Aerobic Table Tennis

August 22, 2013

Visit to the Orioles Clubhouse

Yesterday was an incredible day. As noted in yesterday's blog, we were invited to give a demo and take challenges from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team in their clubhouse/locker room. They have a nice Killerspin table and lots of room. Many of the players have been playing regularly for the past few years - and it showed! This was not a bunch of "basement" players; they were surprisingly good. About a dozen of them could show up at any table tennis club and battle with the regulars. (Photos are now up in Tomorrow's blog.) 

We were supposed to be there from 2-3PM, but the Orioles kept challenging and challenging, and we ended up taking them on for three hours, from 2-5PM.

There's already been a lot of media coverage. The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN, home of the Orioles and Washington Nationals) did a special pre-game show on it, but I haven't seen it yet. (They just emailed me that they'll mail me copies of the video next week.) There's a short article in the Baltimore Sun, and an article and video (1:19) on the Orioles home page. The video has a great interview about us from Orioles Manager Buck Showalter - you should hear what he had to say about us! They also have video of me, Tong Tong Gong, and Derek Nie in the stands watching the game that night, which started at 7:05PM. (Orioles beat Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2. We sat directly behind home plate! They showed us briefly on the Jumbotron. Nathan and Qiming couldn't stay for the game.)

The players from the Maryland Table Tennis Center were:

  • Derek Nie, 12, 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (and looks about 10, only 4'7" and 70 lbs)
  • Nathan Hsu, 17, 2011 USA Junior Olympic Under 16 Boy's Singles Champion and 2012 USA Junior Olympic Under 18 Boy's Singles Finalist, #1 Under 18 player in Maryland among U.S. citizens.
  • Tong Tong Gong, 16, member of USA Cadet National Team (15 & Under), 2011-2012, who lives only 15 min from Camden Yards in Ellicott City, and is a big Orioles fan
  • Qiming Chen, 21, past University of Maryland Champion and President of the Univ. of Md. Table Tennis Club 
  • Coach Larry Hodges, member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame (hey, that's me!)

Playing for the Orioles? Over half the team was at tableside nearly the entire three hours, cheering and jeering. Here are the ones that I remember playing against us: Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Matt Wieters, Nick Markakis, Steve Pearce, Taylor Teagarden, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, and Chris Tillman. (I probably missed a few.) Also playing was former Orioles star centerfielder and now VP of Operations Brady Anderson. Their best player, shortstop JJ Hardy (about 1800), has had recent back problems and so didn't play - but he acted as the scorekeeper for many of the matches.

Here's a group picture taken near the end - many of the players had already left. Tomorrow I'll put up more photos taken (mostly by Qiming), and hopefully identify the players. (I don't have time now - this is a rather rushed write-up, as I didn't get to bed until 2:30 AM this morning, and I have to leave to coach shortly - I'll be coaching until 8PM today.)

To get a flavor for what this was like, image playing table tennis with these stars, with over half the rest of the Orioles all gathered around watching! Many of the players kept coming up to me to ask table tennis questions, and I bravely introduced myself to some of the others. I met and spoke with Chris Davis, Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy, Manny Machado, Nate McLouth, Matt Wieters, Taylor Teagarden, Alexi Casilla, Steve Pearce, Miguel Gonzales, Tommy Hunter, Darren O'Day, Troy Patton, Chris Tillman, Brady Anderson, Manager Buck Showalter, and former hitting coach Terry Crowly. I mostly let the kids play, but I did play Tillman, Hunter, and Brady Anderson, and at one point I did an exhibition with Nathan, and at JJ's request, demonstrated my ball-blowing trick where I blow the ball in the air sideways, keeping the ball in the air by spinning it with my breath. Derek was especially in demand - everyone wanted to challenge him, and he ended up playing nearly half the team.

Much of the time I was standing next to Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 46 home runs after hitting another last night. We talked for 20 minutes on how players develop in skill sports, and how China is developing players in sports school funded by the government. He said that it's almost impossible to make the major leagues these days unless you have systematic training from the time you were a little kid, and that he'd been trained as a baseball player since he was four. Adam Jones and a few others joined in the discussion. When Chris had to leave, he pointed at his large locker area and said, "While I'm gone, Larry, my office is yours." (Here's a picture of Qiming Chen and Chris Davis.)

We owe JJ Hardy (the Orioles power-hitting and gold-glove winning shortstop) and Orioles Media Manager Jeff Lantz a huge thank you for all of this. They invited us, and made all the arrangements. When we first arrived, J.J. Hardy had set up an ambush for Orioles outfielder Steve Pearce, who had no idea what was going on. Pearce, apparently the Orioles third best player after JJ and Brady Anderson (if he counts, since he's not front office) didn't know what hit him when JJ suggested he play this little kid, who happened to be the 70 lb, 2291-rated Derek Nie. Pearce quickly realized he'd been had as the MASN cameras caught it all! So began the night. (Derek was nervous at the start, and since we didn't want to alert Pearce to what was happening, he didn't get any warm-up - and so started shaky, missing a couple of easy shots as Pearce tied it at 2-2. Then it was all Derek the rest of the way, 11-3.)

For the first ten minutes or so, the kids were very nervous, but the Orioles were so welcoming and friendly (when they weren't jokingly trash talking) that they quickly relaxed. At one point Tong Tong disappeared for a while; it turned out Steve Pearce had taken him out to the batting cages, where Tong Tong got to take ten swings against a practice partner pitcher. (Tong Tong and I were the two who knew all the Orioles; Nathan, Derek, and Qiming were all more or less baseball novices.)

Some interesting notes on the players: Nick Markakis plays with sandpaper, and can both chop and attack. Steve Pearce has a nice forehand sidespin loop. Chris Tillman has a pretty good smash. Manny Machado had incredible enthusiasm, never wanted to stop challenging us. Darren O'Day had lots of equipment questions and can keep the ball in play. Brady Anderson is an all-out forehand player, and can really move - he's in incredible shape, and wore both Derek and I out. He's improved dramatically since last time we played when I gave him a lesson at MDTTC in May. (He said he'd been playing nearly every day since then.) Near the end Derek and I played him a series of games. At first he was getting only 2-4 points a game against us. Near the end, as I tired and as he energetically continued to move at full speed, and he got used to my serves, and our last three games were actually close, including one game where (with a little net and edge help!) got to deuce. Derek and I both estimated him at 1800. He may give JJ a run for it now.

Afterwards player after player invited us to come back again, and based on the video interview with Manager Showalter (see link above), he seemed to like it to. Since the Orioles won that night, we are now their good luck charm!

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Smashing Speed

Here's a video (1:27, though it really ends at 1:14) of Germany's Ovtcharov (world #6) smashing as hard as he can with a radar gun, even tossing the ball up by the net and using a big wrist snap to add speed. His fastest was 122 kilometers per hour or 75.76 mph. This seemingly disproves the myth that a table tennis ball can be hit at 100 mph, assuming the radar gun is accurate.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's an article by former USA table tennis star Kim Gilbert on Aerobic Table Tennis.

Just Do It!

Here's video (1:32) of a new Nike Commercial that features table tennis about halfway through. The girl playing is Amanda Malek (daughter of 1979 USA Men's Singles Champion and Coach Attila Malek).

Venus Williams

Here's a picture of tennis star Venus playing table tennis at Madison Square Park in New York City on Aug. 21 at the Delta Open Table Tennis Tournament. (I don't think she actually played in the tournament.)

Baby in Backpack Pong

Is this singles or doubles?

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November 15, 2012

Incentive Table Tennis

Yesterday I made use of the infamous snickers bar incentive to help kids achieve specific goals. (Fun-size only.) 

The first was a 7-year-old girl, Linda. She's hit hundreds of forehands and backhands in a row, and can loop from both sides, but yesterday I challenged her to do something seemingly simple: hit 50 forehands in a row while moving side to side, covering about half the table. (That's a lot of table when you're seven.) She's done this before with multiball, but now we were going to do it live, where the ball doesn't come out exactly the same every time, and at a pretty good pace.

She struggled at first, kept missing in the 20s. (She does like to go fast!) Seeing her frustration, I told her I had a snickers bar in my playing bag that was hers if she could get 50. (I also made it clear it was a one-time offer.) Her eyes lit up, and she went at it again. Unfortunately, twice she made it to the 40s - once to 48 - and missed! Now she was too frustrated to concentrate. So I went to my bag and brought out the snickers bar, and put it on the table by the net. Her eyes went wide as she stared at the prize.

I said, "At the end of this session, one of us is going to eat that snickers bar right in front of the other. Which one of us is going to do that?" Having the candy bar right in front of her had a way of focusing her attention. She got 54 on her very next try. (Would have gotten more but the instant she reached 50 she was too excited to keep going much longer.)

Immediately following that session I had another with an 11-year-old boy, Thomas. He'd been picking up balls and cheering for her, and now it was his turn. (She was now picking up balls and cheering for him. They're not related, but they are both in a junior class I teach on weekends.) However, being older, I challenged him to do 100 forehands, moving side to side. He tried and tried, and kept getting into the 40s without getting to 50 (including 49 once). He wanted to know if he could have a snickers bar if he got to 50. I made a judgment call; I was certain he could do more than 50. So I stuck by the challenge to get to 100. He broke 40 several more times, but something always went wrong. I believe he did 40 to 49 at least eight times without breaking 50, so hadn't even made it halfway to 100. I finally said, "Two more tries, and then we'll have to give up on it for now." Then, just as before, I went to my bag and brought out the candy bar and put it on the table by the net. Once again, this really helped focus the attention - and on the very next try he did 124 in a row!

A key for both of them was I kept reminding them not to guide the shot, not to aim or think about it. The key was to blank the mind out, watch the ball, and just let the shots happen.

Pongcast TV Episode 20

Here's the latest Pongcast Episode (14:42). "In this episode: A Jan-Ove Waldner TV commercial, more TT robots, ping-pong for a good cause, and the German team goes GQ. Highlights and results from the 2012 Polish Open, including a screaming match. Has the ITTF been watching? Is there a new fan favorite to watch?"

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the Facebook Page for Aerobic Table Tennis. They are about "Aerobic Table Tennis. A new workout experience. Burn calories. Have fun keeping fit." Their mission? "To help women keep fit, and take up the game of table tennis. There is a shortage of women playing table tennis. The sessions will be fun, include aerobic exercises, and will help you burn those calories. No table tennis experience is required. Why not have fun, burn calories, and learn the game of table tennis?"

Here's a video (4:48) of an actual aerobic table tennis class taught at a school (St. Joseph Sliema), with 100 girls. It's sort of a mixture of table tennis, dancing, regular aerobics, and singing, all done to music. (If you look at the links listed to the right in youtube, there are a number of other examples of aerobic table tennis in schools.)

Stina Kallberg of Sweden

Here's video footage (6:09) of the latest junior phenom, 10-year-old Stina Kallberg from Sweden. (What, you thought all junior phenoms came from China?) What really jumps out is how well she moves about the court as she loops nearly everything. Far too many kids at that age just stand at the table, moving only side to side and hitting.

Table Tennis Wine Bottle

Here's a picture of a table tennis wine bottle that was presented to the Chinese National team.

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I did a recent update of the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page, which now has 1440 photos of 870 different celebrities. This month's update includes 51 new pictures of 33 new celebrities. New ones are:

Actors & Directors 
Oliver Stone, movie director
Wallace Ford, actor
Terrence Howard, actor
Trevor Jackson, actor
Richard Narita, actor
Actresses
Kim Kardashian, actress 
Khloe Kardashian, actress (6 pictures)
Jessica Alban, actress (new picture)
Susan Sarandon, actress (new picture)
Kate Upton, actress & model (4 pictures)
Lynn Bari, actress
Shay Mitchell, actress
Shirley Temple, actress & UN Ambassador (new picture)
Singers
Justin Bieber, singer (new picture)
Lady Gaga, singer
Michael Jackson, singer/dancer (new picture)
Nick Jonas, singer (3 pictures)
Booboo Stewart, singer, dancer & actor
Dinah Shore, singer & actress
Adam Yauch, Singer for the Band "Beastie Boys"
Yelawolf, rapper
Athletes
Roger Federer, tennis star (new picture)
Rory McIlroy, golfer
Manny Pacquiao, boxer
Ramil Akhadov, boxer
Ken Norton, boxer
Jesse Owens, Olympic sprinter & long jumper
Ronald Belisario, baseball player (2 pictures)
Justin Sellers, baseball player (2 pictures)
Wayne Rooney, English soccer star (3 new pictures)
Rio Ferdinand, English soccer star
Theo Walcott, English soccer star
Joe Hart, English soccer star
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, English soccer star
John Heitinga, Dutch soccer star (2 pictures)
Nani, Portuguese soccer star
Miguel Veloso, Portuguese soccer star
Zoran Tošić, Serbian soccer star
Gojko Kačar, Serbian soccer star
Miscellaneous
Kate Middleton, wife of Prince William of England (3 pictures)
Ellen DeGeneres, talk show host (new picture)
Snoopy, cartoon dog (new picture)

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February 22, 2012

Why good serves and steadiness go together

Many players believe that good serves and an attacking game go together. It makes sense - the good serves set up the attacking game. But I'd argue that good serves work even better if you have a control game. Why is this?

Suppose your good serves set you up to attack effectively against your peers two-thirds of the time. Then one-third of the time when you serve you are stuck not opening with a strong attack. On the other guy's serve you are also forced to start the rally playing more control as you look for a ball to attack. This means that you are starting out about one-third of the time using your strong attack, and stuck on the rest of the points. (Yes, you could attack the serve, but if the opponent is a peer, you shouldn't be able to attack his serve that strongly.)

Now let's suppose you have a control game. Even if you are a control player, those good serves are going to set you up for some easy putaways. Let's suppose you can do this one-third of the time when you serve. Plus you are able to play control on the other guy's serve 100% of the time. Result? You get to serve and attack easy balls one-sixth of the time, and play your control game the rest of the way. With the free spot from the good serves that set you up for some easy points, you should be able to win with control the rest of the way, if that's your game. (Plus the good serves will set the control player up to attack more and more, and so he'll develop his attack.) 

This doesn't mean everyone should become a control player. It means everyone should develop both control and attack. When people watch top players, they see the obvious attacking ability, but not as many notice how much ball control they have.

MDTTC webpage

See the MDTTC new and updated web page! We are doubling in size over the next month, plus starting up a series of new programs.

Timo Boll vs. Jorgen Persson

Here's a 70-shot rally between these two, with Persson back lobbing.

Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's a video on "Aerobic Table Tennis Beginners Session" (6:18), and here's the Aerobic Table Tennis home page, with lots of links. It's mostly for women, and is based in England, but there's no reason why others can't join in. (And I just had an article similar to this on "Cardiopong" published in USA Table Tennis Magazine!)

Anagrams of U.S. Team Members

Before we start, let me point out that "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God." Be nice to me or I might smite you. Tomorrow - the women! (Gao Jun, Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Erica Wu)

Michael Landers

  • Me Learn As Child
  • Handles Miracle
  • He Lands Miracle
  • Lame Child Nears
  • Mean Laser Child
  • Sane Child Realm
  • Me Child Arsenal
  • Nice Llama Herds
  • All Merchandise
  • Malice Handlers
  • His Elm Calendar
  • Calms Headliner

Barney Reed

  • Been Dreary
  • Ye Bear Nerd
  • Be Nerdy Era
  • A Nerdy Beer
  • Ye Darn Beer
  • Any Red Beer
  • Year Bender

Adam Hugh

  • Hug Ham Ad
  • Had Gum - Ha!
  • Had Ma Hug

Timothy Wang

  • I Own That Gym
  • I Won That Gym
  • Not With A Gym
  • Into What Gym?
  • Who Gym Titan
  • Hit A Gym Town
  • A Mighty Town
  • A Towing Myth
  • Hang Mitt - Yow!
  • Giant Ow Myth
  • Among Thy Wit
  • Goat Win Myth
  • Might Not Way
  • My Own Hit Tag
  • Hit My Tag Now
  • Go Thy Man Wit
  • Why Man Got It

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