Tip of the Week

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


November 30, 2020 - Letting an Opponent Control Play is Risky

Monday, November 30, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

The next time you are in a close match, and are worried about making mistakes, and so play super safe to avoid mistakes . . . consider this. Letting your opponent control play is the biggest risk you can take in table tennis. You no longer have control over your fate. All your practice and preparation is mostly gone as you sit back and hope your opponent will hand you the victory. What can be riskier than that?

This doesn't mean you go for big shots. It means, for example, pushing quick, very deep or short, and wide-angled rather than a safe push to the middle of the table. It means taking the ball a bit quicker, so your opponent doesn't have time to take control. It means going for aggressive angles and shots to the opponent's middle rather than just safe shots toward the corners. It means finding ways to return serves that take the initiative away from the server (either by taking the initiative or getting into a neutral rally), rather than just getting them back and letting the server take the initiative. It means taking the initiative at the start of a rally, whether by attacking or by doing shots that make your opponent uncomfortable, so that you control play. There are many other examples. Take control - it's less risky!

November 23, 2020 - The Forehand Down-the Line Block and Counterloop

Monday, November 23, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

When players loop to the forehand, almost invariably it is returned crosscourt, at least until you reach the higher levels. This can be effective, since it does give a wide angle to the forehand, and about 15.5 more inches going crosscourt then down the line. But it is so common that players are used to this – but they are often absolutely frozen by an unexpected down-the-line return, whether it's a block, or (at higher levels) a counter-loop.

Forehand blocking down the line is not a hard shot to do, it's just one that many players do not bother learning it, partly because they warm up crosscourt so much, and because, deep down, they are trying to play it safe, and go where there's more room and where they are most used to doing it. Instead, when forehand blocking, learn to drop your wrist back so you can angle your block down the line, using your opponent's speed and spin to rebound it back (as with all blocks). When counterlooping, take the ball a little later so you can line up down the line without tilting your wrist back, or intentionally tilt the wrist back and take it inside-out (with contact on the side of the ball nearer you), and learn to go down the line. In both cases, to learn it you have to practice it. Have someone loop down the line to your forehand so you can work on your blocking, or counterloop with someone down that line. And then, in games, watch the awkward returns (or non-returns) of your opponents!

November 16, 2020 - Use Both Sides of the Body When Forehand Looping

Monday, November 16, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Most players think of forehand looping as a shot done from their playing side. So a right-handed player might think of rotating his right side around as he loops his forehand. However, this will limit your power as well as throw off your balance. You should use your other side as well. This means that a right-handed player should not only rotate his right side forward and around, but he should "pull" with his left side as well, rotating it backward and around. (This is why weight training is important on both sides, not just the playing side.) If you watch the top players, you'll see that most of the stroke is in a circle. Here's a video of Ma Long forehand looping - note how he uses both sides of his body as he rotates in a circle, and his body doesn't move forward at all. This means he finishes where he starts, in a balanced position, and instantly ready for the next shot.

November 9, 2020 - Think Tactics, Then Let Go

Monday, November 9, 2020
by: Larry Hodges

Between points, think about what you want to do, especially at the start of the rally – what serve to use, what type of receives. Think about what shots you want to do during a rally against any given shot as well – looping, hitting, quick blocks, etc. Keep it simple. Your subconscious mind will get the message about what to do, and it will learn to reflexively go for the shots you are thinking about. However, before the rally starts, blank out your mind, and let the shots just happen - "Let go." If you try to control your shots during a rally, you will not play well. The conscious mind isn't nearly as fast or coordinated as the subconscious mind.

November 2, 2020 - Backhand Chopping in an Emergency

Monday, November 2, 2020
by: Larry Hodges


You are stuck out of position away from the table on your forehand side of the table. Your opponent quick hits the ball to your wide backhand, and you can't possibly get to it and make an effective backhand drive. What do you do? You could reach out and "fish" the ball back with a light topspin, but that allows your opponent to smash or loop kill. Instead, this might be the perfect time to chop the ball. Not only is it easier to do this shot from out of position than a more aggressive backhand drive, but it's a good change-up. However, many players don't use this shot because they don't think of themselves as choppers. You don't have to be a chopper to be able to throw in a good chop now and then. Just remember three principles, and your backhand chop will start to rescue you out of what was before an impossible position.

First, let the ball drop to table level or below. Second, contact the ball more toward the back of the ball, not the bottom, with your racket facing more forward, not so much up, and graze the ball with a mostly downward stroke. Many players chop too much under the ball, and so pop it up. (Top choppers can do this, but that's a more advanced technique involving letting the ball drop even more, and vigorously chopping the ball with a very fine grazing motion. You can learn to do this as you get better chopping.) Third, most topspin-style players tend to chop off the end since they aren't used to the way a backspin ball floats long. So try chopping so the ball hits your side of the table – and watch it float to the other side!