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 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

Capital Area Table Tennis Super League

The League is on! The Capital Area Table Tennis Super League is a team league for the Washington DC region (Maryland, Virginia, DC), starting March 1. (But it could have national repercussions! See below.) While I helped instigate it, the ones primarily responsible for bringing this to life are Michael Levene and Stefano Ratti. (My biggest contribution was getting these two together.) Michael is a 2200 player and coach who used to play in the English leagues, and now runs Smash Table Tennis in Sterling, Virginia. Stefano is a 2300 player who used to play in the Italian leagues. The two of them bring their experience in overseas leagues with the plan to develop table tennis in the U.S. as it is done overseas. (They also want to play in the league!) We also learned a lot by studying the LA League. By combining the best of both worlds, we hope to create a regional league system that can spread all over the country.

This is something I made central on my Election Page for my campaign for the USATT Board. (See item #1.) The election results should come out tomorrow (voting ended Dec. 27), but regardless of the results, we've taken the first step on this.

The importance of creating such a system of regional team leagues cannot be overstated if we want to develop table tennis in this country. I've blogged about this over and Over and OVER; it's the primary reason there are 11,000 clubs and 600,000 paid members in the German Table Tennis Association, and membership numbers in much of Europe is counted in the hundreds of thousands, while here in the U.S. we have about 8000 members.

Tip of the Week

Hitting or Looping?


Here is an essay I wrote for the USATT Coaching newsletter in 2009. While it is primarily about juniors and ratings, most of it applies to non-juniors as well. (Note - I've used ratings in the past for publicity reasons, such as when Crystal Wang set records for highest rated player of her age, but that was for just that - publicity reasons. And guess what? Crystal cares very little for ratings, which is one of the reasons she has improved so much at such a young age.)

Juniors and Ratings
By Larry Hodges
From USATT Coaching Newsletter, Nov. 2009

Ratings can be a cancer on junior table tennis. They change the focus from improvement to immediate results and leave juniors nervous and defensive in their matches. They also take much of the fun out of the game for juniors who become obsessed with fear of blowing their rating.

Like a disease, the obsession with ratings by parents and juniors--and some coaches--causes tremendous damage to junior development. It's not enough that a kid faces the pressure of regular win-lose situations when they play tournaments; now, with one loss, they can blow their rating and have to live with the aftermath for--what seems at the time--forever!

It's understandable that a junior might be upset about losing a key match in a tournament. However, once it's done, it's done, and they should move on. With ratings, the effects of that loss live on. Worse, juniors often lose because they are so nervous about their rating that they end up blowing their rating because they are afraid of blowing their rating.

Welcome to the New Year!

These balls wish you a Happy New Year - but are they plastic or celluloid?

On Rules and Boosting

The USATT and ITTF rules say the ball must be 2.7 grams. That's unlikely. But the ITTF "fixes" this by having a technical leaflet on the ball, which says, "Law 2.3.2 specifies 2.7g, but any weight between 2.67 and 2.77g is acceptable for any one ball." (See B1.) In other words, they set a leeway factor for this. And so while the rules says the ball must weigh 2.7 grams, it doesn't have to weigh 2.7 grams.

The reason I'm bringing this up is that there's a big debate going on right now about boosting. This is sort of like speed gluing, except that it's nearly undetectable and not nearly as unhealthy. (Some boost using just vegetable oils.) It's pretty clear that most top players (both in the world and the U.S.) are boosting. (Those that don't are at a disadvantage.) Some top players refuse to boost since it is illegal - the rules state that "The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment." Few really follow this rule - after all, rubber cleaner is a chemical that many use to treat their racket covering when cleaning it. Even water is a chemical, so using water doesn't help. (Yes, there are lots of semantics arguments over this.)

Off Tomorrow - New Year's Day

See you next year, on Friday, January 2, 2015!

MDTTC Christmas Camp

Yesterday was a busy day. Besides the camp (10AM-1PM, 3-6PM), I had a 90-minute private session during the lunch break, so I was essentially coaching from 10AM-6PM non-stop except for a few short breaks. I've been on the go almost constantly for the past month, and am badly looking forward to a couple days off after today!

I posted a camp picture yesterday, but we were missing a number of players, so here's one from yesterday with nearly everyone.

During the 90-minute lunch session yesterday with Sameer we kept track of nets and edges for a while - and as usual, it was completely one-side as he beat me 22-6 in nets & edges. (I've blogged about this several times, such as here.) We spent part of the session practicing exhibition tricks as we're doing an exhibition for a charity event in late January. We'll be practicing these tricks more in January, and I'm sort of self-conscious that other coaches and players are going to see our sessions and think we're goofing off. By the end of January Sameer's going to be a great lobber!

I had my group do a lot of service practice yesterday. Besides spin serves we had a number of contests to see who could hit a bottle with their serves. The kids are pretty competitive. Several of the new kids are already learning to loop.

USATT Ratings

After 14.5 years, North American Table Tennis will no longer be doing the USATT ratings, as of January 15, 2015. They are being taken over by RailStation. Here is the note on the USATT Ratings page from Richard Lee, president of NATT:

Dear USATT Members, January 15th, 2015 will be the last time NATT updates the ratings. USATT has selected a new service provider. It has been a pleasure providing this service to the USATT membership for the past eleven years. Fong Hsu and Marynes Parra have been integral in managing the service and I want to thank them for their tireless and consistent updates. Good luck in all your future matches!
Best Regards,
Richard Lee, North American Table Tennis

Below is my interview with Richard Lee - who won nearly every junior event at the Junior Nationals and Junior Olympics as a junior star from MDTTC in the 1990s!

Q: Some of us remember the mess the ratings were in 2003 when NATT took them over - constantly late. Tell us how NATT fixed and stabilized the problem.

Tip of the Week

Brick-Wall Blocking Defense.

I'm Back!

Because of the USA Nationals and Christmas, I've been mostly away since my last blog on Dec. 15. Now I'm back to blogging regularly Mon-Fri, though I'll likely take Jan. 1 off like everyone else. However, writing this morning's blog wasn't easy - I was exhausted! I had done the Tip of the Week already, but when would I find time to do the blog and still make it to the MDTTC Christmas Camp this morning? Normally I'd just do it the night before, but I'd barely gotten four hours of sleep the night before, and could barely keep my eyes open. So I did something I normally wouldn't have believed possible - I went to bed last night at 8:30 PM, and got up this morning at 5:30 AM to do the blog. (Meanwhile, my todo list is roughly from here to China and back.)

Christmas Camp

We're halfway through MDTTC's 23rd annual Christmas Camp, which we've done every year since we opened in 1992. We've got 30+ players in the camp, mostly junior players, from beginners to 2450, with coaches/practice partners myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey"), Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Chen Ruichao ("Alex"), Raghu Nadmichettu, and Han Xiao. As we've done for the last three years or so I'm working with the beginners. So far we've focused on forehands, backhands, and serves. Today I introduce pushing. I'm also going to bring out the adjustable serving device so they can work on serving low. This week's group seems especially fascinated by spin serves, so we're working on that a lot. Camp started on Dec. 26 and ends at 1PM on Dec. 31 (Wednesday).

USATT Election

USATT Election

USATT members, don't forget to vote!!! Here's my USATT Election Page. (You have to be at least 18 years old to vote.) I think we have to decide if the main purpose of USA Table Tennis is to develop table tennis in this country, or just maintain the status quo. If you believe as I do that it's to develop table tennis in this country, then I hope you'll vote for me.

If you're at the USA Nationals, stop by the USATT Assembly Tuesday night (7-9PM), where I'll be giving a short speech. Come to the Larry Side, we have cookies!!!

I resume Blogging on Monday, December 29

As noted below, I'm out of town at the USA Nationals and then a family Christmas. So the next blog will be after I return, on Monday, December 29.

Tip of the Week

Backhand Footwork. (Some of this is a rewrite from my blog last Friday, but I've added to it.)

USA Nationals, and Last Blog Until after the Nationals and Christmas

I'm off to the USA Nationals early this morning with a group of other Marylanders - and so am writing most of this the night before. I'll be back next Sunday night, but only for a day as I leave the following morning for a family Christmas gathering in Eugene, Oregon. (Yeah, I'm flying coast-to-coast on consecutive days, don't ask.) So this will be my last blog until Monday, Dec. 29, when I get back to daily blogging.

USATT Election

USATT members, don't forget to vote!!! Here's my USATT Election Page. (You have to be at least 18 years old to vote.) 

SPUR USATT Growth and Filling Up a Club

How do you SPUR growth in USATT? This has always been one of my favorite acronyms. SPUR, or more properly S.P.U.R. stands for:

  1. Show the sport
  2. Play: get them to play
  3. USATT: get them to join
  4. Rejoin: get them to rejoin

If you do three of these things, you generally won't succeed. (This is for USATT growth; you can replace the USATT part with something else if that's what you are trying to grow.) It's like a chain missing a link. I try to incorporate all four in programs I propose to USATT, or have programs that, working together, do all four.

Many don't understand the concept that to grow the sport, you don't just look for places where there are already players and then set up a club or league. (Though you do want to continue to grow those areas until table tennis is outrageously popular there.) You set up clubs and leagues and other activities to create a player base. That's how the sport grows.

And yet I'm always hearing the following:

Table Tennis Professionals of America

I've started work on Table Tennis Professionals of America (TTPA). This would be a USA professional players organization, sort of like ATP in tennis but for U.S. players. The primary goals are a professional circuit in this country within four years, where top players can make a living, as well as an upgraded U.S. Open and Nationals. I've finalized a draft (is that a contradiction?) on its creation, including funding (top priority at the start), plans, and goals, and will meet with some players about it at the Nationals. (I've had some busy messaging sessions the last few nights over this.) I'll go over the plans publicly at some future date, but not at this time. (We will be soliciting an Executive Director - are you interested?) For this program, I need USATT's cooperation, not their funding, which will be a lot easier if I'm on the board. I blogged about this on December 2 and of course it's something I promised to do in both my election mailings and on my Election Page. If I'm not elected, well, I'll still get this one done, maybe others.

Wednesday Coaching

Tuesday Coaching and Neck & Arm Update

I only did an hour of coaching yesterday, but it wasn't easy - both my neck and arm were hurting. However, I don't think I'll have to miss any sessions over it. I have three hours of coaching today. If it does get to be a problem I'll bring in one of our top players/practice partners and they'll do the hitting while I coach. We'll see. (Ultimately, this is I'll have to do. I'm getting slower every year, alas.)

One of the two kids I coached yesterday is an interesting case. He's seven, and not at all serious about playing. He's the definition of a goof-off. I wish I had video of him back in January when he joined our afterschool program with all the desire, focus, and hand-eye coordination of a three-year-old. And now? No, he's not on track to be U.S. champion, but he's really beginning to pick it up. If I can just keep tricking him into learning without his realizing he's learning, next thing you know he'll be old enough to play seriously, and he'll have the foundation needed to reach a high level. He can even loop, in multiball, against either backspin or topspin. If he does reach a high level, the first time I hear someone say something like, "Oh, he's just talented" I think I'll tear my ears off.


Readers, I'm doing a lot of writing about USATT since I'm the election for the USATT Board. Bear with me on this for just a few more days, and soon I'll be back to blogging mostly on coaching issues! I'll be out of town for two weeks starting next Monday (coaching at Nationals and Christmas with family), and so won't be blogging after next Monday until after Christmas. Then I can go back to more coaching related issues, along with regular USATT updates, whether I'm elected or not.

USATT Committees