2014 European Teams

September 30, 2014

Table Tennis Ball Pickup Devices

When MDTTC first opened 22 years ago we didn't have any ball pickup devices. Correction - we had our hands. Two of them, in fact, and that's how we picked balls up our first couple of years. What were we thinking???

Then we got the Butterfly ball amigos, and life became much better. They are great for picking balls up quickly, which is big when you are coaching or training long hours. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, and usually have two nets per court, so that's a lot of nets. Most of the major companies sell some sort of ball pickup net or similar device. (We have ball pickup nets, table tennis nets on each table, and nets to catch balls on the robot. We're practically a net club. Wonder what our net worth is?)

There are now a number of ball pickup devices on the market. Most come in three types: nets to scoop them up (probably the fastest); tubes to pick them up one at a time (not as fast, but easier to get balls in tricky spots like in corners); and the "ping-pong buddy," which grabs the balls a bunch at a time. (The kids love these.) There's a nice review of all three types at the Breaking 2000 page, which includes pictures. It also has video of three ball-picking up robots. Here's another (1:30).

Back in the 1990s or so there was sort of a ball pickup wars, where Newgy introduced their ball pickup tubes. There were a number of ads in USATT Magazine for these tubes and ads by other companies for net pickup devices. Personally, I've been using the nets for about twenty years, and swear by them. During training sessions I often have ball pickup contests with students to see who can pick up the most.

You can also make your own ball pickup device. Here's a page showing how to make one that's similar to the Newgy tube device, but made from a fluorescent tube box.

Here's video (2:37) of another ball pickup device that picks ping-pong or golf balls up one at a time when you are playing, and hangs on the table or your belt while you play. Alas, I don't see order info in the video. I wouldn't mind ordering one of these.

European Team Championships and the Nittaku Premium 40+ Ball

I blogged yesterday about the European Team Championships. One thing I didn't think to mention was that they were the first tournament (or at least major one) to use the Nittaku Premium 40+ plastic ball - the same ball that we'll be using at the USA Nationals. The last time Germany lost in the European Team Championships was back in 2005 - they've been that dominant - but this time they were upset in the final by Portugal. Make of that what you will. (Here are European Championship results going back to 1958.) Here's video (13:02) of the final match where Portugal's Marcos Freitas (world #12) upsets Germany's Timo Boll (world #9).

China Sweeps Asian Team Titles

Here's the article from Tabletennista. Here's the ITTF Asian Championships page. (They still have singles and doubles events.)

Ping Pong Diplomacy and Training Visit by Chinese National Table Tennis Team

Here's the USATT article and pictures of their visit to the Triangle Table Tennis in Morrisville, NC.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:37).

Amazing Table Tennis Tricks

Here's the video (3:04).

A Little King Kong Ping Pong?

Here's the picture.

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September 29, 2014

Tip of the Week

Improvised Games.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis Books

As long-time readers here know, about once a year USATT Historian/Hall of Famer/Legend Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-12 days, where I do the page layouts and photo work for his U.S. Table Tennis history books. (Most of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who fixes them up before sending them to me.)

We did Volume 14 back in February, and I wasn't expecting him back until next year. But dang it, Tim, he went and got Volume 15 done in record time. And so he's moving in with me tomorrow. As usual, he'll live in my office/lounge, sleeping on my sofa. Also as usual, he'll be going to bed every night about 8PM and getting up around 3AM, and then impatiently waiting for me while he does more editing and planning on the day's pages. I'll be getting up extra early during his stay since I have to get this blog done first, though I'll be doing most of it the night before during his stay. We'll probably start around 7AM and work until 2:30 PM, which is when I have to leave Mon-Fri to pick up kids and coach/tutor in the MDTTC afterschool program. Weekends are tricky due to my coaching hours, but I'm mostly free now on Saturdays, but have a very busy Sunday schedule. If all goes well, we'll finish by Friday, Oct. 10. (I plan to spend much of Oct. 10-11 at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention that's held locally. I'm a panelist - here's the bio they have for me. )

The complicating factor is that I'll be getting up extra early, working all day with Tim, then doing the afterschool program and (on most days) staying on afterwards for private and group coaching, then returning home to do the blog - and then it'll be time to go to bed and start over in the night. These are going to be some long days.

Meanwhile, here's your chance to support Tim by buying one or more of his books. How can you call yourself a table tennis player if you don't have some of these? You could, of course, buy all 14. Currently there's no discount listed, but if interested in this email me and I'm sure Tim will give you a discount. Or pick and choose the years you are most interested in - see listing below. (The quotes are from the covers of each volume.) Volume 5: 1971-1972, the Ping-Pong Diplomacy Years, is especially popular. Or pick the years that cover when you started out or had events of interest to you.

You can buy the books or find more info on the Tim Boggan Table Tennis Page. (I created and maintain this for Tim. The link to the 1996 interview is no longer valid - I'm working to have that fixed.) At that page you can also see the covers, find reviews of the books, and see the number of pages and photos in each. I also maintain the Amazon pages where you can buy the books online, linked from his page and below (or you can buy them directly from Tim) - so if you buy them on Amazon, I can actually see the sales as they happen! (No, I don't see names, just the fact that someone bought them.) I'm hoping to show a bunch of sales for Tim tomorrow - so Buy Now!!!

  1. Volume 1: 1928-1939. "The Formative Years: If Only the Public Can See."
  2. Volume 2: 1940- 1952. "The War Years: Some USTTA Victories, But the 'Wounded Soldier Needs a Blood Transfusion.'"
  3. Volume 3: 1953-1962. "The Early Sponge Years: 'Standardization Through Evolution': 'The Only Natural And Healthy Way For The Sport To Be Regulated.'"
  4. Volume 4: 1963-1970. "The Stagnant Years: Unless our USTTA E.C. 'can clearly see the desires of the players they represent,' there will be no progress."
  5. Volume 5: 1971-1972. "The 'Ping-Pong Diplomacy' Years: "…please, write the truth as best you can. Or at least the little lies that are true.'"
  6. Volume 6: 1970-1973. "The Resurgent Years: 'going to the World's for the first time is…like a first romance, seeing 'Space Odyssey,' [or having]…a religious revelation.'"
  7. Volume 7: 1973-1975. "Hear [at the U.S. Open] the audience participation is genuinely enthusiastic, unmotivated by anything else but the Sport itself. Here people breathe with the ball."
  8. Volume 8: 1975-1977. "Many an average player just doesn't get it. The gulf between amateur and professional, the conceptual difference between them, is too new, too great."
  9. Volume 9: 1977-1979. "Thanks to the major table tennis manufacturers…enough funds have been raised to make the USTTA dream of having an executive director, staff, and permanent home come true."
  10. Volume 10: 1979-1981. "Just bringing these young hopefuls together to compete against one another here at the Olympic Training Center makes them want to excel even more."
  11. Volume 11: 1981-1982. "Everyone expects service from USATT, but the Sport won't make any progress in 20 years if we don't get good results from the National Team."
  12. Volume 12: 1983. "The USTTA must send their young promising player, with coaches, to international events. Let them see and play others so they know what to expect."
  13. Volume 13: 1984. "Young or old, novice or expert, the USATT/OTC camps can help you improve your game, physical fitness, and mental attitude."
  14. Volume 14: 1985-1986. "1985 saw Insook sharing some of her long-time tenacity with Diana; and Sean and Jimmy emerging as new history-making champions."
  15. Coming Soon: Volume 15: 1987-1988

European Team Championships

The event finished yesterday. Portugal upsets Germany in Men's Final, ending Germany's run of six men's titles in a row. But Germany won the Women's for the second year in a row, defeating Austria in the final. Here's the ITTF page for the event, with articles, video, pictures, and of course complete results. Here's the Men's Team article from TableTennista with video of the Men's final matches. Here's Women's Team article from TableTennista. Here's a video (2:54) showing the Top Ten Rallies of the Championships.

Asian Games

Here's the ITTF Page for the event, which takes place in Incheon, KOR, Sept. 27 - Oct. 10. There are already a number of articles on the event at TableTennista.

Article on Me I Didn't Know About

Here's a nice article about me from four years ago - but I don't think I even knew about it! I discovered it while browsing a few days ago. Wow, that Larry guy sure knows his stuff! It focuses more on my writing than on my coaching. A few updates - I'm now up to over 1500 published articles in over 140 different publications, and I recently sold my 71st science fiction or fantasy story. I also got another USATT/USOC Coach of the Year Award, the 2013 Doc Counsilman Science Coaching Award.

Effective Training

Here's the new coaching video (6:43) from Pingskills.

Backspin Serve - Like a Boss

Here's a video (9:35) that uses a number of creative ways to learn and practice the backspin serve.

Footwork Training in China

Here's a video (3:37) showing some kids doing footwork drills in China. Not much different than what's done at training centers in the U.S.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest video blog (2:33). It's short and no table tennis in this one, but you meet his grandparents and see a lot of Hong Kong. Links to previous ones are on right.

Muppet Show - Swedish Chef and Ping Pong Ball Eggs

Here's the video (2:57). The ping-pong balls first show up 49 sec in, though you don't really know this until the chef bounces it 55 sec in.

"Stop War" - Play More Table Tennis

Here's the picture - Go Pedro!

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September 26, 2014

The Ping Pong Diet, Table Tennis, and Academics

Dr. Chris Ko just came out with a new book, The Ping Pong Diet: The Twenty-One Point Plan. A few of you may remember Chris as a top MDTTC junior from the early 1990s, usually known back then as Christopher Ko. Here's his home page/blog, where he focuses on diet and nutrition. (The diet part might be of interest to me, though I think I've figured that part out, going from 196 this past summer to 178 this morning.) I just ordered the book, and will likely write about it after I read it. I'm not sure yet how much it applies to table tennis. Here's the book description:

"The Ping Pong Diet teaches you how to use the power of plants and protein to control your hunger and manage your weight. No counting. No calculations. Just eating, and a lot of it! But unlike other diet books, this book teaches you how to both lose the weight and keep it off. These strategies make up the twenty-one point plan for weight management that teaches you to eat well, be well, and finally feel well again. Engaging and inspirational, the Ping Pong Diet combines practical nutritional insight with motivational psychology to give you a new appreciation for food and for yourself. So pick up the Ping Pong Diet and get in the game!"

Here's a list of Chris's titles, where at the Junior Olympic, Junior Nationals, and U.S. Open he won three silvers and seven bronze in various junior events. (I only have a listing from 1992 on, when MDTTC opened, so don't have some of his earlier titles. I believe he also won Under 10 Boys at the Junior Olympics before 1992.) 

  • 1992 Junior Nationals Under 14 Boys' Singles Bronze Medalist
  • 1992 Junior Olympics Under 14 Boys' Singles Bronze Medalist
  • 1992 Junior Olympics Under 14 Boys' Doubles Bronze Medalist
  • 1992 Junior Olympics Under 14 Boys' Team Silver Medalist
  • 1992 U.S. Open Under 14 Boys' Doubles Finalist (Silver)
  • 1993 Junior Nationals Under 16 Boys' Doubles Bronze Medalist
  • 1993 Junior Nationals Under 18 Boys' Team Bronze Medalist
  • 1993 Junior Olympics Boys' Singles Bronze Medalist
  • 1993 Junior Olympics Under 18 Boys' Teams Silver Medalist
  • 1995 Junior Nationals Under 18 Boys' Teams Bronze Medalist

Chris isn't the only former top Maryland junior with a medical degree, i.e. an MD MD. Vivian Lee, Jessica Shen, and Michael Terao all have MDs, and I'm sure there are many others I don't know of or have forgotten about. But it's not just Maryland juniors who are academically oriented - the same is true of kids from training centers all over the U.S. - and I hesitate to list any because I'll leave out some obvious ones. (Readers, please list in the comments former top juniors who now have MDs or equivalent high-level degrees.) Eric Owens, the 2001 USA Men's Singles Champion, either has his MD now or is on the verge. Dennis Hwang, a member of the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs in the late 1980s, trained three hours a day, graduated as the valedictorian, and is now an MD. There are many more. Even Crystal Wang, the 12-year-old 2400 phenom from my club, who recently became the youngest player ever to make the USA Women's Team and win Under 22 Women's Singles, goes to a magnet school because of her advanced academics. But she's just one of the many juniors at my club (and other clubs) who have the discipline to excel at both table tennis and academics.

So why are top junior players in table tennis so successful in academics? There are two primary reasons. Let's face it, one of the reasons is because of the Asian community, which places so much emphasis on academics (bravo!), and since they also dominate the table tennis world, we get a lot of academically-minded table tennis stars. The other reason is that training at anything teaches self-discipline, which applies to other activities as well - so if someone has or develops the self-discipline to train hard and become a top table tennis player, he usually has the same self-discipline to become good at whatever he tries.

European Team Championships

It's going on right now in Lisbon, Portugal, and finishes this Sunday. There's lots of coverage at the ITTF page and Tabletennista.

ITTF Trick Shot Competition

They are down to the Final Five - chose your favorite!

Olympic Coach Magazine

Here's the new issue.

Epic Point Between Ma Lin and Jorgen Persson

Here's the video (53 sec, including slow motion replay).

Amazing Come-Back Scoop Return

Here's the video (29 sec - watch the replay from the side)

The Six-Bounce Ping-Pong Plate Trick

Here's the repeating gif image. It's hypnotizing as it repeats over and over - careful or you'll be watching it all day.

Ping-Pong Balls Gone Wrong

Here's the video (90 sec) of this video prank.

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September 25, 2014

Timeliness and Table Tennis

One of my proudest accomplishments in table tennis is that, in the 22 years since we opened MDTTC, with countless private and group sessions, I've been late to a session exactly two times. Yes, just twice. Once I had a coaching event out in Virginia, and got stuck in a two-hour traffic jam on the way back, which normally would have been about 40 minutes, and so missed a session with Sammy. The other time I got my times mixed up and missed a session with John & Kevin. Ironically, both times when I was late, I missed the entire session. Not once have I ever actually shown up during a session late. (Technically, I showed up for the session with John and Kevin about 15 minutes before it ended, thinking it started in 15 minutes.)

I remember when we first opened MDTTC back in 1992 one of our coaches had a session scheduled with someone from Baltimore, an hour away. The coach forgot about the session, and the person from Baltimore wasn't happy. I ended up subbing for the coach. Later I met with him, and gave him a serious lecture about timeliness and scheduling. The coach was relying on memory to keep his busy schedule, which is a no-no. (He'd forgotten about a session the day before as well, and was walking out the door when the student came in, and so he returned and did the session.) If you have more than a couple of sessions per week, write them down. Full-time or near full-time coaches should keep a schedule book, and go over it each day to make sure they don't miss anything.

Twice in these 22 years a coach has been fired or replaced at MDTTC because of consistent lateness. Other coaches have lost many hours of valuable coaching time because students were unhappy with their lack of timeliness - and the coaches who do this often never know. Timeliness is one of those really important things for a table tennis coach.

The most common causes for lateness is probably the mentality that if you have a session scheduled at, say, 6PM, they need to show up at 6PM, or perhaps five minutes before. That doesn't work, unless you live next door. If I have a 6PM session, plan to get there at least ten minutes early, just in case. It also allows you to prepare for the session, rather than walking into the club and rushing out there. I'm probably on the extreme side on this - I always plan on being there 15 minutes early, which is why I'm essentially never late.

Speaking of timeliness, this blog went up later than usual. Why? Partly because I had to take my car in for minor repairs this morning (and walk a mile back), but mostly because I got drawn into an online "debate" with a close-minded fool. (I searched a Thesaurus for a better word than "fool" but couldn't find one. Even seemingly intelligent people can be fools at some things.) When will I learn to avoid such people?

Deal Chicken Coupons

Recently our club (MDTTC) has been hit with what appears to be a scam. People are coming in with coupons to play at our club, which they paid $50 for. The problem is we had nothing to do with it. Here's the coupon at DealChicken.com - see link at upper right, where it says "Buy Now!" and you pay $50 for $100 worth of supposed MDTTC play. They have lots of other "deals" for other businesses (check their home page). Since we didn't authorize this, it seems sort of scam, and club officers are contacting them about it. But I Googled DealChicken, and according to the Better Business Bureau, while there have been 106 complaints against them, it said:

"BBB has determined that DealChicken.com meets BBB accreditation standards, which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB Accredited Businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public. BBB accreditation does not mean that the business' products or services have been evaluated or endorsed by BBB, or that BBB has made a determination as to the business' product quality or competency in performing services."

But since we didn't authorize there MDTTC coupon, that means someone put this up without our knowledge or permission, and they are making money off it, and that makes it a scam, right?

Zhang Jike Backhand Basics

Here's a short video (7 sec) showing the world men's singles champion's backhand. It's pretty similar to Ma Long's backhand, which I blogged about on Sept. 18, though Zhang here is topspinning the ball more. One interesting note - see how he plays the backhand with the left leg slightly in front, which keeps him in position to quickly change to a forehand. Many players play this way. Here's an interesting discussion on world-class backhands at the Mytabletennis.com forum.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's his latest video report: Table Tennis Highlights! - China Day 31 Hong Kong (4:52). He's on the right at the start, wearing the blue USA shirt. There's both playing action at the Nikon Hong Kong Junior & Cadet Open, and you get to see the sites of Hong Kong. Other USA players appearing in the video include Jack Wang, Tina Lin, Patrick Pei, Sam Rockwell, and MDTTC Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun (who is traveling with Nathan). And speaking of backhands (see previous segment), check out some of Nathan's off-the-bounce backhand winners!

Hardbat Forehands and Navin

Here's a video (52 seconds) where I'm coaching Navin on his newly developed forehand. He's a hardbat player (also uses sandpaper), with Parkinson's and an artificial heart. (Here's the recent USATT News Item about him.) We've actually just finished the lesson, and he's practicing on the robot, so I came over, and you can hear me coaching him in the background. I also give some commentary in the comments.

2014 Butterfly Badger Open

Here's another article by Barbara Wei: 2014 Butterfly Badger Open: Gateway to Growing Midwest Table Tennis

European Team Championships

There's lots of coverage at the ITTF page and Tabletennista.

Table Tennis Movie Posters

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