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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,

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent blog posts

Tuesday, June 27, 2017 - 12:21
June 27, 2017

Hours Spent in Table Tennis
How many hours have you spent on table tennis? Some say it takes 10,000 hours to really develop a skill. Have you done your 10,000? I got to thinking how many hours I’ve spent on this sport. It turns out an insane number – apparently enough to perfect my table tennis skills, oh, about ten times over. So . . . how many hours? Let’s find out. There’s going to be a lot of rounding and estimates, but I think the figures at the end are pretty accurate. (Feel free to skip ahead to other segments if you find this boring.) 

I started in 1976, so I’m in my 42nd year. I practiced a huge number of hours my first few years. Here are estimates:

  • 1976-1981: About four hours per day, six days/week, so 24 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 6 years.
  • 1981-1992: About two hours/day, six days/week, so 12 hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 12 years.
  • 1992-2007: About 1.5 hour/day, six days week, so nine hours/week, 50 weeks/year, for 16 years.
  • 2008-2017: Not so much – just coaching. Perhaps 1000 hours, most of it in the early part.

Now comes the single...

Monday, June 26, 2017 - 12:38
June 26, 2017

Tip of the Week
One Point at a Time.

Table Tennis Protests and Walkouts
Below, in the segment on the China Open, you’ll read about the Chinese players refusing to play their matches in protest of the removal of Liu Guoliang as head coach. The top three men in the world, all from China, refused to play in their country’s “premier” event – Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, and Xu Xin, with support from many other players and coaches. World #4 Zhang Jike, also withdrew, due to an apparent injury, but at least early on also joined the protest. How this will unfold is anyone’s guess, but from what I’ve read (and there are many links to articles and discussions below), I have a feeling Liu Guoliang will be hit hard, while the players will likely get something like a three-month suspension. We’ll see.

Here are three other major table tennis protests that led to players refusing to play, all in the U.S. Here’s a summary.

  • 1976 U.S. Open. This was my first big tournament, held in...

Friday, June 23, 2017 - 13:36
June 23, 2017

Upcoming USATT Coaching Courses and Seminars
[I sent the following in as a USATT news item, which should go up soon.  (It's up.) I spent much of yesterday putting together a 19-page presentation I’ll be playing on a projector for my “How to Set Up a Successful Junior Program” seminar, which will be held in a classroom. I also have a one-page outline for my “Intermediate and Advanced Serving” seminar, which will be at the playing hall, but I can pretty much do that one in my sleep. I’ll put both documents online after the Nationals.]

USATT is taking a two-pronged approach to educating our coaches – and players too! Take your pick of an ITTF Coaching Course or a USATT University Seminar at the USA Nationals.

These are for current and prospective coaches who wish to improve their coaching skills as well as get certified as a USATT and ITTF coach. (Note that when you are certified at ITTF Levels 1, 2, or 3, you are automatically...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 12:28
June 21, 2017

Thursday Off
I need a day off to catch up on things – see you on Friday!

Sports Skills and the Myth of the Natural
The following has a table tennis point to it, but starts out in a fantasy world. I’m currently reading Book Two in the Weird West Tales series by Mike Resnick, four fantasy books which feature the adventures of Doc Holliday in a re-imagined west where Americans, led by Thomas Edison, try to use science to battle the magic of Indians such as Geronimo. In Book One, “The Buntline Special,” we learn what really happened at the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Holliday takes on the undead Johnny Ringo. In Book Two, “The Doctor and the Kid,” Holliday, now broke due to a horrible loss in a poker game, needs to hunt down and kill Billy the Kid for the reward money. Alas, he can’t, as Geronimo has used his magic so...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 14:00
June 20, 2017

"What I was trained to do long ago..."
During a coaching session last night I blocked a ball rather wide to my student’s forehand. The student moved wide and made a very nice forehand loop that went extremely wide to my forehand, well outside the corner and moving away from me very rapidly. Several things happened very quickly, all the result of training from long ago, training which coaches now try to give to their students.

First, I did exactly what I was trained to do long ago, and after my block went to the student’s wide forehand, I reflexively moved to cover the potential wide angle return to my forehand. I’m pretty sure most club players would have at most moved marginally over, leaving the wide angle open.  

Second, I did exactly what I was trained to do long ago, and stepped to the ball, instead of leaning or reaching. The ball caught me off guard with the great angle, and I’m pretty sure the great majority of club players, when they saw how wide the ball was going, would have reflexively leaned and lunged at it. As an experiment, stand up for a moment, and lean to your right. Now try moving to...

Monday, June 19, 2017 - 14:01
June 19, 2017

Tip of the Week
Importance of Routine.

Capital Area League - and How to Create Your Own League!
They had their final meetup this past Saturday (at MDTTC) – and results and photos are up, care of Mossa Barandao and Thomas Olausson of PongMobile! There were 116 players on 24 teams this year, all in the Washington DC area (most of Maryland and Northern Virginia). It’s a great activity that brings everyone together for many hours of great fun and competition – without those pesky ratings, by the way! (Of course, you can run a league with or without ratings.) The league will continue again with a new season this Fall.

Interested in creating a league in your area? Here’s the USATT League page, where you can learn how to set up either a Team League or a Singles League (with the USATT League Rating System). If you don’t have one, you...

Friday, June 16, 2017 - 13:58
June 16, 2017

Living a Life of Pong
Sometimes I get so busy from all my table tennis work that I barely can find time to do anything else. I somehow make time for my other interests – science fiction reading & writing, movies, and a few other things, but those are like smoke in a hurricane of table tennis activities. When things get so busy that there’s barely time to breathe, us table tennis people have to remind ourselves that this is the business we have chosen. After all, if we weren’t doing table tennis, what would we be doing? Not table tennis!!! (Horrors!!!)

<Start non-Table Tennis Paragraph.> In my case, I’d likely be a math professor in that other lifetime that never happened. Instead, recently, in my SF writing sideline, I’ve begun writing stories that feature Mad Molly, an 80-year-old autistic black retired math professor who regularly saves the day with math, though she usually does in humorous fashion as she has her own separate motives – such as, in one story, her determination to get an ice cream pie sent to her...

Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 13:13
June 15, 2017

Preparing for Nationals
It’s that time of year again. So . . . how does one go about preparing for a big tournament? Well, first of all, you read my article, Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament. Well, duh!!! But from a coach’s point of view, here is how our coaching changes.

First, in the age of nearly unregulated plastic balls, where the balls play very differently, you have to switch over to whatever ball is being used. For the upcoming Nationals, that’s the Nittaku Premium ball. I keep a supply of each of the major types, and just yesterday I tossed a bag of these balls into my playing bag.

Second, there’s more emphasis on game play, less on basic rote drills. The time to perfect shots is mostly past; now’s the time to practice what you have in game situations. That means more free play, more points starting with serve or receive, and lots of random drills. It means more emphasis on receive, sometimes playing out points, sometimes not. For top players, it sometimes means mimicking the shots of rival players they will likely...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 - 13:57
June 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
Great Serves are the Best Way to Avoid Upsets and Compete with Strong Players.

$4500 Maryland State Championships
I ran them this past weekend at MDTTC, with great help from Mossa Barandao of PongMobile and Wen Hsu. Complete results are at Omnipong – the program is great for running tournaments and posting results. After the tournament finished on Sunday night, I sent in the results – and they were processed for rating shortly after lunch! (Do you remember the days when it sometimes took months, and how happy we were when they started going up consistently within ten days?)

Below is my write-up (skip ahead if you aren’t interested in the illustrious play of Marylanders – lots of other segments), which will need some adjusting as I referred to post-tournament ratings a couple of times that will likely change, though probably not too much in these two cases. Alas,...

Monday, June 12, 2017 - 11:21
June 12, 2017

No Blog Monday and Tuesday
No blog today or tomorrow (Mon and Tue) – I’m mentally and physically exhausted from running the Maryland State Championships this past weekend. (I was at the club 7:45AM-9PM on Saturday, 7:45AM-11PM Sunday, doing paperwork at the end. Everything is submitted for ratings processing. We had 88 players.) I also have to catch up on hordes of USATT, MDTTC, and writing work. Today’s priorities are to write and send out press releases on the tournament, put together a list of changes for next year, read through 43 pages of USATT printouts to prepare for a USATT teleconference at 7PM tonight (which will probably go to at least 9PM), and then get started on several long put-off writing projects. But here’s a new video of a Table Tennis Cat (19 sec)!