May 9, 2012

Down-the-Line Backhands

A common mistake when hitting the backhand down the line is to change directions with just the arm. This changes the stroke from your normal shot, messing up your stroke and costing you both control and speed. Instead, make sure to turn the shoulders in the direction you are hitting. Just as you face the direction you are hitting when going crosscourt you should do so when hitting down the line. (Note that the shoulders don't actually turn during the stroke; you turn the shoulders in advance to put yourself in position to hit the backhand.)

If you want deception, wait until the last second before turning the shoulders, especially when going for a quick block. But even when blocking you should turn those shoulders and face the direction you are hitting before initiating the forward swing. Since blocking is a reactive shot where you use the opponent's own speed and spin to rebound off your racket, you can wait until the last second before facing the direction you are blocking - but always turn your shoulders and face the direction you are hitting before the racket moves forward. (There are some advanced players, especially penholders with conventional backhands, who have developed down-the-line blocks where they don't face the direction they are blocking - see David Zhuang - but only experiment with that if your blocking is very good.)

Service Seminar and Beginning Classes

If you are in the Germantown, Maryland area (i.e. Maryland Table Tennis Center), you may be interested in the Service Seminar this Saturday, the Adult Beginning Class I'm teaching on Thursdays, or the ongoing Beginning Junior Classes I teach on Saturdays and Sundays.

The Service Seminar is this Saturday, 12:30-2:00 PM. While the cost is $20 for MDTTC members and $25 for non-members, if you email Coach Larry Hodges in advance (by 8PM Friday) then cost is only $15 for MDTTC members, $20 for non-members. Seminar will alternate between lectures and table practice, covering creating spin, deception, different serve motions, and fast serves.

The Adult Beginning Class starts this Thursday. Minimum age is 14 or permission of instructor. It'll meet on ten Thursdays, 7:30-9:00 PM, May 10 - July 12. Cost is $200/student, or $175 for MDTTC members. Here's the flyer. Class will cover all the basics: grip and ready position; the forehand and backhand strokes (driving, smashing, pushing, blocking, looping); defensive play (lobbing, fishing, chopping); serve and return of serve; footwork; equipment; and tactics. If you would like to attend this class, you MUST sign up in advance, by 8PM on Wednesday.Please email Coach Larry Hodges if you plan to attend. (Interesting tidbit - Han Xiao started out by showing up for one of my beginning classes, but was too young at age 7, so I turned him over to Cheng Yinghua for private coaching.)

There are openings in the Beginning Junior Classes, Saturdays 10:30 AM - Noon and Sundays 4:30-6:00 PM. See the Junior Group Training page. This is for kids ages 5-13, though most are under 10.

Long Pips Drills

Here is the first of 15 drills for long pips players by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee. Most of the videos are under a minute long. Links to the others are on the right - they are numbered 1-15.

Minutes for USATT Feb. 28 Board Teleconference

Here are the minutes in PDF format, all seven pages. Kudos to USATT for proving minutes to their board meetings, non-kudos for still not putting up minutes of committee and task force meetings, as required by USATT Bylaws.

Cleveland Pitcher Plays Pong

Cleveland Indians pitcher Chris Perez joined Sprout Social for some table tennis. Article includes link to 47-second video of him playing.

Fastest Table Tennis in History

Yes, here is a video of the fastest rally ever recorded (0:50) - and watch how the speed picks up more and more until the ball is just a blur!


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January 18, 2012

Down the line

Players do not practice down the line nearly enough. (Yes, I've blogged about this before, but it needs emphasis.) This means:

  1. They are inconsistent going that way since they aren't used to doing so;
  2. They are hesitant to go that way when it is the right tactical shot;
  3. Opponents only have to cover mostly crosscourt shots;
  4. Since they are drilling mostly crosscourt, so is their practice partner, and so they aren't used to down-the-line shots, and so are vulnerable to them in matches;
  5. They are losing the training benefits of hitting down the line.

What are the training benefits of hitting down the line (#5 above)? First, if you can control your shots down the line, then going crosscourt is easy. (It's 9 feet down the line, 10.3 feet crosscourt, which is 10 feet 3.5 inches, or about 15.5 inches more table, meaning nearly 8 more inches on the far side, your target.) Second, hitting down the line with the forehand from the forehand side forces you to turn your shoulders (if done properly), which is a good habit to develop.

At the cadet trials at the USA Nationals in December, a player I coached went up against a higher-ranked player. I'd watched the player on video in advance, and realized he was a vintage crosscourt player. The primary rallying strategy was to go down the line every chance. The opponent struggled with this, which help lead to an upset.

Lagging rackets

An intermediate player I coached yesterday for the first time had difficulty hitting balls crosscourt, both forehand or backhand. His shots tended to stray in to the middle. The problem? "Lagging racket syndrome"! On both forehands and backhands his racket tip lagged behind when it should drive through the ball. (This also leads to a lack of power.) The cure is to really focus on the racket tip leading the stroke. It took him only minutes to fix this problem, at least in drills. I think this is a relatively easy fix, and he should be able to do this in matches quickly.

USA Table Tennis minutes

The minutes of the USATT Board meeting at the USA Nationals, Dec. 15-16, 2011, are now online.

Help Wanted - Paralympic Program Manager

USA Table Tennis has posted a help wanted news item, for Paralympic Program Manager. Position pays $1600/month.

Train your brain with pong

Here's a video from "Fitness on the Run" (1:56) that emphasizes the benefits of table tennis for the brain. Some quotes:

  • "If you want to be your best, you need to train your brain."
  • "Ping Pong is actually the number one thing you can do for your brain. The constant calculations your brain needs to make in order to identify different spins, angles, attacks and defense are just like doing a math equation with the added benefit of the blood flow from all the agility and movement."

Table tennis 2012

Here's a highlights reel (3:45) that features "players who are likely to dominate table tennis in the coming season."

Serena Williams versus Matthew Syed

Here's a video (1:31) of tennis star Serena Williams introducing you to her table tennis game as she takes on English star Matthew Syed.

Non-Table Tennis: My movie rankings

I saw exactly 52 movies in theaters in 2011. Below is my ranking of how I liked them. Let me emphasize - this is not a critical listing, but a listing of my personal preferences. One listing might need explaining - I put "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" dead last. Why? I'm guessing that I was daydreaming a bit at the start, and missed important dialogue, but halfway through I realized I had no idea what was going on, and almost walked out. I stayed, but even now I'm completely lost. Others say it's a great movie. (NOTE - I'm told that the numbering below isn't working for Explorer 9, alas. I don't know why. It works for Chrome, Firefox, and Explorer 8.)

  1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2
  2. Rango
  3. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
  4. Hugo
  5. Moneyball
  6. War Horse
  7. X-Men: First Class
  8. Puss in Boots
  9. The Adventures of Tintin
  10. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  11. Captain America: The First Avenger
  12. Paul
  13. Arthur Christmas
  14. Super 8
  15. The Thing
  16. Thor
  17. The King's Speech
  18. Cowboys & Aliens
  19. Water for Elephants
  20. Kung Fu Panda 2
  21. Real Steel
  22. The Three Musketeers
  23. Source Code
  24. Contagion
  25. The Ides of March
  26. Hanna
  27. We Bought a Zoo
  28. Horrible Bosses
  29. Green Hornet
  30. Mr. Popper's Penguins
  31. Conan the Barbarian
  32. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules
  33. Warrior
  34. Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol
  35. Drive
  36. Tower Heist
  37. 50/50
  38. Battle: Los Angeles
  39. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
  40. Cars2
  41. Apollo 18
  42. The Muppets
  43. 30 Minutes or Less
  44. Limitless
  45. The Debt
  46. Green Lantern
  47. J. Edgar
  48. Unknown
  49. Arthur
  50. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
  51. Your Highness
  52. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy


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