Lily Yip center

July 11, 2014

How to Maximize Use of Your Tables

A common problem at clubs is that there are too many players, not enough tables. It's a good problem to have, of course, but perhaps not to those waiting in line to play. How can club leaders handle this problem?

The simplest solution, of course, is either another club night or another club. That's how the sport grows, folks - not by trying to jam too many people into a small club, but by having more clubs, and when they fill up, they also split into more clubs, and so on. But for this to happen, someone has to take initiative to start one. Here's the online USATT Club Handbook.

Or you could have your club open up another day, assuming it's not already full-time. When I started up the University of Maryland club back in 1981 we started out twice a week, with eight tables in one room. Within a year we'd expanded to seven nights a week, with 16 tables in two adjacent rooms. For a couple of years before I graduated it was the busiest club in the country, with students coming in every night to play. (We had two nights a week designated for non-college members, and on those nights players from all over would come in.)

Or you could expand your club, as we did at the University of Maryland club, and as we did at MDTTC, which expanded from 5000 to 10,000 square feet a few years ago.

Another is to have a Doubles Night. That's four to a table (or perhaps six, with teams sitting out to rest), and lots of players like doubles. Perhaps designate one night a month as Doubles Night, or more often if your club is full-time.

But probably the best way is to start up a league. While players may not like waiting to play on limited tables, they may be more likely to do so if they are cheering for a team - and a league (especially a team league) allows you to put 4-6 players on a single table. Here's the USATT League page, which allows you to organize your league and use league ratings. This is really the best way to make use of your facilities, and I strongly recommend it. We have two league nights at MDTTC (plus an elite league on Sunday afternoons), and they are our busiest times - players know it'll be crowded, and yet that's when the most players come.

Here's an idea I came up with last week while at the U.S. Open. Ever notice how top players practice at tournaments when there aren't enough tables? They warm up by going four to a table, with two getting the forehand crosscourt diagonal, the other two the backhand diagonal. But they also want to play points and do full-table drills. So they take turns. Two play a rally, and while they are fetching the ball, the next two take the table. (Sometimes they do this six on a table.) So I had a thought - why not play two-for-one matches? You'd have two sets of players playing a match. Two of them would play a point. When the point is over, while one of them fetches the ball, the other two play out a point of their match. And they'd take turns, so the table is in almost continuous use. When two players finish a game, they switch sides, and continue just like any other match, except they'd alternate use of the table. Anyone want to try this?

July Open at the Lily Yip Center in New Jersey

This afternoon I'm driving up with two others to the Lily Yip Center in New Jersey, where I'll be coaching on Saturday at their July Open. Hope to see some of you there!

Summer USATT Magazine

Here's the new issue. I have two articles in it, Topspinny Backhands and Review of Ping Pong Summer movie.

Mal Anderson Named Official USATT Photo-Historian

Here's the article. Mal's in the USATT Hall of Fame, and has taken over 40,000 table tennis pictures.

USATT Para Training Camp

Here's the ITTF write-up of this event, which took place in Grand Rapids just before the U.S. Open. I wish they'd publicize these events a bit more - I actually flew to the U.S. Open a day early a few years ago when I heard they were holding a Paralympic camp, and acted as a volunteer practice partner for a day. I didn't know about this one, and I don't think there was a news item about it. But of course they primarily publicize things like this to the Paralympic players.

Serving From Middle of Table, Serving to Middle Forehand

Here's a video (1951) of the bronze medal match from the 2012 Olympics between Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER) and Chuang Chih-Yuan (TPE). Note how in this (and in other videos of him), Dimitrij likes to serve backhand from the middle or even forehand side of the table, usually to the opponent's middle forehand. It's a very nice tactic that's way under-used. I still don't understand why more players don't do this type of serve - not necessarily a backhand serve, but a forehand reverse pendulum serve or forehand tomahawk serve, both of which have the same type of sidespin. Or just a regular forehand pendulum serve, where the focus is backspin or no-spin. (Backhand-type sidespin tends to be more difficult to receive forehand than backhand, which is why this type of sidespin is often done short to the forehand side.) Also note how Dimitrij receives so many serves to his short forehand with his backhand - one of the big changes in the game with the advent of the banana flip.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Forty-nine down, 51 to go!

  • Day 52: Miguel Delgado Discusses 20 Years of Progress for the ITTF and LATTU
  • Day 53: Koji Kimura Commends Adham Sharara for Rule Changes Made in Our Sport

Japanese Juniors Training in China

Here's a documentary (6:48) of a Japanese junior team training in China. It's all in Chinese or Japanese (not sure which - perhaps someone can tell me?), but it's interesting to watch the training. [EDIT - Bruce Liu informs me that it's in Japanese, with only a few words of Chinese.]

Heritage Oil Table Tennis

Here's video highlights (33 sec) from the Heritage Oil Open in England. Here's a short write-up.

Grammy Nominated Musician Steve Aoki Plays Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (16 sec).

Dawn of the Table of the Ape

In honor of the movie Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (which I saw last night), here's video (2:08) of a gorilla playing table tennis. (He shows up 49 sec in, but the link should take you directly there.) And he's a really good gorilla!!!

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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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