Larry Hodges's blog

September 15, 2017

A USATT Coaches Training and Certification Program
There are currently two ways of becoming certified as a USATT coach. One is the USATT certification process itself, which explains how to become a Club, State, Regional, or National Coach. (There is also an Instructor category, which is for non-table tennis people with teaching experience, such as PE teachers. I wrote the Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis for this, which has also been used at the Club level for many years.) The other is to take one of the ITTF coaching courses, where Levels 1, 2, and 3 equate to State, Regional, and National coaches.

However, as is often pointed out, the ITTF coaching courses weren’t really set up as a certification process, and they don’t always teach what we specifically would like taught at each level. And so we are now looking into possibly setting up our own USATT coaches education and certification process. (I’d be working closely with others on this, such as USATT High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio and former coaching chair Richard McAfee.)

While I inherited the current process (appointed earlier this year as chair), I actually set up much of it when I was coaching chair for four years back in the 1990s. The situation back then was very different as we had few active coaches, and less than ten full-time professional coaches in the U.S., probably more like five. So to be a club coach, all you have to do right now is pass a simple open-book test. But now we have over 300 full-time professional coaches and over 90 full-time centers (compared to just one or two back then), and we need to raise our standards.

I wrote about this idea when I ran for the USATT board, with plans for a “USATT Coaching Academy.” One semi-step was the USATT University we had at the USA Nationals in July, where we had eight one-hour seminars, including ones on serving, receiving, and setting up and running a junior program. But while that was educational for the attendees, I’d like to have something bigger, more comprehensive.

Assuming we stay with the same levels, here’s a quick draft for the prerequisites, requirements, and skills needed for each level. The list of “Skills needed” are roughly from the current certification guidelines, but much of the rest is new and still in the beginning planning stages. One thing I’m beginning to believe is that most of the “education” should be at the Club, State, and Regional levels, while at the Regional and National level it’s about actual experience working with high-level players in training while applying the knowledge learned from previous levels. (Yes, there’s overlap between Regional and Nationals here.) I’m also thinking about whether we should require State coaches to attend at least some major training camps so they can be exposed to high-level training.

  • Club coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have achieved a 1400 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least two years, or equivalent, and 100 tournament or league matches. This is to show minimal experience in table tennis.
    • Requirements. Attend a six-hour course taught by a high-level (regional or national?) coach. The course would focus on the main techniques of table tennis. I blogged about this on Sept. 1. One additional item would be to require the reading of a manual or substantive article on teaching or coaching, though at this level we wouldn’t test them on this.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a Club coach should be able to “teach basic skills and techniques; plan and carry out training sessions with beginning player groups; coach beginning players on competitive match play; and teach beginning players up to a USATT rating level of 1700.”
  • State coach
    • Prerequisites: Must have been a club coach or equivalent for at least two years. Must have achieved a 1600 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least five years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. Attend a two-day course taught by a high-level (national?) coach. The course would focus on more advanced techniques than at the club level. It would also focus on tactics, sports psychology, physical training, and on actual teaching methods, i.e. pedagogy.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a State coach should be able to “Plan and carry out individual and group sessions for player development; teach basic and advanced skills and techniques; maintain a greater knowledge of major concepts of technical training and physical training conditioning methods; to teach players from beginner up to a USATT Rating level of 1850.”
  • Regional coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have been a State coach or equivalent for at least three years. Must have achieved a 2100 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least eight years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. Attend coaching courses (five days?) taught in conjunction with USATT National Team camps, and gain extensive experience by watching these camps. Attend other coaching seminars as needed. More emphasis on setting up and running large-scale programs, especially junior programs. Large emphasis now on high-level techniques. Lots of video study and analysis would be done at these camps. A lot of experience is now needed working with high-level players.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a Regional coach should be able to “plan and carry out training sessions for players and coaching development; have knowledge of advanced training concepts for higher-level player development; to learn tournament organization methods; and be able to teach intermediate adult and juniors from 1750 up to a USATT rating level of 2250.”
  • National coach
    • Prerequisites. Must have been a Regional coach or equivalent for at least three years. Must have achieved a 2300 level of play, or have been a USATT or ITTF affiliate member for at least ten years, or equivalent.
    • Requirements. To attain level, a coach should be showing results. He should be developing high-level players and running coaching sessions with high-level players, including group junior sessions. He would be required to attend USATT camps held in conjunction with USATT National Teams, and attend seminars run by USATT National coaches on a semi-regular basis. Emphasis now is on developing players at the highest level with the highest level techniques.
    • Skills needed. According to the USATT specs, a National coach should “have a comprehensive knowledge of working with junior and senior elite players; be able to train and coach players for conditioning and competition at the highest levels, including the Worlds and Olympic Games; and demonstrate strong leadership for the sport of table tennis and represented entities in all coaching experiences.”

When the Tail Wags the Dog
Here’s the article by Ben Larcombe from Expert Table Tennis. “Today, I’m looking at a common forehand loop mistake – something I refer to as ‘the tail wagging the dog’ – and what should happen instead… ‘power from the ground.’ If you have trouble playing a strong forehand loop when the ball is placed wide to your forehand, or often find yourself out of position after the shot, this article is for you.”

Speaking of Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Coach Jon. “While talking table tennis is great, there are times when it might be better to not talk so much. I’ve found that during a match there are three people I don’t need to talk to. One would be spectators, the other is my opponent, and the most important is myself.”

Interesting side note and gratuitous self-promotion – in my science fiction novel “Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions,” one of the main characters, Bruce, is a professional table tennis player. (There are a number of table tennis scenes in the novel.) Chapter five is titled, “Arguing at the U.S. College Table Tennis Championships” (college sports are now all professional – it’s the year 2100) – and it ends with Bruce playing in the final of the national championships, where it’s deuce in the fifth – and he gets into simultaneous arguments with his opponent, the umpire, and a group of spectators, all while listening on his thought computer to events unfolding at the United Nations, where alien first contact is being made. He ends up walking off the court to join (and eventually run) a third-party challenge in the election for president of Earth. (The world has adopted the American two-party electoral system in this drama-satire.) This character Bruce (which is my middle name) is really just me unleashed to say whatever I want!

Hundreds of Free Articles from Samson Dubina
Here’s the links page – he’s got them all organized by type now.

Zhu Zhaohui Backhand Against Backspin in Slow Motion
Here’s the video (4:28).

Flawless Performance Leads Jha to Gold in Croatia
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington as USA Kanak Jha wins the Croatian Under 18 Boys’ Singles.

ITTF PanAm Championships
It’s taking place right now in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia, Sept. 11-17. Here’s the home page (with links to draws, results, news, livestreaming, photos, and everything else).

Asian Cup
Here’s the home page for the event which starts today, Sept. 15-17 in Ahmedabad, India.

Rising Youth Stars from a Place (and with a Style) You Might Not Expect
Here’s the article featuring protégés of Coach Dan Seemiller from South Bend, Indiana - Marty Stoner, Dion Payne-Miller, Dionta Payne-Miller, Dominique Clark, and Ronnie Coleman. And four of the five use the “Seemiller” grip!

Top Ten Facts You Didn’t Know About Ma Long
Here’s the article and discussion thread (from Table Tennis Daily) about the world #1 and reigning two-time world men’s champion.

Mo Zhang Prepares to Fight on Home Ground
Here’s the article on the Canadian star. “Canada’s very own Mo Zhang will enter the field of 16 players at the 2017 Uncle Pop Women’s World Cup in Markham from 27-29 October.”

Home-Made Tables in Nassau
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) That’s Richard McAfee (the tall one) teaching an ITTF class in Nassau, Bahamas.

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue that came out Wednesday.

Asuka Sakai: World’s Fastest Serve
Here’s the video (25 sec) as Adam Bobrow takes on the world’s fastest serve. It doesn’t go well. (I think I linked to a similar but different video previously.)

Facebook Live with Adam Bobrow
Here’s the video (70 min) though of course it’s no longer live. Adam is the “Voice of Table Tennis” as the commentator for the ITTF at their major events. (You don’t have to be on Facebook to see it.)

50-Shot Rally – Saive vs. Merchez
Here’s the video (69 sec) as Jean-Michel Saive (former world #1 from early 1990s) fishes and eventually lobs over and over against fellow Belgian player Cédric Merchez in the 2017 Super Division. Ironically, Merchez himself is a great fisher/lobber – here’s a video (10:21) featuring his own fishing style.  

Casual Behind-the-Back Winner
Here’s the video (32 sec) as Jonathan Groth of Denmark (world #37) makes an emergency return off a net ball before winning the point with this shot against Mattias Karlsson of Sweden (world #22).

Best of China National Games 2017
Here’s the video (4:11).

Matrix Ping-Pong
It’s been a while since I’ve linked to what may be the most hilarious table tennis video ever made. Here’s the video, and four parodies!

Non-Table Tennis – “When Parallel Lines Meet”
My new science fiction novel comes out Oct. 31. When it does, the kindle version will be $6.99. But if you pre-order now, it’s only $2.99! You can also pre-order the print version for $14.99. Sorry, no table tennis, but lots of aliens!!! (It’s set up out of sequence – I wrote the “origin” story of the main character, which actually comes at the ending 1/3 of the novel. His main two co-stars in my segment, set about a thousand years in the future, are three genetically enhanced “pets,” with human intelligence – a comedic two-faced (literally!) rhesus monkey; a passive-aggressive miniature blue whale; and a giant cottlesnake (half cobra, rattlesnake, 100% nasty). His job is to find home worlds for their races. I co-wrote the novel with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. Resnick is a legendary writer, with a record 37 Hugo nominations and five wins.

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September 14, 2017

Teaching the Topspinny Backhand
When a player first learns to play, they learn basic forehands and backhands, which include putting at least a very light topspin on the ball. A proper stroke automatically puts some topspin on the ball as the racket is moving forward and slightly up at contact. Beginners often hit the ball almost straight on, and so generate little or no topspin. Here’s a good backhand drive video (2:55, from ITTF). This teaches the standard, light topspin backhand. Here's a good backhand topspin video (3:18, from EmRatThich) showing a more topspinny backhand. Note how the racket tip drops down, allowing more topspin from the stroke. In the ITTF video, lefty Timo Boll is shown for a few seconds hitting backhands 28 seconds in, and also topspins his backhand this way. 

One of my students, age 8, tends to hit the ball almost straight on, resulting in a rather erratic backhand that’s more a blocking motion than a stroke, with the ball coming out dead. I could have done the standard slow progression to getting more topspin, but since she tended toward blocking, this would likely lead to more of a blocking-type backhand, and I wanted more. I've watched great backhand players like Crystal Wang, Han Xiao, and many others develop at my club and know how they and other top players developed their backhands.

So yesterday I went the other extreme and decided to spend over half of our hour session on turning her backhand into a real topspin backhand - not quite a backhand loop, but a backhand drive with good topspin. (I’m feeding multiball to her with light topspin.) Fortunately several of our top juniors were playing on nearby tables, hitting topspinny backhands. So I had her watch them to get a good mental image of what I wanted her to do. (I’m copyrighting the term “topspinny” – if you use it, you owe me $1! Here’s my Tip of the Week on the topic, from July 29, 2013, Topspinny Backhands.)

It took some time, but she suddenly got the knack of it – and started putting real topspin on the ball! Some of them were almost scary. If someone had asked me a month ago I would have said she was at least six months away from hitting backhands like that, but often we limit players by limiting them in our thinking. She’s also learning to forehand loop against backspin (and already has a decent forehand drive), so hopefully she’ll be developing into a serious two-winged topspin attacking threat. Next week I plan to introduce her to backhand looping against backspin, as well as incorporating that topspin backhand into regular backhand to backhand rallies. (I didn’t want to do that in yesterday’s session yet – not until she’s really got it down so she won’t fall back into blocking when we rally.)

2017 ITTF PanAm Championships
It’s taking place right now in Cartagena de Indias, Columbia, Sept. 11-17. Here are some links.

Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth: Drill No. 8
Here’s the video (1:43).

Pre Match Routines
Here’s the podcast (33:53) from PingSkills.

You Think Table Tennis is Not a Sport?
Here’s the video (9:12). I’ve seen a number of videos with this title and thought they were the same one, but discovered that there are several different versions.

Table Tennis Town
Here’s the video (1:26) about this table tennis club in Tokyo, which even has a table tennis themed restaurant.

Top 3 Table Tennis Ghost Points
Here’s the video (1:40). “Ghost Points” are when you hit the ball with backspin so the ball bounces back and away from the opponent.

Kenta Matsudaira & Jun Mizutani Demonstration and Exhibition
Here’s the video (3:10). After playing spectators, they play exhibition points near the end.

Best Trick Serve Ever?
Here’s the video (20 sec).

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September 13, 2017

So Much Happening!
No matter where you are, there’s something coming up for you. While there’s not much on the coaching side in my blog this morning (after seven in yesterday’s blog), though there's some good analysis in the Table Tennis Tidbits #8 (by Robert Ho), this time it’s full of events all over the place. Here’s a rundown.

  • Philadelphia, PA. See the segment below on Spin Philly, with the grand opening party this Friday, Sept. 15, 9PM-2AM. I may go up for this.
  • Ann Arbor, MI. See segment below on the 45th Ping-Pong Diplomacy at University of Michigan on Monday, Sept. 18.
  • Franklin, WI. See segment below on the $16,000 4-star Badger Open, near Milwaukee, Sept. 15-17.
  • CA, WA, NC, NJ, NY. Play in any of the following 2-star tournaments this coming weekend: North-West LA Open (Canoga Park, CA); SPTTC Championships and September Open (Bellevue, WA); Triangle September Open (Morrisville, NC); Princeton Pong Open (Princeton Junction, NJ); NYISC September Open (College Point, NY).
  • 1993-1994. See segment below where you can relive or learn about table tennis those years by buying Volume 20 of Tim Boggan’s History of U.S. Table Tennis.
  • Houston, TX. See segment below on the damages caused by Hurricane Harvey. Why not play at one of the Houston clubs (and pay membership or daily fee) to help support their repairs?
  • Anywhere, USA. Here’s the USATT club listing. Or get some coaching – here’s the USATT coaches listing.
  • Anywhere, Earth. See segments below where you can follow the action at the Pan Am Championships and the European Championships. Or you can wait a couple of days and follow the action at the Asian Cup, Sept. 15-17 in Ahmedabad, India.
  • Anywhere, Universe. Why not support a poor, struggling table tennis writer by buying one of his table tennis books? Then you can curl up anywhere and lose yourself in the world of table tennis.  

2017 ITTF PanAm Championships
Here’s the home page for the event where you can follow the action, including Team USA. Note the livestreaming links – you can watch it live! Here is Team USA – Men: Adar Alguetti, Sharon Alguetti, Kunal Chodri, Nicholas Tio; Women: Crystal Wang, Yue Wu, Grace Yang, Rachal Yang. (Amazingly, Crystal Wang comes first alphabetically in a four-person team.)

European Championships
Here’s the home page for the event, which starts today, Sept. 13-17 in Luxembourg.

Table Tennis Community Rallies to the Harvey Cause
Here’s the article by Richard Finn. “Winds ripped through homes and buildings. Water, feet high in many places, rushed in, flooding entire homes, roads, cars and anything that stood in its path.  Schools and businesses were closed. Sports teams were displaced. Every fabric of life in one of the country’s most bustling cities was impacted. The vibrant table tennis community in the Houston area was not spared from the wrath of Harvey.”

Table Tennis Tidbits #8
Here’s the article by Robert Ho.

Spin, a 12,000-Square-Foot Ping Pong Bar, Bounces Into Philly
Here’s the article. Their grand opening party is this Friday, 9PM to 2AM. I’m toying with driving up – it’s a three-hour drive.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Celebration: Musical Performance & Exhibition Table Tennis Games
Here’s the article. The event takes place Sept. 18 (Monday) at the University of Michigan, and includes such players as Liang Geliang, Zheng Huaiying, Wang Hao, Yan Sen, Ding Ning, Qiao Hong, and Dell & Connie Sweeris. “In celebration of the 45th anniversary of Ping Pong Diplomacy, the University of Michigan is excited to host an evening highlighting the history, impact, and a continued dedication to a solid relationship between Michigan and China. We hope you’ll join us for a community event including remarks from distinguished guests, a musical performance, and several exciting table tennis games.”

Titans Return to Claim Title at 10th Anniversary Butterfly Badger Open
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei. “A total of $16,000 in prize money awaits the ~300 players who will come to compete at the 2017 Butterfly Badger Open next weekend in Franklin, WI (15 miles from downtown Milwaukee). With $5,000 reserved for the Open Singles champion, top players from around the US and Canada have already confirmed their spots in the event.”

Donate to Support Lariba
Here’s the video (48 sec) on Ian Lariba, a member of the Philippines National and 2016 Olympic Team, who has been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, and needs to raise $60,000 for an operation.

Your Morning Multiball Session
Here’s the video (38 sec) with Mudit Dani at the Lily Yip TTC.

The Fastest Sport? Table Tennis vs. Badminton
Here’s the article from Zoom TT.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20 (1993-1994)
You can buy the new volume, or any of volumes 1-19, at!

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty-five - December 1992 - World Doubles Cup. Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 20!

Lily Zhang: Good luck getting a shot past this Olympian
Here’s the video (56 sec) from the Bleacher Report.

Vive Studios' 'VR Sports' is Exactly What it Sounds Like
Here’s the article and pictures, which features table tennis.

Tutti Frutti Table Tennis Terminology
Here’s the ITTF article on bananas, banana splits, and strawberries – all table tennis shots! Here’s my Tip of the Week on the Banana Flip. I’ve written about the strawberry flip – here’s a video of it (6:22) from EmRatThich, where he calls it a “boomerang flip.”

91-Shot Rally
Here’s the video (1:41) – all smash vs. lob – and at deuce in the seventh!!!

Zhang Jike Funny TV 2017
Here’s the video (3:26). Lots of crazy stuff! It’s in Chinese, but you don’t need that to understand what’s going on. Wait’ll you see the six-sided table!

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September 12, 2017

Tip of the Week
Make Adjusting a Habit by Playing Different Players.

USATT Board Meeting
It was an extremely hectic weekend – I’m learning that coaching and attending board meetings don’t always mix well. On Saturday I coached from 10AM to 4PM, then drove over to the USATT informal meeting/get-together on Saturday night in Washington DC. On Sunday I left my house at 6:30AM, attended the meeting from 8AM to 2:30PM, drove to my club, and coached from 4PM to 8:30PM. After spending all day sitting in a chair, my back stiffened up while coaching and began to hurt. (I’m doing back stretches before it gets worse.) Here’s a rundown of the USATT meeting.

On Saturday night we all met at Gary Schlager’s large house, with its even larger basement, for informal games, meetings, and dinner. (Gary recently joined the USATT Board of Directors – his financial background is a huge plus.) There was ping-pong, pool, darts, and air hockey. I spent several hours taking on challenges with my clipboard (I didn’t lose a game, no comment on my opponents), and gave impromptu lessons to some of our non-table tennis guests. I played a little pool (I’m a novice) and some darts (used to very good, had a dartboard in my dorm room in college, but that was circa early 1980s). Around the dinner table and afterwards we had some informal discussions on various issues, and perhaps solved all the problems of table tennis in this country.

The official meeting began on Sunday morning at 8AM at Gary Schlager’s offices in DC. He criminally had the place supplied with pastries (curse you Gary) as well as healthy fruit, plus water, coffee, and soft drinks. We started with a few administrative tasks – roll call, asking if there were conflicts of interest, and so on. Then we went over the June and August teleconference minutes, made a few corrections, and then approved them. (I made the motions for both – see how hard I work?)

Next we went into executive session, i.e. a closed meeting to go over issues that pertain to personal, legal, or other confidential stuff. Alas, I can’t go into this part. (But you may note that shortly afterwards, various news agencies reported the new sanctions against North Korea.)

Next we had committee reports. To save time, rather than have each committee give a verbal report, we just accepted them and asked if there were questions. (I read them all, and hopefully others did as well, and had a few questions.) One of the committee reports was my coaching report, which I put in my blog on Friday. Some of the other reports included ones from the Club, High Performance, Junior, Nominating and Governance, Umpire and Referees, Veterans, and Tournament committees. I believe these reports will eventually be put online at the USATT site.

Next was a teleconferencing Audit report of our financial situation. All’s well – we made money this past year and are well over budget on the positive side. The audit report will eventually be posted on the USATT Financial Reports page, where past tax disclosures and audit reports are posted.

Next came a rather long, roughly 1.5 hour board training segment with Melanie Lockwood Herman from the Nonprofit Risk Management Center. This included lots of discussion of the actual roles of board members. One thing that kept coming up, which is somewhat obvious and yet not always considered, is that individual board members have essentially no authority. It is only as a group that they have ultimate authority. I’m looking back and hoping that when I’ve emailed USATT staff on various issue that they haven’t misconstrued that as me acting like I have any authority over them, which I don’t, as opposed to working on specific issues on which I’m involved.

We had a working lunch, which included our new High Performance Director, Jorg Bitzigeio, giving his report, followed by much discussion on high performance issues. We discussed issues ranging from why our juniors tend to be good early on but fall behind their international peers as they age, why so many drop out when they leave high school and what we can do about it, and issues such as team and coach selection, including questions on the team selection for the upcoming World Junior Championships.

The meeting was scheduled to go to 4:20PM, but the first meeting of my new Beginning Junior Class was at 4PM (18 new kids), and since I’m the head coach for it, I had to leave at 2:30PM. Items on the agenda that I missed were the 2018 USA Nationals update and discussion (I caught the start of this); SafeSport; Fundraising (with Gary Schlager); and a legal update. I was filled in briefly on these topics afterwards. The more detailed minutes of the meeting will be published in a month or so. 

ITTF Level 2 Coaching Course - New York Indoor Sports Club
Here’s the info sheet. The course is Oct. 13-15 and Oct. 27-29, taught by Richard McAfee.

Mastering Ball Placement
Here’s the article (with links to numerous video) by Brian Pace. “One of the biggest conceptual obstacles is creating a true agenda with regards to the shots that you have in your arsenal. Most players are consumed with making sure that they are executing the correct mechanics with regards to the shots they have developed. Where your game can become stagnant is when the approach does not shift. Most players in this situation are focused on executing technical shots when they are in a competition environment. One of the best concepts that you can implement that will shift your focus and make you more competitive is Ball Placement.”

The Learning Stages - Learn the Recipe For Success!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina. "Learning a new skill in table tennis takes time.  Some skills take about a month to develop, but most take about 2-3 years to fully master.  In this blog, I’m going to talk about the steps to perfection.  It is vitally important to go step-by-step, even if it takes a long time.  You can apply this theory to ANY stroke; however, I’m going to use the backhand loop against block as an ILLUSTRATION."

15 Table Tennis Tips To Improve Your Game
Here’s the article from Ping Pong Boss. "Need to raise your game to new heights? Here are 15 of the best table tennis tips you can use to dominate your adversaries."

Are You an Aggressive Player in Competition?
Here’s the article by the Table Tennis Guy. "When I started playing table tennis, one of the things that I struggled with was the very act of competition."

Table Tennis and Your Diet – Becoming a Lean Mean Hitting Machine
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis. "Balance. It is the first word out of any nutritionists lips. The problem is for most people balance is at different points. A balanced diet for a bodybuilder will be different than that for a professional cyclist. The key to a diet that is effective for table tennis is to work out where on the line the sport falls and what needs to be included in the diet to attain balance."

1st Lesson in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (6:32) from EmRatThich. “If you are a new player (beginner), the first lesson that you should learn is how to hold the racket correctly. It's the fundamental of your techniques. If you have a bad grip, it will become your bad habit and it's very difficult to change later. You need to master these basic skills.”

The Ping Pong Project
Here’s the article and video (2:47). “The Ping Pong Project started as a way to raise awareness for the need of public ping pong tables. We decided to put together a film showing just how much a community can benefit from having public tables. The video is intended to be shared with your local government and community to show just how great public ping pong tables can be.”

Role Models in Table Tennis
Here’s the article and photos from Leon Libin at the U.S. Press Agency.

USATT Announces Team for 2017 World Junior Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article and listing.

History Shattered, Will China Find Redemption in Markham?
Here’s the article on the upcoming Women’s World Cup.

ITTF Articles
Here’s their news page – there’s been a lot since last week, so why not browse over them?

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 Czech Open
Here’s the ITTF video (5:20).

Five Types of Fair Play in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:07).

Amazing Ping Pong Trick Shot: "Lucky Edge Shot"
Here’s the video (37 sec) of Ding Ning’s shot.

Ducks and Chicks Playing Table Tennis

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September 11, 2017

Back Tomorrow
Yeah, it’s one of those days. Yesterday I was on the go for 14 hours straight. At 6:30AM I was in my car driving to the USATT board meeting in Washington DC, which I attended (as a board member and coaching committee chair) from 8AM-2:30PM. Then I drove back to MDTTC and coached from 4PM to 8:30PM. (Saturday was almost as long – coaching from 10AM to 4PM, then attending various Saturday night board festivities.) I’ll write about the board meeting tomorrow, as well as the Tip of the Week. But just to wake you up this Monday morning, here’s video (31 sec) of the greatest and most energetic table tennis player of all time. 

September 8, 2017

USATT Coaching Committee Report
September 1, 2017
By Larry Hodges (Chair)
[NOTE – this was submitted to the USATT Board of Directors one week ago.]

Since I was only appointed in March, and the committee approved in May (myself, Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao, Sydney Christophe, and player rep Timothy Wang, with staff liaison Jörg Bitzigeio), we’ve only had a few months. (Also, I’m busiest during the summer, as are other coaches on the committee, and so I’ve put off a lot until the fall.) Here’s what happened on the USATT coaching front so far this year.

  • USATT University. We held the first USATT University at the USA Nationals in July, with great help from Gordon and USATT headquarters. Eight courses were taught, including four that were directly coaching related. However, attendance this first time around was low, and so we need to work on that. Despite putting flyers in everyone’s playing packet, an ad in the program, and USATT news items, the large majority of players, when asked, didn’t even know about it. Courses taught included:
    • How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program (taught by Larry Hodges)
    • Intermediate and Advanced Serving (taught by Larry Hodges)
    • Advanced Return of Serve (taught by Stefan Feth)
    • One-On-One with High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio
  • Grandfathering. The new coaching committee grandfathered eight coaches to the National level: Jörg Bitzigeio, Samson Dubina, Min Kyun Kim, Davorin Kvesic, Wang Qing Liang, Wei Qi, Han Xiao, and Zhou Xin. There are two more to be considered soon.
  • ITTF Coaching Courses. Three were recently held:
  • NCTTA Coaching Certification. Richard McAfee and the National College Table Tennis Association spearheaded this three-day (24 hours) college coaching certification process, which is mostly based on the ITTF coaching courses. I was consulted on it, but other than approving it, they get all the credit.

Current Issues and Challenges

  • Six-hour Club Coach Certification Course. Currently, all one has to do to get certified at the club level is pass a test, be a USATT member for two years, and achieve a 1400 rating. Putting aside for now that we shouldn’t generally use playing level as a requirement for coaching certification level (that’s going to change), I’m currently putting together a six-hour club coach certification course that can be taught by any high-level coach. Once it’s ready, I’ll send to the coaching committee for comments and approval, and possible adoption as the process to get certified as a club coach. (Beyond the club level there is state, regional, and national.)
  • Updating of Coaching Certification Process. This needs updating. I’ve already marked up the ten-page document, and will send to the coaching committee for comments sometime this fall. However, there are some conceptual things that need to be worked out, and so there’ll likely be much discussion among the committee along with High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio. This includes questions on the process itself for each level, and for grandfathering coaches.
  • Coaching Recertification. Jörg and I have had discussions about adding a recertification process. Currently, once you are certified at a certain level, you stay there always, even if you aren’t active or up to date on current coaching techniques. Overseas and in other sports, most associations require some sort of recertification process to remain on the “active” list.
  • Coaches Education. Jörg and I have also had discussions about better educating our coaches. Options include seminars, webpage, a newsletter, invitations to coach or assist at National Team Training Camps, and the recertification seminars noted above. These options will go to the coaching committee for discussion later this fall.
  • National Coach Title. For decades the highest certification level has been USATT certified National Coach, of which there were 77 before a number were weeded out by not going through SafeSport. This is separate from the National Team Coaches, who are the roughly ten or so selected by the High Performance Committee and/or High Performance Director to coach our national teams. Jörg has raised the issue that this can cause some confusion. We don’t currently have an alternate option, but it is an issue we will be looking into.
  • ITTF Level 3 Course. We are looking to set up one in fall of 2018, which is when a number of USA coaches who passed the Level 2 course will be eligible. Jörg, Richard McAfee (who would teach the course), and I are actively discussing this. We are hoping we can have it coincide with a National Team training session so as to better educate the coaches. This would be the second Level 3 course ever run in the U.S., the highest ITTF level.


New ITTF Level 2 Course Scheduled
Here’s the announcement on Facebook. (It should go up in the USATT listing soon, with flyer.) It’s Oct. 13-15, 27-29, at the New York Indoor Sports Club, taught by Richard McAfee.

Class of 2017 - NCTTA Qualifies Coaches Under New Program
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington.

Attacking Placement
Here’s the article and video (7:56) from Tom Lodziak.

Shot Placement for the Win
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Spot.

Ten Serves
Here’s the video (1:58). Can you do them all?

Kanak’s Fundraising for Olympic Games 2020 Updates
Here’s the update.

Taking the Paddle to Parkinson's
Here’s the article from Metro Sports News in New York. “Since its founding in 2011, the Westchester Table Tennis Center (WTTC) has been a venue for internationally competitive table tennis contested by some of the best athletes in the world, including many Olympians. It has also become a valued and treasured community resource hosting youth programs, charitable fundraisers and, most recently, a new therapeutic program for individuals diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease.”

2017 China National Games
Here’s the ITTF coverage.

Who is the Father of Table Tennis?
Here’s the article from Sports Flu.

Invitation to Umpire at the 2017 United States Open
Here’s the ITTF article. The U.S. Open will be held Dec. 17-22 in Las Vegas.

Looking to Watch TT Videos This Weekend?
Here’s the USATT Video Page and the ITTF Video page.

Light Warmup
Here's the video (69 sec) of Seth Pech preparing for the Presper Financial Architects Open, with Sampson Dubina feeding multiball. 

Table Tennis Awesome Shots
Here’s the video (1:46) – a compilation of great trick shots.

PBS Kids Ping-Pong Table Effects!!!
Here’s the video (61 sec)! I’m not quite sure what’s going on here, but it’s weird, and it’s from PBS, so it must be good!

Marco Reus vs Timo Boll - So Funny!
Here’s the video (3:09) as the soccer champ takes on the ping-pong champ – in headis (“soccer pong”).

Funny but Deadly Ping-Pong Game!
Here’s the video (35 sec) – stay to the end!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 7, 2017

New ITTF World Rankings
Here’s the new listing. On the men’s side, the top five spots remained unchanged. Mizutani (JPN) dropped two spots to #8, with Boll (GER) and Chun Ting Wong (HKG) each moving up one spot to #6 and #7. But the more interesting change came from two other Japanese players. Matsudaira moved from #16 to #12, while the whiz kid, 14-year-old Harimoto, shot from #20 to #13.

So which countries challenge China’s supremacy on the men’s side? Here are countries with at least three players in the top 50.

  • China: #1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 29, 35 spots. (They likely have a number of others who would be in the top 50, probably top 20.)
  • Germany: #4, 6, 23, 29, 43
  • Japan: #8, 9, 12, 13, 18, 19, 25, 28, 32
  • South Korea: #14, 21, 42, 49, 50
  • France: #16, 20, 44
  • Portugal: #17, 39, 48
  • Sweden: #22, 24, 39

China is obviously a huge favorite in any team match-up. But when they play Germany or Japan, it can be interesting as those countries have small, but legitimate chances. Perhaps Korea as well, but probably not. Things can get even more interesting if Japan’s Hashimoto begins to beat the best Chinese regularly, but he might need a few more years for that.

On the women’s side, the top four spots remained unchanged – Ding Ning, Chen Meng, Zhu Yuling, and Liu Shiwen, all from China. But just like on the men’s side, the Japanese seem to be making a move. Ishikawa, Hirano, and Ito, formerly #7, 5, and 11, are now #5, 6, and 7. (So Hirano dropped a spot while the other two went up.) Biggest jumps were Jeon Jihee (KOR) from #20 to #15, and Hina Hayata (JPN) from #17 to #24.

So which countries challenge China’s supremacy on the women’s side? Here are countries with at least three players in the top 50.

  • China: #1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 14, 18, 37, 41. (They likely have a number of others who would be in the top 50, probably top 20.)
  • Japan: #5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 17, 20, 21, 27, 33, 34
  • Singapore: #8, 19, 35, 48
  • Germany: #9, 16, 28, 50
  • South Korea: #15, 22, 30, 46, 49
  • Hong Kong: #32, 35, 40, 42

Again, China’s a strong favorite, but Japan is now pushing them rather hard, and any match-up there could be close – grab some popcorn and enjoy. China’s “big four” are all ages 22 to 27, while Japan has 17-year-olds at world #6, 7, 17, and 33; an 18-year-old at #20; and a 19-year-olds at #13 and 27. China vs. Japan is going to get interesting over the next few years. I guarantee you China sees the coming challenge and are already preparing, including developing practice partners that mimic the up-and-coming Japanese. They take their table tennis supremacy very seriously, and this could be the first legitimate challenge to them in many years. Singapore, Germany, and South Korea could make a match with China look interesting, but their chances of winning are very low.

Where does Team USA fit into all this? (To get these, go to the listing on the far left of the world ranking page, and put “USA” under “Association.”) Not very well on the men’s side, where our ranked players are at #212 (Kanak Jha), 446, 488, 534, 537, 558, 586, and 714. When you switch to under 18 boys, we have Kanak Jha at #13 (down from #10 last month, and #5 in June), but no one else in the top 75. In under 15 boys we have players at #27 (Nikhil Kumar) and #32 (Michael Tran). We actually were very strong in the under 15 category until recently, but there’s a timing issue – many of our best ones just left that category, and are now competing in under 18, where they’ll be eligible for nearly three years – but they are being ranked against players who are two to nearly three years older.

Things look a bit better on the women’s side, with USA holding world #79 (Lily Zhang), 135, 201, 202, 280, 310, 432, 453, 462, 482, 498, 525, 567, and 730. But when you switch over to under 15 girls, we get a different picture, with USA holding #4 and 5 (Amy Wang and Crystal Wang), as well as #28, 31, 34, and 37. (Crystal and Amy both have been ranked #3, with Crystal holding that ranking for much of the past year and a half.

Constructing a Table Tennis Training Schedule
Here’s the new article by Coach Jon.

The Best of Expert Table Tennis
Here’s his new listing.

USOC Coaching Newsletter
Here’s the new issue.

Ma Long Makes Historic Repeat
Here’s the ITTF article about his winning at the China National Games, which are held every four years. “The win makes Ma the first male player to successfully defend the singles title at the Games.”

2017 Hopes
Here are ITTF articles on them.

Sportsmanship is the Key
Here’s the video (59 sec) from a while back, between Waldner and Primorac.

Adam Bobrow: “Long time. Let's chat. (Life, philosophy, experiences, table tennis... I'm open)”
Here’s the video (1:23:45 – yeah, a long chat! But he’s always entertaining, and he’s the voice of table tennis.)

B75 Denmark Table Tennis Summer Camp 2017
Here’s the video (16:35). This year they had 116 players per week, from 36 countries, with 22 coaches. They included 5-6 players from USA.

Top Olympic Table Tennis Rallies
Here’s the ITTF video (3:49).

Table Tennis Stuff at Pinterest
Here’s a listing, via search.

Stage Pong
Here’s the video (11 sec) where Adam Bobrow (with cooperation from David Zeng) stage this stage shot.

Send us your own coaching news!

September 6, 2017

Tip of the Week
Weapons to Allow Opponents to Beat Themselves.

Fall Coaching and USATT Stuff
My fall schedule keeps changing and getting busier. But the good news is I’ve managed to keep Mon, Tue, and Fri open for rest, writing, and various USATT and MDTTC activities. The bad news it means longer hours on other days. Here’s my updated coaching schedule:

  • Wed: 5:30-8:45 (one 15 min break)
  • Thur: 5:30-9:30
  • Sat: 11AM-4:00PM (will likely have a 4-5PM student, and twice a month also have 6:30-8:30PM)
  • Sun: 2:45-8:30PM (one 15-min break, and I will likely have more Sunday hours before 2:45PM)

Meanwhile, now that the summer is over, I’m about to launch into a number of coaching committee activities. (I’m chair.) I’d hoped to get into these issues this week, but they may have to wait until next week as I have a number of other issues still to deal with from my todo list, but I won’t get into that now. (They are a mixture of table tennis and my outside science fiction writing side career. See segment below at the end for upcoming publications.)

This Friday I’ll post my USATT Coaching Committee Report where I go over the things the coaching committee will be working on this fall. They include creating a six-hour club coach certification class; updating the coaching certification process; coaching recertification seminars; coaches education (seminars, webpage, possible newsletter, invitations to coach at national team training camps, the recertification seminars mentioned above); confusion between “USATT Certified National Coach” and “USATT National Team Coach”; and scheduling an ITTF Level 3 Course.

This weekend will be extra busy as we have a USATT board meeting nearby in Washington DC, about 45 minutes from me. It starts on Saturday night and continues much of Sunday. I’ve already reworked my coaching schedule to accommodate. On Saturday, I’ll be coaching 11AM-4PM, then at the meeting from 5:30PM on (not sure when it ends). On Sunday it’ll be crazy – the board meeting is 8AM to 3:30 PM, but I’ll be leaving at 2:30PM so I can coach three consecutive 90-min group sessions: 4:00-5:30 PM (first meeting of our new fall Beginning Junior Class); 5:30-7:00 PM (Advanced Junior Class – “Talent Development Program”); and 7:00-8:30 PM (Adult Training Session).

There are lots of new items since I last blogged on the USATT News page. Why not browse them over?

Westchester Over 40 Tournament
Here’s the entry form. The 4-star tournament is only for players over age 40. On Saturday they have the Open, and U2200, U1800, U1400, and U1000. On Sunday they have age events for over 40, 45, 50, 55, 60, 65, 70, 75, and 80. (I don’t usually have segments on upcoming tournaments, but this one is unique.)

Maryland Table Tennis Center Newsletter
Here's the MDTTC September Newsletter. I'm the editor. 

Time to Relax – Table Tennis for When You Are Not Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Snappy Backhand: Check Out the New Tool!
Here’s the video (1:58) from Samson Dubina.

Sidespin Forehand Topspin
Here’s the video (5:10) from PingSkills.

Butterfly Presents: Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth, Drill No. 7
Here’s the video (1:18).

Sports Psychology
Here’s the podcast (26:44) from PingSkills.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Austin to Abu Dhabi, Destination Fort Worth
Here’s the ITTF article on the ITTF Level 2 course in Austin, Texas, run by Christian Lillieroos.

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Racket
Here’s the article by Radivoj Hudetz at Table Tennis 11.

Another Guinness World Record for Mima Ito
Here’s the ITTF article.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty-four - December 1992 - World Doubles Cup. Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 19! (Volume 20 is about ready – copies were sent to Tim for distribution, and the online tracker says he’ll get them by the end of Thursday.)

New from Sports Flu

ITTF’s New “Multi-Balls” System
Here’s the video (2:01), where they test out having the umpires toss a ball to the player to start each point, instead of the players picking up the ball. Ballboys/ballgirls pick up the balls and deliver them back to the umpire.

Prodigy vs. Legend
Here’s the video (66 sec) of this great point between 14-year-old whiz kid Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan (world #20) and 36-year-old former world #1 (currently #7) Timo Boll of Germany.

Xu Xin’s Great Forehand
Here’s the video (25 sec) where he unleashes one on the falling-backwards run.

Audrey After the Talent Program Trials
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) Note who’s on her forehead! All the players, parents, and coaches wore nametags at the trials this past weekend at MDTTC.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo Ping-Pong Music Video
Here’s the hilarious video (58 sec)!

Non-Table Tennis - Galaxy’s Edge, Gothic Time Travel Stories, and When Parallel Lines Meet
I have two short stories and a novel coming out! (Outside table tennis, which is my main “paying” job, I write science fiction & fantasy as a second profession. Here’s my science fiction page.)

  • My fantasy horror story “The Theater of Death” just came out in Galaxy’s Edge Magazine. Alas, you have to buy a subscription to read it. (You can also get it on Amazon – kindle now, print coming.) This is the humorous story of Death through about 20 billion years, where he meets “the creepy guy” at the theater, visits the “Big Crunch” and subsequent “Big Bang,” and eventually learns who dropped that refrigerator on him that started his life (or death) journey.  
  • My science fiction fantasy story (yes, it’s both), “Eternity and the Devil,” is coming out Sept. 29 in the anthology Gothic Time Travel Stories. The story is a twist on the "Deal with the Devil" story. A physicist sells his soul so he can make discoveries that will benefit mankind. When the Devil shows up and takes him to Hell, the scientist escapes into the future in a time machine - and with numerous stops, goes a trillion years into the future, pursued by the Devil. At each stop, he is surrounded by billions of systematically tortured souls in Hell - including his long-suffering girlfriend, who he is determined to save.
  • Best of all, I co-wrote a novel with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn, “When Parallel Lines Meet,” which comes out Oct. 31, but you can pre-order now. Mike is the most decorated science fiction writer on the planet. (Description is on the Amazon page, linked above.)

Send us your own coaching news!

September 5, 2017

After trying to take Labor Day off, I found myself wanting to catch up on work that I’d planned to do today – and ended up working half the night. When I tried going to sleep, I was too wound up. When it reached 4:30 AM and I was still up, I realized I was going to have a problem. I finally got to sleep, then woke up at 7:30 AM. My head is pounding like I’d gone twelve rounds with The Hulk, my eyelids weigh more than The Hulk, and my eyes feel like Ma Long and The Hulk plucked them out and played a best of seven with each. Sorry, no blog today, but at least I’m (mostly) caught up on various table tennis and writing matters. I’ll be back tomorrow with the blog and Tip of the Week. I need to put on my wall, “Early to bed, early to rise, is what morning bloggers must prioritize.”  Oh, and speaking of The Hulk:

(Good night, everyone; I’m back to bed.)

September 4, 2017

It's Labor Day, so no laboring on my blog today. I'm spending the day in my lounge chair reading "Brave New World," which somehow I'd never gotten around to reading, and perhaps watching "Giant," which is on TCM at 4:30PM. See you all tomorrow. Oh, and here's a video of cats and table tennis (2:19). 

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