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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

Friday, September 30, 2011 - 14:13
September 30, 2011

Ratings - Love 'em or Love 'em

Way too many players are obsessed with ratings. Ratings are fun when they go up, but players (and coaches and parents) shouldn't worry too much about them. They are a good measure of level and improvement, and while you shouldn't worry too much about what your current ratings is, they are a good shorthand for various levels of play. Since goals are generally about winning a specific event (which includes making a team), or about reaching a specific level of play, ratings can be useful for the latter. They are also useful as a stepping stone toward winning a specific event - you aren't going to win a state title, for example, if the best players are 2100, and you are only 1500. Just to be a contender you need to approach that 2100 level, and rating level is useful in keeping track of that.

Here's my article about Juniors and Ratings. (It was published in the USATT Coaching Newsletter.) But most of it applies to all ages.

Peter Li and Michael Landers in China

...




Thursday, September 29, 2011 - 13:17
September 29, 2011

The Inner Games of Table Tennis

When a looper plays a blocker, there's an inner game being played between the two. The looper wants to be in a stable position where he can make strong, well-placed loops that force the blocker to lunge for the ball, back up, or just miss or return the ball weakly. The blocker wants to be in position so he can make quick, well-placed blocks that force the looper to lunge for the ball or just miss or return the ball weakly. In most rallies, one style takes control while the other struggles, although the advantage can change quickly and multiple times during a rally. When you are in such a match, are you playing blindly or are you focused on winning this inner game?

There are similar inner games in most matches. For example, between two players with strong backhands, both might battle for control of the backhand diagonal. A righty and a lefty might battle for chances to hit aggressive backhands to the opponent's wide forehand, thereby drawing the opponent out of position, or they might battle for forehand control into the opponent's backhand. Or there's the battle between the serve & attacker...




Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - 11:52
September 28, 2011

Minimum-quality shots

Often players and coaches harp on creating quality shots, as they should. However, what about minimum-quality shots? These are shots where your opponent has made you uncomfortable - perhaps with his attack, his serve, or something else - and so all you are trying to do is get the ball back in a way that he won't cream it past you.

Minimum-quality shots can be tricky to pull off correctly. First, you have to judge whether it's time to go for one. Second, you have to judge just how weak you can make your shot - to maximize consistency - and still get away with it. And third, you have to be able to something with the ball to give the opponent some trouble, such as angling the shot, going to the opponent's weak side, keeping it deep, changing the direction at the last second, changing the spin, etc. This last part is almost an art form. Ultimately, you don't want to try to win with your minimum-quality shots, but they will often keep you in the point. And some decent players pretty much base their whole game on just getting the ball back like this, though not at really high levels.

Often...




Tuesday, September 27, 2011 - 13:12
September 27, 2011

Steady or aggressive blocking?

There are generally two types of blockers, steady blockers ("walls") and aggressive blockers ("jab-blockers"). Which are you? You should do both, of course, but it's usually best to specialize in one or the other. For example, David Zhuang (six-time U.S. Men's Singles Champion) is primarily a steady blocker. He can block forever, side to side, often changing the pace and even sidespin blocking. But when he sees the chance, he snaps out an often point-winning jab-block, which is made even more effective by the contrast with his usual steady but not-too-hard blocking.

A key to blocking is placement. Steady blockers mostly block side to side at wide angles, since a softer block to the middle can be hammered. Jab-blockers play the extreme corners and to the opponent's middle (playing elbow), rushing the opponent who has to decide between forehand and backhand, which often opens up a corner to jab-block a winner to. (This is because the opponent has to move to the middle of the table to hit a forehand or backhand, leaving one side open.) The nice thing about having a good block is you...




Monday, September 26, 2011 - 14:44
September 26, 2011

Tip of the Week

Develop Your Game Around Your Playing Style.

Two-Year Anniversary of September 26, 2009 - the USATT Strategic Meeting

What's so big about this date from exactly two years ago? It's when USATT completed its 2009 Strategic Meeting in Colorado Springs, Sept. 26, 2009. I was one of the 26 participants at the meeting. The biggest discussion point at the meeting was the consensus that USATT's 8000 members was basically a "round-off error." So what programs have since been implemented to increase membership and solve this problem?

We came up with three "priorities," with a task force for each - "Juniors," "Grow Membership Through Added Value," and "Communication." I strongly disagreed with much of this - I believed that we needed specific goals and timelines, with specific plans and timelines to meet those goals. The task forces would then work out the specifics, including recommended changes, and then the plans...




Friday, September 23, 2011 - 12:00
September 23, 2011

Creating racket velocity on serves and strokes

Many players have great difficulty creating great spin with their loops and serves. They stroke through the ball with a constant not-too-high velocity, and the result is a not-too-great spin. There's little acceleration in their shots, and so there's little velocity.

There's a distinction between speed and acceleration. Velocity is the actual miles per hour; acceleration is how fast you are speeding up. To get a lot of velocity, you need a lot of acceleration. For maximum velocity, you need to accelerate right up until contact. How do you do this?

For looping, start with the lower body muscles, and work your way up. This means the legs, then waist, then shoulders, then arm, then wrist. Think of it as a whip, which also starts at the base (near the handle) and works its way down to the tip. This is especially true when looping and serving. Rotate your body around in a circle, creating great torque. You do so by using the muscles exactly as noted above, in that order - legs, waist, shoulders, arm, and then wrist.

On serve, you generally don't use your legs much,...




Thursday, September 22, 2011 - 13:52
September 22, 2011

USA Table Tennis Infrastructure

No sport can get big without infrastructure. In countries like Germany and England (700,000 and 500,000 members of their respective table tennis associations), the focus is on their leagues, with a secondary focus on junior development. The U.S. Tennis Association (700,000 members) also focuses on its leagues and junior development, as well as the U.S. Open. Little League Baseball, pretty much by definition, focuses on leagues and junior development, and has millions of players. The United States Bowling Congress, with over 2.5 million members, has over 70,000 leagues administered by 35,000 volunteers in 2900 local and state associations. I could go on and on and on, with country after country, sport after sport, but it's always the same message. What can USA Table Tennis (8000 members) learn from this?

A number of times in our past we've had huge media coverage, and a large influx of players. Each time it was temporary because, predictably, without the infrastructure to absorb the players - leagues for all levels, junior programs for kids - the players came, didn't find what...




Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - 11:27
September 21, 2011

Receive

The last couple of blogs I've had a lot on serving. Now let's talk about receive. Below are links to ten articles I've written on receive. Receive is the hardest part of the game to learn, and the most under-practiced. When players drill, they work on their strokes, their footwork, and they even practice serves. But how often do they systematically practice receive? To do so, you need to find practice partners who is willing to let you practice against their serves, and many players are protective of this - they don't want to give potential rivals a chance to get used to their serves. Sometimes the best way to practice serves is to find a stronger player (one who doesn't consider you a potential threat) and ask to practice against their serves. Or hire them as a coach. As to the receiving itself, enjoy browsing or reading the below. Any questions? C'mon, I love questions!!!




Tuesday, September 20, 2011 - 11:32
September 20, 2011

More on Serving

On Friday, I gave my periodic "Practice your serves!" reminder, a public service for the benefit of the vast throngs of table tennis players who forget to practice their serves unless I remind them. Over the weekend I put up two more articles on serving, both previously published in USA Table Tennis Magazine: Serving Short with Spin and Serving Short the Productive Way. Want more? Here are 19 articles I've written on serving. (The two new ones are at the end.)




Monday, September 19, 2011 - 13:29
September 19, 2011

Tip of the Week

Balance Leads to Feet-first Footwork. Time to put some balance into your game!

Tactics against hitting juniors

Because I'm out of practice after months of back problems, when I went back to playing local juniors, I had to go back to "basic principles" to compete. And while I wasn't really playing well, I kept winning, but almost exclusively on tactics. Here are the main tactics I used, and that you should try when playing super-fast hitting juniors, where you simply cannot play at their pace. (I can't.)

When serving, often serve slow, super-spinny serves, mostly long, with lots of spin variation, often so they break into the wide backhand. You want lots and lots of serve variation. With side-top serves, vary between extra topspin and extra sidespin. Vary the service motion, especially right after contact - mostly follow-...