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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

Wednesday, December 13, 2017 - 14:52
December 13, 2017

Last Blog Until Thursday, Dec. 28
I leave tomorrow for two days of USATT board meetings, the US Open, and then Christmas with family, so this will be my last blog until Dec. 28.

USA Open, Meetings, and Christmas
I’m leaving tomorrow morning for two weeks, which I’ll divide into three parts below. Here’s the US Open home page, where you can follow all the action. Here’s the player listing, the event listing (showing who is in each event), and perhaps most importantly, the results page (where the draws will go up in a few days, and then results). Here are the two USATT articles that might be of interest for your US Open viewing:

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017 - 15:02
December 12, 2017

Tip of the Week
Push-Button Matches - Playing the Scary All-Out Attacker.

Top Ten Ways to Describe My Weekend with the Flu

  1. I went 100 rounds with Mike Tyson. I lost the first 99 rounds.
  2. Or maybe that was the Chinese team used me for smashing practice. With golf balls.
  3. I alternated freezing and boiling over. Yeah, climate change every ten minutes.
  4. If you’d bought $100 in stock in Kleenex on Friday, by today you’d be a millionaire.
  5. I’ve proven you can live on nothing but cream of wheat, chicken soup, and Dayquil/Nightquil for three days – but it isn’t fun. Just looking at anything else made my stomach explode like a thousand celluloid ping-pong balls in a microwave.
  6. I can’t decide whether I can now check “Flu shot” off my todo list, since I’ve now had the flu. It’s been on the todo list for a month or so, and I was going to do it….
  7. My fever hit 101.5 on Saturday night. That may not seem high, except I normally am around 97...



Monday, December 11, 2017 - 13:49
December 11, 2017

No blog today - sick with flu. I went in to coach on Saturday, had to leave early when my fever hit 101.5. The fever's gone, but I feel like I just went 100 rounds with Mike Tyson. I singlehandedly have sent Kleenex's stock soaring while living on a diet of cream of wheat, chicken soup, and Dayquil/Nightquil. I also somehow lost two pounds from dehydration. And yes, I had a flu shot - last year. It's been on my todo list for a while to get a flu shot this year. Oops. 




Friday, December 8, 2017 - 13:28
December 8, 2017

Physical vs. Mental Stiffness, USATT &USOC Coaching, Sidespin/Backspin Serves, the Christmas Rush, and I Do Not Have A Cold

  • Here’s an insight that many don’t understand. Some players are physically stiff, especially as they get older – I’m one of them. It can lead to stiff shots, and make the player look, yes, stiff. But that’s completely different than mentally playing tight. You can have the stiffest muscles in the world and still be mentally loose and relaxed. I know, because I have the stiffest muscles in the world – 10,000 on the Vickers hardness scale – and yet I’ve always played relaxed and mentally loose, even if I don’t look it. I’m always warning my students not to copy the stiff, mechanical nature of my strokes (except perhaps for my forehand smash, which is pretty textbook), and to instead copy some of our 2600 coaches/practice partners, especially their looping strokes. But don’t mistake physical stiffness with the mental side, where anyone can learn to play relaxed and loose.
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Thursday, December 7, 2017 - 14:49
December 7, 2017

How’s Your Big Breaking Serve Into the Backhand?
I had an interesting “comeuppance” recently when I was explaining to several players the importance of including deep serves in your serving arsenal, and going over the more valuable types – fast down-the-line, no-spin to the middle, and big breaking serves to the backhand. One of them finally asked me, “Larry, what’s a big breaking serve?” Turned out at least two listeners had no idea what I meant.

A “big breaking serve” is one that curves a lot. Probably the most successful and most commonly used is deep into the backhand, so that it breaks away from the receiver. This is most commonly done with a forehand pendulum serve from the backhand side, crosscourt, between two righties (or two lefties). For righties against lefties, and vice versa, it's most commonly done with a forehand tomahawk serve from the forehand side. 

One of my regular demos when I talk about serves in a clinic is to show the difference between a fast topspin serve and a big breaking sidespin serve. I’ll have a volunteer – someone who’s not too...




Wednesday, December 6, 2017 - 14:58
December 6, 2017

Knowing When to Change Serving Tactics
In the German Open Men’s Final (4:42) on Nov. 12, Timo Boll faced Dimitrij “Dima” Ovcharov in the final. Timo had already defeated China’s Lin Gaoyuan in the quarterfinals and Korea’s Lee Sangsu (who had defeated Xu Xin in the quarterfinals) in the semifinals. Dima had defeated China’s Fan Zhendong, world #2, in the semifinals, and so it was a rare non-Chinese final – in fact, an all-German final in the German Open. At the time Dima was world #4, Timo #5, but both moved up one spot since.

Dima went up 3-2 in games, and took a 4-0 lead in the sixth, with Timo to serve. Up until then Timo had been serving I believe all forehand serves. So what does he do? He switches to a rarely-seen backhand serve for his next eight serves. Here’s the video (17:36) starting at 0-4 – note how surprised...




Tuesday, December 5, 2017 - 14:59
December 5, 2017

Injured a Lot?
Someone recently asked me why I seem to be injured a lot. And it’s true – I have a revolving door of injuries, including problems with my right knee, upper back on right side, right shoulder (two spots), and right arm. Those with right-minded thinking may have rightfully noticed an outright pattern, and they are right. (We’re not talking rightwing politics, though I am a right-winger in table tennis since I am right-handed . . . in case you hadn’t figured that out.)

Years and years of long hours training, playing, and coaching have led to these problems. Somehow I don’t think any doctor ever saw an injured patient and prescribed, “Rest and twenty hours of table tennis per week.”

The knee problem has its roots in the fact that MDTTC, which opened in 1992, had cement floors for a number of years before going to red rubberized flooring. Playing on cement regularly is like banging your knees with a hammer. My left knee used to bother me at times as well, but not in recent times.

However, the simple reality is I’m 57 (gosh that sounds old…), and the muscles aren’t...




Monday, December 4, 2017 - 15:01
December 4, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Mess Up Your Opponent When Forced to Make a Weak Shot.

Weekend Coaching
Here are some highlights.

  • In the junior group session on Saturday we let them play Brazilian Teams for nearly an hour – but with one catch: whoever served had to serve and attack. If the server pushed the return, he lost the point. (Here’s where I blogged about the rules for Brazilian Teams and other table tennis games.) Too many of our kids at the North American Teams had played too passive on their serve, and so this was both the “penalty” and reward (since they love playing Brazilian Teams).
  • On Sunday, to teach some of the younger players to arc the ball with topspin when they loop, I spent about half an hour feeding multiball to eight different kids using the adjustable serving bar. (John Olsen made this for us.) I had to feed backspin under the bar –...



Friday, December 1, 2017 - 14:37
December 1, 2017

Ball Madness
There used to be a debate about whether there really was a difference between Nittaku and a Butterfly 3-star balls. But there really wasn’t a serious debate – every top player and coach knew that the Butterfly ball was slightly lighter than the Nittaku. The real debate was whether the difference was enough that you’d want to train with the ball to be used in your next tournament. I was firmly on the side of using that ball, since even a very slight difference made a difference to your timing – but the difference was so small that it was more psychological, where you wanted to use the same ball so that you’d know that it would play the same.

That were the good old days of celluloid, when the difference in balls was so small as to be almost a non-issue. These days, with the ITTF’s rush to adopt plastic balls, and with every tournament I know of now using them, you have to adjust to many different types of balls, and unlike before, the differences are much larger.

I’ve taken to buying a dozen or more of each major type that’s used in tournaments, plus of course we...




Thursday, November 30, 2017 - 14:46
November 30, 2017

Big Tournaments are Like a Month of Training
I’ve pointed this out in past blogs (not recently), and it really is true – if you play in a big tournament, where you are playing intense matches all day long for two or more days, when it’s done it’s like you’ve been training for a month.

The huge tragedy here is that the best time to play a tournament is when you are at your best – which is usually right at the end of the big tournament you just played in. Which is why it’s sometimes best to schedule several tournaments in a row, or at least in close proximity. (This can be taken to an extreme. I once played tournaments nine consecutive weekends. At the end I had my highest rating of my life.)  

Think about it. Imagine yourself the last time you played a tournament (assuming you have), where you played lots of matches. Didn’t you most often play your best near the end, at least until and if you got too tired to play well? Isn’t that the way you want to play at your next tournament?

That type of play doesn’t go instantly go away. When you hit that high level after lots of...