Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will normally go up on Mondays by 1:00 PM USA Eastern time. Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of  eight books and over 1900 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

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

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

September 21, 2020

Tip of the Week
Against a Fast Attacker, Make At Least Two Strong Shots.

USA Table Tennis Reschedules US National Table Tennis Championships for July of 2021 . . . and My Recommendation
Here's the USATT news item. Dang! But here is my recommendation.

The problem of moving the 2020 Nationals to 2021 is that you've skipped an entire year (2020), so are the winners of the 2021 Nationals the champions for 2020 or 2021? Or are they going to run the 2020 and 2021 Nationals together or back-to-back? Suppose they run both, running the championship events as they normally do, with lots of round robin events, but only running one set of rating events. This would mean going from five or six days to nine or even ten, and many players can't afford to take that much time off. It could be a logistical nightmare as well. But there's an easier way.

My suggestion is to, this one time, run all the championship events twice, one for 2020, and one for 2021 - but run them all single elimination. (That was the common practice many years ago.) Make it two for the price of one, so when you enter, say, Under 12 Boys, they put you in both events. You get, on average fewer matches in each event, but you get two single elimination events instead of one round robin event. The rating events would be run as always, as round robin events, but you don't need to run them twice.

There will be a small number of players who are eligible for only one of the two championship events. For example, a player might have been eligible for Under 12 in 2020 but is too old for 2021, or a player might not have gotten their citizenship in time for 2020 but did so in time for 2021. (You have to be a citizen to play the championship events, but not the rating events.) For those players, they'd pay half-price for the one single elimination event.

Championship events would include men's and women's singles, doubles, and mixed doubles; age events (seniors and juniors); hardbat and sandpaper events; and disabled events.

Say Happy Birthday to Tim Boggan
This Friday, Sept. 25, the incredible USATT Hall of Famer Tim Boggan will be turning 90! Few, if any, have done more for USA Table Tennis as he has over the past 50+ years - president, editor, writer, historian, Ping-Pong Diplomacy ambassador, and father of two men's singles national champions, Scott and Eric. (See his Hall of Fame profile. And browse the others - Tim wrote all 94 of them!)  He is in good health, and spends much of his time caring for his wife, Sally, who had a stroke a year ago and is mostly paralyzed. Tim's computer died a few weeks ago, and while his son Scott is looking into fixing it or getting another, for the moment Tim can't respond to emails. 

This is your chance to wish Tim a Happy Birthday, and to wish him and Sally well. You can either respond to my posting on Facebook (35 so far), comment below, or email it to me. (Tim isn't on Facebook and can't access it or this page anyway right now, but if you happen to talk to him, let's keep this a secret until Friday.) Next Thursday morning (at 10AM eastern time) I will print them all out and express them to Tim for his 90th on Friday. Feel free to share on Facebook - I'll print those out as well. 

You can also help by contributing to Tim and Sally's GoFundMe page (set up by Sheri Cioroslan, former USATT president as Sheri Pittman). "On August 27 [2019], Sally Boggan had a debilitating stroke, which left her paralyzed on her left side. She is currently undergoing speech and physical therapy. Many people have known and loved Sally for decades. And we appreciate Tim's contributions to our lives through his many table tennis ventures. Let's joyfully support Tim and Sally during Sally's recovery process."

Or you can buy one of his History of US Table Tennis Books!

Weekend Coaching
Due to the pandemic, group sessions are limited to twelve players. So our advanced junior program, which normally trains as one big group, is now divided into groups 1-3. On Sunday I was one of the coaches for groups 1 and 3.

With group 1, I had fun - I got to be a practice partner for players ranging up to 2050. For much of the session I worked with two players at once, where each would alternate playing two rallies while the other player retrieved the balls from his two rallies. I worked with them on following through back into position (or I'd punish them with quick blocks to the corners) and on return of serve - they struggled with my serves at first but got better. One exhausting drill - I would mix up my serve to their backhand, they'd flip to my backhand, and then we'd continue the rally where they keep blocking to my backhand while I forehand looped all over the table. In theory, I'm mostly staying in one spot, but in practice the ball gets moved around a lot - and since the kids are so consistent with their blocks, we had some looooong rallies, where I'd have to loop a looooot of balls in a row.

This is exactly the type of drill I need to do if I want to get in playing shape - and I was secretly planning to start training for the 2020 Nationals in December where I'd be eligible for Over 60 for the first time (and among the higher seeds), as well as the defending champion in Over 40 Hardbat (I've won it six times) and perhaps the top seed in Over 60 Hardbat, which I'd be playing for the first time. (As a reminder, I normally use sponge.) Alas, the Nationals was postponed to July next year - see segment above.

In group 3, I alternated hitting with three players. Much of the focus was on pushing, where I stressed low, deep, and heavy. We also did a lot of random drills, such as my moving the ball around on their forehand side.

On Saturday I had a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. Here are two videos:

Thursday Night Live - Lily Zhang vs. Aditya "Adi" Godhwani
Here's the video from last Thursday. (It's listed as 81 minutes, but video actually ends at 59 minutes. It starts with a lot of excellent commentating by Sean O'Neill and Mark Thompson, with the match actually starting at 22:22.) Here are photos.

Lily, rated 2596, is the current and five-time US Women's Singles Champion; Adi, rated 2563 at age 17, is #2 in Under 18 in the US. SPOILER ALERT - Lily wins 4-1, though it seemed closer than that. Lily was able to play better in the key points, both with her consistency and sometimes by getting more forehand aggressive. At key points, Adi missed big forehands that might have gotten him at least to deuce in some of the games he lost.

Adi has the bigger forehand and is a constant threat to rip winners from both wings. Lily has the edge on the backhand with her relentless off-the-bounce topspins, and she rarely makes mistakes. Tactically, they both play all three spots - wide corners and middle (roughly the opponent's playing elbow), but Lily favors going after Adi's wide backhand, while Adi favors going after Lily's middle, then often ending it with winners to her wide forehand. If Lily goes to Adi's forehand or middle too much, he gets his big forehand in, and so instead she often pins him on the backhand, often finding shorter balls to backhand attack for winners to Adi's extreme wide backhand. Adi plays the middle because Lily almost never misses from the corners, it sometimes forces slightly weaker balls to attack (as Lily has to decide which side to play and then move to the shot), and because by going there, it cuts off the extreme angle into his backhand, giving him more forehand shots. When Adi makes his big shots, he wins, but Lily puts tremendous pressure on him with her quick topspins and so few unforced errors.

On the receive, Lily mixes things up very well, with flips and both short and long pushes. Adi has a deceptive receive where he often backhand flips (favoring going to the middle), but often changes at the last second to a short receive, usually to the forehand. It's a highly effective receive pattern.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page. It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

My Stories of Mental Toughness On and Off the Table
Here's the new table tennis book by Dora Kurimay. "I believe that the principles of sports psychology can be applied to all aspects of your life. Whether with public speaking, being a great parent, or developing your skills as an athlete. This collection of 11 stories from my life offers insight on gaining a psychological edge and attaining mental toughness."

She is also the author of Get Your Game Face On Like The Pros!: Get Your Game Face On Like The Pros! Mental Skills And Lifestyle Choices To Achieve Peak Performance And Play Your Best Table Tennis.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from Table Tennis Daily

Three-Step Process For Learning and Improving Serves
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Powerful Forehand Topspin Technique
Here's the video (7:58), from Ti Long, in (I think) Vietnamese, with English subtitles.

Drop Shot Training
Here's the video (26 sec) of Adrien Flavien Cotton. Few players can do this because . . . drum roll please . . . few players practice it.

Pendulum Serve and Service Rules
Here's the video (5:14) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

Multiball: Forehand Drop Shot, Forehand Topspin
Here's the video (41 sec) from Mecho Table Tennis Akademy. "Improvement of Forehand Drop Shot with subsequent Forehand Topspin against push and continuation with topspin against block with change of direction!"

Joo Se-hyuk Training
Here's the video (10:25) of the defensive star - who also attacks.

New from Steve Hopkins

Timo Boll: "One of the best shots I ever made!"
Here's the video (37 sec) - and a great rally too, ending with this behind-the-back counter-hit!

Albanese Construction Feature | Ved Sheth from Kennedy
Here's the news feature (3:34) on the US junior star.

Top 5 Oldest Active Professional Table Tennis Players Right Now and Their Best Points so far
Here's the video (4:20).

Welcome to WTT Macau
Here's the ITTF video (65 sec)! That's Adam Bobrow doing the commentating.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy Of 1971, Revisited
Here's the video (4:44), about US-China Ping-Pong Diplomacy, from Jules Apatini.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Table Tennis Music
I run this periodically. 

Hyper Galactic Psychic Table Tennis 3000
Here's the page for this online table tennis game! Here's a demo page. One benefit of this game - one of the icons you can use is named after Robert J. Sawyer, the dean of Canadian science fiction. I've been to his writing workshops and know him well from that and from conventions. (He even gave me a nice blurb for one of my science fiction novels, that thing I do outside of table tennis.)

Snow Pong
Here's the video (23 sec)!

Car & Ping Pong Story
Here's the video (5:57)!

Barbed Brick Wall Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

World's Weirdest Ping Pong Set-Ups
Here's the video (5:16) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 14, 2020

Tip of the Week
A Trick to Beat a Tricky Pusher.

Breaking News - US Nationals Postponed to July, 2021 in Las Vegas
Here's the news item - added on Tuesday.

Weekend Coaching
On Sunday, I worked with Group 3 of our Junior program. Most of the group did a practice tournament. However, two of the players weren't really ready for matches, and so I worked with those two the entire session. Focus was on fundamentals.

I came up with what will now go down in history as the greatest table tennis joke, to be retold through the ages. (But you have to pay me $1 every time you use it.) I asked one of the kids how many hands he has. He said two and held them up. I said I have four hands. He didn't believe me, so I shadow-practiced my forehand and said, "See, these are my four hands." (Here's the reaction.)

On Saturday, as usual I did a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. (I'm retired from private coaching, but made the one exception for "The Bionic Man." He has Parkinson's Disease and Congenital Heart Disease - his heart is mostly artificial - and he won two medals at the World Parkinson's Championships last year, bronze in singles, silver in doubles.) Here are two videos of the session:

ITTF Annual General Meeting and Japanese Proposal to Require Ball Toss Over Head
Here's the AGM Meeting Page, which will be held online on Monday, Sept. 28. Here's the ITTF AGM Working Document. The Japanese Proposal, "Proposition 16," is on page 108:

"Proposition 16 – Effective 1st January 2021 (3/4 majority required) Proposed by the Japan Table Tennis Association. To amend 2.6.2: The server shall then project the ball near vertically upwards, without imparting spin, so that it rises at least 16cm above their head height after leaving the palm of the free hand and then falls without touching anything before being struck. Rationale: To make clearer the point of decision on fault services. But this rule will not apply for players of elderly person or players of age below 9 years of age, different rule shall be applied."

This is an interesting idea, but doesn't really help with the main problem in illegal serves, which is hidden serves, where the ball is often tossed behind the head - and so the ball already goes over the head. There's a separate problem they may not have thought about - if there is no longer a six-inch toss rule, only that the ball must be tossed "above their head," then a player could simply lower his head down to table level and get away with almost a zero-inch toss. For example, here is Dmitriv Ovtcharov doing his backhand serve. Under the new rules, with some adjustment, he could serve with almost no toss at all! (The picture is from video of his first serve against Fan Zhendong at the 2020 German Open.)

Blog Reads
As I write this, the number of reads for last week's blog is 22,746, a new record. The blog was averaging about 17,000 reads each when the pandemic hit. Apparently, unable to play table tennis, players lost interest in reading about table tennis and the numbers dropped to about 11,000/blog for a time. They've been picking up again now that we're back to table tennis playing. I think part of the reason for this is that a lot of people used to go to the USATT news page for table tennis news. However, USATT has dramatically lowered the number of news items they do each week - other than links to their newsletter, they have been averaging just one per week recently. So people are going elsewhere for their table tennis news - thank you USATT! :)

I have offered to let USATT use my Tips of the Week (for free) as news items to attract readers to the USATT web page, but after running one, they stopped doing that. They also wouldn't run the interview of me that Kevin Nguyen did a month ago, telling me that they thought it would be best for my own website and social platforms to promote my personal brand. Well, I guess I could just do that! (They seem to have switched from trying to attract lots of readers to the news page to mostly running only USATT-specific news items, I presume with the idea that they want to focus on their own "brand.")

I don't get paid to do this blog - it's volunteer. (It does help some with book sales, but not nearly enough to make the time spent worthwhile.) In the past I have run paid ads on the left side of the blog, but the three current ones are non-paid ones that I do in return for favors. But now I'm thinking I really should take paid ads. But I'm not interested in running around trying to sell ads just for some extra money that I don't really need right now. But here's an offer to anyone reading this - if you want to become a ad executive (or whatever else it is called), you can have 33% of all ad revenue. (I'm not interested in the hassle of negotiating that, so that's set in stone.) Contact me if you are interested. (Ads on the left are all 200 pixels wide, 100 tall. I previously charged $1/day for ads, or $250/year. But there are more reads now, and frankly, I have no idea how much the ads are worth - not my area of expertise.)

Timo "Magic" Boll's Take on the Evolution of Table Tennis Through the Ages
Here's the article. "From the size of the ball and the material it’s made of to the design of the rubbers and the set-up of the blades, table tennis has continually evolved throughout its 32 years on the Olympic programme. Few people have adapted better to these changes than three-time Olympic medallist Timo Boll, who will travel to Tokyo for his sixth shot at gold."

Timo Boll Interviews Ma Long
Here's the video (13:12) - yes, the former world #1 from Germany (and currently #10) interviews the reigning (three straight times) men's world champion, who was #1 in the world for most of 2010-2017, and is currently #3.

The Future of Table Tennis
Here's the video (one hour) featuring Christian Lillieroos. (The first half is sort of a TT history romp.)

New from Samson Dubina

Rapid-fire Random Multiball Table Tennis Training
Here's the video (3:37) from Lily Zhang, current and five-time US Women's Singles Champion.

How to Lob Like a Pro (in 4 Steps)
Here's the article by Alex Horscroft at Expert Table Tennis.

Tischtennis Shakehands GmbH
Here's a German page that features videos in both English and German.

Ball Control: Practicing Rollers
Here's the video (10 sec). "Practicing rollers to enhance touch and feel."

Welcome to PandaPong
Here are the first two videos from Brian Gao.

New from Steve Hopkins

USATT's Missionary Position
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page. It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

They no longer prioritize their news page, which has had only two news items in the past week. Other than links to Insider, they recently have been averaging only one news item per week.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

2020 NBA Playoffs and Ping-Pong
Here's the article by Shashin Shodhan.

39 Funny Ping Pong Vector Images from iStock
Here's the page.

I Just Really Like Ping-Pong, OK
Here's the shirt at Amazon!

Beetle Bailey: "Get Moving!"
Here's the cartoon from last Monday, which proves table tennis is a game of movement! Here are all 28 Beetle Bailey table tennis cartoons that I know of.

Semi-Pro vs. World no. 7
Here's the video (11:52) from Adam Bobrow.

WTF Moments in Table Tennis (furious and funny moments)
Here's the video (2:58)!

The Ping Pong Kid's Journey of Doing Trick Shots
Here's the interview (19:16) with Nick Rudd, from Kevin Table Tennis. They're both trick-shot kids!

Ping Pong from Level 1 to 100
Here's the video (4:43) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

September 7, 2020

Tip of the Week
Tactics Early In a Match: Explorers and Dominators.

My Interview at Butterfly
Here's my PongNow video (30:46) by Steve Hopkins at Butterfly! We covered a lot of material - enjoy!

Weekend Coaching
This was my first full day of coaching at MDTTC in six months. I started at noon and didn't leave until 7:15PM!!!

Because of the pandemic, our elite junior program - the "Talent Development Program" - is now divided into three levels, no more than twelve players at a time. At noon I helped coach the Level 3 group (along with John Hsu), which also is mostly the youngest group. One girl (age 7) has mostly been doing regular forehands and backhands, and lots of footwork, but has barely worked on pushing - so I spent much of the session working with her on both backhand and forehand pushing. She got pretty excited when she would pull off ones that were heavy enough that they'd stop bouncing and even bounce back into the net! Only problem was when she discovered that it was easier to get them to bounce back if she pushed high. I let her do a few like that, but then emphasized that they needed to be low.

I mostly observed and took notes the next two sessions, since I hadn't seen the players in six months. They, however, had been taking private coaching all along. They'd also developed a new, interesting habit - after a match or practice session, instead of the usual shaking of hand (a no-no these days!), they'd tap feet. Masks were worn except when they were at the table.

I can't give names, but I did see some things that needed work. In the highest group, one player had three forehand serves - pendulum, reverse pendulum, and hook (which people used to call the "shovel" serve). However, he set up differently for all three, showing his opponent which one he was going to use. Instead, I showed him how you should set up the same for all three, bringing the racket behind your back (which he already did), and not let the receiver see which serve you were doing until the racket re-appeared just before contact.

Another player had trouble with deep, breaking serves into the backhand. I talked to him and his coach about "saturation training" - the need to not just let him practice against this serves for a few minutes in a practice session, but to do it for ten, even fifteen minutes straight, in multiple sessions, over and Over and OVER, until the player has it down so well that he'll never miss another, and this type of receive becomes a strength. I had to remind another player, during practice games at the end, that he needed to attack the middle more with his backhand, not just go to corners.

There were others - I was pleased that our chopping junior was playing much more aggressively (which really throws opponents off - it should be illegal for choppers to attack, don't you think?), and another who was almost mindlessly learning to loop or counterloop any hard-hit ball to his forehand, but only because he was able to "let go" and not anticipate, just react. (And he spins the backhand off the bounce most often as well.)

On Saturday I did a one-hour session with Navin Kumar. (I'd have to cancel the previous Saturday due to a muscle pull in my back from that car accident on Aug. 21.) We worked a lot on his forehand, especially the idea of quick, punishing blocks and smashes if opponent's go to his wide forehand. I had him work a lot on smashing weak loops. Here are two videos:

  • Video 1 - smashing lobs (24 sec)
  • Video 2 - side-to-side footwork (51 sec)

RIP: Jack Howard
I just heard the news yesterday that USATT Hall of Famer Jack Howard had died. Haven't heard how. He was a big US star for many years, and could have won a number of US Opens if not for Korean immigrant D-J Lee, who he lost to in the final of Men's Singles in 1968 and 1972, in the semifinals in 1969, and the quarterfinals in 1971. (Here's the USATT obit, added on Thursday.) 

A Day with Dan Seemiller and a Digital Scoring System for Table Tennis
Here's the info flyer for the free event, to be held Saturday, Sept. 19, from 10AM to 4PM at the Donner Center in Columbus, IN. (Here's Dan's Facebook posting on it.) It's really a two-fold event - as explained by Dave Elwood:

  • First, we wish to honor Dan's many achievements by sponsoring "A Day with Dan Seemiller" event in which young players (and older players as well) may meet Dan, play a game with this great champion, receive some coaching tips from him, and, for those who would like to have one, receive an autographed picture of Dan.
  • Second, and equally important, I am writing to invite you to attend the inaugural, public introduction of the Seemiller-Elwood-Buuck Table Tennis Scoring System (SEBTTSS). The SEBTTSS is an automated scoring system that keeps count of and displays names of players, their ratings, the event in which they are competing, the type of match they are playing (2/ 3, 3/ 5, etc.), whose turn it is to serve, the current score for each player, whether or not a player needs to change table ends, the number of games won by each player, and the SEBTTSS determines when a game and/or a match has been won.

USA Table Tennis Elections
Here is the USATT Elections news item. It's timely as the deadline to apply is Sept. 10, this Thursday. The elections are for one or two At-Large Representatives (it's not clear) and one Club Representative. USATT really could use some new people on their Board of Directors, so why not run? (As I noted in my blog last week, they neglected to link to the USATT bylaws that they cited, plus it's not completely clear if the election is for two At-Large Reps, as required by the bylaws, or just one, as the news item seems to imply since it uses the singular. I've emailed USATT about the latter last Thursday morning, but no response yet.) I know of at least one person who is running for an At-Large position who absolutely should not be on the board, so I hope we can get qualified candidates to run for these positions.

BREAKING NEWS (added on Tuesday) - USATT told me that the election is for TWO positions. I recommended the news item be reworded, and it has now been changed to make this clear. 

Table Tennis - Chinese Footwork
Here are six short videos on Chinese footwork, which came out about the time I started this blog back in 2011, but I don't think I ever linked to it. Steve Hoch sent them to me and here they are!

Chorei Swing Tracker Promotion Video
Here's the video (2:47). This seems like a new invention, the world's first "Smart Swing Training Device," which comes with a computerized screen and analyzes your swing and gives statistics on your play.

New Table Tennis Book
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak on his new book, "SPIN: Tips and tactics to win at table tennis."

New from Samson Dubina

How to Generate More Spin in Your Serves
Here's the video (5:31) from Yangyang TT.

7 Best FREE Online Resources to Learn Ping Pong
Here's the article from The Games Guy.

4 Big Beginner Mistakes in Table Tennis
Here's the video (9:44) from Jin Jeon Ping Pong.

Ace Serve by Fan Zhendong
Here's the video (16 sec) - I've never seen this type of an ace! But with players more and more focusing on receiving with backhand banana flips, they are vulnerable to sudden deep serves to the backhand.

New from Steve Hopkins

August Westchester Little Open
Here's the article by Will Shortz.

Starter Paddles Don't Have To Be Boring
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Li Chunli's Decorated Table for One
Here's the article on the New Zealand star, with link to video (8:34).

Ibrahim Hamadtou, Egypt's Mr. Impossible
Here's the ITTF article on the guy who plays with no arms.

Hou Yingchau - Chopper Extraordinaire
Here's the video (5:05).

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

New from USATT
Here's their news page - but only two items since last week, on the Westchester Open (which I link to separately here) and their newsletter (which links to other news items that I also linked to). This page no longer seems a priority with them.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page. Two items of special note:

September Challenge
Here's the video (23 sec) from PingSkills, where they challenge you to, "Try to roll the ball from one side to the other."

115 Funny Ping Pong Premium High Res Photos
Here they are, from Getty Images.

Ruff and Ready - British Comedy Show Features Table Tennis
Here's the video! Link takes you to 12:54, they get into it more at 13:17, with table tennis segment ending at 17:42.

Unreal Ping Pong Trickshots
Here's the video (52 sec)!

Ping Pong Best Trick Shots #13
Here's the video (2:16)!

Luckiest Serve of All Time?
Here's the video (5 sec)!

Top Ten Luckiest Points
Here's the video (3:17)!

Funny and Embarrassing Moments in Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:13)!

Wheelchair Table Tennis ft. Pro Player
Here's the video (3:13) from Pongfinity!

Trillion Dollar Bills
Long-time readers of this blog might remember that I often give out "trillion dollar bills" as rewards in training sessions. I tell them they should get their parents to videotape them as they try to use them to pay for things at stores or restaurants. This came up several times recently - I gave out several of them at the Ohio Mega Camp - so here are two videos from four years ago where I tried paying with a trillion dollar bill! (It's also good for their math skills, as I explain to the younger ones that a trillion is a million times a million, and that a million is a thousand times a thousand.)

  • Here's the video (23 sec) taken by Allen Wang as I tried to do so at a convenience store. I also tried to do so when I treated the kids to ice cream at the camp –
  • Here's the video (1:45) taken by Arcot Naresh where I treated the kids at the USATT Super Camp to ice cream, and tried paying with the trillion dollar bill.
  • Regarding ice cream, on the last day, just before I left the camp, I stocked the freezer at the house we were staying at with ice cream. Here's the video (15 sec) of the kids eating it and thanking me for it.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 31, 2020

Tip of the Week
Move Like a Pro.

USA Table Tennis Elections
BREAKING NEWS (added Tuesday because of timeliness) - Here is the USATT Elections news item. It's timely as the deadline to apply is Sept. 10. The elections are for one or two At-Large Representatives (it's not clear) and one Club Representative. USATT really could use some new people on their Board of Directors, so why not run?

The news item is a bit confusing. It refers to the rules for the election in the USATT bylaws, but gives no link to those bylaws. It refers to the election for At-Large Representative, but doesn't mention that, according to the very bylaw referred to, there are two At-Large positions, so presumably two At-Large Representatives will be elected - but the election news item refers to it in the singular three times, so from that, they might only be electing one At-Large Representative at this time, despite the bylaws requiring two of them. I hope they will clear this up. (Bylaw 7.6(b)(3) says, "There shall be two (2) At-Large Directors that are elected by the USATT General Members, through a process conducted by the Nominating and Governance Committee." There is nothing in the bylaws about staggering the elections of the two At-Large Representatives, so if the Nominating and Governance Committee has chosen to do that, that should be in the news item to explain why two are not being elected, as required by the bylaws.)

I know of at least one person who is running for an At-Large position who absolutely should not be on the board, so I hope we can get qualified candidates to run for these positions.

BREAKING NEWS - USATT has now reworded the announcement to make clear there are TWO At-Large Rep positions available.

Saturation Training
I mentioned in my blog last week that I had spent much of the two weeks at the Samson Dubina Mega Camp in Ohio working on my backhand. It was a textbook example of Saturation Training. This is one of the most important principles of table tennis and other sports.

There are three common ways to play your backhand - blocking, hitting, or looping. Blockers focus on quickness; hitters on aggressive hitting; and loopers on aggressive topspins. You can do a lot of other shots on the backhand, but these are the most common rallying shots that players use. (When I say "rally," that means topspin rallies, not pushing or chopping.) I've always been more or less a blocker and counter-hitter on the backhand, where I focused on consistency and placement. But I was never really that quick with my backhand blocking, and my backhand hitting wasn't that aggressive either. My consistency made up for these weaknesses, but overall, the lack of an aggressive backhand attack was always a tactical weakness in my game.

So I focused on backhand hitting the first few days of the camp - and lo and behold, it came together quickly. I think part of this was that, as a long-time coach, I really examined my stroke, and figured out why I never was good at hitting too aggressively. Part of it was I held the tip up a bit, so I lowered that, and also raised my elbow, and both paid off quite a bit.

But then I decided to focus more on backhand looping - and lo and behold, with some help from Samson and Chance Friend, that also came around. Players who have seen me play in the past won't recognize me! I still have trouble when I have to move too much to backhand loop - the huge bulk of my past training was moving to attack with my forehand - but in drills against blocks, it really came around. I also kept working on my backhand hitting.

And so, after two weeks of saturation training, both my backhand hitting and backhand looping are tremendously improved. It reminds me of the story I've often heard of Istvan Jonyer. In the early 1970s, he made the Hungarian team mostly as a blocker. Then he developed a great forehand loop, and became the best Hungarian and among the top players in the world. But his backhand wasn't so good. So he took six months off to train where he focused almost entirely on developing a backhand loop, which was a relatively new stroke back then. Result? After the six months of training . . . he lost to everyone at first, since he hadn't yet learned how to incorporate the shot into his game. But with experience, he got better - and he became the 1975 World Men's Singles Champion and was #1 in the world for something like three years.

It's not just for strokes. If you want to develop good serves, don't practice all of your serves a few minutes each. Focus on the one you really want to develop, and really work at it. If you practice serves twenty minutes, do fifteen on that serve. Train like that, and the serve can become great! (But you might want to work with a coach or top player at the start to make sure you are doing it right.) One of the interesting features of the Mega Camp in Ohio was the third week, where the focus was serve and receive. Each day had a different serve to focus on. One day we all worked on forehand pendulum serves. Another day it was the backhand serve. Another day was the tomahawk serve. And so on. By doing this, players would have at least two serving sessions that day with that serve, plus at least one drill where they would use that serve to play points. After the camp, players could then choose which one of these serves they liked, and then, using saturation training, should focus on that serve until it was PERFECT!

It's the same for receive. When asked what their biggest weakness is, most players will say, "Receive." Well, there's a simple solution to that - Practice! Find a good server or coach, and have them serve to you over and over so you can practice your receive. Have them do one serve over and over until you are really good at receiving that one, then move to another. When you are comfortable with all of them, then have the server vary the serve. (And you should do the same for them, unless you have a paid coach doing it for you.)

So instead of working equally on all parts of your game, and improving slowly but not developing any really big strengths, pick out the aspects you want to perfect and do some Saturation Training!

Larry Hodges Books
It's time for one of my shameless sales plugs for my books! They are all on both my Larry Hodges Books page here and on my Amazon page. Note the drop in price for Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt, from $22.50 to $9.35! (See explanation below.) If you have no interest in books, skip ahead to the next section!

Table Tennis

Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels

Short Story Collections (not table tennis, despite the titles!)


  • Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt - The price just dropped from $22.50 to $9.35! (Amazon has minimum prices for books, based on content, and this was priced high because it's all color on the inside - but now they have allowed the price to drop, so you can now read about my visits to the historical sites all over Europe and Egypt!) Here's the Amazon description:

In Fall, 2019, Larry Hodges took off seven weeks to tour Europe and Egypt. It was an itch he had to scratch. He visited every major site he could find, especially historical ones. He saw Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Normandy Beaches, the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, Catacombs of Paris, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Alps, Venice, Florence, Siena, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Ancient Rome and Greece, the Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Checkpoint Charlie, Auschwitz, Great Pyramids, Great Sphinx, and countless other sites, including a plethora of ancient castles, cathedrals, and more museums than I knew existed. He visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City (yeah, that's a country), Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt. He visited Lisbon, Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Naples, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Athens, and Cairo. He walked the beaches of Normandy, Lake Geneva, and the Mediterranean, the banks of the rivers Liffey, Thames, Seine, Arno, Tiber, Spree, and Nile, and the Grand Canal in Venice. And he took a camel ride around the Great Pyramid. That's a lot of scratching! Join Larry on his journey, filled with historical info, tidbits, lots of humorous asides, and over 250 pictures! It also includes, "Larry's Short Guide to Europe."

Non-Table Tennis - New Used Car
As noted in my short blog on August 23, I was in a car crash on Friday, Aug. 21. My car was 22 years old, so I had no idea how to go about getting a new one. I was advised to try, which would be the most hassle-free way of getting a car (though I might have to pay more) - and they were right! Before going, I checked online to see what cars they had, hoping they'd have something somewhat similar to what I had had before, a 1999 Toyota Corolla (bought new in 1998). They didn't, and since I know about as much about cars as a typical tree might, I went there with severe trepidation. However, the minute I mentioned I wish I could get something similar to what I'd had before, he checked other carmax dealers, and found one in Virginia with a silver 2009 Toyota Corolla with 95,000 miles - and as of this past Saturday, the car is mine!

One small problem - I walked away from the crash with mostly just scratches and bruises, but an apparent muscle pull to my right lower back is still a problem, and I had to cancel my session with Navin Kumar this past Saturday. It seems to be getting a little better.  

Attack of the Unknown
And speaking of Navin Kumar ("The Bionic Man" - Google it), this weekend I watched Attack of the Unknown (1hr 43min), which came out on Friday. Navin both acted (as Atul, a SWAT driver, with a few lines) and was one of the executive producers of the movie. He first shows up at 26:09, telling the guy in charge, "I'm ready to rock and roll, sir!" And then something happens to him at 32:50 and he's done - but I won't spoil that for you. Here's the IMDB description: "A SWAT team transporting a vicious crime syndicate boss must fight their way out of a county detention center during a catastrophic alien invasion." (I do have one comment - stop shooting at the body, shoot at the eyes!!!)

You can watch it for $6.99 directly from the IMDB page, or other pages noted on this Facebook Info Page.

New from Samson Dubina

How Chinese Kids Improve Footwork
Here's the video (3:10) from EmRatThich/PingSunday.

Tips from the Games Guy
Here's the page. (I'm not so sure about putting sunflower oil on your rubber to make it stickier - is there anyone out there doing this for that reason?)

Fastest Smash
Here's the video (2:32), with Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #11, world #1 in 2018) topping out at 113 kph (70.2 mph). I'd really like to see other top pros at this, as well as some hard-hitting amateurs - you don't need to be a great player to be able to hit the ball really hard. I'm guessing someone's going to break 75 mph (120.7 kph), but can anyone hit 80 mph (128.7 kph)? We often hear how balls are smashed at up to 100 mph (160.9 kph), but that's not too likely. (Make sure to read the comments under the video.)

New from Kevin Table Tennis

Great Hustling Returns by Disabled Player
Here's the video (43 sec) - it's from six years ago, but it's pretty wild!

Ibrahima Diaw & Quadri Aruna | Ask A Pro Anything at home
Here's the ITTF video (45:57).

New from Steve Hopkins

The Pursuit of Belonging: The amazing and untold story of the Anderson College and Augusta College table tennis dynasties
Here's the article.

Precision Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

USATT Videos
Here's their video page, which has two new items. They don't have any new items on their news page since my last blog, the first time that has happened since I started this blog in January, 2011.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Turning Point: Table tennis over engineering, the one decision that changed Sharath Kamal's life
Here's the article on the world #31 from India.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Table Tennis Player Figurine
It's yours for €21.95 ($29.29), which includes tax and shipping!

Unlivably Small Apartment with Ping-Pong Table
Here's the cartoon!

Faster Evolving Players
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 26, 2020

Tip of the Week
On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Often Go to the Backhand.

Two Weeks Training at the Samson Dubina Mega Camp in Ohio
So what was I, at age 60 and out of shape, doing training with players one-fifth to one-half my age, including numerous footwork drills that left me gasping for air and my body screaming at me to have common sense and go home and watch TV?

Like many others, I was stuck at home for five months because of the pandemic, where I got way out of shape and gained weight. So I decided to do something about it. (My club, MDTTC, where I coach, was partly open, but all group sessions, including training camps, had been cancelled.) So I contacted Samson and arranged that I'd come as a player in the mornings, a practice partner in the afternoons. That would mean five hours of intense play each day, Aug. 10-14 and 17-21.

Then I hopped in my car and drove the five hours from Maryland to Akron, Ohio and the Samson Dubina TT Academy. It was a great decision, as I got exactly what I needed - two weeks of intensive training, bringing back memories of yesteryear when I regularly trained like this. Working with Samson and Chance Friend, I even improved my backhand loop to where it's better now than when I was at my peak!

The Mega Camp, with 20 tables, was three weeks long, but I'd missed week one. About 2/3 of the players were juniors - but there were others around my age. Each week had a theme:

  • Week 1: Foundational strokes and footwork (the week I missed)
  • Week 2: Tactics (37 players)
  • Week 3: Serve and Receive (32 players)

It was ironic that I was there for the Tactics Week, since I wrote Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. But Samson covered the topic very well, often quoting from the book. On the very first day he wrote on the whiteboard the opening to the book: "Tactics isn’t about finding complex strategies to defeat an opponent; tactics is about sifting through all the zillions of possible tactics and finding a few simple ones that work." He also quoted the parts about developing a "tactical toolbox," where you develop various techniques that you can use in a match. The underlying assumption here is that they only work if you are consistent at them - but Samson expanded on that, stressing the importance of consistency or the techniques aren't helpful.

Masks were mandatory outside of the playing courts. There was a temperature check for everyone in the morning - I raised eyebrows because I always have an unusually low temperature, usually around 95, with my lowest at 94.1. I washed my hands with soap several times per day and maintained social distancing as best I could in a camp full of people.

The schedule each day was 10AM-12:30PM, 2:00-4:30PM. Each session started with stretching and easy jogging. Then Samson would give a short talk on the upcoming drills, where he'd stress consistency - sort of a secondary theme throughout the camp. Then we'd go to the tables and do a four-drill warmup. First, it's forehand to forehand, with one player looping or otherwise attacking, and the other blocking. Then the other had his turn. Then we did the same thing on the backhand side. Then we'd move on to other drills, which varied each day. The first week I was there many of the drills focused on tactical play, such as attacking the middle or corners. The second week focused on serve and receive, with a different serve emphasized each day. Between drills Samson would call us together and explain the upcoming drills. I often joined in with comments.

The others my age in the camp had an advantage on me - they were playing lower-rated players, while I was trying to keep up players from 1600 to 2700 in the morning sessions, and 1200 to 2700 in the afternoon sessions, many of them kids who played at cheetah speeds. I was worried my body couldn't take it, and it was often difficult to keep it up at high intensity. However, I had only two semi-minor injury problems. In the first week, I hurt my neck, and had some problems for a day and a half. In week two, I hurt my playing shoulder, and also had to go easy for a day and a half, mostly hitting instead of looping. But both problems eased away, and I was back to normal soon afterwards. One problem I ran into is that, even when I'm exhausted, I'm very consistent, and so some of the rallies go on for a long time, which is even more exhausting! (I kept arguing for a new "50-shot rule," where coaches and practice partners are required to miss after 50 shots. They refused.)

I had some nice practice sessions with lots of players, including some phenomenal rallies with the various practice partners. Often I'd start a session slow, with awkward and tight muscles; then I'd pick up steam and for a while I'd play like a champion; and then I'd tire and my muscles would become rebellious sloths and I'd struggle to keep it up. But I did! Here's video of one of the sessions. If you go to 1:14:25, you can see me blocking to 2700 Kai Zhang as he loops side to side. (I'm standing up too straight. I focused on staying low my second week there.)

The coaches/practice partners varied throughout the three weeks of the camp (including the first week when I wasn't there). Samson Dubina and Chance Friend were there all three weeks. Others that were there included Kai Zhang, Bruno Ventura, Sarah Hazinski, Mark Hendricks, AJ Carney, Maria Bogoeva, Derek May, Seth Pech, Anwen Harris, and Parth Nagpure. As noted, I was also a practice partner in the afternoons. My blocking really came alive during the camp, so I gave many players a nice workout. When it was my turn to drill, sometimes the kids would have to have mercy on me as I tried moving side-to-side at their pace. (It used to be much easier!) I had some vicious sessions with juniors Jacob Boyd, Rignesh Padamanur, Matthew Chamblee, Chester Taylor, Frank Yin, and many others. Other top juniors attending the camps included Sid & Nandan Naresh, and Sarah Jalli.

Besides getting back in shape, I worked a lot on my backhand hitting and looping. I've always tended to block too much on the backhand side (since I was mostly a forehand attacker), and so in many drills I focused on being more aggressive on that side, and it paid off. My backhand hitting got back to where it was decades ago, and my backhand loop improved enormously. I did many drills as a two-winged looper, something I never did in my peak years, where I mostly blocked and hit on the backhand side, with only occasional backhand loops. In my second week, when I began to focus on staying lower - something I physically wasn't ready for in week one - my forehand loop improved quite a bit.

During the lunch breaks I introduced the kids to mini-paddle table tennis - I brought five of them with me from Maryland, all with Tenergy on both sides. I also introduced them to the "Lob Game," where one player lobs, and the others line up, one at a time. If they win two points in a row, they become the lobber, and the lobbers goes to the end of the line. If the smasher loses a point, he goes to the end of the line. The kids had endless energy and never tired of these games. As I've pointed out, the kids who train hard during the sessions and then play hard during breaks are the ones who tend to learn to love the sport and stick with it long-term and become champions.

I stayed at the Red Roof Inn, the official Mega Camp Hotel, for the duration, a bargain at $49/night. It was right next door to a Walmart (which I visited every other day, mostly for snacks and drinks), as well as an IHOP, Denny's, and Applebee's, and numerous other restaurants within half a mile.

I managed to do some sightseeing. On Sunday night before the camp started, I drove 30 minutes north and walked the beaches of Lake Erie, and waded in a bit. That was the fifth and only one of the Great Lakes I'd never visited. We had the Saturday and Sunday between the weeks off, so I visited the Akron Zoo, and did a lot of reading and writing.  

It was a great camp, and a great thanks goes to Samson and the other coaches/practice partners, and to all the players and extremely friendly locals. (The only problem came afterwards, when I crashed and totaled my car on the drive home on Friday, Aug. 21 - see my short August 23 blog on this. I wasn't able to get most of my things from the car until Monday, so I stayed at a hotel in Beaver Falls, PA for three nights. The drive home on Monday was boring and uneventful, which was a good thing. I start car-hunting today.)

Samson has more "Mega Camps" coming up. Here's his Samson's Thank You Page, with more camp info and videos. As Samson wrote me about the camps, "Each of the Ohio Mega Camps coming up have a different theme.  Throughout the 25 hours of training, each of the various drills links back to the main topic of the week.  Some of his upcoming camps include match tactics, rallying tactics, foundational strokes, footwork, short game, serve variations, serve return variations, short game, and tournament preparation camps. The next three camps are Oct. 12-16, Dec. 28-Jan. 1, and Jan. 4-8."

New from Samson Dubina
I'm linking to each of these news ones over the past two weeks because they are all coaching-related, and this is ""! He was busy on these even during the camp!

How to Backhand Chop
Here's the article and video (4:01) by Wang Qingliang. Even if you are not a chopper, I recommend players learn to backhand chop for situations where they are out of position, and for players who have trouble with sudden chops. (It's less valuable on the forehand side, where the body isn't in the way and so you have a bigger hitting zone and more range.)

How to Win When the Score is 10-10
Here's the video (2:46).

New from PingSkills (they're active again!)

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time. Alas, it doesn't say who is playing tomorrow (Aug. 27), or give the results of last week's match (where Yue Wu defeated Tahl Leibovitz).

New from USATT

Butterfly News
While I was away for two weeks, Butterfly put up a lot of news items, most by Steve Hopkins. Rather than my linking to all of them, why not browse over them?

New from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association

New from Coach Jon

Jimmy Butler vs. Daniel Tran
Here's the video (5 min) between the four-time US Champ and the top US mini-cadet (age 13).

Table Tennis - China "New Generation"
Here's the video (7:38).

Nittaku ITTF Pongcast | July 2020
Here's the video (14:50).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from Adam Bobrow

Mirror Pong
Here's the video (45 sec)!

Tricky Fake Serve
Here's the video (6 sec)!

Junior Pool Pong Doubles
Here's the video (49 sec)!

New from PongFinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 23, 2020

Tip of the Week
On Short Serves to the Forehand, Challenge the Forehand, Often Go to the Backhand.

This Week's Blog Will Go Up on Wednesday
I was supposed to be return home on Friday night after twelve days in Ohio. However…

I left Akron at about 5:10 PM on Friday. At around 6:25 PM, while near Beaver Falls, PA, while in the far left lane (on I-76E, going about 75 mph, speed limit 70), I had a car accident. I was snacking on a bag of walnuts on my lap, which fell on the floor. I checked to make sure no cars were around and then reached for the walnuts. I inadvertently swerved right. I then swerved left to get back in my lane, but the car spun and hit the left wall. It bounced right, and I thought I'd regained control. But both left tires went flat when they hit the wall, and so I lost control, and my car spun across the highway. (But no cars around.) It hit the right side embankment and flipped in the air at least once and the landed upside down. The car is 100% totaled. 

Here's a picture.

Somehow, I came out with just a nasty cut above my right knee, numerous scratches, some bad bruises, and very sore all over. Otherwise I'm fine. Paramedics checked me out and I declined going to the hospital. I stayed Friday night at a Super 8 in Beaver, PA. On Saturday morning, I took an Uber to an Enterprise Car Rental and rented a car, and then drove over to the tow place to pick up most of my things, which were still in the car. They were supposed to be open on Saturday, but they were closed, and won't open until Monday. So I checked back into the Super 8, where I'm having a reading and writing "vacation" until Monday. Then I'll pick up my things, and drive home (four hours away).

After I get back to Maryland, I think I'm retiring from long-distance driving.

August 17, 2020

I decided to spend a second week training at the Samson Dubina Mega Camp here in Akron, Ohio. And so no blog this week. But I'm getting back into playing shape!!! But the Tip if the Week is up, Should You Develop Your Forehand Push?  Plus, here's a good video to watch (5 min), highlights of four-time US Men's Singles Champion Jim Butler (1990, 1992, 1993, 2014) vs. US #1 Mini-Cadet Daniel Tran, including short interviews at the end.

Or, if you want something funny but interesting, and you missed or didn't have time to listen to my interview last week, here it is again (40:53) at Kevin Table Tennis! I explain how I signed twelve autographs as Jan-Ove Waldner at the US Open; ate nine quarter-pounders with cheese in five hours in my big breakthrough tournament (winning all four of my events, including the Open, with an agonizing stomachache, and ate only one more hamburger in the forty years since, and that on a lost bet); and how Marty Reisman ruined my life! (I sent it to USATT as a possible news item, but alas, they wouldn't run it, telling me, "We thought the article would be best for your website and social platforms to promote your personal brand." I wonder how many thousands of volunteer USATT hours I've done and how many thousands of readers I've sent to them with links to their news items, all to help them develop their "personal brand"?)

August 10, 2020

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

Larry Hodges Interview
Here's my interview (40:53) at Kevin Table Tennis! You may know Kevin Nguyen (from Portland, OR) for his table tennis trick shots that I often link to, and he's also among the best of his age in the country, rated 2062 at age 12. Hope you enjoy some of the funny stories I tell! (Take it in two sittings, perhaps, but once you get started, I bet you won't stop!)

Off to the Ohio Mega Camp!
I've basically been sitting at home for five months now, coaching only one hour a week. I've been getting more and more out of shape, and I'm bored to death. So a few days ago I made the decision to do something about it. The camps at my club are canceled due to the pandemic - and if they weren't, I'd probably be coaching at them rather than playing.

So I'm off to spend a week at Samson Dubina's August 10-14 Mega Camp! I'm going as half player, half practice partner - half the sessions I'll be hitting with players roughly my level, half with weaker players. I'll be doing footwork drills like everyone else. Due to my age (ten, plus or minus 50) and recent inactivity, I may have to ease myself into it. That mostly means that, for the first few days, I'll probably do regular forehands during footwork drills. When I feel ready, I'll start looping in those drills, which is more physical. (It used to be so much easier.)

On Sunday morning I drove up to Akron, Ohio. However, before reaching it, I veered off and went up to Lake Erie, where I walked the beaches for half an hour, and waded into it for a few minutes. I'd been to the other four Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan, Huron, Ontario - and now I've been to all five. Then I drove back down to Akron and checked into the Red Roof Inn, 1.5 miles from the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy. Training begins 10AM on Monday morning. Schedule is 10AM-12:30PM, 2:00-4:30PM, Mon-Fri. Then I'll probably drive back on Saturday. (I say "probably" because, who knows, if I'm not completely worn out - and I will be - I could stay for Week 3!) I'm posting this on Sunday night, with much of it put together at the Red Roof Inn in Akron. 

Ask the Champion with Jan-Ove Waldner
Here's the USATT info page. You can join them and watch it live on Monday, Aug. 10, at 4PM Eastern Time. (This was originally scheduled for last Tuesday, but had to be postponed.) Here's an excerpt from my book, Table Tennis Tales & Techniques - this really happened! I told Waldner the story at the 2001 World Championships in Japan. (I go into this more in the interview above with Kevin.)

At the 1985 U.S. Open in Miami, Jan-Ove Waldner and I both wore the same Stiga track suit ... the same Stiga shoes ... we had the same color and style hair ... he and I were the same height ... you get the idea.  As I walked through the arena, people kept asking me for my autograph.  At first, I said I wasn't Waldner, but what the heck?  I began using my best accent voice, "Yah, I om Jan-Ove Waldner, top player from Sveden. You want my autograph?"  I signed 12 autographs as Waldner.

USATT Board of Directors Teleconference
They have a meeting on Monday at 8PM Eastern Time. USATT members are welcome to listen in, and ask questions via the chat feature. As I write this, the agenda for the meeting is not up, but it usually goes up before the meeting. (Here's the USATT Agenda and Notices page.)

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

Saturday Coaching
I did a one-hour session with Navin Kumar on Saturday night. Here are two short videos.

Coaches Who Do Online Coaching
Here's an updated list. (Coaches - email me if I should put you on the list.)

  • LearnPong, with Kai Zhang, Brad Robbins, Chase Bockoven, Vlad Farcas, Andrew Williams, Christian Stelting, Bjorn Stelting, and Alfred Dela Pena.
  • Samson Dubina (OH), USATT Certified National Coach and multiple Coach-of-the-Year awards, and 2009 US Men's Singles Finalist. See his web page (scroll to the bottom of the products page).
  • Cory Eider (NJ), former USATT High Performance Director and 2013 US Men's Singles finalist, 2014 Men's Doubles Champion.  
  • Pieke Franssen (CA), USATT Certified National Coach and chair of the USATT Coaching Committee. See his USATT about page
  • Matt Hetherington (NJ), member of New Zealand National Team, now coaching in the US, ITTF Level 2 coach. See also his web page.
  • Judy Hugh (NJ), former member of US National Team. See her USATT about page
  • Christian Lillieroos (CA), ITTF Level 3 coach. See his web page.
  • Sean O'Neill (OR), five-time US Men's Singles Champion and two-time Olympian, USATT Certified National Coach, and current USATT High Performance Director. See his USATT about page
  • Tim Wang (CO), three-time US Men's Singles Champion. See his USATT about page

New from Samson Dubina

Three Table Tennis Serves Every Player Should Master
Here's the article by Alex Horscroft at Expert Table Tennis.

Tiago Apolonia Backhand Multiball Session
Here's the video (47 sec) of the world #55 (highest ranking #13) from Portugal.

How to Read Spin
Here's the video (2:50) from Perfect Ping Pong.

New from Steve Hopkins

Why Choppers Have More Fun
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New Videos from USATT

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

PING! The Story of One Man's Love of Table Tennis
Here's the article about the book by Graham Frankel. I reviewed his book in my July 27 blog (see fourth segment).

Backhand Loop Around the Net, Between the Four Supplement, and Smacking a Ping-Pong Ball
Here's the video (9 sec) by Matt Hetherington!

My Best Round-the-Net Shots (Insane Swerve)
Here's the video (54 sec).

Dude Perfect (and Adam Bobrow): Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here's the videos (6:58 and 11:17)! (With Steve Hopkins.)

Ping Pong... But After Each Point the Racket Gets smaller
Here's the video (6:12) from Pongfinity! (This went up on Monday night.)

Send us your own coaching news!

August 3, 2020

Tip of the Week
How to Vary Your Receive Against Short Backspin Serves.

Coaches Who Do Online Coaching
Especially during these pandemic days, an alternative to private or group coaching is online coaching. There are several ways of doing this. Often a coach simply studies a video of a player and writes up an analysis with coaching suggestions. (I used to do this.) Sometimes it's an ongoing thing as the player perhaps sends in weekly videos for the coach. It can also be done live, with a coach watching via video as the player trains. I've compiled a list of top US coaches who do such online coaching. Take your pick! (Coaches - email me if I should put you on the list.)

  • LearnPong, with Kai Zhang, Brad Robbins, Chase Bockoven, Vlad Farcas, Andrew Williams, Christian Stelting, Bjorn Stelting, and Alfred Dela Pena.
  • Samson Dubina (OH), USATT Certified National Coach and multiple Coach-of-the-Year awards, and 2009 US Men's Singles Finalist. See his web page (scroll to the bottom of the products page).
  • Cory Eider (NJ), former USATT High Performance Director and 2013 US Men's Singles finalist, 2014 Men's Doubles Champion.  
  • Pieke Franssen (CA), USATT Certified National Coach and chair of the USATT Coaching Committee. See his USATT about page
  • Matt Hetherington (NJ), member of New Zealand National Team, now coaching in the US, ITTF Level 2 coach. See also his web page.
  • Judy Hugh (NJ), former member of US National Team. See her USATT about page
  • Christian Lillieroos (CA), ITTF Level 3 coach. See his web page.
  • Sean O'Neill (OR), five-time US Men's Singles Champion and two-time Olympian, USATT Certified National Coach, and current USATT High Performance Director. See his USATT about page
  • Tim Wang (CO), three-time US Men's Singles Champion. See his USATT about page

Mobile Feet = Better Shots
Here's video (51 sec) of me feeding multiball (random topspin to all parts of the table) to Navin Kumar this past Saturday. Navin is mostly a blocker, with long pips (no sponge) on the backhand, i.e. the "pushblocker" style. He doesn't always move his feet enough to play some of his shots as effectively as he could, especially on the forehand. Note how, at the start of the video, he's mostly leaning and reaching toward shots. But see how, starting 22 seconds in, he starts to do that little hop between shots, and this leads to mobility - and from there on, note how much stronger and more consistent his forehand is. Here's a Tip of the Week on this, How to Be Light on Your Feet.

Due to the pandemic, all group coaching at the club is on hold, and I retired from private coaching a couple years ago. But I made an exception with Navin. (But no others! I'm working with him because of his Parkinson's, and because I've worked with him for a couple of years. I coached him at the World Parkinson's championships last year - silver in doubles, bronze in singles - and may due so again next year, in Berlin.)

How to Move Up a Level
MDTTC featured one of my Tips in May, How to Move Up a Level. It's one of my most popular articles, and really boils down what it takes to improve in this sport.

Greatest Shots and Rallies
Here's video (10 sec) of a shot I pulled off against Navin Kumar in a coaching session on Saturday. So . . . how does this compare with this and this?

My Table Tennis Book Collection
I now have 266 books in my table tennis book collection!!! I had new shelves put in as the previous shelves weren't large enough. (They are in a mini-hallway, so I had to take the picture from an angle.) Of course, those are books by anyone. If you want my books, here they are! (I only actively collect books in English. The collection includes 257 in English, 9 in other languages.)

USATT Club Coach Certification and Courses
Here's the USATT News Item

New from Samson Dubina

Tao Wenzhang Training Videos
"If I can do it, there's no reason that students can't." -Tao Wenzhang

Playing Table Tennis With Both Hands - Good or Bad?
Here's the article and videos from PingSunday/EmRatThich.

Show 0328 - Table Tennis Diary
Here's the podcast (35:08) from PingSkills, featuring Mima Ito Notebook, Next Non-Chinese Winner, Block Timing, and Around the Net.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from USATT

New from Steve Hopkins

Portland Teen's Ping-Pong Skills Featured on CBS
Here's the article and video (4:12), featuring Kevin Nguyen. Kevin also has another video out this week, Table Tennis Training #1 (8:32), with highlights from his training.

Asheville Woman Beats More Than Opponents Through Table Tennis
Here's the article and video (2:12) from ABC 13 News (Asheville, NC), featuring Emily Scott-Cruz at the Asheville TTC and sobriety.

Starting From Scratch With Stephen
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Players Compete for Tokyo Paralympics
Here's the article from NCTTA.

New from ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Igor Levitin Runs Unopposed for European TTU Presidency
Here's the ITTF article.

Champion Table Tennis Brothers from Australia
Here's the video (5:10) from a talent TV show.

Seven-Year-Old TT Trickster
Here's the video (4 min) - Most of the table tennis starts at 0:37, with the real trick shots starting at 0:55. By the time the video is over, you'll be yelling "Yeah!" along with the kid!

Ping-Pong Hoods?
Here's the picture!

Cross-Eyed Pong?
Here's the picture!

Bear Pong Gif
Here it is!

Why I Lost a Table Tennis Match
Here's the graph. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) If I did the graph, I'd add three more categories, "He won on his serves!", "He had weird rubber!" and "He had weird strokes!", since those, along with nets and edges, are the most common gripes after a match, but we'll keep "Opponent Played Better Than Me" at 1%. (We'll ignore the unneeded apostrophes in the graph.)

Trick Shot Card Game
Here's the video (6:05) from Pongfinity! (This went up a day late since they uploaded it on Tuesday, instead of their usual Monday.)

Send us your own coaching news!

July 27, 2020

Tip of the Week
When Playing an Unfamiliar Player, Focus on Serve & Receive.

I'm Back!!!
My two-week writing workshop vacation is over. I basically spent nine days in online Zoom meetings in "The Never-Ending Odyssey" writing workshop, an annual workshop for graduates of the six-week Odyssey science fiction writing workshop. The meetings started around 10AM and went to dinner time, with optional meetings at night. They included critique sessions, classes, readings, and salons where we discussed various topics. I had a great time - and even managed to sneak table tennis into one of my stories!!! (It's way, Way, WAY in the future, and someone finds a pack of ping-pong balls - "Plastic lasts forever" - and it ends up being central to the story.) Here's a group picture on Zoom of the 21 of us in the workshop! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) I'm on the top right, the only one without a big smile. (That's a virtual background from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH, where the workshop normally takes place - I've been there now for eleven TNEOs plus the original Odyssey workshop in 2006.)

2021 World Championships in Houston
Alas, Houston has withdrawn from running the 2021 World Singles and Doubles Championships. (It would have been the first Worlds in the US.) I'm told it's not directly because of the pandemic, but because the Olympics in Japan are now scheduled to start July 23, 2021, which would be just after the Houston Worlds in June. (They would, in fact, be sandwiched between the World Team Championships in South Korea, which moved from 2020 to Feb. 28-Mar. 7, 2021, and the Olympics, and they'd no longer be the premier event of the year.) This was discussed at the July 13 USATT board meeting (held online on Zoom, which I attended). Here is the USATT minutes page, and here is a direct link to the minutes of that meeting. Here's the pertinent info - "Ms. Sung" is USATT CEO Virginia Sung:

"Ms. Sung noted that two very important factors will impact the financial analysis for USATT. The first is the decision with respect to the 2021 Table Tennis World Championships, which were scheduled for Houston, Texas in June of 2021. However, Houston has withdrawn its offer to serve as a host the World Championships, and USATT is still awaiting the official decision of the ITTF as to how the international governing body for table tennis would like to proceed in this matter."

"Ms. Sung stated that there are several possibilities of how things will proceed, including the possibility that the ITTF will honor the contract that is already in place – and make the corresponding payments due to USATT under that contract – on the presumption that the US will host the World Championships at some future date. There is also the possibility that USATT will work out a different arrangement with the ITTF for a future World Championships in the United States."

I know that USATT is now actively looking for another site, but I have no idea if they would be able to do it now in 2021. We'll see. Alas, I was hoping to attend and do coverage, and then some sightseeing.

As I noted in a previous blog, I was supposed to go to the Olympics in Japan this year to do table tennis coverage for USA (both USA and international teams), and would be there now - but then the pandemic came. I may be going next year instead.

Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis by Graham Frankel
I started reading Ping! A Personal Perspective on Table Tennis around midnight, and ended up reading it cover-to-cover, finishing in the early morning hours, and the result was I got up late this morning, which is why this blog went up late. So you can blame Graham! 

The book, which came out June 29, has an interesting format. It alternates between Graham's autobiographical table tennis history in England (as a player, organizer, and finally as a coach who focuses on multiball training), and the history of technical changes in table tennis. Both were equally fascinating. There were even some similarities in our table tennis backgrounds! Like him, I didn't get into "serious" table tennis until rather late (age 16 for me). More eerily, we both got into the sport indirectly because of "failures" in other sports - for him, it was numerous sports other than table tennis; for me, it was an unfortunate happening in baseball, which I blogged about on June 15 ("The Play That Changed Everything"). He and I were also both long distance runners.

The chapters on technical changes focused on equipment, and included the coming of sponge (1952 and before); the seven-year war on whether to ban sponge (1952-59); the compromise reached in 1959 and the new sandwich rackets; the loop, made possible by grippy inverted surfaces; antispin (which he calls "antiloop"); long pips; racket twiddling and the two-color rule; gluing; and the changes to the ball (from 38mm to 40mm and switching from celluloid to plastic).

My only peeve was the font size is a bit small and the inner margins a bit too narrow. I ordered the paperback version, but there's also a kindle version. The book is a "quick" read, 95 pages plus index, with plenty of pictures. Here's the book's Amazon description:

"Table tennis, the sport that almost everybody has played at one time or another, has a unique position among all other popular world sports. The evolution of table tennis at a competition level has been dominated by changes in equipment. This fascinating story is punctuated by moments of drama where unknown players have burst onto the international scene upsetting established champions and setting the sport into a new direction. These pivotal changes sparked bitter conflicts – sometimes drawn out over decades - between the authorities, players, and those with commercial interests in creating new products. Set against the historical background, Ping! is also a very personal story, charting the experiences of how a young boy whose humiliating failures in other sports led to a lifetime commitment to table tennis."

A Fire Took Ojo's Home
Here's the GoFundMe page for championship player and coach Ojo Onaolapo, in San Antonio, Texas. The page gives more info on the situation. "How would you feel if you returned home to find out that everything is gone? Everything. Pictures of friends and family. Clothes. Everything you worked hard to build your entire life, only to have what's on your back. This is what my coach, Ojo Onaolapo felt like."

Professional Online Coaches
I'm creating a list of professional table tennis coaches who do online coaching, where they analyze and coach players by watching them on video. So far I know of the following: Samson Dubina, Cory Eider, Judy Hugh, Matt Hetherington, Christian Lillieroos, and Sean O'Neill. If you know of others, or do so yourself, please email me, including contact info and any web link. I'll post the list in my blog next week. 

USATT Announces Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

11 Reasons Why Table Tennis is Great for Your Health
Here's the article from the Augusta Free Press. The first item is, "It dramatically improves your reflexes." Yesterday I snatched a fly out of the air, which I've been doing regularly for decades, due to my table tennis reflexes. I think we should do a drill at our next junior session where we release hundreds of flies in the club, and the kids have to snatch them out of the air with their playing hand!

New from Samson Dubina

Basic Skills is the Key
Here's the video (6:28). This pretty much shows all the basic techniques, at an advanced level. One thing that jumped out to me - at 52 seconds in, for about 25 seconds (interrupted by the "yin pei" part), they do a drill where one loops off backspin, and the other counterloops. But they don't continue the rally - instead, the one who did the first loop is already reaching for the next ball. This way they both get to rapid-fire practice their loops, one off backspin, the other counterlooping. Then they switch who loops which. Most players simply play out the point in such drills, and so don't get the systematic training needed to develop the shots at a higher level.

Ding Ning Serve
Here's the video (18 sec, in slo-mo). Ding Ning at the World Championships won gold eight times (including Women's Singles in 2011, 2015, and 2017), silver five times, and bronze three times, and also won three golds and a silver at the Olympics (including Women's Singles in 2016). So . . . why don't more players serve like this?

Fake Flip Push
Here's the video (6:58, but link should take you to 4:30, where the technique is demonstrated). I used to do this occasionally, but sort of forgot about it and stopped doing it. I wonder why it's not used more often - it's a quick way to pick up a free point!

Kanak Jha: How I've Developed Into a 'Top Player' in Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:17).

Ask A Pro Anything: Lily Zhang
Here's the video (5:34), with Adam Bobrow.

Ask the Coach Table Tennis Podcasts from PingSkills
Here's their latest Ask the Coach podcast (27:02), covering questions about the Drill and Tip of the Week, On this Day section, Spin on the Tomahawk Serve, How to Spin the Ball, and Tables. Here's the page for all 327 of them, going back five years.

eBaTT in collaboration with Everything Table Tennis and ELTT

Table Tennis is Back!
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak. It's worth visiting just for The Simpsonish table tennis cartoon at the top!

New from Coach Jon

USATT has redone its web page. What do you think of the new design? I haven't gone over it much myself. However, I do think it might be better to have the menu items along the top, like they were before, rather than having to click "Menu" to get to them. But I'm not picky. Since I've been away for two weeks, they've had a number of new news items and videos. Rather than my linking to them all, why not browse over them?

New from Steve Hopkins and Butterfly
Here's their News Page. Normally I link to each article, but rather than link to each article over the past two weeks, why not browse over them?

National Collegiate Table Tennis July Newsletter
Here it is!

New from ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Who Did it Best? Around the Net
Here's the video (2:08).

My Greatest Moments on a Table Tennis Table
Here's the video (49 sec).

Jenson Van Emburgh - Bay News 9 Story
Here's the video (3:49).

Para-Table Tennis Player Leibovitz to Compete at Sixth Paralympics
Here's the article from Inside the Games.

Happy Birthday Stellan Bengtsson!
Here's a Stellan cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) The 1971 World Men's Singles Champion and San Diego coach turned 68 yesterday (on Sunday, July 26). Here's his Wikipedia page.

New from Adam Bobrow

Ping Pong Story & Dance Academy Collaboration
Here's the video (6:51)!

My BEST Ping Pong Trickshots
Here's the video (3:25), sub-titled, "took days to make."

Big Net Pong
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Water Pong
Here's the video (29 sec)! Here's a version I found at Amazon, Poolmaster Floating Table Tennis Game Toy.

Cat Ping-Pong
Here's the video (38 sec). It's an old video and I linked to it at least once before, but it's a classic. I think it's from the 1960s, and yes, it's a cat essentially playing table tennis! Or is it Paw Pong?

Nice Save, as He Tumbles Off the Skyscraper
Here's the cartoon! It doesn't actually have a caption, so make up your own.

Ping Pong with Coronavirus
Here's the cartoon - Trump vs. Chinese President Xi Jinping, with problematic paddles! Here's a similar cartoon. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) 

New from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

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