Teams

November 27, 2013

Last Blog Until After the Teams

This will be my last blog until Monday. Tomorrow’s Thanksgiving, so I’m taking the day off, and Fri-Sun I’ll be coaching at the North American Teams in Washington DC. I’ll have lots to write about when I return! Here’s a picture of the facility as they are about to set up the tables.

Preparing for the Teams

This week I’m preparing players for the Teams. Compared to normal, that means fewer rote drills, and more random drills. I do a lot of multiball training, but the focus now is on random shots and simulating match play.  We’re also doing a lot of game-type drills, such as where the student serves backspin, I push back anywhere, he loops, and we play out the point. I’m also making sure they are ready to do the “little” things, such as pushing, blocking, and serving. And we play more games at the end of each session. There’s also the psychological aspect. I keep reminding the players that they need to go into the tournament with their minds clear and ready to play. I also want to keep the sessions fun – I don’t want the players too stressed out over getting ready for three days of almost non-stop competition. I want to see determination, but not grim determination.

USATT Magazine and Membership Rates

I blogged yesterday about the problem with USATT likely moving USATT Magazine in-house. A separate question that comes up periodically is whether it should continue as a print magazine or just go online. There’s an easy solution: go online, with a print option. The editor simply does the magazine as if it’s going to print, which means a PDF version. Then he puts the PDF version online, perhaps with a password required so only members can access it. Those who want a print version, such as myself, would pay extra – and with “print on demand” publishing, it’s easy to send the PDF to the printer and print out only as many copies as needed. This is an obvious solution I’ve pointed out over the years.

The real question is whether current members who are already paying $49/year (too much) should pay still more for the print version, or whether those choosing not to receive the print version should get a discount. I’m for the latter. We keep raising our membership rates and keep wondering why membership stays stagnant; gee, I wonder why? I remember a while back when USATT raised the annual rate in one year from $25 to $40 – and they budgeted as if membership would stay constant! At the time membership had reached 8800. I got into a heated debate with the entire room – all 13 board members – both on the silliness of constantly raising the rates while simultaneously trying to find ways to increase membership, and on the even further silliness of expecting membership to stay constant. All 13 believed raising the rate would have little effect on membership numbers, with one of them explaining to me, “If they’re willing to pay $25, they’re willing to pay $40.” I pointed out that based on that logic, every item in a store that costs $25 should cost $40 (and the logic really applies to all items), but I was told I was wrong. I’m just a coach and a writer, so what do I know about business?

One year later membership had dropped to 7000, and the USATT board spent a marathon session cutting everything since they had budgeted for 8800 members. I was in the room snickering as they did this. And you wonder why I can never convince USATT to do the obvious stuff, not to mention the more difficult things? Maybe if I’d worn a tie at that meeting instead of a warm-up suit I could have been more convincing. (I’m told that, after a decade of slowly recovering, membership is again now close to 9000 or so, though I haven’t seen any membership reports anywhere. I’m guessing at any time the rates will go up again, and we’ll see another big drop. Alas.)

USATT Tips of the Day

Below are the USATT Tips of the Day since last Friday. These are from the 171 Tips of the Week I did for them from 1999-2003 as “Dr. Ping-Pong.” (Click on link for complete tip.)

Nov 26, 2013 Tip of the Day - Inside-Out Forehand Floppy Wrist Flip
When an opponent serves short to the forehand, many players reach in and return it with a nearly stiff wrist, and invariably go crosscourt with a forehand flip.

Nov 25, 2013 Tip of the Day - Back Up Slightly When Opponent Backs Up
Suppose you’ve hit a quick, hard shot, and your opponent has moved five feet back to return the ball with a counterdrive or soft topspin. 

Nov 24, 2013 Tip of the Day - Aim One Way, Go the Other
Many players develop strong rally shots. However, they are often very, very predictable. An opponent can anticipate where each ball is going early in your stroke, and so always has lots of time to get to the ball.

Nov 23, 2013 Tip of the Day - Go Down the Line From Wide Forehand
When an opponent goes to your wide forehand, they give you an extreme angle into their wide forehand.

ITTF Coaching Course in Singapore

Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 Course that was just taught in Singapore by USA’s Richard McAfee. (I linked to the photos yesterday.)

Best of the Chinese Super League

Here's the video (7:31).

Xu Xin on the Mini-Table (and an Interview)

Here’s the video (4:18) of world #1 Xu Xin of China versus TableTennisDaily’s Dan, on a mini-table with over-sized rackets! (And yes, Xu the penholder is playing shakehands here.) And for the more serious-minded, here’s Dan’s interview with Xu.

Little Girl Phenom

Here’s video (21 sec) of a girl, maybe five years old, drilling at a rather high level – watch out China! I believe she’s from the Mideast; can anyone translate what the comments say?

Ma Long’s Amazing Shots

Here’s the video (42 sec), with four Chinese players all counterlooping crosscourt, including Ma Long (near right) with Wang Liqin. Watch what happens right after 30 sec. First, Ma Long does a rather interesting forehand sidespin chop-block. Then he switches hands and counterloops the other two player’s ball.

Ping-Pong Trick Shots

Here’s the video (1:57) of someone with a series of great trick shots! I especially like the very last one, where he’s rallying with a girl with two balls, but catching each of her returns and quickly feeding it to continue. I may try that out in my coaching sessions today.

Happy First Birthday to Uberpong

Here’s their birthday cake!

How to Make a Ping-Pong Ball Turkey

Here’s the article!

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November 21, 2012

Quick Note on Malware

Most or all of the malware warning problems I blogged about previously seem to be gone, but there might still be some traces left of whatever got the site blacklisted on Google. If you are reading this, you arrived here successfully, so all's well with the world.

Merit Badges for Table Tennis?

As noted in my blog on Monday, there's a great proposal on the USATT web page (by Diego Schaaf and Wei Wang) to award "merit badges" for achieving various rating levels. Read it over and see what you think.

I've always argued that players take ratings way too seriously, and that they are, in general, a very bad thing for junior players. (Here's my article Juniors and Ratings.) Because of ratings players (especially juniors) tend to focus on immediate results instead of long-term improvement; it makes them nervous when they play as they worry about their rating (and this nervousness becomes a habit); and it often causes them not to play tournaments so they can protect their rating (thereby losing valuable tournament experience and so falling behind their peers).

I've always found the bridge system to be intriguing. In bridge, you cannot go down in rating; you only go up. This gives incentive to play more as you try to go up. It's not as accurate a system, but it incentive to compete. Given a choice between an inaccurate system with zillions of players (such as the American Contract Bridge League with 160,000 members), or a more accurate one with 8000 (USATT says hi), I have 152,000 reasons to go with the less accurate system. (This is a simplistic version of a more complex argument I won't go into here.)

The strength of the proposed system by Diego and Wei is that it gives incentive to keep playing as you get merit badges for going up, but unlike rating points, they aren't taken away when you go down. Sure, you might blow your current rating, but you'll still have that merit badge to show how good you were, plus every time you go out there you know there's a chance you might have that great day where you beat everyone and win ANOTHER merit badge!

As I wrote in my blog on Monday, similar suggestions have come up in the past, but three things always stopped it: 1) What should be awarded for these achievements - belts, like in martial arts? Pins? Badges? Certificates? etc.; 2) Few ever put together an actual proposal such as this eon, and 3) No one ever follows up on it.

There is the question of who pays for the merit badges, but that's a no-brainer to me. It's the responsibility of the player who achieves the new level to apply and pay for the merit badge. If it's not worth the small payment needed to pay for the badge and the office time to deal with them, then it's not worth their having.

There's also the transition period - at the start, why not let players send in proof of their highest rating achieved? It's all online since 1994, and before that there are magazines that can be copied. (Sorry, USATT doesn't owe you that. But I'm sure there are USATT members who might help out with this at the start.)

I hope someone from USATT follows up on this.

Last-minute coaching and preparation for Teams

Lots of last-minute training for the Teams in Baltimore and Ohio! I'm writing this blog the night before (Tuesday night) because I have to be up early to coach this morning. (Or should that be tomorrow morning since I'm writing it tonight, the night before the morning that the blog goes up? Never mind.) I've even got some coaching on Thursday. (I expect to blog on Thanksgiving morning, but perhaps a shorter one.)

I'm primarily going to be coaching, but I was talked into playing as a part-time fifth player by two of my students. I'm only committed to playing about one team match per day. The rest of the time I'll be coaching. (I'm mostly coaching Tong Tong Gong. At the Nationals I'll be working with him and Derek Nie.)

ITTF Video World Cup

There are now 17 entries in the ITTF Video World Cup. Take some time and watch them - they're pretty good. Of course the one I most like is "TTism (in slow motion)," by Richard Heo. Why? Because I'm in it!!! (I show up for about three seconds at 1:29, cheering silently and motionlessly for Raghu Nadmichettu, who is celebrating a win silently and motionlessly. That segment was filmed at the Maryland Table Tennis Center.) Here's the info page for the contest. First and second places are $5000 and $2500. Deadline to enter is Nov. 30. Oh, and it turns out you can vote once every 24 hours! So vote, and vote often.

2013 USA Team Trials

Here's a short news item from USATT: "The 2013 National Team Trials will be held on February 7-10, 2013, at the Top Spin Club in San Jose, CA. Prospectus and entry form will be posted on USATT webpage."

Reverse Forehand  Pendulum Serve

Here's an article and photo sequence on a version of the reverse forehand pendulum serve by world #27 Sayaka Hirano.

Ma Long Dong a Split?

Now here's a great picture of China's Ma Long looping from the backhand corner. Not sure if he's going to recover for the block to his wide forehand.

Table Tennis iPhone App

Here's the new TTProPlanner Promo - "for those of you who would like to plan/review your Table Tennis training" - on video, or read about it at the app store.

Terese Terranova in Broward County Hall of Fame

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation on wheelchair player and coach Terese Terranova's induction into the Broward Country Hall of Fame.

The Passion of Table Tennis

Here's another new highlights video (4:18). This one starts off by building tension as we watch the players get up and prepare for the tournament.

Ariel Hsing, Athlete of the Year

Here's a video about a minute long showcasing Ariel Hsing as the 2012 San Jose Female High School Athlete of the Year.

The Ping-Pong Dance on ABC Good Morning America

Here it is! (It's about one minute long, where they show Adam Bobrow doing one of his patented celebratory dances after winning a point.)

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November 29, 2011

Tactics versus Strategy

I've blogged in the past about the difference between tactical and strategic thinking. Tactical thinking is what you do to win now; strategic thinking is what you do to prepare yourself to win later. I had an experience a while back where I was coaching a junior against another junior who was about the same level. The other junior was a better counterlooper, while the one I was coaching had a better block. It went into the fifth game. Between games I said, "Do you want to counterloop with this guy?" (I was thinking he should block more, since they were getting into a lot of counterlooping points.) The junior I was coaching said, "I can beat him counterlooping."

My first thought was that if you block, you'll win, but if you counterloop you'll lose. I opened my mouth, then closed it, and then realized this was one of those strategic moments. So we worked out a tactical plan whereby he'd not just counterloop, but he'd serve and receive to get into those rallies. Because he was looking to counterloop every chance, he was ready for the shot, and so was able to pull out the fifth game, counterlooping down an opponent who normally would have won most of those rallies. It was a huge confidence booster for him, and he improved dramatically as his game became more looping, less blocking. Tactically, blocking might have been the right thing to do, but strategically, he needed to be able to counterloop against this type of player if he wanted to reach the higher levels, and so counterlooping was the strategic choice.

How to be more aggressive with third-ball attack

Way too many players serve and push, thereby giving up their serve advantage against a passive receive. If you want to improve, you should learn to serve and loop against these passive long pushes. There are always exceptions, but the vast majority of top players - and most intermediate players as well - reach that level by almost always attacking when an opponent makes such a passive return. You should too. You have many options - forehand or backhand loop; loop hard, medium, or soft & spinny; and wide to the corners or at the opponent's elbow (middle).  Here's a video from Coach Tao Li from Table Tennis University (4:55) that helps teach how to do this.

Europe versus Chinese table tennis

Here's a recent article, Professionalism in Europe, that explains why Europe is lagging behind China in table tennis. Here's an article I wrote a while back (along with Cheng Yinghua) called The Secrets of Chinese Table Tennis and What the Rest of the World Needs to Do to Catch Up.

Teams writeup

Here's a short article on the JOOLA North America Teams in the Baltimore Sun.

Mike Cavanaugh interview

Here's an interview with USATT Executive Director Mike Cavanaugh in the Sports Business Daily.

Tryptophan!

You may remember I warned about eating turkey for lunch or dinner if you have to play afterwards, because the Tryptophan may make you sleepy? (I blogged about this on September 8, and reprinted it on November 24.) Well, Red and Rover did a cartoon on this!

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