August 31, 2020

Tip of the Week
Move Like a Pro.

USA Table Tennis Elections
BREAKING NEWS (added Tuesday because of timeliness) - Here is the USATT Elections news item. It's timely as the deadline to apply is Sept. 10. The elections are for one or two At-Large Representatives (it's not clear) and one Club Representative. USATT really could use some new people on their Board of Directors, so why not run?

The news item is a bit confusing. It refers to the rules for the election in the USATT bylaws, but gives no link to those bylaws. It refers to the election for At-Large Representative, but doesn't mention that, according to the very bylaw referred to, there are two At-Large positions, so presumably two At-Large Representatives will be elected - but the election news item refers to it in the singular three times, so from that, they might only be electing one At-Large Representative at this time, despite the bylaws requiring two of them. I hope they will clear this up. (Bylaw 7.6(b)(3) says, "There shall be two (2) At-Large Directors that are elected by the USATT General Members, through a process conducted by the Nominating and Governance Committee." There is nothing in the bylaws about staggering the elections of the two At-Large Representatives, so if the Nominating and Governance Committee has chosen to do that, that should be in the news item to explain why two are not being elected, as required by the bylaws.)

I know of at least one person who is running for an At-Large position who absolutely should not be on the board, so I hope we can get qualified candidates to run for these positions.

BREAKING NEWS - USATT has now reworded the announcement to make clear there are TWO At-Large Rep positions available.

Saturation Training
I mentioned in my blog last week that I had spent much of the two weeks at the Samson Dubina Mega Camp in Ohio working on my backhand. It was a textbook example of Saturation Training. This is one of the most important principles of table tennis and other sports.

There are three common ways to play your backhand - blocking, hitting, or looping. Blockers focus on quickness; hitters on aggressive hitting; and loopers on aggressive topspins. You can do a lot of other shots on the backhand, but these are the most common rallying shots that players use. (When I say "rally," that means topspin rallies, not pushing or chopping.) I've always been more or less a blocker and counter-hitter on the backhand, where I focused on consistency and placement. But I was never really that quick with my backhand blocking, and my backhand hitting wasn't that aggressive either. My consistency made up for these weaknesses, but overall, the lack of an aggressive backhand attack was always a tactical weakness in my game.

So I focused on backhand hitting the first few days of the camp - and lo and behold, it came together quickly. I think part of this was that, as a long-time coach, I really examined my stroke, and figured out why I never was good at hitting too aggressively. Part of it was I held the tip up a bit, so I lowered that, and also raised my elbow, and both paid off quite a bit.

But then I decided to focus more on backhand looping - and lo and behold, with some help from Samson and Chance Friend, that also came around. Players who have seen me play in the past won't recognize me! I still have trouble when I have to move too much to backhand loop - the huge bulk of my past training was moving to attack with my forehand - but in drills against blocks, it really came around. I also kept working on my backhand hitting.

And so, after two weeks of saturation training, both my backhand hitting and backhand looping are tremendously improved. It reminds me of the story I've often heard of Istvan Jonyer. In the early 1970s, he made the Hungarian team mostly as a blocker. Then he developed a great forehand loop, and became the best Hungarian and among the top players in the world. But his backhand wasn't so good. So he took six months off to train where he focused almost entirely on developing a backhand loop, which was a relatively new stroke back then. Result? After the six months of training . . . he lost to everyone at first, since he hadn't yet learned how to incorporate the shot into his game. But with experience, he got better - and he became the 1975 World Men's Singles Champion and was #1 in the world for something like three years.

It's not just for strokes. If you want to develop good serves, don't practice all of your serves a few minutes each. Focus on the one you really want to develop, and really work at it. If you practice serves twenty minutes, do fifteen on that serve. Train like that, and the serve can become great! (But you might want to work with a coach or top player at the start to make sure you are doing it right.) One of the interesting features of the Mega Camp in Ohio was the third week, where the focus was serve and receive. Each day had a different serve to focus on. One day we all worked on forehand pendulum serves. Another day it was the backhand serve. Another day was the tomahawk serve. And so on. By doing this, players would have at least two serving sessions that day with that serve, plus at least one drill where they would use that serve to play points. After the camp, players could then choose which one of these serves they liked, and then, using saturation training, should focus on that serve until it was PERFECT!

It's the same for receive. When asked what their biggest weakness is, most players will say, "Receive." Well, there's a simple solution to that - Practice! Find a good server or coach, and have them serve to you over and over so you can practice your receive. Have them do one serve over and over until you are really good at receiving that one, then move to another. When you are comfortable with all of them, then have the server vary the serve. (And you should do the same for them, unless you have a paid coach doing it for you.)

So instead of working equally on all parts of your game, and improving slowly but not developing any really big strengths, pick out the aspects you want to perfect and do some Saturation Training!

Larry Hodges Books
It's time for one of my shameless sales plugs for my books! They are all on both my Larry Hodges Books page here and on my Amazon page. Note the drop in price for Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt, from $22.50 to $9.35! (See explanation below.) If you have no interest in books, skip ahead to the next section!

Table Tennis

Science Fiction & Fantasy Novels

Short Story Collections (not table tennis, despite the titles!)


  • Larry's Adventures in Europe and Egypt - The price just dropped from $22.50 to $9.35! (Amazon has minimum prices for books, based on content, and this was priced high because it's all color on the inside - but now they have allowed the price to drop, so you can now read about my visits to the historical sites all over Europe and Egypt!) Here's the Amazon description:

In Fall, 2019, Larry Hodges took off seven weeks to tour Europe and Egypt. It was an itch he had to scratch. He visited every major site he could find, especially historical ones. He saw Stonehenge, Buckingham Palace, Normandy Beaches, the Louvre and the Mona Lisa, Catacombs of Paris, Palace of Versailles, Eiffel Tower, the Alps, Venice, Florence, Siena, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Ancient Rome and Greece, the Sistine Chapel, Pompeii, Checkpoint Charlie, Auschwitz, Great Pyramids, Great Sphinx, and countless other sites, including a plethora of ancient castles, cathedrals, and more museums than I knew existed. He visited Portugal, Ireland, England, France, Switzerland, Italy, Vatican City (yeah, that's a country), Germany, Poland, Hungary, Greece, and Egypt. He visited Lisbon, Dublin, London, Paris, Lausanne, Venice, Florence, Pisa, Siena, Rome, Vatican City, Pompeii, Naples, Berlin, Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, Athens, and Cairo. He walked the beaches of Normandy, Lake Geneva, and the Mediterranean, the banks of the rivers Liffey, Thames, Seine, Arno, Tiber, Spree, and Nile, and the Grand Canal in Venice. And he took a camel ride around the Great Pyramid. That's a lot of scratching! Join Larry on his journey, filled with historical info, tidbits, lots of humorous asides, and over 250 pictures! It also includes, "Larry's Short Guide to Europe."

Non-Table Tennis - New Used Car
As noted in my short blog on August 23, I was in a car crash on Friday, Aug. 21. My car was 22 years old, so I had no idea how to go about getting a new one. I was advised to try, which would be the most hassle-free way of getting a car (though I might have to pay more) - and they were right! Before going, I checked online to see what cars they had, hoping they'd have something somewhat similar to what I had had before, a 1999 Toyota Corolla (bought new in 1998). They didn't, and since I know about as much about cars as a typical tree might, I went there with severe trepidation. However, the minute I mentioned I wish I could get something similar to what I'd had before, he checked other carmax dealers, and found one in Virginia with a silver 2009 Toyota Corolla with 95,000 miles - and as of this past Saturday, the car is mine!

One small problem - I walked away from the crash with mostly just scratches and bruises, but an apparent muscle pull to my right lower back is still a problem, and I had to cancel my session with Navin Kumar this past Saturday. It seems to be getting a little better.  

Attack of the Unknown
And speaking of Navin Kumar ("The Bionic Man" - Google it), this weekend I watched Attack of the Unknown (1hr 43min), which came out on Friday. Navin both acted (as Atul, a SWAT driver, with a few lines) and was one of the executive producers of the movie. He first shows up at 26:09, telling the guy in charge, "I'm ready to rock and roll, sir!" And then something happens to him at 32:50 and he's done - but I won't spoil that for you. Here's the IMDB description: "A SWAT team transporting a vicious crime syndicate boss must fight their way out of a county detention center during a catastrophic alien invasion." (I do have one comment - stop shooting at the body, shoot at the eyes!!!)

You can watch it for $6.99 directly from the IMDB page, or other pages noted on this Facebook Info Page.

New from Samson Dubina

How Chinese Kids Improve Footwork
Here's the video (3:10) from EmRatThich/PingSunday.

Tips from the Games Guy
Here's the page. (I'm not so sure about putting sunflower oil on your rubber to make it stickier - is there anyone out there doing this for that reason?)

Fastest Smash
Here's the video (2:32), with Dimitrij Ovtcharov (world #11, world #1 in 2018) topping out at 113 kph (70.2 mph). I'd really like to see other top pros at this, as well as some hard-hitting amateurs - you don't need to be a great player to be able to hit the ball really hard. I'm guessing someone's going to break 75 mph (120.7 kph), but can anyone hit 80 mph (128.7 kph)? We often hear how balls are smashed at up to 100 mph (160.9 kph), but that's not too likely. (Make sure to read the comments under the video.)

New from Kevin Table Tennis

Great Hustling Returns by Disabled Player
Here's the video (43 sec) - it's from six years ago, but it's pretty wild!

Ibrahima Diaw & Quadri Aruna | Ask A Pro Anything at home
Here's the ITTF video (45:57).

New from Steve Hopkins

The Pursuit of Belonging: The amazing and untold story of the Anderson College and Augusta College table tennis dynasties
Here's the article.

Precision Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

USATT Continues Thursday Night Live
Here's the info page! It's every Thursday at 9PM Eastern Time.

USATT Videos
Here's their video page, which has two new items. They don't have any new items on their news page since my last blog, the first time that has happened since I started this blog in January, 2011.

New from the ITTF
Here's their home page and news page.

Turning Point: Table tennis over engineering, the one decision that changed Sharath Kamal's life
Here's the article on the world #31 from India.

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Table Tennis Player Figurine
It's yours for €21.95 ($29.29), which includes tax and shipping!

Unlivably Small Apartment with Ping-Pong Table
Here's the cartoon!

Faster Evolving Players
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!