El Salvador

July 11, 2013

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. I also introduced the beginning players to pushing.

One recurring problem I saw with forehand looping was a number of players who moved their head and bodies forward quite a bit when looping, instead of mostly going in a circle. When you overdo this, you lose control and leave yourself off balance and out of position for the next shot, meaning you can't do them over and over rapidly, as required for higher-level play.

It's important when looping to imagine a rod going through your head and going in a circle around it, with the head not moving too much. Here's a 46-second video featuring the forehand loop 3-time world men's singles champion Wang Liqin, whose powerful forehand loop really did own a decade, and may have been the best of all time. Note how his body mostly rotates around the head, with the head moving forward only a little bit. There are exceptions to this, even though this leaves you in a more difficult position for the next shot, such as when going for certain absolute rips, or when stepping around the backhand corner when you are rushed, where you may rotate the body more to the left to create power. If you go more in a circle, you still get great force as you whip around in that circle; you get great control since you are more or less looping from a stationary platform rather than a moving one; and you finish balanced and in position for the next shot.

There is an amazing range of skill levels in the camp. One complete beginner, age 10, picked up looping very quickly. Another, about age 13, is struggling with it. Another, also about 13, picked it up quickly (as well as regular forehands) because he was a competitive tennis player, but he had difficulties learning the backhand since he was used to tennis backhands.

All the kids picked up pushing quickly, as they usually do. I brought out the colored soccer balls again so they could see how much backspin they were creating.

Tomorrow's a big day - it's SLURPEE day at 7-11! Free Slurpees for everyone. We make the daily trek to the 7-11 down the street (across a busy street, so I chaperone everyone) every afternoon after lunch, around 1:20 or so. Normally 5-12 players go, but with the free Slurpee special, I'm guessing we'll have 20+ tomorrow. As usual, I'll get the Strawberry-Lemon Slurpee, which I rank as the #3 technological innovation by humankind. (Just for the record, #2 is air conditioning due to the 115 degree heat in Las Vegas during the U.S. Open, and #1 is . . . the spork. It solved all our eating problems. Really.)

Guatemala and El Salvador

Yesterday I blogged about my summer travels, including going to Guatemala and El Salvador in August to coach at ITTF Junior Pro Tour tournaments there. However, I'm needed at MDTTC camps, and I'm already missing two of the ten weeks (U.S. Open and a writer's workshop), so Coach Cheng will be going in my place. (It also gives Nathan Hsu a regular practice partner down there, since Cheng is 2600 and I'm not. Originally Wang Qing Liang was also going as a player - he's also 2600 - but he dropped out because of visa complications.) Alas . . . I'd already bought a pocket English-Spanish dictionary and read over the Wikipedia entries for both countries. 

Orioles and Ping-Pong

Here's another mention of the Orioles playing table tennis (with J.J. Hardy their top star), from this morning's Washington Post, from article "Camden Yards is finally fun again," by Thomas Boswell: "Three-and-a-half hours before games begin, you can see part of what makes the Orioles cohere. It's a friendly nest. Four tall Birds play high-level doubles Ping-Pong in the middle of the clubhouse, everyone giving the battle room for smashes and retrievals. Occasionally, paddle king J.J. Hardy, all-star starter at shortstop and the son of a tennis coach, deigns to let a rival challenge him for supremacy."

Non-Table Tennis - My Townhouse

A number of people came by to see my townhouse yesterday, and five filled out applications to rent the first two floors. This is going to be an incredibly difficult decision. I've ruled out one of the applicants, but the other four all look perfect. I hate the idea of letting any of them down, but I have to make a decision, offer the place to one, and turn down the others.

Six Mistakes You Probably Make When Practicing Third Ball Attack, Part 1

Here's an essay on the topic from Table Tennis Master.

Amazing Table Tennis Tricks

Here's the video (3:06).

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July 10, 2013

Opening in My Townhouse

Anyone interested in moving to Maryland? I own a three-floor townhouse in Germantown, MD. I live on the third floor, and rent out the first two floors (two bedrooms, kitchen, living/dining room, laundry room, 1.5 bathrooms) for $1100 month (including utilities). The previous tenants just moved out, so I'm advertising for a new person. It's about ten minutes from the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here's the ad in Craigslist, which I put up late last night. There are already three responses this morning.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was day two of week four of our ten weeks of summer camps at MDTTC, all Mon-Fri. Yesterday's focus was the backhand. I gave a short lecture and demo (with Tony Li the demo partner), then lots of multiball practice. I also took the beginning players aside and worked with them on serving. I brought out the colorful ping-pong "soccer" balls so they could practice putting spin on the ball.

The way I introduce new players to putting spin on the ball when serving is to first have them toss the ball up, spin it with their racket, and catch it. This means (for a righty doing a forehand pendulum serve) tilting the racket so the left side of the racket is higher than the right, with contact on the left side of the ball. This allows a player to spin the ball straight up, with the racket moving from right to left in an upward motion. After they can do this I have them try it on the table. I always give a short demo showing backspin serves that bounce back into the net, sidespin serves that curve about dramatically (usually into a target conveniently placed on the table), and quick-jumping topspin serves. The kids have great fun trying to return them. (This is also where they learn how to return spin serves.) Tomorrow I'll introduce them to pushing so they'll have a better chance against backspin serves.

Summer Travels

I've got a busy traveling schedule this summer. Below is my schedule. Meanwhile, we have camps every Mon-Fri at MDTTC all summer long, which I'll be coaching at whenever I'm not away. The trips to the ITTF Junior Pro Tours in Guatemala and El Salvador will be my first time to Central America, though I did coach the U.S. Junior Team at a tournament in Mexico around 1990, as well as in Taiwan. I'll be coaching Nathan Hsu in the ITTF Junior Pro Tours. [EDIT - See note below on Guatemala and El Salvador trips, and tomorrow's blog.]

  • July 1-7: Coaching (and playing) at U.S. Open in Las Vegas, NV.
  • July 19-27: The Never-Ending Odyssey Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing Workshop in Manchester, NH. (Some people go to the beach or Disneyworld for their vacations; I go to a writer's workshop.)
  • Aug. 5-10: Coaching at the ITTF Junior Pro Tour in Guatemala.
  • Aug. 11-16: Coaching at the ITTF Junior Pro Tour in El Salvador.
    CHANGE IN PLANS: I'm needed at MDTTC camps, and am already missing several weeks, so Coach Cheng will be going to Guatemala and El Salvador instead of me. See tomorrow's blog.
  • Sept. 2-7: Attending ITTF Coaching Seminar in Dunellen, NJ. (It was originally scheduled for Aug. 26-31, but just yesterday was rescheduled.)

Injury Update

The back injury I had before the U.S. Open is mostly healed. I did aggravate it slightly at the Open - at one point in a hardbat doubles match it whole back stiffened up and I could barely move - but not too badly. Since I'm mostly feeding multiball this week, it's getting a good rest. This injury was in upper right part of my back.

However, there's a new problem. Something is hurting in the lower right side of my back, right where the kidney would be. At first I assumed it was another muscle strain, but now I'm not so sure. I sure hope it's not a kidney problem. (Other than hurting, there are no other symptoms.) If it's still bothering me on Monday I may see a doctor. (I hate seeing doctors...)

Playing Doubles

Here's an essay on the topic from Table Tennis Master.

2014 World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper)

The premier sandpaper tournament in the world returns in 2014 - here's the article. It had $100,000 in prize money the last two years, but doesn't specify the prize money this time, only saying it will have a "substantial prize fund."

Monsters of Table Tennis

Here's a video (9:30) of great points played from 2009-2010, recently compiled.

Extreme Service Practice

Here's the video (31 sec) of a curving down-the-line serve through two targets! I do this same serve, so will have to try this out some time.

Johnny Damon TT Video

Here's a video (2:06) from Killerspin that features Johnny Damon and table tennis!

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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.

*  *  *  *  *

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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