USA Nationals

September 24, 2013

Todd Sweeris, Terese Terranova in Hall of Fame, Yvonne Kronlage Gets Lifetime Achievement Award

Here's the article! I'm especially happy about Todd. He came to the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs in the fall of 1986 as a 13-year-old, the youngest player there. I was the manager of the program at the time. So I got to work with him for a few years there. Then I returned to Maryland and opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center (along with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang), and Todd moved to Maryland to train there. On the back of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is a picture of me coaching him at the U.S. Olympic Trials in 1996. I've already gone through my files and pulled out lots of pictures of him for use at his induction at the USA Nationals in December.

I've also known Yvonne a long time - she was president of the New Carrollton TTC where I started play at age 16 in 1976. We've differed on a few things politically, but we've both been promoting TT for roughly forever - but she's been doing it for a longer forever than I have!

Terese I mostly know from coaching our players against her players at the Junior Olympics and Junior Nationals for many years, especially in the 1990s when many of the finals were between Maryland and Florida players, and I'd be coaching the Marylanders (along with coaches Cheng and Jack), and she and Marty Prager would be coaching the Floridians.

USA Nationals

Speaking of the USA Nationals, here's the home page on the USATT web page, which includes the entry form and hotel info. I'll be there, but just coaching and attending a few meetings, including the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies. (I do the HoF program booklet.)

USATT Web Page

Speaking of the USATT web page, I'm featured there twice right now. I'm pictured, along with Ernesto Ebuen and Roger Yuen, for getting certified as an ITTF Level 2 coach. I'm also pictured (coaching Seyed Hamrahian and Derek Nie in doubles at the 2012 USA Nationals) for my latest Tip of the Day, "Don't Guide Your Loop." Ironically that was half of what I told a kid I coached at the Coconut Cup this past weekend - see my write-up yesterday.

2014 Junior and Cadet National Championships

Want to host them next year, either July 31-Aug. 2 or Aug. 7-9? Here's the Bid Sheet!

However, I'm a bit peeved by this. A lot of the top juniors in the U.S. train in China during the summer, often leaving right after the U.S. Open (usually the first week in July), and returning at the end of August. They are scheduling this right in the middle of that. So many of the best juniors in the country (including several from MDTTC) will likely be in China when this takes place, meaning that if they want to play in the National Junior Championships they'll have to fly halfway around the world. (That's roughly 13-15 hours.) It will cost a fortune - I just did a quick search and the cheapest flights from my area to China round trip are about $1400. Plus they'll show up off by 12 time zones, which affects juniors even more than adults. (A 2PM match is like 2AM for them, etc.) And after flying in for a few days of jet-lagged zombie-like play (which they will then be judged on for the next year), they'll hop back on a plane for the trip back, minus about a week of training (after taking recovery time, etc. into account). What this really means is some of our top juniors won't attend the National Junior and Cadet Championships, and so won't be on the National Junior or Cadet Team because they are too focused on becoming top players by training in China. Or, if they do attend, their poor parents will be out something close to $2000, on top of all the other training expenses.

I'm hoping someone from USATT can tell me if I'm missing something here.

Waldner's Best Drop Shots

Here's a highlights video (6:39) featuring the best drop shots by the great Jan-Ove Waldner. Tired of constant serve and rip and counterlooping rallies? This is completely different!

Four on One Table Tennis

Here's the picture - I have to try this! Maybe on break in our next camp.

Sleepy Table Tennis

That's all I can call this.

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January 2, 2013

Tip of the Week

Balance Throughout the Stroke.

Two Weeks

The last two weeks have been exhausting. I can divide them into four parts: the USA Nationals (Dec. 18-22: Christmas with Family (Dec. 22-25); MDTTC Christmas Camp (Dec. 26-31); and Reading in Bed (Dec. 31 - Jan. 1).

USA Nationals

I've been to every Nationals since the early 1980s, and this is the first one where I didn't play any events, just coached. Much of the tournament is now a blur, but much of it comes back when I look over the extensive notes I took on opponents. (I have to type them up soon for my ongoing coaching notes.)

Derek Nie, 11, played great. I coached him in all his matches as he made the National Mini-Cadet Team (under 13), finishing second (with the top four making the team). His matches from the quarterfinals on were spectacular, and gave meaning to the idea that tactics aren't very helpful if you can't executive. Well, he executed!!! Going in, he was seeded eighth at 2139, but in more recent ratings he was 2221, which would have put him third. He knocked off the second seed (rated 2314) at 7,4,7 in perhaps the best-played match of his life. His two-winged full-court looping game, and especially his counterlooping from all over the court, is especially impressive when you remember he's 4'5" and 65 lbs! (As noted previously, he's the best player in the U.S., pound for pound.) He has another year left in the Mini-Cadets, as well as four years in the Cadets. He trains regularly with Cheng Yinghua and the other MDTTC coaches, including me, although I mostly play practice matches with him so he can work on serve & receive - he's too fast for me in drills. 

Here's a picture of me coaching Derek and Seyed Hesam Hamrahian in doubles in the Junior Team competition. And yes, that's me, getting chased around the table by Derek as we loosen up before a practice session. It started as some easy jogging around the table, then it became a chase, and Bruce Liu (unfortunately) caught the last nine seconds of it.

Here's a nice quote I keep reminding Derek of during the tournament when he was passive in receiving long serves: "At the higher levels, looping a long serve is not a tactic, it's what you do. Not looping the serve is a tactic." Ironically, in one of his key matches, the opponent mixed in long topspin and backspin serves, and in that match the tactic was to push the backspin serve back, since the opponent would either push or loop soft, giving Derek the chance to loop or counterloop.

I didn't get to see much of the main matches in men's or women's singles as I was too busy coaching. I did manage to attend the annual Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday night. For the fourth year in a row I did the program booklet for them; here's the 2012 program, in high (1.7MB) or low (174KB) resolution.

Some of you might remember Mike Lardon, a junior star from the 1970s, and now a sports psychologist. He was at the Nationals, playing in the over 50 events. I introduced him to Derek, and he gave him (and signed) a copy of his sports psychology book, Finding Your Zone: Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life. (I reviewed this in my Nov. 8, 2011 blog.) Derek read half the book that night. I've been told that most match coaches don't spend much time on sports psychology, which I believe is a huge mistake. It's often the most important aspect.

It's almost a joke how much strength and depth we now have in the juniors, especially up to about age 14. It's getting ridiculous - players who seven years ago would be battling for national titles are now struggling to reach the QF. The matches in the round of 16 are stronger than finals from ten years ago. They are routinely doing shots that were only rarely done back then. I still cringe every time an opponent power loop to Derek's FH, and Derek (and other players) routinely go for the counterloop, probably not realizing how difficult this is "supposed" to be!

Christmas

I spent Christmas with family in Santa Barbara, Dec. 22-25. No table tennis - sorry! Gave away lots of stuff, received lots of stuff (sorry, no table tennis stuff!). Highlights included my making my annual batch of Larry's Chili (my own secret recipe) for Dec. 23 dinner (and lunches thereafter); seeing The Hobbit on Christmas Day; and catching the annual red-eye flight on Christmas night so I can get back the morning of Dec. 26 for the MDTTC training camp.

We've run over 150 training camps at MDTTC since we opened in 1992, and this was our 21st Christmas Camp - I've coached at all of them. During the camp I gave lectures on ready position, grip, forehand, backhand, forehand loop, backhand loop, flipping, pushing, footwork, serve, receive, playing different surfaces, and doubles.

MDTTC Christmas Camp

The camp was held Dec. 26-31, starting with an afternoon session on Dec. 26, and ending with the morning session on Dec. 31. We had over 40 players. Because we have so many coaches at MDTTC (6), I was only needed in the morning sessions, where I gave short lectures before breaking out into multiball sessions. My highlight was getting a bunch of the kids on break to call out the names of the three great gods of table tennis until they got the secret meaning: Owa, Tegu, Siam. Say them over and over until you get the secret meaning. (If you are lost, email me, but really, you should get it if you keep saying it!) The kids' highlight was probably the candy game on Dec. 30, where I put hoards of candy on the table and fed multiball while the players rotated, two shots each, where they got to keep whatever they knocked off the table.

Reading in Bed

What is your "dream" vacation? For some it's the beach, or out sailing, or hiking in the mountains, or travel, or perhaps watching TV all day. For me it's spending all day in bed reading. I read two fantasy novels, "Hush" and "Witchbreaker," both by James Maxey. They were the second and third books in his Dragon Apocalypse series. (I read book one while in Santa Barbara for Christmas.) While I'm on the subject of writing, I'm sad to announce that I read fewer books in 2012 than any year since early elementary school - and I'm not happy about this. (However, I also read the Washington Post and about a dozen magazines.) But I still managed to read 24 books. Here's a listing:

FICTION (15)
Redshirts by John Scalzi
Firebird by Jack McDevitt
Moonfall by Jack McDevitt
Voyagers by Ben Bova
Ringworld by Larry Niven
The Religion War by Scott Adams
Specter Spectacular edited by Eileen Wiedbrauk
Into the Out Of by Alan Dean Foster
Dinotopia Lost by Alan Dean Foster
Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock
Barry's Tale by Lawrence Schoen
Burn Baby Burn: A Supervillain Novel by James Maxey
Greatshadow by James Maxey
Hush by James Maxey
Witchbreaker by James Maxey

NON-FICTION (4)
Building Your Book for Kindle
A Natural History of the Senses by Diane Ackerman
Earth by The Daily Show (it's sort of non-fiction!)
How to Improve Your Speculative Fiction Openings by Robert Qualkinbush

TABLE TENNIS (5)
Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion, by Werner Schlager & Berndt-Ulrich Gross
Breaking 2000 by Alex Polyakov (See my review.)
Ping Pong Fever by Steve Grant (See my review.)
Get Your Game Face On! by Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon (See my review.)
The Adventures of the Ping-Pong Diplomats, Volume, 1 by Fred Danner (See my review.)

2013 USA National Team Trials

Here is info on the 2013 USA Men's and Women's Team Trials, to be held Feb. 7-10 in San Jose at the Topspin Table Tennis Club. Here is the Prospectus and Entry Form, both in PDF format.

Whitney Ping on USOC Board of Directors

Whitney Ping, a member of the 2004 USA Olympic Table Tennis Team, a former player rep on the USATT Board of Directors, and an Athlete Service Coordinator for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, is now one of the 15 members of the USOC Board of Directors. Here's the article.

National Club Championships

Here are the results, with Chinese CC Flushing NY defeating Maryland Table Tennis Center in the final (in Las Vegas), 3-1. In the semifinals, they defeated Newport Beach TTC (CA) 3-0, while MDTTC defeated Los Angeles TTA, 3-1.

Zhang Jike

Here's a feature on the Chinese star and the great year he's had. He's only the second player ever to hold both the World and Olympic Men's Singles Titles. (The other was Chinese Men's Coach - and Zhang's coach - Liu Guoliang in 1996.)

Table Tennis Jump Smash

Here's a coaching video on the Jump Smash against lob from PingSkills (2:25). He recommends against it, and I generally agree. However, some players, such as Dan Seemiller, have perfected this shot, using a scissors-kick method with a running start. The example shown here shows the player jumping from a stationary position with less leg kick than Dan uses. I use this technique in exhibitions, and sometimes in matches.

The New Plastic Ball

Here's a video (16:16) where the new plastic ball is compared to current celluloid balls as well as the old 38mm ones. This is Part 1: Physical Differences.

Beyond Imagination Part 6

Here's Beyond Imagination Part 6 (7:02), a highlights reel of the best rallies from 2012. (Links to the first five appear on the right.)

Pongcast TV Episode 22 - Best of 2012

Here's the video (17:41).

Adam Bobrow in Asia

Here's the video (2:11) of his exhibitions in the Philippines, Vietnam, and Korea (I think South!)

Aloha 2013!

Here's Hawaiian Table Tennis wishing you a Happy 2013 with a table tennis cartoon! (Is that Rudolf the Red-nosed Moose?)

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December 30, 2011

MDTTC Christmas Camp

Yesterday at the MDTTC Christmas Camp the focus was on backhand attack. That meant lots of backhand smashes, backhand drives and flips against backspin, and backhand loops. I was amazed at how fast some of the "beginner" kids picked up the backhand loop. The old paradigm that you have to be relatively advanced before you can backhand loop has been wrong for many years, and yet it still plagues many junior players whose old-fashioned coaches hold back on teaching this shot, thereby handicapping their games. My general rule of thumb is as soon as the kid can hit 100 forehands and 100 backhands with a good stroke he's ready to learn to loop.

This reminds me of a Junior Olympics many years ago where a full-time professional coach from another region was admiring the level of play of the Maryland juniors. She was amazed at how well some of our kids in the 10-year-old range could loop, and commented, "None of my students that age are good enough to learn to loop yet." As she explained, she thought it was assumed a kid needed to be at least 1500 before he should be taught to loop. Yikes!!!

Once again I gave out lots and lots of chocolates in a game where the players had to hit a bottle to win one. My chocolate supply is making me very popular.

Entries at USA Nationals

We now have the entry totals for the USA Nationals - and it ain't particularly pretty. (The ratings for both the North American Teams and the USA Nationals were processed last night.)

Using the USATT ratings database, there were 502 players at the 2011 USA Nationals in Virginia Beach who played in rated events. (Players who only entered doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper are not included in these totals.) This is by far the lowest total in the ratings histories, which start in 1994, with the next lowest the 592 in 1998, and 27% down from last year's 686, and way down from the 829 and 837 in 2005-2006. Other than the 1986 Nationals in Pittsburgh (where I believe there were less than 400 entries), I believe this is the lowest turnout ever for a USA Nationals since the first one in 1976. (I'm not including U.S. Opens, which were sometimes referred to as the USA Nationals before the first "official" one in 1976.) It also pales by comparison to the totals for the North American Teams, which had 767 players. Of course, the reality is that neither of these are large totals. There were two U.S. Opens in the mid-1970s that had over 1000 entries, in Houston and Oklahoma City.

I've put together a graph showing the annual totals for the USA Nationals starting in 1994. (Other than 1986 in Pittsburgh and one year in Anaheim in the last 1980s, I believe it's been held in Las Vegas every year.) I also put together one for the U.S. Open.

Some will immediately conclude that the problem was the location - Virginia Beach. This is basically correct. Putting the Nationals at a "vacation" area like Las Vegas automatically attracts players. But as proven by the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids in 2010 (645 entries, versus 610 the year before in Las Vegas), you can attract players to non-vacation lands. I had an email exchange with the Grand Rapids organizers about a year before the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids where I gave numerous recommendations on how to get entries, and they did use many of those methods, whether on their own or because of my email. (Maybe sometime later I'll publish the entire list.)

I have some experience in this, which is why I was contacted by the Grand Rapids people. While I've run about 150 tournaments, I've run only one 4-star tournament, the 1998 Eastern Open in Baltimore. It received 411 entries - 359 in rated events, the rest in doubles events or paid no-shows - which I believe is still the record for most entries in a 4-star event (other than the North American Teams, which for some silly reason, is still listed as a 4-star). I promoted the heck out of that tournament, as did Richard Lee and others who put it together. 

How did we get so many entries at the 1998 Easterns? By promoting the tournament to potential players. I'm sure the tournament committee for the 2011 Nationals also worked like crazy to get entries, but they didn't seem to have any experience in doing this, and didn't seem to consult with those who did. For example, there are a huge number of players in neighboring Maryland, including the Maryland Table Tennis Center, my home club, with a 200+ membership. I don't recall a single mailing or any other serious contact made with MDTTC to attract players. There also was no personal invitation to enter the tournament by "names," as Grand Rapids did with Dell and Connie Sweeris. Get a Sweeris, Seemiller, or similar "name," send out a personal invitation to enter the tournament from them (focusing on regions within driving distance, and flooding the local regional clubs with flyers), and use other successful methods  to promote the tournament (I won't elaborate here, maybe later), and you'll be surprised at how many entries you can get.

I really believe they can get 700+ entries in Virginia Beach if they promote the heck out of the tournament using the successful methods others have used. On the other hand, if they did the same in Las Vegas, they might get 1000. Heck, if Houston and Oklahoma City can get over 1000, why can't Virginia Beach or just about any other location that promotes the tournament properly?

Here are the entry totals for the Nationals, 1994-2011.

USA Nationals

  • 2011: 502        Virginia Beach
  • 2010: 686        Las Vegas
  • 2009: 597        Las Vegas
  • 2008: 604        Las Vegas
  • 2007: 730        Las Vegas
  • 2006: 837        Las Vegas
  • 2005: 829        Las Vegas
  • 2004: 755        Las Vegas
  • 2003: 707        Las Vegas
  • 2002: 678        Las Vegas
  • 2001: 672        Las Vegas
  • 2000: 686        Las Vegas
  • 1999: 658        Las Vegas
  • 1998: 592        Las Vegas
  • 1997: 650        Las Vegas
  • 1996: 613        Las Vegas
  • 1995: 660        Las Vegas
  • 1994: 598        Las Vegas

USA Nationals Videos

You can now watch just about every major match from the 2011 USA Nationals!

Mission Impossible: Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang

Here's a photo montage to Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang (4:46), set to the theme music of Mission Impossible, who just played each other in the Women's Singles Final at the USA Nationals for the second year in a row, and now have their eyes set on the 2012 Olympics.

One-Year-Olds Forehand

Here's actual footage (1:21) of the 2028 U.S. Women's Singles Champion, currently one year old. (I believe its Samson Dubina's daughter - that's him "coaching" her.)

Topspin Charity Ping-Pong and Baron Davis

Here's a humorous video (3:14) of Baron Davis of the Cleveland Cavaliers promoting the Topspin Ping-Pong Charity Tournament. Here's more info on the event.

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December 19, 2011

Tip of the Week

Time-out Tactics.

Christmas Sabbatical

As noted last week, I'll be away for Christmas, so my next blog entry will be right after Christmas. Then I'll return to blogging every morning, Mon-Fri.

USA Nationals

I had a great time last week at the USA Nationals in Virginia Beach. Here are the results. (Make sure to set the tournament field to "2011 US Nationals.") Ty Hoff and I won Hardbat Doubles (my 12th time at the Nationals or Open, eight of them with Ty, the other four with Steve Berger). However, I was mostly there to coach. Below are a number of segments about the Nationals.

USA Cadet Trials

Tong Tong started out poorly, losing numerous close games and matches the first three days, Tues-Thur, Dec. 13-15. However, the BIG event for him was the Cadet Trials, which were on days four and five. Last year he had gone in seeded #9 in the ratings, but made the team (top four) by pulling off four upsets to grab the fourth spot. This year he went in seeded #10 in the ratings, but made the team (finishing third) by pulling off five consecutive upsets! So he made the team two straight years by pulling off nine upsets without losing to anyone below him - not bad. If he had lost any of those nine matches or to anyone below him, he wouldn't have made the team that year. He's the only one to make the team both years. Key to his turnabout in the Trials - stronger mental focus and more two-winged attack. (He'd been playing too much forehand.) We also came very prepared tactically.

Between matches we spent as much time discussing NCIS and the Baltimore Ravens as we did table tennis tactics. He knew that I was doing this just to get his mind off table tennis, making it easier to clear his mind and focus when the time came, and he was smart enough to play along.

All-Maryland Men's Final

18-year-old Peter Li made an incredible comeback in the semifinals against defending champion Timothy Wang - who had beaten him in the final the year before - coming back from down 0-3 in games and from two match points in the fifth (after blowing a 9-4 lead!) to win, -6,-6,-4, 9,10, 8, 14. This led to an all-Maryland final between Peter and Han Xiao. (Han had his own deuce-in-the-seventh win in the quarters over Michael Landers.) During their junior years I played Han and Peter probably 700 matches and countless hours of training. (They were both primarily students of Cheng Yinghua.) Han also won men's doubles for the third time, teaming this time with Timothy Wang. Peter made the final of Mixed Doubles with Lily Zhang.

Other Marylanders who did well: Derek Nie made the final of Boys' 10 and Under Singles, losing the final 11-9 in the fifth (after leading 9-7, alas). Crystal Wang made both the cadet and mini-cadet girls' teams and got second in Girls 10 and Under Singles. Amy Feng made the quarters of Women's Singles. Charlene Liu won Over 50 Women's Singles. Mort Greenberg won over 80. Steve Hochman and Jeff Smart pulled off a flurry of upsets to make the final of Over 50 Doubles. Timothy La got second in Standing Disabled. And as noted, Tong Tong Gong made the National Cadet Team. 

Enez

Several people were calling this Nationals the Enez Nationals. Enez is the device that reads whether a racket has illegal vapors coming out of it, indicating illegal gluing or some other substance. There are some problems with this as sometimes new sponge right out of the package fails the test, so you have to air the rubber out for a bit. The device devastated the men's draw. Here's a short rundown - I'm sure I'm missing some, so feel free to chat if there are any I missed. Top seed David Zhuang was defaulted when both his rackets failed the test. Dan Seemiller's primary racket failed the test, so he had to use a backup. Barney Reed's racket failed the test, and he had to play with a borrowed racket.

Umpiring at the Nationals

Nearly all of the umpires did a fantastic job, and I tried to remember to thank them after each match (though I sometimes forgot in all the excitement - my apologies). They are often the forgotten and unthanked ones. We should make it a policy to really thank umpires when they do a good job, and understand the pressures they are under when they don't seem to be doing so well. It happens.

There were some problems. One cadet in the final twelve used illegal hidden serves over and over, and many of the umpires wouldn't call it. Ironically, his serves were faulted numerous times - forcing him to change to a legal motion - in the match before and after playing Tong Tong, but in their match the umpire wouldn't call the serves, putting Tong Tong at a huge disadvantage. However, Tong Tong persevered and barely won, deuce in the fifth after being down match point. The umpire graciously admitted after the match that he simply couldn't tell that the serves were hidden, that the motion was simply too fast, and in a future match he was scheduled to umpire that involved that cadet, he switched with another umpire. (I actually came prepared with printouts of this cadet's serve, showing it was illegal, but it really does happen so fast that umpires are hesitant to call it - but there is that rule that says the umpire must be satisfied that the serve is legal, so if he's not sure, he should warn and then fault.)

If Tong Tong had lost this match because of these illegal serves, it would have knocked him off the team. But how can you enforce the hidden serve rule in the cadet trials when anyone could see that many or most of the top men were clearing hiding their serves, and that it wasn't being called?

During one break, I chatted with an umpire, and made the jaw-dropping discovery that he thought that the service rule said that receiver must only see contact, and that there was no rule about removing the playing arm as long as it doesn't hide contact. Actually, receiver must be able to see the ball throughout the service motion (not just the split second at contact), and the non-playing arm must be removed immediately after tossing the ball up from the area between the ball and the net. (I'm just paraphrasing the rules.) I showed him the actual rules, and he was rather surprised.

Tong Tong got faulted in one match for dropping his hand below the table level while projecting the ball upward. In that situation, it's a rather petty rule, and yet it's a rule, correctly called - but few umpires call this. I'd never noticed how Tong Tong sometimes drops his hand during his toss, but it was an easy fix. This same umpire was one of the few who also correctly faulted players for hiding their serves.

The big umpiring problem in the Cadet Trials

There was one really serious umpiring problem that's going to bother me for a long time. In the crossovers for the top four, Tong Tong was faulted several times by an umpire for apparently hiding his serve, which he absolutely does not do. During the match, I was stunned by this, as was Tong Tong. He was forced to change his well-practice and legal service motion. After the match, which Tong Tong lost 11-8 in the fifth, I asked the umpire why he had faulted Tong Tong's serve. He said that the rules state that throughout the service motion, the ball must be visible to the receiver and the umpire! That simply is not true. (However, I wish it were a rule - but if it were, players would learn to serve that way.) A number of people probably saw my reaction to this in the arena, and it wasn't happy time.

I pulled out the USATT rules and showed him the actual wording of the rule, but he brushed that off, saying that the tournament was being played under ITTF rules, and that their rules were different. I was quite surprised that the USA Nationals would be using ITTF rules instead of USATT rules, but it didn't matter - the service rules for both are identical, as was shortly verified at the control desk. The umpire said it didn't matter, that it was impossible to tell if the serve was visible to the receiver unless the umpire could see the ball throughout the serve - again, this is false. A player hides the ball from the receiver by sticking his arm or shoulder out, or turning his back partly to his opponent at contact, and if he doesn't, then he's not hiding the serve, even if the umpire cannot see the ball throughout the serve. When a player lines up sideways to serve forehand, the umpire often cannot see the ball, but it's obvious to the umpire that the ball is visible to the opponent, which is what the rules require. If the intent of the rule was that the receiver and the umpire should both see the ball throughout the serve, then that's what the rule would say.

By this umpire's definition, essentially every forehand serve would be illegal on one side of the table if there were one umpire, including Tong Tong's opponent, whose serves were not called, despite his also having his back to the umpire when he started this serve. (Perhaps because Tong Tong is bigger and turns his back more to the umpire, but in both cases there is no way the umpire saw the ball throughout the service motion of either player when they were on the umpire's right.) If umpires do want to rule that they must be able to see the ball throughout the serve, then make that clear so players can practice their serves that way - and then enforce the rule with everyone.

The umpire said that if there had been an assistant umpire, then the serve would have been legal. And sure enough, in Tong Tong's next and final crossover match (for third and fourth), the same umpire was sent out. I requested a second umpire, and it was approved. Tong Tong went back to his regular service motion, neither umpire warned or faulted him, and he won the match.

One of the more experienced umpires explained to me later what almost for certain happened here. The current rules say that the umpire must be satisfied that the server is serving legally. However, the wording used to be that the umpire must see that the server is serving legally, and this had been misinterpreted as saying that the umpire must see the ball throughout the service motion. Because of this common misinterpretation, the wording was changed from "see" to "satisfied." It is likely that the umpire was going by the misinterpretation of the previous rule. I actually feel bad for the umpire - he must realize by now that he made a mistake, and that Tong Tong's serve was completely legal. Calling the service rule is by far the hardest thing to do in umpiring, and I don't envy their jobs. 

Alas, we'll never know what would have happened in that match had the umpire not improperly intervened. The two were about as evenly matched as possible; they had played earlier in the tournament in a different event, and that time Tong Tong had been up 10-8 match point before losing deuce in the fifth. It's possible the service interruptions hurt the opponent's focus as well. Without the service problem, it might have been another deuce-in-the-fifth battle. Who knows.

Regardless of that match, the cadets this year were without a doubt the strongest ever in U.S. history in terms of depth. Players that made the team a few years ago likely wouldn't have made the final twelve this year. Congratulations to the four team members - Teddy Tran, Kanak Jha, Tong Tong Gong, and Kunal Chodri!

Sandpaper

I was primarily coaching Tong Tong Gong. However, I was also coaching Ty Hoff in the sandpaper event - yes, I'm now a "professional sandpaper coach" - but he unfortunately lost in the semifinals. I also coached several others.

Table Tennis Videos from Elie

Here's a series of short table tennis coaching videos from Coach Elie Zainabudinova from the Gilbert Table Tennis Center. (Some of them start with a short advertisement.)

Table Tennis Dance

Here's a dance tribute to table tennis (2:40)! (Starts with a short ad.) And here's the St. Louis Junior Team Table Tennis Dance at the 2005 Chinese New Year Festival (3:55), and the Adam Bobrow's Victory Dance (1:11, make sure to watch to the end, starts with short ad).

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December 12, 2011

Tip of the Week

Depth control of serves.

The USA Nationals, Christmas Vacation, and a Sabbatical

After today, I'm taking a short sabbatical from blogging. My next blog will be next Monday, Dec. 19 (right after I return from the USA Nationals), and my next one after that will be when I resume blogging regularly (Mon-Fri) on Dec. 27. 

I'm leaving for the USA Nationals this morning, returning next Saturday. Then on Monday I leave for Santa Barbara, CA, for Christmas with family, returning on a red-eye flight on Christmas night that lands back in Maryland about 8AM on Dec. 26, in time for the MDTTC Christmas camp I coach at that starts that afternoon.

Yes, I know, the Nationals is exactly the time I should have lots to blog about, but I'm going to be extremely busy there, coaching, playing, and attending meetings, and expect to be leaving for the playing site early each morning and returning late.

I'm primarily going to the Nationals to coach, but I'm also entered in three hardbat events: Hardbat Singles (which I've won twice at the Open or Nationals), Over 40 Hardbat (I'm four-time and defending champion) and Hardbat Doubles (I'm 11-time and current champion, and playing with Ty Hoff - we've won it seven times).

I've spent way too much time in recent weeks working on my new table tennis book, watching videos of players that students of mine might be playing, and other sedentary projects at my computer, and now my back has stiffened up again, alas. Hopefully it'll loosen up when I play. However, as is the norm for me (since stiff muscles and coaching regularly don't mix well), I'm continually in a state of various injuries. Currently there's something in the back of my left knee that's hobbling me; my left Achilles tendon feels strained; and there's a strain in my right side. And why is my left big toe hurting? (I think I stepped on something sharp.) Par for me.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

I finished editing it this weekend. The "final" version is 81,066 words, with 21 chapters. In Courier New, double spaced, it prints out at 352 pages. I have a few people who are reading/critiquing it, and I'll probably do one more proofing. I have a publisher interested, though I'm toying with self-publishing. I'll look into the options in January.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminars in the USA

Thirtieth Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy in China

There's a U.S. contingent touring China - and here are links to a number of articles on it. And here's another that features Dell & Connie Sweeris.

Ma Long

Here's an article on the personal side of China's world #1.

Ma Lin's unbelievable (but illegal) serve

Here's a 19-second video of an unbelievable serve by China's Ma Lin. The ball curves so much not because of sidespin, but because of corkscrewspin, with the axis of rotation aimed away from Ma toward the server. (With sidespin, the axis would be up and down.) You can only get this much corkscrewspin with a high-toss serve, such as this one - see how high he tosses the ball. Some other world-class players probably have similar serves, you just don't see several bounces like this because the receiver normally hits the ball after the first bounce - and in this case, Ma has completely fooled the receiver, world champion Zhang Jike, who didn't see the sudden break coming, and thought the serve would go long.

Fantastic serve, but how many people noticed that he illegally hid contact with his arm? Freeze the video at contact and you'll see - you may have to make several attempts to get it. Or just see the image I took from the video. The arrows show the ball and his hand and arm. The rules say:

"From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall ... not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry."

"As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net."

"It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." 

It's possible that the receiver, Zhang, can barely see contact, but it's close - Ma's arm is rapidly moving out of the way, and the split second before this picture, the arm was completely in the way. It's the server's responsibility to serve so the umpire is satisfied that he is serving legally, and no umpire could possibly say that he is satisfied that this serve was not hidden. But we don't even have to go that far - the serve is blatantly illegal since he has left his free arm and hand between the ball and the net.

Table tennis going to the dogs

Let's watch 52 seconds of a Pekingese playing floor table tennis.

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December 2, 2011

Great "multiball" serve, receive, attack drill.

Here's a great "multiball" drill, where neither player actually feeds multiball. Start with a box of balls near the server's side of the table. The server (using his best serves) only serves and attacks one ball, then lets the next ball go by as he grabs the next ball. Receiver returns serve and plays one shot only. Then they repeat, in rapid-fire fashion. The goal of the server is to set up a strong third-ball attack. The goal of receiver is to stop server's attack. Take turns on the drill, with each doing perhaps 5-10 minutes.

You can do variations of this, where the server uses a specific serve over and over, the receiver a specific receive, etc. I posted variations of this drill in the past. The drill is especially valuable for learning to receive effectively. Most rallies at the intermediate and advanced levels don't go much beyond these four shots, so this drill lets you rapidly practice the most important shots of the game - the first two shots by each player.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page yesterday with 14 new photos of six celebrities. New celebrities are basketball players Chris Mullin and Carmelo Anthony, and German soccer player Gunther Netzer (or as they more correctly call it, football). There are also six new pictures of basketball star Yao Ming, and new pictures of actresses Fay Wray and Joan Davis. There are now 1299 pictures of 751 celebrities.

USA Nationals in Ten Days

I leave for the USA Nationals in ten days, on Monday, Dec. 12; events start the next day. I'll be mostly coaching at the Nationals, as well as playing hardbat. Regarding my coaching, it would be very helpful for me if any readers who are not students of mine would refrain from practicing their serves, receives, and other table tennis techniques until after the Nationals. I mean, practice is so passé; if you know the game, just show up and play, right? And practice is such work. So just have fun, don't practice, and me and my students will have lots of fun at the Nationals. Seriously, do not practice your serves - good serves are such a pain to coach against. I don't want to have to remind you again. Thank you for your attention.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Here is the (current) opening to the chapter on Receiving Tactics (5300 words):

"What is your goal when you receive? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering receive tactics. This is no different than thinking about serve tactics, except when you serve, you get to spend time between points deciding which serve to use.

"Receive is the most under-practiced aspect of the game, with serves a close second. Every rally starts with a serve and a receive, and yet players rarely take the time to practice and develop these techniques. Receive is probably the most difficult part of the game to master, and it's doubly hard when players only practice it in actual games. Instead, find a practice partner and take turns practicing your serve and receive.

"Most players are either overly aggressive or too passive when they receive. It's important to find the middle range. However, it is even more important to understand that it is consistency, placement, and variation that are most important."

German soccer players playing table tennis

Here's a video of German soccer players playing table tennis, including Emmanuel Frimpong - yes, "frompong." (1:38). I'll add to Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page next month. 

A History of Table Tennis

All told in 4:51 in this hilarious video by Pierre Knows, from why the name of the game changed from Whiff Whaff to Ping Pong to Table Tennis and why the Chinese still call it Ping Pang. (I think I linked to this video once a long time ago, but I searched my archives and couldn't find it - so if I did, enjoy it again!)

Rallying with a grenade

You read that right - here's a video of two top women rallying with a live grenade (3:34), in slo-mo, in front of a high-class, wine-sipping audience. Warning - has a gory finish.

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November 11, 2011

Half-Long Serves

I've been ruminating on the proper terminology for serves where the second bounce, if given the chance, would go near the end-line. The problem is the definition of a "half-long serve" seems to vary from person to person and region to region. Some say it means the second bounce is just short of the end-line; others say the second bounce is around the end-line (i.e. it might go slightly short or long); and others say the second bounce is just off the end.

I've always called this type (or these types?) of serve a "tweeny serve," but half-long serves seems to be the more popular term among advanced players. One person thought a half-long serve is always slightly long, while a tweeny serve is always slightly short.

Pretty frustrating for us wordsmiths! But the exact terminology isn't nearly as important as understanding these serves, both the execution of them and returning them.

Here's how five-time U.S. Men's Champion and two-time U.S. Olympic team member Sean O'Neill described how to return a half-long serve where the second bounce is slightly long, though you can go a bit over the table and do this against one where the second bounce would be very close to the end-line.

"Keys to remember when attacking these knuckle busters:

1) get closer to the table and often more sideways
2) smaller backswing
3) more upward motion with hands and forearm
4) more shoulder turn after the point of contact

Attacking topspin half longs are a little easier as the ball with help with the lifting. Don't forget to aim deep on your opponent's side and to see where they are vulnerable before hitting the shot."

Day Four at the Writer's Retreat

Yesterday was the fourth day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM, where I'm working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

After typing almost nonstop Mon-Wed, yesterday exhaustion began to set in, and I had my least productive day, and by that, I mean I did more than I had expected to do each day when this retreat began. I "only" did 4856 words, but that brought to 35,419 the total I've written since Monday morning, and 40,275 overall. I figure I'm about two-thirds through the book.

I've been thinking about this book for so long that the words are just pouring out in an explosive torrent of organized and properly formatted text.

I spent most of yesterday writing about specific strategies for various styles, including a very long section on tactics for loopers, as well as sections on tactics for hitters and blockers. I also did some rewriting of some earlier sections. Today I hope to finish the section on tactics for various styles, and move on to the chapters on playing against various grips, surfaces, and styles.

Soon I'll start going through past coaching articles I've written and begin incorporating some of that. (I've done a little of that, but most of what I've written is new.)

Today's quote: "Table tennis is a game of utter complexity and utter simplicity. If you get too caught up in the myriad of complex strategies available, you'll be lost in a sea of uncertainty. If your thinking is too simple, you aren't maximizing your play."

Here is the current Table of Contents. I'm toying with adding an "Odds and Ends" chapter where I can put tactical tips that don't quite fit elsewhere, but so far I think I can fit everything in these chapters. I had a chapter on "Rallying Tactics," but everything in that was incorporated into the chapters on "Conventional and Non-Conventional Tactics" and "Tactics for Specific Styles." Otherwise, things would get a bit redundant. I also might need to add a chapter - do I really want to have thirteen chapters???

  • Introduction
  • Chapter One                Tactical Thinking
  • Chapter Two                Strategic Thinking
  • Chapter Three              All About Spin
  • Chapter Four                Your Tactical Game
  • Chapter Five                Conventional and Non-Conventional Tactics
  • Chapter Six                  Beginning Tactics
  • Chapter Seven              Service Tactics
  • Chapter Eight               Receive Tactics
  • Chapter Nine                Tactics for Specific Styles
  • Chapter Ten                 Playing Different Surfaces
  • Chapter Eleven Playing Different Grips and Styles
  • Chapter Twelve            Doubles Tactics
  • Chapter Thirteen           The Mental Side of Tactics
  • Glossary
  • About the Author
  • Index

Interview Time

The Daily Quarterly did a two-part interview with me. Part 1 went up last Friday. Here's Part 2, which went up this morning. They are the same satirical site that did the spoof of Brad Pitt starring as me in the movie adaptation of my book Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. And so I gave my answers accordingly.

USA Nationals Entries

Want to see who's entered in the USA Nationals (Dec. 13-17, Virginia Beach)? Here's the listing. (Make sure to set the tournament to 2011 US Nationals.) They have 562 entries, and I think they are nearly done, though a few more last-minute ones might be added. Here's the home page for the USA Nationals.

Video of the Day

Here's The Best of Timo Boll (4:35).

Paralympic Table Tennis Pictures

Here are photos taken during table tennis tournaments for disabled, care of Flickr and the ITTF.

Ones in a Lifetime

For those living in a cave or who do not worship weird numbers and dates, twice today the time and date will be 11-11-11 11:11:11, once at 11:11 AM and again at 11:11 PM. (Make sure to set your clock according to official time so you'll know exactly when it's 11 seconds past these two times.) What does this have to do with table tennis? Well, why do you think the ITTF changed the scoring system from 21 to 11 a few years back? Obviously in anticipation of today (won't happen again for 100 years), so that somewhere out there two crazy players can go out and play an 11-11 deuce game at one of the two indicated times. (Here's the CNN article on this.)

And this is spooky. Take the last two digits of the year you were born (60 for me) and add them to your age (51 for me), it'll add up to 111 for those age 12 and over, and to 11 for those 11 and under. (It's basic math, but still fun to see.) 

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October 27, 2011

When to react

Have you ever studied your opponent to see exactly when in his strokes he commits to a specific placement? If not, you are handicapping yourself. Most players commit to a direction before they start their forward swing, and you should be moving to the ball as they start their forward swing. But most players don't react until the opponent has hit the ball, thereby wasting a lot of valuable time. More on this in this Monday's Tip of the Week.

Chinese footwork

These six short videos are perhaps the best videos I've ever seen on footwork, as well as a great example on proper stroking technique. Coach Wang Wen Jie of China explains Chinese footwork - which is pretty much the way all world-class players move, Chinese or otherwise. The various footwork techniques are shown both a regular speed and in slow motion, and explained by the coach.

Physical training for table tennis

A blog reader (who wished to stay anonymous) sent me these videos of physical training for table tennis. I think the titles are in French. There's a bunch of them - enjoy!

Table tennis at its "worst"

I'm not sure why they call it this, but this is a great highlights reel (4:16). It starts off with Samsonov and some magical graphics, then goes on to highlight Samsonov and most of the Chinese and European top players. 

Final of 1973 Worlds

Here's the final eight points (2:59) of the Men's Singles Final at the 1973 World, Kjell Johannson versus Xi Enting. Enting leads 17-14 at the start, then at 19-18, wins on two edge balls in a row!

 

Your next opponent

If you can handle this guy, then you are ready for anyone. Sure, he's bigger than you, has big teeth and bad breath, and will probably eat you if you win, but you're playing for pride. He's a defensive player - he likes to chop things - so be patient and play his middle.

Attendance figures, U.S. Open and USA Nationals

Recently I posted the attendance figures for the USA Nationals, 1994 to present. I've done the same for the U.S. Open. Below are the raw stats (which now includes location) and two graphs. Figures do not include players who played only in doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper. (Hardbat was added in 1997, sandpaper in 2010.)

U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships

USA Table Tennis Nationals

Year

Participants

Location

Year

Participants

Location

2011

548

Milwaukee, WI

2011

?

Virginia Beach

2010

645

Grand Rapids, MI

2010

686

Las Vegas

2009

610

Las Vegas, NV

2009

597

Las Vegas

2008

663

Las Vegas, NV

2008

604

Las Vegas

2007

769

Las Vegas, NV

2007

730

Las Vegas

2006

455

Charlotte, NC

2006

837

Las Vegas

2005

694

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2005

829

Las Vegas

2004

664

Chicago, IL

2004

755

Las Vegas

2003

624

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2003

707

Las Vegas

2002

626

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2002

678

Las Vegas

2001

664

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2001

672

Las Vegas

2000

691

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

2000

686

Las Vegas

1999

613

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

1999

658

Las Vegas

1998

524

Houston, TX

1998

592

Las Vegas

1997

785

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

1997

650

Las Vegas

1996

670

Ft. Lauderdale, FL

1996

613

Las Vegas

1995

580

Anaheim, CA

1995

660

Las Vegas

1994

667

Anaheim, CA

1994

598

Las Vegas

 

 

 

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October 20, 2011

Playing Style and Identity

Yesterday, "R8ng_stinks" posted on the subject of a player's "identity":

"I've been curious about this subject for quite awhile.  When I started playing a few years ago I simply tried to keep the ball on the table.  The best solution, I found, was to glue the ball to the table.  Okay...that really didn't allow play to flow very well.  I played aggressively, had very little control, then moved to a somewhat defensive style.  While trying that, I became aggressively defensive, which, depending on the situation, was not all bad.  But then passive mistakes started killing me.  I switched to an offensive style with slower inverted rubber, but still had control issues and then wanted to "baby" the ball in certain situations.  Control: ZERO.  Passive mistakes seemed burned into my long and short-term memory.  So I dumped the inverted and moved to short pips forehand and backhand.  I have plenty of speed and enough spin, and I can get defensive when necessary.  I'm still a below-average player, but my lack of skill is mostly due to my current inability to maintain focus and mental control."

Then he asked:

"To make a L   O   N   G story short, does a player really need to have an "identity", offensive or defensive?  How about "can't decide," or "I have no idea"?  Does the style define the player, or does the player define the style?  Does it matter at all, as long as the play is effective?"

When he writes of a player's "identity," I think that roughly means his playing style. I think the key question is the last line: "Does it matter at all, as long as the play is effective?" If the play is effective, then that play, whatever it is, is the playing style. The player must be doing something to win the points, whether it is looping, hitting, blocking, all-around consistent play, serve & attack, etc. Whatever ingredients being used to make this play effective, taken together is the playing style, i.e. the player's identity.

There are no two identical styles, though they can be similar and to some, seemingly identical. The pieces come together in different ways. For example, if you watch Cheng Yinghua, who was the U.S. #1 player for ten years and a former member of the Chinese National Team, you'll see three distinct styles meshed together - two-winged looping, all-out forehand looping, and a blocking game - as well as many aspects of former greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Tibor Klampar, since early on Cheng copied their games as a practice partner for the Chinese National Team. And so all these parts of Cheng's game came together into a distinct playing style, his playing identity.

How do you develop your own playing style or identity? It's a combination of three things - things that work for you, things that you or your coach believe will work for you if you develop them, and things you want to be part of your game. Put these things together, practice them, get lots of match experience, and gradually you will develop a playing style.

And what is this playing style? It's whatever you do that makes your play effective.

The other question was, "Does the style define the player, or does the player define the style?" I think he is asking whether a player's style develops on its own and defines the player, or whether the player decide on his style and define himself. (If this isn't the question, it's still a great question to answer!) It works both ways. For example, early on I developed a nice forehand tomahawk serve. Because players kept popping it up, I developed good footwork and a nice forehand smash. And so my playing style developed on its own, based on certain strengths (the serve) and the corresponding strengths that developed because of this (footwork and a forehand smash). But I decided I needed a strong forehand loop, and so spent a huge amount of time developing that, as well as a forehand pendulum serve that would set up my loop. And so a big part of my game became serve & loop - and so I defined my own style by developing this.

Interview with Barney J. Reed

Here's an interesting interview with Barney J. Reed on the mytabletennis.net forum. And for those not in the know, Barney J. Reed is the one who was on the U.S. National Team for a number of years (is now coaching), while Barney D. Reed is the father and table tennis coach. How can you keep track? "J" for Junior and "D" for Dad.

Did you practice your serves this week?

Just askin'.

Who are the original pictures of?

Here's the poster for the satirical movie based on my book, Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, with Brad Pitt and Michael Cera photoshopped onto two table tennis players. Anyone recognize the pictures and know who the players were before their heads were replaced by Pitt's and Cera's? (If you want more info on this poster, see my blog this week on Monday and Tuesday, and the original article.)

USA Nationals

Today is the deadline for entering the USA Nationals without a late fee (Virginia Beach, Dec. 13-17). After today, and through Nov. 1, you can still enter, but with a $75 late fee. So enter now! I'll be there, coaching and playing in three hardbat events. (I normally use sponge, but don't like to play sponge events in tournaments where I'm primarily coaching. I'm the defending and four-time champion in Over 40 Hardbat and defending and ten-time champion in Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff, my partner last year and in six of the ten doubles titles).

Tomorrow I'm writing about the rise and fall in the number of entries at the USA Nationals (though there was a small uptick last year), including a graph, with the big question: What will the final numbers be for this year's Nationals? Stay tuned!

Rafael Nadal

Here's 15 seconds of tennis star Rafael Nadal playing table tennis. Someone get him a shirt.

Yoda's Ping-Pong School

To a young Luke Skywalker, table tennis Yoda teaches (1:13). Or something like that.

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September 6, 2011

Better shots = Win More?

Not always right away. Every year about this time lots of junior players have just finished a summer of training, either locally or often overseas, most often in China. (We had eight juniors from Maryland Table Tennis Center training in China this summer.) They all now have better shots, some devastatingly so. I watched a couple of them after they returned, and got this deep-down tingling of fear - I have to face that on the table soon!

And yet, when they go out to play, while they dominate the rallies, and do one "woh!" shot after another, their results often are no better than before, or even worse. The problem is that while they have better shots, they are not yet experienced in how to use those better shots. For example, if they now have a much more powerful forehand loop, they may use it more - and end up missing off serves that they would have returned more passively (and consistently) before. In rallies the may be able to pull off shots that they couldn't do before - but they are also missing shots that they may not have tried before. And then uncertainty sets in - they aren't sure when to use what shots, and so they spiral downward. (As an experienced player and coach, I know exactly how tactically to play into this uncertainty. Do you? Hint - lots of variation. Actually, that's pretty much the whole answer.)

It can be pretty disappointing for a player to do all that training, develop these better shots, and seem to have nothing to show for it!

But the good news is that this is temporary. They just need match experience, and soon they will become the terrors that their shots already are.

This applies not just to juniors but to all players who train and improve. It's like an archer who is handed a high-powered rifle for the first time. He has a much better weapon, but he probably needs to learn how to use the thing first. When he does, watch out!

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee teaches heavy backspin

Here's a video (9:44) of Richard McAfee teaching what I call the scooping method of serving heavy backspin. Most players try to serve backspin by stroking down, when they should be stroking up. Don't believe it? See the video. And note that the contact point is toward the front of the ball as the racket goes under the ball. Here's a general rule: beginning players mostly contact the ball above the ball's equator. Intermediate players mostly contact the ball around the ball's equator. Advanced players mostly contact the ball well below the ball's equator, near the south pole. Are you a south pole server?

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee teaches an ITTF Coaching Seminar

Yes, here's Richard again, teaching an ITTF Coaching Seminar at the Lily Yip Table Tennis Center in New Jersey (31:14).

USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee in another headline

Because I like to do things in threes. Because I like to do things in threes. Because I like to do things in threes.

USA Nationals and North American Teams

Yep, it's time to start thinking about attending the USA Nationals, Dec. 13-17 in Virginia Beach, VA. Will you be there? The other huge upcoming USA tournament is the North American Teams, Nov. 25-27 in Baltimore, MD. Both of these tournaments will have in the range of 700-800 players. It so happens that for the first time probably ever, both tournaments are on the east coast, and in fact just a three-hour drive apart. So this is a rare "two-for" opportunity for many on the east coast - we can all become road warriors and drive to these tournaments, along with the many others held on the east coast. Of course, there are plenty of tournaments in other regions as well, including some big ones.

My tentative fall tournament schedule

I expect to be at the following tournaments. I'll only be coaching at them, except for the Millcreek Open and the USA Nationals, where I'll also probably play in the hardbat events. (I normally use sponge.)

  • Sept. 10-11, MDTTC Open, MD
  • Sept. 24-25, Lily Yip Open, NJ
  • Oct. 8-9, Westchester Open, NY
  • Oct. 15-16, MDTTC Open, MD
  • Oct. 22, Millcreek Open, PA
  • Nov. 5, Two-Tier Giant RR in Lancaster, PA
  • Nov. 25-27, North American Teams, MD
  • Dec. 3-4, Potomac Open, MD
  • Dec. 13-17, USA Nationals, VA

New table tennis tables

I have no idea how to play on these tables. After 35 years of playing and over 30 years of coaching, I'm stumped.

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