they have actually read the spin, but don't have confidence in driving or flipping the ball, whether forehand or backhand, and so fall back on "safe" pushing - which, against a topspin serve, isn't so safe.

So develop those fundamentals and they'll greatly help your receive. 

NOTE - today's Tip of the Day, "General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking," also has one thing I might want to expand on now. Against penholders, it says, "They are less vulnerable in the middle, but still have to choose between forehand and backhand, and so are still weak there. Most penholders tend to be weak on one corner." This was aimed more at conventional penholders, but since that time we've seen the rise of the reverse penhold backhand, which plays pretty much like a shakehander, and is typically as strong in the corners and weak in the middle as a shakehander.

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Wednesday, when I left for the North American Teams. 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.)

Dec 05, 2013 General Rules of Ball Placement When Attacking
Key places to land the ball to win your next match!

Dec 04, 2013 Should You Stick With Your Best Shot If It Is Missing?
The situation: Your best shot is missing, and you are losing because of this. Should you keep using it, or abandon it?

Dec 03, 2013 Returning Serves Short
At the highest levels, the most common return of a short serve is a short push, even against a sidespin serve. At the lower levels, most players just push them deep, giving opponents the chance to loop.

Dec 02, 2013 Playing Against Seemiller Style Players
No two players play alike, and this applies to those with the Seemiller grip as well.

Dec 01, 2013 Tournament Experience vs. Practice
Many players practice for many months, not playing in any tournaments until they feel they are completely ready. They then enter a tournament … and flop.

Nov 30, 2013 Power Player Control Shots
There’s nothing an experienced and tactical player likes better than facing a player with big shots but little else. On the other hand, there’s little more scary than an opponent with big shots and ball control to set the big shots up and withstand opponent’s attacks.

Nov 29, 2013 In a Lopsided Match, What Should the Higher-Rated Player Do?
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 28, 2013 Increase Forearm Snap to Increase Smashing Speed
Many players have difficulty generating great speed on their regular smashes (i.e. off a relatively low ball, not a lob, which uses a different stroke).

Nov 27, 2013 Flat Flip vs. Topspin Flip
Suppose you face an opponent who serves short, and loops your long returns, even if you flip them. 

Nominations for USATT Coaches of the Year

Here's the notice from USATT.

What is the Effect of Sponge Thickness in Table Tennis Rubber?

Here's a series of answers to this question by top coaches, including Stellan Bengtsson, Massimo Constantini, Jasna Rather, Samson Dubina, Tahl Leibovitz, Scott Lurty, and Sara Fu.

ITTF Monthly Podcast

Here's the new video (12:24), covering November.

Kanak Jha Interview

Here's the article and video interview (2:28) with USA's Kanak Jha at the World Junior Championships.

Erica Wu Interview

Here's the article and video interview (1:45) with USA's Erica Wu at the World Junior Championships. She had just upset Laura Pfefer of France.

Liu Shiwen is Technically Flawed

Here's the article.

"Ping Pong Summer" to Premiere at Sundance

Here's the article. The movie stars Susan Sarandon as well as Judah Friedlander.

Mike Mezyan's Newest Table Tennis Artwork

Here's "Be Bruce," as in Bruce Lee. It's a "…huge 8 foot by 11 foot wall mural at the new Bruce Lee lounge in Chicago. (Here are other table tennis artworks by Mike.)

More of Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Yesterday I posted a short video of basketball star Yao Ming playing table tennis with the Chinese National Team in China. Here's a better and longer video (4:23).

Table Tennis Jokes

Here's a collection!

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November 22, 2013

What I Did Yesterday

Normally I coach from 6-8PM on Thursdays, but the ten-week 6-7PM class I teach ended last week and doesn't restart until January, and my 7-8PM person was out of town. So what did I do on my "day off"?

  • I mostly finalized the USATT Hall of Fame Banquet Program Booklet, which I sent to the HoF Committee to proof. It'll go online at the USATT web page at some point, as well as the printed version for those at the banquet. This year's inductees are Todd Sweeris and Terese Terranova, with Yvonne Kronlage getting the Lifetime Achievement Award.
  • I updated my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. I'd found a few typos, as had Jeff Smart, and Mark Dekeyser found a zillion or so, so I inputted all the corrections to both the print and kindle versions and uploaded both. The new versions are online now. Other than the typos (and adding a few words in the Choppers chapter to emphasize even more the importance of attacking the middle) there were no other changes. (If you have a copy of the book, look at the title page and a couple lines under my name, just after the copyright 2013 notice, it has a "v" followed by a date. That's the version number. So the new version is v11-21-13. If you don't have a copy of the book . . . buy one!!!
  • I prepared for the testing aspect for our Junior Progress Reports in our Beginning/Intermediate Junior Classes, which I teach. This weekend we'll be testing the kids on various TT skills, from ball-bouncing and rules questions (for the younger kids) to looping and counter-looping for the older and more advanced ones. This is the first time we've done this.
  • I set up the new computer I got from John Olsen and copied over all my files. Today I'm going to make the big transition from my current one to that one.
  • I responded to about a dozen emails asking table tennis questions, mostly coaching related.
  • I had a battle with Nuance.com, where they sell Dragon Speaking Naturally software. I decided to give it a try and ordered it last Friday morning. I paid extra to have it one-day UPS expressed, but it still hadn't arrived six days later. So I gave them a call. They explained that even though I'd paid extra for express shipping that didn't mean they'd ship it any sooner - just that it would ship faster once they got around to actually shipping it. They also admitted it still hadn't been shipped yet. They said it should go out "soon," and promised to send me a tracking number "within three business days." I wonder if Dragon Speaking Naturally software could translate what my thoughts were at this point?
  • I sent out 29 review copies of my novel Sorcerers in Space to possible reviewers. 15 were hard copies mailed at the post office, 14 were PDFs emailed.
  • The cover of Sorcerers in Space features a sorcerer's apprentice, but his lips are rather bright red and some thought it looked like he was wearing lipstick. So yesterday I opened the cover in Photoshop and slightly desaturated and lightened the lips, and sent the new version to the publisher. The new version should be up soon.
  • Got news that I'm now one of the 15 novels and 14 authors featured on the Science Fiction Writers of America website. (See box on lower right.) It's a rotating thing so you might have to hit reload a few times before I come up, both with my picture as an author on top, and the cover of "Sorcerers in Space" on the bottom. Or just click on the "More Member Authors" or "More Titles by Members" links and I come up with the others.
  • Since I had no coaching last night, I watched "Big Bang Theory" on TV, and then saw the new Hunger Games movie.
  • Oh, and I wrote my morning blog!

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 from 1999-2003 as "Dr. Ping-Pong." Here are the Tips they put up this past week. (Click on link for complete tip.) There are actually ten this time - I think the ones from Nov. 12-14 weren't up yet last Friday (Nov. 15) when I last put these up.

Nov 21, 2013 Tip of the Day - Improving a Level
What does it mean to move up a level in table tennis? I’d define two players to be on different levels if it would be a major upset if one defeated the other.
  
Nov 20, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Backhand Sidespin Push
You’re out of position, and your about to do a backhand chop to stay in the point.
 
Nov 19, 2013 Tip of the Day - The No-Spin Backhand Chop
You’re out of position, and your about to do a backhand chop to stay in the point.
 
Nov 18, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Quick Backhand Topspin Receive
One of the more effective ways to receive backspin serves to the backhand is with a right-off-the-bounce backhand topspin flip.

Nov 17, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing With Everyday Objects
What could be more impressive than beating your non-table tennis friends and relatives very badly in table tennis? Beating them with ordinary household objects?

Nov 16, 2013 Tip of the Day - The Pre-Match Calm-Down
To play table tennis effectively, you need to have a calm, clear mind. How often have you actually played a tournament where you entered every match with a calm, clear mind?

Nov 15, 2013 Tip of the Day - Play the Middle Against Tall Players; Wide Angles Against Short Players
A tall player’s forehand and backhand shots are farther apart than a short player’s. So he is weaker in the middle area, where he has to decide whether to hit a forehand or backhand.

Nov 14, 2013 Tip of the Day - Play Against Conventional Wisdom
Conventional wisdom is usually correct that’s why it’s conventional. The problem is that if everyone follows conventional wisdom, opponents get used to it, and so become strong against what should give them trouble.

Nov 13, 2013 Tip of the Day - Playing Choppers
There is nothing more infuriating than losing to a patient chopper who lets you beat yourself with your own errors.
 
Nov 12, 2013 Tip of the Day - How to Play Against Hardbat
Let’s start out by realizing that if your opponent is using hardbat, and you are using sponge, you have an advantage. If it weren’t so, most players would be using hardbat!  

Positioning to Return a Smash

Here's the video from PingSkills (2:52).

22 Awesome Table Tennis Stamps

Here they are!

World Cadet Challenge

Here's a video (3:40) from the ITTF on " Table Tennis Future Stars - World Cadet Challenge | Faster Higher Stronger."

Top Ten Points

Here's a Top Ten Points video (6:11) from last year that I don't think I posted.

Outdoor Table Tennis

Here's a video documentary "Ralliers" (2:10) about outdoor table tennis in London.

Ma Long and Ball Collision

Here's a video (18 sec) showing Ma Long about to get smacked by a ball. Did it hit him in the face or did he manage to block it in time?

Ping-Pong Topiary Sculpture

Here it is, from China (of course)!

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