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This is an evolving website and Table Tennis Community. Your suggestions are welcome.

Want a daily injection of Table Tennis? Come read the Larry Hodges Blog! (Entries go up by noon, Mon-Fri; see link on left.) Feel free to comment!

Want to talk Table Tennis? Come join us on the forum. While the focus here is on coaching, the forum is open to any table tennis talk.

Want to Learn? Read the Tip of the Week, study videos, read articles, or find just about any other table tennis coaching site from the menu links. If you know of one, please let us know so we can add it.

Want to Learn more directly? There are two options. See the Video Coaching link for info on having your game analyzed via video. See the Clinics link for info on arranging a clinic in your area, or finding ones that are already scheduled.

If you have any questions, feel free to email, post a note on the forum, or comment on my blog entries.

-Larry Hodges, Director, TableTennisCoaching.com

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent TableTennisCoaching.com blog posts

Thursday, May 26, 2016 - 13:47
May 26, 2016

MDTTC Open House, Balticon, and a Four-Day Weekend!
I'll be mostly away the next four days, mostly at the Balticon Science Fiction Convention, which is Friday through Monday (Memorial Day). However, I'll be back at MDTTC on Sunday (12-3PM) for our Open House, where I'll be doing a demonstration and exhibition; running a Parade of Champions (single elimination, one game to 3 points – you heard that right! – with everyone welcome to participate); doing a trick shot demo (where I teach the 50-foot serve, blowing the ball in the air and over net, backspin serves that bounce back over the net, speed bouncing, playing alone with two paddles, etc.), and a service seminar. I'll be doing some private coaching afterwards.

At Balticon I'm a panelist, and will be doing a reading Saturday night at 8PM (either from my new novel, or one of my short stories). I'll also get to hobnob with fellow SF and fantasy writers, including Guest of Honor...

Wednesday, May 25, 2016 - 14:11
May 25, 2016

Rarely Used Hand Signals for Illegal Hidden Serves
Here's the video (5:38), which came out in February. But there's something surreal to me about having signals for hiding the ball (with the arm, the shoulder, and the head), when these are almost never called, no matter how blatantly the player hides the serve.

As I've blogged many times, we have a culture of cheating in our sport, where essentially every major title is won with illegal hidden serves that are done right out in the open, where everyone can see it, and the umpires will not call it. Yes, it's tough to see if a serve is hidden, but that's clearly covered in the serving rules – "If either the umpire or the assistant...

Tuesday, May 24, 2016 - 14:09
May 24, 2016

Backspin Mania Continues!
Yesterday was quite a site – ten minutes before the scheduled 4-5PM session with two kids there were FIVE of them all on a single table, all practicing and competing to see who could do the most backspin serves that came back into or over the net. This past week it's been a battle to get some of them to do regular practice – they are absolutely backspin crazy. That's all we did from 4-4:30.

When we went to regular practice, guess what they insisted on working on? More backspin. So we did a lot of pushing. (Maybe we're developing a bunch of choppers? Should I explain long pips to them?) I stopped trying to explain that keeping the ball LOW is important – they were more interested in pushing so the ball bounced backwards. Since they ranged from beginner to advanced beginner, and were 7-8 years old, I allowed it – they got great practice learning to graze the ball. (Have trouble creating great spin on your serves? Then learn from the kids, and try to make the ball bounce back into the net! Here's my article ...

Monday, May 23, 2016 - 14:02
May 23, 2016

Tip of the Week
Contact Point on the Forehand. (I actually did an entire Tip for this morning, only to discover I'd already done How to Serve to the Backhand Attacking Receiver. After over 270 Tips of the Week, that's the first time I've ever done that.)

Why My Forehand Push Is Much Better Down the Line
Here's something I hadn't really noticed before - my forehand push down the line is pretty good, but crosscourt not so good. Unless I'm chopping, I only forehand push against short balls, mostly when someone serves short to my forehand or drops my serve short there, and I decide not to flip. Off this ball I have a big angle into a righty's forehand - but the very threat of this means opponents automatically cover it. And so what do I almost always do? Fake it crosscourt, and then, at the last second, taking it right off the bounce, I push it down the line into their backhand. And that's what I became used to doing, and so have great control over it. But...

Friday, May 20, 2016 - 14:32
May 20, 2016

Serving Mania
Serving Mania has struck MDTTC! At least with my students. I blogged about this on Wednesday, about two kids who spent an entire one-hour session doing almost nothing but backspin serves (trying to make the ball come back into the net or bounce back over the net). It happened again on Thursday, where two kids (including the 7-year-old I blogged about on Wednesday) spent 40 minutes doing it again. There's getting better and better at it, and get pretty excited when they make the ball jump backwards and over the net.

We have a scoring system: one point if you get the ball to bounce back and hit the net; three points if it bounces back over the net cleanly after one bounce; two points if it bounces back over the net, but nicks the net in either direction, or takes more than once bounce on the far side to come back over the net. Here's a video (78 sec) of Ma Lin demonstrating the "ghost serve, where the backspin pulls the ball back into the net. But the ultimate backspin trick is...

Thursday, May 19, 2016 - 13:28
May 19, 2016

Chop Blocks
I have a student who cries "Foul!" whenever I do a chop-block. He insists no one else does them, and often will catch the ball when I do them. Before we go further, what is a chop block? Here's my article, Chalk Up Wins with Chop Blocks, and here's the video, Ma Long Chop Block (5:17).

Yesterday, in a session with Matt, I threw a chop block at him, and he wanted to try it. Now I wouldn't normally devote half a session to chop-blocks, but on the other hand I'm an adherent to Saturation Training, which means if you are going to make a change in your game or add something new, you really focus on it for a time until you get it right, rather than just work at it now and then. So we did just that – spent half the session on it. For most of this I stood a few feet back and fed him loops, multiball style, as he chop-blocked and sidespin-chop blocked.

This is a shot that most people have trouble...

Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 14:00
May 18, 2016

Backspin Serves for Kids, and Making the Ball Return Into or Over the Net
Had an interesting session yesterday with two kids, ages 7 and 9. You'd think kids that age are balls of energy, wanting to smack the ball over and over. But when they get interested in something, that becomes their whole focus – and that's what happened yesterday.

I'd been teaching them backspin serves recently. It was new to the 7-year-old, while the 9-year-old was a bit more advanced. It started with the 7-year-old rushing out to the table five minutes early, and with a bucket of balls, trying to serve backspin so the ball would bounce backward. I'd demonstrated this to him a few days before, and he badly wanted to do it. He was able to serve so the ball would sometimes come to a stop, or even sometimes bounce backwards, though usually with the ball never reaching the net. He wanted to serve so it would go to the other side and bounce back into the net, as I'd shown him. And so began our hour-long Odyssey. (Here's the serve in question, though they aren't doing it...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 - 14:06
May 17, 2016

Adjusting to Different Balls in the Yucky Insane Plastic Era (YIPE!)
One of the realities of the YIPE era (yes, that's what I'm calling it!), where we use plastic balls instead of celluloid (which is actually a type of plastic, but we won't get into that), is that the balls vary widely, far more than before. It used to be that everyone knew that Butterfly balls were slightly softer and lighter than Nittakus, and you'd warm up with the appropriate tournament ball and you'd be ready. But now they vary dramatically. Playing with the various 40+ Nittaku, DHS, Butterfly, JOOLA, and the seamless Xu Shao Fa is like trying to play basketball where one moment you're dribbling a basketball, then suddenly (in no particular order) it's a bowling ball, then a baseball, then a golf ball, etc.

One of my students, Daniel (who I've blogged about before) played in the Capital Area League this past Saturday. He tends to play too passive, and so we've spent a lot of time working on using his serve to set up his attack. Alas, we weren't using a Nittaku Premium 40+, and so when he used that in the league, he said it felt...

Monday, May 16, 2016 - 14:19
May 16, 2016

Tip of the Week
Depth Control on Serves with CBS.

Bottle Drill and Quotes
Here is a useful drills I used this weekend. Sameer (14, 1826) has reached the point where he's pretty consistent with his first and second loops (both forehand and backhand), but needs more focus on placement. He told me that in his league matches, he's making nearly 100% of his backhand loops off push, but they keep coming back – but that was because he's opening primarily to the middle backhand, where the opponent is ready and waiting. (And most players block better on the backhand.) Since your first attack should most often be to the opponent's middle (something top players routinely do, but beginners and intermediates often don't quite get – here's my Tip on Attacking the Middle), with follow-up attacks at the corners (since the attack to the middle draws them out of position), we did the following multiball drill.

I put a bottle just a bit to the left of the...

Friday, May 13, 2016 - 14:03
May 13, 2016

Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth, and Attacking the Middle
Here's the new video (1:23) from Butterfly. Note how, for this drill, Stefan stresses that the he's putting the ball to his partner's middle. Far too often players just drill to the corners, and then wonder why they have trouble attacking an opponent's elbow, usually the weakest point – if you don't practice it, you won't do it very well. I've often faced this as a coach – I'll tell a player to attack the opponent's middle, and he'll get this pained look as he knows he's not comfortable doing so since he's so used to attacking the corners. And then he'll go out there and continue to go to the corners, since that's what his muscle memory wants to do.

Think about it. Any coach or top player will tell you that your attacks should go to three spots – wide forehand, wide backhand, and the opponent's middle (roughly his playing elbow). Most will agree that attacking the middle is usually the best spot for the first...