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This is an evolving website and Table Tennis Community. Your suggestions are welcome.

Want a daily injection of Table Tennis? Come read the Larry Hodges Blog! (Entries go up by noon, Mon-Fri; see link on left.) Feel free to comment!

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Want to Learn? Read the Tip of the Week, study videos, read articles, or find just about any other table tennis coaching site from the menu links. If you know of one, please let us know so we can add it.

Want to Learn more directly? There are two options. See the Video Coaching link for info on having your game analyzed via video. See the Clinics link for info on arranging a clinic in your area, or finding ones that are already scheduled.

If you have any questions, feel free to email, post a note on the forum, or comment on my blog entries.

-Larry Hodges, Director,

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent blog posts

Wednesday, February 8, 2017 - 14:33
February 8, 2017

Learning with Other Grips
Yesterday, during a session with Daniel (12, about 1700), we had a huge breakthrough - and it came in a completely unexpected way. He's always had a problem when forehand looping in that he backs up and then reaches slightly forward to contact the ball, and ends contacting the ball too far in front. This means he loses the natural power of the body rotating (torque), and so most of his power comes from the upper body. The result is a soft loop that's steady but not very powerful. It also puts a strain on his shoulder, which has led to shoulder problems in the past. We've been working on this for a long time, and sometimes he'll start doing it properly, but he generally falls back into the old habit.

Yesterday, when I was blocking to his forehand loop, on the spur of the moment, he suddenly switched to penhold and continued looping. I started to say something, then stopped. With the penhold grip, his stroke was almost textbook! He was contacting the ball to the side of the body, and rotating into it just right, without backing up. What was going on?

Then I realized what was happening. Hold a racket...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017 - 14:58
February 7, 2017

Navin - Looping and Smashing
I had a nice session with Navin Kumar last night. He's about 1500 level now, a blocker with long pips on the backhand (no sponge). I've been working with him for about two years now. During that time he's gone from 856 to 1426, and is poised to make the jump to about 1600. Some of you might recognize him as "The Bionic Man," who's had a lot of news coverage because of his artificial heart and Parkinson's. (Google "bionic man Navin Kumar.") He often plays in paralympic events. 

Yesterday we started serious work on looping for the first time. I've been holding back on this so we could focus on his regular forehand (which he really didn't have at the start), backhand blocking, and receive. Now that that the forehand is getting better - at least in practice! - it was time. We might have done this last year but he was preparing for the Nationals in December, and we decided to hold back until afterwards. Then he came down sick for a while, so we're just getting to this now.

He picked it up pretty fast in multiball, looping against backspin. At first he had a...

Monday, February 6, 2017 - 14:59
February 6, 2017

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Ways to Win and Lose a Match. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 31. This is the last one, so now we can finally celebrate the New Year!)

More Table Tennis Tips
I've spent much of the last few days formatting my next table tennis book, the creatively titled "More Table Tennis Tips." This has the 150 Tips of the Week I've written over the last three years, 2014-2016, but put together in logical progression. This is both a sequel and companion piece to my previous book, "Table Tennis Tips," which had the 150 Tips from 2011-2013. Both go with another of my books, "...

Friday, February 3, 2017 - 14:28
February 3, 2017

Overseas Professional Leagues and Full-time Training
When I ran for the USATT Board, two of the things I wanted to do were to set up professional leagues for our players and a professional players' association. The problem is that we only really have one "professional" player at the moment - 16-year-old Kanak Jha, who is currently playing in the professional leagues in Sweden while training full-time. Timothy Wang was a full-time player, but now he's coaching full-time in Texas. There are many full-time coaches who are top players, but there just isn't enough money in the U.S. at this time for truly professional table tennis.

I met with players and organizers a couple of times to discuss the idea of a professional players' association, but there just isn't a lot of interest right now. Even worse, there's the one stumbling block I knew we'd face, and still haven't really figured out how to overcome - where do non-USA citizens fit in? Right now, the best players in the U.S. are overwhelmingly non-citizens. When you go to the...

Thursday, February 2, 2017 - 15:09
February 2, 2017

Team and Singles Leagues, and the USATT League Committee
By Larry Hodges, USATT League Chair and At-Large Member of USATT Board of Directors
[NOTE - this was a USATT news item last week - not sure how many people saw it. Note the need for a new League Committee Chairs near the end - do you have what it takes?]

It's that time of year again - time to sign up for a Regional Team League! Oh, there isn't one in your area? Then why not set one up? Here is the USATT League Page, which links to the USATT League Prototype, which you can use as a starting model. (You don't have to be a member of USATT to play in such a league.). Here is a listing of Regional Team Leagues currently in operation – email me if I'm missing any.

  • ...

Wednesday, February 1, 2017 - 15:27
February 1, 2017

Changing Racket Angle When Looping
Here's a question I was asked recently.

QUESTION: A lot of coaches tell us to not 'turn' or close your paddle during your forehand forward swing. They say it's a bad habit of creating topspin and causes inconsistencies. However, I've seen J.O. Waldner and Xu Xin doing that a lot.

MY ANSWER: They probably do this mostly against a slow incoming ball - and they have the timing to get away with it. Against a fast incoming ball, you normally don't want to be changing the racket angle as you forward swing. Against a slower ball, you can generate a bit more whip by changing the angle as you forward swing - but the timing is more difficult. I often to this when going for an all-out rip against a backspin. (Here's an example of a player opening the racket as he snaps his forearm and wrist into the shot in this loop against backspin. Compare the very closed racket angle during the backswing to the slightly more open contact point. The link should take you 57 seconds into this...

Tuesday, January 31, 2017 - 13:54
January 31, 2017

How to Play Practice Matches with a Weaker Player - an Example
It's always a bit disconcerting to go to the USATT News page and see a big picture of yourself! (And it'll stay there until another news item goes up.) Here's the direct link to my Tip of the Week (from yesterday) as a USATT News item.

Here's an interesting example of this. Back in the 1990s we had a junior at MDTTC, Sunny Li, who was dominating several age groups. At one point he won Under 14, 16, and 18 at the Junior Nationals. But as he moved up in level and faced even stronger players, a problem began to show up. He had among the best serves in the country, and easily the best serves among juniors, and often devastated opponents by serving long and watching them flail away at these big, breaking deceptive serves (with spinny-looking no-spin mixed in) - and if they returned them weakly, he'd pound the return, forehand or backhand. But against...

Monday, January 30, 2017 - 15:12
January 30, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Play Practice Matches with a Weaker Player.  (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 30. There is one more to go, and then we can finally celebrate the New Year!)

Last-Second Changes of Direction when Blocking
In the Sunday training session I had them do a basic drill, but with a twist. One player would serve and backhand loop (or forehand loop - I gave them that option) to his partner's backhand (or forehand - another option). The partner would aim the ball crosscourt - but at the last second would change and block down the line. (For advanced players, they had the option of going both ways.)

It's much easier to change directions at the last second on a block (or push) then with any other stroke - and players should take...

Friday, January 27, 2017 - 14:37
January 27, 2017

Schools are closed today (Professional Day), and as usual, when the schools are off, so am I! We're having a one-day camp at MDTTC. We have so many full-time coaches that I'm not really needed, but I might go over anyway. Or I'll work on some USATT or writing projects. Meanwhile, this might be a good time for you to rewatch the old Matrix Ping-Pong video - probably the most hilarious table tennis video ever made! And then you can watch some of the amateur parodies, of which I've included four.

Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 14:58
January 26, 2017

USATT Teleconference
The USATT Board had a teleconference last night. It was schedule for 7:00-8:20PM, but I think went on until after 9:45PM. There were three main items on the agenda, which I list as separate items, designated with a "=>". There was also a fourth, sort of, "New Business."

=>SafeSport Policy
Here's the USATT page on this which actually went up a few years ago. (Click on the three "Attachments" at the bottom for more info.) Basically, it means that a huge number of people are going to have to get background checks, and do so every two years. These include (and I'm copying this from the USATT page):

  • USATT Certified Coaches
  • USATT Board Members
  • USATT Staff
  • USATT Committee Chairs and Committee members
  • Affiliated Club Owners and Operators
  • Referees and Umpires
  • Tournament Directors and Organizers
  • Anyone else who has access to minors within USATT sanctioned competition or club activity.

SafeSport is...