Welcome to, your Worldwide Center for Table Tennis Coaching!

 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,

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

Recent blog posts

Friday, January 27, 2017 - 14:37
January 27, 2017

Schools are closed today (Professional Day), and as usual, when the schools are off, so am I! We're having a one-day camp at MDTTC. We have so many full-time coaches that I'm not really needed, but I might go over anyway. Or I'll work on some USATT or writing projects. Meanwhile, this might be a good time for you to rewatch the old Matrix Ping-Pong video - probably the most hilarious table tennis video ever made! And then you can watch some of the amateur parodies, of which I've included four.

Thursday, January 26, 2017 - 14:58
January 26, 2017

USATT Teleconference
The USATT Board had a teleconference last night. It was schedule for 7:00-8:20PM, but I think went on until after 9:45PM. There were three main items on the agenda, which I list as separate items, designated with a "=>". There was also a fourth, sort of, "New Business."

=>SafeSport Policy
Here's the USATT page on this which actually went up a few years ago. (Click on the three "Attachments" at the bottom for more info.) Basically, it means that a huge number of people are going to have to get background checks, and do so every two years. These include (and I'm copying this from the USATT page):

  • USATT Certified Coaches
  • USATT Board Members
  • USATT Staff
  • USATT Committee Chairs and Committee members
  • Affiliated Club Owners and Operators
  • Referees and Umpires
  • Tournament Directors and Organizers
  • Anyone else who has access to minors within USATT sanctioned competition or club activity.

SafeSport is...

Wednesday, January 25, 2017 - 14:55
January 25, 2017

Alex's Blocking
Between coaching sessions at the club I was watching Alex Ruichao Chen, one of our top player/coaches (rated 2713) working with one of our top junior players. Alex is a lefty, and was blocking backhands while the player forehand looped crosscourt. The part that was interesting was not his blocking, but what he did between the blocks. Most players in a drill, and especially coaches who do this hour after hour just keep their racket out there in backhand or forehand block position. (I plead guilty.) But not Alex! Between each block he'd not only return to a ready position, but he almost went into a forehand ready position. (He's a very forehand-oriented player, with perhaps the strongest pure third-ball attack in the country - serve and forehand rip - though he's worked hard the past year or so on his backhand.)

I looked around and watched the other coaches, and verified that they also mostly kept their rackets in blocking position when blocking for students. Alex himself would sometimes do this, so perhaps he is in the transition from hard-working player to one of us lazy coaches?

This is key...

Tuesday, January 24, 2017 - 14:51
January 24, 2017

How I Beat Boris Becker, by Andre Agassi
Here's the video (2:40). His secret? He could tell where Boris was serving by how his tongue stuck out of his mouth!

I had a similar coaching experience for many years. A member of the U.S. National Team for many years telegraphed when he was serving long by sticking his tongue out as he was serving! I coached against him many times, and my players did very well against him because of this. The player liked to serve long, and never figured out why some opponents always seemed ready for it.

In table tennis there are similar things you can pick up on, often subtle, if you watch for them. I would estimate that over half of players (including top players) telegraph their long serves by changing their backswing. That's a no-no - you need to use the same backswing for short or long serves. Even if opponents don't consciously pick up on it, they often do so subconsciously, and can tell when you are serving long without being sure how they know. This happens to me all the time - I can tell if someone...

Monday, January 23, 2017 - 15:01
January 23, 2017

Tip of the Week
What Are Your Main Weapons? (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 29. There are two more to go, and then we can finally celebrate the New Year!)

Non-Technique Problems with Juniors and Adults
Yesterday I coached in three different 90-minute group sessions - one for beginning juniors, one for advanced juniors (mostly ages 8-10), and one for adults. In the latter two I noticed some interesting parallels. Usually junior and adult players have different problems. Most well-trained juniors have pretty good technique, but don't have the hand-eye coordination or control yet to be consistent. Most adults, unless they started as well-trained juniors, have technical issues, but better hand-eye coordination and control. But sometimes the problems are the...

Thursday, January 19, 2017 - 12:43
January 19, 2017

Tim's History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19
It's finally happened - after working nine straight 18-hour days, we're almost done - but to get the thing finished today (Thursday), I was up past 1:30AM, and was up again at 6AM working on the pages. If all goes well, we'll finish today, and then Tim can go home early Friday morning. (We do about 12 hours per day on the book - just reading that makes me tired. The rest is my own coaching and other work.) I plan to sleep 12 hours straight when this thing is done.

But the bad news - no blog today or tomorrow. (Tomorrow's a "holiday," and I'll be recovering from all this.) So see you on Monday! Meanwhile, here's a repeating image of a cat bouncing a ball up and down on a paddle. Let me know on Monday how many times he bounces it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 11:16
January 18, 2017

USA Citizens Rankings
They went up recently in the USATT ratings database. Go to the pre-set lists on the left, and click "US Citizens Only" at the top. And Behold! This is one of the things I promised to get done when I ran for the USATT Board. While I didn't do anything directly on this, I've been sending out periodic emails on this, asking them to get this done . . . and finally, it's done! (If you have any questions on this, or see any problems, contact the USATT Ratings Coordinator.)

For several years circa late 1980s/early 1990s I was in charge of creating and maintaining the citizenship list for USATT. We had no such list at the start, so I was asked to create one. So I sent out a mass postal mailing to the top 100 men and women in the country (this was before email was widespread), and had them contact me if they were USA citizens, including one-time proof (birth or naturalization certificate). For many of the "obvious" ones, I pro-actively contacted them, hounding...

Tuesday, January 17, 2017 - 11:01
January 17, 2017

Tip of the Week
Coaching and Playing Under the New ITTF Coaching Rule. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 28.)

Cleaning the Newgy Robot
Last night I spent nearly two hours testing and cleaning our two Newgy robots. We usually have one, and one as a backup. The one we were using had recently started to jam regularly. It was reaching the point where it would do so every minute or so, and then we'd have to turn the robot off, and push the balls up through the feeder tube to unjam the balls. But that wasn't even the worst of the problems - the oscillator broke a couple months ago, so you could only aim it in one direction. Still worse, the shooting head had become loose, and so no matter where you aimed it, within seconds it would drift toward the wide...

Monday, January 16, 2017 - 13:18
January 16, 2017

It's MLK Day, so I'm off! (Well, sort of . . . I'll be at my desk working with Tim Boggan for a gazillion hours today, then coaching tonight.) And here's the Tip of the Week (which I'll also link to tomorrow): Coaching and Playing Under the New ITTF Coaching Rule. See you tomorrow. (As explained in my Dec. 28 blog in the Tip of the Week, I'm putting up extra Tips of the Week and post-dating them for earlier in December so I'll end up with 150 Tips for the period 2014-2016. So today's Tip of the Week is dated Dec. 28.)

Friday, January 13, 2017 - 12:01
January 13, 2017

The 800-Pound Gorilla in the Ping-Pong Hall: Muscle Memory
Think about it: everything you do when you play table tennis beyond the beginning level involves muscle memory. Muscle memory controls your strokes and serves, your reactions to the opponents' shot, even most of your tactics.

I'm sure there are many advanced studies on this, but what's important here is the practical aspect. And for that, I would say there are two types of muscle memory in table tennis: what I will call "rote muscle memory" and "reactive muscle memory." (I'm sure there are actual technical terms for this, but I'm not going for the technical side here.)

Rote muscle memory is what you use when you tie your shoelaces, play a song you know well on an instrument, do table tennis serves, or hit forehand to forehand with someone who keeps the ball in the same place. It's the first thing beginners learn as they develop into intermediate players. Without this, you simply wouldn't be able to make high-level shots with any consistency. An example of this is a demo I regularly give in my classes, where I put a water bottle...