International visitors keep Alaskans in tune

Over the past decade Alaskan's have had great opportunities to experience top level players from all over the world.  Asia, Canada, South America, Europe and the lower 49 states.  At the air cross roads of the world, Anchorage is a great stop over spot for anyplace in the world.   I am sure world champions have landed here on a brief layovers.  Heck if we get the president of the United States and world leaders stop here to refuel in route to Asia and Europe I am sure some world champs have landed here too.   Now we just need to convince them to stay for a day or more to offer a demo or coaching for the local players.

Recently we were visited by Mr. Noh-Woo from South Korea.  Karl, Paul, Mike, Chidi, Jacod and Mr. Noh. Oct. 2011, ATTSPHe is a Korean Airline pilot who comes about 2-3 times a year to Anchorage on the way to other lower 48 state cities like Chicago and New York.   He is a young 37 year old player, married and has a 6 and 2 year old daughters.  He often contacts me with little notice.  A phone call out of the blue saying he just landed and is eager to play.  Staying at the downtown Hilton hotel.  I offer to be his personal limo driver with the help of some of the local players.  Picking him up and returning him safely to his hotel.   With little time in town I will  scramble to call, text or email players to meet at the AT&T Sports Pavilion or Eagle River to take up the challenge.  

As in most table tennis clubs in the world it is always good to see "new blood".  I visit WA, OR, MD, TX, CA and other state playing when on vacation or at a tournament.  Many of the players at these clubs love to challenge the "new kid".  We get that way here too.  We are tired of playing the same old gang of local players.  

He follows in a the footsteps of many visitors.  Most notable is Errol Resek from the Dominican Republic.  Errol Resek (right) with coaching adviseA top US player in the late 60's & 70's he was a member of the world renown "Ping Pong Diplomacy" Team that visited China in 1971.  President Nixon agreed to send a delegation of top US players to main land China on a historical diplomatic journey.  In the early 80's Errol lived in Anchorage and immediately became the top Alaskan player for his short stint in the north land.  He swept the Gold Ulus in the 1982 Arctic Winter Games in Singles, Men's and Mixed Doubles.   Errol had quickness like a cat and light on his feet.  Amazing touch and accurate placement.  He was my most influential coach and he help improve my strokes and gamesmanship.  

Several other players include Sabina Schmidt, Jorg Heger from Germany, Haitham Salman, 2006 Alaska Open ChampionHaitham Salman from Bahrain and Yuriy Solovyov Yuriy Solovyov from Urkrain.  All who lived here for 2 years or more and became Alaska Open Champions while living here.  Haitham is still active and will re-join the "Alaskan Assassins" in Rockford, IL on May 26-27, 2012 with fellow Alaskans Andy Hutzel and Karl Augestad.  They are expected to play in the B division as their team average is about 1915 USATT rating.  Haitham's rating is 2107 as of May 15th and will be the "go to" guy to set the pace for the team.  In 2006 the Alaskan Assassins along with Jorg, Haitham, Andy and Karl took 2nd place in division 6 at the North American Team Championships in Baltimore, MD.     Jorg Hegar (white T-shirt) and Albin Czyz (right)

Alaskan's don't get the opportunity to play or get coaching from top level players often.   

Another Korean Airline pilot, Mr. Ha.  A very good penhold player who was the first to find me on the internet. 

More to come,   Karl


League sessions help progression & improved confidence among new players

After 8 session of the Frost Spin Table Tennis League the players are showing great improvement.  Some players who joined the league are new to the sport and have little experience in tournaments or strong competition.  With the diversity matches over 12 sessions in the last couple of months players have seen new types of play.  Many did not have much experience in doubles but the team and random doubles has given the players more exposure to the doubles routine.  Placement of the return for your partner proved to be evident as partners were out of position when the ball came back toward an empty court.  Players with strong servers proved tough match ups frustrating some.  Even requesting changes in the serve rotation for future doubles sessions.

The late season HardBat allowed lower skilled players in the sponge game their ability to play it much closer against the top skilled players.  Without the sponge the top players could not "super loop" the ball with crazy spin.  Some top players adapted by chopping and pick hitting more.  And the handicap session also evened the table as the short game resulted in a boost of confidence to players who now were playing "ahead" rather than from "behind" in the score.  This little mental twist gave players the comfort to "swing away".

And the team event forced players to play singles then a doubles match back to back.  The doubles was often the deal breaker in the matchup.  Some players have to adapt quickly.   

Mid way through the season a skill evaluation rounds were held to see how players were progressing.  The top B player was moved to the A division and the lower A player demoted to the B level.  And then the top C player also was moved up to the more competitive B division.  And the lowest B player was also dropped down to the C division to make the 2nd half more closely contended.  

By playing once a week the players who show up consistently now are getting more comfortable and could handle some of the top players tricky serves better and the rallies are getting longer.  Several players have invested in new paddles and show great enthusiasm during each session.

Regardless of your skill most are finding the weekly session a bit addictive.  I tell players who are showing a passion and attending often that in order to improve they need to play outside the league nights.   Some of use are playing as much as 4-5 times a week at schools, churches and clubs outside Anchorage.  Listen to the veteran players and bend their ears for advise on footwork, strokes and strategy.


New "Frost Spin" League Series

Attendance at our weekly table tennis night has exploded!  On Friday 1/6/12 there were 26 players attending.  And for a club with only 7 tables at this facility we are adding 2 New Joola tables in February.   So on Thursday 1/12/12 we brough over one of the original Butterfly Europa Tables from Wasilla to add one more to the ATTSP to bring us up to 8 tables on site.  Then on 1/13/12 we had 28 players show up for the 3 hour last Friday session.  Our new night is Wednesdays from 9-11PM starting 1/18/12 and goes through to the end of May 2012. 

Then starting Feb. 2nd we will be adding a weekly Frost Spin TT League.  Fill out an application form and submit full payment of $125. or a deposit of $35 to reserve your spot.  Enjoy 12 sessions over nearly 3 months of play, a special league T-shirt, a colletors limited edition AKTTC trading pin, waiver of entry fee for one event at the March club tournament and lots of action.   Plus an end of the season party in May with awards for most improved, volunteering, prizes & trophies for top season finishers.  Join us at the AT&T Sports Pavilion on (Mostly) Thursdays from 7-9PM.  Limited to 24 participants with 6 alternates and a waiting list for Sign up by 2/26/12.  SEE DATES ON LEAGUE LINK & CALENDAR.

If interest is not too strong I will add a 6 session option and single drop-in session at a prorated fee.  Proposing $89 for 6 sessions, and $14 for a single drop in session.  

There will be selected sessions where players can earn double points on one session, so if they miss a league night or two they can make it up.  All players who show up will receive points.  These points then add up during the season to add to their placing points each session.  Groups of A, B & C levels will earn simular points based on their results.  Some players may actuall move up or down through the season based on their strong or weak results.   Intended for fun, exercise and competition the leagues will offer some lessons along the way so participants can grow their standing over the season.

The League will feature players of various skill levels in a series of sessions including skill round robin groups, random doubles, team groups, handicap matches, timed round robin and plent of action.   Slots I expect to fill up in one week so if you are interestd


Karl... "you're all racket"... well thats not totally true, experience, practice & coaching helps!

Dec. 3, 2011:  Recently I was told by Andrea after he borrowed my racket for a couple of evenings... "You're all racket" as he had great success with my Butterfly racket and fancy rubber sheets.  He said now I know why you play so well the racket does all the work.  I know he was overstating and was somewhat joking but made me reflect on how I got in to this sport and my first paddle.

When I first was introduced to the game of ping pongRecent photo of Boyd Bennett racket suitcase. Now with assorted rackets for all comers. it was during a summer playground program in the 5th grade at Inlet View Elementary School.  I would see others play this game among other activites like board games, four square and arts and crafts.  The elementary school normally did not have a ping pong table but the 6th grade class room was transformed to a hub of activity for the Parks and Recreation Summer Playground program.  The table was front and center and active with kids all the time.  I did not have my own paddle so I grabbed what ever was available.  I would carefully choose the paddle with the most attached rubber.  As some of you readers may be familiar that community paddles can get lots of wear and tear.  And young people are rough on equipment.  I had no idea on strokes, strategy or gamesmanship.  But the excitement of just getting the ball back in play was what made the game fun.  No wicked topspin loop drive or heavy underspin chop to throw at my opponent.  Just the basic "wall" style punch blocking backhand and occational awkward forehand what-ever shot.  

It was not until I moved to middle school in 1971 did I see other peopleAndy checks out the collection in Eagle River. play the game at a more competitive level.  One student, Steve Malarvie was a player.  I was in 7th grade and he was a 9th grader.  Back then the Middle school had all 3 grades 7th to 9th.  He was a flamboyant, loud and cocky player and was considered to be one of the top junior players at the school and maybe Alaska.  He had is own racket and case to store it in.  And since the Arctic Winter Games was in 1972, he made the on the Alaska team the following year.  

By then my neighbors the Deegan's had a basement ping pong table.  I would go there and bat the ball in the confined spaces of the family room with the infamous furnace housing on one end and the steel beam support post just to the right of the net.  Yet the other side had plenty of space!  Except for the dreaded foot rest ottoman. That low to the ground obstical would trip you up when you would dive for that wide shot to the left. These home settings created "House Rules" like no sharp angles to the steel post and shots off the ceiling where still in play!  Forcing you to become a blocker quick as there was no room to back up.  

My friend Mike had the "Mark V" on his Yasaka racket.  When Mike was not playing the paddle would be up for grabs and if available I would use it against his brother Gary.  It would almost garerntee extra points for the extra spin the Mark V would produce.   Shiny red rubber on both sides with the blazing yellow letters on the edge table "MARK V  MARK V  MARK V".  He got the paddle from JC Penneys.  I would go there to look at the fancy line of now historical Signature Yasaka line up of Stellen Bengston, Hans Alser and Kjell Johannson models.  All sporting 2.0mm Stiga Mark V red rubber.  I could not afford the fancy racket so I had to settle for the Ikitsu at about half the price.  I had a paper route to earn money but most of it was spent on ice hockey sticks.  That was my true love back then as I spent more time on the ice and table tennis was a hobby.

Then the following year I attended a table tennis exhibition at the Sports Arena.  A large quonset hut structure formally an airplane hanger on Fireweed Lane.  Now known as Arctic Office Supply.  This was where the Wolverines ice hockey team played.   Opponents like the First National Bank Blades, the Hohn City Plumbers and Cheveron Stars sponsored adult hockey teams.  If you know the current Alaska Aces.  Those teams were the equivalant of the NHL of Anchorage back then.  This table tennis demo was held center ice right where the puck would drop at faceoff.  White board were placed down to cover the ice just in the center ending at both blue lines.  A single Nissen Table Tennis Table was in the middle of center ice.  At both ends as backstops was a row of folding metal chairs covered with black visqueen about 30 feet back!  I remember fast storkes, smashing, lobbing, quick spins and the reaction from the crowd for the athletic action.  i watched through the chain link fencing that surrounded the rink.  No plexiglass back then.  And it was cold too.  

Then afterward the locals were seeking autographs.  I was not familier with any top national or international celebrities of the sport.  People brought blank rackets and had the players sign the surface of the blade.  Who were these players?  Where were they from?  Did people play table tennis like this in town?  Only did I found out recently that the players were brough up here to Alaska by Mr. O'Malley.  A group of players were traveling around North America performing exhibitions.  More in the History of U.S. Table Tennis by Tim Boggan.

Then I starting getting serious.  Ok, I actually got a racket with Mark V rubber.  I purchased the Kjell Johannson signature model from JC Penny.  I have to confess I switched the price tag and got the Yasaka racket for the price of the Ikisu!  Over the years I would vent my frustration by slapping the racket on my thigh.  Eventually cracking the neck of the paddle on several of the blades.  Never got serious coaching but had my own racket.  My mom even made me a custom blue racket case.  Had to expand it to hold two rackets too.  Still have it to this day 35 years later.  

In 1976 I was selected to represent Alaska at the Arctic Winter Games in Shefferville, Quebec Canada.  Boyd Bennett was my coach with teammates: David Evans and Doug Wolliver.  Back then there were 3 junior boys, 3 junior girls, 3 adult men and 3 adult women.  I was honored to take 2 silver metals and one bronze.

These days I am the local table tennis equipment provider for players who seek a new racket, rubber sheets, balls and accessories.  There is someone like me in every club.  Before me it was my former coach, Boyd Bennett.  He is now 83 years old and has passed on the reigns to me back in 1980 when I took over the Anchorage Table Tennis club while attending UAA.  Boyd woiuld bring the suit case to practice days, leave the case open and we could thumb though the various blades, rubber types and sometimes even tryout out a racket or too.  He had some pre assembled custom rackets by Butterfly and Stiga.  Not a big of a selection as there is today.  We played at the Government Hill Parks and Recreation Center just next to the Curling Club.  

Today I sell table tennis rackets and equipment and put the proceeds back in to the Anchorage TT club.   I purchase tables, balls and equipment.  Host tournaments, perform exhibitions and promote the sport by attending local schools and instructing and educate young people about the rules and fun of the sport.  I have been fortunate to pass on the love of the game to all levels of players from beginners to the seasoned pro.  

There is another whole new crop of new young players who will be investing in their own first table tennis racket. I am honored to provide the insight to new eager players who want to improve and learn more about this exciting game.  Just last week I delivered a new custom racket to a 16 year old who is real excited about trying it out for the first time.  I told him I would toss in a couple of hours of instruction to sharpen up his game and then told him it is not about the racket... it is about the strokes, love and passion of the game.  The racket is a tool but does not grant success with a fancy paddle.  Practice, patience and experience will pay off for inprovement in the sport.  Keep on spinning.  

more to come shortly.


Nov. 27, 2011 Final day at the Teams, 

Another fun and exciting NATT Teams event is over for 2011.  The "Arctic Frost Spin" team of Kyle Yan, Zack Gholston, Ralph Stadelman and Karl Augestad all had a great time finishing at 3-4 in the division 9B round robin and 5-6 as a team overall.  Alaskan Andy Hutzel was on the team "(Loop) There It Is" with Robert Hodgston, Justin Fine and David Elliott also finished with a team record of 3 wins and 4 losses in their pool.  

Individually Alaskan Karl Augestad finished at 17-5 ending up with an 1877 USATT rating increasing 39 points from 1838, Kyle really upped his USATT rating from 1235 to 1631!  An adjustment based on his wins over multiple players above his rating.  An improvement of nearly 400 points.   His win/loss record was 7-14.   And Andy's results was 3-14 and he too went up on the losing record up to 1724 from 1689.  

I enjoy visiting past teammates, previous competitors and friends from past teams dating back to the 80's  Some I see every year when I am able to attend. Great diverse players from Table tennis clubs from New York, New Jersey and west coast plus college teams like Penn State.  International players from China, Barbados, Canada, Mexico, Alaska... OK those Alaskans are not from another country.  But players and organizers from cities and states across the US came to one of the largest Table Tennis Tournaments in the world.  

This was Kyles first experience at the Teams and he and his teammates had their hands full in division 9.  Many close 5 game matches ending up with only 2 point difference from a win to a loss.  With more space than usual Kyle's game was focused and exciting.  He played farther back from the table during offensive rallies from his opponents.  Ralph and I offered coaching insturctions between games as teammates sometimes one player get to take on the opponant before the fellow teammate and can offer some insight on stratigy.  Our styles for each of us proved quite different thus we each had to find out our own defense and tacktics that would work.  Klye looks forward to attending future teams and tournaments.  

FRIDAY DAY 3 of my trip, DAY ONE of competition: On Friday the format starts with a preliminary round where each team is set in a group of teams who plays teams in 1 & 2 divisions above and 1 & 2 divisions below.   Thus your results of your teams match up puts you in the Sat & Sun Round robin pool based on the skill level of your team.  We started in division 9 and on Friday had a close 4-5 loss against the team just one above us and were fairly well handed by the team 2 above at 5-1.  Yet as expected we defeated the 2 teams below by a margin of 5-1 and 5-2 respectively.  So we had an opportunity to move up a division if we had edged out that match up against Da Tang 1.