Welcome to TableTennisCoaching.com, your Worldwide Center for Table Tennis Coaching!

 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

How the Orioles Help Me Get Work Done

Other than table tennis, I don't really follow too many sports. Locals at MDTTC took great glee recently in quizzing me about the college basketball finals, or whatever that thing that went on recently, and laughing at my utter ignorance of who the "Final Four" were, or that it was even going on. I claim similar ignorance of NBA, NFL, NHL, and most other sports. (When quizzed, I was only able to name three current NBA players, though with time I guarantee you I could have come up with two or three more . . . at most.) I do follow tennis a bit. (I'm a former member of the U.S. Tennis Association, and went to group training sessions twice a week for years as my "side" sport.) But I do have one sport I follow, and that's Baltimore Orioles baseball. I've been a fan since I was a kid.

As readers might know, I've coached three of them at MDTTC - Darren O'Day, JJ Hardy, and Brady Anderson - and visited their clubhouse in 2013 with our top juniors to take on their players for three hours. (Here's my blog about it, and here's a group picture. It was surreal discussing topics like talent and training with Chris Davis and others, hitting with many of the players, and meeting them all.) I also write humorous articles about the Orioles, with 27 articles published in Orioles Hangout.

Normally I do my blog in the morning, but I run into problems doing that during our training camps, which take place all summer as well as in our spring break camp (going on right now). I'd have to get up extremely early to get the blog done before leaving to coach at these camps. So what's my solution?

Never Rile Up a Potential Rival

Here are two times where I inadvertently broke this rule and paid for it. In theory, a riled-up opponent should be emotional and thereby play poorly. In reality, at the higher levels in sports, when you rile up a player they just get more focused. Here are the two examples.

Tip of the Week

Tiger Woods Distraction Drill.

Regional Associations Coordinator and Election Petition Bylaw

Here's the USATT News Item on these two items, "USATT Appoints Hodges Regional Associations Coordinator." This is an unpaid volunteer position. It will put me in a position to work on several things I promised to do when I ran for the board - create state and regional associations; promote coaching programs and training centers; and set up a nationwide network of team leagues. They all go together.

Or to quote me from the article:

"I have long believed that a strong system of regional and state associations are necessary for the growth and development of the sport in the United States. With the sheer geographical size and diversity of our country, regional and state associations allow us to develop programming at a more local level. Central to this will be creating state championships, coaching programs and training centers, and regional team leagues."

Right now I'm in the learning and planning phrase. Also, we're in the middle of the MDTTC Spring Break Camp, and so I'm pretty busy coaching there, though I might get one of the other coaches to sub for me so I can work on these issues. But I've already done a lot of planning and will be going public with some of this later. (Much of the implementation will start in the fall and in 2016.) One difficulty is that I will be coaching long hours during the summer due to our training camps, and so won't be as active during that time. On the other hand, it is a volunteer position! (Maybe if they double my salary, I'd do more? Oh wait…)

Shortened Blog Today

We're running our Spring Break Camp at MDTTC this week, Mon-Fri, with local schools closed, so just local kids. I thought I was off this morning - we have eight full-time coaches and several part-time ones - but I've been called in at the last minute. I've put together the segments below, but haven't done my own blog yet, or finished the Tip of the Week, which will go up tomorrow. But I think there's plenty below to keep you occupied! I'll start earlier the rest of this week, or work on it the night before.

Disabled Veterans Camp

I'm running another four-day camp, May 18-21, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Here's info! They are free to veterans with disabilities and members of the armed forces with disabilities. (I also ran one last August.)

World Table Tennis Day

Here's the ITTF Press Release. It's today!!!

Capital Super League

Here's the report on the latest matches this Washington DC area team league. All teams have now played. And there were some nice games and nice shots - see next segment on Derek's shot!

Derek Nie's Around-the-Net Backhand Loop Receive

Here's the video of this shot from league matches this past weekend! (The link should take you directly to 14:20 into the match, when Allen Lin is serving, with no idea what's in store for him!)

Backhand Topspin - Like a Boss!

Here's the new coaching video (5:45) from Brett Clarke.

No Blog on Friday

Why? Because:

  1. It's Good Friday.
  2. Everyone else is off work, so why not me?
  3. We have a one-day camp at MDTTC.
  4. I'm working on several big projects.
  5. I need to take my car to the shop in the morning for some minor repairs that I've put off for a long time.

European vs. USA Question

In the U.S., the first thing a player is often asked at a club is, "What's your rating?" But in Europe it's different. Stefano Ratti emailed me the following  after he recently visited his brother in the Netherlands and played a tournament there. Note that 18,000 players in the Netherlands equates to about 340,000 in the U.S.! (Stefano has been instrumental in helping set up the Capital Area Super League.)

I spoke to a number of local players (remarkably few people of Asian origins, compared to the U.S. TT population) and it was very interesting to see how the team leagues are the backbone of the sport. If you ask somebody what level they are, their answer is “I play in Division x for xyz team”, not “my rating is X”. They seed players based on their percentages in the team league, which basically puts players in a certain “class” – for example, if you play in the National Division 2 and have a 60% win percentage, you may be considered class B.  There appears to be a rating number (again, calculated ONLY on the basis of team league matches), but it is not widely used (my brother was barely aware of its existence).  Also, tournaments don’t seem to count towards any sort of rating (the opposite of what we have here!).  They have 4 National league divisions, and 7 regional league divisions. If I get my numbers straight, there are about 16 million people in the Netherlands and 18,000 registered players (I am one of them now!).

My Next Table Tennis Book - "Ping Pong for Quitters"
(NOTE - For those how missed it when this went up on April 1, the day afterwards bolded certain letters in the below!)

After much thought, I've decided on my next major writing project. Recently the book
Ping Pong for Fighters came out, by Tahl Leibovitz. It does a great job for those
really into working hard, those who fight for every point. But what about the rest of us?
I'm talking about those of us who don't have the gumption to fight so much, but still
like to win.

For most of us, we long ago gave up on our dreams for the realities of a harsh world,
one where our aspirations have long been crushed and ping-pong stardom is not an
option. We'll never be champions. And yet most coaching articles and books are for those
lucky ones who do have what it takes to be a champion. But what about us forgotten
souls who have given up, the quitters of the world? We like to win just as much, thank you.

And so I've decided my next book will be "Ping Pong for Quitters." This book will teach
point-winning tactics and strategies for the rest of us, us quitters of the world who
really want to win, but without trying so hard. It'll be for those who don't want to fight,
instead looking to win the easiest way possible. This book will be for us, the more
lethargic of the world, who want to win but without moving or rushing about.

Table Tennis Birthday Parties

One of the things we do at Maryland Table Tennis Centers is table tennis birthday parties. I've run dozens of them over the years. We had one this past Sunday for Ryan Lee, one of our up-and-coming players - he just turned eight, and is already racing around looping like a maniac. Here's a picture from the party, and here's another. There were just over 20 kids this time, all about Ryan's age. Past ones have ranged from this age group up to teenagers.

The typical party starts out with a demo, which usually includes an exhibition. Then we give a short clinic on the basic forehand, backhand, and serve, usually taking the players up two at a time for about five shots each. Then we go to games. The most popular is the cup game, where I ask if the kids like to build things; they say yes. I ask if they like to destroy things; I get an emphatic yes. So explain how there's nothing better than where you get to build and destroy! Then I have them build pyramids, walls, or forts on the table with paper cups, and then they line up as I feed multiball and they knock them down. Here's a picture of this from a previous party. (We start with a lot more cups than this, but at this point they've knocked most of them off.)

We often finish with the bottle game, where if they hit a bottle I put on the table that's full of squeezed worm juice, I have to drink it. For the younger kids, who rarely can hit the bottle, I'll put two or even three bottles together on the table to give them a bigger target.

Tip of the Week

Technical Problems Often Come in Pairs.

Saturday - USA Table Tennis Board Meeting

The USATT Board met from 9AM to 4PM at the Hilton Inn at BWI Airport near Baltimore. I blogged about this on Thursday, including the agenda. Attending the meeting in person were board chair Peter Scudner, Anne Cribbs, Ed Hogshead, Kagin Lee, Han Xiao, and myself. Mike Babuin and Jim Kahler also phoned in for certain issues. Also attending was CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Chair Carl Danner, USATT Legal Counsel Dennis Tayler, and Assistant Secretary Lee Kondo. Most of us met for dinner on Friday night.

Much of what went on I'll go over when the motions and/or minutes go online. Here's the gist of some of the more interesting items.

We started with breakfast (served in the meeting room at 8:15AM), then call to order and introductory remarks from Peter. Then came the roll call and conflict of interest statements. We went over the minutes of the January and March meetings, and they were approved with a few minor adjustments. Dennis Taylor gave us a legal update on several confidential issues. (This was also the Executive Session that was scheduled later in the agenda.)

No Blog on Friday


  1. Schools are closed for a "Teacher Professional Day," and if they get the day off, so do I.
  2. I can use another day off to rest. I took a day off on Tuesday, and it really paid off during yesterday's coaching, where I felt energized for the first time in a while.
  3. To give me time to prepare for the USATT Board Meeting on Saturday, where I have two presentations.
  4. So I can spend the day finalizing the first draft of "The Spirit of Pong," which I blogged about March 16. (I finished the first draft yesterday, but have two pages of notes of things to add or change.)
  5. So I can take my car to the shop for a check-up and minor repairs.
  6. We have a one-day training camp at MDTTC, but I might not be needed since we have eight full-time coaches - but I might be called in.

USATT Board Meeting

This Saturday there's a USATT Board meeting in Baltimore from 9AM to 4PM. Board members and some staff and/or committee chairs will be coming in for the meeting. As a board member since January, this'll be my first in-person meeting, though I've been on two teleconferences. (Over the years I've attended about 60 board meetings, including the last one in December at the Nationals.) Below is the agenda. I've got two presentations, both scheduled for 30 minutes.

The first (at 11:30 AM) is my Regional Associations Proposal, which plans to set up regional and state associations, with a three-pronged goal: setting regional team leagues; coaching programs; and state championships. A huge portion of my time over the next few years is going to be devoted to this. I'll blog a lot more about this later.

Shakehands Grip Variations and Changes

Recently I've had a lot of questions about whether it's okay to use variations of the shakehands grip, or to change grips during a rally. (Of course a large part of this is I'm teaching a new ten-week Adult Beginning/Intermediate Class.) The answer is . . . it depends.

Before I go further, here are three articles I've written on the subject:

But since these articles are all from 2012 and 2013, they've been forgotten - so now's a good time to blog about it! At least it'll get you thinking about it. Plus I'll add a few new things.

First, a quick definition. A neutral grip is where the thinnest part of the wrist should line up with the paddle. If, while in a backhand position, you rotate the top of the racket away from you, then you have a backhand grip. If you rotate the top of the racket toward you, it's a forehand grip. Here's an article with pictures showing extreme forehand and backhand grips - you can also have a forehand or backhand grip that isn't as extreme as in these pictures.

For beginners, I strongly urge you to use a neutral grip until your strokes are well developed. Those who start out with backhand or forehand grips usually ended up with stroke problems. The problem with a non-neutral grip is you are forced to make adjustments for the fact that your arm is aiming one way, your racket another. This will mess your stroke development up.