USNTTL

January 23, 2013

USNTTL and Leagues

Alas, it seems the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League is no more. When you go to www.usnttl.com, you get a note saying, "This account is expired due to non renewal of services."

I was already a little irritated at them for another reason. Late last summer, after the entire thing was set up, I was invited to be a member of their Advisory Board. I agreed, and I took part in a one-hour phone conference with other newly appointed Advisory Board Members and the ones setting it up, and where I was told about the league. I gave a few recommendations (not sure if any were followed, since it was a bit too late for major changes since the league was already set up), and that was my entire involvement with it. Later, when the league was "postponed," I only found out about it by emailing them after the planned start-up date, after it had already been postponed. When nothing was happening, I asked to be taken off the Advisory Board. But I was told the person who did the web page was now in India and out of contact. So a number of months went by where there was no league going on, and the only names people saw there were the Advisory Board, none of whom had anything to do with the actual creation or running of the league. The names of the ones who set everything up never had their names on the web page.

So at least I'm no longer listed as an Advisory Board for a league that I never really was involved with.

Putting aside their apparent disappearance, and rumors that they kept the entry fees despite never running a league (anyone know if that's true?), it was a good try, but it was likely doomed from the start. The problem with trying to set up a nationwide league the way they did it is that there was little existing infrastructure to support it. To set up a nationwide league, several things have to happen.

First, someone, whether it's USATT or some other group, has to study successful leagues (both table tennis overseas and in the U.S., and other sports in the U.S.) and come up with a prototype of a league that can be run in the U.S.

Second, the country needs to have regional organizations. This is the big one. This means, at minimum, a State Association in every state, with some larger states, like California, having more than one. We started doing this in the early 1990s, but a new administration came in and went in a different direction, and all that work was lost. I blogged about this on Jan. 9.

Third, the leagues have to be organized and promoted at the regional or state level. This likely means starting in one region (perhaps with the existing leagues in the SF and Bay areas in California and the NYC area), and expanding both in their region and surrounding ones.

Fourth, with the leagues beginning to spread, the regional organizers need to focus on bringing in sponsors so the league can continue to grow. Sponsors bring in revenue that can be used to hire organizers and (at some point) as prize money for the Championship division.

When something like the above happens, a growing nationwide league will be possible, and serious table tennis participation - as well as USATT membership - will explode.

USATT League

I led an attempt to set up a nationwide league about ten years ago with the USATT League, but USATT wouldn't get behind it. (Robert Mayer did the software development and now runs it, though it's pretty much self-run.) It's the most active series of leagues in the U.S., but it's only a singles league - we never got to the all-important team leagues, which would have been the next step. To set up the team leagues, the plan was to appoint state league directors, but we never got to that step.

How active is the USATT League? In the past ten years, 16,703 players have competed in 364 different leagues in a total of 359,592 rated matches. In December, 2012, 5023 rated matches took place in 49 different leagues. In October, 2012, we had the all-time record for USATT League matches in a month with an even 6700 in 56 different leagues. So far this month there have been 4451 rated matches in 51 different leagues. (For perspective, other than the Nationals, there were only 4158 processed USATT tournament matches in December. In months where there are no U.S. Open, Nationals, or North American Teams, the USATT League sometimes has more rated matches than USATT tournament matches.) It's a good start if USATT ever wants to build on it - especially since they can email all of the league directors with the press of a button. 

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

Yesterday I finished the tedious line-by-line proofing of the book. Starting today I get to input the numerous edits, including some new paragraphs and sections I'm adding. Hopefully I'll finish this by Friday. Current version is 99,534 words long, but I expect it'll go over 100,000 before it's done. In the 9"x6" book format, it'll run a little over 240 pages. In 12-point Time-Roman, double spaced, regular 8.5x11 paper, it runs 482 pages.

LPGA Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of LPGA golfers Michelle Wie and Belen Mozo battling it out in ping-pong. No word on who won.

Waldner Scores in Soccer

Here's a video (14 sec) of Jan-Ove Waldner in his younger days scoring a goal in soccer (football for you overseas fans) with some fancy footwork.

Adam Bobrow vs. Timo Boll

Here's the point Adam won (37 seconds), and his reaction. The two played exhibitions points at the Spin LA event this past weekend.

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June 22, 2012

Day Four of MDTTC Camp - the Backhand Loop and Doubles Tactics

On Thursday morning we focused on the backhand attack against backspin, mostly the backhand loop but also the backhand drive against backspin, especially against a short ball. Nathan Hsu (15, rated 2356) was my partner for the demo. I demonstrated my favorite loop versus backspin drill: I serve backspin, partner pushes to my backhand, I backhand loop, partner blocks, I backhand chop, partner pushes, and I backhand loop, and the cycle continues.

Later I gave a short lecture on doubles tactics. (Short version - Serves: serve low and short, mostly toward the middle of the table. Receive: be ready to loop any ball that goes long. Rallies: hit to the opposite side of the player hitting to you from his partner, so they get in each other's way. And lots more.)  Then we played doubles for an hour. We also divided the camp into two groups, and I took the "new" players off to the side and gave a lecture on equipment, which ended with everyone trying out playing against and with anti and long pips. (I also talked about short pips and hardbat.)

There are 34 players in the camp this week. We were a bit worried that we'd get a smaller turnout since we're running camps every week all summer - eleven consecutive weeks - but that doesn't seem to be a problem.

U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League

Here's a new 30-second ad for the upcoming USNTTL league, which starts in September. Here's their home page.

Reminder - Sports Psychology Night at MDTTC

Tonight, Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay will run a 40-minute sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. She runs the table tennis sports psychology page dorakurimay.com, and is the co-author of the book "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT website.) The schedule for the night will be: 6:30-7:00PM - book signing; 7:00-7:40PM: Sports Psychology Seminar ($20, which includes a free copy of the book); after 7:40PM: Personalized Sport Psychology Consultation. Here is the flyer for the event. Come join us! (Dora's also coming in early to join in our afternoon session at the MDTTC training camp.)

Moyer Foundation's Celebrity Ping-Pong Tournament

Baseball pitching star Jamie Moyer will host this celebrity charity event this Saturday, 5:30-9:00 PM, in Philadelphia, with proceeds "will help children in distress – including The Moyer Foundation’s Camp Erin and Camp Mariposa programs." Here's the info page, and here's The Moyer Foundation, founded by MLB World Series-winning All-Star pitcher Jamie Moyer and his wife, Karen. Celebrities attending include  the following - and note Delaware Governor Jack Markell - I've coached him! Here's a picture of him playing from the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page.

ICC Table Tennis in NY Times

Here's an article in yesterday's New York Times on the India Community Center Table Tennis in Milpitas, CA.

"Beer Pong Saved My Life"

That's the title of this 2010 movie, which bombed both critically and at the box office. "Two best friends, Dustin and Erik, are tired of their stagnant and miserable lives. When Dustin hears about a beer pong tournament at a nearby college, Erik is on board right away. Reluctantly, Dustin agrees to play in the tournament and suddenly they are the coolest and best players there. But when the sudden praise goes to their heads, it's all downhill from there!"

In honor of this movie (and despite the fact that I'm a non-drinker), here are some great Beer Pong videos:

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May 22, 2012

Want a consistent forehand and backhand?

Then start off every session by hitting 50 (or even 100) in a row at a steady pace with good technique. Don't start counting until the shot feels comfortable. Don't go out there hitting at different speeds - to develop a repeatable shot you need to repeat it the same way over and Over and OVER, until it is so ingrained you find yourself absentmindedly practicing your forehand as you take your wedding vows, and after your prospective wife kills you, you'll reflexively smack the coroner with another forehand howitzer.

Once the shots are so ingrained, then you should focus on random drills that involve using these repeatable strokes when you don't know whether the next shot will be a forehand or backhand. For example, your partner hits the ball randomly to your forehand or backhand, and you respond by returning each shot with your forehand or backhand to the same spot he's hitting from. (Partner should be hitting all forehands or all backhands.) Take it slow - it's better to do this at a pace where you respond correctly each time then at a pace where your strokes begin to deteriorate and you practice bad form. As you improve, increase the pace. (Maybe an expanded version of this should be a Tip of the Week?)

U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League

In case you missed it when I posted it before, here's the promotional video for the new USNTTL (5:06). I'm now on their Advisory Board, though I don't know how I'm going to find time or energy to take on one more thing. (Hey, they left my best credential off my bio - I'm in the danged U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame!) Hopefully "Advisory Board" means just that, as opposed to say, a "Workory Board" (otherwise known as a Task Force). Why am I so busy these days? It has something to do with three careers. . . .

Three Careers

Why am I so busy these days? Somehow I've found myself working on three careers: table tennis coach, table tennis writer, and science fiction writer. (Technically, it's science fiction and fantasy writer, but we'll go with science fiction as shorthand.)

Table tennis coach: I coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, my primary source of income. (Though surprisingly, my SF writing income this past month has almost matched it due to a bunch of sales.) Besides private coaching, I run a pair of 90-minute beginning junior classes, act as a practice partner for two other junior training sessions, plus am a hired coach at major tournaments, such as the upcoming Easterns and U.S. Open. With summer coming up, the busiest time for coaches, thing are about to get even more hectic. (We're running eleven consecutive weeks of training camps, Mon-Fri each week, mostly for junior players, though adults who don't mind training mostly with juniors are welcome as well. Coaches mostly work nights and weekends, but during the summer it becomes a day job.) In addition to coaching, I'm also involved in numerous promotional and organizational matters with MDTTC. Starting this fall I'm also running the MDTTC tournaments.

Table tennis writer: I've got four books on table tennis, with a fifth almost done. I've also got over 1200 published articles on table tennis (1224 to be exact), and that does not include any of my 350+ daily blog entries. (Here's a complete list of my written work, updated yesterday.) I've been paid plenty for some of these writings over the years, but not as much as you might think. Over the next few months I'm planning to put all five books into both ebook and print on demand (POD) format and look to dramatically increase online sales. The good news is I've learned it's easy to convert from Word to ebook format, and I'm already an expert in page design so I can create the PDF pages for POD. (Don't you love acronyms?) The books are:

  • Table Tennis: Steps to Success. This is my all-time best-seller, with over 28,000 copies sold in English, and unknown numbers sold in five other languages, some legal, but mostly illegal bootleg copies sold all over China and other countries. It's now out of print from its original publisher, so I have complete rights to it again. It'll be the first one I turn into an ebook and POD. However, it'll mean a lot of page designing as well as arranging all the photos.
  • Table Tennis: Tales & Techniques. I self-published this a couple years ago and sold about a thousand copies. I still have about 500 more sitting in boxes. Since I designed the pages, it's pretty much ready for POD. However, I'll have to redo the pages in Word so I can convert to ebook format.
  • Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. I wrote this for USA Table Tennis. However, it's never really been used much except independently by coaches.
  • Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis. I wrote this in the early 1990s for USA Table Tennis as a guide for coaches on how to coach table tennis. I'm toying with combining this with the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. It will need a lot of updating, plus I'd have to recreate the pages in Word. I have the pages in PDF for POD. However, I'm not sure which photos to use with it - the originals I used, or the updated ones from Dan Seemiller and Mark Nordby, when they updated it for USATT. (I'd have to get permission to use the latter.)
  • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development. I'm in the final editing/proofing stages, and it should be done by the weekend. (It's now about 93,000 words, about 400 pages in double spaced 12-point Times. It'll be my longest book, with over twice the text as Steps to Success.) Then I have to decide whether to illustrate it with pictures or not. Also, I'm still debating whether to go to a professional publisher or self-publish. I'm leaning toward the latter. I'm also debating the final title. Here are the ones I'm thinking about - suggestions and recommendations are welcome.
    • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development (the current working title)
    • Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide (the working title until yesterday)
    • A Thinker's Guide to Table Tennis Tactics (the original title until someone told me it'd come earlier in Internet searches if I start the title with "Table Tennis.")
    • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Development: A Thinker's Guide (a little of everything)
    • Table Tennis Tactics and Strategic Thinking (the one I'm now leaning toward, as of this morning)
    • Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers (another obvious possibility that I didn't think of until ten seconds ago)

Science Fiction Writer: This is my "side" career. I've sold 62 short stories, and have two novels making the rounds. Recently there's been a lot of nibbles by agents and publishers on the novels - several read the opening chapters and requested the rest, which they are now reading. (You normally query agents and publishers with just the opening chapters.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.

Over the last couple months or so I've had a flurry of short story sales - nine to be exact, including ones to nice magazines like Weird Tales, Penumbra, Electric Spec, and Flagship. Yesterday I sold my 62nd short story, "The Dragon of the Apocalypse" to Penumbra, a "pro" market that pays well. (Despite the dragon in the title, it's actually science fiction, not fantasy. What should the president of the United States do when a huge dragon swoops out of the sky and lands on the U.S. Capitol, a seeming threat to congress and the American people? It's like King Kong on the Empire State Building, but attack helicopters instead of bi-planes - and things are not as they seem.)

My 30 best short story sales (circa 2010) are combined in an anthology, "Pings and Pongs: The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of Larry Hodges." Buy it!!! I've almost sold enough new stories for its sequel, "More Pings and Pongs."

Other: And when I grow up, I still want to be a math professor, astronomer, presidential historian, cartoonist, and play second base for the Baltimore Orioles. See, I'm a realist; I'd really rather play shortstop (like Cal Ripken) or third base (like Brooks Robinson) but I know I can't make the throw to first, so I'm willing to compromise.

Ariel Hsing on CBS News

Here's a CBS article and video (2:09) on 16-year-old U.S. Women's Singles Champion and Olympic hopeful Ariel Hsing. Very nice presentation, and don't you love the mentions of Uncle Warren and Uncle Bill?

Oriole Table Tennis

As mentioned in past blogs, the Baltimore Orioles baseball team plays a lot of table tennis in their clubhouse. I've been invited to come in sometime to do some coaching (primarily with J.J. Hardy, Jake Arrieta, and trainer/former center fielder Brady Anderson), but the date is not yet set. Here's a quote from an article that mentions table tennis: "It's fun any time you're winning, no matter what the sport is," [Nick] Markakis said. "We have a bunch of competitive guys in this locker room, whether it's playing cards or ping pong or baseball."

The Google Ping-Pong Dragon

Since I sold a story called "The Dragon of the Apocalypse" just yesterday, in honor of that here's the Google Ping-Pong Dragon.

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May 21, 2012

Tip of the Week:

Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation.

Potomac Open and Chinese Juniors

I had to miss the tournament as I was busy coaching at MDTTC. However, the results were profoundly interesting as they were the first tournaments for the three new MDTTC kids from China. The three, all from the Shandong Luneng Table Tennis School in Shandong, moved here a few weeks ago and plan to learn English and stay through college. They will be training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center as well as acting as practice partners. Here are their rough results.

Wang Qing Liang, 17, is the oldest and strongest. He plays a modern chopper/looper style, very similar to 2003 World Men's Singles Finalist Joo Se Hyuk of South Korea. This means that he mostly chops on the backhand with long pips, and both chops and attacks all-out on the forehand side, where he's ready to counterloop anything. In the semifinals he defeated current U.S. Men's Singles Champion Peter Li 4-2. In the final he faced MDTTC coach Jeffrey Xeng Xun, where after a long battle he lost 4-2. He's about 2550-2600 level, and when the tournament is processed he'll be one of the top two or three resident juniors in the U.S. (along with Michael Landers and Yang Liang), as well as the highest rated chopper. We haven't had a chopper this good since the days of Derek May, Arun Kumar, and Insook Bhushan, but none of those three could attack like this kid.

Chen Bo Wen, 14, is a two-winged penhold looper with a reverse penhold backhand loop that is nothing short of extraordinary - except when compared to his forehand loop, which is even better. He reached the semifinals where he lost to eventual champion Jeffrey Xeng Xun. He's about 2450 level, and when the tournament is processed he'll be one of the top two under 15 resident juniors in the U.S. along with Li Hangyu.

Wang Guo Cong, 12, is a lefty shakehands looper. He upset Raghu Nadmichettu (2408) three straight, but had a bad loss to a 2250 chopper. He's about 2400 level, and when the tournament is processed he'll be one of the top under 13 resident juniors in the U.S. (The U.S. has a surprising number of very strong under 13 players right now - five of them from 2366 to 2420. He'll fit somewhere in there.)

All three will be competing at the U.S. Open, including the junior events.

U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League Promotional Video

The USNTTL has created a promotional video (5:21), and it is required viewing of all table tennis players. This means you. Yes, you, the one drinking coffee and about to move on to the next item below.

Jim Butler on the Comeback Trail

With recent tournament wins over U.S. National Men's Champion and Runner-up Peter Li and Han Xiao, three-time U.S. National Champion Jim Butler is back in training after eight years away. He also talks about changes to the sport, especially the growing popularity of the reverse forehand pendulum serve, the backhand loop, and backhand receives. Here's the article!

Table Tennis Town

Here's a new table tennis page with lots of links.

Ping-Pong Balls in Space

How'd they get there? Here's the article!

Top Ten Behind the Back Shots of All time

And here they are!

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May 15, 2012

$100,000 U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League

Yesterday I was in on a phone conference with the organizers, advisers, and sponsors of the upcoming USNTTL. (I'm not sure I'm at liberty to say who was on the call. Attila Malek, 1979 U.S. Men's Champion and long-time coach, is the driving force behind it.) I'm now on their advisory committee.

I had some suggestions for promoting the league, which I've used regularly in the past - meetup.com, craigslist.com, mailings to clubs (including a request that clubs call a meeting to discuss the league with members), and an online printable roster sheet that league directors can use to sign up players. Mailings to coaches was also discussed, as coaches are often the ones running local leagues. I also suggested they contact some "big names" to help them promote the league. (For example, see the segment below on Susan Sarandon. A few words from her to the proper news medium would be hugely helpful.)

I only agreed to be on their advisory committee because they really seem to be dead serious about setting up this nationwide league, which has been paramount importance to developing table tennis in this country for so many years - and the fact that it's never been done is a primary (if not the primary) reason the sport has so long stagnated in this country. Successful countries used leagues to bring in large memberships and revenue, and (if you are more interested in elite table tennis) used that money to develop their national teams. It's win-win. I've constantly been dumbfounded at the refusal to undertake any serious league development by USATT, but now we have someone actually taking action. I hope you will support this league. I hope USATT will support it.

Note that a nationwide league doesn't mean you have to travel all over the U.S. to participate. A nationwide league in a country this size is set up regionally, so all your competitions would be within driving distance.

And you did read the headline correctly - the league has $100,000 in prize money. They have sponsors!

DEADLINE: The entry deadline for the league is June 30. See the USNTTL web page for info, and especially the Regulations page, which gives all the rules, etc.

Some of you may remember that I once tried to create a national league, the USATT League, which is still in operation. I was never able to get USATT to take it seriously, and even when it brought in money ($15,000), the money was used for other things rather than going back into developing the league. My plan was to start with a Singles League to bring in players, and then expand to Team Leagues, which are the key - players like playing on teams, and it's why countries like Germany (700,000), England (500,000), and others have such large memberships. Since I could never get USATT support, I was pretty much operating alone (except for software development from the ever-helpful Robert Mayer), and eventually gave up the idea of moving on to the team aspect. Though it mostly operates under the radar, there are currently 272 active leagues in the USATT League, with an average of 6000 processed (i.e. rated) matches per month. (Not sure how active the 272 leagues are - I think it means leagues that have played matches in the past year.) A total of 14,193 players have played in processed league matches since its creation in 2003.

Eastern Open

The deadline to enter the Eastern Open is this Friday. I'll be there coaching. Will you? Stop by and say hello!

New coaching videos from PingSkills

Susan Sarandon talks table tennis on Anderson Cooper

Actress Susan Sarandon told Anderson Cooper on his show about her passion for ping pong and said she enjoys playing it because "it cuts across age, body type, gender… little girls can beat their fathers, they can beat their big brothers." Here's the video (1:15).

Non-Table Tennis - Nebula News!

This weekend is the annual Nebula Awards Weekend, where the science fiction and fantasy writers from around the U.S. gather for workshops, panels, and the awards banquet where the best writers are honored with Nebula's (their equivalent of the Oscars). This year it is being held locally in Arlington, VA. I just found out that a story of mine is included in the Award Weekend's Collector's Anthology! I'll be at the Science Fiction Writers of America table Friday night with other writers included signing copies of the book for buyers. Unfortunately I'll have to miss all or most of the rest of the weekend because of coaching commitments. (On a side note, this morning I sold my 60th short story to an anthology - but the editor asked that I not yet announce the sale until they have made all their selections. Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.) 

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April 27, 2012

U.S. Nationwide Club Team League

As I noted in my blog yesterday, you can still enter your club in the league and save $75 if you do so by Monday - so enter now! Here's the web page with full info. I attended an hour-long online video presentation of the league yesterday with live audio as Attila Malek explained the league and answered questions. I expect we'll have a bunch of teams from my club playing in this first ever nationwide league. If a success, this will be the first step toward changing table tennis in the U.S. from a secondhand sport into a powerhouse.

The league is set up regionally so that teams don't have to travel far for their matches. They have sponsors, and are giving out $100,000 in prize money in the five divisions. As of yesterday, they had 104 teams signed up, as I noted in my blog. I just checked, and they are now up to 127 teams.

It is through such leagues that memberships and revenue skyrocket. Germany has 700,000 league members; England 500,000; several other countries in Europe have memberships also measured in the hundred thousands despite relatively small populations. The main difference is that in those countries, the national governing body took the lead in setting up developing these leagues, and so a share of the revenue went to them, which is used to develop their national teams. USATT chose not to get involved (despite my pleadings at the Strategic Meeting in 2009 and before and since), and so Attila Malek and a few others have instead stepped up to the plate and taken charge. Let's support them and who knows where this'll lead. But I can vouch that Attila is in it to develop the sport, and if the league grows, there'll be more and more money in the top division so that the "pro" players can actually make a living at this sport (finally), while all divisions spread to all parts of the country. If this sounds like a description of the highly successful European Leagues, then you are right.

Spread the word!!!

Email to Board about Committee and Task Force Minutes

Yesterday morning (about 10AM) I sent the following self-explanatory email to the USATT Board of Directors, staff, and committee chairs. So far one committee chair emailed me privately saying he actually kept minutes and sent them in, but USATT didn't publish them. Another person thanked me for bringing this up. Otherwise, no response. Will USATT continue to violate the very bylaws this board created five years ago, despite regular reminders for years, or will they fix the problem? (Will they shoot the messenger?)

The bylaws state that the minutes of all USATT committee and task force meetings be published within 30 days, as I've pointed out repeatedly for the past three years. Can someone direct me to these minutes? For example, I keep getting asked about certain decisions made by the High Performance Committee, but I can't find the minutes of any of their meetings, as required by the bylaws. I'm also trying to find the minutes of meetings by the task forces set up at the Strategic Meeting in Sept. 2009, where I also reminded everyone of the bylaw requirements. Has USATT had ANY committee or task force meetings over the past five years? 

-Larry Hodges

From the USATT Bylaws:
ARTICLE IX  COMMITTEES
Section 9.10. Minutes of Meetings.
"Each committee and task force shall take minutes of its meetings.  The approved minutes must be published within thirty (30) days of completion of the meeting."

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 12

Yes, you read that right, Tim Boggan's Volume 12 is out! So buy yours today, as well as the previous eleven! Here's the webpage with info. As some noted table tennis authority once wrote, how can any serious player not buy these books? (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and photo restoration for these books.)

Ariel Hsing on NPR!

Here's the article.

Warren Buffett versus Ariel Hsing

Here's 34 seconds of them playing in 2007, which includes a scandalous bribe.

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April 26, 2012

Staying low

A low stance lowers the center of gravity while bending the knees. Both of these allow for quicker movements as well as added power. This is important, especially at higher levels where quick footwork and power dominate. At the beginning stage it's not as comfortable, but once you get used to it it's hard to imagine playing without a low stance. So it's a good idea to get in the habit early in your playing career. (If someone plays most of their life but are not professionals, like 99.9999% of us, is it a "playing career"?)

Many players say they can read spin better when they stay low, especially when returning serves. Many players adopt an extra low stance for receiving serve, and then go to a less low stance the rest of the rally. I've always suspected that the low stance doesn't really help read the spin better so much as it allows them to react to the spin faster.

When players think about footwork, they mostly think about moving to the ball in a rally, where they move mostly side to side as they run down each shot. Footwork for returning serves is way underestimated, which is one reason players often return serves awkwardly as they reach for balls they should move to. In that split second as the ball leaves the opponent's racket a receiver has to make a snap decision on whether to step under the table and move in to the forehand, backhand, or middle for a short ball; whether to step off from the table if the ball is extra deep; whether to move to the wide forehand or backhand for a deep serve there; whether to move left or right to receive a deep ball to the middle with the forehand or backhand; whether to use a forehand from the backhand or (mostly against short balls) a backhand from the forehand side. A low stance that gives a quick start makes this a lot easier.

U.S. Nationwide Club Team League

Just the below via email about the U.S. Nationwide Club Team League. I'll know more tomorrow as I'm going to be in an online meeting about it tonight. Already 104 clubs have registered, including my club, MDTTC.  

Teams enrolling by April 30th will save $75.

Who can enroll teams?

Table tennis clubs, college teams, schools and corporations who have registered with USNTTL.  

In order to grow table tennis in the U.S. table tennis must become a team sport where clubs are taking care of their players. Existing clubs need to be the center of table tennis activities in their local areas. 

This league with the $100,000 prize money will provide free publicity and will bring in new players and increased revenue for the clubs. 

What do I need to do? 

  1. Create one or more team rosters.
  2. List the players in order from the highest level to the lowest level.
  3. Ask players to remove their name if they want to be left out of the club team competition (10 players in a roster would cost only $30/player for the whole league)
  4. Go to our website (www.usnttl.com) and enroll your team/s.

How do I get additional teams?

  1. Send a press release to your local papers.
  2. Create a new roster for players who respond to your press release.
  3. Ask your club members if they play table tennis at work or school?
  4. Ask them to form a team to compete against other companies or schools in their area.
  5. Go to our website (www.usnttl.com) and enroll your team/s.

Remember, the home court advantage goes to teams in order of registration.

The more teams you enroll, the more funds you'll generate for your club.

If you have any question please contact Attila Malek at 714-677-0048 or attila@usnttl.com

Best Regards,

Attila Malek

USNTTL Director

ITTF Initiatives Shortlisted Four Times for SportAccord Awards

Here's the article.

Highlights video

Here's a great highlights video (7:56) set to music - enjoy!

Harry Potter plays table tennis

Table Tennis Nation brings us news of Harry Potter, I mean Daniel Radcliff, playing table tennis.

Funny table tennis pictures

Here are eight hilarious table tennis pictures from Eric Jenson's Facebook page:

  1. A "tennis" table
  2. Ping-pong soup
  3. Ping-pong cake
  4. The human chipmunk
  5. What the knights around King Arthur's round table do on break
  6. Warren Buffett talks softly and carries a big stick
  7. Outdoor table tennis
  8. A curvy, portable table

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February 16, 2012

Over- and Under-Playing

Both Over- and Under-playing are scourges of match play. I'm not sure which happens often. I'm guessing most would say they lose more often from under-playing down to a "weaker" opponent, but I’m not so sure. Players often lose by over-playing, but don't realize it.

Under-playing means you play down to the level of your "weaker" opponent. It usually means that you hold back on your stronger aggressive shots, playing a safer, passive game that allows the opponent to take control and often win. It's a quick way to blow a rating or ranking.

Over-playing means you try to play at a level that's not only beyond your normal capacity, but beyond what is needed to win. For example, I'll often play lower-rated players who feel that to beat me they have to blast winners on every shot. It makes winning rather easy. (On the other hand, it's a far scarier opponent who attacks consistently, forcing a stronger opponent to choose between risky counter-attacks or playing steady and giving the opponent more chances to find the right ball to blast for a winner.) However, players do this against both stronger and weaker players, going for winners on the first shot when a steadier attack would set up an easier winner. You don't want to play down to a weaker player, but you also don't want to play so risky that you are giving away points and risking losing. It's a judgment call.

For an attacking player, it's best to develop a strong core to your game, with attacking shots you can depend on. For example, develop an opening loop against backspin that you know you can do over and over, rather than one where you can win the point with one shot, but only if you are playing well. (You won't always be playing well, and key to playing at a higher level is winning even when you are not at your best.)

We had an example of this at the U.S. Olympic Trials this past weekend, where I was coaching Han Xiao. In game one of one match, Han was so ready to counterloop the opponent's strong loop that he lost the first game when the opponent mostly looped soft with heavy topspin, and he wasn't ready for the slower shot. The rest of the match he stopped over-playing, focused on counter-looping the softer loop, and won easily.

Shoutout to a well-run Trials

Congrats to Cary, NC and the U.S. Olympic Trials staff for a well-run Trials!

Coaches Wanted for National League

I just receive the following from the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League. (Besides coaches they are also looking for Regional Directors and have a contest where you can win a Smart Pong Table Tennis Robot.) If you are a coach but didn't get the email, and are interested in getting involved, contact them.

Hello Coaches,

The U.S. Nationwide Club Team competition is scheduled to start in September, 2012. The competition is going to be advertised all over the nation and we're expecting large number of basement players responding to our ads. New corporate and school teams going to be formed and in most cases they want professional assistance to prepare for the competition. Our goal is to connect these new players with local coaches in their area. So, if you're interested, please send us an email with your information.

Name:
Your Club:
City:
State:
Phone:
Best time to reach you:
(Al levels are welcome).

We would love to work with you.

Please let us know. Regards,

Team USNTTL

Banana Receive in Chinese

Yesterday I blogged about the backhand banana receive. I'm told that in China they have a less fruited term for the stroke - there it is called "ning." And for those interested, banana in Chinese (Pinyin) is xiāngjiāo. (Thank you Google.)

The Chinese Fab Five

Here's an article on China's "Fab Five" players (Ma Long, Zhang Jike, Wang Hao, Xu Xin, and Ma Lin) and their preparations for the upcoming Olympics, with numerous quotes from head coach Liu Guoliang. (Amazing how the world has changed - Wang Liqin isn't in the "Fab Five" anymore.)

Pingtuated Equilibripong

Yes, it's the new ping-pong table that's sweeping the nation! And it comes to you from evolutionary Biologist Stephen J. Gould! (Sort of.)

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January 31, 2012

Different strokes for different folks

It's interesting to watch the natural tendencies of players come out in their play. Yesterday I coached three kids, all beginning-intermediate players.

The first one, age ten, literally takes every ball off the bounce. It is easier for an elephant to fit through the eye of a needle than to get him to hit the ball at the top of the bounce. In a previous era not dominated by looping he'd be a hitter/blocker. These days? I'm not so sure. Right now he hits everything off the bounce; later on, perhaps he'll loop everything off the bounce. He plays at home with a table that has about four feet going back, so that says something about how and why he's developing this way.

Another kid, also about ten, doesn't seem to get the concept of a flat hit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in this topspin-dominated age. His version of a forehand-to-forehand warm-up is no different than when he loops, and he doesn't seem to realize this - he uses the same looping stroke for drives and loops, and seems to think he's doing something different, though I haven't found a difference yet. So we've abandoned any pretense of hitting and he just loops everything. Not bad considering he's played about two months.

A third kid, age seven, has the weird habit of hitting until the ball is high. Then he'll wait for it to drop, and loop it! He has loop written all over him, and will probably be looping everything soon. The interesting thing here is that at age seven, he already knows all the best players in the world, and likes to mimic them. Yesterday he was showing off his "Ma Lin backhands," mimicking both Ma's conventional and reverse penhold backhands, though he's a shakehander. He also tried to mimic Timo Boll's loop - needs work.

What are your natural tendencies, and how have you incorporated them into a winning table tennis style?

Busy day

Yesterday was one of the busiest days I've had in a while. I was on the go non-stop the entire time. A quick rundown, in rough order from my todo list - and don't even try to calculate how I fit all this into the roughly sixteen hours I was up.

  • Wrote the Tip of the Week, on "Quick and Variable Blocks," and put online at TableTennisCoaching.com and PaddlePalace.com.
  • Wrote my daily blog.
  • Put new sponge on my forehand.
  • Paid all my bills for the month of January and worked out my finances for the month, including my monthly coaching payment to MDTTC. (I pay them $10/hour for court time.)
  • Updated four web pages.
  • Worked out hotel arrangements for MDTTC camps and tournaments.
  • Watched and took notes for on three matches for upcoming U.S. Olympic Trials
  • Went to bank.
  • Took car to repair shop for various problems, costing about $400.
  • While waiting three hours for car repairs, went to Jerry's Pizza and read and did short critiques on 39 short stories (all under 750 words long, about 27,000 words or 140 pages total) as part of a SF contest. Consumed two small pepperoni pizzas.
  • Coached three hours.
  • Did 40 minute weight training and stretching routine.
  • Did an hour's work on the final rewrite of "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."
  • Made popcorn and watched The Daily Show and Colbert Report.

Han Xiao hoping to grab a U.S. place at the ping-pong table

Here's an article in the Washington Times this morning on Han Xiao. I'm quoted in the story. The other player with the really good backhand? Fan Yiyong. I'll be coaching Han and John Hsu at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Cary, NC.

United States National Table Tennis League

Here's an article on the new USNTTL! Attila Malek (full-time coach at Power Pong Table Tennis Club in Huntington Beach, CA, and 1979 U.S. Men's Singles Champion) is the prime mover of this league, though there's apparently a group putting it together and financing it.

Royal Navy Table Tennis Book

Here's the Royal Navy Table Tennis Book!

Tribute to Chinese Dominance

Here's a video that pays tribute to China and their dominance of table tennis (5:24).

Bruce Lee Table Tennis Commercial

You've probably seen this video before - but now it's part of a Japanese Nokia camera commercial. There's no hint that it's a commercial until the last ten seconds of this 73-second video. And for our naïve viewers - it's not real. They just took footage of Bruce Lee (or is that an actor portraying him?) and used real table tennis players and computer animation to make it look like he's playing with nunchucks. Or am I the naïve one?

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January 30, 2012

Tip of the Week

Quick and Variable Blocks.

Revamping the forehand

This weekend I was coaching an older player who had a nice backhand but awkward forehand. He stood mostly in a backhand stance, with a low grip (so that his shots were very wristy), and stroked his forehand with his elbow extended out, stroking mostly from the shoulder, with little shoulder rotation. He backswing varied from shot to shot. To fix these problems, we first adjusted the grip. He tried a conventional shakehand grip where his hand was closer to the blade, but it didn't feel right to him. Then we hit on the idea of simply using more pressure with his index finger to secure the blade more firmly on the forehand so that it wouldn't be wristy.

Then we worked on the stance, focusing on putting the right foot slightly back on the forehand. With some practice, this'll become a habit.

Finally we had to fix the elbow and shoulder problem, which really went together. To address this, I went back to a trick I'd seen coaches use long ago when the game was dominated by hitters. We put a rubber cleaning sponge under his arm, forcing him to keep the elbow in. This shortened his stroke, making it easier to rotate the shoulders and stroke more with the elbow. Then we worked on having the same backswing over and over. At this point the stroke really began to come together. Soon he was able to remove the sponge under his arm and he continued to hit with his elbow more in. (You don't want to stroke with the elbow so in that it'll hold a sponge there, but by exaggerating this, it made it easier to adjust to keeping the elbow more in.)

He has a lot of practice ahead of him to undo these bad habits, but he's on his way. The key thing in all this is that when hitting, precision comes mostly from good technique, not just timing. Good technique minimizes the things that can go wrong and make awkward hitting almost difficult.

"The service is the most important stroke in table tennis."

This is what 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager says in his book, "Table Tennis: Tips from a World Champion," by Schlager and Bernd-Ulrich Grob. I concur. Why do so few understand this? (Technically, I'd say receive overall may be even more important, but receive is a series of different techniques, no one of which is as important as developing your serve.)

United States National Table Tennis League

I'll probably have more to write about this later, but take the time now to learn about this new upcoming $100,000 nationwide league, and get your club involved!

Playing Ping-Pong for a Passion

Here's an article about basketball's Peter Farnsworth, table tennis, and charity.

Marty Reisman and the Year of the Dragon Paddle

Yes, here's Marty celebrating the Chinese New Year ("Year of the Dragon") with the new Dragon paddle (0:56)!

Forehand loop in multiball

Here's a nice demonstration of the forehand loop (1:22). That's Coach Richard Bowling looping, and Coach Amy Feng (four-time U.S. Women's Singles Champion, 1992-95) feeding multiball. Shown at regular speed, slow motion, and at Forrest Gump speed.
UPDATE - the video above, which was public, is now listed as private, and so we can't watch. Alas. 

Table Tennis and Tennis and Badminton, Oh My!

This is one of the strangest music videos I've ever seen (4:55), to the tune of "The Danger Zone." It features table tennis, tennis, and badminton. Table tennis comes and goes, with the best segment coming at 2:45.

Non-Table Tennis: My entry for "Worst Opening"

This was my entry for a "Worst Opening" contest, where you try to write the most absurd and overdone opening to a science fiction story.

I woke and saw the blue eyes gazing into mine. Lush, blue alien eyes, eyes that cried out "I'm blue!" over and over and over . . . and would not stop. I could only gape back as the reptilian eyes locked into mine, I could not look away, could not blink, could not die in those few seconds that lasted a lifetime of pain and ecstasy. If I'd known then what I would then have never known I would have torn my own eyes out and stuffed them into hers, knowing the holes in my face could never match the growing hole in my heart, nor could the blueness of my rapidly unoxygenating blood pouring down my face onto the floor be anything but a melting blueberry to those pounding blue eyes of tomorrow. That was how my day began.

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