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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,

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

Recent blog posts

Tuesday, February 21, 2012 - 15:14
February 21, 2012

On the Talent vs. Training Debate....

After 10,000 hours of systematic training with the world's best coaches, this lizard has learned how to nail its prey.

Now, before you jump to a conclusion on what I believe based on my lizard example, let me be clear: I consider innate talent to be at most just a small aspect of what it takes to be a great player. Early on, talent helps tremendously, but as you move up the spectrum, hard work, coaching, and a good training environment pay off far more. (Also, it doesn't help to talk to students about talent, since they have no control over it. Those who don't believe in talent probably have an advantage over others as they aren't held back by doubts about their own innate "talent.")

But to argue absolutely that we all start with the exact same brain hardware simply isn't true. The brain is a complex organ that's evolved many built-in areas of specialization - spatial skills, verbal areas, facial recognition areas, etc., and as noted above, a lizard's innate ability to...

Monday, February 20, 2012 - 13:45
February 20, 2012

Tip of the Week

Moving Players In and Out.


I'm often amazed at how the world of table tennis is divided between two types: those who use the full power of topspin in their games, and those who don't. This doesn't mean looping every ball, but it does mean using topspin to control your offensive shots and often your defensive ones as well. Even when doing simple forehands or backhands a little topspin goes a long way. I know; I sometimes hit the ball too flat and pay the price.

It's actually very simple. Topspin pulls the ball down. This means balls that would go off the end instead curve down and hit the table. It's like having an additional couple of feet of table to aim for. The best way of demonstrating it is to drop a ball near the end line, and hit it as it reaches table level. Try smashing flat, and watch it go off. Then smash with a little topspin, and watch as it occasionally hits the far side, but only barely. Then loop kill it, and watch how it often hits the table with two feet to spare. (Of course, you have to be...

Friday, February 17, 2012 - 14:52
February 17, 2012

Developing a smash

At the highest levels, many top players don't even bother to smash - even if the ball is eye-level high, they loop. However, for most players, a smash is a must. Here are some keys to developing a good smash, forehand or backhand.

First, get some coaching or watch the top players. Here's a tutorial from PingSkills (3:58) on the forehand smash, and here's Tahl Leibovitz demonstrating the backhand smash (1:35). It's still best to work with a coach who can figure out and fix any flaws in your technique.

Second, practice. Here are two of the best smashing drills.

  • Hard-Soft Drill. This really should be called the Hard-Medium Drill. Your partner blocks while you alternate hitting a medium drive and then a smash. As long as you keep the ball to the same spot, your partner should be able to return many of your smashes, with practice. A variation is to hit two medium drives and then a smash. This allows you to focus more on technique with the two drives. You can do this forehand...

Thursday, February 16, 2012 - 11:42
February 16, 2012

Over- and Under-Playing

Both Over- and Under-playing are scourges of match play. I'm not sure which happens often. I'm guessing most would say they lose more often from under-playing down to a "weaker" opponent, but I’m not so sure. Players often lose by over-playing, but don't realize it.

Under-playing means you play down to the level of your "weaker" opponent. It usually means that you hold back on your stronger aggressive shots, playing a safer, passive game that allows the opponent to take control and often win. It's a quick way to blow a rating or ranking.

Over-playing means you try to play at a level that's not only beyond your normal capacity, but beyond what is needed to win. For example, I'll often play lower-rated players who feel that to beat me they have to blast winners on every shot. It makes winning rather easy. (On the other hand, it's a far scarier opponent who attacks consistently, forcing a stronger opponent to choose between risky counter-attacks or playing steady and giving the opponent more chances to find the right ball to blast for a winner.) However,...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012 - 12:14
February 15, 2012

Banana Receives

Perhaps the biggest change at the higher levels in table tennis in recent years is the advent of the backhand "banana" receive. This is the nickname used for a backhand topspin flip of a serve, essentially a mini-loop, with the name referring to the curve the racket goes through with the stroke. It's done against any type of spin, but it's against short backspin that it is most effective. Some do it with straight topspin; most can add sidespin. It's much easier to do this type of shot on the backhand than the forehand, where the wrist is more locked, and so more and more players are covering more and more of the table with this backhand shot. At the U.S. Olympic and World Team Trials this past weekend (Feb. 9-12), it was the receive of choice of nearly every player.

Some players used it nearly every receive they could. Others mixed it up with short pushes. The ones who didn't use it much were thought of as "old school," while all the younger players used the banana flip over and over.

From a server's point of view, it complicates things. If you serve short to a corner, you give...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012 - 14:43
February 14, 2012

Tip of the Week

Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.

Happy Valentines Day!

Here's your Ping-Pong Champion Valentine!

Results for U.S. Olympic and World Team Trials

Here are the Final Twelve results for Men and Women. (The top ten men and women were seeded into the Final Twelve, with a Qualifier held for the final two spots in each. Here's the Men's Qualifier and the Women's Qualifier.) The top four made the U.S. National Team and advance to the...

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


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,...