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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 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

Fixing the Forehand Loop - Slowly and Meticulously

Yesterday was one of the best days I've ever had as a coach. It all happened in a coaching session with ten-year-old Daniel Sofer, #10 in the U.S. in Under 11 Boys with a rating of 1639, and recently #4 in Under 10 until he made the silly decision to turn ten. (I have permission from Daniel and his dad to use his name.)

Daniel has a nice backhand (both hitting and looping - he can do some nice backhand loops from off the table), and extremely good ball control for his age. (He's almost for certain the best lobber his age in the country - he can lob my best smashes back over and over unless I smother-kill them out of the court.) In fact, he does a lot of things pretty well. But for many months we've been trying to fix up his forehand looping. He has about five different strokes, and regularly switches back and forth. He also likes to back up and try to awkwardly spin the ball off the floor, or alternately switch in mid-rally to flat hitting. The result is he isn't really comfortable forehand looping, and in games it shows, as he mostly pushes and blocks, along with some lobbing. In rallies, he mostly hits or pushes with the forehand, despite the fact that in practice all he does is loop.

To Players in the Capital Area (Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington DC):
*****Join Us in the Capital Area Super League!*****

The deadline has been extended to February 20, so you can still enter. We have enough teams already for the league, especially for Division One (though we could use one more), but would especially like to get more teams for Divisions Two and Three.

This is a team league for all levels - yes, that means you! In Europe, some countries have memberships in the hundreds of thousands, all because of such team leagues. (Germany has over 600,000.) Players from Europe talk about how much we're missing without such leagues, where players get to play on a TEAM, surrounded by friends cheering you on. So we hope you'll sign up and share their experience. (Some of this was in yesterday's blog, but I want to emphasize it.)

The league was initiated by Michael Levene and Stefano Ratti, who played in the English and Italian leagues and missed the camaraderie of such team leagues. (John Olsen and I are also members of the organizing committee.) This is your chance to join with us. All money going to the league stays in the league - it is run completely by unpaid volunteers. No payments are due until March 15.

If you want to play but don't have a team - or have a team that needs more players - there's a "Looking for a Team" section on the web site, or you can contact the organizers, who may be aware of other players in a similar situation. If you are concerned about having a home venue, or are concerned about the type of commitment, again contact us at Michael@smashtt.com or rattigno@yahoo.com.

So get your friends and practice partners together, and come join us!

Tip of the Week

Develop the Five Types of Rallying Shots.

The Culture of Table Tennis in the U.S.

As I help set up the Capital Area Super League (with Mike Levene and Stefano Ratti the primary movers and creators, using their experience from playing in leagues in England and Italy), one thing that keeps jumping out is the culture of table tennis in America. It's quite different from the table tennis culture in more successful countries. For one thing, we have a rating-obsessed culture in USATT, where often little else matters other than the almighty rating. What's the goal of most tournament players in the U.S., win an event or gain rating points? Since most players focus on playing in higher events in the hopes of pulling off an upset, while avoiding the lower ones (i.e. the ones they might win) in order to avoid getting upset, I think we have our answer.

But it's not just ratings. In Europe, where memberships dwarf USATT's, it's a team culture. Few players play regularly in tournaments; it's all about playing on a team in a league. There are team leagues everywhere, leading to huge memberships, which lead to the growth of clubs, which is why there are 600,000 (paid) league members in Germany and 11,000 clubs. Players from Europe talk about how much we're missing without such leagues, where players get to play on a TEAM, surrounded by friends cheering you on.

I'm always amazed that some believe that the leagues in Germany and other countries started because of the large memberships, when in fact the leagues were the cause. And yet this faulty reasoning is used to argue that we're not ready for team leagues in the U.S. because (drum roll please) we don't have enough players!

Serving Combos

I was playing a match with one of my students recently and decided to test him on a bunch of serving combos. He knows my serves very well, so individually he has no problems with them. But when I throw certain combos at him, he (and most others) struggle with the second one. Below are ten of my favorite combos. All can be done as listed or by reversing the order. Some are mostly variations of others, so there's some overlap. I'm assuming both players are righties for this, but lefties can use similar variations.

Keep in mind that the more you do these serves, the better you get at them, at figuring out what combos work best against different players, and at following them up. For example, after a short serve to the forehand, I might serve long to the backhand (usually a serve that breaks to the right), anticipating a crosscourt return to my backhand. Since I've been doing this for decades, I've learned to read my opponent very quickly and see early on if I'm going to get the expected soft return to my backhand, and so I'll quickly move over and rip a forehand. But I'll also see quickly if he's going down the line to my forehand or if he's going to do an aggressive backhand attack (or forehand step around), and adjust accordingly. Similarly, if I serve short to the forehand (often after a long serve to the backhand), I can pick up early if he's going to return the expected crosscourt return to my forehand (and edge over to attack it), or if he's going to go down the line (and so I get ready to either attack with my backhand or step over to use the forehand). The more you do these combos, the better and quicker you'll get at them. (And remember, all of these combos can be done in reverse.)

Short Blog Today

I woke up this morning with a sore throat and a headache - a double whammy. My voice is hoarse and I think someone punched me all over my body while I was sleeping. I think I have a slight cold (yeah, lots of Kleenex), while the headache might be from late-night work and lack of sleep. I was going to write about yesterday's adventure (2.5 hours of coaching, meeting with USATT player rep Han Xiao on my Regional Associations proposal, snowball fights, and the power of chocolate brownies as incentive for juniors to work hard), but I think I'm going back to bed. But remain assured that even sleeping, I never stop thinking about USATT issues and ways to turn our sport into the greatest thing since sporks. (Someday perhaps I'll write about my ongoing contention with my students that the spork is humanity's greatest invention, better than their smart phones and even better than Tenergy, but not now.)

Peter Scudner New USATT Board Chair

USATT members should have received a press release from USATT this morning announcing Peter as the new chair. Here's the USATT press release

Entry List for 2015 Pan Am and National Team Trials

Here's the USATT News Item, which lists who has currently entered, and will be regularly updated until the deadline on Feb. 15. It also gives info on how to enter.

Serve Return Training

Here's the video (1:28) where Samson Dubina has a robot "serving" slightly long balls randomly about the table, and he topspins them all.

Ask the Coach

Busy Day

I'm leaving to coach at 1PM, finishing at 7:15PM. It's going to be a long coaching day! (It's not all coaching; I have to pick up four kids from school for our afterschool program, and I have a meeting from 5-6PM.) Then, when I get home, I get to go to work on USATT and MDTTC stuff. Besides finalizing a Regional Association proposal for USATT (which includes state & regional associations, state championships, team leagues, and training centers & coaching programs), I have to put together the monthly MDTTC Newsletter.

Blogging Policy on USATT Issues

I'm putting together a "Blogging on USATT Issues" policy that I can use as a guideline for what and when I can blog about USATT issues, since I'm on the USATT board. (This is primarily a coaching blog, but I do of course blog about other issues, including USATT.) I'll share this with the USATT CEO for his input. (I also have to check the USATT bylaws for anything on this, as well as the Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest forms I signed to run for the board.) It's not just for me - others from USATT sometimes blog (here's the USATT blogging page) and I think there should be some policy on this, with specific guidelines. I get the final say on my own policy (as long as I'm not abusing my USATT position), though of course if there's a more general one for USATT people then USATT would have to approve that. Hopefully the two will be identical and so we can have just one set of gudelines.

Tables for Kids

One of the problems table tennis coaches face is that kids aren't really big enough to play table tennis on a regular table until they are about 6 or 7 years old. Before that the table is simply too high, often about shoulder height. Tennis had a similar problem in that their courts were too big for kids, who were expected to cover the same amount of ground as Roger Federer. They solved it with QuickStart Tennis (5:35). As a long-time tennis player on the side, I've actually helped with these tennis programs, where they often have a court full of kids in the 3-5 year old range. There's no reason why table tennis can't also start in that age range - except for the size of the table. In fact, with smaller rackets and courts, table tennis should be easier than tennis for these kids!

Sean O'Neill has been a strong advocate for shorter tables for younger kids. He argues that shorter tables is both good for very younger players (such as the 3-5 age group) as well as for slightly older ones (such as under 10), where the height of the normal table might lead to bad habits while a shorter one would lead to better technique. Here's his article (with pictures) on the subject, Helping Young Kids Learn to Play with Correct Technique, Balance, and Power.

Here are two videos he has on this, where the DHS Rising Star Table is featured. It adjusts to four inches lower than a normal table (from 30 inches down to 26).

Tip of the Week

Play the Ball.

Writing Sabbatical

A week ago I wrote that I was taking the week off to work on my new book, "Parents Guide to Table Tennis." But a funny thing happened along the way - I got caught up in a number of USATT issues. The net result was I got a lot of stuff done, but only a little on the book, which I'm putting on hold for now. I've come to realize that I probably won't get much writing done over the next four years (my term on the board), other than this blog and the Tips of the Week, and some fiction writing.

There's a lot of USATT stuff going on, but my focus right now is regional associations, which include setting up state championships, regional team leagues, and training centers (which include coaching and junior programs).

Writing Sabbatical This Week

As I wrote on Friday week, I'm taking a writing sabbatical this week, so this will be my last blog until Monday, January 26. I plan to write "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," and if I have time after that, work on my table tennis fantasy novel "The Paddle of Pong." It's going to be a busy week. Besides all the writing and the usual coaching, there's a bunch of USATT stuff going on, including a USATT board teleconference on Wednesday night. Tonight (Monday night) I'm doing an exhibition at SmashTT at 8:30PM (come join us!), after which we're having a meeting of the Capital Area Super League Organizing Committee. On Saturday night I'm helping with a fund-raiser for Cystic Fibrosis at MDTTC, where I'll be doing an exhibition and clinic with Sameer Shaikh, and helping run a recreational tournament. (The tournament is NOT for USATT members or advanced players.)

Tip of the Week

The Lost Art of Messing People Up.

Breaking News Added One Day Late - Exhibition!

Here's the video (25:08), with a great opening, of the demo and exhibition I did Monday night with Stefano Ratti at Smash TT in Sterling, VA - with a great opening!!! Lots of trick shots and humorous exchanges. 

Things I Was Told Would Never Happen

Writing Sabbatical Next Week

[NOTE - I'll have one more blog and tip on Monday (Jan. 19), and then start my writing sabbatical.]
As I wrote earlier this week, I'm taking a writing sabbatical next week, so this will likely be my last blog until Monday, January 26. (However, I'm thinking of doing one more on Monday, which I'd put together Sunday night - including the Tip of the Week - so check back Monday morning just in case.) I plan to write "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," and if I have time after that, work on my table tennis fantasy novel "The Paddle of Pong." It's going to be a busy week. Besides all the writing and the usual coaching, there's a bunch of USATT stuff going on, including a USATT board teleconference on Wednesday night. The current focus is the upcoming committee appointments - see below.

USATT Board Seeks Nominations for Committee Appointments

Here's the notice from USATT - you likely also received it via email, if USATT has an email address for you. (If not, contact them!)

One of the things I argued during the recent election campaign was that we need to take the word "Advisory" off these committee listings. Historically USATT is a group that does far too much advising and far too little implementing. That needs to change. We've already moved one step in that direction. Here's the current USATT Committees; note that all the non-standing committees (most of them) have "Advisory" in their names. After some discussion, the word was removed from the committee names in the call for applicants. However, they are still listed as "Advisory" committees, which implies that they are just there to advise, when we really need them to actually do stuff.