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 Photo by Donna Sakai

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

Friday, February 27, 2015 - 15:07
February 27, 2015

Beginning Junior Class

I teach two beginning junior classes, one on Thursday 6-7PM, and the other on Sundays 4:30-6:00 PM. And so should your club!!! Yesterday's session had 16 players ranging in age from 7 to 12. Assisting me were the Triple J's - Coaches Jeffrey, John, and Josh. Here's the info page.

We started with ball bouncing. This is especially important for beginning juniors as it helps them develop the hand-eye coordination needed, as well as helping them get used to the proper grip. First they bounced on the forehand side (calling out every tenth in a row they make), then on the backhand, and then alternating. For the very, very brave (but mostly older ones) I challenged them to alternate between forehand and off the edge of their racket! Many can do a couple of these. While they did this, I worked with two new players who were there for the first time, showing them the proper grip and stance.

Then we did some forehand and backhand shadow practicing as a group. By this time everyone was there, so I then did a roll call.

Then we went into...

Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 15:11
February 26, 2015

Most Interesting Rules

Here are some of the more interesting rules in table tennis.

  • Table Dimensions. Contrary to popular belief, the table is not 9 feet by 5 feet. It is roughly 8.98950 feet by 5.0038 feet. To be specific, the ITTF rules state that the table is 2.74 meters by 1.525 meters. A 9x5 table would be about 0.132 inches too long, and 0.036 inches not wide enough. Nor is the net 6 inches tall - it is 15.25 centimeters tall, which is about 6.003937 inches tall, or about 1/254th of an inch over 6 inches. No wonder all your smashes nick the net.
  • Net Extension to the Side. The net extends 15.25 centimeters outside the table, about 6 inches. I'm told the reason was players like Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Champion, already European Champion in 1971) became so good at nearly unreturnable around-the-net sidespin loops that they had to change the rules to require it to extend those six inches.
    EDIT - At least two people had...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 15:31
February 25, 2015

Willie and the Coat, and Other Competitions

Yesterday I lost a competition. Willie, an eight-year-old, has this habit of wearing his coat while he plays. We usually convince him to take it off. Yesterday, while coaching him and another in a one-hour multiball session from 4-5PM, I secretly (and jokingly) told others I had one goal this session: to get Willie to take the coat off by 4:30PM without my having to tell him to do so. And so I worked him to death with lots and lots of side-to-side footwork drills, with constant mentions of how tiring this must be, how sweaty it was, and how hot it was. But he never took the coat off. At 4:30, I gave up and told Willie what I'd been doing, which he thought was pretty funny. I'm guessing he's still wearing that coat. Did I mention he also tends to lose his shoes while playing?

I have other little "competitions" with students. With Daniel, a 1639 rated ten-year-old with a supernatural ability to get nets and edges, we often count how many we get. (He kills me, and believe me, he'll beat you at this. It's uncanny, and he does this with Tenergy on both sides - usually it's...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 15:25
February 24, 2015

Why Players Are Getting Better at Younger Ages

Yesterday I blogged about and linked to videos of 11-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, the new Japanese sensation. And on February 13 I blogged about how much stronger the current USA cadets and juniors are than their predecessors. As noted there and in previous blogs, a primary reason for this (especially in the U.S.) is the rise of full-time training centers, where more and more kids are training full-time. This, of course, leads to more and better junior players (and ultimately better players).

But there's another reason why in recent years we're getting more and more prodigies, where kids compete on an almost even level with much bigger and older players. As I've blogged before, modern tensor-type sponges make looping much easier, practically shooting the ball out, where before players had to put far more energy into a shot to get the same result. So looping becomes both easier and more powerful than before - all the player has to do is supply...

Monday, February 23, 2015 - 14:52
February 23, 2015

Tip of the Week

Shadow Practice When You Miss.

Forehand Topspin Against Backspin, and Proper Forehand Technique

Here's the new video (3:36) from PingSkills. You should study it to learn to loop against backspin. However, it's also a chance for many of you to fix up your forehands in general by fixing your contact point. While this video features looping against backspin, many of the principles apply to all forehands.

Note in the video how he basically rotates his body around an imaginary vertical rod going through the top of his head, and how he contacts the ball almost directly to the side of this? Most players violate one of these principles, either moving the body forward too much as they do the shot, or (even more common) contacting the ball too far in front.

There are times when you should move the body forward on a shot, such as against an easy high ball or when you are rushed in stepping around the backhand corner, but normally you should go more in...

Friday, February 20, 2015 - 14:54
February 20, 2015

Ping Pong for Fighters

Ping Pong for Fighters by Tahl Leibovitz, a Paralympics gold medalist, is a relatively short read, which is both good and bad, i.e. reading it isn't a huge commitment, so don't expect War and Peace; it's a two-hour read, full of golden nuggets. It's available in paperback ($13.45, 152 pages) or Kindle ($9.95).

I've known Tahl since he was about 13 years old, when he was part of the New York Junior Team that competed with a Maryland Team in a ten-on-ten match. He was always a battler, but back then he didn't look special, other than a knack for pulling off spectacular shots. Well, he can still pull off spectacular shots, but as he relates in the book, he's learned patience and tactics, and knows how to use these shots - how to fight with what he's got. On the back cover I wrote, "Tahl Leibovitz has forever been overcoming the odds as he fought his way to the top, so it's only fitting that he wrote Ping Pong for Fighters - and if readers have even a fraction of his fight, they too can...

Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 15:20
February 19, 2015

Ping-Ping Diplomacy by Nicholas Griffin - Review

This book should be of great interest to table tennis buffs, history buffs, and Chinese buffs - lots of great stuff! It's subtitled "Ivor Montagu and the Astonishing Story Behind the Game That Changed the World." It's 275 pages, plus another 61 pages - so 336 total - of various end notes, acknowledgements, index, etc. It has 51 chapters, divided into four parts. There's also a very nice photo section in the middle.

Part 1 is titled "The West." Here we learn about Ivor Montagu, the founder of the ITTF, the person most responsible for table tennis becoming an international sport due to his tireless efforts - when he wasn't spying for the Soviets. Yep, our sport was pretty much founded by a communist spy! But we learn how he was instrumental in helping spread the sport to China as well as a little bit of Soviet history, where we even meet Trotsky.

Part 2 is titled "The East." To me, this was the most fascinating part. We learn not only about the rise of table tennis...

Wednesday, February 18, 2015 - 14:46
February 18, 2015

Team League Sign-Up Time

Here's a call-out to players in the Capital Area, New York, and Los Angeles areas - time to join a team!!! Below are the team leagues in these regions. Deadlines are coming up fast, so enter now! (Deadline for the Capital Area Super League is this Friday.)

As I noted in my Feb. 2 blog, leagues such as these are the first step toward changing the culture of table tennis in the United States. As I wrote then: "…developing these team leagues won't be easy, and that's because of the culture of table tennis here, where few have ever played regularly on a table tennis team. They don't know what it's like to compete regularly on a team where your teammates and friends are cheering you on, even as you cheer them on - you know, like most of you were cheering on a football team at the Super Bowl last night! Except - you get to be Tom Brady or Russell Wilson."

It's going to be a long process, but eventually, if we can have the type of...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 15:05
February 17, 2015

Tip of the Week

Playing Off-Table Two-Winged Topspinners.


We had about five inches last night, so schools are closed here in Montgomery Country, Maryland (and pretty much everywhere else in the region). No afterschool program or coaching today, so I'll either catch up on work, reading, or sleep. Lots of coaching articles and feature videos today!

Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class

On Sunday night my new Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class began. We have 16 signed up, though four had to miss the first session due to a combination of Presidents Day/Chinese New Year/Bad Weather. The class will meet at MDTTC for ten weeks, Sundays from 6:30-8:00 PM. (You can still sign up.) On the first day we covered the grip, ready stance ("Like covering someone in basketball, a soccer goalie, or a shortstop in baseball or softball"), forehand drive, and spin serves. (I brought out the...

Monday, February 16, 2015 - 14:06
February 16, 2015

What, did you think I was going to blog while everyone else is taking the day off? Heck no!!! It's President's Day, and I'm an amateur presidential historian. (During long car trips to tournaments I drive people crazy by reciting all the presidents in order, including their terms of office and other trivia. It's how I punish bad-behaving juniors.) So in honor of our presidents - especially the ones who play table tennis (Obama, Bush Jr., Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan, Nixon), I'm off today. I'll have lots to write about tomorrow, and plenty of time to do it since I'll likely be snowed in here in...