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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

Get the Right Feel.

Friday Camp

It was a busy weekend of coaching, though strangely not as busy as usual as I had Sunday morning off for a change, due to a pair of out-of-town students. However, that was offset by our one-day camp on Friday, where I coached from 10AM to 6PM. Schools were closed that day for "Professional Day."

We had another snowstorm on Sunday afternoon, with about 2-3 inches here in Germantown - enough is enough!!! It's been "Spring" for eleven days now. (Hmmm . . . "days now" is one space away from "day snow," which is what happened yesterday.) I'm personally contacting the beings responsible and putting a stop to this. There will be no more snow here in Maryland until December.  

Here's a funny incident that took place during the Friday camp. I called a bunch of the beginning kids together to teach them how to serve. My first question to the seven in the group (ages 6-9) was, "How many of you know how to serve?" Nearly all of them raised their hands. So I asked for volunteers to show how to serve. I wish I had a video of what followed as we got sort of a who's who for every stereotypical illegal basement serve possible!!! One kid did the typical basement serve where he bounced the ball on the table and then hit it directly over the net. One kid reached way over the table to get as close to the net as he could to serve. One simply tossed the ball up and hit it directly to the other side of the table. All but one of them grabbed the ball with their fingertips.

Longest Rally

On Monday I blogged about the new record for longest rally at 8 hrs 40 min 10 sec. Not so fast!!! Apparently Richard Bowling and Rich DeWitt rallied for 10 hrs 9 min back in 1983, and it was published as the record in the 1984 Guinness Book of World Records. Here's a video about it (3:13). I emailed Richard about it. Here is his response, which he gave me permission to post:

Yes we are in the 1984 edition of the GWR book. Unfortunately they don't do due diligence in cross referencing a previous record when someone 'breaks a new record'.

And funny about the new record, it's almost the same as the record we aimed to beat, which was 8hrs, 33 min. And yes ours was 10hrs, 9min.

Rich's father contacted GW a year or two ago. And they replied that we would need more 'proof' since standards at that time were lower, etc. A silly argument really. Their book should be proof enough.

Plus we submitted, in 1984, a notarized log book of dozen of witnesses. And always had people present in room at the YWCA, while the record was broken. Including the media occasionally. And were covered in a half dozen newspapers, plus television in CT.

Also, last July I created a youtube video as a 30yr tribute to our record. Youtube: "609 Minutes".  And take a look at the shorter version: 2:34 min.

I haven't decided if I want to launch a protest with GWR myself. At the moment busy selling Joola tables full-time, and part-time doing a life coaching business.

USATT CEO and Membership Director Leaving

Huge changes are afoot at USATT - here's the article. USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh resigned after seven years, taking a job with USA Handball. (Here's his goodbye letter.) And Membership Director Joyce Grooms is retiring on April 4 after a long tenure - I'm not sure how long, but I'm guessing it goes back to the 1990s or so. I've worked with both of them for many years and consider them good friends - and now we'll have some big shoes to fill. It's going to cause some serious continuity problems. 

Who should our next CEO be? With all due respect to Mike, I believe we need a real table tennis person who can develop the infrastructure of our sport. That was the point of my Ping-Pong Apartments essay in my March 21 blog - we have got to stop trying to sell a broken product and fix the broken product first. Then we can sell it.

I doubt if I'll apply for the CEO position, but several people have urged me to apply. I don't think the USATT Board would want someone who would push for such major changes - most boards, by their very nature, are highly resistant to change. But I was urged on Facebook last night to apply for the position. Here is my response:

You Are What You Train

Most players understand this, but don't really absorb how important this simple lesson is. Here are two examples.

On Monday I was teaching the backhand loop to a beginning/intermediate class. I don't have a particularly good backhand loop, so I had assistant coach John Hsu demonstrate it. It seemed a good time to also teach the blocking, so I went over that as well as I blocked John's loop. Then I pointed how at the higher levels many players topspin their blocks, essentially mini-loops, and explained how while I blocked the normal way (relatively flat), John almost always topspins his blocks.

To demo this, I looped forehands from my backhand corner to his backhand and he backhand topspin blocked away. The rally went on for a time, and then I ripped one down the line to his forehand. John reacted quickly and forehand blocked to my wide forehand. I raced over and looped down the line to his backhand. He blocked back wide to my backhand, but not too aggressively. Now I'd just been teaching the backhand loop, and you'd think that at 54 years old I'd play an easy backhand winner (as John and most "top" players would have), but no - I did what I'd trained myself to do way back in the late 1970s and 1980s, and ran all the way over from my wide forehand to my wide backhand and ripped a forehand winner down the line for a winner. Afterwards neither I nor John nor the players in the class could believe I'd gotten over there so fast - and I was sort of surprised as well. But it was a simple matter of balance on the previous shot so I could recover quickly, proper footwork technique that got me there quickly, and the automatic instincts that led me to attempt that shot. (I just wish I could still do shots like that regularly in matches - technique aside, my legs aren't as fast anymore, mostly due to knee problems.)

Smooth Acceleration + Grazing Contact = Great Spin

This came up last night in the Beginning/Intermediate Class I teach on Monday nights. The two most common mistakes players make in failing to create great spin are these two, which are the pillars of creating spin, especially when serving, pushing, and chopping. It's true for looping as well, but only for slow, spinny loops. When you loop faster, you sink the ball more into the sponge. (I'm mostly writing for players using inverted sponge, but the same principles apply to most pips-out surfaces as well, as long as they have some grippiness.) 

When serving and pushing, beginning and intermediate players often use a short stroke (to help with control) and sort of jab at the ball. They are thinking that the velocity they get with this jabbing will create great spin. Actually, it just leads to a loss of control as you can't control the racket this way. Plus, for physics reasons I won't get into (partially because I'm not a physicist), you get far more spin if you smoothly accelerate into the ball, and almost hold the ball on your racket as it carries it through the shot. This literally slings the ball out with tremendous spin.

Tip of the Week

Isolating Techniques and Combinations.

Table Tennis Forums

As noted in my blog on Thursday, the long-time popular table tennis forum at about.com has closed. So what are your options for online table tennis discussions?

I used to be a regular on about.com and sometimes at other forums, but in recent years have cut down quite a bit. But if you're a diehard TT person who wants to discuss it online, what are your options? I'm not an expert on this, but here are a few. Feel free to comment on other ones. (I'm only referring to ones in English here. Feel free to comment about others.) I did some googling of table tennis forums, and found a number that no longer seem to be active or that never had many postings, and so I'm not listing them.

My guess, based on no scientific evidence other than a quick browsing and past experience there and on other forums, is that MyTableTennis.com forum is the most popular one. It's probably where I'll post occasionally when I feel the urge. Like all forums, there are some raging arguments going on there at all times.

The Ping-Pong Apartments

Below is an essay I wrote that was published in USA Table Tennis Magazine in 1991. (Back then the USATT board of directors was called the Executive Committee, hence the "Mr. Ec.") Has our situation changed in the 23 years since? Before we get to the essay, let's look at the current situation.

The rise of full-time training centers all over the U.S. is a dramatic improvement, and growing leagues in NYC and the SF and LA areas in California are promising. But we still have a long way to go. We're not going to really fix our sport until the leaders of our sport actually focus on fixing our sport, i.e. developing the infrastructure as it is done overseas, and in other sports in the U.S. There's no systematic development of these full-time centers or professional coaches, i.e. recruitment and training on how to set up a full-time center or be a professional coach; entrepreneurs have to come forward on their own each time and either learn from others or make it up as they go along. There's no model of a regional league to streamline the process needed to set up a nationwide network of such leagues, as is done all over the world but not here.

When a new player walks into most clubs, he's usually thrown to the wolves, i.e. told to call winners against an established player who will kill him, and we rarely see that player again. What's needed are professional coaches we can send these new players to (adults and juniors) for instruction, and leagues for all levels so the new players can find other players their own level. This is how it's done overseas, and how it's done in successful sports all over the U.S., whether it's tennis, bowling, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, and so on.

Tricky Serves

Here's an interesting dynamic I've noticed over the years. Players who play the same players over and over at clubs, and only occasionally play at tournaments or at other clubs, rarely develop tricky serves that they can use when they do play in tournaments or against different players. Players who play lots of different players and compete in tournaments tend to develop tricky serves. Why is this?

It's all about feedback. If a player starts to develop tricky serves, his opponents will at first have trouble with them. But if he plays the same players all the time and rarely plays new ones, then the players he plays quickly get used to the tricky serves, and they stop being that effective. And so the feedback the player gets is that the serves aren't that effective, and he stops developing those serves and tries other ones. A player who regularly plays tournaments or other players gets more realistic feedback on the quality of those serves as his opponents aren't seeing them as regularly.

The same is true of other aspects of the game. For example, a player develops a nice backhand loop, his regular opponents might get used to it, and he'll stop using it as often - never realizing how much havoc the shot might create against players not used to it.

So if you want to really develop your game, seek out new players, either at your club, other clubs, or in tournaments, and see how they respond to your serves and other techniques. If your ultimate goal is to play well in tournaments (even if you only play in them occasionally), then you need this feedback to develop your game.

Successful Clubs Build Each Other Up

I've often blogged about the best thing happening in U.S. table tennis right now - the rise of the full-time training center. There were about ten in 2006; now there are 67 in my listing, with another one about to join the list once I get their website. (Email me if you know of any that I'm missing.) One of the huge results is the number and depth of our elite juniors, which are better than anything we've had in the past - and it's not even close.

However, one of the consistent criticisms of these training centers is that they hurt other clubs. After all, a part-time club can't compete with a full-time club, right? And a full-time club will be hurt if another club opens up nearby, right?

Actually, the answer to both of these questions is a resounding NO. Successful clubs build each other up. In fact, often the best thing that can happen to a part-time club is if a full-time center opens nearby, and often the best thing that can happen to a full-time club is if another full-time club opens up - perhaps not next door, but in the region. It might lead to a temporary problem as you lose a few players, but in the long run the club gains. 

Why is this? People worry too much about the competition for current players. This is similar to the arguments made so often in the past that there aren't enough players (read: current players) to sustain more than a few full-time clubs. What they didn't understand is that a successful club develops its own players. It only helps to have another club developing these players, i.e. increasing the market for your club.

Tip of the Week

Three Types of Receive Skills.

Cary Cup

It was a pretty grueling weekend, with lots of driving and coaching. Here's a short synopsis of the Cary Cup, from the perspective of someone who was too busy coaching to see any of the big matches. (I was there primarily to coach Derek Nie.) Here are the results. And here is the final write-up (which features Kewei Li and his upset of Eugene Wang in the final), which didn't come out in time for yesterday's blog (though I just added it).

WEDNESDAY: USATT Hall of Famer Tim Boggan drove down from New York, arriving that morning. We had a nice pizza lunch. Then he spent the day reading and puttering about my townhouse as I coached at MDTTC much of the afternoon and night.

THURSDAY: We left very early that morning for the five-hour drive to Cary, NC. Other than a wrong turn that somehow had us going north on I-95 for ten minutes, all went well. Anyone who accuses Tim of intentionally driving with me in the front passenger seat hanging out over in the next lane, well, it's a figment of your imagination. I hope. But he likes to drive and I don't, so I let him do the driving while I navigated, even if my life did flash before my eyes a few times.