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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 11, 2011 - 14:03
April 11, 2011

Control the receive

I was watching some beginning/intermediate players in a tournament yesterday and noticed a huge number of points decided by the receive. Either the receiver was way too aggressive (and so made mistake after mistake) or was way too passive (and kept pushing topspin and sidespin serves off the end or side). While it's usually best to learn to play aggressive, receive is all about control, about consistently taking the initiative away from the server. If you can force a neutral rally on the opponent's serve and win half the points, you should win the match when you serve.

How do you control the serve? At the beginning/intermediate level you should focus on one thing only: is the serve backspin or not backspin? If the serve has backspin (including sidespin backspin), then you mostly push it back, though you can also loop it. If it's not backspin (i.e. sidespin or topspin serves), then you use your regular topspin shots, i.e. backhand and forehand drives (or perhaps loops, if you can do that). No-spin serves you can handle either way.

At higher levels you might want to do more with the receive, but...




Friday, April 8, 2011 - 14:14
April 8, 2011

Stroking Coaches

Imagine going to a nice steakhouse and ordering the finest steak. They bring it, and that's all there is - just the steak. No potato or other vegetable on the side. No salad. No bread. Not even a drink. A coach who only works on strokes is like a steakhouse that only serves steaks.

Now some players only want to work on strokes. They are fun to do and great exercise. And beginners should focus on them. But a coach who only works on strokes is like that rather limited steakhouse. Coaches also need to work on footwork, serve, receive, tactics, strategic development, the mental game, physical training, equipment choice, even nutrition.

On the other hand, did you ask for anything on the side at that steakhouse? Maybe it's available upon request. Similarly, if you have a coach who seems mostly focused on just strokes, try asking about other things. Maybe it's available upon request. Of course the coach should be offering these things on his own, just as the steakhouse should, but as players and diners you should do what it takes to bring out the best in your game and meal.

Ping-Pong Interior...




Thursday, April 7, 2011 - 13:12
April 7, 2011

Coaching and Hardbat and Sandpaper, Oh My!

For those who are distracted by various wars and government shutdowns, the U.S. Open entry form is out. It's in Milwaukee, June 30 - July 4. Here's info on it:

2011 US Open: usopenmilwaukee.com | Entry forms: Online | Domestic | International

Now's the time to go over the schedule in painstaking detail, calculating which events to enter to maximize the sense of grandiose accomplishment after you devastate the field in your chosen events.

For me, it's a headache trying to work out conflicts. I'll be there primarily as a coach - the father of a cadet player I'm coaching is paying my way. But I also like to win National Titles. While I'm basically retired from tournaments as a sponge player (that's how I normally play and coach), I've won a lot of national...




Wednesday, April 6, 2011 - 13:30
April 6, 2011

Rotating around the pole for fast forehand recovery

Yesterday I was coaching someone who had a pretty good forehand, but was often awkward in making two strong ones in a row. The problem was he tended to move his whole body forward into the shot, with his weight slightly off-center, and so to recover had to move his whole body back. It's a double-whammy because before he can even begin to move back he had to get his weight centered again. This is a common problem.

If you watch top players who seem to have the ability to hit repeated forehands (loops or smashes) with incredible rapidity - like a machine gun - you'll see that they don't move that much forward on these shots, if at all. Instead, they rotate their bodies around, as if there were a pole coming out of their heads that they spun about. When they finished their shot, they were in the same position, with weight centered, just rotated around. And since they were so well balanced and in position, they were immediately ready for the next shot. The result is a barrage of forehands that can be done incredibly quickly. It's also more efficient and thereby easier to control...




Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 14:22
April 5, 2011

Fan and Peter-Paul Serves at the North American Championships

I though the most interesting thing to watch at the North American Championships were the top players' serves, especially USA's Fan Yiyong and Canada's Pradeeban Peter-Paul.

Fan has an extremely heavy and low backspin serve, which are far spinier than it looks. However, he was having trouble controlling his forehand pendulum serve. The second bounce, given the chance, is supposed to be near the endline, making it hard to loop or drop short. It seemed to be going too long, allowing opponents to loop. In many of his matches he switched to a backhand serve, often short to the forehand, with either backspin or no-spin. The no-spin serve especially seemed to give opponents trouble as they kept putting it slightly up or long, and Fan would jump all over them.

In one match against Peter-Paul in the semifinals of Men's Singles, Fan led 2-1 in games and was up 10-5. Serving at 10-9, Fan called a timeout and spoke with USA coach Yang "Alex" Shigang. Then he served the simple backhand serve short to Peter-Paul's forehand, the return went up slightly,...




Monday, April 4, 2011 - 12:40
April 4, 2011

North American Championships

I just returned from the North American Championships. Results and articles are here. I don't have time to do a write-up - I got in very late last night, and I'm leaving shortly to coach (yep, the life of a table tennis coach) - so I'll write about one interesting thing.

A number of USA players weren't happy with the way the Stag balls and tables bounced - but they are the official sponsor of the ITTF Junior Circuit, so our cadet and junior players have to get used to them. The Canadians had more training with Stag equipment, and it showed on day one when the Canadians dominated many matches in men's, women's, and junior & cadet events. The USA players gradually adjusted, and by the second day things were back to mostly normal.

A lot of the problems some USA players had were mental. Once it got in their heads that the bounces were different or (according to some) erratic, some had great difficulty in adjusting and focusing. In the future, players need to try and train with...




Friday, April 1, 2011 - 03:34
April 1, 2011

North American Championships
Are you following the news and results at the ITTF's North American Table Tennis Championships page? It started this morning. By the time you read this my voice will probably already be hoarse from coaching and cheering.

Zhang Jike's forehand reverse serve
This is one of the best demonstrations of the reverse pendulum serve I've ever seen. Read it, study it, use it. Just not against me or anyone I coach.

13-year-old Makes Chinese National Team
Another generation of top Chinese juniors is upon us, and again there's something new. Fang
Ping-Yi, a 13-year-old with a unique style from the Szechuan Province came out of nowhere
recently to make the Chinese National Team, finishing third at the Trials last week. While most
international stars use inverted, Fang uses grippy long...




Thursday, March 31, 2011 - 13:10
March 31, 2011

Practice those alternative serves!

What do I tell students to work on just before tournaments? Well, there's the usual stuff. And you don't want to overtrain and show up tired, and you want to eat well and get lots of sleep. And you want to play lots of practice matches so you'll be match tough.

But one thing many people forget is to practice what I call "alternate" serves. Just by playing matches you'll be practicing your regular serves. But what about those surprise serves you throw out there every now and then for a free point? Fast & deep serves, tricky breaking serves, etc.? Those are the ones you need to practice. Unlike your regular serves, you often have to pull these serves out cold. The day before or the morning of a tournament, get some balls, go off to a table by yourself, and practice those serves. Imagine the score as deuce when you do so to emulate pulling off the serve under pressure. Do that a hundred times, and when the time comes to actually do it under pressure, it'll be second nature - you've already done it a hundred times in the last day.

How'd you like to try to rip a...




Wednesday, March 30, 2011 - 13:01
March 30, 2011

Seemiller vs. Malek 1979

Here's a Blast from the Past - the final of the 1979 USA Men's Singles Championships in Las Vegas, where Attila Malek upset Dan Seemiller. It's hard to believe it's been 32 years since this great match. The tape is 22:40 long. You can see how the game has changed, due to new techniques but even more so due to better technology. The sponge surfaces they use are far less bouncy than modern sponges; if a top player were given one of their rackets to hit with, they'd probably hit one ball and say, "What is this stuff?"

The biggest difference in play back then is probably backhand play. Note that both play their backhands pretty much flat in rallies. (Seemiller, of course, uses the "Seemiller" grip that's named after him, and so mostly jab-blocks the backhand.) Malek had a backhand loop, but seems to use it mostly against backspin. Part of this is because of the sponge they are using, and part of it is because the backhand loop simply wasn't considered as big a weapon in those days, and players weren...




Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - 12:44
March 29, 2011

Breaking 2500 Revisited

Sometimes when looking for historical records, such as the youngest players to break 2500, you look so hard to the past you forget about the present. And yesterday, while compiling this list, I left out an obvious one - Michael Landers. He was born in August, 1994, and broke 2523 in at the Nationals in December, 2009, at age 15 years 4 months. This makes him the third youngest to do so, after Lily Zhang's 14 years 9 months and Adam Hugh's 14 years 11 months, and just beating out Han Xiao's 15 years 5 months and Keith Alban's 15 years 7 months.

An interesting question came up - who reached 2500 the fastest? That's tough to judge since we don't know when most of these top juniors started, only when they played their first tournament. But Landers might be in the running for fastest. Landers played his first tournament in December of 1994 (age 10), starting with a rating of 1056, and broke 2500 exactly five years later with a rating of 2523, undoubtedly one of the fastest to achieve this.

I'm a little proud; Michael came to a number of the five-day camps I run at...