Forehand Loop

November 3, 2014

Another Full-Time Club - Table Tennis Exploding Nationally and in Maryland Area

Another full-time club is opening in my area, the Smash Table Tennis Center in Sterling, Virginia, which will open in about one month. (Not to be confused with the Smash Table Tennis Club which recently opened in Fall River, Massachusetts.) This makes 77 full-time clubs in the U.S. (in 23 states and DC), and seven full-time table tennis clubs within 45 minutes of me (probably all within 30 minutes if no traffic). Table Tennis in the Maryland region is exploding!!!

So why is table tennis taking off in the Maryland/Virginia region, as well as other regions such as the SF and LA areas in California, NY and NJ, and other regions? It only takes one successful club in an area (which develops the demand) to grow enough interest that there's a demand for more, plus the locals see how successful a full-time center can be and so copy it. MDTTC spent years as the only full-time club in the region (and often the whole country), but now they are popping up everywhere, to the chagrin of all the doubters of the past. (I've been arguing for something like twenty years for USATT to get involved in the recruiting and training of coaches and promoters to spread these centers, whose rise I've been predicting for many years, including a presentation to the board on this in December, 2006, at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting, and many others, always falling on deaf ears, alas.)

It is a scary thing for a full-time club when another one opens up locally. In the short run, it does hurt business. But new clubs bring in new business, and some of that business goes to the other clubs, and in the end, everyone benefits - it is not a zero-sum game. When a new full-time club brings in new players, many of those players end up playing in the other clubs' tournaments, leagues, and coaching programs, become members, and the local table tennis community increases, to the benefit of all. (And word-of-mouth from the new players brings in still more players.) So yes, "A rising tide lifts all boats." I wrote about this in my March 19, 2014 blog.

A key thing, however, is you don't open a club with the thought that there is already a demand for the club - though that helps, and is a reality in some regions due to the hard work of those who created the demand. No, when you open a full-time club (or any club), the point is to create the demand. This means creating programs that players are interested in, and so becoming members. Getting players into a club isn't that hard if you know how to go about doing it, but keeping them is.

And for those of you who are thinking of making the jump to full-time table tennis, here's the manual I wrote on this, Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. (It also goes over how to get players into a club and keep them)

World Cadet Challenge

It finished over the weekend. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with results, articles and pictures. Kanak Jha got the bronze medal for Cadet Boys' Singles, while he and Jack Wang got the bronze for Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams. Crystal Wang and Amy Wang got the bronze for Cadet Girls' Teams, and made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Doubles. Crystal made the quarterfinals of Cadet Girls' Singles. Overall in the singles Kanak came in 3rd, Jack 8th, Crystal 7th, and Amy 17th (after winning the "Losers Bracket"). Here's an ITTF article that features. Kanak.

China's History of Match Fixing

Here's the article. With the recent issue about whether the 2012 Olympic Men's Final was fixed, this is of extra interest. The fixed matches featured here are only a fraction of them; fixing matches was considered standard in the past, where coaches and officials would decide who should win to tactically and politically most benefit China. (And there is no denying there is a logic to this, but at the expense of the players who trained for so many years only to be treated like pawns.) I've had some serious discussions with people from China who strongly believe in this type of fixing - I've concluded it's a cultural thing. It happens in America as well; I know of at least four times where players dumped matches to affect who made the U.S. team or equivalent. There's no getting around this type of thing.  

Forehand Looping with Variation

Here's the video (2:26) by Samson Dubina.

Two-Table Training

Here's the video (6:51). I've done this before, but not recently. I think I'll do it in our next junior sessions. It's not only good training (by forcing players to cover extra ground, the actually ground they do need to cover becomes easy), but it's fun and the kids like doing something different.

Learn How to Deliver Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Northwest Indiana Welcomes Second Butterfly Thanksgiving Event

Here's the USATT article on the upcoming Butterfly Teams.

Ping-Pong Craze Comes to Fall River

Here's the article on the new full-time Smash Table Tennis Club in Fall River, Massachusetts.

Best Points

Here's the video (4:59) - the first one is a doozy!

Table Tennis - Our Story

Here's the motivational music video (5:12)

Edge-Edge-Edge-Edge Point

Here's the video (28 sec, including slow-motion replay). I believe the server serves on the edge, followed by three consecutive edges, two by each player.

Happy and Horrible Halloween From:

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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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August 1, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. We didn't have most of the beginners do this, though a couple of them badly wanted to and so I taught them the shot. Normally you give players at least a few weeks at least of regular forehand and backhand drives before introducing them to looping. The six-year-old I blogged about yesterday who had a pretty good backhand loop (at least in multiball) had an even better forehand loop! Very smooth and rather consistent. However, he's not ready to do this effectively in a game yet - he still loses head-to-head to other beginners who don't have his techniques, but are a couple years older and are more consistent.

One of the important points that came up several times yesterday is the importance of rotating mostly in a circle when forehand looping. Imagine a rod going through your head; you should rotate around it. The left side (for righties) should pull back and around as much as the right side goes forward. This doesn't mean you never move your head and upper body (i.e. follow through sideways), but that's usually done to create power when rushed, especially when stepping around the backhand corner. By rotating mostly in a circle you stay balanced and immediately ready for the next shot - which is how top players can pull off a series of powerful loops in quick succession, while intermediate players often struggle to do two in a row.

The younger kids in this week's camp absolutely have gone bonkers over Froggy. All they want to do is put it on the table so they can try hitting it while I feed multiball. I'm starting half the sessions by saying various versions of, "If you work hard for the first hour, I'll bring out Froggy and you can take turns hurting the poor amphibian." It's good target practice, as long as they use good form when hitting.

Over break I was challenged by a 2139 player to a clipboard match. We played best of three to 11. I won the first, 11-9. He won the second, 11-8. He was leading 6-4 in the third when we ran out of time and had to go off break. We plan to finish the match at break today. We're having great points - wish this were on video. (There are a couple videos of me playing clipboard matches on youtube, but neither are among my better-played matches.) Earlier that morning, before we started, another junior (about 1100) also challenged me to a match, so I played him with my cell phone, and won, 11-9.  He wants to play me again today - rematch!

(Note - I have to run over to the club an hour and a half earlier this morning for something, so this blog is shorter than normal - not as much time to scan the Internet for interesting articles and videos.)

The Art of Decisiveness

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

International Articles

Here's my periodic reminder that there are lots and lots of international articles at the ITTF and TableTennista sites!

Junior Olympic Results

I've been unable to find any online results from the Junior Olympic Games, which were held the last three days in Detroit, finishing yesterday. One of the parents there put together this listing of medalists from my club (MDTTC). I have a listing now of the results and if I can't find an online listing soon I'll probably format and post that. (They normally put the results online.) So . . . Congratulations to the following MDTTC'ers at the 2013 Junior Olympics!

GOLD
Girls U10 Singles - Lisa Lin
Girls U10 Doubles - Lisa Lin & Jessica Lin
Girls U10 Team - Lisa Lin, Jessica Lin & Helen Yao
Boys U12 Singles - Adam Yao
Girls U16 Doubles - Kaylee Zou & Shirley Hu
Boys U18 Doubles - Chen Bowen & Nathan Hsu
Division I - Sameer Shaikh
Division J - Jessica Lin
SILVER 
Girls U10 Singles - Jessica Lin
Boys U16 Singles - Chen Bowen
Girls U18 Singles - Lilly Lin
Boys U18 Team - Leon Bi, Chen Bowen, Nathan Hsu
Division H - Lisa Lin
BRONZE 
Girls U12 Singles - Helen Yao
Girls U14 Singles - Amy Lu
Girls U18 Doubles - Lilly Lin & Amy Lu
Girls U18 Team - Amy Lu, Kaylee Zou & Lilly Lin
Boys U16 Team - Jason Wei & Adam Yao

Table Tennis Balls - Never Leave Home Without 'Em!

Like this. (No, it's not my car!)

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March 25, 2013

Tip of the Week

Importance of Constant Competition.

Spring Break Camp

In Friday's blog I mentioned that we have so many coaches/practice partners that we can't always use them all. Actually, it looks like that was incorrect - they will all be used in our camps, either coaching, feeding multiball, or as practice partners.

Day One starts this morning. As usual, I do all the talking, introducing the camp and giving short lectures. However, unlike our summer camps, where we have a lot of out-of-towners, the Spring Break Camp is mostly locals (since it coincides with the local spring break), and so the lectures will be extra short, with the goal to get them out on the tables. I'll probably be feeding multiball in the morning, working with beginners in the afternoon.

Mornings are mostly multiball. I'll be feeding multiball, along with coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), and perhaps one other. If not feeding multiball, then Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen") and Chen Jie ("James") will be practice partners for players waiting their turn at multiball. (We have other part-time coaches - not sure yet of their hours.) In the afternoon, it's mostly table play, with the first half drills, then games. I'll be taking the beginners to the back tables to work on basics (and then games near the end), while Cheng and Jack run the session for the rest, with the others as practice partners.

The big question each day, of course, is what to order for lunch. We order Chinese food delivered each day. I'm thinking Orange Chicken, though Mongolian Beef also sounds good. Right after lunch it's sort of set that most of the kids will all want to go to the 7-11 down the street, and so we walk there as a group. The 7-11 manager always sneaks me a free mini-Slurpee for bringing them. Not sure if I'll want a cold Slurpee today - we had four inches of snow last night. Maybe we'll build snowmen during lunch break.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers - Kindle Version

After a long battle with the formatting, I've finalized the new version for Kindle with the 90 pictures used in the print version, and it is ready for downloading. I've also contacted Amazon about giving free downloads of the new version to anyone who bought the previous text-only version. Here's their response:

We've now entered your request to provide updated content to customers who purchased your book. Thanks for providing specific details about the changes made. We’ll perform the review of the changes to determine the most appropriate way to describe the updates to your customers. As we previously told you, this review will be complete within four weeks, and the possible results of our review listed below.

1. If the changes made to your content are considered critical, we’ll send an email to all customers who own the book to notify them of the update and improvements made. These customers will be able to choose to opt in to receive the update through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com. www.amazon.com/gp/digital/fiona/manage

2. If the changes made to your content are considered minor, we won’t be able to notify all customers by email, but we will activate their ability to update the content through the Manage Your Kindle page on Amazon.com.

Chinese Publisher for Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

I started googling for Chinese publishers that might be interested in translating and publishing the book in China. And then it hit me - it's already been done! Well, sort of. My previous book, Table Tennis: Steps to Success was translated into five other languages (Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Malaysian, and Hebrew - plus of course the English version). So all I have to do is contact the Chinese publisher of that book and see if they'd be interested in this one. It was published in China by China University of Mining and Technology Press. (Someone also contacted me about possibly doing a Swedish translation. I'll get back to him soon.)

Combating Nerves - Playing Against a Big Reputation

Here's the article from Table Tennis Master.

International Articles from Table Tennista

Here are four more.

Do You Try at 10-0?

Here's an interesting discussion at the OOAK Table Tennis Forum on whether to give away a point if you are leading 10-0. Personally, in non-competitive matches, I always give it away, or at least put up a high ball for them to smash (though then I might try to win the point lobbing). Against players near my level in practice I might also put a ball up like that, but not in a tournament.

Forehand Loop Against Block

Here's a nice video (3:11) from PingSkills that demonstrates and explains this.  

Assembling a Racket

Here's a video (1:57) showing how to put sponge on your racket - plus a little behind-the-back play by Steven Chan.

Bruce Jenner Plays TT

So how does 1976 Decathlon Olympic Gold Medalist Bruce Jenner spend his free time? Playing table tennis with a robot! Here's a video (33 sec) of him hitting with the robot at his home.

Chimp Picture

Here's a new Chimpanzee ping-pong picture. (Here's an older one.)

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September 27, 2012

Last-Minute Looping: Learning to Loop

Yesterday I taught an 11-year-old girl to forehand loop. She'd attended ten junior group sessions I'd taught, and this was I think her fourth private session. Her forehand and backhand drives are getting pretty steady, and of course we'll continue to work on them to make them "perfect."  

Sometimes it's good to wait longer to really ingrain the forehand and backhand drives before starting them on looping, but I'm a believer in getting to looping (at least against backspin) as soon as possible. Otherwise, they tend to become pusher/blockers (since they can't attack backspin), their loops aren't as natural (since they ingrain drive strokes early on rather than topspin strokes), and they don't take advantage of a characteristic that gives them the advantage at that age - they are shorter, and so looping is a bit more natural since they can let the ball drop down to their level. Plus, it gives them something to get excited about when they begin doing shots that match what the best players in the club are doing, and that excitement leads to more focus and determination, which leads to faster improvement.

I started her on looping in the last ten minutes of the session, feeding backspin with multiball. At first she had difficulty. Sometimes she wouldn't bring her racket down enough, or she wouldn't sweep up enough and would instead start up, then switch to a more forward-driving stroke. The result was flat strokes with little topspin. The scary part here is that since I'm giving her the same spin over and over, it's pretty easy to drive the ball with light topspin, and to believe that it's a good shot. (And it would have - in the hardbat era.) So I have to explain how a drive against backspin without great topspin isn't that good and will rarely be as consistent or effective in a match situation as looping. She understood, and kept trying.

When the time for the session came to an end, she was so close, and had managed to make two shots that I would charitably describe as loops, but most of the others were still just topspin drives. I went to her side and said let's just shadow practice the shot for two minutes so she can get the feel for the stroke, so she could shadow practice on her own all week and be ready next time. (We'd been doing shadow stroking, but usually for 10-20 seconds at a time at most.) We did so, and her stroke looked better and better. So I asked the dad if we could stay a little late, and he said sure. I fed her more multiball - and from the first ball, after that two minutes of shadow-practice, she was looping!!! She was grazing the ball and getting good topspin. She did seven in a row, missed a few, and then made a bunch more. I wanted to ingrain the stroke, so we did it for another five minutes. We were both very excited over this.

Now I'll be working on both her drives and loops. (As much as I like to get to looping, it's equally important to get those drive shots down - the fundamentals are key.) When I feel she's ready, I'll have her try them in combination - loop a backspin and then smash a topspin. Eventually, we'll have her looping against topspin as well. And yes, the backhand loop will be coming up as well in a few weeks.

Henzel's World Cup Blog

William Henzel of Australia is keeping a blog of his trip to the Men's World Cup in Liverpool, England, where he arrived yesterday - the tournament is Fri-Sun, Sept. 28-30. Here's Day One, where he arrives and ponders the expense of hiring a coach for his matches.

Documentary on the Rise of Sweden

Here's a documentary of how Sweden rose to challenge and defeat the Chinese at the 1989 World's. They would continue to dominate the world for about six more years, and would battle with the Chinese for nearly 15 more years. The only problem is the video, about an hour long, is in Swedish, without English subtitles. I watched much of it, and though I didn't know what was being said, you could figure much of it out from the context. Plus it was nostalgic for those of us who were around back then! The video features Jan-Ove Waldner, Jorgen Persson, Mikael Appelgren, Erik Lindh, Stellan Bengsston, Kjell Johansson, and other Swedish players and coaches, as well as Chinese players such as Jiang Jialiang and Chen Longcan.

ITTF Coaching Seminar - in India

Stopping by India anytime soon? Or already live there? USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee will be teaching three ITTF coaching seminars in India, in Ajmer (Oct. 3-7), in Bangalore (Oct. 10-14), and in Bangalore (Oct. 17-21). Here's the ITTF announcement.

Howard Tong Video

Here's a video (2:58) featuring 12-year-old Howard Tong of the World Champions Table Tennis Club in the San Francisco Bay area.

Orioles J.J. Hardy - "No one can beat me."

Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy is the best pingpong player on the team, according to an article in ESPN on Tuesday. The article says Hardy is the best athlete on the team, and says "He also is the best pingpong player on the Orioles." It then quotes Hardy:

"The next-best is Brady [Anderson, a special instructor]," Hardy said, half joking. "I've played him 100 times. I've beaten him 100 times. He'll never beat me. No one can beat me."

Some may remember that earlier this season the Orioles contacted me about doing a table tennis special with the Orioles for their TV network (featuring Hardy, Anderson, and pitcher Jake Arrieta, another table tennis enthusiast. However, it was put off when Hardy began having wrist problems, and now they are in a pennant race. So I don't know when or if this will happen. I've been in email contact with them, and my best guess is it'll be put off until next year. We'll see.

Inmates at the Teams

That's me scratching my head as I'm literally surrounded by "inmates" playing in the 2006 North American Teams in Baltimore. Yes, that was their team uniform - and there are at least eight of them, so it might have been two teams. The ones in "uniform," L-R, are: Unknown (you can just see his hat and leg); Ray Mack; I think Fong Hsu; Unknown; Connie Sweeris (short one with back to us); Unknown; I think Jim McQueen (or was the one I thought was Fong Hsu actually McQueen? Hard to tell); and Alan Fendrick.

MDTTC Goes to the Birds

Earlier this month a bird visited the Maryland Table Tennis Center. No, not the Baltimore Orioles mascot or Larry Bird; an actual bird! Here's the video (3:47), starring Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Raghu Nadmichettu, Tong Tong Gong, and a seemingly very tame (but probably just traumatized) bird. I can't believe I missed all of this, but I wasn't there for the big event.

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August 09, 2012

Car Accident

It happened yesterday morning at 9:35 AM, while I was driving to the club to coach in our training camp. I was just driving along, minding my own business, and about to go through an intersection (Middlebrook Rd. and Century Blvd.) when a Metro Access mini-bus suddenly pulled right in front of me from the left. I swerved to the left, trying to go behind it, and would have made it except the driver, compounding her error in pulling into my lane, panicked and rather then rushing to get out of my way, put on the breaks, stopping right in the middle of the road and blocking two lanes. I had nowhere to go and so plowed right into it, near the back on the side.

I had the right of way, with a green light. The bus driver had been coming from the other direction and was making a u-turn. There was some construction going on in the road on her side, and she claimed a worker had waved her through.

No one was hurt (the bus had I believe three passengers), but the front of my car was smashed in. The bus had little damage, comparatively, other than a surprisingly small dent. (The advantage of having a higher mass.) Though it looked like something from The Living Dead, my car seemed to drive okay, and I was able to pull into an Exxon station next to us, where we exchanged contact and insurance info. Then I drove to a local auto body place. From there I spent about an hour on the phone with my insurance company (Geico), which will deal with getting the Metro insurance company to pay for the damages to my car.

Someone from the auto body place gave me a ride to the club, and I showed up at 11:20AM. (Camp started at 10AM. I'd called right after the crash to let the other coaches know I'd be late.) The rest of the camp went pretty much normal, other than Channel 9 News filming us (see below), and the camp ended at 1PM. I stayed late to do one private coaching session, and then went home to deal with the paperwork involving the car crash. Around 4PM I got a rental car (insurance will pay), and at 6PM I was back at the club coaching.

MDTTC Training Camp Week Nine Day Three

Yesterday's highlight was Channel 9 News/WUSA coming in to do a feature story on Timmy La, a local who is training for the 2016 Paralympics in Standing Disabled. They took lots of pictures, and Timmy and I were interviewed. Afterwards, the reporter got a kick out of watching (and videoing) one of the games at the end, where I put a giant rubber frog on a table, divided the beginners into two teams, and they took turns trying to hit it, with the first to hit it 20 times winning.

One of the kids I was working with made a big breakthrough on the forehand loop. After struggling with technique for quite some time - always rushing, off balance, flat contact, etc. - things suddenly came together. The key seemed to be a focus on "rocking" into the shot, which took out some of the more spastic elements of his stroke which led to the problems. We did a bunch of extra multiball on this to make sure it was ingrained. We'll work on it more tomorrow.

Olympic Coverage

As noted in previous blogs, you can get full Olympic Table Tennis coverage at the ITTF page.

China Falling Out of Love for Table Tennis?

Here's an article in The Atlantic on whether China is losing interest in their "National Sport."

Table Tennis in the Times

While it has a few inaccuracies (Ariel Tsing?) and hints that table tennis isn't much of a physical sport, here's an otherwise interesting article on table tennis from the Washington Times, "A sport for nerds maybe, but Ping-Pong makes Olympians of us all."

Journalists Take Up Olympic Sports

NBC15 assigned 15 of its reporters to take up an Olympic sport and do coverage of it. (Guess that's why they are NBC 15.) See the link to the table tennis video. 

Grubba-Saive Exhibition

Here's a hilarious and spectacular exhibition (7:36) by Andrzej Grubba and Jean-Michel Saive. You know it's going to be good when 18 seconds in Saive's sitting in a chair and lobbing.

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July 19, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Three

Yesterday's focus was on the forehand loop. I gave my usual lecture and demo on the subject, with Nathan Hsu as my demo partner. To demonstrate the loop against backspin I alternately forehand looped and forehand chopped while Nathan blocked and pushed.

There were two new players in my multiball group who had just started out on Monday, so this was only their third day of playing. When the first one's turn came for multiball, a 9-year-old boy, right up until the last second I was thinking we should just focus on the basic forehand and backhand drives. Then, for some reason, I changed my mind and asked if he'd like to try looping. He said "Yes!" About two minutes later he'd picked it up and was doing it pretty consistently, still more of a roll, but with pretty good topspin! I was rather surprised.

So I did the same with the next beginner, a 12-year-old girl. Same result! (Many other beginners are not able to pick looping up this quickly.) As I told the two of them, either they are very talented or I'm a really good coach! (We jokingly argued over which it was all morning, with me taking the "very good coach" side.)

Looping and I have a long-term love-hate relationship. I was a late starter to table tennis, starting when I was 16, and right from the start I was a natural hitter. I found looping much more difficult, probably due to tight muscles (even then). However, I was determined to be a looper (just as many natural loopers were determined to be hitters before that style sort of died out at the higher levels), and practiced constantly. Eventually I developed a pretty efficient, if somewhat stiff forehand loop. When I play matches I loop and smash equally, but my hitting is definitely more natural - but I still focus on looping, because, gosh darn it, I wanna be a looper!!!

In the afternoon I introduced the Adjustable Height Device. I blogged about this back on July 20, 2011, when I first used it in camps last summer. It was created by a player I coach, John Olsen, and the kids love it. Here it is in its high and low settings. The challenge is to serve under the bar. The key is to ignore the bar and simply serve low. We also use it sometimes in regular rallies to see if the players can rally under the bar, which in rallies would be set a bit higher than for serves.

I also introduced Froggy (no pictures available, sorry), a large rubber frog, about the size of a soccer ball (but wider, not as tall). I put it on the table, divide players into two teams, and they take turns trying to hit it, two shots each. First team to hit it 20 times wins. I'll try to get a picture today.

Slurpee fever has stuck the camp. During lunch break each day I'm now taking two car trips to the local 7-11 where the kids load up on slurpees. (The kids were shocked to learn that both 7-11 and slurpees were around when I was their age 40 years ago, when I too used to get 7-11 slurpees, back when 7-11 opened at 7AM and closed at 11PM - hence the name. I just looked it up - 7-11 slurpees came out in 1967, when I was seven.) It's not like I'm not compensated for the taxi service; Allen Wang treats me to a Planters Peanut Bar each time. They are my favorite candy bar; if you want to be my friend, you will bring them to me.

Washington Post to MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Friday at 11AM for a story on Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Champion) and other MDTTC players. Locals, feel free to come in! Ironically, the player Derek defeated in the final, Gal Alguetti of New Jersey, is here this week for our training camp.

Wang Hao and a Short History of the Penhold Grip

Here's an interesting story on the ITTF web page about the modernization of the penhold grip, which at one point was dying out at the higher levels until the development of the reverse penhold backhand brought it back.

Kalinikos Kreanga vs. Michael Maze

Here are some great points from a video (2:53) of a match between these two from five years ago. Still great play - and notice how tactically they keep attacking the other's middle both to score points and to open up the wide angles?

The Way Table Tennis Should Be Played

Olympian Trick Shots

Lily Zhang and Erica Wu demonstrate their trick shots (1:19) - hilarious!

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June 28, 2012

Last Blog Until After U.S. Open

This will be my last blog until I return from the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. I should start blogging again on Friday, July 6. I know it will be difficult, but there must be other stuff on the Internet to read. I've heard rumors.

I'm mostly coaching at the Open (primarily Derek and George Nie), though I am entered in one event, Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff. (I've won it twelve times at the Open or Nationals, eight times with Ty, four times with Steve Berger.) There's just too many time conflicts in trying to play multiple events while coaching multiple players, and I had to make a choice on whether I'm primarily a player or a coach. (Duh!) Normally I'd also coach Tong Tong Gong, but he's on the National Cadet Team, and so will be mostly coached by the U.S. National Cadet Coach, Keith Evans.

I'm driving up with the Nie family on Friday morning, leaving around 7AM, and should arrive by 5PM or so. I should arrive in time to attend both the ITTF Jury Meeting at 6PM (where they make the draws and go over rules, etc.) and the USATT Coaching Committee Meeting at 8PM (I'm on the committee). The Nie's are staying in Michigan after the Open for a few days of vacation, so I'm flying back on the fourth of July.

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Three

The focus yesterday was on the forehand loop, though as usual we varied this depending on each player's level and playing style. I also gave a lecture and demo of various racket surfaces (pips-out sponge, hardbat, antispin, long pips with and without sponge), grips (penhold, both conventional and with reverse penhold backhand, as well as the Seemiller grip) and how to play choppers.

One 12-year-old beginner really liked the antispin, and asked to borrow it for the day. He's now using it on his backhand in all his drills and matches, dead-blocking with the backhand, attacking with the forehand. I've converted him to the dark side!!! If he stays with this style, most likely he'll eventually "graduate" to long pips (no sponge) on the backhand and become a pushblocker.

There is also a kid, about ten years old, who is developing a chopper/looper style. He spent a lot of time yesterday with Wang Qing Liang, our 17-year-old 2567-rated chopper/looper.

Today's focus will be the backhand attack, especially the backhand loop. Then we'll have the ever-popular "How many paper cups can I knock down in ten shots?" challenge, where we stack the cups in a pyramid and I feed them the balls multiball style.

China and the Timo Boll-Zhang Jike Rivalry

Here's an article that discusses these two players, with insight from Chinese Coach Liu Guoliang.

Top Table Tennis Points

Here's a video (14:12) of top table tennis points. Included in the video are players Adrien Mattenet, Chuang Chih Yuan, Kaii Yoshida, Ryu Seung Min, Jun Mizutani, Chen Chien-An, Fengtian Bai, Christian Suss, Zhang Jike, Ma Long, Alexey Smirnov, Michael Maze, Timo Boll, Jean Michel Saive, Robert Gardos, Christophe Legout, Chen Weixing, Tiago Apolonia, Taku Takakiwa, Patrick Baum, Seiya Kishikawa, Andrej Gacina, Vladimir Samsonov, Gao Ning, Feng Tianwei, Ding Ning, Zoran Primorac, Jan-Ove Waldner, Ding Song, Chen Qi, Lee Jung Woo, Roko Tosic, and Romain Lorentz.

Wanna see a ping-pong ball spin at 10,000 rpm?

Here it is (0:40), care of liquid nitrogen!

Adam Bobrow Reviews the New Plastic Ball

In this new video (0:31), Adam breaks through the window of silence and discovers the shattering truth about the new plastic ball.

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June 21, 2012

Day Three of MDTTC Camp - the Forehand Loop

Yesterday's focus was forehand looping. In my lecture I used 11-year-old Derek Nie (rated 2146) as my demo partner, and we had some nice rallies, including looping against backspin, against block, and counterlooping. It was new to a few players, and I took these players off to the side to teach the fundamentals while the other coaches fed multiball to the others.

Halfway through the morning session I gave a 20-minute lecture on return of serve, and then we went out on the table to practice serve and receive. (I gave a 30-minute lecture on serving yesterday.) It's great watching their serves improve. Earlier that morning before the camp started I'd done an impromptu challenge where I served and campers tried to return my serve. About fifteen formed a line, and if they missed my serve, they went to the end of the line. (The stronger players in the camp watched with amusement.) I think a couple managed to get two back, but the great majority missed the first one. I think this raised the interest level in the receive lecture, and even more in learning these serves. Some are still trying to figure out how I get topspin on my serve when I stroke downward with an open racket and hit the bottom of the ball. (The racket tip is moving down, but just before contact I flip the bottom of the racket sideways and up, and then continue down after contact. But it's probably something you have to see in person.)

Yesterday's "Big Game" at the end of the morning session was Around the World. I feed multiball while the kids hit one shot, and then circle the table. When they miss five, they are out. When they are down to two players, I put a target on the table (usually a box, but today I used my towel) and they take turns trying to hit it. When one hits it and the other misses, the one who hit it is the champion, and we start over. Later I fed more multiball and they had to knock cups off the table (28 of them in a pyramid), with the warning that the galaxy would explode if they didn't knock them all off in five minutes. They knocked the last one off with three seconds to spare, just barely saving the galaxy!

Later that day Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (a 2600 player) was drilling with a 2200 pips-out penholder. One of the players in the camp, Minh Nguyen, is an aspiring two-winged looper like Jeffrey, so I called him over and we watched Jeffrey as he completely dominated rallies with his backhand loop, which he could put anywhere on the table with power, control, and consistency, with textbook technique. Players can improve quite a bit just by watching the way he rotates his body and shoulders and then snaps his arm and wrist into the shot. (It's like throwing a Frisbee toward the ceiling.)

That night I did a one-hour private session with a father and son. The son had learned to forehand loop and was working on backhand looping some, though he prefers hitting on both sides. Looping was new to the father, so we spent much of the session on his forehand loop. It's always striking watching the difference in how people of different ages learn. Younger players learn the technique quickly, but can't control it. Older players have trouble with the technique, but have ball control.

Reminder - Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC

Tomorrow, on Friday, June 22, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us!

100th ITTF Certified Coach in the U.S.

Here's the story from the ITTF. I ran one of the ITTF coaching seminars in the U.S. last April, and certified fourteen of them. I'm running another in August at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here's the flyer. If interested, email me. Come join us!

Historical Mistake on the Origins of Table Tennis

Yesterday I linked to a web page that supposedly gave a historical account about the origins of table tennis. Unfortunately I found out that afternoon that the info there was dated. (I've since deleted the link.) I should have known better since I'd read the book "Ping Pong Fever" by Steve Grant, which gave the newest info on the sports origin. (I plead training camp madness - we just started eleven weeks of training camps at MDTTC, so I was a little rushed in putting together the blog.) Here is the account from the ITTF Museum, which was updated to reflect Grant's discoveries, and Grant's own press release on the subject.

New USA International Umpires

Who are they? Here's the story!

Seniors Embrace Table Tennis

Here's the story from the Evanston Review/Sun Times.

Proper Table Tennis Training with Scott Gordon

In honor of the many summer training camps now being run around the country, here is the greatest table tennis training video ever made (2:31).

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May 31, 2012

Forehand Looping from Backhand Corner

There's a discussion at the about.com forum about a point showing Larry Bavly (Heavyspin) winning a point with a "relatively low speed block to show that all points do not have to be won by hitting the ball hard." He does this against an opponent who had forehand looped from the wide backhand corner. There was some debate as to how this happened. The basic problem was that the woman looping against Bavly was rushed, and so was left off balance at the end of the stroke, and unable to recover back into position for the next shot. Here's the video. (This will download the video as a wmv file, which you should be able to play.) See how she is off-balanced at the end of the stroke, leaning to her left (our right)?

Now watch this example (in the point starting at 2:41) on youtube of a player doing the same shot and having no trouble covering the wide forehand for the next shot. This is a match between Wang Liqin (near side, in yellow shirt) versus Ma Long (far side, purple shirt). Wang is serving. Ma pushes the serve back, blocks the next ball, then steps way around his backhand to forehand loop. Wang blocks the ball to Ma's wide forehand, and Ma has no trouble covering it. Throughout the match watch how both players take turns ripping forehand loops, and see how fast they recover - because they are balanced throughout the shot, and so are able to recover almost instantly for the next shot. (Watch the slow motion replay.) There's another example of Ma doing this at 4:35, though this time he barely is able to cover the wide forehand  Note how the players sometimes even use their momentum from the previous shot to get back into position.

A similar point happens in the second point shown, starting 22 seconds in. This time it's Wang Liqin who steps around to forehand loop, and is ready to cover the wide forehand. Ma actually blocks more to the middle of the table, but you can see Wang was ready to cover the wide forehand - and since the ball wasn't so wide, he is able to take this ball right off the bounce. (Watch the slow motion replay of this point.) There's another point like this starting at 2:24, where Wang again steps around to forehand loop, and is immediately able to cover the wide forehand - but this time, while he's there, he misses. There's another one at 3:43 where Wang against steps around, and this time Ma has an extremely wide angle to block to. Watch how easily Wang recovers and moves to cover the wide forehand, though Ma misses the block.

Regardless of where you are looping from, or even what stroke you are doing, balance throughout the stroke and rally is one of the key differences between elite and non-elite players. Players who can do repeated attacks in the same rally can do so because they are balanced and in control of their positioning and momentum; players who can only do one or at most two good shots in a row are usually off-balanced and not really in control. This doesn't mean you should always be perfectly centered between your feet, but that your weight should almost always be centered somewhere between your feet, with you in control of your body positioning, regardless of the momentum from the previous shot.

We won't talk about the rather awkward (but effective this time) "Seemiller" style block Bavly uses this point. Some things better remain unspoken.

Serving Short and Low

Are you playing in the Easterns this weekend, or any other upcoming tournaments? Have you been practicing your spinny serves so you can keep them short and low? No? Good. Then if you play anyone I'm coaching (and I'm coaching at the Easterns), we're going to loop or flip your serve in, and like the piggy with no roast beef, you'll cry all the way home. Oh, you've changed your mind, and decided to practice your serves? (Monday's Tip of the Week will be on how to do this. And no, you don't have to serve short all the time, just most of the time, or at least when facing an opponent who can effectively loop your serve.)

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Overcoming Fear of Defending (1:32)

Joint Table Tennis and Golf Scholarship

Austin Preiss is going to Lindenwood College on a joint table tennis and golf scholarship, which must be a first. Here's the article. Some of you may know Austin both as a top junior player the last few years and for doing exhibitions around the country with his father Scott.

Stop-Motion Video Ping-Pong

This was a school project by someone, but it's hilarious, and gets better and better as it goes on (2:26).

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