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

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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

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Table Tennis Players. (Note - this is a complete rewrite of an article I did on this long ago.)

Learning from Reading

Here's an interesting thought: I used to believe the way to improve in sports was primarily by reading books! In fact, that's how I got started in table tennis - I was looking for a book in the Track and Field section of the library to help improve my mile running. (I was 16.) Sure, I knew you had to practice, but deep down I thought there were "secrets" that would be more important than actually, you know, going out and running. I had the same ideas when I was even younger (around 12) and tried to become a great baseball player by reading.

As one who has written eight books, including six on table tennis (plus 1500 published articles plus 3.5 years of blogging and weekly tips), I want you to believe this as well, so repeat after me: "The way to improve in table tennis is through reading." Say that five times. Now go buy my books.

The truth, of course, is that reading does help, but is only one aspect. There are some aspects of table tennis that are pretty much perfect for learning from books, when combined with practical experience - tactics, for example. But whether it's tactics or technique, you need to put in the hours of practice to put what you learn into practice. The primary virtue of reading is it points you in the right direction for what you need to learn, and you then learn it by practicing it, whether it's technique or applying tactics.

How to Maximize Use of Your Tables

A common problem at clubs is that there are too many players, not enough tables. It's a good problem to have, of course, but perhaps not to those waiting in line to play. How can club leaders handle this problem?

The simplest solution, of course, is either another club night or another club. That's how the sport grows, folks - not by trying to jam too many people into a small club, but by having more clubs, and when they fill up, they also split into more clubs, and so on. But for this to happen, someone has to take initiative to start one. Here's the online USATT Club Handbook.

Or you could have your club open up another day, assuming it's not already full-time. When I started up the University of Maryland club back in 1981 we started out twice a week, with eight tables in one room. Within a year we'd expanded to seven nights a week, with 16 tables in two adjacent rooms. For a couple of years before I graduated it was the busiest club in the country, with students coming in every night to play. (We had two nights a week designated for non-college members, and on those nights players from all over would come in.)

Or you could expand your club, as we did at the University of Maryland club, and as we did at MDTTC, which expanded from 5000 to 10,000 square feet a few years ago.

Another is to have a Doubles Night. That's four to a table (or perhaps six, with teams sitting out to rest), and lots of players like doubles. Perhaps designate one night a month as Doubles Night, or more often if your club is full-time.

Watching Matches

I've always wanted to put a camera on spectators that shows exactly what they see as they watch a table tennis match. But I'm afraid that most of what we'd see is their eyes focused on the ball as it goes back and forth, with the players themselves slightly blurry images on the side. That's because that's exactly what most spectators are watching when they watch a match. It's almost like self-hypnosis as their eyes go back and forth, Back and Forth, BACK AND FORTH, over and over and over. You might as well just stare at a stationary ball.

Instead, try focusing on one of the players, and see what he does. That's how you can learn what the players are really doing, and learn their techniques, something you can't do by staring at the ball as it goes back and forth. Some of the things you'll learn might surprise you. For example, to the ball-watchers, some players are fast, some are slow. But when you watch the "slow" players, often it turns out they seem slow simply because they got to the ball before the ball got there, and are seemingly just there without really moving. The "fast" players are often the ones who got slower starts, and are just getting to the ball as it arrives, and so you see them move, and so they seem fast. (A famous example of this was Jan-Ove Waldner, who always seemed to be where the ball was, and never seemed to move much - but that's because most of his movement was while spectators' eyes were on the ball that hadn't yet reached his side.) 

Another aspect that ball-watching spectators miss is the initial movements on receive. They see the receive, but they don't see the step-ins for short balls, or when the player started to move to receive, and so on. Often receivers start to do one thing, then change as the serve approaches - but you don't see this unless you are focused on the receiver from the start of the point.

Fighting Spirit

One thing that always bothers me is how people judge a player's fighting spirit not by their fighting spirit during a point - where it counts - but by their fighting spirit between points. And they inevitably judge this by how loud the player is. It sometimes seems as if a player has to constantly yell and scream between points just to prove to the audience that he's fighting hard!

Fighting spirit is a must in table tennis and all sports. It's something coaches look for. But not everyone is loud about doing this. A person may fight quietly just as effectively as someone who screams his head off after each point. And yet he's not considered so much a fighter because he's quiet while the other guy is yelling. Can't spectators just watch the points and see how much he fights for the points? Does he move at full speed? Does he try for every ball? Does he keep this up every point the entire match? If the answer to these questions is yes, then he's fighting just as hard as someone who also does these things, but yells between points.

There's nothing wrong with some yelling between points, especially in big matches, as long as it's not overboard. It helps some players keep their confidence up, and helps them fight all the way. In fact, for many, especially juniors, yelling encouragement to themselves between points helps to the point that many coaches - including me - encourage it from them, as long as it's not overdone. But let's not mistake what a person does between points with what he does during the points.

Back Injury

Tip of the Week

Playing Bad - It's All Mental (Usually).

2014 U.S. Open

I was at the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids from June 30 to July 6. As usual, it was an exhausting and exhilarating time. Once again Grand Rapids and USATT put on a great show - they are getting good at running Opens and Nationals. It was mostly on time (falling behind only when specific matches held things up), organized, and they even did the little things. For example, every morning we'd find all the trash had been picked up, and the barriers and chairs around all the courts all lined up nice and neatly. When you consider the size of the playing hall, that's a big job! Results were regularly updated on the results walls. So a great thanks goes out to the organizers and workers at this event.

Here's the USATT home page for the U.S. Open, which includes links to results, articles, pictures, and video.

The blog will start up again tomorrow, on Tuesday, July 8. See you then!

Last Blog Until Tuesday, July 8, and the U.S. Open

This morning I'm flying out to the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids, along with a large group of other Maryland players. So no more blogs until after I return next week. I'm mostly coaching, though I'm entered in two hardbat doubles events (Open and Over 50 Hardbat Doubles, but I normally play with sponge). When I'm free I'll probably be watching matches or hanging out at the Butterfly booth - stop by and say hello! Better still, buy one of my books (likely on sale at the Butterfly and Paddle Palace booths), and I'll sign it. Prove to me that you read my blog by saying the secret password: "I'm a pushy pushover for power pushing pushers." (Better write that down!) 

Here's the U.S. Open press release, which went out on June 18. Here's the U.S. Open Program Booklet. And here's the U.S. Open Home page. Here's the player listing of the 705 players entered (click on their name and you can see what events they are entered in), the event listing (which shows who is entered in each event), and the results (which won't show results for this Open until events start coming in on Tuesday, though can see results of past Opens and Nationals there).

Tip of the Week

Forehand or Backhand Serve & Attack.

Tactics Coaching

Tactics Coaching

Yesterday I had my fourth one-hour tactics session with Kaelin and Billy, with one more session scheduled for today. (See blogs the last three days.) Today we started off by going over the tactics for playing lefties. The most important thing here, of course, is to play lefties so you get used to them. For most, the trickiest part is returning their serves effectively, especially pendulum serves that break away from a righty to his wide forehand. These serves can be deep, they can go off the side, or they can double bounce on the forehand side. There are a number of tricks to returning them. First, anticipate the break so you aren't lunging after the ball. Second, if you do reach for the ball, don't lower your racket as you do so as it'll end up too low, and you'll either have to return it soft, high, or off the end. Also, it's often easier to take these balls down the line, where it's like looping a block; if you go crosscourt, you have to battle the spin more, like looping a backspin, except you probably have more practice against backspin. Finally, since a lefty is often looking to follow this serve up with a big forehand, it's effective to fake as if you are taking it down the line to their forehand, so that they have to guard that side, and at the last second take it to their backhand, thereby taking their forehand out of the equation.

North American Cup

Kind of a big upset last night - 12-year-old Crystal Wang upset top seeded Lily Zhang in the semifinals of Women's Singles in a nail-biting seven-gamer (8,5,5,-3,-9,-6,7)  where Lily almost came back from down 0-3. Lots of incredible rallies. I was up late watching it - it started at 8PM western time, which is 11PM eastern time here in Maryland. Worse, I was up much later discussing the match and other issues with others via Facebook and messaging with Han Xiao, one of Crystal's regular practice partners. We're pretty proud of Crystal, who is from my club. She's too fast for me now, but for years I was one of her regular training partners and I coached her in many tournaments. She was training here at MDTTC (as she does essentially every day) just the day before, and then flew out to Vancouver, Canada. (Tournament was held in nearby Burnaby.) To get to the final Crystal had 4-1 wins over Liu Jiabao of Canada and USA's Erica Wu. In the final Crystal will play Mo Zhang of Canada.

In the Men's side, it's an all-USA final between Adam Hugh and Kanak Jha. That match starts at 8PM (i.e. 11 pm my time). Here are the results for Women's Singles and Men's Singles. Here's the ITTF home page for the event, where you can find results, articles, photos, and video. Men's and Women's finals are tonight at 8PM and 9:20PM (that's 11PM and 12:20 AM eastern time, alas). Here's where you can watch the live streaming.

MDTTC Camp

The Tactics of Doubles and Serve & Attack

Today during break from our MDTTC camp I gave another one-hour lesson on tactics to Kaelin and Billy. We spent the first 20 minutes on doubles tactics, the rest on serve and attack. The two are playing Under 4200 Doubles at the U.S. Open next week. Both are righties rated about 2000, ages 15 and 16. Here's a summary. In each of the discussions above we also played out examples at the table. 

I explained the importance of one of them focusing more on control, the other on attack. We decided that Kaelin, since he has fast footwork, should focus on constant attack (i.e. trying to loop everything) while Billy would focus on control (i.e. setting up Kaelin). While Kaelin has the tougher physical task, Billy has the more difficult mental task as he has to do things that aren't as natural, as he looks to set up shots for his partner instead of doing his own shots. I went over some of the ways of doing this, especially on receive - pushing short (with last second changes of direction), faking crosscourt flips but then going down the line instead, etc.). 

We also went over doubles serves. Most doubles serves center around backspin and no-spin serves that go very low toward the middle of the table. But you need to test out the opponents with other serves or you may miss out on some easy points. I showed how easy it is to attack and to angle if you serve too wide in doubles, and yet some players have trouble with this. I also showed how awkward it can be to flip against short serves to the middle.