2014 Los Angeles Open

August 14, 2014

USATT Chairman's Blog - Plastic Ball Update

Here's the new blog entry by USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin. It's mostly about USATT's policy toward the new non-celluloid balls. One item that jumps out is that apparently they will be using celluloid balls at the Nationals in December, but non-celluloid balls in the Team Trials there. That would likely be a serious mistake - some players are training for events that will be using different balls, and so won't be able to play their best. Besides messing up player's games, we might not get the best possible USA teams in the various trials for men's, women's, and junior, cadet, and mini-cadet boys' and girls' teams. Players used to one ball aren't going to play as well using the other. Since the players that do make the various teams will have plenty of time afterwards to adjust to the poly balls, there's no need to use both at the Nationals.

The Men's and Women's Team Trials are normally held separately from the Nationals, but the blog seems to imply they may be held there this year. Do we really want our top players to have to use one ball for Men's and Women's Singles and other events (such as Under 22), and another for the various team trials? Or are they planning or considering combining the Men's and Women's Singles events with the Men's and Women's Team Trials, and so use the non-celluloid balls in all of the "top" events? If so, that would be a rather important piece of info that should be included in the blog. But even then we'd be forcing players to switch back and forth between the balls in various events - for example, nearly all the players in the Junior Team Trials (played with non-celluloid) would normally be playing in Under 22 (played with celluloid). Do we really want to force our top junior stars like Kanak Jha and Crystal Wang (defending champions in Under 22 Men and Women from the last Nationals) to switch back and forth, or to not defend their titles? If we really want our top players to get used to the non-celluloid balls, do we believe the best way of doing this is to have them switch back and forth in the middle of a tournament? This whole thing seems to me a self-inflicted problem by choosing to use two types of balls in one tournament. Hopefully common sense will prevail here.

On a side note, Mike states that the two balls are "closely aligned" in their playing characteristics. However, that's not quite true as nearly every tester, including myself, has reported that the non-celluloid balls are more difficult to spin, and so will take some time to adjust. Here's my own review of the Nittaku non-celluloid ball (i.e. poly ball) where I and all five players who tried it out found it was harder to spin the ball - see items #8 and #12. With practice, players can adjust to the non-celluloid ball, but not in the middle of a tournament, going back and forth. 

MDTTC Camp Happenings

Yesterday was Day Three of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camps. As noted, we have a large turnout this week, with over 40 players. I'm primarily working with the beginning juniors. We worked on all the techniques we've been working on all week - forehand, backhand, footwork, serves, etc. Then I gave a lecture and demo on pushing, and we worked on that. 

We had a lot of interesting happenings yesterday, most of them only somewhat table tennis related. Here's a rundown. 

Willy, age 8, had been coming to all our camps all summer, but had to miss the last half of the camp last week and the first two days this week as he was on vacation in Alaska. (He said it was cold.) When he walked in the door, he was mobbed by about ten others his age. I keep picturing these same kids about ten years from now. Which of them will be dominating play in this country? Many of them, I hope!!!

During the morning break a large moth flew into the club. Perhaps this moth chose the wrong club to blunder into! We have about 15 ball pickup nets at the club. They are made (or at least distributed) by Butterfly Table Tennis, our club's sponsor. So that makes them butterfly nets. The minute that poor moth showed up a pack of kids with butterfly nets went after it. They went back and forth all over the club, but that moth was pretty fast. After about fifteen minutes of racing about, the moth won - the kids couldn't catch it, and we were off break. We couldn't find the moth later, so perhaps it had found its way out with a scary stories to tell its caterpillars. 

Right after lunch I took a group of players to the 7-11 down the street. Because I bring our players there regularly they always give me a free Slurpee. But since I'm on a diet, I only take a few sips through a straw and then give it to the kids in the camp when we return to the club. (I bring back a bunch of extra straws.) Yesterday was hilarious as seven kids, roughly 7-9 in age, circled and drank the Slurpee together, each with a straw. I called it the "Circle of Slurp." 

A few months ago I started doing crossword puzzles from the Washington Post somewhat regularly. I usually solve the entire thing about half the time, but it takes way too long. This summer I've taken to bringing it to the club and doing it during the two-hour lunch break. Yesterday I set a record, solving the entire thing - 124 answers in all - in under an hour as about a dozen kids watched. I was pretty proud! (I'm sure Will Shortz would have solved it in five minutes, or perhaps just a glance and the thing would have filled itself in. In the Shortz-owned Westchester TTC vs. MDTTC crossword championships, they still hold the edge, but we're closing in.)

After solving the puzzle I was sitting on the sofa and was asked how I knew some of the answers. I explained that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." This sort of blew their minds. They made me write out my name so they could rearrange it themselves to verify. One even insisted on seeming my driver's license to prove the spelling of my name. This was all followed by about 15 minutes of questions and answers as they tried to prove I wasn't God. (I wish we had taped it!) 

We also had a slightly more somber conversation when I asked if any of them had heard of Robin Williams. In the age 7-12 crowd (twelve of them that I asked), eight had never heard of him, and four said they had heard of him but didn't really know who he was. None of them could name a single movie he'd been in. When I mentioned Mrs. Doubtfire, Good Morning Vietnam, Aladdin, Mork and Mindy, and about half a dozen others, all I got were blank stares. I'm starting to feel old. 

Near the end of the afternoon session I introduced the younger kids to "Cup Ball." There are a few variations, but the one we did was as follows. I placed four cups on one side of the table, lined up from left to right. Four kids stood at the end-line, roughly one behind each cup. Another kid stood at the other side, and served as fast as he could. If the ball hit both sides of the table and made it past the "catchers" on the other side (i.e. hit the floor before they could catch it), the server scored a point. If the ball hit a cup but was caught, he'd also get a point. If it hit a cup and then made it past the catchers, he'd score three points. Each player gets ten serves, and then they'd rotate. I have a feeling this is going to be a favorite for this group - they actually liked trying to catch the ball more than serving it. 

USATT's 2013 Financials

Here's the report. It includes both the 2013 IRS 990 Form and the 2013 Independent Audit Report.

Serve and Receive Practice

The following is a public service reminder. Every point begins with a serve and a receive. Yet most players spend nearly all their practice time practicing only the shots that come after this. This is downright silly. Have you practiced your serve and receive recently? If not, please continue in case you ever play someone I'm coaching. 

Learn Various Training Methods to Boost Your Level

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

Poly 40+ Balls Info

Here's a Facebook page devoted to info on the new plastic balls, which are slightly larger than 40mm. 

2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open Provides High Level Competition for Top US Player Timothy Wang

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Princeton Pong Opens in West Windsor, NJ

Here's the article. David Zhuang is the head coach. 

Why Not Get Yourself a Backyard (Concrete) Ping-Pong Table?

Here's where.

Jan-Ove Waldner-Jorgen Persson Exhibition

Here's the video (10:34) of the new exhibition by these two legends!

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-three down, 17 to go!

  • Day 18: 1953 World Champion Ferenc Sido Inspired Judit Farago

Congressional Pong

Here are five ping-pong paddles with the faces of congressional leaders. Who can name all five? (It comes from this article.)

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August 13, 2014

Update on My Books

This seems a good time to remind people that if you haven't bought copies of my books, the Easter pumpkin will run you down on Santa's sleigh and smack you with a menorah. Also, I'll starve. (If not interested in my books - sacrilege! - then skip down below to the other segments.) All of my books are on sale at my Amazon page. (Yes, as some of you know there's been controversy with them and their battles with various publishers, but I'm stuck with them for now.)

If you have not bought a copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers then every time you play a match your opponent (who no doubt has a copy in his bag and consulted it before playing you) will have an insurmountable advantage. The book not only covers tactics, but strategic development, i.e. how to develop your game. (Look over the 30 reviews, and ask yourself why you haven't got a copy yet.) It's in both print and kindle formats. It's been selling like hotcakes (oh god, that's a cliché), so why not join in the bandwagon? There's even a French translation coming out later this year!

My more recent book is Table Tennis Tips, which came out in May in both print and kindle formats. It's a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, but in a logical progression, all in one volume. It includes chapters on Serve, Receive, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (More Table Tennis Tips should come out early in 2017, covering all my weekly tips from 2014-2016.)

Perhaps the most interesting read is Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, which is a compilation of both interesting stories about table tennis (lots of fun stuff), and essays on techniques. It also features a series of pictures of 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager in the top right corner of every page, so if you fan the pages you get a movie of him playing!

Table Tennis: Steps to Success is currently out of print, but I'm planning a new version out probably within six months, tentatively retitled Table Tennis Fundamentals. (First I have to get new pictures for every technique taught in the book, a big job.) However you can still buy used copies. (There is another version of this out by Richard McAfee, but it's not related to this one - it's from the same publisher, and they chose to use the same title.) The book sold 28,000 copies and was translated into seven languages. It probably sold a zillion copies if you include bootleg copies in China. (I'm not kidding.)

If you are interested in coaching, then you'll want to buy the creatively titled Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which is in both print and kindle formats. It covers the professional side of coaching - getting students, keeping them, running classes and junior programs, and other aspects of coaching, with an emphasis on professional coaching and junior training.  

I also have Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, but that was published a while back by USATT, and is no longer sold. I tentatively plan to do a new version of that next year, using the pictures from Table Tennis Fundamentals. It's a guide for how to coach for beginning coaches.

I also have two non-Table Tennis books, a novel and an anthology. Sorcerers in Space is my humorous fantasy novel that came out last year from Class Act Books. It comes in both print and kindle versions. It's about the U.S.-Soviet race to the moon in the 1960s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts, and the whole things takes place over one week. (Sorcerers work fast.) It stars a 13-year-old Neil [Armstrong] and fictionalized versions of many of the major political names from the 1960s - President Kennedy and his brothers, Jackie Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Bob McNamara, and Lee Harvey Oswald, as well as dragons and other creatures that keep trying to kill poor Neil - including an attack meteor named Buzz. Oh, and Neil is a wannabe table tennis champion who has to drop his dreams of ping-pong stardom to save the world.

The anthology is Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Larry Hodges. It includes the 30 best short stories I'd sold through 2009, including "Ping-Pong Ambition." It comes in both print and kindle versions. (More Pings and Pongs should come out sometime next year - another 30 of my best sales since the previous anthology.)

On my Amazon page there's also a booklet called Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees. That's actually a short story of mine that's sold by Musa Publishers - but it only costs 99 cents!

I have two other books tentatively coming out. I'm doing a (hopefully) final rewrite of my science fiction novel "Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates," about the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, featuring a third-party moderate challenge. One of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player, and there are several table tennis scenes. I have a publisher that liked the previous version, but asked for a rewrite.

The other project? "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," a long-needed manual. I hope to finalize it this Fall, if I have time.

While we're on the topic of writing, I have a few articles published as well. 

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Summer Camp at MDTTC. Once again there were about 40 players. The focus was on the backhand. I also taught spin serves, and did a lot of footwork drills (as always).

Something strange is going on this camp. Usually we have some sort of minor accident perhaps once every few weeks. In the last two days two kids fell and cut themselves and needed bandages, and another had a nosebleed. I'm getting good at cleaning cuts and applying bandages.

One kid, about eight, has struck me as someone to watch. Not because he's particularly good yet - he's only played a few weeks - but because he is the hardest worker in the camp, and totally focused and enthused about getting better. Even on break he's off practicing his serves. In every drill he's the most focused at getting it right. It'll be interesting to see where he is a few years from now, as compared to one or two others who seem great "naturals" who, while not lazy, aren't as focused on improving.

The Plastic Ball

Here are two new articles from the ITTF on the plastic ball.

ITTF Releases Table Tennis Youth Olympic Games Media Guide

You can download it here. The Games will be held in Nanjing, China, Aug. 17-23.

California-Based Chinese Players Pose Stiff Competition to Top Seeds at 2014 Butterfly Los Angeles Open

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Ping Pong 4 Purpose

Here's the home page for this charity event. "Clayton Kershaw, event host Chris Harrison, the Los Angeles Dodgers and other celebrities are joining together for a unique celebrity ping pong tournament and fundraising event Thursday, September 4 on the field at Dodger Stadium. This second annual Ping Pong 4 Purpose fundraising event will feature a celebrity ping pong tournament, high-end silent auction and more. Event proceeds will benefit the efforts of Kershaw's Challenge in Los Angeles and Zambia to transform at-risk communities and the lives of children."

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

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-two down, 18 to go!

  • Day 19: Korea’s Mr. Han Sang Kook is the Picture of “A True Gentleman”

Training at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria

Here's the video (22 sec).

Can Ping-Pong Balls Help Clean Up Oil Spills?

Here's the article and video (1:45) from Table Tennis Nation.

Amazing Table Tennis Shot Off Ground

Here's the video (1:11).

Funniest Faces from Table Tennis Players

Here's the gallery!

Non-TT - ESPN Covers the World Series

For the second time in five days I have a humorous story on the front page of Orioles Hangout. Here's ESPN Covers the World Series! Last Thursday they featured my story Top Ten Ways for Orioles Fans to Cope with a Winning Team. I've had 22 stories featured there, going back to April, 2012. (Did I mention that the Orioles lead the American Lead East by 6.5 games?)

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