Schwarzenegger

February 3, 2014

Tip of the Week

Winning with Ball Control.

Topspinny Backhands: When to Learn?

Yesterday was a pivotal moment in one young player's table tennis career. One of the tougher decisions for some coaches is when to have their up-and-coming junior players begin to topspin more on the backhand in rallies. At the start, you teach basic backhand drives. But at the higher levels, most players these days topspin the ball, basically a backhand loop with a shorter swing, often right off the bounce. It's not easy to learn to do this in a rally, where it's tricky enough playing a regular backhand, but to topspin the ball off the bounce, practically a backhand loop, against an often fast incoming ball?

Some coaches advocate teaching this starting at around the 1800 level; others do so much earlier. But everyone's different. If a player seems to have a knack for it, and is training regularly, then perhaps he can start earlier. The problem is that in a fast rally, you have little time to topspin the ball, and players who try to do so before they're ready will make lots of mistakes.

I've got several students who are reaching the stage where they're ready to really topspin on the backhand in faster rallies. Yesterday's breakthrough was for Sameer, 12, rated 1378 after the Teams in November. He's developed a pretty nasty backhand drive, especially in drills, though he sometimes still has trouble getting the drilling backhand into games. Sameer already has a pretty decent backhand loop against backspin, but was he ready to do this over and over in rallies?

We tried it out yesterday, and he surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. We did it first in multiball, and then live, and in both cases he seemed comfortable doing so. He's also ready for the rigors of reality - that he'll probably have some bad losses over the next few months as he incorporates this into his game, especially against players who rush him on the backhand. (If you are an opponent of his, please use go ahead and rush him on the backhand - it gives him the practice he needs!) But we have a longer-term goal - the U.S. Open in July. He's going to focus on just training until then, with the plan to show up with a devastating backhand topspin, as well as (hopefully) a few other devastating shots. Maybe he'll be a true basher by then. (See Tip of the Week article above.)

Banana Flip

This video (3:22) may be the best tutorial I've seen on the backhand banana flip. Lots of slow motion and clear explanations.

Pushing

Here are two videos from PingSkills on the Backhand Push (3:14) and the Forehand Push (3:19).

Table Tennis Strategy Page

Here's a new page, Table Tennis Strategy. It includes pages on Strategy, Fun Facts, Jokes, and others.

Superbowl Ad with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here's the complete ad (3:44), which ran in several parts. The table tennis starts exactly two minutes in. "Prepare to be crushed in tiny tennis," says the long-haired wigged Arnold.

CNN Features Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:57), which ran on Friday, and is on the growing trend to play table tennis. Features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Sarandon, and Soo Yeon Lee, and with clips of Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Biba Featured

Here's a feature article on Biba Golic in Women's Fitness Magazine.

Bounce Back Shots

Here's a video (57 sec) that compares a desperation backspin shot by Ding Ning that unreturnably bounces back over the net to win the point to a similar shot by Roger Federer in tennis.

Table Tennis on a Boat

Here's video (12 sec) of two men playing table tennis on a boat that's not much bigger than a canoe.

Hit the Card Trick Shot

Here's video (24 sec) of a trick shot where the player smacks a card out from under a ball without knocking the ball off.

When Table Tennis Gets Angry!

Here's the video (1:41) of some very angry players.

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January 28, 2014

15 Days a Slave

We're done!!! After 15 days of seemingly non-stop work, I finished the page layouts and photo work for Volume 14 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Mal Anderson does most of the photo scanning and supplies about half the photos. I do a lot of fixes on the photo.) It's 465 pages with 962 photos - a new record. I put it all in PDF format, and uploaded it to the printer yesterday afternoon. Now I'm exhausted - for weeks I've been running back and forth between this, coaching, and zillions of other stuff that constantly comes up (mostly involving table tennis or writing). At 11:30 PM last night Tim left for home in New York.

Yesterday we mostly were inputting corrections, doing pre-press work, creating the book flyer and ad, and updating the online page. I also did some coaching, and tutored two of our junior players in English and math at the club for an hour.

I celebrated last night by seeing the movie "I, Frankenstein." (I've already seen most of the good ones out there.) I think most would agree it was somewhat of a dumb movie with cheesy special effects, but it had its moments. Spoiler alert - since it took place in modern-day times, and much of the battling was over possession of Victor Frankenstein's notes, which kept changing hands as the two groups kept stealing it from the other, I wanted to scream at them, "Just make some photocopies and hide the backups!!!"

And now I get to attack the growing list of items on my todo list, which have accumulated like snow over the past two weeks.

Early Round Matches at Tournaments

Many players start slowly in tournaments, and start out with some bad early-round losses before getting their game together. Often they are playing these early matches against weaker players to not lose, rather than to win, and can't get loose enough to play well. So why not look at these matches as if they were a final, and convince yourself you've battled round by round to get there, and that this is the match you've been waiting to play all your life? Then go out there and be a gladiator! Once you learn to do that type of thinking, you can get your game going a lot earlier in tournaments.

Another thing that would help - instead of just warming up, play practice matches or play points with someone, and imagine those as the most important matches or points you've ever played. This will get yourself into tournament mode.

For me (back when I was still playing tournaments regularly), there was nothing better than playing a first-round match against some player who could push me, but couldn't beat me if I played my level - and so I would pretend he was the favorite, and go out there ready to do battle, and push myself to pull off an "upset." Not only would I consistently win those matches, but they would get my game going.

Pros and Cons of 3rd and 5th Ball Offensive Style

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

Jun Mizutani: "I can beat the Chinese"

Here's the article and video (4:30).

Wall Street Financiers Play Ping Pong for Charity

Here's the article, which includes a picture. "NEW YORK—Dozens of Wall Street financiers competed at the 6th Annual Tournament of the Champions Pong table tennis tournament in Grand Central Terminal Friday. The five-hour event drew hundreds of spectators throughout the day. The Ping-Pong matches, however, weren’t about winning. Each team paid $3,500 to participate. The money goes to the youth mentoring organization Big Brothers Big Sisters of New York, a nonprofit that serves children in need of adult role models."

Governor Chris Christie Wins Challenge With 13-Year-Old

Here's the article and video (3:05) as the New Jersey governor challenges a boy at a Boys and Girls Club. Other (living) governors who play include former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (here's a 17-sec video), former Arkansas Governors Mike Huckabee and Bill Clinton, Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley, and Delaware Governor Jack Markell, who I've coached a few times, and has a USATT rating of 1223.

The Schwarzenegger Closed

Here's the draw sheet, care of Table Tennis Nation, with 16 Schwarzenegger characters ranging from The Terminator and Kindergarten Cop, to Conan and The Governator. Which of these characters would win? (They put a lot of time into this!)

Percussion Pong

Here's a hilarious video (1:50) that features two comic musician table tennis players, and two superstars - Jean-Philippe Gatien (1993 World Men's Singles Champion, zillions of other titles as former world #1) and Patrick Chila (Bronze Medalist in Men's Doubles with Gatien at 2000 Olympics and four-time French Men's Singles Champion). Both Gatien and Chila are lefties; Gatien's on the left at the start. Not sure who the other two musician comic players are, though they seem to be able to play.

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January 20, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing the Seemiller or American Grip. (This is an excerpt from "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.")

MDTTC Mini-Camp

Local schools are closed today and tomorrow for Martin Luther King birthday and a teacher's meeting. And so we're running a two-day mini-camp at MDTTC, 10AM-6PM. Normally I'd be there all day both days, but because I'm working on Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (Vol. 14), with Tim at my side ("No, stupid, that photo there!"), I'm only doing the morning sessions. What does this really mean for me? It means I'm up all last night working on this blog, the Tip of the Week, and all the other stuff I have to take care of each day; it means I'm at my desk with Tim at 5AM to get two chapters done before I leave at 9:30AM; it means I'm coaching at the club from 10AM-1PM (and likely taking a large group of kids to the 7-11 down the street afterwards); it means I rush home to an impatient Tim and do several more chapters that afternoon and night; and it means starting all over again that night with the following day's blog so I can get started early with Tim the following morning. Somewhere in there I sleep.

Tim's Book, and Tim's Trials and Tribulations

Due to our various illnesses and my coaching, we're behind schedule on History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 14. However, we're catching up fast. Yesterday we got three more chapters done, so we've done eleven chapters, plus the covers and early intro pages. We just went through the 1985 U.S. Open, and once again Cheng Yinghua wins over Taiwan's Wen Chia-Wu, who had upset world #1 Jiang Jialiang in the semifinals! Cheng also won Men's Doubles with Jiang. And now he's my fellow coach at MDTTC.

Sports Psychology

One of my students (age 12) gets way too nervous in matches. So our top focus now is sports psychology. (This really should be everyone's top priority, since you get more for your time put into it than just about anything else.) I started today's session by having him simply tie his shoes. No problem. Then I had him do the same thing where he had to consciously tell himself what to do each step of the way. He laboriously went through the process, but the contrast with trying to consciously do it and letting your subconscious do what it's been trained to do (i.e. muscle memory) made the point about how you want to play table tennis. (For the record, I made up this exercise myself.)

Then we moved on to ping-pong ball shooting. I set up a box on the table, and we stood about fifteen feet away and simply shot baskets. The catch - you couldn't think about aiming. You just looked at the target, visualized the trajectory of the ball from hand to box, and then let it happen. At first the student had some problems - he kept trying to consciously aim the ball, or reacted to misses and swishes, when the conscious mind needs to get out of the way and let the subconscious do the job. After a few minutes of this, he was able to let go, and his shooting increased tremendously. (I had a streak where I made over 50 in a row without a conscious thought.

Then I held up a ping-pong ball, and said, "This is your conscious mind." Then I waved my hand about and said, "Your house is your subconscious. That's their relative sizes." Then I compared the conscious mind to some bad boss who flits about an office of well-trained employees and interferes with their work. For the well-trained employees (the subconscious) to get their work done they need the boss (the conscious mind) to get out of the way. Nervousness comes from the conscious mind; the subconscious is as cool as ice. Get out of the way and let it do its job. (Of course, there's the separate issue of training the subconscious - but that's what you are doing every time you practice, as you develop muscle memory. Most players have far better muscle memory than they realize, if they'd only stop being a bad boss and get out of the way.)

We didn't get to the table for the first half hour. (It was a 90-minute session.) Then he had a very good session. Much of the session we focused on reaction drills, where the key was to just let go and react, with muscle memory doing the natural reaction. He has a tendency to anticipate forehands and so loses a lot of points when the ball goes to his wide backhand, so we did drills where he had to just react to the ball, forehand or backhand.

We also went over routines. For example, anyone who's played me knows that when I serve, I start by loosening my right sleeve with my left arm; then I let my playing arm drop back and forth once like a pendulum; and then I serve. When I receive, I hold up my left hand as I approach the table; shuffle my feet a few times; and then lower my arm. Little routines like these become habit to the point that by doing them, they put you in the proper frame of mind for the point. Everyone should develop these little routines, with at least one thing you always do just before each point.  (This could become a Tip of the Week at some point.)

Aurora Cup

Now here's how you do publicity for a major tournament - with daily articles all week in advance! Below are the daily articles by Barbara Wei for the Butterfly Aurora Cup. (I believe there might be at least one more coming, covering Sunday's results, which I'll put up tomorrow.) And here are the results.

U.S. National Team Programs

Here's a listing of upcoming programs for the U.S. National Team.

Crystal Wang in Baltimore Sun

Here's an article and video (1:32) in the Baltimore Sun on 11-year-old Crystal Wang, who recently became the youngest player ever to win Under 22 Women at the USA Nationals. (She's from my club!) Here are more photos.

Disguise Topspin as Backspin with the Maharu Yoshimura Serve (Photo and Video Analysis)

Here's an article and video (3:49) from Table Tennis Master on how the Japanese star disguises his serves.

Gossip Pong

A few days ago I watched as two girls at my club played table tennis - or sort of played. They were chatting non-stop, with the table tennis just along for the ride. I realized we don't have a name for this, and so I have christened this new sport: "Gossip Pong." I'm copyrighting it. For now on, every time you use this name, you owe me $1. If you talk to your opponent when you play table tennis, you owe me $1. If you so much as call out the score, you owe me $1.

Ping-Pong with the Fishes

Here's the picture!

Schwarzenegger Super Bowl Commercial

Here's a video preview (17 sec) of an upcoming Super Bowl ad that shows Arnold trying to make it as a table tennis player. (Look at those strokes! Look at that hair!)  

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