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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, April 1, 2011 - 03:34
April 1, 2011

North American Championships
Are you following the news and results at the ITTF's North American Table Tennis Championships page? It started this morning. By the time you read this my voice will probably already be hoarse from coaching and cheering.

Zhang Jike's forehand reverse serve
This is one of the best demonstrations of the reverse pendulum serve I've ever seen. Read it, study it, use it. Just not against me or anyone I coach.

13-year-old Makes Chinese National Team
Another generation of top Chinese juniors is upon us, and again there's something new. Fang
Ping-Yi, a 13-year-old with a unique style from the Szechuan Province came out of nowhere
recently to make the Chinese National Team, finishing third at the Trials last week. While most
international stars use inverted, Fang uses grippy long...




Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 13:10
March 31, 2011

Practice those alternative serves!

What do I tell students to work on just before tournaments? Well, there's the usual stuff. And you don't want to overtrain and show up tired, and you want to eat well and get lots of sleep. And you want to play lots of practice matches so you'll be match tough.

But one thing many people forget is to practice what I call "alternate" serves. Just by playing matches you'll be practicing your regular serves. But what about those surprise serves you throw out there every now and then for a free point? Fast & deep serves, tricky breaking serves, etc.? Those are the ones you need to practice. Unlike your regular serves, you often have to pull these serves out cold. The day before or the morning of a tournament, get some balls, go off to a table by yourself, and practice those serves. Imagine the score as deuce when you do so to emulate pulling off the serve under pressure. Do that a hundred times, and when the time comes to actually do it under pressure, it'll be second nature - you've already done it a hundred times in the last day.

How'd you like to try to rip a...




Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 13:01
March 30, 2011

Seemiller vs. Malek 1979

Here's a Blast from the Past - the final of the 1979 USA Men's Singles Championships in Las Vegas, where Attila Malek upset Dan Seemiller. It's hard to believe it's been 32 years since this great match. The tape is 22:40 long. You can see how the game has changed, due to new techniques but even more so due to better technology. The sponge surfaces they use are far less bouncy than modern sponges; if a top player were given one of their rackets to hit with, they'd probably hit one ball and say, "What is this stuff?"

The biggest difference in play back then is probably backhand play. Note that both play their backhands pretty much flat in rallies. (Seemiller, of course, uses the "Seemiller" grip that's named after him, and so mostly jab-blocks the backhand.) Malek had a backhand loop, but seems to use it mostly against backspin. Part of this is because of the sponge they are using, and part of it is because the backhand loop simply wasn't considered as big a weapon in those days, and players weren...




Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 12:44
March 29, 2011

Breaking 2500 Revisited

Sometimes when looking for historical records, such as the youngest players to break 2500, you look so hard to the past you forget about the present. And yesterday, while compiling this list, I left out an obvious one - Michael Landers. He was born in August, 1994, and broke 2523 in at the Nationals in December, 2009, at age 15 years 4 months. This makes him the third youngest to do so, after Lily Zhang's 14 years 9 months and Adam Hugh's 14 years 11 months, and just beating out Han Xiao's 15 years 5 months and Keith Alban's 15 years 7 months.

An interesting question came up - who reached 2500 the fastest? That's tough to judge since we don't know when most of these top juniors started, only when they played their first tournament. But Landers might be in the running for fastest. Landers played his first tournament in December of 1994 (age 10), starting with a rating of 1056, and broke 2500 exactly five years later with a rating of 2523, undoubtedly one of the fastest to achieve this.

I'm a little proud; Michael came to a number of the five-day camps I run at...




Monday, March 28, 2011 - 12:53
March 28, 2011

Springtime

It's springtime, birds are singing, children are playing, the grass is growing . . . so why is it frickin' 27 degrees outside? Good thing table tennis is an indoor sport.

Injury roll call

After I won hardbat singles at the Cary Cup, I was hobbling about with various injuries in both knees, right leg, right shoulder, and upper back. Now, ten days later, four out of five of these problems have mostly gone away. The remaining nefarious injury that won't go away? My upper back is still a mess. I had to stop early on Friday at the club, where I was a practice partner for our elite junior program. On Saturday and Sunday, I coached and practiced with the juniors, but only with the beginning ones - I could barely move and so couldn't really play high level with the advanced ones. I'm off for a few days, then I coach Thur-Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon, so I better get better quick. Maybe I should lunch on Advil.

Youngest players to break 2500

At the ICC California State Open on March 19-20, 14-year-old Lily Zhang became the youngest player in U.S. history...




Friday, March 25, 2011 - 13:27
March 25, 2011

ITTF Seminar in Maryland

We're up to ten confirmed participants (and a number of maybes) in the ITTF Coaching Seminar to be held at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, April 16-17 and 23-24, with a Paralympics session on April 30. (Schedule each day is 9AM-Noon, 1-4PM.) Here is the info flyer, and here is the USATT news item. If you are a player interested in becoming an ITTF coach, or learning how to coach, come join us! There's already a wide range of coaches, including several USATT Regional and State Coaches, and others who are not yet certified. I'm hoping to get 14-16 participants. If interested, please email me.

Straighten the belt, and the rest falls into place.

I bet you have no idea what this headline means or how it pertains to table tennis. Imagine when playing that your body is a belt. If your feet are in the wrong position, or if your grip is off, then it affects everything in between. If your foot...




Thursday, March 24, 2011 - 13:29
March 24, 2011

Frictionless Long pips

As a coach, I've spent a lot of time over the years thinking about long pips, both how to play against and with them, and about whether they should be legal. My thinking on this has evolved over the years. I admit I'm somewhat skeptical of the pure long-pips blocking style, especially when a player basically covers the entire table by just reaching out and blocking everything back dead with long pips without sponge. In my opinion, it simply isn't very athletic, and table tennis is a sport. But it's legal, and as players and coaches, it's our job to figure out how to play against any legal surface. Besides, if you were to ban long pips, you'd essentially lose the chopping style, which is truly athletic and great for spectators. Plus not all long-pips blockers just stand there and block - some play an athletic forehand game, with the long pips often more a weakness than a strength.

Recently there's been a lot of debate about frictionless long pips. The ITTF made a regulation a while back that they are illegal. (Technically, no surface is frictionless, but they are defining frictionless to be...




Wednesday, March 23, 2011 - 13:04
March 23, 2011

Fifth-Ball Attack

On the forum today, someone posted questions about the fifth-ball attack, and why players tend to miss the fifth ball when the third ball is against backspin. Specifically, he wrote, "I've noticed that the 5th ball is missed quite often when the 3rd ball attack is against under spin."

Some quick definitions:

  • Third-ball attack means the server serves, the opponent receives, and the server attacks.
  • Fifth-ball attack means the server serves, the opponent receives, the server attacks with the intent of setting up a ball to put away, the receiver returns the attack, usually with a block, and the server attacks again, often trying to end the point.

The most basic third-ball attack is when the server serves backspin (usually short, at least at the higher levels so opponent can't loop it), the opponent pushes it back long, and the server loops, often looking to end the point on that shot. The most basic fifth-ball attack is when the server serves backspin (again, mostly short),...




Tuesday, March 22, 2011 - 12:03
March 22, 2011

Heavy Backspin Serves

When I give serve lectures at our clinics, I often demonstrate heavy backspin by serving with an extremely open racket - so open that it actually is aiming backwards, and you contact bottom front of the ball - and serve so the ball jumps back into the net. (It's more easily done with a high toss.) Here's a pair of great videos at TableTennisMaster that demo this - first Chinese star Ma Lin (shirtless) demonstrating the serve (1:18), and then a more detailed demo that shows how it is done (2:10). They call them "ghost serves." 

If you can serve heavy backspin serves and keep them very low and short (i.e. so they'd bounce twice if given the chance), they are almost unattackable. (A key word here is low.) Almost everyone pushes them back. At the higher levels, many players will drop them short. To combat this, and to get some easy balls, learn to both serve heavy backspin and "heavy no-spin," i.e. use the same motion as if serving heavy backspin but contact the ball toward the handle (where it's not...




Monday, March 21, 2011 - 13:47
March 21, 2011

2011 Butterfly Cary Cup

Part 1: Getting there - Thursday, March 17

Tim Boggan had been staying at my house for two weeks as I did the layouts and photo work on History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 11, so we went down together on Thursday, March 17. He was doing the coverage while I was playing only in the hardbat event, coaching the rest of the way. The drive down was uneventful other than the usual extravagantly expensive Tim kept treating me to (as he had for two weeks). I could eat for a week on what he paid for one of our meals. I spent Thursday night in Tim's hotel room.

Part 2: Hardbat - Friday, March 18

This was held on Friday, from 10AM to 4PM. I was the defending champion, so all the pressure was on me, right? Ah well, us champions have to get used to it. :) In my round robin, I had a tough match with Chris OBrian (no apostrophe in his name) and his big forehand smash, and he led much of each game, but I ran them both out near the end. (All hardbat matches were best of three to 21, using 38mm balls.) Jim McQueen was also a surprisingly tough match with his touch and backhand pick-hitting, but I...