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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

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.

Multiball Training

Have you done any multiball training recently? No? Well, why not? Don't you want to get better?

There are some myths about multiball training. Some believe it's only for beginners - and yet the Chinese team spends about 1/3 of their training time with multiball. Some think it's only for advanced players - but multiball is the best way to teach the basics. It's for all levels. Ironically, often beginners do multiball when they first learn, and advanced players do it for more intensive training, while intermediates don't do it - and it's one reason they stay intermediate players rather than advanced. It takes intensive training to become an advanced player, and multiball is one of the central ways of doing that.

Before we go further, here's my Tip of the Week on Multiball Training.

So how do you go about doing this if you don't have a coach, or can't afford one? Simple - find a practice partner - like anyone who wants to improve in table tennis - and take turns feeding multiball to each other. Yes, you'll need a box of training balls, but it's a one-time expense (other than getting new ones as they break). You'll also probably want ball nets to pick up balls, such as the Ball Amigo from Butterfly, and perhaps a head replacement. (I'd get two nets since there will be two of you.)

USATT Coaches of the Year

Here's the USATT Announcement. Congratulations to:

  • Coach of the Year: Lily Yip
  • Developmental Coach of the Year: Jack Huang
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Ladislav Sranko
  • Doc Counsilman Coach of the Year: Yang Yu

Jack Huang (from my club, MDTTC) won for Developmental Coach of the Year. (He won it primarily as Crystal Wang's coach, but also for others, such as Tiffany Ke and other MDTTC players.) It's his second USATT coaching award - he was Coach of the Year in 1998. (And now you know the answer to the burning question from my January 2 blog - see the Friday "Todo" list, item #15, where I wrote, "Write up Coach of the Year nomination for someone (who shall remain nameless for now)."

These awards are often the only time the top USA coaches get recognized. However, if you really want to see many of the best USA coaches, there's an easy method - just watch the top players and juniors in tournaments and see who coaches them in their matches. You can especially see a "who's who" group of coaches at the U.S. Open and Nationals if you watch the junior matches - especially at the Nationals during the Junior and Cadet Team Trials. Most spectators watch the players; I often find it more interesting to watch the coaches. There's a wide range of them - some are pretty much emotionless during matches, others you can almost tell the score by their faces. Some are calm and collected when coaching, others are animated.

Capital Area Super League

Interest in the Capital Area Super League seems pretty high, with lots of players discussing it at MDTTC and (I'm told) other clubs. Of course the main obstacle for something like this is that it's "new," i.e. something that hasn't been done much in the U.S., though it's the backbone of European table tennis, where they often count memberships in the hundreds of thousands. I envision team leagues like this all over the country. The people who don't see this are the same ones who eight years ago didn't think there were enough players in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. Just as full-time centers created their own base of players, team leagues will do the same, once organized and given the chance. It'll take time - but it has to start somewhere. As I've blogged repeatedly, we need a prototype regional team league that can be copied all over the country, and that's one of the things I hope to do here - in addition to just having a highly successful league. If you live in the Washington DC area, I hope you will sign up!

A few items regarding the league:

  • The old web address was long and cumbersome. Yesterday I bought www.CapitalTT.com, and it's now the official web address for the league. Later it'll likely become the web address for a Capital Area Table Tennis Association.
  • The league now has a "Looking for a Team" link (go to the bottom).
  • The league organizing committee is Mike Levene, Stefano Ratti (these two are the prime movers), John Olsen, and Larry Hodges (me).

Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class

Tip of the Week

Develop Your Primary and Secondary Skills.

Two Books, Two Sabbaticals?

I think, with eight books out and an insatiable reading habit, I can be considered the "bookish" type. (Here are my books. Buy them!!!) Here are my upcoming table tennis book plans.

Short-term: I've got two books I want to do soon. The first is "Parents Guide to Table Tennis." Alas, with this blog, my USATT work, my MDTTC work, and a zillion other things on my todo list, I'm not finding the time to do this. Also, by the time I finish writing this blog each morning I'm pretty much writed out (no, that's not a word, but you get the meaning). So when can I write this book?

I think the solution is I'm going to have to take a one-week sabbatical from the blog next week. Monday (Jan. 19) is already MLK Day, and I was planning to take that off anyway. Tuesday is a "Professional Day" for teachers with no school, and so we have no afterschool program that day, so I can easily take that day off as well. So no blogs next week as I work on the book (Jan. 19-23, Mon-Fri).

"Parents Guide to Table Tennis" would include general info on table tennis and USATT; advantages of table tennis (healthy; few injuries; size not important; develops hand-eye coordination, tactical and strategic thinking skills, and self-discipline; and it's an Olympic sport); equipment; what you want in a coach; what to expect of your child (goals, attitude, fun vs. improvement, self-discipline, hard work = improvement, what to do with especially "talented" kids); parental and child etiquette; private and group coaching; tournaments and leagues; and juniors and ratings.

Any suggestions on other topics it should include? Comment below!!!

Leagues, Leagues, Leagues!!!

I blogged about the Capital Area Super League a few days ago - here's the flyer. If you live in the Maryland/Virginia region, sign up now!!! It looks like it's catching on, with more and more players talking about signing up on a team. Soon to be added will be a "Players Looking for Teams" page. (Note that they had another organizational meeting last night, and have updated the web page and flyer. For example, the format has been decided - it's going to be straight three on three team matches.)

Of course the long-term purpose of such a league isn't just for current players, but to bring in new ones. But that'll start happening when the league is established. And then it can grow and grow. And USATT, the national organizational body for table tennis in this country, can and should be a part of this.

Now I'll be honest - my true interest in table tennis, and especially USATT matters, is coaching. (Also writing!) But unless we want to spend the rest of our lives in a small sport, constantly scrambling to get more players and never succeeding, leagues have to be one of the two or three top priorities for USATT, and probably #1 if we want to have membership numbers like they do overseas. (Have I mentioned Germany has 600,000 paid members and 11,000 clubs, and how countries all over Europe have similarly large memberships? Oh yeah, about once a week….)

Assuming we're successful, the next step is to package it as a prototype league that can be spread to other regions. I hope to have something like that by the end of the year.

USATT Election

Well, I won. For some reason the vote totals are not given. Anyway, now the real work begins. We've got a big job ahead of us!

I promised to do a lot, but in my mind, these weren't just promises; these were things we simply need to do, and either I do it or someone else does it. I'll be looking for talented people to do as much of it as possible, and taking charge of other items. Some of the issues involve simply making a motion at a board meeting, but it's never as simple as that. Most votes are decided before the motion is made, so I can't just show up and make the motion; I have to bring it up with board members in advance, argue the case, and try to convince them of the importance of the motion. The five "Big Issues" will take a lot of organizational work - but I'm ready to get started! I won't be alone; there are plenty of others in USATT ready to jump in.

I do have a pretty clear roadmap on how we should address each of these issues. I plan to get started on all of them this first year, though some will take years to resolve. Some will be easy fixes; some will take a lot of time and work. Sometimes things will work out perfectly in the way that I foresaw; other times a better solution will emerge, and I'll adopt that instead. The final result is what counts, so we have to be flexible in finding the means to the result.

I think it's important that I and others at USATT remember this quote from Robert F. Kennedy: "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly." I want to achieve greatly, and so do others from USATT, and that means taking risks on new ventures. The very idea of growing USATT from its current "round-off error" membership numbers is itself a risky venture. But we're going to do it.

USATT Election

Sometime today USATT will announce the results of the USATT Board election, where I'm a candidate. It'll likely be posted on the USATT News page. (I'll link to it here when it does.) Check back here periodically today, and when the results are out, I'll check one of the below.

V I was elected. Oh No!!!
   I wasn't elected. Lots of sleep planned!!!

USA Olympian and Five-Time U.S. Men's Champion Sean O'Neill on Peaking

Sean has always been one of the hardest working players in U.S. history. (Here's a video by Brian Pace where he gets a lesson in "Work Ethic.") But it's not just hard work - anyone with grit and determination can do that, and many do. The point is to do so intelligently, so as to get the best results. And one of the keys to that is peaking for the "big" tournaments - something Sean may have done better than just about anyone else. Recently I had some Facebook discussions with Sean on this, and below is what he posted about peaking.

Peaking by Sean O'Neill

The real question is how does a person actually peak for big events? Do they just eat more Wheaties? Do they use different glue? Is there one drill you do that others aren't doing? The reason I won so many titles was: