Timothy Wang

October 6, 2014

Tip of the Week

Should You Play Tournaments When Working on Something New?

Coaching and a Ball Shortage - a Good Thing?

Yesterday was somewhat hectic for an unusual reason - a ball shortage. But perhaps that was a good thing?

I spent the morning working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis (1986-88). We started around 6AM and stopped at noon. (Over the weekend Tim and I watched the Marty Reisman documentary "Fact or Fiction: The Life & Times of a Ping-Pong Hustler, which I'll blog about later this week, probably tomorrow - I took lots of notes. 84-year-old Tim found it depressing.) After lunch I went to MDTTC for three hours of private coaching and a 90 minute junior group session.

The private coaching went pretty well - two juniors and one adult. The first of the two kids was a relative beginner, age 11. He did pretty well - his basic forehand and backhand strokes are sound - so we spent much of the session working on his forehand loop, and then on serves. His loop gets surprising spin for someone who hasn't been doing it very long - he has very good contact with the ball, though he tends to stop his upper body rotation before contact, costing him power. The second kid was a 7-year old who already topspins all his backhands, essential an off-the-bounce backhand loop that's going to be scary good someday. We spent much of the session also working on his forehand loop. The final session was with Navin, the full-time hardbat and sandpaper player with the artificial heart and Parkinson's. We spent much of the session working on his forehand hitting and backhand chop blocking, and then on hardbat serves.

Then came the hectic part. From 4:30-6:00 I teach a junior class with 12 players. Assisting was Coach Jeffrey. We needed three boxes of balls - two for Jeffrey and I (for multiball) and another for the robot. The problem was that coaches Cheng, Jack, Leon, Bowen, Raghu, and John were all doing private coaching sessions, and several of our top juniors were using boxes of balls to train or practice serves, and suddenly we had a severe ball shortage. (Fortunately, Coach Alex is in China right now or it might have been worse!) We'd opened the last box of training balls a few days later, and for now there were no more. So Jeffrey and I scrounged around the club, grabbing every ball we could. We managed to get enough - barely - though we had to really focus on ball pickup so we wouldn't run out of balls.

We do nearly 300 hours of coaching at MDTTC each week. I'm constantly amazed when I hear from some players and club leaders about how impossible it is to get players, that there just isn't enough demand out there. But there's a simple formula we discovered when we opened MDTTC 22 years ago - if you bring in high-level coaches with great work ethics, and let them keep the bulk of their private coaching income, they will have great incentive to bring in students, and those students will become the backbone of the club, paying for memberships, tournaments, leagues, equipment, and group coaching sessions. That's how you fill a club up. It's not easy at the start, but if you do it, the players will come. That's the formula that works for us, and for the large majority of the roughly 75 full-time clubs in the U.S. (I wrote more about this in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, in particular on how to find students to develop a full-time coaching practice.)

More Larry & Tim Quotes

On Friday I blogged about working with Tim Boggan on Volume 15 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, and gave a number of quotes. Here are more.

Larry: "Should we use the good one or the blur?"
Tim: "It goes against my grain, but we'll use the better picture."
Larry: "I knew you'd weaken."

~

Tim: "Let's use them even though they're good." (About two photos that were so good they made the others look bad.)

~

Tim: "Bring the curtain over." (Wanted me to move something in a photo.)

~

Larry: "Posterity will come and go, and no one will ever know." (Musing to himself about the various manipulations he does on the page.

~

Larry: "I want to check something." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "Have to check on the Orioles game." (Every five minutes.)
Larry: "I have an email coming." (Every 30 seconds.)

Snake Serve Table Tennis

Here's a video (5:19) of a hilarious coaching video. Learn the Snake Serve (a forehand pendulum serve), the Reverse Serve, and the Lizard Serve! Warning - if you suffer from Ophidiophobia (fear of snakes), do not watch this.

Top Ten Creative Servers of Table Tennis

Here's the article and video (12:41).

Learn How to Make Your Loops More Deceptive - Just Add Variation!

Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here's Nathan's latest vlog (4:12). He's actually back now, and editing and putting the videos online when he's not training. 

USATT Athletes of the Month

Here's the USATT article. This month they are Crystal Wang (women), Timothy Wang (men), and Tahl Leibovitz (Paralympic). Crystal, of course, is from my club.

Charity Tournament and Celebrity SLAMFest Huge Success

Here's the USATT article.

Asian Games Men's Final

Here's the video (7:12, with time between points taken out) between the top two players in the world, Xu Xin and Fan Zhendong.

China on Top of Asia after Claiming Men's & Women's Singles Gold

Here's the ITTF Press Release.

Ping-Pong Business Hopes to Restart Table Tennis Craze

Here's the article (with pictures and video) about King Pong Table Tennis in Staten Island.

Happy Birthday Jan-Ove Waldner

Here's the graphic and comments - he turned 49 on Friday.

Arguing About Benghazi Talking Points

Here's the TT cartoon.

***
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June 25, 2014

The Tactics of Doubles and Serve & Attack

Today during break from our MDTTC camp I gave another one-hour lesson on tactics to Kaelin and Billy. We spent the first 20 minutes on doubles tactics, the rest on serve and attack. The two are playing Under 4200 Doubles at the U.S. Open next week. Both are righties rated about 2000, ages 15 and 16. Here's a summary. In each of the discussions above we also played out examples at the table. 

I explained the importance of one of them focusing more on control, the other on attack. We decided that Kaelin, since he has fast footwork, should focus on constant attack (i.e. trying to loop everything) while Billy would focus on control (i.e. setting up Kaelin). While Kaelin has the tougher physical task, Billy has the more difficult mental task as he has to do things that aren't as natural, as he looks to set up shots for his partner instead of doing his own shots. I went over some of the ways of doing this, especially on receive - pushing short (with last second changes of direction), faking crosscourt flips but then going down the line instead, etc.). 

We also went over doubles serves. Most doubles serves center around backspin and no-spin serves that go very low toward the middle of the table. But you need to test out the opponents with other serves or you may miss out on some easy points. I showed how easy it is to attack and to angle if you serve too wide in doubles, and yet some players have trouble with this. I also showed how awkward it can be to flip against short serves to the middle. 

We discussed receive. Rule one - loop anything deep. Both players are going to receive forehand, so this is the easier part. Many world-class players now receive forehand against deep serves, but if you serve short (as most do), they reach over and banana flip with the backhand. (Of course they also push, usually short.) Against short serves you use mis-direction as you mix in short and long pushes, and either aggressive or deceptive flips. I also showed them how to angle the racket to meet the spin directly when pushing, by dropping or raising the racket tip. This makes it much easier to drop the ball short. Between two righties, if the server does a forehand pendulum side-back serve, the receiver should drop the tip on the backhand, or raise it on the forehand, so that the paddle is aiming to the left. Against the opposite spin, he should do the reverse.

We discussed rallies. Rule one is to try to hit shots toward the player who just hit the ball, on the far side from his partner, so they get in each other's way. Since players in doubles are often moving into position as they hit the ball, they often have trouble blocking since in singles players are usually more in position. So looping first with good placement is generally even more important in doubles than in singles. Attacking down the line will often catch an opponent off guard in doubles, and is often the best place to smack winners. But it also gives the opponents an extreme angle, which often gets your partner in trouble.

We discussed footwork. Many players move too far off to the side after their shot, leaving them out of position for the next shot. Instead they should move mostly backwards and slightly sideways. A more advanced type of doubles footwork is circling footwork where the players circle about clockwise after each shot so that both players can approach the table from the backhand side, i.e. favoring the forehand. However, this takes lots and lots of practice to get right, so I suggested a hybrid, where whoever serves or receives steps back and circles over to the left so that he gets a forehand shot. Once you get past that first circling, it's tricky, so after that they should mostly move in and out, improvising when necessary.

Then we moved to singles tactics. We had a lengthy discussion of serve and attack (with numerous examples at the table), especially after serving short. This should center around serving half-long to the middle, so that the second bounce, given the chance, would hit near the end-line. By going toward the middle, the receiver has to make a quick decision on whether to receive forehand or backhand; has a rather awkward forehand flip; has no angle; is drawn out of position and so leaves a corner open; and the server has less ground to cover. (For players who favor one side against short serves - usually the backhand - you might move the serve some the other way.) the main disadvantage of serving short to the middle is that so many players do this that players get used to it; the receive can receive with his stronger side (forehand or backhand); and has both angles to go after, though no extreme angles. 

Serving short to the forehand is a bit riskier as it gives the receiver an extreme angle to flip into. If the serve tries to cover this, he leaves the down-the-line side open. However, many receivers find it awkward to receive short to the forehand, and many can't flip down the line (so you can just serve and get ready for a forehand). I also pointed out the value of serving short to the forehand, but not too wide, so that the serve is midway between the middle of the table and the sideline. This can be more awkward to flip then a serve that goes wider, almost like flipping from the middle, plus there's less angle to go after.

Serving short to the backhand takes away the angle into the forehand, so a forehand attacker can serve and stand way over on his backhand side and likely play a forehand from the backhand side. But it's often where a receiver is most comfortable receiving short serves. (So it's often better to serve deep breaking serves to the backhand if the receiver can't loop this serve effectively, forehand or backhand.) When a forehand attacker serves to the backhand he should stand as far to the backhand side as he can while still able to just cover a shot down the line to his forehand, knowing that usually those shots aren't too aggressive.

We also discussed the differences between serving short backspin, no-spin, and side-top. If the receiver tends to push the backspin serves long, then you can either look for a forehand loop, or just stand in the middle of the table and attack either forehand or backhand. Many players like to follow these serves with a backhand loop, since this allows them to stay in position to attack from either wing on the next shot, plus it forces the opponent to adjust to a different loop than just forehands. When serving backspin players are often more likely to flip very aggressively than against no-spin as a receiver can use the incoming backspin to flip with topspin. Against a low no-spin serve, it's easy to flip medium fast, but aggressive flips are usually more difficult. 

On the other hand, when you serve short no-spin (with the focus on keeping it very low, though this is true of all serves), you can more likely anticipate a weaker return that can be attacked with the forehand. If they push it long, it'll tend to be higher and with less spin. If they push short, it'll tend to pop up. So even two-winged loopers often become more forehand oriented when serving short no-spin. 

When serving short sidespin or side-top, the serve is likely to be flipped, but if the serve is done well and kept low, it won't be flipped too aggressively with any consistency. The key here is that the opponent is unlikely to drop the serve short, and so you can serve and hang back a bit, looking to attack either with your stronger side or from either side. 

We also started to get into the tactics of long serves. I'll likely write about that and other tactics issues tomorrow.

MDTTC Camp

Pleasant surprise yesterday! After six days of struggling to hit forehands or serve, the six-year-old girl I mentioned previously suddenly made a breakthrough today. I'd been pulling my hair out trying to get her to hit a proper forehand (though she'd managed to pick up a decent beginning backhand), but day after day, no matter what I did, the minute no one guided her stroke she'd revert to this slashing, racket twirling, wristy stroke that had no business existing in this plane of existence. And then, as if by magic (and after lots and lots of imploring), she suddenly figured it out yesterday. Now she's hitting proper forehands, and even made ten in a row!

And then, perhaps 20 minutes later, she suddenly figured out how to serve, even managed to make 9 out of 10. For perspective, in the first six days of the camp, in nearly an hour of total practice, she'd made exactly one serve. Armed with a serve and a workable forehand, she was able to join in a game of "Master of the Table," and twice was master. (One of them came about when she served on the edge, and then the Master missed his own serve. To become Master of the Table you have to score two points in a row against the Master.) We often call the game King of the Table, but the girls objected!

I taught several players how to push today. I brought out the soccer-colored balls so they could see if they were getting any spin. It's always funny watching their eyes go wide the first time they see the ball spinning and realized they put that spin on the ball. Also, I have to confess that at one point I did say the following: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers."

Rolling Ball Loop Drill

Here's video of an interesting looping drill (1:34), where your partner rolls the ball to you (under the net), and you loop it as it comes off the end. I've done this at a number of camps - it's not just for beginners, it's also good for teaching players to loop those slightly long serves. One key is to set up so you are almost directly over the ball, looking down on it - which is exactly what you need to do when looping slightly long balls.

Interview with Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay

Here's the video interview (7:19). She had a new ebook out recently, Get Your Game Face Out Like the Pros!

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Thirty-two down, 68 to go!

  • Day 69: Thomas Weikert Speaks about Peace and Sport

Crystal Wang - Youngest U.S. Team Member in History

Here's my feature article on Crystal in USA Table Tennis Magazine. 

Lily Zhang Featured by ITTF

Here's the article, "Lily Zhang the Shining Star in Tokyo, the Top Seed and Senior Member in Burnaby."

Timothy Wang Featured by ITTF

Here's the article, "Timothy Wang Aiming for Las Vegas Reprise but Beware Teenage Colleague."

Incoming ITTF President Thomas Weikert Reveals Direction of ITTF

Here's the interview. It's rather short. 

Exercise Makes the Brain Grow

Here's the article. So go play ping-pong!

Ping-Pong Ball to the Eye

Here's the video (35 sec). 

***
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September 16, 2013

Tip of the Week

Real Tactics versus Parroting Tactics.

Tournament Tactics

I coached at a tournament this weekend, which inspired this week's Tip of the Week. Some strange things took place at this USATT-sanctioned tournament. The first match my student played was against a player using sandpaper (!), which isn't allowed in USATT tournaments, but they allowed it. We decided not to protest, and simply played (and won) the match. There was also a group of four that started at 1PM. One player didn't show, and so the other three finished at 2PM, and were returning the clipboard to the desk when the fourth showed, a kid about 13, over an hour late. Rather than default him, the players were told to return to the table and play it out. Again, we didn't protest - I mean, it was just a kid - so we just played it out. (My player barely pulled it out in five games.)

I was coaching a 12-year-old named Sameer, who was rated 1131 but was somehow still eligible for Under 1100 since they were using older ratings. He won the event. The strange thing about his matches (other than playing against sandpaper) was that over and over his opponents had strong backhands but weak forehands. Sameer tends to serve into the backhand, and so struggled in the first game in match after match. Over and over between games I'd tell him to serve to the forehand, and over and over it worked.

Tournaments are great for bringing out strengths and weaknesses. My eyes were opened to just how effective Sameer's backhand loop is getting - and I was wondering if it would be read for the Teams in November! But his forehand loop, while generally strong, has a hitch in it sometimes that we need to work on. When he's not confident, he tends to stand up straight, almost falling back as he lifts the ball.

No-Luck Matches

John Olsen told me an interesting idea this weekend. Players often complain about nets and edges, and let's face it, certain styles get more of them than others. So John had recently played some matches where the rule was if the ball hit the net or edge, the point is a let. He found there was little difference in the results. However, as noted, there are certain styles that will get more of these than others, such as anyone with a dead surface (such as long pips or antispin), which tends to get more net balls than others. A rule like this might make a bigger difference for them. Style also affects the value of these shots. For example, a chopper probably gets more nets than most players, but since their balls are coming in slow (so opponents can react), and since the chopper is often off the table (and o unable to take advantage of weak returns of these nets), a chopper's net balls aren't as effective as some other styles.

Two More Full-Time Table Tennis Centers

I've added two more clubs to the list I maintain of full-time table tennis centers in the United States, bringing the number to 58. (In December of 2007 there were only about ten of them, and that's when I made a proposal to the USATT that they get involved in recruiting and training of coaches to create full-time centers - and was told that there wasn't a demand for such centers.) The two new ones:

USA Men's Champion Timothy Wang Versus Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar

Timothy took on the two PGA golfers. Here's the video (Wang vs. Kuchar, 1:40), and here's a photo gallery.  

Great Block by Dimitrij

Here's a video (12:36, time between points removed) of the recent LA Open Singles Final between Champion Dimitrij "Dima" Ovtcharov and Runner-up lefty Li Tianyu. See the great block by Dima in the point starting at 8:46! in the point starting at 8:46! (See the slow motion replay afterwards.) 

Spooky Pongers

Here's a spooky group of ping-pong players. Maybe this should have gone up on Friday the 13th, but better late than never. Kind of look like Star Wars Jawas, don't they?

***
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May 7, 2013

Spammers

Due to massive spamming attacks, I've been forced to switch to requiring administrator approval for new accounts. Yesterday I had to block over 50 new accounts, each of which was posting spamming notes all over the comments section on my blog and the forum, which I also had to delete. (Fortunately I can generally delete all postings by a spammer with a few clicks - but it does take time.) So starting last night, new visitors can create accounts but administrator approval is required. It seems to be working - since last night 18 more accounts were created, but only two legit. (On a related note, anyone who has to constantly waste time battling these spammers believes in the death penalty.)

Table Tennis Leagues in the U.S.

Last night I had a debate on the MyTableTennis forum on the future of leagues in the U.S., and whether a nationwide network of local leagues is possible. Here's where I join the discussion. I ended up posting thirteen notes. (You can also read the previous postings of course.) I was thinking of copying and pasting the entire discussion here, but I'll just post my first note, and link to the rest. There's some lively discussion, so if you have any interest in leagues or the growth of table tennis in the U.S., I hope you read the rest of it.

The goal of a nationwide network of local leagues isn't to set up leagues for currently existing clubs. The purpose is to use the leagues spur the creation of new clubs and players. This is how it was done in places all over the world, including Europe. Germany didn't start with 11,000 clubs and 700,000 and then decide to set up leagues; the leagues are what spurred the development of these 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players. The whole point is to set up local leagues, so nobody needs to drive hundreds of miles. [Note: I'm responding to a note that said leagues wouldn't work in the U.S. because players might have to drive hundreds of miles to get to the next local club.]

I remember when we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center many years ago. Over and over we were told there weren't enough players to support a full-time table tennis center devoted to coaching, and that there was no way players would pay enough hours for coaching to make it pay for itself. They missed the point - we weren't going after current players, we were going after NEW players. Now we have seven full-time coaches and over 300 hours of private coaching per week (plus group sessions), and full-time clubs with full-time coaches are popping up all over the country (about 60 of them now, compared to about 10 just seven years ago). Similarly, the purpose of a nationwide network of local leagues would be to bring in new players and new clubs, not just for existing ones.

It will not an easy task, and it probably does need to start in populated regions. If there are local organizers, as tennis does in the U.S. and other countries do in table tennis, than any city can develop table tennis leagues, and from the players signing up for those leagues more clubs can pop up, just as they do overseas. Tennis has such local leagues all over the U.S. and huge numbers of players, and they started out just where we are now. There's no reason why table tennis can't do the same; in Europe, nearly every country sports associations have more table tennis members than tennis members.

Striped Balls and Backhand Flip

Yesterday I blogged about using colorful soccer-style ping-pong balls for table tennis, since it makes it easier to see the spin on the ball. Here's a video (3:25) of Ma Long's backhand flip (also called a flick) where he's using a striped ball so you can see the spin. The video quality isn't good enough to really see the ball spin with the stripes - you can see it much better in person. I wonder how it would show up on normal TV?

USOC Athletes of the Month

USATT has two nominees for USOC Athlete of the Month for April - Lily Zhang and Timothy Wang. Please vote for them! You can vote for both a male athlete and a female athlete. Here are short bios on both, provided by USATT Webmaster Sean O'Neill.

Timothy Wang, Table Tennis
Olympian Timothy Wang (Houston, Texas) battled to a silver medal at the 2013 ITTF-North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. Rising to the occasion, Wang registered an impressive 3-0 win over top-seeded Pierre-Luc Theriault of Canada. He followed with a 4-1 semifinal victory over 2011 U.S. champion Peter Li (Laurel, M.D.). Wang, the current U.S. men’s singles No. 1, will lead the U.S. men at the 2013 World Championships taking place in Paris in May.

Lily Zhang, Table Tennis
Olympian Lily Zhang (Palo Alto, Calif.) captured first place at the 2013 ITTF North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. With the tournament featuring some of the best players from the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, Zhang defeated Olympic teammate Ariel Hsing (San Jose, Calif.), 4-1, in the women’s singles final. The victory qualified Zhang to compete in the STARTS Women’s World Cup, while ending Hsing’s attempt to three-peat as the North American Cup winner. Zhang advanced to the final upon beating fellow world team member Tina Lin (Edison, N.J.), 4-0, in the semifinal. Zhang will be representing the U.S. at the 2013 World Championships in May in Paris.

Table Tennis Master

Here's another interesting coaching article from Table Tennis Master, "Mastering the Counterloop."

Chinese Ping-Pong Song for the Worlds

Here's a music video (4:37) of the Chinese National Team singing their Ping-Pong Song for the 2013 World Championships and thanking their fans. How many of the players can you name?

Jesse Metcalfe

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation where actor Jesse Metcalfe (best known for his work on Desperate Housewives and the remake of Dallas) says he sees ping-pong as the future of nightlife.

Six Pictures Preparing for the Worlds

Here are six Facebook pictures from the ITTF showing players preparing for the Worlds at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. How many of the players can you name?

Ariel Hsing with Uncles Warren and Bill

Here's an article and photos from Table Tennista on Ariel Hsing, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates playing table tennis at the annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting this past Sunday. They've been bringing her in annually for this since she was a little kid. And here are three more photos.
Ariel with Bill and Warren
Warren Holding Ariel
Warren and Bill Play Doubles
(If you can't see these on Facebook, try this, this, and this.)

Learn from a Pro

"Adam Bobrow Now on Table 1." Here's the Facebook picture. (If you can't see it there, try this.)

***
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February 15, 2013

F=MA?

[NOTE - See comments below by physicist Dave Bernstein. Since some of my physics wasn't quite right - though my conclusions were correct - I've deleted much of this blog, including the references to F=MA, which don't really apply here.] I'm not a physicist, although I do have a bachelor's in math from way back (Univ. of Maryland, 1986). But the physics of creating a powerful shot in table tennis, especially a loop, are seemingly right out of basic physics. (Any physicists reading this, feel free to elaborate, correct, or explain any of this. I know this more from a coaching point of view.)

When players loop, they often try to muscle the ball, resulting in using only a few muscles instead of timing them all together. To get mass behind your shot, you have to put your body weight into the shot. You can't do this with the upper body alone. It comes by rotating the body into the shot, almost with a rocking motion, starting with the legs and moving upward as each part of your body uncoils into the shot. You need the legs to get the hips to rotate, and you need the hips to get the rest of the body to rotate into the shot. Many players do not get this lower body rotation - especially the hip rotation - and so most of their body weight does not rotate into the shot. 

To get maximum velocity, you have to smoothly accelerate your body's mass into the shot. Watch the best players, and you'll see how they effortlessly generate power. They do this because they accelerate their body into the shot. This goes together with getting the mass behind the shot - it's the smooth acceleration of the body's mass into the shot, starting with the legs and then the hips, that gives such effortless power. 

It's not quite this simple. With sponge rubber, even without acceleration the ball sinks into the sponge and is catapulted out. This is true even with a plain wood bat, which also bends and then catapults a ball out. Around here is where I would love to have a physicist chime in.

If you want natural power in table tennis (especially when looping), focus on smoothly accelerating your body weight into the ball, focusing on the hip rotation, to maximize velocity at contact. Watch top players as they loop and see how they do this. When done properly you get great power with ease, and so, as I like to demonstrate for students and in clinics, you should be able to loop at seemingly full power while carrying on a conversation.

The above should also apply to smashing. However, since the contact with the ball is quicker on a smash - as opposed to a loop, where the ball sinks into the sponge at an angle and stays in contact much longer - I think the power transfer is much quicker, and so you can get great power without using the full body weight, though that helps. I know I can smash extremely fast with minimal body rotation and a powerful arm snap (from the forearm), but this doesn't work for looping.

Pings and Pongs

I've written so much recently about Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (Buy it! Now!) that it's been a while since I've mentioned that "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges" is also sold on Amazon. These are the 30 best short stories I've sold (out of 65), compiled in one volume. One of the stories is a table tennis fantasy, and table tennis shows up in passing in other stories. $15.95 or $9.99 for Kindle. (Buy it! Now!)

Here's a short description of "Ping-Pong Ambition," the table tennis story: "A table tennis player gets stuck in a ping-pong ball for 10,000 years, where he studies to be a genie - only to discover a surprising truth. Originally published in Sporty Spec: Games of the Fantastic Anthology, 2007."

What, you didn't know that outside table tennis I write science fiction & fantasy? Here's my SF&F page. C'mon people, sales of the Tactics book is way outpacing sales of Pings and Pongs, leading to some hard feelings between the two. Here's your chance to get in a little F&SF between your TT reading!

Update - Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 13

We did three more chapters yesterday, bringing totals to 26 chapters and 409 pages. I've now cleaned up, placed, and captioned 826 graphics. The book is now projected to be 29 chapters and 456 pages, with 918 graphics. Chapter 26 ended with narratives of Americans in Europe, including Eric & Scott Boggan, Mike Bush, Brian Masters, Charles Butler, and Kasia Dawidowicz, as well as tributes to first ITTF president Ivor Montagu, who had just died. (This is 1985.) We should finish all 29 chapters tomorrow. Then, over the weekend while I'm off coaching all day, Tim will proof all the pages. On Monday we input the corrections. It's going to be a looong Monday.

I've also updated his web page and created the ad and flyer for the book. However, neither will go public until the book is complete. It should go to the printer on Monday or Tuesday, and copies should be available a couple weeks later.

Update - Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Now it's on sale at Barnes and Noble, as well as Amazon. Complicating factor - both are selling it for $11.45 instead of the retail price of $17.95. I don't think table tennis dealers can match that price. I'll look into this next week.

USA Team Trials

Here's the ITTF article on the USA Team Trials held last weekend, focusing on the top finishers, Timothy Wang and Lily Zhang.

Women in Table Tennis

Here's a gallery of table tennis women.

Corrugated Table Tennis

This'll have some weird bounces!

What's on Your Mind?

One is on love, the other on ping-pong. And guess what is in the heart of this person?

***
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January 28, 2013

Tip of the Week

Holding Back on Serves.

Why You Should Play in Events Where You Are a Top Seed

It all depends on whether your goal is to be a Champion or a Spoiler. Champions have a burning desire to win, and enter tournaments with the intent of winning events. Spoilers have a burning desire to pull off a major upset now and then and so gain temporary rating points, and so they avoid the events where they would be seeded.

If your goal is to be a Champion, then you must think like one, and learn to execute like one. Consider:

  • You’ll never learn to play under pressure unless you put yourself in that position regularly, by trying to win the events you can win. There’s little pressure in playing higher-rated players.
  • You’ll never learn to defeat lower-rated players regularly unless you play them regularly, and learn to mow them down. Every time you lose to a lower-rated player is a lesson on something you need to work on; every time you avoid playing a lower-rated player to avoid losing is a lesson lost.
  • When you learn to mow down lower-rated players, you can apply these same techniques to higher-rated players.

So you have to ask yourself: are you playing to be a Champion, or to be a Spoiler looking to pick up a few temporary rating points?

Here's a longer article I wrote on the topic, "Juniors and Ratings."

Sheeba problems

Recently I've been feeling rather tired, and it's affected my work. But there's a simple reason for it. My dog, Sheeba, a corgi mix, will be 15 next month. She often cannot go the entire night without being let out. So recently, about every other night, she's been waking me up at 3-4AM so I can let her out to do her business. I sure hope this is a temporary thing!

U.S. Open in Las Vegas

It's official, according to the USATT Tournament Schedule: the U.S. Open will be held in Las Vegas, July 2-6, 2013.

Physical Training for Table Tennis

Here's a new article from Table Tennis Master that focuses on Building Cardio and Stamina; Building Explosive Leg Power; and Core Strength

Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness

Here's a video (3:18) of 2013 USA Women's Singles Champion Lily Zhang on Mental Toughness.

Timothy Wang on His Matches at the Nationals

Here's a video (7:09) where 2013 USA Men's Singles Champion Timothy Wang talks about his matches at the Nationals.

Houshang on Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:27) where USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh talks about table tennis during the recent Iowa Games.

World Championships of Ping Pong (Sandpaper)

Here are videos of the Final between Maxim Shmyrev and Sule Olaleye. Here's Part 1 (29:41, includes introduction) and Part 2 (21:47, includes awards ceremony). This took place at the World Championships of Ping Pong, which was for sandpaper only, in London, Jan. 5-6, 2013. Winner received $20,000, runner-up $10,000, out of a total prize fund of $100,000.

Polkaroo Plays Table Tennis

Here's a picture Polkaroo (one of the stars of the long-running children's show Polka Dot Door) playing table tennis, along with an article, as part of a promotion for the film Ping Pong. Yes, the white spot is the ping-pong ball! (See also the animated picture of Polkaroo playing at the bottom.)

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August 07, 2012

11-point vs. 21-point games

I miss playing 21-point games. Games to 11 are still, to me, like cheap soft drinks rather than something more substantive, like a milk shake. Sure, you get a quick rush when you gulp down that Coca-cola, but then it's over and you're left wondering, "Is that all?"

When games were to 21, when you won, you WON. A game to 11 is more hit and miss. A few nets or edges and it's over. A random hot or cold streak, and it's over. You blink and it's over.

There are, of course, more games in a best of five to 11 than in a two out of three to 21. But you used to have to score 42 points to win those two games. Now you can do it in 33. It used to be you could spend the first game figuring out your opponent. Even if you lost the first game, once you figured him out, there was no way they could beat you in a game to 21 (if you were truly better), and they only had two chances at it. Now, if you lose the equivalent of a game to 21 you instead lose the first TWO games, and with games to 11, to win all they need is a few lucky breaks, or a hot streak, or a cold streak by you, and they have THREE chances to do it!!! So instead of spending time trying to tactically figure out an opponent, the strategy tends toward throwing everything at them right from the start and hope for the best.

And don't get me started on serving only two points in a row. (Too late.) It used to be you served FIVE times in a row, and smart players used the serves to set up the next ones. There was serious strategy involved. Now you only get two, and by the time you get to serve your next two, your opponent has probably forgotten what you served before, and so you have to start over. So forget all the tactical subtlety of past years and just throw out your two best serves over and Over and OVER.

Okay, I'm exaggerating a bit. There's still plenty of service strategy, just not as much as before, and it's often less subtle. You really could maneuver opponents about more with five serves in a row, like a baseball pitcher setting up a batter for the strikeout pitch. With two serves, you have to rely on your opponent remembering your past serves from before they had their two serves, and alas, many players never reach that point of awareness. (Yes, there are advantages to playing in ignorant bliss.)

They still play games to 21 in hardbat at the U.S. Open and Nationals, where you get to serve five in a row. Those are fun. Except . . . to my astonishment and embarrassment, after spending much of the year playing to 11, I find myself tossing the ball to the opponent to serve after I've served twice. I've been domesticated to 11-point games!!!

MDTTC Camp

We're into Week 9, Day Two of the MDTTC eleven weeks of summer training camps, Mon-Fri each week. These week we have a lighter turnout, with "only" 22 players yesterday, but many are resting from the Junior Olympics. I'll give more coverage of the camp in future blogs. 

Olympic Coverage

I haven't really been blogging much about the Olympics, both because it's covered everywhere else, and because I'm too busy coaching to really follow much of it. The ITTF is doing an excellent job of daily coverage, with lots of articles, results, and photos.

Ready Stance Part 2

A few weeks ago ICC Head Coach Massimo Constantini wrote about The Importance of Stance and Posture to the "Ready Position." (I linked to this in my June 26 blog.) Here is Part 2! It's a video (4:36.)

The Sounds Players Make

Here's an ESPN article on the sounds table tennis players make, ranging from "Sssahhh!" to "Sa. C'mon" to "Saa!" to the usual "Cho!"

Play Ping-Pong Like a Pro

That's the title of this article in Men's Health Magazine that features USA Olympian Timothy Wang talking about perfecting your reaction time, handling rackets, engaging the core, increasing your speed, and sharpening your serve.

Getting an edge: Table tennis players tamper with rackets in sport’s version of "doping"

Here's an Associated Press article on table tennis "doping"

Why do Olympic table tennis players toss the ball so high when they serve?

Here's an article on the topic that's been in a number of major news outlets recently. And here's my article on the high toss serve.

Curiosity Killed the Cat

Here's my take on it. It has nothing to do with table tennis except it was something I did to put off doing some table tennis stuff.

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July 18, 2012

MDTTC Camp, Week Five, Day Two

The schedule yesterday was similar to the day before, except that the morning's focus was on the backhand, and my lecture after the break was on return of serve.

I did a lot of coaching on serves, where the focus was on creating spin. One thing I introduced was a way to practice spin with just the racket and ball. You toss the ball into the air and try to sidespin it straight into the air, catch it, and repeat. It's a simple exercise any player can learn to do, and it's a great way to practice your spin contact as well as control (since you have to hit the ball straight up).

One serve especially has gained interest - the reverse forehand pendulum serve, especially short to the forehand. I've explained that this is probably the most effective serves against junior players (because of their shorter reach, making it hard both to handle the serve or to return it anywhere except crosscourt to a righty's forehand), and this seems to have sparked interest. Here's a video (1:22) that features Men's Singles World Champion Zhang Jike doing the serve, with slow motion. Normally I'd recommend the serve to go wider to the forehand, but at the advanced levels that gives the receiver a very wide angle into the forehand, so at that level it is often done more to the middle. Learn the serve and experiment on what works best in your matches against different opponents.

Things weren't all lovey-dovey in the camp; we had our first real fight of the season. One kid wanted to share a chair with another (both about 9), for some reason didn't want to use the open chair five feet away. I had to pull them apart. Amazing how such little things can escalate at that age level. (I previously blogged about a fight over paper cups, I think about who got to stack them for knocking down with ping-pong balls.) But an hour later they were happily taking turns on the robot together, and later were teammates in Brazilian Teams, cheering for each other. I wish my memory were that short.

In the ongoing clipboard challenge matches during break, I haven't yet lost to anyone rated under 2200, and am now 5-0 against players rated between 2000 and 2200. However, I believe players are now conspiring together by studying videos late into the night, comparing notes, consulting with coaches, and doing early morning training, all for the express purpose of beating me and my clipboard.

Fundraising for Topspin the Movie

To do the documentary on Michael Landers, Ariel Hsing, and Lily Zhang, they need to raise $75,000. As of this writing, 405 people have donated a total of $44,771. It's all or nothing - so they need you to donate! Here's the movie webpage, here's the fundraising site, and here's a link to the 48-hour Top Spinnathon they started Tuesday at 3:30 PM.

Ariel Hsing on CNN

Here's an article with a link to a two-minute video that ran on CNN yesterday. The person hitting with Ariel in the video is coach and practice partner Anol Kashyap.

Timothy Wang in the News

Here's an article on USA Olympian Timothy Wang.

What Vikash Learned at the U.S. Open

Vikash Sahu blogs about what he learned at the U.S. Open, in particular about attacking, playing different styles, and physical conditioning.

History of U.S. Table Tennis

Chapter 14 of Volume 12 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis was featured yesterday on the USATT web page. The heading: "1983: New USTTA Editor Tom Wintrich Replaces 50-Year-Old 'Table Tennis Topics' with 'SPIN.' 1983: Boggan's Fury at President Schiff's Public Explanation as to Why Tim was Fired as 'Topics' Editor. 1983: Boggan Immediately Begins Renegade 'Timmy’s North American World of Table Tennis.'  1983: Initial Responses to SPIN and 'Timmy's' from readers."

Why not buy a copy of this volume and/or the preceding eleven? Perhaps pick and choose the years you are most interested in. Here's Tim Boggan's table tennis page, where you can buy the books or just read about Tim. Here's his Hall of Fame profile.

Wheel of Fortune

Table tennis was on Wheel of Fortune yesterday, as related online by "jj4tt" at the about.com table tennis forum. As he narrates about "Round 2 - Same Letter" (and I presume Wheel of Fortune aficionados can make sense of this?):

Sarah instantly duds out w/ T while Karla goes BANKRUPT. Jed picks up that MDW with three N's. That's followed by $7,000 worth of L's, but he blows it with the C. Back to Sarah who finds the SL of four P's; that allows her to pick up a 1/2 KIA. She narrows the puzzle down to this...
P R O _ E S S I O N A L
P I N _ - P O N _
P L A _ E R
She solves PROFESSIONAL PING-PONG PLAYER for $2,500. Jed left a total of $8,300 on the table in this round.  ...

A Table at Spin NY

I think it's a drowning woman - the table top seems to be blocking her from surfacing. Perhaps tomorrow I'll be posting about Murder at Spin NY.

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July 11, 2012

Coach Jack Huang, the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and the Junior Olympics

I spent last night going through old USA Table Tennis Magazines and online results, from 1992 to present, going over junior results from Junior Olympics, Junior Nationals, the U.S. Open, and USA Nationals. The reason? I'm putting together an application for fellow MDTTC Coach Jack Huang as a member of the Hall of Fame. So far I've identified 124 MDTTC juniors who medalled at the Junior Olympics or Junior Nationals, with over half of them winning gold medals. Next step is to figure out how many of them were Jack's students. Then I'll put this together with the rest of his coaching resume, and send it in to the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame Committee.

If Jack were inducted, it would be as a "Contributor," for his coaching. (The guy averages about sixty hours coaching per week - no exaggeration! - and has kept this up for over twenty years, producing a steady progression of top juniors.) I was also inducted as a Contributor, for my coaching and writing, while our other longtime MDTTC coach, Cheng Yinghua, went in as a player, though he likely could make it as a coach as well. Of course, if Jack were playing in the U.S. during his prime (he was on the Chinese National Team from 1976-83), he'd have dominated table tennis in the U.S., and would have gone in as a player long ago.

I haven't done a final count, but I believe MDTTC juniors have won over 300 gold medals in its twenty years. From around 1992 to about 2005 MDTTC won over half the gold medals. For various reasons we haven't been sending full teams since then. (For one thing, many of our top juniors spend their summers training in China.) For about twelve years we'd always show up with a team of about thirty kids, always the largest contingent, and compete in every age group in singles, doubles, and teams. However, like little league baseball, most give up the sport once they enter college. A few stay around as players, like Han Xiao (who's also a player rep on the USATT Board), or as organizers, such as many of the North American Table Tennis and JOOLA USA crew (Richard Lee, Katherine Wu, Michael Squires).

I've coached at about fifteen Junior Olympics. It's been a few years since I last went, but there's a good chance I'll be going this year. I'll know in a few days. It's in Houston this year. Cheng and Jack didn't go to all of the past Junior Olympics, while I went to all of them in the 1990s, and coached about 250 of our gold medallists in their medal matches.

CCTV at MDTTC

This morning CCTV America, a Chinese TV Network, is coming to MDTTC to do a feature. They'll be here around 11AM, as well all our top junior players, hopefully in their MDTTC uniforms. I'll post here when their broadcast goes up.

Michael Mezyan Table Tennis Artworks

Michael now has about a zillion of his table tennis masterpieces - why not check them out? They've been featured in Matt Hetherington's blog and on the ITTF Facebook page.

Two-Time USA Olympian Khoa Nguyen

Here's a story (with pictures) where Khoa reflects on his Olympic experiences.

U.S. Open Recap

Here's a recap (1:37) of the recent U.S. Open. Plus you get to see Ronald McDonald play Captain America!

Old Spice and Timothy Wang

Old Spice is teaming up with USA Table Tennis Olympian Timothy Wang! It's all part of their new campaign: "Believe in Your Smellf." (That's not a typo.) "For world-class athletes like Timothy Wang or ordinary guys, believing in your scent can truly be a powerful personal motivator," said Josh Talge, brand manager for Old Spice North America. "Old Spice Champion captures the essence of manhood, confidence and a sense of achievement, and celebrates the true champion in every man. It's designed to give guys the self-assurance that they can do anything if they put their Smellf into it." Check out the article to read Timothy's quote.

Wavy Table Tennis

The new wavy ping-pong table, which will become the standard for table tennis throughout the world in January, 2013. Start practicing!!!

Non-Table Tennis - The Wonderful Wizard of Os

My fiction story "The Wonderful Wizard of Os" was featured yesterday on Orioles Hangout, the web page devoted to Orioles baseball. It's the story of five Oriole players (i.e. Dorothy, Toto, Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion) traveling to see the Great and Wonderful Os to solve their baseball problems (They want a bat, a glove, an arm, and one just wants to go home, i.e. score runs). There are a number of inside Oriole jokes, so you might not get it all. Also a takeoff on "Damn Yankees."

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May 30, 2012

Summer Table Tennis Training

Now's the time to start seriously thinking about your summer training, especially for those out of school, but also for the rest of you. There are training camps all over the USA. My club, Maryland Table Tennis Center, will be running eleven consecutive weeks of camps, Mon-Fri every week from June 18 to Aug. 24. Here is info on the camps. I will be coaching along with Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and Jeffrey Xeng Xun. We will also have several 2400-2600 practice partners.

Don't have time to come to a camp? Or don't feel comfortable training with a bunch of juniors? (Most camps are dominated by kids, though all ages are welcome.) Here's the list of USATT coaches, or if you are in the Maryland area, here's info on private coaching at MDTTC.

Many players practice for years and never improve as much as they'd like. The problem is that they rarely go through a period of intense training, which is where you can maximize improvement. Set aside a week or so for a training camp, arrange a couple months afterwards with both private coaching and a regular practice schedule, and it'll pay off for years to come.

Before undergoing any training, take some time to think about your game. What are your current or potential strengths? What are your weaknesses? How to you envision yourself playing later on? One thing I tell all of my students is that you should be able to write a book about your game, at least in your head. If you can't, then either you don't know your game or you don't have a game. In most cases, players have a game but haven't really thought it through. Do some thinking, perhaps consult with a coach or top player, and decide where you want to go in terms of style, level, and/or goals. Then start your journey. A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, and your journey to reach your table tennis goals starts with your next practice session.

"As One" movie

This is the first major "real" table tennis movie (as opposed to comedies that poke fun at the sport), about the joint Korean women's team that won the Worlds in 1991, upsetting China in the final. It opens tomorrow in three U.S. cities (New York, Chicago, Philadelphia), as well as in Toronto and Vancouver. It opens in Los Angeles one week later. Here is info on the theaters and times, as well as a link to the trailer. Here's info on the movie from the ITTF. Here's a photo gallery from U.S. umpire Michael Meier, who had a major role in the movie authentically playing a U.S. umpire. Here's the IMDB page on the movie.

New Coaching Video from PingSkills

Backhand Counterhit (4:54)

USA Olympic Table Tennis Team

Here's an article with photo slideshow of the USA Olympic Team, with pictures and info on all four - Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu.

Mike Mezyan Table Tennis Art

Here's the page for Mike's table tennis artworks. Or you can go directly to the Album.

Jan-Ove Waldner: The Power of Blocking

Here's a highlights video showing the blocking skills of the great Jan-Ove Waldner. Watch the change of pace and placements he uses. Note how he often sidespin blocks.

Turning Trash into Table Tennis

Really!

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