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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

Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 13:29
March 26, 2015

No Blog on Friday


  1. Schools are closed for a "Teacher Professional Day," and if they get the day off, so do I.
  2. I can use another day off to rest. I took a day off on Tuesday, and it really paid off during yesterday's coaching, where I felt energized for the first time in a while.
  3. To give me time to prepare for the USATT Board Meeting on Saturday, where I have two presentations.
  4. So I can spend the day finalizing the first draft of "The Spirit of Pong," which I blogged about March 16. (I finished the first draft yesterday, but have two pages of notes of things to add or change.)
  5. So I can take my car to the shop for a check-up and minor repairs.
  6. We have a one-day training camp at MDTTC, but I might not be needed since we have eight full-time coaches - but I might be called in.

USATT Board Meeting

This Saturday there's a USATT Board meeting in Baltimore from 9AM to 4PM. Board members and some staff and/or committee chairs...

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 - 13:53
March 25, 2015

Shakehands Grip Variations and Changes

Recently I've had a lot of questions about whether it's okay to use variations of the shakehands grip, or to change grips during a rally. (Of course a large part of this is I'm teaching a new ten-week Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class.) The answer is . . . it depends.

Before I go further, here are three articles I've written on the subject:

But since these articles are all from 2012 and 2013, they've been forgotten - so now's a good time to blog about it! At least it'll get you thinking about it. Plus I'll add a few new things.

First, a quick definition. A neutral grip is where the thinnest part of the wrist should line up with the paddle. If, while in a backhand position, you rotate the top of the racket away from you,...

Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 14:47
March 24, 2015

Exhaustion, and Playing Those Wide Angles and Middle

I must be getting old. I'm not sure how this happened - I think someone at the club stuck something in my Gatorade one day, and presto! This past month I've coached nearly every single day. I finally got a day off this past Saturday due to a series of fortunate events, but Sunday I was on my feet coaching for over six hours. Yesterday I had 2.5 hours of coaching and could barely move as my muscles were absolutely, completely, totally, wholly, entirely, fully, and utterly dead. (Yeah, I used a Thesaurus.)

I was hitting with 10-year-old Daniel (1639), and I think he aced me with shots to the wide forehand or backhand about every ten seconds. The eye-opener was when I wanted to work on his blocking near the end of the session with him, and literally couldn't forehand loop to his block more than a few shots - normally I'm sort of a machine in a drill, not really powerful but can loop over and Over and OVER. I was even having blocking as my legs just wouldn't step to the ball - and Daniel was somewhat gleeful in looping wide-angled aces, as well as to my middle. (But I liked that...

Monday, March 23, 2015 - 14:09
March 23, 2015

Tip of the Week

Macho or Tricky?

Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class

Yesterday, from 6:30-8:00PM, I taught Week Four of the ten-week class. There are 19 in the class, with Raghu Nadmichettu and Josh Tran normally assisting. (Yesterday John Hsu subbed for Josh, who was at Cary Cup.) Here's the group picture I linked to last week.

Yesterday we started right where we'd finished last week, with pushing, with the emphasis now on the forehand push. I explained that you have to learn to do regular forehand pushes, but as players advanced, they mostly only do forehand pushes against short balls, since it's better to loop any deep backspin ball to the forehand. (This is also somewhat true on the backhand side, but not quite as much since you are more likely to get jammed on the backhand side, and because you have an angle into a righty opponent's backhand with your backhand push.)

I harped on the idea that you have to step...

Friday, March 20, 2015 - 14:31
March 20, 2015

Historic First Match of the Capital Area Super League

It took place last night at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, between the MDTTC Smokeoutz (Khaleel Asgarali, Toby Kutler, Ryan Dabbs, Amy Lu, with Chen Bowen and Reza Ghiasi sitting out), and the MDTTC Lions (Stefano Ratti, Raghu Nadmichettu, Heather Wang, and Ernie Byles). Normally it's supposed to be three on three, but due to a misunderstanding and a last-minute negotiation, they played four on each side this one time. The Smokeoutz won 5-4, with a severely under-rated 11-year-old Ryan Dabbs (rated 2018, #5 in U.S. in Under 12 boys) pulling out a ninth match upset win over Ernie Byles.

Here's the write-up by Stefano Ratti, along with results and pictures. (Click on the pictures for larger version.) And yes, that's a lion smoking a cigar...

Thursday, March 19, 2015 - 14:12
March 19, 2015

New Table Tennis Terms and Why This Blog is Short

Below are some new table tennis terms that we've invented at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Yes, we are constantly innovating!

Today's blog is a little short as I was up late working last night and so got started on this late, and I have to leave shortly for a rare morning coaching session. I'm sort of jumping back and forth between 1) preparing the French translation of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers for publication; 2) writing the fantasy table tennis novella "The Spirit of Pong"; 3) writing a feature but temporarily top-secret table tennis article; 4) responding to approximately 314,159 emails; and 5) various USATT activities, mostly regarding regional associations and leagues. And then I've got five hours of coaching plus driving around to pick up players in our afterschool program, so it's going to be a bit busy.

  • "Daniel" - a net or edge. (Note - Daniel is a 10-year-old student of mine who gets an unreal number of nets and edges. He uses inverted on both sides.)
  • "Double Daniel" - a net-edge.
  • ...

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 - 14:35
March 18, 2015

Can You Have Too Much Confidence?

Here's an interesting article by Ben Lacombe of Expert Table Tennis, though this article is from his non-table tennis blog. The article is about confidence and how it affects success, and features Kanye West as an example. Now I'm no music expert and am not an expert on West, but from what little I do know from various news articles, I have to agree with President Obama about him. However, he is right in some of the things he says about attaining success, as the article explains. The article finishes with the following four ways people think about success:

  1. The unrealistic pessimist believes they will fail even if they put in the effort, planning, persistence and strategy required to succeed.
  2. The realistic pessimist believes they will fail because they won’t...

Tuesday, March 17, 2015 - 13:17
March 17, 2015

Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class

On Sunday from 6:30-8:30PM we had the third session of the class at MDTTC. The class technically ends at 8PM, but I've pretty much made it official policy to stay until 8:30PM, where we work on serve and serve return. There are 19 people in the class, ranging from near beginner up to about 1500. Strangely, there are no women - usually we have a few. One woman actually did sign up, but she was the only one to drop out before we started. Also, all 19 players are right-handed. There is one penholder, the rest are conventional shakehanders. One likes to chop occasionally.

Here's a group picture from Sunday, with one player missing. That's me on the far right in the black shirt. Kneeling in front on the right in the black hat is assistant coach Raghu Nadmichettu; in blue with his hand on his chin is assistant coach Josh Tran. I have to be very careful of everything I say in the class; that's USATT counsel Dennis Taylor in the back, slightly right of...

Monday, March 16, 2015 - 13:59
March 16, 2015

Tip of the Week

To Play the Middle and Wide Corners You Have to Practice to Them.

The Spirit of Pong

For years I've lived in two worlds - the world of table tennis and the world of science fiction & fantasy writing. I've sold 72 short stories and a novel - but the money from the latter totals only about $20,000 in income since 2006, i.e. a little over $2000/year. Guess which pays the bills?

So I'm happy to say I've found the perfect combination of the two! I'm now working on a novella called "The Spirit of Pong." (A novella is basically a short novel, but considerably longer than a short story.) The story is about an American player, Andy "Shoes" Blue, who goes to China to learn the secrets of Chinese table tennis. I've been planning and researching it for a while. Parts of the story get pretty dark as he learns the Body of Pong, the Mind of Pong, and the Paddle of Pong. You'll meet the mysterious Coach Wang, who guides him through the...

Friday, March 13, 2015 - 13:38
March 13, 2015

Ratings and Leagues

One of the things I've learned my years of table tennis is that ratings are both good and bad. There are some advantages to using ratings. For example, they give players a reason to play in tournaments and leagues, with the goal of trying to achieve a higher rating. But just as often they keep players from playing in events so they can "protect" their rating.

For tournaments, ratings are not so good because they cause a lot of problems. Here's my article Juniors and Ratings, where I talk about how ratings can be a cancer on junior table tennis. But much of the article applies to all players. Players can get way to protective of their ratings, and often avoid tournaments just to protect their rating.

For leagues it's more mixed. For a singles league ratings actually work pretty well, since players are playing for themselves. Because they play on a regular basis, they get used to their ratings going up and down, and so don't worry about them too much and don't focus on protecting their rating by avoiding play. Singles...