June 27, 2013

MDTTC Camp, My Back, Looping, Stroking, Pushing, Boys versus Girls, and Untying Knots With My Toes

Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. Because of my back injury (see yesterday's blog), I couldn't demonstrate, so I just gave the lecture and then fed multiball to Nathan Hsu, who demoed it against both backspin and topspin. For some reason for many years I've used the top players in the camp for demoes rather than the coaches themselves. We do have a lot of coaches/practice partners in our camps - Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Chen Jie ("James"), Raghu Nadmichettu, and myself.

Teaching the loop to a beginner with just one ball is very difficult, and is one of the reasons why conventionally it isn't taught until the player has played for many months and has solid forehand and backhand strokes. While the emphasis early on still should be solid forehand and backhand strokes in most cases, multiball allows players to learn to loop much earlier than before, since they can do it over and over, rapid-fire, rather than the old-fashioned one at a time. My theories on when a junior player should learn to loop are constantly evolving, but more and more I'm sort of letting the player decide - over and over they see others doing it and want to learn, and rather than have them try to learn it on their own and develop bad habits, I teach it to them when they feel they are ready. However, I still focus on developing sound forehand and backhand strokes, which later are essentially extended into loop strokes, as per Chinese theory. I also teach more topspin-oriented strokes than I used to, which makes it easier to learn to loop later on. I still remember when I was learning to play and the emphasis on forehand and backhand strokes was to hit the ball deep into the sponge and into the wood, with a loud wood sound. That's no longer the way it is usually taught anymore, where topspin is more important than that satisfying smack from hitting into the wood.

I also introduced the beginner's group to pushing. I used soccer-ball colored ping-pong balls to do this, as well as when teaching serves, since this allows them to see the backspin on the ball, and see if they are returning it with their own backspin. The kids love the balls, and we are in 100% agreement they should be the official ball of table tennis, rather than the bland white or orange ones we use, where you can't really see the spin. (Here's where I get them at Amazon - you have to buy a six-pack which only contains two of the soccer-style balls. You can't really see the spin on the baseball and basketball style balls.)

Because of my back, Coach Raghu substituted for me in the one-hour coaching session I had scheduled during the 1-3PM break. I also had three more hours of private coaching scheduled today, in addition to the six hours of the camp. Because of the back, two of them cancelled, and will start up again after I return from the U.S. Open (hopefully with the back better). I'm going to do 30 min of the other one, with just backhands and multiball, and then Raghu will do the second 30 min. Since I'm free tonight from my coaching, I'm taking a group of kids to see the movie "White House Down," which opens tonight with a 7PM showing. So the kids are happy I hurt my back, right?

Here's a simple observation, make of it what you want. Over and over, in the beginner's group here and in previous camps, the girls just want to rally, while the boys want to compete. I usually try to do a mixture, but the last two days I've sort of thrown up my hands toward the end of each session and divided them into two groups, letting the girls rally while the boys played games. (The games were sometimes regular games, other times Brazilian Teams, other times "King of the Hill.")

Interesting non-table tennis tidbit: one kid was having trouble moving because his shoe kept coming halfway off. When I asked why he didn't tie it tighter, he showed me that the laces had become tightly knotted, and he couldn't untie them so he could retie them properly. Instant nostalgia! Not because I used to have tightly knotted shoelaces, but sort of the opposite. Back when I was about 12 years old (circa 1972, Nixon was president), I became a fan of Harry Houdini, the escape artist. One of the things he was famous for was his ability to tie and untie knots with his toes! This helped facilitate some of his escapes. I became determined to learn to do that, and I spent many weeks sitting on the side of my bed, with shoes and socks off, practicing this. I became very good at it, and would challenge friends and classmates at school to tie my shoelaces into knots as tight as they could, and then I'd untie them with my toes. (I'd use both feet for this.) Anyway, because of that background I consider myself an "expert" on untying knotted shoelaces, and it took me only seconds to untie this kid's tightly knotted shoelaces, though I did use my fingers for this. Now I'm tempted to take my shoes off and see if I can still tie and untie knots as I did over 40 years ago.

Timo Boll Defeats Xu Xin

Last week, in round two of the China Super League, Germany's Timo Boll defeated world #2 and reigning Men's World Champion Zhang Jike. This week, in round three, he defeated world #1 Xu Xin. Here's the article and video of the match (36:22). These are not huge upsets, as Boll is #5 in the world, but it's not often that non-Chinese have these wins against the top Chinese.

Ping Pong Ball Stop Motion Animation

Here's the video (4:03).

Maria Sharapova Playing Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:59) which just went up yesterday. She's playing British TV host Jonathan Ross. The pink table they are using is too small, only about three feet wide instead of the legal five feet wide.

Tube Ping-Pong

Here's the picture. I want to play!

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November 14, 2012

Looping or Handling the Loop?

Is your game centered around looping or handling the loop? At the intermediate and advanced levels, the game is dominated by looping. Most players center their games around looping. But some take the reverse approach, and center their game around handling the loop. This includes both defensive players (choppers, fisher/lobbers, and blockers) as well as hitters.

Often players who center their games around handling the opponent's loop (or simply not letting him loop, at least not effectively) make the mistake of going too far, and never developing their own loop. Even if looping will never be their strength, it's a great variation at minimum, forcing the opponent to deal with one more thing. It's almost always the best way to deal with a deep backspin ball. Even players with short pips and hardbat can loop against backspin, and if the opponent has to adjust to both your drive and loop against backspin, he's got a lot to deal with.

Players who do loop often make the mistake of also going too far, centering their game around looping but not learning to deal with the opponent's loop very well, both in terms of keeping him from doing it (or doing it effectively) and from dealing with it when the opponent does loop. It always amazes me how many players with strong loops will serve or push long over and over, letting the opponent loop rather than serve or push short to set up their own loop.

Some are so loop happy that they try to counterloop any incoming loop. This can lead to problems as it's not easy trying to counterloop an opponent's opening loop against backspin (often very spinny) if the opponent is mixing up the speed, spin, direction, and depth. That's way too many variables for any but the very best players. If you are one of the very best players (or if you aspire to be, and are training at least 4-5 days a week), then perhaps you can learn to do this. Otherwise, consider blocking against more aggressive loops, and perhaps jab-blocking (i.e. aggressively blocking) or even smashing against loops that land short. A loop that lands short is easy to jab-block or smash (if you don't hesitate), but it really rushes a looper, and unless you are able to jump all over that ball with a full swing in a split second, counterlooping it is not easy. (Remember that you also have to wait and see if the ball is going to your forehand or backhand, and then judge the depth, speed, and spin before you can properly react.)

On the other hand, some players learn to shorten their counterloop stroke against shorter balls and sort of soft-spin off the bounce. This can be effective but takes lots of practice to get the timing down. This is especially effective if you use some of the modern high-end looping sponges (i.e. expensive ones). If you use more of a hitter's sponge, then it's better to jab-block or smash.

The main advantage of counterlooping anything that goes long, including an opponent's loop? You don't have to hesitate since you know what you are going to do. You just have to decide forehand and backhand, and then let the shot go. (You do have to decide how hard and what direction you are looping, but that's relatively easy.) This works for many world-class players, but remember - it takes lots of practice and perhaps some physical training as well.

TopSpin's Charity Benefit

Here's an article in Forbes Magazine on the TopSpin Charity Benefit being held tonight, and here's the opening paragraph: "Over 1,000 members of the sports, entertainment and media communities will be hoisting ping-pong paddles in New York City tomorrow at TopSpin’s fourth annual Ping-Pong Tournament.  And they will be doing so in an effort to benefit three city programs for under-served students.  Among the confirmed guests are Hakeem Nicks, Prince Amukamara and Terrell Thomas of the New York Giants, and Gerald Wallace and Jerry Stackhouse of the Brooklyn Nets."

ITTF Video World Cup

Here are the twelve entries received so far for the ITTF Video World Cup. You can view them and vote for the winner! Of course, the best one is "TTism (in slow motion)," by Richard Heo. Why? Because I'm in it!!! (I show up for about three seconds at 1:29, cheering silently and motionlessly for Raghu Nadmichettu, who is celebrating a win silently and motionlessly. That segment was filmed at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.) Here's the info page for the contest. First and second places are $5000 and $2500. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30.

Sampson Dubina's Favorite Serving Videos

Former USA Men's Singles Finalist Samson Dubina posted links to his favorite videos of top players serving. (And here's his article "Perfecting Your Serve.") I've added names/descriptions. Here are the serving videos:

John Ping Pong

Here's a ping-pong song (2:44) I hadn't heard before. It's set to some old-time music.

Non-Table Tennis - "The Devil's Backbone"

The new anthology "After Death," which features fantasy stories about what happens after you die, includes my story "The Devil's Backbone." (Anthology comes out in March, but they just announced the table of contents.) It's the story of an ice cream man who is killed and pulled into the ground by an incredibly gigantic hand, which turns out to be the Devil's, who literally jams him down his throat and (from the inside) onto his equally gigantic backbone, where there is an entire city of lost souls. How can he escape?

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August 23, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Three

There are 37 players in the camp, so it's somewhat hectic. Here's a camp photo from yesterday. (A few players are missing, alas.)

Yesterday I gave lectures on the forehand loop, on footwork, and on pushing. On looping, I spoke with three players in the 1800-2000 range on the importance of looping almost anything that comes long - or as I put it, "If you can see it, loop it; if you can't see it, block it or back up and loop it." You can go far with blocking and hitting, but the easiest path to a high level in our sport is to be loop-happy.

As noted in my blog yesterday, I'm wearing a neck brace now so I don't keep aggravating the neck injury. When I walked in with my neck brace, there were many stares as I said, "What, do I look different? Is it my hair?" Here's a picture of me with the neck brace.

When Derek Nie saw me with the neck brace, he said, "Larry, you look 90 years old!" Ten minutes later I interrupted my coaching and demanded that he repeat the statement so I could respond: "Yeah, but I don't feel a day over 85!" (Actually, I felt about 95, with the neck problems, hoarseness from too much coaching/lecturing, and general stiffness.) Don't you hate it when you come up with the perfect response ten minutes late?

Today was the day that the two new players in this week's camp really seemed to put it together, and began to hit real forehands and backhands, as well as pushing and serving with spin. They are even proficient now at knocking paper cups off the table. (If you haven't been following past blogs, don't ask.)

Channel 6 News, a local cable TV station, came in this morning and filmed us for a showing in September. They interviewed the coaches and many of the players, and filmed us during the morning multiball session.

USATT National Centers of Excellence

MDTTC is now listed as one of the seven USATT National Centers of Excellence.

Spider-Man Table

Want a Spider-Man table signed by Stan Lee? Here's your chance! "The SAEF is proud to present the sale of its a one-of-a-kind, Limited Edition Spider-Man table tennis table exclusively signed by Stan Lee and built expressly to raise funds for the SAEF organization and its Alzheimer’s Table Tennis Therapy Program." Here's a larger version of the picture of the table.

Table Tennis Inspired Patriotism

Here's a nice article from The Examiner about table tennis from a non-player's point of view at the Olympics. You can tell where it's going from the first line: "Here's one thing I love about the Olympics: watching people who are the best in the world at some incredibly niche sport, and seeing just how extraordinary at said sport it is possible to be." He also wrote, "It's the best live sport I've ever seen."

The Power of Block with Waldner

Here's a video (3:13) that showcases Jan-Ove Waldner's blocking skills.

Kids Training in China

Here's an interesting video of two kids training in China (0:42). Note the one on the table!


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August 10, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Nine, Day Four

Yesterday's focus was forehand loop and pushing. That was supposed to be the focus on Wednesday, but because of my car accident (see yesterday's blog), it was postponed a day. Friday's focus is usually pushing and "Player's Choice," and while we'll give that option, today's focus will be Backhand Attack, which is usually the focus on Thursday. I gave my lecture on pushing yesterday, which I normally give on Friday. Yes, these traffic accidents can throw an entire camp schedule off!

I think the loop is the shot that coaches are most picky about getting right. Most players can get away with, say, minor technical problems with the forehand smash because, by the intermediate level, most players are mostly looping on the forehand side, and when they smash, it's mostly against easy balls where you don't need technical perfection. The same is true of many other techniques. But the loop needs to be done really well or it can become the limiting factor in your game. There are two kids I'm working with right now who are probably a bit exasperated on how much I'm harping on some minor technical changes in their forehand loops, but they also understand the importance of getting it just right.

Teaching the backhand push to beginners is relatively easy since it comes naturally to most. Teaching the forehand push is trickier. Beginners almost always want to take the ball from way off to the side (i.e. way to the right for a righty) when you actually should be facing the ball when you forehand push. It's also trickier to teach because you really want players to push only against a short ball, since deeper ones should be looped, but to learn the forehand push beginners have to push long to each other. (This is also true on the backhand, but you can get away with pushing more on the backhand side since at least you have an angle into the opponent's backhand if you push wide, and most opponents are weaker looping on the backhand side.) Here's a good tutorial with pictures and video of the forehand push, and here are three articles I've written on pushing.

Today is also candy day. That means that at 12:30 (half hour before lunch break), I bring out several bags of candy (Jolly Ranchers and Hershey Kisses), pile them all over the table, and the players line up taking turns trying to knock them off the table (two shots each, then go to the end of the line and wait for next turn). Anything they knock off the table they win. It's the single most popular thing we do; heck, it's the single most popular thing done anywhere in the universe, based on the reaction of the kids in the camp.

It's also going to be an exhausting day. Last night I discovered some moron had trashed me in an online video. It was a straight personal attack, calling me names I won't repeat here (is this kindergarten?), making up stuff about me, and done in front of an audience for laughs. I was pretty irritated, and couldn't get to sleep until well after 3AM, giving me less than four hours of sleep. It even "quoted" a friend of mine trashing me, though like much of the other stuff he said he probably made that up.

The good news is that we have a smaller than usual number signed up for next week (week ten out of eleven weeks of consecutive camps), so I may get some of next week off to rest, work on my Table Tennis Tactics book (see below), visit the zoo, and perhaps write a new SF story that'll no doubt feature morons who go after others in online videos. (On an interesting side note, one of the top junior players in the U.S. has begun writing SF, and I'm helping him with his stories.) 

Car Crash

Yesterday in my blog I wrote about the car accident I was in Wednesday morning. Here are two pictures of my poor car, which is now in intensive care at the auto body shop. To survive it's going to need a massive infusion of life-giving cash. Hopefully the insurance company is of the right cash type.

  1. Picture One
  2. Picture Two

Status of Table Tennis Tactics Book

My own upcoming book, Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide, has been done for a couple of months, but due to the summer camp schedule at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (i.e. complete exhaustion each day) I haven't been able to work on the page layouts. I decided to self-publish it rather than spend a long time going through publishers, who'll want to change it for the mass audience, rather than keep it as it is, written for all levels, including advanced players. Plus, of course, I'll get a much higher percentage of the profits, since I'm doing all the work.

How to Win at Table Tennis

Australian player and about.com table tennis moderator Greg Letts has come out with a new ebook, "How to Win at Table Tennis" - and it's FREE!!! (It's 145 pages, 16MB in PDF format.) Greg, sometime soon I'll explain the basics of capitalism to you. :)

Chinese Unbeatable in Table Tennis?

Here are two Associated Press article that were published in the Washington Post, with a self-explanatory titles.

Olympic Photos

Here are some nice photoshopped table tennis images (19 total) from the Olympics.

A Man Eating a Ping-Pong Ball

I may have linked to this once before, but here is a video of a man eating a ping-pong ball (0.31), in honor of the moron who trashed me in an online video (see above), who symbolically here is eating his words.


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February 2, 2012

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

This month was a treasure trove, with 19 new celebrities - just look at some of the names below! There are now 1334 pictures of 788 celebrities at the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page! (I maintain the page, updating it around the 1st of each month.) New this month:


  • John Lennon, rock star
  • George Harrison, rock star
  • Ringo Starr, rock star
  • Paul McCartney, rock star
  • David Bowie, rock star
  • Bob Marley, musician (new picture)
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Keith Jarrett, Jazz Pianist
  • Ennio Morricone, Film Music Composer
  • Manfred Eicher, founder and producer of the Jazz record label ECM


  • Minnesota Fats, pool player
  • Vitali Klitschko, Ukrianian WBC World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and leader of the UDAR of Vitaliy Klychko political party (2 pictures)
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian WBA Super, IBF, IBO & Ring Magazine World Heavyweight Boxing Champion (3 new pictures)
  • Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers hockey player
  • Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers hockey player
  • Javier Zanetti, soccer player
  • Lionel Messi, soccer player

Actors & Actresses

  • Liv Tyler, actress (3 pictures)
  • Peggy Diggins, actress
  • Susan Peters, actress
  • Mary Brodel, actress
  • William Powell, actor

Politicians and Leaders

  • Gerhard Schröder, former German chancellor
  • John D. Negroponte, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State (2 pictures)
  • Norm Coleman, former Minnesota senator (new picture)


  • Santa Claus, toy giver (2 pictures)
  • Frank Caliendo, comedian (1 new picture)

Groundhog Day

Today is Groundhog Day. As you know, on February 2 every year Pingpongatawney Phil comes out of his hole, and if he sees a ping-pong ball, everyone gains 100 rating points. (And for the love of ping-ping, please click on the Pingpongatawney Phil link - I spent a lot of time creating it! Feel free to distribute.) The ball on the ground is a Nittaku, which is the Official Ball for USA Table Tennis.

Hardbat Day

Today is Groundhogs Day, but yesterday was Hardbat Day. While coaching I had the sudden, inexplicable desire to play hardbat. So I pulled a hardbat racket from my bag and chopped with it, so students could practice their loops. Last night I finally figured what had caused this overwhelming urge - it was Marty Reisman's 84th birthday! (Strangely, according to his Wikipedia entry, he was born on Feb. 1, 1930, which would make him 82. But I'll go with the "official" version.)

Using the hardbat wasn't actually a lark. It really is good practice for students to loop over and over against chop, and I was able to really work on their loop strokes. In each case, we followed that with a serve & loop against push, then loop or hit against block drill (with me back to regular inverted). The key here is that against backspin, you drop the back shoulder and your power goes both forward and up. Against the block, the shoulder stays mostly up (completely up if hitting) with the stroke mostly forward. Beginning/intermediate players need to practice this a lot - its tricky making the adjustment between the two. Here's a short article I wrote on this, with the back shoulder the key.

I regularly use the hardbat racket for students to practice against. I also have one with long pips with sponge so students can practice against long pips chopping. Other rackets I keep around for students to practice against include long pips with no sponge, antispin, and pips-out sponge.

School interview

I was interviewed yesterday by someone from American University, who is doing some sort of graduate project in journalism on table tennis. I filled her with lots of info on table tennis. She also got to talk to Crystal Huang (the 9-year-old girl who last year achieved the highest rating ever for anyone under age 10, boys or girls) and her dad, and other club members.

ITTF's Youth Leadership Camp

Here's an article about the ITTF running a table tennis youth leadership camp in Qatar. There's also a video (4:23).

Behind the back shot

This is probably the best behind the back shot I've ever seen. (And they show it both live and in slow motion.) Because my shoulders have the flexibility of frozen neutronium, this is about the only table tennis trick shot I cannot do. So when I see people do these shots I get very envious.


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January 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

Table Tennis Tip: Pushing and Looping Deep Backspin.

Still sick

This is Day Three of the Great Cold of 2012. I'm not sure whether to blame Obama, the Iowa caucuses, or global warming, but if my cold doesn't get better soon I'm going to blame somebody. It looks like another day in bed reading. (Actually, maybe having a cold isn't so bad.)

Celebrities Update

Over the weekend I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 18 new pictures of 9 new celebrities. There are now 1317 pictures of 760 celebrities playing table tennis. The new celebrities are:

  • Tom Cruise, actor
  • Rob Lowe, actor
  • Ralph Macchio, actor
  • Jack Benny, actor and comedian
  • Mary Livingstone, actress and comedian
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Michael Buble, singer (5 pictures)
  • Joe Reeder, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Army and Chairman of the Panama Canal Commission (and a student of mine!)
  • Baron Davis, basketball player
  • Blake Griffin, basketball player (5 pictures)

Christmas Camp

On Saturday we finished our 21st annual Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. There were over 30 players, almost all juniors, ranging from beginners to several over 2300. I blogged about much of this last week. Here are two interesting notes from the last day.

  • I overheard a group of kids, ages 10 or 11, discussing the intricacies of Tenergy 05, 25, and 64, with the FX option. I'm not sure why, but I found this incredibly funny. (By the way, I'm an advocate of kids who train regularly and get good coaching to use advanced sponges like this after they've reached about 1500 or so in level - it really helps in their progress, especially with looping. It's the racket that should not be too fast until they are relatively advanced.)
  • I told a kid I was feeding multiball to that he should try to remember the feel of the good forehand loops. He said, "That's easy. The ones that strain my back are the good ones." Uh oh.

Article on World Champion Zhang Jike

He describes the year as "powerful."

Marty Reisman video feature

Here's a video profile of Marty Reisman (6:36) as part of the "City Series" featuring New York City.

1998 Eastern Open

In my blog on Friday, in pointing out my credentials for promoting major tournaments (in regard to the low turnout at the 2011 USA Nationals), I wrote of the 1998 Easterns I directed, "I promoted the heck out of that tournament." Someone complained that I seemed to be taking all the credit for the record entries at that tournament, when I was just pointing my particular background in this. So to be clear, Richard Lee and others all promoted the heck out of that tournament, leading to the huge entry turnout.

Breaking News - I'm running for U.S. President

I'm running for president of the United States as a member of the Ping-Pong Party. My minions are already moving out through Iowa and New Hampshire, getting the signatures needed to get me on the ballot for their caucuses (in Iowa today, so we're in a bit of a rush) and primaries. I will also be on the Republican ballot, as the conservative alternative to Romney and the moderate alternative to all the rest. I am also running as the Libertarian alternative to Ron Paul by claiming to be a libertarian to libertarian audiences.

I will gladly meet any of my rivals anytime and anywhere in Iowa in a game of ping-pong where I will destroy them, as I will destroy all our nation's foes, except perhaps the Chinese, who are actually very good at ping-pong. Under my leadership, USA will dominate the 21st century as the second best ping-pong power. Altogether now, "We're number two! We're number two! We're number two!"


  • I promise to do whatever you want me to do if it will get me your vote. This is a core value with me, and I always stick to my core values.
  • Hardbatters: I will outlaw sponge.
  • Inverted sponge players: I will outlaw hardbat and anything that's not inverted.
  • I will create a Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with a new service rule that can actually be enforced, and then shoot all umpires that do not do so.
  • I will occupy a tea party and serve tea to the occupiers. I will give them cream and sugar in their tea until they give in to my demands. If they do not, I will stuff ping-pong balls down their throat.
  • I will revamp our national educational system, replacing outdated schools with modern table tennis training facilities.
  • I will change the national mascot from a bald eagle to a large ping-pong ball, and solve our economic problems at the same time by bidding out rights to what brand becomes the National Ball. Will it be Nittaku? JOOLA? Stiga? Butterfly? Halex? Double Happiness? Bids are open now, starting at $1 Trillion.
  • I will nuke our country's economic rivals. Why? Because I like saying "nuke."

The Simpsons and Ping-Pong

  • Here are two pictures of Bart and Lisa Simpson playing ping-pong: Picture 1 and Picture 2
  • Here's a drawing of Bart with a ping-pong paddle.
  • Here's a recording of Patrick Stewart saying "Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong."
  • Here's the online wiki for Madam Wu, a minor character on The Simpsons, where it says that "Her father was a professional ping pong player who died when he got a ping pong ball lodged in his throat." According to The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar (which I just got for Christmas), in the Oct. 10, 2012 entry, it says, "Her father choked to death on a Ping-Pong ball the day before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented."


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December 29, 2011

Falling backwards when forehand looping against backspin

This is a common problem with a rather easy fix. Many players go off balance and fall backwards when looping against backspin with their forehand. Why? It's almost always because they are standing too far from the table. And so they have to reach forward to contact the ball. This throws their weight slightly forward; to compensate, you have to lean backwards. You lose control, power, and are off-balance for the next shot.

How do you fix this? Stand closer to the table, and rotate more sideways when you loop. The contact point should be the same as before, but relative to your body, it's farther back in your hitting zone, often in front of the back leg. This allows you to rotate in a circle as you loop, creating torque and maintaining your balance even during your most powerful loops.

Yesterday, during the Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, I found at least five players who were doing this. (I also had another chocolate candy "giveaway" - hit the bottle on the table, and get a delicious truffle! I gave out about 50 of them. I think we're the most popular table tennis camp in American right now.)

Table Tennis Training Stage IV: Putting It All Together

Here is Stage 4 of Samson Dubina's articles on training for the Olympic Trials. And in case you missed them, here is Stage 1, Stage 2, and Stage 3.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a short video from CCTV of the recent U.S.-China 40th Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy festivities in China, featuring Jimmy Carter, Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping, and numerous U.S. and Chinese players (2:05).

Crazy Like Table Tennis

Here's your daily table tennis fix - just over four minutes of great points, with an acoustic version of Gnarls Barkley - Crazy in the background.

Classic Table Tennis

Here's your Classic Table Tennis fix - table tennis from the 1947 World Table Tennis Championships, with hardbat.

Table tennis scandal in Singapore!

Yes, and we all love a scandal!

Michael Maze kicks table 95 times

Someone took a video of Denmark star Michael Maze (former European Top Twelve Champion, World Men's Singles Semifinalist) kicking the table, looped it over and over, and put it to music ("Red Red Wine"). Here's the video - interesting for five seconds, skip the last 1:22.


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October 21, 2011

Looping versus Hitting

The advantage goes to looping, at least at the higher levels. But everyone's different, and below world-class levels there are many hitters who eat loopers for breakfast. 

The advantages of looping versus hitting

  1. The extreme topspin in a loop pulls the ball down, so you can keep the ball in play at high speeds and effectively attack even low balls.
  2. The topspin makes the ball bounce low and fast on the table, making it hard for the opponent to handle it.
  3. The topspin jumps up off the opponent's racket, making it tricky to keep on the table and low.
  4. Because you can loop the ball on the drop, you have more time to get into position for the shot, and so can loop over and over more easily than hitting over and over.
  5. A looper can often turn a hitter into a blocker.
  6. Because the ball jumps off the table and then sails downward, it's difficult to block or counter a loop effectively from off the table unless you are advanced enough to counterloop. To make an effective return, you generally have to stay at the table and block the ball off the bounce. Against a fast incoming ball, you have little time to react. Against a hitter, you can take a half step back to give yourself more time. Against a looper, that rarely works.

The advantages of hitting versus looping

  1. It's a quicker stroke.
  2. It's easier to learn.
  3. A hitter can often turn a looper into a lobber.
  4. You can generally create more speed since all of your power is going into speed.

The 2011 U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees

They are (and this link includes bios) . . . drum roll please . . . Quang Bui, Jim Butler, Jasna Rather (players); Jim McQueen (contributor); and Mal Anderson is the Mark Mathews Lifetime Achievement Award Winner. Here's a listing of the current U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

Table Tennis at the Pan Am Games

Here are the table tennis results from the just completed Pan Am Games. Here are some articles. USA finished with three bronzes, in Women's Team (Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu), with Ariel and Lily each getting bronze medals in Women's Singles. Mo Zhang of Canada won the gold medal for Women's Singles. Here are more detailed USA results.

Table Tennis News Video

Pongcast brings you the table tennis news, putting together this video (26:53) on the latest table tennis news. After a rather long one-minute intro, they talk about the sport, starting with a video of Susan Sarandon playing at the Spin Club in New York City, then go on to table tennis robots, the new "hyperbolic" serve, news from Europe, and other news.

ITTF Coaches in the USA

All fourteen of the coaches from the ITTF seminar I ran in April are now certified. They are (in alphabetic order): Carmencita "Camy" Alexandrescu (NV), Benjamin D. Arnold (PA), Changping Duan (MD), Jeff Fuchs (PA), John Hsu (MD), Charlene Liu (MD), Juan Ly (FL), Vahid Mosafari (MD), Dan Notestein (VA), John Olsen (VA), Jef Savage (PA), Jeff Smart (MD), David Varkey (PA), and Shaobo "Bob" Zhu (PA). Overall, there are now 44 USA coaches who are ITTF certified. Here is the ITTF coaches database; put in "USA" and you'll see the complete list for USA.

Group Coaching for Kids

This morning I'm off to coach a new group of about 20 new kids coming to the Maryland Table Tennis Center. They are from a local Optimal Learning Center. I'm going to start off with an exhibition, then go over a few basics, then introduce them to ball bouncing on the racket and various table tennis relay races. Then it'll on to the tables.

Entries at the USA Nationals

Currently there are 374 entries listed in the online listing. (You can search by name or event.) However, there are undoubtedly numerous entries not yet entered into the database or entering late, so I expect a bunch more, though it'll probably be a low turnout since, let's face it, Virginia Beach is not a "vacationland" like Las Vegas.

Here's a graph of the number of entries we've received at the Nationals each year going back to 1994, when the info first went online. (These numbers are from the USATT ratings database and only include players who played in rated events; they do not include players who only played doubles or hardbat.)  It was held in Las Vegas in each of these years. As you can see, we've regressed badly since 2006, though we had an uptick last year. It'd be nice if we could get back to where we were five years ago. Below are the actual numbers, though I think the graph shows it better.

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

Photos of the Day in the Wall Street Journal

See photo #2!

This is not where the ball is supposed to go

Here are seven seconds of someone spitting a ball at a wall and catching it in his mouth.


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April 22, 2011

How to practice the loop against backspin

Unless you have a chopper or a coach feeding multiball handy, it's not easy getting practice looping against backspin. You could use a robot, but then you aren't reading the spin off a paddle. You could just do it in games or drills, but then you only get one loop, and then the rally is into topspin.

A good way to practice looping against backspin over and over is to do the loop-chop drill. It's simple: You serve backspin; your partner pushes it back; you loop (forehand or backhand); your partner blocks (not too hard); you chop it back; your partner pushes it back; and you loop, and the cycle repeats. It's best to do it all crosscourt or all down-the line. I demonstrated this drill this morning at our Spring Break Camp (using the backhand loop and backhand chop), and several were trying it out later.

USATT Coaching, Club, and Editorial Committees

It's official! I've been on the USATT Editorial Board for a while; now I'm back on the USATT Coaching and Club Committees. I actually chaired both back in the 1990s. Coaching Chair Richard McAfee and Club Chair Attila Malek recently asked me if I'd joined their committees, and it's been approved by the USATT Board. I'm now listed on these committees in the USATT Committee listing.

On the coaching committee, I'd like to see more recruiting and training of full-time coaches and coaches who want to set up and run junior programs. On the club committee, I'd like to see more coaches and leagues. This is a very short version of what I'd like to see. My focus will be on increasing USATT junior and adult membership through these programs. However, since I'm not chairing either committee, I'm going to first work with the actual chairs and see what direction they want the committees to move in.

Story on Howard Jacobson, author of The Mighty Walzer

The Washington Post ran an article yesterday on Howard Jacobson, the Man Booker Prize winner and table tennis player who wrote the 1999 semi-autobiographical coming-of-age table tennis novel "The Mighty Walzer."


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