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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, 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

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 12:36
April 10, 2012

Too far from the table on your forehand loop?

A lot of players lose power when forehand looping against backspin because they are too far from the table, taking the ball too much in front of them instead of rotating their body and taking it from the side. This forces them to reach forward for the ball, and to compensate and keep their balance, their left side (for righties) falls back as they hit the shot. It also means they cannot get much body rotation into the shot. They may get decent spin with this shot, but little forward speed. Instead, stand closer to the table, and rotate the body back sideways, and then rotate the entire body into the shot. The contact point is actually in the same spot relative to the table, but now you are in a position to really put power on the ball. Watch the top players and see how close they stand to the table when looping against backspin.

Here's a video (1:42) by USA Men's Coach and former German star Stefan Feth showing and explaining the forehand loop against backspin. Note how he stays relatively close to the table as he rotates into each...




Monday, April 9, 2012 - 12:57
April 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

The 3-2-1 Placement Rule.

Seamless balls

As some of you may know, the ITTF is going to seamless balls. The first ones are out. Here's an analysis (5:44) by Australian star William Henzell - and it's not good. Some quotes:

  • "They sound broken."
  • "Bounce feels different and generally higher."
  • "The bounce will take some getting used to and the ball will be in a different position to what you're used to."
  • "We found there was less spin generally."
  • "The balls wobbled from side to side when spun."
  • "The new balls are definitely harder."
  • "The new balls feel heavier."
  • "After just a few minutes of play we had our first broken ball."
  • "We all hope this will improve."

Cheng gone, me busy

Cheng Yinghua is vacationing in China for three weeks (April 9-May 1). I'...




Friday, April 6, 2012 - 12:28
April 6, 2012

MDTTC Open House

If you are within driving distance of Gaithersburg, Maryland, come to our Open House and Grand Re-Opening this Saturday! There will be free refreshments and raffles throughout the day, and it's your chance to talk table tennis with the MDTTC coaches and players, as well as to see the newly renovated and now gigantic MDTTC, which has doubled in size to 10,000 sq feet and 18 tables. Here's the schedule:

  • 10:30 AM - Noon: Junior Group Training (FREE!)
  • 12:00-1:00 PM: Demonstrations and Exhibitions (FREE!), featuring MDTTC Coaches and Top Players: Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Han Xiao, Tong Tong Gong, Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, Larry Hodges, others.
  • 1:00-1:30 PM: Service Seminar by Larry Hodges (FREE!)
  • 1:30-2:00 PM: Lucky Draw Mini Tournament (used to be called Parade of Champions), anyone can sign up (FREE!), single elimination with games to 3 points! Gift certificates to the Final Four.
  • 2:00-4:00 PM...



Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 12:09
April 5, 2012

Wandering grips and open rackets

One of the more common problems I see with beginners and some intermediate players are what I call "wandering grips." I wrote about grip problems in this week's Tip of the Week, and this is a related problem. It seems that no matter how many times I remind them, some players change to a bad grip as soon as the rally begins. They aren't even aware of it. The reason is that they have unfortunately learned to hit the ball with the bad grip, and this has led to bad stroking technique. Since this bad technique has become habit, they automatically use this bad technique as soon as the rally begins - and so they subconsciously switch to the bad grip that matches the bad technique, since they cannot do the bad technique with a good grip.

The solution, of course, is lots of repetitive practice with the good grip and good technique in a controlled practice situation, usually multiball training. When the good technique seems ingrained in such rote practice drills, then the player can try them in more random drills, and finally in practice...




Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 12:38
April 4, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting and Coaching

Yesterday we finished Day Two of the MDTTC Spring Break Camp. Anyone who thinks coaching is just about coaching hasn't done much coaching - at least not with younger kids. I had most of the beginning kids in my group yesterday, average age around 8 or 9. I've learned to referee fights about cups and dominoes (yes, it's a table tennis camp), about setting up doubles teams ("I won't play doubles with a girl" says one, and another says, "My mom says I have to play with her!"), and how best to get them to aim for a target on the table (either use candy they win if they knock it off the table, or use a drink bottle and tell them it's "worm juice" that I have to drink if they hit it).

Oh, and their shots are getting better and better!!!

Beginning kids often hit the ball off the end over and over when learning new strokes. The cure? I tell them, "Put the next ball in the net." With clockwork efficiency, they inevitably hit the next shot perfectly on the table, to their utter surprise.

One kid really, Really, REALLY wanted to...




Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 11:53
April 3, 2012

Wang Liqin didn't show up

Alas, Wang Liqin didn't show up at the airport yesterday. (See my blog yesterday about this.) Neither did I, since it was of course an April Fool's Joke. I couldn't actually do it on April 1, since that was a Sunday and I blog Mon-Fri, so I started the blog off by writing, "As reported yesterday..." The story spread through the Internet like wildfire. Several players at our Spring Break camp heard about it and thought it might be true. I received dozens of emails. This despite my talking about his nine-year-old superstar son Tongtong (Tong Tong Gong is the top rated cadet in Maryland), about his science fiction writing career (including "a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons" - I'm a SF writer, not him!), and so on.

Strangest and weirdest shots in table tennis

I would rarely, if ever, do these shots in a serious match - but in practice? Why not. I do...




Monday, April 2, 2012 - 12:33
April 1, 2012

Tip of the Week

Grip and Stance.

Wang Liqin is Coming to Maryland

As reported yesterday in numerous online forums and news agencies, Wang Liqin, the 2001, 2005 and 2007 World Men's Singles Champion (but now down to #9 at age 33), wasn't happy about not being chosen to play in the World Men's Team Final against Germany this past weekend. We'd been negotiating with him, but this slap in the face was the final straw for the unhappy superstar. I pick him up tonight at Dulles Airport, on United 933 from Frankfurt, GER. "I think I've done all I can for China," the disgruntled star said through a translator. "China don't need me, they don't want me, so they can't have me. Maybe I can help United States instead."

Wang also noted that he'd like to explore his other interest outside table tennis, science fiction writing. Under a pseudonym of "Wan Ling Qi" (which is an anagram of his real name), he's had several stories published in Science...




Friday, March 30, 2012 - 11:43
March 30, 2012

It's not fair! Another reason why top players dominate. 

I once complained to U.S. Olympian Todd Sweeris during a match, "It's not fair. You're not winning by playing 2600; you're winning by being 2600." I said the same thing last night to former Pan Am Team Member Scott Butler (who was in town for a couple days), who was seemingly winning "cheap" points in a practice match with local Raghu Nadmichettu. I told Raghu, "You never miss those shots against me."

The point was that it is often the very threat of high-level play that freezes opponents into immobility against shots they would have no trouble with against lower-level players.

There are two ways you can take advantage of this. First, you can become a very good player, and then your potential for high-level play will freeze many opponents into immobility. That's the hard way.

The easy way is to simply diversify your game by developing versatility and unpredictability. If you threaten opponents with lots of options on any given shot, many will also be frozen into immobility as they wait to...




Thursday, March 29, 2012 - 12:39
March 29, 2012

Pushing the limits

Last night I was coaching an 8-year-old girl. We've been working on her strokes for months, and while she could occasionally get 50 or so in a row at a slow pace, it was sort of a "just keep the ball in play" type rally, at a slow pace, with her mostly standing stationary as she patted the ball back. She was looking pretty bored as I encouraged her to get 50 in a row. So I tried something different - I decided it was time to teach her to forehand loop. Normally I'd want her to have a bit more ball control and athleticism in her game before I'd start this. So I got a bucket of balls and fed her backspin with multiball. At first she struggled, but after a few minutes she made a rather nice loop, and then another, and after a while she was able to hit about every other one on the table with a good stroke and decent topspin. She ran off to tell her mom (who was hitting on another table). Then she ran back and did some more.

Here's the real surprise. We ended the session hitting forehands - and after all the struggles, suddenly she came alive, her feet moving, and for the first time ever we were...




Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 13:18
March 28, 2012

Grip and Stance

Let's do a thought experiment. Hold a piece of paper so you hold the top with one hand, the bottom with the other. Now twist the top. Notice how the entire piece of paper twists? Now twist the bottom. Same thing. How does this relate to table tennis?

Now imagine holding a table tennis player in your hands. (You are either very strong or the player is very small.) Hold his playing hand in one hand and his feet with the other. Twist his playing hand and his entire body twists. The same if you twist his feet.

This is what happens when you have a bad grip or bad playing stance. It twists your entire body out of proper alignment, causing all sorts of technique problems. These two problems are by far the most common cause of technique problems. Most often they are not recognized as even many experienced coaches often treat the symptoms of these problems rather than recognizing the cause.

This is why I strongly recommend that players should use a neutral grip during their formative years, and usually well beyond that. (For shakehand players, this means the thinnest part of the wrist lines up with the racket. If...