Werner Schlager

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November 5, 2014

Ready Stance

What is a proper ready stance? Any decent coach could go over this in great detail. I've written about it before, such as in Grip and Stance and Use a Wider Stance. But there's a simpler way. (This might be expanded later into a Tip of the Week.)

Next time you are trying to show someone the proper ready stance in table tennis (or trying to work out your own), imagine playing basketball. Pretend to dribble a ball, and tell the person to cover you. Invariably he'll go into a perfect crouch that allows him to move quickly side to side - he'll widen his stance, with his feet aimed slightly outward, knees slightly bent, and bend slightly forward at the waist. (You can also tell someone to imagine being a shortstop in baseball or a goalie in soccer - same thing.) Other than not holding the arms up (as one does when covering in basketball), the player is now in a proper table tennis stance, and you didn't have to go into all the specifics.

Have the player do some side-to-side movements, and he'll quickly realize the benefits of playing in such a stance.

Table Tennis Authors Unite!

I've self-published my last few table tennis books on Createspace.com, a subsidiary of Amazon.com. Along the way I've become something of an expert on it. I've been advising a few other writers on it, and at the upcoming USA Nationals I'm doing an informal demo for three prospective table tennis authors who are writing table tennis books. If you also are interested in this (i.e. are writing a book on table tennis - or perhaps some other topic - that you'd like to self-publish), email me and I'll see if we can find a time at the Nationals where we can all get together.

Mostly Non-TT - World Fantasy Convention and Stupefying Stories

I'll be spending much of the next four days jumping back and forth between table tennis and the World Fantasy Convention, which is happening nearby in Arlington, Virginia, at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Thur-Sun. I have a reading scheduled Saturday at 1:30 PM. I have a lot of coaching on Thursday and Friday nights, and Sunday all day, but I'll likely spend my free time over there, plus I've got Saturday completely off. If anyone wants to join me, email me.

On a related note, at 5PM today (Eastern time) my dark fantasy story "The Roads to Hell" will go live at Stupefying Stories. It's a political story about what happens to political ideologues after they die.

The Powerful Backhand Loop of Werner Schlager

Here's video (42 sec, including slow motion replay) of Schlager ripping five backhand loops in a row against chopper Joo Se Hyuk. Many top players use backhand loops as variations against choppers, but five in a row, like this? Wow! (Ironically some of our top up-and-coming stars at MDTTC are also experimenting with backhand loops when playing local chopping star and coach Wang Qing Liang.)

Cast Your Vote for USOC Athlete of the Month - Kanak Jha!

Here's where you can vote.

Plastic Ball Testing

The Preston Table Tennis Association has put together a pair of videos that test the new plastic balls. Here they are:

Zhang Jike's Prize Money Goes to a Fund for Annual Fair Play Award

Here's the ITTF press release.

Table Tennis Rock & Roll

Here's the inspirational music video from the ITTF (1:32). However, there's a problem with this. Go to 1:09, and you'll see they are using highlights of the infamous Zhang Jike scene where he's destroying the barriers after his World Cup win. How can they fine him his entire $45,000 prize money for this, and then use it for promotional purposes? I'm guessing this is a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing.

Table Tennis Daily & Editingsports Trick Shots

Here's the video (1:28) that shows some great trick shots. One of my great sorrows of life is that my shoulder is too stiff to do any of the behind-the-back shots they show here!

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July 17, 2014

Serve and Attack Patterns

There are all sorts of ways to serve and attack. For the uninitiated, let me remind you what the purpose of the serve is - it is to set up your attack! You may have serves that are designed to win a point outright - "trick serves" - but there's no point in serving and hoping for a winner. You should always expect a return, and so from that point of view, the point is to follow your serve with an attack. The exception, of course, is when the opponent returns your serve in such a way as to stop your attack. But until he does that, you should be looking to serve and attack in some way.

This is true for defending players as well. Otherwise you lose your entire serve advantage. If you say you don't have a strong enough attack to serve and attack, then you've answered your own question - you need to develop that attack. Nobody reaches their potential on just attack or just defense - you need both. Defenders should look to follow their serves with attacks if the return is weak. If it is not weak, then they can stick to defense.

Below are some of my personal favorite serve and attack tactics. I'm writing these as if I were still at my peak, when I had good footwork and tried to follow most serves with a forehand loop or smash. Everyone's different, so pick out the ones that you like, and ignore others. I can follow my serves equally well with a forehand loop against backspin or topspin, or a forehand smash, but almost always with a forehand. Others may only loop or smash, or may have better backhand attacks.

  1. Short backspin or no-spin to middle. If I served backspin and they pushed it back, I tended to look to follow with a spinny forehand loop deep on the table, but if the push is weak I go for a winner. If I serve no-spin, I almost always looked to serve and rip, as no-spin serves tend to come back with less backspin and a little higher. By serving to the middle I cut off the extreme angles, and there's less ground to cover.
  2. Short backspin or no-spin to backhand. This is the same as serving to the middle (regarding backspin or no-spin), but now the opponent has an angle into my backhand, but can only go down the line to my forehand. After the serve I'd stand as far to my left as I could, ready to loop any push to my wide backhand with my forehand. Since most players guard the crosscourt angle more than down the line, I often looked to loop a winner down the line - but the danger here is that they have an open angle to my wide forehand, so if you go down the line, you either have to loop a winner, or loop it slow and spinny, so the slowness gives you time to get back into position.

    The second option is to loop to the middle - though for many this should be the first option. It's the hardest place for an opponent to defend, and since they have no extreme angles, you can often follow with another forehand.

    The third option is to loop to the wide backhand. This is usually an easier block for the opponent, but since they have no angle into the wide forehand, you can stand toward your backhand side and often follow with another forehand. You can rip a winner to the very wide backhand, if it's open, or just loop slow and spinny and deep on the table. Deep, spinny loops are often hard to block on the backhand.

  3. Short backspin or no-spin to forehand. This is the same as serving to the middle (regarding backspin or no-spin), but now the opponent has an angle into my forehand, but can only go down the line to my backhand. It's especially effective for me with a reverse pendulum or a tomahawk serve (or for others, a backhand serve). Many players are awkward against short serves to the forehand and give weak returns. It also brings them over the table, so they are awkward on the next shot. Most players return these crosscourt, so you can almost camp out there. However, better players learn to take these down the line. Since you have to guard that wide forehand angle, these serves are mostly effective only against those who are awkward against short serves to the forehand, or who predictably go crosscourt.

    However, an alternate version is to serve short to the middle forehand. This cuts off the extreme forehand angle, and makes the short awkward to flip for many players.

  4. Short side-top serves. Most players return these with soft drives or flips. Since there's no backspin on the ball, you can drive into the ball with a point-ending loop. It's just a matter of getting into position. Most players return these serves crosscourt, so be ready for that. Make sure to fake backspin on these serves by following through down after contact!
  5. Long serves to the backhand. Most of these serves are returned crosscourt, so you can hang out to your backhand side and follow with a forehand (or backhand if you are stronger with that side). The key is variation. Be able to serve big breaking serves that curve to the right (receiver's left); fast ones that catch them off guard; heavy topspin that gets popped up or goes off; and fast no-spin that they tend to put in the net or return weakly. If the opponent can consistently loop this serve (backhand or forehand), then you probably want to use other serves.
  6. Fast to the middle. This makes them choose between forehand and backhand, and often results in weak returns. It's especially effective with fast no-spin. If they can loop this serve consistently, then switch to other serves.
  7. Fast down the line. Many players leave this spot open, and are vulnerable to this. You can't always follow with a forehand, so be ready to attack or counter-attack from both wings.
  8. Serves from the forehand side. This gives a different angle, and often results in weak returns. I do this either with a tomahawk serve or with a regular pendulum serve. The serve usually comes back toward the forehand side, and so is easy to attack. But the key is giving the opponent a different "look" to adjust to, with the result you get many weak returns.

    One of my favorite tactics is to serve this down the line from the forehand side. The opponent is looking for a crosscourt serve, and is often caught off guard, and so makes a weak return. He almost always will return this crosscourt to the backhand. So if you have reasonable foot speed, you can move all the way over to your backhand and follow with a forehand! But this does leave your forehand side wide open, and usually only works once - then the opponent will take it down the line. So for most, it might be better to follow with a backhand attack.

Chinese Super League Introduces Two-Toned Ball

Here's the story. This is a great idea - I've blogged in the past how silly it is that in such a spin-oriented sport, we have a ball where you can't see the spin, and suggested we use a soccer-colored one or something like that.

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. Fifty-five down, 45 to go!

  • Day 46: Steve Dainton’s Journey to Becoming the ITTF’s Director of Marketing

Kreanga Backhand

Here's video (28 sec, including slow motion replay), of a great point, ending with an incredible Kreanga backhand Loop kill. Actually two of them, but opponent Liu Guoliang smashes the first! This is from the 2001 World Championships. Liu, the last of the great pips-out penholders, is now coach of the Chinese Men's Team.

Epic Point

Here's an epic point (28 sec, all rally!). That's Wang Liqin on the far side, Werner Schlager on the near side. From the comments I think it's from the 2003 World Cup, but I'm not sure.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's a 13-sec video of Nathan Hsu training in China, created by Coach Jeffrey Xen Xun.

Teqball Anyone?

Here's the video (2:15) of rules for the new version of table tennis/soccer that's taking the world  by storm.

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April 3, 2014

Table Tennis Niches and Groups

Have you noticed that there are a number of people in table tennis who have their own "niches"? I'm a prime example; while there are plenty of other table tennis coaches around, none write anywhere near as much as I do, so my table tennis niche is writing. (Six books and over 1300 published articles on table tennis, plus this blog.) Who are the others? (This doesn't imply that this is all they do in table tennis; it's what they do that stands out, that few others do.) Anyone and any niches that I missed?

  • Tim Boggan's table tennis niche is history. (He had others before, but this is what he mostly does now.) Mike Babuin and Scott Gordon are following in his footsteps. (Scott earlier found his niche as the main leader for many years in hardbat table tennis, so does he qualify for two niches?)
  • Mike Mezyan's table tennis niche is artwork.
  • Brian Pace's table tennis niche is videos. Jim Butler has recently been joining him in this niche. So has Gerry Chua and a number of others.
  • There are a number who have found their niche as table tennis photographers. They include Mal Anderson, Gerry Chua, Diego Schaaf, Bruce Liu, Tom Nguyen, and the others I accidentally left off who will be angrily emailing me shortly. Then there's Ayoade Ademakinwa, with tabletennisphotos.com.
  • Richard Lee's niche is running nationwide tournaments. Plenty of others run tournaments, but few others run big ones all over the country. Craig Krum also runs a lot of tournaments around the country with his Omnipong software.
  • Scott Preiss, Adam Bobrow and Judah Friedlander are the table tennis entertainers.

There are other niches as well, but most have larger numbers - I'd call them groups instead. To how many of the following 50 table tennis groups do you belong?

  1. Player
  2. Top Player
  3. Olympian
  4. Paralympic player
  5. Paralympian
  6. USATT Member
  7. USATT Officer, Committee Member, or Staff
  8. Coach
  9. Practice Partner
  10. Umpire
  11. Referee
  12. Club Owner
  13. Club President
  14. Club Officer
  15. Tournament Director
  16. 4- or 5-star Tournament Director
  17. League Director
  18. Promoter
  19. Volunteer
  20. Writer
  21. Historian
  22. Artist
  23. Videographer
  24. Photographer
  25. Entertainer (includes those doing exhibitions)
  26. Forum Member
  27. Forum Troll
  28. Mini-Cadet (Under 13)
  29. Cadet (under 15)
  30. Junior (under 18)
  31. Top Junior (any age group)
  32. Senior (over 40)
  33. Esquire (over 50)
  34. Senior Esquire (over 60)
  35. Veteran (over 70)
  36. Top Senior (any age group)
  37. Hardbat player
  38. Sandpaper player
  39. Long Pips player
  40. Antispin player
  41. Short pips player
  42. Inverted both sides player
  43. Lefty player
  44. Penhold player
  45. Seemiller grip player
  46. Player who trains regularly
  47. Player who takes coaching regularly
  48. Player who only plays matches
  49. Has played U.S. Open or Nationals
  50. Other

Larry Hodges Books

I finally put together a simple page where I can list and sell all of my books: larryhodgesbooks.com. It actually takes you to a page I created here at TableTennisCoaching.com. I'm not sure why I didn't do this long ago - I bought the larryhodgesbooks.com domain name a while back.

National College Championships

The USA National Collegiate Championships are this weekend, April 4-6, Fri-Sun, in Monroeville, PA. Here's their home page, and here's where they will have results. They will also have live-streaming, starting 9:30AM on Friday, which is why I'm letting you know now so you can schedule it for tomorrow! (I'll repost this note again tomorrow as a reminder.)

Werner Schlager Meets Wang Liqin in Shanghai

Here's the article. No, it's not a rematch of their famous quarterfinal match at the 2003 Worlds!

"…you make it that much easier for me to beat you."

Here's a nice table tennis meme. The title above is only the ending of the meme's statement.

ITTF Legends Tour Teaser

Here's the video (38 sec).

Ovtcharov vs. Mizutani

Here's video (1:07:29) of the final of the German Open this past weekend, won by Dimitrij Ovtcharov over Jun Mizutani, 11-9 in the fifth. Jump to 1:04:20 to see the start of the last point of the match - a great one! Or watch the entire thing.

Ten Cool and Unusual Ping Pong Table Designs From Around the World

Here's the page from Uberpong. I think I posted this once before, but I was browsing it yesterday and thought I'd put it up again. I don't think the first one was there before, the one with the brick wall and barbed wire! It'll take a lot of topspin to pull the ball down over that - or would you tactically play through the barbed wire? I don't think I covered this in my tactics book.

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January 10, 2013

Beginner's Forehand & Backhand Loop

One week ago, on Jan. 3, I wrote about a "Beginner's Topspinny Backhand and Forehand Looping." This was about an 11-year-old who was learning to forehand loop, and was developing a rather topspinny backhand. I worked with him again yesterday. Jackpot!!!

When I say "Jackpot," I'm referring to how fast he picked up the forehand loop against topspin, which I taught him for the first time yesterday using multiball. We worked on it for 30 minutes, and he was able to do it pretty nicely. He still has a tendency to jam the table and rush the shot (leading to too much arm, not enough body rotation), so I kept reminding him to step off the table to give himself time to use a full body shot - but when I remind him, he has no trouble backing off and doing the shot properly without rushing. (Backing off against an incoming topspin and giving yourself time is key to learning the loop properly, since it's a longer stroke than a regular drive, and the timing is different. When you are proficient at the shot you can start taking it closer to the table.)

He also has a tendency to use too much arm in general, but we're working on that, and when he backs off to give himself time he's better at that. Overall, a very nice first day on looping against topspin. Next session I may let him try it "live" against my block - but only if he's doing it very nicely in multiball.

He's also got a nice backhand loop now against backspin in drills (though he doesn't use it effectively in game situations yet), and really does topspin the ball quite a bit in regular rallies. Yesterday I figured out why, and it's sort of funny. I coach him every week at the same time, and at that same time every week, on the table next to us, Nathan Hsu (16), currently the top-rated junior in Maryland at 2351, has a training session. Nathan always plays on the same side of the table I'm on, so my 11-year-old student has a clear view of Nathan while he's practicing. Nathan's known for his ferocious backhand loop, which he often does close to the table. Guess what? The two have matching strokes!!! The kid I've been coaching, whether consciously or not, has been copying Nathan's backhand.

USATT Coaches of the Year

The results are out! (The page includes shot bios of the winners.) The winners are:

  • Paralympic Coach of the Year – Daniel Rutenberg 
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year – Joel Mitchell
  • Developmental Coach of the Year – Stefan Feth
  • National Coach of the Year – Xin Zhou

Ma Long's Forehand Loop

Here's 23 seconds of 2012 World Cup Winner and former #1 Ma Long's forehand loop.

Schlager's Backhand Block

Here's 53 seconds of 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager backhand blocking against teammate Karl Jindrak.

Ruth Aarons' and Sandor Glancz's Exhibition

Here's 58 seconds of 1936 & 1937 World Women's Singles Champion Ruth Aarons (USA's only world singles champion) and 1933 World Men's Doubles Champion and 3-time World Team Champion Sandor Glancz doing an exhibition, circa late 1930s.

Justin Bieber's Ping-Pong

Here's 41 seconds of Pencils of Promise star Justin Bieber's ping-pong. I think he's famous for other stuff too. 

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September 20, 2012

Preparing for Tournament This Weekend

When I say this, I mean both for my students and for myself.

Students: Yesterday I had one-hour coaching sessions with two junior players who are about to play in their first USATT tournament. (I had a third session with another who might play in our October tournament.) How does one prepare someone for their first tournament? First off, I direct them to this article I wrote a while back, "Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Your First Table Tennis Tournament … But Didn’t Know Where to Ask!"

But you are probably more interested in how to prepare a player to play well? Here's my article "Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success." In the case of these two students, we did about 30 minutes of regular drills (footwork, steady stroking drills, multiball), and then went to game-type situations. For example, I'd rally steady into the student's backhand, and he'd pick a shot to either step around and smash, or hit his backhand down the line. As soon as he did one of these it was free play. Then we got to even more game-type drills, such as straight serve and attack (he serves backspin, I push it back, he loops, then free play). We did a lot of pushing and loop against push drills. I also had them do a lot of serve practice, always the most under-practiced aspect of a game, especially just before a tournament.

We also talked a bit about tactics, stressing keep it simple - use serve and receive to get their strengths into play and avoid the opponent's strengths while going after their weaknesses. You'll note I didn't emphasize guarding their own weaknesses. That's something more experienced players should do, but at this stage I don't want to enforce in their minds that they have weaknesses they should be guarding since we want those weaknesses to become strengths. The other three aspects are enough for now, and if you get your strengths into play, then you are not using your weaknesses so much.

Me: I'm getting ready to run the tournament with a new software, Omnipong. So far I've set up the tournament (setting all the events, how they should be run, etc.), inputted entries received (47 so far, expecting a bunch more today), and got the new printer to work with it (don't ask, but thanks to John Olsen who figured out that I was trying to print using a printer driver for a 32-bit computer but I had a 64-bit computer . . . or something like that). Today I'm going to test other aspects of the software, such as setting up draws, printing them out, and printing match slips. I've already done some of this, but want to make sure everything's set.

Two Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? Or are you part of the 47% who are dependent on USATT to protect their ratings, who believe that they would be victims if they entered the tournament, who believe that they are entitled to their high rating without defending it . . . people who do not compete? (Now if I could only charge all of you $50,000 each for reading this.)

Note that official deadline is 5PM today. But I'll take entries until I do the draws sometime on Friday. Send your entry in NOW!!!

Zhuang Zedong Battling Cancer

Here's an article about Zhuang Zedong (often called Chuang Tsetung, the three-time World Men's Singles Champion from 1961-65, often called the greatest player ever, who initiated the events that led to Ping-Pong Diplomacy) and his battle with cancer and his other passion, calligraphy.

Ping-Pong Balls in Space!

Here's the article. That's one small roll for a ball, one giant spin for ballkind.

Now That's a Forehand!!!

Like father, like son - here's little Nick Schlager showing incredible form as dad Werner (2003 World Men's Singles Champion) looks on in amazement. And the form looks strikingly like Daddy's.

My Big Forehand

I have a big forehand too, just like little Nick above. Really, it's true. Here's the picture to prove it.


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July 16, 2012


Tip of the Week

Serving Low.

Stiffest Player in the World

It's official. I'm the stiffest player in the world. Even Jim Butler (2-time USA Table Tennis Olympian) says so. Recently I've been doing lots and Lots and LOTS of multiball coaching, and standing to the side of a table and feeding balls all day long is a great way to make stiff muscles even stiffer. (We have a new MDTTC camp starting this morning - week #5 of our eleven consecutive weeks of training camps - and I'll be spending my morning feeding multiball again. Afterwards I'll carve my initials in a diamond with my muscles.)

Ironically, it doesn't really affect me in static drills. If someone needs to work on their block, I can loop over and over with ease, and I can even more to loop. But if the ball starts scattering around the table, the stiffness seems to slow down my reactions, and so I'm slow in reacting to forehand and backhand shots. Subconsciously my mind knows this, and so it's overanticipating where the next ball goes, and so I'm often moving to do a forehand while the ball goes to my backhand, and vice versa.

Yes, I'm stretching regularly. But that's like asking a diamond to stretch so as to lose some of its stiffness. Doesn't do a lot. What I need to do is simply play very active table tennis (or other sports, such as tennis), and stretch after I play, when the muscles are loose. After a coaching session, the muscles are the opposite of loose; they are catatonic.

I regularly remind players I coach not to copy my stiffness. I'm sure there are juniors who look at my stiffness and think, "Gee, I'm too loose, I better tighten my muscles if I want to be a top player like Coach Larry!"

Review of New Plastic Balls

A while back I posted a video of Australian National Team Member William Henzell's review of the new plastic balls that we're supposed to switch to worldwide in 2014. Here is his review again, this time with both text and a link to the video (5:45).

U.S. Open Ratings

The ratings from the U.S. Open have been processed. Unfortunately, for some reason the ratings from the ITTF Junior Pro Tour have not yet been processed. (I assume they will be.) So the ratings aren't quite up to date for most of our juniors.

MDTTC has some nice junior rankings after the Open.

  • Under 18 Boys: #1: Wang Qing Liang 2641
  • Under 15 Boys: #2 Chen Bo Wen 2431, #10 Tong Tong Gong 2334 (There's a huge jam of players within 100 points of each other.)
  • Under 12 Boys: #2 Derek Nie 2170
  • Under 12 Girls: #1 Crystal Wang 2099, #3 Amy Lu 1838, #4 Princess Ke 1821
    (Crystal is #1 in Under 11, Under 12, and Under 13 Girls.)

Complete the Sentence

From the ITTF: "Table Tennis makes me feel __________"?

USA's Worst Olympic Sports

There are only three Olympic Sports that USA has never medalled in: Badminton, Handball, and (you guessed it) Table Tennis. Here's an article on the subject.

Mizutani High Toss Serve

Pingskills brings you this new video on the Mizutani High Toss Serve (2:23).

Brain Pong

Here's a video (3:17) on a project to allow one to play the computer game Pong with your mind via brain waves. Really!

Werner Schlager versus the Three-Year-Old

That's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager on the right, and that's his three-year-old son Nick on the table, showing great tennis volleying form. Quick, anyone, is it illegal to stand on the table? Show me a rule that forbids it!

Non-Table Tennis: Agent Says No

Here's a letdown. An agent from one of the largest agencies has been interested in my humorous fantasy novel "The Giant Face in the Sky." Unfortunately, after contemplating it for just over a year, he decided to turn it down. The moderately good news is that a small press that owns a science fiction magazine that's published a few of my stories is interested in publishing it - but they've agreed to let me shop it around first to large publishers and agents. I'm debating whether to take their offer or keep shopping it around. (Another agent liked the first two chapters and asked for the rest; hopefully they won't take a year.) Below is the agent's rejection note - kind of a nice one, but still a rejection. So it's back to table tennis coaching, right? (I do both.)

I'm cartoonishly embarrassed that it's been so many months since you first sent along The Giant Face of the Sky, and I apologize for the egregiously extended radio silence! Every time I picked up your novel, I was torn between how fluid and likeable your idiosyncratic imagination was, and how right-from-the-get-go-off-the-wall the story was, and the "what could possibly happen next?" kept me moving forward even as I was wishing for more context, more of an explanation for at least some of the world the story found itself occurring in, etc. Ultimately, despite my sincere admiration for the inventiveness on display here, I just wasn't able to figure out exactly how (or to whom) I'd pitch your book, and that's my failing, and my failing alone, but it does mean that I'm not the right agent for you. I'm very sorry to disappoint you, and sorrier still to have taken so long to respond, but I'm extremely grateful for the opportunity to have seen your work, and I wish you nothing but the best of luck, inside and outside of fortune cookies!


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May 24, 2012

Drop the arm and loop

Players are often too slow in responding to pushes that should be looped. (This assumes you know how to loop; if you don't, learn. Get a coach or watch top players, perhaps in the video section here.) When you see that an opponent is about to push, you should be preparing to drop down to loop, either forehand or backhand. (One-winged speedsters have a simplified world view; they are going to loop with their forehand, so they don't have to decide forehand or backhand, just which way to move. But that's a difficult way to play.) Players often miss their loops because they are slow to respond, and so end up rushed, which is the most common reason players miss loops.

This is something you can practice anywhere, without a table or racket. Go into a ready stance and imagine your opponent about to push. Visualize the push sometimes going to your forehand side, sometimes the backhand side. The instant you see where the opponent is going, lower your arm and playing shoulder (your whole body goes down some to loop backspin), and shadow practice looping it. Then repeat. Keep doing this until you feel like you are reacting almost instantly, or until the people in the office where you work have you committed.

"Is there a ping-pong coach around?"

I just watched a short CNN news video about a boy whose heart stopped after he was hit in the chest with a baseball during a game. The coaches started CPR, and then a nurse came out of the stands and took over, saving his life. This reminded me of a Nationals where a player had a heart attack in the middle of a match. Within thirty seconds he was surrounded by about ten doctors from among the 700 or so players. He survived.

I keep wondering when I'll be walking along, and suddenly there'll be cries of, "Is there a ping-pong coach around?" Then I'll leap into action. There'll be some poor fellow getting killed at table tennis, and only I can save him. I'll give him a few shrewd tips, he comes back to win, and then there'll be a CNN news video, "Table tennis coach saves life of player getting killed." (Note how my self-esteem went up at the end, as I switched from "ping-pong coach" to "table tennis coach"?)

New USATT web page

USA Table Tennis recently unveiled their new web page, created by Sean O'Neill. Here's the article, and here's the new web page. If you go to the old web page, there's a big sign saying, "We've Moved," and it shortly redirects you to the new page. Soon those going to the old site will be instantly redirected to the new one, so you don't have to unlearn www.usatt.org and memorize the more difficult "http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis.aspx".

Ariel Hsing in the news. . . . again

Here's another article, this time from the Associated Press, on U.S. Women's Champion and Olympian Ariel Hsing. Maybe it's time to put a moratorium on Ariel new articles? There are too many!!! (Just kidding - keep 'em coming, U.S. news media!)

U.S. Soldiers in Iraq

Here's a picture of two U.S. soldiers in Iraq playing table tennis. They both seem to use the Hasegawa finger-down-the-middle grip. Obviously both have had extensive training in Japan. (1967 World Men's Singles Champion Nobuhiko Hasegawa was notorious for this unique grip, but nobody I know of has really used it successfully since.)

Werner Schlager versus dominating rival

Here's 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager taking on a future rival, who uses his futuristic tennis-style net play to dominate the rallies. And he's standing on the table. And about 30 inches tall. But he seems to have a proper grip.


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April 20, 2012

Get your feet moving by lobbing

The large majority of players rarely lob. It's not that they don't like to lob - just about everyone finds lobbing fun - but most simply do not have the mobility to effectively lob, and so they don't. (Many of these players stand like a tree when they should be moving like a squirrel.) But isn't this backwards?

If you don't have the mobility to lob, why not practice lobbing to develop that mobility? It's not a hard concept; if you practice moving, you learn to move better. And the nice thing is that if you develop mobility off the table lobbing, you will also improve your general mobility, both close to the table and away. Not only that, but if you learn to lob, you add a new tool to your table tennis toolbox. Plus lobbing is just one step away from counterlooping, a more offensive and valuable off-table weapon.

Here's an article on lobbing, an article on smashing lobs, a more general article on topspin defense, and an article on counterlooping. Study these articles; you will be tested! (If not by me, then by your opponents in matches.)

North American Olympic Trials

They start today in Cary, NC, Fri-Sun, and here's the page where you'll find Draws, Live Streaming, Participants, Prospectus & Schedule. Here's an article about it. Here are 14 pictures from Thursday's practice and meeting day.

Werner Schlager Special

Here's a 53-minute video on 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager, still a member of the Austrian National Team. Schlager is speaking German, and the commentators Japanese, but there's a lot of nice table tennis footage.

Table Tennis Artwork

Here's Mike Mezyan's latest table tennis artwork. Of this one he wrote, "My Latest Artwork 'Prehistoric Paddle' (Paddle Sounds Like Battle) Inspired By Larry Hodges, I Read This Line in His Blog 'Our Ancestors Carried Around Ping-Pong Paddles To Fend Off Arial Attacks From Large Man-Eating Eagles' the rest was history..or was it?" (The line was from my blog on April 17, in the "Close the Racket!" segment.) If you click on the picture and subsequent ones you'll see about twenty other works of table tennis art he's done.

Funny table tennis pictures

Let's finish today with some funny table tennis pictures. Have a good weekend!


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March 30, 2012

It's not fair! Another reason why top players dominate. 

I once complained to U.S. Olympian Todd Sweeris during a match, "It's not fair. You're not winning by playing 2600; you're winning by being 2600." I said the same thing last night to former Pan Am Team Member Scott Butler (who was in town for a couple days), who was seemingly winning "cheap" points in a practice match with local Raghu Nadmichettu. I told Raghu, "You never miss those shots against me."

The point was that it is often the very threat of high-level play that freezes opponents into immobility against shots they would have no trouble with against lower-level players.

There are two ways you can take advantage of this. First, you can become a very good player, and then your potential for high-level play will freeze many opponents into immobility. That's the hard way.

The easy way is to simply diversify your game by developing versatility and unpredictability. If you threaten opponents with lots of options on any given shot, many will also be frozen into immobility as they wait to see which of your many options you choose. For example, against a short serve, many players predictably push over and over, usually to the backhand. What if you instead moved the push around (changing directions at the last second), sometimes flipped, and perhaps even dropped the ball short sometimes? Or against a loop to the forehand most players can only block crosscourt. Learn to block your forehand down the line, and watch the havoc it causes. Or simply learn to vary the pace of your blocks and watch your opponents' timing all apart. Or vary the placement, pace, spin, and depth on your loops (or drives), with last-second changes of direction. There are so many options, and so few are developed by most players.

Another way of doing this is to simply vary your serves. This doesn't mean just varying a limited number of serves; it means developing more varied serves that you can throw at an opponent. And then, once you've established that threat, and your opponent is gibbering in fear of all the possibilities, you can then focus on using your most basic and dependable serves.

Most players spend years honing "their game," and stick to that game whenever possible, often leading to a relatively strong but one- or perhaps two-dimensional game. Why not go for a few extra dimensions?

How I spend my days

  • Coaching table tennis
  • Organizing table tennis
  • Writing about table tennis
  • Reading about table tennis
  • Actually playing table tennis
  • Catering to the whims of Sheeba, who loves bacon.
  • Writing science fiction & fantasy. (I've sold 58 short stories, and have 35 more plus 2 novels making the rounds. Keeping them in submission is practically a full-time job.)
  • Reading science fiction & fantasy, plus history, and (alas) politics and newspapers.
  • Studying calculus, since I'm regularly tutoring it and it's been a while since I last studied it. (I'm toying with starting a math & English tutoring service at my table tennis club.)
  • Watching NCIS, The Simpsons, Family Guy, South Park, The Walking Dead, and A Game of Thrones (back this Sunday!)
  • Rooting for the Baltimore Orioles (please pity me)
  • Planning how to spend my $540,000,000 when I win the Mega Millions lottery tonight
  • Planning what movie to see to console myself when I don't win the Mega Millions lottery tonight (either Wrath of the Titans or Mirror Mirror)
  • Trying to ignore the political mess our country is in.

World Team Championships
Dortmund, Germany, March 25 - April 1, 2012

Robert Floras vs. Werner Schlager at the Worlds

Here's Poland's Robert Floras 3-1 upset win over Austria's 2003 World Men's Champion Werner Schlager, with the time between points removed so the whole match takes less than four minutes. Lots of great points. However, Austria defeated Poland to reach the quarterfinals of the World Team Championships. Here's the ITTF article.

Three photos from the Worlds

Here are three interesting photos of Chinese players at the World Championships:

Futurama table tennis

There are two table tennis segments here from Futurama (1:28). (In this episode, "Put Your Head on my Shoulder," Fry's head has been surgically implanted on Amy Wong's body.)

JC Penny commercial with ping-pong

There's about two seconds of "ping-pong" in this 31-second JC Penny commercial, starting at the 11-second mark.


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January 30, 2012

Tip of the Week

Quick and Variable Blocks.

Revamping the forehand

This weekend I was coaching an older player who had a nice backhand but awkward forehand. He stood mostly in a backhand stance, with a low grip (so that his shots were very wristy), and stroked his forehand with his elbow extended out, stroking mostly from the shoulder, with little shoulder rotation. He backswing varied from shot to shot. To fix these problems, we first adjusted the grip. He tried a conventional shakehand grip where his hand was closer to the blade, but it didn't feel right to him. Then we hit on the idea of simply using more pressure with his index finger to secure the blade more firmly on the forehand so that it wouldn't be wristy.

Then we worked on the stance, focusing on putting the right foot slightly back on the forehand. With some practice, this'll become a habit.

Finally we had to fix the elbow and shoulder problem, which really went together. To address this, I went back to a trick I'd seen coaches use long ago when the game was dominated by hitters. We put a rubber cleaning sponge under his arm, forcing him to keep the elbow in. This shortened his stroke, making it easier to rotate the shoulders and stroke more with the elbow. Then we worked on having the same backswing over and over. At this point the stroke really began to come together. Soon he was able to remove the sponge under his arm and he continued to hit with his elbow more in. (You don't want to stroke with the elbow so in that it'll hold a sponge there, but by exaggerating this, it made it easier to adjust to keeping the elbow more in.)

He has a lot of practice ahead of him to undo these bad habits, but he's on his way. The key thing in all this is that when hitting, precision comes mostly from good technique, not just timing. Good technique minimizes the things that can go wrong and make awkward hitting almost difficult.

"The service is the most important stroke in table tennis."

This is what 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager says in his book, "Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion," by Schlager and Bernd-Ulrich Grob. I concur. Why do so few understand this? (Technically, I'd say receive overall may be even more important, but receive is a series of different techniques, no one of which is as important as developing your serve.)

United States National Table Tennis League

I'll probably have more to write about this later, but take the time now to learn about this new upcoming $100,000 nationwide league, and get your club involved!

Playing Ping-Pong for a Passion

Here's an article about basketball's Peter Farnsworth, table tennis, and charity.

Marty Reisman and the Year of the Dragon Paddle

Yes, here's Marty celebrating the Chinese New Year ("Year of the Dragon") with the new Dragon paddle (0:56)!

Forehand loop in multiball

Here's a nice demonstration of the forehand loop (1:22). That's Coach Richard Bowling looping, and Coach Amy Feng (four-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion, 1992-95) feeding multiball. Shown at regular speed, slow motion, and at Forrest Gump speed.
UPDATE - the video above, which was public, is now listed as private, and so we can't watch. Alas. 

Table Tennis and Tennis and Badminton, Oh My!

This is one of the strangest music videos I've ever seen (4:55), to the tune of "The Danger Zone." It features table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Table tennis comes and goes, with the best segment coming at 2:45.

Non-Table Tennis: My entry for "Worst Opening"

This was my entry for a "Worst Opening" contest, where you try to write the most absurd and overdone opening to a science fiction story.

I woke and saw the blue eyes gazing into mine. Lush, blue alien eyes, eyes that cried out "I'm blue!" over and over and over . . . and would not stop. I could only gape back as the reptilian eyes locked into mine, I could not look away, could not blink, could not die in those few seconds that lasted a lifetime of pain and ecstasy. If I'd known then what I would then have never known I would have torn my own eyes out and stuffed them into hers, knowing the holes in my face could never match the growing hole in my heart, nor could the blueness of my rapidly unoxygenating blood pouring down my face onto the floor be anything but a melting blueberry to those pounding blue eyes of tomorrow. That was how my day began.


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