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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!

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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

MDTTC Camp and Tactical Coaching

Yesterday was Day One of Week Two of our Ten Weeks of Camps at MDTTC. As I've blogged about, I'm in charge of the beginners and younger kids, a group of 6-7 this week, ranging in age from 5-9. As usual, we focused on the forehand on the first day, though we varied this for those who have had coaching and were more advanced. 

It always amazes me the range of skill in these players. Some kids struggle and struggle, while others pick it up about as fast as you can show them. The youngest in the camp, age five, started playing in the junior program I coach a few weeks ago. Because of his age and tiny size - he's small even for his age - I figured he wasn't quite ready for real games. So I put him in a group of three that would do various target practice games (knocking over cups, etc.) while the other four played "King of the Table." He begged to be with the group with the bigger kids playing "King of the Table," and I skeptically let him. He ended up being one of the dominant players. (There's another kid who's been to both weeks who's on the opposite end of the spectrum. It took six days for this player to make a successful serve, after a cumulative total of over an hour of trying.) 

Tip of the Week

Get the Backswing Right.

Luckiest Shots Ever

There's an interesting thread on this at the Mytabletennis.com forum. The two initial videos given are pretty wild: this one (1:09, includes slow motion replay) and that one (11 sec) - see the expression and reaction of player on far side! And here's a video (4:07) that compiles some of the luckiest nets and edges in matches (but starting off with one from a great exhibition match).

Some believe that nets and edges even out, but they really don't, at least not for everyone. Here's my blog on that from Feb. 4, 2011. Make sure to read the comments below.

Here are the luckiest and unluckiest shots I've ever done.

Luckiest: My opponent (Bob Powell) popped the ball up very wide and deep to my backhand. I stepped all the way around and tried forehand smashing down the line. My ball hit the top of the left-hand net post, bounced to the right, hit the right-hand net post, bounced to the left, hit the top of the net, rolled along it for few inches, and then dribbled over for a winner.

MDTTC Camps

I've coached at over 180 five-day or more training camps, usually six hours per day. That's over 900 days of camp, or two and a half years. (Add camps I went to as a player and it comes to over three years. Add group sessions I've run, and the numbers go up astronomically.) I can do lectures on every topic we cover on the drop of a ping-pong ball, and most of them probably come out word-for-word the same every time as they are so ingrained now. I have changed the lectures somewhat over the years as techniques have changed and as I've learned better ways of explaining them, but most fundamentals haven't changed a lot since we opened up the Maryland Table Tennis Center 22 years ago. (Probably the biggest change in my lectures is a greater emphasis on topspin on the backhand than before.)

This camp I'm not giving many lectures, as most of the players are locals and we decided to get them out to the tables more quickly rather than have them watch demos and listen to lectures from me that they've all heard before. It's actual a surreal experience not giving these lectures.

Is the USATT Rating System Inflationary, Deflationary, or Stable?

I don't have exact numbers on this, but it's fairly obvious that, over the years, the ratings have inflated. When I started out in 1976 there were only three players rated over 2400 (Danny Seemiller, D-J Lee, and Gil Joon Park, with the latter two from South Korea); now there are 116, and this is only among USA players. There are more foreign players now listed as USA players than before, so this is part of the reason, but the bulk of these 2400+ players are just as much USA players as those back in the late 1970s. Dan Seemiller had just reached top 30 in the world with a rating just over 2500. Insook Bhushan (then Insook Na) had just come to the U.S. from South Korea, and was top ten in the world among women, but was rated only about 2250. These days top ten in the world among women would be about 2650. At one point I was 18th in the country among U.S. citizens with a 2292 rating; these days it wouldn't make the top 100. So yes, the ratings have inflated. (My impression, however, is that any inflation has decreased or stopped in recent years. For one thing, the highest rated USA players now are actually a bit lower than some from the previous generations, but that's offset by the fact that the previous generations had players with higher world rankings and deserved the higher ratings.)

But wait, some of you are thinking, hasn't the level of play improved, and that's why there are so many more higher-rated players these days? That modern players have improved is absolutely true - but that has no bearing on the ratings. As players on average improve, so do their opponents. Think of it this way. If everyone were to suddenly improve 100 rating points in level, there would be no effect on the ratings themselves since opponents would also be 100 points better. And so even though everyone's about 100 points better, the ratings themselves would stay the same. 

MDTTC Camp

Yesterday was Day Two of Week One of our ten weeks of camps at MDTTC. As usual, it's always surprising watching beginners on day one who seem to have no concept or potential to do a proper shot suddenly start making the shots properly on day two. There are four in the camp who are basically beginners. 

Sometimes it's a coach can get caught off guard by what he doesn't know about the players. After a day and a half of coaching, I asked three of the beginners (ages 6, 8, and 10) if they thought they were ready to play some games. All three looked rather confused. After some questioning, I realized the obvious - they didn't know how to play a game. None knew how you score a point or how many points a game was up to. So I stopped everything and went over the rules with them. I made a game out of it, seeing who could correctly answer (or guess) the answer to basic rules. When I first asked how many points a game was up to, they argued whether games were to ten or twenty. One guessed that each player served six times in a row, and the other two immediately agreed with this. So I made a mental note to myself to remember to go over the basic rules sooner next time. 

Ratings Quirks

Here are two interesting quirks of the USATT rating system. 

1) Can You Predict the Odds in a Match from their Ratings?

Arm Wrestling and Table Tennis

During a break today during our MDTTC camp yesterday, several of the kids began arm wrestling. Alarms began blaring in my head.

Long ago I was a competitive arm wrestler. How competitive? Here's a picture in the newspaper of me winning the 1983 University of Maryland arm wrestling championships. (Little known fact: arm wrestling is more technique than strength, though of course at the higher levels you absolutely need both. In a few minutes I can teach an average person how to beat a much stronger person.) What's not mentioned in the picture caption was that during this match I hurt my arm so badly that I was out of table tennis for six months. And it was far worse than that - I've had ongoing arm problems ever since.

After I'd mostly recovered from this injury, someone heard about my arm wrestling background in the late 1980s, and challenged me to a match. I smiled, and pretty much slammed his arm down so fast it was over in one second. Result? I was out another five months or so as it healed again. (I actually played some during this time, but only blocking or chopping.) 

Tip of the Week

Be a Perfectionist.

MDTTC Summer Camps

Our ten weeks of MDTTC summer camps starts today, Mon-Fri every week, 10AM-6PM. It's going to be a busy summer. I'll miss two of the weeks, June 30-July 4 for the U.S. Open, and July 28-Aug. 1 for a writers workshop. I'm still doing my usual private coaching, plus this blog and Tip of the Week, and other writing, so it's going to be a hyper-busy summer. As usual.

Nittaku Premium 40+ Poly Ball

Paddle Palace sent me one of the newly created Nittaku Poly balls, the 3-Star Nittaku Premium 40+, made in Japan. These are the plastic ones that will replace celluloid balls later this year in many tournaments. This ball is of special interest because it's possibly the ball we'll be using at the USA Nationals in December, as well as other USA tournaments. (There will also be a Nittaku SHA 40+ ball that is made in China, but it's likely the Premium from Japan that might be used at the Nationals.) 

Why is this important to you? Because it's likely these are the balls YOU will be using soon. Might as well learn about them and get used to them.

I tried the new ball out on Sunday morning at MDTTC, hitting with Raghu Nadmichettu, Derek Nie, Quandou Wang (Crystal Wang's dad), John Olsen, and Sutanit Tangyingyong. There was pretty much a consensus on it. Here are my findings, based on my play with it and comments from the others.

Friday the 13th, a Full Moon, and a Honey Moon!!!

Jason Vorhees says hello! (It's the first Honey Moon on Friday the 13th in about 100 years.)

Campaign 2100

I've spent most of the last four days focused on the rewrite of my science fiction novel Campaign 2100: Rise of the Moderates. A publisher is interested in this novel, which features table tennis extensively. The rewrite is done, for now. However, from July 25 - Aug. 2 I'll be at writer's workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire, where the first seven chapters of the novel are being extensively critiqued, so I'll be doing more rewriting on that. And then I send the rewrite to the publisher, and pray to the TT and SF gods. (The publisher really liked the novel, but had specific areas they wanted rewritten or expanded on.)

The novel covers the election for president of Earth in the year 2100, where the entire world has adopted the American two-party electoral system. (Why did they do this? It's explained in the novel.) The novel is a drama that satirizes and skewers American politics. I hope for it to come out in January, 2016, as the presidential election takes off. I hope to be on all the political talk shows!

How is table tennis in the novel? Let's see (and there are some spoilers here):

Is Your Club Part of the Solution or Part of the Problem?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to learn how to play properly. Does your club have a class for him? Or coaches to work with him? Or is he told to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and you never see him again?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to play others his level. Does your club have a league for all levels, so you can let him know when it's league night, where he can play others his own level? Or is he told to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and you never see him again?

Suppose a mom comes to your club with two kids, and wants them to learn how to play and to play with others their age. Does your club have a junior program you can put them in? Or is she told her kids should call winners somewhere, they get killed, and you never see them again?

Suppose a beginner comes to your club, and wants to get killed by others. You tell him to call winners somewhere, he gets killed, and he's happy. 

The first three above are the most common new players that come into clubs. Is your club equipped to meet their needs? Does your club have coaches, classes, leagues, and junior programs? Or does it rely on the fourth type? (And we wonder why there are so many crazy people in our sport.) Unfortunately, most clubs rely on the fourth type of player when it comes to getting new players. They probably survive as a club because of a steady influx of experienced players, either from other clubs, or more likely from overseas, where clubs address the needs of the first three types above.

Tricks of the Trade for Coaches

Most top players are at least competent coaches, in that they mostly know the basics. They can show you what you need to do, and even guide you through it. However, the difference between an experienced coach and a top player is often experience. The top player knows how a shot should be done properly; the top coach knows how to get a player to do it properly. Here are five common examples that might be considered "tricks of the trade" for experienced coaches.