2014 Asian Games

October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

~

Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

~

Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

~

Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

~

Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

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October 2, 2014

Different Short Serve & Follows

There are no rules, but here are a few guidelines that many players often don't realize or think about. You have to think about these things so you can make them a habit, and then you don't have to think about them as much, except tactically.

When serving short backspin, most opponents won't attack the serve until the higher levels, but they may be able to push low and heavy. So you might have to focus more on spin on your first loop. However, if you serve short and low no-spin while faking backspin (i.e. "heavy no-spin"), you'll get mostly pushed returns that tend to pop up more and with less spin. So when you serve these types of no-spin serves, be ready to end the point with loop kills and smashes. (Don't use 100% power - a well-placed shot at 80% is more consistent and a higher percentage shot.) I'm always surprised by how few players below the higher levels effectively use backspin and no-spin serves - most will serve straight backspin over and over and over, perhaps mixing in a few obvious deep topspin or sidespin serves.

While you're at it, besides serving short backspin and no-spin, why not short side-top? It's not that hard to learn. Learn to do it with essentially the same motion as your backspin and no-spin serves. Result? Opponents will tend to pop them up or go off the end. (But don't overuse them and let opponents get used to them.) Learn to serve with a semi-circular motion so you can serve different spins with the same motion. Here's how.

When you can serve short backspin, sidespin/topspin, and no-spin, and do so with a similar motion, and to all parts of the table, you have a nice arsenal - try them all out and see which ones are effective against various opponents. If you keep throwing these different serves at an opponent, they'll have great difficulty. And when they are having great difficulty, that's when you throw a deep serve at them as still another surprise, and watch them completely fall apart.

Okay, it's not that easy, but done properly, over the course of a match, these serve variations will wear down an opponent and often win the match for you.

I keep talking about short serves (i.e. serves that, given the chance, would bounce twice). Actually, below the 2000 level, tricky long serves are often more effective than short serves. Below the 2000 levels even most backspin serves tend to go long, but they are still most often pushed back. (Here's what you should do against short backspin serves.) But it's those short serves that'll allow you to serve and attack over and over, which is why at higher levels most serves are short, with long serves a variation.

You do understand the purpose of the serve, right?

French Translation of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

My book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is being translated into French. The translation is now about halfway finished, and should be done in the next 1-2 months. Hopefully it'll be on sale in the French version of Amazon by the end of the year. (Here are all my books; buy some!!!)

USA Nationals

Don't forget to enter! They are Dec. 16-20 in Las Vegas.

2014 Asian Games

They are taking place in Incheon, KOR, Sept. 27 - Oct. 10, and have already finished the Teams (China swept). They are now into singles and doubles. Here's the ITTF Asian Games page, with articles and a link to results on the right. There's also coverage at Tabletennista.

2014 Asian Games Team Final, Ma Long vs Joo Sae Hyuk

Here's the video (9:50, with time between points removed) between attacker Ma Long of China and chopper/looper Joo Sae Hyuk of South Korea.

Physical Training for Kids in Thailand

Here's the video (1:06), with some of these drills taught in the ITTF Coaching Courses.

World Anti-Doping

Here are news items/press releases from the ITTF on the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Pong Glasses

This announcer found it hard to see the action without his glasses. Right?

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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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