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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

Tuesday, November 15, 2011 - 13:00
November 15, 2011

Tip of the Week

Forehands from the Backhand Corner

Wang Hao's Illegal Serve

Here's Wang Hao against Zhang Jike in the final of the Men's World Cup this past weekend. Over and over Wang's serves are blatantly illegal. And yet, in one of the biggest matches of the year, with huge numbers of spectators (live or online), with coaches, players, and up-and-coming juniors watching, the umpires very publicly do not call it.

First, when Wang serves, notice how he always leaves his arm out until the last second, when the rules say, "As soon as the ball has been projected, the server’s free arm and hand shall be removed from the space between the ball and the net." I'm using his second serve in the video as an example (the first one was partly cut off), which starts eight seconds in. Here's a picture just before the ball drops behind his arm. He clearly did not remove his arm "as soon as the...




Monday, November 14, 2011 - 14:03
November 14, 2011

Zhang Jike wins 2011 Men's World Cup

Here's coverage at Table Tennista, a great place to get your table tennis news (besides here!), including many articles translated from Chinese. Zhang was down 0-2 in the final to Wang Hao in the all-China final (what else is new?) before staging his comeback, -7,-7,9,4,5,3. Here's the whole match in just 13:49, with the time between points removed. (Note - this was originally linked to their match at the 2010 World Cup; it didn't get corrected until Monday night at 7PM.) Here's the ITTF home page for the Men's World Cup, with results, articles, and photos.

World Cup 2011: Zhang Jike (CHN) vs. Dimitrij Ovtcharov (GER)

One of the best matches of the 2011 World Cup was the Zhang-Ovtcharov match in the preliminaries. Both had already defeated the other two in the group (), and were playing for positioning in the final draw of eight players....




Friday, November 11, 2011 - 13:25
November 11, 2011

Half-Long Serves

I've been ruminating on the proper terminology for serves where the second bounce, if given the chance, would go near the end-line. The problem is the definition of a "half-long serve" seems to vary from person to person and region to region. Some say it means the second bounce is just short of the end-line; others say the second bounce is around the end-line (i.e. it might go slightly short or long); and others say the second bounce is just off the end.

I've always called this type (or these types?) of serve a "tweeny serve," but half-long serves seems to be the more popular term among advanced players. One person thought a half-long serve is always slightly long, while a tweeny serve is always slightly short.

Pretty frustrating for us wordsmiths! But the exact terminology isn't nearly as important as understanding these serves, both the execution of them and returning them.

Here's how five-time U.S. Men's Champion and two-time U.S. Olympic team member Sean O'Neill described how to return a half-long serve where the second bounce is slightly long, though you can...




Thursday, November 10, 2011 - 12:21
November 10, 2011

Talking Table Tennis with the Teens

When I discuss table tennis with our top junior players, two things jump out at me.

First, they know the best players in the world inside and out. Name a top player, and they can mimic his strokes and serves, his favorite tactics, recite his best titles, and tell me what they had for lunch.

Second, if I ask them what tactics they use against a specific player they have recently played, often a dazed look comes over their faces. After a short "senior" moment, they'll usually say something vague like, "I serve short and loop" or "I attack his backhand." (There are exceptions. Some can discuss in great detail what they do.) If I draw them out, they often admit they hadn't really thought about it. It turns out they are thinking a lot about their strokes, but little about their tactics. They know more about Ma Long's tactics than their own!

It always amazes me how much our juniors know about the top players, and how little they know about their own games. This is an area where we can improve - but their knowledge of the top players is a huge asset if...




Wednesday, November 9, 2011 - 12:22
November 9, 2011

Looping versus hitting backhands

Back in the good old days, when games were to 21, balls were 38mm, and ping-pong was the only thing the Chinese did better than the U.S. (I'm joking), most players hit their backhands in rallies. When opponents hit the ball hard, you could take a half step back and rally them down. These days, even at the intermediate level, it seems everyone's looping their backhand, and so you have to stay at the table and block. If you step back against a loop, the ball jumps at you and it's almost impossible to make a good return. But this means you are jammed at the table, and no longer can take that half step back to react to the fast incoming ball. It makes rallying and life in general much harder for us backhand hitters, doesn't it?

This also tells you something about how the game has changed, especially in terms of equipment, which allows players to loop the backhand more easily. If you are developing your game, for the love of pong, if you are physically capable of doing so, develop a backhand loop!

Of course, I'm only half serious in the above. Many players who backhand loop...




Tuesday, November 8, 2011 - 12:34
November 8, 2011

Day One at the Writer's Retreat

Yesterday was the first day of the writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, Mon-Fri, 9:30 AM - 5:00 PM. I'm working on my new book, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide." Going into the retreat I'd done exactly 6222 words, and I was hoping to average 5000-6000 per day. On Day One, I did 8063, for a total of 14,285. That's actually a crazy pace, but it's only for five days. I'm guessing the book will total about 50,000 words, but we'll see - I'll probably keep writing well past that and end up with 100,000. I do have a publisher that's interested in the book, but whether I go that route or self-publish, it should be out next year, hopefully before the U.S. Open.

I spent much of today writing about conventional and non-conventional tactics (lots of examples of both), and on service tactics. For example, I gave ten ways to mess up your opponent with a short serve, and the thinking behind each. I'm also writing a lot about tactical (how to win the current match) versus strategic (how to develop...




Monday, November 7, 2011 - 12:20
November 7, 2011

Tip of the Week

How to ace an opponent. You can see all the past Tips here, or see link on menu on left.

FIT Open

There's not a whole lot I want to write about. I couldn't move on the slippery floors, or see the ball against the orange-brown tile floors (colored to look like real wood). Players would put the ball to my forehand, normally a strength, and I couldn't move to the ball and couldn't see the ball. Halfway through I withdrew from the tournament. (Several players said that it was much more slippery this year than in past years.) 

The irony is that part of the problem I faced was that I play and coach almost exclusively on the red rubberized flooring at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, with great lighting and background. And so I faced the same thing players at our club have complained about in the past, that they couldn't play effectively in bad conditions. If there were national championships held on slippery floors or other bad conditions, we'd have...




Friday, November 4, 2011 - 12:02
November 4, 2011

Vary your serves

I recently played a match against a strong player about my level who basically used three serves: short backspin or no-spin to the middle or backhand, or a deep side-top serve to my backhand that was telegraphed by the delivery. The player never served to my forehand. Since I could see the deep serve coming a mile away (and could just hit it back with my backhand and force a neutral backhand exchange on his serve), all I had to do was worry about the short serves. Since they were so predictable, I hung over the table and returned them right off the bounce, with last-second changes of directions, mostly dropping them short to all parts of the table. Because of the quickness off the bounce, the tweeniness of many of the returns (i.e. second bounce would be near the end-line), and the last-second changes of direction, even when I went long the opponent had great difficulty attacking. And so I completely controlled the match off the opponent's serve. This is the type of thing that happens all the time in matches, where players get into the habit of using the same few serves over and over, thereby making things easy for the opponent....




Thursday, November 3, 2011 - 13:40
November 3, 2011

November 3, 2011

How Leagues Spur Growth

I was asked this morning who could (or would?) play in a nationwide table tennis league. I'd already talked about Germany and its 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players, England's 500,000, France's 300,000, etc., and how other sports also do this, and how these huge numbers come almost exclusively from leagues. Here's an excerpt of my response, which explains a bit more precisely and concisely how this happens.

"Anyone can join the league as part of a team representing a club, with the membership rate to be determined. This is the stage where new clubs are often certified or created, as players list the place they practice as their club (solving the U.S. problem of hordes of non-sanctioned clubs full of non-USATT players), or find and create ones for the purposes of the league (leading to hordes of new clubs, which soon fill up with new players who join the league, snowballing membership). There are always details to be worked out, which is why you go to experienced league directors (in club to club leagues) in the U.S., overseas, and in other sports to see...




Wednesday, November 2, 2011 - 13:25
November 2, 2011

Frustrating emails

I spent much of yesterday, and already a chunk of this morning, responding to highly frustrating emails. There's an email discussion going on among USATT board members and some committee members about coaching that I won't elaborate on. I'd love to quote the emails, but that would be inappropriate. It's more about the type of thinking behind the emails than the specifics of the current argument that I find so mind-numbing and representative of the same type of thinking that has stagnated table tennis in this country for so long. Let's just say that times like this I am deeply pessimistic about whether USATT can ever take the lead in developing table tennis in this country. Almost for sure it's going to have to come from outside individuals and clubs by setting up leagues and coaching programs independently from the national governing body for table tennis in the USA.

Strategic Versus Tactical Thinking

Here's an excerpt from the book I'm working on, "Table Tennis Tactics: A Thinker's Guide."

"What's the difference between...