2014 Youth Olympic Games

August 19, 2014

Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and Player Selection

I've been raising heck via email recently over what happened at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open. And perhaps I actually accomplished something, though too late for this time. Here's what happened.

There are limited number of entries for each country, and so each country has to work out rules for who can represent them. A number of USA juniors had paid their own way, and wanted to play singles. (All were able to play doubles and teams, but there weren't enough openings for singles.) According to the rules set by the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC), first and then second priority goes to those who made the National Junior Team (top four), and then the National B Team (next four). That's good so far. But after that, next priority went to players who were from "USATT Hot Spots," which really means ITTF Hot Spots in the U.S. There are four in the U.S., but MDTTC (my club) is not one. The application process goes through USATT, and we started this process in September, 2013. Unfortunately it turns out ITTF is no longer approving new Hot Spots while it rethinks the concept, and so we are not an ITTF Hot Spot, though we obviously qualify, and are one of USATT's eight National Centers of Excellence.

What does all this mean? A member of our club, Nathan Hsu, a U.S.-born citizen rated 2416, is training in China right now, and wanted to play Under 18 Singles at the Hong Kong Open. He's been playing very well recently, even knocking off a 2648 player at the U.S. Open, his best win ever. But he had not made one of the USA Teams at the Trials in December, and so because of the rules set up by USATT, priority went to members of Hot Spots. Result? Because he played at the "wrong club," Nathan wasn't allowed to play singles. Instead, two players rated 1792 (age 14) and 1864 (age 17), who played at the "right club," were entered and represented USA in singles at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open (along with others who were on USA Teams).

Think about that. There were two spots open, and we had players rated 2416, 1864, and 1792. None were on the USA Team. One had a world ranking (Nathan, #298 in Under 18). But the choice was made not by the player's ranking or level, but by which club he played at! And so the two players with ratings around 1800 represented USA in singles, while the 2400+ player sat on the sidelines and watched. He was punished for not playing at the "right club." Can you imagine trying to explain that to Nathan? Or in a court of law? Or to the U.S. Olympic Committee? This is not about the two players who played, their club, or their coach; it's about very bad rules set up by USATT that led to a very unfair outcome.

Even if you decide choosing players based on what club they play at rather than their actual ranking or level is somehow okay, ITTF is no longer accepting Hot Spots, so there's no way of becoming one. (Full disclosure - not only does Nathan play at my club, but I often coach him, especially in tournaments. There's even a picture of me coaching him and his brother John in doubles on the back cover of my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book.)

In fairness to the HPC, the chair, Carl Danner, who I greatly respect, explained that they never anticipated this result, and that the surge of interest among parents to send their kids to these international events was unprecedented. He said that part of the intent of the rule was to recognize the most advanced training centers, and a freeze on the Hot Spot designations was unexpected. He said that in light of this experience, he will recommend changing the rule.

I accept that the HPC never expected this outcome, but I sure wish I'd been in the room or saw a draft of this when they were creating the rules to point out the unfairness. Creating rules have consequences. Choosing players to play in international events based on what club they play at isn't fair, and it turns them into pawns, to be given out to favored clubs like chattel - something that they somehow never foresaw. It's too late for Nathan - this was his last chance to compete in junior events. However, he'll continue to train hard for future events.

Maryland Table Tennis Center Video

Here's the video (1:50) created by Evan Sery created by last week. Much of it features Coach Jack Huang, but most of the taping is from a junior session I'm running - you can hear me coaching and yelling out things in the background.

Trip to Zoo (Non-Table Tennis)

Yesterday we had a small turnout in our MDTTC camp, and so I wasn't needed. (Besides, the other coaches need the money more - outside my coaching I have writing income.) So I decided to take most of the day off from everything, and took the subway to the National Zoo in Washington DC! I hadn't been there since I was a kid, probably over 40 years ago. I enjoyed both the animals and the fresh air. Here are the most memorable moments there.

  • I had pizza for lunch. Pigeons and smaller birds were all over, and so I decided to feed them. A large crowd of them gathered! We're not supposed to feed the zoo animals, but I think this was okay. I think. At least I wasn't dragged away in chains, though there were a few moments I thought the birds were getting a bit too close.
  • Three times I stared eye-to-eye with wild animals. At the Great Apes building an orangutan and I watched each other for several minutes. It had these tiny, soulful eyes, just as the orangutan from the recent Planet of the Apes movies. (Later I'd see an exhibit showing brain sizes of various great apes, and seeing how small its brain was compared to a human's, I wondered how much thinking was really going on. But it sure seemed like there was a thinking, aware being in those eyes.) As I left the building, a gorilla stood next to the glass at the front of its cage, and we looked at each other for a moment. Later, at the Great Cats area, I watched the lions for perhaps ten minutes. The male lion, which was pretty large with a huge mane, seemed to pick me out of the crowd and stared at me. I waved at it, and it definitely began to watch me. After a few minutes, as I left, its eyes followed me the whole time. Perhaps it was hungry.
  • My favorite animals: the orangutan, gorilla, and lion that I went eye-to-eye with; the giant tortoise that went on a "sprint" across its enclosure (okay, a craaaaawl); the sea lions; the giant anaconda; the lemurs (so like our ancestors!); the two elephants; the prairie dogs; the komodo dragon; a giant stingray; and a gigantic arapaima fish. My only disappointment was that the Invertebrates House had closed down, so no octopuses.
  • I saw the pandas, but they were just sleeping.
  • To my non-expert eyes, I thought the elephants, lions, and tigers needed larger enclosures. They looked pretty bored, with the elephants pacing back and forth while the lions and tigers just lay about, as they do in the wild something like 20 hours/day.
  • My legs are once again extremely tired from walking around for four hours. 

Youth Olympic Games

USA's Lily Zhang made it all the way to the semifinals of junior girls before losing this morning (i.e. afternoon in Nanjing, China, where they are playing) to top-seeded Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong, 1,-5,8,9,6. It was quite a turnaround for her to come back and win game two 11-5 after losing the first 11-1! She will be playing for the bronze tomorrow. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. (Krish Avvari is the other USA player competing.) Here's a blog entry about Lily by Matt Hetherington. A big Congrats to Lily!!!

$36,000 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

Here are the last two articles by Barbara Wei on the LA Open this past weekend. I linked to the previous seven in yesterday's blog, as well as the results and the LA Open home page.

About.com Articles

Here are three new ones, including two coaching articles.

Sidespin/Topspin and Sidespin/Backspin Serve Tutorial

Here's the video (4:38). (Note for beginners - backspin and underspin are the same thing.) It's in Chinese, but has some English subtitles, and you can learn just by watching.

This Applies to Table Tennis

"I've got a theory that if you give 100% all of the time, somehow things will work out in the end." -Larry Bird.

Table Tennis: The Best Sport Ever

Here's the video (3:11). "Do you know someone who dislikes Table Tennis? Let's show this video!"

Sometimes It Is Not Just About Winning

Here's a nice meme on this.

Is Timo Boll an Unlucky Player?

Here's the article and video (5:33). "Why hasn't Timo Boll been able to win major titles? Is he an unlucky player?"

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-eight down, 12 to go!

  • Day 13: Germany’s Hans Wilhelm Gäb Provided ITTF the Model for TMS

Barry Ratner Obituary

Here it is. He was a long-time player and organizer. He will be missed.

73 Questions with Daniel Radcliffe

Here's the video (6:21) where the Harry Potter star "…plays ping–pong with us and answers 73 questions on everything from his desire to star in Guys and Dolls to what he would bring on a one-way trip to Mars. What’s something he knows about Harry Potter that no one else does? Watch and find out." This is hilarious! Daniel seems to be playing a lot of ping-pong recently - on Aug. 7 I linked to an article and video (1:46) where he also played.

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy" Movie Might Be Coming

Here's the article.

Electric Pong

Is your paddle charged? Here's the latest table tennis artwork by Michael Mezyan.

Dimitri Ovtcharov Plays Clipboard Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:06) from the 2013 LA Open (last year).

Unbreakable Ball?

Here's the article and picture. It's a collapsible ball made of a flexible material that's created with a 3-D printer! I can't wait to try this out.

Table Tennis Ice Bucket Challenge

It's spread to the table tennis world, including my club. Here are some.

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August 18, 2014

Tip of the Week

The Purpose of the Serve.

MDTTC Camp

Last Friday was Day Five of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Today we start Week Ten. Guess what? I'm exhausted! I had a bunch of other things to write about this morning, but I'm running out of time (and energy), so I'll just write about the camp.

Friday was perhaps the most difficult day I've had all summer - I was up late the night before, then got up early to do the blog, and spent the entire day with a headache that was like 40 kids smacking balls against the back of my head nonstop. Only - there were 40 kids, only instead of smacking balls against my head they were at their most excited over-exuberant, since it was the last day of the camp (for the week). Let's just say I just smiled and put up with it while my head pounded away all day.

My headache wasn't helped when two kids thought it'd be interesting to pour two huge bottles of soap down the toilet. These are the bottles that are used to refill the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. Why would these two kids, both about 10, do this? They couldn't explain it, just thought it would be fun. I was the one who had to break the news to their parents, and they were in a lot of trouble.

Worse was what happened over lunch. I was on my laptop, and the youngest player in the camp, a 5-year-old girl, thought it would be funny to keep jabbing at the keys with a pen while I tried to work. I kept asking her to stop, but she wouldn't. She left for a moment. I went to get something, and when I came back, she was randomly tapping away on the laptop. When I got back on it, what I found was unreal - she'd somehow managed to not only log me out of several pages, but to have gotten my automatic logins deleted! Normally when I go to the pages I get logged in automatically, but no more - and I didn't have the passwords with me. It took me forever to figure them out. All this while my head pounded away.

Coach Aabid Sheikh from Boston was in town, and came by to watch for half the day. He watched while I taught two kids to forehand loop for the first time - and both picked up on it pretty fast.

Most of the players in the camp played a practice tournament in the afternoon. Some of the new and younger ones were strong enough to join in, while others did the usual target practice games. I also introduced them to the robot at full speed, where it shoots balls out at full speed at the fastest rate.

Things I'm Irritated About

I'm debating which of these to blog about later on - more on the problem with the Nationals going to half celluloid, half non-celluloid; USATT creating rules that allow 1800 players to represent USA in singles at the Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Champions while not allowing a 2400 player to do so because he plays at the wrong club (the rules they created favor players who happen to play at ITTF "Hot Spots," rather than individual performance); or more on the ITTF Hall of Fame's silly eligibility requirement of five World or Olympic titles, where being #6 on the Chinese winning team (but not even playing) counts as much as winning Men's or Women's Singles, and so players like Stellan Bengtsson, Istvan Jonyer, Mikael Appelgren, Kjell Johansson, and USA's two-time World Women's Singles Champion Ruth Aarons are not in, while players such as Chen Qi and Peter Karlsson - worthy players, but not at the level of these others - are in.  Alas, I'm out of time this morning, and will likely write more on these topics later on. I'd like to write more on positive stuff, such as new training centers opening up, etc. 

Footwork for Defenders

Here's the video (4:12).

The New USATT Magazine

Here's the U.S. Open issue, headlined "The Plastic Era Begins." I have two articles in it, Review of the Nittaku 3-Star Premium 40+ Ball on pages 16-17, and Pushing Change of Direction on page 47.

$36,000 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

It was held this past weekend. Congrats to Open Champion Chih-Yuan Chuang and Runner-up Eugene Wang! Here are the results, and here is the LA Open home page. And here are articles on the tournament by Barbara Wei, with more coming tomorrow.

Youth Olympic Games

They are taking place right now, Aug. 17-23, in Nanjing, China. Representing USA are Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, with articles, results, video, and pictures. Here's a USATT page with some of Lily's results and quotes. Here are four pictures of Jorgen Persson and Wang Liqin doing an exhibition and signing autographs at the Games.

Interview with Lily Zhang at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the video (1:33).

Ariel Hsing, Teen Chinese-American Table Tennis Sensation

Here's the article in the China Times (in English).

LYTTC Creating Tomorrow's Champions Today!

Here's a new video (3:25) featuring training at the Lily Yip Center in Summer, 2014.

Ping Pong for Charity

Here's a video (30 sec) that advertises the advantages of table tennis (exercise for the brain) while raising money for charities such as Alzheimer's.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-Seven down, 13 to go!

  • Day 14: Rules Chair Rudi Sporrer Believes Changes Improved Sport’s Presentation
  • Day 15: Jane Pinto Has Been Mentored by Adham Sharara since 1996
  • Day 16: Oceania’s Continental President, James Morris, Shares “Top 5” Ideas

The Sedin Twins of NHL's Vancouver Canucks Play Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:35). 

Milwaukee TTC Fundraising Cake

Here's the picture - someone took a bite out of it before they got the picture!

World's Biggest Table Tennis Player?

Here's the picture! (If you can't see this in Facebook, try this.)

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August 13, 2014

Update on My Books

This seems a good time to remind people that if you haven't bought copies of my books, the Easter pumpkin will run you down on Santa's sleigh and smack you with a menorah. Also, I'll starve. (If not interested in my books - sacrilege! - then skip down below to the other segments.) All of my books are on sale at my Amazon page. (Yes, as some of you know there's been controversy with them and their battles with various publishers, but I'm stuck with them for now.)

If you have not bought a copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers then every time you play a match your opponent (who no doubt has a copy in his bag and consulted it before playing you) will have an insurmountable advantage. The book not only covers tactics, but strategic development, i.e. how to develop your game. (Look over the 30 reviews, and ask yourself why you haven't got a copy yet.) It's in both print and kindle formats. It's been selling like hotcakes (oh god, that's a cliché), so why not join in the bandwagon? There's even a French translation coming out later this year!

My more recent book is Table Tennis Tips, which came out in May in both print and kindle formats. It's a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, but in a logical progression, all in one volume. It includes chapters on Serve, Receive, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (More Table Tennis Tips should come out early in 2017, covering all my weekly tips from 2014-2016.)

Perhaps the most interesting read is Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, which is a compilation of both interesting stories about table tennis (lots of fun stuff), and essays on techniques. It also features a series of pictures of 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager in the top right corner of every page, so if you fan the pages you get a movie of him playing!

Table Tennis: Steps to Success is currently out of print, but I'm planning a new version out probably within six months, tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals. (First I have to get new pictures for every technique taught in the book, a big job.) However you can still buy used copies. (There is another version of this out by Richard McAfee, but it's not related to this one - it's from the same publisher, and they chose to use the same title.) The book sold 28,000 copies and was translated into seven languages. It probably sold a zillion copies if you include bootleg copies in China. (I'm not kidding.)

If you are interested in coaching, then you'll want to buy the creatively titled Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which is in both print and kindle formats. It covers the professional side of coaching - getting students, keeping them, running classes and junior programs, and other aspects of coaching, with an emphasis on professional coaching and junior training.  

I also have Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, but that was published a while back by USATT, and is no longer sold. I tentatively plan to do a new version of that next year, using the pictures from Table Tennis Fundamentals. It's a guide for how to coach for beginning coaches.

I also have two non-Table Tennis books, a novel and an anthology. Sorcerers in Space is my humorous fantasy novel that came out last year from Class Act Books. It comes in both print and kindle versions. It's about the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts, and the whole things takes place over one week. (Sorcerers work fast.) It stars a 13-year-old Neil [Armstrong] and fictionalized versions of many of the major political names from the 1960s - President Kennedy and his brothers, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bob McNamara, and Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as dragons and other creatures that keep trying to kill poor Neil - including an attack meteor named Buzz. Oh, and Neil is a wannabe table tennis champion who has to drop his dreams of ping-pong stardom to save the world.

The anthology is Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Larry Hodges. It includes the 30 best short stories I'd sold through 2009, including "Ping-Pong Ambition." It comes in both print and kindle versions. (More Pings and Pongs should come out sometime next year - another 30 of my best sales since the previous anthology.)

On my Amazon page there's also a booklet called Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees. That's actually a short story of mine that's sold by Musa Publishers - but it only costs 99 cents!

I have two other books tentatively coming out. I'm doing a (hopefully) final rewrite of my science fiction novel "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," about the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, featuring a third-party moderate challenge. One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player, and there are several table tennis scenes. I have a publisher that liked the previous version, but asked for a rewrite.

The other project? "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," a long-needed manual. I hope to finalize it this Fall, if I have time.

While we're on the topic of writing, I have a few articles published as well. 

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camp at MDTTC. Once again there were about 40 players. The focus was on the backhand. I also taught spin serves, and did a lot of footwork drills (as always).

Something strange is going on this camp. Usually we have some sort of minor accident perhaps once every few weeks. In the last two days two kids fell and cut themselves and needed bandages, and another had a nosebleed. I'm getting good at cleaning cuts and applying bandages.

One kid, about eight, has struck me as someone to watch. Not because he's particularly good yet - he's only played a few weeks - but because he is the hardest worker in the camp, and totally focused and enthused about getting better. Even on break he's off practicing his serves. In every drill he's the most focused at getting it right. It'll be interesting to see where he is a few years from now, as compared to one or two others who seem great "naturals" who, while not lazy, aren't as focused on improving.

The Plastic Ball

Here are two new articles from the ITTF on the plastic ball.

ITTF Releases Table Tennis Youth Olympic Games Media Guide

You can download it here. The Games will be held in Nanjing, China, Aug. 17-23.

California-Based Chinese Players Pose Stiff Competition to Top Seeds at 2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ping Pong 4 Purpose

Here's the home page for this charity event. "Clayton Kershaw, event host Chris Harrison, the Los Angeles Dodgers and other celebrities are joining together for a unique celebrity ping pong tournament and fundraising event Thursday, September 4 on the field at Dodger Stadium. This second annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose fundraising event will feature a celebrity ping pong tournament, high-end silent auction and more. Event proceeds will benefit the efforts of Kershaw's Challenge in Los Angeles and Zambia to transform at-risk communities and the lives of children."

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-two down, 18 to go!

  • Day 19: Korea’s Mr. Han Sang Kook is the Picture of “A True Gentleman”

Training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria

Here's the video (22 sec).

Can Ping-Pong Balls Help Clean Up Oil Spills?

Here's the article and video (1:45) from Table Tennis Nation.

Amazing Table Tennis Shot Off Ground

Here's the video (1:11).

Funniest Faces from Table Tennis Players

Here's the gallery!

Non-TT - ESPN Covers the World Series

For the second time in five days I have a humorous story on the front page of Orioles Hangout. Here's ESPN Covers the World Series! Last Thursday they featured my story Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team. I've had 22 stories featured there, going back to April, 2012. (Did I mention that the Orioles lead the American Lead East by 6.5 games?)

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August 12, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday we started Week #9 of our ten weeks of summer camps. (I missed last week because I was running a camp in Virginia.) Turnout for some of our camps this summer was lower than normal, but no more - we have 41 players in the camp (40 under age 16), with perhaps our largest contingent ever in the 6-9 age group, about half. (This despite the fact that our top four juniors are all currently training in China - Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Roy Ke, and Crystal Wang.) It's also one of our most Asian groups, with only four non-Asian players in the camp. Since we put up 18 tables for training, that means two players on 16 tables and nine others doing multiball on two tables. I spent the whole day feeding multiball, and will be doing that all week, Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM (with a two-hour lunch break). Raghu Nadmichettu was feeding balls on the other multiball table. 

Here's the camp photo we took yesterday morning. Amazingly, we had two more players join us that afternoon. That's me on the far right. Other coaches in the camp are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Raghu Nadmichettu, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"). We're actually short-handed, as two of our coaches are currently in China - Chen Ruichao ("Alex") and Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"). Both are coaching at the club where two of our juniors are training, Nathan and Derek, and should be back soon. 

Most of the emphasis was on forehand play on Day One. Today the emphasis will be on the backhand. (We adjust for advanced players, of course, who do more advanced drills, including many forehand-backhand drills.) As usual, it's amazing the different learning curves for different players. Some pick things up almost as fast as you teach it, others you almost have to hit them over the head to get things through to them. (That's an expression - no kids are hit over the head in the course of our camps!) 

As always, we finished the sessions with games. The more advanced ones played regular games. Others played "King of the Table," while others played the usual target practice games where I feed multiball and they knock over pyramids of cups or hit other objects. As usual, the biggest his is when I put my Gatorade bottle on the table and tell them it's really worm juice - and if they hit it, I have to drink it. They make me drink it. At the end of the day, from 5:30 to 6:00 PM, we did physical training. 

Narrow Defeats but Valuable Experience for North Americans

Here's the ITTF article on the USA and Canadian players preparing for the upcoming Youth Olympic Games. 

Interview with Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the interview this past weekend from Table Tennis Daily. 

MDTTC Newsletter

The August issue of the Maryland Table Tennis Center Newsletter is out. Here's the archive of past issues.

Ovtcharov's backhand in the China Super League Final

Here's the video (24 sec, including slo-mo replay). 

Junior Training Video

Here's the video (1:42) set to music, apparently from the "Power Table Tennis Academy." Not sure where that is. 

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-one down, 19 to go!

  • Day 20: Didier Leroy Says It Takes “Real Passion” to Be a Competition Manager
  • Day 21: Cai Zhenhua Commits ATTU to Helping ITTF Achieve P5 Goal

Hyperkinetic Table Tennis Cartoon

Here's the cartoon by David Ziggy Greene. Any suggestions for a caption? (Cartoon comes from the end of this article.)

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May 19, 2014

Tip of the Week

Why to Systematically Practice Receive.

Return to Ready After Forehand Attack

During the Potomac Open this past weekend there was an interesting match that illustrated this. One was a lefty rated over 2400, the other about 2300. The lefty kept serving breaking serves to the righty's wide forehand. The righty would move to his wide forehand and loop these crosscourt to the lefty's backhand. Over and over the lefty would quick-block these to the righty's backhand, and the righty was caught out of position over and over. At first glance it would seem the righty just wasn't fast enough, that the lefty was just too quick. And so the lefty won the first two games.

But then a strange thing happened. I was commenting to some players sitting next to me how the righty was looping off his back foot when he looped these serves, and so finishing off balance. This kept him from getting a quick start to cover his backhand. But sometime in the third game, completely on his own, the player figured this out. The key was to get his right foot wider on the receive so he could push off it, and then he could use the momentum of his own forehand follow-through to help move himself back into position. Two things happened because of this. First, by getting his right foot farther out he was able to push into the shot harder, thereby getting more speed and spin on his loop, which gave the lefty problems. Second, and more importantly, he was now following through into position, and was set for those quick blocks to his wide backhand.

There's a video (which I just spent ten minutes unsuccessfully searching for) of Werner Schlager making this exact same adjustment to a player at the World Hopes Week in Austria a year or two ago. I remember it as several people commented that he was messing up the kid's technique. Actually, what Werner had done was show the kid, one of the top 12-year-olds in the world, how to follow-through back into position so he'd be ready for the next shot. It's one of those little things that many players don't understand, thinking only about the current shot, and not worrying about the next one. (EDIT - here's the 50-sec video I referred to above, care of Daniel Ring in the comments below. Notice how the kid forehand loops very well, but tends to stay in one position when he's moved wide? Werner shows him how to follow through back into position.) 

How often have you attacked with your forehand from the backhand side, only to get caught when your opponent quick-blocked to your wide forehand? (Or the reverse, attacked from the wide forehand, and got caught on the wide backhand, as discussed above?) Most often the problem isn't being too slow; it's finishing the forehand shot off balance, which dramatically slows down how fast you can recover back into position. The most common situation is a player steps around the backhand corner to use the forehand, but is rushed, and so ends up following through too much to his left (for a righty), leaving him wide open for the next shot. Instead, when attacking from a wide corner, whenever possible try to follow-through right back into position, and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to recover for the next shot, even if it's quick-blocked to the far corner.  

World Veterans Championships

They were held May 14-17 in Auckland, New Zealand, for players over age 40. Here's the home page for the event, with lots of news items, pictures, video, and results. Here's the ITTF Page with lots of articles. There were 1665 players entered, including 29 from the U.S. (see player listing, which lists them by country).

Here are the results. Do a search for if you want to see how players from a specific country did (for example, "USA"). Charlene Xiaoying Liu, who is from my club, finished third in Over 60 women, losing deuce in the fifth to the eventual winner (who would win the final easily 3-0). Charlene was actually up 10-8 match point in the fifth, alas, but struggled her opponent's serve at the end.

Alameda Table Tennis Club Offering Elementary School Kids $20,000 in Ping Pong Scholarships

Here's the article - wow!

Lily Yip Selected as USA Youth Olympic Games Coach

Here's the article.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part One. (Kagin is a member of the board of directors for USATT and National College Table Tennis Association.)

Cary, NC to Open 25,000 Square Foot Table Tennis Facility

Here's the article (on their home page). Here are some pictures of the new Triangle Table Tennis Center.

ITTF Has as Many National Associations as Any Sport

Here's the article. They now have 220 members, which equals the International Volleyball Federation.

ICC Table Tennis Fund-Raiser

Here's the article.

How to Choose a Table Tennis Bat

Here's the new video from PingSkills (14:45).

Best of Ma Lin

Here's the Video (3:13).

Circular Table Tennis

Here's the picture! I think I once ran a similar picture, but this one really shows how the "sport" is played!

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March 25, 2014

Smooth Acceleration + Grazing Contact = Great Spin

This came up last night in the Beginning/Intermediate Class I teach on Monday nights. The two most common mistakes players make in failing to create great spin are these two, which are the pillars of creating spin, especially when serving, pushing, and chopping. It's true for looping as well, but only for slow, spinny loops. When you loop faster, you sink the ball more into the sponge. (I'm mostly writing for players using inverted sponge, but the same principles apply to most pips-out surfaces as well, as long as they have some grippiness.) 

When serving and pushing, beginning and intermediate players often use a short stroke (to help with control) and sort of jab at the ball. They are thinking that the velocity they get with this jabbing will create great spin. Actually, it just leads to a loss of control as you can't control the racket this way. Plus, for physics reasons I won't get into (partially because I'm not a physicist), you get far more spin if you smoothly accelerate into the ball, and almost hold the ball on your racket as it carries it through the shot. This literally slings the ball out with tremendous spin.

But you only get this tremendous spin if you graze the ball - the second problem many players have. Too often players sink the ball into the sponge at an angle, which isn't the same as grazing the ball. To learn to graze the ball, just toss one up and graze it with your racket, making it spin. Generally do this with a pendulum serve motion, but contact the ball on the left side of the ball (for a righty), with the racket going mostly up and slightly left, so that the ball goes straight up. Catch it and repeat. It's important to spin the ball so it goes straight up, both so you can catch it and repeat, and so you can develop ball control. (If you can't control the direction the ball goes when you graze it with this exercise, how can you do it when actually serving?)

As always, I recommend beginning players get a colored ball (or put markings on a ball) so they can see the spin they are creating. This gives feedback on whether you are really spinning the ball or not.

For more advanced players, I recommend they also do the ball spinning drill I wrote about above. It's a great way to really develop those grazing skills so you can both spin the heck out of the ball and control it. Advanced players should also experiment with smooth acceleration and grazing on their spin shots, and see how much they can make the ball spin.

When you can put great spin on the ball with your serve, apply the same principles to pushing and slow looping. Don't be afraid to throw in some slow, spinny loops, even if you normally loop pretty hard. Slow, spinny loops are extremely effective at the beginning/intermediate level, but many forget or never realize how effective they are at the advanced level if not overused. They not only are effective on their own as the opponent struggles to adjust to the slower speed and higher spin, but the contrast makes your other loops more effective.

Snow

Yep, it's snowing again here in Maryland. We're supposed to get 2-3 inches, though it shouldn't stick on the roads and sidewalks, which are too warm. For once, schools and government offices are open - usually a single snowflake closes everything down. This has been one crazy winter, with one snowfall after another.

Reverse Pendulum Serve of Achanta Sharath Kamal

Here's the video (36 sec), which shows it first in slow motion, then in super-slow motion. This serve, combined with a regular pendulum serve (so you can spin the ball both ways) is an incredible one-two punch.

2014 Youth Olympic Games: Coach/Leader Selection

Here's the info. The 2014 Youth Olympic Games will be held Aug. 16-28 in Nanjing, China.

USATT Forum

With the demise of the about.com forum, USATT has set up their own forum.

No Hands Table Tennis?

Here's the video (6:47) of this unbelievable armless Egyptian star who plays with the racket in his mouth! Wow. Just wow. (Near the end he's even fishing and lobbing.) Interesting thought - how good would this player be against regular players, and how good would he be against a good player who went out of his way to go after the weaknesses of the "mouth" grip, such as serving super short, or with wide-angled breaking sidespin serves?

Waldner on David Hasselhoff Show

Here are two pictures of all-time great Jan-Ove Waldner on the David Hasselhoff Show, in a posting by Waldner himself. Alas, the video is not yet available. (I searched on Youtube.)  

Shot of the Day

Here's the video - see the shot nine seconds in, and the opponent's response!

Top Ten Shots

Here's a Top Ten Shots video (6:19) from Mrtheportal Tabletennisvideo. Includes a "bonus" eleventh (the first one shown) of a nice rally ending with a crazy side-post ricochet shot and a pair of smiling girls, one of them a little bit exasperated.

Bobby Flay's Ping-Pong Throwdown

Here's the video (3:07). "Chef Bobby Flay has been challenged to a throwdown, but this time it’s not in a kitchen! He's used to taking challenges there on his new Food Network show, *Beat Bobby Flay*, but now he’s up against 12-year-old ping pong prodigy Estee Ackerman in a battle with rackets and a ball. Will Estee take it easy on Bobby?"

Extreme Ping Pong

Here's the video (3:11) - you really have to see the acrobatics they show in the "making of" this video! And here's the actual final video (3:52)!

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