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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

Thursday, June 16, 2011 - 12:23
June 16, 2011

The unconventional path

If your goal is to challenge the best players in the world, then you want to play the best possible style. But for anything less, almost any style will do. One of the ironies of coaching is that if certain styles have a 1% advantage over another, then nearly 100% of students are taught those styles. After all, who wants to be the coach that teaches someone an "inferior" style? And so very few new players are taught to be choppers, long pips blockers, pips-out penholders, hardbatters, the Seemiller (or American) grip, and so on. These aren't considered the "best" styles, and so almost nobody teaches or learns them. Is there a place for these styles?

One of the kids I coach discovered chopping just yesterday. He has a decent forehand, but isn't that strong of an attacker yet. He has a good backhand push, and is now learning to push on the forehand. Obviously, it's very early in his game development. But once he learned what a chop was, he wanted to learn to do it. It was his first time, and his chops weren't very heavy and they popped up, but he had fun. Conventionally, you don...




Wednesday, June 15, 2011 - 12:57
June 15, 2011

Supernova or brightly burning star for many years?

The next time you enviously watch some kid who's improving at about 300 rating points per year, here's something to think about. The younger you start, the better your ultimate potential because the brain simply learns better at younger ages. However - while those of you who started late may never reach the crowning glory of some kid who started at age 7 with a professional coach, you may have something as good or better: a longer, more enjoyable journey. And don't they say it's not the destination but the journey that counts? Sure, that kid might become a U.S. team member by age 20. But by age 25 he's already pretty much at his peak. Meanwhile, while you may never make the U.S. team, you can keep improving for many, many years. The physical demands of table tennis at the higher levels are just too high to really improve much past age 30 or so, but at the more mortal levels, experience and training can more than make up for the gradual physical decline. Plus, the demands of high-level table tennis are such that you really need to train hard to keep it up; at lower levels, you can...




Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - 13:09
June 14, 2011

"Let go, Have fun"

One of the toughest things to do in table tennis (or any skill sport) is to do exactly what the heading says - "Let go, Have fun." In a split-second skill sport like table tennis, you can't consciously control each shot; it's all instinctive. Yet that's exactly what one does when they can't relax. And so all their instincts go out the window, and suddenly they can't make a shot. Afterwards, they wonder why.

USA Women's Champion Arial Hsing, just 15 years old, exemplifies the ability to "Let go, Have fun." It is that ability (along with huge amounts of training, great coaching, experience, etc. - details!) that make her a champion. And how did she learn to do this? During her up-and-coming years, guess what she always wrote on her arm before a tournament? Here she is, about four years ago, at age 11. Yes, that's "Let go, Have fun!" written on her arm. (I have a larger version on my computer so I can zoom in and verify the words, including the exclamation mark at the end.)

Players who...




Monday, June 13, 2011 - 13:20
June 13, 2011

Over 450 Reads

On Friday we set a new record for most reads - over 450. (We've been averaging over 200 for a while.) I hope people are enjoying the blog - it's the first thing I do each morning, Mon-Fri. I usually keep notes throughout the day on interesting topics, and when morning comes, it's not a matter of what to write about; it's a matter of choosing which of the many items to write about. This morning I have eleven different topics to choose from. Some I'll write about now; the rest I'll cut & paste to tomorrow's blog, and then, along with whatever topics come to mind today, I'll choose that day's topics.

Tip of the Week: Playing the Fisher

This week's Tip of the Week is on Playing the Fisher. Special thanks to Deriderj, who raised this question on the forum. Now you too can learn how to play the fisher, the player who backs up and softly and defensively topspins everything back a few feet over the net. His shots are not quite lobbing, not quite...




Friday, June 10, 2011 - 12:32
June 10, 2011

What do you know, and when did you know it?

Sometimes, as an experienced table tennis player and coach, I watch newer, younger players as they move up the rankings, and think, "If only they knew what I know." So much of table tennis is "getting it," i.e. knowing how to win - and there are all sorts of ways to doing this. But they all come from learning the frame of mind that allows you to pick through the fog of war (I mean match play) and find a way to win, both in developing your game (strategic development) and tactically (tactical development). This is probably true of most experienced players, at least those who have also gotten through the "learn how to win" barrier.

How do you learn how to win? Some do it by consciously being aware of what wins and what doesn't, and working toward maximizing the type of play that wins, both in strategic development by practicing those techniques that win when developing their game, and tactical development as they learn to use these winning techniques. Others do this instinctively - especially the tactical part - never really "knowing" what they are doing,...




Thursday, June 9, 2011 - 12:22
June 9, 2011

Table tennis for concentration & benefit*

*Rhymes with fun & profit - get it?

I had an interesting session last night with a 9-year-old kid, who we'll call "Sammy." He was having trouble with both consistency and concentration. The two go together. Like most relatively new players, he had developed decent stroking technique, but had trouble repeating the stroke over and over - and as all coaches know, if you can't repeat it over and over in practice, it's going to fall apart in games. (See my comments at the end on how this relates to table tennis players in general.)

Like I tell many students, I told him you don't really have a forehand or backhand until you can hit 100. That seemed way too many for him, so he said how about going for 30? We compromised on 50, and I told him that if he got 50 forehands, I'd say he had a "halfway good forehand" - but he'd need 100 before I would say it was a "good forehand." I also told him that something like 3/4 of new players go right from 50 in a row to 100, since once you get the stroke down - and more importantly...




Wednesday, June 8, 2011 - 12:34
June 8, 2011

Ready position

I've been thinking about ready positions recently. Conventionally, you aim your racket tip at the opponent, with the racket held midway between forehand and backhand. In theory, that's all you have to do. In reality, some players tend to hold their arm out to the side too much, and so are more ready for forehands than backhands. Try holding the racket more in front of you, even if it means bringing the playing elbow more out in front.

However, there's another problem. Conventionally, the backhand is hit quicker off the bounce than the forehand. This means you have less time to hit the backhand. In many cases, this doesn't matter since the stroke is shorter. However, for some--including me--I find the backhand rushed and awkward when starting from a neutral position, while the forehand, where you have plenty of time to get the paddle into position as you turn sideways, is much easier.

So years ago I adjusted my ready position so that the racket is in a slight backhand position, i.e. the backhand side of the blade partly faces the opponent. This gives me a head start on backhands, while I still have...




Tuesday, June 7, 2011 - 11:44
June 7, 2011

Reader comments

We're getting about 200 readers per day on this blog, but strangely few comments. Feel free to comment! That's why I always have the "comments on" option turned on. Don't worry, if you say something I disagree with I won't bite your head off. I might hunt you down at tournaments and coach your opponents. :)

USATT CEO Report

In case you missed it, here's USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh's Report in the May/June USATT Magazine. He talks about Ping-Pong Diplomacy's 40th Anniversary, Milwaukee (site of the 2011 U.S. Open), new USATT co-webmaster and media specialist Sean O'Neill, and upcoming events.

Never miss an opportunity

At the club this weekend I watched a top cadet player play against a weaker player. As he admitted afterwards, he wasn't really into the match even though he won the match easily. (He's had an earlier loss that was bothering him.) The opponent was a lefty, and it so happens that the...




Monday, June 6, 2011 - 14:17
June 6, 2011

Tip of the Week - Practice Matches

This week's Tip of the Week is about what to do in practice matches. Remember, a practice match is just that - a practice match. The problem is that many only get the second part - "match" - and forget about that first part - "practice."

2011 Pan American Games Team Leader Position Opening

There's an opening - here's your chance to travel with the U.S. Team to the 2011 Pan Am Games in Guadalajara, Mexico! See USATT news item.

Marty Reisman on Obama's Personality

Last week I mentioned in my blog how Marty analyzed President Obama's table tennis game. Now, based on that, he's also analyzed his personality! I assume everyone reading this knows about the charismatic and two-time U.S...




Friday, June 3, 2011 - 12:41
June 3, 2011

How do you want to follow up your serve?

Have you thought about this recently? Really thought about it? What's your best shot - hopefully an aggressive shot - and how can you serve to set it up? Or do you mostly serve and push? Conventionally, you should serve & loop the return if at all possible; do you? At the higher levels, the most common strategy is to serve short (but usually not too short - second bounce near the endline), usually with backspin or no-spin (disguised so opponent can't always tell which), and follow with a loop. Or do you have an alternate plan? For example, if you have really tricky serves (relative to your level), you might serve over and over to win the point outright (or at least get an easy pop-up). If you have a nice backhand, you might serve topspin to get right into a backhand-to-backhand contest.

Team USA Table Tennis Page

The USATT's sister web page with the USOC is rapidly growing. (Sean O'Neill is in charge of it.) Make sure to check out the coaching page.  At...