Matt Lauer

July 29, 2013

Tip of the Week

Topspinny Backhands.

Last Week's Tip of the Week

I put up a Tip of the Week last Monday, but since I was out of town and not blogging, some of you may have missed it. If so, you get a special double-tip week! So here's the July 22 Tip of the Week: Pushing Change of Direction.

I'm Back!

It's been eleven days. I doubt if you missed me more than my dog, who went berserk at my return. (I had people taking care of her, but she tends not to eat much when I'm away.) As noted below, I was at a writers workshop in Manchester, NH, July 19-27. See segment on this below. And right after I finish this morning's blog I'm off to coach at the MDTTC camp. (We have ten consecutive camps this summer, each Mon-Fri; this is week seven. I should be at the rest of them - I missed two weeks, one for the writers workshop, one for the U.S. Open.)

Table Tennis Fitness

I just returned from nine days at a writers workshop (see below). While there was no table tennis there - other than my showing off my "blowing the ball in the air" trick, and one time showing off my ability to bounce a ping-pong ball up and down on a cell phone over and over - I did notice something related to table tennis.

The biggest difference between writers (as well as people I observed at the airport) and table tennis players, as well as people I observed at the airport, was the fitness level. There is a fitness epidemic in this country, and it's very noticeable at airports, and even more so at writers workshops. This isn't meant as an actual criticism of being overweight - to each his own - just an observation. But table tennis players in general are much more fit than the general population. Perhaps part of this is that there are so many Asian players, and they seem fitter than typical Americans. Or perhaps it's all those calories burned playing table tennis. Or perhaps it's fitness for the express purposes of improving their table tennis. Or perhaps it's because fitter people tend to seek out sports. Whichever it is, table tennis players, in general, and at all levels (at least beyond the beginning state) are far more fit than the average population.

At my worse, I once reached 196 pounds, and I currently am at 185. I'm now determined to get back to 175. Here's an article from Pongworld on training and fitness. Here's an article on table tennis and fitness by Australian star Greg Letts.

Non-Table Tennis - TNEO

TNEO is "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual gathering in Manchester, NH, of graduates of the six-week Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers Workshop. (I'm class of '06.) I just spent nine days there, July 19-27, where I was immersed with 27 others with story critiques, classes & lectures, readings, and lots of reading and writing. Three of my stories were critiqued; I've already rewritten them, and will be submitting them soon. Two other stories I have planned were plotted out, plus I wrote a brand new humorous story, "The Bat Nerd," which I read at the annual story reading at the local Barnes and Noble. Here's a Facebook picture (with comments) of the group in the workshop.

Flight Back from Manchester

The flights home were a disaster. Here's a short synopsis. I was scheduled for a 6:10PM flight Saturday night (July 27) on U.S. Air from Manchester to Philadelphia, with a connection to National Airport in Washington DC, arriving at 10:11PM. From there I'd take the subway to Shady Grove Metro Station where I had someone picking me up.

The 6:10PM flight was delayed to around 7:30PM due to both a crew problem (lack of a pilot) and weather. It became obvious I wouldn't be able to make my connection in Philadelphia, and there were no other non-full flights out of Philly that night. The earliest available flight the following morning was around 9AM. (Apparently U.S. Air wasn't able to get me on flights with other airlines.) They said they'd put me up in a hotel in Philly. However, a better option they said would be for me to spend the night in Manchester (again, they'd pay for the room), and catch a direct flight at 6AM the next morning. So I was sent back across the airport to the U.S. Air ticket office to get the hotel voucher and catch a shuttle to the hotel. However, after arriving there, they told me there were no available hotel rooms in Manchester! So they rushed me through security again so I could catch the delayed flight at 7:30PM. I reached Philly around 9PM. However, due to another glitch, they had trouble finding my checked-in bag, and it took them over 90 minutes before it was located. Then I took the shuttle to the hotel, arriving there around 11:15PM.

I now had a 7:55AM flight from Philly to DC. I got up a 5AM, was at the airport at 6:30AM, only to discover that due to another crew issue, the flight had been delayed to 9:40AM! Then it was delayed to 10:45AM. And then, at around 9:30 AM, it was cancelled! They put me on a different flight leaving at 11:30 AM. So I sat around the airport for about five hours before leaving. I arrived in DC at about 12:40 PM, took the subway to Shady Grove, arriving around 2:00 PM for my pickup. (The one who was going to pick me could no longer do so; Derek Nie's mom picked me up.)

Meanwhile, every step of the way as my flights changed I was calling the person who was to pick me up at Shady Grove. It got really frustrating as my schedule changed seemingly every ten minutes. On top of this, I had a 10AM coaching session scheduled for Sunday, which I had to miss. (It was a double - once a week on Sunday mornings I drive out to Virginia to coach, and they pay me double. So I'm out about $100 on top of everything else, plus a disappointed student.)

My Coaching Columns in USA Table Tennis Magazine

I've been submitting the best of my Tips of the Week to USATT Magazine, and they've been publishing them since January of 2012. Recently they've put together a page dedicated to them, with links to each article. If you've been reading my weekly Tips (every Monday morning) then you've read these.

Building Power and Weight Transfer

Here's a coaching article from Table Tennis Master.

Two Insane Pieces Of Luck Behind China’s Current Dominance

Here's an article from Table Tennis Master on how China's dominance in table tennis may have come about due to two great pieces of luck!

Kenta Matsudaira's Show

Here are video highlights of the Japanese star (4:08).

The New Yorker

Here's the table tennis cover of this week's The New Yorker, which is dated today, though it came out a few days ago. I saw a copy at the airport, and paging through it, couldn't find anything on table tennis on the inside. Apparently the table tennis cover is an independent cover and doesn't actually illustrate anything from the inside.

Stéphane Veilleux Wins Smashfest

Here's a picture of the Minnesota Wild Hockey player holding up the huge table tennis trophy he won. Click on the picture and you'll see other pictures from the event.

Phil Mickelson Plays Matt Lauer on the Today Show

Here's the video and article from Table Tennis Nation.

Dragon on a Ping-Pong Table

Here's the latest artwork from Mike Mezyan. The title I've given it sort of tells you what it is - sort of like the movie Snakes on a Plane!!!

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January 4, 2012

USA Cadet Depth

The depth of play at the cadet level (which roughly means under age 15) has dramatically increased over the lasts five years in the USA. How did this happen and how much stronger is it? First I'm going to digress to five years ago.

In December, 2006, at the USA Table Tennis Board meeting at the USA Nationals, I gave a Junior Training presentation. USATT had struggled for years to find ways to increase the number and level of our juniors, and at the same time was focused on developing elite players. I argued that the solution to both these problems was for USATT to recruit and train coaches to set up full-time training centers and junior programs. USATT was already running coaching clinics; why not just change the emphasis?

The response was, at best, weird. Most of the board loved the idea, crossed it off the agenda, and went on to the next item. It was as if they had no way of actually implementing things they wanted to do. Two board members did speak up strongly against the idea, arguing that we had no idea if there was a demand for such training centers, and if we got coaches to set them up, what if nobody came?

I'm not making this up. (To those of you who aren't sure why this is so silly, it's because the most basic part of setting up a full-time training center or junior program is that you learn how to recruit new players. You don't wait until a hundred players magically appear, waiting in a parking lot for you to open a training center; you open the training center and recruit new players.) In September, 2009, I made the same argument at the USATT Strategic Meeting, but again to no avail.

The reaction to my proposal in 2006 was a primary reason why I resigned one month later as USATT editor and club programs director. But the funny thing is I'm no longer so sure USATT should get involved in these matters, since it's not a high-priority issue for them. I may open my own table tennis coaches academy to recruit and train coaches. 

As I noted in my 2006 presentation, there were only about ten serious junior programs and about the same number of full-time training centers in the country. The Maryland Table Tennis Center (my home club, which I co-founded in 1991) had been dominating junior table tennis in the country for 15 years. There wasn't a whole lot of competition during those years as there were so few places in the U.S. actually devoted to training juniors. Boy has that changed!

There are now about fifty full-time training centers, and nearly that many serious junior programs. (Not all full-time training centers have serious junior programs, though most do, and there are some serious junior programs that do not have a full-time training center.) These training centers have been popping up all over the U.S. in the last five years, especially in the Bay area and other regions in California, and in various places in the northeast. (There are now five full-time table tennis centers within 45 minutes of me here in Maryland.) Imagine if USATT had helped out in recruiting and training these coaches - they wouldn't have had to keep reinventing the wheel. We'd probably have over a hundred by now. (And what was the goal of my presentation? "One hundred serious junior training programs in five years.") Even now, if someone wants to open a full-time training center, there is no manual, no guidance; one either has to re-invent the wheel or go to one of the current ones and ask them how they did it. (I did write on my own the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which covers  how to set up and run a junior program, but not how to set up and run a full-time training center.)

What is the result of all these new training centers over the past five years? The results are overwhelming. Here's a rundown of the past five years:

  • Number of juniors who are USATT members increased from 1010 to 1344;
  • Number of juniors over 1500 went from 183 to 379;
  • Number of juniors over 1000 went from 424 to 640.

But it's the depth at the higher levels that really stands out. I have copies of the Nov/Dec 2006 and Nov/Dec 2011 USATT Magazines in front of me, both opened to the age rankings which list the top 15 for each category. I also used the "Customizable Member Lists" in our online ratings to check rankings. Here's a comparison.

Under 18 Boys:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2418 to 2159.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2593 to 2337.
  • The 2159 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #54.

Under 16 Boys:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2418 to 2087.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2540 to 2281.
  • The 2087 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #49.

Under 14 Boys:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2323 to 1870.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2417 to 2173.
  • The 1870 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #55.

Under 12 Boys:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2044 to 1440.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2417 to 1889.
  • The 1440 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #48.

Under 10 Boys:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2044 to 620.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 1900 to 1133.
  • The 620 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #33.
    (Note - while the #1 under 10 in 2006 was Feng Yijun at 2044, the #2 was only 1495, which would have been #6 in 2011.)

Under 18 Girls:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2330 to 1811.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2544 to 2090.
  • The 1811 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #47.

Under 16 Girls:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2113 to 1620.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2544 to 1973.
  • The 1620 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #48.

Under 14 Girls:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2029 to 1432.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2218 to 1717.
  • The 1432 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #31.

Under 12 Girls:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 2029 to 553.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2150 to 1007.
  • The 553 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #38.

Under 10 Girls:

  • In 2006, the top 15 ranged from 894 to 80.
  • In 2011, it ranged from 2150 to 332.
  • The 80 rating that was #15 in 2006 would now be #23.

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Finals of Men's Singles at the 2011 World Championships

For those of you who missed it, here's Zhang Jike and Wang Hao playing the final of Men's Singles at the 2011 World Championships, with the whole thing in just 12:11 (the time between points has been removed).

Three interesting articles from ITTF

Matt Lauer's Epic Match

Here's the article's title: "Matt Lauer Has Epic Ping Pong Match With The Elderly Couple Who Couldn’t Figure Out A Webcam."

"Loopers" - the movie

You know when they make a movie about loopers - with Bruce Willis! - that the sport is taking off. I think. The irony is the movie is really about killing, and looping pretty much ended the hitting style at the higher levels.

28,818 ping-pong balls in a Toyota Prius

That's Scott & Austin Preiss in the deluge.

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