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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

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 - 13:36
February 1, 2012

Style and personality

Many years ago, while driving to a tournament with Dave Sakai (a top U.S. player for many decades) and Ron Lilly (one of the best pips-out penholders at the time), Dave pointed out that most players tend to develop playing styles that are opposite of their personalities. Dave likes to gamble (and in fact now has houses in both Maryland and Las Vegas, where he likes to spend much of his time), and can be pretty aggressive in arguments. And yet he plays a very safe pushing and blocking game. Ron is a very nice, non-confrontational type, and yet he plays an almost reckless all-out hitting game. And me? Most would say I'm the intellectual type, and yet in my early years, rather than developing some complicated tactical game, I worked hard to develop a pure all-out physical forehand attacking game. (However, as the years went by, my game evolved into a highly tactical game, though I still like all-out forehand attacking.)

Do aggressive people tend to develop passive styles, and vice versa? Do thinkers tend to develop non-thinking games, and vice versa? I think these observations apply to many players. I've found that...




Tuesday, January 31, 2012 - 14:55
January 31, 2012

Different strokes for different folks

It's interesting to watch the natural tendencies of players come out in their play. Yesterday I coached three kids, all beginning-intermediate players.

The first one, age ten, literally takes every ball off the bounce. It is easier for an elephant to fit through the eye of a needle than to get him to hit the ball at the top of the bounce. In a previous era not dominated by looping he'd be a hitter/blocker. These days? I'm not so sure. Right now he hits everything off the bounce; later on, perhaps he'll loop everything off the bounce. He plays at home with a table that has about four feet going back, so that says something about how and why he's developing this way.

Another kid, also about ten, doesn't seem to get the concept of a flat hit, which isn't necessarily a bad thing in this topspin-dominated age. His version of a forehand-to-forehand warm-up is no different than when he loops, and he doesn't seem to realize this - he uses the same looping stroke for drives and loops, and seems to think he's doing something different, though I haven't found a...




Monday, January 30, 2012 - 14:37
January 30, 2012

Tip of the Week

Quick and Variable Blocks.

Revamping the forehand

This weekend I was coaching an older player who had a nice backhand but awkward forehand. He stood mostly in a backhand stance, with a low grip (so that his shots were very wristy), and stroked his forehand with his elbow extended out, stroking mostly from the shoulder, with little shoulder rotation. He backswing varied from shot to shot. To fix these problems, we first adjusted the grip. He tried a conventional shakehand grip where his hand was closer to the blade, but it didn't feel right to him. Then we hit on the idea of simply using more pressure with his index finger to secure the blade more firmly on the forehand so that it wouldn't be wristy.

Then we worked on the stance, focusing on putting the right foot slightly back on the forehand. With some practice, this'll become a habit.

Finally we had to fix the elbow and shoulder problem, which really went together. To address this, I went back to a trick I'd seen coaches use long ago when the game was...




Friday, January 27, 2012 - 14:43
January 27, 2012

Weight training for table tennis

As noted in previous blogs, I started weight training (along with stretching) last fall because of back problems, and it not only fixed the back problems, but raised my level of play. At almost 52, the muscles simply do not move the body around fast enough, and they were breaking down trying to do so. As also noted, I stopped weight training after Christmas, and paid for it.

Now, after two weeks of weight training again, the back is fine again, and once again my level of play has escalated. Now I'm able to run around the court forehand looping better than I had in years. I've even increased the weight on most of the 16 exercises I've been doing.

There are others who also do this. Many are amazed at the exploits of George Braithwaite, a two-winged looper still about 2100 level at age 77. He regularly weight trains as well, and is in better shape than many in their 20s. Take away the weights, and watch how fast he'd fall to earth.

The simple reality is that to play a physical game, your muscles have to move your body around quickly and easily, with fast body rotations in both directions...




Thursday, January 26, 2012 - 14:15
January 26, 2012

Faking topspin and backspin serves

Anyone who has played me knows I like to serve forehand pendulum sidespin-topspin serves that look like backspin. However, I less frequently serve backspin serves that look like topspin. (Instead I tend to mess opponents up by mixing in backspin and no-spin serves.) This has probably been a mistake - I should have developed those serves just as much, and recently I've reincorporated those serves into my game, as recent opponents have lamented. But why was I hesitant before?

First, a short note on how to do these serves - and keep in mind you can't learn them just from reading about them, you need to see a coach or top player do them, and perhaps get some coaching. (Here's an article on using semi-circular motion to disguise your serve. And in the video section here there are a number of videos showing top players serving.)

To serve sidespin-topspin and make it look like backspin, most of the semi-circular motion must be down, but right at contact the left side of the...




Wednesday, January 25, 2012 - 13:25
January 25, 2012

Ready position and basketball

So many players have poor ready positions. They stand up too straight, their feet are too close together, their weight isn't on the balls of their feet, and their non-playing arm hangs loosely at their side like a dead snake. But there's a simple cure I now use with many students. I go over to their side and say, "Let's play imaginary basketball. Cover me!" They immediately bend their knees to get down slightly, their feet go wider, their weight goes onto the balls of their feet, and their non-playing hand goes up. A perfect playing stance! So next time you play, why not get in the habit of starting each rally with a little imaginary basketball? (I wrote about this same topic yesterday, including the basketball angle, but I wanted to elaborate here.) 

Ten steps to a great service game

  1. Learn to serve with lots of spin by accelerating the racket through the ball and grazing it.
  2. Learn to serve various spins, including backspin, side-backspin, sidespin, side-topspin, and topspin, with the sidespins going both ways.
  3. Learn to serve low...



Tuesday, January 24, 2012 - 12:59
January 24, 2012

Standing up too straight

Many players stand up way too straight when they play. The result is they are unable to move as quickly as they could if they kept their legs father apart (which also adds stability and power) and bent their knees slightly. It also tends to mess up some strokes, especially on the backhand, where you lose leverage if you stand up straight.

Some players do this because they are getting old and have knee problems, or are overweight, but even then you can get in the habit of bending the knees slightly, as well as keeping the legs a little farther apart. And very young players (or short players) don't want to get down too low because they are already rather short and if they get down any lower they'll have problems on their backhand. 

There's a rather easy cure. Rather than think of getting down, imagine you are covering someone in basketball, or playing shortstop in baseball, or you're the goalie in soccer. As soon as I tell a player to imagine this, they immediately get lower. It's almost impossible not too - you can't do these things in basketball, baseball, or soccer...




Monday, January 23, 2012 - 14:39
January 23, 2012

Tip of the Week

Forcing an Opponent Out of Position.

Changing tactics

I had an interesting practice match this weekend - a best four out of seven. My opponent was an extremely steady blocker without a strong attack, rated about 2100. When I say "extremely steady blocker," I mean she hasn't missed a backhand since the Reagan Administration. So how to play her?

I started out well, winning the first game easily on third ball loops, attacking her forehand, and steady countering, taking advantage of the fact that in any rally I could suddenly attack hard, while she mostly just blocked side to side. She often served deep, and I was often able to loop those. 

However, three things began to happen. First, she began wear me down to the point that I felt like I'd just run a marathon - and we were only into the second game. Second, her forehand, which has only missed twice since the Reagan Administration, wasn't missing. Third, she was pinning me down to my backhand, and while I can hit a hundred backhands in a row when needed,...




Friday, January 20, 2012 - 14:31
January 20, 2012

Ma Lin Step Around and Loop

Here's a nice video (1:14) showing Ma Lin stepping around his backhand corner to forehand loop, using multiball. Video includes slow motion and from two angles. Best part to watch is the slow motion from 0:10 to 0:28. Key things to note:

  1. Note in the slow motion that the move to the left starts with a tiny step with the left foot, followed by the bigger step over with the right.
  2. He stays balanced throughout the shot. See how his weight stays between his legs, almost centered. To do this, he has to extend his left leg to the left to keep balanced. Note the wide stance for stability.
  3. He has a lot of ground to cover, and so has to hit on the move. Because of this, he is forced to follow through more to the side than he would if he had more time. This slows down his recovery, and yet because he pushes off his left leg immediately after the shot, and maintains balance, he is able to quickly recover for the next shot.
  4. He extends his arm for full power. There is little or no arm snap. Historically,...



Thursday, January 19, 2012 - 14:37
January 19, 2012

Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide - Update

First, let me think the reviewers for their help editing/proofing/critiquing the first draft of the book, which should be available later this year. They are (alphabetically) Scott Gordon, Chris Grace, Richard McAfee, John Olsen, Dennis Taylor, and Kevin Walton.

I'd told them I would be starting the (hopefully) finally rewrite from their comments starting this past Tuesday, two days ago. However, with fellow MDTTC coach Jeffrey Zeng Xun temporarily in China, my coaching hours have doubled. Add that I'm still tired from having a cold from Jan. 1-12, that I started weight training again this week (so I'm exhausted from that - see my blog entry from Monday on my back problems), that I'm continually hungry from dieting (after gaining four pounds over the holidays), and that 523 new things came up this week (most involving MDTTC), I'm sorry to say I haven't been able to get started on it yet. Tentatively, in my mind, I'm still going to start on Tuesday, but it'll be next Tuesday. (My weekends and...