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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

Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 12:31
November 24, 2011

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

JOOLA North American Teams

For those that missed it, yesterday I did a special on the Teams, with links to articles, tips on how to play well, and video. Don't be a turkey; read and watch all of it!

The Turkey Theory of Forehands and Backhands

Players who are turkeys develop very strong forehands and weak backhands, or vice versa. Sometimes their weaker side isn't really that weak, it's just not that strong. If you have a weaker side, why not make it a goal to turn your weak/average/somewhat strong side into an overpowering strength? You can do it; simply choose not to be a turkey.

Turkey, Table Tennis, and Tong Tong

(The following is a reprint from Sept. 8, 2011 - but it seems rather timely now, especially for those of you competing in the Teams, who might eat a turkey sandwich before a match.)
I've...




Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 12:44
November 23, 2011

Special on the North American Teams

The JOOLA North American Teams is this weekend at the Baltimore Convention Center, Fri-Sun, Nov. 25-27. This is one of the "big three" tournaments in the U.S. (along with the U.S. Open in July and USA Nationals in December), with the largest participation of any USA tournament - about 800 players, 200 teams, 144 tables, 150,000 square feet, $20,000 in prize money. Here's a series of articles that you might want to browse, whether you are playing in the tournament or just want to know more. I've only missed one year since 1976, including 33 straight years from 1976-2008. I'll be there all three days coaching - come say hello! (The secret handshake is to point your finger at me and say, "Secret handshake.")




Tuesday, November 22, 2011 - 13:32
November 22, 2011

Teaching the forehand pendulum sidespin-topspin serve

Teaching the forehand pendulum serve is easy. Most relatively new players learn to do it with backspin and sidespin-backspin without too much trouble. But serving it with sidespin-topspin? This might be the single most difficult thing to teach. It's like teaching someone to whistle - at first they try and try, and nothing seems to work, and they get frustrated. And then, suddenly, it just happens, and then they get it, and from there on it's no problem. The same is true of this serve; players often struggle and struggle with it, which is frustrating to the player and the coach. And then, it just suddenly happens. I'm not sure why this particular skill is so much trickier to teach than other skills. You'd think that teaching a loop would be harder, but I've found that's much easier in practice.

The basic idea of the serve is that the racket goes through a pendulum motion. To get backspin or sidespin-backspin, you contact the ball on the downswing. To get pure sidespin, you contact the ball between the downswing and upswing. To get topspin or sidespin-topspin, you...




Monday, November 21, 2011 - 12:25
November 21, 2011

Tip of the Week

Remember the Good Shots.

Rushing the quicker player

It's tough playing a quicker player who bangs every shot before while you're still following through on your previous shot. But a lot of players don't understand that on the first shot of the rally, especially on your serve, you can rush the quicker player. It just comes down to setting yourself up for a shot you can attack quickly, before the quick opponent can get into a quick rally. If you place your first quick attack well, the quicker player will have great difficulty and won't be able to rush you - and you'll get a second shot to attack.

For example, I like to serve fast no-spin at the receiver's elbow. This often forces a weaker topspin return - but more importantly, it draws the receiver out of position, especially if he returns it backhand. (For that reason, I tend to serve it slightly to the backhand side, though a forehand also draws the player out of position.) Once the player is drawn out of position, it's just a matter of you...




Friday, November 18, 2011 - 12:27
November 18, 2011

Short serves to the forehand

Why do so few intermediate players serve short to the forehand? Perhaps as beginners they couldn't keep it short, and didn't want to serve to the opponent's forehand. And so the habit of serving to the backhand stuck. But a short serve to the forehand, especially with sidespin-topspin, is about the easiest way to get a set-up against most intermediate players. Many or most players will return short serves to the forehand almost always toward the forehand side (for righties), since it's awkward going down the line for many. This makes serve and attack very easy. Why not develop this for your game?

If you have trouble serving short, focus on a low contact point, and just graze the ball toward the bottom. Make the first bounce somewhat near the net. Make sure it crosses the net low. If you serve it crosscourt from the forehand side (most often with a tomahawk serve, i.e. racket tip up, contact the ball with a left-to-right motion), you'll have more table to allow the ball to go short. With the tomahawk serve spin (or a backhand serve or reverse pendulum serve, which all have the same type of...




Thursday, November 17, 2011 - 13:41
November 17, 2011

Timing for beginners

I was hitting with a relatively new student yesterday, an eight-year-old girl, who was having trouble timing her shots. I did something I've done before - I may have blogged about this a while ago - and started to say, "Da-da, da-da, da-da, da-da" as we hit, timing each "da" with the ball hitting the table or the racket. This greatly helped her timing. When I stopped doing it, she protested, and made me do it for about ten minutes. Finally, I switched to saying other things, like "No more, no more, no more, no more," and "Don't miss, don't miss, don't miss, don't miss," which she thought was pretty funny - but it also worked.

Focus on strengths and weaknesses

I've written about this before, but thought this was a good time to remind readers of my views on practice. Practice everything your game needs, but focus on the your strengths and weaknesses. You want to turn the strengths (or potential strengths) into overpowering strengths that strike fear in the heart of your peers. You want to get rid of any weaknesses that might hold you...




Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - 12:37
November 16, 2011

Short push and loop drill

Here's a simple drill that covers four basic skills in three shots. Your partner serves short backspin anywhere on the table. You push it back short anywhere - try and hide the direction and at the last second maneuver it somewhere on the table short. Your partner quick pushes to your backhand. You backhand loop (or drive) crosscourt. Your partner blocks crosscourt. You step around and try to end the point with your forehand. You've practiced your short push, your backhand loop, your step around backhand footwork (as well as other footwork for the other shots), and your forehand.

Variations: You can backhand loop anywhere, and then it's free play. Or instead of stepping around with a forehand, you can try to end the point with your backhand. Or backhand loop down the line, partner blocks or counterloops to your forehand, you loop/counterloop, and it's free play. Or any other variation you can think of that fits your game, or how you want to play.

Maryland Table Tennis Center Expansion

Now it can be told! In January, the...




Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 13:00
November 15, 2011

Tip of the Week

Forehands from the Backhand Corner

Wang Hao's Illegal Serve

Here's Wang Hao against Zhang Jike in the final of the Men's World Cup this past weekend. Over and over Wang's serves are blatantly illegal. And yet, in one of the biggest matches of the year, with huge numbers of spectators (live or online), with coaches, players, and up-and-coming juniors watching, the umpires very publicly do not call it.

First, when Wang serves, notice how he always leaves his arm out until the last second, when the rules say, "As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net." I'm using his second serve in the video as an example (the first one was partly cut off), which starts eight seconds in. Here's a picture just before the ball drops behind his arm. He clearly did not remove his arm "as soon as the...




Monday, November 14, 2011 - 14:03
November 14, 2011

Zhang Jike wins 2011 Men's World Cup

Here's coverage at Table Tennista, a great place to get your table tennis news (besides here!), including many articles translated from Chinese. Zhang was down 0-2 in the final to Wang Hao in the all-China final (what else is new?) before staging his comeback, -7,-7,9,4,5,3. Here's the whole match in just 13:49, with the time between points removed. (Note - this was originally linked to their match at the 2010 World Cup; it didn't get corrected until Monday night at 7PM.) Here's the ITTF home page for the Men's World Cup, with results, articles, and photos.

World Cup 2011: Zhang Jike (CHN) vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)

One of the best matches of the 2011 World Cup was the Zhang-Ovtcharov match in the preliminaries. Both had already defeated the other two in the group (), and were playing for positioning in the final draw of eight players....




Friday, November 11, 2011 - 13:25
November 11, 2011

Half-Long Serves

I've been ruminating on the proper terminology for serves where the second bounce, if given the chance, would go near the end-line. The problem is the definition of a "half-long serve" seems to vary from person to person and region to region. Some say it means the second bounce is just short of the end-line; others say the second bounce is around the end-line (i.e. it might go slightly short or long); and others say the second bounce is just off the end.

I've always called this type (or these types?) of serve a "tweeny serve," but half-long serves seems to be the more popular term among advanced players. One person thought a half-long serve is always slightly long, while a tweeny serve is always slightly short.

Pretty frustrating for us wordsmiths! But the exact terminology isn't nearly as important as understanding these serves, both the execution of them and returning them.

Here's how five-time U.S. Men's Champion and two-time U.S. Olympic team member Sean O'Neill described how to return a half-long serve where the second bounce is slightly long, though you can...