ITTF Coaching Seminars

June 18, 2013

MDTTC Camps

Starting yesterday we have ten consecutive weeks of camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, each Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM, with a 1-3PM lunch and rest break. Here's info on the camps.

I'll be coaching at most of them. I will miss at least two of them: July 1-5 for the U.S. Open, and July 22-26 for a science fiction writer's workshop I'm attending in Manchester, NH, July 19-27. (Call it my annual vacation.) I might also miss July 29 - Aug. 2 for the Junior Olympics - not sure yet. If there's a small turnout in some weeks, I may miss some of those sessions as well - I could use the rest break. The camps are dominated by junior players (mostly Chinese), but there are usually a few adults who take part. The camps are for all ages and levels.

This is our 22nd consecutive year of running camps at MDTTC, which started in 1992. Coaches Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and I have been there from the start. Also coaching (or acting as practice partners) at the camps are Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Chen Jie ("James"), and Raghu Nadmichettu.

From the start we've had a basic system. I mostly run the morning sessions (10AM-1PM), where I give short lectures, and then we break into groups doing lots of multiball. Until two years ago the players were divided pretty much randomly in each group.  Then Cheng and Jack asked if I could focus on the beginners in the camp, since they tended to slow things down in other groups - they need more individual attention - and I agreed. So now I generally get all the beginners in my group. We end the session with games, often 11-point games moving up and down tables, either singles or doubles.

Then lunch is served - Chinese food that each player orders for $6 in the morning. (Some go out for lunch or bring their own, but most order the Chinese food.) After lunch I generally take a group to our customary 7-11 trip.

Cheng and Jack run the afternoon session. This is mostly table practice, and then games at the end. We usually finish with Brazilian Teams, where you have teams of 3-6, with one player at a time from each team playing a point. If you win the point, you keep playing; if you lose the point, you go to the end of your team's line, and the next player is up. New player always serves. We generally handicap the top players against the weaker players, for example only giving them one shot to win the point.

Day One Camp Highlights

We focused on grip, stance, and the forehand on the first day. (Advanced players were grouped separately.) I had an interesting mix in my first group on Monday morning. Here's a listing of five of them:

  • Jumpy two-fingers grip kid. He's 13 years old, and had two fingers on the racket's surface instead of just the index finger, and tended to jump around a bit as he hit forehands. (Anyone remember Jills Hammersly of England?) It took some urging to convince him to take the second finger off, but by the end of the session his forehand was greatly improved, care of the better grip and a more balanced stance.
  • Wrist back forehand kid. He was the youngest in the camp, five years old. No matter what you say to him or how many times you adjust his shot, he likes to tip his wrist straight back on forehands. By the end of the day we'd mostly fixed the problem, but not completely - I still had to remind him every few minutes. Okay, more like every 30 seconds.
  • Big backswing forehand kid. He's about 10, and took a backswing that brought his racket back to about California before sweeping forward through the USA heartland before eventually arriving in Maryland just in time (usually) to hit the ball. We spent some time shortening his stroke, and he met with much greater success.
  • Stand-sideways forehand guy. He's about 20, and stood completely sideways for his forehand shots. He was self-taught, but was open to change. I fixed his stance so that his right foot was only slightly back (otherwise you can't really get any body rotation into the shot without looking pretty much backwards, plus you don't have time to go into this stance in a fast rally). He picked up the change pretty fast.
  • Out-of-practice backs-off-the-table-too-much kid. He's 13. I was his coach for a year (he reached about 1400 with a good loop from both sides), but then he stopped playing for almost two years. Now he's back. He's hitting and looping his shots well, but we do need to get him to stay a little closer to the table.

In the afternoon session I worked with eight beginners, including Jumpy Two-Fingers, Wrist-Back Forehand, and Big Backswing Forehand. We did a lot of practice and a lot of games.

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's a listing of upcoming ITTF Coaching Courses in the U.S., both Level 1 and Level 2. I'm teaching one in South Bend, IN on Oct. 2-6, 2013. I'm also attending the Level 2 course in New Jersey, Aug. 26-31.

Hopes Week

Here's a video (2:37) with highlights from the ITTF Hopes Week in Austria (where many of the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the world trained and competed together for a week).

Homer and Adam Brown Earn Guitars

Here's the article on their getting guitars from the country music group Lady Antebellum.

New Nike Ping-Pong Commercials

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June 14, 2013

Fundamentals and a Strong Foundation

I had a 1200-rated 11-year-old student recently at a tournament who faced long pips for the first time, against a higher-rated player. The opponent was a long pips blocker, no sponge, and pretty much covered the entire table with the long pips on the backhand, i.e. a "pushblocker." My student went in having no idea what to do, other than my admonition to give lots of deep no-spin, play steady, and patiently wait for an easy ball to put away. However, it became obvious very quickly that even against a high ball, he wasn't going to be smashing the high balls with any consistency; the long pips returns were just too different for him.

So pretty much on his own he stopped smashing, and simply rolled ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after ball after . . . (I think you get the idea). The rallies were extremely long, but his patience won out; he won, 11-9 in the fifth. (The opponent went on to have a great tournament - probably because my student warmed him up!)

Later, in a training session, I mentioned that in tournaments you are going to face all sorts of different and strange styles like this one, and there were just too many to prepare him for everything. I also told him that at some point, I'd bring out a sheet of long pips for him to practice against, but not now; it wasn't worth it, and would just take away from other training. I wanted to install strong fundamentals, not worry about learning to play all the different styles this early in his development. He'll learn that later.

I told him something that I thought should be highlighted for others developing their games:

"If I try to prepare you for everything, you'll be prepared for nothing. If I give you a solid foundation, you can adjust to anything."

The point was that if I tried to prepare him for [and here I started to write a LONG list of weird styles, but decided I'd leave it to your imagination instead - there's a lot], then he'd know what to do against all of them, but would have less of a foundation in his game since we'd have wasted so much time preparing for things he'll rarely face. And so even if he knew how to play these weird styles, he wouldn't have the foundation to execute what was needed to win, and so he wouldn't be prepared against anyone. Instead, I told him to develop the foundation of his game (i.e. the fundamentals) so that his foundation is stronger than his opponents, and learn to adjust to them. If he did, I assured him he'd go right through opponents that he would otherwise have struggled with.  

Another way to think of it is this: if the opponent has a "weird" game, then he's not playing like most players. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's a reason certain techniques are considered "good" and others "not so good." If you have "good" technique, and the other has "not so good" technique, then his only overall advantage over you is the very weirdness of his game. His weakness is that his technique is flawed, and if you have better technique, then you can adjust to his weirdness and win because of the sounder technique.

Rest assured there are many players with so-called "not so good" technique who are very good. They have honed these "not so good" techniques to the point where they are pretty good. But overwhelmingly they would be even better if they had spent the same amount of time and energy developing more proper technique. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule, there's a reason why good technique is considered as such. (The biggest exception to this might be the very style mentioned above, "pushblockers," where players who are not as physically "athletic" as others can often reach a pretty high level by just blocking with long pips instead of conventional technique - but with long pips no sponge, that could be considered "proper technique." But that's a whole other essay for another time.)

I do believe that players should experiment and learn to do a few things different, especially on the serve, and perhaps on at least one receive or rally shot. Having something different can throw off an opponent. Just don't overdo it for the sake of doing it if your goal is to reach your maximum potential.

Yesterday

Yesterday was a pretty good day. Due to near-hurricane thunderstorms, three of my four students cancelled (normally not "good," but I needed the rest); I got a bunch of writing and reading done; the Orioles, in a four-team AL East Divisional race, beat the rival Red Sox while the other two in the race, the Yankees and Rays, both lost (and as noted in yesterday's blog, Orioles Hangout published my Top Ten List); and I got to see the midnight showing of "Man of Steel."

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's an ITTF article on the ITTF Level 1 coaching seminar in Austin, Texas run by Richard McAfee, starting last Monday and ending today. I ran a similar one in Maryland in 2011, and am running another in South Bend, IN, Oct. 2-6. More info on that soon - probably Monday.

Chinese Versus European Loop

Here's an article that highlights the difference between the "Chinese" and "European" loops.

USATT Board Chair Blog

Here's a blog entry posted yesterday by the Chair of the USATT Board Mike Babuin. Here's the opening paragraph: "Recently I had the distinct pleasure to introduce table tennis into Valor Games. For those unfamiliar with Valor Games it is a competition designed and geared towards military personnel and veterans who are physically disabled and/or who have suffered from one of several conditions, traumas, or disorders as a result of their service to our country.  While many people may be familiar with the Wounded Warrior Program, Valor Games is a similar yet distinct competition that is gaining in recognition and participation across the United States."

The Pongcast

Here's the latest Pongcast (18:46). "This month the Pongcast reviews the ITTF World Table Tennis Championships and looks at what has been happening at the ITTF in May."

Lily and Ariel at China Open

Below is a summary of how the USA girls are doing in the China Open, as posted this morning by Bruce Liu. (Here's the ITTF China Open Page with results, pictures, and articles, and here are a few matches of Lily, Ariel, and Wu Yue on iTV. The China Open ends this Sunday.)

June 14 (China time) Summary:
Women's Singles:

  • Lily upset the #16 seed BARTHEL Zhenqi (#66 in the world) in the round of 32. It was another wild 7-gamer (11-5, 12-10, 7-11, 7-11, 11-7, 4-11, 11-1).Her round of 16 opponent will be World Champion/World Cup Champion/Olympic Gold Medalist, aka the Grand Slammer, GUO Yue from China. We will see how wild Lily can be. It will be tough for sure. But that why it is worth fighting for.
  • Ariel fought hard as usual. She lost to GUO Yan (#5) in 5 (9-11, 5-11, 11-9, 5-11, 5-11). A great effort. 

Women's Doubles:

  • Lily and Ariel are in the quarterfinals at the China Open! Not too shabby for two 17-year-old. Due to their busy schedule, they really did not have much time practice doubles. Imagine if they can practice more together... Their opponents in the quarterfinal will be GUO Yue(#16) / LIU Shiwen (#2) from China. I'm pretty sure other than Lily and Ariel, all other players still in the Women's Doubles are full-time professional players! In fact, most likely the majority of the players in the whole tournament are professional players. 

U21 Girls' Singles:

  • Lily played twice today in the event. In the round of 16, she duly stopped the dangerous HIRANO Miu 3-1 (8-11, 11-8, 14-12, 18-16). Alas, lost to ZHOU Yihan (#102) from Singapore 4-1 in the quarterfinals. It is a great accomplish already, especially in China.
  • Ariel lost 0-3 to the red hot So Eka is out but don't let the game counts fool you. It was a highly competitive match. You can see it yourselves from the score (13-15, 9-11, 8-11).

Go girls! 

Musical Ping-Pong Table

Yes, an interactive musical ping-pong table, on display at Union Depot in St. Paul, MN!

Apparently this table plays music as the ball hits the surface.

Kim Kardashian Plays Ping-Pong With Her Family

Here's the story from Table Tennis Nation. The apocalypse has occurred.

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January 17, 2013

Coaching an Olympic Figure Skating Coach

Yesterday I had the honor of coaching for an hour Audrey Weisiger, the celebrated USA figure skating coach. (She was coach of the 1998 and 2002 USA Olympic Team, and coach of Michael Weiss, and has also coached Timothy Goebel, Lisa Kwon, Christine Lee, Parker Pennington, and Tommy Steenberg.) She plans on taking a series of lessons with me at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She was referred to me by John Olsen, a player/coach at the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Center.

Audrey had been playing with an extreme backhand grip, trying to cover the whole table with her backhand. Hitting a forehand was a completely new experience for her. When we started out, she sort of slashed at the ball with an open racket, and the balls sailed off the end. (Part of the reason for this was she was used to playing with a hardbat, not the sponge racket she was now using.) She also tended to either use no body rotation, or rotate the entire body stiffly as if it were one solid object.

The first half of the session was all multiball. The key to fixing her stroke was to have her start with the racket slightly lower and slightly closed, and stroke slightly upwards. I also had her rotate her upper body backwards a bit during the backswing. When we did these things, she went off the end with an awkward stroke. She still wasn't used to how the sponge racket grabbed the ball, and so was instinctively aiming too much up. So I had her try to topspin the top of the ball into the net. This she had no trouble doing - and miraculously, it led to a good stroke, just not enough lift. Next I had her do the same stroke but try to lift the ball just over the net. Bingo! From there on her stroke was correct, and she proceeded to hit lots of nice forehands (with decent topspin) in a row. (She also had a tendency to close the racket during the forward stroke, and to back off the table too much, but we mostly fixed those problems.)

We did a lot of forehands to ingrain the stroke, and then did some side-to-side stroking drills, occasionally going back to one spot to make sure she didn't lose the stroke. Finally, when she looked pretty comfortable, we went forehand-to-forehand live. Within minutes she was able to hit up to 20 in a row. It still needs work as she still sometimes backed off the table too much and the stroke sometimes gets erratic if she has to move, but the foundation is now there.

We also worked on her backhand, where she was much more comfortable. We had to change her grip from the extreme backhand grip she had been using, but she picked it up quickly. (At first she was using a different grip for forehand and backhand, but we got away from that.)

We won't talk about her serve as we only had a few minutes at the end, where I learned she'd been using a "bounce" serve where she bounced the ball on her side of the table and hit it directly to the other side, rather than have it bounce on her side first. AAAAAHHHHH!!!!! But she was able to serve correctly before we finished, and promised to practice her serve for next time, along with shadow practicing the forehand and backhand strokes. She has to mix next week - out of town traveling - but will continue the next week.

It was interesting discussing the similarities in coaching between our sports. In both, there's a lot of training to develop muscle memory, and a lot of visualization.

Other celebrities I've coached at MDTTC include Jack Markell (governor of Delaware) and Judah Friedlander (standup comic and one of the stars of 30 Rock.)

Proofing

After I finish this blog and do some promised editing of a long table tennis article for someone, I either collapse into bed or start the final tedious line-by-line proofing of the pages of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. The book is 240 pages with 99,528 words. The bigger question is where do I do the proofing? Ledo's Pizza (pepperoni pizza)? Hong Kong Café (kung pau or sesame chicken)? Wendy's (chili with cheese and onion)? Or at MDTTC (no food, just lots of ping-pong on the side)? For some reason, I rarely do extensive paper proofing at home; I always like to go out somewhere for that, usually Ledo's.

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Two ITTF Coaching Seminars in the U.S. in 2013 are now scheduled, both in Austin, TX. There will be a Level 1 Course on June 10-14, and a Level 2 Course on Sept. 9-14. I took the Level 1 course in 2010, and in 2011 I taught one. There's a chance I may teach another one this year - not sure yet. I was going to take the Level 2 course last year but just didn't have the time or money for it. I really want to go, but to go I'd have to pay roughly $300 registration, $300 air fare, $300 hotel, and lose at least $500 in lost coaching fees, or $1400 total. I can't afford $1400. Anyone want to sponsor me?

USATT Annual Giving Campaign

It's time for the annual USATT Giving Campaign! USATT receives matching funds from the U.S. Olympic Committee for money donated.

Send Gary Schlager to the Maccabiah Games

Here's a nice page Gary's put together to raise funds for his trip. He's raised $5849 of the $10,000 needed. (Maybe I should put one of these together to solicit the money to send me to the ITTF Level 2 course? See segment above.)

$1,000,000 Sandpaper Tournament?

We've already had a couple of $100,000 World Ping Pong Championships, with sandpaper rackets only. Now promoter Barry Hearn is talking $ one million. "You're not going to get kids to pick up the game if it is not aspirational. So I need to get my tournament up to US$1 million prize money as quickly as possible. And then we will blow the whole table tennis world up with a bang." He described sandpaper table tennis this way: "It's rock 'n' roll. It's going to be high-fives, knocking balls into the crowd, interaction between the players and the crowd." And he aims to "catapult the game into the big league" and onto the international television stage, which he says has a potential audience of 700 million.

Timo Boll vs. the Chopper

Adam Bobrow's been posting daily videos on Facebook of Timo Boll, in anticipation of his visit to Spin LA this Saturday. Here's one showing a great point (47 sec) as Timo loops nearly 50 shots to win a point against chopper Ding Song.

Drinkhall's Multiball

Here's a video (7:37) and analysis of England's Paul Drinkhall doing a multiball training session, by Bar Lacombe of Expert Table Tennis.

Table Tennis Mural

They've put up a sports mural at the University of California at Berkeley at the Recreational Sports Facility - and it features a picture of Yau-Man Chan playing table tennis! Also shown are soccer and kayaking, and perhaps others not shown in the picture.

"Trust the Topspin"

I was teaching someone to loop yesterday and he kept looping into the net. I told him to sweep the ball upwards, and "trust the topspin" to pull the ball down. He looped the next ball way off the end. I said "Not that much!" Somehow this exchange struck me as hilarious at the time. Maybe you had to be there.

TT on TV

There were a pair of table tennis scenes on TV recently:

  • CSI NY, Jan. 4 episode, "Command + P," with a 50-second table tennis scene starting at 34:20.
  • Storage Wars New York, Jan. 15 episode, "I've Got a Bride to Sell You in Brooklyn," featuring table tennis player Will Horowitz. The table tennis starts at 16:45 and lasts about a minute as Will explains to two woman the value of their table tennis robot.

Chinese Women's Team Gangnam Dance

Here's the Chinese National Team doing a Gangnam Dance (1:22)!

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October 22, 2012

Tip of the Week

Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves.

MDTTC October Open

I ran the MDTTC Open this weekend, a rather exhausting ordeal since I also did four hours of coaching. Here is my write-up and results of the event, followed by the usual blog stuff. 

$2600 Butterfly MDTTC October Open
MarylandTable Tennis Center
Gaithersburg, MD • Oct. 20-21, 2012
By Larry Hodges

This month there were extra large trophies waiting for winners of most of the Sunday events, in addition to $2600 in prize money mostly given out in Saturday events at the October Open at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The larger trophies went over very well, and hopefully will attract more players in our next tournament, sometime early in 2013.

Wang Qing Liang, rated 2621, defended his title from last month, once again defeating fellow MDTTC coach Chen Bo Wen, rated 2516, in another 4-2 battle, this time at -9,10,-9,7,8,5. There's an old adage that choppers tend to get better as the match goes on as they adjust to the opponent's attack, and that's exactly what happened. By the end of the match there seemed no way to get through Wang's chopping defense, and his forehand loop was as spectacular as ever when he'd swoop in against a push or counterloop from off the table. Chen had actually spit matches with Wang at the recent Badger Open, knocking Wang's rating down from the 2642 he'd achieved mostly from making the semifinals of Men's Singles at the U.S. Open. Wang won $1000 to Chen's $400.

Both had semifinal battles. Former MDTTC junior star Richard Lee (rated 2424 and the long-time owner of North American Table Tennis) led 10-9 and 11-10 in the first (going for the possibly the most powerful forehand rip in the history of the universe at 11-10 that just missed) and 10-8 in the second before losing at 11,10,7,8. In the other semifinals, Larry Abass (rated 2320) came from way behind to win the first against Chen, and then made it to deuce in the fifth game, but in between it was all two-winged looping penholder Chen, winning at -9,4,5,4,10. Abass, who also used to be a big two-winged looper (but shakehand style), is now using one millimeter sponge on his backhand, which he uses to backhand loop against backspin but mostly chop against topspin. He caught both Chen and many spectators by surprise with his excellent chopping game, including Raghu Nadmichettu in the quarterfinals. Between him and Wang, the chopping game is alive and well in Maryland. Lee and Abass each pocketed $200 for the semifinals.

Hung Duy Vo, who'd lost the final of Under 2350 last month (to Raghu Nadmichettu), mostly dominated Under 2300 this month for $200, defeating Nasruddin Asgarali (who won $100) in the final, -8,11,6,8, and Roy Ke (age 13, rated 2188) in the semifinals, 7,7,-7,5. Asgarali took out Lixin Lang in the semifinals, 8,-10,6,4, allowing him to return to his greatly appreciated help at the desk.

Chen Qiming won Under 2150 ($150), 7,7,-10,-9,4 over Arsha Kuds ($75), whose comeback from down 0-2 in games fell short. But Kuds then surprised everyone by making the quarterfinals of the Open with wins over Hung Duy Vo and Lixin Lang. Both finalists did Houdini comebacks in the semifinals, with Chen coming back against Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6, and Kuds against Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.

The semifinals of Under 2000 was a battle of experienced veterans against aspiring juniors, with the veterans prevailing in five as Mahesh Balagangadhar defeated Jason Wei (14), 5,-7,5,-6,8, and Gordon Gregg defeated Amy Lu (U.S. #3 Under 12 girl at 1852), 4,-8,7,-7,9. In the final, it was Balagangadhar ($100) over Gregg ($50) with his Seemiller grip variation that seems to give junior players so much trouble.

Mohamed Kamara won $80 by defeating Princess Ke ($40 for the U.S. #4 Under 12 girl at 1821 until she turned 12 in August) in the final of Under 1850, -9,6,11,-9,6.

Timothy La, with his two-winged smashing game, seems to like to go five games. This month he changed the trend from last month (where he kept losing five-gamers), to prevailing deuce in the fifth, defeating David Goldstein in the Under 1600 final, -8,7,4,-8,11, and stopping Alexander Beaulieu's comeback in the semifinals, 8,9,-9,-12,12. In the other semifinal, Goldstein defeated Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9, to the great relief of the control desk, since Kyle was holding up many matches by making the semifinals here, and also...

...winning Under 1350 over Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11. Kyle, 13, had a semifinal battle with Daniel Yang (12), -9,4,9,-4,6, while Zangwill defeated an exhausted Ken Chia in the other semifinals, 4,4,2. Why was Ken Chia exhausted?

Leon Bi won Under 1100, exhausting the inexhaustible Ken Chia in the final, 5,8,6. Leon, however, could only lament how he'd been in a three-way tie to advance out of both his Under 1350 and Under 1600 round robins, only to finish in third each time by a single game as two advanced. Not bad for a 12-year-old with a rating of 637 before a full summer of training!

Special thanks goes to tournament sponsors Butterfly and Llewellyn Realtor James Wu.

(NOTE - Click on the names below for a photo of the finalists, or all four semifinalists in the Open.)

Open - Final: Wang Qing Liang d. Chen Bo Wen, -9,10,-9,7,8,5; SF: Wang d. Richard Lee, 11,10,7,8; Chen d. Larry Bass, -9,4,5,4,10; QF: Wang d. Richard Doverman, 4,10,9; Lee d. Nathan Hsu, 6,6,6; Abass d. Raghu Nadmichettu, 6,6,8; Chen d. Arsha Kuds, 8,17.
Under 2300 - Final: Hung Duy Vo d. Nasruddin Asgarali, -8,11,6,8; SF: Vo d. Roy Ke, 7,7,-7,5; Asgarali d. Lixin Lang, 8,-10,6,4.
Under 2150 - Final: Chen Qiming d. Arsha Kuds, 7,7,-10,-9,4; SF: Chen d. Lilly Lin, -5,-8,7,11,6; Kuds d. Richard Bowling, -9,-7,6,9,6.
Under 2000 - Final: Mahesh Balagangadhar d. Gordon Gregg, 10,8,-10,8; SF: Balagangadhar d. Jason Wei, 5,-7,5,-6,8; Gregg d. Amy Lu, 4,-8,7,-7,9.
Under 1850 - Final: Mohamed Kamara d. Princess Ke, -9,6,11,-9,6; SF: Kamara d. Mort Greenberg, 9,4,11; Ke d. Tony Li, 8,4,3.
Under 1600 - Final: Timothy La d. David Goldstein, -8,7,4,-8,11; SF: La d. Alexander Beaulieu, 8,9,-9,-12,12; Goldstein d. Kyle Wang, 3,-8,4,9.
Under 1350 - Final: Kyle Wang d. Michael Zangwill, 7,7,11; SF: Wang d. Daniel Yang, -9,4,9,-4,6; Zangwill d. Ken Chia, 4,4,2.
Under 1100 - Final: Leon Bi d. Ken Chia, 5,8,6; SF: Bi d. Douglas Harley, 2,7,7; Chia d. Michael Borek, -4,8,-7,7,4.

European Championships

The European Championships, though of course somewhat upstaged by the MDTTC Open, were held this weekend in Herning, Denmark. Timo Boll of Germany won Men's Singles for the sixth time, this time over surprise finalist Ruiwu Tan of Croatia, while Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus won Women's Singles for the second time, over Yi Fang Xian of France. Here are ITTF articles on it, and here's the home page for the event, with complete results.

Simple Tactical Advice

"Tactics isn't about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent. Tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." This is the advice I regularly give. I've expanded on this in my upcoming book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide," which will be out in December.

Rajul Sheth for Silicon Valley Entrepreneurship of the Year Award

He's one of the nine nominees - go here to vote!!! The awards will be presented on Nov. 18. Here's a description of the award: "Silicon Valley Awards 2012 'Making a Difference' is all about the people who live in Silicon Valley and who make a difference in one way or another to help the Valley grow and become a better and richer place, culturally and professionally. The objective of the SVA 2012 'Making a Difference,' is to recognize these individuals in Silicon Valley who epitomize the Silicon Valley culture, its philosophy; these people work in a way which creates successful endeavors.

ITTF Coaching Seminars in India

Here's another ITTF article about the last of the three ITTF Coaching Seminars run in India by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Pongcast Episode 17

Here's their latest video (12:07), this time showcasing the 2012 China National Championships and the 2012-2013 Chinese Super League. (Did you know the Chinese Super League was originally put together by Xu Huazhang, the former Chinese National Team Member who lived in the U.S. for much of the 1990s, at one point achieving a rating of 2777? He lived and trained at MDTTC, and shared a house with me for two years.)

The Lord of the Ping?

I think his hand is cupped.

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June 7, 2012

ITTF Coaching Seminars

Here's a note about upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminars that was sent to all USATT Certified Coaches from the USATT Coaching Committee. (I'm a member.) If you are interested, see the info page. I'm running my second one at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on Aug 11-12, 18-19 (with possible Paralympic session on Aug. 25), so I hope to see you there! Here's the flyer for the one I'm running. 

Special Notice to All USATT Members, USATT Coaches, and USATT Clubs
From: Richard McAfee, Chairman, USATT National Coaching Advisory Committee

In the upcoming summer months, USATT Coaching is offering 5 regional ITTF-PPT Level 1 Coaching Courses.  USATT Coaching would like to urge anyone who is actively involved or has thought about becoming involved in coaching table tennis to plan to attend one of these courses.

Coaches completing all the course requirements of the ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course will become ITTF Certified and listed on the ITTF Coaches Registry.  In addition, coaches becoming ITTF Level 1 who are not currently USATT Certified (or certified at a “club” level) are eligible to become USATT “State” Level Coaches.  For current USATT Coaches, your ITTF Certification will be added to your name on the USATT Coaching Data-base.

Course Content:

The ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course focuses on preparing coaches to work with children and also on developing effective group coaching skills.  Topics include: how to conduct introductory programs for children, teaching in a school setting, how to teach all basic strokes, teaching serve and serve return, physical training, psychological skills, nutrition and energy systems, tournament organization, rules, and junior development planning.  In addition, the course includes a full day of instruction on working with Para athletes which includes: understanding the classification system, special equipment of the Para athletes, Para rules, and basic knowledge of Para techniques and tactics.

More Trained Coaches Needed:

Every USATT Club needs trained and motivated coaches if we are ever going to raise the standard of both our athletes and our clubs.  I would urge every USATT Club to look to recruit one or more persons who are interested in coaching and help sponsor them to attend one of these ITTF Courses.  The benefit back to your club of having more trained coaches will show itself for years to come.  The immediate benefit is the all coaches attending the ITTF Course must complete 30 hours of coaching at their local club of which 5 hours is supervised and graded.  This often results in many new coaching programs for the local club. 

More Advanced ITTF Courses Coming Soon:

While the ITTF-PPT Level 1 Course is an introductory coaching course it still covers a great amount of material that coaches of all levels will find interesting.  More importantly for the elite level coaches, the Level 1 Course sets the stage for the ITTF Level 2, ITTF Level 3, and ITTF High Performance Courses which will be coming to the USATT in the near future.  Regional Level 2 Courses will begin in 2013 and Level 3 in 2014. 

It is important to note that the ITTF does not “grandfather” anyone and every coach must start at Level 1 and work their way up.  Currently there are no USATT Coaches higher than Level 1 so now is the time to get in on the ground floor.  All coaches must be a Level 1 Coach for 1 year before they can apply for the Level 2 Course. 

Summer ITTF-PPT Level 1 Courses:

  • Fremont, CA – June 11-15, 2012
  • Champaign, IL – July 17-21, 2012
  • Pleasantville, NY - (8/4, 8/5, 8/11, 8/12, 8/18), 2012
  • Gaithersburg, MD - (8/11-12, 8/18-19, 8/25), 2012
  • Austin, TX (8/13 - 8/17, 2012)

For Complete Information, please see: http://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis/Coaching-and-Tips/Courses.aspx

Stuff I Did at Ledo Pizza Yesterday

As I do every few weeks, I spent an afternoon at Ledo Pizza yesterday getting work done. I did both table tennis and science fiction & fantasy stuff. What did I accomplish?

  • Reviewed printouts explaining the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League to prepare for an online meeting, which took place last night at 8PM for about an hour;
  • Edited and rewrote chapter 20 of my Table Tennis Tactics book, "Mental Tactics," based on suggestions from table tennis sports psychologist Dora Kurimay;
  • Proofed several rewritten chapters of the Table Tennis Tactics book;
  • Proofed two new stories, "The Nature of Swords" and "Death, the Devil, and the President's Ghost," which I submitted to markets last night;
  • Proofed rewritten versions of two stories, "The Purple Rose of Retribution" and "Nanogod," and submitted both last night;
  • Ate pepperoni pizza.

Update on Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

It's currently around 99,000 words (over twice as many words as Table Tennis: Steps to Success, my best-selling previous work, which sold over 28,000 copies), as I constantly tinker with it. However, except for some more work I plan to do today on chapter 20 (the Mental Tactics chapter), the written part is done. I've also worked out an agreement with a top table tennis photographer for use of his photos, plus I've ransacked my own photo files, so I'm well into finding the roughly 70 photos that I plan to use to represent various chapters or sections. Then I'll start creating the pages. The plan is to be able to do both POD (Print on Demand) and ebooks. The only thing I'm not sure of at this point is the cover. I have several ideas I'm playing with.

"As One" the movie

Here's a website with info on the movie (about the unified Korean Women's Team winning the 1991 World Team Championships), linked to a video preview (1:48). Later, after I see the movie, I'll blog about it. I do know they have changed history to add drama, apparently having Korea win the doubles in dramatic fashion in the final match to win the championships, when in fact the doubles was the third of five matches played, and they lost that! I'm told that in the movie, an umpire kept faulting the Koreans, but if I remember correctly, that really did happen, though it's likely the movie exaggerated this. I'll get the movie on Netflix when it's available, since it's not playing my area (Maryland).

The Shakehands Serving Grip

Here's an article, and linked video (2:55), that examines the intricacies of the shakehands grip for serving. I think one of the keys here is whether to use the middle finger on the handle to add extra snap, or hold the racket only between thumb and index finger for extra flexibility. I do it both ways, depending on the serve, but generally using the middle finger for extra spin, and taking it off for quicker motions leading to more deception.

Ariel Hsing Wins North American Cup Again

Here's the story.

Princeton Table Tennis Video

Here are video interviews (3:40) with four members of the Princeton Table Tennis Club - Amaresh Sahu, Kevin Ma, Thomas An, and Gabriel Reder. (Amaresh and Kevin are both alumni from my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center.)

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Takes on Olympian

He's no match for Mo Zhang. Here's the article, linked to the video (1:07).

A Table Tennis Birthday Cake

Yes, you can have your table tennis cake and eat it too.

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December 12, 2011

Tip of the Week

Depth control of serves.

The USA Nationals, Christmas Vacation, and a Sabbatical

After today, I'm taking a short sabbatical from blogging. My next blog will be next Monday, Dec. 19 (right after I return from the USA Nationals), and my next one after that will be when I resume blogging regularly (Mon-Fri) on Dec. 27. 

I'm leaving for the USA Nationals this morning, returning next Saturday. Then on Monday I leave for Santa Barbara, CA, for Christmas with family, returning on a red-eye flight on Christmas night that lands back in Maryland about 8AM on Dec. 26, in time for the MDTTC Christmas camp I coach at that starts that afternoon.

Yes, I know, the Nationals is exactly the time I should have lots to blog about, but I'm going to be extremely busy there, coaching, playing, and attending meetings, and expect to be leaving for the playing site early each morning and returning late.

I'm primarily going to the Nationals to coach, but I'm also entered in three hardbat events: Hardbat Singles (which I've won twice at the Open or Nationals), Over 40 Hardbat (I'm four-time and defending champion) and Hardbat Doubles (I'm 11-time and current champion, and playing with Ty Hoff - we've won it seven times).

I've spent way too much time in recent weeks working on my new table tennis book, watching videos of players that students of mine might be playing, and other sedentary projects at my computer, and now my back has stiffened up again, alas. Hopefully it'll loosen up when I play. However, as is the norm for me (since stiff muscles and coaching regularly don't mix well), I'm continually in a state of various injuries. Currently there's something in the back of my left knee that's hobbling me; my left Achilles tendon feels strained; and there's a strain in my right side. And why is my left big toe hurting? (I think I stepped on something sharp.) Par for me.

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide

I finished editing it this weekend. The "final" version is 81,066 words, with 21 chapters. In Courier New, double spaced, it prints out at 352 pages. I have a few people who are reading/critiquing it, and I'll probably do one more proofing. I have a publisher interested, though I'm toying with self-publishing. I'll look into the options in January.

Upcoming ITTF Coaching Seminars in the USA

Thirtieth Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy in China

There's a U.S. contingent touring China - and here are links to a number of articles on it. And here's another that features Dell & Connie Sweeris.

Ma Long

Here's an article on the personal side of China's world #1.

Ma Lin's unbelievable (but illegal) serve

Here's a 19-second video of an unbelievable serve by China's Ma Lin. The ball curves so much not because of sidespin, but because of corkscrewspin, with the axis of rotation aimed away from Ma toward the server. (With sidespin, the axis would be up and down.) You can only get this much corkscrewspin with a high-toss serve, such as this one - see how high he tosses the ball. Some other world-class players probably have similar serves, you just don't see several bounces like this because the receiver normally hits the ball after the first bounce - and in this case, Ma has completely fooled the receiver, world champion Zhang Jike, who didn't see the sudden break coming, and thought the serve would go long.

Fantastic serve, but how many people noticed that he illegally hid contact with his arm? Freeze the video at contact and you'll see - you may have to make several attempts to get it. Or just see the image I took from the video. The arrows show the ball and his hand and arm. The rules say:

"From the start of service until it is struck, the ball shall ... not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry."

"As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net."

"It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws." 

It's possible that the receiver, Zhang, can barely see contact, but it's close - Ma's arm is rapidly moving out of the way, and the split second before this picture, the arm was completely in the way. It's the server's responsibility to serve so the umpire is satisfied that he is serving legally, and no umpire could possibly say that he is satisfied that this serve was not hidden. But we don't even have to go that far - the serve is blatantly illegal since he has left his free arm and hand between the ball and the net.

Table tennis going to the dogs

Let's watch 52 seconds of a Pekingese playing floor table tennis.

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June 14, 2011

"Let go, Have fun"

One of the toughest things to do in table tennis (or any skill sport) is to do exactly what the heading says - "Let go, Have fun." In a split-second skill sport like table tennis, you can't consciously control each shot; it's all instinctive. Yet that's exactly what one does when they can't relax. And so all their instincts go out the window, and suddenly they can't make a shot. Afterwards, they wonder why.

USA Women's Champion Arial Hsing, just 15 years old, exemplifies the ability to "Let go, Have fun." It is that ability (along with huge amounts of training, great coaching, experience, etc. - details!) that make her a champion. And how did she learn to do this? During her up-and-coming years, guess what she always wrote on her arm before a tournament? Here she is, about four years ago, at age 11. Yes, that's "Let go, Have fun!" written on her arm. (I have a larger version on my computer so I can zoom in and verify the words, including the exclamation mark at the end.)

Players who learn to do this find themselves basically spectators when they play. They think tactically, but otherwise they just watch the ball and let their bodies play the game while they observe. They just have fun watching as they pull off shot after shot!

Why not say "Let go, have fun" to yourself before every match from now on? Imagine how much better everyone would play. Of course, now that the secret's out, your opponent's going to do the same thing, and soon we'll have matches where the two players just sit around and watch while their bodies go play.

I was now going to direct you to a site dedicated to sports psychology for table tennis, run by table tennis star and sports psychologist Dora Kurimay - but apparently that site has been hacked by a nutty "Isl4m For Ever" extremist group. (Anyone know anything about this?) Hopefully Dora will get control of the site back soon. (I just sent her a message, but I'm guessing she already knows.)
Breaking News - Dora has fixed the problem, so now you can see her sports psychology for table tennis site! 

Here are some nice video points

ITTF Coaching Seminars in the U.S.

There are now five ITTF Coaching Seminars coming up in the U.S. (I ran the first one by a USA coach in April in Maryland.) Here is the upcoming schedule - get out your five-sided coin and choose!

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May 18, 2011

I'm back!

I've been out of town since May 9, and as noted in my blog at that time, I wouldn't have time to blog while I was away. (I was visiting my dad in the hospital, who had a stroke. He's still mostly paralyzed on his left side, but with four hours of therapy each day, it's starting to pay off - he has some left-side movement now.) Hopefully the world of table tennis has survived my absence, though I'm skeptical. Did I miss anything? I heard rumors of some World Championships or something, and China sweeping everything, but I'm sure that was just a rumor. I wonder how Team USA did?

A Levels Approach to Tactics and Other Tips

Are you reading the Tips of the Week? This Monday's Tip was "A Levels Approach to Tactics" - see if that's something you've thought about! Last week's was "A Journey of Nine Feet Begins at Contact," which is all about the journey the ball takes when it serves and what you should be watching for and visualizing.

ITTF Level 1 Coaching Seminars

As I wrote previously in my Blog, I recently ran the first ITTF Seminar in the U.S. run by a USA coach. (The only previous ITTF Seminar in the U.S. was run by ITTF's and Australia's Glenn Tepper, where I was one of the first two USA coaches, along with Donn Olsen, to be certified as an ITTF coach, and where I did the follow-up Course Conductor seminar so I could teach the course.) Now these seminars are popping up like pushed topspin serves! There are now five planned - I'll post info on these seminars as it becomes available.They are:

  • Colorado Springs, Aug. 1-4, taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee. Here's the USATT News Item.
  • BrownsvilleRecreation Center in Brooklyn, NY, by Sydney Christophe, in June and July.
  • ICC club in Milpitas, CA, by CoachMassimo Costantini, dates to be announced;
  • Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, by Richard McAfee, dates to be announced;
  • NewgyTraining Center in Gallatin, TN, by Roger Dickson, dates to be announced;

Slow motion Homage to the Sport

Table tennis star and model Sooyeon Lee does this 90-second Slow-Mo Fashion Show and Musical Homage to the Sport, high heels and all. Think you can beat her? She has a USATT rating of 2468, #10 Woman in the U.S.

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