Larry Hodges's blog

March 2, 2018

Table Tennis Inventions Needed
Today I'm going to turn some of you into rich inventors, and someday I'm going to regret all the hordes of money I gave away by not patenting all these inventions. But it's all for the greater good of table tennis, right? When you (or the big table tennis companies and distributors reading this) create these devices and are rolling in money, make sure to credit me with the idea! Here are some table tennis inventions we need you to create.

  • Rackets with Different Speeds on Forehand and Backhand. This is a simple one - just put faster wood layers on one side, slower ones on the other. There's no rule against this. Not everybody wants the same speed on both sides, just as not everybody uses the same surface on both sides. For example, if you only spin steadily on the forehand while playing an aggressive backhand, you might want the forehand side to be slower. Or if you chop on the backhand while attacking with the forehand, you might want slower on the backhand. And so on. (Note - I'm told that some of the smaller manufacturers already make these - see comments below and my suggestion.) 
  • Robot that Feeds with a Racket. Currently, all of the common robots feed the balls by shooting them out of a tube. It's an efficient way of doing it, and if you ever play an opponent who spits balls at you through a tube, you'll be ready. But if you really want to develop your skills so you react to a ball coming at you from a racket, then what we need is a table tennis robot that hits the ball at you with an actual racket. The simplest way would be for the balls to be shot upward out of a tube where it's hit by a robot-controlled ping-pong paddle. This is why multiball is so valuable as it allows you to react to a ball coming off a racket.
  • Robot that Feeds Out of a Video of Someone Doing the Stroke. If the ball is going to come out of a tube, then why not have it come out of a video of someone stroking the ball? If it's topspin, then someone looping; if it's backspin, then someone pushing or chopping.
  • Lightweight Telescoping Ball Pickup Device That Attaches to Belt. Many players, especially older ones, don't like having to lean down to pick up balls. What's needed is a simple telescoping device that clips or velcros to your belt, with a button to telescope it down, which picks up one ball at a time.
  • Thin Playing Gloves for Better Grip. Just as baseball players use batting gloves for a better grip (as well as to protect their hands), why not table tennis gloves? Ideally, they'd be very thin with a non-slip surface to maximize one's grip. This would be great for players who sweat a lot and so have trouble gripping their racket.
  • Ping-Pong Ball That Leaves a Mark. When serving, most players are only vaguely aware of where the ball hits on their side of the table. What's needed is a ball that leaves a temporary mark when it hits the table so players can see the bounce locations. It might be as simple as putting chalk on a ball, but it can't change the ball's playing characteristics when serving. This device would help especially in two cases. First, players have trouble controlling the depth of their serve because the first bounce moves around, so this would them feedback so they can learn where the ball should bounce first for each depth, and allow them to learn to control this. Second, most players do not maximize their fast, deep serves because the first bounce is out over the table rather than as close to their own end-line as possible. This would give them feedback on this.

So there you have it. Six possible table tennis inventions, each of which will greatly help table tennis players while making you into a filthy rich table tennis entrepreneurial tycoon.  

African Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event in Nairobi, Kenya, March 1-3. Top seeds in Men's Singles are Omar Assar (EGY, world #16) and Quadri Aruna (NGR, world #22). Top seeds in Women's Singles are Dina Meshref (EGY, world #33) and Olufunke Oshonaike (NGR, world #120).

World Veterans Championships: Two weeks to entry deadline, already more countries than ever before; Las Vegas sets new record
Here's the ITTF article on the World Veterans Championships, June 18-24 in Las Vegas. "An entry from Turkmenistan with just some two weeks to go before the closing day of Thursday 15th March, it means that players from no less than 86 countries have enrolled for the forthcoming 2018 World Veteran Championships. It is a new record." There are currently 3773 players officially entered, with over 400 more on the "pending" list, so there will be over 4000 players. Deadline to enter is March 15 or 5000 entries, whichever comes first.

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial. (part 1: backspin, hook)
Here's the video (20:54) from Tomorrow Table Tennis (which has other videos).

Self Discipline in the Table Tennis World
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Really good players remain focused throughout the entirety of their matches, and don’t leave details to chance. These players tend to train exactly the way they play. You can’t turn self discipline on like a light switch. If you typically play an undisciplined game, it’s unlikely you will be able to play a smarter more focused game just because you paid a tournament entry fee."

Table Tennis Coaching in Schools
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "I think many under value the power of sport in schools especially minor sports such as Table Tennis. Yes, education is very important but it’s not for everyone and if it wasn’t for sport inside schools we would not have some of the great sportsmen of the past and today. I went to a school in Camden Town and there was access to virtually every sport imaginable: football, Gym, basketball, Gymnastics, netball, athletics, swimming, cricket and table tennis."

A Light-hearted Look at the Team World Cup 2018
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

"I’ll give $100 to any US player who can return 10/10 of these serves"
Here's the robot challenge video (64 sec) by Samson Dubina - of course, you might have to fly to Ohio to take the challenge. About 12 seconds in he starts calling out the ten serves.

Impressive in London, Liam Pitchford Aiming for Commonwealth Games Gold
Here's the ITTF article. "Following a fantastic outing at the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup, England’s Liam Pitchford is very much in the table tennis spotlight and is oozing with confidence ahead of the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games set to take place on the Gold Coast in early April."

Fan Zhendong vs. Liam Pitchford World Cup 2018
Here's the video (13:27).

"Ding Ning just doesn't back away from the table!"
Here's the video (32 sec) as she (the lefty on near side) plays Korea's Nam Hae Kim.

Pong Universe Newsletter
Here's the March issue.

Justin Bieber Serves It Up With Ukrainian Ping Pong Master Anastasia Rybka
Here's the video (70 sec). The 2329-rated Rybka might not be, "One of the best table tennis players in the world," but she's among the top players in the U.S. Here's another video (18 sec) from Steve Hopkins, where he wrote on Facebook, "Justin Bieber showed up unannounced at the Gilbert TT Center in LA looking to play a little. Club pro, Anastasia Rybka (formerly a women's national collegiate champion from Texas Wesleyan University) helped with his workout..."

Adam Bobrow Exhibition in the Philippines
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Red and Black Frankenpaddle
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Not to be confused with the original Frankenpaddle (which I created).

Tom & Jack in Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:01)!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Electrifying Aftermath of a Demon Thrice Summoned"
My story is now up at Galaxy's Edge.

Send us your own coaching news!

March 1, 2018

Who Has the Best Table Tennis Name?
Upon realizing that nobody has ever investigated this extremely important question, I took it upon myself to resolve this issue. Mostly using the USATT's database (which only goes back to 1994), here are some of the more interesting table tennis names.

The Pings

  • There are 44 Pings in the database, though I think some are duplicates. One of them is 2004 USA Olympian Whitney Ping.

The Pongs

  • Beth Pong Green Berggren of Monument, CO
  • Johnny Pong of Lake Forest, CA
  • Vivien Pong of Eugene, OR
  • Chin Pong Tsui of New York, NY

Those Who Love Table Tennis - the Lovett's

  • Cullen Lovett of Sebring, FL
  • David Lovett of Fayetteville, NC
  • Reuben Lovett of Searcy, AR

The Balls

  • Ian Ball of Nashville, TN
  • David Ball of AZ
  • Ed Ball of Santa Monica, CA
  • Kevin Ball of Loveland, CO
  • Russell Ball of Swanzey, NH

The Loops

  • Craig Loop of Los Angeles, CA
  • Tom Loop of Scotch Plains, NJ

The Blocks

  • Adam Block of Tucson, AZ
  • Eli Block of Philadelphia, PA
  • Gary Block of Coventry, RI
  • Jonathan Block of PA
  • Miwa Block of Tucson, AZ
  • Robert Block of Bethesda, OH

The Fishers - alas, no lobbers in our database

  • David Fish of Oak Park, IL
  • Aaron Fish of UT
  • Albert and Anne Fish of Columbus, OH
  • David Fish of Benbrook, TX

The Best(s)

  • Aubrey Best of Orlando, FL
  • Bryan Best of State College, PA
  • Gabe Best of Santa Cruz, CA
  • Mia Best of BRB

The Smart Tacticians

  • Jeff, Yvonne, David, and Eric Smart of Columbia, MD
  • Jeff Smart of Indianapolis, IN
  • Phil Smart of Hutchinson, KS

We Got the Goods

  • Christopher Good of Aurora, CO
  • James and Stephen Good of King of Prussia, PA
  • Kevin Good of Pickerington, OH
  • Ryan Good of De Pere, Wi

True Winners

  • 119 Victors in the database
  • 13 Viktors in the database, plus 5-time World Men's Singles Champion Viktor Barna
  • 395 Nguyen's - which surprisingly is pronounced "Win."
  • 16 Goodwins in the database

The Bangs

  • Chan Bang of Laguna Woods, CA
  • Heung Soon Bang of HI
  • Bang-Yuan Chen of MS


  • Brian Pace, head coach at Triangle Table Tennis
  • Rip Goulet of the Lagunitas Table Tennis Club in Marin County, California
  • Flip Carico, VA
  • Steven Power of Rangeley, ME (plus 8 others named Powers)
  • Lefty Spoons of NJ
  • Humberto Servello of Cranford, NJ
  • Tong Tong Gong who plays ping pong, from Ellicott, MD
  • Gordie Howe of Sylvania, OH - wrong sport?
  • William Trump of Sumneytown, PA - I hope he's not on Twitter.
  • There are no Chop's, but there are 6 Chopra's.
  • Shortest Names: Li Ai (CO) and Mu Du (MD) - any others?

So who has the best table tennis name? It's a tough call. I've always liked the fact that we have an Olympian named Whitney Ping, but there are 44 Pings, so that's too common. There are also four Pongs, so also too common. (If only someone with a first name of Ping would marry someone with a last name of Pong, and take on that last name, that person would be called Ping Pong. Please, let it happen!)

I also like the fact that we have a full-time coach known for his powerful forehand named Brian Pace, and a guy with long pips who flips named Flip Carico. There's only one Rip (Goulet) and only one Power (Steven) - but 8 other Powers - and names like Lefty Spoons and Tong Tong Gong just bring a smile to your face. There are five Balls - and if Ian Ball were Iam Ball, then he'd be the winner. I'm sure I'm missing some obvious ones - feel free to comment below, or name who you think should be the winner. 

But in the end, isn't God the most powerful of all? Now there are no Gods in the database (though there are 20 Jesus's), but there's one person you can look at and honestly say (well, sort of), "He's God" - and that's me, since that's just an anagram for Hodges. (But I'm not alone - there are nine of us.)

African Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event in Nairobi, Kenya, March 1-3. Top seeds in Men's Singles are Omar Assar (EGY, world #16) and Quadri Aruna (NGR, world #22). Top seeds in Women's Singles are Dina Meshref (EGY, world #33) and Olufunke Oshonaike (NGR, world #120).

New From EmRatThich

Training Routines Before a Tournament
Here's the new podcast (34:59) from PingSkills.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup | Ma Long & Fan Zhendong Training
Here's the video (6:04).

Social Responsibility, the ITTF Foundation Formally Established
Here's the ITTF article.

January Pongcast: Birthday Joy for Fan Zhendong as 2018 Campaign Gets Underway
Here's the ITTF article.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - January 2018
Here's the video (13:03).

Futuristic Alien Pong
Here's the repeating gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 28, 2018

MRI Results
The results are in on the MRI on my shoulder on Friday. In layman's terms, the rotator cuff has a slight tear, but it's small enough that they call it "frayed." It's also badly inflamed, with some tendinitis and bursitis. The doctor showed me the pictures on a screen, and while I can't tell the difference between inflamed and normal, the small tear or fraying was obvious.

Now for the technical terms. Here are excerpts from the medical report - read these out loud. I'm not making fun of the doctor's terms, I'm in awe of them! And I thought "heavy no-spin" and "banana flip" were cool terms.

  • Rotator Cuff: There is mild supraspinous tendinosis with bursai sided fraying and interstitial fissuring. Infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis tendons are intact.
  • Subacromial/Subdeltoid Bursa: Mild bursitis.
  • Glenohumeral Joint: The inferior glenohumeral ligament is mildly T2 hyperintense and irregular at the humeral attachment.
  • Labrum: There is subtle signal abnormality within the superior labrum from approximately 1 o'clock to the 9 o'clock axis, suspicious for a nondisplaced tear. There is a punctate paralabral cyst near the 1 o'clock axis. … Nondisplaced tear of the superior labrum.
  • Soft tissues: there is trace, physiologic amount of glenohumeral joint fluid without synovitis.
  • Mildly hyperintense and heterogeneous inferior glenohumeral ligament near the humeral attachment, nonspecific but may represent a mild sprain or adhesive capsulitis.

I'll have a better prognosis after I meet with the physical therapist today at 2PM, but it most likely means I'll be back to at least "easy" coaching within a month. I'm still doing group sessions, where I mostly give lectures, simple demos (which I can do without hurting the shoulder), and do multiball. I can feed multiball topspin without problem, but backspin puts a small strain on the shoulder, so I'm avoiding that for now. In a few weeks I might have to differentiate in my private coaching between beginners and advanced players, since the latter is where I have to play at a faster, more physical pace, and would be at more danger of hurting the shoulder. Most of my main serves also put a small strain on the shoulder, so I have to be careful there, though I've learned to adjust some of them to take some of the strain away - but I have to be careful as such adjustments aren't natural, and could put a strain on the arm.

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to do 15 minutes of shoulder stretches three times a week. Yesterday was my 58th birthday, and to celebrate, I only did it twice. Shhh - don't let my doctor know! (I also had two scoops of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream - they were out of Rocky Road - and despite that, this morning I was down to 181.2 pounds, my lightest in years and 19 pounds down from the 200 I reached at Christmas.)

Equipment: Here are the top 6 table tennis equipment questions
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Absent in London, Boll Moves to the Top, Ma Long Undefeated, Moves Down
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "As Federer reaches new heights by becoming the oldest tennis World number 1, it was 36 year old Timo Boll who returns to the top spot in the ITTF March World Ranking list. Notably absent from the 2018 ITTF World Team Cup it raises further questions about the adjustment phase of the new world ranking system."

World Team Cup Successes Launch Team USA Higher
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington on the improved rankings of USA stars Kanak Jha, Lily Zhang, and Amy Wang.

The Loop Drive Comes to the U.S—Crashes Against de Walle
Here's Table Tennis Tidbits #19 by Richard Ho. "The loop drive was formally introduced to this country at the U.S. Open in Detroit, Michigan in 1963 by Jacobsen and Baddeley from England. The Friday evening before the main matches of the following day, Jacobsen demonstrated the new technique.  Local aficionados lined up to take their turns returning the loop.  Those who attempted a chop return watched their balls flying “sky high” in coping with the extreme topspin not previously encountered.  A successful block return necessitated an extremely “closed” blade to prevent the ball from going long."

A Day in the Life of Kai Zhang: Table Tennis Master
Here's the article from the Binghamton University Newspaper. "Kai Zhang may look just like any other Binghamton University student, but in reality he is a nationally ranked table tennis player. Originally from Beijing, China, Kai moved to Pleasantville, N.Y., five years ago to have more opportunities in table tennis and his education."

SpinBlock Table Tennis Club Grand Opening Announcement
Here's the news item on the new full-time Indianapolis, IN club. Here's the SpinBlock TTC webpage. I've added it to the listing of full-time clubs, which is now at 93.

Across the Net
Here's the March issue from the Melton TTC in Australia, with a number of interesting articles, some of them coaching related. Here are their archives.

Army Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 27, 2018

58 and Jörg
That sounds like an address doesn't it? "Taxi, take me to the table tennis club at 58 and Jörg." Actually, it's two things.

First, today I'm turning 58. How did that happen??? To mourn celebrate I was going to take the day off from blogging, but I decided the last thing I wanted on my birthday was for legions of USATT members storming my house with pitchforks and torches. So instead I'll celebrate by going to the doctor at 1PM today to go over the results of the MRI on my shoulder on Friday, find out if I have a rotator cuff tear, and whether I'll be out for weeks or months. (I'll put in a small "Breaking News" item here when I get back.)

Second, USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio was at MDTTC yesterday afternoon where he watched some of our top kids in training, and even worked with a couple. (One had a tendency to play backhands with his right foot in front, so Jörg put a wire cord on the floor in front of him and had him play backhands while keeping the foot behind the cord.) Afterwards we went out to dinner, along with Wen Hsu (one of the MDTTC directors and a member of the USATT High Performance Committee) and MDTTC Coach Wang Qing Liang, one of the National Team Coaches. We solved all of USATT's problems, and were well into denuclearizing North Korea and installing a truth detector in the White House when we ran out of Chinese food.

As to the shoulder, I'm meeting with a physical therapist three times a week for an hour, plus I'm supposed to do about 15 minutes of shoulder stretches three times a day.

=>BREAKING NEWS (2:15pm): Just back from the doctor. At first they thought I had a torn rotator cuff, and it looks torn from the images, but it was small enough that they classified it as a frayed and badly inflamed rotator cuff, as well as bursitis and tendonitis. More on this tomorrow. I'll likely be out a few weeks at least, but this is something never completely heals - but should get good enough to play if I do enough physical therapy. 

HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program - We Need Your Support!
Here's the video (2:49) - nicely done by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile. (I think I'm literally just off camera in just about every group training shot! You can just see the top of my head in one.)

Timo Boll, Once Again on Top of the World
Here's the ITTF article on the new Men's World Ranking - yes, Timo Boll of Germany is now ranked #1 in the world, with the previous #1, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, now #3. Timo, age 36, was last #1 in 2011. China's Fan Zhendong is #2. Zhang Jike is #70, just ahead of the top USA in the men's ranking, Kanak Jha at #73. Here are the world rankings. As I've blogged before, and others have written, the new ITTF ranking system awards participation, and so the previous world #1 for several years, Ma Long, is now #9. These are the rankings that will be used for seeding at the upcoming World Championships.

Zhu Yuling Regains Number One Spot
Here's the ITTF article on the new Women's World Ranking.

Wang Brings Expertise to the Table for One of USA's Young Prodigies
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington on Wang Bo.

World Team Cup 2018 Recap: China Again, Germany Reloading, Flashes from Team England, a Marathon Win by Japan, and Kanak’s Signature Win
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup | GoDaddy Day 4 Review
Here's the video (2:57) covering the final day of the World Team Cup.

2018 Butterfly Cary Cup: Rematch of Champions
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 17
Here’s chapter 17 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Chapter 17 is titled, "End-of-Year Interests." It includes my Coaching Report (I was in my first tenure as USATT Coaching Chair) and a coaching article I wrote, "Learning to Win."

Superhero Pong
Here's the repeating gif image - I have no idea what superhero this is. Anyone know?

Send us your own coaching news!

February 26, 2018

Tip of the Week
Sound and Feet.

Friday Twos
Friday was a red-letter day for me for multiple reasons, and they all came in twos.

I had to do two "bad" things - I had my shoulder MRI, and I did my taxes. I meet with my doctor Twosday (smirk) at 1PM to go over the MRI results and find out if I have a torn rotator cuff - i.e. will I be out for weeks or months. (I'm already scheduled for physical therapy three times per week, one hour each time. I have session #2 today at 11AM.) Here's what an MRI machine looks like - I was in it for 30 minutes with my shoulder strapped down to immobilize it. As to taxes, someone's got to pay for Trump's golf outings. These two bad things happened on Friday the 23rd, where of course the two is all that keeps it from being Friday the 13th.

I finalized the entry form for the Maryland State Championships (June 2-3) and ordered 32 (two to the fifth) plaques - the latter is time consuming as you have to type in the text for each one, and each plaque has two lines. And then, after some emails, I had to start over with changes in events and time scheduling, and had to cancel the plaque order. Later today I will for the second time finalize the entry form (including events and scheduling), and for the second time order the plaques.

After hitting an even 200 pounds on Christmas, on Friday I hit 182 pounds. I've held steady since then, but expect to hit 180 within a week.

Due to the shoulder problems I've had to cancel all private coaching since last Twosday (smirk) but I'm still doing group sessions, and did group sessions on two days just after Friday - a two-hour session on Saturday, and two sessions on Sunday totaling five minutes short of two hundred minutes. For the beginning junior class, the focus was on two things: pushing and random drills. For the advanced juniors, the focus was also on two things: serve and attack, and good placement. 

On Friday night I saw two movies, "Annihilation" and "Call Me By Your Name." (I've already seen every other good movie out, and most of the bad ones too, including, of course, "Black Panther." I've now seen all nine Academy Award Nominees, liked six of them.) Regarding the movie "Annihilation," I not only read the book as well, but attended a writing workshop years ago by the author, Jeff VanderMeer. (Yes, the last name has two capitalized letters.) With MoviePass, I see most movies for free, other than the annual $105 cost, plus popcorn and Mr. Pibb. Alas, you can only see one free movie per day with MoviePass, so I paid for the second one - but it was worth it as I was celebrating the sale to Analog (see below). I guess some wealthy people can afford to see two movies a day - I wish I could go to two too. (Smirk.)

In my other world of science fiction writing, Friday was one of the best days I've ever had - I made two major sales, one to Galaxy's Edge (one of the big "pro" magazines), and another to . . . Analog!!! Analog is the "biggest" of the science fiction magazines in the English world. It's my first sale to them, something I've been trying to do for a while. They get about 1000 submissions per month, accept four. (Other stories are from "big-name" authors.) I also finalized two new stories over the weekend. Overall I've now sold 90 short stories, 25 of them to the big "pro" magazines, plus four novels. But table tennis still pays the bills!

Yahao Zhang Forehand Tips
Here's the video (1:33). Why isn't your forehand like this?

Forehand Topspin
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

The BIG benefit of Watching Your Opponent
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

New from EmRatThich

ITTF World Team Cup
The 2018 World Team Cup finished yesterday in London. Here's the news page.

Help Fund Coaches for MDTTC Juniors at U.S. Nationals
Here's the funding page. So far they've raised $834. Can you help?

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The Capital Area Table Tennis League will be starting its next season soon. They currently have 17 teams signed up, and have room for one more. If you are in the Washington DC area (including Maryland and Northern Virginia) and would like to be on a team, or have a team ready to join, contact them at the Contact Us page.

USATT News Items
I've been away since Thursday, and USATT's been busy on their news page. Here are eight news items they've put up since. Perhaps most interesting is the last one, where USA's 17-year-old Kanak Jha, world #88, upsets world #7 Wong Chun Ting from Hong Kong at the World Team Cup.

Sid & Nandan Naresh
Here are two new articles on the junior stars from the Chicago area.

International Training Camp in Hjoerring, Denmark
Here's info, and here's the flyer. The camp is July 15-31, though you can attend for smaller time periods.

Amazing World Cup Point - Fan Zhendong vs Harimoto Tomokazu
Here's the video (30 sec).

LEGO Hulk Ping Pong vs Spiderman
Here's the video (11:52)! The actual table tennis starts at 1:10 and continues for 26 seconds.

Send us your own coaching news!

February 22, 2018

NOTE - off to do MRI on my shoulder Friday morning, so no blog that that morning. (See my Wednesday blog on this.) Wish me luck!

Help Fund Coaches to the Nationals for These Top Juniors!
The HW Global Foundation, which runs the Talent Junior Program at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, is trying to raise money to send coaches for the many kids they will be sending to the USA Nationals in July. In their words:

"We're raising $15,500 to bring the coaches that work with the kids all year to the tournament to ensure that our young athletes have the support they need to succeed in the sport they love. They will create a training camp for the kids before the tournament and coach them during the tournament."

Want to help out? Here is their GoFundMe page. There are 26 kids in the program, and I'm guessing that well over half will go to the Nationals. They are a great group to work with, and they are getting very good. (As of Dec. 31, 2017, they had 6 of the top 14 players in 10 and under boys in the U.S.) Disclaimer: I likely will be one of the coaches. (I'm in one of the pictures on the page, and think I'm just off-camera in another.) I work with them on Sundays, and coached two of their teams at the 2017 North American Teams. Over half of them started in my beginning table tennis classes.

Why should you help these kids get coaching? I'll let the page speak for itself.

Our Olympic dreams
Table tennis is one of the most popular sports in the world but is still growing in popularity as a sport in the United States - it remains one of only a few Olympic sports in which the U.S. has not medaled. The HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program, which my husband and I founded, hopes to change that. We are working to raise up new generations of table tennis players who not only excel at but are great ambassadors of the sport. Our 27 young athletes (20 boys and 7 girls) from the DC/Maryland/Virginia region train all week with their coaches and compete in local and regional tournaments year-round. They have Olympic dreams.
The next step towards fulfilling their dreams of becoming world-class Olympic athletes is for them to compete at the national level this summer. This July, many of our young athletes are looking to travel to Las Vegas for the U.S. National Championships, the biggest stage for table tennis in the country. To get the most out of the experience and maintain the team atmosphere we’ve worked so hard to create, their coaches need to come, too! The coaches have a deep impact on our young athletes - both on and off the table tennis court. Having their coaches at their sides at the U.S. Nationals will inspire our young athletes to compete with integrity and sportsmanship. 

The talented kids in our program can’t wait to show off their skills and sportsmanship at the U.S. Nationals but we need your support! We're raising $15,500 to bring the coaches that work with the kids all year to the tournament to ensure that our young athletes have the support they need to succeed in the sport they love. They will create a training camp for the kids before the tournament and coach them during the tournament. If you can help us reach our goal, you will be supporting the growth of table tennis in the United States and most importantly, inspiring our kids to reach for their dreams throughout their lives! All donors will receive a handwritten thank-you card from one of the Talent Development Program athletes and a video highlighting our talented kids. 

Shoulder Update
The shoulder started to really act up yesterday afternoon, and I had to cancel or get substitutes for my Wednesday and Thursday private coaching. (I'm still going in tonight to teach one of my beginning junior classes, with 14 students.) Later this morning I see a physical therapist, and Friday morning I get the MRI. (Probably no blog that morning.) I'll have a better idea of how things stand after these, and whether I can do my weekend coaching. If I can't, I need to notify students as soon as possible to cancel or get substitutes.

Larry Hodges Table Tennis Books on SALE!
My best-selling book is Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, which sells faster than a Ma Long forehand. However, I have 13 books, including 8 on table tennis, and most are on sale at my Amazon page. Five of the print versions just went on SALE!!! Buy some, or The Spirit of Pong will come for you!!!

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The Capital Area Table Tennis League will be starting its next season soon. They currently have 17 teams signed up, and have room for one more. If you are in the Washington DC area (including Maryland and Northern Virginia) and would like to be on a team, or have a team ready to join, contact them at the Contact Us page.

ITTF Team World Cup
The 2018 World Team Cup starts today, Feb. 22-25, in London. Here's the news page. Follow the action!

Mastering the Backhand Smash
Here's the article and videos from Brian Pace.

Half Truths in Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon. "Table tennis is full of half truths. Players and coaches don’t mean to be misleading, but they can easily be misunderstood. … Here are a few of my favorite table tennis half truths."

What to Know Before Purchasing Used Table Tennis Tables
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot. Or you can just use this table.

USATT Videos
Why not take a tour of the USATT Video Library? Lots of great stuff there!

A Special Tournament, Kanak Jha Grateful for Opportunities Afforded
Here's the ITTF article on the USA junior star. "Only 17 years old but Kanak Jha of the United States is a seasoned player; he has competed in four World Championships, two Men’s World Cup tournaments; now he is making his debut in the ITTF Team World Cup."

Michael Maze is Back!
Here's the ITTF article.

Doubles First, Proposed Olympic System Tested in London
Here's the ITTF article.

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out yesterday.

The Rhode Island Table Tennis Association is Celebrating 70 years of Continuous Operation
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Pong Road Episode 7
Here's the page, with links to all seven episodes, including #7 (11:12). They feature table tennis pro Rocky Wang.  

Navin Kumar on the Smile with Simi Show
Here's the video (36:12).

Table Tennis Stickers!
Here's a huge selection. Note that there are 28 pages of them!!!

Yea Ping Pong
Here's the video (4:58) - one of the strangest table tennis videos yet! The full title is: "YEAH PING PONG | FUNNY TABLE TENNIS FILM | TẬP 5: CHIẾC AÓ KỲ DIỆU - THE INCREDIBLE T-SHIRT."

Crazy Table Tennis
Here's the video (1:38).

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February 21, 2018

Shoulder Shenanigans and Other Maladies
Yesterday I finally went to see an orthopedic doctor about my shoulder. As I've blogged, I began having shoulder problems in October or November, but it was just a repeat of past problems. At the U.S. Open in December I tore it badly while moving wide to the forehand for a big smash, and had to default out immediately. Because I'd injured it before, I thought I knew how to rehab it, and so took a month off from coaching and did various exercises with these giant resistance rubber bands.

I started coaching again in mid-January, but the shoulder was only (in my estimation) 80% healed. I've been careful not to aggravate it by extending my arm out or reaching upwards too much, but occasionally a student would put a ball wide or short to my forehand and I'd mistakenly reach out for it - ow! Anyway, the shoulder seemed to get worse, so I finally saw the doctor yesterday. (How bad is it? When I comb my hair I have to use my left arm to hold up my right arm.) 

They did x-rays, and he ran some tests, and I have an MRI on Friday morning. (I might not be able to blog that morning.) So the final diagnosis will have to wait until then - it could be a rotator cuff injury. But he said I have a "shoulder impingement," which means "tendons of the rotator cuff muscles become irritated and inflamed as they pass through the subacromial space, the passage beneath the acromion. This can result in pain, weakness and loss of movement at the shoulder." He was amazed at my lack of shoulder mobility. I haven't been able to touch my back with my right arm for many months, and it's been years since I could do so without first doing a lot of warm-up and/or stretching. I also can't raise my right arm straight up in the air. The left arm is perfectly normal, so the contrast is startling.

They gave me a cortisone shot in the back of the shoulder, which is supposed to reduce the swelling and make it easier to coach for now. However, this morning my shoulder seems worse, if anything - I can barely lift it. I normally have four hours of coaching on Wednesday nights (5:30-9:30), but due to a series of random events, tonight I only have the first hour. (I have a separate meeting with club officers on various issues at 6:30PM, but that's separate.) There's a chance I might have to cancel or get a substitute - I'll see how the shoulder is this afternoon. (Update - it's feeling a bit better, so I should make the 5:30 PM session.) 

Tomorrow (Thursday) I see the physical therapist. I already have a series of exercises assigned by the orthopedic doctor I saw yesterday, but we'll see what more they have in store for me.

Now before anyone gets off on a "Larry's not taking care of himself" thing, while there's some truth to that - I did avoid seeing a doctor at first - I was born with a somewhat rare condition that, as far as I know, has no name. I have naturally tight, stiff, and dense muscles. How dense? I'm incapable of floating in water. (I can float in salt water, which is much denser and so more buoyant.) When I was in the Boy Scouts I had to get a doctor's note explaining that I was incapable of floating or they wouldn't give me the swimming merit badge, which requires one to float on their back for 30 seconds, which I cannot do. At hotels at tournaments I sometimes show off by walking on the bottom of pools or doing pushups. Yes, I really can walk across a pool on the bottom. (Maybe I'll show off and do this at the Nationals in July, if they have a pool. I'll charge $5 a person. Get your tickets now!) I used to go to carnivals where they had one of those people who would try to guess your weight, and they'd always underestimate me by 10-15 pounds.

So my muscles are very stiff. All the stretching in the world won't change that, though they of course help. This is one reason I tend to have stiff, somewhat ragged strokes, not something I want my students to copy.

These stiff muscles lead to other muscle problems, either directly or indirectly - stiff muscles also lead to tendon problems. I've had tendonitis in my right arm for years, but an armband solves that problem. I've also had upper right back problems, because my right side is so much stronger than the left side that it pulls the spine out of alignment, but that problem is solved by a specific stretch I do regularly that loosens the upper right muscles of the back. I've also had problems with my right knee, probably from years of coaching on cement before we went to all rubberized flooring at MDTTC about 15 years ago. I hurt it last July, and from then until December I couldn't walk up stairs normally, having to go one step at a time, left leg, then right, supporting as much weight as possible on the railing. But the knee has been fine since December. And a month ago I tore up my right heel in a freakish accident, when the screen door on the front door closed on the back of my foot, tearing a very deep wound that even now hasn't completely healed - I had to wear protective bandages until just a few days ago.

Meanwhile, my left side is in perfect health! (Well, it's stiff as well, but it hasn't gone through 42 years of table tennis strokes and injuries.) But I sometimes think my entire right side is held together by tape. If this were politics, I'd say "the right" is being punished! :)

And while we're on the topic of health, I hit an all-time high of 200 pounds even around Christmas. I've been dieting since, and this morning hit 184. I plan to get to 175.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup
The 2018 World Team Cup starts tomorrow, Feb. 22-25, in London. Here's the news page. Here's a video interview (1:33) of Ma Long and Ding Ning, in Chinese but with English subtitles.

Mighty Challenge Lies in Wait for Team USA in London
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "The ITTF World Team Cup is back and USA will feature in both the Men's and Women's events as the 2018 event hits London, England. Due to kick off February 22nd, the three day competition will host the world's top table tennis teams on world ranking and continental qualification."

Hopes Program
The ITTF Hopes program is for the best 11- and 12-year-olds in the U.S. and the world. Here is information on the program, including upcoming USATT camps and regional qualifiers.

Collegiate Table Tennis

2018 HITTA Spring Festival TT Tournament Report
Here's the article on this Houston event, by Manny Velazquez.

Silver Medallist One Year Ago, Adriana Diaz in Search of Gold
Here's the ITTF article on the Puerto Rican star and the upcoming Swedish Junior and Cadet Open.

China's Zhang Xie-Lin "Magic Penhold"
Here's the video (2:48) of this penhold chopper from the 1960s, against Li Furong (1961, 63, 65 World Men's Singles Finalist). Video is from 1984, but just went online. "The Magic Chopper" devastated European players in the 60's with his tricky sidespin chops.

Western Union Table Tennis Ad
Here's the commercial (30 sec).

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February 20, 2018

Tip of the Week
Forehands and Backhands: 1-2-3, not 1-2.

USA Team Selections
On Friday I spent much of the day studying the USATT Team Selection Process. (I blogged about this on Friday morning - somewhat jokingly though it's a serious matter.) There's a lot of nuance to this. For example, I often read complaints about how the teams are selected, but without distinguishing between how players are selected to be on the National Team (now called "TTTeam USA"), as opposed to who is selected to play at specific events, such as (for juniors) the World Junior Championships, Pan Am Junior Championships, or various ITTF junior tournaments. So there are really things involved in Team Selection - these two (who is on National Team, who plays in which events), plus the selection of coaches.

There's also the question of how much should be done by Trials, and how much by Selection. Many instinctively want it to be all Trials, until it's pointed out that due to injury, illness, or just having a bad day, the best player might not make the team, and then he's out for an entire year. So most agree that the High Performance Director (HPD), the High Performance Committee (HPC), or the National Team Coaches should be able to add perhaps one or two players. But then we start listening to the HPD and the HPC and they point out how a Team Trials isn't always realistic - it favors those who are good against other U.S. players that they are familiar with, it's a one-shot process that favors whoever is hot that day, and it leaves out players with great potential that are developing their game for the long term, while favoring those who play for the short term.

Plus, of course, who makes all these decisions, the HPD, the HPC, or the National Coaches?

There's also a distinction between how to put together a mini-cadet (12 and under), cadet (15 and under), junior (18 and under) and men's or women's team. For the various junior teams, you want to focus on developing them as future international players. For men's and women's teams, you want players who have become international players, or are on the verge. Do you favor younger players over older ones who are still better, but have less potential to improve with international experience? These are some of the questions that need answering.

Probably the biggest problem is that many are so opinionated on this that it's hard to have a serious dicussion. Many consider "compromise" a dirty word.

And so on Friday I created the perfect plan, the proposal to end all proposals, a proposition so precise in its ping-pong perfeduity (I just made that word up since I was running out of usable "p" words, but it sure sounds like a word), that all people will proclaim it's prodigious profoundness.

To be clear, I'm only set on two of the three selection items I've listed above; I'm still playing around with a third. I also want to think some more on this, and later on discuss it with the HPD and perhaps members of the HPC before submitting it as a proposal. I just want to make sure they've all done their laundry since some of those socks it'll knock off might smack me in the face. Or they may hate it so much they'll rub their dirty socks in my face. Either way, I'm going to get socked.

So I'm not going public with it yet. There's no rush as this year's selection procedures are set, and they won't be looking into 2019 plans probably until the fall.

The Inside Scoop on Shortz and Westchester
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn. "Will Shortz has a lot of balls in play. He is probably best known as the Crossword editor of the New York Times. Shortz is also the Puzzlemaster for NPR, founder and director of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament and Chairman, World Puzzle Federation. Oh yes, he has also been the author/editor of more than 500 puzzle books. Wait, there is more. The 65-year-old Shortz is a passionate table tennis player and owns the runs the Westchester Table Tennis Center that opened in the New York City suburb of Pleasantville NY in 2011."

Watch Ping-Pong Make Its New York Philharmonic Debut
Here's the article, pictures, and great video (1:39) from the New York Times, featuring Michael Landers and Ariel Hsing. Dazzling!!!

Lindenwood College
Here are two USATT news items where they are featured.

You Don't Play Well in Tournaments Because...
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "Find Out 5 Ways to Maximize Your Performance!"

Table Tennis Tidbits 17 & 18
Here are two more from Robert Ho - articles and video.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Chloe's Birthday
Here's the podcast (31:17) from PingSkills. Joke of the Week, On This Week, Tournament Wrap, Tip and Drill (Trill) of the Week, Forehand Placement, Training Relaxed Focus, Training Tools, and Topspin Against Backspin.

Excitement Builds for ITTF Team World Cup 2018
Here's the article from Table Tennis England. Here are ITTF World Team Cup articles. Event takes place in London, Feb. 22-25.

From Whiff Whaff and Gossima Beginnings, Table Tennis Continues to Be a Smash Hit as Sport Prepares to Come Home
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Newsletter
Here's the February issue.

The Man Who Plays Table Tennis Using His Mouth
Here's the video (2:07). Here's another video of this incredible table tennis player, Ibrahim Hamato.

Very Young Timo Boll 1995
Here's the video (8:46).

Ma Long Under-Table Hidden Sidespin
Here's the video (16 sec) against Dimitrij Ovtcharov.

Happy New Year 2018 Table Tennis Lovers!
Here's the highlights reel (3:16). Somehow I hadn't seen this until now.

Blast from the Past: Primorac vs. Kim Taek Soo
Here's the video (22 sec) of this great point from the Gilbert Cup. 

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 16
Here’s chapter 16 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

Potato Thins Handsfree Table Tennis Commercial
Here's the video (30 sec, including about 5 sec of table tennis)

Cartwheel Pong
Here's the video (11 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 19, 2018

President's Day
It's President's Day, the day we all celebrate all of our great presidents and try to forget the bad ones. (Or perhaps mock them.) It's a federal holiday, so I'm off today - though I'll be spending most of the day on a writing project. Meanwhile, to tide you over until tomorrow, here's the best 21-second rally in history - the Maggie intro scene from Balls of Fury

February 16, 2018

Yes, it's Usa Team Zelection (UTZ*) Day, the day I start looking into how USATT chooses its National Teams. I blogged about this on January 22 blog, where I wrote, "However, right now I'm just too busy to look into it too much, but I plan to do so in February, probably after I run the MDTTC February Open (Feb. 10-11)."
[*Our High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio and our long-time National Men's Coach Stefan Feth are both German, and in really bad movies the Germans always pronounce "S" words with a Z, so I'm going with "Zelection" here. And I'm suddenly craving potato chips. Yeah, it looks more like a Pringles, but close enough.]

Now, While Hodges Yielding a Mesmerizing Editorial (WHYME) on this, where I rip into any little thing I don't like, may be entertaining, that's not gonna happen. Instead, I'm going to hedge a bit here as while Hodges Endeavors this Day to Grok Everything (HEDGE), that doesn't mean I'm going to hash it all out in public, as some would like to see it done. After I've gone over all the materials, I'll either agree with it completely; find some small recommendations; find larger problems and make recommendations; or come up with my own plan that I'd recommend to the USATT High Performance Committee. But after Hodges Evaluates Long-term Plans and Makes Evaluations (HELPME), I'll first share anything I come up with to our HPD (Jörg) for comment as a first step. So no, I'm not going to Try to Tackle This In a Public Skirmish (TTTIPS). I will Study Every Regulation In Our Usatt Schemes (SERIOUS) to see if there are ways I think we can improve. (Yes, this is a serious issue, but allow me my fun.)

This Is Probably Our First Time Hodges Ever Will Examine Every Key (TIPOFTHEWEEK) to our National Team Selection, where he looks at all Team Rituals that Usatt Might Plan to Lead our Inevitable Escalation to Stardom (TRUMPLIES). (Hey, that was just a coincidence! Really!)

Some, like Bruce Liu (from Bay Area Table Tennis) and Rajul Sheth (also Bay Area, ICC Director and USATT board member) have approached me about our team selection process, and so I'm now starting the Hodges Initiative for Bruce and Rajul to Unite in our Common Endeavor (HIBRUCE). I hope to work fast and Find A Solution Today (FAST)!

Feel free to post below your own silly acronyms on this topic. Please don't make me read them. (But I will.)

House Update
As I blogged previously, coaches Ruichao Alex Chen, Wang Qing Liang, and Wu Jiachen moved in with me a few days ago, with MDTTC renting the first two floors of my townhouse for them. (I live on the third floor.) I had to do a lot of costly things to get the place ready for them.  Costs so far: Cleaning: $457; Handyman: $796; Locksmith $120; plumber $332. I've agreed to spend $1000 on new carpets. So total costs for me (so far) are about $2700. Next week: replacing two windows, probaby about $300. 

Thursday Beginning Junior Class
Yesterday's session had 14 players, with coaches John and Martin assisting. We divided the hour into three parts. Part 1 was serve practice, where I gave a short demo (we've covered this already), and gave them the choice on whether to work on fast serves or spin serves. Part 2 was smashing. After a demo, they went out on the tables and did this, mostly three at a time (others practiced or picked up balls) where the coach fed multiball - one to wide backhand, one to middle, one to wide forehand - and then rotated back while the others took their turn. Part 3 was games, where the players had their choice on either playing King of the Table or trying to smack my infamous Gatorade bottle of "worm juice" as I fed multiball (3 shots per player, rotating) - if they did, I had to drink it. As it happened, every player wanted to make me worm juice (despite my admonitions that "Friends don't make friends drink worm juice"), and so there was no King of the Table. I drank much worm juice.

World's Worst Ping-Pong Excuse?
On Wednesday I was coaching a kid (age 12) who normally works very hard. But this time he seemed distracted when doing footwork drills, and kept stopping to stretch and to examine his leg. I finally asked him why he wasn't trying harder, and this is what he said: "There's no blood in my leg." I think I've heard it all now.

Learning to Whip My Forehand with Eli Baraty
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. "One of my team-mates Daniel Hearne-Potton (a rapidly improving cadet player) recently said to me, 'Tom, you’re quite good at table tennis, but your technique is terrible.'"

How To Improve Your Speed In Table Tennis
Here's the article from Table Tennis Store. "We have all heard of fast and slow twitch fibers in muscles — in almost every sport the secret to improving your athletic skill is to make your muscles not only stronger but also faster. Fast muscles give you a big advantage in almost all sport related skills but especially in fast reaction sports."

Defending Table Tennis Serves
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "What makes a great serve? For a lot of players the answer is a variation of what once was used to identify obscenity; 'I know it when I see it.'"

Cal Table Tennis: Road to NCTTA Regionals and Nationals!
They are doing a fundraiser to send Cal Table Tennis to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA).

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out Wednesday.

“I will try to win the title next year”: Dimitrij Ovtcharov looks back on Montreux display
Here's the ITTF article on Ovtcharov's thoughts on failing to win his fourth consecutive Europe Top 16 title (losing the final this year to teammate Timo Boll).

Table Tennis England (Current State of Affairs)
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. He's not happy.

A Plucky Paralympic Point
Here's the video (43 sec, from 2014) - if he can get this many balls back (from the floor), why can't you?

Down-the-Line, Around-the-Bottle Serve
Here's the video (18 sec)!

Under 12 Finalists at the Butterfly MDTTC Open - Animated!
Here are five photos of the top four finishers - animated! (May take a few seconds to load.) L-R: Kay O'Hara (3rd); Mu Du (1st); Lance Wei (4th); and Andy Wu (2nd).

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