TV

July 24, 2014

Last Blog Until Tuesday, August 5

This will be my last blog until Tuesday, August 5. Most people take vacations at beaches, or camping, or Disneyworld, or Las Vegas, etc. Me? I go to an annual science fiction & fantasy writing workshop for nine days of continuous writing, critiquing, classes, etc. I leave early tomorrow morning for "The Never-Ending Odyssey" (TNEO) in Manchester, New Hampshire for nine days, returning late on Saturday, Aug. 2. This will be the fifth time I've attended this, which is for graduates of the Odyssey Writing Workshop, a six-week workshop for writers of science fiction & fantasy, which I attended in 2006. At the workshop I'm having the first seven chapters of my SF novel critiqued.

Getting TT on TV
(This is from a response I gave to a question on the forum.)

One of the major reasons table tennis isn't on TV much in the U.S. is there's nobody actively pushing for this to happen, or trying to create an attractive package for the TV people. USATT is an amateur organization, and doesn't have anyone devoted to this. So it's unlikely table tennis will get much TV exposure in the U.S. until the same thing that happened in other TV sports happens to table tennis - the top players get together and form a professional organization. Their top priority would be to bring money to the sport via sponsors, and to do that they need to get on TV - and so getting on TV becomes their top priority. They'd hire an executive director who would work to get the sport on TV so that he can bring in sponsors. But until this happens, table tennis is unlikely to be on TV much in this country. 

Wednesday's Coaching

I did 4.5 hours of private coaching yesterday. Here's a rundown.

  • Sameer, 13, about 1600 player (two-hour session): We pretty much covered everything, as you can do in a two-hour session. The highlight of the session, however, was when I introduced him to the banana flip. It only took a few minutes before he was able to do this in drills, and then we practiced it for about ten minutes. Since he just came off playing three tournaments in a row - see my blog about his progress in my blog on Monday - we're focusing on fundamentals as we prepare him long-term for his next "big" tournament - the North American Teams in November. We did a lot of counterlooping. As a special bonus that he begged and pleaded for, I let him lob for five minutes.
  • Tiffany, 9, about 1750 (70-min session as part of the MDTTC camp): Tiffany is the top-rated under 10 girl in the U.S., and the stuff she did in the session shows why. During those 70 minutes she did 55 minutes of footwork drills. The only interruption to her footwork drills was ten minutes when I looped to her block, and five minutes where we pushed. The rest of the time it was non-stop footwork drills for her. When she seemed to slow down between rallies at one point, one of the Chinese coaches playfully called her "lazy," and she immediately picked up the pace again. Today she'll be right back at it, while I'm still sore from the ten minutes of looping. Tiffany's in an interesting point in her game as she's gradually making the transition to all-out looping.  
  • Matt, 13, about 1600 (one-hour session, plus 30 minutes of games): He has an excellent forehand and good footwork, but is in the process of transitioning to a more topspinny backhand. We spent most of the session doing backhand-oriented drills. These included side-to-side backhand footwork; alternate forehand-backhand footwork (forehand from forehand corner, backhand from backhand corner); and the 2-1 drill (backhand from backhand corner, forehand from backhand corner, and forehand from forehand corner). I was planning to work on his receive after all this, but Matt wasn't happy with his 2-1 drill play, and wanted to do more of that. How many players volunteer to do extra footwork? (Perhaps he was inspired when I told him how much footwork Tiffany had done.) So we did another ten minutes or so of the 2-1 drill, about twenty minutes total. Then we did a bunch of multiball, focusing on backhand loop. It won't be long before he hits 1800 level.

    At the end of the session with Matt we played games - I stayed an extra 30 minutes for this, so it was really a 90-minute session. (I often do this when I'm through coaching for the day.) An astonishing thing happened here. After I won the first game, he came back in the second game on fire, and went up - I kid you not - 10-2!!! So on to the third game, right? Wrong. On his serve I switched to chopping (mixing in heavy chop and no-spin), and on my serve I pulled out an old Seemiller windshield-wiper serve (racket going right to left), which he'd never seen before. He got tentative both against the chops and serve, and suddenly it was 10-all. We had a rally there, where I chopped four in a row, and then I threw a no-spin chop at him, and he looped it softly. I tried smashing, but missed, and he had another game point. But he missed the serve again, and I finally won 14-12. He was very disgusted with blowing the game, and was now playing tentative where he'd been on fire just a few minutes before, and the result was he fell apart the next two games, even though I went back to playing regular. I finally had him do a few forehand drills to get his game back, and he ended it with a relatively close game. I'm feeling kind of bad about this because I completely messed up his game when I switched to weird play, when my job as a coach is to help him play well. But he's going to have to face "weird" players in tournaments, so he might as well get used to playing them now.

    The thing Matt needs to take away from this is that if he can play so well that he's up 10-2 on the coach (and I still play pretty well!), then it won't be long before he can do that all the time. The thing I need to take away from this is I better start practicing or Matt, Tiffany, and Sameer are all going to start beating me. (Age, injuries, and lack of real practice have dropped my level down to about 2100 or so, but that should be enough to beat these three, right? Maybe not…)

Liu Shiwen: Hard Work Always Produces Good Results

Here's the article. Liu is the world #1 ranked woman.

Twelve Curious Facts about Table Tennis

Here's the article.

U.S. Open Blog

Here's the final blog on the U.S. Open by Dell & Connie Sweeris.

ITTF Coaching Course in Thailand

Here's the ITTF article on the latest overseas coaching course taught by USATT coach Richard McAfee.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Sixty-two down, 38 to go!

  • Day 39: Ian Marshall Feels Privileged to Do What He Loves

Lily Zhang at the ITTF YOG Camp

Here's the video (34 sec).

Another Great Trick Shot

Here's the video (36 sec) of Shi Wei.

Craigslist Ping Pong Table Negotiation

Here's the text of this rather crazy discussion. (Side note - I once met Craig Newmark, the founder of Craigslist.com. At the 2006 World Science Fiction Convention I was in the Science Fiction Writers of American suite - I'm a member - and after grabbing some snacks at the buffet table I joined two others sitting around a table discussing the future of the Internet. One of them began asking lots of questions about my science fiction writing. At some point the discussion turned to how we used online tools, and I mentioned I was in the process of renting out the first two floors of my townhouse, and that I was advertising it on Craigslist.com. The third person said, "Larry, do you know who you are talking to?" I said no, and that's when he pointed out that the guy I'd been talking with for half an hour was THAT Craig. He was at the convention as a member of several panels that involved the Internet.)

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December 10, 2012

Tip of the Week

Body Movement During the Forehand Loop.

Marty Reisman, Feb. 1, 1930 - Dec. 7, 2012

The great showman of the hardbat age, as well as in the sponge age (but always with hardbat or sandpaper), died on Friday at age 82. The sport will never be the same.

Marty had a huge influence on my life. In fact, he ruined it! How did he do that? Here's my write-up from Table Tennis Tales & Techniques on how I got started on table tennis, my first meeting with Marty, and his response.

How Marty Reisman Ruined My Life
By Larry Hodges
Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on "Track & Field." I happened to look to my left ... and there was a book on table tennis, "The Money Player," by Marty Reisman! I had been playing "basement" ping-pong at a neighbor's house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I've been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT's national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response? "Great ... another life I've ruined!"

Volkswagen 2012 World Junior Table Tennis Championship

They started yesterday, and are in Hyderabad, India, Dec. 9-16. Here is the ITTF home page for the event, which has the schedule and results, articles, and pictures. Team USA has a Boys' Team (Grant Li, Teddy Tran, Kunal Chodri, Kanak Jha) and Girls' Team (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Isabel Chu, and Crystal Wang). In doubles, the boy's teams are Li/Chodri and Tran/Jha, and the girls' teams are Zhang/Jha and Chu/Wang.

Faking a Shot

Here's a video from PingSkills on faking a shot. One key thing they say early on: "It's really important first that you get the basic shots right." But once you have the fundamentals, this is one of the most under-used tactics in table tennis from the intermediate level up. For example, even against advanced players when I serve backspin, I can see where they are going to push or flip well before they contact the ball - rarely do player change directions at the last second. This makes it much easier to attack. Instead, at the last second just change directions and watch the havoc it creates!

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore

Here's the ITTF story on the recent ITTF Coaching Seminar in Singapore that was taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee.

Want to Bring World-Class Table Tennis to U.S. Television?

Here's where you can learn about this. Excerpt: "Reflex Sports and Alpha Productions, two well known names in US table tennis, are planning  a series of action-packed, fast-paced 1-hour shows of World-Class Table Tennis for broadcast on U.S. Network TV! These will include action from the WTTC, World Junior Championships, World Cup, Pro Tour, European Championships & more!"

ITTF Video World Cup

Here are the five finalists at the ITTF Video World Cup. They average from around two to four minutes, so you can watch them all in about fifteen minutes.

Table Tennis Dream

I had another of those weird table tennis dreams last night. It started as I landed with a group of others at Los Angeles Airport for some huge international tournament. (I have no idea why it was Los Angeles.) After getting off my flight - carrying four huge bags - I stopped at a restaurant. The others with me disappeared, and I found myself at a table with Matt Damon, who was explaining health care to me, but using table tennis terms like "2-1 drill" and "Falkenberg drill." I finally got away from him, and was suddenly at the playing hall, still lugging around four huge bags.

People kept asking me to hit with them, and I kept saying I can't, I have to do my blog. So I'm sitting there at a table in the middle of the hall, surrounded by my four huge bags and lots of tables as players competed, furiously trying to think of something to write about in my blog.

Then I was told the tournament was over, and I realized I had to catch a bus to the airport. I randomly got on a bus, which drove for a while, then let me off at a hotel. I checked in. Almost immediately after getting to my room I realized it was the following morning, 7AM, and I had a 6AM flight back home! Somehow I thought I could still catch the flight. Then I realized I'd left two of my huge bags at the playing all, and two at the previous hotel. (I have no idea how that happened since I'd been lugging all four about with me until now.) I ran to the lobby, and while eating breakfast with a bunch of table tennis players, Dan Seemiller was suddenly sitting across from me, and he said, "Larry, you can catch a taxi to the playing hall, pick up your bags there, then take the taxi to the hotel, pick up your other bags, and still catch your flight."

Right about now I realized that since it was 7AM (it still was 7AM), and that it was too late to catch the 6AM flight. But Dan started calling me a chicken, so I grabbed my four huge bags (which had reappeared), and rushed out to catch a taxi to go pick up the four huge bags (which were apparently both with me, and at the playing hall and previous hotel, at the same time). After tossing all four huge bags into the trunk of a taxi, I closed the trunk - and the taxi took off without me! I ran after it, yelling for it to stop, and then I woke up in a sweat. It took me a few minutes to realize I wasn't in Los Angeles anymore.

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March 14, 2012

All-out Attackers and Ball Control

All-out attackers often believe that they have to attack all out. It's the death of many a game. While it's true that a strong attacker should attack most of the time, there's one time where they shouldn't look to always attack - when receiving. If they can only attack the serve, while the opponent has more variation, then, all things being equal, they are toast.

Instead of blindly attacking every serve, an "all-out attacker" should mix in subtle returns, such as short pushes and sudden quick ones. This keeps the opponent off guard, and so when the attacker does attack the serve, it's far more effective. At the highest levels, the top players are great at mixing in flips and short pushes to mess up opponents. Players at all levels from intermediate up should learn to do return serves with such variation. If you are an all-out attacker, then you use the receive to disarm the opponent, and look to attack (or counter-attack) the next ball.

If you always attack the serve, then the server knows the ball is coming out to him, and can hang back waiting for the aggressive receive. This, combined with your missing by being so aggressive, gives him a tactical advantage. However, if the receiver's not sure if you are going to attack the ball, push it back heavy (so he has to drop down to loop) or drop it short (so he can't hang back and wait for your shot), he's going to have trouble reacting to your receive. If you can hide what you are going to do until the last second, and perhaps change directions at the last second as well, it will further mess up the poor server and set you up to attack the next ball. 

Ironically, I'm one of the great offenders of this "don't attack every serve" rule - but only when I play hardbat. When I use sponge, I mostly use control to receive while mixing in aggressive returns. When I play hardbat, I attack nearly every serve, hoping to set up my forehand on the next ball. I do so both because I don't play enough hardbat to have the control to finesse the serve back, and because if I don't attack the serve it leaves my overly-weak hardbat backhand open to attack. (In sponge I have a steady backhand; in hardbat my backhand is awful, and so I usually chop backhands while hitting all-out on the forehand.) Also, in hardbat, if I attack the serve I don't have ot worry about a sponge counter-hit; it's much harder to do that with hardbat. I mention my hardbat game because I'm off to defend my hardbat titles at the Cary Cup from 2010 and 2011. Hopefully my overly aggressive receives won't make me "toast"!

It's also important not to return every serve defensively. Sometimes be aggressive, sometimes use control. Variety messes up an opponent. Predictability does not. 

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12

DONE!!! Yes, all 460 pages and 837 photos are done and sent to the printer as PDFs. Now I get a day to rest before leaving for Cary. Wait . . . did I say rest? Today I tutor calculus for two hours (I do that once a week), coach table tennis two hours, and do my taxes. Meanwhile, Tim Boggan has already found a number of items that need to be changed. On Monday, after the Cary Cup, I get to input the new changes and send new PDFs to the printer.

Amazing table tennis shots from 2011

Here's a nice selection (8:49). I vaguely remember some of these shots, and there's a chance I posted this video before, but it's worth watching again.

Table Tennis on Talk Show

Talk show host and actor/comedian Chris Gethard shows up, plays, and videos a table tennis tournament for his show, "The Chris Gethard Show" (2:03).

A scientific experiment using ping-pong balls

The video (1:40) is about the transfer of energy and, indirectly, whether or not the flooring under a table affects play.

Lighting ping-pong balls on fire

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May 20, 2011

China's TV ratings

So what's the most watched sporting event in China, the most populated country in the world? The all-Chinese Men's Singles final at the recent 2011 World Table Tennis Championships. Nearly 100 million tuned in to watch Zhang Jike defeat defending champion Wang Hao. This topped the previous record, when China's Li Na lost to Kim Clijsters in the final of the Australian Open way back in January.

Let's remember that table tennis is practically the national sport of China. They didn't put table tennis on TV and the country went table tennis crazy; the country was already table tennis crazy, and now they are discovering it on TV. Table tennis isn't a particularly good TV sport - it's more of a participation sport - though it's often good as a "novelty" event on TV. But whenever it's been on TV, the initial good viewership seems to die down quickly. There just isn't a large enough base of table tennis people in the U.S. or other non-table tennis countries - right now - to create a base of table tennis viewers.

On the other hand, there are something like 15-20 million recreational players out there in the U.S. just waiting to become serious players (and future table tennis on TV viewers?) if we just find a way to convert them to serious players. Perhaps national leagues (like in Europe) and training coaches to set up junior programs are the way to go?

Kid in China feeding multiball

In China, juniors learn to feed multiball to each other, as this kid demonstrates in this video (7:08). This allows them to give each great training. He starts by feeding fast topspin side to side. At 0:48, he switches to backspin - notice how he now lets the ball bounce on the table to give a more realistic shot. (I recommend this for topspin as well, unless you are feeding a very advanced and fast player and need to push him. Note that when the coach feeds multiball to the junior, he always lets the ball bounce first.) Note the various combinations in placements and spin used to simulate real points, and see if you can get someone to do multiball training with.

Nebula Awards

In only semi-table tennis news, I'll be attending the Nebula Awards this weekend in Washington DC, where they give awards for the best science fiction & fantasy writing. (Most of the top SF & fantasy writers in the U.S. will be there - do you have a favorite?) I'll be jumping back and forth between that and nine hours of private coaching or group sessions at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, so it's going to be a hectic weekend. The table tennis angle? Edmund Schubert, editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (that's its name, really!), one of the premier online SF magazines, is a pretty good player, about 1300, and probably better at one point. I hit with him at a convention a couple years ago, and I expect he'll be here - I may take him to the club. On Friday morning and afternoon, I'm on tours (with a number of other SF and fantasy writers) of the NationalMuseum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I practically grew up in the latter - both of my parents had offices there for many years, and I sometimes did homework while sitting against the wall under the giant blue whale.

And now for some crasscommercialism - why not buy a copy of "Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges," an anthology of my 30 best published stories? (Yes, when I'm not coaching or writing about table tennis, I'm writing science fiction & fantasy.) There's actually a ping-pong fantasy story ("Ping-Pong Ambition"), and several stories mention table tennis in passing. Of course, if you only want table tennis stuff, then get a copy of Table Tennis: Tales & Techniques.

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