Peter Li

February 14, 2013

Most Memorable Practice Sessions

I've had some memorable ones. Here are a few.

At the 1981 U.S. Open in Princeton, NJ,  I was practicing with others from my club (13-year-old Sean O'Neill, Dave Sakai, and Ron Lilly) when the Chinese team came in. (I'm pretty sure this was the first time they had ever attended a U.S. Open.) They practiced for an hour or so on nearby tables. Then they came over and offered to pair up with U.S. players, as part of their "Friendship First" policy. I was paired up with one of their women, but I had no idea who she was at the time. We hit forehands and backhands, and I didn't realize at first that she had long pips on the backhand, and that she'd flipped her racket to put the inverted side there to hit backhands with me. Then she began chopping. I sort of smiled, as I'm better against choppers than any other style, and so I gave her (hopefully!) a pretty good practice session (about an hour), where I both looped and smashed pretty consistently against her chops. Afterwards I found out who she was. TONG LING!!! The reigning World Women's Singles Champion and #1 woman in the world! A few days later she'd win the U.S. Open Women's Singles.

At some large tournament in the late 1980s, out of the blue Zoran Kosanovic asked if I'd warm him up. He knew me from a camp he'd run in Canada in 1980 that I'd attended. However, he was the #1 player in North America, rated about 2750 (to my roughly 2250 at the time), and had recently been ranked in the top 20 in the world. I expected he'd want to do some standard drills, but that's now what he wanted to do - he wanted to do "free play," where whoever got the ball just served topspin and we just rallied anywhere on the court. This might have worked for him, but he spent the entire session - about an hour - dominating the rallies, using me as target practice as he'd fake one way and go the other, with a non-stop barrage of inside-out and hooking loops that I could only flail at. Afterwards I could barely play, and I had one of my worst tournaments ever. He also had a so-so tournament, losing to Eric Boggan, and getting in trouble with the umpire and referee after losing one point when he picked up his side of the table and slammed it down in anger.

Many years ago, when I was around 1900, I was a good hitter, and was developing my loop, but for some reason my blocking against spinny loops wasn't that consistent. At the Eastern Open a top player was preparing for a match, and couldn't find anyone to hit with. So he asked me, figuring that at 1900 I could at least block. Then he walked out to the first table for our warm-up, in front of hundreds of people. Well, I could barely keep the ball on the table, both because my blocking was still poor, and because I was nervous about all these people seeing me miss block after block against this player. The top player should have just thanked me, and looked for someone else. Instead, he finally walked over, and in a very loud and exasperated voice said, "You can't keep the ball on the table. I need to find someone better." Then he walked off. I was pretty embarrassed, but also pretty angry. I was somewhat happy when he was upset in his next match. I get some of the credit for that, right?

I was coaching at a training session in the summer of 1987 at the Butterfly Center in Wilson, NC, when I was 27. Several junior players were complaining about having to do too much footwork in the 90 degree heat. I said I could do side to side footwork for fifteen minutes, so why couldn't they do it for half that? When one said there was no way I could do it for fifteen minutes in the heat, I upped the ante and said I could do it for 30 minutes continuously if someone fed me multiball (so there'd be no breaks even if someone missed) - but if I did, everyone had to 1) promise never to complain about training again that week, and 2) go outside and run a mile. They agreed. I not only did the 30 minutes, with two of the juniors taking turns feeding the balls, but I went the entire 30 minutes without missing a shot! (What they didn't know was that I'd spent two years in North Carolina, 1979-81, in that very gym, practicing every day even in 100 degree heat. Heat never bothered me until I was much older. Also I was a miler in high school, and had once run a marathon. Plus, I did so many side-to-side footwork drills when I was developing that I could do them endlessly without missing.)

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - ON SALE!!!

Current cost is only $11.45!!! (Instead of the regular retail of $17.95.)

I was a bit confused about this. The book is supposed to retail for $17.95, and that was the price I set when I began selling it on Amazon.com, and that's what it was selling for. Yesterday I discovered it was selling on Amazon for $11.45! I was about to send them an irritated email trying to figure out why that was happening, but decided to check the online royalty statement first. Despite the lower price, I'm getting paid the exact same royalties for the books as when it was going for $17.95. So Amazon is apparently making up the difference.

I sent an email to CreateSpace (the subsidiary of Amazon that actually prints the book) about this last night, and here is their response this morning:

Amazon.com, as well as other retailers, sets the selling price of items on its website. In some cases, the selling price will be above the list price; in other cases, the selling price will be discounted to a price below the list price. Keep in mind that you set and control the list price of your work, while the selling price and any discounts are set at the discretion of the retailer and are subject to change.

Only you can alter the list price you set in your CreateSpace account. The royalties you earn from Amazon.com retail sales, as well as sales by other retailers, will be based on the list price, not the selling price. Neither you nor CreateSpace has the ability to change the selling price of your work on Amazon.com.

So for now, you can buy it for $11.45. Buy now or you may regret it later!!!

Make Your Serves More Effective

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on making your serves more effective.

Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We did three more chapters today, bringing totals to 23 chapters and 365 pages. I've now cleaned up, placed, and captioned 724 graphics. The book is now projected to be 29 chapters and 460 pages, with 906 graphics. Chapter 23 ended with the Nissen Open, where Danny Seemiller won Men's Singles over Chartchai "Hank" Teekaveerakit, and Connie Sweeris won Women's Singles over Takako Trenholme.

A Truth About Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Tim Boggan continues to be a might irritated that, in accounts of Zhuang Zedong's death, it's said that Glenn Cowen accidentally boarded the private Chinese bus where Zhuang would give him a gift. Tim said, "I was a confidante of Glenn's on this Ping-Pong Diplomacy trip and he told me, in the absence of any available transportation from his practice hall, he was invited onto the Chinese bus by someone other than Zhuang. This authoritative gesture was of enormous seminal importance for China-U.S. relationships. For when that bus came to rest and Glenn emerged to reporters, China-U.S. relationships would never be the same. I suspect there's a political reason to continue this myth of an accidental boarding."

U.S. National Team

I heard yesterday that Peter Li turned down the non-funded fourth spot on the USA National Team. Only the first three spots are funded. (Presumably he turned it down because of the cost, not because it interferes with college since if he couldn't go because of college, why would he be trying out?) This means that Jim Butler, who finished fifth, was next - and he accepted the spot, and will pay his way. (Actually, he hopes his sponsors will help him out.) One ramification of this - while we now have an all-junior Women's Team, our Men's team now has Jim (42) and Khoa Nguyen (46). The aging vets are taking over!

Jun Mizutani Returns to World Tour

Here's the story. He'd been boycotting it in protest of illegal boosters.

Zhang Jike in Training

Here are three pictures of Zhang Jike doing physical training.

Water Ping-Pong

"Not a bad way to waste away the day..."

Table Tennis Valentines

There's lots more stuff like this, and some rather interesting pictures, if you put "table tennis valentine pictures" into a Google search. This is what you get!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

December 17, 2012

Last Blog Until January 2

This will be my last blog (and Tip of the Week) until Jan. 2, 2013. I leave in a few hours for the USA Nationals in Las Vegas (Dec. 18-22), then Christmas with family in Santa Barbara (Dec. 22-25), then I'll be coaching non-stop at the MDTTC Christmas Camp (Dec. 26-31). Then I'm going to sleep in on Jan. 1. See you in 2013!

Tip of the Week

Distance from Table.

Ratings - Crystal and Derek

Wow. Just wow. The North American Teams were processed, and two of our MDTTC juniors have mind-boggling ratings. Let me once again start off by reminding readers (and myself) that ratings are just indicators of level, and fluctuate up and down quite a bit. But there are times when they are a lot of fun.

We'll start with Crystal Wang, 10, who saw her rating go from 2245 to 2353. (I coached three of her matches, where she went 2-1.) This makes her the following:

  • The highest rated 10-year-old in U.S. history, boys or girls, breaking the record that had been set by Kanak Jha, who was 2265 as a 10-year-old two years ago. (The 2245 had already made her the highest rated 10-year-old girl ever and second highest overall.)
  • #1 Under 11 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 12 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 13 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 14 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 15 Girl in the U.S.
  • #1 Under 16 Girl in the U.S.
  • #2 Under 17 Girl in the U.S.
  • #4 Under 18 Girl in the U.S.
  • #9 Under 22 Girl in the U.S.

Here's her record at the Teams, where she went 23-3 in leading her team (which included Derek Nie, below, Bernard Lemal, and Heather Wang) to winning Division Two:

Wins
2347: 7,13,-7,9
2291: 7,5,-4,6
2287: -10,7,10,-7,3
2256: -11,9,6,-5,7
2223: 8,-2,5,-9,6
2199: 7,3,10
2194: 8,3,7
2183: 6,-8,6,10
2183: -10,7,8,3
2160: 7,9,-3-10
2156: 8,9,7
2152: 5,6,4
2149: 5,12,-4,-8,7
2123: 8,4,6
2119: 4,5,8
2113: 9,5,4
2097: 6,6,10
2092: 4,-7,7,7
2091: -9,5,7,-10,4
2064: 5,6,4
2064: -5,9,3,1
2014: 7,4,3
1902: 8,10,5
Losses
2369: 10,3,-18,7
2319: -5,6,7,6
2280: 9,10,6

Between Crystal and New Jersey's Amy Wang (2177, just turned 10), the east coast has a dynamic duo following in the footsteps of the west coast's Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang.

Meanwhile, Crystal's teammate, Derek Nie, 11, the U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion, saw his rating go from 2139 to 2221 as he went 17-9 at the Teams. (He's been as high as 2170 recently. I coached about a dozen of his matches at the Teams.) While this "only" brings him up to #3 in Under 12 Boys in the U.S., it does something else. At only 65 pounds, he is almost for certain the best player in the U.S., pound for pound, and the lightest player ever to break 2200. We're talking 34.17 rating points per pound!!! (I come in at 11.67 points per pound. How about you?) Derek might be the shortest to break 2200 as well, at 4'5". (Mitch Seidenfeld, how tall are you?)

I must also point out that it was a crime against humanity that John Olsen, after training so hard with the goal of breaking 2000, came out of the Teams in Baltimore with a rating of 1999. The table tennis gods are laughing!

Nationals

I'll be coaching at the Nationals, primarily Tong Tong Gong and Derek Nie, and sometimes other MDTTC players. I usually play in the hardbat events, where I've won a bunch of titles, but this year I'm just coaching - just too busy to play. I'll also be attending some meetings, since I'm on several USATT advisory committees, plus the USATT Assembly (Tuesday 7:30 PM) and the Hall of Fame Banquet, assuming it doesn't interfere with my coaching duties (Thursday 6:30 PM).

This year's Nationals has a lot of players (781), and a lot of players in Men's Singles (160). There's no single standout player this year, with the top seed Mark Hazinski at 2621), followed by Timothy Wang (2601), Jim Butler (2583), Adam Hugh (2567), Stefan Manousoff (2560), Han Xiao (2536), Dan Seemiller (2521), Li Yu Xiang (2510), Zhang Yahao (2509), Razvan Cretu (2508), and Shao Yu (2503). In newer ratings after the Teams in Baltimore and Columbus and the ICC tournament last weekend, Hazinski is down to 2590, and Timothy Wang is down to 2585. In fact, in the newer ratings, Adam Hugh would be top seed at 2599. I'm pretty sure it's been literally decades since we had a Nationals where the top seed in Men's Singles was under 2600. (And this despite an apparent slow inflation of the rating system!) 

Who are my picks to win? In Men's Singles, I'm biased, so I'm picking the same two finalists from last year when we had the all-Maryland final with Peter Li winning over Han Xiao in the final. (But Peter, now in college, has dropped to 2475.) However, putting aside biases, I suggest viewers watch Jim Butler. The current top U.S. players simply don't know yet how to play the recently un-retired Butler, with his tricky serves and big backhand smash. Another to watch is Adam Hugh, who's been playing very well recently, now that he's out of college and (I'm told) coaching and playing full-time.

On the women's side, the top four seeds easily lap the other players: Jasna Rather (2588), Ariel Hsing (2538), Judy Hugh (2533), and Lily Zhang (2520). However, in new ratings, Judy is back out of the stratosphere with a 2394 rating, while Jasna has mostly been around 2400 for years until one tournament shot her up to 2588. Perhaps she's back to her former world-class level, but for now, I'd bet on an Ariel-Lily final for the third year in row. Who will win? One of them. I'll leave it at that.

World Junior Championships

USA's Lily Zhang made the quarterfinals of Under 18 Girls' Singles at the World Junior Championships, held in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here's the home page, with complete results, articles, and photos. This is probably the best showing of a U.S. junior at the World Junior Championships. (They didn't have them in the old days, when the U.S. was a power.) In reaching the quarterfinals, Lily knocked off the #5 seed (Bernadette Szocs of Romania) and #6 seed (Petrissa Solja of Germany), before losing to the #4 seed (Gu Rouchen of China).

Alas, the eight members of the U.S. Junior Team (which included Crystal Wang - see above - the youngest player at the tournament) will have to fly back and compete at the USA Nationals two days after finishing in India. They will face major problems with the time zone changes and jet lag. 

Prachi Jha

Here's an article from the ITTF that features USA's Prachi Jha and her performance in the team competition at the World Junior Championships.

The Backhand Push

Here's a 45-second video from U.S. Men's Singles Champion Peter Li explaining the basics of the backhand push.

Hitting a Forehand from Below Table Level

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:21) on returning a ball from below table level.

ITTF Development Funds

Here's an article on new funding from the ITTF for continental development. "A quite staggering sum of $1,000,000 is to be made available annually for continents affiliated to the International Table Tennis Federation for development in the next four years, the period from 2013 to 2016."

Look what Michael Found at the Supermarket!

Yes, it's a picture of Michael Landers on the Kelloggs Corn Flakes box! It breaks a 76-year cereal box drought for table tennis since George Hendry made the Wheaties box in 1936.

Santa Claus

In honor of Christmas, here are two pictures of Santa Claus playing table tennis. Here he is with rock star Alice Cooper on right, and here he is again with actress Ginger Rogers on right.

***
Send us your own coaching news!

December 7, 2012

Breaking News - Marty Reisman Passes Away

(Added Friday afternoon)  He will be missed. 

Warming Up

When players warm up at a club or tournament, they invariably start out by hitting forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. And there's nothing wrong with that as it gets the timing going while loosening the muscles a bit. However, often they do this for a long time. There's no reason to do this more than a few minutes. Instead, after about two minutes, why not do some footwork, which will really get you warmed up?

If you are just warming up, then 1-1 footwork is plenty. Your partner hits the ball alternately to your forehand and the middle of the table, and you move side to side, hitting (or looping) your forehand. You'll find moving and hitting not only is more like what you'll do in a game, it'll get you warmed up much faster.

Some will argue that it'll also tire them out quicker. Then hit less! What's better, spending 30 minutes trying to get warmed up, or getting a better warm-up in 15? But it's not that tiring since half the time your partner will be doing the footwork. That's where you not only rest, but work on your ball control. You'll get more practice on that hitting side to side then repetitively hitting to one spot.

Now do the same thing on the backhand. Don't just hit backhand to backhand - have your partner move you side to side some! Yes, a backhand footwork drill. In a match, you wouldn't just stand there and expect your opponent to hit to one spot, so why warm up for that? Have your partner hit one to your wide backhand, and one toward the middle. You might only want to cover, say, 1/3 of the table when you do backhand footwork, if that's what you'd do in a match. On the other hand, 2001 USA National Men's Singles Champion Eric Owens told me that he attributed his winning the title to his improved backhand, and he attributed that to doing drills where he'd cover over half the table with his backhand loop in footwork drills - saying that after doing that, covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the table with his backhand in a real match was easy.

Make sure to use the shot you'd use in a match. If you are a looper, go to looping once your drives are warmed up.

MDTTC Shirt on 30 Rock!

At the very start of 30 Rock last night at 8PM on NBC, Judah Friedlander ("Frank Rossitano") wore a blue Maryland Table Tennis Center shirt! I'd given him the shirt a few months ago. Judah is from Gaithersburg, Maryland (near MDTTC), and comes to MDTTC semi-regularly. I've given him a few lessons, though of course he's the World Champion, so nobody really gives him a lesson! Here are pictures I have of Judah playing table tennis, from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page:

photo1 photo2 photo3 (with Spider-man) photo4 (Anna Kournikova on right) photo5 (L-R: Table Tennis Superstar Mikael Appelgren, Judah Friedlander, Actress Susan Sarandon, Table Tennis Superstar Jan-Ove Waldner)

Table Tennis Robots

In my blog on December 5 (Wednesday), I wrote about table tennis robots. I've since done some updates - added a couple videos for Newgy and Butterfly. So I thought I'd link to it again so you can have a second chance to go out and buy these robots for Christmas!

Peter Li Teaches the Basics

Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the forehand push in this short video (41 seconds).

Forehand Pivot Footwork

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:25) on Forehand Pivot Footwork. "The key to all footwork is balance." I say the same thing in all my footwork lectures. This is one of the more valuable coaching videos to watch. Too many players don't pivot correctly, and they pay for it in balance and recovery. (Often players have no trouble stepping around to attack with the forehand, but cannot recover for the next shot because of a poor pivot move.)

PingPod #34

Here's a PingPod video from PingSkills (7:23). "In this episode of the PingPod, Alois and Jeff discuss the Ping Pong Zone. This zone is what you enter into the first time you venture into a club. There are often unorthodox players who don't look very good but are extremely difficult to beat. Watch this video to see what we are talking about and how to overcome the Ping Pong Zone."

Attack vs. Defense

Here's a video (8:28) of Tan Ruiwu (Croatia, formerly of China) vs. Joo See Hyuk (KOR) in a vintage attack vs. defense/offense match-up in the first round of the ITTF Grand Finals. Time between points has been removed so it's non-stop action.

Animals Playing Table Tennis

In my collection of Animals Playing Table Tennis pictures, I've just added an orangutan. He's not actually playing, but waving a ping-pong paddle about is good enough for me. It's called shadow practice. He's going to be good! (So who wins between him and the chimp?)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

December 6, 2012

Video Analysis

On Tuesday I did a video analysis for a top USA junior player. I've been doing this for $150, but I just raised the price to $200 - it just takes too long to make it worth the time otherwise. This one took over six and a half hours, and ran 18 pages (single spaced in Times Roman 12 point) and 8653 words, my longest one to date. (I'm not doing any more until January - too busy.) The one I did yesterday covered seven games against four opponents, plus video of him practicing. (One of the games he played ended 25-23!!! Yes, in a game to 11.) Here's my video analysis page, which includes two samples of ones I've done.

I break my video analysis into four parts:

  1. Point-by-point analysis of several games or matches.
  2. Analysis of the games, both on how the player can improve and tactical suggestions against that player.
  3. Player analysis, where I analyze the player's game and what he needs to work on to improve.
  4. Drilling suggestions, where I describe drills for this player.

When I do the point-by-point analysis (the most time consuming part), I write about what happened in every point, usually watching each point 2-3 times. Then I go over those notes to analyze the match itself. Then I go over each match analysis to analyze the player's game, and work out what drills he needs to work on.

In the one I did yesterday, some of the things I found (and gave recommendations on how to improve) included:

  • The player's serves were too high, due to a high contact point. Needs to serve lower.
  • Too often serve and pushed rather than serve and looped.
  • Feet were often in a backhand position when looping forehands.
  • Had trouble covering wide backhand in fast rallies - wasn't stepping to the ball.
  • After strong first forehand loop, often played soft with second loop.
  • Because often rushed, player backhand looped from the side erratically, but in practice did it more in front (more conventional). So he was practicing one way, executing another.
  • Backhand receives were too soft and tentative.
  • Didn't step in well for short balls to the forehand.
  • Held racket too high when receiving, leading to a tendency to push against side-top serves.
  • Plus plenty of strengths to build on.

Peter Li Teaches the Basics

Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the basics of the grip, stance, and forehand in this short video (1:10).

Playing the Middle

Here's a coaching video (8:26) from Greg Letts on playing the middle.

Magnifique Moment de Tennis de Table

Here's another highlights video (11:21)!

Under 21 Europeans

Here's a good match between the #2 and #4 Europeans under age 21 (#15 and #19 in the world under 21), Simon Gauzy of France versus Kristian Karlsson of Sweden. The future of European table tennis? The time between points is removed so the whole match takes place in 5:26.

Ultimate Ball Control

Here's a video (53 seconds) of a kid who has incredible skill in getting the ball into a cup of . . . water. (So it's not beer pong, it's water pong.)

***
Send us your own coaching news!

May 7, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Play and Practice with Weaker Players.

Returning the tomahawk serve

This is the serve where you serve with the racket tip up, and contact the ball on the right side, so it curves to the left, and the spin makes the ball come to your right off the opponent's paddle. It's awkward for many to take a ball spinning away from them on the forehand side and aim to the right, especially if the ball is short - try it and you'll see why. Until you reach the advanced levels, nearly everyone returns this serve toward the forehand side, and often they miss by going off the side to the left, or they allow the opponent to camp out on the forehand side. (This is for two righties; lefties make the usual adjustments. Sorry.)

Now think about this. Have you ever missed returning this serve by returning off the right side? Probably not. So just take it down the line, to the (righty's) backhand, knowing the sidespin will keep you from going off the side. Contact the back of the ball, perhaps slightly on the left side, so that the ball goes to the right, down the line.

Keep the racket relatively high - don't lower it as you chase after it as it bounces and spins away from you, or you'll end up lifting the ball high or off the end. Better still, don't chase after it - anticipate the ball jumping away from you and be waiting for it, like a hunter ambushing his prey. It's often this last-second reaching for the ball that both loses control and forces the receiver to hit the ball on the right side, thereby making down-the-line returns impossible. (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 3  of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Making Your Service Count; 2) Ball Placement; and 3) Staying Low. It's given both in text form and video (2:05). (Here's Part 1 and Part 2.)

ITTF Global Junior Circuit

Here's info on the Global Junior Circuit Events to be held at the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30 - July 4.

Ariel Hsing takes on Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill

To find out who won in the Olympian's match-ups against the two richest people in the world (depending on the date - the rankings change regularly but Gates and Buffet usually lead the list), see the article, which includes a video of them playing (1:18). Here are some pictures. And here's an article about it in Chinese!

U.S. Olympian Erica Wu

Here's an article and video (2:28) on new U.S. Olympian Erica Wu from a demonstration at her school. (Here's another article about it, which I posted on Friday.)

Tara Profitt and the Paralympics

Here's a Fox New Video of wheelchair player Tara Profitt (4:33), who will be playing the 2012 Paralympics.

Trek Stemp and baseball

He's not in the big leagues yet, but here's an article about the young phenom, which includes the following quote: "A big thing that helps playing infield — it may sound weird — pingpong," Stemp said. "Me and my friends play a lot of pingpong. A big part of pingpong is hand-eye coordination. That ball comes at you so fast."

The first table tennis political ad

Now they are using table tennis officiating to criticize political opponents! Now they've gone too far....

***

Send us your own coaching news!

May 3, 2012

USATT Committee and Task Force Meetings and Minutes

As noted in my blog on April 27, one week ago I sent an email to the USATT board, staff, and committee chairs asking where I could find the minutes of USATT committee and task force meetings. The USATT bylaws require these be published within 30 days (Section 9.10). USATT has not been doing so over the last five years or so (since the new bylaws were created), and so either there have been zero meetings or they have not been following their bylaws. (And I happen to know they have had numerous committee and task force meetings.) This is not a case of them not realizing they were not following the bylaws as I have reminded them of this a number of times over the last three years, by email, at meetings, and in person.

One week later and the only response was a private email by one committee chair who said he kept minutes and sent them to USATT, but they were never published. (He attached a copy of the minutes.)

This is a clear case of USATT being wrong, they know they are wrong, and they refuse to do anything about it. I find this incredibly frustrating - the board knows fully well that the membership only selects two of their nine members, and so they are not accountable to the membership. Two are selected by the Elite Athletes. The other five are selected by the Nominating and Governance Committee. Three of the five members of that committee are non-table tennis people who were chosen by the USOC.

I wonder if there is any benefit in going directly to the USOC and ask that they require USATT to follow their own bylaws? I mean, seriously, isn't following your own rules a major no-brainer?

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 2 of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Getting Good Equipment; 2) Understanding Underspin versus Topspin; and 3) Developing the Deep Push. It's given both in text form and video (2:01). (Here's Part 1.)

Why Guo Yue?

Here's an article on why China picked Guo Yue as the third member of the Chinese Olympic Women's Team.

"As One" pictures

Here are a group of photos taken at the set of the upcoming table tennis movie "As One," care of Mike Meier, who plays an umpire in the movie (and is one in real life as well). He's the one umpiring in many of the pictures, including the first one.

Here are two articles on Senior Table Tennis

Amarillo Slim

I saw the obituary of the famous gambler in the paper (he died Sunday), and it mentioned how he had not only beaten Bobby Riggs in a money match at table tennis with an iron skillet, but claimed he had also won a money match against a "world champion," which didn't seem possible - until I discovered they'd used coke bottles for rackets. Here's the story. (Anyone know who the Taiwanese player was? There have been no "world champions" from Taiwan, at least at the World Table Tennis Championships run by the ITTF.)

Bassnectar's "Ping Pong"

Here's Bassnectar's latest music (4:32), entitled, you guessed it, "Ping Pong." It starts with the sound of a ping-pong ball bouncing, and throughout much of it the beat is to a bouncing ping-pong ball.

Non-Table Tennis - SF Sales

The last two days have been nice ones for my "other" career, science fiction & fantasy writing.

  • I sold a story to Electric Spec, "In the Belly of the Beast," which tells the story of a sorcerer who kills dragons by getting swallowed alive, and then living in the dragon's stomach, protected by a force field, and bringing anything the dragon swallows into the force field - thereby starving the dragon to death. Unfortunately, the daughter he abandoned many years ago to go to sorcery school is also swallowed by the dragon, as well as a belligerent warrior. (It features the only sorcerer versus warrior battle ever fought in the stomach of a dragon.)  I've sold 59 short stories, and this is the 130th different publication I've been published in. (Here's a complete listing of my written work - over 1300 published articles and stories.)
  • I'm on the verge of selling a story to Flagship Magazine - they asked if I could do a rewrite of the ending. This story, "The Oysters of Pinctada," is about a space pirate who kidnaps a king and his crew in an attempt to find the secret of their giant pearls - and the lengths to which the king's people (including his son and daughter) will go to get him back.
  • The acquisitions editor for a publisher liked the first three chapters of my SF novel "Campaign 2100" and asked to see the rest of it. (She was a big West Wing fan, as was I, and the novel is basically West Wing in the 22nd century.)
  • Another publisher asked to see my fantasy novel "The Giant Face in the Sky." (Note - I have just the two novels making the rounds.)

***

Send us your own coaching news!

May 1, 2012

Breaking 2000 by Alex Polyakov

[Note - I did a very short review of this here in February, but I decided to do a more extensive one - after all, this is primarily a coaching blog, and this is a unique coaching book. Tomorrow I've got another book review, of Steve Grant's "Ping Pong Fever: The Madness That Swept 1902 America."]

I recently read the excellent book Breaking 2000, by Alex Polyakov (Breaking 2000, 140 pages, available in paperback and ebook). The book is a first-hand step-by-step look at the strategic development of a player from near beginner to an advanced level. I don't think I've seen it covered like this anywhere else. Instructional books generally do a good job in teaching how to do each technique; this book shows the actual events taking place as the techniques were learned, how they were learned, and most important, why. (And on a related note, Alex's coach, Gerald Reid, who is mentioned throughout the book, came to several of my training camps back in the 1990s!)

Improvement in table tennis is rarely a steady upward progression. As you learn new things, your game often temporarily "regresses" as you learn the new technique, and so rapidly-improving players often go up a bunch, then down a little, then up, then down. If you chart their improvement, it's more of an upward staircase. And that proves to be the case with Alex. (See his rating chart.)  

The book is broken down into about forty chapters, often with titles about developing specific techniques ("Forehand Development," "Backhand Development," "A Push," "Service Practice," "Practicing Against Junk Rubber Players," "Timely Backhand Development," "Dealing with Mental Tactics," etc.), specific rating accomplishments that describe how he reached that level ("Breaking USATT 1400," "USATT 1600," "Goodbye USATT 1600," "En Route to USATT 1800," "Back to USATT 1700," "Anxious to Break 1900," "USATT 2000," etc.) and other more colorful sounding chapters ("Facing Demons," "No Mercy, No Hesitation," "Hollywood Shots," "I Hate Playing Him!," "The Winner Always Wants the Ball," and "It is Not About Points.") The chapters talk about how he and Coach Gerald worked to develop and improve the specific techniques needed to reach each level.

The best parts of the book are the specific step-by-step chronicling of how his game was developed from beginner to 2000 player. At each step he and Coach Gerald analyzed his game, decided what was needed to reach the next level, and then set about practicing those techniques. Most of it is applicable to anyone who is ready to put in the time and practice to follow in Alex's footsteps and develop their game to a high level.

Here are some interesting quotes from the book. There are many more that are specific to the techniques he is working on, but these are some of the more general ones that caught my eye. I especially love the "I did not know what I did not know" statement - this is the bane of so many players, who often do not know that they do not know what they do not know.

  • "I know exactly how I was losing my matches during the tournament. I simply did not know what I did not know. My game consisted of simply reacting to the ball and hitting it if the opportunity came up. I had no strategy, no clear and concise thinking; all I had was simple brute force."
  • "Coaching has been the major factor in my success and is the biggest reason why I have been able to achieve my goals."
  • "Gerald proposed to start by shaping my game in such a way that would allow me to develop certain undeniable strengths which would never fail me. He called it a 'base.' Having this base would mean that these basic skills would in time become a power that would tilt the pendulum during my matches against 95% of opponents of my level. This so-called base was meant to establish a set of technically correct strokes, which I could execute flawlessly and with consistency."
  • "Rating points do not define a player. Player's skills define rating points through results produced in competitive tournament level settings."
  • "...there is no need to rush, there is no need to be disappointed and there is no need to ever doubt your ability to win. There is just a need to find new weaknesses in your game and learn to turn the weakness into weapons."

Coaching Break

Cheng Yinghua returns today from his three-week vacation in China. I've been coaching many of his students while he was gone, and it's been exhausting, though it's been a big bonus monetary-wise. But now I'll finally catch up on rest - and soon I'll dive back into the final rewrite of my own newest book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide." (It's basically done - I've got perhaps four hours of rewriting to do, but it involves some tricky stuff - I save the hardest for last.) 

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 1 of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Developing the Forehand Smash; 2) Learning the Sidespin Serve; and 3) Learning the Long Fast Serve. It's given both in text form and video (2:18). How do these three seemingly different topics come together? As Peter explains, the sidespin serve sets up the smash, and the fast serve keeps opponents from getting too used to the sidespin serve.

U.S. Open Table Tennis Championships

Home page. Grand Rapids. June 30 - July 4. Starts in sixty days. Be there. 'Nuff said.

North American Olympic Trials Videos

Available online now! Yes, you can watch the great USA-Canadian Clash of 2012!

Matt Jarvis breaks the Ice with table tennis

England's Matt Jarvis, son of former English champions Nick and Linda Jarvis (now Linda Jarvis-Howard), made the English national team football team (that's soccer to us Americans) - and then broke the ice with his new teammates by beating them in table tennis! Here's the story.

***

Send us your own coaching news!

 

April 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

The 3-2-1 Placement Rule.

Seamless balls

As some of you may know, the ITTF is going to seamless balls. The first ones are out. Here's an analysis (5:44) by Australian star William Henzell - and it's not good. Some quotes:

  • "They sound broken."
  • "Bounce feels different and generally higher."
  • "The bounce will take some getting used to and the ball will be in a different position to what you're used to."
  • "We found there was less spin generally."
  • "The balls wobbled from side to side when spun."
  • "The new balls are definitely harder."
  • "The new balls feel heavier."
  • "After just a few minutes of play we had our first broken ball."
  • "We all hope this will improve."

Cheng gone, me busy

Cheng Yinghua is vacationing in China for three weeks (April 9-May 1). I'm subbing for a number of his students during this time (as are the other coaches), so I'll be rather busy and tired. But hey, I get paid for it!

MDTTC Open House and Spring Break Camp

The MDTTC Open House this past Saturday (10:30 AM - 4PM) was a big success. About 200 players showed up, including many new ones. Dozens of new kids showed up, most of them in the beginning junior class held at the start. Numerous prizes were given away in various raffles. The demos (featuring Nathan Hsu, Tong Tong Gong, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, plus Cheng Yinghua in a multiball demo) and exhibitions (me versus Derek in a humorous one, Han Xiao versus Jeffrey Zeng Xun in a more serious one) went off really well. The 30-minute service seminar I ran was jammed with new faces. And the three-point tournament (46 players) went great, with George Nie ($30 gift certificate) defeating Adam Yao ($20) in the all-junior final, with Lixin Lang and Kyle Wang ($10 each) in the semifinals. Here are pictures taken by raffle winner (and Tong Tong's dad) Chaoying Gong. The pictures show the club after the recent renovation and expansion.

Our five-day Spring Break Camp ended on Friday, with over 40 players. This is the 21st consecutive year we've had a spring break camp, ever since we opened in 1992. (As noted last week, it was the 150th five-day camp I've run or co-run.) Friday morning was the final training session; that afternoon we had practice tournaments. For the beginners, I put chocolates on the table and fed multiball, and they kept whatever ones they knocked off. (I had a little fun at one point, demonstrating the art of blindfold multiball - when you've been feeding multiball for 30 years you can close your eyes and still do it pretty accurately.)

Interviews

Here are some interviews (8:55) taken of local junior stars (or past junior star in Barbara's case) George and Derek Nie, Barbara Wei, and Lilly Lin, taken at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and Club JOOLA. (The MDTTC interviews of George, Derek, and Barbara were taken before the recent expansion that doubled its size.)

Jim Butler vs. Peter Li

A number of people were rather shocked when Jim Butler, after a few months practice, was able to upset USA National Men's Champion and Finalist Peter Li and Han Xiao at the recent Cary Cup. Part of the reason was they were more used to spinny backhands, and Butler's flatter backhand gave them trouble, as did his serves. Here's the video of Jim Butler versus Peter Li (35:57).

Baltimore Orioles Ping-Pong

I received an email this weekend from a PR person from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team. It seems they are playing a lot of table tennis in the clubhouse, with shortstop JJ Hardy and former center field star and now trainer Brady Anderson the best. These two are interested in receiving coaching to improve. So they are hiring me to come to Oriole Park to coach them in the clubhouse, with coverage by MASN, the Orioles network! Wrote the PR guy of Hardy, "He seemed pretty serious about learning to play ping pong better." I'll post more info when the dates are finalized.

Tiger Woods on table tennis

Here's a quote from Table Tennis Nation from Tiger Woods:

Q: Is there any correlation between hand-eye coordination required in videogames and hand-eye coordination in golf?

Tiger: "Absolutely. I think that people don't realize this, but most golfers are really good at table tennis and pool. And I think it's just because of the fact that our sport is so hand-eye based, and guys just have a good feel with their hands. And those two sports, table tennis and pool, correlate to what we do in golf whether it's reflexes with table tennis or pool, which is like putting to us."

Easter Pong Bunny

Here's a cartoon of the Easter Bunnies playing ping-pong. And here's the Newgy Eastern Bunny. And here's a video of a real rabbit attacking a ping-pong paddle (1:43)!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

March 1, 2012

Peter Li

Imagine a country that has an 18-year-old National Men's Singles Champion. Suppose that country decides to fund four players to the World Championships. You'd think that winning that Men's Singles title would automatically qualify you for the team. Right? Wrong.

That's the story of Peter Li, who won Men's Singles at the USA Nationals a little over two months ago in December when he was 18. However, at the USA Team Trials (just after turning 19), he finished in a four-way tie for second place with a record of 8-3. But after the tie-breaker (going to matches and games among those tied), he finished in fifth place, just missing the top four. He was then offered the fifth spot as an unfunded position, meaning he would have to pay his own way to the worlds. His family is already spending over $10,000/year on his training, and simply couldn't afford to pay more. And so he will not be going to the Worlds, and will not gain the experience he would get there.

Can anyone imagine this happening in any serious table tennis country? I don't think there are very many countries that fund teams to the Worlds that would not fund a teenaged National Men's or Women's Singles Champion.  

There's little chance USATT will change their procedures for this Worlds. The question is if they will look at the result of their procedure, and ask themselves if that procedure is really getting them the best result. Perhaps anyone winning or making the final of Men's and Women's Singles at the Nationals should automatically qualify. (Conflict of interest note - Peter developed at MDTTC, my club, and still trains and coaches part-time there on weekends.) 

Hit the ball harder!

I'm coaching an eight-year-old girl whose forehand is coming along pretty well, except for one problem: she absolutely will not hit the ball hard. Every shot is the same soft keep-it-in-play stroke that wouldn't break wet tissue paper. I've tried to get her to gradually hit the ball harder, to no avail. She just doesn't want to. So what did I do?

I did the obvious thing. I tricked her.

Near the end of our session yesterday, while feeding multiball, I put a half-filled water bottle on the table. I told her if she could knock it over, she could have a chocolate. (I conveniently had a stash handy.) It took her a few shots to hit the bottle, and she discovered she'd have to hit it harder to knock it over. That's when she started hitting harder, and with good form. She won two chocolates. Afterwards I told her mom about what I'd done, and she promised not to tell her daughter. (Shhhhhhh everyone! Hopefully she's not reading this blog.)

Sol Schiff

Here's the obit on Sol Schiff by his longtime friend Dean Johnson.

The Ma Long serve

He's #1 in the world, and here's his serve (2:31). Here's another video of it (0:55), showing it in action. Both videos show it in regular time and slow motion.

Table Tennis in Bed

Yes, you too can play table tennis in bed, using your hands and feet to rally back and forth!

***

Send us your own coaching news!

February 15, 2012

Banana Receives

Perhaps the biggest change at the higher levels in table tennis in recent years is the advent of the backhand "banana" receive. This is the nickname used for a backhand topspin flip of a serve, essentially a mini-loop, with the name referring to the curve the racket goes through with the stroke. It's done against any type of spin, but it's against short backspin that it is most effective. Some do it with straight topspin; most can add sidespin. It's much easier to do this type of shot on the backhand than the forehand, where the wrist is more locked, and so more and more players are covering more and more of the table with this backhand shot. At the U.S. Olympic and World Team Trials this past weekend (Feb. 9-12), it was the receive of choice of nearly every player.

Some players used it nearly every receive they could. Others mixed it up with short pushes. The ones who didn't use it much were thought of as "old school," while all the younger players used the banana flip over and over.

From a server's point of view, it complicates things. If you serve short to a corner, you give the opponent a wide angle. So most short serves go toward the middle of the table, which is easy for the receiver to banana receive. (If you serve long, then it usually gets looped much harder, so that's only done at the higher levels as a surprise variation.) This means most rallies start with the receiver getting in at least a mini-loop. About the only way to avoid this is to serve very wide to the forehand. The problem here is that the receiver then has a wide angle into the server's wide forehand, and since he has to cover that, the server is open to a simple down-the-line receive to the backhand. (This is for two righties; lefties would reverse all this.)

To see a good banana receive, let's look at the tape of the Men's Singles Final at the recent USA Nationals between Peter Li and Han Xiao. (The match doesn't start until 4:30 into the video.) On the very first point, Peter banana receives Han's serve. On the fourth point, Han does the same to Peter's serve. Throughout the match, against short serves, they mix in this shot with short pushes.

One interesting note about Han Xiao's banana receive that I'm particularly proud of - he copied the shot from me! I've been doing a precursor to the shot for decades, with a quick off-the-bounce backhand topspin receive, but it's only a precursor because my shot doesn't have the extreme topspin or sidespin of the modern banana receive. (So I guess I'm still "old school"?) On the ride back from the USA Trials, Han said that during his junior days he was having trouble stopping a local player from third-ball attacking. Then he saw how I disarmed the player with this shot, and so he copied it, added extra topspin, and suddenly he had what would become one of the best banana receives in the country - except, of course, the term "banana receive" wouldn't come out until a number of years later. (He also said that the reason he's so quick on counterlooping strong loops to the forehand without backing up is because of the zillions of practice matches we had, where my best forehand loops were often aimed at his forehand.)

4-F for Table Tennis

Here's my four F's for table tennis, which I often cite to players before matches: Focus, Free-play, Fysical, Fun. Yeah, one doesn't quite fit, spelling-wise, but this is ping-pong, not Scrabble. Maybe 4-F can become as big as 4-H?

TT on NBC News

Here's Michael Landers on NBC News (1:56).

Dial 800 for Kim Gilbert and Soo Yeon Lee

Here's a short video/commercial (I'm not sure which it counts as) by Dial 800, who sponsors table tennis player Kim Gilbert, who is featured in the video with table tennis star, Soon Yeon Lee (1:32).

Rod Blagojevich and Ping-Pong

Here's a video from Yahoo about luxury prisons (1:50) which doesn't mention table tennis until the very end. Then it talks about the Federal Correctional Institute in Englewood, Colorado, which "...offers foosball, pool, and ping-pong," and finishes by saying, "Rod Blagojevich ... will have fourteen years to work on his backhand."

Cho! - 21 times

21 pictures of table tennis players going "Cho!"

***

Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content