Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs 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 Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational 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!

August 16, 2017

Bob Tretheway RIP
He died yesterday, at age 69, of congestive heart failure, which he’d been suffering from for several years. Bob was the director for USA Table Tennis from the early 1980s to around 1989. (He was never officially the Executive Director of CEO – his formal title was National Program Director – but since we didn’t have an ED or CEO in those days, he essentially was it.)

In 1985, Bob was instrumental in starting up USATT’s Resident Training Program, starting in September that year. This was primarily a junior program for the best USA players, where they’d live in a dormitory (“Building 83”) at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, go to school (East Middle School and Palmer High School), and train at the table tennis hall (“Building 65”).

In December he brought me in, officially as a player (though I was too old for the program at 25), but really to help develop various coaching manuals, including Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis. Soon I was named assistant manager, then manager, and later I became the director and one of the coaches. Many players went through the program there, including Sean O’Neill, Jim Butler, Todd Sweeris, Eric Owens, Randy Cohen, Brian Pace, Sean Lonergan, Dhiren Narotam, Chi-Sun Chui, Rocky Wang, Diana and Lisa Gee, Nan Li, Li Ai, and many dozens of others (apologies for those not named). Coaches, practice partners, and other staff at various times included Li Zhenshi, Li Zhang, Henan Li Ai, Liguo Ai, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Xu Huazhang, Ty Hoff, Mark Kennedy, and Scott Preiss. (The program ended around 1993.)

Bob was perhaps our most successful director at bringing in sponsorships, from Brother International to Ground Round. After his years with table tennis he brought his fundraising skills to Christmas Unlimited in Colorado Springs as their executive director.

Over the last week many dozens of players have been posting messages to him and among ourselves via a private Facebook “Bob Tretheway’s Buddies” group. I wrote, “Bob was one of the true doers in our sport, as well as one of the nicest. The RTP days will always hold great memories for many of us.”

Here are some other links.

Seamaster World Tour Bulgaria Open
Here’s their home page. It started yesterday, and is held Aug. 15-20, 2017, in Panagyurishte.

A Guide to Social Media and Online Marketing for USA Table Tennis Clubs
Here’s the new Guide, by Matt Hetherington, USATT’s Digital & Social Media Manager. Sections include:

  • Introduction
  • Starting Your Own Facebook Page or Group (what are the differences)
  • Effective Posting for Facebook and Useful Features
  • Other Social Networks – Instagram, Twitter etc.
  • How to Maximize Your Partnership with USA Table Tennis to help grow your club’s social presence.

USATT and Cournilleau Introduce Average Joe and Jane's – 'Not Your Average Table Tennis Tournament' - Promoting socially competitive Ping Pong
Here’s the USATT info page. “The third most popular sport in the world, table tennis is enjoyed by over 300 million people around the world. It’s good for your mind and body, and fun to play. It’s social and competitive – and virtually anyone can play almost anywhere there is a table, two paddles, and a ball. But the real question you have what it takes to win an Average Joe and Jane’s crown?”

Off-Table Footwork Training
Here’s the video (2:21).

Who is Mr. Sportsman of the Table Tennis World?
Here’s the article from SportsFlu, featuring 4-time world men’s singles champion Richard Bergmann.

The Out-of-Shape Table Tennis Player One Mile Challenge
Here’s the video (4:27) as these three former 2200+ players – Larry Bavly, Rich DeWitt, and John Andrade – battle it out for fun and glory!

GIANT Ping Pong!
Here’s the video (13:13) as they play with giant paddles and I’m guessing 400mm balls.

Send us your own coaching news!

August 15, 2017

USATT Board Teleconference
Last night we had a USATT Board teleconference. (I’m one of the Nasty/Naughty/Notorious/Nonsensical/Nauseating/Notable/Neighborly/Noble/Nifty/Nicest Nine – you choose the adjective.) It was a relatively short one, starting at 7PM and ending around 8:20PM. Attending were eight board members, plus CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Director Jorg Bitzigeio, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, and legal Counsel Dennis Taylor. Here’s a rundown.

  • September In-Person Meeting. This will take place in Washington DC, Sept 9-10. Most of the board that’s not in driving distance already has their flight tickets and hotel reservations. It’s relatively local to me, maybe a 45-minute drive. Note that USATT members are welcome to attend all except for closed sessions, which generally don’t take up much time. (In closed sessions we cover legal and personnel matters.) I’ll publish the agenda for that meeting when it comes up, probably a few days in advance. There’s going to be a lot of discussion on issues such as player and coach selection for U.S. teams, and many reports. I’ll be giving the Coaching Committee report.
  • December Board Meeting. It’ll be held just before the U.S. Open, on Fri-Sat, Dec. 15-16, in Las Vegas.
  • SafeSport Audit/Compliance Update. Compliance has been relatively slow, but it’s picked up a lot recently. My club wasn’t very compliant a week ago, but this past week most of our coaches have taken it. There was a bit of discussion on how to better implement this. I've been pushing for the USOC to create versions of this in other languages, especially (for table tennis) in Chinese. The USOC is aware of the problem, and it's now on their longterm agenda, but it's not likely to happen in the near future, alas. I don't understand how they can consider this so important, and yet not do something as basic as this, considering their huge resources ($300+ million annual budget). My impression is they are more interested in legally covering themselves, by requiring SafeSport, than in actually implementing it, by putting it in multiple languages, since so many top coaches do not speak English as a first language. I hope they prove me wrong. 
  • USATT Events. We had reports and discussions on the following events: 2017 Para Open; 2018 Youth Olympic Games North American Qualification Event; 2017 U.S. Open (Dec. 17-22); ITTF China in North America – training camp; USATT SuperCamp; 2018 World Hopes Week; 2018 World Veterans Championships; and 2018 U.S. National Championships.

Wanted: Female Coach/Practice Partner
Here’s the info page at the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy.

Should You Use Wrist in Forehand Topspin Table Tennis?
Here’s the video (6:46) from EmRatThich.

Match Drills
Here’s the podcast (28:33) from PingSkills.

Dirk Wagner Profile of a Table Tennis Coach – Part 2
Here’s the video (17:40). Here’s Part 1 (17:09), which I linked to on Aug. 4.

Multiball with a Robot and with Attila Malek
Here’s the video (53 sec). Robots can be great practice, but you also need practice against a real person – live or multiball – so you practice reacting to a ball coming off a paddle.

Samsonov (Controlled attacking style) vs Joo Sae-hyuk (defender style)
Here’s the video (10:02, time removed between points) with some commentary.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - July 2017
Here’s the video (9:06).

Table Tennis Therapy
Here’s the video (2:51) from CBS News. “Can playing ping-pong really reduce risk of Alzheimer’s disease?”

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty-one - 1992 - International Matches - World Championships. Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 19! (Volume 20 should be out within two weeks.)

Izabel Rather and the Floating Ping-Pong Ball
At the USA Nationals in July I demonstrated my blowing ball trick to Izabel, five-year-old daughter of coach and former U.S. Women’s Champion Jasna Rather. Here are the pictures, taken by Hall of Famer Mal Anderson!

How Many Balls Can You Put in Your Mouth?
Here’s the picture! (Kids, don’t try this unless you have a physician standing by to save you when you start to choke to death.)

Send us your own coaching news!

August 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
Attacking the Middle with the Forehand and Backhand.

Basics, Basics, Basics!!!
It seems like half my students were on vacation recently, and so they all seem out of practice. So what are we focusing on? Yes, BASICS!!! This doesn’t mean just forehand to forehand or other simple drills like that. But it means a lot of basic stroking and footwork drills. One of the things about taking time off is that when players come back, they often fall back into old habits we had spent so much time fixing. So I’m being very careful to watch for that.

For example, I have one student who used to habitually lift his elbow when he hit forehands, thereby closing the racket during the forward swing, leading to erratic shots. He kicked the habit, or so we thought – but he was right back to it in our last session. But we quickly fixed it, and did a lot of forehand drills to make sure.

Another student felt like he’d completely lost the feel of his forehand loop – nothing seemed right. We spent quite a bit of time in our session on it before it began to click. This was a case of his feeling tentative, and so he kept falling back, and so the ball was falling front of him, throwing off his stroke and timing. This led to erratic contacts, and so even when he did it “right,” he was erratic. I had him focus on positioning and contact, and soon all was well. He’s also seemingly forgotten how to smash lobs, so we focused on that, and the importance of doing a systematic one (bring racket back), two (raise the racket) and three (drive into the ball with legs, throwing upper body into the shot).

Another had had a slightly longer “break” – he had stopped playing for 40 years (!), and recently started up again. He used to have a forehand pendulum serve, but had forgotten how to do it. So we’re working on that, and it’s beginning to come back.

Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20
We “finished” the volume on Friday afternoon, and Tim drove back to New York on Saturday morning. To get it done before my weekend coaching we put in some long hours!!! The final version is 460 pages with 714 graphics. However, I put “finished” in quotes above because Tim has since emailed me about two dozen corrections he’s found, some of which will be time-consuming to fix. I’ll try to get to them today so I can get the volume sent off to, where we publish the volumes. Today’s going to be pretty busy, as in addition to this I have a noon call coming up on USATT coaching (on coaching certification and education), and a USATT board meeting at 7PM. In between, I have to also attack my growing todo list, which during Tim’s visit blossomed to roughly Godzilla size.

Multiball Champions
Here’s the article, with links to video, by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Basics from GT Table Tennis

New Articles from Sports Flu

  • Koki Niwa: The “Inventor” of Chop Block Shot. This is misleading as the shot has been done by players decades before Koki was even born. It’s not that common by world-class players these days, though world #1 Ma Long sometimes does it, and it was probably more common in the past. Jan-Ove Waldner, considered the greatest player of all time by many, often used it - and he won the Worlds before Koki was born. I've been doing the shot myself somewhat regularly since the late 1970s.
  • Bill Guilfoil Could Not Make It to Rio Olympics 2016 Because… In the article they mention some past achievements by USA at the Worlds, but somehow left out that we swept Men’s and Women’s Teams in 1937, our greatest achievement. (We’ve won a few other men’s, women’s, and mixed doubles events, but none since the 1950s.)
  • A New Bond Surprised Everyone – When Art Meets Table Tennis

Amazing Hopes Training in Multi-ball Session with Li Xiaodong
Here’s the video (4:04).

Who Was Better at Age 14, Ma Long or Tomokazu Harimoto?
Here’s the video (8:17) from EmRatThich

Best of Tomokazu Harimoto
Here’s the video (5:20) of the 14-year-old whiz kid from Japan, now #20 in the world.

Best of Chen Weixing
Here’s the video (10:39).

You Don’t Have to be Tall to Play Table Tennis!
Here’s the video (39 sec) of a three-year-old showing us how it’s done!

Trick Shots
Here’s another trick-shot video (3:39), set to music.

Table Tennis Squash (1959)
Here’s the video (2 min) of this other version of table tennis that didn’t quite take off! (I may have linked to this once before, long ago.) 

Reverse Engineering in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:15) of table tennis played in reverse.

Desk and Chair Pong
Here’s the video (68 sec) – kids, now you know what you should really be doing at school!

Sunday Comics - Blondie and Agnes!!!
This past Sunday in the Washington Post comics section (and presumably other papers) there were TWO table tennis cartoons!!!

  • Blondie – I’m putting this on the wall at my club, since this is what happens after our summer camps every year!
  • Agnes – I’m looking forward to seeing that shower of paddles, balls, and nets. But who in the world would throw out half a ping-pong table???

Send us your own coaching news!

August 11, 2017

Progressive Coaching
A few days ago a student complained that while she could rally in drills, in games she not only missed, but tended to hit the ball right at the opponent, as if it were a drill. She wanted to know how she could fix this. So I put her through the following progression of drills, in this specific order. The key was to first build up accuracy from both the forehand and backhand sides, then do so off random balls, while always attacking the three spots you should always go after in a match – wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle (the elbow, the mid-point between the forehand and backhand). (This will likely be expanded into a Tip of the Week.)

  1. Forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand warm-up.
  2. Forehand down the line to my backhand.
  3. Backhand down the line to my forehand.
  4. Alternate forehand and backhand, to my backhand.
  5. Alternate forehand and backhand, to my forehand.
  6. Alternate forehand and backhand, to my middle. This is where my elbow (midpoint between forehand and backhand) would be in a rally, typically perhaps a foot to the left of the middle line. I stood toward the middle and played backhands side to side.  
  7. Random side to side, to my backhand.
  8. Random side to side, to my forehand.
  9. Random side to side, to my middle.
  10. Complete random, both sides. I served topspin and moved the ball around, while she placed the ball to any of the three spots – forehand, backhand, or middle.

Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20
We put in another eight hours yesterday, and should “finish” today. However, Tim has lots of corrections. Hopefully we can get to some of those on Friday afternoon, and finish Saturday morning. I leave to coach on Saturday at 12:30PM, returning at 7:00PM. Then there’s a bunch of pre-press work. Sunday I’ve got a lot of coaching and other work, and Monday is even busier – two teleconferences (one involving coaching at noon, the other a USATT board teleconference). That will end basically a non-stop barrage of work that has gone on for years weeks. If all goes well, I’m spending Tuesday (no coaching scheduled) watching movies and in bed reading. . . . (note - I went to bed at 2AM, and was back to work at 6:30AM. We're on home stretch to get this thing done. I'm about to post this blog at 7:15AM. I did most of it last night.) 

Backhand Footwork
Here’s the article and video (1:28) from Samson Dubina. Backhand footwork practice is one of the most under-developed parts of many players’ games, often leading to weak backhand attacks.

Butterfly Presents: Footwork Drills by Stefan Feth (U.S. Men’s Team Coach)

Best 5 Tips to Improve Fast in Table Tennis
Here’s the article and video (13:04) from EmRatThich. In a nutshell: Focus on feeling; Hit by the legs; Fix the hitting position; Relax, explode, and relax; and Learn the tactics.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at Pingskills.

Spot Fake Table Tennis Equipment!
Here’s the article from Sportsflu. One interesting part – it says balls are made of celluloid, not plastic! They may be a bit dated here. And, of course, there will be endless debates on whether Tenergy is the best table tennis rubber, as they say. (I think it is, but others argue for Hurricane and other tensor sponges.)

2017 Nigeria Open (on the ITTF Circuit)
Here’s the home page, with news, draws, results, pictures, and video. It’s in Lagos, Aug. 9-13, so follow the action this weekend!

Ping-Pong Diplomacy’s 25th Anniversary 20 Years Back
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Ultimate Table Tennis – The Ten Seconds Rule
Here’s the article from Sportsflu. “Ultimate Table Tennis, the first professional sports league of Table Tennis in India completed its inaugural season recently.” ... “A player has to serve within ten seconds after being handed the ball. This rule is not part of Professional ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation).This rule was implemented to speed up the game. It gave Players less time to think and strategize about their next point. It generated mixed reactions from different quarters.”

Interview with Sun YingSha
Here’s the video interview (22:47) with the newest Chinese star, who won Women’s Singles recently at the Japan Open at age 16. In Chinese with English subtitles.

Rio Review: Ding Ning's Gold Medal Memories
Here’s the ITTF article, with pictures and video (2:26).

Want to Run the 2020 World Team Championships?
Here’s the info page – the ITTF just opened the bidding process.

2017 SuperMicro US National Table Tennis Championships - Doubles Highlight Videos
Here’s the USATT page with highlights of the Men’s, Women’s, and Mixed Doubles finals from the USA Nationals.

The Underhand Backhand Sidespin Loop Kill
Here’s the video (15 sec), demonstrated by Adam Bobrow.

20 Seconds of Forehand Footwork to Wake You Up
Here’s the video.

Why China Dominates in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (2:05).

Who Was the Best Woman Table Tennis Player of All Time?
Here’s the answer . . . sort of!

XFinity Ping-Pong Ad
Here’s the video (30 sec) – why shouldn’t a dog want to watch table tennis? (Carl Danner sent me this one – somehow I missed it when it came out in April.)

Chimpanzee Pong
Here are two videos where they teach a chimp to play table tennis!

Human Net Pong
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 10, 2017

Coaching a Junior Class for the First Time
At the MyTableTennis forum someone asked about teaching a junior class for the first time, and how to get them serious about the sport. Below is my response. The last paragraph might be the most important. But note the sale on the Handbook in the first paragraph! I’m willing to supply them at cost to large groups or to USATT events.

I have ten pages on this in my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which comes in print ($5.99) and Kindle (currently on sale at 99 cents). I've run the beginning junior classes at MDTTC for decades. 

I generally go with a 2-1 ration - 2/3 practice, 1/3 games. (More like 50-50 for kids 8 and under.) For new players, you'll be doing a lot of multiball. At the high school level, they should have the coordination to hit among themselves after some multiball practice. 

For games, have them play king of the table, up-down tables, or Brazilian Teams. However, it's also good to have a large supply of paper cups and a bottle of Gatorade. Kids like to build large pyramids and walls out of the cups, and then they line up, taking turns knocking them down while you feed multiball. (Perhaps three shots each, though only one on first round.) Or you put the Gatorade bottle on the table and feed multiball, and they line up, taking turns trying to hit it, two shots per turn - and if they hit it, you have to drink it. But since these are high school kids, you'll want to focus more on the real games mentioned above. But let them try different games and see which they like. 

As to getting them serious about the sport, first teach the basics; then let them see real table tennis by good players, and they'll want to be like that; and then let them know about other opportunities (private coaching, more advanced group sessions, leagues, tournaments). Many will continue and become serious players. 

A key is finding the balance between serious and fun. If you are too serious, it's not fun, and you lose them. If you make it just fun, it's like playing Parcheesi, and they don't take it seriously and you lose them. Find that balance. 

Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20
We started last Wednesday morning (Aug. 2), and it looks like we’ll probably finish up on Friday Saturday after eleven days of tedious torture adventurous fun. We increased our hours to get it done sooner – yesterday (and I kid you not!) we started at 5:30 AM (!!!) and except for a one-hour lunch break (soup and a crossword puzzle), we worked straight until 5PM, an 11.5 hour blitz. Then I left for three hours of coaching. Then I got home and went to work on this blog, since I won’t have much time to do so in the morning. (And I “cheated,” using something I posted on a table tennis forum.) Hopefully I’ll survive another day without fallinzzzzzzzzzzzz

Pong Road
On Tuesday I blogged about Pong Road, the documentary featuring Rocky Wang traveling around the country. The three episodes I saw on Friday are now online! “After years of living in New York and scraping by on tournament winnings, coaching and event gigs, professional ping pong player Rocky Wang decides to leave the big city and weave his way through the United States. With little money and his trusty van (Myrtle the Turtle), he's exploring what American ping pong is really like and the colorful characters that play across the country.”

The Misunderstood Flat Hit
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

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

USATT News Items
Here are three new ones.

2017 Nigeria Open (on the ITTF Circuit)
Here’s the home page, with news, draws, results, pictures, and video. It’s in Lagos, Aug. 9-13, starting yesterday.

2017 Pyongyang Open
Here’s where you can watch video of all the major matches of the event held this past weekend.

ESPN8 – “The Ocho”
Here’s the video (10 sec) – the sport will never be the same again…

How Zhang Jike Spends His Summers
Here’s the video (55 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 9, 2017

Why Waldner Doesn’t Have to Move
Here’s the meme that’s making the rounds on Facebook. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) “I am standing where the ball comes, that is why I don’t have to move, I can Read the Game,” said the great Jan-Ove Waldner.

Some will misunderstand this, taking it literally. Waldner did have to move, of course, but if you watched him play it often seemed like he wasn’t moving – because he was moving before the opponent hit the ball, and so was already there, waiting. Most players react to the ball as it is coming toward them, or perhaps as the opponent is hitting the ball  - but this is way too late if you want to be a good player. Instead, you develop the habit of watching and reading the opponent, and reacting to where the ball is going the instant the opponent has committed, usually at the start of his forward swing. Here is my Tip on this, React to Opponent’s Swing.

This also helps if you want to develop a strong defense – you have so much more time to react if you are reacting before the opponent hits the ball then if you wait until afterwards. Here’s my Tip that covers this, Brick-Wall Blocking Defense.

Of course, it helps to be light on your feet – which is more technique than physical. I’ve known overweight players who were light on their feet. Here’s my Tip on that, You Can Be Light on Your Feet.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 20
We started last Wednesday morning, and it looks like we’ll probably finish up on Friday – so it’ll be ten days of torture fun as Tim and I painstakingly put together the 460 pages, 28 chapters, and 714 graphics covering the events of 1993-1994. Ironically, I had just started my first tenure as USATT Coaching Chair, and my activities are all over this volume. I began my second tenure earlier this year.

Silver for Kumar in Hong Kong Cadet Singles
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Rio Review: Karlsson Says Get Yourself to the Games
Here’s the ITTF article. “I think that the Olympic Games is the most incredible experience you can have as a table tennis player,” says Kristian Karlsson.

Here are two new articles.

Timo Boll vs. Tomokazu Harimoto
Here’s the video (7:48, with time between points removed) of the veteran Boll (world #7, formerly #1, age 36, from Germany) and the Japanese whiz kid Harimoto (world #20, age 14).

Insane Table Tennis Rally
Here’s the video (70 sec) – I posted this exhibition point between Timo Boll (lefty on left) and Jorgen Persson before, but it’s worth a second look.

Some Table Tennis Physical Training?
Here’s the video (34 sec)!

Sean Woolsey’s Walnut Wood Ping Pong Table
It’s yours for just $9000!

Yeah Ping Pong!
Here’s the humorous video (2:38)!

Ping Pong in the Stone Age
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s where you can download a high-quality version for $11.)

Send us your own coaching news!

August 8, 2017

Pong Road
On Friday night I saw Pong Road, a roughly 30-minute video (in three parts), “an episodic documentary that follows Rocky [Wang] along his journey. Get ready to see ping pong that you've never seen before.” Alas, it’s not online yet so you’ll just have to wait until they do so, or there’s a showing in your area. They do have more segments planned. Here’s their Facebook page, here’s “The Story,” which explains more about Pong Road, and here’s their About Page, with more on Rocky Wang, and on Mark Weismantel, who was the “director, cinematographer, editor, sound designer and art director.”

I’ve known Rocky since he was 13, in 1987. He’s also from Maryland, but strangely I first met him in Colorado. I was (at various times) the manager, director, and one of the coaches for the Resident Training Program for Table Tennis at the Olympic Training Center from 1985-1990, where many of the best junior players in the U.S. lived, went to school, and trained, from 1985 to sometime in the early 1990s, when the program ended. My first memory of Rocky was when he joined us that September in 1987. I walked into the dorms and saw this little kid doing a split between the two walls, holding himself up like this! (The walls were a little closer – and yes, that’s Jean Claude Van Damme demoing here.) Rocky would reach about a 2500 level before quitting in the early 1990s for 12 years. He started up again around 2006, and since then has been coaching (often at Spin NY – see video ad below) and running table tennis events for a living.

In Segment #1, Rocky visits the Maryland Table Tennis Center, my club, where Rocky coached for a time. He is filmed playing Raghu Nadmichettu, “his nemesis,” about a 2350-2400 player. Alas, I’m not there during filming, but you do see our other coaches in action.

In Segment #2, Rocky visits Asheville, NC, and takes on players at a store that has a ping-pong table set up. You meet some interesting characters, and see Rocky take them on . . . with his shoe. Guess who wins? And did I mention he travels in a van he calls Myrtle the Turtle?

In Segment #3, Rocky plays in a tournament in Knoxville, TN, where the winner gets $600, the runner-up $300. He plays twelve matches, some in highly dramatic fashion – but I won’t spoil it for you.

Here are two pictures taken at the showing. In the first, you see Rocky (on left, green shirt) and Mark giving a talk before the viewing. In the second you see some of the spectators, including me (in blue Butterfly shirt, third from left). Sitting to my left is John Wang, Rocky’s father and one of the most influential table tennis people in Maryland during the 1980s and 1990s.

I’ll post here when there are future showings and when it goes online.

Pips and Anti
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Backhand Drive
Here’s the video (2:37) by Georgina Pota of Hungary, world #32 (formerly #14).

How to Move in Table Tennis Like a Pro
Here’s the video (7:06).

Liu Guoliang Comments on Finals Match: Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong
Here’s the video (5:52).

PingSkills Show #287 - Return of Serve
Here’s the podcast (27:28).

Here are two new articles.

Thoughts on Table Tennis
Here’s the page with links to many table tennis articles, called . . . "Thoughts on Table Tennis." 

Rising Above the Challenge, the Inspirational Story of the Shetty Brothers
Here’s the ITTF article.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter twenty! Or order your own print copies at, Volumes 1 to 19! (Volume 20 should be out within two weeks.)

Spin Table Tennis Ad
Here’s the video (94 sec) – they now have seven locations in the U.S. and Canada, and this ad shows the fun they have. They even have a bathtub of ping-pong balls for patrons to bathe in!

Zhang Jike With an Ice Racket
Here’s the video (22 sec)!

Table Tennis Wall Clocks
Here’s a new one! Here are many more.

Eight-Two, Brute
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

August 7, 2017

Tip of the Week
Feet Parallel to Table is Usually a Backhand Stance.

Weekend – Pong Road, and History of U.S. Table Tennis, and Coaching
I had a hyper-busy table tennis weekend. Here’s a rundown.

On Friday I saw Pong Road, which features table tennis player and coach Rocky Wang on the road, at MDTTC (my club), Ashville, NC, and at a tournament in Knoxville, TN. I’ll blog about this later this week. I also managed to see Dark Tower on Saturday night and Game of Thrones on Sunday night. All were excellent, though the critics don’t seem to agree with me on Dark Tower. (I’ve read the five very long Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin – who I’ve met - but not the seven Dark Tower novels by Stephen King.)

I’m still working with USATT Historian Tim Boggan on his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 20, which covers 1993-94. I’ve mentioned several times that I’m doing the page layouts, but that’s really not quite accurate. That’s what I did for most of the volumes, but a few volumes ago Tim changed the way he did them. Before, he’d type up the text from past articles from USATT Magazine and other TT magazines and sources, and find photos to match, and I’d do the layouts from them. Now, to save all the typing, he does it “old school” – he cuts and pastes the articles directly onto sheets of 8.5 x 11 pages, essentially doing the page layouts with scissors and tape. Then he sends them to Mal Anderson, who scans them, and finds hundreds of alternate photos for the ones Tim chose. Mal then sends the scans to me on a CD. My job is to clean up the pages, add the captions and photo attributions, and (most time consuming), make all the changes Tim wants – and he has lots and Lots and LOTS of changes and additions, which aren’t easy since it all has to be done in Photoshop. Net result is it takes about 10-12 days working eight hours a day to get it all done.

In the past we did each page completely before moving to the next. This time we did it a bit differently – we put the pages together at full speed, without doing too many changes and without captions, and so yesterday we “finished” the volume at 460 pages, with 714 graphics. (I manually did a count last night.) But this morning we go back and start fixing up the pages, which will take several days. My guess is we finish on Thursday. I also have to put together a one-page ad for the volume, and update the web page.

My coaching schedule was light this weekend as several of my students are out of town, one is injured, and many of our group sessions are off for the summer, starting up again in September. So I spent much of it working with Tim. I had an interesting “progressive” coaching session with one student where we literally started with the basics at the start and worked our way to advanced random drills by the end – I’ll blog about this later in the week. I also managed to put together a draft of a proposed six-hour coaching seminar for USATT Club Coach certification. Later I’ll finalize it and run it by the rest of the USATT coaching committee.

Stefan Feth: 99% Is Not Good Enough - Messages From Paris
Here’s the video (6 min) from the USA Men’s Coach. “In this series, Messages From Paris, we share some interesting interviews made during The 2013 World Table Tennis Championships, that were held in Paris.”

Basic Forehand Drive
Here’s the video (3 min) by Elizabeta Samara of Romania, world #27 (formerly #13)

Table Tennis Tidbits #5
Here’s the article by Robert Ho, which talks about the expedite rule, with links to video. I linked to his previous four “Tidbits” in my July 31 blog.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Aug. 2-6. USA’s Nikhil Kumar and Michael Tran won Cadet Boys. Nikhil made the final of Cadet Singles, Michael made the quarters.

Here are two new articles there:

Olympics: 2024 in Paris and 2028 in Los Angeles
Here’s the blog about this by Shashin Shodhan, where he also talks about his own experiences trying out for the 2000 Olympic team, which he came close to making. Includes a link to video of David Zhuang vs. Tegun Toriola at the 2008 Olympics.

Tomokazu Harimoto Cuts Hand on Table
Here’s the video (8:21) of his match against vs Jun Mizutani at the 2017 T2APAC. Against a ball to his forehand side 29 seconds in he cuts his hand against the corner, and it bleeds pretty badly. Warning – it’s somewhat graphic!

Table Tennis: Skill, Determination and Confidence!
Here’s the video (1:28).

The Best of Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (5:09).

Table Tennis - The Strongest Sport
Here’s the highlights music video (5:09).

Target Practice
Here’s the video (1:28) of Adam Bobrow knocking various targets off the table – an almond, coin, a ball in a tube of tape, a chia seed, and a long-distance serve into a bowl of water (which is my favorite trick!)

Ping-Pong in Space
Here’s the cartoon!

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August 4, 2017

ITTF Hall of Fame
One of my pet peeves is how international organizations can sometimes be so . . . short-sighted. Here is a classic example. How do you get into the ITTF Hall of Fame? Well, for players, the eligibility rules are very simple: “Eligibility for the highest honor in international Table Tennis requires that the player must have won 5 Gold Medals in World Championships or the Olympic Games.”

This is downright silly. Winning a gold medal in Singles, where you were the best player, is worth more than winning it in Doubles (Men’s, Women’s, or Mixed) or Teams, where your finish is largely determined by other players. The result is a travesty of justice. The rules dramatically favor players who happen to have strong teammates.

Let’s take Stellan Bengtsson as an example. He won Men’s Singles at the 1971 Worlds, and won Men’s Doubles and Men’s Teams in 1973. He had five other silver and bronze medals at the Worlds, but in the end, he “only” got three golds. He was ranked #1 in the world for most of three years, and won 67 international titles. Because China had far more depth in their players, the odds were stacked against Bengtsson, especially in Mixed Doubles and Men’s Teams – though he battled with them over and over. (He did have Kjell Johansson and Hans Alser as teammates, and Stellan and Johansson won Men’s Doubles and Teams in 1973. Johansson also won four golds at the Worlds, three in Men’s Doubles and one in Men’s Teams, and made the final of Men’s Singles in 1973, but also isn’t eligible for the ITTF Hall of Fame, based on their rules.) Table tennis wasn’t in the Olympics yet, so Stellan (and others before 1988) didn’t have that opportunity.

Result? Stellan Bengtsson is not in the ITTF Hall of Fame. That’s a joke. (Neither is Istvan Jonyer and a host of other Men’s World Champions – see listing below.)

Meanwhile, a player on the Chinese team who never really challenged to be the best in the world, as Stellan was, can get gold simply by being on their team, even if he doesn’t play the big matches.

Let’s compare Stellan’s record with, say, Chen Qi of China. He was a great player, and is deservedly in the Hall of Fame. At the Worlds, he won Men’s Doubles twice and Men’s Teams twice. He won Men’s Doubles at the Olympics. That’s five golds, the minimum.

But he was playing doubles with Ma Lin and Wang Hao, two of the best players in the world. In the Teams, he had Wang Liqin, Ma Lin, Wang Hao, and Ma Long playing ahead of him – and in both years he won Men’s Teams, he didn’t even play in the final. In Singles, his highest world ranking was #5, and he spent most of his career in the #6-8 range. Stellan was ranked higher than #5 for much of a decade, much of it as #1.

But with the ITTF rules, Chen Qi is in, while Stellan Bengtsson is out. Really???

Peter Karlsson is another deserving Hall of Famer, and was inducted in 2003. He also won five golds, all at the Worlds – one for Men’s Doubles, and four in Men’s Teams, where he played with Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, and Lindh. His highest world ranking was #4. Is he really more deserving than all those who have been left out?

Let’s suppose USA’s Men’s National Champion Kanak Jha (age 16) becomes the best player in the world, and completely dominates for four years. He wins gold in Men’s Singles at the Olympics, and Men’s Singles at three consecutive Worlds. He’s among the greatest players in history, right? But Kanak (currently at world #212) is the only USA player in the top 400. So it’s unlikely he’s going to win anything in Doubles or Teams. So he only gets four gold medals. So no Hall of Fame for you, Kanak – sorry, you simply weren’t good enough!

Just think about this for a moment - you could win Men's or Women's Singles at the Worlds four times, something only done on the men's side by Viktor Barna [5 times] and Richard Bergmann (4 times), and on the women's side by Mária Mednyánszky (5 times) and Angelica Rozeanu (6 times), and you couldn't get into the ITTF Hall of Fame!!! (No one has won four or more since 1955.) 

There’s also something wrong with them inducting players during their playing career, instead of afterwards, as is done by every major sport that I know of. Ma Long was inducted into the ITTF Hall of Fame in 2013 at age 24 before he won his three biggest titles – gold in Men’s Singles at the 2016 Olympics (three years later!) and gold in Men’s Singles at the 2015 and 2017 Worlds. When he got in, he got in for winning Men’s Teams five times (once at Olympics, four at Worlds) and Men’s Doubles once. (He’s now won 12 golds at the Olympics and Worlds, and is still going strong at world #1.)

It’s also silly that they don’t take into account the World Cup, Pro Tour wins, or world ranking. Because of this, and the problems outlined above, other obvious choices also aren’t in. Below is a listing of modern Men’s World and Olympic Singles Champions (sponge era) who are not eligible for the ITTF Hall of Fame – and note that from 1969 to 1979 there were six consecutive World Men’s Singles Champions who are not eligible! Even Istvan Jonyer apparently isn’t good enough for the ITTF Hall of Fame – besides winning Men’s Singles at the Worlds, he also won Men’s Doubles twice, Men’s Teams once (not easy with China usually winning), and was ranked #1 in the world for about three years, and near the top of the rankings for about 15. By my count, there are 66 players in the ITTF Hall of Fame, but none of these players qualify - click on "show" on their linked Wiki page for their medal record:

When have a system that gives bad results, you change the system. There’s a reason why nearly every major sport votes on their Hall of Fame members, whether it’s baseball, basketball, football, soccer, boxing, tennis, and even USA Table Tennis.

[Note – I did find one interesting discrepancy. Li Furong is in the ITTF Hall of Fame, but he “only” won four golds, all in Teams. He lost in the Men’s Singles Final three straight times to Zhuang Zedong, 1961-1965, though it’s been said that he was ordered to dump all three times. I’m curious how he got it.]

Here’s an interesting photo of Kjell Johansson (leaping) and Stellan Bengtsson! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

ITTF Education
Here is the ITTF Education Knowledge Base and ITTF Education Videos. They seem to do a good job here!

How to Do a Backhand Banana Flip
Here’s the video (39 sec) from Eli Baraty.

The Muscular System
Here’s the ITTF article.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

Hong Kong Junior and Cadet Open
Here’s the home page for the event, Aug. 2-6. USA’s Nikhill Kumar, Michael Tran, and Alan Chen won the Cadet Boys’ Team title. Here are two articles on it:

Pyongyang Open
Here’s the home page for the event, in North Korea, Aug. 2-6, with articles, pictures, video, draws, and results.

T2APAC League
Here’s the home page for this professional league. Many of the best players in the world are competing in this India-based league. If you click on “Matches,” you can see video of these matches. (But that's one awkward name for a league!)

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

USOC Coaching Newsletter
Here’s the August issue.

ITTF World Rankings
Here’s the ITTF article, Top spot yet again, milestone for Ma Long. “A milestone for Ma Long, listed in top spot on the Men’s World Rankings issued on Wednesday 2nd August, it is the 30th consecutive month that he has held the exalted position, the 60th occasion of his career.”

Dirk Wagner Profile of a Table Tennis Coach – Part 1
Here’s the article and video (17:09).

Ask A Pro Anything - Tomokazu Harimoto
Here’s the video (5:51) with Adam Bobrow and the 14-year-old whiz kid from Japan!

Michael Maze - Master Of Lob And Sidespin
Here’s the video (7:35).

Ma Long at Age 14
Here’s the video (4:02).

Around the World at Smash TT
Here’s the video (2:40) from a junior session – don’t get dizzy!

Types of Table Tennis Players
Here’s the humorous video (4:59).

Yeah Ping-Pong: Five Illegal Serves
Here’s the humorous video (3:30).

Is it Ping-Pong or Table Tennis?
Here’s the cartoon!

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August 3, 2017

Moving to the Wide Forehand, He Zhiwen, and Update on History of USATT, Vol. 20
Most of my students have figured out that while I can still move quickly to my left (i.e. to step around my backhand to attack with my forehand), I don’t move very well to my right anymore. And so they take great glee in finding chances to go that way. I actually encourage it – I want them to develop good tactical habits, and so the last thing I want them to do is develop a habit of holding back when they see the right tactical move. If I leave my forehand side open during a rally, they should jump on it, making it a habit that will carry over in real matches.

This problem with moving to my right has been true for a number of years, but for the last month or so I’ve been having problems with my right knee, which made it far worse. At the USA Nationals, where I was mostly coaching and attending meetings, I did manage in my free time to win Over 40 Hardbat Singles, but most players didn’t realize just how much trouble I was having moving that way – and I used a variety of tactics to cover for it. A knee brace really helped.

I aggravated the knee again during my recent writing workshop vacation – while carrying my bags upstairs to my room! And so I spent much of the nine days there hobbling about with the knee brace, which I always wear now when I coach.

What’s scary is that I had problems last year with my left knee. What happens when both go down?

I blogged about He Zhiwen on Tuesday. Yesterday I got to spend the night coaching on adjacent tables with him. I secretly spied on him during a session with one of our top juniors. Though he normally uses pips-out, he was coaching with inverted (since that’s what most players use). He spent a lot of the session on serve and receive. I think he spent 15 minutes just serving to the kid, without playing out the point. He doesn’t speak English, but does know Spanish – he’s played there and represented them for a few decades – and so I spoke with him briefly with my very limited Spanish. (“Dos anos Espanol en mi escuela. No muy bien – un poco.”)

Meanwhile, Tim Boggan and I started on his next volume a few minutes after 10AM, and managed to do the front and back covers, the intro pages, and the first four (of 28) chapters – 57 pages total plus the covers. However, these chapters were shorter than usual, so I expect we won’t get this much done most days. I haven’t counted the graphics, but probably about four per page, so probably over 200. It was a long day – we finished around 5PM, and then I went off to coach. (Note that most of the pages were scanned as a page, where Tim had cut and pasted them into one-page sheets – old style! – and then Mal Anderson scanned them, and I fixed up the photos and fitted them to the page.)

Five Years since Grand Slam, Fans Call for Zhang Jike Day
Here’s the ITTF article.

Ask the Coach
Questions answered at PingSkills.

2017 Edgeball Chicago International Table Tennis Tournament - August 12-13
Here’s the info page.

The Strange Case of Table Tennis at SCAD
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Some Sort of Vietnamese TT Exhibition?
Here’s the video (2:42).

Table Tennis Physical Training
Here’s the video (3 min) from last year’s USATT’s Supercamp, with many of the top juniors in the U.S. in attendance. If you watch closely you’ll see me in several shots.

Think Table Tennis is Not a Real Sport?
Here’s the video (2:35) – some great shots and sequences!!!

Ma Long vs Ding Ning Funny Show
I may have previously linked to the first one.

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