Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 2:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  nine books and over 2000 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis TipsMore Table Tennis Tips, and Still More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, 2014-2016, and 2017-2020, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

Tip of the Week
Table Tennis Gems.

Weekend Coaching
I coached five group sessions this weekend. I only had one on Saturday, with the other four on Sunday – including three in a row without a break, totaling five hours. I used to coach five hours straight somewhat regularly, but not anymore – and these days, it’s pretty tiring! And yet, the reality is I wasn’t that tired during the sessions where I was focused, mostly afterwards, when I felt like a ping-pong ball that had been used in a smashing drill and then stomped on by an army of over-excited kids.

As usual, I’m constantly harping on “active feet.” As an amusing side, it means I know everyone’s shoes, and even asked a few of them why they chose those particular shoes. In the higher groups, one wore volleyball shoes, which work can for table tennis, but the rest had various TT shoes. I also stressed always doing something with each shot, don’t just blindly do them. Choose and place each shot for a reason – the more you do that, the more reflexive it becomes. For example, don’t just push the ball back – do it quick and fast, or super heavy, or short, or aim one way and go another, or use an extreme angle, or something.

A local 2000 player, Konstantyn “Stan” Salatov, emailed me about the problem of slow starters, as both he and his son, AJ (13, rated 1787) tend to be slow starters in tournaments. It’s a common thing which I also had problems with long ago. I wrote a rather long email about this, as well as a follow-up. I was going to put it here, but it’s more of a Tip of the Week – so I instead wrote it up as one, which will show up at some point, maybe next Monday. (I’ve already written enough Tips to go through July.) But the super-short version is there are two equally important aspects to solving this problem – physical and mental. To prepare physically for a tournament, you shouldn’t just warm up with a bunch of rote drills. You also need play points and do random drills, as these allow you to “play free” instead of just robotically, where you know where the incoming ball is going. You need to do this both before your first match, and also in the days before. To prepare mentally, you need to remember the best match you have ever played, and remember the mentality you had in that match – and go into your first match with that mentality.

I also did a player analysis of one of our top junior players, whose parents sent me video of him from a recent tournament. I won’t go into my analysis here, but it’s important to look at videos from tournaments and figure out from there what needs to be worked on – both things that need fixing, and things that can become overpowering strengths. In this case, I had four main things. One was about active feet on receive, which will likely become an upcoming Tip of the Week.

2023 World Championships
Here’s the ITTF home page for the event, with lots of World Championships news. It also links to the World Table Tennis page for the event, which has complete results. Here’s the Youtube video page. They are being held in Durban, South Africa, May 20-28. Here’s the SUATT news item, USA Draws for the 2023 World Championships in South Africa.  

Here’s more on the Worlds from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly.

Proof of Citizenship at the US Nationals
Last week I received the following email from USATT Tournament Operations about the upcoming US Nationals:

Please note that in order to participate in the Championship Events (event #1-31) and Doubles Events (event #32-66) in this Tournament, a participant must be a citizen of the United States. All participants in the 2023 US Nationals who are registered in a Championship Event (singles and/or doubles) must provide a copy of his or her US passport, an original U.S. birth certificate, a naturalization certificate, a certificate of citizenship, or some other document recognized as legally proving US citizenship, as well as a photo ID, at the registration desk in order to pick the participant's player package.

The key thing here is we have to bring a birth certificate, passport, or some other proof of citizenship and show it at the registration desk. This makes no sense except for new players or those who just received citizenship. USATT maintains a “citizens” list, and once you are on it, you should be set and no longer need to bring proof to every event. That’s how it’s been done for decades - I haven't shown citizenship in about 35 years. I'm the one who created and maintained it for USATT for several years during my first tenure with them in the late 1980s (a paper list back then!), and I believe it has been maintained since. The USATT rating page (which comes from the USATT database) has a “Citizens” category you can list by, so they still have that in their database. So why are they asking us to bring proof of something they already have??? Do we have to bring proof now at every Nationals and Open again? It is sort of funny that I’ve been a USATT member since 1976, have been to every US Nationals since 1984 and numerous Team Trials where citizenship was required, am listed in their database as a citizen after showing them my birth certificate several decades ago, and once again I would have to bring proof! I’m curious if they will ask last year’s Men’s and Women’s singles champions, Nikhil Kumar and Lily Zhang, for proof of citizenship, as well as others who played championships events last year, or Olympians, which also required citizenship to compete. 

Dan Reynolds Resigns
This morning Dan Reynolds resigned from the USATT Board of Directors, citing exhaustion. I could write volumes on various issues related to this, but frankly, I’m tired of USATT coverage for now. Sometimes I have to remind myself and others that this site is, not (Hmmm, that’s an idea for a web page.) And having said that...


Coaching the Coach
Here’s the article by Massimo Costantini.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Ti Long

Hitting a Drop Shot Off of High Balls
Here’s the video (1:49) by Damien Provost from PongSpace.

Don’t Panic! How to Learn from Your Serve Receive Errors
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak. Nice cartoon picture!

Three Classic Mistakes with Backhand
Here’s the video (3:19) from Pingispågarna.

On Spin and Anticipation in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (6:45) from Drupe Pong.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

NCTTA Collegiate Nationals
Here’s the article by Joanna Sung.

Tashiya Piyadasa Receives a Long Term Scholarship from OCTTA
Here’s the article by Tashiya.

Interview with Sathiyan Gnanasekaran – Winner of the 84th Indian Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article.

What’s a Ping Pong Olympic Champion Home Like?
Here’s the video (7:21), featuring Zhang Jike. “We renovated an Olympic champion home.”

Today’s Forecast - 100% Chance of Ping Pong
Here’s where you can get the shirt at Amazon!

Sports at the Dinner Table
Here’s the cartoon!

The Most Satisfying Ping Pong Challenge
Here’s the video (8:01) from PongFinity! Also, I found another one from them that I don’t think I’ve ever linked to - Ping Pong Meets Trampoline Park (8:01)!

US Presidents Play Wii Sports Table Tennis
Here’s the video (8:10)! Hilarious. Features Obama, Biden, and Trump, with Bush Jr. appearing toward the end. Warning – lots of profanity.

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Are You Trying Too Hard?

US Table Tennis Hall of Fame
All mention and links to the US Table Tennis Hall of Fame are gone from the USATT web pages. If you want to visit it, you have to know to go to their new website since it no longer exists, as far as USATT is concerned. It’s just indescribable how the current USATT does these silly things that hurt our sport. I could do a VERY long blog on how many table tennis groups the current USATT has gone to war with, all to the detriment of the sport. 

The US Table Tennis Hall of Fame is an independent group, just as the Hall of Fames of most sports in the US, including baseball, basketball, football, tennis, and most others – that’s the best way to keep it from becoming overly politicized. Here's the current Hall of Fame Board of Directors, a "Who's Who" of US Table Tennis, and far less politicized than USATT. There’s a battle going on right now as many of the current leaders of USATT want to take over the Hall of Fame, which would be a terrible move. The main consequence of USATT running a Hall of Fame would be the politicization that comes from wanting to “reward” political friends and punish “opponents.” 

I wouldn’t be surprised if USATT tries to set up their own separate Hall of Fame, arguing that the Hall of Fame should only recognize those who contribute directly to USA Table Tennis, i.e. not those who mostly worked on related organizations, like National Collegiate Table Tennis Association. And yet, when you go to their own USATT mission statement, it says:


So, the USATT mission is to “Support, Develop, Grow, and Inspire the Table Tennis Community.” Note it says Table Tennis Community, not USA Table Tennis. USATT (and that includes me, a life member, and many readers here who are USATT members) are supposed to be developing this sport IN THIS COUNTRY, period. I was on the board of directors when we created this mission statement – the “Support, Develop, Grow, and Inspire the Table Tennis Community” part were my words, and we really meant it – but not so much the current group. We’re supposed to work together, not turn everything into a political fight and, say, remove links to the Hall of Fame if you don’t get your way. Heck, I work with USATT, despite our disagreements – in recent years I’ve coached our junior teams overseas in Austria, Jordan, Ecuador, and Santo Domingo, chaired and/or was a member of the coaching committee, and edited the complicated entry forms for the US Open and Nationals, including the upcoming one.

Disclaimer - I do the program booklet for the annual US Table Tennis Hall of Fame Banquet and Induction Ceremony, which are linked from the Dinner page, if you page down. I’m also in the US Table Tennis Hall of Fame and was awarded the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. But I’m only 63!!! Here’s a short History of the US Table Tennis Hall of Fame.

New USATT Webpage?
On Friday, a whole new USATT website went up. There was no advance notice or news item that I saw – it came out of the blue. It was a mess. I wrote an extensive blog this morning (Monday) about it for this week’s blog – but while I was doing so, after being public for three days, they reverted back to the old version. While that’s a good move, I have no idea why they are creating a new version, or why they put up one that’s not ready to go public for these three days. I’m sure some of them are happy about wasting my time – but they don’t look very good when they do such things – like taking out the Hall of Fame links (see above), it’s just silly. On a related note, there hasn’t been a single USATT news item in 17 days, not since Apr. 28. (They used to be much more common.) Ironically, the “new” version that’s disappeared had one from a few days ago about para table tennis, but it’s gone as well – and even then, just one in 17 days?
(Edit - the mysterious news item reappeared later on Monday, US Paralympic Medalists Looking to Have a Dominant Performance in Homecoming Appearance at the 2023 ITTF Para US Open.) 

Weekend Coaching
I did four group sessions over the weekend. I mostly did multiball or was a roving coach, so didn’t hit directly too much except for one session where I hit with alternating players for an hour. After two months, my shoulder is still injured and I probably need to rest it – I’m debating whether to see a doctor so he can say, “Yep, you have an injured shoulder and need to rest it.” But when I hit with beginning/intermediate kids, there’s usually not too much strain on the shoulder. (Once it’s a bit better, then I might start doing some easy exercises on it to build it back up, but it’s not ready for that yet.)

While coaching, I focused a lot on ball control this weekend. If you are hitting forehand to forehand or backhand to backhand, the ball should be going where you are aiming – and that’s the corners. As I explained at one point, “Top players don’t hit middle forehand to middle forehand.”

I also emphasized doing something with your push. You don’t just get it back – every push should be an adventure, where you put extra backspin on the ball, hit it quick or fast, place it, change directions, or something. Otherwise you make things easy for the opponent, like hitting with a predictable robot.

One thing that we’ve done a lot of recently toward the end of a session is have the kids line up, I put an empty basket on the table upside down, and I feed multiball as they try to knock it off. Typically I might feed three shots each, to wide backhand, middle, and wide forehand, and they play forehands. It takes a number of shots to knock the basket off – most hits nudge it maybe a quarter inch, though a hard, direct hit might send it two inches. We time and see how long it takes them to knock it off.

Here’s something to think about. In one session, the players were playing up-down tables, games to 11. For the very last game, for fun, I had everyone play one game to four points – opposite handed! So righties played lefty, lefties played righty. There were sixteen players, and fifteen players had fun. But one kid, surprisingly, took things so seriously that he was crying afterwards, almost inconsolable. Why? “I’m so bad left-handed!” he wailed. Yes, some kids take these things very seriously.

Forehand Topspin, Modern Versions
Here’s an example (33 sec) of a nice modern forehand – I think the player’s name is Azhara from the HATTA. Besides being a good example to copy, there’s something of historic interest here involving terminology. If you went back to the years I was developing (I started in 1976), and up until perhaps twenty or so years ago, this would have been called a close-to-table loop (or topspin in Europe). But now it’s just a standard forehand drive, which these days are taught to have this type of topspin. (It’s much easier and more natural with modern sponges.) It’s really a terminology thing – I watch it and see a close-to-table loop and remind myself that this is just a regular forehand, while a modern player just sees a regular forehand.

This isn’t the only change in modern forehands. Here’s video (8 sec) of Stanley Hsu (far side, about 2400) with Cheng Yinghua. Stanley blocks two, and then counterloops close to the table for a winning shot - and does so with his feet parallel to the incoming ball. In the past, players were taught to move the right foot back (for righties) for forehands, even in fast rallies, often taking a step back to do so. But now we teach up-and-coming juniors to keep the feet mostly parallel in faster rallies like this so they can play the ball more quickly and stay closer to the table. If he'd brought his right foot back, it would have slowed him down, making the shot more difficult and probably rushed, or he'd have had to step back some. One key issue - it takes a lot of physical training to do this type of body rotation at high speeds, so for most of us, old-style is probably better. I also wrote about this in my blog on May 1 – see third bullet point in Weekend Coaching. (There’ll be an upcoming Tip of the Week on this, currently scheduled for July 10 – I’ve written all the Tips of the Week through July.)

Improve Backhand Speed, Short Backhand Flips & More
Here’s the video (13:06) from Seth Pech – highly recommend this if you want to see these and other techniques from an elite point of view.

How to Topspin Any Serve Long to Your Backhand – Step-by-Step Guide
Here’s the video (5:08) from Rational Table Tennis.

How Using Your Body/Wrist Can Help to Increase Your Racket Speed
Here’s the video (4:59) from Drupe Pong.

Strategically Use of Half-Long Serves to Gain Advantage
Here’s the video (2:10) from Angela Guan/PongSpace.

Can Adult Players Change Technique
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Multiball Training is Fundamental to Early Success in Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Subham Kundu, a professional player and coach from India.

The Importance of a Coach in a Table Tennis Match
Here’s the article by Kasmono Monex.

Talking about Lower Back Pain (and Table Tennis)
Here’s the article by Dr. Alomar-Jimenez.

New from Ti Long

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Daniel Gonzalez Joined Major League Table Tennis (MLTT)
Here’s the article by Stephanie Sun.

Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy For Sale
The deadline for putting in bids is Wednesday, May 17, in two days. Here’s their Business Plan and new video Successful Academy (2:07).

Alexis Lebrun and Power of Serve
Here’s the video (35 sec).

Waldner’s Successor
Here’s the video (2:20) from Taco Backhand, featuring Truls Moregard of Sweden.

Truls Moregardh vs Koji Uezu | FINAL | Swedish League 2023
Here’s the video (5:51).

Timo Boll Withdraws from 2023 World Championships
Here’s the video (2:20) from TT11TV. He is still recovering from a shoulder injury.

TT Insider 'The reunion: Liam & Zak' mental health discussion
Here’s the video (4:31) with Liam Pitchford and Zak Abel.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

New from ITTF

2Pong, SmashNet, Teqball and Headis - Has the World Gone Mad?
C’mon, table tennis is the REAL racket sport, and nobody’s going to play these newfangled things like these or pickleball!

King Pong Shirts
Here’s what you get when you go to Amazon and put in “King Pong Shirts” – there are so many to choose from! You can also do this with socks, hats, and with other animals – there’s a jungle of such ping-pong stuff out there just waiting to get bought.

I Don’t Remember What We Do Here
Here’s the cartoon!

Pongfinity Shorts
Here’s 43 hilarious short videos from Pongfinity! I link to their usually weekly longer videos, but these are shorter classics.

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Five Tips to Increase Forehand Looping Power.

Weekend Coaching
Five group sessions, two private sessions, nine hours total, and yes, I’m exhausted, as I always am on Mondays after coaching on the weekend. (Yet, the other coaches at MDTTC do far more hours, as I did when I was younger before I semi-retired.) I spent much of the sessions either feeding multiball or (in two sessions) as a practice partner with rotating players. There was a lot of work looping backspin and in general on consistency. We did a lot of box-bashing, where I put on the table one of the plastic boxes or bowls we use for serving practice, perhaps a foot from the end-line, and the player has to knock it off as I feed multiball – it takes a bunch of hits to do so. Often I do this two at a time, with each player typically doing three shots – perhaps a forehand from the backhand corner, middle, and forehand corner, then rotating around while partner does three. Or they do the backhand-forehand-forehand drill – backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side, then rotate around. I time it each time to see how long it takes them to knock it off, so they compete on this – and so they have fun while developing their footwork, strokes, consistency, power, and accuracy.

I had two private sessions, both with para players. The first was with Navin Kumar, where the focus was on smashing. We also did a lot of random drills. I’m also working with him on being more aggressive with his backhand long pips (no sponge) against backspin – you can’t just pat it back. We’re also working on flipping his racket so he can use the inverted side sometimes on the backhand to attack. I gave him an assignment – watch lots of TV, but hold your racket as you do so and twirl it until you can do it in your sleep (as well as while watching TV or playing TT). Here’s video (62 sec) Navin took of the session.

I also had a session with Sam Altshuler, a para junior star, ranked #39 in Para Men’s Class 6. (That’s against men, and he’s a junior player.) He also has long pips on the backhand, but with sponge and so is more aggressive – both on that side and with his forehand. His normal coach is Lidney Castro, but USATT para coach Jasna Rather asked if I could work with him on playing against long pips, since he faces that so often in para tournaments where long pips is far more common. The irony is that the other junior players at MDTTC get regular practice against long pips by playing Sam, but he doesn’t since he can’t play himself. So for this session I got out my racket with long pips, no sponge, and let him go after it for 30 minutes. (I keep in my playing bag a variety of rackets, many of which I pull out in tournaments for student to warm up against if they are about to play someone with that surface. All of them have Tenergy 05 on one side, with the other side being long pips no sponge (for blocking); long pips thin sponge (for chopping); medium long pips; short pips; antispin; and hardbat. Sam has endless energy and enthusiasm - when I said it was time to rest so we could be ready for the upcoming 90-minute group session, he didn't want to stop!!!

Dan Reynolds and USATT
On February 7, I blogged about various USATT shenanigans and bylaw violations, including how the current chair of the board isn’t even eligible to be chair, and how the board member who was planning to run against him – Dan Reynolds – was suddenly accused (anonymously) of misconduct, and so “Temporarily” suspended by SafeSport. Well, he's been reinstated and is now off the suspended list. But he wasn’t allowed to attend USATT events for over four months, including tournaments (he’s a national referee), and of course USATT board meetings, including the one where the ineligible board chair was re-elected chair, while Reynolds was suspended and so unable to run or vote. While I can see why a person accused of misconduct with, say, a minor would be suspended from events with minors, there’s little justification for suspending such a person from other activities when all we have is an anonymous accusation that has nothing to do with board activities. I’m not going into details here, but this makes three times in the last couple of years or so where a USATT member was “conveniently” suspended and so not able to participate in important issues or events. Two were reinstated, including Reynolds; the other is ongoing. (NOTE added on Wednesday - I initially said the third case would "likely" be the same, but I took that out since that's purely speculative.) Guess what could happen to me if I were to, say, run for the USATT board next year? No, I don’t plan to (but haven’t ruled it out), but the fact that all a political “opponent” or any crank who doesn’t like you has to do to derail an opponent these days is make an anonymous accusation to SafeSport at the right time . . . is chilling.

Tournament Software
I have a pet peeve. This is the year 2023, and some tournaments are still using software that doesn’t put the results online. There’s nothing wrong with using older software if it’s updated so it can do what most modern tournament softwares can do, including putting the results online. There are free softwares that do that – in particular, Omnipong, which probably runs the majority of USATT tournaments these days (and is the software USATT uses for their major tournaments), as well as TTlive, which a number of other tournaments use.

For tournaments that don’t put complete results online, we have to wait for the results to be processed for USATT ratings - and they don’t show the actual draws and so you can’t really see what happened, just a listing of wins and losses for individual players, by event and round. It’s like wanting to see the box score for a baseball game, but all you can do is wait up to a week, and then look up each player’s disconnected results for that game, one by one.

There were ten USATT tournaments last weekend, but none were processed until Friday. So we had to wait 5-6 days to see those results, and then only one player at a time, rather than seeing the draws themselves. In essence, since the draws for those tournaments aren’t online, they are lost to posterity. For comparison, here are the results for the Cary Cup in North Carolina, which was a four-day tournament, Thu-Sun, that used Omnipong. We had about ten players from my club there, and I was able to check the results for them every night. You can look up the full results and draws of every tournament ever run on Omnipong, so those results are up for posterity. We had two players in another tournament that I won’t name, and I couldn’t see their results until the following Friday, and those draws are essentially lost to posterity. One problem – tournament directors who don’t put the full results online rarely hear from the numerous people who are irritated at this, and so when someone like me does complain, they think it’s an isolated case that nobody cares about.

Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy For Sale
Here’s the notice for those interested in buying. Here’s the video (4:18) from a couple of weeks ago. There are other updates on their News page that I linked to last week.

Thomas Hu Interview
Here’s the video (3:25) with the CEO of AYTTO and USATT board member. “October 26, 2020, a beloved legend in the US table tennis passed away. In honor of his immense contribution to the table tennis community and world peace, NCTTA and AYTTO teamed together to honor him with the Annual George Braithwaite Community Service Award for those high school seniors demonstrating a consistent and positive contribution to the AYTTO community.”

The Importance of Communications on Doubles
Here’s the video (2:52) from PongSpace by Angela Guan.

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Basic Guide for Table Tennis Forehand Topspin
Here’s the video (79 sec) from the Aspire TTC.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Enjoying WTT Youth Star Contender 2023
Here’s the article by Patryk Zyworonek

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

China’s Biggest Threat Right Now
Here’s the video (2:23) featuring world #7 Truls Moregard of Sweden, from Tacobackhand. (Truls and world #4 Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan do seem to be the biggest threats.)

The Greatest GIANT In Table Tennis History
Here’s the video (3:25) featuring Zoran Kalinic.

New from ITTF

Mini-Pong Forehands
Here’s the video (22 sec)!

I Feel Like I Play Better on Clay
Here’s the cartoon!

The INDONESIA Challenge
Here’s the video (16:18) from Adam Bobrow!

World's Most Ridiculous Ping Pong Serves
Here’s the video (4:04) from Pongfinity – I’m going to learn some of these!!!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Tactics at the End of a Close Game.

Weekend Coaching
Note to self: Never let kids you are practicing with know that you are recovering from a shoulder injury and can’t extend your arm to cover the wide forehand. If you do, guess where they’ll put every ball while gleefully laughing?

I coached in four group junior sessions over the weekend. Here are some of the things that came up.

  • Random drills placement. In the drill where one player plays backhand randomly anywhere while the other player keeps it to his backhand, the focus for the backhand player should be placement. (The drill can also be done to the forehand.) Specifically, every shot should go to one of three spots – wide forehand, wide backhand, or elbow (midway between forehand and backhand). But it’s not just randomly playing the three spots – this drill allows players to learn what combinations work. For example, when you go at the middle, it forces the opponent to move out of position to play forehand or backhand – and so one of the corners open up. Sometimes the player overreacts to cover the open corner, and so the other corner is the one that opens up. This drill allows the backhand player to learn how best to maneuver the opponent around. It allows the other player to learn how to recover from the three placements. (This might become a future Tip of the Week.)
  • Rally at a speed you are consistent at. One of the toughest things is convincing up-and-coming players to slow down for consistency. Too often they want to play at a rat-a-tat superspeed, and so end up practicing just spraying the ball everywhere and developing erratic shots. Instead, find the pace that you can rally at consistently, so you can actually develop that consistency. As you improve, you can increase the pace.
  • Back foot placement on forehands. Generally you play forehands with the right foot slightly back (for righties), but not always. In fast rallies near the table you don’t have time to do that, and so many players at higher levels learn to play these shots with their feet parallel. In general, if the ball is coming at you slow or if you are off the table and so have more time, bring the foot back. If you are closer to the table or rushed, keep the feet more parallel. In a specific case that came up during one session, one player – a fairly high-level one – was forehand blocking with his back foot way, way back, almost turning sideways for the shot. So we worked on blocking with the feet more parallel to the table. When moving to the wide forehand to block, you can bring the right foot back some, but not too much.
  • Five-minute rule. Few players become really good unless they hate losing, and to tell a kid who’s just lost to smile, no big deal, doesn’t work. One player had a practice match where he led 9-7 in the fifth, missed both his serves, and lost 11-9 in the fifth. He was almost inconsolable, even though he’d mostly played well and it was a practice match. So I explained the five-minute rule. It’s simple – after a “bad” loss, you have to recover from it and be ready to play with a clear mind in five minutes.
  • Doubles. We introduced some of the novice players to doubles. Some had played it before, but they didn’t really understand it that well. The funny part was how often they kept mistakenly serving from the backhand court (left-hand since they were righties)! They also struggled with the order of play. But they gradually figured it out.
  • Challenge the Player and Use Targets. It’s easy for a coach to just have players drill and Drill and DRILL like they are little machines that get better if forced to do non-stop repetition. But it rarely works that way. Instead, it’s better to constantly challenge the player. Often that means something like seeing how many shots they can do in a row – do this, and watch how focused they become. In multiball, it’s even more important as multiball drills can get rather boring. So I often put targets on the table – and the results are amazing. Three things happen when I have them aim for targets: 1) They become more focused and so improve faster; 2) They learn accuracy instead of scattering shots all over and so improve faster; and 3) They like doing it and so want o play more and so improve faster. Do you notice the consistent theme here?

The target might be my water bottle, where I’ll either say, “It takes skill to hit such a small target, and you’re just not good enough!” – and of course, they know that’s a challenge. Or I tell them the bottle is full of dog saliva, and if they hit it, I have to drink it – another challenge. (When they do, I make faces and tell them, “Friends don’t make friends drink dog saliva. You’re not my friend.” Then I make faces and drink it.) Or I just say, “Don’t you DARE hit it!” – and of course, that’s another challenge. Or I’ll put my water bottle upside down and put a ball that’s different on it, say it’s a rare ball worth a million dollars so please don’t knock it off the bottle and damage it. Yep, another challenge. Notice the consistent theme here?

Major League Table Tennis (MLTT) Inks Three Star Players
Here’s the news release. And here’s more news about this new Professional Table Tennis League in the US!

Samson Dubina TTC For Sale – Lots of Updates

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

What is a Long Serve and the strategy of It
Here’s the video (3:19) by Angela Guan.

4 Tactics Alexis Lebrun used in Defeating World #1 Fan Zhendong
Here’s the video (3 min) from Pingpong Africa.

Combination Exercises | training improving focus & footwork
Here’s the video (2:04) from Pingispågarna.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Athlete Matt Hetherington on Winning with Autoimmune Issues
Here’s the article, which you can also listen to (5:34).

NCTTA's "Best of the Best" for 2023
Here’s the article by NCTTA President Willy Leparulo.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from USATT

New from ITTF

Shakahola Blame Game
Here’s the cartoon. Here’s an article about what the cartoon’s about: Dozens dead, hundreds missing in Kenya starvation cult case

Ping-Pong Apartment
Here’s the cartoon!

News Story - International National Ping Pong Table Tennis Tournament
Here’s the video (2:57) from FNN (Fake News Network)!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Dumb Ways to Lose.

Weekend Coaching
It was a servey weekend with lots of serve practice. In group sessions, I worked one-on-one with a number of players on their serves – how to generate more spin, serve lower, control the depth, create deception, and so on. Since serving (along with receive and tactics) are my favorite topics, it was a lot of fun. Also did a lot of random ball drills, often with multiball. For these, I emphasize three things: 1) good ready position; 2) react, don’t guess; and 3) move to the ball. I did five group sessions, including one where we had an odd number of players, so I acted as a practice partner. Not easy as my shoulder and neck are still hurting!

For the Novice Class (about twelve players, ages 6-8), I’ve spent the last two weeks convincing them I’m not Coach Larry. Last week I told them I was Coach Barry, Larry’s twin, and that I’d locked up Larry in the trunk of my car, and oops, I forgot to put in airholes. I pretended not to know anything about table tennis except what they showed me, and so I got them to teach me some technique – a good way to get them thinking about it. Then, yesterday, I told them I was Coach Harry, and that we were actually triplets, and that Coach Larry was in the hospital after Coach Barry locked him in the trunk, and that Coach Barry was in jail for doing that, and that I was now the coach, and again they had to teach me how to play. Next week I guess I’ll be Coach Darry!

Celebrities I’ve Met
Because of my table tennis and science fiction travels, I've met a LOT of celebrities. I had major discussions with most of the below. Here are celebrities I’ve met.

TABLE TENNIS: All of the top US and most top World players in the last 40 years, though not as many in the last ten years. If I listed them all, it’d be a LONG list. World Singles Champions I’ve met include:

  • World Men's Singles Champions: Jan-Ove Waldner, Jean-Philippe Gatien, Jorgen Persson, Seiji Ono, Wang Liqin, Werner Schlager, Liu Guoliang, Stellan Bengtsson, Ichiro Ogimura.
  • World Women's Singles Champions: Zhang Yining, Wang Nan, Deng Yaping, Qiao Hong, Tong Ling, Angelica Rozeanu.

ATHLETES: Jim Palmer (Orioles Hall of Fame pitcher), David Robinson (basketball player, played poker with him and others on the 1988 US Olympic basketball team), Andre the Giant (Pro Wrestler), Jeanette "Black Widow" Lee (#1 women's billiards player in the 1990s, gave her a lesson), Ted St. Martin (world record holder for 5221 consecutive free throws, gave him a lesson), Errict Rhett (football player, hit with him in an exhibition), Audrey Weisiger (famed USA Olympic figure skating coach, coached her), and the entire Baltimore Orioles Baseball team and staff in 2013 when I did a demo for them in their clubhouse (along with four of our local junior stars), including Manny Machado, Chris Davis, Nick Markakis, Adam Jones, Brian Roberts, JJ Hardy (coached him at MDTTC), Chris Wieters, Chris Tillman, Darren O'Day (about ten one-hour lessons at MDTTC), Brady Anderson (coached him at MDTTC), Manager Buck Showalter, and many more. Also met most members of the USA Tae Kwon Do, Judo, and Archery Olympic teams in the late 1980s when I lived in the dorms at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs for four years, but don't remember their names.

ACTORS/ACTRESSES: Susan Sarandon, Julia Dreyfus, Frank Caliendo (played doubles with him), Adoni Maropis (played and practice with him a number of times), Judah Friedlander (coached him), Walter Koenig, Leonard Nimoy, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones), Tony Hale.

LEADERS: Henry Kissinger, Jack Markell (governor of Delaware, coached him), Anthony Williams (mayor of Washington DC), Oscar Goodman (mayor of Las Vegas), James McClure (senator from Illinois).

SCIENCE FICTION WRITERS: George R.R. Martin, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett, Mike Resnick, Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi, Orson Scott Card, Alan Dean Foster, Larry Niven, Piers Anthony, David Gerrold, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Joe Haldeman, Connie Willis, Frederick Pohl, Ray Silverberg, Walter Jon Williams, Terry Brooks, Stephen Donaldson, Harry Turtledove, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Allen Steele, Jack McDevitt, James Morrow, Gregory Benford, Robert Asprin, Jerry Pournelle, Michael Swanwick, Charles Stross, Carry Vaughn, Nancy Kress, David Louis Edelman, Cory Doctorow, Karl Schroeder, James Maxwell, Lawrence Schoen, and MANY more - apologies to those left out.

SCIENCE FICTION EDITORS: Stanley Schmidt, Sheila Williams, George Scithers, Gardner Dozois, Gordon Van Gelder, Ellen Datlow, Shawna McCarthy, Eric Flint, Scott Andrews, Jeanne Cavelos, Mike Resnick, C.C. Finlay, Trevor Quachri, Mike Resnick, Lezli Robyn.

OTHERS: Will Shortz (puzzlist and owner of Westchester TTC), Craig Newmark (founder and owner of, Tom McEvoy (world poker champion), Julian Waters (famous calligrapher), Sol Snyder (famous neurologist - my uncle!)

Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy . . . FOR SALE
Alas, they were not able to get enough players and the rent went up. So now they are hoping to stay open by bringing in a buyer, with the coaches (Samson Dubina, Chance Friend, and Jeff Yamada) staying on. Below are the two news items Samson posted on this. I've been there numerous times for tournaments and camp, and hope they manage to continue. So . . . wanna buy a nice, large, well-established, fully-equipped club with three professional coaches? It's a big opportunity!

Three Blog Posts from RevSpin
I ran into these recently, three postings I did a while back that were featured at RevSpin. Here they are!

9 Expert Ping Pong Tips For Beginners From The World’s Best Creators
Here’s the article. The first tip is by me on Daily Shadow Practice.

WTT Champions Macao
Here’s the home page for the vent held Apr. 17-23 in Macao, China, with results, news, and video. The big upset of the tournament was Alexis Lebrun (world #22, #1 player from France) over world #1 Fan Zhendong of China in the quarterfinals, 7,-8,5,-5,9, the last point an edge ball. Lebrun lost to all-time great Ma Long (but now #4 in the world in the semifinals, 8,-7,5,8,8. Ma Long lost in the final to world #2 Wang Chuqin in the all-Chinese final. Here are videos of those three matches and three articles on the tournament by Steve Hopkins/Butterfly.

Butterfly Training Tips
Six new ones this week! They sure make it look easy – and with practice, it is.

How to Level Up With A Robot!
Here’s the video (20:35) from Seth Pech.

How to Chop Block
Here’s the video (2:16) from Pingispågarna.

Chinese Team – How They Train to Be the Best
Here’s the video (3:10) from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from PongSpace

New from Drupe Pong

New from Ti Long

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Interview with Adriana Diaz “Just enjoy the process!”
Here’s the video (19:34) by Stephanie Sun with the world #14 from Puerto Rico.

New from NCTTA
This includes the final article on the National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships held last weekend. Page down on the page to see the other articles, which I linked to last week.

New from USATT

New from ITTF

Reaction Time Training with FastPong
Here’s the video (51 sec), and here’s the product.

Robot with a Racket
Here’s the video (12 sec) – not how instead of shooting balls at you, like most robots, it hits them at you with a racket, which is much more realistic. That’s always been my concern with most robots, that you aren’t learning to react to a racket, which is what you have to do in a real game.

I Challenged a Table Tennis Pro in Virtual Reality
Here’s the video (7 min) from Table Tennis Daily, where they took on world #6 Truls Moregard of Sweden.

Doorway Double-Paddle String Pong
Here’s the video (35 sec)! I believe she is using a RYGRZJ Indoor Hanging Table Tennis set.

Net-Edge Return with Backspin Return
Here’s the video (10 sec) – an “unreturnable” shot is returned unreturnably!

Up and Down, Up and Down...
Here’s the table tennis gif! Here’s where you can find lots more.

Impossible 0.0001% Odds
Here’s the video (8:01) from Pongfinity! “We’re going to attempt the 20 candle extinguishing shot, team up with the best trampoliners, and more.”

Quit Spying on Us! No, You Quit Spying on Us!
Here’s the US-China cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Blocking Footwork.

Weekend Coaching
Coaching this past weekend was a painful experience. Why? While my shoulder injury from a month ago continues to hurt – it doesn’t want to heal and I still can’t extend my arm – I had more problems with my neck. I must have slept on it wrong, but when I woke up Saturday morning, I couldn’t lift my head off the pillow – it took a few minutes of rolling about and trying to hold my head up with my hands before I was able to get up. Once up I discovered I couldn’t turn my head to the right. I almost cancelled my coaching, but decided I would just have to manage. I ended up doing five group junior sessions and one private session. Anytime a ball went to my wide forehand, I both couldn’t turn my head to see it, and couldn’t extend my arm to reach it! Fortunately, I’ve played long enough so I don’t really have to turn my head to hit the ball on my forehand, plus it didn’t affect my feeding multiball since for that my head is normally turned to the left. I also had some sessions where I was just a walk-around coach – but even that was tricky as I couldn’t turn my head to the right to watch players, and so had to turn my entire body. I’m guessing the neck problem will go away in a day or so, but as I’m writing this Monday morning, it hasn’t gotten any better – probably because I kept aggravating it all weekend. I might have to see a doctor about the shoulder as it’s not getting better.

As usual, there were lots of footwork drills. I emphasized keeping the feet moving, telling several kids, “If I can read the brand name on your shoes, you aren’t moving your feet.” There were also some serve practice sessions, where I had players focus on where the ball bounces on both sides of the table. Many players, even advanced ones, aren’t really aware of where the ball bounces on their side of the table, and so have trouble controlling the depth of their serve. For the depth of any given serve, there’s a specific place (distance from your endline) where you want the first bounce to be.

One interesting moment came up when one of the kids was struggling to block the opponent’s spinny loop. I pretty much recited “Blocking Spinny Loops”! And it paid off with some great blocking afterwards.

Oldest Living World Champion?
On Friday, the ITTF put up the news item Diane Schöler Celebrates 90th Birthday, the Oldest Living World Champion. Happy birthday and congrats to her! Only . . . well, I’m probably not too popular right now with the ITTF or the English TTA. When they posted it on Facebook, I responded by writing, “Congrats to Diane! However . . . I believe Thelma “Tybie” Thall Sommer (USA) is still alive at age 99. She was born on March 12, 1924. She won Mixed Doubles at the 1948 Worlds (with Dick Miles) and Women’s Teams at the 1949 Worlds (along with bronze in Women’s Singles).” Here’s Tybie’s Wikipedia entry and her US Table Tennis Hall of Fame writeup by Tim Boggan. I’ve met her a number of times as she used to be a regular at the Nationals into her 90s, always wearing that 1948 Mixed Doubles medal!

Ryan Lin’s Blog
Here it is! Since December, he’s put up eleven entries, about one a week, giving his insightful thoughts on various issues both table tennis and others. Alas, he still hasn’t filled in the “About” link, so you probably don’t know he’s the reigning 2022 US Under 13 National Boys’ Singles Champion, with a 2249 rating (2268 before his last tournament). Now 13, he’s at my club (MDTTC), and while I don’t work with him as much as before, I got to work with him a lot in 2021-2022 in camps and tournaments in Austria, Jordan, Ecuador, Dominican Republic, and a number of US Opens, Nationals, and other tournaments. (We also share a common interest in brain teasers.) Why not hit the Follow button and see his entries as they come up? (He's also on Facebook.)

National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships
They were held this past weekend in Round Rock, TX. Here’s the home page, including results and video. Here are news articles this past week from NCTTA from the Championships – they’ve been writing up a storm!

Ping Pong Diplomacy Podcast
Here’s the new podcast (35:32) on 1971’s US-China Ping Pong Diplomacy, from the History Channel, with “Special thanks to our guests: professional table tennis athletes Judy Hoarfrost, Olga Soltesz, and Connie Sweeris; Yafeng Xia, senior professor of social science at Long Island University Brooklyn, and author of Negotiating with the Enemy: U.S.-China Talks during the Cold War, 1949-1972; and Nicholas Griffin, author of Ping Pong Diplomacy: The Secret History Behind the Game That Changed the World.”

WTT Champions Xinxiang 2023
Here’s the page for the event held in Xinxiang, China, Apr. 9-15, with complete results, video, and news articles. (You might have to choose “WTT Champions Xinxiang 2023” from the dropdown menu.) Here are some videos.

=>Coverage by Steve Hopkins

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

How to Do the Tomahawk Serve
Here’s the video (2:31) from Pingispågarna

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Drupe Pong

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Ahad Sarand Wins Bronze Medal At The 2023 ITTF Para Costa Brava Spanish Open
Here’s the article by Vlad Farcas.



New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of videos here.

Husband, Dad, Ping Pong Legend
Here’s where you can buy the shirt from Tee Shirt Palace! (Alas, I don’t see one for Wife, Mom.)

I’d Rather Be Playing Table Tennis Throw Pillow
Here’s where you can buy it at Amazon!

Many Rackets Pong
Here’s the video (15 sec)!

Big Paddle Rules
Here’s the cartoon!

Matrix Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:46) – it’s an oldie that I linked to long ago, but thought I’d share it with a new generation!

Adam vs. Mexican Champion
Here’s the video (11:43) from Adam Bobrow!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Things For the Day Before the Tournament.

Weekend Coaching and MDTTC Open
Here are the results of the MDTTC Open held this past weekend at my club. Big breakthroughs by Feng Xue and Daniel Anteneh! Jeez, some players just don’t respect ratings and go out there and win against players who are mathematically better.

There was still one group coaching session. Some topics that came up:

  • For beginners: Make sure to put some topspin on the ball on drives, both forehand and backhand. Many beginners tend to hit the ball almost straight on, especially on the backhand, so it’s important to teach them to put just a touch of topspin right from the start. When I ran a coaching seminar for USATT many years ago, we did a survey, which included the question, “If you could go back and say one thing to yourself as a beginner, what would it be?” Surprisingly, the most common answer was some version of, “Make sure to create topspin on your forehand and backhand drives, even when first starting out.”
  • Shorten the swing! I asked one kid, “What are you trying to do, knock over the Great Wall of China?” You don’t need that long a swing for almost any shot, even smashes.
  • Had a tactical discussion with two advanced junior players about some of what we saw in the US Team Trials that were going on that weekend. One key thing – on both serve and receive, you have to move the opponent in and out, meaning serving both short (including to forehand, where you force them even more over the table) and long, and receiving both short and long. (Only receive short against a short serve, of course. Attack the deep ones!)

Do You Need to Be a Top Player to Be a Top Coach? – Revisited
Last week’s Tip of the Week was, Do You Need to Be a Top Player to Be a Top Coach? The topic came up at the forum. I have four postings there on this, #12, 17, 19, and 22 (the last one), which I think add to what I wrote in the Tip.

Men’s and Women’s US Team Trials
They were held this past weekend at the 888 club in Burlingame, CA. Here are some links.

USATT News on US Team Trials by Mark Thompson:

Zhang Jike is Deep Trouble
Zhang Jike, the gold medalists in Men’s Singles in 2011 & 2013 and at the 2012 Olympics, is heavily in debt from gambling. Apparently, he gave “intimate” pictures of his ex-girlfriend to his main creditor so that he could blackmail her into paying his debts. It’s all over the news if you Google it, but here are some links.

New from National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the NCTTA Championships
The US National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships are this next weekend in Round Rock, TX, Apr. 14-16. Here are news items this past week from NCTTA, much of them about the Championships.

Why Some Players Improve Faster Than Others
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Deceptive Forehand Flip by Damien Provost
Here’s the video (2:20) from PongSpace.

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy

Practicing With a Return Board
Here’s the video (3:29) from Drupe Pong.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from ITTF

Table Tennis Final WANG Chuqin vs Truls MOREGARD Star Contender Budapest
Here’s the video (6:46).

Top 10 Best Moments in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (5:37) from CSFSX.

Happy World Table Tennis Day!!!
Here’s the Spanish cartoon – the headline at top is Spanish for “Happy World Table Tennis Day!!!” (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) World Table Tennis Day is coming up on April 23. (It used to be April 6, but it changed.)

It’s Only Ping Pong Said the Loser
Here’s where you can buy the shirt from Tee Shirt Palace!

Wooden Board Pong
Here’s the video (15 sec)!

30 vs 1: Ping Pong Challenge
Here’s the video (8:25) from Pongfinity!

I Challenged Germany
Here’s the video (16:40) from Adam Bobrow!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
Do You Need to Be a Top Player to Be a Top Coach?

Major League Table Tennis
It’s here, in the US, starting soon! This could be a ground-breaking breakthrough for table tennis in the US. Cross your fingers. Here’s their press release, Major League Table Tennis Launches as First Professional Table Tennis League in the US. They also have a Facebook page you should like. (Here’s the USATT news item by Barbara Wei, $250,000 Professional Table Tennis League Launches in the US.) The driving force behind this is Flint Lane, who already started up and owns two table tennis clubs, Princeton Pong and Naples Pong. I’m told he’s got the deep pockets necessary to get something like this off the ground. I also had an exchange of ideas on this with him.

There’s nothing new about the idea of a professional table tennis league in the US. Heck, I put together a proposal on this many years ago about a franchise-based professional league, and that’s exactly what he’s doing. (Here are my blogs about this, on Aug. 24, 2011 and May 10, 2013. I doubt if he saw my proposals in advance, but I forwarded it to him in case he found any ideas there he liked.) But the key thing is not the idea of doing it – ideas on their own are useless. The key is acting on the idea, and that’s what he’s doing. If you are a “top player,” or even borderline, perhaps sign up and see if you are drafted.

Weekend Coaching, Three Old USATT Magazines, and Smithsonian Pong
One of our junior players asked me to help him with his deep, breaking serve to the backhand, so I did that. Next thing I know, several others want to learn it as well. So I worked with a number of them on this and other serves, rotating them about during the group session. I also worked with several on Serving Low – not just when it crosses the net, but so it bounces low on the far side. The idea of serving an aggressive short serve, where the serve comes out fast with a quick jump, and yet stays short and low, was a novel concept for some. Also found some players in our novice and intermediate groups who struggled with forehands down the line, so I ended up blocking for several of them on this.

On a side note, as I put in as “Breaking News” on Thursday, one of our junior players, Sam Altshuler (who I work with semi-regularly) is now world #38 in Para Men’s Class 6!

Now comes the strange question of the three magazines. Completely out of the blue, in Saturday’s mail, where three old issues of USA Table Tennis Magazine, each mailed separately – Jan/Feb 2013, Nov/Dec 2013, and Nov/Dec 2011. All three were mailed independently and loosely, with my name and address printed on them. I checked my collection, and while I had all three, the ones I had were “blank” ones, not mailed ones with my name and address. And now I remember complaining back then that I wasn’t getting some of the issues, and having USATT send them to me separately. So, what happened? The only explanation I can come up with is that they were printed and labeled back in 2011 and 2013, but somehow were “lost” in the mail – perhaps sitting in a stack somewhere at the post office or perhaps the printer. (I haven’t checked my magazine collection, but I saw a few others that also didn’t have my address, meaning those might also be “lost” somewhere.) And then, someone must have found them, realize they had never been sent, and so mailed them a decade or more later! I wonder if anyone else received any? If so, or if you have another idea of how this happened, email me. (As posted last week, here’s my complete table tennis magazine, books, and memorabilia collection.)
=>Breaking News - this afternoon (Monday, Apr. 3) I received another USATT Magazine in the mail, also with the mailing address printed on it, the Sept/Oct 2011 issue! 
=>Breaking News - on Friday, Apr. 7, I received another, also with the mailing address printed on it, the May/June 2012 issue!

On Friday, I took the day off and visited the Smithsonian Museums in Washington DC, about 25 miles south of me, little knowing that I would meet up with table tennis three times! (I’ll get to that.) I practically grew up in the Natural History Museum – my parents both had offices there, my dad as an entomologist, my mom a scientific illustrator – and there were times where I went there after school and did my homework sitting under the huge blue whale. Alas, it seems to be gone now, replaced by a humpback whale. I also spent a summer there as a guide for the Insect Zoo.

It was a whirlwind tour of the American History, Natural History, Air and Space, and American Indian museums, from 10AM to 5:30 PM, all within a few hundred yards of each other. Since I’ve been to them all a number of times, I went through them quicker than if I had never been there. I spent extra time at the American History Museum, including a one-hour guided tour, since it’s been completely renovated, including entire wings on American culture (mostly on movies and TV shows) and my pet interest, the American Presidency. I’m an amateur presidential historian, so when we were in that wing and the guide kept asking questions to keep us involved, my hand was perpetually up. When asked about multiple members of a family that were presidents, many knew of the Adamses and Bushes (fathers and sons), and of the Roosevelts (fifth cousins), but I was the only one who piped in about presidents William Henry Harrison (1841 for 30 days) and his grandson, Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)! There were a few others like that. I can name all 46 presidents in order, including their dates of office and other trivia. Feel free to test me if you see me at a tournament! (And since it keeps coming up, no, if Trump is arrested, he won’t be the first arrested president.)

After the museums closed, I did the obligatory walk up and down the mall, visiting the US Capitol – and recognizing where the Jan. 6, 2020 rioters had broken in – and the Washington, Lincoln, MLK, Vietnam, and Korean War Memorials, the tidal basin, and numerous other memorials and statues.

Table Tennis came up three during the tour of the American History Museum, all in the American Culture wing. First, they were playing clips from old movies non-stop on a large screen on the wall, and showed Forrest Gump playing table tennis. Second, they had an exhibit on the first video game, Pong. And third, the original Kermit the Frog was on display, and when the guide asked what the eyes were made of, I chimed in correctly that they were ping-pong balls cut in half!

Butterfly Puerto Rico Teams
The event was held in San Juan this past weekend, Mar. 31-Apr. 2. Here’s the home page where you can get complete results. Here’s Kou, Wang, Naranjo Win Butterfly Puerto Rico Open Teams by Steve Hopkins.

Competing Parkinson's Worlds
There will be TWO World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships this year, in Austria and Crete. Originally I was going to the one in Crete, Greece, Nov. 1-5, where I would be coaching Navin Kumar. However, due to some disagreement with Ping Pong Parkinson, the latter group will be running their own in Wels, Austria, Sept. 25-30. Navin is going to the latter, so I will likely be going to that one instead. Afterwards, I hope to do some sightseeing. Here are the two World Parkinson’s Table Tennis Championships:

AYTTO Coaching Certification
They’re running a coaching certification clinic, Apr. 20-23, half virtual, half in person at the NYISC Table Tennis Club in Queens, New York City.

Table Tennis, Pickleball, and the Cerebellum
Here’s the video (90 sec)! (About twenty people have sent me links to this.) “The reason I like it [table tennis] better than pickleball is it’s faster, and there’s a lot of spin, and a lot of thinking, that when you play at a high level, it’s a strategy game.” “It’s working out your cerebellum. It’s working out your parietal lobes. It’s working out your frontal lobes.” “People that play racket sports live longer than anybody else, isn’t that interesting?”

Improve Your Backhand Loop
Here’s the video (4:32) from Pingispågarna.

New from PongSpace
Serve Series by Angela Guan

New from Samson Dubina

9 Simple Steps To Beating A Chopper That Anyone Can Follow
Here’s the article from Racket Insight.

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Ti Long

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Youth Officials Program
Here’s the USATT news item by Barbara Wei.

Sally Moyland And Her Experience In North Carolina 2023
Here’s the article by Sally Moyland.

Wang Chuqin to Olympics
Here’s the video (2:17) from Taco Backhand.

Chopper vs. Attacker
Here’s the video (39 sec) of a great point that has everything!

New from ITTF

Australian Police Charge Man in Alleged International Table Tennis Match-fixing Syndicate
Here’s the article from CNN on the Australian scandal.

Pau Gasol vs. Gàlia Dvorak
Here’s the video (17 sec) of Spanish table tennis star Gàlia Dvorak hitting with Spanish basketball star Pau Gasol – he’s pretty good!

Stay Paw-sitive
Here’s the shirt that features a cartoon cat playing table tennis!

Visit Mars Before the Humans Ruin It
Here’s where you can buy these ping-pong balls at Amazon!

Tennis Table Tennis
Here’s the video (5 sec)!

Very Normal Ping-Pong
Here’s the video (21 sec)!

Adding Some RISK To Our Ping Pong Match
Here’s the video (3:17) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
How to Win the Choice at the Start of a Match.

Kanak Jha Suspension
It was a shocker when it came out in December that US #1 Kanak Jha was suspended for missing three USADA tests in a twelve-month period. They went to arbitration, and unfortunately, Kanak lost. His suspension is one year, starting Dec. 1, 2022. Here’s the USADA Announcement. Here’s the American Arbitration Association Report – actual testimony starts on page 32. (It’s fascinating reading.) Here’s a video report from TT11TV (1:58).

The whole situation is unfortunate. While Kanak was at fault for missing the tests (apparently out of carelessness), much of it came about due to a series of unfortunate events. For example, in the third test, the tester tried calling Kanak, who was only five minutes away at his new address, but couldn’t get through because he said he didn’t know you had to dial the US country code (1) before dialing Kanak’s US phone number.

And yet, while the situation is unfortunate, it’s also an opportunity – and I even messaged Kanak on this.

Right now Kanak is one of the top players in the world (ranked #24), but generally not a big threat to the very, very best players. He isn’t likely to win medals at the Olympics or Worlds until that changes. He is in the same situation as lots of players who were very good, and trained and trained, but never quite made that final breakthrough into the very, very best in the world.

My suggestion to him is that he sit down with his coaches and make a simple decision – what part (or parts) of his game can he develop into overpowering strengths that really threatens a Ma Long or Fan Zhendong? Once he and his coaches decide that, for the rest of his suspension, don’t just work on that; focus almost entirely on it. Do not spend part of each session on it; spend 2/3 to 3/4 of every session on it. (He isn’t going to lose his other skills. He is a complete player already and that’s not going to change.) The goal is to develop an OVERPOWERING strength, something he does BETTER than anyone else in the world, one that threatens all opponents. (Plus the techniques that set it up.) He can’t do that by working on it a bit, and then moving on to the next drill. If he trains six hours a day, then 4-5 hours should be centered on that technique. (Obviously, he has to adapt as needed in a session since his practice partners have their own drills to do.)

But the key thing is he can’t do this type of training when he is competing as a professional athlete as he has to be at his best for his professional league and tournament matches – which is why he should look at the suspension as an opportunity. Do this for six months or more, and develop that overpowering strength. Then, when he starts competing again – perhaps after a short period of getting used to professional matches again – there’s a good chance that he can be one of the very, very best in the world, able to play even or better with the best Chinese and everyone else.

Kanak is only 22. Ma Long is considered by most the greatest player in history, winning men’s singles at the Worlds three times and singles at the Olympics twice. But he didn’t win the World’s until he was 26½ years old, and the Olympics until he was almost 28.

There are examples where this type of training really paid off. Istvan Jonyer famously spent six months training almost exclusively on his backhand loop, and a year or so later it paid off as he became the 1975 Men’s World Champion and the #1 player in the world for the next few years. Todd Sweeris at my club spent the last year before the 1996 Olympic Trials training mostly on two things – receive and how to beat one particular player that he likely would (and did) play for the final spot on the Olympic Team, and he won the match (mostly on receive) and became an Olympian. On a smaller scale, many years ago when I was stuck as a 1900 hitter, I spent two years focused on developing my forehand loop, and that led to massive improvement and top 20 in the US. (Yes, I could come up with more recent examples, but I’ve always liked these historical examples!)

Weekend Coaching
Sunday was a long and eventful coaching day. I had three group sessions and two private ones. I retired from most private coaching a few years ago, but made an exception for Navin Kumar, who I coach in Parkinson’s and para events. We spent a lot of time this session on smashing, which is not easy for many Parkinson’s players since their hands are often shaking or moving erratically. We also worked a lot on side to side movement. Here’s video (23 sec).

Afterwards I had a session with up-and-coming para junior star Sam Altshuler. He is on the USATT developmental para program. He just returned from competing in tournaments in Spain and Italy where he won enough matches that he should get an international para ranking when the new rankings come out soon. (He also got a silver medal in class 6 in Cancun last year.) His primary coach is Lidney Castro twice a week, plus he does group sessions on Sat and Sun. Sam plays with long pips on the backhand (with sponge), and this gives our other junior players practice against that in group sessions. But since he’s the only one in his group sessions with long pips, he’s the only one who doesn’t get to practice against it regularly – and the irony is that, when he plays para events, a high percentage of opponents use long pips! Jasna Rather, the USATT Director of Para Programs, contacted me about this, and I volunteered to hit with him. Though I’m normally a regular inverted player, I keep in my playing bag an assortment of rackets with different surfaces for players to practice against and pull them out in training and at tournaments when needed. They include rackets with: long pips with thin sponge (mostly for chopping, can also block and hit with it); long pips no sponge (for blocking); medium long pips; regular short pips; hardbat (no sponge pips); and antispin. All except the hardbat have regular inverted on the other side (Tenergy 05).
=>BREAKING NEWS ON THURSDAY: Sam is world #38!

I hit with Sam a lot in our group sessions, where I sometimes act as a practice partner, and had chopped to him with long pips a month ago. For this session, I used the long pips no sponge and just blocked. For half the session we went mostly long pips to long pips – some really long rallies! Then we went his forehand inverted (he has a pretty good loop) to my long pips – and he was also pretty good. (Since he plays with long pips, he has a better understanding of what it does, which gives him an advantage in playing against it.) Anyway, the plan is that I’ll hit with him every other Sunday, and the other Sunday he and Navin will play, so that they both get practice against the others long pips. (Navin has long pips no sponge.)

In the group sessions with beginning/intermediate players, we did a lot of work on random drills, mostly with multiball. This means either putting the ball to the forehand or backhand randomly, or putting the all anywhere randomly (including middle/elbow). There are three key things to focus on in these drills:

  1. Good ready position, ready to move in either direction.
  2. Only react, no guessing – first move has to be the right move. You have more time than you think, so you don’t have to rush.
  3. Move to the ball, don’t reach.

Table Tennis Books and Memorabilia
I have perhaps the largest collection of table tennis books in English in the world, and perhaps the biggest collection of table tennis books, period. Overall, I now have 330 books on table tennis, with 301 of them in English. (If you include different additions, I have a bunch more.) I also have a large collection of other table tennis memorabilia. Here are both listings, which I updated this weekend:

1900th Published Table Tennis Article
Last week’s Tip of the Week, “When to Serve Long” (published both here on and at Butterfly, was my 1900th published table tennis article, and my 2158th overall in over 180 different publications. (I look grim in the Butterfly photo, someone must be playing bad tactics.) The non-table tennis ones include 136 science fiction stories, and a number articles on science, writing, and on the Baltimore Orioles, who I used to do articles on for Orioles Hangout. Here’s my complete bibliography, including 19 books, with #20, “Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips,” coming in June. (Here’s a better listing of my books – c’mon, you know you want to buy one!) This is in addition to (including today’s) 1889 table tennis blogs, plus a few dozen science fiction blogs on my science fiction page, where I’ve been less active.

2023 US Table Tennis Hall of Fame Inductees Announced
The inductees are Kenneth Brooks, Dennis Davis, Ashu Jain, and Willy Leparulo, with Richard McAfee getting the Lifetime Achievement Award. (The HoF Committee is chaired by Sean O'Neill; here's the complete committee listing.) Here’s the Hall of Fame announcement, including bios – presumably there'll be a USATT news item on this soon. The Hall of Fame Dinner and Induction Ceremony will take place at the Nationals in July - I'll be there. (I do the program book for them.) Here's the Hall of Fame listing, with the Lifetime Achievement Award winners at the end. (I was inducted in 2003 and got the Lifetime Award in 2018 - and I'm only 63!) 
ADDENDUM: Strange doings - USATT apparently put up the news item about the Hall of Fame over the weekend, then took it down. Here's the announcement, but when you go there, you now get, "Access Denied." 

New from USATT

Table Tennis Mental Test
Here’s the video (14:51) from Samson Dubina.

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Ti Long

How To Play The Forehand Flick
Here’s the video (5:51) from Rational Table Tennis Analysis. (In the US, we call it a flip.)

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

New from Pingispågarna

New from Taco Backhand

Why Is It Difficult to Hit a Topspin Against Backspin?
Here’s the video (7:52) from Drupe Pong.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

Taking on One of the World’s Best at WTT Singapore Smash
Here’s the article by Lily Zhang.

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly

New from ITTF

Xu Xin (CHN) vs Tomokazu Harimoto (JPN)
Here’s the video (14:30) of a great match between the two. SPOILER ALERT! – Harimoto (world #4) leads in the seventh 5-1 and 10-8 but former world #1 Xu wins it. (I’m not sure what tournament this is.)

Amazing Net Return
Here’s the video (12 sec) as Seth Pech makes this incredible back-to-the-table return of a net ball against Chance Friend – and the rest of the point is pretty good too!

Best Ping Pong Bars in America to Perfect Your Table Tennis
Here’s the article from the Men’s Journal. “Ping pong is weird. It’s an Olympic sport and a drinking game. Kids can do it, but it’s also mind-numbingly difficult when played at the highest level. I’m obsessed with it. I love the competitive and social duality. You can take it seriously while still being surrounded by friends and great craft beers—that is, if you frequent the best ping pong bars in America.”

Cat Table Tennis Art
Here’s the picture!

Credit Card Pong
Here’s the cartoon!

Keep Calm and Play Ping Pong
Here’s where you can buy the shirt at Amazon!

Galaxy S9+ Table Tennis Funny Ping Pong Cowboy Players Case
Here’s where you can buy it at Amazon!

Here’s the video (8 sec)!

Many-Rackets Pong – and Wash Your Hands!
Here’s the video (26 sec)!

World's Hardest Table Challenge
Here’s the video (8:25) from Pongfinity! “Today we’re playing on the world’s most tilted table, trying out green-screen suits, matches with different balls, and extended hands.”

Send us your own coaching news!

Tip of the Week
When to Serve Long.

Weekend Coaching
This weekend I coached in five group sessions, ranging from 1.5 to 2.0 hours each. It was more tiring than most weekends because I acted as a practice partner/coach for approximately 4.5 hours, over half of it with players over 1700 level or so – and they worked me to death, even though I was often just blocking for them. But I also did a lot of counterlooping, and most exhausting of all, a drill where I forehand looped side to side for nearly 15 minutes so the player could practice moving side to side to block. (The rest of the time I either fed multiball or was a walk-around coach.)

Ironically, literally in the last 15 minutes of the last session I injured my shoulder again. At that point we had gone to up-down tables with 11-point games. Rather than play games, I went to the last table, and whoever was there got to practice smashing against my lobs. Since I’m probably going to reinjure my shoulder every time I play, I might as well schedule them for the end of the weekend! (Luckily, I can still play as a practice partner with the shoulder problems – I just can’t extend the arm out on balls that are short or wide to my forehand, or play aggressive backhands. It doesn’t actually affect my normal forehand shots.)

Besides working on smashing lobs – both at the end and earlier (especially with the novice group), there was also a lot of work on backhand looping and covering the wide forehand. For the backhand loop, the most common mistakes are rushing the shot (i.e. need to be in a better ready position and so ready to execute the shot), and trying to guide the shot rather than just letting your training take over. For the latter, this means remembering the feel of the stroke and contact when done properly – and just repeating this, while forgetting the bad ones since you don’t want to remember them.

Recently I’ve introduced the kids to a new game that’s become almost a craze– I call it “Bounce.” I picked it up at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp in Ohio last month, from Doyle Harbaugh – I stayed at his house. We did it at his house on a kitchen table, but it’s easily done on a ping-pong table across the short five-foot side – and I’ve invented a new version of it. So, what is “Bounce”?

For the classic version, you put aside your paddles. Both players face each from opposite sides of the table on one side of the net. (So you can have two games going on at the same time on the same table, with net separating their “playing courts.” Or you can do this on any type of table.) The first player tosses the ball on the table so that it bounces exactly once on the table before crossing the other sideline. (The first one, one bounce, is always easy.) The other player has to then toss it back so it bounces exactly twice. Then the original player tosses it back so it bounces exactly three times, and so on. As the number of bounces required increases, the difficulty increases. When a player fails to toss the ball so it bounces the correct number of times, he loses. The game is often done winner-stay on, and since a game rarely takes more than a minute, it’s fast-moving. The game is great for developing hand control and mental focus. But the new version I also introduced is the same, except that instead of tossing the ball, you have to serve it with a racket – and with this, they are developing serving control.

The Worst Tactical Match I Ever Played
I’ve often written about tactical issues, usually about tactics that worked. In Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, I have a long chapter about tactics in specific matches – easily the most fun chapter to write. (I’m tempted to give examples here, but once I get started, I wouldn’t be able to stop.) But what about the other extreme, matches where I played poor tactics? I thought about this, and I think the worse ever was a match I played many years ago against Carl Danner. Here’s what happened.

As I often did when playing someone I’d never played or seen play, I asked others about how he played. Someone I don’t know – and to this day, I have no idea who this person was – spoke up about how good Carl’s loop was, that he could loop over and over but not with great power, and how I’d have to be ready to play long, steady rallies against him. So I went into the match with the mentality that when Carl attacked, I had to play very, very steady, keep the ball going until he missed or made a shot that I could attack. Long rallies was the key! However . . . it turned out that whoever gave me this advice must have come from some other multiverse with a completely different Carl then the one I was facing. Carl’s best shot was his forehand smash. I should have figured this out early in the first game – but as I said, this was the worst tactical match I ever played.

In that first game, when he attacked, I played steady, and he kept forehand smashing winners. Rather than adjust and be more aggressive with my blocks and other shots, or go to his forehand and back to his backhand to get away from his forehand, or just fight more for the attack, for some reason, as the match continued, whenever he attacked, I focused on being even more consistent. Rather than fight for the attack (especially on his serve), I often let him attack first since his first loop wasn’t always that strong – it was the follow-up smash that was the problem. I tried to be ultra consistent in even trying to block his smashes, rather than focusing on not giving him balls to smash. I blocked a few effectively, which gave me false confidence. One of the best matches of my life was one where I beat 2450 Rey Domingo in a match where I felt like I could return everything – and for some weird reason, I felt like I should be able to return Carl’s smashes just as consistently. The problem, of course, was that to beat Carl like this I would literally have to play one of the best matches of my life! The result, of course, was Carl won rather easily – and I only realized how bad my tactics were at the very end, when it was too late. Afterwards I sat down for a long time, thinking about the match and wondering what the heck had been going through my head to play so dumb. I think the problem was I was visualizing myself playing as I did in the Domingo match, which was a level of play, rather than thinking about the tactics I needed in the Carl match, which was a different thing.

If I’d played him with better tactics, could I have won? Who knows. It definitely would have been closer. (I was rated higher at the time, though not by a lot.) The tactical lesson here is simple – when something isn’t working tactically, be flexible and change to something else. A key here is the habit of stopping and thinking things over in a match when things aren’t going well – which I think I normally do in about 99.99999% of my matches. For this match, I give myself the Golden HIT Award for Historically Ill-advised Tactics.

Singapore Smash 2023
Here’s the ITTF/WTT home page for the event that took place March 7-19, with resultsnews, video, and player features. (Here’s the Youtube video site – I think it’s organized better there.) Here is USA Reaches the Round of 16 in Singapore from USATT. Here are five articles by Steve Hopkins:

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Timo Boll

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

10 new articles!

Part 1 of 3 Serve Series by Angela Guan (2:11)
Here’s the video (2:11) from PongSpace.

New from Taco Backhand

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Your Playing Style Quiz
Here’s the quiz from Racket in Sight, which has a lot of other table tennis content as well.

Ask the Coach
Here are the latest questions from PingSkills.

New Day Cleveland Featuring: Kenzie Dubina
Here’s the video (6:11). I practice with her last month in Ohio at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp!

Dora Kurimay: Championing Mind, Body, and Spirit
Here’s the article from Passion Vista. It’s the cover story!

Folsom Table Tennis Club
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins.

Marathon Effort Raises Thousands for Hospice
Here’s the article from Table Tennis England. (Here’s the article I linked to about this in advance of the marathon.)

New from ITTF

Fan Zhendong's Celebrations Over the Years
Here’s the video from Drupe Pong.

Great Lobbing and Fishing Point
Here’s the video (37 sec) of Segun Toriola getting everything back!

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of videos here.

Most Popular Sports Since 1930
Here’s the video (3:05) – see the slow rise of table tennis, and some of the surprisingly popular sports at other time periods. (Even Hockey was #1 in the world at one time!)

Table Tennis Sun Hat
Here’s where you can buy it at Amazon!

Table Tennis Posters
From Café Press.

Joker Pong
Here’s the video (59 sec)!

No Racket, No Problem
Here’s the video (13 sec)! (Alas, it’s not legal to return the ball with a non-racket holding hand.)

Adam vs. Marco Reus
Here’s the video (8:55) featuring Adam Bobrow versus the football star from Germany (that’s soccer for Americans)!

Send us your own coaching news!