Video Coaching

November 21, 2011

Tip of the Week

Remember the Good Shots.

Rushing the quicker player

It's tough playing a quicker player who bangs every shot before while you're still following through on your previous shot. But a lot of players don't understand that on the first shot of the rally, especially on your serve, you can rush the quicker player. It just comes down to setting yourself up for a shot you can attack quickly, before the quick opponent can get into a quick rally. If you place your first quick attack well, the quicker player will have great difficulty and won't be able to rush you - and you'll get a second shot to attack.

For example, I like to serve fast no-spin at the receiver's elbow. This often forces a weaker topspin return - but more importantly, it draws the receiver out of position, especially if he returns it backhand. (For that reason, I tend to serve it slightly to the backhand side, though a forehand also draws the player out of position.) Once the player is drawn out of position, it's just a matter of you attacking that ball quickly to an open corner.

Another way is to serve short side-top to the forehand. Many players have trouble attacking this ball, and so you tend to get a softer return you can attack quickly - and while the opponent is drawn over the table reaching for that short ball to the forehand. Or serve a breaking sidespin serve deep to the backhand - many players will take this ball late and essentially roll it back, allowing you to go for the first quick, aggressive shot.

Of course, the best way to overcome a quicker player is to keep the ball deep, attack his elbow and wide corners, and focus on making consistent, strong shots. 

Trials and Tribulations

After a month of playing great (due to extra practice, weight training, and stretching), over the last week I've been feeling progressively stiffer, especially in the upper back. There doesn't seem to be any reason for it, it just happens. Exercising and stretching only help it marginally. Unfortunately, this is causing havoc to my forehand attacking game in practice matches. After a month of feeling like I had the speed of a meteor, now I'm feeling a bit more like a meteorite. Dan Seemiller told me this used to happen to him as well as he got older, that there were times he just couldn't play, and who am I to disagree with him? Anyway, I'm not playing terrible, just not nearly as well as before. I can still pretty much go through "lower players," but I'm not challenging stronger, faster players (i.e. our top juniors) so much anymore. Hopefully it'll come back. I'll be coaching for three days at the North American Teams next weekend (Fri-Sun), and fortunately the players have to do the playing; I don't.

Video Coaching

I'm off this morning for another two-hour video coaching session. We're not only watching the player I'm coaching, but other possible opponents as well. Top players, if you feel a cold tingle going down your spine, we're watching you.

USA Interviews at the World Junior Championships

Modern Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Why a simple game holds the key to world peace. (From the English newspaper The Independent.)

How to Practice Without a Serious Practice Partner

Coach Tao of Table Tennis University explains how to practice while playing games (4:58).

Non-Table Tennis - "Fantastic Stories of the Imagination" anthology

I recently submitted three stories to "Fantastic Stories of the Imagination," a science fiction and fantasy anthology put out by the famous editor Warren Lapine. They are literally the highest paying SF/fantasy anthology, and received well over 1000 submissions. All three of my stories made the final 40! (They expect to pick only about 20.) Here's what Warren wrote about my stories: "Larry, your stories were passed up to me by three different first readers in one night. I think that's a record." One of the assistant editors wrote, "Larry, I spent the last section of this evening wishing I had been first reader on one of your stories! Even if you don't make it into Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, know that you impressed a multitude of readers, writers, and editors, with myriad tastes." Okay, I'm ready to write some more stories! (Meanwhile, they plan to announce the final selections by Wednesday.) (Don't worry, I won't quit my day job, I mean my mostly night job, which is table tennis.)

Behind-the-back winner

Here's Liam Pitchford (English #1 player in men's and juniors) hitting a behind-the-back winner at the World Junior Championships last week. Notice how nonchalant he is about it? This reminds me of the best shot I ever saw in table tennis, also from an English junior. In the late 1980s, an English junior star trained for a week or so with the top USA juniors at the resident training program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. While playing a match with Chi-Ming Chui (Chi-Sun's older brother), he mis-hit a serve almost straight up. Chi-Ming pulverized the shot. The English junior, seeing he was about to be creamed with the ball, turned his back, and without looking, jumped into the air and made a backhand, over-the-head, no-look counter-smash as the ball was rising from the table! He was as surprised as anyone watching - he had no idea he'd actually make the shot.

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November 18, 2011

Short serves to the forehand

Why do so few intermediate players serve short to the forehand? Perhaps as beginners they couldn't keep it short, and didn't want to serve to the opponent's forehand. And so the habit of serving to the backhand stuck. But a short serve to the forehand, especially with sidespin-topspin, is about the easiest way to get a set-up against most intermediate players. Many or most players will return short serves to the forehand almost always toward the forehand side (for righties), since it's awkward going down the line for many. This makes serve and attack very easy. Why not develop this for your game?

If you have trouble serving short, focus on a low contact point, and just graze the ball toward the bottom. Make the first bounce somewhat near the net. Make sure it crosses the net low. If you serve it crosscourt from the forehand side (most often with a tomahawk serve, i.e. racket tip up, contact the ball with a left-to-right motion), you'll have more table to allow the ball to go short. With the tomahawk serve spin (or a backhand serve or reverse pendulum serve, which all have the same type of sidespin), it'll be even harder for the opponent to take the ball down the line, since the sidespin is pulling it toward your forehand (again, for righties).

Have you practiced your serves today? C'mon, get with it!!!

Video coaching session

This morning I'm off to visit a student for two hours to watch and analyze videos of his play in a recent tournament. We have three matches we plan to watch, more if time permits - one against a much stronger player, one against a peer, and one against a much weaker player that he struggled with. We're going to go over it almost point by point, taking notes, with lots of slow motion and replaying. Have you done this with your game? Why not? (You can do this on your own, or hire a coach to do it with you - yeah, I'm getting paid, it's my job. See the "Video Coaching" tab on the left!)

Tahl Leibovitz Wins Gold, Makes Paralympic Team

Here's an article on Tahl Leibovitz doing the above. He's also gone undefeated in the team competition at the Parapan Ams, and the USA Men's Team plays for the gold later today in Guadalajara (that's in Jalisco, Mexico, since you were wondering).

Kong Linghui getting married

Table tennis great Kong Linghui (now the coach of the Chinese Women's Team) is getting married next year to actress Ma Su - here's the story.

Video of the Day

Here's The Best Table Tennis (3:05).

How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life and Other Openings
(Let's hear it for crass commercialism! Buy my books!)

Here is the opening of my book, "Table Tennis Tales & Techniques." It tells how I got started in table tennis. How did you get started?

"Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on 'Track & Field.' I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing 'basement' ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? 'Great ... another life I've ruined.'"

Here's the opening to both Table Tennis: Steps to Success and Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis:

"It's the most popular racket sport in the world, and the second most popular participation sport.  A sport with over 20 million active participants in the U.S. alone and, as of 1988, an Olympic sport.  Ask most people to name this sport and they'd immediately name that other well known racket game.  But they'd be wrong."

For Table Tennis: Steps to Success, here's the preface:

"This book is written for both the beginning player and the advanced player, and all those in between.  It is written both for those who have that deep down desire to be a champion and for those who are in it mostly for the fun.  Above all, it is written with the intent that you, the reader, can make the most of his or her abilities whether as a champion or for recreational purposes, or anything in between.  In short, this book is for you."

Here's the opening to "Ping-Pong Ambition," the table tennis story from "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges," which is a collection of my 30 best published short stories - yes, that's what I do outside of table tennis! (Here's my science fiction and fantasy page. Soon I'll have sold enough stories for "More Pings and Pongs!")

"Toby, one half inch tall, screamed and banged his fists on the rounded white walls of his prison. From outside he could hear the fading hysterical laughter of the genie that had imprisoned him in the ping-pong ball. How could this have happened? All he wanted was to be the greatest ping-pong player ever. Instead, he was stuck in this ball, just himself and the thick, red book the genie had given him. He let loose another set of screams."

Here's an excerpt from another short story in "Pings and Pongs," "Defeating Death," which was published in Weird Tales - you can also read it online, but this is the only ping-pong mention:

"Zargo walked to the basement door. It had been boarded up ever since an incident involving a rather unfortunate former assistant and a rather unfortunate game of ping-pong that had gotten out of hand. ('Magic and ping-pong,' Zargo had solemnly said, 'don't mix.')"

And while we're at it, here's the opening to "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide," the book I'm working on:

"The purpose of tactics is to mess up your opponent."

Playing alone - with a Returnboard!

Here's an interesting video (9:37) showing a player training by himself with a pair of "return boards." Looks pretty fun!

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