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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

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. 

Incentives

There's nothing better for a coach than a player who's so self-motivated that the coach's main job is to just keep up with him. You don't need to push a player like that; they are already pushing themselves. But this is rare, and even the most motivated players sometimes need some incentive. Of course success in tournaments and leagues is a primary incentive, but that's long-term. Often players need a more immediate incentive. Here are some I use when I coach.

A primary motivator for all ages is to see how many they can do in a row. At the beginning stages this means things like how many forehands or backhands they can hit in a row, or pushes, or loops against backspin in multiball. Keep it simple, and let them challenge themselves to more and more in a row until it's ingrained.

As they advance, move on to more advanced drills. For example, I've always been a firm believer that one of the key stages to rallying success in matches is to be able to do the following two drills so well you can essentially do them forever. One is the 2-1 drill, where the player does a three-shot sequence: A backhand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the backhand corner, a forehand from the forehand corner, and then repeat. This covers three of the most common moves in table tennis: covering the wide forehand, covering the wide backhand, and the step-around forehand. The other drill is a simple random drill, done either live or with multiball, where the coach or practice partner puts the ball anywhere on the table, and the player has to return each shot consistently, using forehands or backhands. The first is a mobility drill, the second a reaction drill. If you can do both consistently at a good pace, you are ready to rally in matches. The more advanced you are, the faster you do the drills. You can do them live or with multiball.

Tip of the Week

Controlling a Match.

Ping Pong Summer Review

On Friday, I got to see the 7:30PM showing of Ping Pong Summer at the AFI Silver Theater in Silver Spring, Maryland. (The 400-seat theater was pretty full – at least 300 people.) There were a number of other table tennis players there. It was an excellent movie and a lot of fun, 91 minutes long. Here's a quick intro, from their home page:

"The year is 1985. Rad Miracle (Marcello Conte) is a shy 13-year-old white kid who's obsessed with two things: ping pong and hip hop. During his family's annual summer vacation to Ocean City, Maryland, Rad makes a new best friend, experiences his first real crush, becomes the target of rich local bullies, and finds an unexpected mentor in his outcast next-door neighbor (Susan Sarandon). Ping Pong Summer is about that time in your life when you're treated like an alien by everyone around you, even though you know deep down you're as funky fresh as it gets."

So it's basically a coming-of-age ping pong story. Spoiler alert – don’t read further if you don't want to learn some of the plot points!

Short Serves and Half-Long Serves

Most players serve long, over and over. A short serve is one where, if given the chance, the second bounce would be on the table, while with a long serve it goes off. So long serves are easier to attack by looping, while short serves, if kept low, are harder to attack, and are usually pushed back. (Unless it's a short sidespin or topspin serve, without backspin, in which case it's usually flipped – but most players can't serve short this way except at higher levels. Here's a related article, Serving Short with Spin. Here's another, Serving Low. Here's one on long serves, Turn Opponents into Puppets with Long Serves.)

It's important to be able to serve both long and short. If you only serve long, stronger players will start attacking your serves. If you only serve short, it becomes predictable and you'll win fewer points outright on the serve. (The serves that win outright the most tend to be long, breaking serves. But if overdone, and at higher levels, they get attacked. Short serves don't win as many points outright, but they set up a third-ball attack more often.) 

Yesterday's Coaching

I had a number of coaching sessions yesterday. (This was after running around picking some of them up at two schools for our afterschool program.) The last two were rather interesting in that I introduced them to playing against long pips. I keep a huge racket case with five different rackets inside. (I've had this racket case since 1988 – Cheng Yinghua gave it to me the year he came to the U.S. as a practice partner/coach for our resident training program in Colorado Springs, where I was at various times manager/director/assistant coach.)

The rackets are: A long pips with 1mm sponge chopping racket; a long pips no-sponge pushblocking racket; a racket with antispin and inverted; one with short pips and inverted; a pips-out penholder racket; and a defensive hardbat. (I also have an offensive hardbat that I myself use in hardbat competitions, which I keep in a separate racket case in my playing bag.) I pull these rackets out as necessary for students to practice against or with.

I pulled the rackets out at the end of the first player's session, and invited the other player who was about to begin to join in. Then I went over the rackets, explaining each one. (The players were Daniel, age nine, about 1450, and Matt, about to turn 13, about 1650.) Neither had ever seen antispin before. They had played against long pips a few times, but didn't really know how to play it. They had seen hardbat and short pips, but hadn't played against them much, if at all. (I found it amazing they hadn't played against short pips, which used to be so common, but that surface has nearly died out. Just about everyone at my club uses inverted. I know of only one player at the club using short pips, the 2200+ pips-out penholder Heather Wang, who practices and plays against our top juniors regularly, so they are ready if they ever play pips-out players.)

New USATT Ratings Portal

USATT has a new ratings portal. Prepare to be let down.

One of my students gets out of taking PE at school because of his age ranking in Maryland, and instead does extra hours of table tennis training. Last night I had to fill out a form for his school, and needed to look up his current Maryland ranking for his age. I went to the USATT ratings page, and there it was – the new USATT Ratings Portal, created by RailStation, who does our new membership system. For comparison, here is the old USATT Ratings Portal. I don't know if the old one will stay up or not, but there no longer is a link to it from the USATT webpage. I suggest you bookmark it. (If you haven't used it before, here's your chance to have some fun and create your own lists by clicking on the Customizable Members List link near the top on the right.)

Let's do a point-by-point comparison. I'm using Chrome for this, but I checked it out on Explorer as well and seemed to get the same results. Feel free to test it yourself.

In the old version, it showed what date the ratings were through, and listed tournaments before that date that were not yet processed, and even gave the reason why. It also listed the ratings by year so you could click on the year and choose any tournament from that year, with the tournaments listed chronologically, even listing the number of players and matches in each one. The new version has none of this. Want to find the results from a specific tournament? You can't. (My first reaction to this was You've Got to Be Kidding!!!) Want to see what tournaments were processed? You can't.

Why Not Be the Strongest Mentally

Players are always trying to have the best loop, the best smash, the best serve, or a litany of other things. Why not try to be the strongest mentally? The player who's always calm under pressure, always at his mental best, and smart tactically. Easier said than done? How would you know unless you put as much time into this as you do into learning techniques? Just a thought that I might expand into a Tip of the Week later on, or at least a longer blog entry. Here's a tip – imagine you are Bruce Lee when you play.

Writing Projects

I keep on my bulletin board a list of my writing projects, including past ones which are marked "DONE." The list includes completed book projects Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers and Table Tennis Tips, and creating print-on-demand versions of past books Table Tennis Tales & Techniques and Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. Also listed are my science fiction & fantasy works, including the novel Sorcerers in Space and the anthology of my best sold stories, Pings and Pongs. (You can find all my books at the Larry Hodges Books Page.)

Upcoming projects include updated versions of Table Tennis: Steps to Success and Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis; possibly writing a Table Tennis Training Center Manual; a new anthology of my best sold science fiction & fantasy stories (More Pings and Pongs); and creating the online store TableTennisBooks.com.

Tip of the Week

Playing Short pips.

WETA TV

WETA TV came to MDTTC for about four hours yesterday to do a documentary on us online – I'll blog about it when it's up. Here's a picture of two of the crew members (there were three of them) as they film us, and here's a picture of them filming Derek Nie and Crystal Wang.

It was a long day. I normally coach Sunday mornings but I was off due to students studying for final exams, and so I had no coaching until 3PM. So I became their chaperone. We had arranged for them to come Sunday at 11AM so they could see some of our top juniors in a group session, and then our Elite League at 12:30 PM. They filmed Derek and Crystal, as well as Nathan Hsu and many others, often from a distance so the player didn't even know they were being filmed. Other times they'd go out on the court and get close-ups. I was hoping to highlight as many players as possible, from our top juniors to our seniors, including Charlene Liu, who recently returned from New Zealand with a bronze for Over 60 Women's Singles. (She also won Over 60 Women's Title at the Nationals and many more in age groups from over 30 to over 60.) However, they told me they could only focus on one or two players. They also didn't want to interview players and then disappoint the player by not using the interview, which is understandable.

My Table Tennis Books

Just a reminder that if this table tennis blog isn't quite enough to satisfy your table tennis itch, you can buy one of my table tennis books!!! As noted in my blog earlier this week, Table Tennis Tips is now out. Or, if you haven't done so, you absolutely and positively must buy Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!!! Here's the Larry Hodges Books page where these and my other books are listed and described.

While you're at it, if you have a liking for history, then check out Tim Boggan's page, where he sells the 14 volumes of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Disclaimer: I do the page layouts and maintain the web page for him.)

Practical Ways to Overcome Nervousness

Sports psychology is one of the most under-utilized aspects of table tennis. One problem is that it's easy to get bogged down wading into all the literature on the subject. Here are some of the simple methods I use with students to overcome nervousness. Most of these I've done for years, though I've fine-tuned some after reading material and books from Dora Kurimay's table tennis sports psychology page.