Butterfly Online


Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, a little later on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week).
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 six books and over 1300 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's  book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!

His new book, Table Tennis Tips, is also out - All 150 Tips of the Week from 2011-2013, in one volume, in logical progression!!!

June 29, 2015

No Blog This Morning

I’m pretty sick right now. Not sure if it’s flu, cold, or something else. I’m seeing a doctor this morning. I put my symptoms into an online medical diagnosis page, and according to that here are the top ten most likely diagnoses: Influenza, Tularemia, Sinusitis, Common Cold, Swine Flu, Infectious mononucleosis, Bird Flu, Lemierre's Syndrome, Sars/Coronaviruses, and Babesiosis. Meanwhile, since I did it already, here’s the Tip of the Week.

Tip of the Week

The Feel of a Shot and a Checklist.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 26, 2015

MDTTC Camp, Sick & Exhausted, and Media

One of the side effects of coaching kids is you are exposed to every germ known to mankind. Yep, I’ve come down sick. It’s probably just a cold – 100 degree temperature, extremely sore throat, aching teeth, the general sick feeling (every muscle feels like it was hit by a tsunami), and complete exhaustion. The problem is I was exhausted before I came down sick, from coaching every day for over two weeks, including coaching all day (and sometimes night) in our camps Mon-Fri, even longer hours on Sundays, and about two hours on my “rest” day, Saturday. So right now my exhaustion level on the Richter scale is 11.0, enough to win a game while destroying half the planet.

Even after 24 years of coaching at MDTTC I’m never really sure where to draw the line at when I should just stay home, for myself but even more so I don’t get anyone else in the camp sick. But I’m sort of needed – without me the sun might fall out of the sky, right?

Meanwhile, we did a lot of smashing yesterday. I was surprised at how fast some of the new players picked it up. One seven-year-old registered his first backspin serve that came back into the net; he was quite excited. Here’s the serve demonstrated by Ma Lin (1:18) on an apparently hot day.

I was interviewed by a reporter from the University of Maryland Alumni Association for their newsletter, which is doing a feature on fellow alumni Navin Kumar. Also had an email exchange with one of the sports reporters at the Baltimore Sun, who is both going to put the results of the Capital Area League in the paper (see below) and do a special on Han Xiao. Strangely, we’re more local to the Washington Post, but they’ve always been more difficult to get into, except for KidsPost, which has twice featured us.

I was planning to do blog about the book Ogi: The Life of Ichiro Ogimura, but I’m just too tired to get into that right now so I’ll try to get to that next week. (Here’s the cover of the English version. It’s not yet on sale through normal channels – I’m told it will soon be sold on Amazon – but you can order copies from Etsuko Enami. The price is $25/copy including airmail postage, which you can pay to her email (ete@yj9.so-net.ne.jp) via Paypal.) I’m also planning to attend the Capital Area League Finals Saturday, but am not so sure anymore. Anyone got any chicken soup?

Local Events

Here are two BIG EVENTS this weekend – if you are anywhere near the Washington DC area, come on out!

Winning Edge

Here’s the first issue of England’s new online table tennis coaching magazine.

The Forbidden Phrase

Here’s the new coaching article from Samson Dubina – where the phrase “I just need to practice more” is analyzed and banned! Now why would he do that? Read on!

Ask the Coach with PingSkills

Episode 143 (24:20).

Born to Win: top athletes don’t share a single talent gene, but hundreds of them

Here’s the article from The Conversation. Long ago I got tired of debating this issue, but the bottom line is there is such a thing as talent (based on over 30 years of coaching), but the question remains how much effect it has in the long run. I blogged about this on March 11, 2011 and again on August 14, 2013, which repeats some of the items in the first one. German coach Richard Prause also spoke about this recently in this video (2:24). There are always going to be extremists who argue there is no such thing as talent or that talent is the primary requirement (as opposed to a host of factors including hard work and coaching), but the truth is somewhere in between.

USA Table Tennis to Host Finals of 2015 US Open at OMNIA Nightclub at Caesars Palace July 11

Here’s the article from last week in Vegas News.

Japan Open

Here’s the ITTF home page for the event, which is going on right now in Kobe, finishing on Sunday. Breaking News – World Men’s Singles Champion Ma Long, who has been undefeated in the World Tour this year, just lost to his Chinese teammate, unseeded Shang Kun.

Rachel Sung and the Sung Sisters

Here’s the article and video (1:23).

Best Serve in History?

Here’s the video (18 sec) from 2011, with Ma Lin serving to Zhang Jike. There’s also this serve, the fastest one in history. 

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

An Aerial Roberto Byles Smashing Against Jimmy Butler

Here’s the picture! (If you can’t see that, here’s the non-Facebook version.) “I believe I can fly…”

90,000 Ping-Pong Balls in a Pool

Here’s the video (1:23) of the 1972 Royal Bath Hotel in Bournemouth, England, where they use the balls to conserve heat.

Table Tennis: Not for the Timid

Here’s the artwork.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 25, 2015


Yesterday was a rather peaceful day – no nosebleeds, no meltdowns, nothing more dramatic than a few untied shoelaces. We did a lot of work on pushing and other fundamentals; nine of us went to 7-11 after lunch; and at the end of the day, many paper cups were stacked and smacked to death by excited kids. One thing did stand out today – during all three breaks (morning break, lunch break, and afternoon break), several kids stayed late each time to work on things. At one point during lunch break I was secretly glancing at my watch wondering if I would ever get to eat lunch as several kids wanted me to work on their serves, and so all of me (other than my grumbling stomach) happily went along.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Here’s the review of my book by Samson Dubina. I like the first line! You can buy it at Amazon, in print or kindle.

Ping Pong for Quitters

Some of you might have read the book “Ping Pong for Fighters” by Tahl Leibovitz. Tahl recently got the bronze in singles and gold in teams at the Spanish Paralympic Table Tennis Championships. In honor of that, my next book will be “Ping Pong for Quitters,” unless of course I’m kidding. Here are ten major points about ideas that will be featured.

  1. As a quitter, you give up easily. So it's important to get an early lead. Try to serve first, and throw your best trick serves out there early so you can get that lead and coast to victory without facing adversity.
  2. Don't feel bad if you make the semifinals and then chicken out and quit. You still can claim that at the time you gave up you were tied for the top four. Always remember that "You're a quitter" is just an anagram for "You quarter tie."
  3. Quitters never lose if they quit soon enough. There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling when you realize you should have quit and instead foolishly went on, and now everyone’s laughing at you.
  4. The next time you are in a tight match and are thinking of quitting, consider this: The sooner you quit, the sooner you can experience that heartwarming feeling of defeat.
  5. Quitting is for losers. That's the whole point.
  6. Winners never quit. It's as if they can't think straight in a tight match and so can't consider and be overwhelmed by all their options.
  7. One of the toughest decision a quitter must make is when to give up. Not too soon, or you don't get your money's worth. You paid your tournament entry fees and deserve to play. But if you wait too long you may have to suffer the ignominy of trying and losing, and lose all hope of blaming your loss on your not trying. My suggestion is that if you lose one game, it's time to quit. Not immediately, but in the next game. That's when you make it obvious you are not trying so that your opponent and anyone watching will nod their heads knowingly with the knowledge that you could win any time you choose to.
  8. According to medical researchers, trying takes more calories than not trying. Those who try burn calories at a faster rate, lose weight, and end up smaller people for their efforts as well as being unready to face major hunger famines.
  9. If you lose your focus and aren’t sure whether to try or not, take a time-out. You want a clear mind when deciding when to quit trying.
  10. If you do find yourself fighting hard to the bitter end and (of course) losing, don’t worry, you’ll learn from it and next time you won’t waste your time and energy so foolishly.

All About Serves and Receives

Here’s the article from Pong Universe. I just joined their “universe,” but have been too busy to really check out what it is.

How Do You Start a Match at the Right Intensity Level?

Here’s the video (2:43) from “Ask Mark” (sports psychologist).

Chinese Team Withdraws from Korean Open

Here’s the article from Tabletennista. “There are two reasons for our withdrawal from the Korea Open. First main European players from Germany are not there so the value for training is not big. Second is because of the impact of the epidemic and we also need to consider the protection of our players.”

Bounce Alzheimer’s Therapy Foundation

Here’s the article.

Around the Net Shots

Here’s a video (2:18) featuring them.

Japan Open Feature Video

Eugene Wang (CAN) vs. Jin Takuya (JPN), round 1 (58:33).

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Table Tennis Anyone?

Here’s the picture of how it’s really done.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 24, 2015


Yesterday was the Day of the Nosebleed. When you run a camp with kids, you'll get them occasionally. How about two in five minutes, and both from my group? First a five-year-old (the youngest in the camp) walked right into someone's forehand backswing, and got smacked in the nose. It bled pretty badly. Five minutes later a seven-year-old kid was shadow-stroking his forehand, as I'd directed him to do, and somehow he managed to smack himself in the nose - and the blood came pouring out. (What type of forehand stroke am I teaching these kids?!!!) We went through a lot of paper towels before all the bleeding stopped. A couple hours later the seven-year-old was running about picking up balls and the nose started bleeding again, even worse than before. (Yes, we did a thorough clean-up each time.) Table tennis is a violent sport....

We spent a lot of time working on spin serves. Two kids who had never put spin on their serves on their lives were able to put enough backspin on the ball so the balls came to a stop on the table. (Here's my article How to Create a Truly Heavy Backspin Serves.) We also did a lot of King of the Table and Brazilian Teams, and many paper cups were killed.

The seven-year-old with the two nosebleeds has a nice backhand, but tends to jerk his forehand, and stops the stroke almost as he hits the ball. Maybe one kid in a hundred that age can spend an entire day focused almost entirely on fixing the problem, not to mention taking it seriously, but that's what he did. By the end of the day his stroke was looking much better. We're both determined for him to have a "perfect" forehand. He's almost too serious about wanting to get better!!!  

We welcomed back Nathan Hsu, who had been training in China for three months. (He recently turned 19, rated 2415, but earlier this year was over 2500.) Either his hair is too long or I'm getting too old. He's also wearing a new black headband that hangs out in back of his head and looks (to me) like he has long, flapping pigtails. (Sorry, Nathan, the truth hurts.) But more importantly his shots seem more powerful and consistent, and he told me he's worked a lot on his serves. He'll be playing at the US Open in 12 days. 

Help Wanted - Head Table Tennis Coach

Here's info on applying for the head coach position at the Savannah College of Art and Design in Atlanta.

The Best Table Tennis Balls

Here’s the new article from Expert Table Tennis, on the best plastic poly balls. He narrows the choice down (and lists the brands for each) to the following: “Do you want to get the seamed balls from China, the seamless balls from China, or the Nittaku Premium balls?”

11 Questions with Tim Boggan

Here's the USATT interview

Never Alone – Chuang Chih-Yuan

Here’s the article from Butterfly on this Taiwanese star.

National Senior Games

Here's info. They will be in Minneapolis, July 9-15. 

Will Shortz Day 1000 Celebration

Here's info – "Unless he is kidnapped or something, next Tuesday, June 30, will be Will Shortz's 1,000th consecutive day of playing table tennis. There will be a party at his club from 7:00 to 11:00 pm, with food, drink, film, and special guests."

Zhang Jike’s Backhand

Here’s the video (5:06) featuring backhand highlights from the 2011 Worlds. (Yeah, he won.) Here’s another (2:09) also from the 2011 Worlds that features his backhand banana flip.

Chinese Team Training at Japan Open

Here’s the video (42 sec). The Japan Open, in Kobe, is today through Sunday. Here’s the home page.

Net-Climbing Post-Ricocheting Pointing-Winning Loop

Here's the video (11 sec). We of course teach this shot at MDTTC. 

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Ping-Pong or Table Tennis?

Here’s the shirt that answers the question!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 23, 2015


Yesterday was Day One of Week Two of our Eleven Weeks of Camps at MDTTC. (That’s enough capitalization for the week.) With one “minor” exception (can’t go into that since the person involved is a kid who likely won’t be back), it’s a great group this week, especially the ones in my group. We did a lot of work on fundamentals – forehand, backhand, footwork, and serve.

I think right now we have the most talented and promising group of kids in the roughly 7-8 age range than we’ve ever had at MDTTC in our 24 years – lots of depth. Check back with us in a few years – they’re getting scary. We had a 7-year-old today who was smacking bottles off the table like they were the broad side of a barn, and he’s not even in the top five at MDTTC for that age group. Of course, it’s more than just apparent talent – this is a very serious group of kids who already seem to have the mental dedication to the sport that’s usually lacking until much older. Plus they can loop anything!

Every camp there’s something different. This week it seems as if all the newer players have good backhands but need work on the forehand – way too many wristy forehand swats. Also, a number of them have good fast & deep serves, but few can really spin their serves – which will be a focus today. Out come the soccer- colored balls! (So they can see if they are spinning the ball or not.)

One little problem – after standing up all day nearly every day for a million years (subjectively), my legs are exhausted. In fact, as I write this I’m balancing two things – too tired to do anything, but too tired to get up from my computer. The latter overpowered the first, so I’m at my computer, and so I might as well write stuff.

It wasn’t a good day for heads. During break a number of our juniors were doing an exercise where they toss sort of a soft soccer ball around, forcing the catcher to move quickly to catch it. Eleven-year-old Tiffany got smacked pretty badly in the face, sort of like this. I got smacked in the head really hard by ping-pong balls twice, once accidentally, once suspiciously on purpose (see “minor” note above, but this was about the most minor of the problems we had with that minor). And a 7-year-old kid almost broke out crying after crawling under a table to get balls and smacking his head hard on one of the supporting bars as he came out.

New Coaching Articles and Videos from Samson Dubina (he's been busy)

  • Major Renovations: Making Improvements Isn’t Always Fun.
  • Forehand/Backhand Grips, Parts 1 & 2 - two new video tips, both under a minute.
  • 100 Days of Table Tennis. This is about Samson Dubina’s upcoming coaching book. Here’s the opening of the preview I wrote there: “One hundred days . . . if you live to be 82 years old, that’s about 30,000 days. All Coach Samson asks is that you take just a few minutes on 1/3 of 1% of those days to learn something new.” (I edited the book, so I did read it before writing the preview.)

Top 10 Mistakes Made by Table Tennis Beginners

Here’s the article by Greg Letts.  

Capital Area League Finals

The Finals for Division One and Two for the Capital Area Table Tennis League are this Saturday, June 27 – don’t miss it! They will be held at the Washington DC Table Tennis Center from 1-5PM. The Division One final will be between the undefeated MDTTC “A” Team (Alex Chen Ruichao, Crystal Wang, Nathan Hsu, Han Xiao, Klaus Wood, and Derek Nie), and the MDTTC Lions (Raghu Nadmichettu, Stefano Ratti, Heather Wang, and Ernie Byles).

World Police and Fire Games

The Games are taking place in Fairfax, Virginia this weekend, starting Friday, June 26, and finishing on Saturday, July 4. The table tennis action takes place June 27-29 (Sat, Sun, Mon) at the Smash Table Tennis Center. Here’s the table tennis schedule, and here’s the general schedule for all sports. Here’s more info on the World Police and Fire Games. Here’s table tennis director Mike Levene next to a Games banner. (If you can’t get that, here’s the non-Facebook version.)

2015 Para Table Tennis Spanish Open

Here’s a listing of USA players, results, and pictures.

ITTF World Tour Heads to North Korea for First Time Since 1979

Here’s the article on the Pyongyang Open, July 29 – Aug. 2.

Beautiful Table Tennis

Here’s the new music video (2:24) featuring slow-motion table tennis.

Ma Long Gives Demo

Here’s the video (5:30) as Ma (near side) gives an exhibition for a group of children.

Happy Meals are... Gross? - China 2015 (Episode 2)

Here’s the new video (3:47) of Nathan Hsu’s adventures in China. Here’s episode one (6:44), which I posted last month.

Pongman: The World’s First Table Tennis Superhero

This American superhero struggles to beat the Chinese by day, and foils crime at night with his deadly paddle and ball. This may be my next table tennis novel. This would be a humorous fantasy as Pongman battles (tentatively) evil North Koreans intent on kidnapping the Chinese team and forcing them to teach the secrets of table tennis to their players. His superpowers? He can block bullets with his paddle, and flawlessly smack anyone within a hundred feet with ping-pong balls shot at deadly speeds. (I’m toying with putting it in the same universe as The Spirit of Pong.) But I’ve got a lot of planning and big decisions to make: Does he wear a cape? Can he beat the Chinese? Will the North Koreans nuke my house if I write this? (I originally envisioned this as a cartoon, but I had to face a bitter truth: I can’t draw. Here’s proof.)

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Size Restrictions on Bat?

Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

June 22, 2015

Tip of the Week

Conquer the One-Winged Blues by Developing Your Weaker Side.

USATT Club Development Handbook

The new USATT Club Development Handbook by Yang Yu (Head Coach and Business Director of the Austin TTC) and Roderick Medina (League Director and Board Member of ATTC) is out! (Here’s the direct link to the PDF file.) This is a great new manual for those hoping to start a new club. (Disclaimer: I edited and critiqued an early version of this.)

I’m especially interested in how it can be used to assist those hoping to start up full-time table tennis centers. Assisting in the growth of such centers is something I promised when I ran for the Board as a key part of growing USA Table Tennis – both the organization and the number of serious players in this country. I believe that using it in conjunction with the USATT Club Handbook (which I haven’t reviewed in a while – will do so sometime) and my own Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook will give us the textbooks for running seminars on the how to create such full-time centers. While all nine steps in this new manual are important, I think steps 3-6 are particularly key for this.

The manual is made up of nine steps - if any of these may be useful to you, download the (free) manual!

  1. Are You Ready to Start a Club?
  2. Mission Statement and Business Entity
  3. Facility and Equipment
  4. Income Sources (tournaments, walk-in play, membership, training programs, equipment sales, private events, donations, food & drink sales, sponsorship)
  5. Business Model (mixed operation model, training center model)
  6. Marketing Your Club (with 13 methods listed)
  7. USATT Club Affiliation and Recognition Program
  8. Club Management
  9. Outline the Financial Budget


Another Mon-Fri camp starts today – Week Two of our Eleven Weeks of Summer Camps. Who knows, today may be the day I start the journey of the next Ma Long. Or mess one up.

The Childhood of Table Tennis Masters

Here’s a great new music video (5:55) of kids playing table tennis. About two minutes in it starts showing top stars playing as children.

Ball Placement Tips

Here’s the new coaching article by Han Xiao.

How to Play a Forehand Loop

Here’s the new coaching article (with link to video) from Expert Table Tennis.

Forehand Push – Finger Positioning

Here’s the new coaching video (32 sec) from Samson Dubina.

Spanish Paralympic Open Results

My student, Navin Kumar, played in this. Here are Team Results. (Not sure where I can find singles and doubles results. Navin won a match in his group, and should have a world ranking from that.) I expect there’ll be a USATT news item on this soon, which I’ll link to here.

European Games

Here’s the ITTF page for the event, with results, articles, and pictures. There are lots of videos from the tournament at TTLondon2012 and at Youtube.

  • Men’s Singles Final, Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER, world #6) vs. Vladimir Samsonov (BLR, world #9)
  • Women’s Singles Final, Jie Li (NED, world #21) vs. Jiao Li (NED, world #35)
    • Entire match (47:41)
    • Highlights (will post if/when it goes up)

MDTTC June Open

Here’s the article (with results and pictures) at Butterflyonline.com.

LYTTC After-School Training Program

Here’s the video (5:08).

Dimitrij Ovtcharov & Li Jiao Win Golden Ticket to 2016 Olympics

Here’s the ITTF press release on their getting automatic passes by winning European Games.

Fan Zhendong Practices Smashing/Looping Lobs

Here’s the video (61 sec).

Jim Butler vs. Chance Friend

Here’s a great point (48 sec) between these two at the Texas Wesleyan June Open, with an intro by a pair of Finnish girls.

One of the Best Points Ever with Waldner

Here’s the video (33 sec), against Georg Böhm of Germany. (Yep, no “e” in his first name.)

Trickshot Challenges from PingSkills to the Ping Pong Sisters and Back

Here’s the video (57 sec).

Hungry? Try a Ping Pong Kimi’s Roll!

Here’s the menu.  (If you can’t read the Facebook image, try this.) It appears to have crab, avocado, and shrimp in it, three things I do not eat, so I’ll pass.

Happy Table Tennis Father's Day (one day late)!

Here's a nice image - father and son on a stamp playing TT.

Send us your own coaching news!

June 19, 2015

Racket Tip When Blocking

On Tuesday I linked to Racket Position, a 54-second video from Samson Dubina. It brought back a memory of my own during my peak years in the 1980s and early 1990s. In the video, Samson explains why it’s an advantage to keep the racket tip down in the same way for all shots (i.e. an extension of the arm), so you can do different shots from the same starting position.

Unfortunately, when I started out in 1976 I learned instead to raise my racket tip on my blocks, to about 45 degrees on the backhand, and a bit more on the forehand. This led to problems later on, as I’d have to have the racket tip up on some shots, down on others, and I’d often get caught the wrong way. Once I started blocking I tended to continue blocking rather change the racket tip up position. And so at my peak, I went on a roughly two-year mission where I tried to fix this, and forced myself to block on both sides with the racket tip more down. This allowed me to wait until the last second on each shot before deciding whether to block, counter, smash, or loop, and perhaps also kept the opponent in the dark.

However, at that point my blocking with the tip more up was pretty much ingrained, and I was never able to block consistently or effectively with the tip down. After losing numerous matches during those two years because of this I went back to my old way, and to this day I generally raise my racket tip when blocking. It’s especially noticeable on my forehand. On the backhand, I now block both ways, which probably isn’t good. In drills, I’ll often lower the tip on the backhand as that’s how I drilled for those two years, and it became pretty consistent that way – but only in drills. In games, I almost always raise the tip.

As Samson suggests, I recommend learning with the same angle for all shots, with the tip generally a bit down so you can also loop most effectively. But if you’ve already ingrained blocking one way (or some other technique), it might not always be worth trying to fix it, especially if you’re an older, established player. But you can try!


Thursday was another exhausting day. How exhausting? When I got home around 7PM I literally (and I mean literally) sat in my lounge chair and slept for three hours, something I’ve never done. (It was also the first time all week that I didn’t have private coaching after the camp.)

As to the camp, we did a lot more on serves and serve return, as well as more fundamentals. We also played more regular games – and I was sort of floored (but kept a straight face as I explained) when two kids were both mystified with the idea that if they missed a shot, the other person scored a point.

Two kids tried out my racket and liked it a lot more than the slower ones they were using. The problem was I only had two of them, my main one and my backup, and both wanted to use it. I finally gave in, and lent out both for the day, and used one of theirs to feed multiball and rally with beginners. We’ll probably do it again today. I hope the poor parents aren’t going to have to shell out a ton of money for these two eight-year-olds, who I’d describe as advanced beginners (around 800 level). I use a Butterfly Timo Boll ALC ($136) and Tenergy 05 and 25 ($68 each, or $136 total, the same cost as the blade), so a $272 set-up. On the other hand, at least I don’t use a Zhang Jike Super ZLC ($375)! (I still remember buying Sriver and Mark V back in 1976 for $5/sheet…)

My Table Tennis Books

Here’s where you can buy them at Amazon - just a brief reminder!

Serving Grip – Learn How to Maximize Spin on Your Serve

Here’s the coaching video (60 sec) from Samson Dubina. (I’ve never tried the two-fingered version of the reverse pendulum serve – have to try it out.)

Ask the Coach by Richard Prause – All 19 Segments

Here are all 19 segments of the Ask the Coach Show with German coach Richard Prause at the Werner Schlager Academy. Parts 1-6 are in German with English sub-titles. Starting with Part 7 they are in English and more professionally done. Part 19 just came out this morning.

  1. Part 1 (2:24) - What is talent in table tennis?
  2. Part 2 (1:42) - Service tactics
  3. Part 3 (3:13) - How do professionals practice?
  4. Part 4 (2:22) - What is a good exercise?
  5. Part 5 (1:45) - What is the difference between Europe and China?
  6. Part 6 (2:28) - Practice Champions
  7. Part 7 (1:51) - How to begin a match and what to do if you realize that a tactics does not work.
  8. Part 8 (2:18) - Mental Coaching
  9. Part 9 (1:19) - Short Pimples
  10. Part 10 (1:36) - Plastic balls
  11. Part 11 (4:26) - How to beat the Chinese
  12. Part 12 (2:07) - How can the wrist create spin?
  13. Part 13 (3:11) - Footwork
  14. Part 14 (2:44) - Doubles Practice
  15. Part 15 (2:15) - Touch
  16. Part 16 (1:46) - Footwork
  17. Part 17 (1:31) - Beginner's equipment
  18. Part 18 (1:15) - Preventing easy mistakes
  19. Part 19 (1:42) – Short balls

USA World Champions

Recently there was a USATT email discussion about past U.S. world champions, as part of a possible promotional item. So, without further ado, here is the complete list of the ten titles won at the World Table Tennis Championships by U.S. players. (Not including "Consolation Singles” or disabled events.) Here is the wiki list of world table tennis champions, and here’s a more detailed list of the world team champions. Of the players below, one is still alive: 90-year-old Thelma “Tybie” Thall Sommer, who I’m told still plays and attended the 2014 USA Nationals in Las Vegas as a spectator. (I bet she’ll be at the U.S. Open in 16 days as well!)

  • 1936:
    • Women's Singles (Ruth Aarons)
    • Men's Doubles (Jimmy McClure/Robert Blattner)
  • 1937:
    • Women's Singles (Ruth Aarons, co-champion with Gertrude Pritzi)
    • Men's Doubles (Jimmy McClure/Robert Blattner)
    • Men's Teams (Abe Berenbaum, Robert Blattner, Jimmy McClure, Sol Schiff)
    • Women's Teams (Ruth Aarons, Emily Fuller, Dolores Probert-Kuenz, Jessie Purves)
  • 1938: Men's Doubles (Jimmy McClure/Sol Schiff)
  • 1948: Mixed Doubles (Dick Miles/Thelma “Tybie” Thall Sommer)
  • 1949: Women's Teams (Peggy McLean, Mildred Shahian, Thelma “Tybie” Thall Sommer)
  • 1956: Mixed Doubles (Erwin Klein/Leah Thall Neuberger)

USATT Insider

Here’s the new issue that came out Wednesday.  

An American in China: Two Weeks of Training with the Pros

Here’s the USATT article by player/writer Jeff Pepper.

Revenge is a Dish Served Ice-Cold for the Dutch Duo

Here’s the article on the two Dutch players in the semifinals of Women’s Singles at the European Games, which finish today.

Ping-Pong on the Chappy Ferry

Here’s the article from the Martha Vineyard Times.

The Love for Table Tennis

Here’s the video (63 sec) of little Shia.

Quadruple- and Quintuple-Bounce Chop Blocking

Here’s the video (15 sec).

Fan Zhendong – The Dominator

Here’s the highlights video (5:44).

Xu Xin – The “Cloud Walking” Penholder

Chinese Players Training

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note (usually every Friday) that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). Butterfly also has a great news page.

Ping-Pong the Animation

Here’s where you can watch all eleven episodes.

Silly Auctioneer-Style Commentating

Here’s the video (69 sec) of Adam Bobrow. On a more serious note, here’s Adam’s coaching advice between games (30 sec).

Some Serious Animated Table Tennis Action

Here’s the animated table tennis cartoon.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Send us your own coaching news!

June 18, 2015


Yesterday was another long day at camp, including an extra hour of private coaching. Strangely, most of the kids seem more energetic than ever. (But not all!) We spent a lot of time working on serves, as well as a lot of fundamentals.

A lot of other interesting stuff probably happened, but perhaps I don’t remember it. I was feeding multiball to a righty ten-year-old, and I gave him a pop-up to his wide forehand. He smacked it down the line at a zillion mph, smack into the middle of my forehead. I think I saw stars for a few seconds, and I had a slight headache for the next couple of hours. (It’s times like this I’m glad I wear glasses when I play table tennis – I wouldn’t want a ball like that in the eye.)

Backspin Return Over Net Serve

Here’s a video (30 sec) of a Japanese player doing this serve. It’s actually not that difficult a serve for an advanced player, though it takes practice to do it consistently. I did 14 in a row last week in a demonstration for a class, which tied my previous best. (Missed #15 both times. All 14 were “clean,” bouncing back over the net on one bounce and not touching the net in either direction.) I did this serve once in a tournament at something like 20-12 match point against U.S. Under 10 Champion Sunny Li (who I trained with regularly) back when he was about 1900 but too short to reach it, but that’s the only time I’ve done it in a serious competition.

However, it’s low percentage to do this against most good players. If he’s tall, he’ll have no trouble reaching for it, and likely smash it. If he’s quick, he’ll go around the side of the table and smash it. The problem is that for a split second the ball is high over the net, and easy smash. I did see it used effectively once, by a 1900 player who used the serve to upset Derek Nie (rated about 1950 at the time at age nine or so), and almost did it again later on when Derek was about 2100. Both times there was a rather large crowd booing the player for taking advantage of Derek’s size and age in this way – but it’s legal. (The only time it’s not legal when playing against a wheelchair player.)

A game we sometimes do at camps goes like this. Both players get ten serves, five at a time. If you make the ball bounce back over the net on one bounce without touching the net in either direction, you get three points. If you get it to come back over the net but it takes more than one bounce or touches the net in either direction, you get two points. If you get it to bounce back so it at least touches the net or net posts, you get one point. Twice I’ve done ten in a row for a perfect score of 30, but I’ve been doing this since the late 1970s.

If you want to learn to do this, simply serve very high backspin, essentially scooping the ball up (as shown in the video), and aim to land the ball as close to the net as possible on your side. It’s basically just a matter of creating heavy backspin and being able to serve it high, no more than a few inches short of the net. The spin will do the rest.

Thumb Positioning

Here’s the new coaching video (52 sec) from Samson Dubina.

Interview with Sampson Dubina

Here’s the interview with the Ohio star player, coach, and writer.

All About Tenergy

Here’s the article. (Disclosure: I’m sponsored by Butterfly, and both I and most of my intermediate and advanced students use Tenergy. I use Tenergy 05 black 2.1 on forehand, Tenergy25 red 2.1 on backhand.)

NCTTA Newsletter

Here’s the June 2015 issue of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

Jean-Michel Saive Breaks Barriers

Here’s the video (48 sec) as he breaks the side barriers while lobbing against Sweden’s Kristian Karlsson at the European Games. (Not an exhibition.)

Super Sidespin Counterloop by Chopper

Here’s the video (12 sec).

Highlights of Samsonov vs. Boll at the Energis Masters

Here’s the video (3:28).

Josep Antón Velázquez on CBBC's Kick About +

Here’s the video (4:15). He and football (soccer) freestyler John Farnworth combine for soccer-table tennis freestyle play. The table tennis starts about one minute in, and features Velázquez, the ITTF trickshot champion.

More Mike Mezyan Pictures

NOTE - If you are unable to see these pictures, all you have to do is join the Table Tennis Group - it's easy! Here are all the past, present, and (soon) future pictures he's collected. (I pick out his best ones for here - he has more.)

Send us your own coaching news!

June 17, 2015

MDTTC Camp and Coaching

Yesterday felt like one of the most exhausting days ever, probably because it was. Imagine coaching a group of 6-to-10-year olds for three hours, eating lunch, frantically reading a must-read document for an hour, then coaching the kids again another three hours, then doing 90 minutes of private coaching, then doing this blog (so I wouldn’t have to get up extra early this morning to do it). All in a day’s work for many full-time coaches, but it left me exhausted, as it has the many times I’ve had to do this before in our camps. But I’m getting older, and it’s not so easy anymore! (There are about 40 players in the camp.)

Several of the kids in my group were near-beginners, so we did a lot of work on fundamentals. Quite honestly, a few seemed pretty untalented at the beginning but surprised me with their progress as the day progressed. At the end, nearly all of them were able to hit the bottle of “squeezed worm juice,” and I was forced to drink quite a bit. Yuck!!! (As far as some of the kids know – and some sort of believe me – I’m spending the night at the hospital getting my stomach pumped.)

It has to be said – I’ve never seen a group who could lose paddles so quickly. I think we spent half the camp searching for lost rackets. I might have to tie them to their wrists.

One of the kids in my group, about eight, who has been in several of our past camps, wrote a note and handed it to me. It read, “Dear Larry, Larry is varey (sic) nice. By [name withheld].”

After a sufficient amount of pleading and negotiating, I finally gave in and treated them all to Slurpees at 7-11 after lunch. There goes my income…

Tomorrow we’re going to spend quite a bit of time on serves. I always look forward to the jaw-dropping, bug-eyed looks of shock when I demonstrate backspin serves that bounce back into the net. I really should video that part.

For the private coaching, because my arm is still bothering me and keeping me from playing 100%, I had two students come in together, Sameer and Daniel, along with Coach Raghu, and we had a joint session, where we each spent half the time with each. I did the multiball and blocking drills while Raghu got the fun ones – looping to them and counterlooping, and playing out points.

U.S. Open Finals Prepares to Rock Las Vegas

Here’s the USATT article. I leave for the Open in 18 days!

Ask the Coach with Richard Prause

Episode #18 (1:15) - Preventing Easy Mistakes.

Training to Drive the Ball Low to the Net

Here’s the video (1:30), with a barrier over the net.

Want to Be a Table Tennis Aerobics Instructor?

Here’s the article with a link to video.

USATT Board of Directors Minutes

Here are the minutes to the May 29, 2015 USATT Teleconference. I was on the call (as a board member), but wasn’t particularly active in this one, though I was involved in some of the U.S. Open and the Friends with Paddles discussions.

11 Questions with Larry Bavly

Here’s the USATT interview.

Olympic Solidarity Course has Immediate Effect in Samoa

Here’s the ITTF article, which features USA’s Richard McAfee.

2015 Missouri Show Me State Games Open

Here’s the article with a link to video.

Social Networking App for Table Tennis Players

From Pong Universe: for iPhone, and for Android.

Meet the Philippines National Table Tennis Team

Here’s the video (3:02) with Adam Bobrow.

Crazy Shot by Bojan Tokic at European Games

Here’s the video (20 sec) as the ball hits the net, bounces off the side, hits the post, and bounces back and hits the edge!

San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick and Jarryd Hayne Play Table Tennis

Here’s the video (1:16).

ELITE Table Tennis Club Dance

Here’s the music video (2:54) as this club’s juniors put on a show.

Non-Table Tennis – “Head or Heat”

My horror story “Head or Heat” is coming out soon in ARES Magazine, one of the nicer SF magazines. It’s the top cover story. It’s a takeoff on Halloween. Here’s a description:

"Head or Heat, Head or Heat, give us something good to eat!" chant the master race Sizan children, in various costumes, in their version of Halloween. But what they want to eat are the yummy-tasting heads of the slave race Slabinnac children, or they'll burn your house down. What's a slave mother to do?

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June 16, 2015


MDTTC’s annual eleven weeks of summer camps started yesterday. Originally local schools were supposed to finish last week, but because of snow days they pushed over and so yesterday (Monday) was the final school day. Because of that, we had a lower first-day turnout, and so I was able to mostly stay home and do various USATT and MDTTC paperwork. (We still managed to get over 20 players for the afternoon session.) I went in for a 5-6:30PM coaching session with Daniel, and then rushed home for the USATT teleconference at 7PM (see below).

Most likely I’ll be coaching much of the rest of the summer from 10AM-6PM, with a lunch break. I’ll likely have some coaching sometimes during the lunch break, as well as after 6PM, so things are about get busy. Add in the blog, tip of the week, MDTTC stuff (group sessions, private coaching, newsletter, and other marketing things), USATT stuff (don’t get me started…), and few minor details like sleeping and eating, and I’m about to will the earth rotation to slow down so I have a few more hours in the day.

On top of that, my arm was bothering me a bit after coaching nearly all day on Sunday. I’m going easy on it – today, after the camp is done, I’ve got a 90-minute session with two of our juniors, and I’m bringing in Raghu so that I do the multiball and blocking drills, he does looping and free play drills, and we switch halfway through. (Alas, he gets the fun stuff.)

USATT Board Teleconference

We had a teleconference last night, rough from 7-8:30 PM. Main topics included:

  1. Approval of minutes from last meeting
  2. Audit Committee report
  3. Review of Strategic Initiatives, including:
    • 2015 US Open (with 1065 entries and a few more to be inputted, the most ever, excluding special cases where it was combined with something else, such as the 1990 U.S. Open/World Veterans Championships/International Junior Championships.)
    • Fundraising/Friends with Paddles
    • Ratings (including possibly working with Canada for a combined North American rating system)
  4. 2016 US Open and Nationals
    • One thing being discussed is possibly flipping the dates, with the Nationals in early July and the Open perhaps in December. Currently the Nationals take place in December, right when kids are taking final exams, which has been an ongoing problem for decades. This idea has come up periodically for years, and seems an obvious thing to do.
  5. Marketing & Fundraising Proposal from Innocean (more on this later)

Tip to Speed Up Your Backhand to Forehand Switch

Here’s the coaching article from Expert Table Tennis.

Racket Position

Here’s the coaching video (54 sec) from Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis School – Basic Forehand

Here’s the video (51:24).

Korean National Coach Bringing Olympic Champion Spirit: Interview with Ryu Seung Min

Here’s the interview from MH Table Tennis.

RIP: Rosalind Rowe Cornett

Here’s the obituary on the two-time World Women’s Doubles Champion, 1951 & 1954. She and her twin sister, Diane, made the final of women’s doubles five straight years, 1951-1955.

2015 European Games

They are taking place right now in Baku, Azerbaijan, June 13-19. Here’s the official page, and here are results. Portugal just defeated France in the men’s team competition. Austria came in third, top-seeded Germany in fourth. (Germany’s Timo Boll had to withdraw due to illness. Here’s an article on Germany’s loss to France.) Germany won women’s teams over Netherlands, with Czech Republic third, Ukraine fourth.

61 seconds of Xu Xin vs. Patrick Franziska

Here’s the video. Xu of China is #2 in the world (#1 for 12 months until March this year), Franziska of Germany is #27.

2015 China Super League: Tianjin Vs Sichuan

  • Tianjin: Ma Te, Liu Dingshuo, Wei Shihao, Chuang Chih-Yuan
  • Sichuan: Xu Ruifeng, Zhu Linfeng, Lai Jiaxin, Tang Yushi, Chen Chien An

Here’s the video (2:10:47). Here are the matches:

  1. Chuang Chih-Yuan - Xu Ruifeng @ 6:40
  2. Ma Te - Zhu Linfeng @ 32:25
  3. Wei Shihao/Liu Dingshuo - Zhu Linfeng/Lai Jiaxin @ 1:13:35
  4. Ma Te - Xu Ruifeng @ 1:40:13

Lily Yip Feeding Multiball with Broken Hand

Here’s the video (17 sec). Hey, my arm hurts a little too!

Waldner and Persson Head-to-Head

Here’s the totals! Surprisingly, Persson, who is over six months younger, leads 53-50. (Waldner was born Oct. 3, 1965, Persson April 22, 1966.) But this includes matches since 1978, when they were roughly 12-13 years old. They played in the Men’s Finals at the 1989 and 1991 Worlds and split matches.

USA Table Tennis Bans Hitler from USA Olympic Trials

Here’s the video (20 sec)! (Can anyone translate what he’s actually saying?) I created this in just a few minutes. There’s a link so you can create them yourself, with a choice of multiple videos to use, where you just put in the captions. I challenge readers to come up with their own! (But let’s keep it clean; let’s not demonize anyone specific by actually comparing them to Hitler.)

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