A Tip of the Week will go up every Monday by noon.



05/22/2023 - 15:09

Author: Larry Hodges

I think you'll find these 20 general tips useful. Many are covered in other Tips, but now they are compiled in one listing!

  1. If your opponent hits the ball aggressively at your crossover point between your forehand and backhand (where your playing elbow is), return it mostly with your backhand if you are close to the table, with your forehand if you are away from the table.
  2. Learn to place your shots either to the wide corners or to the opponent's crossover point between backhand and forehand (roughly his playing elbow).
  3. When the incoming ball is traveling slowly (serves, pushes, chops, etc.) use more wrist. When the ball is traveling fast (fast drives or loops, etc.), use less wrist.
  4. If your opponent is looping your serve effectively, you have three options: 1. Serve shorter (so ball would bounce twice before going off the end of the table) so opponent can't loop; 2. Serve faster, so he cannot get into position or react; 3. Lose.
  5. If your opponent keeps hitting forehand winners from his backhand corner, play to his forehand first, and then come back to his backhand.
  6. When playing a combination racket, don't avoid the off-surface. The off-surface (long pips, anti, etc.) is a weakness in your opponent's game, or everyone would use the stuff. Learn how to exploit it and play both sides tactically.
  7. Don't go into a match with the goal of winning - it can only hurt. Go into the match with the goal of playing your best, and you will maximize your chances of winning.
  8. Age and smart tactics will often beat youth, athleticism, skill, and poor tactics.
  9. Learn to serve legally. Someday an umpire might require you to do so.
  10. There is nothing more sorry than working for the point, getting the shot you want, and hitting it to the one spot on the table your opponent can reach. Place your shots.
  11. If, in a typical game, you miss two easy winning shots because of lack of concentration, you are rated at least 100 points lower than you would be if you concentrated throughout.
  12. If you have trouble topspinning against backspin, you probably aren't opening your racket enough. If you have to strain to lift a backspin ball, you definitely need to open your racket more.
  13. When you block, sink the ball straight through the sponge to the wood. You should hear and feel the wood. (This is different than a "topspin" block where you essentially spin the ball off the bounce.)
  14. Develop two types of serves: serves that you can consistently follow up with the type of attack or rally that you want, and "trick" serves meant to fool an opponent outright. Develop both, but rely on the first type. Don't overuse the latter or they will lose their effectiveness.
  15. One of the quickest ways to improve is to learn to serve short (usually backspin) and, since most players will push it back long, follow with a well-placed forehand or backhand loop.
  16. A spinless serve that looks spinny is more effective than a spinny serve that looks spinny. To serve no-spin, simply contact the ball near the throat of the blade (where racket travels slowest) instead of near the tip (where racket moves fastest), but still use a spinny-looking motion.
  17. It is easier to serve short consistently if you make the first bounce on your side of the table closer to the net, and by grazing the ball so the ball has more spin than forward motion.
  18. To serve the ball so it bounces very low on the other side, contact the ball at net level or lower; graze it so it's mostly spin; make first bounce closer to your own endline but not so close that you can't keep it short (assuming you want to); and have it cross the net as low as possible.
  19. When serving fast, make the first bounce on your side of the table as close to your endline as possible. Make the second bounce on the opponent's side of table as close to his endline as possible. This maximizes the amount of table for the ball to drop onto, and so maximizes how fast you can serve. It also jams and rushes the opponent by going deep.
  20. If you win the first game easily against a player near your level, watch out! He has nothing to lose in the next game, and you do.

05/15/2023 - 16:01

Author: Larry Hodges

Dang it! How'd I miss that?!!! I can't play! These (or perhaps harsher words) are the words of a player who is trying too hard, i.e. pressing too much. This is also true if you feel like saying these things during a match but hold back. They are symptoms of a player wants to win so badly they can't play well, and so don't win nearly as often as they could.

Instead, learn to play with a more relaxed attitude. This doesn't mean no emotion, but only positive emotion. The more negative emotion you have, the less confident you'll be, and the harder it will be for your subconscious to do the things it's been trained to do, i.e. play table tennis at your "normal" level.

When you do feel these negative thoughts, there are sports psychology methods to overcome them. However, it's far, Far, FAR better to play with an attitude where you rarely face such thoughts during the match.

You do want to try hard, but in a different way. You should be fighting physically and mentally. But you should be battling an opponent, not yourself. Instead, focus on individual points, think simple tactics, and let your training take over. Have fun, stay cool, and you'll maximize your chances of playing your best - and yelling, "Yes!" at the end.


05/08/2023 - 14:28

Author: Larry Hodges

If you are the type of player who has trouble generating power when forehand looping, try out these five tips -  call it the "Fearsome Fivesome" - and you'll be surprised at the improvement. (If you have natural power, then here’s the most important tip – don’t worry about power, just let the shots happen naturally – don’t try to muscle the ball - and instead focus on consistency and placement. See #4 and #5 below.)

  1. Use a wider stance, with your legs farther apart. This leads to a greater weight transfer and thereby more power.
  2. As you backswing, bring your wrist back as well, so that it can naturally snap through the ball during contact. You should especially use wrist against a slower incoming ball, such as a push.
  3. Contact the ball more from your side as your body is rotating. Many players contact the ball too much in front, with their arm going forward after the body has already rotated, and so end up swinging mostly with their arm, with contact in front.
  4. Focus on "easy power," where you let the muscles smoothly contract in rough order from bottom to top (from legs to forearm & wrist), rather than try to spastically "muscle" the ball.
  5. Almost remember that consistency and placement is more important than raw power. Instead of trying to rip it through their waiting forehands or backhands, try a relatively fast but consistent loop that goes to a wide corner, to the opponent's middle (midpoint between their forehand and backhand), or done deceptively where you aim for one corner, and as your opponent to reacts to that, change directions to the other corner.

05/01/2023 - 06:08

Author: Larry Hodges

Rarely have I heard more (and often weird) opinions on what to do at the end of a close game. Some say, "Play safe!" Others, "Go for it!" And a zillion other types of advice. The reality is that the end of a game is only different in two ways.

First, there should be no holding back on your best serves or best shots. If you have a serve that gives the opponent trouble, earlier you might not have wanted to overuse it and let him get used to it. But now is the time to use what worked before. He may know it's coming - and yet, you should probably serve it anyway. If you don't, and you lose with a weaker serve, you'll be kicking yourself afterwards, and your opponent will likely also be glad you didn't use it and wonder why you didn't. But this comes with experience - if you think the opponent is looking for that serve and so will be able to make a good return off it, then perhaps set up as if you are doing that serve and cross him up with another. While serves are the obvious example of something to use at the end, you should also bring your other winning shots into play. If the opponent had trouble earlier against your heavy push, now's the time to make him face it! (But assume he handles it this time and be ready.)

Second is the psychological aspect. Ideally, you should be calm and ready to play your best. But the reality is some players get nervous in a close game. But guess what - so does your opponent! So mentally prepare yourself for these situations, and remember the opponent faces the same thing. When serving, have confidence knowing you have control over your serve, while your opponent is under much more pressure trying to return a serve since he doesn't know what's coming. When receiving, just clear your mind and do what you do best when receiving - but don't overthink it. (If you really need help on the sports psychology side, Google it, or even "Table Tennis Sports Psychology," and lots of helpful resources will come up.)

Ultimately, regardless of the score, you want to play the highest percentage table tennis you can. If that means attacking, you should mostly be attacking whether the score is 0-0, 5-5, 8-10, 10-8, or 10-10. Play your game as that's the best way to maximize your chances of winning, no matter the score. And one last simple tip - ignore the score in a close game, and just focus on the one point. Isn't that all that matters at the time you play it?


04/24/2023 - 12:55

Author: Larry Hodges

There's a famous song, "Dumb Ways to Die," that one of our top juniors use to play endlessly as a fun way to relax, often before a big match. (Years later and I still can’t get it out of my head.) Maybe someone should do a song, "Dumb Ways to Lose"? Over the years I have seen so many players find dumb ways to lose that I've concluded that losing was, in fact, their goal. If your goal is to lose, I am here to help! And so, here it is . . . "Dumb Ways to Lose," i.e. Larry's Guide to Losing. 

  1. Spend the week before the tournament on your sofa watching TV, eating potato chips, and drinking soda or beer. Do the same the week afterwards to console yourself.
  2. Use old, worn-out sponge and playing shoes.
  3. Show up at the last minute so there's no time to warm up. Warming up is for sissies.
  4. Eat a big meal just before your big match.
  5. Always figure out the right tactics to beat your opponent after it's too late.
  6. Actually, why worry about tactics at all? Who needs to think? It's not like you're playing chess or something. Just play and if you play better, you'll win, right?
  7. Try to be highly emotional, with a full panorama of negative emotions: Anger, Disgust, Sadness, and for the emotionally talented, Complete Hopelessness. Practice these emotions on your friends while you still have them.
  8. Just before your most important match of the tournament, discuss politics or religion with someone, or just watch the news.
  9. When you miss an easy shot, that's all you should think about for the rest of the match. I mean, seriously, you should have made that shot, right? It was so easy! Keep telling yourself that.
  10. Constantly think about your opponent's rating, how many rating points you are risking, and the score. These things are important!!!