Sheri Pittman Cioroslan

July 8, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing Bad - It's All Mental (Usually).

2014 U.S. Open

I was at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids from June 30 to July 6. As usual, it was an exhausting and exhilarating time. Once again Grand Rapids and USATT put on a great show - they are getting good at running Opens and Nationals. It was mostly on time (falling behind only when specific matches held things up), organized, and they even did the little things. For example, every morning we'd find all the trash had been picked up, and the barriers and chairs around all the courts all lined up nice and neatly. When you consider the size of the playing hall, that's a big job! Results were regularly updated on the results walls. So a great thanks goes out to the organizers and workers at this event.

Here's the USATT home page for the U.S. Open, which includes links to results, articles, pictures, and video.

The showcase events started at 3:45PM on Saturday with the women's semifinals. The schedule was for a new match to start every 45 minutes, with the two women's semifinals, the two men's semifinals, the women's final, and then the men's final, which would presumably start at 7:30 PM. But they ran into a problem right from the start - the first women's semifinal was between two very defensive choppers, Riyo Nemoto of Japan, and Li Xue of France (but presumably from China). The two pushed and Pushed and PUSHED all through the first game, with Nemoto essentially never attacking and Xue only occasionally attacking. I think it was 8-4 in the first when ten minutes had passed and expedite was called. From there on they alternated serves, with the receiver winning the point if she returned 13 shots in a row. Xue had a decidedly better attack, and after losing the first, won the next four games easily under expedite.

But the match took forever, and put things well behind. Could they catch up in the next match, between two attackers? The points were faster, but it took another eon before Yuko Fujii won, 11-9 in the seventh. She would go on to win the final, 4-1 over the chopper Xue, who had no answer to her relentless light topspins to the backhand long pips and sudden loop kills and smashes to the middle or wide angles. Fujii used the Asian style of playing choppers to perfection. (Here's my Tip of the Week on Playing Choppers, which explains this.)

Going into the tournament, most players were picking Japan's Jin Ueda to win. After all, he defeated world #7 Chuan Chih-Yuan in last week's Japan Open. But it was another Japanese player who took out top seed and defending champion Eugene Wang of Canada, as Hidetoshi Oya took him out 4-1 in the quarterfinals. The two Japanese met in the semifinals, but this time Oya had no magic as Ueda won 4-1. Meanwhile, China's Tao Wenzhang - the player considered by most as the least likely of the four semifinalists to win - took out two-time U.S. Open Men's Champion Thomas Keinath, also 4-1. Most picked Ueda to win the final, but it was not to be as the under-estimated Tao won the final with another 4-1 win.

Here's an interesting tactical thing about that match. For years I've encouraged players to serve not just to the short forehand, but to the middle forehand. Some players do have trouble if you serve short to the forehand, but others take advantage of the extreme angle you give them to your forehand (assuming two righties), the extra table means they can flip more aggressively. If the server tries to cover this wide angle, the receiver can just take it down the line. But if you instead serve short to the middle forehand, the following happens. 1) the extreme angle to the forehand is mostly cut off; 2) the extra table when flipping to the wide forehand his shortened, so aggressive flips are more difficult; 3) the receiver, who usually favors backhand against short serves to the middle, has to decide whether to use forehand or backhand; and 4) the receiver is either drawn well over the table if he receives backhand (leaving his backhand side open and taking his forehand mostly out of play on the next shot if the server goes to the backhand), or has a somewhat awkward forehand shot to play over the table. So what did Tao do in both the semifinals and final? He serve short to the middle forehand probably half the time, a primary reason he dominated the points.

The USATT Coach of the Year Awards were given out between games in the Women's Semifinals. The four winners were Lily Yip (Coach of the Year); Stefan Feth (Developmental Coach of the Year); Angie Bengtsson (Paralympic Coach of the Year) and me (Doc Counsilman Science Award, for my coaching blog, tips, and books.) However, when they started to give them out I was on the other side of the arena, with my back turned as I was explaining the expedite rule to some spectators. When they called my name I was caught off guard, and couldn't get to the award stand in time. They gave it to me after the next game. The actual plaques are nice, but were left behind at USATT Headquarters, and will be mailed to us. So they improvised with certificates. I'll post a picture of the actual plaque when it comes in.

There are always problems with any large tournament, and this was no exception. There were many top Chinese players at the tournament without ratings or world rankings, and so they were mostly stuck in randomly, causing havoc in some parts of the draws. Perhaps more effort should go into contacting these players or their associations to better get an idea of their level. After all, if a player travels all the way from China to play Men's Singles, he's likely at least 2400 or better! For example, two cadet players came to my club for about ten days of training before the U.S. Open. They were both 2450-2500 players. But at the Open they were unrated and unseeded. One result was that second-seeded Kunal Chodri, rated 2480, had to play one of them in his first match in Cadet Boys' Singles, and lost 3-0. Those two shouldn't have been playing until the later rounds.

There's also the problem of old ratings. For example, I coached a 12-year-old in Under 1500. In the round robin stage he had to play a girl from Canada rated 1427. The problem was that the rating was a year old, from last year's U.S. Open, and she was now at least 1800. The kid I was coaching was a "ringer," under-rated by a couple hundred points, but not nearly as under-rated as this girl, who would not only win the RR group, but would go on to win Under 1500 and Under 1650 (which at the Open is like winning Under 1800 and Under 1950), while beating players in other events over 1800. It wasn't a one-time thing with her; she got an initial rating of 892 at a U.S. tournament in June of 2012. Her next tournament was the 2013 U.S. Open, where she was way under-rated, and shot up to 1427. Now she'll likely jump to 1800+. Next year she'll likely show up with that rating, but perhaps 2000 level. Perhaps junior players with ratings over six months old should have 100 points added to their ratings for eligibility purposes?

Here are the two best shots of the tournament that I saw. First, a Chinese player at least three times pulled off a "push flip." What is that? He reached in for a short ball to the forehand as if pushing off the bounce, but intentionally missed the ball - then pulled his racket back quickly and flipped the ball at the top of the bounce! I've seen this shot before, but not in years. The other best shot? I was warming up one of my players and accidentally mishit the ball off the racket edge so it shot very hard at my face, ricocheting extremely fast off my glasses and back to the other side! My player didn't hesitate to counter-hit it, and the rally continued. Oh, and I'm sure the top players made a few good loops as well.

It's never over until it's over, as one of my players learned. Down 0-2 in games and 1-6 in the third, I called a time-out. I gave him my vintage speech for players down 0-2. ("How bad do you want this?...") Since he was New York Giants football fan, I asked him, "What would Eli Manning do?" He was all psyched up, went back to the table - and the other player got a net winner, then smacked in a winner, and now my player is down 1-8. But with me yelling, "C'mon, Eli, you can do it!", he scored eight in a row, and won that game in deuce - and went on to win the match, deuce in the fifth.

It doesn't always end that way. A nine-year-old kid I coached made the quarterfinals of Under 1500. There he faced an older kid who, in up-to-date ratings, was actually 1576. My player won the first two games, but lost the next two. In the fifth it was 10-all, 11-all, 12-all, 13-all, 14-all, 15-all. Both players had multiple match points. At 15-all the other player mis-hit his serve off to the side, and it was another match point for my player - or was it? The other kid thought his serve hit the edge, and while I was certain it wasn't close, we had to play a let. My player won the next point (and seemingly might have won the match at that point, since he'd won two in a row from 15-all), but wasn't able to convert that match point, and ended up losing 18-16 in the fifth.

Because of ringers, the draws were often rather haphazard. I mentioned the 12-year-old I coached above who had to play the ringer girl from Canada. Actually, all three players in his preliminary group were ringers, way under-rated, as was he himself. On the other hand, the nine-year-old above (yes, another ringer, since he was rated under 1200 but about 1500 level) went up against "normal" players. I'm fairly sure the three players he played in his round robin and in the first two rounds of single elimination wouldn't have won a match in the other player's preliminary RR.

I started to write about some of my favorite coaching moments, especially the tactics used by Nathan Hsu, 18 and about 2350 (though he's been over 2400) in upsetting a 2648 player. But alas, I can't write about them publicly - they are trade secrets we need for the next time the two play. Suffice to say he executed them perfectly - in particular his serve and receive tactics - and mostly shut down the opponent's big forehand. (You can ask me about them privately.)

Players from my club, MDTTC, did very well. Here's a short listing of their best results:

  • Crystal Wang, 12, won Cadet Girls Singles (15 & Under), made the semifinals of 18 & Under Girls, and the quarterfinals of Under 21 Women.
  • Derek Nie, 13, won 13 & Under Boys' Singles.
  • Charlene Liu, 61, pulled off a triple sweep - or was it a quadruple sweep? She won Over 40, Over 50, and Over 60 Women's Singles, made the final of Over 30 Women's Singles, and won Over 60 Women's Doubles with Barbara Kaminsky.
  • Dave Sakai, 67, won Over 65 Men's Singles, and won four doubles events - Over 50 and Over 60 Doubles with Dan Seemiller, Over 65 Men's Doubles with Dell Sweeris, and Over 60 Mixed Doubles with Donna Sakai. (Am I the only one who noticed that all four of these players have initials DS?)
  • Donna Sakai, 67, won Over 65 Women's Singles, Over 60 Mixed Doubles with Dave Sakai, and made the final of Over 60 Women's Doubles with Connie Sweeris.
  • Ruichao Alex Chen, 16, made the final of 18 & Under Boys' Singles, upsetting U.S. #1 Under 18 player Kai Zhang, rated 2704, in the round of 16. He made the semifinals of Under 2600. He made the semifinals of 18 & Under Boys' Teams.
  • Chen Bo Wen, 16, made the quarterfinals of 18 & Under Boys' Singles and the semifinals of 18 & Under Boys' Teams.
  • Nathan Hsu, 18, made the semifinals of 18 & Under Boys' Teams, and in 18 & Under Boys' Singles upset Chen Keda, rated 2648 and the U.S. #1 Under 17 player.
  • Wang Qing "Leon" Liang, 19, made the semifinals of Under 2600.
  • Ryan Dabbs, 11, made the quarterfinals of 11 & Under Boys' Singles.
  • Tiffany Ke, 10, made the quarterfinals of 11 & Under Girls' Singles.
  • Daniel Sofer, 9, made the quarterfinals of Under 1500.
  • Larry Hodges, way too old, won Over 50 Hardbat Doubles with Jeff Johnston. 

1970s Table Tennis Revisited

In my blog on June 23 I likened the equipment used in 1971 by Stellan Bengtsson (and by extension, other sponge rackets of that era) as "toy" rackets. Stellan wasn't happy with my assessment. He was using Mark V sponge, which isn't exactly a "toy" sponge though essentially no top players use these types of sponges anymore in this age of tensor and high-tension sponges. (But they are still an appropriate surface for beginning/intermediate players.) I'd actually thought the Mark V used then was slower than the Mark V now, but I've been told that it's about the same now as it was then. (I'm talking about the original version, not all the new types.) The point I was making (and overstated by likening it to "toy" sponge) was that much of the reason the game was slower back then, as seen in the tape, was that the inverted sponges were slower than what are used these days by top players, especially when looping, where modern sponges practically slingshot the ball out. (I've added an edit to the original statement.)

Plastic Ball Implementation at ITTF Events

Here's the article.

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the article on Lily Zhang and Kanak Jha.

Ariel Hsing Aims to Learn & Win in the Super League

Here's the article on the USA Women's Champion in China.

Road to Nanjing

Here's the article, on Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari, who will be representing the United States in the 2nd Summer Youth Olympics Games in Nanjing, China on August 16-28.  

Ovtcharov Confident to Win an Olympic Gold Medal

Here's the article. Oh, and he just got married!

About.com is Back - Sort of

I checked on it, and there are no plans to bring back the table tennis forum. But they are putting up table tennis articles. Here's a listing of new ones.

"Ping-Pong Diplomacy" by Nicholas Griffin 

Here's the review of the book. "The real history of table tennis is a bizarre tale of espionage, aggravation, and reconciliation, of murder, revenge, and exquisite diplomacy, says a new book. It's the story of how Ivor Montagu molded the game, and how the Chinese came to embrace it and then shaped it into a subtle instrument of foreign policy."

My Way to Olympia

Here's an article and video (1:38) on this PBS documentary on the Paralympics, which covers four athletes, including a table tennis player with one hand.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. (Since I've been away for a week at the U.S. Open we have an accumulation of them today.) Forty-five down, 55 to go!

  • Day 56: Glenn Tepper Explains the ITTF’s Continental Affiliation Option
  • Day 57: Countdown Hijacked! (by Adham Sharara)
  • Day 58: Peter Karlsson Is a True “Champion for Peace”
  • Day 59: Patrick Gillmann: A Passionate Advocate for Juniors
  • Day 60: Richard Scruton Reflects on the 2012 Olympics
  • Day 61: Catching up with Raul Calin, who’s on the Road Again
  • Day 62: ITTF’s Matt Pound Promotes Table Tennis 24/7
  • Day 63: The President’s Views on the Ban of Speed Glue, Part II (here's Part 1)

Fact or Fiction: The Life and Times of a Ping Pong Hustler

Here's the article and trailer (2:10) for the upcoming documentary.

Angel Table Tennis

Here's the latest table tennis artwork by Mike Mezyan.

One Energy Commercial

Here's the video (30 sec) of this neon Tron-like commercial featuring Chinese superstars Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Li Xiaoxia and Liu Shiwen!

No One Knew Kanak Jha Was That Fast!

Here's the picture! Poor Adam Hugh is up against eight Kanaks. (Adam defeated Kanak in the preliminaries at the North American Cup, but lost to him in the final. Or to one of them.)

Top Players in Cartoons

Here are cartoon images of the world's top players.

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June 12, 2014

Is Your Club Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to learn how to play properly. Does your club have a class for him? Or coaches to work with him? Or is he told to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and you never see him again?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to play others his level. Does your club have a league for all levels, so you can let him know when it's league night, where he can play others his own level? Or is he told to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and you never see him again?

Suppose a mom comes to your club with two kids, and wants them to learn how to play and to play with others their age. Does your club have a junior program you can put them in? Or is she told her kids should call winners somewhere, they get killed, and you never see them again?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to get killed by others. You tell him to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and he's happy. 

The first three above are the most common new players that come into clubs. Is your club equipped to meet their needs? Does your club have coaches, classes, leagues, and junior programs? Or does it rely on the fourth type? (And we wonder why there are so many crazy people in our sport.) Unfortunately, most clubs rely on the fourth type of player when it comes to getting new players. They probably survive as a club because of a steady influx of experienced players, either from other clubs, or more likely from overseas, where clubs address the needs of the first three types above.

A sport can't take off unless it finds a way to bring in new players. Successful sports like [long list here] learned this long ago, as did table tennis in Europe and Asia - but not in the USA. Is there any doubt as to why table tennis in this country gets so few new players? Most clubs simply aren't equipped to deal with new players, instead relying on experienced players developed by others, or on those crazy types who get killed but keep coming back. 

So . . . is your club equipped to deal with new players? Or does it rely on other clubs and other countries to do this for them? If so, why not become part of the solution? 

Road to Nanjing Training Camp - Shanghai

Here's the video (6:54). This is a must watch. USA players Lily Zhang, Krish Avvari, and Kanak Jha, and Coach Lily Yip are all in it, along with top junior players from all over the world. Coaches include Jorgen Persson, and current or Chinese stars Wang Liqin, Liu Guozheng, Li Xiaodong, and Yan Sen.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty down, 80 to go!

  • Day 81: Interview with Adham Sharara: Growing Pains

These articles are also linked from a special ITTF page. Strangely, each of the stories there is prominently listed at the top as "By: Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor." Ian puts in an intro statement for each of the stories, but Sheri writes them (I verified this yesterday), but that's buried in the text. I don't like this.

Remembering Peter Cua

Here's the article.

Spectacular Point in the Champions League

Here's the video (21 sec), between Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Wang Jian Jun.

Unbreakable 3D printed Ping Pong Ball

Here's the story!

***
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June 6, 2014

Short Serves and Half-Long Serves

Most players serve long, over and over. A short serve is one where, if given the chance, the second bounce would be on the table, while with a long serve it goes off. So long serves are easier to attack by looping, while short serves, if kept low, are harder to attack, and are usually pushed back. (Unless it's a short sidespin or topspin serve, without backspin, in which case it's usually flipped – but most players can't serve short this way except at higher levels. Here's a related article, Serving Short with Spin. Here's another, Serving Low. Here's one on long serves, Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves.)

It's important to be able to serve both long and short. If you only serve long, stronger players will start attacking your serves. If you only serve short, it becomes predictable and you'll win fewer points outright on the serve. (The serves that win outright the most tend to be long, breaking serves. But if overdone, and at higher levels, they get attacked. Short serves don't win as many points outright, but they set up a third-ball attack more often.) 

Many players go the other extreme, serving too short. I was watching one of our top juniors play a match recently and noticed that his opponent was taking the serve right off the bounce, and either returning it at wide angles or dropping it short. The junior couldn't get any good attacks off his serve. I watched closely, and realized that his serves were too short. The second bounce, given the chance, would have been well over the table. Because they were so short, the opponent was able to both rush him and angle him with quick pushes and flips, as well as drop the ball short with ease. By serving a little bit longer, the opponent would have to contact the ball later, and would be less effective at rushing and angling the server, or at dropping it short. 

So work on your short serves so that the second bounce is as close to the end-line as possible. There are exceptions - sometimes you want an extra short serve to make the opponent lean over the table, especially short to the forehand. And you also might want to serve sometimes where the second bounce would go slightly off the end, forcing the receiver to make a split-second judgment on whether he can attack it, while forcing him to contact the ball even later. If he does try to loop it, it's often a very soft loop that you can counter-attack. (If they loop it hard, then the serve probably went too long or too high.)

USATT's New Rating Platform and the USATT League

Last night I wrote a rather long segment about the USATT's new rating platform, pointing out more problems with it and again urging USATT to go back to the old platform until the new one is functional. It was not going to be a complimentary blog. I was also involved in a number of late night emailing/messaging sessions about this – a lot of people were urging the same. Result? This morning the old ratings platform is back. So I'll put my previous words in another file and hopefully forget about them. (Fortunately I also wrote out the blog item above on Short Serves and Half-Long Serves, and planned to run that first anyway. Normally I do all the blogging in the morning.) Thank you USATT for fixing the problem. 

So now we can relax and give RailStation and USATT time to perfect their new platform, and if their smart, turn it into something that'll be an actual improvement.

One small mistake - the first line of the explanation says, "This site is being replaced by the one at http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Ratings." But this links right back to the ratings page it's on rather than the new ratings platform from RailStation. I've emailed the USATT Webmaster about this and it'll likely be fixed.

One thing I am worried about. RailStation is supposed to also take over the USATT League and its rating system. This is one of those relatively successful programs that flies under the radar until something goes wrong. Currently every month about 45 leagues play about 6000 rated USATT league matches, which is about the same number as USATT tournament matches. (Last month 44 leagues played 5818 league matches; some months have as many as 57 active leagues.) If something goes wrong with this, there are going to be a lot of unhappy league directors and players. (The USATT League was created in 2003 and was originally intended to become a team league as well, but USATT had no interest at the time and so it's become a singles league only.)

Long Pimples for Beginners

Here's an interesting article that explains and graphically shows (with animation) how Long Pips work.

Training Graph

Here's a training graph that applies both to table tennis and all other sports. Follow it closely.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fourteen down, 86 to go!

  • Day 87: Striving to Be Ranked in the Top 5 in All We Do

Great Point

Here's video (44 sec) of a great point between Ma Long and Timo Boll. Timo's on the near side defending most of the point before the tables get turned.

RIP Johnny Leach

The 1949 and 1951 World Men's Singles Champion and one of the greatest choppers in history has died at age 91. Here's the article.

Zhang Jike Won't Allow His Future Children to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Table Tennis Dance Moves

Here's the pictures and other ones from the China Open.

Baby Pong

Here's the picture. As you can see he's returning a short ball to his forehand. To do so he's loosened his grip and tilted the racket backwards with the obvious intent of flipping down the line to the opposing baby's backhand. He's also stepped in over the table with his right leg to get maximum reach toward the ball. Both eyes are focused intently on the ball, something we should all emulate. His left ear is thrust out and extended, allowing him to pick up on the sounds of the ball, which give him clues as to the ball's spin and speed, and, along with his right ear (not visible), allows him to triangulate the position of the ball acoustically. Since he's a relative beginner, he has extremely thin sponge on his racket, allowing maximum control. He has a wide stance allowing quick side-to-side scooting. His left arm rests comfortably on his leg, keeping it rested so it'll be ready for a rapid and powerful rotation as he pulls with his left side on follow-up forehand loops. He's using a legal ITTF certified mouth gear, allowing proper protection of teeth when he clenches his teeth in tense moments of a rally and when he's teething. The long-sleeved shirt keep his playing arm warm during long training sessions in cold weather. All in all, I'd say very nice form and kudos to his coach.

***
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June 5, 2014

Yesterday's Coaching

I had a number of coaching sessions yesterday. (This was after running around picking some of them up at two schools for our afterschool program.) The last two were rather interesting in that I introduced them to playing against long pips. I keep a huge racket case with five different rackets inside. (I've had this racket case since 1988 – Cheng Yinghua gave it to me the year he came to the U.S. as a practice partner/coach for our resident training program in Colorado Springs, where I was at various times manager/director/assistant coach.)

The rackets are: A long pips with 1mm sponge chopping racket; a long pips no-sponge pushblocking racket; a racket with antispin and inverted; one with short pips and inverted; a pips-out penholder racket; and a defensive hardbat. (I also have an offensive hardbat that I myself use in hardbat competitions, which I keep in a separate racket case in my playing bag.) I pull these rackets out as necessary for students to practice against or with.

I pulled the rackets out at the end of the first player's session, and invited the other player who was about to begin to join in. Then I went over the rackets, explaining each one. (The players were Daniel, age nine, about 1450, and Matt, about to turn 13, about 1650.) Neither had ever seen antispin before. They had played against long pips a few times, but didn't really know how to play it. They had seen hardbat and short pips, but hadn't played against them much, if at all. (I found it amazing they hadn't played against short pips, which used to be so common, but that surface has nearly died out. Just about everyone at my club uses inverted. I know of only one player at the club using short pips, the 2200+ pips-out penholder Heather Wang, who practices and plays against our top juniors regularly, so they are ready if they ever play pips-out players.)

I pulled out the long pips racket with no sponge, and let them play against it. They quickly figured out that when they looped, my blocks came back very heavy and often short. They also discovered that if they gave me backspin, my pushes had topspin. After I suggested trying no-spin, Daniel quickly became proficient at giving me a deep dead ball to the deep, wide backhand, and then stepping around and loop killing my dead return.

Since Matt was my last session and I could go late, I let them hit together for a while. They took turns with the rackets, with Daniel especially trying out all the rackets. He likes playing defense, and ended up using the chopping blade with long pips for about ten minutes against Matt's looping. When learning to play these surfaces, it's important not only to practice against them, but also to try using them so you can see first-hand what the strengths and weaknesses are.

One results of all this - Daniel's dad bought him a copy of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Soon they will know all the intracacies of playing long pips and all other tactics as well!

On Monday in the segment about the WETA filming I blogged about how I'd hurt my right knee and shoulder. I was toying with getting someone to do my hitting in my private sessions yesterday, but decided the injuries weren't too bad. I managed to get through the sessions without aggravating them. The knee and shoulder are still bothering me, but I think if I'm careful I'll manage to get by. Just don't let any of my students know or they'll start lobbing (exit shoulder) or going to my wide forehand (exit knee). Shhh!

Tactics for Playing Backhand Dominant Players

Here's the article.

2014 Stiga Trick Shot Showdown

It's back! Here's the info page, and here's info video (1:16). The Grand prize is $4000, a trip to the World Tour Grand Final, and a one-year Stiga sponsorship. Second is $2000, third is $500 in Stiga gear. Deadline is Sept. 5. But let's be clear – the rest of you are all playing for second because nobody, Nobody, NOBODY is going to beat the incredible trick shot I will do this year . . .once I come up with one.

Liu Guoliang Criticizes Reform on World Championships.

Here's the article. I've always had mixed feelings on Chinese domination of our sport. It's true that it takes much of the interest away. However, China has done about all it can to help the rest of the world. It's opened up and allowed its top players to go to other countries as coaches – pretty much anyone who makes a Regional team in China (and they have over 30, with most of them stronger than the USA National Team) can become a lifelong professional coach in some other country. A major reason for the increase in level and depth in U.S. junior play in recent years is the influx of Chinese coaches, who have been opening up full-time training centers all over the country. It sort of reminds me of martial arts back in the 1960s and '70s, when Korean and Chinese coaches opened up studios all over the U.S.

ITTF China World Tour Interview with Ariel Hsing

Here's the video (1:04).

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirteen down, 87 to go!

  • Day 88: Interview with Vladimir Samsonov, Chair of the Athletes Commission

Zhang Jike Multiball

Here's the video (1:55) of him training just before the 2013 Worlds. I don't think I've posted this, but if I have, it's worth watching again.

Table Tennis Physical Training

Here's the video (21 sec). Why aren't you doing this?

News from New York

Here's the article.

Incredible Rally

Here's video (27 sec) of one of the more incredible rallies you'll ever see. It doesn't say who the players are, though the player on the near side might be Samsonov – I can't tell, though it looks like his strokes. (You see his face right at the end of the video, and I'm not sure but I don't think that's him.) (EDIT: several people have verified that the player on the near side is Samsonov, and the one on the far side is Kreanga. [Alberto Prieto was the first to do so.] Kreanga's a bit blurry in the video, but I should have recognized his strokes!)

Ping Pong Summer in Maryland

Tomorrow I'm seeing the 7:30 PM showing of Ping Pong Summer at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. Anyone want to join me? (Email me or comment below.)

Ping Pong Summer Challenge

Here's video (2:58) where members of the cast of the movie are challenged to drink a soda while bouncing a ping pong ball on a paddle. Those challenged were actors Marcello Conte, Myles Massey, Emmi, Shockley, and writer/director Michael Tully.

Octopus Playing Table Tennis

Here's the video (34 sec) – and this might be the funniest table tennis video I've ever seen! It's an extremely well animated giant octopus playing table tennis simultaneously on four tables. You have to see this.

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June 4, 2014

New USATT Ratings Portal

USATT has a new ratings portal. Prepare to be let down.

One of my students gets out of taking PE at school because of his age ranking in Maryland, and instead does extra hours of table tennis training. Last night I had to fill out a form for his school, and needed to look up his current Maryland ranking for his age. I went to the USATT ratings page, and there it was – the new USATT Ratings Portal, created by RailStation, who does our new membership system. For comparison, here is the old USATT Ratings Portal. I don't know if the old one will stay up or not, but there no longer is a link to it from the USATT webpage. I suggest you bookmark it. (If you haven't used it before, here's your chance to have some fun and create your own lists by clicking on the Customizable Members List link near the top on the right.)

Let's do a point-by-point comparison. I'm using Chrome for this, but I checked it out on Explorer as well and seemed to get the same results. Feel free to test it yourself.

In the old version, it showed what date the ratings were through, and listed tournaments before that date that were not yet processed, and even gave the reason why. It also listed the ratings by year so you could click on the year and choose any tournament from that year, with the tournaments listed chronologically, even listing the number of players and matches in each one. The new version has none of this. Want to find the results from a specific tournament? You can't. (My first reaction to this was You've Got to Be Kidding!!!) Want to see what tournaments were processed? You can't.

In the old version, if you wanted to look up someone's rating, you put in their last name, hit enter, and chose the person from the alphabetical list. In the new version, you also put in their last name, but if you hit enter, it doesn't work. You have to manually hit submit. The new version also has a field where you put in state, but if you do, it ignores the name you put in and gives you the entire alphabetical listing for that state rather than just those in the state with that last name. Also, the old version had the name field at the top of the screen. Now, unless you have a large screen, you have to scroll down to it.

The old version had the Customizable Membership Lists, which I use regularly. With that you could create just about any ranking list. You could chose the age (under or over); gender; choose only players who played since a certain date (or before); only those over or below a certain rating; by USATT members only or all past members; and from specific states, USA only, or all. Now you can barely do any of this. In the new version, you cannot narrow down the selection by multiple criteria, and you have to use the ages they give. For juniors, you can only choose under 18 or under 20; for seniors, only in five-year increments. Or you can choose just men or women. You cannot choose these as USA only, or by state. You can't create an age ranking list by state, for example.

If you want a simple ranking list of, say, top men, that was easy in the old version – and you could do it by USATT members or not, USA only, or by state, age, gender, etc. In the new version if you click the handy Top Men Singles Button, you get as the #1 player Thomas Keinath of Germany. The #2 is Ilija Lupulesku, who hasn't played a USATT tournament in four years. Meanwhile, USA Team Member Timothy Wang is left out, presumably because his membership is currently expired – and there's no option to list non-members. If you want a listing of only top USA men or women who are active (say, played in the last year) – good luck. You can't.

The new version has several fields. The first one is Ranking Category, but there is only once choice – USA Table Tennis. Why is there a field when there's only once choice? If there are going to be other choices later, then put the field in later. But what other choices would we want than USA Table Tennis in the USA Table Tennis ratings portal? The next field is Game, and again there is only one choice – Singles-Adult. (Apparently we don't have juniors?)

The next field is the Ranking Group, which I already covered above. But when I actually tried out each field, a number of them didn't work. The Men's, Women's, Under 18, and Under 20 fields wouldn't work, but after I'd tried them several times, the Under 18 and Under 20 suddenly worked – but not the Men's or Women's. One problem is that when you release on a ranking category, you assume the page will bring you that list, but it doesn't unless you also manually hit Submit. (Again, Enter doesn't work.) Also, the next field, Season, caused problems as nothing worked unless you chose a season – but there was only one season to choose, 1994-2014. The problem is that the one choice there kept disappearing, and to get it back I had to choose another category, and then it would reappear.

Below this is the Search for a Member field, which I discussed above. If you want a state listing, you have to use the Select State field, which doesn’t make sense – why would you go to Search for a Member fields to find a state listing? In the old version there was a listing of each state, and you just clicked on the state to get an alphabetical listing. Or you could add criteria for this in the Customizable Members List.

Anyone care to create a list of, say, Under 14 Boys in Maryland, or any other age listing by state? (Preferably only ones who have competed in the last year?) Or just about any other ranking list that involves more than one criteria (and in most cases, even one)? You can't in the new system.

I'm sure the ones who put this together will say they plan to fix these problems. But why would we switch to this when IT'S NOT READY YET??? It's not ready for prime time, and is a massive downgrade from what we had before. It's like going from Tenergy to sandpaper. Didn't anyone from USATT test it before they decided to go live with it?

I strongly urge USATT to go back to the old portal until the new one can match what we had before.

Tips for Effective Receiving

Here's the article.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. I linked to the first nine on Monday (I'd been linking to them earlier as they went up), and here are three more. Twelve down, 88 to go!

  • Day 89: ETTU President Ronald Kramer Enjoys Taking on Challenges
  • Day 90: Interview with Incoming ITTF President Thomas Weikert
  • Day 91: Interview with ITTF President Adham Sharara: “I am motivated to do the best for our sport.”

USOC May Athlete of the Month

Here's where you can vote for Lily Zhang and Tahl Leibovitz as USOC Athlete of the Month. Lily has some tough competition – the voting shows the leaders are a triathlete and someone from track and field. Tahl's up against athletes from triathon and diving who currently lead the men's voting. 

Interviews with Table Tennis Manufacturers

These interviews are mostly with makers of non-inverted surfaces: TSP, Avalox, Dr. Neubauer, Xiom, and Re-Impact.

Around Net Shot

Here's the video – but watch the table off to the left! (The link should take you directly to 3:22 in the video.)

Top Ten Shots

Here's the video (4:50).

Ping Pong Summer Smashes Its Way to Theaters

Here's the article and video (1:34). There's a showing of the movie in my area this Friday at 7:30PM that I'm planning to see. I'll probably blog about it next week.

The Story Behind the Paddles in Ping Pong Summer

Here's the article. Apparently they are using hardbat rackets in the movie, which takes place in 1985. (Note to non-TT historians – the hardbat era mostly ended in the 1950s, and by the 1960s all the top players were pretty much using sponge.)

Susan Sarandon Plays Table Tennis on Today Show

Here's the video (2:06, starts with 30sec commercial), where she plays doubles with actor Ansel Elgort against Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb.

Kids Play Piano at ICC Fundraiser

Here's video (1:52) of kids at the recent ICC club fundraiser showing off their piano skills.  

Facebook v Spotify v Moshi Monsters

Who will win Tech City's Ping Pong Fight Club? Here's the article.

Why I'm Bad at Ping Pong – Illustrated!

Here's a drawing by Lance, a 7-year-old student of mine.

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June 2, 2014

Tip of the Week

Playing Short pips.

WETA TV

WETA TV came to MDTTC for about four hours yesterday to do a documentary on us online – I'll blog about it when it's up. Here's a picture of two of the crew members (there were three of them) as they film us, and here's a picture of them filming Derek Nie and Crystal Wang.

It was a long day. I normally coach Sunday mornings but I was off due to students studying for final exams, and so I had no coaching until 3PM. So I became their chaperone. We had arranged for them to come Sunday at 11AM so they could see some of our top juniors in a group session, and then our Elite League at 12:30 PM. They filmed Derek and Crystal, as well as Nathan Hsu and many others, often from a distance so the player didn't even know they were being filmed. Other times they'd go out on the court and get close-ups. I was hoping to highlight as many players as possible, from our top juniors to our seniors, including Charlene Liu, who recently returned from New Zealand with a bronze for Over 60 Women's Singles. (She also won Over 60 Women's Title at the Nationals and many more in age groups from over 30 to over 60.) However, they told me they could only focus on one or two players. They also didn't want to interview players and then disappoint the player by not using the interview, which is understandable.

They decided to focus on 13-year-old Derek and 12-year-old Crystal. Most of you probably know them, but here's a short synopsis. Derek, rated 2285 (but recently over 2300) was the 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Singles Champion. Crystal is the youngest player ever to make the USA National Men's or Women's Team, and the youngest ever to win Under 22 Women's Singles at the Nationals, as well as breaking every record for highest rating for her age, not just for girls but for boys as well. (She's the highest rated under 13 player in the U.S, boys or girls at 2370, and recently over 2400.)

They did interviews with Crystal, Derek, and me. My interview was the longest interview I've ever done. It went on for about an hour as they asked question after question. Part of the reason it took so long as I gave rather long answers. Since they'll end up condensing all this to about four minutes, it'll be interesting which parts they decide to use. In answer to their questions, I elaborated on my background, the kids, MDTTC and its history, our coaches and players, training centers, China, what it takes to be a top player, and much more.

Now the downside. Before they interviewed me they filmed me using the robot. I put it on full speed so the balls were just shooting out as I smashed forehands. I had no trouble doing this at first, but they wanted to get lots of shots from all angles, and so it went on and On and ON!!! Soon my arm and shoulder began to tire, and then hurt, and still they kept filming. I felt my knees and legs begin to go, but still we went on. After the longest time, and after they'd filmed both me and the robot from all possible angles, they said they had enough.

They asked if I had anything else interesting I could show them. They filmed me doing my ball-blowing trick, where I not only blow the ball in the air, but to the side, balancing it in the air by spinning the top of the ball with my breath. Then I demonstrated my 50-foot serve, where I served from 50 feet away from the table, and directly to the side of it (so I'm lined up with the net). I do this by putting a great amount of sidespin on the ball, and made it on the first try. They wanted several more, so I ended up doing about ten of them. The problem – this put more strain on my shoulder, as these 50-foot serves are very physical.

And then I did the interview. I mentioned how long it was, but I didn't mention that I was standing in one spot the whole time in my table tennis shoes, which have little support. Normally when I'm in them I'm moving about, but guess what happens when you stand in one spot in table tennis shoes for an hour? It hurts the feet, calf muscles, and knees. I could barely walk afterwards. (I had to do a lot of stretching to prepare for my upcoming coaching sessions – a private one-hour lesson and then a 90-minute group junior session.)

So now I'm full of these minor injuries – every part of my legs are aching, one knee is bothering me (it was bothering me before, but this aggravated it), and my shoulder is hurting from the robot play. Hopefully it just needs a couple days rest – and fortunately I've got a very light schedule today and tomorrow. We'll see how it is on Wednesday.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency. I linked to the first five last week, and there are four more. So I compiled all nine here. Nine down, 91 to go!

  • Day 92: Interview with Mike Babuin, USATT Chair and New ITTF BoD Member
  • Day 93: A Chat with Philippe Saive, the Promoter of the 2014 Legends Tour
  • Day 94: Competing to be Best in the World in Table Tennis
  • Day 95: Introducing Adam Bobrow, “The Voice of Table Tennis”
  • Day 96: Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations:  It’s in Our Blood!
  • Day 97: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly
  • Day 98: How the Ravages of War Inspired the Beloved Hikosuke Tamasu
  • Day 99: Why Tokyo Hosted the ZEN-NOH 2014 World Team Championships
  • Day 100: Intro

Samson Dubina Demo Tape

Here's a new video (3:25) of Ohio coach and top player Samson Dubina demonstrating the forehand counterdrive, forehand loop, in-out forehand footwork, backhand counterdrive, backhand loop, and footwork. (He's hitting with Sameh Awadalla.)

Table Tennis Tips

No, not the book (though you should buy that!), but the Tips now up at Expert Table Tennis – there are now 25 of them.

How to Predict and React to Table Tennis Tactics

Here's a short article on this.

Susan Sarandon is the Queen of Ping Pong

Here's the article in the New York Post.

Roger Frank Ping-Pong Tourney Raises $3,000 for PCC Foundation scholarships

Here's the article.

Waldner and Persson Tricks

Here's a video (51 sec) of all-time greats Jan-Ove Waldner and Jorgen Persson doing some pretty spectacular tricks with the ball and racket. Notice that the second half is all done continuously. Why don't you try to copy some of these tricks? Good luck!!!

House Playing Table Tennis

Here's a screen shot of Dr. House from an episode of the TV show House playing table tennis – with a clipboard!!!

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May 30, 2014

My Table Tennis Books

Just a reminder that if this table tennis blog isn't quite enough to satisfy your table tennis itch, you can buy one of my table tennis books!!! As noted in my blog earlier this week, Table Tennis Tips is now out. Or, if you haven't done so, you absolutely and positively must buy Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!!! Here's the Larry Hodges Books page where these and my other books are listed and described.

While you're at it, if you have a liking for history, then check out Tim Boggan's page, where he sells the 14 volumes of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and maintain the web page for him.)

Practical Ways to Overcome Nervousness

Sports psychology is one of the most under-utilized aspects of table tennis. One problem is that it's easy to get bogged down wading into all the literature on the subject. Here are some of the simple methods I use with students to overcome nervousness. Most of these I've done for years, though I've fine-tuned some after reading material and books from Dora Kurimay's table tennis sports psychology page.

  1. Take all the nervousness and ball it up inside your stomach. Then cough it out your mouth, and toss it in the trash. It's surprising how well this simple mental exercise works.
  2. Breathe deep into the stomach through your nose. Hold it for a couple of seconds. Then slowly exhale through the mouth. You'll be surprised at how this relaxes you. It's key that you exhale slowly.
  3. Pick out something on the wall in the distance and just stare at it for 5-10 seconds. This clears the mind.
  4. Watch the ball, both during and between points. This helps you to focus. That and simple tactics is all the conscious mind needs to do while letting the subconscious do the rest.
  5. Imagine you are playing a match back at your club. It's just another match. Have fun!
  6. Remember what Ariel Hsing used to write on her arm before every tournament: "Let go. Have fun." This works.
  7. Focus on a few simple tactics. This gives your mind something else to do other than worry that your fate and the fate of humanity in general will be determined by the next few points.
  8. Learn the three-second rule. Don't let anything in a match bother you for more than three seconds. Don't start another point until those three seconds are up and you are back to being the calm, clear-headed champion inside you that's dying to come out.

WETA TV

This Sunday WETA TV will come to my club (MDTTC) to do a segment on table tennis. They will likely come in around noon, though the exact time is not set. MDTTC has its Elite League on Sundays starting at 12:30, which is why they chose that time. All or most of the top MDTTC players and top juniors should be there.

Ariel Hsing in Chinese League

Here's a picture of her with her new teammates!

96-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency: Striving to Attain 225 Affiliated National Associations:  It’s in Our Blood!

Here's the article, Day 96 in Sheri Pittman Cioroslan's 100-day Countdown. I linked to the previous four in earlier blogs, but they are all linked from the USATT News Page.

Hugh Jackman Plays Table Tennis

Here's video (15 sec) of Hugh Jackman - yes, Wolverine! - playing table tennis, including a little dancing between points!

Dominic Moore Plays Table Tennis

Here's video (59 sec) of hockey star Dominic Moore playing table tennis.

Crazy Shot

Here's video (30 sec) of one of the greatest and craziest shots you'll ever see.

National Spelling Bee and Table Tennis

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation showing the connection between table tennis and spelling at the highest levels of the Scripps National Spelling Bee. But could they spell Dimitrij Ovtcharov?

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May 28, 2014

Power Outage and Flooding

There was excitement at MDTTC yesterday, but not for the normal reasons. I was in the middle of a coaching session around 6PM when the thunderstorms hit. We had the doors open to let in air, and so the flashes of lightning lit up the whole club while the thunder practically knocked us down before we got the doors closed. Water pelted the roof like a whale-sized snare drum on steroids in a rock concert. The kids got excited. And then the power went out. The emergency lights went on, but the club was only dimly lit. The power came back on after a minute, then went out again, then came back on. And then, at 6:13PM, it went out and didn't come back on. The kids had a great time playing table tennis in the dark. (I couldn't join in because trying to see in the dim light hurt my eyes.) This was the first time power had gone out for more than a few seconds in the 22 years we've been open.

Meanwhile, we faced another problem. The rain outside was so great it caused some sort of flash flood in our parking lot. The water kept slamming into the walls. There's a storm drain that runs across the parking lot a few feet outside the club, but it wasn't ready for this, and the flooding shot right over it. Most of the wall in front is actually a garage-type door that opens and closes. While it was closed during the storm, apparently there's a small gap underneath, and water began pouring in. This had never happened before, probably due to the storm drain. So water began cascading into the club. The coaches all grabbed various mops and brooms and began to fight it, trying to push the water back out, with some success. (There weren't enough mops and brooms, so I spent some time soaking up water from the floor in a towel and wringing it out over a mop bucket.) It was difficult as we were doing this in the dark. Anyway, we battled the elements for about half an hour. At the end, we'd gotten most of the water out, but the power was still off.

This was a problem as Tuesdays and Fridays are league nights at the club, and we were expecting large numbers of players. We had to cancel everything - somehow they got the word out.

During the height of the storm, with the power out, I decided it would be a good idea to run out to my car and get a flashlight and umbrella. I opened the door, took one look, and decided to go back to soaking up water with a towel. I've seen many a storm, but nothing like this watery violence.

I left the club around 7:30PM. Traffic was a mess. Most of the traffic lights were out. When I got home I was happy to find my power had not gone out, though my front yard was a mess.

Here are some thoughts that come to mind.

  1. Throughout the entire situation, one elderly Chinese player who had been in the middle of a lesson simply took a box of balls and practiced serves the whole time. How he didn't this I don't know, he must have had good eyes as I tried it and could barely see the ball, much less do a serious spin serve.
  2. The kids had a great time playing in the dark. If the power goes out at the U.S. Open, we'll have the most prepared bunch of kids in table tennis. No other club trains its junior players to play in the dark. We welcome players to the dark side.
  3. The only thing scarier than a big, strong player with a powerful forehand loop is a big, strong player with a powerful mop or broom fighting off the elements.
  4. The situation reminded me of the 1993 Junior Nationals, which I ran at the Potomac Community Center in Potomac, Maryland. The tournament ran on Friday night (doubles events), and all day Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday afternoon there was a thunderstorm, and sometime that afternoon all the power went out. It didn't come back on that day, so we had to reschedule everything for Sunday. We still managed to finish around dinner time on Sunday. The only other time I remember this happening was at a 4-star tournament in Augusta, run by Pete May, when the power went out. I believe it came back on after a time, so all was well. I think the power once went out for minute or so once at a U.S. Open or Nationals due to a storm.  

Sheeba: Feb. 1998 - May 27, 2014

I had to put my dog Sheeba to sleep yesterday. (She's a corgi mix.) She was 16 years 3 months old, which (based on her size and breed) put her in her early 90s in human years. I got her at a shelter when she was three, so we were together for 13 years. The first twelve years she loved to jump on things, chew, get scratched on the head, and eat bacon snacks. That's the Sheeba I'll try to remember. Over the last year she changed dramatically. She'd barely eat, going from her normal 25 pounds down to 14.9 at the end. She could no longer walk up or down stairs, so I had to carry her outside several times a day. She went completely deaf - if you clapped your hands behind her head there'd be no reaction, not even a flinching of the ears. She went almost blind, and began to regularly walk into walls. The last month or two she was no longer really house trained, so I was cleaning up lots of messes. Her eyes developed some sort of problem that led to their jumping back and forth continuously. A constant river of gooky stuff began coming out of her eyes that would run down her muzzle, which I had to clean off several times a day. The last week she mostly lost her ability to walk due to arthritis and hip problems, falling to the ground every two or three steps. She completely stopped eating her last three days, refusing even her bacon snacks. She was in pain, so the veterinarian and I agreed it was time.

Last Second Flip

Here's a nice video (18 sec, including slow-mo replay) of China's Ma Long looking like he's going to backhand push, then changing to a flip at the last second. While this might be difficult for most players, there are easier variations, such as last-second changes of direction when pushing long or short. In fact, here's a secret for playing against many players, especially junior players. Juniors are almost programmed to react almost instantly to whatever you do. They also tend to serve a lot of short serves to the middle and backhand. If you receive these as if you are going to push to their backhand, they'll begin to react - so if you change directions and push to the forehand instead (either short or quick and deep), they'll get caught over and over. 

The Mental Game: The Pink Elephant on the Court

Here's a sports psychology article directed at junior tennis players, but it applies to table tennis just as well. When the author wrote, "I've heard it all," I was nodding my head.  

97-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency: A Special Invitation to Tour Butterfly

Here's the article, Day 97 in Sheri Pittman Cioroslan's 100-day Countdown. I linked to the first three articles in yesterday's blog.

History of Table Tennis and an Analysis of Spin

Here's a video (10:56) from three years ago that I don't think I've ever linked to, covering the history of table tennis, including a segment on spin.

Neymar Plays Table Tennis

Here's a short article and video (16 sec) on Brazilian soccer star (that's football for you non-Americans) Neymar playing table tennis. (Neymar goes by the one name.)

Table Tennis with Books

I like books. I like table tennis. This is how the game should be played, as demoed by these kids.

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May 27, 2014

Tip of the Week

Random Drills.

Perfectionism

If you work with top players, one of the things that quickly jumps out at you is that they are nearly all perfectionists. They developed their nearly perfect techniques because they weren't satisfied with anything less than perfection - and so they worked at it, year after year after year, until they got as close to it as it was humanly possible.

If you want to reach a decent level, you too should be a perfectionist when you practice. This doesn't mean everything has to be perfect; it means as close to perfect as can reasonably be done. The operative word here is "reasonably." If your goal is to be world champion, then your goal is true perfection in all your shots because if you aim for absolute perfection, you'll get a lot closer to it than if you aim lower. But for most people who are not striving to be world champion, "reasonably" is a flexible term. For example, most players do not have the foot speed to cover as much of the table with their forehands as many of the top world-class players. Trying to do so is an exercise in futility. So instead of trying to play a "perfect" game like Zhang Jike or Ma Long, you might settle for something more within your abilities - and yet you might still strive to have their stroking techniques.

Even the stroking techniques are subject to the "reasonably" guideline. For example, if you are primarily a blocker/hitter and have played that way for many years, you might find looping in a fast rally awkward to learn. So you might only want to loop against backspin - and if so, you might not want to copy the great counterlooping techniques of the top players, but instead develop a good old-fashioned loop against backspin only. (Which sometimes means a more concave up stroke, i.e. the path of the racket curves upward.) Or you could spend a lot of time developing that loop in a rally, if you so choose. It all depends on your physical abilities and how much time you can "reasonably" put toward this training.

It also sometimes comes down to whether you want to develop a technique for the sake of learning that technique, or whether you are focused strictly on winning. Many players want to play like the world-class players, style-wise, even if they might be better playing some other way. There's nothing wrong with that. Others are more focused on winning, and there's nothing wrong with that either - but here the key is the timetable, i.e. how long are you willing to focus on perfecting your game now so you can win later.

I started out as a shakehand inverted all-out forehand hitter my first few years. (I was a late starter, starting at age 16.) Looping was difficult for me at first, but I decided I wanted to play like the top players, and so I spent an inordinate amount of time practicing looping. Eventually I reached the point that I could play both looping or hitting, which became valuable tactically. It also made me a much better coach since I went through the same process as most up-and-coming players do as they learn to loop - only it's more in my memory as I went through this when I was around 19 or so. I've always thought that was an advantage I have in my coaching as I'm teaching things I learned around that age while other top coaches are teaching stuff they learned when they were perhaps eight years old, and so I have a better memory of the process.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Cioroslan (formerly Pittman) is doing a 100-day countdown daily article through the end of ITTF President Adham Sharara's tenure as president of the ITTF. As she explains it, "Over this 100-day period, I will share a series that features the past, present and future of the ITTF, with a particular emphasis on news and developments during the Sharara era." Here are the first three.

Winning Deuce Games

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Ariel Hsing Joins JinHua Bank Team for the 2014 China Super League

Here's the story.

The Expert in a Year Challenge is Heading to Denmark

Here's the article, and info on the camp in Denmark.

Table Tennis Does Not Get Any Better Than This!

Here's the video (52 sec) of this great point in the fifth game between Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Japan's Jun Mizutani in the Team Semifinals at the recent World Championships in Tokyo. Mizutani would go on to win the match, 11-8 in the fifth, but Germany would win the Team match 3-1 to advance to the final against China.

Ping Pong the Animation

There are now seven episodes in this table tennis cartoon. Here's where you can see all seven.

X-Men Table Tennis

There's a scene about midway into the movie where we meet the super-fast Quicksilver. How did they introduce us to him and his speed? By having him play table tennis by himself! Here's an animated gif of him playing as Hank/Beast, a young Charles Xavier (in background) and Wolverine look on.

Non-Table Tennis - Baltimore Science Fiction Convention

I spent Saturday at Balticon, where I was a panelist in three different one-hour panels. Here's a picture of me with my fellow panelists in one of them, with my two science fiction/fantasy books on display. You can't tell from this angle but there's a sizeable audience there. This panel was on "Favorite Science Fiction Authors." My other two panels were "Five Books for the Last Town on Earth" and "Titles Looking for Stories." (This latter involved audience members choosing titles, and each panelist coming up with a story synopsis on the spot.) (Here's my science fiction page.

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