Blogs

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!

October 7, 2019

I've had a growing stomachache the last couple of days, and this morning I woke up feeling like I swallowed a jackhammer, plus a sore throat. I hope it's not the beginning of the flu. (I was completely healthy my entire 6.5 weeks in Europe and Egypt, so I guess I'm due.) I'm taking today off, and hopefully by tomorrow I'll feel like I only swallowed a few ping-pong balls, and so will be back to blogging. Meanwhile, the Tip of the Week is up: Top Ten Reasons You Might Not Be as Good at Table Tennis as You Could Be.

September 30, 2019

Tip of the Week
Confidence, then Consistency.

September 23, 2019

September 16, 2019

Tip of the Week
Topspin Defense.

September 9, 2019

Tip of the Week
Smashing Lobs.

September 2, 2019

Tip of the Week
Relaxing the Arm.

August 26, 2019

August 19, 2019

Tip of the Week
Strategic Tactics.

August 12, 2019

Next Blog Will Be on October 7, but Tips Will Go Up Every Monday
I'll be away until the end of September - see segment below. However, I've written a bunch of Tips of the Week in advance, and so they will continue to go up every Monday while I'm gone.

Tip of the Week
Serving Short. I've done similar articles on specific short serves, but this is a more general article.

What's Your Non-Playing Table Tennis Expertise?
If you are reading this, you are probably a table tennis player, or at least a former player. But there's more to table tennis than just playing. There are other aspects of the game you can do, either because you enjoy doing it, or to help out. So . . . what's Your Non-Playing Table Tennis Expertise? (The links below are for people in the U.S., but others can contact their country's association.)

There are also some rather unique table tennis "niches." There are full-time positions, such as the USATT staff and the ITTF staff. Adam Bobrow is the Voice of the ITTF, doing commentary for their major events and creating videos. Craig Krum and others create table tennis software (like Craig's Omnipong) for running tournaments and/or leagues. Samson Dubina, besides coaching and running his TT center, invents table tennis stuff, such as TT-Flex and TT-Serve. Others run online forums, such as Alex Li and his staff at mytabletennis.net. So what are you waiting for? Help out in one of the convention ways, or maybe find your own niche!

Tactical vs. Strategic Thinking
What's the difference? Tactical thinking is what you need to do to win now. Strategic thinking is what you need to do to get better later. You need both. If you only think tactically, you might become a master tactician, but you might not develop your game properly. If you only think strategically, you might develop your game but not your tactical skills. Which are you better at? Most players seem to focus too much on one or the other. Here are two Tips I've written on this topic.

Mostly Non-Table Tennis - I'm Off for Europe!!!
Tonight (Monday, Aug. 12) I catch a late-night flight for Dublin, Ireland (with a stopover in Lisbon). As noted above, I will still be putting up a Tip of the Week every Monday, but I won't be blogging again until October 7. Feel free to skip ahead if you aren't interested in my Europe/Egypt trip, which only has a little table tennis!

I expect to return in late September. I'll be touring Europe and Egypt until roughly the end of September, mostly by train with a few flights mixed in. I don't have an exact itinerary, just a rough order - but I have info on local hotels and tours and will arrange much of it as it goes on. (Day one's top priority - getting a sim card on the 3 network so my smart phone will work.) I am especially interested in historical sites, such as ancient Greece and Rome, as well as a somber trip to Auschwitz.

It all starts with the World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin (~7000 attendees) . . . and then the REAL tour begins! I've been to China, Taiwan, and Japan (all as a table tennis coach or writer), and to all 50 U.S. states, but never to Europe.

I may also visit some table tennis clubs - but I do plan to visit ITTF Headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, and perhaps a Bundesliga match in Germany. I may try to work in the European Minicadet Championships in France, Aug. 23-25 - there are eight USA players and three coaches/managers. Here is a rough listing and order of my itinerary.

  • Ireland (World Science Fiction Convention in Dublin, Aug. 15-19; Celts/Castle Tour, Trinity College, Dublin Castle, Grafton Street, Newgrange)
  • England (Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St. James Park, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Churchill War Rooms Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Thames boat trip from Big Ben/Westminster to Greenwich, possibly Bletchley Park and/or Stonehenge, and London Walks tour - Guard Change Tour, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, St. James's Palace, Royal Park, the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Admiralty Arch, Birdcage Walk, Queen Anne's Gate; plus four other possible tours - Tower of London Walk, Harry Potter Walk, British Museum Tour, and Jack the Ripper Walk)
  • Scotland (Edinburgh Castle, Loch Ness) - this is tentative as it's another long train ride and would take up two days
  • France (Paris, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, Omaha Beach Battle Tour), plus there's a chance I might make the European Minicadet Championships in Strasbourg, France, Aug. 23-25, which has eight USA kids and three coaches/managers
  • Switzerland (Lausanne, ITTF Headquarters, Olympic Museum)
  • Italy (Florence, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome - all the ancient sites on a tour, Pompeii tour)
  • Germany (Reichstag, Brandenburg Gate, The Berlin Wall Memorial/Checkpoint Charlie, Fuhrerbunker, Holocaust Memorial, Wall Memorial at Bernauer Street, perhaps German Bundesliga, and a walking tour of Berlin Wall, stand over Hitler's Bunker, Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island)
  • Poland (Warsaw Uprising Museum, Auschwitz, Oskar Schindler Factory, possibly The Wolf's Lair)
  • Possible touring of Eastern Europe in train ride from Poland to Athens? Prague, Vienna, Budapest, others?
  • Greece (driving tour of all the ancient sites - Acropolis/Parthenon, Corinth, Mycenae, Sparta, Olympia, Delphi, Mediterranean Sea Beach)
  • Egypt (Pyramids and Sphinx, Karnak Temple Complex, Egyptian Museum, River Nile Cruise)

Table Tennis Books
While I'm away, why not wile away the time with some table tennis books?

Pan Am Games
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held in Lima, Peru, Aug. 4-10, with results, news, pictures, and video. Here's the Wikipedia page Table Tennis at the 2019 Pan American Games, which has complete medal results for table tennis. Here is a listing of USA Medalists:

  • Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, and Nicholas Tio: Gold in Men's Teams
  • Jennifer Wu Yue: Silver in Women's Singles
  • Jennifer Wu Yue/Lily Zhang: Silver in Women's Doubles
  • Kanak Jha: Bronze in Men's Singles
  • Amy Wang, Jennifer Wu Yue, Lily Zhang: Bronze on Women's Teams
  • Kanak Jha/Jennifer Wu Yue: Bronze in Mixed Doubles

Here are USATT articles by Matt Hetherington, in the order they were posted.

Here are Butterfly articles by Steve Hopkins, in the order they were posted.

Nigeria Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event held Aug. 7-11 in Lagos, Nigeria, with results, articles, photos, and video.

Bulgaria Open
Here's the ITTF home for the event Aug. 13-18 in Panagyurishte, Bulgaria.

Chinese National Team Touch Down in Los Angeles
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. And here's the Chinese Team on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (18 sec).

MDTTC August Open
Here are the results! We always send in results on Sunday night, and USATT processed them for ratings on Monday afternoon. As noted in previous blogs, Klaus Wood now runs the MDTTC tournaments, with assistance from Greg Mascialino, Kurtus Hsu, and others.

Talent Development Program Tryouts in Maryland
The tryouts for the upcoming season of the Talent Development Program at the Maryland Table Tennis Center are Sunday, Sept. 8, at 5:30PM, and should last about an hour. This is for kids ages 7-12 and with at least one year of training. New students should bring a coach's recommendation letter. For more info, contact Coach Wang Qingliang. (Current students may not need to try out - check with Coach Wang.) Here is a recent USATT news item on the program.

New from Samson Dubina

Underestimating Underspin
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Tomahawk Serve Tutorial
Here's the video (1:59) by Adam Bobrow.

Training Video: Coach Li of New York International Table Tennis Center
Here's the article and video (55 sec).

Pleasantville Man Plays Table Tennis for 2,500 Consecutive Days
Here's the article featuring Will Shortz, NY Times Crossword Editor and owner of Westchester TTC.

Athlete and Hollywood Actor on a Mission to Inspire Hope
Here's the article featuring Navin Kumar.

Khoa Nguyen Reflects on the Long Road to Becoming a US Olympian
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

A Calling From Above Helped Pull Terranova Out Of Retirement
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

WAB Club Feature: North Texas TTC
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Sun's Rising: Chinese Star Soaring to the Top
Here's the ITTF article featuring Sun Yingsha.

2019 ITTF World Cups: Full Cast Confirmed!
Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF World Veterans World Tour in 2039... Who will feature?!
Here's the ITTF article - with pictures of what some current stars might look like 20 years from now!

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 3
Here is Chapter 3 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "Members' Interests." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

DHS Top 10 | 2019 ITTF Korea Open
Here's the ITTF video (5:47).

Ultimate Retrieve?
Here's the video (45 sec, including slo-mo)!

The Match Begins...
Here's the video (38 sec) - Jason vs. Alex Piech!

Pongers of the Round Table (Squares on the other)
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Caveman Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Wanna Play Table Tennis?
Here's the cartoon!

I'm Not Even Going to Try to Figure Out What This Is
Here's the picture!

Table Tennis Stereotypes

Funny Cats Doing Sports
Here's the video (5:47, but link should take you to 4:05 for 16 seconds of cat pong).

World's Thickest Table Tennis Bat
Here's the video (11:25) From Pongfinity!

Roger Federer Pong

  1. "I can't stand it watching me throw rackets and embarrassing myself so I tried to change."
  2. "It's very important to move on."
  3. "I think losses make you stronger. I think it's important you learn from those mistakes and then you become better."
  4. "A light goes up in your head, and you go like, 'You know what? I think I now understand what I need to improve.'"
  5. "I always questioned myself in the best of times."
  6. "What can I improve? What do I need to change?"
  7. "If you don't do anything, or if you just do the same thing over and over again, you stay the same, and staying the same means going backwards."
  8. "It's important for me to actually hear criticism because I think that's what makes me a better player."
  9. 'If you never set goals, you can never question yourself."
  10. "When things are going great, what more can I do? How much better can I become? How much harder can I train?"
  11. "All I can do is give my best and then it's going to be fine."

Non-Table Tennis - SciFi is About the Idea, with Author Larry Hodges
Here's the podcast (10:49, but I recommend skipping ahead to 4:45, where it really beings). This is the first of four parts, with the next parts going up the next three Mondays.

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August 5, 2019

Tip of the Week
Serving Long. I've done similar articles on specific long serves, but this is a more general article. Next week: Serving Short.

Solution to the Mexican Wall Problem
Let's have a little table tennis fun this morning. The U.S.-Mexico border is 1954 miles long. That's 10,317,120 feet. A table tennis net is six feet long, so it would take 1,719,520 nets to cover it. I did some online checking and the absolute cheapest net I could find was $7.46. But that's retail; we could probably buy them directly from China for $2/net. (That's $1.60 plus a 25% tariff.) So it would cost $3,439,040, or about $3.5 million, to put up a U.S.-Mexico ping-pong net.

We'll make China pay for it. If they don't, we'll threaten to boycott any tournament with a Chinese player. That'll show 'em; they'll back down and pay the $3.5 million.

We'd get umpires and referees to put them up. They are volunteers, right? So we don't have to pay them. Isn't table tennis great?

In my 43 years in table tennis I've never seen a player climb or jump over a ping-pong net. (Well, there is this guy. But this is what usually happens.) Only in tennis, i.e. court table tennis, do people jump over nets, another example of the superiority of our sport. So these 1954 miles of ping-pong nets should make our border 100% secure.

To further secure the border, our security forces will need to be armed. A sufficient quantity of ping-pong paddles and balls to smack those roving mobs of illegal aliens (They serve illegally! They use frictionless long pips! They use speed glue!) will be needed. China's already paying for the net, so with a little racketeering, we'll make Mexico pay for the rackets.

We'll let kids play table tennis across this net, like they play seesaw. But they must keep score in English! No speaking in them thar foreigner languages like Mexican or Indian or Islam. 

Now a ping-pong net isn't a wall, but our president promised a wall. So we'll compromise and call it a nall. And it will be a great and wonderful nall! It'll be far greater than the Great Chinese Nall that China made to keep Mexicans out - and after 2700 years, no Mexicans have made it over that wall, other than a few tourists. Oh, and Mexico paid for it too.

1900 Sold or Published Articles
I just sold a story to Galaxy's Edge, a major science fiction & fantasy magazine. It was my 1900th article I've sold or published! (This does NOT include 1800+ blog entries. I also have 13 books, with two more coming out in 2020.) I've been in 164 different publications, including such ones as Sports Illustrated and Washington Post. Here's a breakdown:

  • Table Tennis: 1675
  • Science Fiction or Fantasy Stories: 162 (includes 38 resales and 15 "twitter" stories)
  • Baltimore Orioles: 33
  • Science: 9
  • On Writing: 6
  • Others: 15

Pan American Games
Here's the ITTF home page for the event that began yesterday in Lima, Peru, Aug. 4-10, with results, news, pictures, and video. Below are two articles. (Check the USATT News page and Butterfly News Page for further articles this week.) USA Men's Team is Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, and Nicholas Tio. USA Women's Team is Lily Zhang, Wu Yue, and Amy Wang.

USATT Tournament Guides
Here are two! The first is everything you need to know about running them; the second is on promoting them.

MDTTC Open
It's this weekend, at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD. Though I'm still listed there as co-director, Klaus Wood is really in charge now - I'm retired from running tournaments!

New from Samson Dubina

What To Do In Between Points - How to Erase Stress and Tension
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

August Break
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak, with a number of links to articles and videos.

Visualizing a Better Ball
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New USATT Articles by Matt Hetherington - he's writing up a storm!

New from Steve Hopkins

First Female Champion at the Westchester Open!
Here's the article by Will Shortz.

Hou Yingchao the History-maker!
Here's the ITTF article on 39-year-old chopper Hou winning the Chinese Nationals. It's impressive, but for whatever reasons the top Chinese players (Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin) did not play. Hou did defeat world #6 and top seeded Liang Jingkun. Here is video.

100 Days Since World Table Tennis Championships: What have we learnt?
Here's the ITTF article.

Lin Yun-Ju | Best Moments of 2019!
Here's the ITTF video (3:19).

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 2
Here is Chapter 2 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, subtitled "1997 U.S. Open - Part 2 (Senior Events)." Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Sky High Table Tennis Club on Aurora TV
Here's the video (3:31). Richard McAfee and Timothy Wang are featured.

Kid Timo Boll to Professional Player
Here's the video (6:31).

Ben Askren Tells a Table Tennis Story During Wrestling Seminar
Here's the video (5:46) from 2012. He's an Olympian and was a welterweight champion.

One Minute, One Sport Table Tennis
Here's the video (77 sec)! It's actually an ad for table tennis in the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in Japan.

Ninja Pong
Here's where you can buy all your Ninja table tennis products!

Teqball
Here's the video (36 sec)!

Tsingtao Beer Dragon Ping Pong
Here's the video (2:45) - it's a table tennis beer commercial!

"Ping-Pong Was Invented on the Dining Tables of England"
Here's the video of England Prime Minister Boris Johnson (table tennis segment lasts around 45 sec). He's basically correct.

Table Tennis = Precision+Power!
Here's the video (11 sec)!

Dog Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Airline Pong
Here's the cartoon!

Giant Net Ping-Pong
Here's the video (4:41) from Pongfinity!

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