Pushing

February 3, 2014

Tip of the Week

Winning with Ball Control.

Topspinny Backhands: When to Learn?

Yesterday was a pivotal moment in one young player's table tennis career. One of the tougher decisions for some coaches is when to have their up-and-coming junior players begin to topspin more on the backhand in rallies. At the start, you teach basic backhand drives. But at the higher levels, most players these days topspin the ball, basically a backhand loop with a shorter swing, often right off the bounce. It's not easy to learn to do this in a rally, where it's tricky enough playing a regular backhand, but to topspin the ball off the bounce, practically a backhand loop, against an often fast incoming ball?

Some coaches advocate teaching this starting at around the 1800 level; others do so much earlier. But everyone's different. If a player seems to have a knack for it, and is training regularly, then perhaps he can start earlier. The problem is that in a fast rally, you have little time to topspin the ball, and players who try to do so before they're ready will make lots of mistakes.

I've got several students who are reaching the stage where they're ready to really topspin on the backhand in faster rallies. Yesterday's breakthrough was for Sameer, 12, rated 1378 after the Teams in November. He's developed a pretty nasty backhand drive, especially in drills, though he sometimes still has trouble getting the drilling backhand into games. Sameer already has a pretty decent backhand loop against backspin, but was he ready to do this over and over in rallies?

We tried it out yesterday, and he surprised me on how quickly he picked it up. We did it first in multiball, and then live, and in both cases he seemed comfortable doing so. He's also ready for the rigors of reality - that he'll probably have some bad losses over the next few months as he incorporates this into his game, especially against players who rush him on the backhand. (If you are an opponent of his, please use go ahead and rush him on the backhand - it gives him the practice he needs!) But we have a longer-term goal - the U.S. Open in July. He's going to focus on just training until then, with the plan to show up with a devastating backhand topspin, as well as (hopefully) a few other devastating shots. Maybe he'll be a true basher by then. (See Tip of the Week article above.)

Banana Flip

This video (3:22) may be the best tutorial I've seen on the backhand banana flip. Lots of slow motion and clear explanations.

Pushing

Here are two videos from PingSkills on the Backhand Push (3:14) and the Forehand Push (3:19).

Table Tennis Strategy Page

Here's a new page, Table Tennis Strategy. It includes pages on Strategy, Fun Facts, Jokes, and others.

Superbowl Ad with Arnold Schwarzenegger

Here's the complete ad (3:44), which ran in several parts. The table tennis starts exactly two minutes in. "Prepare to be crushed in tiny tennis," says the long-haired wigged Arnold.

CNN Features Table Tennis

Here's the video (1:57), which ran on Friday, and is on the growing trend to play table tennis. Features Arnold Schwarzenegger, Susan Sarandon, and Soo Yeon Lee, and with clips of Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Biba Featured

Here's a feature article on Biba Golic in Women's Fitness Magazine.

Bounce Back Shots

Here's a video (57 sec) that compares a desperation backspin shot by Ding Ning that unreturnably bounces back over the net to win the point to a similar shot by Roger Federer in tennis.

Table Tennis on a Boat

Here's video (12 sec) of two men playing table tennis on a boat that's not much bigger than a canoe.

Hit the Card Trick Shot

Here's video (24 sec) of a trick shot where the player smacks a card out from under a ball without knocking the ball off.

When Table Tennis Gets Angry!

Here's the video (1:41) of some very angry players.

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December 31, 2013

Happy New Year!

No blog tomorrow, see you on Thursday, Jan. 2.

MDTTC Christmas Camp

The highlight of the camp yesterday was, without a doubt, the candy game, which we did the last half hour of the camp, 5:30-6:00 PM. It's an annual tradition in our Christmas Camp - and sometimes other camps, though I can't afford to buy candy for all 12 of our summer camps. (Yes, I'm paying for the candy out of my pocket, not the club.) Here's how the candy game works. I bought several bags of Hershey's chocolate kisses and of Jolly Ranchers (a hard candy the kids like). I pour them all onto the table, and jam them all against the end of the table so they'll fall off easily. Then I feed multiball as the kids take turns trying to knock the candy off, three shots per turn. Anything they knock off they get to keep. (I allow switches, so if they knock off one type of candy, they can trade it for another on the table.) It's great fun, and since the kids know at least two days in advance that we're going to do it, the younger ones especially have incentive to practice their forehands. Essentially all the kids in the camp join in, but I strongly encourage the older, more advanced ones to share with the younger beginners if they win too many, and they go along with that. At the end, there was (as usual) a lot of candy still on the table, and so I let the kids split that up, keeping a handful of Hershey Kisses for myself.

As to actual table tennis, I gave lectures on pushing and an impromptu one for some of the better kids on serving. But for most of the day the focus was on footwork. I introduced the 2-1 drill to most of the younger kids, where they play three shots over and over: a backhand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the backhand corner, and then a forehand from the forehand corner. (This is the "perfect" drill, as you do three of the four most common moves in table tennis: cover the wide forehand, cover the wide backhand, and step around forehand. What's the fourth common move? Walk to the barriers to pick up the ball.)

The group of 6- to 8-year olds keeps growing, with ten in the camp yesterday, too many for me alone. So Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") assisted me much of the day, with each of us taking five and switching back and forth. There are about 30 in all in the camp.

Regarding the pushing lecture, where I used Crystal Wang as my hitting partner, I went over the basics first. Beginners should start out by letting the ball fall on their racket. As they advance, they learn to take it quicker off the bounce. The pushes should generally be quick off the bounce, with pretty good pace, have good backspin, be low to the net, go deep on the table, go wide to the corners, and players should be able to change directions at the last second. I also cited the importance of doing something with each push, such as rushing the opponent with an extra-quick push, or loading up the backspin against a player who has trouble with that. We also covered and demoed short pushes. I finished by showing them how to sidespin push, especially deep sidespin pushes that break into the opponent's backhand.

Now the bad news. First, the days of standing on my feet feeding multiball have begun to wear down my legs, especially since I had to take much of December off with arm problems, and so wasn't in as good physical shape as usual. Result?

First, I have a blister on my right foot, something I hadn't had in decades.

Second, at around 1AM Sunday morning I woke up in the middle of the night with an excruciating leg cramp in my right hamstring. It was pretty painful, and it's still very sore.

Third, and perhaps worse of all, came at the end of yesterday's morning session. I ended the session as I often do, gathering the younger kids and having them spread out on one side of the tables while I'm on the other. Then I side step side to side very quickly, with the kids trying to stay with me. It's great footwork practice and the kids love it. I only do this for about 30 seconds, and then let the kids take turns leading - all of them want a turn. Unfortunately, during the 30 seconds I led I managed to both wrench my right knee and strain something in the right calf. I was limping the rest of the day.

So my right leg currently has the following, from the bottom up:

  1. Blister in foot
  2. Strained calf
  3. Wrenched knee
  4. Strained hamstring

I don't think any of these things are going to be long-lasting, and since I've got the next few days off, hopefully all will be well by the time I get back to coaching on Fri or Sat.

The good news is the arm problems I battled all December seem to be over (key word: seem), though I won't know for sure until I start private coaching again.

2013 North American Tour Grand Final

It will take place Jan. 11-12, at the ICC club in Milpitas, California. Here is the current lineup of players, and here is the tentative schedule.

ITTF Star Awards

Here's where you can vote for the ITTF Star Awards, in the following categories: Male Star, Female Star, Para Male Star, Para Female Star, Fan's Male Star, Fan's Female Star, and Star Rally. There's also a 62 sec video. You can also reserve your seat for the awards dinner.

Top Spin Documentary

Here's a trailer (4:34) for the upcoming documentary, a "2014 feature-length documentary about American teenagers coming of age in the world of competitive ping pong." Players featured include Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Michael Landers.

Best Ping-Pong Commercials of the Year

Here's a compilation by Table Tennis Nation.

Ma Long & Zhang Jike Table Tennis Football

Here's 24 seconds of the two of them playing table tennis football. Sort of.

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August 10, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Nine, Day Four

Yesterday's focus was forehand loop and pushing. That was supposed to be the focus on Wednesday, but because of my car accident (see yesterday's blog), it was postponed a day. Friday's focus is usually pushing and "Player's Choice," and while we'll give that option, today's focus will be Backhand Attack, which is usually the focus on Thursday. I gave my lecture on pushing yesterday, which I normally give on Friday. Yes, these traffic accidents can throw an entire camp schedule off!

I think the loop is the shot that coaches are most picky about getting right. Most players can get away with, say, minor technical problems with the forehand smash because, by the intermediate level, most players are mostly looping on the forehand side, and when they smash, it's mostly against easy balls where you don't need technical perfection. The same is true of many other techniques. But the loop needs to be done really well or it can become the limiting factor in your game. There are two kids I'm working with right now who are probably a bit exasperated on how much I'm harping on some minor technical changes in their forehand loops, but they also understand the importance of getting it just right.

Teaching the backhand push to beginners is relatively easy since it comes naturally to most. Teaching the forehand push is trickier. Beginners almost always want to take the ball from way off to the side (i.e. way to the right for a righty) when you actually should be facing the ball when you forehand push. It's also trickier to teach because you really want players to push only against a short ball, since deeper ones should be looped, but to learn the forehand push beginners have to push long to each other. (This is also true on the backhand, but you can get away with pushing more on the backhand side since at least you have an angle into the opponent's backhand if you push wide, and most opponents are weaker looping on the backhand side.) Here's a good tutorial with pictures and video of the forehand push, and here are three articles I've written on pushing.

Today is also candy day. That means that at 12:30 (half hour before lunch break), I bring out several bags of candy (Jolly Ranchers and Hershey Kisses), pile them all over the table, and the players line up taking turns trying to knock them off the table (two shots each, then go to the end of the line and wait for next turn). Anything they knock off the table they win. It's the single most popular thing we do; heck, it's the single most popular thing done anywhere in the universe, based on the reaction of the kids in the camp.

It's also going to be an exhausting day. Last night I discovered some moron had trashed me in an online video. It was a straight personal attack, calling me names I won't repeat here (is this kindergarten?), making up stuff about me, and done in front of an audience for laughs. I was pretty irritated, and couldn't get to sleep until well after 3AM, giving me less than four hours of sleep. It even "quoted" a friend of mine trashing me, though like much of the other stuff he said he probably made that up.

The good news is that we have a smaller than usual number signed up for next week (week ten out of eleven weeks of consecutive camps), so I may get some of next week off to rest, work on my Table Tennis Tactics book (see below), visit the zoo, and perhaps write a new SF story that'll no doubt feature morons who go after others in online videos. (On an interesting side note, one of the top junior players in the U.S. has begun writing SF, and I'm helping him with his stories.) 

Car Crash

Yesterday in my blog I wrote about the car accident I was in Wednesday morning. Here are two pictures of my poor car, which is now in intensive care at the auto body shop. To survive it's going to need a massive infusion of life-giving cash. Hopefully the insurance company is of the right cash type.

  1. Picture One
  2. Picture Two

Status of Table Tennis Tactics Book

My own upcoming book, Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide, has been done for a couple of months, but due to the summer camp schedule at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (i.e. complete exhaustion each day) I haven't been able to work on the page layouts. I decided to self-publish it rather than spend a long time going through publishers, who'll want to change it for the mass audience, rather than keep it as it is, written for all levels, including advanced players. Plus, of course, I'll get a much higher percentage of the profits, since I'm doing all the work.

How to Win at Table Tennis

Australian player and about.com table tennis moderator Greg Letts has come out with a new ebook, "How to Win at Table Tennis" - and it's FREE!!! (It's 145 pages, 16MB in PDF format.) Greg, sometime soon I'll explain the basics of capitalism to you. :)

Chinese Unbeatable in Table Tennis?

Here are two Associated Press article that were published in the Washington Post, with a self-explanatory titles.

Olympic Photos

Here are some nice photoshopped table tennis images (19 total) from the Olympics.

A Man Eating a Ping-Pong Ball

I may have linked to this once before, but here is a video of a man eating a ping-pong ball (0.31), in honor of the moron who trashed me in an online video (see above), who symbolically here is eating his words.

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June 27, 2012

MDTTC Camp - Week Two, Day Two

Yesterday was Day Two of the second week of our summer camps. The focus was on the backhand. After the break I gave a talk on return of serve, and then the players practiced serve and receive.

There was a lot of interest in the fast serves I demonstrated. This has always been a strength of mine, but for some reason my fast serves yesterday seemed amped up a bit, and were going out like guided missiles. During break I told the story of the time I opened a match against 1986 U.S. National Champion Hank Teekaveerakit with three aces down the line, one of my proudest moments. He was a penhold forehand looper who tried to loop all deep serves with his forehand. My fast down-the-line serve always looks like it's going crosscourt, and so he got caught going the wrong way three times in a row. After the third, he looked at me, and said (and this was how he always pronounced my name), "Lally, Lally, nobody serves down the line three times in a row!" The rest of the game he received with his backhand, and he came back to win the game. In game two, he went back to trying to loop all my serves, and we had a great time playing sort of cat and mouse as I threw fast serves both down the line and crosscourt, and he tried (and mostly succeeded) in forehand looping them all. He won, and said it was a great practice session. 

Three Days until the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids

Are you shadow practicing your strokes?

PingSkills Videos

Here are three more PingSkills coaching videos:

Jim Butler on Scorekeepers

Here's an article by three-time U.S. Men's National Champion and two-time Olympian Jim Butler on scorekeepers.

Jeffrey Wins JOOLA Open in Newport News

Fellow MDTTC coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun won the JOOLA Open in Newport News this past weekend. Here's the article!

Topspin, the Documentary

Here's the latest on this video project, including a video (3:33).

Pings and Pongs

I'm putting all my books in ebook and POD (print on demand) formats so I can sell them directly on line. For "practice," I started with "Pings and Pongs," an anthology of my 30 best science fiction & fantasy stories, all previously sold stories to various markets. (It includes "Ping-Pong Ambition," a fantasy table tennis story, and a few other stories have table tennis references.) Since it has few pictures, it was relatively easy to do as a test. Here's the page - make sure to buy a few dozen copies! Later on all my other books will be sold in these formats: Table Tennis: Steps to Success; Table Tennis Tales & Techniques; Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; and the upcoming Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide. (I'm creating the pages myself in both formats, but it's a slow process since we're also in the middle of the summer camps season at MDTTC.)

Exhibition Picture from 1990s

Here's a picture from an exhibition at the USA Nationals, I believe in the late 1990s, between Chen Xinhua (standing on table) and Cheng Yinghua (sitting on table), with USATT President Sheri Pittman also joining in. As Jim Butler points out above, with no scorekeeper we have no idea what's going on here . . . right?

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January 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

Table Tennis Tip: Pushing and Looping Deep Backspin.

Still sick

This is Day Three of the Great Cold of 2012. I'm not sure whether to blame Obama, the Iowa caucuses, or global warming, but if my cold doesn't get better soon I'm going to blame somebody. It looks like another day in bed reading. (Actually, maybe having a cold isn't so bad.)

Celebrities Update

Over the weekend I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 18 new pictures of 9 new celebrities. There are now 1317 pictures of 760 celebrities playing table tennis. The new celebrities are:

  • Tom Cruise, actor
  • Rob Lowe, actor
  • Ralph Macchio, actor
  • Jack Benny, actor and comedian
  • Mary Livingstone, actress and comedian
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Michael Buble, singer (5 pictures)
  • Joe Reeder, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Army and Chairman of the Panama Canal Commission (and a student of mine!)
  • Baron Davis, basketball player
  • Blake Griffin, basketball player (5 pictures)

Christmas Camp

On Saturday we finished our 21st annual Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. There were over 30 players, almost all juniors, ranging from beginners to several over 2300. I blogged about much of this last week. Here are two interesting notes from the last day.

  • I overheard a group of kids, ages 10 or 11, discussing the intricacies of Tenergy 05, 25, and 64, with the FX option. I'm not sure why, but I found this incredibly funny. (By the way, I'm an advocate of kids who train regularly and get good coaching to use advanced sponges like this after they've reached about 1500 or so in level - it really helps in their progress, especially with looping. It's the racket that should not be too fast until they are relatively advanced.)
  • I told a kid I was feeding multiball to that he should try to remember the feel of the good forehand loops. He said, "That's easy. The ones that strain my back are the good ones." Uh oh.

Article on World Champion Zhang Jike

He describes the year as "powerful."

Marty Reisman video feature

Here's a video profile of Marty Reisman (6:36) as part of the "City Series" featuring New York City.

1998 Eastern Open

In my blog on Friday, in pointing out my credentials for promoting major tournaments (in regard to the low turnout at the 2011 USA Nationals), I wrote of the 1998 Easterns I directed, "I promoted the heck out of that tournament." Someone complained that I seemed to be taking all the credit for the record entries at that tournament, when I was just pointing my particular background in this. So to be clear, Richard Lee and others all promoted the heck out of that tournament, leading to the huge entry turnout.

Breaking News - I'm running for U.S. President

I'm running for president of the United States as a member of the Ping-Pong Party. My minions are already moving out through Iowa and New Hampshire, getting the signatures needed to get me on the ballot for their caucuses (in Iowa today, so we're in a bit of a rush) and primaries. I will also be on the Republican ballot, as the conservative alternative to Romney and the moderate alternative to all the rest. I am also running as the Libertarian alternative to Ron Paul by claiming to be a libertarian to libertarian audiences.

I will gladly meet any of my rivals anytime and anywhere in Iowa in a game of ping-pong where I will destroy them, as I will destroy all our nation's foes, except perhaps the Chinese, who are actually very good at ping-pong. Under my leadership, USA will dominate the 21st century as the second best ping-pong power. Altogether now, "We're number two! We're number two! We're number two!"

Platform:

  • I promise to do whatever you want me to do if it will get me your vote. This is a core value with me, and I always stick to my core values.
  • Hardbatters: I will outlaw sponge.
  • Inverted sponge players: I will outlaw hardbat and anything that's not inverted.
  • I will create a Blue Ribbon Commission to come up with a new service rule that can actually be enforced, and then shoot all umpires that do not do so.
  • I will occupy a tea party and serve tea to the occupiers. I will give them cream and sugar in their tea until they give in to my demands. If they do not, I will stuff ping-pong balls down their throat.
  • I will revamp our national educational system, replacing outdated schools with modern table tennis training facilities.
  • I will change the national mascot from a bald eagle to a large ping-pong ball, and solve our economic problems at the same time by bidding out rights to what brand becomes the National Ball. Will it be Nittaku? JOOLA? Stiga? Butterfly? Halex? Double Happiness? Bids are open now, starting at $1 Trillion.
  • I will nuke our country's economic rivals. Why? Because I like saying "nuke."

The Simpsons and Ping-Pong

  • Here are two pictures of Bart and Lisa Simpson playing ping-pong: Picture 1 and Picture 2
  • Here's a drawing of Bart with a ping-pong paddle.
  • Here's a recording of Patrick Stewart saying "Now let's all get drunk and play ping-pong."
  • Here's the online wiki for Madam Wu, a minor character on The Simpsons, where it says that "Her father was a professional ping pong player who died when he got a ping pong ball lodged in his throat." According to The Simpsons 2012 Daily Desk Calendar (which I just got for Christmas), in the Oct. 10, 2012 entry, it says, "Her father choked to death on a Ping-Pong ball the day before the Heimlich Maneuver was invented."

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November 23, 2011

Special on the North American Teams

The JOOLA North American Teams is this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center, Fri-Sun, Nov. 25-27. This is one of the "big three" tournaments in the U.S. (along with the U.S. Open in July and USA Nationals in December), with the largest participation of any USA tournament - about 800 players, 200 teams, 144 tables, 150,000 square feet, $20,000 in prize money. Here's a series of articles that you might want to browse, whether you are playing in the tournament or just want to know more. I've only missed one year since 1976, including 33 straight years from 1976-2008. I'll be there all three days coaching - come say hello! (The secret handshake is to point your finger at me and say, "Secret handshake.")

Pushing Epiphany

Yesterday I suddenly realized something I already knew, but now I realized that I knew it. And that is that your average club or tournament player (say, 1500-1800) pushes poorly not just because he doesn't know better, but because he isn't forced to push better by his peers. I can serve backspin to your average under 1900 player and the large majority of the time they will push it back so that it is easy to loop a winner - if you can loop at a 2000+ level. It's not any one thing - sometimes the pushes aren't deep or short, aren't low, aren't heavy, are predictable, or wander out from the corners. Any one of these things make the push easy to attack. If you do all of these things even pretty well, then they are difficult to attack well by just about anyone - which is what most 2000+ players do when they push. (Here's a Tip of the Week on pushing effectively.)

Maximizing Your Game Under Poor Circumstances

Here's an article by Samson Dubina on eight ways to improve when your training conditions are less than ideal. He asks the question, "One must play against better players in order to improve?" The answer is, of course, false. He explains, "It is possible to improve your table tennis game even if you don’t have ideal training partners, ideal coaching, and an ideal facility.  In this article, I’m going to suggest eight ways that you can maximize your game under poor training circumstances.

USA's Lily Zhang wins doubles at the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup

And here's the article that proves it! Lily, world #154, teamed with Russia's Anne Tikhomirova, world #68. In the final, they defeated the unified Korean team of Kim Kyung Ah (South Korea, world #13, perhaps the best women chopper in the world) and Kim Hye Song (North Korea, World #120), -6,8,-3,3,8. In the semifinals they defeated Cao Zhen (China, unranked, but world #30 in Feb., 2011, world #11 in 2006) and Aia Mohamed (Qatar, no ranking), 11,-10,7,8. Here's a picture of Zhang and Tikhomirova with their trophies, and an action shot (with the caption saying, "Russia's Anna Tikhomirova hits a return during the women's doubles table tennis match at the Qatar Peace and Sport Cup," but of course she's actually serving.)

Guinness World Record for most players in a rally

A total of 107 players took part in this rally (3:01). Perhaps the most boring table tennis video ever made, but are you in the Guinness Book of World Records?

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