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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

Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 12:00
June 1, 2011

Contact point on the block

At the Easterns, while blocking to warm up Tong Tong Gong's loop, something clicked. It's one of those things I've always known and coached, but it helps when it works in your own game. I'd been holding my racket too high on blocks (both forehand and backhand), and that's why it hadn't been particularly comfortable in recent times. By starting with the racket lower to the table, I can actually raise the racket slightly as the ball bounces on the table, allowing the center of the racket to "follow" the ball. This leads to a quicker block, better timing, contact in the center of the racket, a bit of topspin on the block, and overall, a more consistent block. If you hold the racket slightly higher, you have to wait for the ball to come up to it, and then try to catch it in the center, which is trickier.

Holding it higher does give a flatter block, which is effective against some, but the price is less control. But you can do this while holding the racket low by taking the ball right off the bounce and stroking straight forward. This is how many penholders block, and is why they so...




Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 14:16
May 31, 2011

Computer crash

This morning my desktop computer crashed. (I'm writing this on my netbook computer.) I had all sorts of stuff ready to write for my blog; I'd written half of it last night. But now I can't access it, and I'll probably spend much of the day trying to work out the computer problems. I've already contacted my friendly neighborhood computer expert (J-O, where are you? No, not Waldner), and hopefully all will end well. But rather than leave the multitudes without anything whatsoever to do or read today, here's an exercise.

Developing your game

Are you ready to take your game to the next level and beyond? Let's do an exercise that'll help you do that. If you are a coach, this is also a great exercise for your students - work with them on this.

First, write down what your long-term goal is, in terms of level. Be realistic, but at the same time don't be overly conservative. Give a general timeline to reach this goal.

Second, write down your strengths and potential strengths. If you have a big forehand loop but it misses too much, it might not...




Monday, May 30, 2011 - 13:26
May 30, 2011

Every point is a match.

That's the piece of advice I've been giving players in tournaments a lot this year. Most competitive matches are won by just a few points. Give away two points a game, and half the games you would have won in a competitive match are lost. Give away even one point a game, and you lose all those deuce games you won, and half those 11-9 games you won. So treasure every point. Stop before serving and receiving and make sure you really are ready. If serving, think tactically about what's the best serve to use. If receiving, consider how you can mess up the opponent with your receive. If you play like every point is a match, you'll win a lot of matches.

Easterns

From a purely won-loss perspective, it wasn't the most successful tournament I've coached at. Players I coached this past weekend at the Eastern Open in New Jersey developed a nasty tendency to not play well, and for some reason there's a correlation between not playing well and not winning. Three times players I coached were at 9-all in the fifth, and all three times they lost 11-9. (That's the stuff that...




Friday, May 27, 2011 - 12:13
May 27, 2011

Eastern Open

I'm off to the Eastern Open in New Jersey this afternoon, where I'll be coaching some of the junior players from Maryland. We've got a great crew going, including many of the top seeds in most of the junior events. In the listed ratings, not necessarily the ratings they'll use for seeding, they are follows: Under 22 Men: #2 and #3 seeds; Under 18 Boys: #1 and #3; Under 16 Boys: #1 and #2; Under 13 Boys: #2 and #3; Under 22 Women: #1 and #4 seeds; Under 18 Girls: #1 seed; Under 13 Girls: #1 seed. We also have the #1 and #4 seed in Open Singles, and #3, #4, and #7 seed in Women's Singles.

If you are one of the 247 players competing in the Easterns, have you practiced your serves today? Why not? Unless you are a non-Maryland junior, in which case you should take the day off, eat a few bowls of ice cream, and stay up late. See you at the tournament!!!

Point of the Day

Dimitrij...




Thursday, May 26, 2011 - 12:12
May 26, 2011

 

Champions and Chumps

Do you strive to be a Champion or a Chump?

A Champion isn't necessarily the best. He's the best in an event. If you are rated 1099 and enter an Under 1100 event, you are striving to be a Champion. If you win the event, you are a Champion. If you don't win the event but gain experience, you may be a Future Champion. If you have fun, you are a Normal Person. If you avoid the event out of fear of losing rating points, you are a Chump.

So where do you stand? Do you play for titles (Champions), experience (Future Champions), fun (Normal People), or rating points (Chumps)? Let's talk about Champions and Chumps.

During the week, you may be an accountant, a programmer, a cook, a laborer, or anything else. But when you show up at a tournament, you not only get to pretend to be a Champion, you have the opportunity to be one. If you want to be a Champion, think like a Champion. If you want to be a Chump, think like a Chump.

Champions:

  • want to win titles, not rating points.
  • thrive by meeting challenges, not avoiding them.
  • want to win,...



Wednesday, May 25, 2011 - 14:19
May 25, 2011

Eastern Open

If you are playing in the Eastern Open this weekend in New Jersey, hopefully you are in final preparations for creating utter devastation for your opponents. (I'll be coaching some of the MDTTC juniors there.) If you are not, then you should be planning out your final preparations for creating utter devastation for your opponents in future tournaments, leagues, club matches, or (sigh) beer pong. This should include:

  • Lots of rest. Sleep is actually more important the last few days before the tournament than during the tournament, not that you should skimp on sleep during the tournament.
  • Lots of carbohydrates. They'll load your muscles with glycogen, and give you energy in those long deuce-in-the-fifth matches.
  • Practicing serves. It's how you start half the points, and yet it's the most under-practiced aspect of table tennis. It's also the part you can get the most out of practicing...



Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - 12:09
May 24, 2011

 

Use it and abuse it?

Do a quick count of all the shots you use in a match that you don't have very good technique with. Unless you are an elite top player, it should be a lot, right? Okay, now ask yourself: Do you have a better chance of fixing these shots by A) playing matches, where you'll continue to use these shots and re-enforce poor technique; or by B) working with a coach and only using the shots there and in practice sessions, where you can focus on doing the shot properly, and playing matches only after you've fixed up the technique? If you answer A, then good luck fixing the problems. If you answer B, then you are on the first step toward fixing your shots and dramatically improving your game.

This doesn't mean you shouldn't play any matches until you have perfect technique. You need to find a balance. But every player without perfect technique (i.e. everyone) who wants to improve should sometimes take time off from match play and for a time - weeks or months - just practice proper techniques.

So make a list of shots you use where your techniques is not good. Find a block of time - at...




Monday, May 23, 2011 - 12:24
May 23, 2011

The table tennis is great up here in heaven.

What, the rapture came and went on Saturday, and you weren't selected? Oh, right, 97% of you are still on earth, along with all those look-alike demons us chosen ones left behind. We don't even need umpires up here - nobody cheats! (Oh, and did I mention it's all hardbat?) Anyway, according to the clock on the big wall up here, the world really ends on Feb. 27, 2049, which just happens to be my 89th birthday. What are the chances I'll still be around to be held accountable? Anyway, gotta go; Coach God's running a huge practice session up here. I'm hitting with Dick Miles; he and God have really fixed up my backhand.

Speaking of coaching...

Sean O'Neill has created a new USATT Coaching Page for USATT. As you can see, it's very ITTFish. (I suggest looking over the links under "Additional Coaching Resources.") Also, you may note that I'm on the USATT Coaching Committee (as noted in a past blog). I was appointed recently, and haven't really gotten active. I believe the...




Friday, May 20, 2011 - 10:57
May 20, 2011

China's TV ratings

So what's the most watched sporting event in China, the most populated country in the world? The all-Chinese Men's Singles final at the recent 2011 World Table Tennis Championships. Nearly 100 million tuned in to watch Zhang Jike defeat defending champion Wang Hao. This topped the previous record, when China's Li Na lost to Kim Clijsters in the final of the Australian Open way back in January.

Let's remember that table tennis is practically the national sport of China. They didn't put table tennis on TV and the country went table tennis crazy; the country was already table tennis crazy, and now they are discovering it on TV. Table tennis isn't a particularly good TV sport - it's more of a participation sport - though it's often good as a "novelty" event on TV. But whenever it's been on TV, the initial good viewership seems to die down quickly. There just isn't a large enough base of table tennis people in the U.S. or other non-table tennis countries - right now - to create a base of...




Thursday, May 19, 2011 - 14:43
May 19, 2011

 

Talent Revisited

Yao Siu-Long ("Siu") emailed me the following question, after reading in my April 27 blog entry about Crystal Wang, who recently became the youngest player ever to break 2000, at age 9 years 1 month. (She's rated 2031, but at the recent unprocessed Potomac Open, should go up even more.)  Siu asked the following:

"I read your blog about Crystal Wang.  It sounds like she was progressing but suddenly took off.  Why?  What approach to learning and practicing do you think is key to such spectacular success?  Is it the number of hours practiced?  The coach? Going to China?

"Before you answer "talent", I've read quite a bit of research (and maybe this could be something for you to blog about as well).  There is a large body of research that suggests that talent is overrated (take a look at the book "Bounce" by Matthew Syed, a table tennis player).  You need a certain level of talent, but after that it's hard work and, perhaps, the training methods.  For...