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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, July 19, 2011 - 11:34
July 19, 2011

Relax that shoulder

One thing I've noticed in the two-week MDTTC camp we're running is that a lot of players hunch or tighten up their playing shoulder when hitting forehands. I'm almost ready to make a recording that says, "Drop your arm to your side. Relax the shoulder. Now bring up your arm to a forehand position, keeping the shoulder relaxed. Bend the elbow to bring the racket into position. Now hit your forehand!"

Another common shoulder problem is not rotating the shoulder on the forehand. If you have your back foot slightly back (no more than 45%, often much less), and rotate your shoulders so you are looking sideways, you suddenly have a huge forehand hitting zone. If you don't do this, then you are jammed in the front of the hitting zone with little room to backswing.

Seven new juniors

In our camp yesterday, we had seven new junior players (out of about 25 total), ranging in age from 5 to about 12. I took all seven in my group - we divide the players among the coaches - and spent the morning working on forehands and backhands. Went pretty well! They also had fun with the...




Monday, July 18, 2011 - 12:10
July 18, 2011

Tip of the Week - The Mental State of a Looper Against a Push

When you are getting ready to loop a push, are you thinking forehand, backhand, or something in between? This Tip of the Week covers the four mental states you should be in.

Hitting at 100% versus 80-90%.

How hard should you hit the ball when attacking? Even when you have an easy winner, most coaches will tell you never to hit at 100%, that you lose too much control. I have a slightly different take on that. I agree that you should rarely use 100% effort with all the muscles that are used for smashing or loop-killing. It's essentially impossible to time all those muscles at 100% so they work together properly. The key is not so much not hitting at 100% as much as it is using all the muscles smoothly in a progression from down up - the legs, waist, shoulders, arm, and wrist. If any of the muscles tries too much, it throws everything out of synch and you end up with just one spastic muscle trying (and usually failing) to provide all or most of the power. (There are rare freaks who can throw...




Friday, July 15, 2011 - 11:49
July 15, 2011

Playing the Middle

Playing the middle may be the most under-utilized tactic in table tennis. The middle in table tennis is roughly the opponent's playing elbow, the transition point between forehand and backhand, and the most awkward place to return a shot. It's usually much easier to move to the forehand or backhand corners than to cover the middle, which involves making a split-second decision no whether to play forehand or backhand, and then moving sideways to allow the shot. (Beginning and intermediate players especially have trouble getting out of the way to play forehand from the middle, and often instead do awkward backhands by leaning over instead of moving.)

Part of the difficulty in playing the middle is because it's a moving target. Here's a quick cure: shadow practice! Imagine an opponent as you do so, and imagine hitting shot after shot right at his elbow. If he begins to favor one side, the middle moves, and you aim for the new spot. Then go to the table and do middle drills where you play everything to your partner's middle, and he returns everything to a pre-arranged spot, either backhand or forehand. If...




Thursday, July 14, 2011 - 11:56
July 14, 2011

MDTTC CAMP HAPPENINGS

  • Day Four
    We're in the middle (well, 30% in) of a two-week training camp at Maryland Table Tennis Center, Mon-Fri this week and next week. Coaches at the camp are myself, Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, and Sun Ting.
  • Knocking off cups
    We had a competition yesterday where I set up ten paper cups on the table, bowling pin fashion, and players were given ten shots to knock off as many as they could, with me feeding the balls mult-ball fashion. Whoever knocked off the most would win a free drink. Two players knocked off nine, and so they had a playoff. One kid again knocked off nine in the playoff. The second kid, Chetan Nama, had knocked off eight, and had one shot left. Then, with everyone screaming, with his last shot nailed the last two cups to knock off all ten and win a free Gatorade!
  • I'm a bad influence
    What else can I be when the kids at camp spent much of break time today playing with clipboards and my oversized racket. I take on challenges with...



Wednesday, July 13, 2011 - 11:53
July 13, 2011

Why do beginners aim up?

Is there a logical reason why beginners not only open their rackets and hit off the end (with inverted sponge), but after seeing ball after ball go off the end, they continue to keep their rackets too open? I invariably have to point out they've hit 20 off the end, 0 in the net, so perhaps they should aim lower? Is there some primordial fear of closing one's racket or hitting into the net? I'm asking this after 35 years of watching beginners all do the same thing, over and over. C'mon, beginners of the world, all 6.7 billion of you, aim lower!!! (You can probably guess I'm in the middle of a training camp, Mon-Fri this week and next, with lots of beginners who . . . oh never mind.)

Playing pips-out sponge

(I posted a version of this on the forum yesterday.) The only way you'll learn to play against pips-out sponge is by playing against it. The ball from pips-out sponge is deader than you are used to, so you have to either open your racket slightly or lift slightly. (Many players overdo this, and hit many balls off the end.) The only way to learn to do this...




Tuesday, July 12, 2011 - 11:23
July 12, 2011

Tip of the Week

Where to Put Your Putaways answers the age-old question of (drum roll please) where to put your putaways. It doesn't answer the even older question of whether putaways should be hyphenated. (This was ready to go up Monday morning, and then I forgot to put it up before leaving to coach. So it went up Monday night.)

Whitewashing your opponent

Suppose you and your opponent are roughly equal, so that either will tend to score about half the points. Then your chances of winning 11-0 are 1 in 2 raised to the 11th power, or 1 in 2048. (Call it 1 in 2000 for you math phobes.) That means there's about 1 in 1000 chance that any given game will end 11-0 (including times you lose 0-11), though in reality it's more likely since a player could get hot or cold.

What are the chances of a 3-0 whitewashing, i.e. 11-0, 11-0, 11-0? That would be 2 raised to the 33rd power, or about 1 in 8.6 billion. (1 in 8,589,934,592 to be exact.)

Now let's suppose you are better than your opponent, and win 60% of the points. (I won't...




Monday, July 11, 2011 - 12:19
July 11, 2011

MDTTC Training Camp

We have two back-to-back training camps at the Maryland Table Tennis Center starting today, Mon-Fri this week and next. So I'll be getting up early to write the blog, then off to coaching. Expect lots of interesting camp tidbits!

Equipment - yours and mine

I am not an EJ, i.e. equipment junkie. Here's my recommendation to new and intermediate players. Everyone needs to go through a stage where they essentially try everything out. This allows you to really learn and understand what's out there, and to find the best equipment for yourself. The cheapest way to do this is to ask to try out the rackets of players at your club. Eventually, you'll find the right combo, and then I recommend they stick with that, unless and until their game changes or there's a major equipment breakthrough. The latter happens about once a decade, though of course you'll read about "new breakthroughs" every year. 

Here's what surfaces I use. (I'll write about rackets some other time, but I'm currently using a...




Friday, July 8, 2011 - 13:26
July 8, 2011

USA Nationals entry form

The long national wait is over; the USA Nationals entry form is online! (Just kidding; the U.S. Open just finished a few days ago.) Here's the USA Nationals page. (Strangely, you have search around to find the dates, and even the location is in small print. Shouldn't that be in a large headline?) For once I get to drive to the tournament, about three hours away; there's going to be a massive Maryland caravan going there. See you in Virginia Beach, VA, Dec. 13-17!

Top Ten Reasons Why Coaches Fail

Here's an interesting Top Ten List of why coaches fail. I don't necessarily agree with all of them. For example, #1 says not to compromise. But sometimes you must listen to your athletes and learn, i.e. compromise. For example, I told a player...




Thursday, July 7, 2011 - 13:27
July 7, 2011

Adoni Responds

In my July 5 blog entry, I linked to several pictures of actor and table tennis player Adoni Maropis. In one, he was wearing rather prominent kneepads, so I jokingly wrote, "Yes, he has knee problems." Adoni responded via email, saying that he wears kneepads to dive for balls - and as someone who has battled with him on the table a number of times, I can verify that he is constantly diving for balls. He's sort of like the mountain goat of table tennis. (Oh boy, am I going to hear from him now!) He also wrote how he hates the photo I linked to about him "terrorizing the hardbat community," saying "I hate that pic...it looks like I have bad everything and either a huge beer gut or pregnant... or a woman... and oh so old." I'd comment on this, but when dealing with a guy who's blown up half the west coast and (when he's not diving on elephant-sized kneepads) kills every chance he can (at the table), I'll shut my mouth.

40th Anniversary Ping-Pong Diplomacy Celebration - SF Edition

...




Wednesday, July 6, 2011 - 14:35
July 6, 2011

U.S. Open results and defaults

For those who missed it, you can see all of the U.S. Open results, either in summary form or all of the results of a specific event, from preliminary round robins to the single elimination stage.

As many have noticed, there seemed a lot of defaults at this year's Open, and nobody really knows why. Was it because of the new schedule, with the Open ending on Monday, July 4? Regardless of the reason, I think Larry Bavly explained many of the defaults when he wrote the following:

I think there are some players who default due to an injury, but the injury is brought about psychosomatically through the traumatic discovery of a low rated opponent in their draw. Therapy session for these players:
"My shoulder hurts, I can't play." 
"What's your opponent's rating?" 
"1400." 
"Do you realize he will be adjusted to 1900?"
"Hey, my shoulder feels a lot better now."

My best coaching lines at the U.S. Open...