Ma Lin

September 12, 2014

Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros! By Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon

As readers of this blog know, I strongly encourage players to work on sports psychology. It's amazing how many matches are won or lost on this, and yet after losing a match because of nerves or some related issue, players go and practice the shots they missed when they were nervous rather than address the reason they missed the shots with a dose of sports psychology. Here's a number of resources on sports psychology, including this excellent one.

"Have you ever stopped to consider how elite table tennis players deal with the pressure of competition and consistently perform at their best?" That's the opening line of Get Your Game Face On Like the Pros!, the new table tennis sports psychology ebook by Dora Kurimay and Kathy Toon (available at amazon.com). It's 158 pages with lots of useful content. It covers sports psychology specifically for table tennis better than anything else I've read, since most other books are more general, for all sports. It does so not just with theory, but with practical steps to improve your mental game and thereby your overall game.

I reviewed an earlier and shorter version of this book, "Get Your Game Face On." This version is greatly expanded, both the text and the title. If you are serious about your table tennis, I strongly encourage you to read this book, and try out the various methods explained for strengthening your mental game. It could pay off dramatically in your performance.

The first half is similar to the previous version. In Part 1, the book covers the Game Face System, going over both the routine and how to train for it. It points out four major problems that plague table tennis players, and then goes about giving systematic ways of combating them:

  • Inconsistency
  • Not being able to play as well as we practice
  • Your energy level can be too high or too low
  • Distractions

Central to the book is developing a "Game Face," the inseparable relationship between emotional, mental, and physical (the "Game Face Performance Triangle"), and a "Game Face Routine," using the four R's, which are covered in Part 2:

  • Reaction ("If you want to maintain your Game Face during competition, you must learn to control your reaction consistently right after every point.")
  • Recover (Recover from the point, relax, etc., with eight methods listed)
  • Readiness (This is where you ensure that you are mentally prepared for the action to resume. You ask yourself, "What is the situation? What is my job?" This is where you do your tactical thinking.)
  • Ritual (To prepare mentally for the next point)

Throughout the book there are numerous real-world examples from world-class players. Often I was nodding my head at mental tricks that match what I'd developed over the years, or at recognizing something I'd see others do. The specific breakdown of how you use the time between points - the four R's - especially led to much thought that will influence my own coaching. The book should be a must for table tennis coaches and serious players.

The book then goes on to cover four major problems players face in competition, with a section devoted to each, and how to recover from them: Anger, Nerves, Mistakes, and Distractions. While the Four R's are likely the most important part of the book long-term, these four sections are probably of great value short term for players trying to address these issues right now. (But the Four R's will give a longer-term fix, especially in combination with this section.)

Part 3 is mostly new, and covers a wide variety of issues under the general topic of Develop Your Healthy Lifestyle Choices. After more about the Game Face Performance Triangle (Emotional-Physical-Mental), it covers 14 specific topics under three categories. Under Physiological, it has Nutrition, Hydration, and Sleep. Under Physical it has Practice, Conditioning, and Rehearsal (practicing the four R's of your Game Face routine). Under Mental, it has Self-Talk, Focus, and Visualization. Under Daily Life it has Time Management, Academics and Work, Fun, Relationships, and Environments.

The book finishes with two more sections, "Where to Go from Here," and a note to coaches, "Hey, Coach, Get Your Game Face On!" It's unfortunate that most coaches don't really focus on sports psychology. There's more to coaching than just technique and tactics.

Dora Kurimay was a member of the Hungarian National Table Tennis Team for six years and was six-time National Champion in doubles, singles, and teams. Perhaps more importantly she has a Bachelor's degree in psychology and two Master's degrees, in Psychology and in Sports Psychology. She has a long coaching background as well, both in table tennis and other sports. She now lives in the U.S. and at this writing has a 2380 rating. Kathy Toon coached tennis for twenty-three years, including at the University of California-Berkeley for fourteen years where teams she coached won three national doubles championships. 

USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame

In my blog yesterday when I announced the new inductees I inadvertently left out Richard Butler as an inductee. (I've since added him there.) So here's actual list: Sheila O'Dougherty, Lisa Gee, Tawny Banh, Richard Butler, and Lifetime Achievement Award Donna Sakai. Congrats to all! (Here's the USATT Hall of Fame.)

Para World Championships

They are taking place right now in Beijing, China, Sept. 6-15. Here's the USATT page and the ITTF page for the event. Here are pictures. Representing USA are Tahl Leibovitz and Sherri Umscheid, with Angie Bengtsson the USA Coach. Tahl made the quarterfinals of Class 9.

The 5 Coolest Table Tennis Tables in Existence

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Youth Olympic Games Tribute to Lily Zhang

Here's the video (3:15), created by Jim Butler. (She got the bronze in Under 18 girls.)

Southern Open Highlights Video

Here's the video (9:56).

Completely Insane Rally by Ma Lin

Here's the video (1:10), with Ma on the far side.

The Power of Sidespin

Here's a highlights video (5:01) from four years ago that I don’t think I've ever posted.

The Port City Ping Pong Throwdown

Here's the promotional video (2:49), from the Wilmington TTC in North Carolina.

Wizard Pong?

Here's an animated gif image of what appears to be a wizard playing table tennis with his scepter! (Is that Loki from the movie Thor?)

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May 19, 2014

Tip of the Week

Why to Systematically Practice Receive.

Return to Ready After Forehand Attack

During the Potomac Open this past weekend there was an interesting match that illustrated this. One was a lefty rated over 2400, the other about 2300. The lefty kept serving breaking serves to the righty's wide forehand. The righty would move to his wide forehand and loop these crosscourt to the lefty's backhand. Over and over the lefty would quick-block these to the righty's backhand, and the righty was caught out of position over and over. At first glance it would seem the righty just wasn't fast enough, that the lefty was just too quick. And so the lefty won the first two games.

But then a strange thing happened. I was commenting to some players sitting next to me how the righty was looping off his back foot when he looped these serves, and so finishing off balance. This kept him from getting a quick start to cover his backhand. But sometime in the third game, completely on his own, the player figured this out. The key was to get his right foot wider on the receive so he could push off it, and then he could use the momentum of his own forehand follow-through to help move himself back into position. Two things happened because of this. First, by getting his right foot farther out he was able to push into the shot harder, thereby getting more speed and spin on his loop, which gave the lefty problems. Second, and more importantly, he was now following through into position, and was set for those quick blocks to his wide backhand.

There's a video (which I just spent ten minutes unsuccessfully searching for) of Werner Schlager making this exact same adjustment to a player at the World Hopes Week in Austria a year or two ago. I remember it as several people commented that he was messing up the kid's technique. Actually, what Werner had done was show the kid, one of the top 12-year-olds in the world, how to follow-through back into position so he'd be ready for the next shot. It's one of those little things that many players don't understand, thinking only about the current shot, and not worrying about the next one. (EDIT - here's the 50-sec video I referred to above, care of Daniel Ring in the comments below. Notice how the kid forehand loops very well, but tends to stay in one position when he's moved wide? Werner shows him how to follow through back into position.) 

How often have you attacked with your forehand from the backhand side, only to get caught when your opponent quick-blocked to your wide forehand? (Or the reverse, attacked from the wide forehand, and got caught on the wide backhand, as discussed above?) Most often the problem isn't being too slow; it's finishing the forehand shot off balance, which dramatically slows down how fast you can recover back into position. The most common situation is a player steps around the backhand corner to use the forehand, but is rushed, and so ends up following through too much to his left (for a righty), leaving him wide open for the next shot. Instead, when attacking from a wide corner, whenever possible try to follow-through right back into position, and you'll be surprised at how much easier it is to recover for the next shot, even if it's quick-blocked to the far corner.  

World Veterans Championships

They were held May 14-17 in Auckland, New Zealand, for players over age 40. Here's the home page for the event, with lots of news items, pictures, video, and results. Here's the ITTF Page with lots of articles. There were 1665 players entered, including 29 from the U.S. (see player listing, which lists them by country).

Here are the results. Do a search for if you want to see how players from a specific country did (for example, "USA"). Charlene Xiaoying Liu, who is from my club, finished third in Over 60 women, losing deuce in the fifth to the eventual winner (who would win the final easily 3-0). Charlene was actually up 10-8 match point in the fifth, alas, but struggled her opponent's serve at the end.

Alameda Table Tennis Club Offering Elementary School Kids $20,000 in Ping Pong Scholarships

Here's the article - wow!

Lily Yip Selected as USA Youth Olympic Games Coach

Here's the article.

Kagin Lee's Blog

Tokyo Recap, Part One. (Kagin is a member of the board of directors for USATT and National College Table Tennis Association.)

Cary, NC to Open 25,000 Square Foot Table Tennis Facility

Here's the article (on their home page). Here are some pictures of the new Triangle Table Tennis Center.

ITTF Has as Many National Associations as Any Sport

Here's the article. They now have 220 members, which equals the International Volleyball Federation.

ICC Table Tennis Fund-Raiser

Here's the article.

How to Choose a Table Tennis Bat

Here's the new video from PingSkills (14:45).

Best of Ma Lin

Here's the Video (3:13).

Circular Table Tennis

Here's the picture! I think I once ran a similar picture, but this one really shows how the "sport" is played!

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March 6, 2014

Top Ten New Table Tennis Rules I'd Like to See

Some serious, some not so serious. You judge which.

  1. No-Hidden Serve Rule Adjustment. When serving, players should be required to serve so that the ball is visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit if there were umpires. When there are no umpires, it would be assumed the umpires would be sitting five feet out on each side, lined up with the net. The point of the rule isn't to make sure the umpires can see the ball. The point is that if a server hides the ball from an opponent but it isn't obvious he is doing so, it'll be obvious he's hiding it from at least one of the umpires. No more hidden serve problems.
  2. Execution of Servers Who Hide Contact. For now on, on the first instance of a player hiding his serve, his opponent shall have the opportunity to slap him in the face. On the second instance, the player shall have splinters shoved under his fingernails. On the third instance, the player shall be dragged outside and executed by firing squad.
  3. More Single Elimination Events. Most tournaments feature a few round robin events, perhaps one every 200 points. In my mind, when I play an event and lose a match, I should be out of the event, but with RR events you keep on going. Why not have twice as many rating events, perhaps every 100 points, but make them single elimination? Fewer matches per event on average, but more events. (I remember playing a tournament in 1977 when I was rated 1480, and I was in Under 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900, 2000, and 2100 - all in one day! I was in the final of the three lowest events, winning U1600.)
  4. 38mm Ball, 21-point Games. I confess, I miss the way it was played the first 25 years I played. I especially miss 21-point games. I'm not a hardliner on this, but I am nostalgic.
  5. Soccer-colored Balls. We're a game of spin, but you can barely see the spin. Spectators who aren't experts have no clue what's going on. Plus many people say we need longer rallies - well, make it easier to see the spin and there'll be fewer misses off serves. Plus think how fun it would be to play with these balls! We'd gets lot of kids playing. Only downside - it's almost psychedelic playing with them. (I have a supply of these balls which I bring out when I teach spin on serves and pushes.)
  6. Additional One-Minute Timeout. Right now players get a single one-minute timeout where they usually consult with a coach. But that's not fair to coaching authors. Why not a second one-minute timeout where players can consult with a table tennis tactics book?
  7. 50% Rule. All members of USATT shall donate 50% of their salaries to USATT, where it will either be used to develop the sport in this country or it will be squandered in some highly unimaginative way.
  8. The Late No-Learn Rule. When a player shows up late for a class, the coach shall mark down what the player missed and pass this on to all other coaches in the world, with the understanding that no coach shall ever teach that player what he missed for coming in late, and that player will always have a hole in his game because of this. Additionally, all future opponents of this player shall be informed of the hole in this player's game before they play so they may play into it. Additionally, the late player shall get ten lashes.
  9. Athleticism Rule. Before a player can achieve a 2000+ rating in this Olympic sport, he must first pass the Presidential Challenge Fitness Test. (Just kidding, people - there's at least one online forum devoted mostly to combination rackets - mostly long pips and other off-surfaces - that takes these types of things a bit too seriously.)
  10. Scream Rule. Players may only scream at the top of their lungs ten times in a match. On the eleventh such scream they shall be defaulted, their rackets broken, and their tongues pulled out.

Wang Liqin: Ma Lin was a Headache

Here's the article - and no, he's not insulting him, he's talking about what it was like playing him.

Why B2B Marketers Need a Ping-Pong Plan

Here's the article, which includes a nice cats-playing-TT picture.

Drilling with a Robot

Here's a video (29 sec) showing one of the zillions of possible drills with a robot. Most of the major table tennis dealers now sell these advanced robots, but they are more expensive than the less expensive ones, which primarily hit either to one spot or randomly all over the table.

Bay Areas Trying Out for USA National Team

Here's a video (75 sec) that features the players from the SF bay area that are trying out for team at the Trials at Texas Wesleyan University, Fri-Sun, March 7-9.

A Little School Table Tennis

Here's a video (54 sec) of Adam Bobrow hitting with kids at a school. At 34 sec in he can't resist throwing in a high, sidespinning-backspinning lob.

Playing Table Tennis on Drugs!

Here's a hilarious new video (102 sec) where Australians take on Americans in "the most epic table tennis duel in history!!" (It gets really good about 17 seconds in.)

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March 5, 2014

Players from Training Centers vs. Regular Clubs - Style Differences

Ever notice that you can tell much of a player's background just by watching his style and strokes? The most obvious thing is whether the player came out of a training center (i.e. regular coaching and training, constantly surrounded by top players with good technique) versus those who come out of regular clubs (mostly learned on their own by watching local players, who didn't always have the best technique, and developed mostly by playing matches). These are not rules, just general things you mostly see that tell the player's background. It's mostly about where the player started - a self-taught player who then joins a training center will still have some semblance of those self-taught strokes and style even after years of training.  

Players from training centers generally have nice, smooth technique. Even when the technique isn't perfect it's usually close to where only a discerning coach can really tell the difference. They generally play close to the table from hours and hours of coaches stressing this. They almost always loop from both sides. Many almost never smash, instead looping winners even off balls that are eye level or higher. They often topspin their backhands, even in faster rallies, often without backing up much. They rarely push more than once in a row. They move smoothly and quickly, with great balance. Their serves are often seeming mirror images of top players serves - mostly forehand regular and reverse pendulum serves.

Players from regular clubs often have more ragged strokes, though they get the job done for their level. The technique is often jury-rigged and awkward, which leads to inconsistency but - as a partial equalizer - means their shots come out erratically, which causes problems for opponents. They may stay at the table, or they may back off, if they have fast feet (which is not the same thing as good footwork, but it's a major component). In a rally they either hit the forehand or back off to loop, while mostly hitting flat backhands. They often have nice smashes. Against weaker players, they dominate with opening loops and follow-up smashes; against stronger players they are turned into blockers. They'll often push several balls in a row. They are often off balance and don't realize it. They often have a large variety of spinny serves, but individually the serves are not that deceptive, relying on different motions rather than deceptive motions for their effectiveness.

Remember, these are just generalities. There are players who have trained half their lives at training centers and still look like amateurs, while some from regular clubs pick up on high-level technique and look like they've trained with coaches since they were kids - but they are the exceptions. Some of the most interesting matches are clashes between these two types of players. The player from the training center struggles to adjust to the erratic and "weird" shots of the regular club player, who in turn struggles to adjust to the superior technique of the training center player. Which are you?

2014 USA National Team Trials Extended Preview

Here's the video (5:24)! The Trials are this Fri-Sun at Texas Wesleyan University. This is a great compilation of USA players winning big matches, often the championship point at past USA Nationals. I was there for most of them!

Samson Dubina Coaching Tips

He's been putting up short tips almost daily in the news section of his webpage. (Expect a few bible verses as well…)

Interview with Adham Sharara, ITTF President

Here it is, published yesterday by ITTF.

Interview with Vladimir Samsonov, Chair of the ITTF Athletes Commission

Here it is, published yesterday by ITTF.

Ma Lin Hopes to Produce an Olympic and World Champion

Here's the article. Ma is now the director of the Guangzhou Table Tennis Management Centre.

Jean-Michel Saive Wins 25th Belgium Men's Singles Title

Here's the article. (He's 44.)

Paddlestar Galactica

Here's their web page. They are a charity event for 826DC, which had its kickoff yesterday and continues through March 30. "826DC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18 with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers inspire their students to write."

Amayzlin - Music Trailer

Here's the table tennis music video (4:05), created and starring Alex Mayzlin - actor, singer, musician, songwriter . . . and 2100 table tennis player. "This is my life. This is what I do. I wouldn't have it any other way."

The Ping Pong Ambassador

Here's seven seconds of Scott Preiss, the PingPongMan!

Snowy Tables

Ready for some ping-pong?

Non-Table Tennis - Phone Scam

On Feb. 27, I wrote about coaching scams. Well, I almost got scammed in a non-table tennis way, though I caught it just in time. I don't make or receive a lot of phone calls - I'm more of an emailer - so when my phone stopped working on Saturday I didn't notice at first. I made a call to MDTTC that morning, and got a message saying the phone was disabled or no longer working (something like that), and assumed there was something wrong with their phone. I didn't make or receive any calls on Monday. On Tuesday I called a bank to make sure they were open (lots of snow outside), and got a similar answer. So I tested it and discovered I got the error message no matter who I called. I also realized I hadn't received or made a call since Friday. Then I remembered a "junk" email I'd received from Verizon Wireless (my cell phone carrier) that thanked me for upgrading my service. I'd deleted it, thinking it was some sort of spam, but now I pulled it out of the trash and printed it out.

I drove to Verizon Wireless (roads were fine - only local schools were closed) and they took about an hour trying to figure out the problem. They had to call their own technical support. They discovered that my "upgrade" had added five new phone numbers to my account, and that this upgrade had caused my phone to stop working since it hadn't been approved for my cell phone (something like that). After some investigation, they told me that someone had gone into an Apple store on Saturday (they think one in New York), and had done the upgrade, somehow using my password, and getting five new cheap cell phones. It was a scam - the person had then sold the five cell phones to people overseas at highly inflated prices. For the scam to work, he had to have a valid account (mine, don't know how he got my password, I've since changed it), so he could get the five new numbers and cell phones. I was told that if I hadn't acted right away by going to Verizon, within days I would have gotten a phone bill for approximately $4000!

So if you've called me in the last few days and couldn't get through, now you know why.

***
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January 21, 2013

Tip of the Week

The Backhand Banana Flip.

Bringing Back the Forehand

It's harder and harder to play an all-out forehand attack as I approach age 53 next month. But sometimes the stars - or is that ping-pong balls? - align just right. On Friday and Saturday I played as a practice partner in two-hour match sessions with our top juniors. On Friday, I did a little of everything - looping, hitting, blocking, fishing & lobbing, even chopping. And nothing worked.

So on Saturday I decided to bring back the 1980s and play all-out forehand attack, mostly looping, as well as lots of smashing. To do this, I focused on staying very low, with a much wider stance than I've used in recent years, but probably the same stance I used back in the 1980s. And lo and behold, I started to move pretty well, and the shots started to hit pretty well, and guess what? I played pretty well, going undefeated. Most of the players I played were lower, including a horde of 1900 to 2000 players, but I did beat one 2250 player, losing the first game and then dominating three straight. It wasn't until my very last match that my muscles suddenly realized that I'd been coaching or playing since 10AM (it was now almost 6:30 PM), and that's when they let out. Since we were running out of time, the last match was a best of three to 11 against a 1600 player, and after a barrage of misses where my legs and back were on strike, it went deuce in the third before I pulled it out against a very hot but (even though he lost) still pretty excited kid. I almost feel sorry for how hard I plan to play him next time, assuming I'm a bit more rested!

Even though I won, I was impressed with several of the kids on how much better they are getting at returning my serves. Some are still returning them passively with deep pushes (often popping up my side-top serves for easy smashes), but others have been playing more advanced shots, flipping and dropping them short, and one has developed what seems like a 100 mph quick push that is almost unloopable.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

I'm now 2/3 through the tedious line-by-line proofing of the book. (Unfortunately, I probably won't get much work done on it today - huge todo list - but I'll get back to it Tuesday.) Then I have to input all the corrections - including a few new paragraphs here and there - and then get everything properly formatted for final submission to the online printing and ebook formats. So far I'm still on schedule for it to be on sale online by Feb. 1 in Print on Demand and Kindle ebook formats.

The Table Tennis Playbook

Here's a free online 26-page "playbook" that lists tactical plays used by Coach Ben Larscombe of Expert Table Tennis.

China Adds Online Popularity to World Team Trials

Here's the article on how China used online voting to put three players into the final qualification round for the World Team Trials for the upcoming World Championships in May in Paris. China's top two, Zhang Jike and Ma Long, were not in the top three. The three players voted in were, in order, Ma Lin, Wang Hao, and Tianjin player Hao Shuai.

Ma Lin and Wang Hao training

Here's a video (4:28) of Chinese team members Ma Lin and Wang Hao in training. Wang Liqin and Chen Qi are seen doing some drills next to them.

Table Tennis on Grey's Anatomy

There was a table tennis scene in the episode last Thursday, Jan. 17, titled "The End is the Beginning is the End." Here's the video (1:02)! Turns out ping-pong is a recurring theme in the show -  two years ago in another episode (titled "Something's Got to Give"), they saved a life by using a ping-pong ball in surgery!

Air Ping-Pong

Here's 42 seconds of air ping-pong, featuring the worst table tennis strokes ever to fester around a ping-pong table. 

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October 16, 2012

Tidbits

  • The MDTTC October Open is this weekend, and once again I'm running it. Enter now, or at least by 5PM Thursday, the deadline. (Though I'll take entries at least until 7PM on Friday, and probably on Saturday until 6PM for Sunday events.) You can enter via email to me, and pay upon arrival - but if you don't cancel by 5PM Thursday, you are responsible for payment even if you don't show. If you don't enter, we will talk about you - we'll mock you and your personality, and discuss tactics on beating you.
  • As promised in a blog a few weeks ago, as soon as the Baltimore Orioles baseball team were out of the playoffs, I'd start weight training again. I did my first session yesterday since early this year. This is both to keep my back from acting up again and also to get my playing level back. When you get older, without weight training it gets harder and harder to race around the court making crazy shots.
  • When local juniors have birthdays, I've started the tradition of giving them "Get Out of Lecture Free" cards, applicable one time when they find themselves cornered and unable to escape as I lecture on the errors of their table tennis ways.
  • Sometime soon a well-known actor will wear an MDTTC shirt on a highly-rated TV show watched by six million people each week.
  • Someone's coming to MDTTC this Saturday and Sunday night to do a video special on us. More on this later.
  • In "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," the argument is made that the single most important item to have around is a towel. However, to a table tennis coach, the most important thing to have around is a box. It gives you something to hold balls when you feed multiball; a target for beginners to hit with their drives and serves; something to put in the middle of the table so students can learn to hit the ball to the corners (i.e. avoid hitting the box); something to pick up balls with; a way to narrow down the table so you can have backhand-to-backhand or forehand-to-forehand games with students; and, in a crunch, they make a nifty blocking and chopping racket.
  • Yesterday a player told me he was going to the Nationals in Las Vegas, and mentioned that he usually goes to the Nationals when it's in Las Vegas (2400 miles away) but avoids going when it's in Virginia Beach (226 miles away) because "Virginia Beach is impossible to get to." (He was referring to the lack of flights there - it's much easier getting a direct flight to Las Vegas.) This year it's in Las Vegas, but I've heard through the grapevine that it'll be back in Virginia Beach next year. I don't know for sure, however.
  • Am I the only coach who keeps a large rubber frog around ("Froggy") as an on-table target for kids in the 5-8 age range? Or a stack of paper cups to make pyramids out of that the kids can knock over as I feed multiball, including one specific cup named Scar with a mark on it that everyone goes for? (He's a nasty cup, I explain, always picking on me.) Note that I only pull Froggy and Scar out at the end of a session; if you start kidding around early in a session, not much gets done that session.
  • "Hodges" is an anagram for "He's God." "USA Table Tennis" is an anagram for "Satan But Senile." Coincidence?

Volkswagen 2012 China VS World Team Challenge

Here's the poster. The tournament is Nov. 24-25, 2012, in Shanghai, China. Here's the ITTF home page.

Incredible Counterlooping Duel

Here's a great counterlooping point between Kalinikos Kreanga of Greece and Bojan Tokic of Slovenia.

2012 China National Championships Xu Xin - Ma Long

Here's a great match from the Chinese Nationals Men's Team Final, with the time between points taken out so it's only 8:14 long. (Xu Xin is the lefty.)

Ping-Pong Wedding, Part 2

Yesterday I linked to a picture of Dana Hadacova at her "ping-pong wedding," which showed her hitting with her groom with wooden bats on a mini-table. However, I didn't know who the husband was, or why Dana seemed to have two names - Hadacova, and Cechova (the latter is how she is listed in the ITTF world rankings). However, super-sleuth Aaron Avery found out that the husband is Roman Cech, hence the new last name - Cechova. (Actually, it's Čechová, but I'm not sure if the tilda and accents will come through properly on all browsers.) There's no evidence he's a ping-pong player (she lists him as a "physical coach," but he's like this hockey player. Here's a picture.

New Penhold Blade?

Interesting grip - when you hold it in front of you, you stand behind the eight-disk?

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April 12, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Commuting Table Tennis Coach

Normally I do nearly all my coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, about fifteen miles north of Washington D.C.  However, there's an afterschool program in (somewhat) nearby McLean, Virginia, at Spring Hill Elementary. I was asked I could take over the program and coach there twice a week, Wed and Fri from 3:30-4:30. It sounded like a great idea. I'd even coached the son of the person in charge of the program. So I agreed to come in yesterday to help out, with the possibility of taking over starting Friday. (They currently had three people running the program, but none were serious players or coaches.)

The problem was traffic. To get there I'd have to drive down 270 and then on 495 (the Beltway) . . . during RUSH HOUR! The Washington DC metropolitan area is one of the most congested traffic areas in the country, which is why I bought a house eight minutes from MDTTC. (Most rankings put us #2 behind Chicago, but we hope to overtake them someday . . . I think.)

According to Google maps, the driving time would be 33 minutes. But that assumed steady driving, not bumper-to-bumper traffic. I left my house at 2:25 PM - and while 270 was fine going down, I quickly hit that infamous bumper-to-bumper traffic on 495, despite being a bit early for rush hour. It took 58 minutes to get there, arriving at 3:23 PM.

The session went fine. And then it was off to face the real brunt of rush hour. I left at 4:35 PM, knowing I had 85 minutes to make the "33 minute trip" or else I'd be late for my 6PM coaching session.

At 6PM, still mired in traffic on 495, and still a distance from even reaching 270, and knowing that even without traffic I was still 20 minutes away, I called the club and talked to the father of my 6PM student. We agreed we had to cancel the lesson.

This was the first time in the 20 years since we'd opened the club that I'd ever been late for a session, a record I'd been proud of - I always like to arrive at least 15 minutes early. (Once I had times mixed up on a session, and so missed that one, but that's different. I think.)

I finally arrived at the club at 6:40 PM, 2 hours and 5 minutes after leaving the school. (I made my 7PM session.) But I don't think I'm going to be able to do the McLean afterschool program. I will instead likely train their current coaches on the basics, as well as introduce them to Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis.

Ma Lin not on China's Olympic Team

China will have Ma Long, Zhang Jike, and Wang Hao as their representatives to the Olympics in London, the world's top three ranked players. They also have #4 Xu Xing and #5 Ma Lin, but since they are limited to three players, these latter two will not be on the team. Here's an article about Ma Lin not being on the team.

JJ Hardy, Jake Arrieta, and table tennis

There's a lot of table tennis going on at the Baltimore Orioles clubhouse, with these two (along with former centerfielder and now trainer Brady Anderson) are among the best. As noted in previous blogs, I've been contacted about coming in to coach them, with MASN (the Orioles network) doing coverage. The times are not yet set, but I'll post when I know. In the last email I received from the Orioles, they wrote, "J.J. and Brady are going to get together in the next week and try to figure out a couple of dates that might work and we will be in touch. They are pretty excited about this!"

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on Jake Arrieta's table tennis. Here's a picture of Hardy playing table tennis, with Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Corey Hart on right. And here are articles on JJ Hardy's table tennis (there are more!):

Table tennis videos

Table Tennis Video Central is like, well, a table tennis video central. Lots and lots of table tennis videos for your viewing pleasure. Between this and Youtube, you can pretty much see any table tennis video ever made.

Table tennis going to the Birds

In honor of the Baltimore Orioles playing table tennis, here are other birds playing table tennis.

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March 29, 2012

Pushing the limits

Last night I was coaching an 8-year-old girl. We've been working on her strokes for months, and while she could occasionally get 50 or so in a row at a slow pace, it was sort of a "just keep the ball in play" type rally, at a slow pace, with her mostly standing stationary as she patted the ball back. She was looking pretty bored as I encouraged her to get 50 in a row. So I tried something different - I decided it was time to teach her to forehand loop. Normally I'd want her to have a bit more ball control and athleticism in her game before I'd start this. So I got a bucket of balls and fed her backspin with multiball. At first she struggled, but after a few minutes she made a rather nice loop, and then another, and after a while she was able to hit about every other one on the table with a good stroke and decent topspin. She ran off to tell her mom (who was hitting on another table). Then she ran back and did some more.

Here's the real surprise. We ended the session hitting forehands - and after all the struggles, suddenly she came alive, her feet moving, and for the first time ever we were steadily smacking the ball back and forth, at a faster and more consistent rate than ever. I decided to test her backhand as well, and the same thing. So it was a triple whammy.

Maybe next week I'll teach her counterlooping.

MDTTC Spring Break Camp and other activities

It's not too late to register for our Spring Break Camp next week, Mon-Fri, 10AM - 6PM (with a two-hour lunch break in the middle). It's also not too late to join our beginning junior class starting this Saturday, 10:30AM-Noon. I'll be teaching the class, with Jeffrey Zeng Xun assisting. (We postponed the first session from today to Saturday as we still have people working all day on the club's new expansion, which should be complete by tomorrow.) We also have a new Tuesday Night League starting April 10, along with our usual one on Friday nights.

Once the expansion is complete I plan on starting a beginning adult class and a weekly service practice session. The latter will start off with a service seminar where I teach the basics of advanced serves, and then we meet 30 minutes each week to practice.

Jorgen Persson vs. Ma Lin

Here's a great match from the Worlds between two great veterans (6:03). Of course Persson (who'll turn 46 on April 22) was 1991 World Men's Singles Champion when Ma Lin (32) was 11.

Susan Sarandon

Here's an old article from Sept. 2010 in NY Magazine on Sarandon and table tennis, with a picture of her playing table tennis. And here's a more recent picture of her also playing table tennis, this time on the cover of what I think is Home Magazine.

"Interestingly no one has ever been killed playing ping-pong."

This video (1:47) starts out innocently enough, and for the first 18 seconds seems to be a video about guns deaths. Then it takes a deadly turn into table tennis! Lots of photoshopping, with scenes and actors from numerous major movies, all strangely playing ping-pong.

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January 20, 2012

Ma Lin Step Around and Loop

Here's a nice video (1:14) showing Ma Lin stepping around his backhand corner to forehand loop, using multiball. Video includes slow motion and from two angles. Best part to watch is the slow motion from 0:10 to 0:28. Key things to note:

  1. Note in the slow motion that the move to the left starts with a tiny step with the left foot, followed by the bigger step over with the right.
  2. He stays balanced throughout the shot. See how his weight stays between his legs, almost centered. To do this, he has to extend his left leg to the left to keep balanced. Note the wide stance for stability.
  3. He has a lot of ground to cover, and so has to hit on the move. Because of this, he is forced to follow through more to the side than he would if he had more time. This slows down his recovery, and yet because he pushes off his left leg immediately after the shot, and maintains balance, he is able to quickly recover for the next shot.
  4. He extends his arm for full power. There is little or no arm snap. Historically, most top players since the days of Cai Zhenhua in the early 1980s snapped their arm at the elbow just before contact, but most current top Chinese players mostly keep the arm extended throughout the stroke as they sweep their arm through the ball. The irony is this is almost reminiscent of the old Hungarian loops from the late 1970s. So the precursor for many of the top Chinese loops are from Hungary, while the precursor for most of the top European loopers is Cai Zhenhua of China.
  5. The shoulders rotate back to 90 degrees to the table, and than rotate forward a little more than 90 degrees.

A kid gets the sniffles, and I'm out $45

Yes, this is what happened when a kid got sick and canceled a 30-minute lesson last night, my only schedule coaching yesterday. (I've got at least two hours every other day of the week.) I'm out $25 for the lesson, $10 for the movie I went to see instead ("The Descendents," very good), and $10 for a coke and popcorn.

Article on Volunteer Coach of the Year

Here's an article in the Denver Post on local Duane Gall winning the USATT National Volunteer Coach of the Year Award.

Kanak Jha Interview

USA Cadet Team Member and ITTF Hope Team Member Kanak Jha is interviewed at the 2011 ITTF Global Cadet Challenge and Global Junior Circuit Finals in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Jan. 14-22, 2012.

Ping-Pong crackers

Yes, you read the headline right - enjoy these ping-pong crackers. (And notice the table tennis emblem on the lower right.) As near as I can figure after some Internet searching, the two languages on the package are Thai and French, but I'm not sure. Can anyone verify?

Top movie monologues (including table tennis)

I would have had this blog up an hour ago but I got caught up watching "14 of the most impressive monologues in movie history." Personally, I can't believe they left out Patton's speech at the start of 1971's "Patton" (6:20). (Warning - lots of profanity.) Also missing is Syndrome's monologue from 2004's "The Incredibles" (2:13), including my favorite line, "You sly dog, you got me monologuing!" And while I'm not impressed with him personally, I would have included Mel Gibson's speech from 1995's "Braveheart" (2:33). And then there's "Ferris Bueller's Day off," which is mostly one long monologue. Here are the best lines (3:20), though these aren't really monologues.

But what about table tennis monologues? The first minute of this video from 2007's "Balls of Fury" is basically a sportcaster's monologue about the great golden boy table tennis prodigy Randy Daytona. The rest of the video (6:19) are hilarious scenes from the movie you have to watch.

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December 12, 2011

Tip of the Week

Depth control of serves.

The USA Nationals, Christmas Vacation, and a Sabbatical

After today, I'm taking a short sabbatical from blogging. My next blog will be next Monday, Dec. 19 (right after I return from the USA Nationals), and my next one after that will be when I resume blogging regularly (Mon-Fri) on Dec. 27. 

I'm leaving for the USA Nationals this morning, returning next Saturday. Then on Monday I leave for Santa Barbara, CA, for Christmas with family, returning on a red-eye flight on Christmas night that lands back in Maryland about 8AM on Dec. 26, in time for the MDTTC Christmas camp I coach at that starts that afternoon.

Yes, I know, the Nationals is exactly the time I should have lots to blog about, but I'm going to be extremely busy there, coaching, playing, and attending meetings, and expect to be leaving for the playing site early each morning and returning late.

I'm primarily going to the Nationals to coach, but I'm also entered in three hardbat events: Hardbat Singles (which I've won twice at the Open or Nationals), Over 40 Hardbat (I'm four-time and defending champion) and Hardbat Doubles (I'm 11-time and current champion, and playing with Ty Hoff - we've won it seven times).

I've spent way too much time in recent weeks working on my new table tennis book, watching videos of players that students of mine might be playing, and other sedentary projects at my computer, and now my back has stiffened up again, alas. Hopefully it'll loosen up when I play. However, as is the norm for me (since stiff muscles and coaching regularly don't mix well), I'm continually in a state of various injuries. Currently there's something in the back of my left knee that's hobbling me; my left Achilles tendon feels strained; and there's a strain in my right side. And why is my left big toe hurting? (I think I stepped on something sharp.) Par for me.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

I finished editing it this weekend. The "final" version is 81,066 words, with 21 chapters. In Courier New, double spaced, it prints out at 352 pages. I have a few people who are reading/critiquing it, and I'll probably do one more proofing. I have a publisher interested, though I'm toying with self-publishing. I'll look into the options in January.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminars in the USA

Thirtieth Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy in China

There's a U.S. contingent touring China - and here are links to a number of articles on it. And here's another that features Dell & Connie Sweeris.

Ma Long

Here's an article on the personal side of China's world #1.

Ma Lin's unbelievable (but illegal) serve

Here's a 19-second video of an unbelievable serve by China's Ma Lin. The ball curves so much not because of sidespin, but because of corkscrewspin, with the axis of rotation aimed away from Ma toward the server. (With sidespin, the axis would be up and down.) You can only get this much corkscrewspin with a high-toss serve, such as this one - see how high he tosses the ball. Some other world-class players probably have similar serves, you just don't see several bounces like this because the receiver normally hits the ball after the first bounce - and in this case, Ma has completely fooled the receiver, world champion Zhang Jike, who didn't see the sudden break coming, and thought the serve would go long.

Fantastic serve, but how many people noticed that he illegally hid contact with his arm? Freeze the video at contact and you'll see - you may have to make several attempts to get it. Or just see the image I took from the video. The arrows show the ball and his hand and arm. The rules say:

"From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall ... not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry."

"As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net."

"It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." 

It's possible that the receiver, Zhang, can barely see contact, but it's close - Ma's arm is rapidly moving out of the way, and the split second before this picture, the arm was completely in the way. It's the server's responsibility to serve so the umpire is satisfied that he is serving legally, and no umpire could possibly say that he is satisfied that this serve was not hidden. But we don't even have to go that far - the serve is blatantly illegal since he has left his free arm and hand between the ball and the net.

Table tennis going to the dogs

Let's watch 52 seconds of a Pekingese playing floor table tennis.

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