Charity

September 4, 2014

Where Do Top Players Come From?

I'm always hearing about how USATT leaders want to develop medal contenders and world-class players. When I hear this I have a simple set of questions for them, which leads to a conclusion that's sort of obvious.

  1. Where do the overwhelming majority of top players come from? (Answer: successful junior training programs.)
  2. Where do successful junior programs come from? (Answer: successful training centers.)
  3. Where do successful training centers come from? (Answer: coaches and directors who take the initiative to create them, where they have to reinvent the wheel over and over from scratch and figure out how to do this because there is no one helping them out, no manual or guidance, nothing from any organizing body for table tennis, and of course no one's recruiting them to do any of this.)
  4. What's the major stumbling block here?

That's why I strongly believe that one of USATT's top priorities should be to recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run training centers with junior programs. This is not something that costs much. USATT is already running ITTF coaching courses. What's needed is to adjust the focus to recruiting and training those who wish to become full-time coaches or run junior training programs. If there are additional costs, the coaches in training would pay for them, just as they already pay for the ITTF coaching courses. The "hook" toward recruitment is that coaches can make a full-time living as coaches at these training centers, making $40-$50/hour. (I write about this quite a bit in my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I'd donate at cost to those who run such programs to recruit and train coaches.) I still have on the backburner the idea of starting up my own coaching academy where I recruit and train coaches, but right now I'm just too busy on other things.

Breaking the Upper Body Forehand Muscling Habit

A common problem for players is to try to muscle the ball when forehand looping. This means they try to produce most of their power with their upper body and arm rather than using the legs and rotating the body's weight into the shot. Normally a way to break this habit is to do lots of shadow-practicing where the player exaggerates the leg and body rotation, and then do lots of multiball. However, in a session with a kid this weekend I found a new way. I've always pointed out that a player should be able to loop with great power while carrying on a conversation, since the power mostly comes from the legs and weight transfer. Players who muscle the ball instead tense their upper body as they use that as the primary source for power. But it's almost impossible to do that if you are talking. The kid I was coaching was trying to rush the shot, and so was muscling the ball with his upper body instead of rotating into the ball properly. So while I fed him multiball so he could practice looping I had him tell me about school, about his favorite sports, or just count. Result? Once he got over giggling, he stopped muscling the ball.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).

6th Annual Ping Pong Charity Tournament

Here's the article and video (3:11) that'll take place in Virginia Beach, VA.

Turn Your Kitchen Table into a Ping-Pong Table!

Here's the article and video (2:37).

Kids Playing TT

Here's a video (47 sec) of a kid playing table tennis. Watch his reaction as he loses the first two points, and especially his celebration when he wins the third point! Here's another video (2:44) as Samson Dubina trains his daughter in on-table cross-legged Gatorade-bottle target practice. (Spoiler alert: she hits it at 2:22, and after celebrating gets to drink it.)

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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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April 22, 2014

Genetics and Table Tennis

The question sometimes comes up whether some people have a genetic advantage in table tennis. A troll raised this question in the mytabletennis.com forum, and while he was likely just trolling (you should see his postings in other threads!), it is an interesting question. (The thread has since been closed.) 

The troll argued that the Chinese have a genetic advantage that gives them faster reflexes, and that's why the Chinese dominate. It's nonsense. One could just as easily claim the Swedes have a genetic advantage since their country of nine million people dominated or played even with the Chinese (over one billion people) for many years. But anyone with a knowledge of the game understands the reality.

The Chinese are the best in the world right now because they have more players, more top coaches, and train harder than any other country in the world. It is a national sport there, and taken more seriously there than anywhere else in the world. Most European players train six days a week, with much of summer off. The Chinese often train seven days a week, and train all summer.

And yet even the mighty Chinese can fall behind smaller upstarts such as Sweden, and before them, Hungary. Why? For technical reasons. The Swedes and the rest of Europe began to dominate against the Chinese in the late 1980s/early 1990s because they were playing a modern two-winged looping game, while the Chinese were still trying to win with pips-out hitters. It wasn't until China fell behind much of Europe in the early 1990s (finishing seventh at the 1991 Worlds) that they completely changed course and not only developed modern two-winged loopers, but developed them at a higher level than the Europeans. And now they dominate with numbers, technique, and training. Before the Swedes it was the Hungarians, who beat or played even with the Chinese for roughly a decade (mid-1970s to mid-1980s) with Jonyer, Klampar, and Gergeley, with their two-winged looping (a precursor to the modern game) and (surprisingly) their forehand flips, which put the Chinese on the defensive even when they served.

And yet Germany is hot on their heels with Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #4) and Timo Boll (#9, but formerly #1). They also have Patrick Baum (#21), Bastian Steger (#27), Patrick Franziska (#37), Steffen Mengel (#49), Ruwen Filus (#62), and Christian Suss (#65). However, while their top two can match up almost even with the best Chinese, their #2 lags far behind China, who has world #1, 2, 3, 5, 6,and 7. Is it because of genetics? As a percentage of their population, Germany (population 82 million) is probably stronger than China - but no, I don't think Germany has a genetic advantage!!!

Actually, comparing whatever current country is challenging China isn't a fair comparison. It's one thing to choose a country at random and compare it to China. But when you pick the best out of all the European countries and compare to China, that's cherry-picking. I don't think Hungary, Sweden, or Germany have a genetic advantage in challenging the Chinese.

And yet genetics does help. Fast-twitch muscle is an advantage in table tennis, where speed is so important. At first glance, you'd think that the best sprinters and jumpers in the world would be great table tennis players, and China isn't very good in these events. The top eight fastest sprinters in history (100 meters) include five Jamaicans and three USA, with the next two spots Canadian - and yet Jamaica, USA, and Canada don't exactly dominate in table tennis. (Here's the top ten.) So perhaps the Chinese are overcoming a genetic disadvantage?

Liu Shiwen Injured

Here's the article. Will she be ready for the Worlds? Liu is ranked #1 in the world, has won three World Cups, and made the finals of the last Worlds, and the semifinals of the two before that.

Michelle Wie Hosts Charity Ping-Pong Event

Here's the article. She is currently ranked #10 in the world - for golf that is!

Ping Pong for Charity Tournament

Here's the home page (they raise money for brain fitness and mental health), and here's a Facebook posting where Dr. Scott Sautter says: "Current neuroscience says the best activity for the brain is probably aerobic exercise, and the easiest aerobic exercise is brisk walking a few times a week. However, I then say ping pong is far more fun, socially interactive and great for the mind, body and spirit! It's been said that ping pong is like aerobic chess requiring strategy, eye hand coordination, balance, stamina and a cool demeanor so that you remain calm even if you lost a point." 

Persson vs. Gatien

Here's a recent match (10:53, much of it exhibition) between 1991 and 1993 World Men's Singles Champions Jorgen Persson and Jean-Philippe Gatien (the lefty). Gatien looks older, but is actually only 45 (46 on Oct. 16), while Persson turned 48 today. Happy Birthday Jorgen!

Ariel Hsing for Class of 2017 Social Chair

Here's the video (2:01)! After the dancing start, Ariel talks starting about 52 seconds in.

Extreme Double-High Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:06), with the table top about eye level!

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