Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). 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 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, 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 ficiton, 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!

June 5, 2017

Due to a sudden last-minute “emergency,” I have to run an errand this morning. (I might write about it tomorrow.) So no blog, and the Tip of the Week will go up tomorrow. But there’s only one thing you should be watching and reading about right now, and that’s the Worlds!!! Here are videos of Men’s Singles from TTInfo. They haven’t yet put up the shortened videos of Women’s Singles – I’ll put them up when they go up. (Shortened means time between points taken out. If you want to watch the complete matches, here's the ITTF video Page.)

June 2, 2017

Service Practice
In preparation for the Serving Seminar I’ll be running at the USA Nationals, I did something a few days ago that I only do about once or twice a year these days – I practiced my serves! I’m retired from tournaments (except for occasional hardbat events at the Nationals and Open, and sometimes doubles), and so practicing my own game just isn’t high on my priorities list. But I did about 30 minutes of serve practice this past weekend, and it paid off.

At my peak I had pretty good serves. I practiced them regularly my first three years (1976-1979, ages 16-19), and from 1979-1981 (ages 19-21), I practiced them 30 minutes/day, six days/week, for two years. I continued practicing them regularly until the early 1990s. (Yes, I didn’t start playing until I was 16 – a very late starter, but I still reached 18th in the U.S. at my peak.)

I have a huge variety of serves, mostly centered around forehand pendulum serves. My best serves were a variety of short side/top serves, which looked like backspin, and various deep serves, including fast down-the-line, fast no-spin to the middle, and big breaking serves into the backhand. I also had a nice reverse pendulum serve short to the forehand that caused havoc if I used it sparingly. Then there were the backspin/no-spin combos, the forehand tomahawk serve, the windshield wiper serves, and others.

But without practice, they have gradually deteriorated. They still give fits to “weaker” players, but my students face them regularly and so have little problem with them. Until now.

I played a number of practice games with my more advanced students this past week, and my serves were alive! Maybe not as good as they were 25 years ago, but suddenly they were no longer able to catch the subtle racket changes between my side/top and backspin serves, and so their returns shot off the end or to the side, or into the net. My deep serves were shooting at them like torpedoes or jumping like kangaroos. Anyway, I left a trail of frustrated kids behind this past week. I feel very guilty.

So . . . have you been practicing your serves? I have many articles on serving, but here are two of the better ones:

For more, why not try out one of these books?

World Championships
The Worlds are going on right now, May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Alas, USA is finally out of everything, with Lily Zhang/Wu Yue losing in the quarterfinals of Women’s Doubles to the #3 seeds from China, Chen Meng/Zhu/Yuling, at -12,6,9,5,7. But can you imagine the excitement after they won that first game? Below are some links. (And don’t miss “The Lighter Side of the Worlds” at the end of the blog!)

China's Grand Slam Table Tennis Sensation - Interview with Ding Ning
Here’s the interview from Matt Hetherington.

Learn How to Counter-Attack (and take your game to the next level)
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

How to Improve Reflexes in Ping Pong
Here’s the article with links to video, from PingPoolShark.

Planning Your Week of Practice
Here’s the article with links to video, from PingSkills.

Ask the Coach
More Questions Answered at PingSkills.

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

Sid and Nandan at Little Big Shots
Here’s the video (7:36). The show was actually taped last year, but just came out yesterday. They’re great kids – I worked with both of them at the two-week USATT Supercamp last year.

Ping Pong of the Future
Here’s the article. “There are only two annoying things about playing pingpong… setting up the net and keeping score. Smart Net takes care of both in one simplistic solution!”

Here’s an interesting table tennis shirt. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) I wondered what the meaning of MrThePortal was and googled it, and discovered it was a youtube site dedicated to table tennis videos!

The Lighter Side of the Worlds

Send us your own coaching news!

June 1, 2017

World Championships
The Worlds are going on right now, May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here are some links.

USA is doing pretty well, especially Lily Zhang! For specifics of our players, see the draws in the Main Page, and do a search for “USA.” Or click on the below. (Note that where it says, for example, “1-32” in the Men’s Singles, that means the top 32 spots in the draw, i.e. the top quarter.)

Here are USA Highlights:

  • Lily Zhang/Wu Yue – they are into the quarterfinals!!! In the first round they upset the #5 seeded team, Lee Zion/Yang Haeun (KOR), at 3,4,-8,7,11. Then they knocked off Hana Matelova/K. Tomanovska (CZE) at 9,-10,5,-8,2,7. Then they defeated S. Polcanova (AUT)/Mo Zhang (CAN), 11,-6,9,9,15. In the quarters they will face Cheng Meng/Zhu Yuling, the #3 seeds from China, at 1:30 PM on Friday. (That’s 7:30AM Eastern time, or 4:30AM Pacific time.)
  • Lily Zhang (world #82) – she upset Sabine Winters (GER, world #39) at -7,-4,7,10,-7,6,6, to reach the final 32 before losing to Li Jie (NED, world #21), 13,-5,4,4,9. Here’s the USATT article and the ITTF article on her.
  • Lily Zhang/Kunal Chodri – in the first round of Mixed Doubles they went seven games with the #7 seeded team of Fang Bo (CHN)/Petrissa Solja (GER), and led 3-2 before losing at -9,4,-9,3,-5,2,6.
  • Kanak Jha (world #246 at age 16) – he upset Adrian Crisan (world #67) at 8,8,-5,-11,-9,8,9 to reach the Final 64. Here’s the USATT article on this. He will next face Mattias Karlsson (SWE, world #27) at 8:30 PM (2:30 PM Eastern time). He’s in the 65-96 draw. Here are video highlights (3:48) of Kanak’s match against Paul McCreery of Ireland in the preliminaries.

ITTF Election
It’s over – Weikert won re-election over Saive for ITTF president, 118-90. Here’s the USATT article.

Across the Net: Melton Table Tennis
Here’s their new newsletter. It includes a number of interesting essays. One that caught my eye was the “Proposed Rule Changes” on page 3, where they make the same type of argument about hidden serves that I’ve been making, while pointing out some rather . . . interesting rules proposals at the ITTF. Other articles include “The Dividing Line” (about table tennis in the Southern Hemisphere) and “G.O.A.T.” (who is the Greatest Of All Time?). Here’s their archive of past newsletters.

Hopping Footwork and Other Forms of TT Physical Training
Here’s the video (47 sec).

Weird Vectored Ping-Pong Image
Here’s the picture.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 31, 2017

Tip of the Week
Contact Point on Racket When Serving.

Habits and Homework
One of the kids I coach has a nasty habit of standing up straight, both when receiving and in rallies. You’d think this would be an “easy” habit to break, but no – it’s like the minute he goes out on the table, he forgets what he’s been practicing and he stands up like a giraffe stretching for leaves on a tree. We’ve videotaped him to show him the problem, and he understands it, so that’s not the problem. He also tends to reach for balls rather than move to them, another bad habit that mostly comes from standing up straight. Central to these problems is that he has good ball control and very nice rallying skills, and plays at a high level despite these problems – but he pays for them when he plays stronger players. (He’s about 1700, age 11.) So how to you get someone to break such a seemingly simple bad habit?

We’ve given him homework. Four days a week he is to spend about fifteen minutes shadow-practicing, with four specific exercises assigned, all involving footwork. Staying low and moving are stressed. He’s agreed to do these, and seems enthusiastic, so we’ll see if it works.

His serves aren’t every strong either, so along with the above he’s supposed to practice serves for 15 minutes after doing the shadow-practicing, i.e. 30 minutes total, four days a week. (This is in addition to three private sessions, one group session, and three nights of match play each week.) The good thing here is that at first I told him to practice serves 10 minutes, and he thought he could do 15. I’m too lenient!

He’s splitting his serving practice into three parts: Short spinny serves; long, breaking serves; and doubles serves, since he’ll be playing doubles at the upcoming Nationals. We spent some time yesterday going over the serves he should practice.

At the end of our session, we played points, and he was on fire! It was about the best I’ve seen him play – he stayed low and moved to the ball, just as we’d been practicing. Then he played in the MDTTC Tuesday night RR. In his first match, he continued to be on fire, staying low and moving, and won easily against probably the strongest player in the group. But after that he fell into old habits, and his level dropped as he stood up straight and reached for balls. When I motioned him to come over to talk after one match, he knew exactly what I was going to say, said he sort of realized after the match that he had gone back to standing up straight. The sad thing is he still managed to win all his matches – but I think he realizes that if he wants to go up another level, he needs to overcome this.

If you have a bad habit, you have to do the same – find ways to overcome it by practicing the correct movements until they are a habit. It’s either that or accepting the bad habit forever!!!

World Championships
Here’s the home page where you can get news, draws, results, photos, and video. For USA Coverage, see the USATT news page, though I’m also linking to them below. The Worlds are May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here are some links.

DoorTricks Challenge at the Worlds with Pongfinity
Here’s the video (2:17)! I thought this deserved a segment by itself.

ITTF Coaching Courses
Here is the page where the ITTF courses in the U.S. are listed. They not only will make you a better coach, but you will then become ITTF and USATT certified as a coach. There are currently four scheduled:

2018 Youth Olympic Games Selection Procedures
Here they are.

Here’s the article by Coach Eli Baraty.

Memorial Day at NYCTTA 2017
Here’s the video (11:08) from Jules Apatini.

Sit Down and Smash
Here’s the video (6 sec)!

Solo Pong
Who says you need a partner to play?

Non-Table Tennis - Balticon
This past weekend I was at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention, where I was on four panels, plus a reading and a book signing. (Sold a bunch of my SF books!) Here’s a picture of me on the “How to Write Snappy Dialogue,” where I was the moderator. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) That’s me second from the right – I’d have sat in the middle but a fellow panelist was already there when I arrived. I was at the convention all day Friday and Saturday. Here’s my Balticon Bio. (The convention continued through Sunday and Monday, but I had to go back to coaching.) I went out for dinner with a number of other writers on Friday night, and at one point pulled out a ping-pong ball (never leave home without one!) and demonstrated my blowing-the-ball-in-the-air trick.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 30, 2017

NOTE - the Tip of the Week will go up tomorrow.

Prepping for a School Club Tournament
Here’s something I’ve never done before – “dumbed down” my play so a student would be better ready to face such competition at his school! The student, who just started a club at his Middle School, was worried about their grand opening, since they were running a tournament on the first day. Everyone knew he was the big star who trained regularly, but he’d seen some of them play, and despite being about 1900 level, he was somewhere between worried and outright scared of losing to one of these basement players.

The problem was that several of them were very experienced and high-level basement players, who used cheap paddle (i.e. hardbat or slow, dead inverted), and either kept the ball in play with dead balls, or swatted in winners. They also – and most scarily – served fast serves right out of their hands, which of course is illegal, but the student didn’t want to sound like a crybaby on day one by complaining about them.

As long as he has his own racket – which he will – I don’t think there’s any way he would lose to anyone – none of his potential opponents have had training before. There is a long history of experienced tournament players finding themselves in some basement environment where they are forced to use the local cheap sponge/hardbat/sandpaper paddles that they are not used to, against basement “stars” who are, and so losing. Scott Gordon, who chairs the USATT hardbat committee and plays with a hardbat in tournaments (rated about 2000) told me this is why he originally got into hardbat, after losing to some basement player because he had to use the local equipment, and so he learned to play with other surfaces.

So after a brief warm-up, I used a cheap inverted racket for the session, with the usual forehand-to-forehand, backhand-to-backhand, and other drills. When we played points, I’d either dead-block or swat in shots. I also did multiball serving, where I served fast, all over the table, right out of my hand, over and over, until he was comfortable with that. Then we played lots of games where I did lots of funky dead-ball blocking, quick hits and swats, and a steady diet of out-of-my-hand serves.

I won the first game, but he soon adjusted, and he barely pulled out game two. After that he began to dominate – the rubber I was using was 2/3 of the way toward being antispin. I was tempted to switch to chopping and pick-hitting, where I could probably win, but he’s not going to face any choppers, so I ditched that. Also, did I mention that in the new club, they only have about four feet on each side?

I don’t think he had any trouble winning the tournament – I trained him well in the ways of the basement star!!!

World Championships
Here’s the home page where you can get news, draws, results, photos, and video. They are now underway, May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany.

Team USA Prepare for WTTC in Papendal, Netherlands
Here’s the article and picture.

ITTF Presidential Election
I’m told it takes place on Wednesday – tomorrow. So by tomorrow we’ll know if Weikert continues as president or if Saive replaces him. Meanwhile, here’s a new article on the topic, “Saive claims support from all over the world in bid to become ITTF President.” And here’s Saive’s new election video. (I’d put up Weikert’s if he had one, but I don’t think he has one.) I blogged about the election, with other links, on May 19. I’m told it’s going to be a close election. Here’s a video from EmRatThich (12:49) that discusses the election.

Kong Linghui Suspended as Head Coach of Chinese Women's Team!
Here’s the article. This is a shocker – the news came out as I was about to post this blog. Apparently he is “being sued $327,600 by a Singapore casino over alleged gambling debts.” There’ll likely be more on this tomorrow. We’ll see. (Here’s the ITTF article that just went up.)

China Team World Championship Song
Here’s the video (4:17). At the next Worlds, maybe Team USA can put together something like this? I remember the 1994 World Youth Cup Championships where every team was required to put on some sort of skit, and so the USA Junior Team quickly rehearsed and did a rendition of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat”!

Up Close and Personal, Liebherr World Championships Television Production Best Ever
Here’s the ITTF article.

British Airways Meltdown Leads to Cancelled Flights, Including to World Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the story. Midway through it there is this:

On Sunday morning, Welsh international table tennis player Chloe Thomas, whose 7.30am flight from Heathrow to Germany for the World Table Tennis Championship in Düsseldorf was cancelled at the last minute, described chaotic scenes.

“It’s chaos, people are running about all over the place trying to rebook,” she told Press Association. “There’s no one to help, no leadership. There are lots of people everywhere. There’s nowhere to sit, so people are just lying on the floor, sleeping on yoga mats.”

Media, Coach and Player
Here’s the ITTF article on Matt Hetherington, Digital and Social Media Manager for USA Table Tennis.

Zhang Jike, Did One Point Change His Career?
Here’s the ITTF article.

Working on Navin’s Backhand Kill
Here’s the video (15 sec). He normally uses long pips (no sponge) on backhand, but we’re working on flipping to the inverted to smash. (Yes, Navin is “The Bionic Man,” as noted in many articles and videos, such as this USATT new item. He has Parkinson’s and an artificial heart.)

Inward and Outward: Reactions to Points Won and Lost
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Ask the Coach
More Questions Answered at PingSkills.

5 Tips on Balancing an Olympic Career With College, From Table Tennis Player Lily Zhang
Here’s the article.

10 Common Injuries in Ping-Pong and How to Avoid Them
Here’s the article (with links to video) from PingPoolShark. (This is from February, but I don’t think I linked to it.)

5 Ways to Mentally Prepare For Your Next Race
Here’s the article from Running Competitor. Though it’s specifically for runners, the principles apply to table tennis and other sports.

Ma Long & Zhang Jike Training Serve - Table Tennis Serve
Here’s the video (5:41).

Who is Azeez Jamiu?
Here’s the video (3:42). The Nigerian star has recently been living in New York and competing in U.S. tournaments.

Why You Should Never Play Your Spouse in Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter ten! Or order your own print copies at, as well as Volume 19!

Nine New Videos from EmRatThich
Here’s his video page.

World Champions of the Past
Here’s the video (1:57), Pong Universe’s Video of the Week.

Judah Friedlander: Greatest Soccer Interviewer Ever
Here’s the video (2:23). While the focus is on his “interviews” with soccer players, they play a lot of table tennis. Judah is rated 1607 – I used to coach him!

The Many Faces of Ma Long
Here’s the gif image, with five repeating pictures (though it only repeats three times for some reason)

Colin Kaepernick Visits Ping-Pong Crazy Seahawks
Here’s the article and pictures.

Sticky Sponge!
Here’s the video (7 sec).

Behind Back and Between Legs Lobs
Here’s the article and video (61 sec) by Teodor Alexandrov of Bulgaria at the Worlds.

Awesome Japanese Skills in Pong
Here’s the video (2:18)!

Send us your own coaching news!

May 25, 2017

NOTE – I’ll be away Fri-Mon at the Baltimore Science Fiction Convention, where I’m on four panels (moderating one), plus a reading and a book signing. (While table tennis coaching and writing are my primary living, I’m also a SF writer with four novels and over 80 short stories sold.) So no blog on Friday or Monday. See you next Tuesday!

USATT University
USATT University is a reality! USATT will be running eight seminars at the upcoming USA Nationals. I’ve argued for about a zillion years that we should have increased programming like this at the Nationals and Open, and some of you may remember that when I ran for the USATT Board, one of the things I wanted to do was set up a “USATT Coaching Academy.” Well, that has morphed into USATT University! Special thanks goes to USATT CEO Gordon Kaye for making it happen, and to USATT staff members Andy Horn and Jon Tayler. Thanks also goes to others who will be teaching these seminars.

I think this is a great opportunity for USA Table Tennis to educate current and prospective coaches and organizers, as well as adding more “glitz” to our major tournaments as a further draw. If you have suggestions for future such panels, let me know.

Descriptions of the eight courses or seminars are on the USATT University flyer. Here’s the short version, in chronological order.

  • Mon 7-8 PM: Tournament Directors Best Practices 101 (Free, taught by a panel of experts)
  • Mon 8-9 PM: Advanced Return of Serve ($20*, taught by USA Men’s Coach Stefan Feth)
  • Tue 12-2 PM: USATT Umpire Clinic (Free, taught by a panel of experts)
  • Tue 7-8 PM: USATT Club Best Practices 101 (Free, taught by a panel of experts)
  • Tue 8-9 PM: Intermediate and Advanced Serving ($20*, taught by Larry Hodges)
  • Wed 7-8 PM: How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program (Free, taught by Larry Hodges)
  • Wed 8-9 PM: One-On-One with High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio (Free)
  • Thur 7-8 PM: OmniPong 101 (tournament software, Free, with Craig Krum)
    *Free to USATT certified coaches and USA Nationals volunteers

As you can see above, I’m teaching two of the courses. As the USATT coaching chair, I invited Stefan to run the Return of Serve clinic (after running it by the USATT coaching committee), and I will be assisting him with that. I also plan to attend the ones on Tournaments, Clubs, and the One-on-One with HPD Jörg Bitzigeio. Due to scheduling conflicts, I probably won’t be able to attend the ones on umpiring (will be both playing and coaching) and OmniPong (which conflicts with the Hall of Fame Banquet). Note that I use OmniPong to run our tournaments at MDTTC, and strongly recommend it – wish I were able to make that one.

If the courses are successful, I hope we can expand them even more at the U.S. Open in December. I’m already planning a 4-6 hour USATT Coaching Certification Clinic there, as well as possible other seminars such as ones on Tactics, Looping, Sports Psychology, Hardbat/Sandpaper, and How to Become a Professional Coach. (Note – as a USATT board member and coaching chair, I’m a volunteer, and receive no payment for these seminars or related work.)

I’ve already put together outlines for both of the seminars I’ll be teaching. The one on serves will be at the playing hall, and will be a combination of lecture/demonstration, and on table practice. I could do this one in my sleep as I’ve given such lectures and demonstrations for decades, updating them to match the change in modern techniques. The one on setting up a junior program will be in a meeting room, with a projector – it’ll actually be the third time I’ve taught this seminar, so all I have to do is update the presentation.

Hope to see you there!!!

What is Third Ball Attack
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark. Includes links to multiple videos.

Physical Fitness Training for Table Tennis Players
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Earth.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills. The only recent one is “Blocking a smash close to the table,” but they will likely be updating it over the next few days while I’m away.

World Championships
They start on Monday: May 29 – June 5 in Düsseldorf, Germany. Here’s the home page where you can get news, draws, results, photos, and video.

Liebherr World Championships Facts and Figures
Here’s the ITTF article. Includes link to video (38 sec).

Table Tennis All Over on Different Tables
Here’s the video (1:36), which I think is promoting the upcoming Worlds. Includes video of the German National Team playing on mini-tables.

Top 10 World Champs Moments #2--> Werner Schlager becomes the last non-Chinese World Champion!
Here’s the video (57 sec).

Nobler in the Mind; That is the Question at Sport Science Workshops
Here’s the ITTF article.

Georgina Pota Ties the Knot in a Princess-like Avatar
Here’s the ITTF article. Includes link to video (49 sec) of her playing table tennis at the wedding, in her wedding gown!

Great Point – Ma Long vs. Jun Mizutani
Here’s the video (53 sec) between the world #1 and #6.

Greenhouse Sport in England
Here’s the video (2 min) of this “London based charity working with inner city young people teaching them how to use the discipline of sport across all aspects of their lives.”

Big Paddle, Many Balls
Here’s the repeating gif image (4 sec)!

Floor Pong!
Here’s the video (40 sec)!

Dupamo Comic Pingpong
Here’s the video (60 sec)! Warning - you won’t be able to get this image of your head the rest of the day!

Send us your own coaching news!

May 24, 2017

Table Tennis Trick Shots
On Sunday, after running a training session, I gave an impromptu clinic on trick shots, with about a dozen players joining in. Here are twelve of my favorites, with video of some of them. Why not learn a few of these and show off at your club? Let’s have a little fun today.

  1. 50-foot Serve, where you stand about 50 feet to the side of a table, and do an overhead tomahawk serve with backspin and sidespin so it hits both sides of the table. My record is 14 times in a row. Here’s video of me doing this in an exhibition. Usually I do this directly from the side of the table, adjacent to the net, but the pole was blocking my shot so I did it from the left.
  2. Comeback Serve, where you serve with enough backspin and a bit high so the ball comes back over the net to your side on one bounce. My record here is also 14 times in a row. Here’s video of me doing this in a demo, where I’ve taught my opponent how to smash it! (Here’s earlier video of one that bounces back over.)
  3. Blowing Ball in Air, where you balance the ball in the air by blowing on it, and do so sideways by spinning the ball with your breath. Here’s an example – but I can do it much longer than this!
  4. Rallying by Blowing, where your partner returns the ball with high pop-ups, and you blow them back, and the rally continues. My record is 33 “blown” returns in a row. Here’s video of me doing five in a row in an exhibition – and winning the point! I probably do this at least once in every coaching session. 
  5. Playing Table Tennis Alone, where you rally at the side of the table with a paddle in each hand. Here’s video of me doing this at an exhibition.
  6. Lobbing while Sitting on the Floor. Here’s video of me doing this at an exhibition.
  7. Under Both Legs Serve, where you toss the ball up under your right leg, then serve under the left. Here’s video of me doing this in an exhibition.
  8. Speed Bouncing, where you bounce the ball on a table with the racket at high speeds. Recently I’ve been practicing this one a lot between sessions, and I can bounce it really fast now.
  9. Blowing the Serve, where you serve high, but then run over to the net and, as the ball crosses it, blow it sideways across the other side of the table, or even backwards into the net.
  10. Smacking Ball in Air, where you toss one ball up and smack it with another you hit with your paddle.
  11. Rapid Fire Smacking of a Bottle, where you put a bottle in the middle forehand side of the far side of the table, line up on the other side with a box of balls, and rapid fire smack it over and over.
  12. Juggling Ping-Pong Balls, either three with two hands or two with one hand.

USATT University Courses and Curriculum
Here’s the USATT info page, about the eight courses/panels to be held at the upcoming USA Nationals. (Deadline to enter the Nationals is May 31.) I’ll blog more about this tomorrow.

Should I Copy Pro's Playing Style?
Here’s the video (4:10).

First for Siliguri, End of Travels for Richard McAfee
Here’s the ITTF article on Richard’s coaching in India.

New from Samson Dubina

  • 2028 Olympic Team in Training (teaching his two daughters, ages 4 and 6, to play doubles against a robot)
  • Table Tennis Facts, with ten facts on a chart. The one about balls being hit up to 100 mph is likely a myth, however. Here’s video (67 sec – actual shot is 40 sec in) of the Guinness World Records - Fastest table tennis ball hit in competition, with the record at 116 km/hour, which is about 72 mph. Also, ITTF now has 226 member associations and territories, apparently every country or territory on Earth!

USA Masters Games Heads to San Diego
Here’s the info page for this event, for players age 21 and over. “After the inaugural event last year in Greensboro, NC, the USA Masters Games take up residence this year in sunny San Diego, CA. The Games, consisting of 24 sports ranging from Archery to Weightlifting, are considered to be The National Sports Festival for Adult Athletes. … The 2017 USA Masters Games Table Tennis Competition will be held at the After School Learning Tree facility on Saturday and Sunday, July 15 and 16, 2017. The Table Tennis event will consist of pool play followed by elimination rounds in age group competition for Men's Singles and Doubles Teams, as well as for Women's Singles and Doubles. There will also be ratings competition in Men's Singles in Under 1500, Under 2000, and Open categories.”

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter nine! Or order your own print copies at, as well as Volume 19!

Major Contender: Jun Mizutani set for mighty title effort in Düsseldorf
Here’s the ITTF article.

Hong Kong focused on 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo
Here’s the article. “Hong Kong will send their youngest-ever squad to the table tennis world championships later this month as they prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games in three years.”

Xu Xin "The Terminator"
Here’s the video (4:51).

Fan Zhendong Practice with Ren Hao 2017
Here’s the video (2:23).

Head Ping Pong with Ma Long and Lin Gaoyuan
Here’s the video (73 sec)! They are ranked #1 and #40 in the world – in table tennis that is. (Lin is probably a lot better than #40 – but we’ll see.)

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May 23, 2017

Backhand Flipping
There was a time when I was at the forefront of backhand receive technique. One of my strengths during my peak years was my ability to consistently backhand flip any short serve, regardless of how low it was or what type of spin, including heavy backspin. It drove many opponents crazy, since they often wanted a push return to attack. It allowed me to force neutral backhand exchanges on my opponent’s serve, while I’d dominate with my attack when I served. Gosh darn it, come to think of it, on paper I must have been the best player in the world!!!

Many-time U.S. team member (and 3-time Men’s Doubles Champion and Men’s Singles Finalist) Han Xiao developed at my club, and we spent probably a thousand hours hitting together. He once said he learned from my backhand receive that you could attack any ball, even a short, low, heavy backspin serve – but he took it to the next level. While my backhand flips had topspin, it was only light topspin, just enough to control the receive. At the higher levels, players could attack them. (Oh, that’s right, that’s why I wasn’t the best player in the world….)

Worldwide there was a technical revolution going on where players were learning the new “backhand banana flip,” which is basically an over-the-table backhand loop against a short serve. The extra topspin makes the shot even more effective – the topspin allows a more consistent aggressive shot, and makes it harder to counter-attack against. Here’s my article on the Backhand Banana Flip, which links to this video of Ma Long (3:25) demonstrating it.

As a coach, I learned the banana flip so I could teach it. While I can do it pretty well in a demo, I’m not that comfortable doing it in a match since I haven’t had decades of experience doing it, as I did with my more normal backhand flip. It’s one of the things I might work on if I were to get back into serious tournament play. But these days my priority is coaching these things, not doing them.

I’ve got a session tonight with one of our top rising juniors (age 11) where he asked if I could teach him the banana flip. He’s already been experimenting with it, so I’m going to make sure he gets it right. Part of this is preparation. I could easily just show up and teach it, but instead, as soon as I finish this blog, I’m going to review the Ma Long video linked above, and make sure to show it to him as a visual aid.

There’s more to the banana flip than meets the eye. As noted in my article above, the type of incoming spin makes a big difference in how you do it. There are subtle differences when you do it against straight backspin, or against backspin combined with left or right sidespin. Against one type of sidespin, it’s like looping against backspin, while against the other type, it’s like looping against topspin.

Five Videos to Study from EmRatThich

Online Administration Course Released
Here’s the ITTF article. “The International Table Tennis Federation is pleased to announce the launch of the ITTF Administration Course. Targeted at administrators within all table tennis associations, the course will help provide the skills and knowledge needed to promote improved administration.”

All 226 Earth Members!
Here’s the new ITTF graphic – what’s next? Martians? (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) “Table Tennis the No 1 most widely played sport in the World. All 226 Countries/Territories in the World are members of International TT Federation. Volleyball No 2 with 221.” (Here’s the ITTF article on this from May 11 which I’d previously linked to.)

Major Contenders

Mizutani Jun practice with Samsonov Vladimir
Here’s the video (11:24).

New Penholder to Replace Xu Xin for China?
Here’s the video (3:27).

Reactions of a Cat?
Here’s the video (20 sec).

Ma Long vs Ding Ning Funny Show 2017
Here’s the video (4:01) as the world’s top man and woman do a humorous exhibition.

Craziest Ping Pong Player I've Seen
Here’s the video (49 sec) – so, do you think she’s really rallying with her head, as it appears? Frankly, I have no idea what’s going on here.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 22, 2017

Tip of the Week
Looping to the Forehand, Backhand, and Middle.

Another Brutal Weekend
Sixteen hours of coaching on a weekend is brutal. I can personally attest to this – and as usual, I’m feeling the aftermath on Monday. Okay, it’s brutal for me, but just another couple days at the office for many of my workaholic fellow coaches, who do this six days a week and have this much energy.

What made things worse was a silly sort of mishap on Saturday. After doing five hours of private coaching, we had the Saturday night junior league, 6:30-8:30PM. It’s really sort of a misnomer as it’s a combination of league and coaching. For me, it was a nice break – after standing up for five hours, I got to sit down for most of the first hour, watching and taking notes of our players for future use. But here’s where the silly mishap happened – I stood up. Yes, I was sitting in a chair, and I stood up, and pulled something in my left leg. Really.

So I hobbled about for a while, and then we finished the session with doubles. Surprise – to even things out, they put me down for doubles with one of the players! I had neglected to mention to them that I’d hurt my leg. I decided I could do it, so went out and played – and of course aggravated it a bit. (Add the fact that I had no warm up, and let’s just say it took me a game or two to get going, and then it was hobble and loop.)

So on Sunday, where I had even longer hours, I found myself favoring the leg – which led to me straining my back. Yes, that’s how it starts – one injury leads to another. I went through most of the day okay, but toward the end I almost brought in another coach to substitute. However, I made it to the end, which fortunately ended with 4.5 hours of group sessions (so I could hobble about without having to run down balls).

Fortunately, I only have two hours of coaching on Mondays. Still more fortunately, one of them is going out of town for ten days. So I cancelled the other, with Navin, who was understanding, and so I will spend most of today resting.

We had an interesting time in the beginning junior class on Sunday. It’s a small group, just eight kids – but when it started at 4PM, only two had shown up. At 4:20, it was still only two. But we learned there’d been a terrible accident on Highway 270, and all traffic was completely blocked for a time. After 4;20 they started trickling in, but I had to postpone my main topic and demo for the day, which was attacking backspin. Instead, we did a lot of stroking drills. With junior star Ryan Dabbs helping out, plus the robot, myself, and Coach John Hsu, we rotated the players around so they got lots of hitting.

Other than that, it was a normal weekend. I spent half of a one-hour session with one player working on nothing but staying at the table – he likes to back up. Another is hard at work developing a backhand banana flip. Another younger kid has finally learned how to smash lobs, and so we spent some time on that – I was already hobbling about on my bad leg at this point, but managed to run them down. Two others have basically made the transition from hitting to mostly looping on the forehand side. One seven-year-old was practically glowing at his new-found ability to flip in short balls, both backhand and forehand – and with surprising topspin! (He’d been told by a coach recently that he was “too young” to need to flip, which he took as a personal challenge.) Another player was struggling with quick blocks to the forehand, so we spent a lot of time on that – it’s all about recovery on the previous shot, ready position, first step, and balance.

New from Samson Dubina
Here’s been busy this weekend! Regarding the first item, about guessing, I’ve been doing this for so many decades I sometimes think I can read an opponent’s serve before he even has the ball. Yes, most players are that predictable from various mannerisms. But these mannerisms are so varied and unique to each player that writing an article outlining them would be very difficult. For one thing I’m often not even always consciously aware of which mannerisms give away what as you really pick these things up on the subconscious level, from years of experience.

Ping Sunday
Here’s a great coaching site – “Free table tennis coaching videos every Sunday.”

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Table Tennis Strategy to Win
Here’s the video (11:48) from EmRatThich

Zhang Jike Training Backhand Flick and Attack
Here’s the video (10:27).

How the Russians Stole My Rating Points
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

China Dominates Table Tennis Like No Country in Any Other Olympic Sport
Here’s the article.

Major Contenders
Here are two new ITTF articles – a new series?

World Champions Ma Long & Ding Ning Head Seeding for World Championships
Here’s the article.

Li Jiawei Wants to Groom the Next Table Tennis Star
Here’s the article.

Today, May 22, is Final Registration Date for America’s Team Championship
Here’s entry info.

Lily Zhang – Back in Training
Here’s the video (38 sec) – “My first week training full time after the busy school year! Still super out of shape and slow, but it feels amazing to be back! World Championships in 10 days!”

Crazy Rally at the SPiN SF Opening Party
Here’s the video (58 sec) – “Winner was Lily Zhang, the youngest table tennis player at the 2012 Olympics, playing against Jiaqi Zheng. This was match point!”

Pong Universe Point of the Week
Here’s the video (13 sec). “Having good footwork is one of the most important elements in being a good player. Check out Portugal's Marcos Freitas vs. Nigeria's Quadri Aruna as they square off in the French Pro League.”

The Table Tennis Roommate Who Ruins Your Date
Here’s the video (2:04)! Yes, it’s about a table tennis roommate with a certain unique skill.

Send us your own coaching news!

May 19, 2017

ITTF Election - Saive and Sharara vs. Weikert?
Here’s the article. Now it can be told!!! Until now, nearly everyone assumed that former ITTF President and current ITTF Chairman Adham Sharara was supporting his previous protégé and handpicked successor, current ITTF President Thomas Weikert. However, I’d learned a while back they’d had a falling out. In the upcoming ITTF election, Sharara is backing Jean-Michel Saive against Weikert.

This sort of throws a lot of cold ping-pong balls on many voters’ plans. Some want to get away from the Sharara years, and so opposed Weikert, thinking he was a continuation of that – and that a vote for Saive was a vote against both Sharara and Weikert. And if you like what’s happened during these years, which way do you vote to continue it?

In fairness to Saive, we have no idea how close he is to Sharara, and he might not have any control over who is supporting him. If elected, hopefully he'll be a fresh face who will take table tennis to the next level. Or perhaps Weikert will do so. 

The election will take place at the Worlds at the end of May. All ITTF member nations will vote anonymously, including USA. Note that the USATT CEO will make the final decision on who USATT votes for – I blogged about this on April 20 (see second segment). I'm told the election is looking to be very close. 

Both candidates have new election pages: incumbent Thomas Weikert, with a manifesto centered on seven points, and challenger Jean-Michel Saive and his 11-point program. (Does this mean Saive wins 11-7?)  Here are their original election announcements: Weikert and Saive. Note that there’s a single comment after both of their announcements, from me a month ago. Neither has responded. 

Table Tennis Books
What, you still haven’t bought a copy of Dan Seemiller’s Revelations of a Ping-Pong Player??? Or Samson Dubina’s 100 Days of Table Tennis??? Or Tahl Leibovitz’s Ping-Pong for Fighters??? Or any of Tim Boggan’s History of USA Table Tennis??? Or my books??? Then listen carefully to this carefully crafted message (6 sec).  

Maryland State Championships
The Maryland State Championships are June 10-11, 2017. Note that rating events are open to all – you have to be a Maryland resident only for Men’s and Women’s Singles, Open Doubles, and the many age events. Enter now!!! And note that you can enter online. (I’m the tournament director.)

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

Liu Shiwen Multiball Training WTTC 2017
Here’s the video (24 sec).

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

EmRatThich Videos
Here’s a page with lots and lots of videos to browse over, many coaching related. I’ve been linking to many of them as they go up.

Jun Mizutani - Japanese Superstar and World #6
Here’s the highlights video (4:20).

Ladies’ Home Journal, 1902
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

AFL Footy Show
Here’s the video (2:28). “Jack Watts rates himself as a table-tennis star, so, we put his skills to the ultimate test!”

Xu Xin vs TableTennisDaily's Dan on Stiga's Mini Table
Here’s the video (4:18)!

How to Win a Point Immediately
Here’s the video (1:14) from 2010.

Baby Table Pong!
Here’s the video (43 sec) – they say start early, but how early???

Silicon Valley Pong
Here’s the cartoon.

Send us your own coaching news!

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