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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!

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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

Tip of the Week

The Purpose of the Serve.

MDTTC Camp

Last Friday was Day Five of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Today we start Week Ten. Guess what? I'm exhausted! I had a bunch of other things to write about this morning, but I'm running out of time (and energy), so I'll just write about the camp.

Friday was perhaps the most difficult day I've had all summer - I was up late the night before, then got up early to do the blog, and spent the entire day with a headache that was like 40 kids smacking balls against the back of my head nonstop. Only - there were 40 kids, only instead of smacking balls against my head they were at their most excited over-exuberant, since it was the last day of the camp (for the week). Let's just say I just smiled and put up with it while my head pounded away all day.

My headache wasn't helped when two kids thought it'd be interesting to pour two huge bottles of soap down the toilet. These are the bottles that are used to refill the soap dispensers in the bathrooms. Why would these two kids, both about 10, do this? They couldn't explain it, just thought it would be fun. I was the one who had to break the news to their parents, and they were in a lot of trouble.

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of Week Nine of our Ten Weeks of Camp at MDTTC. Much of the focus was on basics as we re-enforced the techniques learned the first three days. It's amazing how fast some have improved since Monday. I also introduced my group to fast serves, as well as to the serving bar, the adjustable bar created by John Olsen that moves up or down over the net so players can learn to serve low. 

The kids were a bit unruly today, perhaps because we were nearing the end of the week. (Or perhaps it took this long for the full moon from last Sunday to take effect?) I went a bit hoarse trying to get their attention a few times. A few times I had to bang my flat hand on a table to get their attention. I'm tempted to bring in a whistle for tomorrow. 

One kid had a hitch in his forehand - every time he does it he brings the racket tip up just before contact, and mostly just jabs at the ball. Yesterday I solved the problem by simply feeding him multiball farther away from him, forcing him to extend his arm. At first he tried to move to the ball too much so he could use his standard poor technique, but I got him to keep his feet in place. So he was forced to extend his arm properly and stroke the ball properly, and pretty soon he was hitting the ball properly! With practice, he will soon have a pretty good forehand. 

There's another kid who tries very hard, but simply doesn't seem to have the ability to learn new things. I wanted to write more about this, but if I did, and if by some chance he happens to read this, he might recognize it. Suffice to say that the talent levels are a bit diverse. 

ITTF Hall of Fame

USATT Chairman's Blog - Plastic Ball Update

Here's the new blog entry by USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin. It's mostly about USATT's policy toward the new non-celluloid balls. One item that jumps out is that apparently they will be using celluloid balls at the Nationals in December, but non-celluloid balls in the Team Trials there. That would likely be a serious mistake - some players are training for events that will be using different balls, and so won't be able to play their best. Besides messing up player's games, we might not get the best possible USA teams in the various trials for men's, women's, and junior, cadet, and mini-cadet boys' and girls' teams. Players used to one ball aren't going to play as well using the other. Since the players that do make the various teams will have plenty of time afterwards to adjust to the poly balls, there's no need to use both at the Nationals.

Update on My Books

This seems a good time to remind people that if you haven't bought copies of my books, the Easter pumpkin will run you down on Santa's sleigh and smack you with a menorah. Also, I'll starve. (If not interested in my books - sacrilege! - then skip down below to the other segments.) All of my books are on sale at my Amazon page. (Yes, as some of you know there's been controversy with them and their battles with various publishers, but I'm stuck with them for now.)

If you have not bought a copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers then every time you play a match your opponent (who no doubt has a copy in his bag and consulted it before playing you) will have an insurmountable advantage. The book not only covers tactics, but strategic development, i.e. how to develop your game. (Look over the 30 reviews, and ask yourself why you haven't got a copy yet.) It's in both print and kindle formats. It's been selling like hotcakes (oh god, that's a cliché), so why not join in the bandwagon? There's even a French translation coming out later this year!

My more recent book is Table Tennis Tips, which came out in May in both print and kindle formats. It's a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, but in a logical progression, all in one volume. It includes chapters on Serve, Receive, Strokes, Grip and Stance, Footwork, Tactics, Improving, Sports Psychology, Equipment, and Tournaments. (More Table Tennis Tips should come out early in 2017, covering all my weekly tips from 2014-2016.)

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday we started Week #9 of our ten weeks of summer camps. (I missed last week because I was running a camp in Virginia.) Turnout for some of our camps this summer was lower than normal, but no more - we have 41 players in the camp (40 under age 16), with perhaps our largest contingent ever in the 6-9 age group, about half. (This despite the fact that our top four juniors are all currently training in China - Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Roy Ke, and Crystal Wang.) It's also one of our most Asian groups, with only four non-Asian players in the camp. Since we put up 18 tables for training, that means two players on 16 tables and nine others doing multiball on two tables. I spent the whole day feeding multiball, and will be doing that all week, Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM (with a two-hour lunch break). Raghu Nadmichettu was feeding balls on the other multiball table. 

Here's the camp photo we took yesterday morning. Amazingly, we had two more players join us that afternoon. That's me on the far right. Other coaches in the camp are Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Raghu Nadmichettu, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon") and Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"). We're actually short-handed, as two of our coaches are currently in China - Chen Ruichao ("Alex") and Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"). Both are coaching at the club where two of our juniors are training, Nathan and Derek, and should be back soon. 

Most of the emphasis was on forehand play on Day One. Today the emphasis will be on the backhand. (We adjust for advanced players, of course, who do more advanced drills, including many forehand-backhand drills.) As usual, it's amazing the different learning curves for different players. Some pick things up almost as fast as you teach it, others you almost have to hit them over the head to get things through to them. (That's an expression - no kids are hit over the head in the course of our camps!) 

Tip of the Week

Ten Steps to a Great Service Game.

Virginia Camp

On Friday we had the final day of the camp in Fairfax, Virginia. In the morning we split the players into two groups. One group did various physical training and agility exercises with Wen Hsu (as they had been doing all week). The other group did multiball with me and hit with the robot. We did a lot of smashing and pushing, and a few worked on looping. We also did "player's choice," where the players got to choose what to work on. 

Then we had a practice tournament. There were 14 players, so we divided them into two groups of seven, with the top two from each side playing crossovers. All matches were best of three to 11. For prizes we had a series of "large" prizes - a playing bag and copies of all of my books (signed). We also had table tennis key chains. The first place winner got his choice of two large prizes plus a key chain. Second was one large prize and a key chain. Third through six got their choice of one large prize or key chain. (All took books.) I donated the books - in all, the books chosen were three copies of "Table Tennis: Steps to Success," and one copy each of "Table Tennis Tips," "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," and my humorous fantasy novel (which stars a table tennis wannabe), "Sorcerers in Space." I also gave a signed copy of Table Tennis Tales and Techniques to all 14 players. (I have a lot of extra copies.) Camp tournament results: 1. Harrison Tun; 2. Brandon Choi; 3-4: Leo Diperna and Ian Ramanata; 5. Vincent Diperna; 6. Chris Kutscher.

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Four of the five-day camp I'm running at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia, with 14 players, ages 6 to 12. (John and Wen Hsu are assistant coaches, with Wen the administrator.) The focus yesterday was footwork (as usual), serving, and lots and lots of smashing. We also did a lot of relay races. 

After four days of camp, all 14 of the kids can hit forehands and backhands pretty well, at least in multiball. All can smash, push, and move side to side. Most can put spin on their serves. I think I've put more emphasis in this camp on smashing and serves, and the players are well ahead on those two aspects. All were beginners when we started on Monday, though some had been playing on their own. 

When I do multiball forehand smash training, I like to do two players at a time. One stands on the forehand side, the other on the backhand side. The one on the forehand side starts, smashing three forehands in a row, one from the forehand side, one from the backhand side, and one from the forehand side. After the third shot he steps back, and the other player gets three smashes, one from the backhand side, one from the forehand side, and one from the backhand side. Then he steps back, and we repeat with the other player. The drill is continuous, so the players get lots of smashing and footwork practice. If I have a lot of players, I'll do three or more players at a time, with the players smashing forehands from the backhand and then forehand side, and then circling back to the end of the line as the next player gets two smashes. There are many variations, such as smashing on the forehand side and then backhand side, or mixing in backhand smashes, or even doing the "2-1" drill, with the players hitting a backhand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the backhand side, then a forehand from the forehand side, and then rotating to the end of the line. 

Multi-Colored Balls

I don't get it. No sport relies more on spin than table tennis. We complain all the time about how spectators don't understand high-level table tennis the way they do other sports because they can't see how much spin players are putting on the ball. We complain all the time over how serves often dominate, with way too many rallies ended by the receiver missing or making a weak return that the server puts away. SO WHY DO WE USE ONE-COLORED BALL??? We should be using a multi-color ball so both players and spectators can see the spin.

Sure, this would hurt players who rely on disguising spin - but not as much as you'd think, since by the time players read the spin from the ball it will often be too late. It might hurt defensive players, and that's the only reason for any hesitation on such a switch, and why it should be well tested first. But it might not hurt them as much as it might seem, as defensive players will be able to make better serve returns against attacking players. They'll be able to read the serve better, and since defensive players usually take the ball later than others, will have more time to read the service spin from the multi-colored ball than attacking players. 

Virginia Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of the training camp at Fairhill Elementary School in Fairfax, Virginia. There are 14 in the camp, ages 6-14, all right-handed shakehanders, and strangely, no girls. On Day One we focused on forehand and backhand, and beginning serves. Yesterday we introduced them to footwork, forehand smash, spin serves, and doubles. I'm still surprised at the level of play - for 14 kids this age who have never been to a table tennis club, they are pretty talented. In most camps like this there would be several players who simply cannot rally, and so you have to put them with coaches. None of the players in the camp come under that category. 

John and Wen Hsu are my assistant coaches (with Wen the administrator), but John couldn't make it yesterday, so Raghu Nadmichettu substituted. After lunch he and I did an exhibition. I had my usual fun, lobbing while sitting on the floor, blowing the ball back, 50-foot serves from the side, racing side to side as Raghu angled me, playing with mini-paddle and clipboard, and various trick serves. As I usually do, before the match I told the kids to cheer for me when I scored, and to boo when Raghu scored, and predictably (as in past exhibitions) they did the opposite. I had my usual run-ins with the scorekeeper, who always held firm no matter how much I claimed my shot that went way off had actually hit the edge.  I always play the "bad" guy, and I always lose.

Tip of the Week

How to Move Up a Level.

TNEO and Table Tennis

This past weekend I returned from "The Never-Ending Odyssey," an annual eight-day writing workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, for graduates of the six-week Odyssey writing workshop for science fiction and fantasy writers. (I'm a 2006 grad.) This was my fifth TNEO - I went in '07, '08, '09, '13, and now '14. Here's a picture of me during a reading at the local Barnes and Noble. (There were about 30-40 listeners.) Here's a group picture. (If you have trouble seeing these Facebook photos, here are other versions for the reading photo and  for the group photo.) Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.)