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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

Thursday, September 21, 2017 - 13:26
September 21, 2017

School Closed, Larry’s Off
The local schools are closed as a “Non-Instructional Day,” presumably because of Rosh Hashanah. As is my normal policy, when the schools are closed, I’m off too. (Though I’ll spend much of the day on various writing and other projects.) We have a one-day camp today at MDTTC. I’m not needed in it – we have ten coaches at the club – but I may go in later and help out as a practice partner. Then I have three hours of private coaching from 5:30-8:30PM. Meanwhile, to tide you over until tomorrow, here’s an animated gif of Speedy Gonzales playing table tennis. So . . . who would win in a battle between Speedy Gonzales and the Energizer Battery?

Wednesday, September 20, 2017 - 13:58
September 20, 2017

Old Ping-Pong Stuff
My house is loaded with old ping-pong stuff. Here’s a rundown.

  • I have well over 100 collared table tennis shirts in my closet, mostly from Butterfly, the oldest dating back to (gulp!) the late 1970s!!! But I don’t wear the old ones anymore. I have about 40 I use regularly, all from the last five years, all with my name and MDTTC on the back.
  • I still have the Newgy robot I used to lug around for group sessions at various locations in Maryland back in the early 1990s. Alas, it’s still set for 38 mm balls, and hasn’t been used since at least 2000, when the world switched to 40mm balls. I’m not sure what to do with it.
  • I have table tennis rackets on my shelves from the 1980s, and sheets of sponge almost that old.
  • I always keep a chopping blade (with long pips on one side) in my bag so students can practice against chopping. Until a year ago I had the same racket and sponge for this for over 25 years! (It’s at the club, and I forget the type of racket it is but it was a “top” chopping blade circa 1990 or so.) I finally got a new racket and sponge for...

Tuesday, September 19, 2017 - 12:53
September 19, 2017

Backhand Topspins
Last Thursday I blogged about Teaching the Topspinny Backhand, and teaching it to an 8-year-old girl. I’d held back with her and others on this because I didn’t want to mess them up just before our “Talent” program trials. But now that they are over, we’re going backhand topspin crazy – and it’s great!

On Sunday I coached Todd, age 12, on topspinning his backhand. Before that he had a decent backhand loop against backspin, but mostly hit his backhand in rallies. Within minutes of trying it out he was playing backhand topspins like a pro, at least in rote drills where he knew where the ball was going. It’ll take time to incorporate this successfully more random drills and in matches – but on the other hand, I told him it would take time to incorporate the shot into drills, and that time turned out to be minutes.

Maybe I should just tell everyone to copy Ma Long, tell them it’ll take them time to incorporate his shots, and watch them all play like Ma Long in minutes.

To me, the biggest...

Monday, September 18, 2017 - 14:02
September 18, 2017

Tip of the Week
Always Think of a Loop as a Set-up Shot.

In my 57th year I have this seven-year itch to tell seven of nine stories I have on sevens. Here are my seven deadly sins stories of seven, otherwise known as the magnificent seven.

  1. Seven hours becomes one hour on Saturday. I normally have seven hours of coaching scheduled on Saturdays, my busiest day, from 10AM-5PM with no break (plus 5:30-7:30PM twice a month). But an extraordinary thing happened this past Saturday, or rather six of them. My 10AM student told me a few days in advance he was away and wouldn’t be able to come in. My 11AM student emailed that morning that he had strep throat and couldn’t come in. My 1PM student emailed that morning that he’d forgotten to tell me that he was out of town this weekend and couldn’t come in. From 2-4PM I have two students who come in together, but they were away at a tournament and so neither were coming in. My 4PM student had a family thing he had to go to and so had rescheduled the...

Friday, September 15, 2017 - 14:08
September 15, 2017

A USATT Coaches Training and Certification Program
There are currently two ways of becoming certified as a USATT coach. One is the USATT certification process itself, which explains how to become a Club, State, Regional, or National Coach. (There is also an Instructor category, which is for non-table tennis people with teaching experience, such as PE teachers. I wrote the Instructor’s Guide to Table Tennis for this, which has also been used at the Club level for many years.) The other is to take one of the ITTF coaching courses, where Levels 1, 2, and 3 equate to State, Regional, and National coaches.

However, as is often pointed out, the ITTF coaching courses weren’t really set up as a certification process, and they don’t always teach what we specifically would like taught at each level. And so we are now looking into...

Thursday, September 14, 2017 - 13:31
September 14, 2017

Teaching the Topspinny Backhand
When a player first learns to play, they learn basic forehands and backhands, which include putting at least a very light topspin on the ball. A proper stroke automatically puts some topspin on the ball as the racket is moving forward and slightly up at contact. Beginners often hit the ball almost straight on, and so generate little or no topspin. Here’s a good backhand drive video (2:55, from ITTF). This teaches the standard, light topspin backhand. Here's a good backhand topspin video (3:18, from EmRatThich) showing a more topspinny backhand. Note how the racket tip drops down, allowing more topspin from the stroke. In the ITTF video, lefty Timo Boll is shown for a few seconds hitting backhands 28 seconds in, and also topspins his backhand this way. 

One of my students, age 8, tends to hit the ball almost straight on, resulting in a rather erratic backhand that’s more a blocking motion than a stroke, with the ball coming out dead. I could...

Wednesday, September 13, 2017 - 14:01
September 13, 2017

So Much Happening!
No matter where you are, there’s something coming up for you. While there’s not much on the coaching side in my blog this morning (after seven in yesterday’s blog), though there's some good analysis in the Table Tennis Tidbits #8 (by Robert Ho), this time it’s full of events all over the place. Here’s a rundown.

  • Philadelphia, PA. See the segment below on Spin Philly, with the grand opening party this Friday, Sept. 15, 9PM-2AM. I may go up for this.
  • Ann Arbor, MI. See segment below on the 45th Ping-Pong Diplomacy at University of Michigan on Monday, Sept. 18.
  • Franklin, WI. See segment below on the $16,000 4-star Badger Open, near Milwaukee, Sept. 15-17.
  • CA, WA, NC, NJ, NY. Play in any of the following 2-star tournaments this coming weekend: North-West LA Open (Canoga Park, CA);...

Tuesday, September 12, 2017 - 14:03
September 12, 2017

Tip of the Week
Make Adjusting a Habit by Playing Different Players.

USATT Board Meeting
It was an extremely hectic weekend – I’m learning that coaching and attending board meetings don’t always mix well. On Saturday I coached from 10AM to 4PM, then drove over to the USATT informal meeting/get-together on Saturday night in Washington DC. On Sunday I left my house at 6:30AM, attended the meeting from 8AM to 2:30PM, drove to my club, and coached from 4PM to 8:30PM. After spending all day sitting in a chair, my back stiffened up while coaching and began to hurt. (I’m doing back stretches before it gets worse.) Here’s a rundown of the USATT meeting.

On Saturday night we all met at Gary Schlager’s large house, with its even larger basement, for informal games, meetings, and dinner. (Gary recently joined the USATT Board of Directors – his financial background is a huge plus.) There was ping-pong, pool, darts, and air...

Monday, September 11, 2017 - 12:22
September 11, 2017

Back Tomorrow
Yeah, it’s one of those days. Yesterday I was on the go for 14 hours straight. At 6:30AM I was in my car driving to the USATT board meeting in Washington DC, which I attended (as a board member and coaching committee chair) from 8AM-2:30PM. Then I drove back to MDTTC and coached from 4PM to 8:30PM. (Saturday was almost as long – coaching from 10AM to 4PM, then attending various Saturday night board festivities.) I’ll write about the board meeting tomorrow, as well as the Tip of the Week. But just to wake you up this Monday morning, here’s video (31 sec) of the greatest and most energetic table tennis player of all time. 

Friday, September 8, 2017 - 13:22
September 8, 2017

USATT Coaching Committee Report
September 1, 2017
By Larry Hodges (Chair)
[NOTE – this was submitted to the USATT Board of Directors one week ago.]

Since I was only appointed in March, and the committee approved in May (myself, Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao, Sydney Christophe, and player rep Timothy Wang, with staff liaison Jörg Bitzigeio), we’ve only had a few months. (Also, I’m busiest during the summer, as are other coaches on the committee, and so I’ve put off a lot until the fall.) Here’s what happened on the USATT coaching front so far this year.

  • USATT University. We held the first USATT University at the USA Nationals in July, with great help from Gordon and USATT headquarters. Eight courses were taught, including four that were directly coaching related. However, attendance this first time around was low, and so we need to work on that. Despite putting flyers in everyone’s playing packet, an ad in the program, and USATT news items, the large majority of players, when asked, didn’t even know about it. Courses taught...