Chinese National Team

February 28, 2012

Tim Arrives

Yes, that's Tim Boggan, USATT Historian and past president, and, well, just about everything else. (Here's his short bio, his USATT Hall of Fame bio, and here's my long 1996 interview with him, with pictures.) As some of you may know, he's been writing a comprehensive History of U.S. Table Tennis, with eleven volumes published, and number twelve just written. Every year about this time he makes the drive from New York to Maryland and moves in with me for two weeks, sleeping on my sofa, and spending the day looking over my shoulder as I lay out the pages and do photo work for the next volume, with each book about 500 pages. ("No, it goes there, you fool!" he'll say as he smacks me with a hardbat.) Here's the page I maintain for him on his books. It's going to be a busy two weeks as we work from roughly 7AM (he's a morning person) until 5PM or so (he lets me have a lunch break), and then I run off to the club to coach.

Arm update

As mentioned in my blog yesterday, I hurt my arm over the weekend. It was still bothering me yesterday, but mostly when I played fast. I was hitting mostly with beginning-intermediate players, and mostly just blocked, so it wasn't too bad. I'm a little worried about what'll happen when I hit with stronger players, as I will in my sessions tonight. We'll see.

Topspin on the Backhand

Just as on February 23, I had a student yesterday who had difficulty hitting his backhand with any topspin. This time the primary problem was that he was constantly reaching for the ball. Against his better instincts (he's 10), I got him to sloooooow down, and move to each ball so he could hit from a better position. Suddenly his backhand picked up. After struggling to get even ten in a row, he suddenly got into a rhythm and hit 145 straight. More importantly, he was hitting them properly.

Chinese National Team

Here's an inspirational video of the Chinese National Team (2:39), with background narration by "The Hip Hop Preacher" that starts out, ""Pain is temporary. It may last for a minute or an hour or a day or even a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it will last forever."

The Falkenberg Drill

Here's a video (3:10) that demonstrates what many consider the best table tennis drill - you learn to cover the wide forehand, the wide backhand, and the step around forehand. It's called the Falkenberg Drill because it was popularized there by 1971 World Men's Singles Champion Stellan Bengsston. It's also called the 2-1 drill or the backhand-forehand-forehand drill.

Jan-Ove Waldner breaking his racket

Here's a video of all-time great Jan-Ove Waldner accidentally breaking his racket (0:47).


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February 6, 2012

Tip of the Week

Hooking and Slicing Loops.

U.S. Olympic Trials

Here's a short article on the U.S .Olympic Trials in Cary, NC this Thur-Sun, including the playing schedule. I'll be there coaching Han Xiao, John (and possibly Nathan) Hsu - see you there! (Here's the official home page for the Trials.)

Nets & Edges

Convention wisdom says that nets and edges even out. As I've pointed out before in this blog, this simply isn't true. Some players get more or less than others, either because of their playing style or because of their precision. It doesn't always even out.

As I've done many times, I'm willing to put it to the test - and did so again this weekend. And the results are inevitably the same - I'm one of those players who gets very few nets and edges. During coaching sessions with players rated 1750-1900, we kept track of nets and edges. (We didn't count edges at the start, but started counting them partway into the first session.) Here are the results. In the first session, my opponent got 18 nets or edges to my 7. In the second, one, it was 14-3. So I was net-edged 32-10 for the two sessions.

In the past we've kept track of nets & edges during matches, and the results are the same. I may be the only person in history to lose two consecutive tournaments matches to the same player (hi John W.!), where that player got two consecutive net or edge winners both times at 9-all in the fifth to win.

Hitters, blockers, and especially players with less bouncy surfaces (long pips, anti, short pips, hardbat) tend to get more nets than other styles because they tend to hit lower shots than loopers and most inverted players, whose ball has a higher trajectory. Blockers who go for wide angles tend to get more edges. Players with great precision tend to have very clean shots and so rarely get nets or edges.

Overseas scam

There's a common scam to use table tennis clubs to get foreigners into our country. Over the years, the Maryland Table Tennis Center has been contacted dozens of times by individuals who wanted to set up "coaching sessions" for "foreign players." All they want is an invitation letter, and they'll be here. We fell for this a few times in the past, and actually were contacted by the State Department about it back in the 1990s.

According to the State Department, there are people who make a living getting people into the United States any way they can. They find places like table tennis clubs that have real events or programs that they might invite foreigners to come to, and try to get an invitation letter. They sell their services to people trying to get into the U.S. by pretending they are table tennis players (or whatever else is needed). They say they will pay in advance, though they will inevitably agree to do so only after receiving the invitation letter, after which you never hear from them again.

I received one of these requests a few days ago. The guy used every trick in the book trying to set up "lessons" for his "son," a top junior player from Europe. (The guy ignored my questions about where in Europe.) When I pointed out that if he was a "top junior," I should be able to look him up in the rankings, the guy said he'd made a mistake, that his son was a beginner interested in becoming a top player. Then I did something I started doing in the 1990s - I told him he'd made a mistake, that I teach tennis (not table tennis), and asked if he'd be interested in tennis lessons. The guy then said yes, his "son" was very interested in becoming a top tennis player, asked me to set up lessons and send an invitation letter, and he'd send the money right away. I then emailed for him to send payment, and if I didn't receive payment within one week, I'd turn over his emails to the State Department. I didn't hear from him again.

USATT also fell for these scams back in the 1990s, though I'm not sure if "fell" is the right word, since they made a lot of money off it. Players from Africa, usually Nigeria, would enter the U.S. Open in droves, often 30 at a time. Each would enter one event, and they would pay. USATT would then send out an invitation letter, they'd be entered into the tournament, and they would never show. The State Department contacted USATT about this, and I think they had to take measures against this.

European Top Twelve

Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov and Wu Jiaduo won the Europe Two Twelve.

Chinese National Team in Training

Here's the Chinese National Team training in 2010 (4:59), with commentary in Chinese (though you don't need to understand Chinese to see the training - we all speak ping-pong). Featured players include Ma Long, Ma Lin, Qiu Yike, Wang Liqin, and Guo Yue. See the chalk rectangles on the table when you see Ma Lin practicing with Qiu Yike? I think they are there as targets for service practice.

Going to the dogs

Once again the sport is going to the dogs, in 49 seconds. Can someone please give Tessie a high chair? You can see other dog, cat, and other humorous table tennis videos in the Fun & Games section of


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