Welcome to TableTennisCoaching.com, your Worldwide Center for Table Tennis Coaching!

 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 1PM, 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

Recipe for a Regional Team League

Here's the Capital Area Super League recipe, which will continue to evolve.

Tip of the Week

Playing in Poor Conditions.

USA Pan Am and National Team Trials

Here's the USATT Page with complete results and video. (Jiaqi Zheng and Yue "Jennifer" Wu were not eligible for the National Team, due to time requirements since representing another country, but as US citizens were eligible for the Pan Am Team.)

  • Congratulations to Pan Am Team members: Jiaqi Zheng, Lily Zhang, Yue "Jennifer" Wu, Kanak Jha, Jimmy Butler and Timothy Wang
  • Congratulations to US Team members: Lily Zhang, Judy Hugh, Prachi Jha and Amy Wang, Kanak Jha, Jimmy Butler, Timothy Wang and Yahao Zhang

Beginning/Intermediate Class and Junior Class

After missing two straight Sundays due to snow, we finally got back to these two classes. I taught both classes, with John Hsu assisting.

There are 14 kids in the 4:30-6:00PM beginning junior class, ranging in age from 6 to 11. Since we'd been away so long we focused on basics this session - lots of regular forehand and backhand play. We had one new player, so I spent some time getting him started. Then we did service practice, and then games. As usual, as soon as it was game time the cry went out for "Cup game!", and so out came the paper cups. It's the perfect game for the younger crowd, who love to build and destroy. So they built giant pyramids of cups, and then took turns smashing them to pieces as I fed multiball. We finished with the bottle game, where I put a bottle of "worm juice" on the table (a Gatorade bottle filled with either worm juice or Gatorade, depending on who you asked), and I had to drink it if they hit it. They did.

Playing Fair and a Rules Proposal

I read the following recently on a table tennis forum:  "It's the coach's job to teach a player how to win.  It's the parent's job to teach ethics to their kids. If a player resorts to cheating to win, then the parents have failed."

I was tempted to jump in and respond - harshly - but thought better of it. This is probably a somewhat common attitude, though I don't think most agree with it. The simple reality is that much of what is considered "good sportsmanship" comes from the coach. I'm pretty sure I can convince most parents that their kid should always play fair, including serving legally. I'm also pretty sure I can convince most parents that their kid should learn to serve illegally, since so many of his opponents will be doing so, and so he needs to do so to compete. These are contradictory positions. While parents can put their foot down, they are rarely as experienced in these matters as a coach, and so they rely on the coach for guidance in such matters.

How I Hurt My Back and How Not to Do Multiball

I think I hurt my back shoveling snow on Sunday or Monday. Because of snow and icy roads, I didn't do any serious coaching from Sunday to Tuesday, other than a one-hour multiball session on Tuesday, where I probably aggravated it. On Wednesday, when woke up, my back was in agony. I did a one-hour multiball session, but had to cancel a one-hour private session. Today I had 3.5 hours of coaching scheduled, but due to the snow (5-8 inches expected, it's coming down pretty hard) they are all cancelled. If not for the snow I'd have had to cancel them anyway.

I think my new mattress is also a culprit - it's not firm enough. Rather than buy a new mattress (again), I just ordered an extra firm mattress topper. Hopefully it'll be firm enough.

I'm probably going to cancel all my coaching on Friday as well. I'm not yet sure about Saturday - I have two hours of private coaching and a two-hour multiball session scheduled. I'm almost for certain going to cancel the private coaching for that day. We'll see about Sunday. Most likely I'll cancel all private coaching that day (four hours), but teach the two 90-minutes classes I have scheduled.

When I feed regular multiball, it doesn't affect my back too much. The problem is feeding backspin. When I do this I tend to drop my right shoulder and rotate my back into it - ouch!!! Right now I can't feed backspin without aggravating the back. I had to stop feeding backspin in the session yesterday.

Eleven Questions with Larry Hodges

Here's the USATT interview with me yesterday. Not a policy interview, but hopefully some interesting stuff. I had a lot of fun with it, but hopefully some of it is informative as well.

Upcoming Events and Back Problems

Tomorrow we have another 3-5 inches of snow scheduled to come in - yeah, these days we schedule these things. (So it's likely school and all coaching will be cancelled tomorrow.) There's also a USATT teleconference at 8PM where we appoint committee chairs. I have to go over dozens of applications. Alas, not a single worthy bribe. And then on Saturday there's a Super League Organizing Committee Meeting at 7PM. ESPN and USA Today just did interviews with Crystal Wang at our club, so those are coming out soon, plus the Washington Post is doing a feature soon on Crystal and Derek Nie, so more on those when they come out.

Mixed in with these, of course, is the usual private and group coaching, and several writing projects. I've also got the MDTTC March Newsletter to finalize. I normally send it out at the start of each month, but we decided to wait until after the USA Team Trials this weekend so I can put info from there in it, and send it out probably next Monday. Plus I have a dentist appointment today at noon, and see my tax accountant next Tuesday. Yeah, things are busy here.

The Sayings of Bruce Lee

I read over these quotes from Bruce Lee and was amazed at how many of them apply to table tennis. I picked out the 30 most pertinent to our sport, in no particular order. I guess you can say that Bruce Lee is ghost-writing my blog this morning. Which are your favorites?

Tip of the Week

When Should You Go For a Winner?

Rest in Peace Leonard Nimoy

Famed actor Leonard Nimoy (best known as "Mr. Spock" from Star Trek) died on Friday, which happened to be my 55th birthday. He was 83. Mr. Spock, the logical Vulcan, was one of my heroes growing up, and that it happened on my birthday was especially memorable, in a bad way. I have several connections with Nimoy.

  • My mom told me that when I was about two years old (circa 1962), when Nimoy was already a well-known actor but before his role as Mr. Spock, we were at a bank in the Los Angeles area, and Nimoy was in line. She said I began running and crawling between people's legs, and that I crawled between Nimoy's legs.
  • I met Walter Koenig ("Chekov") at a science fiction convention.
  • I attended a writers' workshop with Ann Crispin, a famed Star Trek novelist.
  • This page has four pictures from Star Trek (you may have to page down a bit) where the characters are playing table tennis. (Alas, no pictures of Nimoy/Spock playing, as this is from Star Trek Voyager, not The Original Series.)
  • Here's the home page for the Vulcan Red Tooth Table Tennis Club. Alas, it's named after the God of Fire from Roman mythology, not Mr. Spock's race.
  • Finally, when I'm under pressure in a table tennis match, I sometimes ask myself, "What would Spock do?" It's a great way to get yourself to look at things analytically and without emotion.

Weekend Weather Worries

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 four groups, one with each coach. It worked out nicely, with four players with each coach. I took the two new players and two others, and used the robot area. We started with one player with me, one on the robot, and two picking up balls. The second half I worked with two at a time (one at each corner), with one on the robot and one picking up balls.

Yesterday's focus was the backhand, so we spent much time on that. However, since we had two new players and the two others in my group had had only one session, we started with the forehand. After one circuit on that, then we went to the backhand.

Most Interesting Rules

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

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 players with deader rubbers like long pips or hardbat that get all the nets.) When I coach on the back table, where there's a wall closer behind me than on the bigger courts in the front, when a student misses I often continue the rally by hitting the ball backwards so it goes off the wall and back onto the table, reminding students that "Just because the point is over doesn't mean the point is over." (Or I just return it from off the floor.)