Obama

September 18, 2012

Learn From Others

Something that's always bothered me as weird is that often I'll play someone who absolutely cannot return my serves. If the player is a beginner, they'll often ask how I do the serve and how to return it. But starting at the intermediate and advanced levels, almost nobody asks, even if they struggle with my serve, even if it's someone I coach. This is especially bothersome with up-and-coming juniors, who presumably are striving for a high level. Don't they want to learn?

The same is true of other aspects of the game, but a player can better see what's happening with most other techniques. If they struggle with my short receive, they can see I'm just dropping the ball short. If they can't see the direction of my forehand, they can see that I'm changing directions at the last second by turning my shoulders. But they usually cannot see how, for example, I'm serving topspin when I'm stroking downward with an open racket, hitting the bottom of the ball, and continuing downward. (Short answer - the racket is rotating about an axis centered over the hitting surface, and so the near side of the blade is actually rotating upward at contact, though only for a split second if done properly.) They can't see how it's done, and can't figure out how to read it (since they don't know where the topspin is coming from), and yet they never ask! (Well, rarely.)

Next time you're playing me or someone else and struggling to react to spins that don't look like they should be there, ask how it's done. I'll show you, as will most top players, most of whom you'll find love to talk about their craft. There are multiple ways to create these deceptions (serving is the "trick" part of table tennis), and are much easier to show in person than in an article, even with a photo sequence. Tricky serves are subtle, and subtlety doesn't show up well in photo sequences. 

I mentioned above that intermediate and advanced players rarely ask how these serves are done. Yes, while advanced players are experts at the specific techniques they use, many have large holes in their knowledge and skills.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook and the Most Interesting Criticism I Received This Week

A few years ago I wrote the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. The purpose was to show table tennis coaches the professional side of coaching - how to attract and keep students, run programs, maximize profits so they could make a good living, etc. A few days ago I was criticized for not including yoga in the Handbook - really!!!

I've been toying for a while with starting up a Coaches Academy, where I'd recruit and train players and coaches to be professional table tennis coaches, where they'd make a living as a coach while running large junior programs. I've argued for years that USA Table Tennis should be doing this (as is done in many other sports organizations, such as the U.S. Tennis Association), but to no avail. If I ever do this, the PTTCH would be the Handbook. (If only table tennis were played on slabs of ice instead of a table, then we'd call it ice tennis, and the Handbook would be the Professional Ice Tennis Coaches Handbook, or PITCH, and then I could pitch PITCH to everyone!)

Four Days Till the MDTTC September Open!

Have you entered yet? There will be a surprise guest appearance by everyone's favorite table tennis player - YOU!!! Unless, of course, you disappoint all your fans and don't show. That would be despicable. (Deadline to enter is 5PM Thursday.)

Liu Guoliang on Zhang Jike Missing World Cup

Here's an article where Chinese Men's Coach Liu Guoliang discusses why Zhang Jike will miss the World Cup.

Erica Wu and Barack Obama

Here's a picture of Olympian Erica Wu with President Obama outside the White House. (Yesterday we had Lily Zhang with Obama. I haven't found any with Ariel Hsing or Timothy Wang with Obama.)

Strange Table Tennis Pictures

Here's a page full of strange and weird table tennis pictures.

Transcending Table Tennis

Here's the Transcending Table Tennis page, with seven table tennis videos.

Interspecies Table Tennis

I believe we have humans, cats, and mice playing in this cartoon. Yes, the cat is playing with its food.

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June 25, 2012

Tip of the Week

The Game is All Mental.

Week One Day Five and Week Two Begins

Last week was Week One of the MDTTC camp season, with 34 players. We've got eleven weeks of camps, so one down, ten to go!

On Friday morning I gave a lecture on pushing. Topics included the basic push; pushing quick and long, pushing heavy and long, short pushing, and pushing with a purpose. The rest of the morning was multiball. As is our norm, Friday mornings is "player's choice," where the player tells the coach what he wants to work on. If he isn't sure the coach makes suggestions or chooses the drill. Other "highlights" included box battles. (Apparently one kid really, Really, REALLY wanted a particular box to catch balls in, and when another kid wouldn't let him have it, well, things got ugly for a few minutes. Yes, this is a table tennis camp.)

During break I watched the kids play a fascinating game of "24." No, it didn't involve Jack Bauer torturing terrorists who are trying to nuke U.S. cities; it involved dealing out four cards, and trying to find a way to get to 24, using all four cards and using simple arithmetic functions. (Aces are worth 1, face cards 10.)  For example, if the cards dealt are K, 7, 3, 2, then (Kx2)+(7-3)=24. I doubt if they thought of it this way, but I couldn't help think how similar this was to table tennis tactics in a match, where you have only a few seconds between points to puzzle out what to do the next point, just as here they had only a few seconds to solve the puzzle.

This morning we start Week Two. (I'll be missing this Friday, and the first three days of Week Three, since I'll be at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids. But Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang are staying home to run the camp.)

Dora and the Sports Psychology Workshop

On Friday night Table Tennis Sports Psychologist Dora Kurimay traveled down from New York to give a sports psychology workshop at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. About fifteen players attended. The workshop went over the main points of her book, "Get Your Game Face On!" (Here's my review of the book on the USATT web page.) Topics included the Four R's (Reaction, Recovery, Ready, and Ritual), the inseparable relationship between emotional, mental, and physical (the "Game Face Performance Triangle"), and other sports psychology topics. If you are interested in a sports psychology workshop at your club, see her webpage

Scott Preiss and Dr. Eric Owens

Here's a nice exhibition (2:42) by Scott Preiss and, yes, DR. Eric Owens. (Our 2001 U.S. Men's Singles Champion now is a medical doctor.) The Ping Pong Man (that's Scott) and the Doctor are performing at the Century Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles for the US Olympic Committee and Olympic sponsors.

Dumb Anti-Obama Posting

For the last few days USATT has featured on their home page a picture of President Obama holding up an ICC Table Tennis shirt. (Here's a direct link to the article and picture - scroll down to see the picture, or go directly to it.) Someone posted a bunch of anti-Obama nonsense on a table tennis forum, writing "SHAME on USATT" for "posting pro obama nonsense," and linking to an anti-Obama video that insults the intelligence of anyone with a brain, Democrat, Republican, or Independent. (Thankfully, the moderators deleted it soon afterwards.)  First, this was no "pro obama nonsense," simply a neutral picture of the President of the United States holding up a table tennis shirt, a great promotional item for table tennis. Second, it's a TABLE TENNIS forum, not a political forum. Third, can't these types of people see the difference between the president, who happens to be Obama, and Obama, the person who happens to be a president they don't like?

Milwaukee's Airport and Table Tennis

CNN did a special on "14 airport amenities that will make you long for a layover." The picture nine of them; see #8!!! Yes, it's a ping-pong table at Milwaukee's Mitchell Airport! I actually walked by it at last year's U.S. Open in Milwaukee, and considered joining in with the ones playing, but ended up just watching it.

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June 18, 2012

Tip of the Week

Playing in Different Time Zones.

Friday Exhaustion

I've spent much of the last week learning to do page layouts for Print on Demand and for Kindle ebooks, and have been up sometimes almost around the clock doing the layouts for some of my books. I first did "Pings and Pongs," my collection of science fiction & fantasy stories as a practice run as it would be easier than the others, since there are few graphics. Since then I've been doing both my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide" and "A Professional Table Tennis Coach's Handbook." Later I'll do my other three table tennis books.

Unfortunately, I'm paying the price. On Friday I showed up as a practice partner for our Elite Junior Session, and could barely stay awake. Just trying to play gave me a headache, stomachache, and I started getting dizzy. Finally, after about 45 minutes, I had to stop and go home to get some sleep.

Despite a good night's sleep, I was still exhausted on Saturday. I had a relatively full schedule (five hours), and there were times when my legs were in open rebellion, but I got through it. I had another good night's sleep, but Sunday I was still pretty tired. However, there are signs I'm getting better. Unfortunately, with eleven consecutive weeks of training camps starting this morning, I have a feeling I'd better get used to being exhausted.

I do have a few things I'm doing to combat this. The rest of the summer I'm going to regularly go to bed at 11PM, though I will, as always, read for a while before actually going to sleep. (I'll be getting up by 7AM each morning to do my blog before leaving for the club.) I'm also going to focus on eating well. I generally do, but I'll make it higher priority this summer. Also, on the advice of a doctor at the club, I've been taking "B Complex" vitamins (as well as the regular multivitamins I already take) as a supplement. I have no idea if it'll help, but he says it'll help an active person regain energy. We'll see.

One side effect is that I'm probably going to go from doing page layouts at warp drive to a mere sub-light speed. But I still hope to have all the books in POD and ebook format by the end of the summer.

Summer Camp Side Effects

  • Side Effect One: I'll have lots and lots to blog about.
  • Side Effect Two: I'll have less and less time to blog.

President Obama and the ICC Table Tennis Shirt

Here's President Obama holding up an ICC Table Tennis shirt that he accepted from three table tennis Olympians (Timothy Wang, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang). He also got a paddle signed by the three, held by Anil Godhwani (standing next to Obama). At first I thought it must be photoshopped, but after investigation, it's for real.

Here are some pictures of Obama playing table tennis, from CelebritiesPlayingTableTennis.com (a site I maintain).

photo1 photo2 photo3 (Photos 2 and 3 are from a picture on the wall at the White House, contributed by Timmy La)

Here are pictures of Obama playing table tennis with David Cameron, the prime minister of England:
Obama and David Cameron, Prime Minister of England:
photo1 photo2 photo3 photo4 photo5 photo6 photo7 photo8 photo9

And while we're at it, here are two pictures of First Lady Michelle Obama playing table tennis:

photo1 photo2

Best Table Tennis Shots of 2011

I don't think I've linked to this video (3:48). Lots of great shots!

Twisted Table

Now this would be tough to play on. (I already had a picture of this table in the "Fun and Games" section, but this is a better and closer one.)

Non-Table Tennis -SF & Fantasy Sales

Recently I've been on a splurge in my science fiction and fantasy writing sales. On Saturday I sold my sixth short story in six weeks, "Running with the Dead" (7400 words) to Buzzy Magazine, a pro-paying market, along with two of the other sales. (A "pro" paying market is one that pays at least 5 cents/word.) This is the story of a dead kid who wants to attend high school and run as a miler on the track team. He faces not only public pressure to quit - the country is mostly against letting dead people attend school - but also the captain of the track team and leader of the "Mile Mafia," the very person who murdered him one year before.

The six sales add up to $1080 in income. Pretty soon this'll eclipse my coaching income!!! Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.

I've also been on a couple of covers recently, for Flagship Magazine and Penumbra Magazine. Below are all thirteen covers - click on the image to see the full-sized one. 

Thirteen  Science Fiction & Fantasy Magazines with my name on the cover.

Click to see full-sized versions!

   

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August 19, 2011

MDTTC Coaching Camp - Day Nine

  • Today's focus was on footwork. When I announced that, the groans could be heard in China, where the sonic vibrations caused massive nationwide lets. Of course, all table tennis drills are footwork drills - we just don't spend much time reminding players.
  • One player said he wanted to know how he could "move up a level." Talk about coincidence - one of my favorite articles I've written is "How to Move Up a Level"! I pointed out the article in his copy of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. I also introduced him to With Winning in Mind: The Mental Management System, by Lanny Bassham, one of the best sports psychology books around.
  • During break, the kids played "napkin poker." If the coaches won't let you play for real money, why not?
  • Camp ends tomorrow - final report will be on Monday. 

Serving and Gripping and Wrist, Oh My!

Do you change your grip when you serve? You should for nearly all serves. Most spin comes from the wrist. Few service motions get maximum wrist action with a normal shakehands grip, which is designed more for stable strokes than wristy spin serves. If you aren't sure how to change your trip to maximize the wrist action and spin, ask a top player or coach to show you. Or just experiment, rotating the racket in your hand and adjusting the finger positioning until you find ways to maximize your wrist snap. (This came up several times in the camp.)

Table Tennis Primer

Here's The Daily Lesson/Ping-Pong (1:46), a nice table tennis primer by table tennis coach and sports psychologist Dora Kurimay. Here's the text under the video: "Chances are, you either grew up with a ping-pong table in your basement or played a few less-than-friendly games somewhere else. In addition, it's likely you've never had a lesson from a pro (and sorry, watching "Balls of Fury" doesn't count). That is, until now, courtesy of former Hungarian champ Dora Kurimay. Tap on the video above to learn proper footwork as well as the perfect grip. That should be more than enough to lift your game out of the cellar."

What do Barack Obama, Susan Sarandon, Lil Jon and Lindsey Vonn have in common?

Yes, table tennis - here's the article!

1971 Ping-Pong Diplomacy

Here's a new first-hand account.

George Hendry, RIP

USATT Hall of Famer George Hendry, one of the last of the great hardbat players, died Wednesday, Aug. 17, a few days short of age 91. Here's his Hall of Fame bio, and a picture (he's on far side). I've known him for 30+ years, so it was a shock to hear the news. After he won Over 60 and Over 70 at the USA Nationals one year, and George Brathwaite had won Over 40 and over 50, I staged a picture of the two of them jumping into the air and giving each other high-fives. After he'd won the 1990 World Over 70 Singles Championships, I wrote the following Ode to him.

You Are Old, Father Hendry
Ode to 1990 World Over 70 Champion George Hendry
From March/April 1992 Table Tennis Topics
By Larry Hodges
(With apologies to You Are Old, Father William by Lewis Carroll from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

"You are old, George Hendry," the young man spoke,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly hit a hard stroke,
Do you think at your age that is right?"

"In my youth," George Hendry replied as he rocked,
I feared hitting myself in the head;
My follow-throughs got my skull dented and pocked;
A few more dents shouldn't hurt it, I've said."

"You are old," said the youth in another resort,
"And have grown most uncommonly fat;
Yet you smash winners from all parts of the court –
Pray, what is the reason for that?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he combed his long pips,
"I kept all my limbs very loose;
'Course, it's this fast sponge that lets me go for those rips,
While the other side's good for a ruse."

"You are old," said the youth, "and your legs are too weak
To get to the shots that you hit;
Yet I can see that your movements are still very sleek,
Pray, how do you manage to do it?"

"In my youth," said George Hendry, "I was a retriever,
And had to run down many balls;
Chase after each shot, that was my endeavor,
Which often meant running through walls!"

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly suppose
That your eye was as steady as ever;
Yet you balanced a ping pong ball on the end of your nose –
What made you so awfully clever?"

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said George Hendry, "no more am I able;
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Be off, or get kicked through the table!"

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June 6, 2011

Tip of the Week - Practice Matches

This week's Tip of the Week is about what to do in practice matches. Remember, a practice match is just that - a practice match. The problem is that many only get the second part - "match" - and forget about that first part - "practice."

2011 Pan American Games Team Leader Position Opening

There's an opening - here's your chance to travel with the U.S. Team to the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico! See USATT news item.

Marty Reisman on Obama's Personality

Last week I mentioned in my blog how Marty analyzed President Obama's table tennis game. Now, based on that, he's also analyzed his personality! I assume everyone reading this knows about the charismatic and two-time U.S. Men's Champion Marty Reisman?

USATT Coaching Newsletter

For those who missed my past mention of it, here it is again!

Historical time spent helping historical writer

This morning USA Table Tennis Historian Tim Boggan called in a panic. For some reason, whenever he typed an apostrophe or quote mark on a Word document (Chapter 6 of Volume 12 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, to be exact), Word was inputting two spaces. Now I knew what was causing this, and if this were a Word or computer blog, I'd go over what was happening.

The problem was explaining this 30-second fix over the phone to Tim, an admitted computer-phobe. Sure, he can type on a computer, and he can email, but anything beyond that is, well, witchcraft. (I did get his permission to blog on this!) Anyway, it took over an hour. Here's an example of what we went through. Because I wanted to check what version of Word he had, I wanted him to go to "Help" and release on "About Microsoft Word." Unfortunately, for reasons I don't quite understand, he was having trouble finding this.

Then he remembered that someone had told him to hit F1 and he'd get Word help. Impressed with his advanced technical knowledge, I told him to do so. He reported that nothing had happened. I tried it on my computer, no problem. It's a standard command. Determined to solve this problem, we went through numerous iterations of this. Finally, Tim asked, "Larry, should I be hitting "F" and "1" at the same time? He'd been typing the letter "f" and the number "1" all this time.

Rest assured, we fixed the problem. And although I punched holes in the walls of my house seven times, I'm told that the house's structural integrity is not challenged, and that it will survive many more holes from future computer dialogues with Tim. 

Okay, I'm overexposed.

Let's give a quick listing:

  • The first article of a three-part table tennis series on "Creating Spin" I co-wrote with Coach Jack Huang is up at Butterflyonline. Part 1, which went up Friday, is Creating Spin: The Serve. Part 2 (next Fri) is The Loop; Part 3 (following Fri) is Backspin.
  • I did a blog entry a few days ago in the USA Table Tennis USOC web page, on Develop the Basics: Strokes & Footwork. This is actually a reprint of an article I did a few years back as part of the USATT series "How to Be a Champion."
  • I just received the 2011 May/June USATT Magazine. Okay, I'm definitely overexposed here! Going page by page:
    • Page 26: There's a full-page article by Jef Savage on the ITTF Coaching Seminar I ran at the Maryland Table Tennis Center on April 16-17, 23-24. It's also online. The article includes a group picture, and a picture of me lecturing the class, trusty pointer in hand.
    • Page 31: Here's my article, "Changing Bad Technique." It includes two pictures of me, including one feeding multiball.
    • Page 38: Here I give the stats on the "Youngest To Reach 2500."
    • Page 43: Tim Boggan writes about a page on me winning Hardbat Singles at the Cary Cup Open. No wonder I spend so much time solving his computer problems. (I normally play sponge, but at major tournaments like Cary I often play hardbat and coach.)
    • Page 55: Full-page ad for MDTTC summer camps, which includes pictures and short bios of the coaches - me, Cheng Yinghua, and Jack Huang.
    • Page 69: In the full-page ad for Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. XI, I'm quoted saying, "How can any serious table tennis player not buy these books?" So, if you are a serious table tennis player, go to TimBogganTableTennis.com and buy the book! (If you are wondering how computer-phobe Tim keeps a web page, well, I created and maintain it for him.)
  • Unfortunately, it's not just table tennis. As I've mentioned here in the past, I write science fiction on the side. And just yesterday the Spring 2011 issue of Space and Time Magazine came out! My story, "The Awakening," is the cover story, with my name on the cover. I was also in Escape Pod last month for my story "Tom the Universe" - you can either read it or play it aloud. (Escape Pod is the largest audio science fiction market.) I've sold 48 short stories - including several that involve table tennis. (Perhaps I'll post my story "Ping-Pong Ambition" sometime.)

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May 25, 2011

Eastern Open

If you are playing in the Eastern Open this weekend in New Jersey, hopefully you are in final preparations for creating utter devastation for your opponents. (I'll be coaching some of the MDTTC juniors there.) If you are not, then you should be planning out your final preparations for creating utter devastation for your opponents in future tournaments, leagues, club matches, or (sigh) beer pong. This should include:

  • Lots of rest. Sleep is actually more important the last few days before the tournament than during the tournament, not that you should skimp on sleep during the tournament.
  • Lots of carbohydrates. They'll load your muscles with glycogen, and give you energy in those long deuce-in-the-fifth matches.
  • Practicing serves. It's how you start half the points, and yet it's the most under-practiced aspect of table tennis. It's also the part you can get the most out of practicing just before a tournament. In my serious playing days I always did lots of serve practice the day before and the morning of a tournament.
  • Match practice. At this point, it's too late to fix up your basic techniques. It's time to get match ready. That means playing practice matches as if they were tournament matches.
  • Mental training. Yes, now's the time to visualize yourself playing tournament matches. Then, when you actually play them, there won't be many jitters since you'll have already played them over and over in your mind. I could go on and on about this, but it's best you just get a book on sports psychology (such as "The Inner Game of Tennis," the classic sports psychology book which uses tennis as an example), or these online articles and resources.
  • Morning warm-up. Have you arranged who you are going to warm up with before your first event? Or do you want to get stuck with your worst nightmare of a practice partner, the guy with bad breath and five surfaces who swats the ball randomly all over the place with 77 different strokes?
  • Look professional. Hey, it's a fashion show out there! Wear your best [your favorite table tennis brand name], and your opponents will quake at the sight of your professional-lookingness.

Presidential Ping-Pong Pictures Proliferate!

The Washington Post this morning ran a large picture at the top of the front page of President Obama and British Prime David Cameron playing table tennis. Really! The headline over it (at the top of the page) reads, "A new take on 'ping-pong diplomacy'?" The caption under it reads, "U.S. President Barack Obama (L) and Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron play table tennis at Globe Academy, in south London May 24, 2011. Obama on Tuesday begins a visit to Britain where he and Prime Minister David Cameron will review NATO action to help end conflict in Libya and Western policy towards uprisings in the Arab world. REUTERS/Paul Hackett."

In case you have been living under a large ping-pong ball the last 24 hours, numerous pictures of the two playing have been released, as well as this 3:46 video of them playing, with Obama giving nonstop commentary. Here are nine photos, which on June 1 will make their way into my Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. I won't comment on the illegal white shirts with the white ball.

Barack Obama/David Cameron Table Tennis Photos (click to see larger versions)

Republicans released a press release, saying, "It's just another pair of lefties who, just like the economy, foreign affairs, and every other topic we can pin on Obama, can't keep their eye on the ball." (Okay, I made this up. Heck, Cameron is a conservative.)

This is just the latest in a long line of presidents playing table tennis. In the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, we already had two photos of Obama playing table tennis - specifically, a photo of a large framed photo on the wall at the White House of him playing, this and this, as well as this one of him sitting down with paddles and ball. (And Obama also bought a ping-pong table for the White House.) Here are other presidents playing ping-pong:

If you explore the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page, you'll find, well, everyone! There are 1178 pictures of 699 celebrities. (Send me your own!)

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