Kong Linghui

May 7, 2014

Classes and Clinics vs. Training

On Monday we had the last session of a ten-week beginning/intermediate class I taught. The twelve players in the class ranged from beginner to about 1500. During those ten weeks we covered pretty much every major aspect of table tennis - forehand and backhand drives, forehand and backhand loops, blocking, smashing, pushing, flipping, ready stance, footwork, grip, serve, receive, equipment, tactics and playing styles, and even chopping and lobbing. And yet many of the players weren't really ready for some of the more advanced things I taught. As I explained to them, there's a difference between a class or clinic, and training sessions or a training camp. 

For the class, I wanted everyone in the class to have a good idea of most of the techniques. They might not be able to do some of the advanced serves I demonstrated, but now that they know what's possible they can systematically practice until, someday, they might be able to do so. The same is true of other "advanced" techniques, such as looping. If I had not shown them these more advanced techniques, they wouldn't even know what's possible, and wouldn't have something to work toward. I even prepared them for various racket surfaces with talks on each of the major ones - short pips, hardbat, antispin, and long pips (with and without sponge).

There's a difference between a class and a clinic as well. A class is something that you do more than once, such as what we did - every Monday from 6:30-8:00 PM for ten weeks. A clinic is more of a one-time thing, where you cover whatever you can in one day, or perhaps a weekend, or even a week. 

So what's the difference between a clinic and a training camp? There's a lot of overlap, but basically, in a clinic, you teach new techniques. In a training camp, you emphasize the training itself, with lots and lots of training drills and few lectures. In clinics you give a number of lectures to the group; in training your coaching is mostly one-on-one as each player trains.

I discussed with the members of the class continuing as a training program on Mondays, but two things happened. First, several said they couldn't do it right now, but would be available in the fall. And second, probably more important, I realized that with our summer training camps coming up, I'm going to be incredibly busy this summer. The camps are 10AM-6PM each day, and are in addition to my regular private coaching and three junior training group sessions each week. So I postponed it until this fall. Then I'll try to get a group together for training each week, probably on Monday nights. If it's popular, we can go to twice a week.

We'll have training camps all summer for ten consecutive weeks, Mon-Fri each week, starting June 16. (Here's the info flyer. I'll be at eight of the camps, missing June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writing workshop I'm attending in Manchester, NH.) While the emphasis is training, they are really both training camps for the more advanced players, and clinics for beginning/intermediate players. I give a few lectures/demos each day, and then we go into groups - usually three main groups, for beginning, intermediate, and advanced players. And they are then trained accordingly. 

Here's a good example of the difference between a clinic and a training camp. I went to a number of Seemiller clinics in the late 1970s. They were really both clinic and training camp, and I learned and improved a lot. Then in 1980, when I was 20 and only about 2000 level, I went to a two-week training camp held by Zoran Kosanovic. (Also at the camp were 12-year-olds Sean O'Neill and Scott Butler and 9-year-old Jim Butler.) I expected it'd be the same thing, with a mixture of lectures and practice, and perhaps a little physical training. Boy was I wrong!!! It was all training. We did at least an hour of physical training each day, plus two three-hour training sessions. It was exhausting, but it was exactly what I needed at that time, since I'd pretty much absorbed knowledge of the game until that point faster than I could learn the techniques. I improved dramatically during and after the camp. (For me, the focus was on forehand looping and on proper footwork when stepping around the backhand corner - I wasn't rotating around enough on my step-arounds.)

ITTF Legends Tour

It starts tonight in Belgium. Here's the home page for the event, and the Facebook page. Here's the ITTF article that came out this morning. Here's the draw for the six legends. Click on it to see a group picture, L-R: Jorgen Persson (1991 World Men's Singles Champion), Jean-Michel Saive (former World #1), Jiang Jialiang (1985 & 1987 World Men's Singles Champion), Jean-Philippe Gatien (1993 World Men's Singles Champion), Mikael Appelgren (former world #1), and Jan-Ove Waldner (1989 & 1997 World Men's Singles Champion). Here are more pictures as the Super Six prepare for the event by playing . . . golf. Breaking news - Waldner golfs left-handed!

USATT Teleconference on March 17

Here are the minutes.

Table Tennis is Serious Business at Texas Wesleyan College

Here's the article.

Chinese Training for the Worlds

Here's a video (4 min) set to music showing their training.

Interview with Kong Linghui

Here's the video (1:52) with the head coach of Team China and former superstar player.

Find a Coach (in the UK)

Here's a new site for finding a coach - but it's only for the United Kingdom right now. The creator told me he hopes to open it up to the rest of the world later on.

Choked by a Billionaire

For those who missed it from a group of photos I posted a few days ago showing Ariel Hsing playing Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, here's one where sore loser Uncle Warren (current worth: $58 billion) chokes the life out of Ariel.

Non-Table Tennis - Sorcerers in Space

My novel "Sorcerers in Space" got a pretty good review at Abyss & Apex. (It's a humorous fantasy that covers the U.S.-Soviet space race in the '60s, but with sorcerers instead of astronauts. The protagonist, 13-year-old Neil, is forced to give up his dreams of table tennis stardom to save the world.) "Reading this book had me humming tunes from the 1960s, and smiling, for days. I don’t recommend reading Sorcerers in Space in bed next to your spouse. You’ll keep waking them up when you laugh." You can buy copies at Amazon or save a few dollars and buy it directly from Class Act Books.

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March 29, 2013

Spring Break Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of our Spring Break Camp, which finishes today. My main lecture was on the backhand attack, which covered both the backhand drive and especially the loop, against backspin and topspin. This time I had Roy Ke (age 13, rated 2209) as my hitting/demo partner. His backhand loop has improved dramatically over the last few months.

The first highlight of the day was an amazing shot by a beginning junior girl, age around nine, who had just started playing on Monday. I was feeding multiball to her while she practiced her backhand, and she kept saying "Faster! Faster! Faster!" Finally, as a joke, I fed her three balls at once. They arrived at her very close together, and, unbelievably, she stroked and returned all three with one shot!

The second "highlight" of the day was an accident where, right at the end of the morning session, one nine-year-old player got too close to another who was hitting forehands, and got hit in the face, just above the right eye. It left a severe wound which bled pretty badly for a time. His father came in, but for the moment they didn't think he needed to see a doctor about it. We were worried he might need stitches. We have a pretty safe record at MDTTC, and I can't remember anything like this happening in our 21 years, though of course there have been occasional cases of players accidentally hitting others when they get too close. The injured player sat out the first half of the afternoon session, but joined in the second half. I'm always harping with the players to stand back when others are hitting, but now I will redouble that effort. Up until age 12 or so, kids seem to have no awareness that they are standing in someone's way in table tennis.

Fourteen of us walked to 7-11 after lunch. I picked up some ice for the injured player to hold against the injury. The others mostly got Slurpees and various candies. The manager gave me a free hot chocolate, and gave out free mini-Reeses to the players. We're sort of regulars there.

Today I'll be lecturing about pushing and footwork (and probably some on serves), and trying to do more live play with the new players (who have been doing mostly multiball and robot play). I'll both hit with them (or have other practice partners hit with them), or have them try to do drills among themselves, which often isn't pretty when beginners first try it.

Table Tennista

Here are three more articles from them on the World Team Cup. (Here's the ITTF home page for the event, with results, articles, pictures, and video.)

Interview with Kong Linghui

Here's a video interview (4:36) with the Chinese Women's Coach and former star player. It's in English through a translator.

Help Wanted in Table Tennis

Want a job in table tennis as an "Entry Level Account Executive"? Here's a help wanted notice from JOOLA USA!

The Wanted

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on the British band The Wanted, and their new mansion with a ping-pong table.

Non-Table Tennis - Sunday Night Fantasy Heaven

We have the season finale of The Walking Dead (on AMC locally at 9PM and repeated at 11PM, with "The Talking Dead" in between, where cast and crew members talk about the show and show clips for an hour), and then the season premiere of "Game of Thrones" (on HBO locally at 9PM, and replayed at 10PM and 11PM). So it's nerd heaven for some of us. (Each of these shows are one hour.) I plan on watching The Walking Dead at 9PM, then The Talking Dead at 10PM, and then Game of Thrones at 11PM. After that, the rest of my life will seem gray and drab by comparison.

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March 1, 2013

Flu Update

It's much better than before, but I'm still sick. I won't bore (or sicken) you with the details, so let's just say I'm singlehandedly propping up the economy with my support of NyQuil, Campbell Soup, and Kleenex Industries and. If all goes well, I expect to be coaching at the club tomorrow morning. It'll be a short blog this morning, then (after a few other items on my todo list), it's back to bed.

Off-Table Serve Practice

Here's a way to develop your serves away from the table - and it may greatly improve them. Start with a simple exercise: toss a ball in the air as if serving, and spin it with your racket. Try to do this so the ball goes straight up so you can easily catch it. After you've mastered this, try varying the spin. Try spinning it with the racket moving side-to-side, in-and-out, and in both directions. Learn to do all sorts of spins this way, where you focus on sheer spin and control. When you can do this, you are only one step away from doing this with an actual serve.

Ma Long - Superman?

Here's an article on Ma Long, the "Superman of the Chinese Team." Includes links to several videos.

Liu Guoliang and Kong Linghui

Here's an article on these two titans of China, formerly superstar players and now coaches of the Chinese Men's and Women's National Teams.

LA Dodgers Ping-Pong

Here's an article from Table Tennis Nation on the LA Dodgers baseball team quickly becoming baseball's official ping-pong team.

Ping-Pong Making a Comeback

Here's an article and video (1:42) on how table tennis is "trending." Table tennis coach and player Matt Winkler is featured.

Cape Fear Table Tennis

Here's a documentary (11:26) on the Cape Fear Table Tennis Club in Fayetteville, NC.

Olympian Magazine

Here's a link to the online Olympian Magazine, both the new issue and past ones. Nothing directly table tennis related, but it might be of interest to some. One article might in particular jumped out at me (haven't read it yet) - "The Role of Deliberate Practice in Becoming an Expert Coach: Part 2 - Reflection." (Presumably there's a Part 1 in the previous issue.)

Behind the Back Training

Here's a video (19 sec) showing behind the back training on an iPong robot! That's Steven Chan doing the demo. (I'm jealous; because of stiff shoulders, behind-the-back shots are about the only "trick" shot in table tennis I've never mastered.)

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February 5, 2013

Tim Boggan Arrives

This morning at 9:30 AM Tim Boggan will arrive for a 10-14 day stay. I'll be doing the page layouts (500+) and photo work (800+) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13 (as I've done for the past ones). Here's Tim's page (which I created and maintain for him), where you can buy the previous volumes.

Since we'll be working all day, Mon-Fri, until it's done, and since I'll be mostly coaching nights and weekends, I won't have much free time the next two weeks. (I'll be doing most of the blog late at night instead of early in the morning, since Tim will be up and waiting to get started early each morning.) If anyone is dreaming of asking me to do a time-wasting favor for them, well, here's what I have to say about that.

Tactical Matches

Here are more examples of tactics used this past weekend in practice matches.

In one I played a player with a really nice forehand smash. Just about anything that went there he'd smash (even my pushes if I weren't careful), and if I put the ball slow to his backhand, he'd step around and smash that as well. What to do? I took most short serves right off the bounce to his wide backhand with banana flips, which kept his forehand out of play. If the serve went long, I looped, again always wide to the backhand. I varied my serve, following them up with attack - you guessed it - into his wide backhand. His backhand blocking wasn't nearly as strong, and he almost never got a chance to smash. This was a case where he was literally waiting for me to go to this forehand so he could smash, so I almost never did, not unless he wandered toward his backhand side.

In another match I played an extremely fast junior who could pound the ball from both sides to all parts of the table, and was much quicker than me. There's no way I could really cover the whole table in a rally against him. Since he was using standard placement tactics - every ball to the wide corners or at my elbow - I employed a tactic I've blogged about before. I stood in a slight forehand stance, but toward my backhand side. I covered the wide backhand and middle with my backhand, using his own pace to rebound the ball back, countering the balls back wide to his backhand to keep his forehand out of play. I could barely keep up the pace he was setting, but eventually he'd change directions and go to my forehand. The instant I saw the change, I would step to the wide forehand and counter-attack. The two keys to that forehand counter-attack were 1) I was already standing with my feet in a forehand position so I'd be ready, and 2) I didn't look to see where the ball would go on my forehand side - I anticipated it would go wide. Essentially this moves my middle toward my forehand side. If his shot went a foot inside the forehand corner, I'd have been stuck (like a player caught with a ball hit at their elbow), but that's not how players are trained - and so I won.

Other tactics used in this match - lots of receive variation to throw him off, with flips, loops, and short and long pushes. When I attacked (mostly by looping except in fast rallies), I went after his forehand, which took his angle into my backhand away so I was able to follow with another forehand.

In another match against a big-looping junior with a passive receive I served lots of varied short serves. He'd push them, even chopping down on the side-top serves so he could push them low. But the key was that he was predictable, as well as vulnerable to varied amounts of backspin, sidespin, and topspin, since he was trying to push or chop-block them all back. So I could anticipate slow backspin returns every time, and since I didn't have to guard against a flip, I could go for a forehand loop every time. (Whenever it got close, I'd throw a fast, deep serve at him for a free point - he was rarely ready for it.) On his serve (almost all short) I mostly flipped to his wide backhand or dropped it short. Sometimes he'd wind up and rip a backhand loop; when he did that, I knew he was anticipating it, and on the next receive I'd aim to his backhand, and at the last second flip to his wide forehand. It got him every time.

British Rock Band Challenges Justin Bieber

The band Lawson has challenged Justin Bieber at table tennis. Who will win?

Chico Table Tennis Club

Here's an article about the Chico TTC in Durham, CA.

Kong Linghui on the Women's Trials

Here's an article about Kong Linghui, the Chinese Women's Coach. "The Squad Trials is getting much harder!"

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new world rankings. Zhang Jike drops to third! Here are the new rankings.

Lunar Cup Matches and an Exhibition

The 2013 Lunar New Year Cup Challenge Match was held in China, with the top six Chinese players competing: Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long against Chen Qi, Wang Liqin, and Wang Hao. (Actual matches are Xu vs. Chen; Zhang vs. Wang Liqin; and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao.) Also featured is an exhibition by former superstars Guo Yuehua and Chen Xinhua. Here's where you can watch the videos.

The Best of Samsonov, Schlager, Boll, Kreanga, and Primorac

Here's a highlights video (7:53) featuring many of the best European players.

1946 U.S. National Ping-Pong Championships

Here's vintage video footage (1:06) from the 1946 U.S. Open. It features several clips of Laszlo Bellak clowning around for the camera, including blowing the ball sideways (hey, that's my trick!), rallying by kicking the ball back, and other tricks.

Air Gun Fires Ping-Pong Balls at 900 MPH

See what happens when a ping-pong ball traveling Mach 1.2 strikes a ping-pong paddle!

Table Tennis Cookies

Mmmmmmm...

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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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