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 Photo by Donna Sakai

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, TableTennisCoaching.com

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

Recent TableTennisCoaching.com blog posts

Monday, February 13, 2012 - 13:14
February 13, 2012

Blog Returns Tomorrow

Due to getting in late last night, and a nearly continuous headache since Friday (the causes of which I'll blog about), I'm going to go back to bed and start blogging again tomorrow, including the Tip of the Week. I'll have lots of tidbits from the USA Olympic Trials. Meanwhile, here's an article in today's USA Today on the Trials




Wednesday, February 8, 2012 - 11:47
February 8, 2012

NO BLOG ON THURSDAY & FRIDAY

I'm off this morning to coach at the U.S. Olympic Trials (Cary, NC, Feb. 9-12), so no blog entries the next two days. See you all again on Monday - hopefully with lots of news from the Trials!

U.S. Olympic Trials Live Streaming and Schedule

Yes, you can watch the U.S. Olympic Trials live! They are care of NBC Universal Sports Live Feeds. (Trials are Feb. 9-12, Thur-Sun, in Cary, NC.)

Here is the basic format of the Trials. For both men and women, the top ten seeded players are seeded to the Top Twelve. The rest play a qualifier on Thursday, Feb. 9, for the final two spots. On the men's side, 32 players (13 of them rated over 2400, led by Jeff Huang and Dan Seemiller at 2504 and 2494) will play single elimination to the final two, who will advance to the Top Twelve. On the women's side, there are only three in the qualifier, so they will play a rather short round robin to see which two advance to the Top Twelve. (See player listing below to see who the players are in the Qualifiers.)

The players in...




Tuesday, February 7, 2012 - 13:49
February 7, 2012

Seven-year-old looper

He's been playing only about six weeks. Last week he learned to loop for the first time. Normally I start players looping against backspin with multiball, but he'd seen others looping against block and wanted to try it, so we started with that. Apparently he practiced it all week. Yesterday he showed up, and he's looping against my block like a pro! He lets the ball drop very low, since he's very short, but he was getting very good spin with textbook technique. Wow. Can't wait to see how he develops.

You may remember this kid - he's the one I blogged about last week, on Jan. 31. Here's what I wrote: "A third kid, age seven, has the weird habit of hitting until the ball is high. Then he'll wait for it to drop, and loop it! He has loop written all over him, and will probably be looping everything soon. The interesting thing here is that at age seven, he already knows all the best players in the world, and likes to mimic them. Yesterday he was showing off his 'Ma Lin backhands,' mimicking both Ma's conventional and...




Monday, February 6, 2012 - 12:21
February 6, 2012

Tip of the Week

Hooking and Slicing Loops.

U.S. Olympic Trials

Here's a short article on the U.S .Olympic Trials in Cary, NC this Thur-Sun, including the playing schedule. I'll be there coaching Han Xiao, John (and possibly Nathan) Hsu - see you there! (Here's the official home page for the Trials.)

Nets & Edges

Convention wisdom says that nets and edges even out. As I've pointed out before in this blog, this simply isn't true. Some players get more or less than others, either because of their playing style or because of their precision. It doesn't always even out.

As I've done many times, I'm willing to put it to the test - and did so again this weekend. And the results are inevitably the same - I'm one of those players who gets very few nets and edges. During coaching sessions with players rated 1750-1900,...




Friday, February 3, 2012 - 12:02
February 3, 2012

Breaking 2000

I just finished reading the excellent book Breaking 2000, by Alex Polyakov. The book is a first-hand step-by-step look at the strategic development of a player from near beginner to an advanced level. I don't think I've seen it covered like this anywhere else. Instructional books generally do a good job in teaching how to do each technique; this book shows the actual events taking place as the techniques were learned, how they were learned, and most important, why. (And on a related note, Alex's coach, Gerald Reid, who is mentioned throughout the book, came to several of our training camps back in the 1990s!)

Improvement in table tennis is rarely a steady upward progression; as you learn new things, your game often temporarily "regresses" as you learn the new technique, and so rapidly-improving players often go up a bunch, then down a little, then up, then down. If you chart their improvement, it's more of an upward staircase. And that proves to be the case with Alex - see his...




Thursday, February 2, 2012 - 14:03
February 2, 2012

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

This month was a treasure trove, with 19 new celebrities - just look at some of the names below! There are now 1334 pictures of 788 celebrities at the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page! (I maintain the page, updating it around the 1st of each month.) New this month:

Musicians

  • John Lennon, rock star
  • George Harrison, rock star
  • Ringo Starr, rock star
  • Paul McCartney, rock star
  • David Bowie, rock star
  • Bob Marley, musician (new picture)
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Keith Jarrett, Jazz Pianist
  • Ennio Morricone, Film Music Composer
  • Manfred Eicher, founder and producer of the Jazz record label ECM

Athletes

  • Minnesota Fats, pool player
  • Vitali Klitschko, Ukrianian WBC World Heavyweight Boxing Champion, and leader of the UDAR of Vitaliy Klychko political party (2 pictures)
  • Wladimir Klitschko, Ukrainian WBA Super, IBF, IBO & Ring Magazine World...



Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 13:36
February 1, 2012

Style and personality

Many years ago, while driving to a tournament with Dave Sakai (a top U.S. player for many decades) and Ron Lilly (one of the best pips-out penholders at the time), Dave pointed out that most players tend to develop playing styles that are opposite of their personalities. Dave likes to gamble (and in fact now has houses in both Maryland and Las Vegas, where he likes to spend much of his time), and can be pretty aggressive in arguments. And yet he plays a very safe pushing and blocking game. Ron is a very nice, non-confrontational type, and yet he plays an almost reckless all-out hitting game. And me? Most would say I'm the intellectual type, and yet in my early years, rather than developing some complicated tactical game, I worked hard to develop a pure all-out physical forehand attacking game. (However, as the years went by, my game evolved into a highly tactical game, though I still like all-out forehand attacking.)

Do aggressive people tend to develop passive styles, and vice versa? Do thinkers tend to develop non-thinking games, and vice versa? I think these observations apply to many players. I've found that...




Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 14:55
January 31, 2012

Different strokes for different folks

It's interesting to watch the natural tendencies of players come out in their play. Yesterday I coached three kids, all beginning-intermediate players.

The first one, age ten, literally takes every ball off the bounce. It is easier for an elephant to fit through the eye of a needle than to get him to hit the ball at the top of the bounce. In a previous era not dominated by looping he'd be a hitter/blocker. These days? I'm not so sure. Right now he hits everything off the bounce; later on, perhaps he'll loop everything off the bounce. He plays at home with a table that has about four feet going back, so that says something about how and why he's developing this way.

Another kid, also about ten, doesn't seem to get the concept of a flat hit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in this topspin-dominated age. His version of a forehand-to-forehand warm-up is no different than when he loops, and he doesn't seem to realize this - he uses the same looping stroke for drives and loops, and seems to think he's doing something different, though I haven't found a...




Monday, January 30, 2012 - 14:37
January 30, 2012

Tip of the Week

Quick and Variable Blocks.

Revamping the forehand

This weekend I was coaching an older player who had a nice backhand but awkward forehand. He stood mostly in a backhand stance, with a low grip (so that his shots were very wristy), and stroked his forehand with his elbow extended out, stroking mostly from the shoulder, with little shoulder rotation. He backswing varied from shot to shot. To fix these problems, we first adjusted the grip. He tried a conventional shakehand grip where his hand was closer to the blade, but it didn't feel right to him. Then we hit on the idea of simply using more pressure with his index finger to secure the blade more firmly on the forehand so that it wouldn't be wristy.

Then we worked on the stance, focusing on putting the right foot slightly back on the forehand. With some practice, this'll become a habit.

Finally we had to fix the elbow and shoulder problem, which really went together. To address this, I went back to a trick I'd seen coaches use long ago when the game was...




Friday, January 27, 2012 - 14:43
January 27, 2012

Weight training for table tennis

As noted in previous blogs, I started weight training (along with stretching) last fall because of back problems, and it not only fixed the back problems, but raised my level of play. At almost 52, the muscles simply do not move the body around fast enough, and they were breaking down trying to do so. As also noted, I stopped weight training after Christmas, and paid for it.

Now, after two weeks of weight training again, the back is fine again, and once again my level of play has escalated. Now I'm able to run around the court forehand looping better than I had in years. I've even increased the weight on most of the 16 exercises I've been doing.

There are others who also do this. Many are amazed at the exploits of George Braithwaite, a two-winged looper still about 2100 level at age 77. He regularly weight trains as well, and is in better shape than many in their 20s. Take away the weights, and watch how fast he'd fall to earth.

The simple reality is that to play a physical game, your muscles have to move your body around quickly and easily, with fast body rotations in both directions...