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 Photo by Donna Sakai

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

Wednesday, January 11, 2012 - 14:20
January 11, 2012

Reverse penhold backhand

I'm coaching two penholders who have reverse penhold backhands - one an elderly player who normally uses a conventional penhold backhand but is learning the new version, the other a 12-year-old learning this way from the start. For penholders, this is the biggest revolution in penhold play since, well, the invention of penhold play. For shakehanders, it is the shot that stopped shakehanders from dominating at the world-class level. For a while, it looked like the penhold grip would vanish from the world's elite, but this stroke brought it back to par with shakehands. It is also a shot that shakehanders must learn to play against.

What is a reverse penhold backhand? It is a backhand by a penhold player where he hits with the opposite side of the racket rather than using the same side for forehand and backhand (i.e. a conventional penhold backhand). Just as with shakehands, you can block, hit, or loop with it. More and more top penholders play their backhands this way as it gives a stronger backhand attack, though it leaves the player weaker in the middle and often isn't as good for blocking. Historically...

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 13:30
January 10, 2012

My todo list and coaching schedule

After careful calculations, I have concluded that my todo list, single spaced in 12-point Time Roman, would circle the earth three times. And I'm subbing for Coach Jeffrey (in China for almost two months), so my coaching schedule has doubled. And I've got a cold. So if you are one of those people waiting for something from me, it's coming, but it might take longer than usual.

It's also come to my attention that due to my subbing for Jeffrey, for the next two months I'll be coaching SEVEN DAYS A WEEK. My back: R.I.P.  

Lagging rackets

Two players I coached yesterday had a similar problem. (One was a relative beginner, the other relatively advanced, both right-handed.) And they had the same problem on both the forehand and backhand. They let the racket tip lag behind in their strokes, and so their crosscourt forehands and backhands tended to go to the middle. It's important to have the tip lead the stroke as you drive the paddle crisply through the ball. The racket should aim toward where you are aiming well before contact. If the tip lags behind...

Monday, January 9, 2012 - 13:51
January 9, 2012

Tip of the Week

Proper Care of Your Racket.

Serve practice

A few days ago a practiced my serves for 15 minutes, something I hadn't done in a few months. (Remember, I'm 99% coach, 1% player these days.) Last night at the club everyone had absolute fits with them. One player even asked me when I'd developed the new serves - and all I was doing was using my normal serves, but with a bit more spin, lower to the net, and with a quicker, and so more deceptive motion. This has actually happened many times in the past. Serves are one of the most under-practiced techniques in table tennis. I've never understood why more players don't understand this - but it might be because you have to develop your serves to a certain level before the huge advantage from service practice starts to really pay off. Suffice to say that players who usually challenge me struggled to get five points against me last night.

Baltimore Sun and other press coverage

How do you get press coverage for table tennis? By sending out press...

Friday, January 6, 2012 - 12:51
January 6, 2012

Reverse psychology

I think I'm the top reverse psychologist in the world of table tennis. When I'm working with a new kid who's trying to hit twenty forehands for the first time, do I what most coaches do and say, "You can do it!"? No. I have more success saying, "Twenty in a row? You can't do twenty, that's way too many. No chance!" And of course the kid is then determined to prove me wrong, even though they know I'm joking. I've been using the trick for so many years that I've got dozens of variations.

It's also a great way to get in shape - all I have to do is say, "I'll bet you twenty pushups you can't do twenty in a row," and I'll be doing twenty before the session is done, often after the next rally. Getting to make a coach drop and do twenty has a way of focusing one's mind. (Confession: I used to bet twenty pushups, but that was getting to be too much, so now I only bet ten.)

Increasing coaching hours

I'm increasing my coaching hours starting this month. So if you are anywhere near the...

Thursday, January 5, 2012 - 13:46
January 5, 2012

Busy month ahead

One of our full-time coaches at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, is leaving Monday for a month in China. Sun Ting, who recently joined our staff, is also in China, also returning in about a month. I'm subbing for some of their students while they are away so it's going to be a busy month. (Pray for my back!) We'll be back at full strength around the start of February.

Around that time is when the wall to our club goes down and we take over the space next door to us, doubling the club's size. It'll probably be another month of renovations before everything's ready, and then we'll have 11,000 square feet, around 18-20 tables all on red rubber flooring, the bathroom that's currently in the middle of the club obstructing everything will finally be off to the side, and we'll have our new weight room. We'll also have a new modernized web page, and our new facebook page will be ready for action. Our coaching staff will then include me, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Sun Ting, Raghu Nadmichettu, and Donn Olsen.

Equipment Junkies: The Next...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012 - 13:35
January 4, 2012

USA Cadet Depth

The depth of play at the cadet level (which roughly means under age 15) has dramatically increased over the lasts five years in the USA. How did this happen and how much stronger is it? First I'm going to digress to five years ago.

In December, 2006, at the USA Table Tennis Board meeting at the USA Nationals, I gave a Junior Training presentation. USATT had struggled for years to find ways to increase the number and level of our juniors, and at the same time was focused on developing elite players. I argued that the solution to both these problems was for USATT to recruit and train coaches to set up full-time training centers and junior programs. USATT was already running coaching clinics; why not just change the emphasis?

The response was, at best, weird. Most of the board loved the idea, crossed it off the agenda, and went on to the next item. It was as if they had no way of actually implementing things they wanted to do. Two board members did speak up strongly against the idea, arguing that we had no idea if there was a demand for such training centers, and if we got coaches to...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012 - 13:06
January 3, 2012

Tip of the Week

Table Tennis Tip: Pushing and Looping Deep Backspin.

Still sick

This is Day Three of the Great Cold of 2012. I'm not sure whether to blame Obama, the Iowa caucuses, or global warming, but if my cold doesn't get better soon I'm going to blame somebody. It looks like another day in bed reading. (Actually, maybe having a cold isn't so bad.)

Celebrities Update

Over the weekend I updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page with 18 new pictures of 9 new celebrities. There are now 1317 pictures of 760 celebrities playing table tennis. The new celebrities are:

  • Tom Cruise, actor
  • Rob Lowe, actor
  • Ralph Macchio, actor
  • Jack Benny, actor and comedian
  • Mary Livingstone, actress and comedian
  • Alice Cooper, rock star (new picture)
  • Michael Buble, singer (5 pictures)
  • Joe Reeder, former U.S. Undersecretary of the Army and Chairman of the Panama Canal...

Monday, January 2, 2012 - 12:59
January 2, 2012

We're going to try an experiment today. I went to bed last night with a nasty cold, and got up this morning with a nastier one. And according to the federal government, today is the new year holiday, and if I don't take the day off, the terrorists win. So I'm going to go back to bed without a blog entry today (except for this), and postpone the Tip of the Week until tomorrow. If the universe explodes, it's my fault. Sorry. (Happy New Year!)

Friday, December 30, 2011 - 13:02
December 30, 2011

MDTTC Christmas Camp

Yesterday at the MDTTC Christmas Camp the focus was on backhand attack. That meant lots of backhand smashes, backhand drives and flips against backspin, and backhand loops. I was amazed at how fast some of the "beginner" kids picked up the backhand loop. The old paradigm that you have to be relatively advanced before you can backhand loop has been wrong for many years, and yet it still plagues many junior players whose old-fashioned coaches hold back on teaching this shot, thereby handicapping their games. My general rule of thumb is as soon as the kid can hit 100 forehands and 100 backhands with a good stroke he's ready to learn to loop.

This reminds me of a Junior Olympics many years ago where a full-time professional coach from another region was admiring the level of play of the Maryland juniors. She was amazed at how well some of our kids in the 10-year-old range could loop, and commented, "None of my students that age are good enough to learn to loop yet." As she explained, she thought it was assumed a kid needed to be at least 1500 before he should be taught to loop. Yikes!!!


Thursday, December 29, 2011 - 13:18
December 29, 2011

Falling backwards when forehand looping against backspin

This is a common problem with a rather easy fix. Many players go off balance and fall backwards when looping against backspin with their forehand. Why? It's almost always because they are standing too far from the table. And so they have to reach forward to contact the ball. This throws their weight slightly forward; to compensate, you have to lean backwards. You lose control, power, and are off-balance for the next shot.

How do you fix this? Stand closer to the table, and rotate more sideways when you loop. The contact point should be the same as before, but relative to your body, it's farther back in your hitting zone, often in front of the back leg. This allows you to rotate in a circle as you loop, creating torque and maintaining your balance even during your most powerful loops.

Yesterday, during the Christmas Camp at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, I found at least five players who were doing this. (I also had another chocolate candy "giveaway" - hit the bottle on the table, and get a delicious truffle! I gave out about 50 of them. I think we're...