Paralympics

September 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

I had a nice Tip of the Week planned for this morning, and was all set to write it, but you know what? It's Labor Day. Nearly everyone else is taking the day off. You know what? So am I. I'll do it tomorrow, and vacation the rest of today (after I finish this blog). I have no coaching scheduled for today. (Also, I'm a little tired as I was up late last night as I got involved in an online political debate at a news forum, where some simply do not accept the basic idea that lying by omission is, in fact, lying. One of my postings actually showed up on Facebook, which I didn't realize until afterwards. If you are on Facebook, by the way, feel free to friend me, and I'll likely friend you back. However, I generally keep my table tennis and politics separate.) I normally plan well in advance what I'm going to write about for each Tip of the Week, but often write it early on Monday morning.

As for the subject for this week's Tip, well, I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise! (Confession: I actually have three Tips planned, and hadn't really decided which one: One on how to incorporate multiball training into your practice sessions; one on how table tennis is literally like chess at light speed as the opening moves of a rally are like the opening moves in chess; and one on when to loop on the forehand.)

Feel free to send in suggestions for Tips or Blog topics!

Neck Update

Yesterday was the first time in twelve days that I didn't wear the neck brace at all. I also did live play for the first time, though only lightly. I probably should do some easy drilling to get back in shape. But I can officially say that 1) the neck is mostly healed, and 2) I'm way out of playing shape.

MDTTC Tournaments

Due to a moment of unbelievable insanity, I agreed earlier this year to take over the running of tournaments at the Maryland Table Tennis Center starting with our September Open. And now our Sept. 22-23 tournament is rapidly approaching. I've run over 150 USATT sanctioned tournaments, but this'll be my first in over ten years. I spent part of yesterday putting together a checklist for everything so I'll know what things are ready and what things I should sputter about in panic.

MDTTC has been using the same software for tournaments since the early 1990s. It doesn't even run on modern computers - to use it, we have to use an old laptop computer. While I still have the old one I used to use and presumably can run the software on that, I've decided to enter the modern age. So I'm exploring new softwares.

I'm leaning toward trying Omnipong. A growing number of tournaments are being run on it, and I'm told it's pretty user friendly. The software's developer used it to run the LA Open this past weekend. Any comments/suggestions/dire warnings on tournament software before I make the plunge? (The other one I was considering is Zermelo.)

Because my laptop was old when Obama took office (circa 2005), and my netbook is really too small for running tournaments (as well as a bit clumsy for writing articles on with its small screen) I plan to head out to Best Buy today and finally get a new laptop. I'll use it for running tournaments, and for writing, checking email, and touring the Internet at the club and when I'm traveling. There's a good chance I'll get this one.

And since we're on the subject of tournaments, here's my Ten-Point Plan to Tournament Success, and my article Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Playing In Your First Tournament . . . But Didn’t Know Where to Ask!

North American Championships

Here are the results, write-ups, and pictures from the North American Championships this past weekend in Cary, NC. Note the feature write-ups on Lily Zhang and Jim Butler.

Table Tennis Paralympics

Here are the results, write-ups, and pictures from the Table Tennis Paralympics this past weekend in London. One thing they did that I liked were the bios and histories for the top four seeds in every event.

Table Tennis Charity Foundation

Here's a new web page devoted to table tennis charities, the Table Tennis Charity Foundation. (They also have a Facebook page.) From their home page: "The mission of The Table Tennis Charity Foundation is simple; it's to GIVE BACK!  We utilize the brain-stimulating sport of Table Tennis, and the THERAPEUTIC game of Ping Pong to increase awareness and to raise money for organizations that will directly benefit those facing Alzheimer's, Dementia, Depression and Mild to Moderate intellectual disabilities." On the lower left they already have two charities planned, in Virginia Beach and Norfolk, Virginia.

Zhang Jike Dropping Out of World Cup

Here's an article explaining why Zhang Jike won't be playing in the World Cup, plus other info on the reigning World and Olympic Men's Champion. The short version: "Zhang Jike said that there were too much activities after the Olympic Games and he hasn't been on training for that period so the team decided to let him give up the competition." He will be replaced by Ma Long, who will join Xu Xin as the Chinese representatives at the World Cup.

Non-Table Tennis - Another Sale!

On Saturday I sold a SF story to Every Day Fiction, "The Shaking Sphere," my 65th short story sale. The story hypothesizes that the ancient Greeks were right and that the moon, planets, sun, and stars are all carried about the Earth in gigantic celestial spheres, with Earth in the center. Humans have colonized the inner-most Moon sphere and even have elevators that take us right to it, 240,000 miles away - but now it's beginning to break apart, and it's up to our heroic engineer to figure out what the problem is.

The Human Chipmunk

I sometimes feel like I have too many balls in the air (i.e. too many activities and responsibilities), and worry what'll happen if I drop a ball. Here's what happens if you drop all the balls with an open mouth.

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August 31, 2012

Neck Injury Update

I'm still wearing the neck brace most of the time, but the neck is getting better. Tomorrow I've got a few hours of coaching, mostly multiball, but I also plan to do some "live" play during one of the sessions. I may wear the neck brace for that as an injury preventive. We'll see how it goes.

Hardbatters of the Past, Present, and Future

How good were hardbatters from the past? There's no way of really knowing, but we can make some educated guesses. However, there are some subtleties that have to be addressed.

First off, it's not fair to compare the skill level of players from the hardbat era against the skill level of current players by judging how past players would fair against certain modern techniques that they never faced, such as looping and deceptive spinny serves, not to mention modern sponges. For example, the first sponge player, Hiroje Satoh of Japan, couldn't compete with the best players in Japan because they had gotten used to his "strange" surface, but when he went to the 1952 World Championships (and managed to avoid playing his Japanese teammates), he won - not so much because of his skill level, but because his opponents weren't used to his sponge. His innovation won him the world title, but he quickly fell back in the rankings, unable to compete with his more skilled adversaries once they adjusted to his sponge racket.

And Satoh wasn't using modern sponge techniques. If I could go back to 1952, I'd likely also win the Worlds as players back then had never seen the types of serves and loops that an average 2200 player can throw at them. But it wouldn't be a fair comparison, and things could change quickly after they adjusted to me, just as they did to Satoh.

Once point comes up is that for a time, the hardbat players had to face the finger-spin serves of Sol Schiff and others before those were made illegal. It's true that once they figured them out, they were able to handle them. But the key points here are 1) that it was only after they adjusted to them - probably not the first time out - that they were able to handle them; 2) they could take the serve late and chop it back, allowing them more time to read and react to the spin. In the modern game, few players can afford to do that, since chopping a deep, spinny serve back gives the opponent the chance to loop, and since they had never seen such a shot before, it is unlikely they could have won against a competent looper. And 3), a modern player with a good spinny serve could serve it short (which the finger-spinners didn't do), so the receiver couldn't take it late. (Note that it's not just the spin of the serve they have to react to - it's also the deception, since nobody had developed the tricky deceptive serves that are now common even at the intermediate level where the racket goes through a very rapid semi-circular motion, making it difficult to pick up the direction of the racket at contact. According to Dick Miles, who questioned me about these serves, nobody did that back then, and he found it hard to believe that modern players could do it.)

However, a better question is how would such hardbat players of the past do against a modern player once they had time to adjust? That's where things get foggy. After spending a career playing hardbat-to-hardbat, many or most wouldn't adjust well. The very best ones would, since half of table tennis is adjusting to your opponent. For example, as confident as I am that I could beat, say, Dick Miles or Marty Reisman in 1952 the first time out (where I'm using sponge and they are using their hardbats), I am equally non-confident about what would happen after they had gotten used to playing me.

The next question is how good would a modern sponge player be using a hardbat in the hardbat era against the hardbat greats? First time out, of course, they'd get clobbered; not only do they have to adjust to playing with a hardbat, they have to adjust to playing against hardbat.  It's a different game! I remember the one time I played hardbat with Cheng Yinghua back in the late 1990s. He'd never really tried hardbat, and the first half hour as we just hit around I was pretty confident against him. Then a little light seemed to go off in his head, and after that he was like a buzz saw, attacking everything with ease and seemingly never missing. I still consider him the best hardbat player I've ever played or seen live, and I've seen and played pretty much all of the best current hardbat players. Cheng played an aggressive yet consistent backhand that rarely missed, while all-out hitting with his forehand - and also seemingly never missed. He never backed off the table, and he attacked every serve. I was nearly 2200 with a hardbat in those days playing against sponge, and my chances against him after the first half hour were zilch, and he won every game we played after that with ease. (I doubt if most sponge players could adapt to hardbat as fast and as well as Cheng did.) 

If Cheng practiced hardbat regularly for, say, a year (and we'll assume he's back in his peak, not in his mid-50s as he is now), how would he do against the best from the past? Very tough to say. He has two big advantages. First, he has modern serving techniques with a hardbat, which by itself would win him many matches at the start, and would later probably still give him the initiative as opponents would often return them defensively. Second, he's been training for table tennis nearly full-time since the age of five. While the training was with sponge, it has ingrained in him reflexes and attacking strokes that few in the hardbat era could match. In a counter-hitting battle, he'd beat anyone from the hardbat era. So to beat him, they'd have to do a lot of chopping and pick-hitting, something most of them are quite comfortable doing. How would Cheng do against the best choppers of the hardbat era? Tough to say.  

The best hardbat chopper I've faced was Richard Gonzalez of the Philippines, who I lost to in the Over 40 Hardbat Final at the 2011 U.S. Open. How good was he? The best chopper in the U.S. for many years was Derek May, a 2500 chopper, but when I played him hardbat to hardbat, I won rather easily as he was more used to chopping against sponge players. I've also played Steve Berger, who is also very good, but Gonzalez was a level better. How would Cheng do against Gonzalez, who also has a great attacking game? It's a match I'd love to see. The first time out, I'm guessing it would be close. However, my guess is that if Cheng were to play hardbat for a year during his peak years, he'd easily win against Gonzalez.

Another question comes up. How good could a player be in the modern game using a hardbat? Currently, the best hardbatters have ratings that max out around 2300. But it's a small sample size, and the best of them are mostly players already in their 40s who switched to hardbat after decades of sponge play. So it's obvious to me that players can get well past the 2300 level with a hardbat if they started out as hardbatters as beginning juniors at a young age, and trained that way just as sponge players do. Again, I'll turn to Cheng to see how good a player can be with a hardbat. After hitting with his hardbat with me, Cheng later played some practice matches against one of his 2250 juniors, who used sponge - and he won easily. Yes, after at most an hour of hardbat play, Cheng easily beat a 2250 junior player using sponge, and what I have to emphasize here is he did it easily, no contest, just hitting and blocking everything with ease. His level against sponge was already at least 2400. (He was rated about 2700 with sponge at the time, had previously been much better.)

How good would Cheng have been if he'd been training full-time with a hardbat against sponge players since a young age? Much better. However, at the same time there is the law of diminishing returns, since there are limits to what you can do with a hardbat against a world-class sponge player. My educated guess is that the very best would reach about 2600, but that's probably the upper limit. (The best players in the world are 2900+.)

Lastly, remember that in nearly every sport with measurable results that can be compared against future athletes, each new generation is almost always better than the previous ones. In table tennis, this is true as well, as modern players train for more hours with systematic training methods than players in the past. It's likely that if sponge had never been introduced or had been outlawed, and the game had stayed with hardbat, the same thing would have happened, and we'd have thousands of hardbatters training under top coaches from the age of five on (as they do in China), and hardbat would have been taken to a new level. (Even the best choppers of the past, as good as they were, wouldn't be as good as the best choppers coming out of a massive number of modern players training full-time as a hardbat chopper/attackers from age five.)

But hardbat was never developed to the highest levels because of the introduction of sponge, and so the hardbat game never reached the levels that it might have reached. And so it's likely that we'll never know just how good a player could be with a hardbat. But I'll stick with my 2600 guesstimate.

Paralympics

Here's the home page for the Table Tennis Paralympics, which are in London, Aug. 29 - Sept. 9. 

Pong Planet

The newest full-time professional table tennis center is Pong Planet in San Carlos, CA. They open tomorrow, on Sept. 1, 2012, with coaches James Guo Xi, Dennis Davis, Tibor Bednar, and Donn Olsen.

When Serving Short Becomes Important

Here's an article from PingSkills about serving short.

Zhang Jike's Tips On Winning the Olympic Title

Here's an article where the Men's Singles World Champion and Olympic Gold Medalists gives tips for success.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy's 40th Anniversary

Here's an article at Table Tennis Nation about the 40th Anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy (this past Tuesday), with a link to a video of Henry Kissinger talking about it. Chairman Mao is quoted as saying, "The small ping-pong ball could be used to move the large ball of Earth." And here's a Chairman Mao/President Nixon Paddle.

Spanish Football Stars Play Table Tennis

Here's an article about and 13-second video of Spanish football stars (that's soccer to Americans) Cesc Fabregas and Gerard Pique playing table tennis. They're pretty good!

Waldner and Federer

Here's a 43-second video that shows Waldner and Federer both making almost identical moving, no-look cross-court miracle winning shots in their respective sports.

Wang Hao and Zhang Jike Exhibition

Here's a 33-second clip of Wang Hao and Zhang Jike doing an exhibition and playing with mini-rackets. At the end there's some sort of tug-of-war going on, but I have no idea who the participants are - it's all in Chinese. Anyone know? (I guess if I went over it carefully I might recognize if some of them are players, but I'll let others do that. Yes, you.)

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July 10, 2012

Staying Low

This past weekend I watched a 10-year-old I coach in matches at the club. I was grimacing as I watched him stand up nearly straight while receiving and in rallies, leading to awkward shots, especially on the backhand drive and forehand loop. So guess what the focus was in his lesson yesterday? Yes, staying low. For much of the hour I harped on staying down, with knees slightly bent, legs a bit wider. The result? His backhand drive and forehand loop shot up, and he moved much better. Near the end, we played points, and he was able to serve and loop better than he'd ever done before. In rallies, he could cover his backhand and hit real backhands, which had been a serious weakness.

Staying low helps you in multiple ways. First, by bending your knees, it gives you a quicker start. If the knees are straight, then before you can move you have to bend them, which wastes time. Second, it lowers your center of gravity, giving you more leverage in moving quickly. Third, with the legs wider, it allows you to stay balanced even on the move, since it's easier to keep the center of gravity between the legs. Fourth, with the knees bent, it makes it easier to step to the ball rather than lean. And fifth, it gets the coach out of your hair.

Can China Sweep the Olympics (Again)?

Here's an article in the China Daily on their chances, as well as going over their players and the opposition. From a mathematical point of view, if the Chinese have a 84% chance of winning in each of the four events, then their chances of sweeping are (.84)^4=.498, or only about 50%. Even a 90% chance in each event gives them about a 66% of sweeping.

Ariel Hsing versus Uncles Bill and Warren

Here's a video (1:57) by the Wall Street Journal that revisits U.S. Women's Champion Ariel Hsing and her battles at shareholder meetings with Uncle Bill Gates and Uncle Warren Buffett, as well as against Wall Street Journal Reporter Jared Diamond.

Ping-Pong, Senior Style

Here's a video about a documentary on octogenarian table tennis. It has some nice sequences and interviews. The actual documentary, "Ping Pong: Never Too Old For Gold," is now out in limited release. 

Paralympic Backhand

So you think you have backhand problems?

The Ping Festival in England

The Ping Festival (2:56) features street table tennis, costumes, ducks playing table tennis, big paddles, long-handled paddles, mayors, and things I can't even describe.

Roger Federer vs. Ma Lin

On Sunday, Federer won Wimbledon. Now he's trying to beat the Chinese.

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May 8, 2012

Where do the best players come from?

There are many ways of answering this, but I saw Donn Olsen mention on a table tennis forum how Michael Jordan was described as a "gym rat," and realized that was the answer. Gym rats are people who live and breathe their sport, are the first to show up and the last to leave, and always want to stay longer. They are the ones who practice serves on break, who crave footwork drills, and always are playing at the end. We all know someone like this, and deep down, we all envy them.

Not everyone can be a gym rat. Maybe you can be a gym bird, someone who comes in when he can, then flies south to go back to work, school, or family, and so your table tennis forays are mostly flybys. So make the most of these flybys - practice and play hard! Maybe take a few lessons, practice your serves, and bring a racket to work so you can shadow practice on break. 

Orioles Ping-Pong

On the way back from coaching yesterday I was listening to the pre-show before an Orioles game, where they were interviewing Chris Davis. In the background I could hear them playing table tennis! As I've blogged before, I've been invited to coach the Orioles sometime soon, with JJ Hardy, Jake Arrieta, and trainer/former center fielder Brady Anderson three of the main ping-pong players. (It's been temporarily postponed as one of the players has a minor sore arm and so has put aside his ping-pong paddle temporarily. But when we do it, MASN, the Orioles TV network, plans to cover it!)

And speaking of the Orioles, I made the front page of Orioles Hangout again with my article "Ten Worst Things About Being an Orioles Fan." And just below that is my article "Twenty Reasons Matt Wieters is . . . The Most Interesting Man in the World." My other two there are "Top Ten Reasons the Orioles Have the Best Pitching in Baseball" and "Top Twelve Reasons the Orioles Have the Best Hitters in Baseball."

Children's Hospital Exhibition

Here are pictures from an exhibition at Children's Hospital by Soo Yeon Lee and Kim Gilbert. (Click on the pictures to see the next one.) Here is more information on Kim Gilbert's fundraising page for SMASH, a Rally for Kids with Cancer Foundation, with an event coming up on June 23.

2012 Paralympic Table Tennis China Open

Here's a music video (3:33) to the tournament, set to "We Are the World."

World Rankings

Here are the new world rankings, which actually came out on May 3. China has the top five men, the top five women, and the sun rose in the east this morning.

Classic Pong

Since we can't all be gym rats and spend our days at the table tennis club playing ping-pong, you can do the next best thing - sit at your desk at work and play Pong! Yes, the classic game that started the video game revolution. If you turn the sound off, then the boss won't hear.

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May 7, 2012

Tip of the Week

How to Play and Practice with Weaker Players.

Returning the tomahawk serve

This is the serve where you serve with the racket tip up, and contact the ball on the right side, so it curves to the left, and the spin makes the ball come to your right off the opponent's paddle. It's awkward for many to take a ball spinning away from them on the forehand side and aim to the right, especially if the ball is short - try it and you'll see why. Until you reach the advanced levels, nearly everyone returns this serve toward the forehand side, and often they miss by going off the side to the left, or they allow the opponent to camp out on the forehand side. (This is for two righties; lefties make the usual adjustments. Sorry.)

Now think about this. Have you ever missed returning this serve by returning off the right side? Probably not. So just take it down the line, to the (righty's) backhand, knowing the sidespin will keep you from going off the side. Contact the back of the ball, perhaps slightly on the left side, so that the ball goes to the right, down the line.

Keep the racket relatively high - don't lower it as you chase after it as it bounces and spins away from you, or you'll end up lifting the ball high or off the end. Better still, don't chase after it - anticipate the ball jumping away from you and be waiting for it, like a hunter ambushing his prey. It's often this last-second reaching for the ball that both loses control and forces the receiver to hit the ball on the right side, thereby making down-the-line returns impossible. (An expanded version of this might become a Tip of the Week.)

Learn to Pong Like a Champ

Here's Part 3  of 3 from 2011 USA National Men's Singles Champion Peter Li, covering 1) Making Your Service Count; 2) Ball Placement; and 3) Staying Low. It's given both in text form and video (2:05). (Here's Part 1 and Part 2.)

ITTF Global Junior Circuit

Here's info on the Global Junior Circuit Events to be held at the 2012 U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, Michigan, June 30 - July 4.

Ariel Hsing takes on Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill

To find out who won in the Olympian's match-ups against the two richest people in the world (depending on the date - the rankings change regularly but Gates and Buffet usually lead the list), see the article, which includes a video of them playing (1:18). Here are some pictures. And here's an article about it in Chinese!

U.S. Olympian Erica Wu

Here's an article and video (2:28) on new U.S. Olympian Erica Wu from a demonstration at her school. (Here's another article about it, which I posted on Friday.)

Tara Profitt and the Paralympics

Here's a Fox New Video of wheelchair player Tara Profitt (4:33), who will be playing the 2012 Paralympics.

Trek Stemp and baseball

He's not in the big leagues yet, but here's an article about the young phenom, which includes the following quote: "A big thing that helps playing infield — it may sound weird — pingpong," Stemp said. "Me and my friends play a lot of pingpong. A big part of pingpong is hand-eye coordination. That ball comes at you so fast."

The first table tennis political ad

Now they are using table tennis officiating to criticize political opponents! Now they've gone too far....

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February 23, 2012

Topspin on the backhand

One of the junior players I coach has been struggling to put topspin on his backhand. They all come out either totally flat (i.e. spinless) or even with slight backspin. This greatly hampers the pace at which he can rally consistently.

I'd tried for weeks to get him to put a little topspin on the shot, but nothing seemed to work. I had him exaggerate the rolling motion, almost like a mini-loop. I had him watch top players as they hit their backhands. I guided him through the stroke. But as soon as we went to rallying, he'd be back to his super-flat stroke.

Yesterday I tried something new and yet simple. I told him to just take the ball right off the bounce, with the racket at table level, and perpendicular to the table. At contact, I told him to lift the ball up over the net. It seemed so simple, and was nearly the same as the way I'd guided him through the stroke, and yet it worked - the rest of the session his backhand had that light topspin needed to control the ball. (Occasionally he'd fall into his old habits, but I'd remind him, and he'd go back to doing it properly.) He said it was the different sound of the contact that he was trying to match each time. Hopefully he'll still have this better backhand when he comes in to play this weekend, and at our next private session next week.

Determination

Recently I've been way too busy on way too many projects. Simultaneously, there's been some really irritating people doing irritating things, making it hard to focus on the way too many projects when other activities beckoned, such as watching TV or reading a good novel. So I printed out a big sign saying "Determination" and put it on my bulletin board just over my computer, where I can't help but see it constantly. It seems to help. (I keep hearing in my head the song "Tradition" from the movie Fiddler on the Roof, except I hear "Determination" instead of "Tradition." I'm not religious, but it's still a great movie.)

Ping-Pong Hero

Here's a news broadcast about Daryl Sterling, Jr., U.S. Paralympic Table Tennis star (5:36). I've actually coached against Daryl in several tournament matches - never successfully, alas. He lost a leg at age five in a car accident, and plays while leaning on a crutch.

Top Ten Rallies

Here's a Top Ten Rallies video (3:30). I don't think I've posted this one before.

Anagrams of U.S. Team Members

As promised yesterday where I did anagrams of the U.S. Men's Team, here are anagrams of the U.S. Women's Team - but as you'll see, they weren't nearly as many good ones, other than the ones for Ariel. Don't criticize or I will run you down and smite you, for not only is "Hodges" just an anagram for "He's God," but "Larry Hodges" is just an anagram for "Dasher Glory."

Gao Jun

  • On A Jug

Ariel Hsing

  • Irish Angel
  • Shinier Gal
  • A Shine Girl
  • Her Ailings
  • Sir Healing
  • English Air
  • I Signal Her
  • Rein His Gal
  • Nag I Relish
  • Has Lie Grin

Lily Zhang

  • Hall Zingy

Erica Wu

  • I Cue War

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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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