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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!

Want to talk Table Tennis? Come join us on the forum. While the focus here is on coaching, the forum is open to any table tennis talk.

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

Friday, June 16, 2017 - 13:58
June 16, 2017

Living a Life of Pong
Sometimes I get so busy from all my table tennis work that I barely can find time to do anything else. I somehow make time for my other interests – science fiction reading & writing, movies, and a few other things, but those are like smoke in a hurricane of table tennis activities. When things get so busy that there’s barely time to breathe, us table tennis people have to remind ourselves that this is the business we have chosen. After all, if we weren’t doing table tennis, what would we be doing? Not table tennis!!! (Horrors!!!)

<Start non-Table Tennis Paragraph.> In my case, I’d likely be a math professor in that other lifetime that never happened. Instead, recently, in my SF writing sideline, I’ve begun writing stories that feature Mad Molly, an 80-year-old autistic black retired math professor who regularly saves the day with math, though she usually does in humorous fashion as she has her own separate motives – such as, in one story, her determination to get an ice cream pie sent to her...

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 13:13
June 15, 2017

Preparing for Nationals
It’s that time of year again. So . . . how does one go about preparing for a big tournament? Well, first of all, you read my article, Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament. Well, duh!!! But from a coach’s point of view, here is how our coaching changes.

First, in the age of nearly unregulated plastic balls, where the balls play very differently, you have to switch over to whatever ball is being used. For the upcoming Nationals, that’s the Nittaku Premium ball. I keep a supply of each of the major types, and just yesterday I tossed a bag of these balls into my playing bag.

Second, there’s more emphasis on game play, less on basic rote drills. The time to perfect shots is mostly past; now’s the time to practice what you have in game situations. That means more free play, more points starting with serve or receive, and lots of random drills. It means more emphasis on receive, sometimes playing out points, sometimes not. For top players, it sometimes means mimicking the shots of rival players they will likely...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 13:57
June 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
Great Serves are the Best Way to Avoid Upsets and Compete with Strong Players.

$4500 Maryland State Championships
I ran them this past weekend at MDTTC, with great help from Mossa Barandao of PongMobile and Wen Hsu. Complete results are at Omnipong – the program is great for running tournaments and posting results. After the tournament finished on Sunday night, I sent in the results – and they were processed for rating shortly after lunch! (Do you remember the days when it sometimes took months, and how happy we were when they started going up consistently within ten days?)

Below is my write-up (skip ahead if you aren’t interested in the illustrious play of Marylanders – lots of other segments), which will need some adjusting as I referred to post-tournament ratings a couple of times that will likely change, though probably not too much in these two cases. Alas,...

Monday, June 12, 2017 - 11:21
June 12, 2017

No Blog Monday and Tuesday
No blog today or tomorrow (Mon and Tue) – I’m mentally and physically exhausted from running the Maryland State Championships this past weekend. (I was at the club 7:45AM-9PM on Saturday, 7:45AM-11PM Sunday, doing paperwork at the end. Everything is submitted for ratings processing. We had 88 players.) I also have to catch up on hordes of USATT, MDTTC, and writing work. Today’s priorities are to write and send out press releases on the tournament, put together a list of changes for next year, read through 43 pages of USATT printouts to prepare for a USATT teleconference at 7PM tonight (which will probably go to at least 9PM), and then get started on several long put-off writing projects. But here’s a new video of a Table Tennis Cat (19 sec)! 

Friday, June 9, 2017 - 14:11
June 9, 2017

Serve Practice and the Complacency of Non-Practice
By the time you’ve reach the intermediate or advanced level in table tennis you probably have at least decent serves. You can serve an advanced beginner off the table, and probably have “go to” serves that score you points against your peers, maybe even against stronger ones. And since you already have those serves, you don’t really need to practice them, do you? After all, you are using them in games every week, which keeps them honed and ready to use at their very best, right?

Wrong. There are three flaws with this logic.

First, no matter what level your serves are, they won’t have that little extra they’d have if you practice them regularly. Recently, in preparation for the Serving Seminar I’m running at the Nationals, I practiced my serves a few times, something I hadn’t done much recently. The result was immediate and obvious – my students, even advanced ones who were used to my serves, some of them...

Thursday, June 8, 2017 - 13:43
June 8, 2017

Improvement of Players Who “Goof Off”
What comes first, chicken or the egg? It’s sort of like a question that comes up regularly in table tennis. Obviously, players who work harder and train more seriously tend to get better than those who do not. But there’s a related question. Suppose you have two developing players who roughly work and train equally as hard, with one exception – while Player A is nearly 100% serious, Player B will sometimes goof off and use weird strokes. How does this latter habit effect a developing player?

I’ve noticed over many decades of coaching and observing that players who focus nearly 100% on doing the shots right, all the time, almost always improve much faster and become much better players than those who spend even a small amount of their developing time goofing off by throwing in “weird” shots. I’ve come to believe that when a developing player, after working hard for a time, throws in a few “goof off” shots where he intentionally does the shot wrong, he might be undoing much of his earlier practice and confusing his subconscious so the technique...

Wednesday, June 7, 2017 - 14:08
June 7, 2017

$4500 Maryland State Championships and Other Tournaments
They are this weekend! I’m running them at MDTTC, with 24 events. Deadline to enter is 7PM on Thursday - though it looks like some events may fill up before that. Mossa Barandao is assisting – he and his team from PongMobile may take over running our tournaments this fall. That way I can focus more on coaching and writing. (Note - while you must be a resident of Maryland to enter Men's and Women's Singles, Open Doubles, or any of the age events, the rating events are open to all.) 

I’ve run over 180 USATT tournaments, going back to the early 1980s. These include the 4-star 1998 Eastern Open (411 entries!), and lots of tournaments at MDTTC since 1992. I also ran dozens of tournaments at the Northern Virginia TTC in the 1980s, and a number of others. (Back in the 1980s I ran them all on paper – no computers, so you had to do each draw by hand. Scary!!!)

In the early 1990s I was assistant tournament director at two U.S. Opens...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 13:44
June 6, 2017

Tip of the Week
Rallying Tactics for Blockers.

World Championships
By now you’ve seen all the results, read all the articles, and watched all the videos (see yesterday’s blog) from the World Championships. Life can now go back to normal!!! Here’s the article on the Men’s Final, Ma Long Retains Title, Most Dramatic Final Ever?, and here’s video of the final (15:06). A few observations:

Monday, June 5, 2017 - 13:10
June 5, 2017

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

Friday, June 2, 2017 - 13:53
June 2, 2017

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

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

I have a huge variety of serves, mostly centered around forehand pendulum serves. My best serves were a variety of short side/...