Justin Bieber

April 24, 2013

Looping Placement

Here's something interesting I noted at the Hopes Trials, which I've also seen in the past. When a player backhand loops, he is roughly facing his opponent, and so can see where the opponent's middle is. When a player forehand loops, he faces more sideways, and the opponent is no longer in clear view. Result? Especially at the junior level and below the elite level, players seem to have far more difficulty in attacking the opponent's middle when forehand looping then when backhand looping. (The middle, in table tennis terms, is the switchover point between forehand and backhand, roughly at the playing elbow.) I watched one player nail the opponent's middle over and over with backhand loops, but when forced to do forehand loops, the player was unable to do so. (This is all true as well for basic forehands and backhands, but to a lesser extent, since players tend to turn more sideways to forehand loop than for forehand hitting.)

The solution? Practice. Look to loop at the opponent's middle at least half the time, usually the weakest spot, and see how often you can nail it. Few opponents are actually moving as you are hitting the ball, so you should be able to see where he is just before you take the shot. With practice, you'll be able to hit the middle over and over. (If an opponent is moving, then usually aim behind him, since he'll have to stop and change directions. Unless, of course, he's way out of position, in which case go for the open area.)  

Table Tennis Commentating at the North American Cup

No, I didn't get to hear any of it - I was there coaching. (I'm told I was on video at least one time, coaching Crystal Wang in the Girls' Hopes Trials.) What I've heard and read over and over was what a great job Barbara Wei did through most of the tournament - and how she was then replaced for the "big" matches at the end by someone who spoke broken and heavily accented English, and various officials. C'mon, people, Barbara was on the U.S. Junior Girls Team, trained nearly full-time for years, and speaks very clearly and intelligently. Listeners raved about her performance. What were you thinking??? (Disclaimer: Barbara came from my club, Maryland Table Tennis Center.)

I've been asked numerous times over the years to do table tennis commentating for TV. I've always turned it down. Why? I don't think I have a good speaking voice for TV. When I first began doing group coaching many years ago, I also had trouble. My solution was to take a course in public speaking. This greatly helped for those group sessions. However, I don't think I could do hours of commentating with my "public speaking" voice. I'd fall back into my normal habits, which tends to be somewhat fast and not the type of voice you want on TV. I'm far better writing.

Answers to Brain Teasers

Here are the answers to the four brain teasers from yesterday:

  1. The opponent was a fish and they were playing underwater.
  2. When you play an opossum, you play possum.
  3. There isn't any room over the net for the ball to go over.
  4. The single hair was a hare.

Table Tennista

Once again they have more international articles. Perhaps the most interesting one is the eyebrow-raising first item, where European Table Tennis Union President Stefano Bosi, who is running for ITTF President, accuses the incumbent, Adham Sharara, with this: "We found that Adham Sharara has been involved in a long-term and serious breach of the ITTF regulations and ethical standards. It is even possible that he also has civil violations. In particular, he is involved in serious violations on the Olympic charter. In addition, Sharara has established a complex system to aid him and his relatives to seek benefits from the ITTF." It also accuses him of "abuse of power and malversation of funds amounting to 20 million US dollars." I'll post Sharara's response when/if it comes out.

Testing the Large Hadron Collider with a Ping-Pong Ball

Here's the article from The Atlantic.

Receiving Options

Here's a video from PingSkills (2:07) on your basic options when receiving.

ITTF Ping Pong Paix at the 2012 WTTC

"Ping Pong for Peace" was a program at the Worlds in Dortmund, Germany, where kids from Burundi were brought in to learn about table tennis. Here's the video (7:58).

Ryu Seung Min vs Bojan Tokic (German League 2012/2013) Play-Offs

Here's the video (7:58).

Justin Bieber Table Tennis

Here's an article and a new short video (about 12 sec) from Table Tennis National of Justin Bieber playing table tennis. Yep, he's still using a two-handed backhand.

Ping-Pyong

Here's a nice cartoon of the U.S. and North Korea playing ping-pong on a nuclear missile, from the Washington Post, the result of a contest, with the caption, "Ping-Pyong: A high-stakes game in which two countries smack threats back and forth with lobs, spin and backhand shots."

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February 5, 2013

Tim Boggan Arrives

This morning at 9:30 AM Tim Boggan will arrive for a 10-14 day stay. I'll be doing the page layouts (500+) and photo work (800+) for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 13 (as I've done for the past ones). Here's Tim's page (which I created and maintain for him), where you can buy the previous volumes.

Since we'll be working all day, Mon-Fri, until it's done, and since I'll be mostly coaching nights and weekends, I won't have much free time the next two weeks. (I'll be doing most of the blog late at night instead of early in the morning, since Tim will be up and waiting to get started early each morning.) If anyone is dreaming of asking me to do a time-wasting favor for them, well, here's what I have to say about that.

Tactical Matches

Here are more examples of tactics used this past weekend in practice matches.

In one I played a player with a really nice forehand smash. Just about anything that went there he'd smash (even my pushes if I weren't careful), and if I put the ball slow to his backhand, he'd step around and smash that as well. What to do? I took most short serves right off the bounce to his wide backhand with banana flips, which kept his forehand out of play. If the serve went long, I looped, again always wide to the backhand. I varied my serve, following them up with attack - you guessed it - into his wide backhand. His backhand blocking wasn't nearly as strong, and he almost never got a chance to smash. This was a case where he was literally waiting for me to go to this forehand so he could smash, so I almost never did, not unless he wandered toward his backhand side.

In another match I played an extremely fast junior who could pound the ball from both sides to all parts of the table, and was much quicker than me. There's no way I could really cover the whole table in a rally against him. Since he was using standard placement tactics - every ball to the wide corners or at my elbow - I employed a tactic I've blogged about before. I stood in a slight forehand stance, but toward my backhand side. I covered the wide backhand and middle with my backhand, using his own pace to rebound the ball back, countering the balls back wide to his backhand to keep his forehand out of play. I could barely keep up the pace he was setting, but eventually he'd change directions and go to my forehand. The instant I saw the change, I would step to the wide forehand and counter-attack. The two keys to that forehand counter-attack were 1) I was already standing with my feet in a forehand position so I'd be ready, and 2) I didn't look to see where the ball would go on my forehand side - I anticipated it would go wide. Essentially this moves my middle toward my forehand side. If his shot went a foot inside the forehand corner, I'd have been stuck (like a player caught with a ball hit at their elbow), but that's not how players are trained - and so I won.

Other tactics used in this match - lots of receive variation to throw him off, with flips, loops, and short and long pushes. When I attacked (mostly by looping except in fast rallies), I went after his forehand, which took his angle into my backhand away so I was able to follow with another forehand.

In another match against a big-looping junior with a passive receive I served lots of varied short serves. He'd push them, even chopping down on the side-top serves so he could push them low. But the key was that he was predictable, as well as vulnerable to varied amounts of backspin, sidespin, and topspin, since he was trying to push or chop-block them all back. So I could anticipate slow backspin returns every time, and since I didn't have to guard against a flip, I could go for a forehand loop every time. (Whenever it got close, I'd throw a fast, deep serve at him for a free point - he was rarely ready for it.) On his serve (almost all short) I mostly flipped to his wide backhand or dropped it short. Sometimes he'd wind up and rip a backhand loop; when he did that, I knew he was anticipating it, and on the next receive I'd aim to his backhand, and at the last second flip to his wide forehand. It got him every time.

British Rock Band Challenges Justin Bieber

The band Lawson has challenged Justin Bieber at table tennis. Who will win?

Chico Table Tennis Club

Here's an article about the Chico TTC in Durham, CA.

Kong Linghui on the Women's Trials

Here's an article about Kong Linghui, the Chinese Women's Coach. "The Squad Trials is getting much harder!"

New World Rankings

Here's an article on the new world rankings. Zhang Jike drops to third! Here are the new rankings.

Lunar Cup Matches and an Exhibition

The 2013 Lunar New Year Cup Challenge Match was held in China, with the top six Chinese players competing: Xu Xin, Zhang Jike, and Ma Long against Chen Qi, Wang Liqin, and Wang Hao. (Actual matches are Xu vs. Chen; Zhang vs. Wang Liqin; and Ma Long vs. Wang Hao.) Also featured is an exhibition by former superstars Guo Yuehua and Chen Xinhua. Here's where you can watch the videos.

The Best of Samsonov, Schlager, Boll, Kreanga, and Primorac

Here's a highlights video (7:53) featuring many of the best European players.

1946 U.S. National Ping-Pong Championships

Here's vintage video footage (1:06) from the 1946 U.S. Open. It features several clips of Laszlo Bellak clowning around for the camera, including blowing the ball sideways (hey, that's my trick!), rallying by kicking the ball back, and other tricks.

Air Gun Fires Ping-Pong Balls at 900 MPH

See what happens when a ping-pong ball traveling Mach 1.2 strikes a ping-pong paddle!

Table Tennis Cookies

Mmmmmmm...

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January 10, 2013

Beginner's Forehand & Backhand Loop

One week ago, on Jan. 3, I wrote about a "Beginner's Topspinny Backhand and Forehand Looping." This was about an 11-year-old who was learning to forehand loop, and was developing a rather topspinny backhand. I worked with him again yesterday. Jackpot!!!

When I say "Jackpot," I'm referring to how fast he picked up the forehand loop against topspin, which I taught him for the first time yesterday using multiball. We worked on it for 30 minutes, and he was able to do it pretty nicely. He still has a tendency to jam the table and rush the shot (leading to too much arm, not enough body rotation), so I kept reminding him to step off the table to give himself time to use a full body shot - but when I remind him, he has no trouble backing off and doing the shot properly without rushing. (Backing off against an incoming topspin and giving yourself time is key to learning the loop properly, since it's a longer stroke than a regular drive, and the timing is different. When you are proficient at the shot you can start taking it closer to the table.)

He also has a tendency to use too much arm in general, but we're working on that, and when he backs off to give himself time he's better at that. Overall, a very nice first day on looping against topspin. Next session I may let him try it "live" against my block - but only if he's doing it very nicely in multiball.

He's also got a nice backhand loop now against backspin in drills (though he doesn't use it effectively in game situations yet), and really does topspin the ball quite a bit in regular rallies. Yesterday I figured out why, and it's sort of funny. I coach him every week at the same time, and at that same time every week, on the table next to us, Nathan Hsu (16), currently the top-rated junior in Maryland at 2351, has a training session. Nathan always plays on the same side of the table I'm on, so my 11-year-old student has a clear view of Nathan while he's practicing. Nathan's known for his ferocious backhand loop, which he often does close to the table. Guess what? The two have matching strokes!!! The kid I've been coaching, whether consciously or not, has been copying Nathan's backhand.

USATT Coaches of the Year

The results are out! (The page includes shot bios of the winners.) The winners are:

  • Paralympic Coach of the Year – Daniel Rutenberg 
  • Volunteer Coach of the Year – Joel Mitchell
  • Developmental Coach of the Year – Stefan Feth
  • National Coach of the Year – Xin Zhou

Ma Long's Forehand Loop

Here's 23 seconds of 2012 World Cup Winner and former #1 Ma Long's forehand loop.

Schlager's Backhand Block

Here's 53 seconds of 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager backhand blocking against teammate Karl Jindrak.

Ruth Aarons' and Sandor Glancz's Exhibition

Here's 58 seconds of 1936 & 1937 World Women's Singles Champion Ruth Aarons (USA's only world singles champion) and 1933 World Men's Doubles Champion and 3-time World Team Champion Sandor Glancz doing an exhibition, circa late 1930s.

Justin Bieber's Ping-Pong

Here's 41 seconds of Pencils of Promise star Justin Bieber's ping-pong. I think he's famous for other stuff too. 

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August 22, 2012

USA Nationals Entry Form

Here's the home page for the 2012 USA Nationals, with a link to the entry form. I'll be there mostly to coach, though I'll probably enter one event - Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff, which I'll try to win for the 14th time, including ten with Ty. (I'd like to play other events, but there are just too many conflicts with all the junior events I'm be coaching in.)

Neck Problems

As I noted in my blog on Aug. 9, I was in a car accident on Aug. 8, two weeks ago. The other driver was at fault (she pulled right in front of me as I was driving to the club), and their insurance will be paying to repair my car. I also said no one was hurt.

Not so fast.

About a week ago (I'm not sure exactly when) my neck started bothering me. At first it was more an irritation, and I kept massaging the neck muscles, trying to get them to loosen up. But it got worse and worse. By Monday, the first day of the last MDTTC camp of the summer, it was painful, and by Tuesday morning it was excruciatingly painful just to hold my head up - meaning it was excruciatingly painful ALL THE TIME. I went to see a doctor during lunch break on Tuesday, but had to leave before seeing him when things ran late and I had to get back to the camp. But I found one who saw me that night at 7PM. The x-rays were negative, and there's no apparent nerve damage, so it's probably muscle and tendon problems.

I'm now wearing a neck brace, along with various medications (pain relievers and muscle relaxants). When I go to the camp this morning, there'll be some stares because of the neck brace, but it should allow me to at least do multiball and complete the camp through this Friday. The odds are I'm going to have to cancel all coaching for at least a week after that, though I may be able to do multiball - we'll see.

I'm starting to miss the back problems I had last year.

MDTTC Camp, Week Eleven, Day Two

Yesterday I gave lectures on the backhand, on receive, and on ball placement. For ball placement, I talked about the three or four placements for nearly all shots: to the forehand corner, to the backhand corner, and the middle. What's the fourth placement? Against a ball that goes to your wide forehand or backhand, you have an angle outside the opponent's wide corner, so you can go down the line, to the middle, to the crosscourt corner, or crosscourt wide outside the corner. You should normally go for such extreme angles only if you use lots of topspin to pull the ball down, or against a short ball. I also talked about moving players in and out, and how to be deceptive with your placement by aiming one way, and at the last second rotating your shoulders to change directions. (Here's a Tip of the Week on Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation.)

The afternoon session had me with two tables (one with a robot) and eight kids, and was excruciatingly painful - see "Neck Problems" above. Most of the kids understood what I was going through and were on good behavior - not only was the pain obvious, but I told them that today was not a day to give me any flak. (But you'll note I said "Most" above. Maybe my wearing a neck brace today will get through to the one or two not in the "Most.")

A relatively new ritual is the daily five-minute trek to 7-11 after lunch. Yesterday 15 of us made the trip; on Monday we had 13. The 7-11 manager gives me a small mini Slurpee each time I bring in all these kids.

Table Tennis Music Video

On Saturday, Sept. 15, we'll start (and hopefully finish) the band Edie Sedgwick will be filming a table tennis music video at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. The video will star 11-year-old Derek Nie, who will play and defeat the band members in the video. I'll be along as a consultant, and will be well paid in pepperoni pizza. Here's an example of another music video they did.

Team USA in London

Here's a video (1:50) of USA Olympians Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu doing interviews, exhibitions, and promotional work in London.

Top 50 Points

Here's a video (18:36) that shows the "Top 50 Table Tennis Points."

Justin Bieber Playing TT in Commercial

Here's a commercial (2:01) starring Justin Bieber for a medicated cleansing bar that shows him playing table tennis. He says, "After a concert or playing ball I use the bar to shower." He's playing table tennis as he says this, for about two seconds starting at second 21.

Table Tennis Rules

Here's a video (6:26) from PingSkills that explains the rules - with a panda. Really! I like it.

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July 20, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Four

Yesterday's focus was the backhand loop. I again used Nathan Hsu as my demo partner, since he has an excellent backhand loop, far better than mine. (His backhand loop is now his greatest strength - few can stand up to it when he unleashes it.) I demonstrated a few where I'd serve backspin, he'd push, I'd backhand loop, he'd block, I'd chop, he'd push, and then I'd backhand loop again, and we'd continue in this way. Then I had him demo it, both against backspin (multiball fashion) and my block.

I also explained a bit on how the game has changed. When I was coming up, the general belief was "one gun is as good as two," and the dominant styles were very forehand oriented. And so I never really developed my backhand attack, and instead focused on forehand attack and a steady backhand. These days, however, most top players attack all-out from both sides.

During one multiball session one of the larger players in the camp smacked a ball that hit me smack on the forehead - and it actually dazed me for a moment! I don't think that's ever happened before. I'm glad I wear glasses to play table tennis; I think I'd be nervous otherwise about getting hit in the eye.

On Tuesday the younger kids had a blast with the adjustable height device, shown here in a high setting. They had fun with it again yesterday, but now the advanced players discovered it. Two were practicing their serves during break on the lowest setting.

Yesterday I blogged about Froggy, a large rubber frog about the size of a soccer ball that the kids took turns in team trying to hit. Here's Froggy! Here he is from a little further way, from the kids' point of view. After smacking the poor amphibian around for a bit, we ended the day with "Mountain Master," which is our version of "King of the Hill," where you have to win two points in a row from the "Master" to become the new Master. Since about half the players were girls, they rebelled at the name "King" of the Hill!

Washington Post at MDTTC

The Washington Post will be at MDTTC this morning at around 11AM to do a special. They will feature Derek Nie (U.S. Open 11 & Under Boys' Singles Champion, already rated 2170) and other players.

How can you get news coverage such as the Washington Post and CCTV (see below)? To start with, it is essential that you have a Ph.D in media relations, with many years of practical experience with a large media firm, and you must be trained in the intricacies of exactly how to write a press release in the exact format required or the press will laugh you off. You must also, of course, have the very best players in the country to have any chance of attracting any interest.

Yes, I'm kidding. To get press coverage, whenever you run a tournament or league or some other event, or a player at your club has good results, write a basic press release. (Just state what the event or results were, giving names, ages, and where they are from, etc.) Go online and Google local news media, primarily newspapers and TV, perhaps radio. Once you have the contact info, email the press release to them. Wait a few days, and resend or even call. Believe me, local media is always looking for local human interest stories, and it's not that hard to sell them on table tennis. Just make sure you have something that will interest readers and viewers. TV especially is always looking to feature people with charisma.

CCTV America Features MDTTC

Maryland Table Tennis Center was featured on CCTV American Wednesday night (3:05). While lots of players are shown training, those featured include Coach Cheng Yinghua and players John Hsu, Timmy La, Lisa Lin, and Derek Nie. (They interviewed lots of players and coaches, including me, but alas mine didn't make the cut this time, though you can see me in the background several times.) The video is also featured on the USATT home page this morning. (CCTV American is a Chinese station that broadcasts in the U.S. in English.) And, as noted above, the Washington Post is coming in this morning to do a feature!

There was actually a sort of behind-the-scenes spat about this. After seeing the video, a member of the USATT board emailed the rest of the board and staff, criticizing the video and Chinese immigrants for calling the sport "ping-pong." The letter was seen by members of our club, who were pretty unhappy about it. I responded with a lengthy email that basically said "Who cares as long as they are covering the sport, and covering it well," and pointed out all the more important things we should focus on in developing our sport rather than worrying about whether they call it table tennis or ping-pong. (I especially pointed out that it is these very Chinese immigrants who call it "ping-pong" that have developed the large majority of our top players and especially the current horde of top juniors and cadets.) The board member apologized and the matter was dropped.

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Champaign, IL

Here's an article from the ITTF on the ITTF Coaching Seminar that USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee is running in Champaign, IL.

Justin Bieber Playing Table Tennis in Japan

Table Tennis Nation talks about and links to the video (14:47, with the table tennis starting at around 11:00). Bieber is actually decent - check out the topspin backhands he does at 12:27 and 13:47, and especially the behind the back serve he does at 13:54!!!

Lessons with Larry (Bavly)

Math professor Larry Bavly is at it again. A few months ago I linked to his video "Lesson One: The Ratings Game" (4:26), where he facetiously teaches the important things about table tennis to a little girl. Now he has come out with "Lesson Two: Mental Toughness" (2:32). I'm about 90% sure the girl is in on the joke. Okay, maybe only 70% sure.

Things You Won't See at the Olympics

PingSkills, which usually does serious training videos that teach serious skills, took a journey to the silly side in this "Will See Won't See Olympic Table Tennis - Invade London" video (4:12), where they play with a shoe, a big paddle, a little paddle, two balls at once, and use the hidden ball serve trick.

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April 4, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting and Coaching

Yesterday we finished Day Two of the MDTTC Spring Break Camp. Anyone who thinks coaching is just about coaching hasn't done much coaching - at least not with younger kids. I had most of the beginning kids in my group yesterday, average age around 8 or 9. I've learned to referee fights about cups and dominoes (yes, it's a table tennis camp), about setting up doubles teams ("I won't play doubles with a girl" says one, and another says, "My mom says I have to play with her!"), and how best to get them to aim for a target on the table (either use candy they win if they knock it off the table, or use a drink bottle and tell them it's "worm juice" that I have to drink if they hit it).

Oh, and their shots are getting better and better!!!

Beginning kids often hit the ball off the end over and over when learning new strokes. The cure? I tell them, "Put the next ball in the net." With clockwork efficiency, they inevitably hit the next shot perfectly on the table, to their utter surprise.

One kid really, Really, REALLY wanted to learn to serve with sidespin, but no matter how hard he tried, all he got was backspin. After many tears were shed, something clicked, and now he's serving with sidespin.

There are 34 players in the camp, all but two 15 or younger. The strongest players in the camp are Tong Tong Gong (age 14, rated 2334) and Nathan Hsu (15, rated 2317). Also in the camp are 11-year-old Derek Nie (2080) and 10-year-old Crystal Wang (on right, as Barbara Wei smacks in a forehand; Crystal's rated 2079, but was recently an even 2150 before she began focusing more on looping). Coaches are myself (need to work on the kid's grip), Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Zeng Xun. (The pictures linked here are from the Coconut Cup tournament held this past Saturday - see "MDTTC Open House and Pictures" segment below.)

Fourteen-year-old Karl Montgomery (rated 1963) took me and my clipboard down on Monday, 11-6. Yesterday we went at it again twice, and this time I won 11-5, 11-9. He's tough - he can loop both hard and spinny over and over, moves me in and out with hard and soft loops and drop shots, mixes in backhand loops, and ends the point to my middle.

There are few things funnier than yelling out "Emily!" and watching the three inseparable girls with the same name, all about age nine, look up at the same time. We do this at least once every twenty minutes.

Chinese food (big portions) is delivered for lunch as part of the camp for $6. I had Chicken with Garlic Sauce. It was great! Only - friends don't let friends over age 20 eat an entire dish of Chinese food, as I lectured some of our players as I wiped the gravy off my face after eating it all. If I keep doing this all week I'm going to gain some weight.

MDTTC Open House and Coconut Cup Pictures

It's just three days until the MDTTC Open House! See you there this Saturday for demonstrations, exhibitions, a serving seminar, junior program, games, raffles, refreshments, and open play. Anyone who is anybody will be there; so should you. (MDTTC is in Gaithersburg, Maryland, USA.) Junior players should come for the 10:30AM-Noon junior training session. Adults should be there by noon, when the demonstrations and exhibitions begin. (Don't be late!)

Here are pictures taken at the recently renovated MDTTC this past Saturday during the Coconut Cup tournament by James Mu. I'm pictured in a few of them doing a group junior session on the back tables. Here's one of me and Jeffrey Zeng Xun working with a new kid. Even 2011 U.S. Men's Singles Finalist Han Xiao got in on the action (on right, playing doubles with Steve Hochman), as did the Over 50 Women's Champion Charlene Liu.

Reverse Penhold Backhands

After nearly a decade of playing against it semi-regularly, I still have trouble playing reverse penholders. I've played for 36 years now, and those first 26 pretty much ingrained my play against shakehand and "conventional" penhold backhands. I put conventional in quotes because what was once conventional is now unconventional as the new generation of penholders nearly all play with reverse penhold backhands. But when I play against it, something in my bring freezes up and I end up doing a lot of lobbing and fishing against these players. When I'm playing well I can sort of stick my racket out there and make solid counter-hits - I'm not hopeless against it - but I doubt I'll ever have the comfort level against this style backhand that I do against others. Here's world #3 Wang Hao's reverse penhold backhand in slow motion (2:16).

This segment was brought on by a practice match with a 12-year-old 1200-level junior who had a reverse penhold backhand, and while I won the match easily, I struggled to stay at the table with him in backhand exchanges. On a related note, while I know the basics of the shot, at some point I need to really learn the subtleties - probably by experimenting with it myself, as well as examining the grips and strokes of those who do it well.

World Team Championships Final

Here's a video (9:49) showing the men's final between China and Germany from a spectator's view (featuring the Zhang Jike-Timo Boll match), with a focus on the huge packed stadium (it's like an NBA basketball game) and all the pomp and ceremony of the event. When the Zhang-Boll match begins, the zoom lens puts you right in the action. (And here are some great photos taken during the Final.)

Justin Bieber vs. Ellen DeGeneres

Here's a picture and story about the two playing table tennis from Table Tennis Nation.

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January 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

Proper Care of Your Racket.

Serve practice

A few days ago a practiced my serves for 15 minutes, something I hadn't done in a few months. (Remember, I'm 99% coach, 1% player these days.) Last night at the club everyone had absolute fits with them. One player even asked me when I'd developed the new serves - and all I was doing was using my normal serves, but with a bit more spin, lower to the net, and with a quicker, and so more deceptive motion. This has actually happened many times in the past. Serves are one of the most under-practiced techniques in table tennis. I've never understood why more players don't understand this - but it might be because you have to develop your serves to a certain level before the huge advantage from service practice starts to really pay off. Suffice to say that players who usually challenge me struggled to get five points against me last night.

Baltimore Sun and other press coverage

How do you get press coverage for table tennis? By sending out press releases. I've sent out three since the U.S. Nationals in late December. Yesterday the Baltimore Sun sent a reporter out to do a feature story on Tong Tong Gong, who made the U.S. National Cadet Team for the second straight year. He interviewed most of "Team Tong Tong" - me (tactical coach), Cheng Yinghua (who along with Jack Huang and Jeffrey Zeng Xu, are his main drilling coaches), his dad (manager), and we also talked about Tong Tong's physical trainer (he meets with him once week, does other physical training on his own as assigned). The only downside - the players I was coaching during this time (hi John, Kevin) had their sessions interrupted several times as I spoke with the reporter. (I now owe them big time, or as I told them, time and a half.)

Later this week a reporter from the Howard Country Time is also sending a reporter out to do a story on Tong Tong. As I told the Sun reporter, I will not rest until I see a major newspaper headline that says, "The Tong Tong Gong of Ping-Pong." (The Sun already did a short article on the results from the Nationals, featuring Maryland players, including the all-Maryland men's final between Peter Li and Han Xiao.)

Dan Seemiller Ping-Pong Waiter Dream

I had the weirdest dream last night. I was at a restaurant with some of our top junior players. They were asking about how much money they could make at table tennis, and in the dream I was trying to convince them of all the wonderful riches they'd make if they became champions. Then five-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion Dan Seemiller came over as our waiter! Now dreams can be weird, and I spent the rest of the meal trying to convince the kids of how much money Dan made as a waiter because of his table tennis skills. (Sorry, Dan! Just for the record, Dan's a professional coach in South Bend, Indiana, and other than his wife and kids, I don't think he waits on anyone.)

Pongcast TV Episode 07 - 2011 Year in Review Part 2

Here is part 2 (23:18), which reviews the world of table tennis for the second half of 2011. "A certain Chinese player goes on a stunning winning streak, just before the end of the year a certain European player makes a comeback, and my pick for the best finals of the year!" Part 1 (22:47) went up last Thursday, covering the first half of 2011.

Justin Bieber to Unveil New Ping-Pong Playing Robot at CES

I've blogged about Topio, the ping-pong playing robot that looks like the Terminator. Now Justin Bieber will introduce us to his new brother, Tosy! (And here are Justin Bieber's ping-pong playing credentials.)

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