Serena Williams

June 21, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Four Highlights

Yesterday's focus was on backhand looping and hitting. As usual, I did a short lecture and demo. I used Derek Nie as my demo partner, feeding him multiball as he looped against backspin. We also rallies where I served backspin, he pushed, I backhand hit or looped, he blocked, I chopped, and we started over.

One of the changes in my coaching over the years is in regard to when to teach the backhand loop against backspin. For many years, I would teach the backhand drive against backspin first, as did most other coaches, and later teach the backhand loop, which in some ways is just an extension of a topspinny backhand drive. But more and more I'm teaching the backhand loop against backspin very early on. Topspin on the backhand is more and more important these days, and so I tend to teach a more topspinny backhand from the beginning than before - and so it's easier for kids to learn to backhand loop as well, since after a few sessions they have already developed the habit of creating some topspin. Older beginners have more trouble with this, and sometimes I'll have them learn to drive against backspin, like in the old days, but only after testing them out and seeing if they were able and willing to learn to backhand loop.

If you ever come to my lectures, everyone there quickly pays attention for one reason and one reason only - at some point, often without warning, I'll say "What's the first thing you do?" The kids in the camp compete to see who can blurt out "Get in position!" first. It's also a good way of ingraining that idea in them. I'll sometimes say this right in mid-lecture.

Here's something that's come up a few times in the camp on the forehand loop. Often players take the ball too quick off the bounce. This causes multiple problems. First, since looping is a longer stroke, a player (at the beginning/intermediate levels) need more time for the stroke, and so are rushed if they try to take it too quickly, such as at the top of the bounce as they might with a regular drive. Second, if contact is too much in front, they'll end up with a flatter and erratic loop. Instead, they should start out by taking the ball a bit later until they can get good topspin and do it over and over. Once proficient at it they can take it quicker. Some coaches do teach the loop at the top of the bounce right from the start, but I find this leads to more problems if done too early. However, it might work for a very talented player with extremely good timing. It all depends on the player.

The afternoon session included a lot of stroking drills, some serve practice, way too many broken balls (did we set a record? Hopefully never again), and the usual games toward the end - King of the Hill, Brazilian Teams, and the ever-popular Cup Game, where the kids stack paper cups and then knock them down as I feed multiball.

One of the kids, 13-year-old Leon Bi, who is signed up for all ten weeks of our summer camps (as are a few others) is having problems with an ingrown toenail. Over lunch I took him to see a doctor. But irritatingly, they wouldn't see him unless one of his parents was present, even though they faxed over a signed document giving permission. So later that afternoon Coach Cheng took him to another doctor, with Leon's parents meeting him there. This time they treated it with various ointments and painkillers, and he seems fine now.

It was a pretty exhausting day. After coaching in the camp from 10AM-6PM (with a lunch break), I also had two private coaching sessions from 6-8PM. 

USATT Search Box

You can now search the USATT home page for various items, including tournaments (listed by star level), coaching courses, Paralympic events and classifications, and USATT meetings, and you can do it by date ranges and by region/state/country. Here's the link, or click on the "See all events" link on the top right of the USATT home page. (Click on "coaching courses" and the seventh one down is the ITTF coaching course I'm teaching in South Bend, Indiana, Oct. 2-6.)

Chairman's Blog - Regarding our Tournaments, Part 1

Here's a new blog entry (just went up this morning) of USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin on USATT tournaments, in particular about the upcoming U.S. Open.

Guo Yan Ends International Career

Here's the story.

Serena Williams and Table Tennis

Yesterday I linked to a picture of Serena Williams playing table tennis at Heathrow Airport as she "prepares" for Wimbledon. Here's a page that links to a video of her playing (1:49) as well as more pictures.

Table Tennis Reality Show in China

Here's the link - "Who is the King?"

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June 20, 2013

MDTTC Camps - Day Three Highlights

Yesterday's focus was on forehand looping. I did a short lecture and demo, both against backspin and block.

There are four ways to demo a forehand loop against backspin. You could just serve backspin, your partner pushes it back, and you loop. But then they only get to see the shot one at a time. Another way is to feed multiball backspin to someone with good form so they can see it over and over. Another way, if you can chop, is to serve backspin, partner pushes, you loop, partner blocks, and you chop. Then your partner pushes, and you loop again. (If your partner is the one who can chop, then adjust for this.) If you or your partner can really chop (i.e. against loops, not just against blocks), then one loops, the other chops. A good player with a sheet of antispin, long pips, or hardbat can often chop loops back over and over even if they aren't normally a chopper. (If they use long pips, it may put some strain on the looper since he's getting all his topspin back as backspin!)

Two of the players in my group had never looped before. One picked it up pretty quickly, though he had one of those ragged strokes with lots of extra movements. We worked on simplifying it. One thing I often tell players is that much of coaching isn't telling players what to do; it's telling them what not to do. In this case, there was a lot of excess motion to get rid of - sort of a waving backswing, extra wristiness, and too-jumpy feet.

The other player had hitting thoroughly ingrained, and had difficulty switching to looping against backspin. He had trouble dropping the racket or bringing the tip down and back, dropping his shoulder, and getting down in general to lift the backspin. He also had trouble grazing the ball for topspin, but as I quickly suspected, this was more because of his not dropping his racket than an inability to "roll" the ball with topspin. Once I got him to drop his racket (which wasn't easy), he began getting pretty decent topspins. He'll need a lot of practice on this.

One of the "highlights" I have fun doing when teaching the loop to new players is their first regular forehand drive or smash after doing lots of looping against backspin, where they are lifting the ball instead of driving forward. I always tell them that I'm going to now give them a regular topspin ball (I'm feeding multiball), and that they shouldn't drop the shoulder, just drive forward. But invariably, even though I warn them and predict they'll go off the end, sure enough their first few shots go off. This happened with all five players in my morning group, even the ones who had had done some looping before. I ended the session by having them all alternate looping backspin and hitting topspin so they could work on switching back and forth.

Fortune Cookie Frivolities

Now we find out if any of the kids in the camp read my blog. (Some do, but not each morning.) We have Chinese food delivered to the club at lunch each day, with the players making their orders in the morning, which we call in. At lunch yesterday I pulled a trick on them that I'd pulled in the last camp as well. Using Photoshop, I created a fake fortune cookie fortune that read, "A meteor will kill you in five minutes." I opened my fortune cookie very publicly, made a surreptitious switch of the fortune with the fake one I'd hidden in my hand, and held it up and read it, and then showed it to them. The kids went crazy with disbelief. Five minutes later, when none were looking, I smacked a rock I'd snuck in against the ground and claimed it was a meteor that had just missed me. Today I've got another fake fortune ready, which read, "A ping-pong player will kill you this afternoon." I'll report tomorrow on the response.

Jungle Pong

This is the all-time favorite game of the kids in every camp during breaks. I think I've described it before, but it's so popular I'll go over it again. I'm not sure, but I think the kids in our camp from years ago might have invented and named the game - I don't remember ever seeing this until it suddenly began popping up in our camps.

The rules are simple. You can have as many players on one table as you want, numbered in the order they will hit the ball. You start the rally with a player serving just like table tennis. From there on, whether off the serve or in a rally, the next player must wait for the ball to go off the table and bounce on the floor, even if it means waiting for the ball to bounce several times or roll across the table, and even if it hits the net. The player must then return the ball so it hits either side of the table, and the rally continues until someone misses. Then that person is out. You continue until there is only one player. The only other rule is no looping; they are almost impossible to return. Soft topspins are allowed, but nothing aggressive. If one does loop, it's a takeover.

There are some interesting tactics, such as faking a hit to one side and going the other way, or using various spins to make the ball do funny bounces - backspin is especially popular in throwing off the next player. Players sometimes smack the ball into the net so that the next player will break the wrong way, and then have to recover when the ball rebounds off the net. Some of the kids focus on just getting every ball back; others are more creative with their shots. Since it takes time for the ball to bounce both on the table and the floor, players have time to run down most shots. I watched them play for a while - at one point there were two adjacent tables going with about eight on each - and I've decided my next book will be "Jungle Pong Tactics for Thinkers."

Table Tennista and ITTF

As usual, there are lots of international news articles at Table Tennista and the ITTF News Page.

Serena Williams Table Tennis

Here's a picture of her where she "...trades her tennis racket in for a table tennis one on her way to Wimbledon." (If you can't see the Facebook version, try this.)

Pong-Style Beach Surfing

Here's Kim Gilbert doing a little beach surfing, pong style. 

Now That's a Lot of Ping-Pong Tables

Here's the picture!

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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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