Mental Game

May 28, 2014

Power Outage and Flooding

There was excitement at MDTTC yesterday, but not for the normal reasons. I was in the middle of a coaching session around 6PM when the thunderstorms hit. We had the doors open to let in air, and so the flashes of lightning lit up the whole club while the thunder practically knocked us down before we got the doors closed. Water pelted the roof like a whale-sized snare drum on steroids in a rock concert. The kids got excited. And then the power went out. The emergency lights went on, but the club was only dimly lit. The power came back on after a minute, then went out again, then came back on. And then, at 6:13PM, it went out and didn't come back on. The kids had a great time playing table tennis in the dark. (I couldn't join in because trying to see in the dim light hurt my eyes.) This was the first time power had gone out for more than a few seconds in the 22 years we've been open.

Meanwhile, we faced another problem. The rain outside was so great it caused some sort of flash flood in our parking lot. The water kept slamming into the walls. There's a storm drain that runs across the parking lot a few feet outside the club, but it wasn't ready for this, and the flooding shot right over it. Most of the wall in front is actually a garage-type door that opens and closes. While it was closed during the storm, apparently there's a small gap underneath, and water began pouring in. This had never happened before, probably due to the storm drain. So water began cascading into the club. The coaches all grabbed various mops and brooms and began to fight it, trying to push the water back out, with some success. (There weren't enough mops and brooms, so I spent some time soaking up water from the floor in a towel and wringing it out over a mop bucket.) It was difficult as we were doing this in the dark. Anyway, we battled the elements for about half an hour. At the end, we'd gotten most of the water out, but the power was still off.

This was a problem as Tuesdays and Fridays are league nights at the club, and we were expecting large numbers of players. We had to cancel everything - somehow they got the word out.

During the height of the storm, with the power out, I decided it would be a good idea to run out to my car and get a flashlight and umbrella. I opened the door, took one look, and decided to go back to soaking up water with a towel. I've seen many a storm, but nothing like this watery violence.

I left the club around 7:30PM. Traffic was a mess. Most of the traffic lights were out. When I got home I was happy to find my power had not gone out, though my front yard was a mess.

Here are some thoughts that come to mind.

  1. Throughout the entire situation, one elderly Chinese player who had been in the middle of a lesson simply took a box of balls and practiced serves the whole time. How he didn't this I don't know, he must have had good eyes as I tried it and could barely see the ball, much less do a serious spin serve.
  2. The kids had a great time playing in the dark. If the power goes out at the U.S. Open, we'll have the most prepared bunch of kids in table tennis. No other club trains its junior players to play in the dark. We welcome players to the dark side.
  3. The only thing scarier than a big, strong player with a powerful forehand loop is a big, strong player with a powerful mop or broom fighting off the elements.
  4. The situation reminded me of the 1993 Junior Nationals, which I ran at the Potomac Community Center in Potomac, Maryland. The tournament ran on Friday night (doubles events), and all day Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon there was a thunderstorm, and sometime that afternoon all the power went out. It didn't come back on that day, so we had to reschedule everything for Sunday. We still managed to finish around dinner time on Sunday. The only other time I remember this happening was at a 4-star tournament in Augusta, run by Pete May, when the power went out. I believe it came back on after a time, so all was well. I think the power once went out for minute or so once at a U.S. Open or Nationals due to a storm.  

Sheeba: Feb. 1998 - May 27, 2014

I had to put my dog Sheeba to sleep yesterday. (She's a corgi mix.) She was 16 years 3 months old, which (based on her size and breed) put her in her early 90s in human years. I got her at a shelter when she was three, so we were together for 13 years. The first twelve years she loved to jump on things, chew, get scratched on the head, and eat bacon snacks. That's the Sheeba I'll try to remember. Over the last year she changed dramatically. She'd barely eat, going from her normal 25 pounds down to 14.9 at the end. She could no longer walk up or down stairs, so I had to carry her outside several times a day. She went completely deaf - if you clapped your hands behind her head there'd be no reaction, not even a flinching of the ears. She went almost blind, and began to regularly walk into walls. The last month or two she was no longer really house trained, so I was cleaning up lots of messes. Her eyes developed some sort of problem that led to their jumping back and forth continuously. A constant river of gooky stuff began coming out of her eyes that would run down her muzzle, which I had to clean off several times a day. The last week she mostly lost her ability to walk due to arthritis and hip problems, falling to the ground every two or three steps. She completely stopped eating her last three days, refusing even her bacon snacks. She was in pain, so the veterinarian and I agreed it was time.

Last Second Flip

Here's a nice video (18 sec, including slow-mo replay) of China's Ma Long looking like he's going to backhand push, then changing to a flip at the last second. While this might be difficult for most players, there are easier variations, such as last-second changes of direction when pushing long or short. In fact, here's a secret for playing against many players, especially junior players. Juniors are almost programmed to react almost instantly to whatever you do. They also tend to serve a lot of short serves to the middle and backhand. If you receive these as if you are going to push to their backhand, they'll begin to react - so if you change directions and push to the forehand instead (either short or quick and deep), they'll get caught over and over. 

The Mental Game: The Pink Elephant on the Court

Here's a sports psychology article directed at junior tennis players, but it applies to table tennis just as well. When the author wrote, "I've heard it all," I was nodding my head.  

97-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly

Here's the article, Day 97 in Sheri Pittman Cioroslan's 100-day Countdown. I linked to the first three articles in yesterday's blog.

History of Table Tennis and an Analysis of Spin

Here's a video (10:56) from three years ago that I don't think I've ever linked to, covering the history of table tennis, including a segment on spin.

Neymar Plays Table Tennis

Here's a short article and video (16 sec) on Brazilian soccer star (that's football for you non-Americans) Neymar playing table tennis. (Neymar goes by the one name.)

Table Tennis with Books

I like books. I like table tennis. This is how the game should be played, as demoed by these kids.

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November 25, 2013

Tip of the Week

Mentality in a Match and in Practice.

USATT Elections and Ten Things USATT Should Do

There's a great discussion of USATT issues going on right now at the about.com table tennis forum, with 83 postings as of this writing. It started with a posting about the two candidates put on the ballot by the USATT Nominating and Governing Committee (Ross Brown and Jim McQueen), and the ones they left off (Jim Butler, Rajul Sheth, Mauricio Vergara, and Ray Cavicchio. Many people, including myself, thought it tragic that some of these were left off when they are some of the ones actively doing things or pushing for new things. For example, Jim Butler's been pushing strongly for nationwide leagues or similar competitions, and is of course three-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion and an Olympian; Rajul runs the highly successful ICC club in Milpitas, California; and Mauricio runs the New York Table Tennis League.

Unfortunately, USATT no longer allows the option for candidates to get on the ballot by petition - it used to be you could do so if you got 150 signatures from USATT members. It so happens I strongly disagree on nearly all the major issues with Ross Brown, and I'm not sure if Jim McQueen is pushing for new initiatives to develop our sport, so I'd like to see some of these new people and doers on the board with fresh ideas.

In the online discussion I had a couple short postings at #3 and #7, but then chimed in with a long posting at #68 and others at #70, 82 and 83. Others in the discussion include such table tennis luminaries as Jim Butler (the most active poster), Dan Seemiller (some very pointed postings), Sean O'Neill, Rajul Sheth, Carl Danner, Donn Olsen, and Larry Thoman. (If you don't know who these people are, then make Google your friend, or ask in the comments below.)

The thread got me thinking once again about all the "easy" things USATT could do that could pay off big if they'd just take initiative. Here are ten:

  1. Advertise to hire someone to set up Professional Leagues. Offer him 33% of revenues brought in, and the USATT's support with its web page, emails, magazine, and any other way feasible. It would be an historic position, similar to the first commissioner of sports such as baseball, basketball, and football.
  2. Redirect the purpose of the current "League" committee so that its primary purpose would be to actively increase the number and quality of leagues in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up such leagues. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author.
  3. Bring together the directors of the largest and most successful leagues in the U.S., figuratively lock them in a room, and don't let them out until they've put together a model for such leagues that can be done regionally all over the U.S.
  4. Create a "Training Center" committee whose primary purpose would be increase the number and quality of full-time clubs in the U.S.  First job would be to bring in people to put together a manual for setting up and running such centers. The authors would then publish on Amazon and get profits from sales. It's not large money, but they might get a few hundred dollars and the prestige of being a published author. I already did a version of this with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, and have sold over one hundred copies and made over $100. This manual covers half the stuff a manual on setting up and running a full-time center would cover.
  5. Change the focus of USATT coaching seminars from just teaching technique to the recruitment and training of professional coaches and directors of junior programs. I've argued this one for years.
  6. Advertise for someone to bring in sponsorships for U.S. Open and Nationals, where the person gets 33% or more in commission.
  7. Recruit State and Regional Directors all over the U.S. to set up regional associations, which would include election of officers, and appointment of Coaching, League, Tournament, and Club Directors for each state or region. (Some regions or states already have such associations.) USATT would supply the basic bylaws for these associations, using bylaws that have been created for this very purpose multiple times in the past, or modeled on current successful ones.
  8. Direct that the USATT Board of Directors main focus will be the development of the sport, and that "fairness" issues will go to the appropriate committee, freeing up board time for actually developing the sport.
  9. Require that all prospective USATT board members must give at least one major area where they will take initiative in developing the sport, and give their plan for doing so. Along with this they should allow people on the ballot if they get 150 signatures from USATT members, with a deadline set after the North American Teams, which is where they could get the signatures. (This is how it was done in the past.)
  10. Do a mass mailing to the 50,000 or so past USATT members on the USATT database, and invite them to rejoin. The letter should come from a top, well-known U.S. table tennis star. There's one catch - there has to be something new to invite these players back. See previous items on this list. Any such mailing, done properly, would pay for itself. There's a reason why I and others get inundated with mailings from organizations I once belonged to. I still get regular mail from the U.S. Tennis Association since I played in their leagues about ten years ago. (Eventually we can move to emailing past members, but we don't have the email address of most of these past members.)

Here's a more general thing USATT should do: Set up specific goals for USATT, and make their fulfillment the primary goal of the USATT Board. For example, in 2006 there were only 10 full-time centers in the U.S., and it was proposed (yeah, by me in a presentation that was, alas, ignored) that we make a goal to create 100. Board members rejected this, arguing there weren't enough players for these training centers. There are now over 60 of them, with little USATT support. So what type of goals could we set up now? How about making it a goal to have, within five years, 200 full-time training centers with junior programs; 20,000 USATT members; and a U.S. Open or Nationals with prize money over $500,000. Then set up programs (see above) to achieve these goals. The nice thing about setting such goals is even if you miss the specific number and end up with, say, 190 full-time training centers with junior programs, 18,000 USATT members, and U.S. Open or Nationals with prize money of $400,000, guess what? We have dramatically improved the sport.

Rushing

So many players rush when they play when they have lots of time to make their shots if they'd focus on proper movement. To quote 2001 U.S. Men's Singles Champion Eric Owens, "You have more time than you think." Or my updated version of this, "The only reason to rush is if you want a rushed shot." 

I Made Sports Illustrated!

Here's the article, about my coaching Orioles players. This is actually my second article in Sports Illustrated; I had one in 1999 about the Chinese table tennis dynasty. 

Waldner: "Today's Table Tennis Lacks Shrewdness"

Here's the article! "Today many players, mainly Chinese ones, have incredible athletic bodies but play like robots. I think that table tennis lacks shrewdness, the little technical details, surprises, tricks." I wholeheartedly agree. Is this the future, or are they missing something that could raise their level perhaps another notch?)

Three Reasons Timo Boll Will Soon Be Outside the Top 10

Here's the article! I'm not so sure of this; I think he's still recovering from the long break he took, plus losing to a teammate who is used to playing him is not the same as losing to ones who are not used to playing Timo, who often have trouble with his lefty inside-out loops.

Sport of the Century

Here's a new highlights video (14:03) that came out yesterday in high definition. It starts as if it were doing coverage of the World Men's Cup semifinals between Xu Xin and Samsonov (showing a great point with commentary), then moves on to lots of great highlights stuff.

USATT Minutes

Here are the minutes of the Oct. 12, 2013 USATT minutes. Lots of interesting stuff, especially about the new poly (plastic) ball and about USATT Magazine possibly moving in-house. (Some of us remember that last time USATT did that - it didn't work out so well, did it?) Here are all USATT minutes. (Note that the Oct. 23 email vote, while coming after the Oct. 12 meeting above, had its minutes published a while ago, and I already linked to them previously.)

This Guy Just Read the USATT Minutes

Here he is. (Just kidding, USATT!)

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