Jorg Rosskopf

August 28, 2014

Disabled Veterans Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the four-day camp at MDTTC. We started with a contest - the players paired up to see who could get 100 forehands in a row. As I explained to them, we often say that a player doesn't have a forehand or backhand until he's hit 100 in a row, and so everyone was determined to do so. 

For inspiration I told them the story of 13-year-old practice partner Sameer Shaikh. About a year before he was struggling to get 100 forehands in a row in a session with me. He got 99 in a row, and missed! Then he got 97, then I think it was 94, and each time, just as he approached 100, he'd miss. It was torture for him! But we decided we'd devote the entire session to this, and he finally got 100 in a row. But once he did that, he relaxed and stopped trying to guide the shot. Result? The rally continued, and he actually hit 1000 in a row!!! I caught the ball and told him he'd done enough, and we'd continue later. (We never did get back to it. I'm not sure if my arm could take another 1000.) The purpose of the drill/contest was both to develop the stroking technique, timing, and consistency, but also to develop concentration and confidence. 

We rotated the players regularly so everyone hit with everyone else, including practice partner Sameer. Then we did the same thing with backhands. Everyone hit at least 100 in a row on one side, and several managed to do it on both sides. We finished with a smashing drill, where players would hit two forehands in a row, then smash and continue smashing, while the other tried to return them. 

Then we went to the main focus of the day - serving. I brought out the colored soccer balls so they could see the spin, and showed them how much spin could be created on a serve, as well as showing them various "tricks," such as backspin serves that bounced back into (or over) the net, and sidespin serves that broke almost directly sideways. Then I had them practice spinning the soccer balls in the air - spin and catch, spin and catch. It's one of the best ways to learn to spin the ball. Then I gave several lectures/demos on the rules, creating spin, deception, the main service motions, and fast serves. Between the lecture/demos they practiced serves, with each getting a table and box of balls to themselves.  

Next on the agenda was more smashing. After a lecture and demo with Sameer, the players formed a line, and in rapid-fire fashion took turns smashing forehands as I fed multiball, three shots each, one to the backhand, one to the middle, one to the forehand, and then the next was up. 

We finished with a receive "game." They took turns trying to return my serves, and stayed up until they'd missed two. The catch was that I got to make fun of them when they missed, while they got to make fun of me if they got them back. I'd mostly serve and quickly put my racket on the table and step to the side of the table my sidespin would force their return to - so if they did return the serve, I'd be stuck rallying with my hand. Or I'd say, "Don't put this in the net!" as I served backspin. Or I'd serve fast aces at the corners. Tomorrow we'll be covering return of serve, along with pushing and looping. 

It was a long day. After the camp I had another 2.5 hours of private coaching. Had some nice breakthroughs - Willie is learning to loop, Daniel's loop is getting powerful, and Matt's is even more ferocious! 

Here's the group picture, which I also linked to yesterday. Using a high-quality version, I printed out copies for everyone on photo paper, which I'll give out today. 

New Two-Toned Ball Undermines Chopper's Advantage

Here's the article and video (2 hours!). 

Interview with German National Coach Jörg Rosskopf

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. Ninety-seven down, three to go!

  • Day 4: Latin American Ascending to New Found Heights

Ping-Pong Balls for Children's Therapy

Here's the article

Ping-Pong Table Sound System

Here's the article - yes, a sound system that doubles as a ping-pong table!

Xavier Therien - STIGA 2014 ITTF TrickShot Showdown

Here's the Canadian National Team Member's juggling and table tennis with a crazy contraption trick shot (1:22)! And here are more - there are so many that I haven't really gone through them. Here's the home page for the competition.

Backhand of the Year?

Here's video of Nelson's Backhand (52 sec) - see the shot 7 seconds in!

Around-Net Rolling Return

Here's the video (22 sec) of some rather incredible staged shots. 

Incredible Rally

Here's the video (32 sec).

Ice Bucket Challenge

Ping-Pong Cupcakes Anyone?

Here's the picture

Tricky Serve!

Here's the video (6 sec).

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February 27, 2012

Tip of the Week

Opening Up the Forehand Zone.

Opening Up the Forehand Zone, Part II

The following happened on Saturday night - and I swear it happened after I wrote this week's Tip of the Week. (And now you know what I do on Saturday nights.)

I had a new student, around age 40, with some serious technique problems. His level was somewhere under 1000 in USATT ratings. He'd had a few lessons before at another club, but things hadn't gone well there. As soon as we started hitting forehand to forehand, you could see he had a serious problem with his grip, which seemed to lead to an awkward forehand. His finger pointed upward on the blade, his wrist fell backward, and he more or less punched at the ball in front of him instead of from the side. The obvious and easiest solution was to fix his grip, and then work on the stroke. And that's exactly what others had tried to get him to do. It hadn't worked.

At the USATT coaching seminar I taught last year I regularly harped on the idea of fixing the root cause of problems, not the symptoms. And that's what others had tried to do - the grip wasn't the cause of his problems, it was a symptom of the root cause, which was that he was playing his forehand with a backhand stance, feet parallel to the table, with little waist or shoulder rotation. He was only using about the front one-fourth of his forehand hitting zone, while facing forward. This forced him to adjust his grip to compensate. It took only a few minutes to fix the problem in practice: move the right (back) foot back some, rotate the waist and shoulders, and contact the ball toward the middle of the hitting zone. The key was to start out by hitting forehand to forehand very slowly, focusing on proper technique and timing, until the stroke became ingrained enough to speed up some.

The player still has a lot of practice to do in order to ingrain this new and better forehand technique. If he puts in the time, his stroke will be fine.

Happy Birthday to Sheeba and Me

Today's my 52nd birthday, so people can no longer say I'm not playing with a full deck. (It's also Chelsea Clinton's 32nd birthday. We always go out together and celebrate with root beers.) It's also Sheeba's 78th birthday. Okay, Sheeba is my dog, about 3/4 corgi, 1/4 some sort of hound, and she's actually only 14, though we only know that she was born in February of 1998 (that's from the form about her when I adopted her from a shelter in 2002 when she was four) , but we celebrate it on my birthday. According to the Dog Age Calculator, as a 30 pound dog, she's 78. Here's her picture (from a few years ago, but she looks almost the same), and here she is straining to eat bacon snacks.

Arm problems

With age comes physical problems. Or perhaps they aren't related. My arm has been bothering me for several days, and sometime during yesterday's mornings three hours of coaching it got much worse. That afternoon I was playing matches in a group session (where I'm a practice partner), and had to stop. The injury appears to be a muscle strain, on the forearm, just below the inner elbow, on the right. Here's a picture, with a black dot marking the injury. Any doctors, trainers, or others with suggestions on rehabbing it, other than rest and icing it?

USATT Paralympic Program Manager

USATT has hired Jasna Reed as the Para Program Manager for 2012, a new USATT position. Jasna, two-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion, Olympic Bronze Medalist in Women's Doubles, and head table tennis coach at Texas Wesleyan University, has extensive experience in Paralympic table tennis. Here's an interview I did with Jasna back in 2001, with picture.

2012 USA Table Tennis Budget

Here it is: Income Statement Summary | Income Statement Detail | Programmatic Summary

Table Tennis in New York Times

Here's an article in the New York Times on Saturday on Ariel Hsing's Olympic dreams.

Interview with Jorg Rosskopf

German great Jorg Rosskopf was interviewed just yesterday as he prepares for the 2012 Worlds.

2012 Kuwait Open Final

Jun Mizutani (JPN) defeats Ryu Seung Min (KOR) in the Kuwait Open Final on Feb. 18, 2012. Time between points is taken out, so it's non-stop action with the whole match shown in 6:37. Here are results and articles on the tournament.

Hilarious exhibition

Here's an exhibition between Jean-Michel Saive (on left at start) and Andrzej Grubba at the 1996 Gilbert Cup in Beverly Hills (7:36).

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February 20, 2012

Tip of the Week

Moving Players In and Out.

Topspin

I'm often amazed at how the world of table tennis is divided between two types: those who use the full power of topspin in their games, and those who don't. This doesn't mean looping every ball, but it does mean using topspin to control your offensive shots and often your defensive ones as well. Even when doing simple forehands or backhands a little topspin goes a long way. I know; I sometimes hit the ball too flat and pay the price.

It's actually very simple. Topspin pulls the ball down. This means balls that would go off the end instead curve down and hit the table. It's like having an additional couple of feet of table to aim for. The best way of demonstrating it is to drop a ball near the end line, and hit it as it reaches table level. Try smashing flat, and watch it go off. Then smash with a little topspin, and watch as it occasionally hits the far side, but only barely. Then loop kill it, and watch how it often hits the table with two feet to spare. (Of course, you have to be able to do these shots at a relatively high level to do the above - but if you can't, then get some top player to demonstrate, or just trust me.)

When attacking, you don't have the entire 4.5 feet of the far side of the table to aim for. On many shots, if you don't use topspin, you might only have the last few inches to aim for. With topspin, the size of your target goes up tremendously.

And we haven't even gotten into how topspin makes it easier to return hard-hit balls (again, larger target), or how the topspin jumps both on the table and off the opponent's racket, making it harder for them to make good returns. There's a place for all types of spin in table tennis, but from the intermediate to the advanced levels, topspin is king.

The problem, of course, is that it takes a lot of practice to learn to create this topspin, right? Actually, not really. It does take a lot of practice to use a lot of topspin, but even a little topspin on your drives goes a surprisingly long way, and that's not too hard to develop. How do you do this? Get a coach to work with you, and then practice.

To paraphrase a famous horror movie quote, next time you're playing grab the ball and tell it, "The power of topspin controls you!"

Western Open - note the quarterfinalists

Here are the results of the Western Open this past weekend. Congrats to all the winners! But as someone pointed out to me, there's something troubling here. Go to the Open results and look at the quarterfinalists. What do they have in common? All eight were born and trained in China. Not one American-trained player made the quarters. I have two things to say about this. 1) Congrats to all these eight quarterfinalists, who are champions (or at least quarterfinalists) no matter where they developed their games; and 2) Coaches everywhere, you have your work cut out for you. Get to work! (The nice thing is we have the strongest group of cadet players coming up right now probably in U.S. history, so perhaps things will be different in a few years.)

U.S. Olympic Trials in Cary

Here's another good article on the Trials last week.

Defensive play videos

Here are some great examples of defensive play, though much of it is exhibition. A lot of it features Germany's Jorg Rosskopf against chopper Chen Bing.

Non-Table Tennis - Story Published

My humorous fantasy story "Life and Death and Bongo Drums" was just published at Every Day Fiction. (When the entities LIFE and DEATH come for a mysterious Nazi-affiliated time traveler, the only thing standing between him and death are . . . bongo drums?) This is the 57th story I've sold, all science fiction or fantasy. (Here's my Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing page.)

Hilarious table tennis skit

This starts out as a seemingly friendly ping-pong game between two friends. Things get really wild about one minute into this 2:40 video - trust me, wait for it!

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October 11, 2011

How's your backhand?

You need to dominate with your backhand as well as your forehand, and you can't do that unless you have a (drum roll please) dominating backhand. There are basically five ways you can do this. Which are you? Or which are you striving for? You can - and should - be able to threaten your opponent with more than one of these.

  • Backhand block, where you take every ball quick off the bounce and hit at wide angles and to the opponent's middle, rushing him into mistakes. You can do this either as a "wall" who tries to never miss, or as a more aggress "jab-blocker." This requires fast reflexes. 
  • Backhand counter-hitting, where you get into fast counter-hitting rallies and keep hitting hard and consistently until the opponent misses. This requires fast reflexes and timing.
  • Backhand hit and smash, where you mostly take the ball at the top of the bounce and hit most shots very hard, often threatening to kill every shot. This requires great timing.
  • Backhand loop from off the table, where you control play with heavy topspin from a few feet off the table. Some do this very aggressively, others with a slower, spinnier loop. This requires very good positional footwork, both side to side and in and out.
  • Backhand loop over the table, where you take the ball right off the bounce, over the table, with quick backhand loops that the opponent struggles to react to. This requires great timing.

Wang Liqin's forehand and recovery

You can watch this 9-second video of China's Wang Liqin - arguably the greatest player in history (see his Wikipedia entry) - either for the fun of it or to study his forehand technique. He's hitting it inside-out, so the ball has some sidespin breaking to the right. To me the most impressive part is his recovery - see how fast he's ready for the next shot if the ball comes back. This is where most player wannabes fail as they make a great shot, but are not ready for a follow-up. At the higher levels, you have to be able to do multiple power shots.

Throw angle

Throw angle is one of those lesser understood terms in table tennis, but is basically how high an angle the ball comes off the racket. Here's a good explanation.

Greatest backhand loop in history?

Jan-Ove Waldner says it's Jorg Roskopf's, and here's why. Includes a 7:44 video.

Real table tennis robots

A lab in Zhejiang University in China has designed robots that can rally in ping-pong, tracking the ball and stroking it back and forth. Here's a more extended article about it that doesn't have pictures.

Marty Reisman monologue

Here's Marty talking to the crowd before his Hardbat Doubles Open semifinal match at the 2004 USA Nationals (1:07). Hilarious.

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