Judit Farago

August 15, 2014

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Much of the focus was on basics as we re-enforced the techniques learned the first three days. It's amazing how fast some have improved since Monday. I also introduced my group to fast serves, as well as to the serving bar, the adjustable bar created by John Olsen that moves up or down over the net so players can learn to serve low. 

The kids were a bit unruly today, perhaps because we were nearing the end of the week. (Or perhaps it took this long for the full moon from last Sunday to take effect?) I went a bit hoarse trying to get their attention a few times. A few times I had to bang my flat hand on a table to get their attention. I'm tempted to bring in a whistle for tomorrow. 

One kid had a hitch in his forehand - every time he does it he brings the racket tip up just before contact, and mostly just jabs at the ball. Yesterday I solved the problem by simply feeding him multiball farther away from him, forcing him to extend his arm. At first he tried to move to the ball too much so he could use his standard poor technique, but I got him to keep his feet in place. So he was forced to extend his arm properly and stroke the ball properly, and pretty soon he was hitting the ball properly! With practice, he will soon have a pretty good forehand. 

There's another kid who tries very hard, but simply doesn't seem to have the ability to learn new things. I wanted to write more about this, but if I did, and if by some chance he happens to read this, he might recognize it. Suffice to say that the talent levels are a bit diverse. 

ITTF Hall of Fame

I just saw the minimum criteria for making the ITTF Hall of Fame - "To qualify for the ITTF Hall of Fame, an athlete must have won a minimum of five gold medals in Table Tennis World Championships, Olympic Games, and Paralympic Games." What a silly criteria! Suppose a player wins Men's or Women's Singles four different times, but never wins Teams or Double because he comes from a country that's not strong in table tennis (but still chooses to play doubles with players from his country rather than team up with someone else). Or a player who is, say, #6 on the Chinese Team, and wins five World Team Championships without ever actually playing in the Team matches? It also handicaps players from before table tennis became an Olympic Sport in 1988. The result? The list is dominated by players from China and Japan, many of whom won their "five gold medals" primarily in doubles and teams. (I'd start listing them but I have to coach this morning and don't have time to start listing them.) Meanwhile, obvious stars who should be inducted are left out, such as:

  • Stellan Bengtsson (1971 World Men's Singles Champion, 1973 World Men's Doubles Champion, undefeated in leading Sweden to World Team Championship in 1973, and world #1 for a long period).
  • Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Singles and Doubles Champion, 1971 World Men's Doubles Champion, 1973 & 1979 World Men's Doubles Finalist, 1979 World Men's Team Champion, and world #1 for at least two years.)
  • Mitsuru Kohno, 1977 World Men's Singles Champion, 1967 World Men's Singles Runner-up, world #1 for one or two years.
  • USA's own Ruth Aarons (1936 and 1937 World Women's Singles Champion).

Seriously, any ITTF Hall of Fame criteria that leaves out these players needs some serious rethinking. I'm trying to find a listing of historical world #1's to see how long these and other players were ranked #1 in the world. Anyone know of such a listing?

Interview with Teodor "Doru" Gheorghe

Here's the video (21:49). Doru is USATT's Interim CEO, Chief Operating Officer, and Women's Team coach. 

China's Fan Zhendong Aims to Win the Youth Olympics

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, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Eighty-Four down, 16 to go!

  • Day 17: ITTF’s CEO Judit Farago Enjoys Contributing to the Sport’s Success

Pong Attack!

This is what happens when we teach our promising juniors how to kill.

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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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