2013 World junior Championships

December 9, 2013

Tip of the Week

Learn Tactics by Coaching Others.

Recap of Past Week

It's been a wild week. Let's recap the last five days:

  • Wednesday: I reinjured my arm (or at least aggravated previous injury) and had to cancel four hours of coaching that night and the following night.
  • Thursday: $458 in car repairs. (Car was vibrating and needed new tires.)
  • Friday: Saw doctor, got a cortisone shot, no more playing for rest of month (i.e. no private coaching). Also spent an hour going over videos of Zhang Jike, Ma Long, and Ma Lin and their footwork, and one of our top juniors, and then sent him a selection to view and compare. Later we discussed it, going over what he needs to do to improve.
  • Saturday: Ran a group junior session for 90 minutes, but then sent out emails to cancel the rest of my private coaching for the weekend and the rest of the month.
  • Sunday: All my group sessions today (3.5 hours) were cancelled due to snow and sleet. So I sat in a lounge chair all day and night reading and watching TV. It was great!!!

Mentality in a Match and in Practice - Revisited

Someone doubted part of my Tip of the Week for Nov. 25 at the MyTabletennis.net forum, writing that he thought that "…the zone was still something people enter on occasion and that Larry was wrong when he said one could practice entering it." I think this is a common way of thinking for those who don't have the experience that top players and coaches have in sports psychology. Here is my response:

Why do you think you can't practice entering it? Of course you can; you use the same mental techniques in practice that allow you to get into the zone as you would in a tournament. The more you practice doing it, the easier it is to do so in tournaments. Or do you think it's a completely random thing that just sort of happens? That may be true of those who don't understand sports psychology, but the whole point of sports psychology is to allow one to get into the zone on a consistent basis. And you learn to do this with practice; there's no other way. That's why top players meet with sports psychologists so they can learn these mental techniques, and then they practice these techniques in practice sessions (including practice matches) - and then they can do it in serious competition. The idea that it just sort of happens is not how top players do it, which is why the top players can get into the zone and play their best nearly every major tournament. It comes from practice. I know I can get into the zone pretty much at will within a game of any match because I've practiced it for many years and know what mental rituals to go through to attain it. Read "The Inner Game of Tennis," or "Get Your Game Face On!" or "Finding Your Zone."

Here was the response to that: "Usually, it's easier to enter the zone when you aren't being frustrated by your opponent - the level of challenge usually matches the focus you bring.  Most players get frustrated in TT when they are missing the ball.  The question is whether you can be in the zone and not playing that well." Here's my response:

Half the point of sports psychology is so that things in a match do not frustrate you. If the opponent is frustrating you, then you need to apply the sports psychology techniques used by top players to overcome this. Once in the zone, you will play well, relative to how you would play if not in it. If the opponent does something that really messes you up, it'll mess you up less if you are in the zone.

I'm often in demand as a coach in tournaments. Those who believe coaching at tournaments is all about tactics are only doing half their job. At least half of it is psychological as you use various techniques to get your player into the zone. You can't always do this - a frustrated kid can be hard to get into the zone - but I've been doing this for many years, along with the tactical aspect. The two go together - once someone is thinking about the tactical aspects (which means 2-3 tactics out of zillions of possibilities), then they aren't thinking about losing or other distracting thoughts, and is a quick way to get into the zone.

World Junior Championships

They were held in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8, finishing yesterday. The big upset was a South Korean won Under 18 Boys over the Chinese juggernaut. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which includes results, write-ups, pictures, and videos. You can also check how the U.S. team did. (There should be a write-up of that soon by someone else; I'll link to it when it's up.)

Shonie Aki, RIP

Hall of Famer Shonie Aki died last Monday. Here's his Hall of Fame profile. Strangely, while I've sort of known him for many years (mostly through USATT matters), he was always so quiet that I never really knew him except through his Hall of Fame profile.

Ma Long's Instructional

Here's a video (55:30) where world #1 Ma Long of China teaches table tennis, covering nearly all the major aspects. This is a "must watch" for coaches and players.

Chinese Footwork

Here are two videos of Coach Matt Hetherington feeding multiball to Yang Song Wei.

Table Tennis Player Oldest Olympic Torchbearer

Here's the article. "A 101-year-old table tennis player became the oldest torchbearer in Olympic history Saturday, carrying the flame for the Sochi 2014 Games through the Siberian city of Novosibirsk."

Great Rally at World Junior Championships

Here's video (1:02, parts in slow motion) of a rally between Morizono Masataka (Japan, near side) and Zhou Kai (China) at 2013 ITTF World Junior Table Tennis Championships. See how fast Zhou moves to cover his wide forehand!

Ma Long - Zhang Jike Show

Here's a video (6:06) of the two doing a hilarious exhibition!

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December 5, 2013

Post Teams Coaching

Now that the North American Teams are over my coaching changes focus. The last few weeks before the Teams I was preparing players for the tournament. Now comes the long period where we focus on developing their games for the longer haul. In particular, I have several players who I'll be working on topspinning their backhands more. I also want to greatly improve serve and receive. And as noted yesterday, we're going to work more on sports psychology. But in general there's going to be a lot more work on fundamentals while setting and aiming to achieve long-term goals.

Arm Problems

HERE WE GO AGAIN!!! But it makes no sense. None. Nada.

I think it was a couple of months ago that I had serious arm problems and had to take two weeks off. I've had minor problems since then, but nothing serious. Then, last week, just before the North American Teams, the arm started hurting again. Part of it might have been the extra coaching hours getting players ready for the Teams. But it wasn't that bad, and I knew I'd be able to take a week off to rest the arm during and just after the Teams. (I coached at the Teams, but except for one session warming up a player for ten minutes didn't play any.) So I rested the arm for exactly one week, from last Wednesday until yesterday.

About five minutes into the session I was grabbing my arm. At first it just seemed tight. Then it began to hurt - badly - especially when I hit backhands. It was the same injury as two months ago, and the same one I'd had as a recurring problem in the 1980s, but not in between. HOW DID MY ARM INJURY GET WORSE WHILE RESTING IT FOR A WEEK???

I finished the session, doing lots of multiball and avoiding hitting backhands. I started my next session - I only had two hours scheduled fortunately - but could barely continue. "Fortunately" (in quotes) my student (Doug) was also having some shoulder problems, and we agreed it'd be best to take the rest of the night off.

I iced the arm last night and again this morning. I've already cancelled my session today. Tomorrow I'm a practice partner from 5-6PM, and have a private session afterwards. I'll skip the 5-6 session, but I think I'll try to do the 6-7PM one - but no backhands. When needed, I'll play forehands from the backhand side. Hitting backhands is what really causes the problems, but once I hit backhands repetitively for even a few minutes the arm swells up and I can't do much of anything. Fortunately, most of my weekend coaching is group sessions, where I don't have to use my arm except for multiball. But I have a few sessions in there.

I'm also going to (finally) make an appointment to see a doctor or trainer.

The good news? My knees seem totally healed from the problems I've had there this past month. The week off really helped. Also, with the Teams over, and with the Nationals and Christmas coming up, my coaching schedule isn't very heavy right now. (I leave for the Nationals Sunday, Dec. 15, returning the morning of Sunday, Dec. 22.)

New World Rankings

The new World Rankings are out. On the men's side, the big change is Fan Zhendong of China jumping from 11 to 5. Chinese men now hold the #1-5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 18, 22, 43, 58, 61, 91, and 100 spots. Germany has #6, 8, 24, 25, 49, 60, and 78. Taiwan has #9, 23, and 88. South Korea has #19, 26, 27, 35, 36, 39, 46, 56, 65, 68, and 83. Hong Kong has #21, 31, 96, and 98. USA's top three are #352 (Yuan Xiaojie), 367 (Timothy Wang) and 393 (Wang Qingliang).

On the women's side, the only major change near the top is Ai Fukuhara of Japan jumping from 14 to 9. Chinese women now hold the #1-3, 5-8, 11, 15, 22, 29, 34, 36, 51, 52, 65, 66, 83, 88, 89, and 97-99 spots. Singapore has #4, 20, 69, and 74. Japan has #9, 10, 26, 37, 50, 57, 63, 64, 75, 76, 78-80, 90, and 94. South Korea has #12, 17, 21, 24, 25, 35, 47, 66, 72, 73, 85, and 91. USA's top three are #80 (Ariel Hsing), 110 (Lily Zhang), and 171 (Zheng Jiaqi).

World Junior Championships

They are going on right now in Rabat, Morocco, Dec. 1-8. You can follow all the action at the ITTF World Junior Championships page. USA players are: Boys - Kanak Jha, Theodore Tran, Kunal Chodri, and Allen Wang; Girls - Prachi Jha, Tina Lin, Ariel Hsing, and Erica Wu

Yao Ming Playing Table Tennis

Here's the article, interview, picture, and link to a video (1:48) of the basketball star hitting with members of the Chinese Team, with commentary in Chinese. He's a penholder.

Table Tennis Doll

Here it is!

Head Table Tennis

Here’s the bizarre video (5:05, with the “table tennis” starting about one minute in) of a new version of table tennis, where players head mini-volleyballs back and forth.

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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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