Nicolas Griffin

January 27, 2014

Tip of the Week

Practicing Serves the Productive Way. (This is an article I did for USATT Magazine a few years ago. I'd like to get a few of these old ones up as Tips.)

Coaching Happenings

It's been an eventful weekend of coaching, as always. Here are highlights.

  • An 11-year-old Islamic girl came to my junior table tennis class for the first time on Saturday morning. She was dressed in full Islamic garb, with nothing showing except her face and hands. I've coached Islamic kids before, including girls, so it was no big deal - I thought. Since she was new, I worked with her right at the start, and guided her through a correct forehand. Then her father came over, and politely asked if he could talk to me. We went to the sidelines, and he explained, "We are Muslim. No touching." I apologized, and from there on I only coached her by demonstrating and explaining.
  • I watched one of our junior players play matches in the Friday night league, and saw some problems to work on. One is that he doesn't cover the wide backhand well in rallies, and when he does move that way, he often rotates his body to the left (and so faces left) rather than stepping there. (He's right-handed.) I've been doing multiball random drills with him where he does cover this, but realized we hadn't been doing many live random drills. So from now on (starting with a session on Sunday) we're going to be doing a lot of that. He also has a tendency to drop his non-playing arm during rallies, which costs him balance and stability, as well as making it easier to spin the body to the left to cover his backhand rather than step there as he should. (It's like an ice skater spinning - when the skater pulls her arms in, she rotates faster; puts the arms out, she rotates slower.) He also tends to stand too much to his right in rallies, leaving the backhand open. It's generally better to crowd the backhand corner, where you generally take the ball quicker and in front of the body and so are more rushed. You have a bigger forehand hitting zone, and can generally take it later and still be effective, so you can leave the forehand side more open and still have to move to cover it.
  • In the Sunday afternoon junior session I had five girls in my group. All started in the last two months. Amazingly, all have pretty nice and consistent forehand and backhand strokes now. (Well, one has some problems with the backhand, but we're working on that.) I introduced them all to the 2-1 drill, which is a three-shot sequence: a backhand from the backhand side; a forehand from the backhand side; a forehand from the forehand side; then repeat. It's one of the best drills, as you do the three most common moves in table tennis: cover the wide backhand, step around forehand from backhand side, and cover the wide forehand. They all found this drill to be rather exciting. (Who knew?)
  • I watched one of our top juniors in a big league match, and gave him some analysis afterwards. He's playing really well, but his placement isn't so good, going to the wide corners way too often. At nearly all levels the default place to attack is the middle, which is almost always the hardest place to defend. (The middle is the roughly the playing elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand. For backhand oriented players, it's a bit more toward the forehand side, and vice versa.) By going to the middle, you get free points, weak returns, and/or draw the opponent out of position, thereby opening up those corners.
  • Two 12-year-old students of mine made the switch to Tenergy 05 FX on the forehand this weekend, which is what I use. Both are reaching the state where they can essentially loop everything on the forehand. Both tried out regular Tenergy 05 as well as Tenergy 64, but preferred the 05 FX. (They're both pushing 1500 level.)
  • Recently I've run a number of table tennis birthday parties at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, including two this weekend, one on Saturday, one on Sunday. Each was from 2-4 PM, with 14-21 kids in the 6-10 age group. The format I've adopted is pretty simple. The first half hour they are on their own as the kids hit around. Then I call them together and do a demo, usually with a top player or junior I recruit. Then the kids line up, and I have them shadow-stroke forehands. Then I take them two at a time and teach the forehand, spending about one minute with each pair. (Nothing extensive here.) Then we do the same with the backhand. Then we do it one more time with serves. Then we go to games, usually starting with the cup game, where the kids build pyramids of paper cups on one side of the table, and then take turns trying to knock them down as I feed multiball (3 shots per turn). After that we play the bottle game, where I convince them that the bottle of Gatorade on the table is full of squeezed worm juice, and the bottle of water on the table is dog saliva. I put the next to each other, and they again line up, 3 shots per turn, and try to hit it - and if they do, I have to drink it. I mock them as they hit each shot, so when one of them does hit one of the bottles they erupt in cheers, and I do mock protests before I finally drink it.
  • We've had freezing cold weather here in Maryland for the last two weeks. On Thursday the heating at MDTTC went down, and for three days we played with temperatures in the high fifties. You got used to it once you started playing, but I there were times where I complained I was in the final stages of hypothermia.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 14

We should finish it today. I'm crossing my fingers. We've actually finished all the pages but one, but that page has complications. The main job today is inputting corrections, and Tim has a lot, ranging from fixing or changing captions to fixing up photos to anything else he finds. The book is 465 pages with 962 photos, a new record for him. Here's info on all of these books, which will soon be updated when Volume 14 becomes available in a couple weeks. It's been an exhausting two weeks - we started on Monday, Jan. 13, and have been putting in looooong hours. This past weekend I kept driving back and forth between home and the club as I alternated coaching and working with Tim.

USA's Ariel Hsing Featured at ITTF Page

Here's the article.

Review of "Ping-Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World" by Nicholas Griffin

Here's the review in the Washington Post on Sunday. Here's a video (51:40) of the author talking about the book.

Guo Yue Dismissed from Chinese National Team

Here's the article. Guo, 25, was the 2007 World Women's Singles Champion and was ranked #1 in the world in 2008. She's also two-time World Mixed Doubles Champion with Wang Liqin. Her current ranking is #11 in the world.

Will Shortz on Table Tennis and How the US Can Become a Power

Here's the video (2:04) from Business Insider.

Coach Willy - an ITTF Documentary

Here's the video (3:42).

Cape Fear Open XI Highlights

Here's the video (7:33).

Angle Table Tennis

Here's the video (7:42) - this is what happens when you slant one side of the table sideways! A little over two minutes in they angle the other side as well for some really crazy ping-pong.

Panda Pong

Here's a picture of little Asian kids dressed as pandas playing table tennis with a picture of a penholder panda bear. I don't know what's going on, and perhaps it's best we just don't. (While we're on the subject of pandas, here's a panda ping-pong shirt!)

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