Nate Robinson

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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