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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

Monday, April 16, 2012 - 14:44
April 16, 2012

Tip of the Week

Where to Place Your Spin Serves.

Modern juniors

I blogged on last Wednesday (April 11) about how modern sponges make looping so much easier. Even younger kids in the U.S. are playing looping games that would have been almost unimaginable 5-10 years ago. While the sponge makes much of this possible, much of this is because there are far more full-time training centers now than before, and so far more full-time junior programs, and so far more juniors training regularly at a high level. The level and depth of cadets and junior players is now stronger than ever in our history. (I blogged about this on Jan. 4, 2012).

The down side is that, at any given level, while the looping is spectacular, the table game is probably a bit weaker, especially return of serve. For example, I think previous generations of juniors were more sophisticated in their receive, since they couldn't rely on all-out attack and counterlooping as...




Friday, April 13, 2012 - 13:44
April 13, 2012

Planning Day - new programs

Today I'm planning out new programs for MDTTC. It used to be complicated doing this, with limited table space, but with the MDTTC expansion (10,000 square feet, 18 tables, more if we squeeze) we can run multiple programs at the same time. New programs include:

  • An expansion of our beginning junior program to all juniors of all levels, so that they train at the same time, though players are paired with players of roughly equal level. I may invite some advanced players to the program for free, provided they agree to practice 30 of the 90 minutes with beginning or intermediate players. 
  • A new ten-week adult beginning class.
  • An intermediate-advanced training program.
  • A serving seminar (three 30-minute sessions) followed by ongoing serving practice sessions (30 min per week).

Once the programs are set, I'll put together an MDTTC Newsletter to send to all those on our email list, as well as sending releases to local newspapers. (While we hope they'll do coverage, the primary purpose of sending to newspapers is to get in their...




Thursday, April 12, 2012 - 13:52
April 12, 2012

A Day in the Life of a Commuting Table Tennis Coach

Normally I do nearly all my coaching at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, about fifteen miles north of Washington D.C.  However, there's an afterschool program in (somewhat) nearby McLean, Virginia, at Spring Hill Elementary. I was asked I could take over the program and coach there twice a week, Wed and Fri from 3:30-4:30. It sounded like a great idea. I'd even coached the son of the person in charge of the program. So I agreed to come in yesterday to help out, with the possibility of taking over starting Friday. (They currently had three people running the program, but none were serious players or coaches.)

The problem was traffic. To get there I'd have to drive down 270 and then on 495 (the Beltway) . . . during RUSH HOUR! The Washington DC metropolitan area is one of the most congested traffic areas in the country, which is why I bought a house eight minutes from MDTTC. (Most rankings put us #2 behind Chicago, but we hope to overtake them someday . . . I think.)

According to Google maps, the driving time would be 33 minutes....




Wednesday, April 11, 2012 - 13:19
April 11, 2012

Modern sponges make looping easy

Some of the paradigms about teaching the loop are crashing down, with the advent of the modern "super looping sponge." There are modern sponges that make looping so easy that little kids can now topspin the ball in ways that little kids (and most adults) of yesteryear could only dream. Speed glues (now illegal) made looping both easier and more powerful (both speed and spin), but these modern sponges are a level better. (I shutter to think what would happen if you speed glued one of these super sponges - I think the universe would spin out of orbit as it zipped past some cosmic player.)

I asked Coach Cheng Yinghua what would have happened if he had these sponges back in his peak playing days (on Chinese National Team, 1977-1987), and he had a gleam in his eye as he said he'd have beaten everyone.

Yesterday I was coaching a man in his mid-60s, rated about 1500. A decade ago I wouldn't have dreamed of him seriously counterlooping. Instead, the guy came at me like a 2200 player might have in the past, effortlessly counterlooping most of my best loops back. (This was not a former top player -...




Tuesday, April 10, 2012 - 12:36
April 10, 2012

Too far from the table on your forehand loop?

A lot of players lose power when forehand looping against backspin because they are too far from the table, taking the ball too much in front of them instead of rotating their body and taking it from the side. This forces them to reach forward for the ball, and to compensate and keep their balance, their left side (for righties) falls back as they hit the shot. It also means they cannot get much body rotation into the shot. They may get decent spin with this shot, but little forward speed. Instead, stand closer to the table, and rotate the body back sideways, and then rotate the entire body into the shot. The contact point is actually in the same spot relative to the table, but now you are in a position to really put power on the ball. Watch the top players and see how close they stand to the table when looping against backspin.

Here's a video (1:42) by USA Men's Coach and former German star Stefan Feth showing and explaining the forehand loop against backspin. Note how he stays relatively close to the table as he rotates into each...




Monday, April 9, 2012 - 12:57
April 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

The 3-2-1 Placement Rule.

Seamless balls

As some of you may know, the ITTF is going to seamless balls. The first ones are out. Here's an analysis (5:44) by Australian star William Henzell - and it's not good. Some quotes:

  • "They sound broken."
  • "Bounce feels different and generally higher."
  • "The bounce will take some getting used to and the ball will be in a different position to what you're used to."
  • "We found there was less spin generally."
  • "The balls wobbled from side to side when spun."
  • "The new balls are definitely harder."
  • "The new balls feel heavier."
  • "After just a few minutes of play we had our first broken ball."
  • "We all hope this will improve."

Cheng gone, me busy

Cheng Yinghua is vacationing in China for three weeks (April 9-May 1). I'...




Friday, April 6, 2012 - 12:28
April 6, 2012

MDTTC Open House

If you are within driving distance of Gaithersburg, Maryland, come to our Open House and Grand Re-Opening this Saturday! There will be free refreshments and raffles throughout the day, and it's your chance to talk table tennis with the MDTTC coaches and players, as well as to see the newly renovated and now gigantic MDTTC, which has doubled in size to 10,000 sq feet and 18 tables. Here's the schedule:

  • 10:30 AM - Noon: Junior Group Training (FREE!)
  • 12:00-1:00 PM: Demonstrations and Exhibitions (FREE!), featuring MDTTC Coaches and Top Players: Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Han Xiao, Tong Tong Gong, Nathan Hsu, Derek Nie, Crystal Wang, Larry Hodges, others.
  • 1:00-1:30 PM: Service Seminar by Larry Hodges (FREE!)
  • 1:30-2:00 PM: Lucky Draw Mini Tournament (used to be called Parade of Champions), anyone can sign up (FREE!), single elimination with games to 3 points! Gift certificates to the Final Four.
  • 2:00-4:00 PM...



Thursday, April 5, 2012 - 12:09
April 5, 2012

Wandering grips and open rackets

One of the more common problems I see with beginners and some intermediate players are what I call "wandering grips." I wrote about grip problems in this week's Tip of the Week, and this is a related problem. It seems that no matter how many times I remind them, some players change to a bad grip as soon as the rally begins. They aren't even aware of it. The reason is that they have unfortunately learned to hit the ball with the bad grip, and this has led to bad stroking technique. Since this bad technique has become habit, they automatically use this bad technique as soon as the rally begins - and so they subconsciously switch to the bad grip that matches the bad technique, since they cannot do the bad technique with a good grip.

The solution, of course, is lots of repetitive practice with the good grip and good technique in a controlled practice situation, usually multiball training. When the good technique seems ingrained in such rote practice drills, then the player can try them in more random drills, and finally in practice...




Wednesday, April 4, 2012 - 12:38
April 4, 2012

Adventures in Babysitting and Coaching

Yesterday we finished Day Two of the MDTTC Spring Break Camp. Anyone who thinks coaching is just about coaching hasn't done much coaching - at least not with younger kids. I had most of the beginning kids in my group yesterday, average age around 8 or 9. I've learned to referee fights about cups and dominoes (yes, it's a table tennis camp), about setting up doubles teams ("I won't play doubles with a girl" says one, and another says, "My mom says I have to play with her!"), and how best to get them to aim for a target on the table (either use candy they win if they knock it off the table, or use a drink bottle and tell them it's "worm juice" that I have to drink if they hit it).

Oh, and their shots are getting better and better!!!

Beginning kids often hit the ball off the end over and over when learning new strokes. The cure? I tell them, "Put the next ball in the net." With clockwork efficiency, they inevitably hit the next shot perfectly on the table, to their utter surprise.

One kid really, Really, REALLY wanted to...




Tuesday, April 3, 2012 - 11:53
April 3, 2012

Wang Liqin didn't show up

Alas, Wang Liqin didn't show up at the airport yesterday. (See my blog yesterday about this.) Neither did I, since it was of course an April Fool's Joke. I couldn't actually do it on April 1, since that was a Sunday and I blog Mon-Fri, so I started the blog off by writing, "As reported yesterday..." The story spread through the Internet like wildfire. Several players at our Spring Break camp heard about it and thought it might be true. I received dozens of emails. This despite my talking about his nine-year-old superstar son Tongtong (Tong Tong Gong is the top rated cadet in Maryland), about his science fiction writing career (including "a story he wrote of a boy growing up playing table tennis in a futuristic world where players were more technicians than athletes with futuristic paddles covered with dials and buttons" - I'm a SF writer, not him!), and so on.

Strangest and weirdest shots in table tennis

I would rarely, if ever, do these shots in a serious match - but in practice? Why not. I do...