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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, 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, 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...




Thursday, June 2, 2011 - 12:13
June 2, 2011

Table tennis robots

In the Beginning, God (I mean Sitco, I think they were first) created table tennis robots. They had many problems. They either hit to one spot on the table over and over, or they sprayed the ball about randomly, so you couldn't really do many table tennis drills with them. They were either set to heavy topspin or heavy backspin; there was no in between. And the ball was shot at you by spinning disks instead of coming off a paddle, like in a real game, so you didn't learn to read the ball off a racket. (There were other problems early on, such as catching the balls, recycling them, consistency, etc., but these problems were all worked out long ago.) Fixing these problems were, to me, the three holy grails of table tennis robots.

Many of the modern robots are now programmable so you can actually do real drills with them - in fact, just about any drill you can do with a partner, you can do with these robots. Plus you now have more control over the degree of spin. So they are starting to look like more than glorified toys with nets that could catch the ball for you when you practiced serves, which was my primary use...




Wednesday, June 1, 2011 - 12:00
June 1, 2011

Contact point on the block

At the Easterns, while blocking to warm up Tong Tong Gong's loop, something clicked. It's one of those things I've always known and coached, but it helps when it works in your own game. I'd been holding my racket too high on blocks (both forehand and backhand), and that's why it hadn't been particularly comfortable in recent times. By starting with the racket lower to the table, I can actually raise the racket slightly as the ball bounces on the table, allowing the center of the racket to "follow" the ball. This leads to a quicker block, better timing, contact in the center of the racket, a bit of topspin on the block, and overall, a more consistent block. If you hold the racket slightly higher, you have to wait for the ball to come up to it, and then try to catch it in the center, which is trickier.

Holding it higher does give a flatter block, which is effective against some, but the price is less control. But you can do this while holding the racket low by taking the ball right off the bounce and stroking straight forward. This is how many penholders block, and is why they so...




Tuesday, May 31, 2011 - 14:16
May 31, 2011

Computer crash

This morning my desktop computer crashed. (I'm writing this on my netbook computer.) I had all sorts of stuff ready to write for my blog; I'd written half of it last night. But now I can't access it, and I'll probably spend much of the day trying to work out the computer problems. I've already contacted my friendly neighborhood computer expert (J-O, where are you? No, not Waldner), and hopefully all will end well. But rather than leave the multitudes without anything whatsoever to do or read today, here's an exercise.

Developing your game

Are you ready to take your game to the next level and beyond? Let's do an exercise that'll help you do that. If you are a coach, this is also a great exercise for your students - work with them on this.

First, write down what your long-term goal is, in terms of level. Be realistic, but at the same time don't be overly conservative. Give a general timeline to reach this goal.

Second, write down your strengths and potential strengths. If you have a big forehand loop but it misses too much, it might not...




Monday, May 30, 2011 - 13:26
May 30, 2011

Every point is a match.

That's the piece of advice I've been giving players in tournaments a lot this year. Most competitive matches are won by just a few points. Give away two points a game, and half the games you would have won in a competitive match are lost. Give away even one point a game, and you lose all those deuce games you won, and half those 11-9 games you won. So treasure every point. Stop before serving and receiving and make sure you really are ready. If serving, think tactically about what's the best serve to use. If receiving, consider how you can mess up the opponent with your receive. If you play like every point is a match, you'll win a lot of matches.

Easterns

From a purely won-loss perspective, it wasn't the most successful tournament I've coached at. Players I coached this past weekend at the Eastern Open in New Jersey developed a nasty tendency to not play well, and for some reason there's a correlation between not playing well and not winning. Three times players I coached were at 9-all in the fifth, and all three times they lost 11-9. (That's the stuff that...