USATT Super Camp - Day 11

By Videos/Images by Matt Hetherington & Story by Larry Hodges | July 21, 2016, 1:16 p.m. (ET)

USATT Super Camp - Day Eleven by Larry Hodges


By Time Time Age
1. Sharon Alguetti 5:54 14
1. Steven Chu 5:54 15
1. Andrew Song 5:54 16
4. Michael Tran 5:55 14
5. Rahul Acharya 6:08 17
6. Gal Alguetti 6:15 14
7. Klaus Wood 6:17 14
8. Matthew Lu 6:24 12
9. Adar Alguetti 6:26 16
10. Avery Chan 6:30 12
11. Sid Naresh 6:32 12
12. Roger Liu 6:42 15
13. Jessica Lin 6:50 12
13. Lisa Lin 6:50 12
15. Jeffrey Liu 7:04 12
16. Kai Zarehbin 7:07 12
17. Nandan Naresh 7:10  9
18. Allen Wang 7:15 18
19. Jayden Zhou 7:16 11
20. Aziz Zarehbin 7:21 10
21. Faith Hu 7:38 10
22. Amy Wang 7:40 13
23. Daniel Tran 7:55  9
24. Jaden Ly 8:01 11

July 21, 2016

USATT Supercamp - Day Eleven
By Larry Hodges

This is my last day here; I’m leaving tomorrow morning for my annual vacation. But it was a really full day! We started with physical training - and today’s was short and simple. After jogging half a lap and walking the rest to loosen up, and some stretching, we did a timed mile. Below are the times. Nope, they aren’t good enough; we need more in the 5:30 range. We’ve been on the players about this, and expect to see improvement over time.Next up was the 12-2PM session. We started with a video from Brian Pace, “Table Tennis - A Lesson In "Work Ethic" from 5-time US Champion Sean O'Neill” (4:05). In it Brian, one of the fittest athletes in table tennis - also a professional cyclist - talks about how he learned what was really needed to reach the top, via the infamous “run” with Sean. We’re trying to get through to as many players as possible what it really takes to reach the top. Those who buy into it may be a part of a table tennis revolution in the U.S.

Sean said, “If you want to play internationally, you have to be physically fit.” He said that they needed to do physical training at a minimum three times a week, preferably more - running, sprints, jumping rope, weights, etc. “Keeping a journal that marks your progress helps.” He also spoke of the heart monitors that players had been required to wear, showing their heart rate and how hard they were pushing themselves when training.

Dan said of his own training, “I mostly concentrated on my legs. I lifted weights and wore ankle weights when walking around (not when running). I ran the hills around Pittsburgh. I also used a weighted pipe as a weighted racket to practice my strokes.” He added, “If you try to give 110%, you might be surprised to find you have more in you than you think.”

Dan continued on a related topic: “Never give up the table unless you absolutely have to.” He spoke of how this was central to top Chinese players. “Physical fitness helps you to stay at the table.”

Cory said, “It’s up to you to be disciplined enough to do the physical training. From now on it’s on you. There are no excuses. Physical fitness is a sign of desire.”

Sean said, “Physical training is so controllable. I was doing three miles a day before school when I was in eighth grade.”

Then the 12-2PM training began! Observing the session was Coach Pieke from the Alameda club in California (and a former National and Olympic coach for Holland), who had flown in to observe for a day - three of his players were here (Kai and Aziz Zarehbin, and Avery Chan). I spent the session with the upper group, run by Sean. He took a number of mini-videos of players to show them technique problems, from too-big or too-low backswings, overzealous follow-throughs, or backhands following through awkwardly to the side.

First drill was one player blocking, the other looping from the backhand side, covering 2/3 of the table as the blocker moved him around randomly.

Second drill was short serve, long push return to backhand, server backhand loops to three spots - wide forehand or backhand, or partner’s elbow. Partner had to block or sometimes counterloop each ball back to the server’s backhand, who continued to backhand loop.

Third drill was counterlooping - except instead of from forehand corner to forehand corner, it was middle to middle. “Players always counterloop paddle to paddle, corner to corner. Need to vary that. Need to loop from and to the middle.” And it’s true that most counterloopers just rip the ball crosscourt over and over.

Fourth drill was server tells receiver two spots he can return the ball to, one short, one long. Then server serves short, and receiver randomly places the ball to those two spots. For example, it could be a short push to forehand or long push to backhand, or short push to backhand or long push to middle.

Then they all played one best of five match - but each game starting at deuce. And then the session was over. Lunch was two types of fried rice, spaghetti, and the camp’s favorite - hot dogs! They were gone quickly. I gave Coach Pieke a ride to his hotel (15 min away), then returned to an empty house - all the kids were still at the club getting video interviewed by Matt Hetherington for USATT.

For the 5-8PM session, I was back with the lower group, but wasn’t needed as a practice partner, so I was a roving coach. After some easy jogging and stretching to warm up, Sean asked how many of them did this before every session, and stressed its importance.

Then, for warm-up, rather than the typical forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand, Sean had them warm up differently. Each player would hit a forehand from the forehand corner, the move to the middle and hit a forehand from the middle, then move to the backhand and hit a forehand from there. Then they’d continue, with a forehand from the middle, a forehand from the forehand, and so on, with both players moving across the table, hitting forehands from all three spots. The players quickly caught on - it’s not as tricky as it sounds.

To warm up the backhand, he had players hit about three backhands in a row, then one would go to the middle, and then they’d play out the point. Sean stressed balance and staying at the table.

Then we set up a two-person team competition. Sean strongly stressed the importance of fighting for every point, and I think the message was received - I saw no giveaways.

In the upper group, there was a “shocker.” Dan Seemiller (the legend at age 62, rated 2419) and USATT High Performance Director Cory Eider (rated 2504) teamed up and went 5-0, defeating the following teams: Klaus Wood and Rahul Acharya; Allen Wang and Adar Alguetti; Sharon Alguetti and Michael Tran; and Gal Alguetti and Jack Wang!!! Let’s just say that after watching them throughout this camp, they exposed their weaknesses, and Dan & Cory were unbeatable in doubles. In defense of the players, after two weeks of training, many were tired, and going up against Cory’s relentless topspins and Dan’s constant change of pace blocking and sudden loops can be a nightmare if you aren’t at 100%. That’s another reason they need more physical training.

In the lower group we had eight two-person teams, but because they started later, they each only played two teams. Let’s just say there were some incredible points. Lisa Lin may have been the night’s star, beating three higher-rated players, including one of the Chinese practice partners in a big upset, before losing to another Chinese practice partner, a chopper. Jaden Ly pulled off a 650-point upset - but her rating of 1149 is a joke (over 500 points lower than the next lowest), which was why she was allowed into the camp. She and her partner in the team competition, Faith Hu (1761 in new ratings, probably 100 points better) were perhaps the most under-rated players in the camp.

For dinner we had a huge pot of orange chicken (the camp’s favorite, gone like soap bubbles in a hurricane), beef with broccoli, regular and fried rice, a rice/sausage/egg dish, and vegetables and fruit. The amount of watermelon we’ve gone through in this camp would feed a large army.

And then it was clipboard time! (Plus others on other tables playing penhold or with mini-paddles.) Kai Zarehbin, 12, rated 2276, was demanding a match, so I brought out my clipboard and a “trillion dollar bill” (for the winner) and we played. Let’s just say it was culture shock as he tried to figure things out in game one and didn’t as I won 11-5. (I’m chopping and pick hitting.) We played a second game, and this time it was a battle. One point near the end went on forever, with him looping about 30 balls, and finally ended when he pushed and I made a running forehand clipboard smash! But then it was 10-all, 11-all, 12-all . . . and with some gutsy shots, he won, 14-12. There went a trillion dollars! But it wasn’t over - Sid Naresh (12, rated 2249) wanted some action. It was getting late and I had a lot to do, but I agreed to the challenge - and I pulled it out, also in deuce. I feel guilty that I didn’t give him a second try as I had with Kai, but I had to go - but we have a trillion-dollar challenge coming up at the U.S. Open in December. Tickets on sale soon.

Then it was back to the house to write this up, pack, and try to get to bed at a reasonable hour (I can dream) as I have to take Matt Hetherington to the airport at 7:15AM (he’s flying to Houston for an Olympic event), then get back in time to send the kids off to physical training - and then I’ll jump in my car and I’m off to vacation - a science fiction writing workshop in Manchester, NH, July 22-30 (my eighth time there). It’s been a great eleven days!

I was here as manager/coach/practice partner - but I was really here to be a part of the next and best generation of USA Table Tennis and its National Teams. Let me close by thanking those responsible for these incredible eleven days (with two more to come after I leave), mostly in alphabetical order.

The Coaches:

  • Samson Dubina
  • Cory Eider
  • Larry Hodges
  • Richard McAfee
  • Sean O’Neill
  • Dan Seemiller
  • Wang Qing “Leon” Liang
  • Han Xiao
  • Lily Yip

The Practice Partners:

  • Alex Ruichao Chen
  • Katie Chen
  • Wally Green
  • Matt Hetherington
  • Adam Hugh
  • Judy Hugh
  • Charley Jiang
  • Yuxing “James” Jin
  • Jason Li
  • Sherri Li
  • Kaden Xu
  • Jessica Young
  • Clarence Zhang
  • Leo Zhao

Others to thank:

  • High Performance Director Cory Eider
  • Videographer and photographer Matt Hetherington
  • USATT Director of Communications and Webmaster Sean O’Neill (who put up my daily reports and Matt’s videos and photos)
  • Manager and writer Larry Hodges (hey, that’s me!)
  • Peter and Evan Scudner of Triode media
  • Cooks Lily Yip, Frank Chen and Michael Wan
  • Groceries supplier extraordinaire Judy Hugh
  • House owner & disciplinarian Barry Dattel
  • House parents and “assistant” managers Hoang Tran, and Arcot & Sangita Naresh
  • USATT CEO Gordon Kaye
  • Lily Yip TTC
  • USA Table Tennis

And last - and Most Important - the Players! (With pre-Nationals ratings.)

Name

Rating

State

Age

Sharon Alguetti

2558

NJ

14

Allen Wang

2546

NJ

18

Jack Wang

2537

NJ

15

Adar Alguetti

2535

NJ

16

Gal Alguetti

2500

NJ

14

Michael Tran

2451

MN

14

Amy Wang

2416

NJ

13

Tina Lin

2354

NJ

17

Klaus Wood

2354

MD

14

Rahul Acharya

2329

NY

17

Kai Zarehbin

2276

CA

12

Roger Liu

2244

OH

15

Mathew Lu

2241

NJ

12

Sid Naresh

2191

IL

12

Steve Chu

2186

NJ

16

Rohan Acharya

2133

NY

13

Estee Ackerman

2103

NY

14

Jayden Zhou

2058

NJ

11

Andrew Song

2028

NJ

16

Avery Chan

2016

CA

12

Aziz Zarehbin

1998

CA

10

Lisa Lin

1986

MD

12

Jessica Lin

1906

MD

12

Jeffrey Liu

1866

NJ

12

Nandan Naresh

1830

IL

9

Sam Rockwell

1827

NJ

16

Daniel Tran

1801

MN

9

Shirley Hu

1800

NJ

17

Faith Hu

1703

NJ

10

Jaden Ly

1149 (hah!)

CO

11