MDTTC Open

October 19, 2012

Developing Your Smash

So many players have this strange idea that the best way to develop a forehand or backhand smash is to, well, smash a lot. It seems to make sense, but isn't always the best way. I've seen this in student after student - they work on smashing by smashing a lot, and the balls spray all over the place as they ingrain the habit of spraying the ball all over the place. Smashing is, first and foremost, a precision shot, and if you practice smashing by spraying the ball all over the place, you are being counterproductive.

Instead, focus on driving the ball only at the pace that you can control, and develop the precision at that speed. As you get better, increase the speed. If you find yourself spraying the ball all over the place, take it down a notch. Precision comes from good technique and timing, and these are things you should work on at a pace you can control. Spraying the ball over the place is a great way to develop bad technique and poor timing. (I may expand this into a Tip of the Week.)

MDTTC Open - Last Chance

If you live within 100 miles of Gaithersburg, Maryland, then enter the MDTTC October Open this weekend or we will go online and steal rating points from you. Yes, we can do that. I'll take entries at least until 7PM tonight. 

Here are the top seeds as of now:

  1. Wang Qing Liang (2621)
  2. Chen Bo Wen (2516)
  3. Richard Lee (2424)
  4. Raghu Nadmichettu (2328)
  5. Larry Abass (2320)
  6. Nathan Hsu (2312)

Senior and Hardbat/Sandpaper Camps

The training camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center are open to all ages and levels, but because we have so many junior players, they tend to be dominated by junior players. Most camps have a few non-juniors, but not many. So essentially we run junior camps.

I've been thinking about doing specialized camps for other groups, such as senior camps. Back in the 1990s for a few years we had senior camps, where you had to be over age 40 (though we let some "youngsters" in if we believed they were "old at heart"). Most of the attendees were in their 60s. For some reason, after filling the camp several years in a row, one year we had a small turnout, and we stopped running them. Perhaps we should bring them back? There are some differences in running a camp for seniors, besides the obvious fact that people tend to prefer training with their own age group. With juniors, you run them to death with footwork drills, and with faster and faster rallying drills as you work to increase their speed to beyond human recognition. That's not going to work with most 60-year-olds. Instead, they'd do more steady drills, focusing on control and ball placement, as well as variation. There's also more combination rackets, with lots of long pips, so we focus more on both playing with and against such rackets. There are also more choppers and blockers, so we coach a lot on playing with those styles and against them. We don't teach too many 60-year-olds to race around the court looping everything.

Another camp I'm toying with running would be one for hardbat and sandpaper. There's been a strong hardbat movement in the U.S. since the late 1990s, and now sandpaper play is on the rise, to the great consternation of many, including the upcoming $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong. I'm a many-time national hardbat champion and pretty handy with sandpaper as well, and more importantly, I understand how you play with these rackets from a coaching point of view, so perhaps it's time to run a camp and teach these techniques? At the very least, it'll give a chance for hardbat and sandpaper aficionados to train together.

European Championships - Michael Maze vs. Stefan Fegerl

The European Championships are in Herning, Denmark this year, Oct. 17-21. Here's the home page (in English). Here's the Men's Singles Draw and the Women's Singles draw. And here's a video (8:19, with the time between points removed) of a nice first round match (in the main draw, after the preliminaries), where Stefan Fegerl of Austria (world #131, European #53) upsets Michael Maze of Denmark (the lefty, world #15, European #4), 5,7,7,-10,-10,8.

Table Tennis Nation Uncovers the Canadian Scandal

Eugene Zhen Wang, the top-ranked player in North America, had his Canadian citizenship rushed through for the Olympics, according to this article at Table Tennis Nation. Perhaps the U.S. should invite the Chinese team over, and hold them hostage while we rush through their U.S. citizenship. 

Angry Ball

Don't mess with this 3-star ball.

Circular Table Tennis Triples

I'm not going to describe it. Just see the picture.

Non-Table Tennis - Buzzy Story

Today my story "Running with the Dead" went online at Buzzy Magazine, one of the highest paying science fiction & fantasy markets in the U.S. This is the story of a dead kid who wants to attend high school and run as a miler on the track team. He faces not only public pressure to quit - the country is mostly against letting dead people attend school - but also the captain of the track team and leader of the "Mile Mafia," the very person who murdered him one year before. Here's the first paragraph:

Ben closed his eyes as he jogged on the bike path through the forest, enjoying the cool misty early-morning breeze on his dead flesh. He could feel his dried-up heart loosely bouncing up and down inside his chest cavity in rhythm to his long strides. Toby, his pet mouse, squeaked in protest as he anchored himself deep inside his hole in Ben’s stomach, his claws dug firmly into the lining. It tickled.

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October 18, 2012

MDTTC October Open and Tournament Scheduling

This weekend I'm running the MDTTC October Open in Gaithersburg, Maryland (that's USA). Come join us for a weekend of competitions! Top entries so far include Wang Qing Liang (2621), Chen Bo Wen (2516), Raghu Nadmichettu (2328), and Nathan Hsu (2310), and I expect a few more. We're giving away $2600 in prize money, and much larger trophies than before. If you are playing in the tournament, here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success.

For those of you scared of facing under-rated juniors who spent all summer training in our camps, relax - most gained a zillion points in our last tournament. Besides, if you do lose to a 60-pound kid with a rating 500 points lower than his level, it'll be something to talk about years from now when that player becomes a superstar. It's sometimes fun to watch these up-and-coming kids and guess which ones are going to become the superstars. Also, remember that if one of these kids has a really good tournament - including a win over you - he'll get an adjusted rating, and you'll only lose rating points to the adjusted rating, not his starting one. In fact, by losing to him in an upset, you greatly increase the chances of his getting adjusted!

There's a downside to my running these tournaments - it conflicts with my coaching schedule, where I'm busiest on weekends. Each time I run one I have to do a series of cancellations, postponements, reschedulings, and substitutions. For some players with less flexible schedules, it means they miss their weekly session, which isn't always fair to them. I may have to recruit someone to take over to run our tournaments next year. (Any volunteers? You do get paid! Not a huge amount, but at least $200 per tournament, more if there's a good turnout.)

We could also use a few more umpires. We have a referee, of course, but for umpires we often have to hen-peck someone into going out there. There are only a few certified umpires locally. I'm a certified umpire, but I'm running the tournament. (For those not clear on this, referees make sure the rules are followed - legal draws, clothing, rules interpretations, etc. - but do not umpire unless they can assign someone else to take their place as referee. Umpires are the ones who go out to the table to keep score and make sure rules are followed in individual matches. Directors do the actual running of the tournament.)

I ran all the MDTTC tournaments in the 1990s and early 2000s. (I've run over 200 USATT sanctioned tournaments lifetime, mostly at MDTTC and at the Northern Virginia Club in the 1980s, plus a few at nearby Club JOOLA, and in Colorado and North Carolina, as well as the 4-star Eastern Open in 1998.) Last month was the first one I ran in nearly a decade, and this will be my second.

There are a few minor problems with the scheduling that I hope to work out for next year, but for now we'll have to go with the event schedule. The main problem is that the events are scheduled each day so the lowest event starts first, then the next lowest, and so on. This means that the players who advance to the playoffs in each event are usually the highest rated players in the event, and they are also the ones most likely to be playing in the next highest event - and so there's a lot of conflict as the same players are in the playoffs and the new event.

If, instead, the highest events were to go first, then the ones advancing to the playoffs, usually the highest rated in the event, usually aren't not eligible for the next lowest event, which would be the next one starting. The downside to this is that it would mean the first event starting would be the highest event, which on one day would be the Open - and for some reason, the "top" players often don't like playing early in the morning. Alas. So instead it might be best to start with the highest rating events and work down, and schedule the Open a little later in the day.

The other option is to alternate events, i.e. a high one, then a low one, etc.  The downside to that is that players have to wait longer between events if they are playing in two consecutive rating events.

Pictures from ITTF Coaching Seminar in India

Here are more pictures from the ITTF coaching seminars that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in India.

Backspin/No-Spin Serves

Here's a video from PingSkills (1:56) on varying your serve between heavy backspin and no-spin.

Incredible Shots

Here's a highlights video of great shots that I hadn't seen or put up before (6:05).

Ping/Pong the Palindromic Book?

Here's the book, and below is the description they give. That's all I know, folks!

PING/PONG is the first palindromic book. It may be read the same way in either direction. The book stages a thrilling game of table-tennis in which the front and back covers face off in an never-ending rally. A unique and interactive reading experience! This 200 pages book was my contribution to the project Babel on demand: a monumental manifesto initiated by Étienne Hervy and Émilie Lamy for the International Graphic Design Festival of Chaumont.

"Life with Elizabeth" Ping-Pong, Part 2

Yesterday I linked to a video of a humorous ping-pong routine from the 1952-1956 TV show "Life with Elizabeth," starring Betty White. (It starts about 30 seconds in and lasts about four minutes.) It turns out they had another one, in the episode entitled "Remorse Code." Here's the video, with the link taking you directly to where the table tennis starts (at 16:19). There's a short break from the table tennis, but watch to the end (at 25:38). You'll meet the dumbest and most literal-mined ping-pong player ever. (Special thanks to Scott Gordon for finding the "Life with Elizabeth" video from yesterday, and to Jay Turberville for finding the one today.)

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September 19, 2012

Serve Practice - It Pays Off!

Last week I played a practice match with a local top player. He had trouble with my side-top forehand pendulum and reverse pendulum serves to his forehand, which kept going slightly long, but he kept looping them off. Near the end he finally adjusted and started looping them in. I had to mostly switch to other serves to win - barely.

So this weekend I practiced serves for 15 minutes. The main adjustment for both versions (pendulum and reverse pendulum) was to focus on contacting the ball a bit more to the side, and making sure contact was very low to the table. Then I played the top player again, and this time I was able to keep them short when I wanted. I varied short and slightly long (i.e. "half-long" or "tweeny" serves where second bounce would be barely off the end), and he never adjusted, and I won again, using these serves right to the end. (I also threw in no-spin and backspin serves, but the side-top serves were the mainstay here.)

Willy Mays and Other Table Tennis Dreams

This was a strange one. I dreamed I was an elderly Willy Mays at the plate in a baseball game. (Not sure why it was Willy Mays - I'm an Orioles fan! See segment at end.) They walked me on four pitches, including a brush-back pitch that I had to dive to avoid. So next time up I brought a ping-pong paddle, and began spraying topspin shots over the infielder's heads for hits! (The ball seemed to be a baseball-sized ping-pong ball.) No idea why they kept pitching to me and why I didn't run to first base; I was having a blast smacking shots just over the infielder's reach, and letting the topspin pull the ball down before outfielders could get to it!

Then I suddenly dropped one short - a bunt! I took off for first. The throw was wild, and I ran for second. Right about here is when I noticed that all the infielders were waving ping-pong paddles at me. I continued around the bases, rounding second, third, and slid into home as the catcher slapped a ping-pong paddle down on my foot - but he didn't have the ball, so I was safe. I threw the paddle up in the air, and a bird flew by and grabbed it, and flew off with my paddle in its beak. I yelled at it, and that's when I woke up.

Here are four other blogs where I've described weird table tennis dreams:

  • U.S. Open Table Tennis Dream - involving Tong Tong Gong, Arnold Schwarzenegger, murderous black-clad men with black umbrellas, and playing with an illegal book as a racket.
  • U.S. Olympic Trials Dream - where I'm coaching both sides in a Dan Seemiller-Han Xiao match, involving Citizens United, Diana Gee McGonnell, Randy Seemiller, and lots of people demanding I coach them.
  • Table Tennis Foot Dream - where I'm playing table tennis on a street in the middle of a battle, with bullets and explosions all around, and my foot gets shot off, and I keep trying to jam it back on while still playing.
  • Dan Seemiller Ping-Pong Waiter Dream - where I'm trying to convince our local juniors of the riches they can make at table tennis, then Dan Seemiller shows up as the waiter, and I argue how much money he makes as a waiter because of his table tennis skills. 

Three Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? Admit it; don't you dream about how you one day show up at a tournament and beat the best players and win the Open? Well, this could be the one! But if you don't compete, by default you get beat! (Does that make sense? How about, "If you don't show, you can't beat a foe"? Or "If you don't compete, it won't be sweet"?)

Erica Wu and Other White House photos

The link to the Erica Wu picture yesterday with President Obama was inadvertently linked to the picture of Lily Zhang with Obama. Here is the correct picture! And here's a picture of the USA Olympic Table Tennis Team with Malia Obama, and here's Women's Coach Doru Gheorghe with Michelle Obama. (The pictures were taken at the Olympic reception held at the White House on Sept. 14.)

Zhang Jike: Wealthy Bachelor

And here's the article about it!

No-Armed Man Plays Table Tennis

This 24-second video is unbelievable - he holds the paddle in his mouth, and serves by tossing the ball up with his bare foot!

Traffic Light Pong in Germany!

Here's the video (1:22) - yes, you can now play Pong with strangers while waiting for the light to turn green!

Exhibition Trick Serves

Here's a short video from PingSkills (1:19) demonstrating exhibition trick serves. I do these same trick serves when I do exhibitions - they are great fun.

Behind the Back Table Tennis

Try rallying like this - and you have to wear all red!

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Baseball

I'm an Orioles fan, the only sports team I follow. This year they are in a pennant race, with an 84-64 record and tied for first in the American League East with the Yankees, with 14 games left to play. They also hold a three-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels in the Wild Card Race, so they have two ways to make the playoffs. (They just won an incredible 18-inning game last night - down 0-2 in the ninth, they scored two, and finally scored two more in the 18th inning to win! It's their near-record 14th consecutive extra-inning win this season - after losing the first two times, they are now 14-2 in extra innings.)

I'm sort of infamous as Larrytt on the Orioles Hangout forum for my Top Ten Lists (and other humorous listings or stories). When I do one they really like, the Orioles Hangout staff publish it as a feature on their front page. This morning they published my latest, "Top Twelve Things Happening the Last Time the Orioles Had a Winning Season." (The Orioles just had 14 straight losing seasons.) Here are the seven they have published. Note that some might not make sense if you aren't familiar with Orioles baseball. (My personal favorite is the story "The Wonderful World of Os," though many will miss the inside jokes.)

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September 12, 2011

Tip of the Week:

The Myth of Thinking Too Much

MDTTC Open and Receive

I spent much of the weekend watching and coaching at the MDTTC Open. One thing became obvious, as if it weren't obvious already - the large majority of points were won or lost on serve & receive, steadiness versus missing easy shots, and awkward footwork. Probably 70% of coaching was about choosing the serves and figuring out how to return the opponent's problem serves. Remember, when receiving, emphasize placement and consistency!

Here are some articles I've written on returning serves:

Adjusting the receive ready position for specific opponents

One thing that came up a couple times during the tournament was ready position when receiving. While all players should have a standard ready position when receiving, sometimes you might want to adjust this against certain opponents. One player I coached had a very forehand-oriented receive position, which helped him to use his forehand to loop long serves and flip short serves. One opponent had a tricky serve that always looked like it was going to the backhand - but at the last second the opponent would often drop a short, spinny serve very short to the forehand, catching opponent after opponent off guard. The first time out against this player, the forehand-oriented player lost almost primarily because of this serve, which caught him over and over. They played again, and this time he won by (I'm told, I didn't see the match) standing more in a backhand stance, ready to cover that short serve.

I probably vary my receive positions more than most. I have my extreme forehand position, where I stand well to the left, somewhat jammed to the table so I can easily flip or drop short balls with my forehand, or forehand loop deep serves quick off the bounce. I have my neutral stance, where I favor receiving most serves with my backhand, often flipping or rolling them deep to the opponent's backhand to get into a neutral exchange. And I have numerous variations in between. Sometimes I change my ready position as my opponent is serving. Against some players (especially juniors) I even have my chopping stance (centered, a step off table, right foot slightly in front), where I chop the serve back and then (usually) go back to a more neutral ready position. (Sometimes I just stay back and chop.)

And then the roof caved in....

I had a Newgy robot throughout the 1990s, but sometime in the early 2000's or so it disappeared. I'd thought it had been stolen. However, a week ago I noticed what looked like the top of a robot sticking up on the roof of the large closet area by the office. Almost for sure it was my long-lost robot.

On Saturday morning I came in early to warm up John Olsen for the MDTTC Open. We decided this would be a good time to get the robot down. So we brought over the MDTTC ladder (for changing lights), and I went up. There were dozens of boxes up there, as well as the robot. Since the roof was supporting all those boxes, it looked sturdy enough to support my weight. (You now know where this is going.) I did test it, and it seemed to hold my weight - at first. And then it didn't. I fell through the roof. Fortunately, I was able to grab hold of the metal girders so I didn't completely fall through. I was able to still reach the robot, balanced precariously on the caved-in roof, and handed it down to John before coming down myself. So my robot and I were reunited.

On Sunday night John came in with some tools and, along with help from Kevin Walton, we fixed the roof. The boxes that had been sitting up there for years were full of junk and were thrown out.

Viktor Barna would be 100

Here's an article from the ITTF on possibly our greatest champion, five-time men's singles world champion Viktor Barna, who would have turned 100 on Aug. 24.

Ninja Nunchuck Ping-Pong

You've probably seen the (yes it's fake) video of Bruce Lee playing table tennis with nunchucks (2:38). Well, here's an even funnier video of ninja twins playing with nunchucks, karate kicks, and multiple balls (2:11).

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