MDTTC

May 28, 2013

May 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

What to Do at the End of a Close Game.

Here Was My Weekend

SATURDAY. I was coaching pretty much all day. I gave a private lesson from 9:15-10:15AM, then a group beginning/intermediate junior session from 10:30AM-Noon. From 2-4 PM I gave private lessons, and then from 4:30-6:30 was a practice partner for a group session.

Probably the most interesting session was the 9:15-10:15AM session with Sameer, 11, rated 1181. I've been coaching him at his house where there's only about four feet going back. Today was the first time I gave him a private lesson at the club where there was room to go back - so much of the lesson was on looping against block, which he can't do at his house. He's going to start taking more lessons at the club for this reason. He has a tendency to stand up straight, and then his strokes fall apart. When he stays low and doesn't rush, he's a lot better.

In the afternoon one of my sessions was with John Olsen, 56, rated 1999. I've been working with him for a few years now, and now he's playing me dead even in our practice matches. Against juniors, I'm still pretty good, but more experienced tactical players are starting to see the holes in my game now that I've slowed down to sloth speed. It's not easy being a mostly one-winged attacker when your feet move like a sloth. Add that John's used to my serves, and that my blocking in matches has also deteriorated due to slower footwork (yes, good blocking takes footwork), and he's not easy to play anymore.

That night I saw the movie Epic, which I thought was pretty good. If you go to see it, early on there is a scene where the main character, M.K., takes a taxi to visit her father out in the wilderness. She has a short discussion with the taxi driver. The taxi driver is voiced by none other than Judah Friedlander, one of the stars from 30 Rock, stand-up comedian, and well-known table tennis player! (I've given him several private lessons. That's why he's the World Champion.)

I looked around that afternoon and realized how spoiled players at MDTTC are, along with a few other clubs around the country. Regular club players were playing side-by-side with some of the best players and juniors in the country. Here's a listing of some of the players or coaches at the club that afternoon, with their rating (and age if a junior - lots of good juniors!), with apologies to those left out.

  • Cheng Yinghua, 2614
  • Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), 17, 2587
  • Jack Huang, 2526
  • Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), 14, 2498
  • Harold Baring, former #2 in Philippines, 2400+
  • Raghu Nadmichettu, 2331
  • Richard Doverman, 2310
  • Crystal Wang, 11, 2292
  • Zhang Liang Bojun ("Brian"), 16, 2251
  • Chen Jie ("James"), 16, 2249
  • Tong Tong Gong, 15, 2246
  • Stephen Yeh, 2233
  • Derek Nie, 12, 2215
  • Roy Ke, 13, 2191
  • Lixin Lang, 2187
  • Heather Wang, 2181
  • Barbara Wei, 2178
  • Larry Hodges, 2145 (I'm getting old!)
  • Greg Mascialino, 2099
  • Changli Duan, 2080
  • Changping Duan, 2065
  • Amy Lu, 12, 2022
  • Princess Ke, 12, 1953
  • Adam Yao, 11, 1908
  • Tony Li, 11, 1799
  • Wesley Duan, 12, 1761
  • Tiffany Ke, 8, 1430
  • Lisa Lin, 9, 1385
  • Missing on Saturday, but back on Sunday: Nathan Hsu (17, 2397) and John Hsu (2248)

SUNDAY. I coached a 6-year-old from 10AM-11AM. He's up to 86 forehands and 35 backhands in a row against multiball. But at his age hand-eye coordination is a problem, so we spent some time on ball bouncing. He was able to bounce the ball up and down on his racket seven times, a new record for him. It isn't easy as his reactions at this age aren't fast enough to really react to the ball in the time it takes to bounce up and down on his paddle. He could just bounce the ball higher, but then he loses control.

I was off until that afternoon. I had another private session from 3:15-4:15, then a group junior session from 4:30-6:00. While I was coaching there was an elderly woman hitting with an older teenager for about an hour, and I realized they had been there the day before as well. I'm guessing it was a grandmother and grandson. What made it interesting is both had these identical windmill-style forehands, sort of like an exaggerated Dick Miles forehand (if you've ever seen that!). They'd bring their rackets way over their heads like a windmill, then bring it down and hit the ball. They weren't much beyond the beginning stage, but it was somewhat obvious he had learned his strokes from her.

The group session was smaller than usual because of Memorial Day weekend. With three coaches (myself, Raghu Nadmichettu, and John Hsu), and a practice partner (11-year-old Tony Li, rated 1799, who helps out in these sessions), the kids got a lot of one-on-one practice.

MONDAY. I believe yesterday was the first morning since Christmas where I didn't have either a blog or coaching in the morning. I actually could sleep late! (Except my 15-year-old dog, Sheeba, can no longer last the night, and as usual got me up at 4AM to go out.) I got a lot of work done on various writing projects.

Plastic Ball Conflict of Interest?

To quote from the OOAK forum, "It comes to light that Dr. Joachim Kuhn, the ITTF Equipment Committee member in charge of ball testing and approval, the man behind the report about how great the new plastic balls are (that was recently suppressed by the ITTF without explanation) has a MAJOR conflict of interest. Turns out that Dr. Kuhn's wife, In Sook Yoo, is one of the two patent holders, so Mr. and Mrs. Kuhn stand to make money on every new ball sold." There are discussions on this on the OOAK forum and About.com.

Kanak Jha Wins Two Silver Medals at Polish Cadet Open

Here's the pictures and caption. The events were Cadet Boys' Doubles and Teams.

What Table Tennis Is All About

Here's a new tribute video (4:50) from Genius Table Tennis.

Worlds Pre-Match Light Show

Here it is (2:13)!

Meet Coach Richard McAfee

JOOLA put together this video (2:00) welcoming him as a sponsored coach. I think all sponsors should do this with all their sponsored coaches and players.

Will Shortz on TV

Here's a video (16:16) of world-renowned puzzlist and Westchester TTC owner Will Shortz last Wednesday on the Artie Lange Show, with guest host Colin Quinn. As described by Will, "The conversation started with puzzles, then segued to table tennis, and ended with me playing Colin in a TT match." The discussion turns to table tennis at 8:46 (here). For the record, Will won 11-1.

Real Table Tennis

Outside, where the buffalo roam. (Or cattle anyway.) Or perhaps indoors, on the floor, with shoes for a net.

Cartoon Fox/Kitten

I'm not sure if this Facebook picture is a baby fox or a kitten. (If you can't see it in Facebook, try this.)

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May 14, 2013

J.J. Hardy and Brady Anderson at MDTTC

J.J. Hardy is the star shortstop for the Baltimore Orioles. (He's the reigning gold glove winner with 52 homers the last two seasons and a former All-Star.) Brady Anderson was the Orioles star center fielder for 13 of his 15 major league seasons, where he was a 3-time all-star, and once hit 50 homers in a season. They are true baseball stars.

But they are also pretty good at table tennis! With the Orioles having a day off from playing, they spent four hours at the Maryland Table Tennis Center last night, 4-8PM. I gave them a private coaching session the first two hours, and then they hit with our local juniors. I knew in advance that JJ was the Orioles best TT player - they have a table in their clubhouse, and NOBODY beats JJ. Brady is their #2. But how good could they be, considering they hadn't had coaching? I was expecting "basement stars," perhaps 1200 level at most. Boy was I wrong! Both came with their own sponge rackets in racket cases.

JJ's around 1850. Strengths: fast rallying and good serves, and adjusts quickly to opponents. Weaknesses: return of serve and against spin in general. He's very fast and aggressive at the table, with nice forehand and backhand hitting and blocking. He tends to hold his racket tip up on the forehand, which costs him some power, but his bang-bang rallying and reflexes allow him to rally at a 1900+ level - even better if you counter with him instead of looping. He also tends to reach for the ball instead stepping, which allows him to block but means he doesn't end the point as well as he could. He can loop against backspin from both wings, and follow with quick hitting.

He has a surprisingly good forehand pendulum serve. He doesn't change his grip for the serve, and so loses a bit of spin since his wrist is locked up, but it's very deceptive. He does the serve from the forehand side, which seemed to make the serve more effective for him since most players do this serve from the backhand side. He has two main variations, side-backspin and side-topspin, and they both look similar. His depth varies (not sure if it's intentional, need to ask him), so some are long, some are short, and some are half-long, with second bounce right around or just past the end-line.

He played a practice match with Tony Li, 11, rated an even 1800. Tony won the first two as JJ had trouble with his serves, but JJ came back to win, deuce in the fifth! You could pretty much see his mind at work as he figured out how to get Tony's various spinny serves back, and how to block his constant forehand looping. I also played JJ, and while I won easily, 11-3, 11-4, the key was that I was experienced enough to recognize how good he was at rallying, and so rarely let him get into a rally - I serve and looped everything, and looped his long serves while pushing his short ones back heavy, and looping the next ball. I wasn't going to be nice and risk losing!!!

How did he get so good without coaching or playing at a club with top players? His dad was a tennis coach and good table tennis player, and he learned from him. He picks up things very fast, as I saw both in his lesson with me and his adjustments in his match against Tony.

Brady Anderson was a level or so weaker, about 1500. He's a lefty who likes to cover almost the whole table with his forehand - he returned almost all my serves with his forehand. He has very nice footwork and range. He has a pretty good forehand, and can almost match JJ in rallies except that he has great trouble with JJ's serve. He can do a soft loop against backspin with his forehand. Brady also serves almost always from the forehand side, with a tomahawk sidespin serve, which was pretty spinny but without a heavy backspin variation, and so was easier to read than JJ's pendulum serve variations. He's very mobile, and even if you return his serve to his wide backhand, he manages to step around from where he's serving from on the forehand side to play his forehand from the backhand side.

Brady tends to hit the forehand with his arm jammed in too much, raises his elbow as he hits the ball, and often tries to muscle the ball instead of relaxing the arm and shoulder and letting the body do the work. We worked on fixing these problems, and he was quick in making the adjustments in drills. At the start he had sort of a wristy backhand, but I quickly corrected it. While his backhand isn't as good as his forehand, it's technically sound once he made the change, though he'll need a lot of practice to ingrain the stroke. Brady has a deceptive forehand - he usually goes crosscourt, and then he'll suddenly change in mid-stroke and go inside out the other way, which was almost unreturnable, even for me.

The racket Brady was using was too slow, so I lent him my backup, which he liked. He ended up buying a racket from the club, with Coach Cheng Yinghua doing the sale and putting the racket and sponge together for him. (They were in awe of Cheng when they learned he'd been #1 in the U.S. for over ten years.)

Brady also played a practice game with the 1800 Tony Li. Tony was very nervous, and Brady led 10-8 game point, but Tony won in deuce. Later Brady played 8-year-old Tiffany Ke, the #2 ranked Under 9 girl in the U.S. with a rating of 1439. (She trains seven days a week!) Brady was using the new racket and wasn't quite used to it, and seemed mesmerized that this little girl, whose head barely stuck up over the table, was so good, and so lost 0-3. (See their picture below.) I also played Brady, and I won 11-3, 11-1 - but a lot of that was because he couldn't get my serve back, and couldn't handle my spinny loops off his serves. Most 1500 players wouldn't have high-level serves or be able to loop serves, and so they'd rally - and once he gets used to his new paddle, Brady will be in the 1500 range again.

It's tricky giving rating estimate for these two, due to their lack of experience against players with proper coaching. For example, while I estimated JJ at 1850, I'm taking into account how fast he adjusts and learns in each match - he'd probably often lose the first game and have to come back, and might even struggle at first with 1700 players.

Here are some pictures taken via someone's cell phone. (We have a group picture, but I haven't got it yet.)

They hit with many of our top junior players: Nathan Hsu (16, rated 2397), Derek Nie (12, 2215), Roy Ke (13, 2229), Princess Ke (11, 1954), Tiffany Ke (8, 1439, and Tony Li (11, 1800). They were great with the kids, and posed with pictures with all of them as well as signing autographs. I think JJ and Brady were as much in awe of the kids' skills as the kids were of them. By the end of their time at the club, they and the kids were having fun and talking like old friends. These were two very nice athletes; their stardom has not gone to their heads. They were as excited about playing table tennis as a kid playing baseball. Both were interested in coming more often for lessons and regular play, but JJ can't because of the team's schedule. But Brady can, and plans to come regularly. I'm looking forward to working with him - once we've made a few adjustments on his forehand, I can already see him running around looping forehands.

One interesting tidbit - when JJ was hitting with the 2400 Nathan Hsu, Nathan of course dominated with his two-winged looping. But when they played points, Nathan actually had trouble with JJ's serve. Part of this was because he was nervous, and wasn't expecting good serves. I told him to stop thinking about it and just react, and then he began looping them in. I also missed a few of JJ's serves at first, but then stopped missing them.

The Orioles have a table at their clubhouse. Besides JJ and Brady, the other regulars are Manny Machado, Steve Pearce, and Nick Markakis. Nick plays with a hardbat and chops! They've invited us to come in and play at their clubhouse, though we haven't set a date yet. They were also interested to learn that two-time USA Cadet Team Member Tong Tong Gong lives about 15 minutes from Orioles Park, and may invite him to come in and hit with them. (Tong Tong doesn't know this yet!)

I've been an Orioles fan since 1972, when I was 12, so it was an exhilarating experience hitting with these two. They were extremely nice, and very fast learners. When I made adjustments to their strokes, both picked them up fast, though they'll need more practice to ingrain the changes. You could see how their baseball skills transferred to table tennis with their fast reflexes and ability to learn new skills quickly. Both could react to my best smashes and loop kills. They didn't most back, but they got their rackets on them over and over, and JJ made some nice blocks. Some of you may remember Brady's range as a center fielder. Well, you could see both when he ranged around playing his all-forehand game, and when I taught him how to lob. He'd never done this, but he picked it up very quickly, and with me smashing at 80% speed to his forehand he was not only lobbing ball after ball, but he began counter-smashing, making the shot over half the time.

I gave them both autographed copies of three of my books: Table Tennis: Steps to Success, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques, and Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. They gave the kids autographed copies of baseball cards, and offered free tickets to games. We'll take them up on that sometime soon.

All in all, a great day at MDTTC. The kids have a great story to tell at the school, as well as lots of pictures.

World Championships

They started yesterday, in Paris, May 13-20. Here's the ITTF World Championships page, where you can follow all the action - results, articles, pictures, etc.

Team USA at Worlds

Here's the USA Team at the Worlds Page, which shows up-to-date results and video.

ITTF Sports Science Congress

Here's Donn Olsen's report on the Congress, with lots of stuff of interest to coaches and players.

Table Tennista

Table Tennista has lots of Worlds coverage.

Timo Boll and Dimitrij Ovtcharov Training

Here's a video (1:47) of these two Germans training for the Worlds taken just yesterday. (Timo is the lefty.) They are ranked #5 and #7 in the world, the two highest Europeans in the rankings.

Rally of the Month

Here's a video (23 sec) of a great video between two kids in the last point of their match.

Pongcast Episode 26

Here's the video (3:45). In this episode: Killerspin promotes table tennis in high schools, Ariel Hsing plays with her friends Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, plus Zhang Jike and Liu Guoliang give us insight on their careers, relationship with each other, and hopes for the future.

The Four Elements of Match Basics

Here's the article - the elements are serve, receive, first attack, and first block.

Degree Deodorant

Here's a video (33 sec) of a new commercial for Degree Deodorant that features table tennis. It shows up 11 and 26 seconds in, both times for about 3 seconds.  

Kasumi Ishikawa Photo Shoot

Here's a rather funny video (23 sec) of Kasumi Ishikawa of Japan during a photo shoot taken just this morning at the Worlds. She's not used to doing these shots without a ball! Ishikawa finished fourth at the 2012 Olympics in Women's Singles (just one short of a medal!), but got the Silver Medal in Women's Teams. She is currently #8 in the world, but reached #5 for two months last year.

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December 7, 2012

Breaking News - Marty Reisman Passes Away

(Added Friday afternoon)  He will be missed. 

Warming Up

When players warm up at a club or tournament, they invariably start out by hitting forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand. And there's nothing wrong with that as it gets the timing going while loosening the muscles a bit. However, often they do this for a long time. There's no reason to do this more than a few minutes. Instead, after about two minutes, why not do some footwork, which will really get you warmed up?

If you are just warming up, then 1-1 footwork is plenty. Your partner hits the ball alternately to your forehand and the middle of the table, and you move side to side, hitting (or looping) your forehand. You'll find moving and hitting not only is more like what you'll do in a game, it'll get you warmed up much faster.

Some will argue that it'll also tire them out quicker. Then hit less! What's better, spending 30 minutes trying to get warmed up, or getting a better warm-up in 15? But it's not that tiring since half the time your partner will be doing the footwork. That's where you not only rest, but work on your ball control. You'll get more practice on that hitting side to side then repetitively hitting to one spot.

Now do the same thing on the backhand. Don't just hit backhand to backhand - have your partner move you side to side some! Yes, a backhand footwork drill. In a match, you wouldn't just stand there and expect your opponent to hit to one spot, so why warm up for that? Have your partner hit one to your wide backhand, and one toward the middle. You might only want to cover, say, 1/3 of the table when you do backhand footwork, if that's what you'd do in a match. On the other hand, 2001 USA National Men's Singles Champion Eric Owens told me that he attributed his winning the title to his improved backhand, and he attributed that to doing drills where he'd cover over half the table with his backhand loop in footwork drills - saying that after doing that, covering 1/3 to 1/2 of the table with his backhand in a real match was easy.

Make sure to use the shot you'd use in a match. If you are a looper, go to looping once your drives are warmed up.

MDTTC Shirt on 30 Rock!

At the very start of 30 Rock last night at 8PM on NBC, Judah Friedlander ("Frank Rossitano") wore a blue Maryland Table Tennis Center shirt! I'd given him the shirt a few months ago. Judah is from Gaithersburg, Maryland (near MDTTC), and comes to MDTTC semi-regularly. I've given him a few lessons, though of course he's the World Champion, so nobody really gives him a lesson! Here are pictures I have of Judah playing table tennis, from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page:

photo1 photo2 photo3 (with Spider-man) photo4 (Anna Kournikova on right) photo5 (L-R: Table Tennis Superstar Mikael Appelgren, Judah Friedlander, Actress Susan Sarandon, Table Tennis Superstar Jan-Ove Waldner)

Table Tennis Robots

In my blog on December 5 (Wednesday), I wrote about table tennis robots. I've since done some updates - added a couple videos for Newgy and Butterfly. So I thought I'd link to it again so you can have a second chance to go out and buy these robots for Christmas!

Peter Li Teaches the Basics

Reigning USA Men's Singles Champion teaches the forehand push in this short video (41 seconds).

Forehand Pivot Footwork

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:25) on Forehand Pivot Footwork. "The key to all footwork is balance." I say the same thing in all my footwork lectures. This is one of the more valuable coaching videos to watch. Too many players don't pivot correctly, and they pay for it in balance and recovery. (Often players have no trouble stepping around to attack with the forehand, but cannot recover for the next shot because of a poor pivot move.)

PingPod #34

Here's a PingPod video from PingSkills (7:23). "In this episode of the PingPod, Alois and Jeff discuss the Ping Pong Zone. This zone is what you enter into the first time you venture into a club. There are often unorthodox players who don't look very good but are extremely difficult to beat. Watch this video to see what we are talking about and how to overcome the Ping Pong Zone."

Attack vs. Defense

Here's a video (8:28) of Tan Ruiwu (Croatia, formerly of China) vs. Joo See Hyuk (KOR) in a vintage attack vs. defense/offense match-up in the first round of the ITTF Grand Finals. Time between points has been removed so it's non-stop action.

Animals Playing Table Tennis

In my collection of Animals Playing Table Tennis pictures, I've just added an orangutan. He's not actually playing, but waving a ping-pong paddle about is good enough for me. It's called shadow practice. He's going to be good! (So who wins between him and the chimp?)

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May 16, 2012

MDTTC Featured

The Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured in a story in the Montgomery Gazette this morning. I'm quoted several times. Make sure to click on the pictures! We've been featured in various media hundreds of times over the years.

How does one go about getting press coverage of your table tennis events? It's not difficult, but it does take some time. First, have something to feature. It can be an actual event (tournament, clinic, big league match, etc.), a person (player or coach), or just table tennis in general. (All reporters need an "angle.") Get a listing of all the local media by Googling your city and state along with "newspapers," "TV stations," and "radio stations." Go to their web pages and compile a list of contact emails. Then write a press release about your event, person, or table tennis in general, and send it off.

If you have a really big event, contact the national press - CNN, MSNBC, FOX, USA Today, Associated Press, etc.

If you don't get any nibbles, do it again a week later. You may have to hit them a few times before you get their attention.

How do you write a press release? Just write about what you hope to feature. Make sure to include all the info - the who, what, when, where, why, and how. Then check it for spelling and grammar - there are few quicker ways to turn off literary types (and anyone from a newspaper, TV, or radio considers themselves "literary types") than with misspellings and awkward grammar. Write clearly and focus on the facts and anything that you think might interest people. Let them do the color - after they've come and interviewed you!

Sean O'Neill named U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach

Here's the story. Sean was previously the U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis Coach from 2004-2008.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Atlanta

Here's a story about the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running. (I ran one last April, and plan to run another one at MDTTC in Gaithersburg, MD, tentatively scheduled Aug. 26-30. Let me know if you are interested.)

"As One" breaks 1.2 million

Over 1.2 million in South Korea have seen the new film "As One" in the ten days since its release, according to the Yahoo story. The movie chronicles the joint Korean team that won Women's Teams at the 1991 World Championships. Apparently that's a lot for Korea. I wasn't able to find when the movie opens in the U.S. - anyone know?

King of the Table Matt Kuchar

Matt Kuchar is the best player in the PGA, according to tweets by fellow golfer Jason Dufner. However, Baltimore Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy "would give him a good match." Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. (As noted in previous blogs, I may be coaching Hardy soon. More on this when it's finalized.)

Profile of the Over 80's

Here's a video (3:48) that features eight players from around the world (with 703 years between them, ranging from 81 to 99 years old, including players from England, Australia, Sweden, and China) competing in Over 80 in the World Veteran Championships in Inner Mongolia. Over 3500 players compete in the tournament.

Ping-Pong Offices

Here's a CNN story from Monday (2:11) about modern offices in Silicon Valley with all sorts of perks - including table tennis!

Paulini and the Ping Pong Song

Here's a new song from Paulini - the Ping Pong Song (2:43)! Sample lyrics: "You're playing ping pong with my heart." Okay, probably not the greatest table tennis song - the first comment underneath says, "For the sake of humanity, please someone shoot this woman." The greatest table tennis music is, and always will be, "Magic Ball," the theme song to the 1989 World Championships (3:09).

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May 11, 2012

New Chinese kids in Maryland

Now it can be told! After months of negotiation and visa dealings with the State Department (both U.S. and Chinese versions), we have three new Chinese junior players at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Yes, junior players - they are all from the Shandong Lueng Table Tennis School in Shandong, China. They are here indefinitely, where they will both train and be practice partners while they learn English and later go to school here - they hope to attend college here as well.

They arrived on Tuesday, and played at the club on Wednesday. This afternoon they'll be in the Elite Junior Session from 5-7, and that's when we'll really learn their levels. They are obviously very strong, probably as good as anyone their age in the U.S.  The chopper is the oldest and the strongest - probably in the 2500-2600 range, and will likely be the best chopper in the U.S.  The others are likely in the 2300-2500 range. (All three will compete at the U.S. Open, and perhaps the Easterns.) They are:

  • Wang Qing Liang, age 17, originally from Guangxi Province, a right-handed chopper/looper with long pips on one side.
  • Chen Bo Wen, age 14, originally from Hubei Province, a right-handed two-winged penhold looper with reverse penhold backhand.
  • Wang Guo Cong, age 12, originally from Nanjing, a lefty shakehand looper.

Serving Seminar

As noted in my blog previously, I'm doing a Service Seminar at the Maryland Table Tennis Center tomorrow (Saturday) from 12:30-2:00 PM. Here's the info page! Make sure to email me in advance if you are coming so you can save $5. I'll be covering how to create spin, deception, specific serve motions, and fast serves. We'll alternate between lecture and on-table practice.

U.S. Open Entries

Deadline to enter the 2012 U.S. Open (Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30-July 4) is May 12, which is TOMORROW!!! After that you can enter through May 19 with a $75 late fee. So enter now!

If you want to watch as the U.S. Open entries come in, here's the page that lists entries by event, and this one alphabetically. (Click on a player's ID number and you'll see what events he's entered in.) There are currently 212 entries. There's always a lag between entries being received and put online, and there's always a last-minute rush, but inevitably we'll end up somewhere in the 700-800 range. Deadline to enter is May 12.

Chinese Olympic Women's Team

Here's a story about the Chinese women going to the Olympics, including injury news (Ding Ning replaces the injured Guo Yan), doubles info, and comparisons to the Chinese heyday of a few years ago with Zhang Yining and Wang Nan.

Santa Barbara Ping Pong

I mentioned in my blog yesterday how Santa Barbara wants to put up outside cement tables next to their libraries. Now they have a web page devoted to this - http://www.PublicPingPongSantaBarbara.com! "Ping pong is available to people of all walks of life, and to all ages and skill levels. We see this table as a singular way to bring a social sport, that’s already well-loved, to public spaces. We have benefactors who will donate our first table, the cost of delivery, and installation. We just need approvals." The article also links to this article from the New York Times from March, 2011, which is also about the joys of outdoor cement tables, also with pictures.

Gazette Feature Article

The Gazette is sending a reporter and photographer to the Maryland Table Tennis Center today to do a feature story. They'll be there between 5-7PM during the Elite Junior Session, and may stay after to take pictures when the club is jammed after 7:30PM for the Friday night league.

Coaching Offer

Yesterday I received an email with a "coaching offer" from someone from the Shaanxi Province of China. They offered me $29,000/month ($348,000/year) if I'd become the Technical Adviser for their club. All I had to do was furnish them with lots of personal info and I'd be all set! Between that and the Nigerian offers, I'm in great demand.

Table Tennis Out of This World

Here's a picture of astronauts playing table tennis at Johnson Space Center. The guy on the left has a proper grip, but the guy on the right has serious grip issues. Anyone know their names?

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April 1, 2012

Tip of the Week

Grip and Stance.

Wang Liqin is Coming to Maryland

As reported yesterday in numerous online forums and news agencies, Wang Liqin, the 2001, 2005 and 2007 World Men's Singles Champion (but now down to #9 at age 33), wasn't happy about not being chosen to play in the World Men's Team Final against Germany this past weekend. We'd been negotiating with him, but this slap in the face was the final straw for the unhappy superstar. I pick him up tonight at Dulles Airport, on United 933 from Frankfurt, GER. "I think I've done all I can for China," the disgruntled star said through a translator. "China don't need me, they don't want me, so they can't have me. Maybe I can help United States instead."

Wang also noted that he'd like to explore his other interest outside table tennis, science fiction writing. Under a pseudonym of "Wan Ling Qi" (which is an anagram of his real name), he's had several stories published in Science Fiction World, the largest SF magazine in China with a circulation of 300,000. His favorite was "Ping Pong Scientist," a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons.

Wang's son, nine-year-old Tongtong, is also coming with him, and I've been told he's a level better than any USA kids his age. Both of them will be staying at my house for the first month or so while he looks for a permanent place to stay. Meanwhile, he'll both be playing for and coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.

World Team Championships

The Worlds ended on Sunday with another easy victory for China in both Men's and Women's Teams, beating Germany and Singapore 3-0 in the two finals. (How many remember that Singapore actually upset China in the Women's Final two years ago? From 1975 to 2012 China has lost in Women's Teams only twice - the loss to Singapore in 2010, and in 1991 to Korea, the latter the subject of the upcoming movie "As One," previously titled "Korea.") USA Men and Women came in 53 and 23, respectively. Complete results and articles are on the ITTF home page. Here are photos by the ITTF, and photos by USATT Photographer Diego Schaaf.

There were a number of questions about why USA #1 woman Gao Jun only played in one of the five preliminary matches. Presumably we'll find out why in Coach Doru Gheorghe's team report. Here's an article on the question.

There was some great play in the Men's Team Final. (Sorry, haven't watched the Women's Final yet, but you can easily find them on youtube.) Here are those three matches, with the time between points removed so you can watch the entire thing in about 20 minutes.

Faults at the Worlds!

Here's a video of the now infamous Robert Gardos (Austria) vs. Bartosz Such (Poland) match at the Worlds (6:14), where both players were faulted over and over. At one point Such was faulted on five consecutive serves.

MDTTC expansion and Spring Break Camp

The MDTTC expansion finished last week, and we're almost getting used to playing in a full-time playing hall (10,000 sq ft) that seems the size of a soccer stadium. (I think some people spend hours wandering about the place lost - it's that big.) Right now we have 16 courts set up, and we have two others we can put up. If we want, we can buy more tables and probably fit in 25 or so.

On Saturday we had a small local tournament, the Coconut Teams, an annual event. While they ran their tournament on twelve tables, the four coaches (including me) coached on the other four. I counted 93 players that morning, and we probably had over 100.

This morning we start our Spring Break Camp, which coincides with spring break in the local schools. I can't wait to see the expression on some of the kids when they come in and see the new place for the first time.

Backspin on Reverse Pendulum Serve

Here's a video from PingSkills on the creating backspin with the Reverse Pendulum Serve (1:06).

Table Tennis Cards

Mike Mezyan has created two table tennis cards, and plans to create sixty of them. Here are his first two cards:

April Fools Prank

Here's a hilarious 16-second April Fool's ping-pong balls in a car joke. That's a lot of balls in that car! Of course, we here at TableTennisCoaching.com never do April Fool's postings. 

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March 27, 2012

MDTTC Spring Break Camp

The Maryland Table Tennis Center will hold its first training camp of the year, our Spring Break Camp, April 2-6. You will be there. Otherwise we will talk about you, and it won't be pretty.

The camp coincides with spring break in local schools, which vary from region to region, so we don't get many out of towners for this camp. However, anyone is welcome to join us. It'll mostly be junior players, but all ages are welcome. Coaches will include myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. Hours are 10AM-1PM and 3-6PM each day, Mon-Fri. Chinese food is delivered for lunch for $6 (you order in the morning). The club just doubled in size, and will have about 18 tables set up (more if we squeeze), with all-new red flooring, showers, and wireless web.

If you need a place to stay, we're now allowing players to stay at the club (free for now) if you are willing to "rough it." I'll give rides to local restaurants and for groceries as needed. (Club has a microwave.)

We will be running camps continuously all summer, every Mon-Fri, from June 18 to August 24 (eleven consecutive five-day camps). Come join us!

What is the value of a table tennis camp? Most players spend years trying to improve, and it's a very slow and difficult process. The problem is that 1) you might be practicing bad technique, making it even harder later on to fix the problems, 2) you only get to work at various techniques in a sporadic way, and 3) you have other things on your mind and so can't really focus on table tennis. A camp solves all three problems as you live and breathe table tennis all week, learning proper technique from top coaches (as well as getting to see numerous top players demonstrate it), you practice all day long, and your sole focus is table tennis. If you are a serious table tennis player, I strongly suggest finding a camp where you can really hone your skills as well as have a lot of fun.

FASTT

Here's the Federal Association of Sandpaper Table Tennis home page, where you'll find articles, results, and videos of this rapidly growing "underground" sport. (If regular table tennis is an underground sport in the U.S., then is sandpaper the underground sport of an underground sport?) News Item #29 is on the Cary Cup.

The Worlds on TV

You can watch the Worlds (Dortmund, Germany, March 25-April 1) on TV via Universal Sports, but it's gonna cost you about $10/day, or $40 for five days. Here's more info. Meanwhile, here's the info I posted yesterday:

Michael Landers on NPR

NPR did a radio interview with Michael Landers, "Ping-Pong Prodigy Seeks Olympic Glory." You can either listen to it (3:51) or read the transcript.

Free table tennis videos from Reflex Sports

I received the following email from Reflex Sports yesterday - so now's your chance to sample their huge video library for free!

"We very much appreciate your support of our subscription table tennis video site. Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to get enough subscribers to allow us to continue, at this time, to offer our videos this way. We have finally been able to set up a new site (tabletennisvideocentral.com). This new trial site is offering everything free in the hope of attracting enough viewers to have advertisers."

Boys Look at the Stars Ping-Pong

You can download this book for free. The book covers the history of world table tennis.

High Performance on a Budget

Can you create a high performance environment without spending any money? Sean O'Neill sent me and other coaches a link to this article on the topic.

Math Professor Larry Bavly teaches table tennis

Math and table tennis connoisseur Larry Bavly teaches a little girl all the important things about table tennis (4:26). The best part starts at 1:11 when Larry says, "What is the most important thing to learn to be a good table tennis player?" After the girl incorrectly says, "Placement and spin variations," Larry brings out the chart.

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March 20, 2012

Balance

Yesterday I coached a player who moved to his wide forehand to loop pretty well, but always ended up off balance. His center of gravity would go outside his outer foot as he stepped toward the ball, and so after the shot would have great difficulty getting back into position for the next shot. It's extremely important to keep your center of gravity between your feet so that you are always balanced. Sure, there are extreme situations where you have to lunge or even dive for the ball, but those rare exceptions. Notice how the top players are able to hit power shots over and over in quick succession? It's because they stay balanced, and so their recovery time from each shot is extremely fast. When going for a powerful forehand loop it helps to think of a rod going through your head, and try to rotate around that rod as much as possible. That'll help keep your balance.

Jim Butler at the Cary Cup

He's 41, and came out of retirement just a few months ago. Sure, he was U.S. National Champion three times, but the last time was in 1993, nineteen years ago, during Bill Clinton's first year in office. So what does he do? He defeats both U.S. National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li and Runner-up Han Xiao. Both are fellow Marylanders who practically grew up and still play at MDTTC. (He defeated Li in the preliminary RR, but both advanced. He defeated Xiao in the 8ths. He lost to Hongtao Chen in the quarterfinals.) Here's a picture of Butler at the Cary Cup. (Butler on right, Greg Robertshaw on left.) Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

I wish I could have coached my fellow Marylanders for that one. I watched (and coached against) Butler for many years, and I might have had some insight about his somewhat unique game, which revolves around his serves and flat backhand kill. His forehand isn't particularly good for his level, and yet he knows how to use it to maximize its effectiveness. He probably blocks better than any of the U.S. players who recently competed at the USA Olympic and World Team Trials. These days most top players topspin their backhands, and probably had difficulty against Jim's flatter shot. Jim's backhand smash, even now, is easily the best with inverted in the U.S.  (Shao Yu's pips-out backhand smash may be as good.)

I've had five articles published about Jim Butler, but alas, none are online. Perhaps later on I'll scan them. (I've also written extensively about him while doing coverage of major U.S. tournaments.) The articles are listed below. (The "Showdown" articles were tactical analysis of what these two players did when they played each other.)

  • The Showdown: Sean O'Neill vs. Jim Butler, Table Tennis Topics, Nov/Dec 1990
  • The Showdown: Jim Butler vs. John Onifade, Table Tennis Topics, Jan/Feb 1991
  • Jim Butler's Backhand, Table Tennis Topics, May/June 1992
  • Jim Butler Most Improved Player, Table Tennis Today, May/June 1993
  • Interview with Jim Butler, Table Tennis World, Mar/Apr 1996

Maryland Table Tennis Center Update

You ABSOLUTELY DO NOT WANT TO MISS the MDTTC Open House and Grand Re-Opening on Saturday, April 7. I'll be doing an exhibition and a seminar on serving, and running the various demos. If you are not there we will talk about you behind your back, and it won't be nice things.

Yesterday new red flooring was installed in the new playing area, as part of the MDTTC expansion. Unfortunately, they also took out the old red flooring for half the current club, leaving us with just four tables for a few days. Since we have four full-time coaches, and the four of us were using all four tables last night, there isn't any open play for a few days.

There have been delays to the expansion, leading to the following cancellation note about our scheduled tournament this weekend.

"Due to an unexpected delay with the renovation/expansion project, we have decided to combine the 2012 Butterfly MDTTC March Open and the May Open Tournaments, which will take place on May 5 & 6. The Total Prize Money will be increased significantly. We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience caused and ask for your kind understanding."

Now the good news. In a week or so the expansion will be done, and we'll have 18 full-sized courts (possibly more for junior training), all-new red flooring, showers, and a weight room. Plus wireless web was installed yesterday.

For more info on the club, including tournament schedule, coaching, camps, etc., see the new MDTTC website.

The Pongcast - Episode 11

The latest Pongcast (21:00) features the European Champions League . . . and TableTennisCoaching.com! The site is discussed from 3:45 to 4:50.

Commercial with table tennis

Here's a 33 second Miller 64 commercial with a few seconds of table tennis - twice.

College Republican National Committee

They have turned to ping-pong balls to promote themselves! Table Tennis Nation has the picture and the story. The note on the ping-pong ball box says, "The Best Party on Campus." I think this refers to beer pong.

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March 5, 2012

Tip of the Week

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 History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12, as well as my usual coaching and other duties, I'm going to take today and next Monday to put these two items, with some updating/expansion, as Tips. So here is: Proper Use of the Free Arm.

Shadow practice

Do you only practice at your local club, or do you practice whenever the urge hits you? You can practice anywhere by shadow practicing. It's also a great way to exercise and to wake yourself up from long hours sitting at a desk. (It's also a nice to practice proper use of your free arm - see Tip above.)  Here's an article I wrote a while back on shadow-practicing. So get up from your computer and start stroking!

Arm Update

The arm is getting better, but still needs more time to heal. (I injured my forearm about a week ago.) I still can't forehand hit or loop aggressively. Yesterday I coached much of the day, but did almost exclusively backhands and multiball. One student, Kevin Walton, lent me an arm brace which seemed to help, but when using the muscles for certain shots it was like having someone grabbing my arm in mid-stroke. It's great to protect the arm when hitting (tentative) forehands, but when hitting backhands or feeding backspin in multiball, I had to take it off.

I'm supposed to be defending my hardbat titles from 2010 and 2011 at the Cary Cup in eleven days. However, my arm is not going to be ready for my all-out forehand hitting style. So yesterday I borrowed a defensive hardbat from John Olsen (an oversized Hock), and we practiced for a time. I'll almost for certain be chopping at Cary, and hopefully pick-hitting forehands, but not too much.

Maryland Table Tennis Center Expansion Update

The wall is down! The long-awaited expansion of the Maryland Table Tennis Center is happening. They are still working on the new area we're taking over next door, and to protect our side from the dust of the wall going down and other work there's a ceiling-to-floor plastic tarp still dividing the place, but that's temporary. Soon we'll be up to 11,000 square feet, about 18 tables, all-new red flooring, showers, weight room, etc. All should be ready within two weeks.

Here's a picture of the place right now by Barbara Wei. The plastic tarp on the left actually cuts off about 10-15 feet of the current club, so for the next week or so we're actually smaller than normal.

Overheard at the Maryland Table Tennis Center yesterday: "Nobody plays at the Maryland Table Tennis Center anymore. It's too crowded." (Admission: I said it. With proper regards to Yogi Berra.)

Lily Zhang Interview

Here's an interview with Lily Zhang, U.S. Women's Singles Finalist, Women's Team Member, and #1 Cadet Girl.

Sol Schiff in New York Times

Here's Schiff's obit in the NY Times. Most of the story is based on phone interviews by the author with Tim Boggan, who was at my house during the interviews.

The World Economic Forum, Mick Jagger, and Ping-Pong

Here's an excerpt from an article this morning in The New Yorker:

Jagger was there. He had on a pink button-down, black jeans, and snazzy Nike running shoes. There was a Ping-Pong table folded up against the wall; apparently Jagger had been playing when the first guests arrived. Now he was dancing, with one woman, then another, to classic reggae playing at mid-volume.

Tips from Marty Reisman

Here's a two-minute video from Men's Journal and Marty Reisman: "The Hustler's Guide to Ping-Pong: Learn how to impress friends and fleece strangers with these tips from Marty Reisman, the world’s best table-tennis player."

Table Tennis Cartoons

Here are 13 table tennis cartoons by Cartoon Jazz that were published in USA Table Tennis Magazine back when I was editor.

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February 22, 2012

Why good serves and steadiness go together

Many players believe that good serves and an attacking game go together. It makes sense - the good serves set up the attacking game. But I'd argue that good serves work even better if you have a control game. Why is this?

Suppose your good serves set you up to attack effectively against your peers two-thirds of the time. Then one-third of the time when you serve you are stuck not opening with a strong attack. On the other guy's serve you are also forced to start the rally playing more control as you look for a ball to attack. This means that you are starting out about one-third of the time using your strong attack, and stuck on the rest of the points. (Yes, you could attack the serve, but if the opponent is a peer, you shouldn't be able to attack his serve that strongly.)

Now let's suppose you have a control game. Even if you are a control player, those good serves are going to set you up for some easy putaways. Let's suppose you can do this one-third of the time when you serve. Plus you are able to play control on the other guy's serve 100% of the time. Result? You get to serve and attack easy balls one-sixth of the time, and play your control game the rest of the way. With the free spot from the good serves that set you up for some easy points, you should be able to win with control the rest of the way, if that's your game. (Plus the good serves will set the control player up to attack more and more, and so he'll develop his attack.) 

This doesn't mean everyone should become a control player. It means everyone should develop both control and attack. When people watch top players, they see the obvious attacking ability, but not as many notice how much ball control they have.

MDTTC webpage

See the MDTTC new and updated web page! We are doubling in size over the next month, plus starting up a series of new programs.

Timo Boll vs. Jorgen Persson

Here's a 70-shot rally between these two, with Persson back lobbing.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's a video on "Aerobic Table Tennis Beginners Session" (6:18), and here's the Aerobic Table Tennis home page, with lots of links. It's mostly for women, and is based in England, but there's no reason why others can't join in. (And I just had an article similar to this on "Cardiopong" published in USA Table Tennis Magazine!)

Anagrams of U.S. Team Members

Before we start, let me point out that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." Be nice to me or I might smite you. Tomorrow - the women! (Gao Jun, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu)

Michael Landers

  • Me Learn As Child
  • Handles Miracle
  • He Lands Miracle
  • Lame Child Nears
  • Mean Laser Child
  • Sane Child Realm
  • Me Child Arsenal
  • Nice Llama Herds
  • All Merchandise
  • Malice Handlers
  • His Elm Calendar
  • Calms Headliner

Barney Reed

  • Been Dreary
  • Ye Bear Nerd
  • Be Nerdy Era
  • A Nerdy Beer
  • Ye Darn Beer
  • Any Red Beer
  • Year Bender

Adam Hugh

  • Hug Ham Ad
  • Had Gum - Ha!
  • Had Ma Hug

Timothy Wang

  • I Own That Gym
  • I Won That Gym
  • Not With A Gym
  • Into What Gym?
  • Who Gym Titan
  • Hit A Gym Town
  • A Mighty Town
  • A Towing Myth
  • Hang Mitt - Yow!
  • Giant Ow Myth
  • Among Thy Wit
  • Goat Win Myth
  • Might Not Way
  • My Own Hit Tag
  • Hit My Tag Now
  • Go Thy Man Wit
  • Why Man Got It

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