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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, March 18, 2011 - 11:43
March 18, 2011

Tournament Morning

This morning I'm playing in the Cary Cup. Though I'm "only" playing in hardbat (the rest of the way "just" coaching), I still have to prepare. What does that mean?

  1. Get up early. I don't want to feel rushed.
  2. Some easy jogging and stretching. I don't want to feel stiff.
  3. A good breakfast of waffles. Because I want waffles.
  4. Get to the playing site early. I don't want to feel rushed.
  5. Some more easy jogging and stretching. Yada yada yada on the stiffness thing.
  6. Check out draws. Duh.
  7. Find someone to warm up with. I usually arrange someone to meet with the day before, but didn't have anyone this time. Hopefully I'll find someone.
  8. For hardbat, I want to warm up the forehand, backhand, backhand chop, and serve. For sponge, the forehand, backhand, forehand loop, backhand loop against underspin, push, and serve. In both cases, play out points at the end.
  9. Stop warmup about ten minutes before match time so I can rest.
  10. ...



Thursday, March 17, 2011 - 11:13
March 17, 2011

Off to Cary, hardbat and coaching

Tim Boggan and I are leaving for Cary, NC for the Butterfly Cary Cup Table Tennis Championships this morning. It's about six hours away. He's doing the coverage for USA Table Tennis Magazine, and then continuing on to South Carolina, where he'll meet his wife for a vacation through March 28. I'm playing the hardbat event on Friday (roughly 10AM-3PM - I'm the defending champion), and then I'm coaching the rest of the way. I'll mostly be coaching Tong Tong Gong, a member of the USA National Cadet Team and MDTTC, though I may coach some other Marylanders when I'm free.

Though I'm normally a sponge player, I've been playing hardbat for many years. At the U.S. Open or Nationals, I've won Hardbat Singles twice, Hardbat Doubles ten times, and Over 40 Hardbat four times. (I'm the current champion from the Nationals in December in the last two.) I'm basically an all-out forehand hitter, with five types of forehands: smash, quick hit, counter-hit,...




Wednesday, March 16, 2011 - 12:00
March 16, 2011

Butterfly Cary Cup

Tomorrow I leave for the Cary Cup Open in North Carolina. I'm only playing in the hardbat event (I'm the defending champion, though I'm normally a sponge player), which is on Friday morning and afternoon. The rest of the tournament I'm just coaching. (Wait a minute - what's this "only" thing? Next time I'm playing in a tournament I'll tell people I'm "only" playing, not coaching. Hmmm...)

So what does one do just before a tournament? Why, practice serves, of course. Sometime today I'll stop by the club and practice my hardbat serves - yes, hardbat - so they'll be ready.

History of U.S. Table Tennis: Vol. 11!

It's hard to believe, but after 13 consecutive days of non-stop work, Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 11 (!) is done. (516 pages, 805 photos.) Tim moved in with me on March 3, and has been sleeping on my sofa ever since. (Mal Anderson helped tremendously by supplying and scanning most of the photos.) I spent my days doing the page layouts...




Tuesday, March 15, 2011 - 12:24
March 15, 2011

Doubles Training at Double Speed!

Here's Massimo Costantini (head coach at ICC and former long-time member of the Italian National Team) training Ariel Hsing and Lily Zhang in doubles. It's a pretty impressive video, though only a minute and nine seconds long. If you want to see some really advanced doubles footwork training, take a look. Just watching it will tire you out.

I've coached doubles at tournaments many times, and I've given lectures on doubles tactics and footwork. However, I've never had the opportunity to train a really, Really, REALLY high-level doubles team like this, especially on a regular basis. Unless you train for it a lot, this type of footwork is more likely to lead to horrible collisions and agonizing losses than glorious wins. But if you really want to be really good at doubles at a really high level, this is what you really need to learn how to do. Really.

One interesting note - the first time through, I thought Massimo was feeding multiball. The second time through I realized he was...




Monday, March 14, 2011 - 12:21
March 14, 2011

Losing your edge

This weekend I played a match against a fairly strong player, about 1900. It was near the end of a training session, and I was feeling tired and stiff (okay, feeling old), so we played two out of three to eleven. In the first game, I didn't really do much, and he kept missing. Up 9-0, I played two points chopping and lobbing to give him a chance, but he botched two shots, and I won 11-0. In the second game, I told myself not to let up . . . and then proceeded to let up. Consciously, I wasn't letting up, but subconsciously something was missing. Now I fell behind 0-4. At 4-9, I switched to chopping, and made it to 9-10 before chopping a fast, dead serve into the net. In the third game, after losing the first point and realizing that I could actually lose this match, my subconscious woke up, and now I could do no wrong as I won 11-2.

So why was I unable to play my best for that one game? In some ways, this is the root of sports psychology, i.e. bringing out your best. I really wanted to continue to play well, and yet something was missing and I was unable to. Deep down, both I and my subconscious knew (or thought we...




Friday, March 11, 2011 - 12:25
March 11, 2011

Talent versus hard work

There's much debate these days about whether table tennis players need talent to reach the highest levels, or if hard work will overcome it. The debate is often dominated by those who believe something toward the extremes as dogma. To be the very best, most seem to believe one of the following:

1) You have to have talent, and if you have that, hard work will pay off; or

2) There's no such thing as talent; it's all about working hard, plus proper circumstances (starting early, good coaching and competition, etc.).

Some look at just the best players, see that they work hard, and conclude it's all about hard work. They are not looking at the people who work hard don't become the best. Others see that some are more talented than others - we've all seen this type of thing in grade school - and conclude it's all about talent, and that if you don't have it, you can't be great.

Here's my take (short version). There's no question that there is such a thing as talent. Some kids simply pick things up very fast, others struggle. We're not all born with...




Thursday, March 10, 2011 - 14:17
March 10, 2011

USATT Club, Coaching, Editorial Committees

I've been on the USATT Editorial Committee for the last couple years. Now I'm on the Coaching and Club Committees. What have I gotten myself into???

Actually, I chaired both these committees at various times in the 1990s. (Sometime I'll blog about the Club Catalyst & Creation Program - yes, CCCP - which led to an increase in clubs from 226 to 303 while membership went from roughly 5500 to 7500.) So I have plenty of ideas. The hard part is trying to get others to understand the difference between what I call "nice stuff" and "Big Stuff." Nice stuff is stuff that's helpful, but isn't going to make a major difference. And that's nice. But I'm more interested in doing some Big Stuff. Such as the systematic recruitment and training of professional coaches, the creation of a club-based nationwide league, or the regionalizing the sport so that each region can self-govern and grow, rather than wait for USATT (with a budget smaller than a 7-11) to do it for them.

The problem with doing Big Stuff is that if you suggest it, everyone will agree it...




Wednesday, March 9, 2011 - 11:58
March 9, 2011

Use the flippin' down-the-line flip!

I beat a top junior player twice in a row in practice. How? He served almost the same short backspin serve over and over, allowing me to drop them all short. Then he'd either push long (so I was attacking first on his serve), or occasionally flip - but all his flips were crosscourt, so I had no problem attacking them. Note to all readers: 1) Vary your serves; and 2) Use the flippin' down the line flip!!! (Except against me, of course.)

Generally, you should flip to the forehand only when can do so very aggressively, or when the opponent has a weak forehand. More often you should move in as if flipping to the forehand, then flip it quick and wide into the backhand. You can also flip into the middle (the opponent's elbow), but only if you are flipping aggressively - and if you are, you might want the extra table you have when flipping to a wide corner. After all, you won't have all the topspin of a loop to pull it down.

Complete Idiots Guide doesn't think Complete Idiots play table tennis

As I blogged previously, I had an agent shopping "The...




Tuesday, March 8, 2011 - 12:52
March 8, 2011

The Forehand Loop: Chinese vs. European Theory

The forehand loop is often taught differently by Chinese and European coaches, though there is, of course, a lot of overlap. The general Chinese theory is that the loop is an extension of the drive, and so you focus first on the forehand drive. When that's very strong, then you extend the backswing and learn to graze the ball, and you have a loop. The general European theory is that they are two very distinct shots, and the loop is often taught very early.

Kids who focus on hitting early on (and generally develop strong blocking games as well) tend to get better early, while those who focus on looping early on seem to catch up when they are bigger and have enough power. If the hitter gets stuck mostly hitting and blocking, the loopers tend to pass them. If the hitter develops a big loop and learns to use it, well, that's almost the definition of a top Chinese player. Meanwhile, players who learn to loop early on but never really develop their table game (especially blocking) often get stuck at a level because of this hole in their game. 

Losing weight

...



Monday, March 7, 2011 - 12:50
March 7, 2011

Table Tennis Chats

Sometime after the Cary Cup Championships (March 18-20), I'm going to ask in my blog and on the forum who would attend. Assuming there is enough interest, we'll have a test chat, and then I'll start scheduling guests - coaches and top players.

Ping-Pong and third baseman J.J. Hardy of the Baltimore Orioles

Yep, he's a table tennis player! Here's an excerpt from an online interview:

Q: What are some things you like to do when you're not playing ball?
J.J. I've got a lot of little hobbies. Fishing – now that we're out here in Florida for Spring Training, I fish pretty much every single day when we're done here.  In the off-season I spend a lot of time playing Ping Pong, try to keep my game up there.  Not as much golf anymore, I used to golf quite a bit.  Kind of shot that down, now more Ping Pong and fishing.

Q: How did you get to become a Ping Pong player?
J.J. My dad was a professional tennis player, and he still teaches for a living...