One-Day Camp

March 31, 2014

Tip of the Week

Get the Right Feel.

Friday Camp

It was a busy weekend of coaching, though strangely not as busy as usual as I had Sunday morning off for a change, due to a pair of out-of-town students. However, that was offset by our one-day camp on Friday, where I coached from 10AM to 6PM. Schools were closed that day for "Professional Day."

We had another snowstorm on Sunday afternoon, with about 2-3 inches here in Germantown - enough is enough!!! It's been "Spring" for eleven days now. (Hmmm . . . "days now" is one space away from "day snow," which is what happened yesterday.) I'm personally contacting the beings responsible and putting a stop to this. There will be no more snow here in Maryland until December.  

Here's a funny incident that took place during the Friday camp. I called a bunch of the beginning kids together to teach them how to serve. My first question to the seven in the group (ages 6-9) was, "How many of you know how to serve?" Nearly all of them raised their hands. So I asked for volunteers to show how to serve. I wish I had a video of what followed as we got sort of a who's who for every stereotypical illegal basement serve possible!!! One kid did the typical basement serve where he bounced the ball on the table and then hit it directly over the net. One kid reached way over the table to get as close to the net as he could to serve. One simply tossed the ball up and hit it directly to the other side of the table. All but one of them grabbed the ball with their fingertips.

Only one of the kids knew how to actually serve somewhat legal - he'd come to a few of my group sessions - but even he didn't come to a complete stop, cupped his hand severely, and hit the ball in front of the end-line. I'm not picky about the serving rules with beginning kids, so the main focus after this was to get them to serve just roughly legal. I didn't enforce the ball in the palm of the hand, as younger kids have trouble with that, and if contact was sometimes made an inch over the table, so be it. They'll learn better as they play more. For now, I just wanted them to be able to get the ball in play, which is surprisingly difficult for younger kids when they first start out.

However, even if they were struggling just to get the serve in play, one of the things I always like to do is show beginners advanced serves, so they realize there's a lot more to learn than just getting the ball in play. I show them a few spin serves, and they are hooked - they want to learn to do that. So after they had practiced basic serves for a while I called them together and gave them a demo of spin serves - backspin serves that came back into the net (to a chorus of "Woh!"), sidespin serves that broke sharply, and topspin serves that jumped. Then I let them take turns trying to return the serves, giving them mostly spin serves, an occasional speed serve, and (when I was feeling diabolical) a high backspin serve that bounced directly back to my side of the table. (I then showed them how to hit this serve for a winner by standing to the side of the table.)

I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin I was putting on the balls, and had them try to spin the balls off their rackets for practice. At this point they all wanted to learn to put spin on their serves, and even the ones who had never served before were soon trying to serve with backspin - and all of them got at least a semblance of spin on their serves. A few also spent time trying to serve fast serves.

Table Tennis Tips

My new book, "Table Tennis Tips," will be out by the end of April. It's a compilation of all 150 Tips of the Week I wrote every Monday from January 2011 to December 2013, organized in logical progression. It's basically done, both the text and covers, but it's being proofed by a few people before I finalize it.

Tournament Table Tennis

Here's a new video (2:04) that previews Brian Pace's new upcoming video, Tournament Table Tennis. The preview, which has some nice comparisons to martial arts, starts off with a compilation of some scary forehand loops by Brian, and then highlights the techniques used with spoken quotes from Bruce Lee.

Highlights of the U.S. Team Qualifiers

Jim Butler, who has gone from table tennis star to muscle expert to video expert (and still a table tennis star - he made the U.S. team again!) put together highlight videos for all eight players who qualified for the USA Team at the USA Team Trials. They are all linked (along with lots of other videos) at the USA Table Tennis Video page. Included are videos featuring Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang, Erica Wu, Timothy Wang, Adam Hugh, Yahao Zhang, and Jim Butler. There's also a 2014 US World's Men's Team Highlights video (14:25).

Amazing Point at Para South American Games

Here's the video (1:07) of this great point.

Spring Break Training

Here's video (1:41) of Sean O'Neill's daughter Kaitlyn in training, set to the Oscar-winning song "Let it Go." Most impressive thing to me as a coach: she keeps her free hand up, allowing balance, which leads to easier moving as well as shoulder turn on the forehand. This is one of those little things that younger kids have trouble doing unless you keep reminding them. Oh, and the thumbs up at the end of each segment was nice!

Youngest ITTF World Tour Winners

Here's the article on a pair of 13-year-olds from Japan that won Women's Doubles at the German Open (Mima Ito and Miu Hirano). The picture of their faces was taken when they were told they had won $5000.

New Yorker Cartoon Editor Bob Mankoff and Table Tennis

Here's an article in the Washington Post on Mankoff that features his love for table tennis. Here's the opening paragraph: "Bob Mankoff does more than like ping-pong. He is a man in efficient and focused motion as his paddle smacks each reply with the precision of a punch line. Bap. A forehand sharp as a verbal half-volley. Boop. A backhanded ball cut as thin as a slice-of-life joke. Bam. The clean put-away that requires an almost silly degree of exertion on what he says is a laughably small field of play. But then, this is what Mankoff has been doing most of his comedic career, too: Creating inventive angles and sly spins and rhythmic tricks with relentless attention to detail, as if necessity were the Jewish mother of invention."

Concrete Outdoor Ping Pong Tables Soon to Adorn NYC Parks

Here's the article.

Double-Bladed Paddle

Remember the double-bladed light saber used by Darth Maul in Star Wars 1? (Hey, forget about Jar Binks already!) Well, here's a double-bladed ping-pong paddle! I want one….

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February 17, 2014

Tip of the Week

Five-Ball Attack.

Most Difficult Questions for Coaches and Players

For me, here are the seven most difficult judgment calls for each student. I could write entire blogs and Tips on each. Whether you're a coach or a player, you too should be thinking about these things. (Readers, let me know if there are any below you'd like me to elaborate on.) 

  • When to stop serious tinkering with the forehand and backhand loops.
  • How much to topspin the backhand.
  • When to go to advanced tensor sponges.
  • Whether they should play tournaments when working on something new.
  • Balance of rote drills, random drills, and game-type play.
  • How much to focus on counterlooping on forehand, as opposed to blocking.
  • How to motivate them.

One-Day Camp

Today we have a one-day camp at MDTTC. Schools are closed because of President's Day. Come join us, 10AM-6PM! (There's a two-hour lunch break, with Chinese food delivered to the club.) It'll be mostly kids, but adults are welcome as well. No lectures today; just training.

Beginning/Intermediate Class

I have a new 10-week beginning/intermediate class starting tonight, 6:30-8:00 PM. The class is for beginners up to roughly 1500. I've been playing around with the schedule a bit, and made some changes from past sessions. For session one, we're going to focus on the grip, stance, and forehand, but I'm also going to introduce them to spin serves, starting with some exercises where they learn to create spin, and working our way to Seriously Spinny Serves. (Do you have SSS?) It's going to be a long day, with the one-day camp (see above) and then the class.

Table Tennis Tips Status

My newest book is now at the proofing stage. Sometime this week I plan on taking all 208 pages (single spaced, with 86,000 words) to Ledos and spend a day proofing and eating pizza. Except for the cover, this one is all text. It's a compilation of all 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, but now in one volume and in an orderly fashion, organized by topic instead of by the date it happened to go up. I'm also going to write an intro to some of the Tips. The cover is done; I'll post it sometime soon.

Snow

We ended up with 19 inches of snow at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. We closed for one day, while local schools closed for two. I didn't want to shovel snow since it'd inevitably lead to back problems. Here's the way I see it. The powerful forces of nature dropped snow on us, and the powerful forces of nature will eventually melt it away. Who is mankind to defy nature with their puny snow shovels? (However, the people I rent to downstairs shoveled the front area, solving the problem. But I did eventually shovel out my car so I could get to club to coach, and yes, I did feel twinges in my back, my knees, and my foot. But hopefully nothing serious.) 

U.S. Open Entry Form

Here it is! And here's the U.S. Open page.

Stellan Documentary

Here's a documentary (5:12) on Sweden's 1971 World Men's Singles Champion and San Diego coach Stellan Bengtsson.

Robot Table Tennis

Last Tuesday I blogged about the upcoming "challenge" between Timo Boll and the table tennis robot Kuka. Who'll win? Duh!!! Timo will easily win. There's no way the robot will be able to react to his spins (looping, pushing, serving, etc.), and I doubt it it'll react to the speed of his shots either. Maybe someday in the future. While Kuka may be the best table tennis playing robot right now, I don't think he's going to be able to go from basic beginner to advanced in two years. Here's where robotic table tennis (3:06) was about two years ago.

Wang Hao's Son

Here he is - meet Wang Ruiting!

Michael Ealy vs. Soo Yeon Lee

Here's the video (3:43). The two squared off on the Arsenio Show. Guess who won between actor Ealy (the self-proclaimed master of table tennis) and pro player Lee?

Table Tennis Ballboy Tutorial

Here's the hilarious video (3:32). I especially like the training sequences starting at 2:07.

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