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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, 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, April 18, 2011 - 12:35
April 18, 2011

ITTF Coaching Seminar - Part 1

This weekend was the first half of the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running at Maryland Table Tennis Center, Sat & Sun from 9-4. (Part 2 is next weekend, same times.) It's been great fun so far - easier, in fact, than a regular table tennis camp where I would spend half my time feeding multiball. Here all I had to do was spend half the time talking, and the other half walking around and coaching the coaches in the current activity. When you've spent 35 years playing a sport, have coached it for 30 years, and have run 120+ five-day training camps and countless other group and private sessions, it's not hard to know what to say - the hard part is deciding what not to say.

I've learned a lot as well just from thinking about and preparing for the seminar. In practice matches tonight afterwards, I remembered my lecture on counterlooping with sidespin by hooking the ball rather than taking on the incoming topspin directly - and realized I'd been doing that too often. Bingo, my counterloop came alive when needed. Even my forehand flip has gotten better just from thinking about and...




Friday, April 15, 2011 - 13:06
April 15, 2011

Preparations for ITTF Coaching Seminar

I've been run ragged this past week preparing for the ITTF Coaching Seminar I'm running the next two weekends. I won't bore you with the details.

As I'm going over the various techniques we'll be going over its bringing back memories of all sorts of coaching examples I've experienced over the past 35 years. I was thinking of creating a list of them to use in the seminar, but decided it's not necessary; they will pop into my head as we get to each item. For example, I know that when we talk about a coach analyzing a player's needs or the forehand follow-through, I'll remember the 5'2" coach trying to get a 6'10" player to follow through with a "salute" stroke, with the racket going to the forehead. It was both hilarious and sad. (I later worked with the 6'10" player, where I "allowed" him to have a more normal follow through to his chest, and in about a year he went from 1300 to 1800.) I know that when we go over common problems for any technique...




Thursday, April 14, 2011 - 13:03
April 14, 2011

What are your goals?

Some people want to be champions, whether it be basement, school, club, state, country, or world champion. Others want to be the best they can be. Others have a specific level in mind, such as a certain rating. Others want to play the sport properly. Others just want to play for fun. How about you? It's hard to reach a goal without having a goal.

I've had numerous goals. Early on it was to reach a 1500 rating, later 1800, 2000, then 2100, then 2200, etc. I wanted to be the best at my club - took about three years to do that. I wanted to be the best in my state, and I eventually was state champion (at different times) in three states. I wanted to be national champion, and though I didn't do it in Men's Singles with sponge, I was National Collegiate Doubles and Team Champion, and U.S. National and U.S. Open Hardbat Champion! (Also 4-time Over 40 Hardbat and 10-time Hardbat Doubles Champion.)

As the years went by, just playing the sport properly became more of a goal. Early on my best shot was my forehand smash, but I wanted to be a looper with a big forehand loop, like most of the best players in...




Wednesday, April 13, 2011 - 12:57
April 13, 2011

Fast or Slow Blade?

Someone posted that his coach recommends the use of slower blades, that he says, "a fast blade is like a drug because you can hit great shots with it and when struck correctly they also feel wonderful but the speed of a fast blade hurts your all around game (you just don't notice it because you are high on the power shots it makes happen)."

I understand why your coach recommends slower blades, and partially agree with him. However, a slower blade makes a player stroke the ball more to get the same speed as a faster blade, and so you have to do more work in the same amount of time as a player with a faster blade. And so the player with the faster blade will generally be able to rally at a faster pace with more consistency. The advantage of a slower blade is that because it makes you stroke the ball more, beginning/intermediate players develop their strokes a bit more. But beyond that, you generally need a faster blade. HOWEVER - I agree with your coach that many or most players use too fast a blade. If the blade's too fast, you can't control it, and you have less spin. So you need a balance. My...




Tuesday, April 12, 2011 - 13:15
April 12, 2011

Chinese vs. European Forehand Loop

David Bernstein emailed me the following question: "In your TTC blog a little while back you mentioned in passing that a Chinese forehand loop is more like a modified drive or smash while a European (or anywhere else) loop is something very different. Could you possibly expound on that a little more in another blog entry?  I want to link to it from my blog (where I'm experimenting with a Chinese style forehand)."

In some ways this might be the biggest difference in Chinese versus European coaching, especially for coaches from the 1990s and before. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but in general, here is how they teach it differently. (And I'm going to use the words "tend" and "in general" a lot here.)

Chinese coaches tend to spend a lot of time with beginning juniors stressing the forehand drive and smash. Many of their juniors start out as hitters because of this. However, when they are advanced enough, they teach the loop, with the idea that it is just an extension of the regular forehand. Against backspin, you just extend the arm down and drop the racket...




Monday, April 11, 2011 - 14:03
April 11, 2011

Control the receive

I was watching some beginning/intermediate players in a tournament yesterday and noticed a huge number of points decided by the receive. Either the receiver was way too aggressive (and so made mistake after mistake) or was way too passive (and kept pushing topspin and sidespin serves off the end or side). While it's usually best to learn to play aggressive, receive is all about control, about consistently taking the initiative away from the server. If you can force a neutral rally on the opponent's serve and win half the points, you should win the match when you serve.

How do you control the serve? At the beginning/intermediate level you should focus on one thing only: is the serve backspin or not backspin? If the serve has backspin (including sidespin backspin), then you mostly push it back, though you can also loop it. If it's not backspin (i.e. sidespin or topspin serves), then you use your regular topspin shots, i.e. backhand and forehand drives (or perhaps loops, if you can do that). No-spin serves you can handle either way.

At higher levels you might want to do more with the receive, but...




Friday, April 8, 2011 - 14:14
April 8, 2011

Stroking Coaches

Imagine going to a nice steakhouse and ordering the finest steak. They bring it, and that's all there is - just the steak. No potato or other vegetable on the side. No salad. No bread. Not even a drink. A coach who only works on strokes is like a steakhouse that only serves steaks.

Now some players only want to work on strokes. They are fun to do and great exercise. And beginners should focus on them. But a coach who only works on strokes is like that rather limited steakhouse. Coaches also need to work on footwork, serve, receive, tactics, strategic development, the mental game, physical training, equipment choice, even nutrition.

On the other hand, did you ask for anything on the side at that steakhouse? Maybe it's available upon request. Similarly, if you have a coach who seems mostly focused on just strokes, try asking about other things. Maybe it's available upon request. Of course the coach should be offering these things on his own, just as the steakhouse should, but as players and diners you should do what it takes to bring out the best in your game and meal.

Ping-Pong Interior...




Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 13:12
April 7, 2011

Coaching and Hardbat and Sandpaper, Oh My!

For those who are distracted by various wars and government shutdowns, the U.S. Open entry form is out. It's in Milwaukee, June 30 - July 4. Here's info on it:

2011 US Open: usopenmilwaukee.com | Entry forms: Online | Domestic | International

Now's the time to go over the schedule in painstaking detail, calculating which events to enter to maximize the sense of grandiose accomplishment after you devastate the field in your chosen events.

For me, it's a headache trying to work out conflicts. I'll be there primarily as a coach - the father of a cadet player I'm coaching is paying my way. But I also like to win National Titles. While I'm basically retired from tournaments as a sponge player (that's how I normally play and coach), I've won a lot of national...




Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 13:30
April 6, 2011

Rotating around the pole for fast forehand recovery

Yesterday I was coaching someone who had a pretty good forehand, but was often awkward in making two strong ones in a row. The problem was he tended to move his whole body forward into the shot, with his weight slightly off-center, and so to recover had to move his whole body back. It's a double-whammy because before he can even begin to move back he had to get his weight centered again. This is a common problem.

If you watch top players who seem to have the ability to hit repeated forehands (loops or smashes) with incredible rapidity - like a machine gun - you'll see that they don't move that much forward on these shots, if at all. Instead, they rotate their bodies around, as if there were a pole coming out of their heads that they spun about. When they finished their shot, they were in the same position, with weight centered, just rotated around. And since they were so well balanced and in position, they were immediately ready for the next shot. The result is a barrage of forehands that can be done incredibly quickly. It's also more efficient and thereby easier to control...




Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 14:22
April 5, 2011

Fan and Peter-Paul Serves at the North American Championships

I though the most interesting thing to watch at the North American Championships were the top players' serves, especially USA's Fan Yiyong and Canada's Pradeeban Peter-Paul.

Fan has an extremely heavy and low backspin serve, which are far spinier than it looks. However, he was having trouble controlling his forehand pendulum serve. The second bounce, given the chance, is supposed to be near the endline, making it hard to loop or drop short. It seemed to be going too long, allowing opponents to loop. In many of his matches he switched to a backhand serve, often short to the forehand, with either backspin or no-spin. The no-spin serve especially seemed to give opponents trouble as they kept putting it slightly up or long, and Fan would jump all over them.

In one match against Peter-Paul in the semifinals of Men's Singles, Fan led 2-1 in games and was up 10-5. Serving at 10-9, Fan called a timeout and spoke with USA coach Yang "Alex" Shigang. Then he served the simple backhand serve short to Peter-Paul's forehand, the return went up slightly,...