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!

December 3, 2018

Tip of the Week
Style Disadvantage or Tactical Problem?

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday we had the usual Junior League, which is half league, half coaching. I spent some time working with many of our top juniors on doubles - I've sort of been put in charge of that. I worked with Stanley Hsu and Mu Du, who will be playing doubles together in three events - 10 and Under Boys' Doubles, Hopes Boys' Doubles, and Ratings Doubles. (If they can improve their positioning, they will do well.) In singles, we did a lot of work on serve and attack, forehand and backhand. Some of our players were following through off balance after forehand loops, and unable to get set for the next shot, so I spent a bunch of time on that, including demoing getting back into position quickly, even after a powerful forehand. Balance is key!!! (Dan Seemiller always emphasizes that, and he's right.) We also worked on attacking deep serves, and forehand attacking from the middle.

On Sunday, in the Beginning Junior Class, we ran the players through a number of footwork drills, then introduced them to the "Hard-Soft" backhand drill, which really should be called the "Hard-Medium" backhand drill. One player alternates hitting a medium backhand and then a hard backhand, while the other player plays steady. Then we did some smashing drills (one smashes, the other tries to counter or fish it back). And then games!

In the more advanced Talent Program, I spent the first hour or so feeding multiball - lots of footwork drills. Then we ran them through live serve and attack drills. We finished with physical training (ladder drills) and then Brazilian Teams. Afterwards, eleven of the coaches went out for Chinese food, where we discussed the players and future coaching plans.

Christmas Table Tennis Shopping
EmRatThich put together a nice shopping list, X-Mas Gifts for Ping Pong Lovers. I especially like the book he recommends!!! Since table tennis books are my forte, here are some choices for table tennis books for table tennis players, and that most especially includes you!!! (C'mon, help out us starving table tennis writers.) I'll start with my own books.

Want Novels?

Want Biographical?

Want History?

Want to Play Better?

U.S. Open Players
As of now, there are 555 players entered in the U.S. Open coming up in two weeks in Orlando, Florida. Alas, it's the lowest showings in many years. Why the drop in numbers? There was obviously the big change in format this year, and the change in location from Las Vegas to Orlando. The entries are now closed, but there are likely some entries received at USATT headquarters not yet inputted, and others might withdraw. But it looks like we'll have a little over 550 players. (I like 555 - the height of the Washington Monument, and a lot of other interesting properties!)

Regarding the new format, there there are two "tracks" (Elite and Performance), and rating events replaced by tiered rating events. This likely lost us a lot of players. But there are two ways of looking at it - one is that the new format isn't as good as the previous one, and that we should go back to the old way (which will continue for the U.S. Nationals). The other way of looking at it is that players just aren't used to it, and we'll get more entries as players get used to it, especially if we do some fixes on some aspects. Which is it? To be honest, I don't really want to think about this too much until after the Open, when we'll have a better idea of this. (Or at the USATT Assembly - see below.)

The other big change was going to Orlando. We had a number of very successful U.S. Opens in Florida back in the 1980s and 1990s, in Miami and Fort Lauderdale - but they were in July, and players came for the beaches. The beaches in Orlando in December are too cold, but it has other features - Disneyworld and Universal Studios. We'd hoped they would attract lots of players, but apparently not.

If you are at the U.S. Open and want to voice your opinion on this, there is a USATT Assembly at the Open on Tuesday night, Dec. 18. I'll be there.

USATT Members Who Are Actors
This weekend I learned that Navin Kumar will be acting and one of 16 co-producers of the movie Attack of the Unknown, which is currently in pre-production. You may have heard of him; he's a former student of mine (until shoulder problems led me to retiring from private coaching earlier this year) who's known as "The Bionic Man" as he has an artificial heart as well as Parkinson's. So there is now a Navin Kumar IMDB page. I wondered - how many USATT members (past or present) are actors (or related aspects such as writer, director, etc.) with pages at IMDB (Internet Movie DataBase). Here are the ones I know of (alphabetized) - comment below if there's anyone I missed, and I'll add them.

World Junior Championships
Here's the home page for the event taking place right now in Bendigo, Australia, Dec. 2-9. USA Boys' Team: Nikhil Kumar, Kanak Jha, Sharon Alguetti, Nicholas Tio; Girls' Team: Rachel Sung, Rachel Yang, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang.  Here are two USA articles.

Table Tennis Legend Liu Guoliang Elected as CTTA President
Here's the article. It was just a year or so ago that he was controversially removed from his highly successful tenure as head coach for the Chinese National Team. Is there going to be a "war" between him and the ones who removed him?  

US-Based Sport Squad, Inc. Acquires Global Table Tennis Leader JOOLA Tischtennis GmbH
Here's the article. In plain English, what this basically means is that JOOLA USA (founded and owned by Richard Lee, which was the JOOLA distributor for North America) has bought the German company, JOOLA, and its worldwide distribution. And I remember when Richard was an up-and-coming kid, training at MDTTC for years, and then winning national championships in every age group from Under 14 on up!

Tournament Play Video Analyzation
Here's the article and videos by Brian Pace. "Are you a player that really struggles in tournament play? Do you have a problem translating your training into a viable tournament performance? Have you ever had your performance analytics broken down in a way that allows you to exactly pinpoint what you did in tournament play? If these question still leave you with no answer, then the “Tournament Play Video Analyzation” program created by Brian Pace at Dynamic Table Tennis is perfect for you."

New from EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

  • Kids - Learn 5 reasons why your son or daughter should start playing table tennis.
  • Doubles Practice (1:29)!

Table Tennis Evolution
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

JOOLA ASV Grunwettersbach a Crowd Pleaser on its Road to Title Defense
Here's the USATT article on the North American Teams by Matt Hetherington.
***BREAKING NEWS*** - Here are the Ratings for the North American Teams, which were processed on Monday afternoon.

JOOLA Teams Tournament Experience
Here's the article by Tahl Leibovitz.

Around The World of Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "I've noticed that people from different parts of the world approach table tennis in very different ways. It's possible to learn something from all these approaches. Let's start our journey in the U.S. and move on from there."

Getting Serious About Table Tennis
Here's the article by Connor Graham, from the Jewish Times, featuring the Baltimore TTC. "For the last 25 years, Goldstein has run the Baltimore Table Tennis Club out of the gymnasium at the Northwest Academy of Health Sciences in Pikesville. The club operates 11 months of the year, and when it started back up in August, it began its 49th consecutive season. Goldstein has been there since the beginning, when Fred Tepper founded the club under the auspices of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks in 1970." (I went to this club numerous times in the early 1980s, hitching a ride with Dave Sakai.)

Peak World Rankings for Wu and Jha Display International Progress for USA
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Support Alexa Szvitacs, Suffering Life Threatening Illness
Here's the ITTF article.

Breakthrough 2018 Season Has Pech Feeling Good About the Future
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

TopSpin Table Tennis Charity Event Set For Dec. 6
Here's the article on the event taking place at the Metropolitan Pavilion in Manhattan.

WAB Club Feature: Seattle Pacific Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Pong Road
Here's Episode 08 (15:20). Here's their home page, where you can find the first seven episodes. They feature table tennis player, coach, and artist Rocky Wang. Here's their About page.

Final Countdown to the 2018 ITTF Star Awards!
Here's the ITTF video (50 sec).

New from Arnaud Scheen

Ma Long and Xu Xin Training Bulgaria 2018
Here's the video (11:01).

Ma Long Backhand Rips
Here's the video (1:28).

Incredible Rolling Shot by Chee Feng Leong at North American Teams
Here's the video (30 sec, with slo-mo replay).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - October 2018
Here's the video (15:49). (It only went up on Nov. 26.)

Black Cat Table Tennis
Here's a site with lots of new videos.

Table Tennis Vlog in Missouri
Here's the video (3:42) from Keenan Southall, where he covers his recent tournament in Kanas City.

70 Side Table Bounces in 15 Seconds by Nandan Naresh
Here's the video - some are done "no look" style!

Crashing Into the Umpire
Here's the video (8 sec)!

Craziest Shot in Table Tennis on CNN!
Here's the CNN video (48 sec) as Chris Chen, sitting on floor and unable to see the ball, sticks his racket up and blocks back a smash! Here's an analysis. "Norwegian teenager Christopher Chen had no idea the can of worms he was releasing when he optimistically stuck his table tennis paddle up from the depths." (I linked to this last week, but now we have CNN and analysis.)

Big Paddle Pong
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Here's my May 25, 2016 blog which has, in the last segment, 21 links to big paddle pong. While we're at it, here are three repeating gif images of big-paddle play!

Belly Pong?
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

November 26, 2018

Tip of the Week
Use Your Weaknesses or They Will Always Be Weaknesses.

North American Teams
Or as I would put it, here we go again! It was my 43rd year in a row at the Teams, starting in 1976 as a player, but primarily as a coach the last decade or so. Here are complete results - you can use the dropdown menu to see the results of any division and the preliminaries. You can see any player's complete results by going to the Team listing and clicking on their rating. Here is video from the livestreaming. Alas, as usual I saw little of it as I was out coaching. Here are Pongmobile Photos from the North American Teams. Here's a video (25 sec) showing the sheer size of the playing hall - for 260 teams and 1002 players!

This year we had ten HW Global Foundation junior teams, who are from the Talent Development Program that trains at MDTTC. Coaching them were the HWGF and MDTTC coaching team of myself, Wang Qingliang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, John Hsu, Wen Hsu, Klaus Wood, Greg Mascialino, Cheng Yinghua, and Jack Huang. (I think Martin Jezo and Lidney Castro also coached some when not playing.) Here is a group photo on Sunday afternoon - alas, at least five players missed the photo - some had left, and others were out playing. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

I was primarily in charge of HWGF TDP#2, which was Stephanie & James Zhang, and Todd Klinger. They went in with respective ratings of 1730, 1736, and 1668. These were relatively up-to-date ratings - James has played in eight tournaments this year, Stephanie seven, and Todd 15, and all three played in the October MDTTC Open, and Todd played in the Southeastern Open in November. However, they had been training very hard, and Stephanie and James were in the USA Team Training Camp the week before the Teams as one of the locals. All three are among the hardest workers in practice, all came in primed and ready! So . . . how did they do? In short, they executed brilliantly!!!

Going by ratings, they pulled of a total of 33 upsets. (So yeah, all three were way under-rated.) They only had two upsets against them, and both were against players who were also "ringers" and so will likely be adjusted upwards. All three pulled off lots of upsets, mostly against 1800+ and 1900+ players. (Todd had the slightly lower rating, which helped him rack up the upsets!) 

On day one, they were seeded to be in the ninth division, but they not only beat the two teams below them (5-0 and 5-1), but the team one ahead of them 5-3, and the team two above them 5-1! So they played the tournament two divisions up. At that point, they had already pulled off fifteen upsets (since the teams below them were lopsided, with higher-rated players combined with lower-rated ones). But their assault had only just begun. They were seeded last out of eight in their division, but beat the #1, #2, and #3 seeded teams, 5-1, 5-2, and 5-0! Overall, they basically dominated against 1800 players and played even or better with 1900 players. They finished 4-3 in the division - it turned out the lower-rated teams in the division were stronger than the higher ones, including our team. 

There were a lot of really interesting tactics used these three days, and I could write a book on just this One thing that worked really well was holding back on calling timeouts as often as possible until my players were up game point, and using the timeout to decide on what serve or receive to use. It worked really - over and over opponents would miss the serve we chose to go with.

Here are some of the interesting tactics that came up - and I'm being careful here as I'm not about to let on anything about how to play these three! (But these are all standard tactical things - they key is knowing which ones to apply and when.) As noted above, their execution both tactically and of the things they'd been training at was brilliant - and they were also tactically astute and so knew when to change tactics if something wasn't working anymore. (A coach's bane is telling a player to do something, the opponent adjusts, but the student sticks to the no-longer-working tactic.)

  • Players are so used to pushing to the backhand, or at most going to both sides, that they often struggle against a player who is much stronger on the backhand. We faced such a player. In the first match against this 1900+ player, our player pushed to both sides, and the opponent just waited for the push to the backhand, and ripped backhand loops over and over. So I told the player to push everything to the wide forehand, relentlessly, unless the opponent stepped over to try to play backhand, then push to the wide backhand. The opponent completely fell apart and after we lost the first game badly, we won the next three easily. One of the other two players played him and used the same tactic, and also beat this player.
  • There's something almost mystical with how many times I'd call for a no-spin serve, usually during a timeout, and the opponent would dutifully push the ball three feet high. The key, of course, is that all three players knew how to serve "heavy no-spin," where you fake heavy backspin and serve no-spin, which is a basic serve at the world-class level. They usually didn't need me to call these serves as they learned quickly what serves worked against each player.
  • "Attack the middle relentlessly" was a big winner for Todd and James, the attackers.
  • Some matches were decided by a choice of whether it was better to move the ball around, or pin them down on their weak side, where you might then change directions off a weak return to rip a winner.
  • A winning tactic in a number of matches was mixing the serves between short to the forehand (then going to their backhand while they are jammed to the table) or big breaking serves long to the backhand and jumping on the backhand returns. For attackers, the more often go-to serve is short or half long (so second bounce is right at the table edge), low to the middle (to cut off extreme angles), with backspin or no-spin, sometimes side-top. But if you do this too much, the opponent gets used to it.
  • I think the players were surprised how easy it was to take away an opponent's attack by simply pushing quick off the bounce to the extreme wide backhand. This led to lots of four-ball attacks - serve, quick-push receive, server pushes, receiver loops.
  • Sport psychology is a huge thing in table tennis - the game is more mental than physical. So much of the focus was on proper mental approach. James, for example, plays best when he lets go and "plays free." Stephanie plays best when she gets into "grinder" mode (see below). Todd plays best when he gains confidence, often by remembering his best matches.
  • For Todd and James, the byword was relentlessly "serve and attack" and (especially for James), "play free." But this is true of most attacking players. For Stephanie, a chopper, it was "grind it out," which means a willingness to play as many shots as needed while refusing to make a single weak return, whether pushing or chopping, with a focus on strong chops against slow or medium loops and not worrying about the fast loops.

I also developed nicknames for the three - Todd was Harry Potter (he looks the part, even wears glasses, and has about the same demeanor), James was Ron Weasley (because he makes the same type of funny faces that Ron does in the movies), and Stephanie was a tall Hermione (since she also has her demeanor). Stephanie is one of our regular volunteers for various activities, such as running our leagues and leads the junior team in warm-up exercises, while Todd is a volunteer practice partner for our beginning junior class that I teach.

USATT Training Camp
USATT ran a training camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, Nov. 18-22, just before the North American Teams. Close to 30 players were in the camp - here's a group photo. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

 Pieke Franssen was the head coach. He was the primary boys' coach in the camp, assisted by Wei Qi, while Wang Qingliang was the primary girls' coach, assisted by Ying Peng. I wasn't a coach in this camp, though I observed two sessions, but I was a volunteer driver - including picking up a player at 6AM at Dulles Airport and dropping another off at 5AM (for a 6AM flight) at BWI! (Both airports are about 45 minutes away with no traffic.) On most days they had two three-hour sessions, plus physical training. On Monday, they had three training sessions! The final session was on Thanksgiving morning, then most were off to the hotel for the North American Teams.

2018 Pan American Championships
Here's the ITTF page, with complete results, news, video, and pictures for the event which finished yesterday in Santiago, Chile. Congrats to Kanak Jha on winning Gold in Men's Singles! For USA fans, here are USA results (one gold, four silvers) and articles featuring Team USA.

  • Kanak Jha: Gold in Men's Singles
  • Kanak Jha/Wu Yue: Silver in Mixed Doubles
  • Lily Zhang/Wu Yue: Silver in Women's Doubles
  • USA Men: Silver in Men's Teams (Kanak Jha, Nikhil Kumar, Nicholas Tio, Victor Liu)

Nominating and Governance Announces Procedures for Open Board Positions
Here's the USATT news item. My four-year term on the USATT Board of Directors ends on Dec. 31, while my two-year term as chair of the USATT Coaching Committee ends on March 1. These days I'm just so busy on so many issues that I've decided not to run for re-election or continue as coaching chair. (Note - due to complications in finalizing the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee, the board election was held up, so as per the bylaws, I'll be staying on the board until March 1, 2019, when the election concludes.)

New from EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

"Palm Up, Palm Down" – The Secret to Effortless Loops (Part 3)
Here are the articles (with links to video) by Ben Larcombe.

How to Beat a Pusher
Here's the article and video (7:53) by Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Ups and Downs
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About Playing Doubles
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

University Table Tennis in America
Here's the article by Bill Draper, which also features University of Maryland and Nathan Hsu.

20 Years and Counting--Florida State University Table Tennis
Here's the article by Michael Reff.

ITTF Strategic Plan, 2018-2024
Here it is - I don't think I've linked to it before. "The ITTF have developed its Strategic Plan with five strategic priority areas – Organisation & Governance, High Performance & Development, International Events, Promotion and Revenue. These five areas will be underpinned with 55 objectives to be achieved between 2018-2024. The Strategic Plan was unanimously endorsed at the 2018 ITTF Annual General Meeting." (USATT also has a new one coming out, but it won't be public until sometime after the December USATT board meeting at the U.S. Open.)

ePonger League Software
Here's the info page. "ePonger is software used by table tennis clubs worldwide to manage league games, player results, and reporting.  It’s based on Microsoft Excel and runs standalone on any Windows PC that has Microsoft Office 2010 or later.  It does not require an internet connection.  It was originally developed by Jeff Pepper for the Pittsburgh Oakland Table Tennis club in 2013, and has been used since then at clubs around the world."

Pittsburgh Fall Table Tennis Tournament
Here are results and video.

Hotel Room Pong
Here's the video (18 sec) as Arcot (near side) and Nandan Naresh go at it in their hotel room at the North American Teams, with some serious lobbing and smashing at the end. What, you've never done this before? You must lead a boring life.

Ping-Pong Ball Bouncing
Here's the video (24 sec) - but he's doing four at a time, with two paddles and both feet!

How Many Shots Can You Do in Ten Seconds?
Here's the video (3:54) from Pongfinity!

The Best Table Tennis Shot of 2018?
Here's the video (46 sec, including slo-mo replay) - maybe the craziest shot of all time? Here are two other nominees for craziest shots of all time - the Kit Jeerapaet behind-the-back counter-smash (54 sec) and this crazy racket-edge chop-lob come-back return (6 sec)! Which is your pick, or do you have another?
ADDENDUM (added Thursday) - CNN picked up on this!

Turkey Pong
This is mostly a repeat from past years, but the first three items are new. (Only Thanksgiving Turkey stuff, not the country.)  

Send us your own coaching news!

November 19, 2018

Tip of the Week
Forehand Stroke Efficiency. (Note - on Monday night I added a last line that links to Ma Long's forehand loop, as an example.) 

Weekend Coaching

  • Friday: I watched and took notes on our junior players for 2.5 hours during the Friday night league at MDTTC, getting ready to coach them at the North American Teams this coming weekend. Lots of little stuff, some big stuff. The hard part at this point is deciding on what things each player should focus on. For example, there are two players who still tend to serve and go into a backhand position, and so often aren't ready for easy forehands. Do we spend the week trying to fix this, or wait until after the Teams? (I've been on them for this for months.) In general, most are pretty much ready. I told them that for this last week, play lots of practice matches and practice their serves.
  • Saturday: I coached in the Saturday night junior league training, which is half league, half training. We had them play team matches, using the same teams that will play in the Teams next weekend. (We have a LOT of teams - at least ten junior teams, and about ten others.) We ran into the same type of things I wrote about above.
  • Sunday: The focus in the Beginning Junior Class was backhand attack against backspin, and then a forehand-to-forehand and backhand-to-backhand consistency competition. After an hour of training, they played games.

USATT Team Training
They are training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, Nov. 18-22 (Sun-Thur). They had the first session last night, with 28 players. I'm not coaching at this one, but I did watch for an hour last night. (Coaches are head coach Pieke Franssen, Wang Qingliang, Qi Wei, and Ying Peng. They have one session on Sunday, three on Monday and Tuesday, two on Wednesday, and one on Thursday morning - yeah, Thanksgiving. Plus running in the morning.) I did somehow get volunteered into doing airport pickups, and picked up Amanda Malek at Dulles Airport yesterday morning at 6:16AM (you read that right, 45 minutes away). On Thursday I'll be transporting players from MDTTC to the hotel for the Teams, an hour away. On Friday morning I get to take a player to the BWI Airport (50 minutes away) for a 6AM flight. Then I race over to the Teams playing hall to coach for three days! (Play begins 9AM Friday.)

Non-Table Tennis - House and Car Repairs
I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, and rent out the first two floors. The place opened up, and so I'm about to rent it out again. Alas, I had to do a LOT of fixups first. I also had some car problems - ignition system broke. The costs? (Not including $100 to see four movies to drown my financial sorrows in. On the other hand, in my other career, science fiction writing, I sold three short stories this week, about $600. Also sold 37 books this past week, mostly table tennis, about $260 profit. Why don't you buy a few???)

  • Painting: $1175 (They are actually painting the first two floors on Tue and Wed, starting tomorrow)
  • Handyman: $835 (hordes of big and small fixes)
  • Maids: $451 (includes carpet cleaning)
  • Car: $578 (ignition system - "starter assay," plus new air filters, wiper blades, oil change, "complete PMA," general checkup)

Belarus Open
Here's the info page for the event held in Minsk, Belarus, Nov. 13-18.

New from EmRatThich

Timo Boll - What Makes Him Strong?
Here are six "What Makes Boll Strong" videos highlighting aspects of the German star's game. (I've linked to the first four previously.) Butterfly also did an article on the first five, with links after the video. (I'm guessing article #6 will show up soon.)

New from Samson Dubina

Responding Positively to Mistakes
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Tomokazu Harimoto Training
Here's the video (42 sec). World #6 at age 15.

How to Attack Half Long TT Shots
Here's the video (7:07) from Eli Baraty.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the November issue.

Table Tennis - People's Voice
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Trends in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "I've been attempting to sell table tennis for over a decade. Whether it was trying to start a club, coach, or simply find somebody to play, I’ve noticed a few definite trends."

Quadri Aruna Once Again Sportsman of the Year
Here's the ITTF article on the Nigerian star.

WAB Featured Club: NYITTC
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

USA Table Tennis and the Happy Paradise Foundation Partner in Pong4Kids Grant Program
Here's the info page.

Nandan Naresh and Former NFL Star Charles Tillman
Here are the five great pictures! They were taken at an exhibition at the Jackson Chance Foundation. Nandan, 12, is on the USA National Mini-Cadet Team. Charles Tillman played in the NFL for 13 years, and just this year became an FBI agent! (Before I get hounded by those not on Facebook who can't see them, here are the non-Facebook versions: photo1, photo2, photo3, photo4, photo5.) Want more of Nandan? Here's 56 seconds of him playing under-the-leg table tennis with his dad! (Also before I get hounded for more info, Nandan is rated 2193, and had a recent rating of 2308. Dad Arcot is 1997, has been as high as 2075. Older brother/practice partner Sid, 14, is rated 2439.)

Pingsider | The Romanian Secret
Here's the ITTF video (12:31).

Table Tennis: A Sign of China-PNG Friendship
Here's the video (4:44). "Table tennis athletes and fans in Papua New Guinea's capital Port Moresby were thrilled when they were coached by Zhang Yining, China's former world table tennis champion. The spinning table tennis ball is writing the new chapter of friendship between China and Papua New Guinea."

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Men's World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (5:01).

Olympian Helps NYU Clinch the National Title
Here's the video (2:57) featuring Yijun Feng.

Paralympic Athlete Pursues Dream Shared With His Lost Twin Brother
Here's the ITTF video (6:02).

Fortune Cookie that Knows Table Tennis
"It's not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes a difference."-Fortune cookie

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapters 25 and 26
Here's chapter 25 and chapter 26 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapters cover "August 1995 Tournaments" and "1995 September-October Tournaments." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - 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!

TTHistory | Legend Series | Ep.01| Jan Ove Waldner
Here's the video (8:37). This is episode 1 of what looks like a new series. Who will be episode #2?

Jan-Ove Waldner Complained About the New Ball
Here's the video (2:18) where he actually talks about a number of things, including increasing the ball size from 38 to 40mm.

Waldner-Appelgren Exhibition
Here's the video (30 sec)!

Robotic Racket Production
Here's the video (1:46) showing the final stages.

Improvised Beach Pong
Here's the video (9 sec) - and some nice shot-making!

Winged Mushroom Birthday Card Pong
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

I'm Not Sure What This Is Playing
Here's the video (5:56) and taking on challenges (and winning), but it looks to me like a toilet bowl brush and holder! (According to the comments, the player is Aiden Noren.)

Jenga Battles w/ Ping Pong Shots
Here's the latest video (5:16) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 12, 2018

Tip of the Week
Subconscious Aiming and Stroking.

Ten Things Every Table Tennis Player Should Be Able to Do

  1. Lob. It's the funnest thing to do in table tennis, it'll win you a few emergency points, and by doing it, you'll learn how to play against this style.
  2. Chop. Not only is it a great way to win an emergency point when you are out of position, but by learning to chop you will quickly learn how to play choppers.
  3. Loop. Even if you aren't a looper, you should learn to do it because it's such a big part of the sport, plus doing them yourself helps you learn how to play against them.
  4. Play with different surfaces. It not only is fun to try out short pips, long pips, and anti, but it allows you to understand how they play, and so you'll learn how to play against them.
  5. Have a tricky "go to" serve. If you don't have at least one serve that people have trouble with, you better see a coach and develop one as you are literally giving away games. Some have a tricky serve they go to when it's close (though it's better to use them early so it doesn't get close!), while others develop their serves to the point where all of their serves are tricky.
  6. Serve backspin so the ball comes back into the net. Because it's a neat trick and helps you develop and control spinny serves.
  7. Bounce a ball on your side of the table and smack it and hit a bottle on the far side. Because it's fun, it helps you develop control and accuracy, and because it helps you "let go" and allow your training to take over, i.e. your subconscious. (See Tip of the Week above.) You can use other targets than a bottle, but water bottles are pretty convenient.
  8. Stay calm under pressure. If you can't, you are just throwing away matches. The best way to develop this is to play lots and lots of matches where you imagine every point is 10-9 in the fifth in the final of the Worlds. Then, when you are at 10-9 in the fifth in the final of Under 1700, you won't be so nervous! (You can vary the scores so sometimes you are down 9-10, or at 10-10.)
  9. Umpire. It makes you learn the rules, plus gives you a better understanding of what an umpire does.
  10. Help run a tournament. Then you'll appreciate all the time and work that goes into one, and have a better understanding of it.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers in a Movie!
I was contacted recently by a production assistant for the upcoming French movie "Perdrix." They want to use the French version of my book, "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers," as a prop in the movie. As he explained, "In the movie, one of the characters, a teenager named Marion is a table tennis player and learns from the French translation of your book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. As she reads it every chance she gets." As near as I can tell, the movie has already been produced and will be showcased in May, 2019 at the Cannes Film Festival.

Dick's Sporting Goods: The Table
Here's the video ad (60 sec) - it's a great TT story! Plus they used real players even though it literally takes place in a basement!

USATT CEO Gordon Kaye Submits Resignation
Here's the USATT article. It's a terrible loss for our organization. But the USATT board has already started a search for a new one, with a search committee task force.

USATT Opens Nominations for 2018 Coach of the Year Awards
Here's the USATT article. (I chair the Selection Committee.)

Belarus Open
Here's the info page for the event starting today in Minsk, Belarus, Nov. 13-18.

Austrian Open
Here the info page for the event held in Linz, AUT, Nov. 8-11, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here's the Day 4 Highlights (2:28).

Table Tennis Star Point | 2018 Star Awards
Here's the video - vote for the best!

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

"Hand Not Shoulder" – The Secret to Effortless Loops
Here are the articles (with links to video) by Ben Larcombe.

Amicus Training Videos with Richard Prause

How to Improve Your Pendulum Serve
Here's the video (5:59) from Sherwin Remata.

Training Drills or Matches?
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Table Tennis Expectations
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Drills to Practice for the Beginner
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot.

7 Tips and Tricks to Help Beginner's Win
Here's the article.

Former World Champion Focuses on Developing Next Generations
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn, featuring Stellan Bengsston.

US Players Making a Mark in European League Competition
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington, featuring Lily Zhang, Victor Liu, Michael Tran, Jennifer Wu, and Kanak Jha.

Why is Boll Strong?
Here's the article on the world #4 - at age 37.

Signs of Spirituality in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Six Years Later, Malaysian Initiative Once Again Proves Successful

Here's the ITTF article, featuring USA's Richard McAfee.

WAB Club Feature: California Table Tennis, and the Angel’s Cup Butterfly Team Tournament
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

WAB Club Feature: Spin & Smash Table Tennis & Ping Pong Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Rhode Island Table Tennis Hall of Fame: Class of 2018
Here's the article. Inductees are Joe Polselli, Marta Zurowski Lachcik, and Steve Hopkins.

Announcing the PongMobile Cup 2019
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Michael Levene the new Director of Marketing and Coaching at Triangle TT
Here's the Facebook announcement. Triangle TT is in North Carolina. SmashTT, the club Michael started and currently runs, will continue with new management taking over.  

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 24
Here's chapter 24 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapter covers "Past and Present Interactions." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - 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!

The Dragon Hits an Unbelievable Around-the-Net Receive
Here's the video (8 sec) as Ma Long loops around the net against Ovtcharov's serve.

Ibrahim Hamato on a Robot
Here's the video (1:29) as the no-armed Egyptian Paralympic sensation does footwork drills on a robot. (Haven't seen or heard of him? Google him!)

Bouncing Two Balls on a Paddle
Here's the video (9 sec) - I counted 23 bounces. I've tried this, and it's a lot harder than it looks.

Playing Table Tennis on 3 Tables
Here's the video (17 sec).

You Need to Watch this Match Point!
Here's the video (73 sec, but "the point" is in the first 6 sec, the rest is replay and slo-mo).

Off-Stage Exhibition Lobbing
Here's the video (49 sec)!

The Adventures of Tawny Banh

Ping-Pong Cannon from Vacuum Cleaner
Here's the video (2:46) on how to make one. "11-year-old inventor fashions ping pong ball cannon out of vacuum cleaner."

VR Ping Pong, but Fun - Racket Fury Table Tennis VR
Here's the video (4:26) - "What happens when you combine space and sci-fi and robots . . . and ping-pong."

Tom & Jack in Table Tennis Game
Here's the cartoon (4:01)! It starts off slow but gets a bit crazy as it goes on.

Darth Vader "Stop!" Shirt
Here's the picture and where you can buy the shirt!

Waldner Trick Serve
Here's the video (12 sec)! Watch the ball in his hand closely.

Adam Bobrow vs. Jorg Rosskopf
Here's the video (26 sec)!

Big Paddle Pong
Here's the video (42 sec) as Samson Dubina rallies with a paddle the size of Ohio. That's a lot bigger than the ones used by Bill Gates or Ellen Degeneres!

Stan Lee Signs Limited-Edition "The Amazing Spider-Man" Table Tennis Table
Here's the article (from 2012) and here's the picture.

The Avengers and Table Tennis
In honor of Stan Lee - yeah, I was a big fan. This is from my April 27, 2018 blog.

Spider-Man Plays Table Tennis
Again, in honor of Stan Lee. (This was from a blog in 2014, but hopefully all the links still work.)

  1. Spider-Man Smacks in Forehand Against Pikachu (here's the non-Facebook version). 
  2. Spider-Man Plays Doubles with "World Champion" Judah Friedlander
  3. Spider-Man's Big Backhand
  4. Spider-Man at Ping-Pong Club (15-sec video - you get webbed)
  5. Spider-Man vs. Skeletor (63-second video)
  6. Spider-Man Plays Table Tennis (54-sec video)
  7. Spider-Man plays table tennis with Spider-Man theme music. (3:58 video, Spider-Man masked man appears at 2:37, Spider-Man theme music a few seconds later.)
  8. Spider-Man Ping Pong (22:46 video in Spanish that doesn't actually appear to have any table tennis! Can anyone explain the title?)
  9. Spider-Man Playing Car Pong (1:47 video). Car Pong is from 0:31 to 0:40, and from 0:48 to 1:17 Spider-Man plays Table Pong. (Yes, that's Adam Bobrow.)
  10. Adam Bobrow as Spider-Man.  And here's another. And another (with Superboy looking on). There are plenty more! 
  11. Spider-Man Table
  12. Spider-Man's Andrew Garfield Plays Table Tennis
  13. Spider-Man Makes Web Paddle
  14. Spider-Man Paddles
  15. More Spider-Man Paddles
  16. Still More Spider-Man Paddles
  17. Spider-Paddle
  18. Spider-Balls
  19. Spider-Man vs. Batman Online Ping-Pong Game
  20. Spider Playing Table Tennis
  21. Spider-Man Ping-Pong Gun
  22. Web Slinging Ping Pong Master of Disguise (I have no idea what this one's about)
  23. Ping-Pong Playing Spider Robot

Send us your own coaching news!

November 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
Heavy and No-Spin Pushes.

Coaching Subtleties and Attacking the Middle
After 42 years of playing and coaching I can pretty much analyze an opponent's weaknesses within a game, based both on what he does, but also on his strokes, stance, footwork, etc. If a shakehand player has long arms and tends to extend his arm when stroking, and so has a big gap between where they contact their forehand and backhand, I don't need to see the player react to an attack to the middle for me to know there's going to be a weakness there.

However, when coaching, you also have to know the player you are coaching to really be effective. Even if you watch a player for a time you can't always pick up on everything. It's not just what your player does, but what he doesn't do - and why. If he isn't playing into an opponent's weakness, is it because he hasn't seen the weakness, or because he can't effectively go after it, at least in some ways?

Here's an example. If I played someone who doesn't cover the middle well (the transition point between forehand and backhand, roughly the playing elbow), and a coach told me to open with my forehand loop to his middle, it wouldn't work. The coach saw the opponent's weakness, and (seemingly correctly) told me to attack it with my forehand. (I was a very aggressive forehand attacker.) But he has no way of knowing whether I could go after that weakness unless he really knew my game. He'd see me attacking the corners relentless with my forehand, and only attacking the middle with my backhand. So he'd tell me to attack the middle with my forehand - but he'd be making a mistake.

Why? Because, like many players, I don't have a good instinct for attacking the middle with my forehand. On the backhand it's easier, since you are looking right at the player, but with the forehand you have to look away, and can only see the opponent and his moving middle with your peripheral vision. (In contrast, the table corners do not move.) When I developed as a player, I developed a deceptive forehand, and can look like I'm going to one corner, and then go to the other. (See Forehand Deception with Shoulder Rotation.) This worked great until I faced 2400+ players, who can cover the corners like walls if they are in position. But I only got away with it because I really spent a lot of time working on forehand deception, and it still handicapped me in many matches, including players well below the 2400 level. (Attacking the middle works at all levels.) 

Against many players, I often should attack the middle first (to draw them out of position as well as force an awkward return), and then go to the corners. Easy, right? Except that I had been attacking the corners with my forehand for so long that I simply couldn't attack the middle effectively. This was both because I hadn't trained at finding and aiming at the middle, and because from my normal forehand ready position as I prepared to forehand loop, I had only trained to go two ways, wide to the right and wide to the left, never in between. Going to the middle was almost like a new stroke.

Perhaps with lots of training I might be able to do this, but it would take serious practice. I read once where the great Chinese player and coach Cai Zhenhua said that learning to attack the middle effectively was one of those things you needed to learn early and young, or you could never really do it effectively. (It's a moving target, and you can't just blindly go there since the opponent will sometimes be ready to blast a forehand off that shot if you aren't aware of what he's doing.) I think he was mostly referring to attacking it with the forehand, as it's much easier to learn to do this with the backhand.

And so the coach, who correctly saw that the opponent I was playing was weak in the middle, and that I wasn't going after it with my forehand, would have given me poor match coaching by telling me to go after the middle. It would have also been distracting since it would make me aware that the coach didn't really know my game. (He would be right to tell me to develop this technique, which is strategic thinking, as opposed to the tactical thinking needed in a match.)

I've faced this type of thing many times. I used to coach Tong Tong Gong at major tournaments, and even after he made the USA National Cadet Team, he was uncomfortable serving short to the forehand, as it opened up an angle to his wide forehand that he not only had difficulty covering, but also pulled him out of position. And so he'd often struggle in matches against players with weak forehand receives versus short serves, since he couldn't take advantage of this. (With training, he finally overcame this weakness.)

I once told a junior player between games to open with slow, spinny loops, and he said, "I don't know how to loop slow, I can only loop fast." I cringed - both because the player had a big hole in his game, and because I should have known this in advance.

So, what types of tactical weaknesses in opponents have you faced that you were unable to take advantage of because of weaknesses in your game? Have you worked to overcome those weaknesses, as I would now be working on overcoming my forehand-vs-middle weakness, if I were still in training?

Weekend Coaching
On Saturday night I coached at the Junior League, which is actually about 50% league, 50% training. The first 45 minutes was doubles. I worked with several teams on proper doubles movement for teams of two righties and for lefty-righty teams, plus other coaching on serve, receive, and placement. Then came singles for 75 minutes, with a number of improvised games to force players to work on specific things - such as learning to play under pressure by starting games with the server down 7-9. (That night I binged watched the final eight episodes of House of Cards, finishing at 3:30AM!)

On Sunday afternoon in the Beginning Class, we started with 25 minutes of various stroking and footwork drills, then ten minutes of pushing practice. Then came the main focus as I introduced them to the forehand loop against backspin. Then they went out on the tables, rotating so they did multiball looping with the coach, and practiced with other players where they'd serve backspin, receiver would push long, and the serve would then push, and play out the point. (That's why I had them do ten minutes of pushing practice.)

In the advanced Talent Program, I mostly fed multiball for about an hour, doing various drills, mostly fast footwork. I also worked with them on serve and attack drills. Then came physical training, and then we finished with Brazilian Teams.

Table Tennis Books by Larry Hodges
Yep, this is one of those periodic postings where I ask you to support a poor (relative to Jeff Bezos), starving (I had a small breakfast and it's almost lunchtime) table tennis writer by buying my books! Here are my table tennis books that are currently sold on Amazon:

Table Tennis Book Collection
I now have 255 table tennis books! The latest three were donated to me by John Olsen, Volume 1, Volume 2, and Volume 3 in the World Class American Table Tennis Players of the Classic Age series, by Dean Johnson and Tim Boggan. There is also a Volume 4, but John didn't have that, and I can't afford $36.59 for it.

U.S. Open - Early Bird Deadline is Nov. 9
Here's the info page. Enter Now!!! Price goes up $75 after Nov. 9, with final deadline on Dec. 1. I'll be there, attending meetings and coaching, and going to Disneyland afterwards.

Swedish Open
Here's the home page for the event that was held Nov. 1-4 in Stockholm, Sweden, with results, articles, pictures, and video. Here are the two finals.

Austrian Open
Here the info page for the event to be held in Linz, AUT, Nov. 8-11, with a qualifier Nov. 6-7.

Here's the USATT News page and the ITTF News page. Why not browse over them?

USATT Strategic Meeting
It was held this past weekend. Alas, I didn't attend, and haven't heard anything yet about what happened. I will likely write something about it next week.

When Choosing a Coach…
Here are 20 Guidelines, by Edward John Lynn, which is particularly pertinent to parents, though they apply to all.

Free Online Training for Volunteer Youth Coaches
Here's the page. "Nike and the United States Olympic Committee, as part of their commitment to Project Play 2020, has released How to Coach Kids, a free, 30-minute training course on coaching kids ages 12 and under."

New from Samson Dubina

"Pause & Snap" – The Secret to Effortless Loops
Here's the article by Ben Larcombe. What is Pause and Snap? Read on!

Tom's Table Tennis Tips
Here's the Tom Lodziak monthly newsletter.

Why Do Top Chinese Players Switch Rubbers?
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

Think Fast & Watch Slow: Slow Motion Analysis of Xu Xin vs. Harimoto Tomokazu
Here's the video (3:21).

Serve: 5. Yangyang's Collection & Excellent Players' Serve Demonstrations
Here's the video (4:54).

Black Cat Table Tennis
Here's their extensive video page.

Table Tennis! What’s the Point?
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Tournaments in the UK - Oversaturated?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Tenergy 05 Hard
Here's the review from Butterfly. I generally don't link to equipment reviews - too much conflict of interest since I'm sponsored by Butterfly - but this could be a big one.

2018 ITTF World Cadet Challenge Team Update: US/Canada Teams Score Upsets
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

How Ping-Pong Saved the Life of a New York City Kid
Here's the article, from the New York Daily News, featuring Wally Green. Full title is, "The first-person story of how ping pong saved the life of a New York City kid and took him all the way to North Korea."

Michael Hyatt in Guam - Scandals Alleged
Here are three recent articles in The Guam Daily Post on Hyatt. He's a table tennis Olympian from Jamaica who for decades has spent much of his time playing and coaching in the U.S., though not recently as he is on the USATT Suspended List, as noted in the articles.  I'm told there will be at least one more article on this.

JOOLA Sponsors Jackson Chance Foundation’s 6th Annual Ping Pong Ball to Support Families with Ill Babies
Here's the info page.

Jean-Michel Saive vs. Vitalii Lievshin - Super Division
Here's the video (11:55) from Belgium TV last week, care of Arnaud Scheen. (Saive is former world #1.)

University of Maryland Open - Division A Final
Here's the video (20:35) of Nathan Hsu vs. Rui Xu. It was held Sunday, Nov. 4.

Accident of Table Tennis - Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (4:13) where Adam injures his head. The actual injury happens 24 seconds in. Adam is the Voice of the ITTF on their videos and tournament coverage, as well as an exhibition player, as he's doing here.

Nandan Naresh Target Practice
Here's the video (16 sec).

Would I Lie To You?
Here's the video (27.59, with link taking you to where table tennis starts at 15:56 and continues to about 20:40). Steve Worthington sent it to me, and wrote, "It's a British show where 2 panels of 3 are trying to convince each other of various lies, while someone is actually telling the truth."

Show Secretin - Purkart
Here's the video (3:41) of the greatest exhibition pair in table tennis history. It's an old video, but still great! They are star players from France. Secretin was one of the best in the world, and he and Purkart (French wiki entry, you can translate to English) became professional exhibition players.

Costumed Pong
Here are three that came out this past Halloween.

Non-Table Tennis - World Fantasy Convention
I was at the World Fantasy Convention in Baltimore this past weekend in Baltimore, though I only was able to attend on Friday, due to coaching commitments. I had a reading (read the first two chapters of my novel Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, which has a lot of table tennis), and a book signing session. I also went to dinner with 15 other Odyssey Writing Workshop alumni! (Odyssey is a six-week writing workshop I attended in 2006, with annual nine-day workshops for graduates in July - I've attended nine of those.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 29, 2018​

Tip of the Week
Don't Try So Hard When Ending the Point.

Upcoming USATT Strategic Meeting
USATT is holding a Strategic Meeting in Colorado Springs, Nov. 3-4. They hold these periodically. They've had a number of mini-strategic meetings, where the USATT board breaks up into groups to discuss specific issues - I've been to about ten of those. But the last time they had a real Strategic Meeting like this was in 2009, which didn't go well and led to nothing. (I've been to five of them.) I was debating whether to attend this one - as Coaching Chair, I was allowed to choose two coaches, and could include myself - but chose not to this time, though now I'm sort of regretting it - I'd like to be there. So I did the next best thing, and wrote the following letter to the attendees, which focuses on learning from the mistakes of past Strategic Meetings, and on Regionalization, which will be a major issue at this meeting. 

Dear Members of the Upcoming 2018 USATT Strategic Meeting, USATT Board and Staff,

I apologize for the length of this email, but I think the content is important. I wrote a similar letter to the USATT Board a few weeks ago, but this one has a number of updates. I am writing about two things:

  1. How to make the upcoming Strategic Meeting successful, in particular by learning from our mistakes in the past;
  2. Regionalization.

I have been to five previous USATT Strategic Meetings, mostly two days long each time, and about ten "mini" Strategic Meetings (where we broke into groups at regular board meetings to discuss and plan various Strategic issues). None have been successful.

I left each of them depressed because each time the same type of mistakes were made, and each was a wasted opportunity. And yet, in every case, the huge majority of those in the meeting left enthused and patting themselves on the back, thinking they had accomplished a lot, when in reality nothing substantive had been done. This is why I decided not to attend this time - I've been to too many of these slow-motion wrecks in progress where we can see what's happening but let it happen anyway. (Though I now regret it - I rather wish I were attending, and would go if there were an opening. Perhaps I'm like Charlie Brown and the football.)

Each time I have brought this up before the latest Strategic Meeting I have been given the same answer - that "This time it will be different." Of course, it wasn't different. A better answer would be, "What can we do to make sure we are successful this time?"

Here are three things to make this Strategic Meeting a success:

  1. Learn from our mistakes in the past. See the link to my blog below.
  2. Figure out how a successful Strategic Meeting is supposed to work. In my opinion, that means having a vision of where you want to go, creating specific goals and plans to reach that vision, and putting specific people in charge of implementing the plans. In the past, the thinking was to just come up with vague goals and slogans, and then set up committees and hope for the best. It has never worked. At past meetings people got sick of me asking about implementation plans, which of course we never got to.
  3. How do I put this delicately? Don't let a Type A personality take control of the meeting, especially on issues he/she have not actually been successfully implementing.

Here is my blog about the infamous 2009 Strategic meeting, and why it didn't accomplish anything. (Most of the links are no longer valid as USATT changed its website since that time.) Like other Strategic Meetings, it was organized and moderated by an outside professional group that specialized in this type of thing, with great credentials. I strongly recommend you read it - those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. One note – I was nice in the blog, and didn't say this, but in my opinion, two people with strong opinions on every topic hijacked much of the meeting and led it in a bad direction. But the same had happened in all previous such Strategic Meetings. A person with great experience and success can rarely compete in these meetings with a Type A personality without such success, but who speaks well and looks good in a suit. :)

One of the big issues at the Strategic Meeting (and nearly all past ones) is Regionalization. There have been numerous "attempts" to regionalize USATT. For one thing, it's required by our bylaws. Here is Article VI from our bylaws in its entirety:

Section 6.1. Regional Divisions. The Board of Directors shall divide the United States into geographic regions as the Board determines in its sole discretion will best serve the interests of the sport of Table Tennis. The regions shall be an extension of USATT and not separate entities. Additionally, USATT may hold regional competitions or conduct such other regional activities that promote the mission of USATT as the Board and the Chief Executive Officer determine in their sole discretion.

Over the last 20 years there have been a number of "attempts" to fulfill this. I put "attempts" in quotes because, to me, they were not serious attempts, though those who made these "attempts" would likely disagree. In each case, they did pretty much the same thing, in this order – and I apologize if this is sarcastic, but I've been through this nearly exact sequence many times already.

  1. USATT board agreed that we must regionalize USATT.
  2. USATT board spends time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decided that they should, in fact, do what they had already decided to do, which was to regionalize.
  3. USATT assigned small groups or set up a Strategic Meeting where they spent much time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decided that they should, in fact, do what they had already decided to do, which was to regionalize. Some discussion was done on the specifics of how it might look like. No specific plans were made, no implementation plans were made, no one was assigned to do anything, and no timeline was created.
  4. A small number of people pointed out that we weren't actually doing anything to actually accomplish the goal of regionalizing, i.e. little discussion or plans on actual implementation, just as in past "attempts" to regionalize. They were told this was a new group and this time it would be different.   
  5. They reported back to the board that we should regionalize with vague ideas and plans, but no implementation plans.
  6. Nearly everyone went home happy.
  7. USATT never regionalized.

Let's NOT do this again!!!

As I explained at the recent USATT board meeting, we did once successfully regionalize the country, or at least were well into the process, when politics intervened and killed the program. Here is what happened, circa 1992-1995. While this is ancient history to many of us, the applicability of the program hasn't changed, and has only grown easier, since we now have email and websites. When I set up and ran the following programs, it was all done by phone and postal mail. I spent years studying and creating these plans, and was able to put them into operation when I became chair of the Club Committee and Coaching Committee. (And yes, I had fun with the acronyms below, as you'll see.) We also had the advantage of a very supportive President Dan Seemiller.

To create these programs, we ran regular articles in USATT Magazine calling for volunteers, as well as direct mailings to club leaders and coaches, with specific instructions on what volunteers would be asked to do. By giving these specifics, there was little uncertainty, and we were able to get a large number of energetic volunteers.

The actual regions were the states themselves, with some exceptions. California, Texas, and New York were divided into two, and could even be three. Some regions were changed to reflect local table tennis populations. For example, instead of a Maryland Association, there might now be a Capital Area Association, which is Maryland, DC, and Northern Virginia, which already has the Capital Area League – a good start toward a regional association. (When I refer to a state director below, in some cases it's actually a regional director.)

The thinking behind the plan was simple. If you create State Directors right at the start, or have large regions of multiple states, there's just too much for one person to do, and little infrastructure to start with. So we start with the infrastructure - appointing State Club Directors to create clubs in the larger cities in their state; State Coaching Directors to get coaches in these clubs; State League Directors to create leagues in these clubs (as well as intra-club leagues); and so on. When the infrastructure is there, that's when you bring in a State Director to be in overall charge in that state.

Until that time, someone has to be in charge of appointing and supervising the State Directors. That person has to spend much time organizing it, calling for volunteers from each state, and working with them to fulfil their goals. Because we had no Internet in the early 1990s, we did it step by step, year by year, with the goal to build up each state to the point where they could have semi-independent State Associations. These days some states might be able to do several steps at once.

The result? In 2-3 years – including most of the first year just setting things up, so really about two years – USATT certified clubs went from 223 to 301. USATT membership, which had been around 5000-5500 for the previous 10-20 years, went over 7500, with a net gain of over 2000. Certified coaches went from about 80 to over 200. This was just a start; the goal was to emulate growth in such sports as tennis.

The sports I most studied in developing these plans were tennis, gymnastics, and martial arts. Tennis is an individual sport like ours with similar equipment demands and huge numbers of league players, just as table tennis does in Europe. About 97% of the 700,000 members of USTA are league players, with similarly high percentages in European table tennis, with over 600,000 members of the German TTA, and membership in the hundreds of thousands in a number of other European countries. Gymnastics is an indoor sport that faces the same equipment storage problems we face. Martial arts is another sport that started out as a primarily Asian sport but spread successfully to America.

A key aspect here is that USATT does not lose control by developing State Associations. The purpose of these associations is to develop the sport in their region. USATT can continue to collect membership fees directly. (This is done differently in various parts of the world. At the other extreme is the English TTA, which technically has zero members - but it has over 200,000 members in its regional associations, which is what players pay to join.) 

Here is an outline of the program. The main difference I would do now would be more emphasis on full-time professional clubs with full-time coaching and training programs. At the time I was creating these programs, I was also creating the Maryland Table Tennis Center, the first successful full-time training center in the U.S., which was founded in 1992 (the same year we started the USATT State Directors Program below) and is still going strong. (The business model for MDTTC would later be copied and spread nationwide – there are now 93 such clubs that I know of.)


Step 1: Club Catalyst and Creation Program (CCCP), started in 1992
Goal: A club in every city in the U.S. with a population over 100,000, then 50,000, then 25,000. (At the time there were 463 cities in the U.S. with a population over 50,000; only 103 had clubs.) We actually started this program in a few states for six months, had great success, then expanded it nationwide.

  1. State Club Directors were assigned to each state or region. (We ended up with 47.)
  2. We supplied them with a list of all cities in their state/region with a population over 100,000, 50,000, and 25,000, and worked with them on finding someone to set up and run a club in that city. They were supplied with the USATT Club Handbook. For any new club, USATT agreed to do a mass emailing to all current and past USATT members in that geographic area to publicize the new club.

Result: USATT Clubs went from 223 to 301 in about two years.  

Step 2: Coaches National Network (CNN), started in 1993
Goal: A coach in every USATT club, with a later goal of a junior program in every club run by the club's coaches.

  1. State Coaching Directors were assigned to each state or region. (We ended up with 43.)
  2. We supplied them with a list of certified clubs and coaches in their state, including contact info, and asked them to make sure every club had a coach available. For clubs that did not, coaching certification info was given for players who were willing to become coaches for their clubs. When new players contacted the club and were interested in learning the sport, they were put in contact with the coach.

Result: USATT certified coaches went from around 80 to over 200 in about 1.5 years. (As coaching chair, I created and ran the coaching certification process.)

Step 3: League Incentive Program (LIP), started in 1994 but never really implemented
Goal: A league in every club and a club league system in every state or region.

  1. State League Directors were assigned to each state or region. (We had about 20 when the program was cancelled.)
  2. The State League Director was in charge of finding someone to start up a club league in every club in their state or region, and someone to set up an intra-club league. They would use a version of the USATT rating system for these leagues. (The USATT League system was not yet created – I co-created that with Robert Mayer a number of years later, but it was already something I had planned when the program was cancelled.)
  3. Unlike the State Club and Coaching Directors, the State League Directors were set up so that the league directors – not necessarily the State League Director – could make a profit off the leagues they ran, getting a percentage of entry fees or memberships. This gave them incentive to set up these leagues. (This is no different than coaches who get paid for their work.)

Step 4: State Tournament Directors (witty acronym needed)
Goal: Regular tournaments in every state or region, including a State Championship.

Unfortunately, we never got to this step. Process would have been the same as the above.

Sept 5: State Associations
Goal: Every state or region organized as a state or regional organization, whose purpose would be to develop table tennis in their state or region in every way possible – clubs, coaches, junior programs, leagues, and tournaments.

The thinking here was as follows. If you try to set up a state association where there's little already organized, it's hard to get it off the ground. But if you first set up club, coaching, league, and tournament directors, and use them to create infrastructure, then you are well on your way to creating successful State Associations that can continue to develop the sport in their region. Unfortunately, we never got this state.

In 1995, a new president came in. One of his first acts was to replace all the pertinent committees with his own people, change the USATT emphasis to officials and tournaments, and cancel nearly every program that was created under the previous administration, including the programs above.

Should the above program be copied exactly? Of course not; times have changed, and there are more than one way to do things. But the basic plan worked, and would work today even better, due to better communications.

-Larry Hodges, who is NOT volunteering to be in charge of all this again

Sunday Coaching
In the Beginning Table Tennis Class, the focus was on forehand smashing. We started the session with about 25 minutes of regular stroking and footwork drills. Then 20 minutes of smashing, either with multiball, with a coach or practice partner fishing. Then we did ten minutes of serving practice. Then came games the last 30 minutes. The older kids played Brazilian Teams. For the younger ones, I put my water bottle and Gatorade bottle on the table and fed multiball. If they hit the Gatorade bottle, I had to drink its "worm juice." If they hit the water bottle, I had to hit the "dog saliva" inside. The last 15 minutes they did the usual cup game, where they built paper cup fortresses on the table and then knocked it down in multiball. 

In the Talent Program (the advanced junior class), as usual I spent most of the session feeding multiball. Lots and lots of footwork! They finished the session with Brazilian Teams. Afterwards we had a Talent Program Party - lots of pot luck Chinese food! After eating, the head coaches met with each of the parents and kids to give progress reports. Meanwhile, the kids played various games - mini-paddle, big-ball, Chinese yo-yo, and the younger kids had an incredible game of ping-pong dodgeball. 


  • Realtor Table Tennis: I've been renting out the first two floors of my townhouse since I bought it in 2001. (I literally moved in days before 9-11, and spent my first few days glued to the TV while unpacking during commercials.) I've always rented it out myself, putting ads in places like Craig's List and the Washington Post. The current occupants are leaving Nov. 15, so it's vacant again. Rather than do it myself, this time I hired a realtor. She came in on Friday, and she'll be taking care of this - and I'll actually be making considerately more per month than before, even after she takes her percentage! (I've always undercharged, it seems.) Now comes the weird part - I mentioned table tennis, and she said that her daughter was in a table tennis class. That's when we discovered her daughter was in my Beginning Table Tennis Class on Sundays!!!
    Weird Addendum added Monday night: I hired a maid service to come in to clean the two floors, to come in at 1PM Monday. I also hired a handyman separately to come in for a number of fixes, to come in at 6PM Monday. NEITHER SHOWED!!! They also didn't respond to texts or emails checking on them. So tomorrow I have to hire a new cleaning service and handyman. (I've had about 20,000 coaching sessions since 1992, and I've been late exactly twice.)
  • On Saturday I went to my 40th High School Reunion. Where have the years gone? How did everyone except me get so old? Or am I really that old??? Somehow everyone there seemed to know about my table tennis, and most even knew that I also wrote science fiction - it seemed everyone had been surfing everyone's bio pages on Facebook. When I expressed surprise that one of them knew about both, he said, "Larry, don't you know? You're the most famous member of our class!!!" No, I didn't know, and am still not sure of this.

I recently added links to the About section here to a number of interviews I've done. They are both table tennis and science fiction, my outside activity. Here they are!



World Cadet Challenge
Here's the home page for the event, Oct. 23-31 in Tottori, Japan. They've already finished the team event - Team Japan defeated Team Asia in the final of both Boys' and Girls' Cadet Teams, with Team North American coming in third in Girls' and fourth in Boys'. Here's an article that features USA players, Last four places decided, North Americans shine.

Swedish Open
Here's the home page for the event, Nov. 1-4 (qualifier Oct. 29-31) in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Alameda Table Tennis Club is Looking for a Coach
Interested? Send resume, and preferably some video as well, to the Alameda TTC (in California) at

iSET NCTTA Coaching Certification
Here's the info page on becoming a National Collegiate Table Tennis Coach.

New from EmRatThich

New from Samson Dubina

How to Do Backhand Topspin vs Backspin…In-Depth Tutorial
Here's the article and video (14:25) from Tom Lodziak.

How Important is a Table Tennis Rally?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

ITTF Athletes Commission Welcomes Three More Members
Here's the ITTF article. The three are:

  • Jasna Rather (USA, representing North America)
  • Matt Hetherington (New Zealand, representing Oceania, currently coaching in New Jersey)
  • Sarah Hanffou (Cameroon, representing Africa).

Nicholas Tio Embracing the European Experience
Here's the USATT article on the USA junior star, by Matt Hetherington.

Fundamentally Friendly Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

A New Day Coming for US Open
Here's the USATT article by Richard Finn.

WAB Featured Club: Rhode Island Table Tennis Association
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

"Nothing Is Impossible": An Egyptian Paralympian Shows Us How
Here's the new article and pictures of armless Egyptian Paralympian star Ibrahim Hamato at the Westchester TTC in New York.

AYTTO Trip to Beijing, China
Here's the article and pictures.

Huntsman World Senior Games
Here are the results.

University of Maryland Open
Here's the info page and entry form. It's on Nov. 4 at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Running it is star college player Nathan Hsu, taking the directorial reigns for the first time. It's a double round robin event followed by single elimination. That means you start out in preliminary round robins at 9AM. Based on your performance there you go into a second round robin (with about seven players) at noon. Based on your performance there you go into the single elimination stage at 6:30PM.

Match Review Kanak Jha | 2018 ITTF Men's World Cup
Here's the video (51 sec) featuring Kanak's win over Aruna Quadri at the Men's World Cup.

Out of this World Around Net Rally by Xu Xin
Here's the video (37 sec) of this rally by Xu Xin (CHN, world #2, former #1) against Diogo Carvalho (POR, world #134).

Incredible Point to Finish Comeback
Here's the video (2:17) of Danny Habesohn (AUT, world #38, playing for Post SV Mühlhausen in a European league) winning the incredible last point to win 11-9 in fifth after being down 0-2 in games, against Bojan Tokic (SLO, world #54, former #37). The point itself lasts about 20 seconds, the rest is the team celebrating.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Women's World Cup
Here's the ITTF video (5:39).

Matilda Ekholm | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the video (4:44) from Adam Bobrow, featuring the world #23 (formerly #20) from Sweden.

Richard Hicks, Table Tennis Legend, Named Grand Marshall
Here's the newspaper article and picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) He was selected to serve as the Grand Marshal of the Irvington Halloween Festival parade on Saturday, Oct 27.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 23
Here's chapter 23 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapter covers "1995 World Team Cup." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - 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!

Bouncing Ball Off Bottom of Handle
Here's the video (5:10) as he does it 1109 times in a row!!!

Happy Birthday Ma Long !!!
Here's the video (42 sec) as top players wish him a Happy Birthday!

Two-Paddled Halloween Monster on Robot
Here's the video (1:56)!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 22, 2018

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Be a Professional at All Levels.

Weekend Coaching
I did a lot of "scouting" this weekend. By scouting, what I really mean is I watched and studied our junior players in matches and practice and took lots of notes. Plus, of course, there was the usual weekend group sessions. Here's a rundown.

Friday. I watched our junior players in the Friday night league for 2.5 hours, getting pages of notes on a number of players. I spoke with each of the players on the issues I saw, including both strengths and weaknesses. Some problems I saw included:

  • Not using backhand loop
  • Not attacking the middle
  • Weak pushes
  • Standing in backhand stance as a ready position
  • Frozen footwork against a pips-out player
  • Lifting too much when looping instead of driving the ball more forward
  • Backhand drive too flat
  • Not enough serve variation
  • Rushing, especially when serving
  • Backs off table too easily
  • Grip problem
  • Getting too disgusted after missing a shot instead of getting determined

Saturday. I coached in the Saturday Junior League for two hours. It's not a "normal" league - it's really half league, half coaching. We did a lot of doubles the first half, so I worked with players on their doubles footwork and tactics. In singles, we had them play improvised games, such as where they score two points if they serve and attack and win the point (not necessarily on the first shot). We also played games where each game starts with the server serving down 7-9, but wins if they get both points on their serve, plus a few other variations.

Sunday. In the Beginning Class (1.5 hours), we introduced pushing. Then we did 30 minutes of regular stroking and footwork drills, followed by games. In the Talent Development Program, I did a lot of multiball and then worked with four on their serves for a time. Then we did physical training, much of it with various ladder exercises. Then all the coaches went out for dinner (Japanese food this time) where, as always, we went over each of the players. I brought my pages of notes for this.

Men's World Cup
Here's the home page, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video from the event that finished yesterday in a China-German final between world #1 Fan Zhendong and former world #1 Timo Boll. Here are videos, with time between points removed.

USA's Kanak Jha at the Men's World Cup
He became the first USA man to reach the main draw (final 16 in recent years) since Eric Boggan finished 7th in 1985. (Eric also finished 7th in 1982 and 1983, and 8th in 1980. For many years the format was four groups of four with the top two advancing to the quarterfinals, so back then players had to make the final eight to reach the main draw. Here's a USATT article that went up on Tuesday that better explains this, Kanak Jha Ends 33 Year Drought at 2018 Men's World Cup. Here's a listing of all USA Men's Finishes at the World Cup.) Ranked #67 in the world at age 18, he upset world #21 Arun Quadri. Here are two links.

Jha Reflects on Lifetime Achievement of Youth Olympic Bronze
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

New from Samson Dubina

  • Short Push (45 sec) - "When pushing short, most players error in 1 of 2 ways. They either slice it hard with wayyyyy too much energy and the push goes deep OR they simply touch the ball and it falls off their racket. You want to push with enough energy to impart spin but look to impart only spin, not speed. This creative little exercise has helped Sarah Jalli and many others to learn the short push. Check it out!"
  • Forehand Reverse Pendulum Serve (1:49).

How to Play Table Tennis Step by Step
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

Being a Table Tennis Player
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Dealing with Illegal Serves, White T-Shirts & Poor Lighting
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

University of Maryland Open
Here's the info page and entry form. It's on Nov. 4 at University of Maryland in College Park, MD. Running it is star college player Nathan Hsu, taking the directorial reigns for the first time. It's a double round robin event followed by single elimination. That means you start out in preliminary round robins at 9AM. Based on your performance there you go into a second round robin (with about seven players) at noon. Based on your performance there you go into the single elimination stage at 6:30PM.

Surveying USATT
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Newsletter
Here's the new October issue.

Selection Procedures for the 2019 Pan American Games
Here's the USATT info page.

Butterfly Southeastern Open
Here's the results, video, and photo page.

WAB Featured Club: Wang Chen Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Future Olympians Train at Table Tennis Facility in Katy
Here's the video (1:48) featuring the Houston International Table Tennis Academy.

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 22
Here's chapter 22 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapter covers "1995 July Tournaments." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - 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!

Soccer/Volleyball Pong
Here's the video (44 sec)!

Table Side Pong
Here's the video (17 sec) of Nandan Naresh! But Nandan - side balls aren't good in table tennis, so you lost every one of those points!!! (Next time you'll have to play off the edge.) Nandan, 11, is rated 2193.

Desk Pong Footwork
Here's the video (16 sec)! How could you possibly go through high school and not do this?

Disney Theme Song Challenge feat. Kanak Jha | 2018 Men's ITTF World Cup
Here's the video (2:22).

Hockey to Pong?
Todd Sweeris, a member of the 1996 and 2000 USA Olympic Table Tennis Team, has a 7-year-old son who's already a budding hockey star. A few days ago I emailed Todd the following, which in just seven steps would fix up this weird sport played on frozen water.

Todd, I need to get into hockey to fix their problems.

  1. It's played on a hard, slippery floor. They should use something grippier and softer so people don't constantly slip and hurt themselves, such as a rubberized floor.
  2. Without that slippery surface, the puck isn't much use, so they need to switch to something that bounces, perhaps a small, plastic ball.
  3. Hockey sticks are way too big and cumbersome. They should switch to smaller paddles.
  4. No one wants to lean down for a ball on the floor, so they should play on a table.
  5. To differentiate your side of the table and the opponents, they'll need a net.
  6. Scoring is way too little, so we're going to get rid of goals and simply score a point whenever someone misses.
  7. We'll turn it into an exciting, high-scoring game, played to 11. (Though going to 21 might be better.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 15, 2018

Tip of the Week
Style Experimentation.

Table Tennis Inventions
Table tennis regularly has new innovations, both in technique and equipment. The major equipment manufacturers are constantly coming up with new products. For example, Butterfly (which sponsors me) came up with Tenergy rubber a few years ago, and as a truly innovative product, with high-tension sponge and rubber surface, it became a huge seller. They've since innovated on it in numerous ways, including coming up with four types (05, 25, 64, and 80, and please don't ask me how they got those numbers), as well as FX versions of each, which are softer. And now they have come out with Tenergy 05 Hard! (Here's the Here's the review by Stefan Feth.)

But that is NOT the subject of today's blog. Instead, I'm writing about other table tennis inventions. We'll start with Samson Dubina, who has two recent table tennis inventions: TT-Serve and TT-Flex. TT-Serve (which I tried out last week) is put over the net so that players can practice serving low, but with the added feature that it extends about six inches on both sides of the net. If it were just a rod going across the net, you could potentially serve the ball too high, but have it cross the net a low point, and so seem to be low - but still bounce too high on the far side. TT-Serve forces you to serve truly low, so that the ball stays low before and after it reaches the net, and thereby bounces low on the far side. You can adjust it up and down. TT-Flex is "a full body strengthening system designed to enhance your loops, smashes, flips, chops, serves, and much more!"

Another interesting invention is the TSP Spin Wheel, which I wrote about in my January 11, 2018 blog. "It’s basically a small tire attached to the table that allows you to practice looping by spinning the wheel. Included with it is a speedometer (technically, a tachometer) that tells you how fast you are spinning it! That’s half the fun – the kids at the club were battling to see who could make it spin the fastest. Here’s video (4:02) of the wheel in action."

Another are the Spin Balls sold by JOOLA, which are half white, half yellow, with a black circle separating the hemispheres. This makes it easy to see the spin on the ball, which is very helpful when teaching beginners. I keep a bag of them in my playing bag, especially for demos in group sessions. (JOOLA also has Paddle Wipes and Table Wipes.)

There are many innovations in blades and grips. Most players play either shakehands or penhold. There are also players with the Seemiller grip, as well as the Hammer grip (all four fingers on handle, including index finger) and the V-Grip (here's video). But these grips use "normal" paddles. How about the Pistol grip?  It needs a special racket! Here's video.

As a coach, probably the best invention EVER was ball nets, such as the Butterfly Ball Amigo. When we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, for our first year or so we didn't have ball nets, and had to pick the balls up by hand - murderous in private coaching where you often use baskets of balls at a time! While I prefer nets, some like to pick up balls with a tube, such as the Newgy's Pong-Pal and Pong-Pal XL

Not all inventions are for training purposes - some just make you look good! For example, meet Pong Revolution, who want to make you look cool with t-shirts and hoodies!

Probably the highest table tennis tech are table tennis robots. Don't get me started on them - there are just too many!!! Here are links to some of them.

Some inventions are lifesavers. Imagine you are marooned on a deserted island with nothing but sealed bottles of water. You could die of thirst if you didn't have a Butterfly Bottle Opener! And if a boat comes near, you'll need Butterfly Cheer Sticks to get their attention!

MDTTC October Open
Here's my write-up, with complete results, pictures, and video, of the tournament I ran this past weekend.

Larry Interviews
Here's my interview with Butterfly, by Ayan Bagchi, which went up on Friday. I was also interviewed by Analog Science Fiction the week before (I linked to that last week). The first was about table tennis, the second on my science fiction writing. They just can't shut me up, can they?

Review of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
Here's the review by Samson Dubina of my tactics book!

USOC and USATT Teleconferences
I was on two USATT teleconferences, one last Friday, one last night.

  • USATT/USOC/USA Archery Teleconference. It lasted about an hour, with five people from USATT (myself, Anne Cribbs, Erica Wu, Ed Hogshead, and Gary Schlager), plus one person from USA Archery and one from the USOC. USATT is investigating regionalizing. There are a number of ways of doing this. Surprisingly, I was told we could learn about regionalizing from USA Archery, but their representative actually advised against it. However, she was talking about regionalizing in the sense of each region being a semi-independent association that collects membership, etc., in place of USATT.

    A better way of doing it is to do it roughly state by state, with some large states divided into multiple parts, and possibly other regions that don't coincide with a specific state. The regional directors would be appointed, and would be responsible for developing the sport in their state/region - specifically, clubs, tournaments, leagues, coaches, junior programs, and training centers.

    We did this successfully in the early 1990s, where we appointed 47 State Club Directors, then 43 State Coaching Directors. Next we planned to appoint State League Directors and State Tournament Directors, and then, with infrastructure set up, we'd appoint (or possibly have state/regional elections?) a State/Regional Director. The Club Directors had one simple assignment: Find or get a club started in every city in their state/region with a population over 100,000, then 50,000, then 25,000. Result? In just two years, we went from 223 to 301 clubs, and membership went from about 5500 to 7500. State Coaching Directors had the job of finding a coach or player willing to act as a coach for every club. We were just getting started on that, and were about to appoint League Directors, when a new USATT president was elected, and ended the program.

    USATT has a Strategic Meeting on Nov. 3-4. I plan to send an email to the participants outlining how we did this before. I could have gone to the meeting myself, but decided not to this time.

  • USATT Board Teleconference. The teleconference was last night, from 7-9PM. Main topics were:
    1. High Performance Update
    2. Strategic Meeting Planning (November meeting)
    3. U.S. Open in Orlando, Florida in December update
    4. Financial Report and Discussion
    5. Preparation for December In-Person Board Meeting
    6. Upcoming Board Election and Nominating and Governance Committee Membership
    7. Closed Session for Personnel and/or Legal issues

ITTF Meets Jan-Ove Walder
In a special 5 part series, the ITTF brings to you an exclusive in-depth interview with Swedish Legend Jan-Ove Waldner. (Here's his Wiki page.)

  • Part 1 (6:09) - see host Fredrik Berling seat down with one of the greatest players to talk about his achievements and early days in table tennis.
  • Part 2 (3:12) - Jan-Ove Waldner shares with us his desire to win that helped him reach the very top of table tennis.
  • Part 3 (4:52) - Jan-Ove Waldner discuss the time he trained in 

Takashi Watanabe Japanese Pathway System
Japan's Women's National Team Coach and Girls' Junior National Team Head Coach, Takashi Watanabe was one of the two head coaches at the 2018 ITTF World Hopes Week & Challenge. Alas, his English isn't that good, but you should be able to follow it.

Youth Olympic Games
Here's the home page for the event in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which ended yesterday. USA players were Kanak Jha and Amy Wang. Kanak won a bronze in Junior Boys' Singles. There were some huge clashes between the top junior players from China, Taipei, Japan (including Harimoto), Sweden, Romania, India, and yes, USA! Here are two related articles on Kanak.

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich

New from Eli Baraty

New from Tom Lodziak

Peaks, Streaks, and Table Tennis Geeks
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

WAB Featured Club: Fullerton Table Tennis Academy
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Lillieroos Has Spanned the Globe Preaching His Unique Coaching Philosophy
Here's the ITTF article.

He Will Play for His grandmother
Here's the article featuring USA wheelchair star Jenson Van Emburgh.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - September 2018
Here's the video (18:59).

GT Table Tennis Videos
Here's their video page, with lots of links.

The Liebherr 2018 ITTF Men's World Cup is Coming!
Here's the ITTF promotional video (30 sec).

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 21
Here's chapter 21 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1994-1995. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapter covers "1995 off-court potpourri." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - 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!

Christmas Table Tennis Decorations
Here's the Zazzle page - it's never too early to start your Christmas decorations shopping, right?

Acrobatic Table Tennis Shot
Here's the video (9 sec)!

Belly Pong?
Here's the repeating gif!

Rubik's Pong
Here's video (60 sec) of Jacob Boyd and Ricky Martin solving a Rubik's Cube while rallying at table tennis! Here's another video of them (2:27)!

Send us your own coaching news!

October 8, 2018

Tip of the Week
Counterlooping and the Forehand Block.

Why China's Dominance in Table Tennis is Unmatched at the Olympics
Here's the video (10:54). This is fascinating viewing, and I recommend you watch it.

One interesting statement in the video was someone saying, "61% of the worldwide table tennis innovation techniques and tactics are from China." Now this is a rather arbitrary thing as who judges what is an innovation?

Here's discussion on this at the forum, which includes a listing of the innovations by China and others, where they got the 61%. But as noted, it's somewhat arbitrary. It includes many techniques that are no longer common at the high levels, and some are somewhat redundant. If they are going to include those, then they should include many more European hardbat techniques from the 1940s and 1950s, such as the Barna backhand flick - he won Men's Singles at the Worlds five times with it - and many more. It also has entries for Zhuang Zedong's penhold close-to-table double wing attacking, Li Furong's penhold close-to-table backhand blocking and forehand attacking, and Xu Shaofa's "kuai dai" technique, which are all rather similar, with only subtle differences. If they are to be included, then there are all sorts of subtle variations of techniques that could be included. It includes several items for racket flipping, but leaves out Carl Prean's innovations. It also leaves out the innovative variations and serving techniques developed by Waldner. (There's also the Seemiller grip - two USA players reached top 20 in the world with it.)

A better listing might be of the innovations that are still used at the highest levels. My impression is that the Chinese were no more innovative than the Europeans until recent years, though they have always been the best at refining current technique. In fact, it was the stubborn refusal to change from the old-fashioned Chinese styles centered around close-to-table fast attack that led to Sweden and the rest of Europe dominating the sport the first half of the 1990s. But China quickly learned the new two-winged topspinning game and became the best at it - refining and perfecting everything. And now, as the video shows, they truly study the game with an open mind to develop the best players and innovations.

Here's a short listing of modern techniques and who first developed them at the elite level, to the best of my knowledge.

  • Forehand looping. The modern loop is, in many ways, a perfection of the best of the old Hungarian straight-arm looping style of the 1980s and the Cai Zhenhua arm-snap loop of the 1980s. I would say it reached its pinnacle with China's Wang Liqin, with the modern Chinese having a similar level but no breakthroughs that make it better than Wang's.
  • Backhand looping. The modern backhand loop is usually done close to the table. This was innovated by Tibor Klampar and Anton Stipancic in the 1970s, but it took many years before others copied these techniques. At the time, they were called "freaks of nature" because of their ability to backhand loop off the bounce. The pure power of the backhand loop was shown by Jorg Rosskopf and Erik Lindh. The Chinese have developed these shots to perfection with players like Ma Long, Zhang Jike, and Fan Zhendong, with close-to-table quickness more the focus than pure power. Japan's Tomokazu Harimoto might be taking these techniques to an even higher level.
  • Short Push. This was popularized at the higher levels by Stellan Bengtsson when he won the Worlds in 1971.
  • Forehand flip. This always used, but the Hungarians in 1979 truly brought it to the highest level, spending huge amounts of time practicing and developing this shot in secret and springing it on the Chinese at the Worlds, which they won with this shot, combined with their two-winged looping game. The Chinese at the time liked to serve short to the forehand, but this backfired on them.
  • Backhand Banana Flip. This was innovated at the highest levels first by Czech shakehand player Petr Korbel, and then by penholder Wang Hao, who won Men's Singles at the Worlds with it. While Wang Hao did the banana flip reverse penhold style, it was copied by shakehand players as well, and is now the #1 used receive at the world-class level. 
  • Reverse Penhold Backhand. This was mostly innovated at the highest levels by China's Wang Hao. (Liu Guoliang of China was the first to use the reverse penhold backhand at the highest levels, but he did it as a variation, while Wang Hao made it his primary backhand shot, as did Ma Lin.) Wang Hao was one of the most innovative players, with both the reverse penhold backhand and the backhand banana flip. 
  • Lobbing. This was primarily innovated by 1967 World Men's Singles Champion Nobuhiko Hasegawa of Japan. The Europeans later innovated as they developed the fishing game, i.e. lower defensive topspins.
  • Serving. If I gave a list of who innovated each serve at the highest levels, it would be a LONG list, and I don't really know some of them. For example, the listing above lists "Austrian shakehand reverse pendulum serve (1999)," which probably refers to 2003 Men's Singles World Champion Werner Schlager, who did this serve very well. But many players were doing this well before that - I was doing this serve in the 1980s, and I copied it from others. So who first innovated it?
  • Other Techniques. I'd be at it all day if wanted to be comprehensive!!!

On a side note, I'm very happy that China continues to allow their players and coaches to emigrate to other countries as full-time coaches at training centers. This really helps raise the level and popularity of the sport all over the world. Former Chinese players pretty much dominate the coaching ranks all over the world, and probably 80% of the hundreds of full-time coaches in the U.S. are probably Chinese. 

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 22
We're just about finished! Tim moved in with me last Monday morning, and we expected, based on the previous 21 volumes, that it would take until at least Wednesday this week to finish. But due to my reduced coaching schedule (due to shoulder problems - primarily shredded rotator cuff), and because Mal Anderson spent a bunch of extra time cleaning up scans in advance, we basically finished yesterday. So Tim drove back to New York this morning. I still have to do some fixes on a few pages, and then do all the pre-press work to get it ready for publication.

This volume is 469 pages with 1447 graphics, and covers 1996-97. It should be available in a couple weeks. Meanwhile, why not buy a volume or 21?

On page 67, former junior star Jessica Shen is quoted saying, "If Larry Hodges can be 2250, so can you." I'm not sure if my game has been insulted or my tactical skills praised!!! (I'm all over this volume, both articles written by me and articles where I'm mentioned.)

Sunday Coaching
I had the usual two group sessions on Sunday. In the Beginning Junior Class (14 players), I introduced fast & deep serves, then we had serve practice both for those and for spin serves. Then we introduced footwork, with a demo and explanation, and then lots of practice. We finished with the usual games - one group played up-down tables, the other (younger) ones did target practice games with me feeding multiball - a competition to see who could hit Froggy the most, and then the inevitable cup game, where they stacked cups and then knocked them down.

In the advanced session, as usual I fed multiball for much of the session, plus led a group in serve practice - and coincidentally, the focus was also on fast & deep serves.

MDTTC October Open
I'll be running the three-star tournament this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Come and join us! The Open already has some strong entries - Akufumi Hamakawa (2688), Jishan Liang (2648), Chen Bo Wen (2592) and Lidney Castro (2520), and I'm expecting several more of this level.

TTTeamUSA Training Camp - Maryland
Here's the USATT article on the upcoming USATT training camp at MDTTC. It's an elite camp - "Participants will be current or potential future TTTeam USA members and guest players."

Non-Table Tennis - My Interview at Analog Science Fiction
Here's the interview. I have a story in their current issue, "The Plaything on the Tesseract Wall." (Here's my science fiction page, which includes my SF blog, bibliography, and other stuff.)

USATT and ITTF News Items
Why not browse over the USATT and ITTF news items of the past week?

Youth Olympic Games
Here's the home page for the event going on right now (Oct. 7-15) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (USA players are Kanak Jha and Amy Wang.)

New from EmRatThich

How to Do an Around-the-Net Shot
Here's the video (5:41) by Craig Bryant (from Tom Lodziak).

Some Loop versus Block Practice
Here's the video (57 sec).

Smart Phones in Table Tennis Tournaments
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

October Skill of the Month ???
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 World Junior Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Off The Table - Lily Zhang
Here's the ITTF video (5:03) with the USA star.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Czech Open
Here's the video (5:31).

Denethi Wijegunawardana Videos
Here's the page (2 videos, 1:08 and 2:27) from Samson Dubina.

WAB Featured Club: MK Georgia Table Tennis
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Gaetan Swartenbrouckx vs. Kalinikos Kreanga, Super Division
Here's the video (7:34). Kreanga has the flashiest shots in the world!

Bruce Lee on Table Tennis
Here's the meme! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) It makes sense - "I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 backhands once, but I do fear a man who has practiced one backhand 10,000 times."

Pong Revolution T-Shirts
Here's their page! For the next two weeks you can get 10% off by applying "USATT" as a coupon code.

Juggling Ping-Pong Music
Here's the video (22 sec)!

Life is Ping-Pong
Here's the video (3:01)!

Using Your Head in Table Tennis?
Here's the video (34 sec) of this fast-rising game!

"Stop War" Play More Table Tennis
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

October 1, 2018

Tip of the Week
How to Punish those Slow, Spinny Loops.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 22
This morning USATT Historian and Hall of Famer Tim Boggan moves in with me for about 12 days so I can do the photo work and page layouts for the latest volume of History of U.S. Table Tennis. This one covers 1996-1997, and will be in the 450 page range, with about 1700 graphics. Actually, every page is technically a graphic, since Tim creates the volumes by mostly cut & pasting articles from the past. He arranges them into 8.5x11 pages, which are scanned by another USATT Hall of Famer, Mal Anderson.

Then comes the "hard" part, for me, as I have to place each page into the layouts, and then fix up all the graphics - and there are a LOT of fixing up. For one thing, all of Tim's scissor cuts show up and have to be removed; for another, most of the work is scanned from gritty newsprint, and that takes time to fix up. Plus Tim is very picky about backgrounds, and regularly has me Photoshop "distracting" background items or people out. We also have to add lots of captions. Tim also always has a large number of separate photos for me to scan to put in.

Tim will be arriving promptly at 9AM, as he always does, driving down from New York during the night. He keeps strange hours, getting up each morning at around 4AM and going to bed around 8PM or earlier. For the next 10-12 days we'll be working from 7AM to 5PM. If all goes well, we'll be done by Oct. 12, so I can set up for the MDTTC October Open that weekend, Oct. 13-14, which I'll be running.

Sunday Coaching
I had two junior group sessions on Sunday. The first was the Beginning Junior Class, 90 minutes, which has 12 students this time around. (Assisting me were coaches John Hsu and Lidney Castro, and practice partner Todd Klinger.) The focus was on serving, especially spin serves. After that we did more forehand and backhand review. The last half hour we broke into two groups, with the older players playing Brazilian Teams, and the younger players with me, doing "target practice" games - first a competition to see who could hit Froggy the most times in multiball, then the usual cups game, where they build pyramids and forts from cups, and then knock them down in multiball.

In the advanced Talent program (2 hours), I spent most of the session either doing multiball, or working with them on serves. We did some work especially on fast, deep serves. I worked with a few of them on a problem where some of them reacted to these fast serves by rotating their body to the shot instead of stepping. And then I went out for dinner with the other coaches (Japanese food), where we went over each player, one by one.

Capclave Science Fiction Convention in Rockville, Maryland
(Mostly non-table tennis.) This past weekend I was at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention as a panelist. (Here's my convention bio.) I moderated two panels - one titled "Flash Fiction: Writing for the Short Attention Span Generation" (stories under 1000 words), and another, "Political Dynamite," on addressing current issues in your work. I was also on the panel Science Fiction of Political Resistance, where we discussed our political writings - here's a picture. (I do a lot of science fiction political satire.) I also had two autographing sessions - here's one of them. I have 13 books, but here I'm only selling and signing my science fiction ones, not my eight table tennis books - but one of the novels here is "The Spirit of Pong," a table tennis fantasy. The one featured in the banner, Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, my best novel, also features a lot of table tennis as one of the four main characters is a professional table tennis player who runs a worldwide campaign for president.

Women's World Cup
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend in Chengdu, China, with results, articles, photos, and video. Congrats to Ding Ning, her third! Here's the Day 3 Review (2:09), and here's the Ding Ning - Zhu Yuling final (9:53, time between points removed).

2018 US Youth National Ranking Tournament
Here are the results from Sacrament this past weekend (Sept. 27-30, Thu-Sun).

New from Samson Dubina

New from Eli Baraty

How to Get Topspin Serve
Here's the video (3:37) of an advanced side-topspin serve. 

Bangkok Camp Footwork Training
Here are three videos from Richard McAfee.

Liu Guoliang is Back for Tokyo 2020
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Liu Guoliang Appointed New Role in Chinese Table Tennis Association
Here's the article.

Tenergy 05 Hard: Reviewed by Current US National Team Coach, Stefan Feth
Here's the review. (I rarely do equipment articles, but this could be a "game-changer." Note - I'm sponsored by Butterfly.)

Salaries of Top Players
Here's a posting at and about the salaries of top players in Europe and around the world. (Note - a euro is 1.16 dollars.)

Kanak Jha Joins 87-Strong US Team for Buenos Aires 2018
Here's the article.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 Pan American Championships
Here's the USATT article.

WAB Featured Club: The Topspin Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Microsecond Multitasking in Table Tennis, and Other Things You Can Do in Less Than a Second
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Ping Pong: The Best Brain-Sport Tickles Your Brain
Here's the article

Rated Best Ever, Cuenca Raises Standards
Here's the ITTF article on the coaching course in Ecuador taught by Christian Lillieroos.

Former Rock Publicist Paddles Through Life's Back and Forths
Here's the article featuring Carol Klenfner

Liu Guoliang Appointed New Role in Chinese Table Tennis Association
Here's the article.

Ma Long vs. Jun Mizutani
Here's the point (20 sec)!

Sheldon, the Big Bang Theory, and an Egyptian Table Tennis Silver Medalist!
On the Big Bang Theory TV show, on Sept. 27 (Thursday), the main star, Sheldon Cooper, was talking about what an "I Love NY" shirt could stand for, and said it could refer to Egyptian Table Tennis Silver Medalist Noha Yssry - a silver medalist in Women's Teams at the 2007 All-African Games! (Here's video of an older episode (2:37) where they play table tennis on the show.)

Lily Zhang and Kim Gilbert Exhibition Point
Here's the video (7 sec)!

Solo Mini-Pong
Here's the video (35 sec)!

Around the World
Here's the video (43 sec) - I once had that much energy!

Around-the-World to Music
Here's the video (43 sec)!

Classroom Mini-Table Pong
Here's the video (60 sec)! 

Firefighter Pong
Here's the video (15 sec)!

Serve and Stroking Tricks
Here's the video (38 sec)!

Junior Girl Trick Shots
Here's the video (44 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

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