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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

USATT Election

Sometime today USATT will announce the ballot for the upcoming USATT election. It'll likely be a USATT news item. (I'll add a "Breaking News!" item here when it comes out.) As I've blogged about, I applied to be on the ballot. If I'm on the ballot, then I'll create a "USATT Election" tab here, and start to blog about what I'll do as a USATT board member. I'll also put online the one-page statement I sent to USATT outlining why I want to run for the board, what I will do, and my qualifications. (When I say "what I will do," that also means I will work to get USATT to do it, so it'll become "we.") As I blogged on October 23, there are five major things I will do if I'm on the board, plus a growing number of "other issues" (currently at twelve) that I'd also like to take action on. (I blogged about these twelve on November 14.) Then I'll blog about each of the five issues, one per day, outlining the plans for each, and then blog about the other issues on the sixth day. And on the seventh day, I'll . . . play table tennis.

BREAKING NEWS: I'm on the ballot! See my new USATT Election tab in the menu on the left.

Violence in Table Tennis

New Ball Prices are "Extortionate," Relative Costs, and a Poly/Celluloid Ball Comparison

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. I too am a bit struck by how expensive they are. So I did a little research. The new Nittaku Premium 40+ poly ball (that's a mouthful) retail price is going to be $33.95/dozen, or $2.83/ball. (Maybe they are charging by the word? They are currently on sale for $25.95, but only for those entered in the USA Nationals, limit one dozen balls per player due to limited quantities available.) The Nittaku Sha 40+ poly ball costs $24.95/dozen, or $2.08/ball. Meanwhile, the regular celluloid Nittakus cost $17.95/dozen, or $1.50/ball. The Nittaku Premium ball costs $25.95/dozen, or $2.16/ball. The prices of the celluloid balls have been rising steadily for years, and now they cost more than tennis balls. (I'm using prices per dozen. When bought in smaller quantities, such as 3-packs, they cost more, and will likely be over $3/ball, as noted in Matt's article.)

Let's re-iterate:

JOOLAs and Nittakus and Butterflys, Oh My! - And Training for Teams and Nationals

Yesterday was another crazy day in the ongoing "Keep the balls separate" battle at MDTTC (and at other clubs around the U.S.). I had three students. The first two (more or less beginners) I trained with regular Butterfly celluloid training balls. The third was advanced and was getting ready for both the North American Teams in nine days and the U.S. Nationals a few weeks later. The Teams are using JOOLA 40+ poly balls, so I brought out the nine that I had. They play quite different from celluloid - heavier, harder to spin, etc. Since I only had nine, we couldn't do any serious multiball training (though we did a few "boxes" of them - yes, nine-ball multiball!). Meanwhile, the two tables adjacent were also using JOOLA 40+ poly balls. The next one was using Nittaku Sha 40+ poly balls (the closest thing they had to the Nittaku Premier 40+ poly balls that'll be used at the Nationals). The last table on this side had Crystal Wang preparing for the World Junior Championships in one week, and she was training with Butterfly 40+ poly balls, as that's what they'll be using. In the row of tables opposite us, they were all using regular Butterfly celluloid balls.

So there was this ongoing struggle to keep all these balls separate. These balls all play a bit different, though sometimes the differences are subtle. It gets crazy sometimes as we sift through balls, trying to pick up ours while tossing back any that are not, and watching players and coaches racing around to other courts to retrieve balls that left their court.

PBS Video on MDTTC's "Ping-Pong Academy"

It seems a number of people who read my blog didn't see the recent PBS video that featured Crystal Wang, Derek Nie, and myself. Looking back, I realized it was the third item down, when it should have been at the top! So here it is again (4 min). (Note that we tried to get our other head coaches into it - Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang - but they didn't feel confident in their English and asked me to do the talking.)

USATT Board and Committee Minutes, and NCTTA Reports

Here are links to the minutes to the October 7 USATT Board Meeting, and to three reports from the National College Table Tennis Association. Here are direct links to all four, plus to USATT and Committee Reports, all newly put up by USATT webmaster Sean O'Neill:

A Few Key Things in the USATT Minutes:

Tip of the Week

Smooth Acceleration + Grazing Contact = Great Spin.

(This is an updated and expanded version of what was originally a blog entry from a while back.)

Hodge Podge

It was another busy weekend, with lots of stuff to report - hence the heading.

I had an interesting learning experience with one seven-year-old I coach. He's one of the more advanced ones, one you'll likely be hearing about in a few years. He can loop from both wings, and is learning to be more and more consistent, and already has great power. There are a few problems with his technique which I'm working on - too long a backswing, and a tendency to let his free arm hang loose and so not always using the left side of his body. He's tried my racket out, and loves it, and is always trying to borrow it. At first I thought it was too fast for him - a Timo Boll ALC with Tenergy on both sides (05 and 25). But when he borrowed it in drills, his shots got better and better! His father noticed this as well. We discussed it, and finally decided he's ready. So he's borrowing my backup blade (the same racket and sponge), and will soon get a new one. (He currently uses a Timo Boll All-round, with Roundell sponge.)

The old paradigm of starting with slow equipment is still true, but when a kid is training regularly with a coach and has the fundamentals mostly down, the tendency more and more these days is to move him to more advanced equipment sooner than before. This allows him to more easily do advanced shots, and so advance faster than if he were inhibited by equipment that made these shots more difficult to do.

USATT Election

Today's the final deadline for candidates to apply to get on the ballot. (Here's the USATT Election Notice and Process.)  I sent in the signed forms, the signatures (38 to be safe), and the one-page statement. (I'll put the statement online later on, whether I'm on the ballot or not.) So now all I can do is wait. The final ballot will be announced by next Friday (Nov. 21), with the election from Nov. 27-Dec. 27, and the winners announced Jan. 6.

As noted in my October 23 blog, I'm running on five main issues. If I'm on the ballot, I'll put together a "USATT Election" tab here, and put more information there on these and other issues. I'll devote one blog to each of these five issues for five consecutive days, plus a sixth day to go over a number of other issues. (On the seventh day I'll rest?) As I've noted, I'd like to focus on progressive issues that develop our sport. (I blogged about this on March 19, 2013 - Fairness versus Progressive Issues.)

Here are twelve other items I'd like to get done, in no particular order.

***NOTE - Due to technical problems all the formatting is getting lost in my blog, and the normal formatting tools in it don't work. This also means I can't up links right now. I had lots of segments ready for today, but I can't put them up without the links. So I'll only put up the regular blog entry. Hopefully this problem will be fixed quickly - I have someone working on it.

I'm coaching a kid with a big forehand but a relatively weak backhand. He's also in the transition stage where he's learning to really topspin the backhand, i.e. loop it in rallies - but it's simply not as strong as his forehand. He's also pretty forehand oriented, and so he's often forcing forehand shots rather than take easier backhand ones - and since he's overplaying the forehand, that side keeps getting better while the backhand side doesn't.

Since he's aware of the problem - we've discussed it quite a bit - we've changed the focus of his training sessions. Overwhelmingly players start sessions by going forehand to forehand. We now start our sessions with backhand to backhand. He goes almost straight to looping the backhand; why re-enforce a flatter backhand when he's trying to learn to topspin it? We spend perhaps the first ten minutes going just backhand to backhand, where he loops and I block. This saturation training is dramatically improving his backhand. Not only is the backhand loop getting better, but it's getting him in the habit of actually using it in games rather than switching over to his normal forehand-oriented game.

I've also told him he should try winning some matches by focusing on backhand attacking, and not playing forehands except against balls going to his forehand and on obvious weak shots to his backhand. Eventually, when his backhand is strong, he may go back to playing more forehand - but for now, I want to turn his backhand into a weapon.

Tournaments and Omnipong

I've run over 120 USATT tournaments, ranging from monthly tournaments at MDTTC all through the 1990s to the 1998 Eastern Open which received 411 entries, still the record for a four-star tournament. (Richard Lee was tournament president for that one, his first big tournament, and he's been running them all over the country ever since with North American Table Tennis.) Running a large one is a massive undertaking, and even the smaller ones take far more time and work than most realize.

I sometimes think all tournament players should be required to run a USATT tournament just one time, to see what really goes on. Observant players have a good idea of what tournament directors do during a tournament; really observant ones who think it through have a good idea of all the work that went on before the tournament. Before the tournament, directors (sometimes working with a referee) receive the entries, enter them onto the computer (unless, heaven forbid in this day and age, they are running it by hand, on paper!), check all the memberships, create draws (including checking for geographical separation and other complexities), finalize the scheduling, and print everything out so it's ready. They get all the tables, nets, and barriers in place, put up the table numbers, and make sure everything is clean. And then there are those thousand small details that, if I listed them all, it'd take up about a year's worth of blogs.

There's also the more advance work - scheduling the tournaments, creating the entry forms, circulating them, publicizing the tournament, and so on. I change my mind; even running a small one is a massive undertaking!!! There's a reason why "tournament" is just an anagram for "one tantrum."

Rules Changes and One Last Change

I am tired of rule changes. The game as it is played now is substantially different than the game when I started out. Some of the rules changes were good, such as the two-color rule, the six-inch toss rule, and the idea of making hidden serves illegal. Others were more ambiguous for me - the larger ball, games to 11, and various rules restricting long pips. Some I'm not happy with, in particular the switch to non-celluloid balls, though that's mostly because they jumped the gun and made the switch before the balls were standardized or training balls were available. (I blogged about this on October 21 - see second segment.)

At this point it would take a rather strong argument for me to agree with any more changes. However, there is one last rule change I'd like to see before declaring our sport "perfect" - and that is fixing the hidden serve rule.

I've blogged numerous times about the problems with the hidden serve rule, where umpires rarely call them and so many top players (and juniors) use them to win titles, while those who play fair learn that cheating often pays off in our sport. The problem is that umpires sitting off to the side cannot tell for certain whether a serve is hidden from the opponent, and for some reason I've never fully understood, do not understand the meaning of these two rules:

Rule 2.06.06: It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. 

Tip of the Week

Keep the Ball Deep.

Shorter Blog Today

At 11:15 AM I learned that local schools are letting out early today, at noon, and that I'm supposed to pick kids up at that time rather than the usual 3PM time. So I have to rush off now to pick them up and do about 90 minutes of coaching and tutoring. So no main blog today - just the Tip of the Week and the segments below. Back tomorrow!

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve - Like a Boss!

Here's the new video (5:37) where the serve is taught. The coach (Brett Clarke from TTEdge) has a very animated and unique approach to teaching the serve! I may have to dig out my old Frisbee from my closet….

Returning the Reverse Pendulum Serve

Here's the new video (12:28) from Coach Brian Pace.

Ask the Coach

Here's episode #22.