Table Tennis Tactics book

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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July 12, 2012

How Good was Eric Boggan?

Eric was easily the U.S.'s best player internationally since the hardbat era in the 1950s. Ironically, while he was the best U.S. player, he sometimes lost to fellow U.S. players who were familiar with his game, with the result that while he was in the finals of Men's Singles at the USA Nationals seven times, he only won twice. (He lost in the final four straight years, 1980-83, three times to Dan Seemiller, once to brother Scott, before winning his second and last title in 1984.) Ironically, the first time he won (1978 at age 15) was the only year he wasn't seeded #1.

Eric played with the Seemiller grip. Few players these days still remember some of the things Eric could do as he confounded opponents with his inverted and anti receives, flips, and blocks, along with more conventional loops and smashes. Much of what he did is a dead or dying art.

Here is Eric's record, care of father and USATT Historian Tim Boggan. Make sure to browse over his list of international wins!

Eric Boggan (born 8/14/63) - Career Highlights:

Note: On beginning college in the fall of 1986, Eric went into retirement: he didn't try out for the '87 World Team or the '88 Olympics; didn't play in the '86 or '87 U.S. Closed; didn't play in the '87 U.S. Open. He began playing somewhat regularly again in Jan. '88. Then, in 1990, on graduating from Long Island University, and beginning his full-time job as a letter-carrier (22 years with the P.O. as of now), he soon retired from serious play.

  • 6-time U.S. World Team member ('79, '81, '83, ' 85, '89, '91).
  • 5-time North American World Cup participant ('80, '82, '83, '85, '86).
  • Reached eighths of World's in 1983.
  • Highest World Ranking-- #18 (1983)—best of any native-born U.S. player in the last 53 years, since '59.
  • Eric was the #1 rated player in the U.S. for 7 years—from Nov., '81 through Dec., '88. His highest rating was 2728 (May-June, 1984). Won many U.S. prize-money tournaments in those years.
  • Won Men's Singles at the 1983 U.S. Open, the only native-born player to do so in 47 years, since 1965.
  • He's twice won the U.S. Closed (1978, 1984).
  • Won Mixed Doubles with Kasa Gaca in 1979.
  • Won Men's Doubles with Sean O'Neill in 1988.
  • Has 5-times been the U.S. Closed runner-up ('80, '81, '82, '83, '88).
  • 1974-80: Won more than 20 U.S. Open/Closed Junior Championships.
  • At U.S. Open Team Championships was MVP in 1977. Was on the Championship Team in '78, '80, '90.
  • Played consecutively five full seasons in European Leagues (and in many International Opens all over the world)--#1 on team in Swedish League; #1 on teams in Bundesliga.
  • 1981: Won (from a strong field) the Scandinavian Junior Open.
  • 1982: Won Jamaica 'Love Bird' International.
  • 1982: Runner-up in Seoul Open to Waldner.

Historically, has one of the best International Records EVER compiled by a U.S. player. Here are the world-class players I KNOW he's beaten and their world ranking when he beat them - he might have beaten some of them when they were better ranked.

  • Jiang Jialiang, CHN (#1)
  • Mikael Appelgren, SWE (#7)
  • Zoran Kalinic, YUG (#10)
  • Seiji Ono, Japan (#10)
  • Istvan Jonyer, HUN (#10)
  • Jan-Ove Waldner, SWE (#10)
  • Milan Orlowski, CZE (#11)
  • Andrzej Grubba, POL (#12)
  • Kim Ki Taek, KOR (#12)
  • Chen Longcan, CHN (#12)
  • Desmond Douglas, ENG (#13)
  • Erik Lindh, SWE (#13)
  • Kiyoshi Saito, JPN (#14)
  • Dragutin Surbek, YUG (# 15)
  • Yashihito Miyazaki, JPN (#18)
  • Jacques Secretin, FRA (#18)
  • Stellan Bengtsson, SWE (#20)
  • Leszek Kucharski, POL (#20)
  • John Hilton, ENG (#20)
  • Tibor Klampar, HUN (#23)
  • Patrick Birocheau, FRA (#24)
  • Hiroyuki Abe, JPN (#28)
  • Jindrich Pansky, CZE (#28)
  • Zsolt Kriston, HUN (#28)
  • Peter Stellwag, GER (#30)
  • Ulf Bengtsson, SWE (#33)
  • Cho Jong Cho, PRK (#35)
  • Gabor Gergely, HUN (#36)
  • Ralf Wosik, GER (#40)
  • Patrick Renverse, FRA (#40)
  • Christian Martin, FRA (#43)
  • Georg Bohm, GER (#44)

Table Tennis Tactics Book - Update

Between our summer training camps, the U.S. Open, the Junior Olympics (I'm probably going), the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running in August (four days, 24 hours), this blog, and 246 other things, guess what's been put on hold? Don't worry, I'll get back to it soon. The writing is done (though I've got notes for a few additions), and the page layouts are about half done.

Difference Between a Coach and a Player

I noted this while coaching recently. When I'm playing a match and I have to move or stretch for a shot, I instinctively place the ball to make things as difficult for the opponent as possible, such as attacking at wide angles or at the opponent's middle. When I'm coaching and doing a practice drill with a student, on the same shot I instinctively place the ball where the ball is supposed to go in that drill. Somehow the brain reflexively remembers which mode I'm in (player or coach) and instinctively does the appropriate shot.

Crazy Table Tennis Shot

Here's a nine-second video that ends with one of the craziest shots I've ever seen.

Monster Table

A demonous ping-pong table?

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December 1, 2011

Reasons to attack the middle

I did some video coaching for someone recently. One of my primary comments was that over and over his first loop went to the corners, where the opponent was ready. Instead, I recommended his first attack primarily should go to the middle (i.e. roughly at the elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand). Why? It's much harder to block or counter-attack from there, as 1) the player has to decide whether to play forehand or backhand; 2) he then has to move into position, which is usually harder than moving to cover the corners; and 3) it draws the player out of position, allowing you to attack to the open corner, or (if the player rushes to cover it), to the other corner, or right back at the middle again.

Far too often players attack the corners with the idea they are looking for a ball to attack to the middle, with the common result of a strong return that they can't attack effectively. This is backwards - instead, attack the middle first, and then look for a chance to attack the next ball to the corners or the middle again.

Personally, I love opponents who mostly attack first to the corners, making my life easier. I'll buy my peers a drink if they promise to do so at key points. I hate with a vengeance those who attack my middle, who simply do not understand the "Do not go here!" sign implied by my constantly missing against those shots.

The main time you wouldn't attack the middle is when the opponent is looking to cover as much table as possible with his forehand, in which case the corners are probably more vulnerable, or else the middle moves toward the backhand side. But even here, while a soft or medium loop to the middle will probably get attacked with the forehand, a strong loop to the middle is very hard to handle with the forehand because the player is often jammed, and can only use the front half of their forehand hitting zone, while on a strong attack to the wide forehand, they can use the whole zone.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

Alas, I discovered yesterday that I'd stopped midway through the chapter on Loopers, so I've got a bunch of work to do on that. (It'll be a long chapter, already almost 4000 words.) The book is now at 69,000 words, and the first draft - hopefully done within days - will probably be about 75,000 words, though the final version will likely be well over 80,000. Here are the opening paragraphs to the chapter on Serving Tactics (currently 8400 words, the longest chapter):

"What is your goal when you serve? That is the primary question you must ask yourself when considering service tactics.

"Serves are one of the most under-practiced aspects of the game, and yet they are often the quickest way to improve and to develop the tactical weapons needed to win. Not only do serves start off half the rally, but a good serve sets you up to attack, and if you do this enough, you improve your attack as well.

"Remember in the chapter on Strategic Thinking I talked about how you needed to develop an overpowering strength? (If your overpowering strength happens to be serve and receive, then focus on the strongest shot in your game that your serve and receive sets up.) The primary purpose of your service game should be to get that overpowering strength into play. But what is that strength?

"For some players, the answer is both easy and hard. It's easy because they know what they want to do: serve and loop, the most common goal at the higher levels. It's difficult because you can't effectively use the same serve over and over and over or your opponent will adjust. So even these players have to develop a repertoire of serves that set them up to do what they want to do."

Time Lapse Photography of the North American Teams Set-up

This is great - you actually get to see the entire set up in 29 seconds! It was created by Tom Nguyen of NATT. (As a side note, for several years I worked part-time for them at tournaments, and helped with these set-ups - and believe me, it's a LOT of work!)

Best points from the 2011 JOOLA North American Teams

Enjoy! (10:50)

Want to serve on the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency Board of Directors?

 Here's the opening (roughly the first half) to the job description:

"The United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Athlete Advisory Council is pleased to announce its nationwide application process by which qualified athlete candidates may be nominated to serve as an Athlete Member on the US Anti Doping Agency’s Board of Directors.  A total of up to three candidates will be proposed to USADA’s Nominating Committee for their approval and acceptance for one of the two Athlete Member seats on USADA’s Board.  The Athlete Director shall serve a four year term starting Fall of 2012 and may be reelected for an additional four years. 

"Candidates should share the core values USADA: Integrity, respect, teamwork, responsibility, and courage.  The role of Athlete Member on USADA’s Board shall entail advocating and protecting athletes’ rights while remaining objective in achieving USADA’s goals.

"Candidates must have represented the United States in the Olympic, Pan American, Para Pan American, Paralympic Games, World Championships, or an event designated as an Operation Gold event within the ten (10) years preceding election.  However, it is preferred that candidates have competed more recently than the 10 year rule.  No candidate should have any prior doping violations and candidates may be required to complete and adequately pass a background and criminal check.

"The Anti Doping Division hopes to select from diverse pool of candidates from various backgrounds.  Although a minimum of Bachelor’s Degree is a must, no specific degree is required.  Knowledge of medicine, law, and chemistry may facilitate understanding of USADA policies and protocol.  Athletes may come from any sport under the Olympic, Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American umbrella."

This cat doesn't like ping-pong

Six seconds of feline fury.

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