Juniors

March 12, 2012

Tip of the Week

As I also write one week ago, for a while I've been bothered by two blog posts that really should have been Tips of the Week. As blog items, they were read and then lost in the avalanche of daily blog postings. As Tips of the Week, they'd be more accessible in the future as coaching articles. Since I'm currently working eight hours a day with Tim Boggan on the page layouts and photo work for his latest table tennis history book (we hope to finish today), as well as my usual coaching and other duties, last Monday and today I'm putting up these two items, with some updating/expansion, as Tips. So here is: Developing a Smash.

Exhaustion

Today is Day 14 of doing the page layouts and photo work on Tim Boggan's History of Table Tennis, Volume 12. No days off, no half days, usually getting up at 5AM and starting work at 6AM, and going until about 5PM or until I have my coaching scheduled. Since I'm also subbing for Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun, I've been coaching nearly seven nights a week. (Jeffrey was in China for two months, but returned Friday, and starts coaching again today.) I've also been involved in various aspects of the MDTTC expansion project, tutor calculus two hours a week, and sometimes sleep and eat.

So I'm TIRED. As in EXHAUSTED.

Fortunately, we should finish the book today, and with Jeffrey back, my coaching schedule is back to sanity. There's a thing in my room called a bed, and I hope to have a long, first-hand acquaintance with it soon. (I'm off to the Cary Cup this Thursday, where I'm playing hardbat Friday morning and coaching the rest of the way, so that should bring back some of the no-doubt sorely missed exhaustion.)

USATT Junior & Cadet Training Camp

USA Table Tennis is looking for someone to run a one-week training camp for the USA National Junior and Cadet Teams, June 23-29, 2012. I'd actually like to see a longer camp, more like 2-3 weeks, but one week is better than none. Here are the bid specs.

There is no financial incentive, and the club that hosts the camp would likely have to absorb many expenses as well as putting in huge amounts of time. I was thinking about putting in a bid from Maryland Table Tennis Center. MDTTC is currently in the process of expanding to 18 courts (more if we squeeze), along with showers, weight room, all new red flooring, air conditioning, etc. And we have a number of top players/practice partners in the area, including Han Xiao, Peter Li, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, probably a new top Chinese player/coaching coming in, and lots of 2300 players, such as Raghu Nadmichettu, Nathan Hsu, and others. We also have Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong, and Mini-Cadet members Derek Nie and Crystal Wang. Since it's during summer, we'll also probably have others such as Marcus Jackson and Amaresh Sahu back from school. So I think we'd have a pretty strong bid.

However, we probably won't put in a bid. Why? The bid includes this part: "Venue must be exclusive available for National Teams players and coaches only. No other activities to be conducted in the venue during the NT practice time." (Note the word "must.")

We're a full-time training center. The bid estimates that they would want the hall from 9AM-noon and from 4-7PM. The latter are peak hours for our junior training, and we're not about to tell our full-time coaches (me, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, probably one other coach) that they can't coach during peak hours for a week at the club where they make a living. (Not to mention all the junior players who suddenly can't practice after school.) The training camp only needs 12 tables, no problem. We just need 3-4 of them, leaving at least 14 for the camp.

I don't want to go through the time and effort of a bid if this is a "must," as the bid says, especially if there are going to be rival bidders who on paper will sound better because they aren't full-time training centers and so can offer the "exclusive." (Of course there might also be a full-time center out there willing to close down their coaching during these hours for a week.) We're also running camps all summer long starting June 18, and the camp is June 23-29. So we'd have to cancel a camp, meaning the club and coaches would be out several thousand dollars, in addition to other expenses and time spent to accommodate such a camp.

Coaching Videos

Here are two more short but excellent coaching videos from PingSkills:

Michael Landers Highlights Video

Here's the Landers Highlights Video (7:41) from the U.S. World and Olympic Team Trials!

Cat dominates mini-table play

Who's dominating this game? (0:53)

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March 2, 2012

A way to handle fast opponents

This won't work for everyone, but it works for me. Suppose you are playing someone who plays very fast at the table, such as one of those super-quick bang-bang playing junior players. Suppose he pins you down with fast, quick shots to your backhand and middle, and wins points either on your backhand mistakes and pop-ups, or with sudden shots to the forehand. You struggle to keep up the pace, but it's too fast, and the table is too wide. Let's supposed you have a somewhat steady backhand and a good forehand when you are in position and not too rushed. (If not, work on that.)

What I often do is stand toward the backhand side but in a slight forehand stance, with my right foot slightly back (I'm right-handed). Then I just stick my racket up and rebound back anything hit to my backhand or middle with my backhand, using my opponent's own speed to so that I barely have to stroke the ball. (It's almost like playing a video game.) Try to keep the ball deep, and pin your opponent on his own backhand by going wide there. The strategy is to either outlast the opponent, or when he finally goes to my forehand, to tee off on that shot since I'm standing in a forehand stance.

I've been coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center for over two decades, and most of my practice matches during that time have been as a practice partner against our up-and-coming juniors. The strategy outlined above has been honed for twenty years.

Arm problems update

As noted in my blog this week, I hurt my arm on Sunday. I've coached at least two hours every day this week, but so far haven't aggravated it. The key? I haven't looped or smashed a ball. While coaching I'm mostly blocking. There have been a few times where I started to reflexively loop or smash, but each time something in my arm sent a red alert signal and I stopped. Perhaps the arm can heal without taking time off. I am doing lots of stretching and massage before and after playing.

USATT Job Openings

Pongcast TV Episode 10 - 2012 Kuwait Open

Here it is (20:23)!

1946 English Open

Here's a video of the 1946 English Open Table Tennis Championships (8:40), and here are links to lots of other vintage table tennis footage.

Table Tennis Cartoons

Here are 30 table tennis cartoons by Marek Zochowski that were published in USA Table Tennis Magazine back when I was editor.

Non-Table Tennis: SF story in Story Quest

My science fiction story Rationalized was just published in the online magazine Story Quest Magazine. The story won the Story Quest Short Story Contest in November. (See second column at top.) It's about a future dystopian society where everyone has an operation on their brain at age 13 to remove all emotions, and the underground society that secretly avoids this operation, but must pretend to always be unemotional - and the lengths they must go to hide their secret when a terrible accident occurs. (Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.) 

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November 10, 2011

Talking Table Tennis with the Teens

When I discuss table tennis with our top junior players, two things jump out at me.

First, they know the best players in the world inside and out. Name a top player, and they can mimic his strokes and serves, his favorite tactics, recite his best titles, and tell me what they had for lunch.

Second, if I ask them what tactics they use against a specific player they have recently played, often a dazed look comes over their faces. After a short "senior" moment, they'll usually say something vague like, "I serve short and loop" or "I attack his backhand." (There are exceptions. Some can discuss in great detail what they do.) If I draw them out, they often admit they hadn't really thought about it. It turns out they are thinking a lot about their strokes, but little about their tactics. They know more about Ma Long's tactics than their own!

It always amazes me how much our juniors know about the top players, and how little they know about their own games. This is an area where we can improve - but their knowledge of the top players is a huge asset if they can incorporate it into their own games.

Day Three at the Writer's Retreat

Yesterday was the third day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM, where I'm working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

It was another historic day as I broke my previous day's word count record, with exactly 11,000 words. (I was about ten words short when I stopped, so I typed one more sentence, which happened to be exactly ten words long.) Since 10AM on Monday, I've done over 29,000 words, for a total of 35,419! (This includes about 6000 words I had done in advance.) I'm over halfway through; I'm guessing the first draft will be around 60,000 words, but we'll see.

Today I'm going to be incorporating a lot of past articles, so that may give me a bloated word count. (Some of those 11,000 words were from past articles, but it had to be rewritten and updated.)

I haven't decided whether to use the following line on in the Introduction: "You are about to enter into another dimension, a dimension not only of speed and spin, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of creativity. It is an area we call . . . table tennis tactics." Too non-serious?

The real question is this: Will "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide" become the cherished bible to billions of ping pologists, or will it be laughed to oblivion?

On a side note, Jennifer Crawford, the wife of Parris Glendening, former governor of Maryland (1995-2003), stopped by on Tuesday.

Coaching Seminar at the Nationals

USATT will hold a coaching seminar at the USA Nationals in Virginia Beach on Tuesday, Dec. 13, from noon to 2PM. You need to register in advance to attend. Two major topics will be:

  • "Modern Trends in the Serve and Serve Return Game," by USA Men's Coach Stefan Feth.
    • Serves with elbow involvement and higher ball toss like Mizutani, Ryu Seung Min and Ma Long;
    • After motions on ball contact during serves (fake motions);
    • Inside out serves (hook serves) like Timo Boll, Liu Shiwen, Zhang Jike;
    •  More sidespin motions on returning serves;
    • Backhand receives with banana flicks like Zhang Jike, Timo Boll, Petr Korbel;
    • Hook drop shots;
    • Reversed banana returns.
  • "The Use of Half-Pattern Drills to Teach Anticipation Skills," by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.
    • Come and learn what “half-pattern” drills are and how they can prepare your athletes for tournament play.

How to Execute the Ma Lin Serve

Ma Lin has one of the heaviest backspin serves imaginable. This Pingskills video (2:14) explains and shows how he does it.

Have you practiced your serves this week?

Well, have you?

Juic International Junior and Cadet Championships

Here's where you can find all about the tournament, which was held last weekend in Milpitas, CA - results, news, videos, pictures.

Top Ten Shots of all time?

You decide. (2:57)

Spectacular trick-shot exhibition

Or is this exhibition by three Norwegian women all fake? You decide. (2:21)

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