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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, March 21, 2012 - 11:03
March 21, 2012

Jim Butler call

Yesterday I got a call from Jim Butler. He's been reading my blog and liked what I'd written about him in my blog yesterday. It turns out he's been training extremely hard for three months, almost every day, though often with much weaker players. I told him that when I first heard he'd beaten both Peter Li and Han Xiao at the Cary Cup my mouth had dropped to the floor, but after that, nothing he did would surprise me. (Of course, part of the jaw-dropping part was I didn't realize just how much training he'd been doing.)

Jim and I go way back. I wasn't ever his coach (though I've coached against him, practiced with him, beat him in tournaments when he was a little kid, as well as written about him extensively), but I was the manager (later director/assistant coach) of the resident training program at the Olympic Training Center from 1985-1989, and Jim was there for a year (Fall 1988-Spring 1989, turning 18 during his stay). I still remember grounding him for breaking curfew. Sure, all he did was stick his arm (and then his finger...

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 - 13:41
March 20, 2012


Yesterday I coached a player who moved to his wide forehand to loop pretty well, but always ended up off balance. His center of gravity would go outside his outer foot as he stepped toward the ball, and so after the shot would have great difficulty getting back into position for the next shot. It's extremely important to keep your center of gravity between your feet so that you are always balanced. Sure, there are extreme situations where you have to lunge or even dive for the ball, but those rare exceptions. Notice how the top players are able to hit power shots over and over in quick succession? It's because they stay balanced, and so their recovery time from each shot is extremely fast. When going for a powerful forehand loop it helps to think of a rod going through your head, and try to rotate around that rod as much as possible. That'll help keep your balance.

Jim Butler at the Cary Cup

He's 41, and came out of retirement just a few months ago. Sure, he was U.S. National Champion three times, but the last time was in 1993, nineteen years ago, during Bill Clinton's first year in...

Monday, March 19, 2012 - 14:17
March 19, 2012

Tip of the Week

Fixing the Biggest Weakness in Your Game.

Cary Cup

Unfortunately I barely saw any of the big matches since I was coaching throughout the tournament. So I have little to report on that. In fact, I'm trying to find the results online, and haven't been able to find much of anything.

Here are some tidbits.

  • I got to watch the Butlers, Scott and Jim, go at it backhand to backhand, when they were warming up. They can really hit those backhands. And yet it shows how the game has changed as modern top players would be topspinning those backhands while the Butlers were cracking in mostly flat backhands.
  • There was a rather small bag sitting on a chair next to a court I was about to coach at. I nonchalantly picked up the bag with my right (playing) arm so I could put it aside so I could use the chair. I strained the arm slightly when this rather small bag turned out to weight about 50 pounds. I have no idea what was in it - gold bars?
  • There were two water fountains next to each...

Thursday, March 15, 2012 - 12:03
March 15, 2012

No Blog on Friday - Cary Cup

No blog tomorrow (Friday) - I leave for the Cary Cup Championships this morning, right after I post this. I'll be defending my hardbat titles from the last two years, but it's a very tough draw this year. The rest of the tournament I'll be coaching junior stars George and Derek Nie. I'm going down and rooming with Tim Boggan. I've been having arm problems, but they seem to be over. I was toying with playing primarily as a chopper, but if the arm is okay I'll probably play my usual all-out forehand attack game combined with some backhand chopping. I'll write about the tournament in my blog next week.

A few notes on serve & forehand looping

When I'm at my best, I'm an all-out forehand attacker on my serve. (This is for both my normal sponge game as well as my hardbat game.) The key to this is good serves and good footwork. Regarding footwork, while fast feet are extremely helpful, good footwork technique is just as important for the first shot of a rally. I'm 52 and don't train...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012 - 12:53
March 14, 2012

All-out Attackers and Ball Control

All-out attackers often believe that they have to attack all out. It's the death of many a game. While it's true that a strong attacker should attack most of the time, there's one time where they shouldn't look to always attack - when receiving. If they can only attack the serve, while the opponent has more variation, then, all things being equal, they are toast.

Instead of blindly attacking every serve, an "all-out attacker" should mix in subtle returns, such as short pushes and sudden quick ones. This keeps the opponent off guard, and so when the attacker does attack the serve, it's far more effective. At the highest levels, the top players are great at mixing in flips and short pushes to mess up opponents. Players at all levels from intermediate up should learn to do return serves with such variation. If you are an all-out attacker, then you use the receive to disarm the opponent, and look to attack (or counter-attack) the next ball.

If you always attack the serve, then the server knows the ball is coming out to him, and can hang back waiting for the...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 - 12:11
March 13, 2012

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 12

DONE!!! Well, almost. We actually finished the "first draft" on Saturday, and spent much of Sunday and all of Monday inputting changes from Tim's proofing of the pages. (He's very, Very, VERY picky!) I printed out the "final" version last night, but Tim's told me he has many more changes, which we'll be inputting today. Alas.

Meanwhile, you can order the first 11 volumes, and pre-order #12, at the Tim Boggan Table Tennis page. I've already updated the page and the new order form.

How I play "lower" players

The key to beating lower players consistently is to take control right from the start with serve and receive. On the serve, you should have lots of serve and attack patterns. The key is not to serve and go for winners unless the shot is there. Instead, serve and attack with placement to put pressure on the opponent, and let them miss or give you an easy ball. Don't give away easy points by going for reckless shots.

On my serve, I...

Monday, March 12, 2012 - 13:28
March 12, 2012

Tip of the Week

As I also write one week ago, for a while I've been bothered by two blog posts that really should have been Tips of the Week. As blog items, they were read and then lost in the avalanche of daily blog postings. As Tips of the Week, they'd be more accessible in the future as coaching articles. Since I'm currently working eight hours a day with Tim Boggan on the page layouts and photo work for his latest table tennis history book (we hope to finish today), as well as my usual coaching and other duties, last Monday and today I'm putting up these two items, with some updating/expansion, as Tips. So here is: Developing a Smash.


Today is Day 14 of doing the page layouts and photo work on Tim Boggan's History of Table Tennis, Volume 12. No days off, no half days, usually getting up at 5AM and starting work at 6AM, and going until about 5PM or until I have my coaching scheduled. Since I'm also subbing for Coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun, I've been coaching nearly seven nights a week. (Jeffrey was in China for two...

Friday, March 9, 2012 - 12:47
March 9, 2012

Shouldn't there be an age limit for backhand looping?

Yesterday I coached one of our 7-year-olds for an hour. That in itself is rare - most at that age do only 30 minutes at a time. But this one was a bit ahead of the curve for the average kid in that age bracket. He loops just about everything on both sides. He regularly backhand loops 5-6 in a row against a block. And he can fish and lob with heavy topspin, often forcing me to miss smashes not because I couldn't handle the spin, but because I was having difficulty believing he was putting that much spin on the ball.

This is how the game is changing. There was a time when few kids would learn to loop before they were 9 or 10, and that would only be against backspin. Looping against topspin wouldn't start until even later. Now, with sponges that practically loop the ball for you, and with more and more full-time training centers with full-time coaches popping up around the country, the level of play is going up dramatically, and players fall behind if they wait until they are 9 or 10 to learn to do what others are doing earlier.

Many of the top sub-10-year-olds still...

Thursday, March 8, 2012 - 10:53
March 8, 2012

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 12

As mentioned in this blog, USA Table Tennis Historian Tim Boggan moved in with me for two weeks starting on Tuesday, Feb. 28, so that I could do the page layouts and photo work on his next volume of History of U.S. Table Tennis. Yep, it's volume 12! I've done the layouts for all except the first one. I get to read a lot of it as we work, with him sitting next to me and pointing at the screen saying, "That photo goes there. No, I said there, you fool!"

We've now finished the covers, Acknowledgements, Introduction, and 25 chapters (370 pages) of the 31-chapter book. We should finish it all on Friday. He'll spend Saturday proofing the pages, and on Sunday and Monday we'll be making the corrections. Then I'll do all the pre-press work, and send the 500-page PDF file to the printer. Since we're not leaving for the Cary Cup until Thursday morning, we should finish two days early. What'll we do on Tues & Wed? I don't know. Movies, sight-seeing, maybe even some ping-pong.

Here's an excerpt, from...

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - 11:18
March 7, 2012

Returning Serve

It's everyone's biggest weakness, or so it seems. But it shouldn't be that way. Let's review:

  1. If the ball is deep, return it aggressively, ideally with a loop.
  2. If the ball is short without backspin (i.e. sidespin, side-top, topspin, or no-spin), mostly return it aggressively with a flip.
  3. If the ball is short with backspin, either push it long (deep, low, good backspin, quick off the bounce, angled, and hide the direction until the last second), push it short (so that it is low and that, given the chance, would bounce twice on the opponent's side of the table), or flip it.
  4. Above all else, returning serve is about BALL CONTROL. If you have trouble controlling the ball, or reading the spin, play against players with good serves until you can read the spin and control the ball. If you don't have anyone like that you can practice against, then you better find someone because you aren't going to learn to do something unless you practice it.
  5. That is all.

How arm problems are improving my game

More specifically...