MDTTC Coaching Staff

April 30, 2014

Butterfly and My Personal Equipment

Here's some news on the equipment front. First, I'm sponsored by Butterfly again. (They haven't put me up yet in their sponsored list - that'll come later.) I was sponsored by them for something like two decades, but was a casualty of the 2008 financial crisis. I had two great years sponsored by Paddle Palace, but they are moving in a different direction, which freed me to reapply with Butterfly. My club, MDTTC, has been sponsored by Butterfly for many years.

I've used a Butterfly Timo Boll ALC flared blade the last few years. I believe it's the most popular high-end racket right now. I discovered it almost by accident. I was coaching Tong Tong Gong about 3-4 years ago while he was on the USA National Cadet Team (and about to try out to make it again) and sponsored by Butterfly. I needed to warm him up, but my racket was in my bag a distance away, so I borrowed his spare blade. After I hit one ball my eyes shot up - it just felt right. Tong Tong later made the National Cadet team for a second straight year, and as a reward for my coaching him at the Trials they gave me his spare racket, which I'd come to really like. (Butterfly had given him a new backup.) I've been using that blade ever since. You can still see where Tong Tong had etched his name into it!

For the last few years I've been using Tenergy 05 FX 2.1 black on my forehand and Roundell 2.1 red on my backhand. Tenergy is the most popular high-end sponge, but it comes in so many types it's hard to keep track - 05, 25, 64, 80, and all in regular and FX, which means a softer version. You can read about each at the Butterfly site.

I use the FX on the forehand for embarrassing reasons - at 54 and very tight muscles, I don't swing as hard as I used to in a fast rally, and FX is more forgiving, but with less power. It means when someone hits the ball aggressively to my forehand it's easier to loop - the sponge practically does it for me as I just stick my arm out and swing a bit. (It's not quite that simple - you still have to have decent technique and timing, but it sure makes it easier.) With harder sponge you have to swing harder to sink the ball into the sponge, and I don't do that in a fast rally as well as I used to. Against a slower ball, I can still swing hard, but a harder sponge would give even more power. FX is also good for players developing their loop. Having said all this, I'm planning on trying out the regular 05 for a time and see how it works.

On the backhand I mostly counter-drive and block, though I do loop sometimes. Roundell is more of an all-around sponge that allows you to do anything. It's a good looping sponge (though not quite like Tenergy), and very easy to rally with. However, I'm toying with going to one of the Tenergy sponges on my backhand. Tenergy 25 is supposed to be better for close-to-table play, so I'm going to give that a try.

Here's the problem. I had a sheet of Tenergy 25 sent 2-day priority mail last Thursday, nearly a week ago. (It's actually coming from Paddle Palace, the last sheet of sponge they owe me.) According to the tracking number, it was sent out for delivery at 1:35AM on Saturday morning (i.e. late Friday night). It was never delivered. Then it was apparently sent out for delivery again at 1:21AM Tuesday morning (i.e. late Monday night), but again it was never delivered. And here it is Wednesday morning, and still nothing. Apparently there's some drunken delivery guy who's been zigzagging about the last four days with my Tenergy in his truck. If anyone sees him, please flag him down, tackle him, taze him, or whatever it takes.

World Championships

I was debating whether to do Worlds coverage here in my blog, but they are already doing an excellent job elsewhere, so I'll just link to the following two places, where you'll find results, articles, and lots of video. (I'll probably run this segment daily throughout the Worlds.)

MDTTC Coaching Staff

Here's a group picture of the MDTTC coaching staff (including names), taken during our Spring Break Camp two weeks ago.

When to Call Timeouts

Here's the article from PingSkills. One of the things they stress is you should call a timeout whenever it would best help you win a game - even if it's in the first game. I've argued the same thing, but some players are resistant to a timeout in the first game. I'd rather do it when it could make a difference than as a desperation tactic near the end when you are already out of the match. Here's my Tip of the Week on this, and here's a blog entry where I talk about timeouts.

Internet Lag Demonstrated with Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (2:58).

Ping-Pong Tapestry

I have no idea what's going on here, but the guy in the middle appears to be holding a ping-pong paddle. It appears to be some sort of historical Chinese thing, but the guy's a shakehander. Should that be penhold? Can anyone translate?

4er Table Tennis

Here it is! I'd call it Giganta Pong. With four tables and a barrier (with something to prop it up higher), anyone can play this. The sport for the masses.

Player Catches Ball in Mouth

Here's the video (24 sec, including slow motion). After catching it in his mouth in this exhibition the player spits it out on the other player's side for the point. I can't quite tell who the ball-catching lefty player is, but I think that's Jorgen Persson on the other side. (Edit: I didn't recognize him from the video at first, but Bernard Lemal emailed that the one on the right catching the ball in his mouth is '93 World Men's Champion Jean-Philippe Gatien! Now that he's pointed it out, it's kind of obvious. Even his strokes are a giveaway.)

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April 17, 2014

Spring Break Camp

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day (and night). I'm trying to remember how I was able to do my daily blog during our camps the past three summers - there are just so many hours in a day, and just so much energy in the human body. I'm at my limit. But the camp ends Friday. I'll survive.

The camp was 10AM-6PM, with a two-hour lunch break from 1-3PM. However, we had a group of 16 kids who came in for a ping-pong party during our lunch break, and I gave a one-hour clinic for them. We started with some ball-bouncing - first on the forehand side, then the backhand, then alternating. It's always interesting to watch as some pick up on this very quickly, while others struggle. It's also an age thing as 6-year-olds simply can't do it, while 8-year-olds usually can. Then I taught them the forehand (taking them two at a time for very quick lessons). I covered the backhand and the serve very briefly, and then we went to games. First came the bottle game, where they had to hit a bottle to make me drink the "worm juice" inside. (Since they were beginners, I brought out froggy and balanced a bottle on him, and to make me drink it all they had to do was hit froggy or the bottle.) Then I brought out the paper cups and they built huge pyramids with them, which they then knocked down as I fed multiball and they smacked forehands.

The beginning group that I was working with did a lot of service practice yesterday. Two of the younger kids are still having difficulty with this, but they'll pick it up. Others are moving on to putting spin on the ball. (I used the soccer-colored balls so they could see their spin.) Today I will introduce them to serving bar, where they have to serve under the bar. (Here are pictures in the high and low settings.)

Several of our top juniors are working hard to improve their backhand banana flips. In match play, they tend to either spin them too softly, with the ball dropping short (giving advanced players an easy attack, usually a put-away), or chicken out altogether and mostly push. The problem is that many are still trying to lift short, heavy backspin serves head-on. One of huge advantages of the banana flip is that you don't have to lift the heavy backspin; you instead sidespin the ball, perhaps half sidespin and half topspin. This makes it much easier to lift over the net. In practice the top juniors are getting better at it, but need to develop that confidence that they can do this against any short serve.

After the camp was done I did a one-hour private lesson. Then I went to Best Buy to have them look at my laptop computer. For some reason the modem had been failing on and off all day, and the kids weren't happy. (I let them use it for games during breaks. Sometimes they let me use it to check email.) Alas, when I got to Best Buy, the modem worked perfectly, so there was nothing to fix. We'll see how it goes today. Then I was off to Planet Fitness to continue my secret physical training that'll allow me to soon challenge our best juniors again. (Shhh!) I go there Mon, Wed, and Fri, and have been doing this regularly ever since this past Monday.

I didn't get home until 9:30 PM. After going through email and browsing forums it was pretty late, so I once again put off the 246 things on my todo list, including 42 that have earth-shattering consequences if I don't get them done immediately.

MDTTC Coaching Staff

Here's a group picture of the entire MDTTC coaching staff, all ten of us, taken by Wen Hsu yesterday during our Spring Break Camp. L-R: Chen Jie ("James"); Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"); John Hsu; Larry Hodges; Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"); Chen Ruichao ("Alex"); Cheng Yinghua; Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"); Jack Huang; and Raghu Nadmichettu.

Charlie Disney, RIP

Here's an email I just received. Charlie was one of the huge names in table tennis when I was coming up in the late 1970s. He will be missed.

Dear table tennis friends,

I am deeply saddened to report that Charlie Disney passed away at his home in Rio Verde , AZ yesterday.  I was called this evening by a friend in Rio Verde.   I have never met that acquaintance.

Charlie was one of my dearest friends in my life.  We knew each other for 52 years. We were tirelessly business partners in the Magoo’s (later Disney’s) Table Tennis Centers for 21 of the 26 years I was involved and we were real estate partners for 6 years with several properties.  Charlie and I remained the closest of friends for five-plus decades without a gap.  We discussed endlessly and regularly about how to get table tennis recognized as a major sport, and never gave up on that issue.  I am in deep sorrow.

More information will follow but I have no other as of now.  I had just talked with Charlie on Monday and purchased a plane ticket for him to return for the summer to his home in Roseville, on May 6.  Charlie had returned recently from a trip to FL to visit the entire Soderberg family.   I will never see him again.  He grew up in Edina, MN but he has no family alive except one distant sister, so I have no information as of yet regarding funerals or memorials.

I thought you all should know.

Regards,
Don Larson

ITTF Level 3 Course in Colorado Springs, USA

Here's the info page. I'm hoping to go to this, but am not sure I can afford it. It would mean missing two consecutive weekends of coaching plus the five days in between - that's a lot of hours missed.

World Championships Daily Newsletter

Here's the info page. Sign up now to have these daily updates sent directly to you.

Adam Bobrow the Voice of Table Tennis

As I blogged about yesterday, Adam won the ITTF Voice of Table Tennis Contest. Here's the ITTF article.

China Prepares for the Japanese Team

Here's the article. Here's the main excerpt: "Germany, with Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov, is considered a big threat for the Chinese Team. According to Liu Guoliang, Germany, Japan and South Korea are their main opponents. However, he has placed emphasis on Japan who will be the hosting team in the 2014 World Championships. In order to cope with the challenges from the Japanese Team, China has prepared several players who can imitate the Japanese players and had them fight against their delegates in the Closed Training. This is to help their players adapt to the hosts."

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (33 sec, including slow-motion replay). If you are distracted by the player on the left making that body-spinning forehand rip at the end you may miss that the player on the right made the counter-smash.

Drinkhalls on TV

Here's video (6:53) of the English power table tennis couple of Joanna and Paul Drinkhall on BT Sport. 

Sold his PlayStation for Table Tennis

Here's the Facebook posting and picture of this 13-year-old Namibian player.

Ping-Pong Pepsi Max Challenge Video

Here's a hilarious video (3:52) by Parkour that I can't begin to describe. It's part of the Pepsi Max Challenges.

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April 4, 2014

The Forehand and Saturation Training

On Wednesday I gave my weekly lesson to an up-and-coming nine-year-old, who (for the moment) is about 1400. He has incredible ball control for a kid his age - he has great lobbing, fishing, and chopping skills, better than most 2000 players. He also has a nice backhand attack, both looping and hitting. And he can keep the ball in play seemingly forever, even if the opponent keeps attacking. But his forehand can be awkward. So our recent training has been overwhelmingly on his forehand loop, where we spend about 35-40 minutes of each session on. (His level is only 1400 partly because of the forehand, where he likes to lob, and because he tends to play way too soft in general, letting opponents blast the ball at him, and at nine years old he's not always big enough to run them all down. I'm constantly working on teaching him to stay at the table, which isn't easy since he likes to play from the barriers.)

This saturation training is starting to pay off in drills, where he sometimes looks really good, but other times he falls back in his old habits, where every other shot is different, and where he often falls back and fishes. He also has a tendency to take the ball at different times in rallies - he might loop one off the bounce, one at the top of the bounce, one on the drop, and then one off the floor, and he'll often use different stroking techniques for each. He also likes to sometimes loop straight topspin, other times with sidespin, and he likes to suddenly hook the ball really wide and watch in glee as I try to get to it. All this shows fine ball control, but since we're trying to systematically fix his forehand technique, it's not so good in this context, where I want him to systematically develop the shot until he can do it in this sleep. At the same time, I don't want him to lose interest by forcing him to become a robot; it's a constant balancing act. I'm guessing whoever was Waldner's coach had to go through something similar.

Until recently he often resisted spending so much time systematically working on his forehand, but recently he's matured, and is starting to see the importance. So it's great seeing him so determined to develop his forehand to match the rest of his game. He's also very much into developing tricky serves. Watch out for him in a year or so.

Table Tennis Niches

I my blog yesterday I listed various people and their table tennis niche. Here's a note I received from Steve Grant, who should have been listed either in the history or writing niches, along with Chuck Hoey (curator of the ITTF history museum) in the history niche. (I added the links below.)

Hi Larry,

As you know, Steve Grant's (my) niche is both writing and history, as is clear from the many articles written for Table Tennis Collector (publication of the ITTF Museum) and of course the book Ping Pong Fever---the Madness That Swept 1902 America, which showed for the first time who really invented the game of table tennis and how the game really got the name Ping Pong..

The Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation filmed me this week, playing outdoors in Tomkins Square Park with 1902 drumhead rackets and later batting the ball with Spiderman in Times Square, for an hour-long documentary that will essentially be a humorous telling of my book. I also had to continually bat a ball on my racket while hailing a cab, opening the door and then shouting, Take us to the ping pong party! The driver replied, Sure, that's easy to find!

Oh, in the history niche, I would add Chuck Hoey too.

Regards,

Steve

MDTTC Coaching Staff

The MDTTC coaching staff here in Gaithersburg, MD keeps getting bigger! Yesterday marked the return of Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"), a 2600 player who coached at MDTTC for a couple of years before returning to China to work on his immigration status. He's back permanently, and so rejoins our staff, which now consists of me (USATT Hall of Famer!), Cheng Yinghua (USATT Hall of Famer and former Chinese team member and 2800 player), Jack Huang (former USA #1 and Chinese team member who should be in the USATT Hall of Fame), Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey," 2600 player), Wang Qing Liang ("Leon," 2600 chopper/looper), Chen Ruichao ("Alex," recently arrived lefty 2600-2650 player), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen," 2500 penholder), Chen Jie ("James," lefty 2300 player), Raghu Nadmichettu (2400 player), and John Hsu (2300 player). Of course ratings don't always indicate coaching level, but let's just say these player/coaches were carefully selected for both their playing skills (as practice partners) and coaching abilities.

National College Championships

As noted in yesterday's blog, the USA National Collegiate Championships start this morning, April 4-6, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, and here's where they will have results. They also have live-streaming, starting 9:30AM this morning.

Farewell to Joyce Grooms

Today is Joyce's retirement day. Hopefully they are throwing a party at USATT Headquarters for our long-time membership director! I've worked with her a lot over the past decade, and have nothing but praise for her efficient professionalism. Enjoy your retirement - maybe even play a little pong now that you have time to see it from the playing side! (Her picture is on the USATT staff page.)  

New World Rankings

Here are the new ITTF world rankings. On the women's side the top ten remain unchanged from last month, with Austria's Sofia Polcanova jumping from #16 to #11, just behind Germany's Petrissa Solja as the top two Europeans. The top three men remain unchanged (China's Xu Xin, Ma Long, and Fan Zhendong), but Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov moved from #6 to #4. This knocked Zhang Jike down to #5, which is surprising for the guy who keeps winning the Worlds and Olympics, and is generally acknowledged to be the best in the world, at least in a big tournament. With the rise of Ovtcharov, the question for the upcoming World Teams is if he and Timo Boll (world #9, former #1) along with Patrick Baum (#21) and Bastian Steger (#27), can challenge the Chinese.

Chinese Team Members Play with Poly Balls

Here's an article in Chinese (with an English translation here) about Chinese team members playing with the new poly balls. The four players competing with it were Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Xu Xin, and Fan Zhendong.

Kim Taek Soo: No Regrets

Here's the article from Table Tennista.

World Championships Promo

Here's the video (1:03) from the ITTF for the upcoming Worlds in Tokyo, April 28 - May 5.

Table Tennis Joke Ties

Here they are (along with some tennis ones), the perfect gift!

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