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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

Thursday, April 24, 2014 - 13:05
April 24, 2014

Wednesday Coaching

I had four sessions yesterday (and sort of a fifth), plus I picked up two kids from school to take to our afterschool TT program.

Session #1: This was with a 7-year-old, where we continued to work on the basics. He gets impatient pretty quickly and asks how much time is left about every sixty seconds. (And so my standard answer is, "One minute after the last time you asked.) He's more into videogames than table tennis, alas. However, he is improving. Yesterday he hit 30 backhands in a row, and I told him his backhand was better than Han Xiao's. (Former U.S. Team Member and four-time Men's Doubles Champion and Singles Finalist Han was practicing on the next table.)

Session #2: This was with a 12-year-old. Last week's session didn't go so well - he wasn't playing well and wasn't happy about it - but this time it was a great session as he played about the best he's ever played. He's about 1600 but could be 1800 this year. His forehand keeps getting better, and this time his backhand was pretty good as well. He's in that in between stage where he's both hitting and looping...




Wednesday, April 23, 2014 - 12:38
April 23, 2014

Beginning/Intermediate Class, Racket Surfaces, and Herb Horton

In the class on Monday night I introduced the class to non-inverted surfaces by bringing out the huge racket case where I keep six rackets: hardbat; short pips/inverted; pips-out penhold; anti/inverted; long pips no sponge/inverted (for blocking); and long pips thin sponge/inverted (for chopping). My plan was to talk about the characteristics of each for perhaps 15 minutes, and then introduce them to doubles. However, there was so much interest that, after a brief discussion and unanimous vote, we instead adjourned to the tables so they could all experiment playing with and against the various surfaces. (This is an adult class, with most of them ranging from about 25 to 60, plus one 13-year-old. Playing level ranges from about 800 to 1500.) 

The long pips without sponge was the biggest hit as the players lined up to play me as I stood at the table and just blocked everything back, covering the whole table with my backhand, "chicken wing" style. At the start they all had difficulty with my "heavy" backspin serves with the long pips, which they all popped up...




Tuesday, April 22, 2014 - 13:50
April 22, 2014

Genetics and Table Tennis

The question sometimes comes up whether some people have a genetic advantage in table tennis. A troll raised this question in the mytabletennis.com forum, and while he was likely just trolling (you should see his postings in other threads!), it is an interesting question. (The thread has since been closed.) 

The troll argued that the Chinese have a genetic advantage that gives them faster reflexes, and that's why the Chinese dominate. It's nonsense. One could just as easily claim the Swedes have a genetic advantage since their country of nine million people dominated or played even with the Chinese (over one billion people) for many years. But anyone with a knowledge of the game understands the reality.

The Chinese are the best in the world right now because they have more players, more top coaches, and train harder than any other country in the world. It is a national sport there, and taken more seriously there than anywhere else in the world. Most...




Monday, April 21, 2014 - 15:03
April 21, 2014

Tip of the Week

Every Battle Is Won Before the Battle Begins.

Note from 1979 - Starving in NC

I was going through my files last week, and found this note from May 26, 1979. It brought back some serious memories. I was 19 and had just moved to North Carolina a few months before to train for table tennis at the Butterfly Table Tennis Center in Wilson. I had thought I had a job at McDonalds, but that fell through. And so I found myself jobless and running out of money. On this date I sat down and listed all my assets and deficits. It wasn't pretty. I would use up most of the food listed in the next few days. I would use the last $5.03 I had to buy cheap loaves of bread (which I'd eat with just jelly) and corn flakes (which I'd eat straight, since I quickly ran out of milk). During this time I pretty much ran out of real food, and went from being skinny to probably skeletal. I'm guessing I lost 20 pounds. (I was too stubborn to call my parents.) 

...




Friday, April 18, 2014 - 13:27
April 18, 2014

The Next USATT CEO

I'm somewhat surprised that there still isn't any "help wanted" note from USA Table Tennis for the next CEO. Previous CEO Mike Cavanaugh announced his resignation on March 26. Presumably someone is working on this.  

I just hope the USATT Board doesn't fall into the same ongoing trap we've been ensnared in since our beginning in 1933, and try to sell a "broken" product. I put "broken" in quotes because there's really nothing wrong with the sport (which is why it is so successful overseas in Europe and Asia), but with the way it is developed and promoted in the USA. And I should put "developed" in quotes as well since there's no serious effort to develop the sport from USATT.

There's this belief that the solution to our problems is to raise money. That's like saying the solution to being rich is to be rich, which sounds great except it doesn't explain how to get rich. Raising large sums of money for USATT is an extremely difficult job at the moment (and in our past) because we are a status quo organization. Sponsors want to get in on...




Thursday, April 17, 2014 - 12:39
April 17, 2014

Spring Break Camp

Yesterday was an incredibly busy day (and night). I'm trying to remember how I was able to do my daily blog during our camps the past three summers - there are just so many hours in a day, and just so much energy in the human body. I'm at my limit. But the camp ends Friday. I'll survive.

The camp was 10AM-6PM, with a two-hour lunch break from 1-3PM. However, we had a group of 16 kids who came in for a ping-pong party during our lunch break, and I gave a one-hour clinic for them. We started with some ball-bouncing - first on the forehand side, then the backhand, then alternating. It's always interesting to watch as some pick up on this very quickly, while others struggle. It's also an age thing as 6-year-olds simply can't do it, while 8-year-olds usually can. Then I taught them the forehand (taking them two at a time for very quick lessons). I covered the backhand and the serve very briefly, and then we went to games. First came the bottle game, where they had to hit a bottle to make me drink the "worm juice" inside. (Since they were beginners, I brought out froggy and balanced a bottle on him,...




Wednesday, April 16, 2014 - 13:05
April 16, 2014

Spring Break Camp - TV, Backhands, and Shoot the Moon

Yesterday was day two of our Spring Break Camp. The highlight was Channel 5 News coming in to do a feature on Crystal Wang and the MDTTC. They filmed lots of Crystal and other players, and did interviews with Crystal, Coach Jack Huang, and me. I think the feature of my interview was when he asked about Crystal's goals for making the Olympics. I explained how making the 2016 Olympic Team was first priority, but that she'd be only 18 for the 2020 Olympics - and that was where the goal would be to medal, perhaps gold medal. Then I pointed out that we'll know she's made it when the Chinese coaches start studying her on video, and develop a practice partner who mimics her game so they can practice against her! Yes, that's what the Chinese do, and you haven't really made it in table tennis until you have a Chinese doppelganger who studies you on video and copies for other players to train against.

After some time reviewing the forehand, spent a lot of time yesterday on the backhand. The beginning players mostly seemed to pick this up quicker than the forehand - perhaps they...




Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - 13:02
April 15, 2014

Tip of the Week

Pushing Sidespin Serves Short.

Wedding TT Clinic

I returned around 1AM Monday morning from my four-day trip to the Santa Barbara area in California for my niece's wedding. (I say "area" because we had various wedding events all over the region.) Sarah Hodges is now married to Tyler Sherban, and I believe Sarah is now Sarah Sherban, so there is one less Hodges in the world - sort of. No, she'll always be a Hodges, and Tyler is now a Hodges as well. Sort of.

As noted in my blog last week, Sarah had asked if I'd run sort of a table tennis clinic at the wedding reception. It was a rather interesting scenario, as the reception and ping-pong table were both outdoors. The table was on a gravel road, not quite even, and it was somewhat windy. With loud music and dancing going on, it became more of an informal event, where I hit with and sometimes coached with whoever was interested. I spent more time hitting with the band members on their break than anyone else. I did get to demonstrate a few trick shots, such as...




Wednesday, April 9, 2014 - 13:48
April 9, 2014

No Blog Until Next Tuesday

I leave for my niece's wedding in Oakview, CA, at 7AM on Thursday morning from Dulles Airport. I won't get back until early Monday morning, and then I have to run over to MDTTC for our Spring Break Camp (Mon-Fri, 10AM-6PM). So my next blog and Tip of the Week will be Tuesday, April 15.

My niece wanted to arrange a series of fun activities during the three days of wedding activities, and asked if I'd put on a table tennis clinic. So I'm bringing my table tennis stuff, including a half gross of balls in a box for multiball. I'm even bringing a few soccer-colored balls so they can see spin. No one else in my family (including the ones marrying into ours) plays seriously. There's also a wine tasting (I'm a non-drinker, alas), I think hiking, and who knows what else.

Breaking News - Voice of Table Tennis Contest! (Added on Friday morning)

USA's Barbara Wei, who practically grew up at my club, MDTTC, as a top junior (and as a member of the USA Cadet and then Junior Girl's...




Tuesday, April 8, 2014 - 14:20
April 8, 2014

Great Spin on Serve

In my beginning/intermediate class last night the players were rather impressed by how much spin I could put on the ball when I serve with seemingly little effort. The spin comes from three things: smooth acceleration into the ball; wrist snap; and grazing with a grippy surface. Beginners lose spin because they tend to start with the racket right behind the ball rather than from the side. Intermediate players lose spin because they tend to think in terms of racket speed instead of acceleration.

I can't explain the physics, but it is acceleration that leads to great spin. It could involve the rubber surface grabbing the ball and, since it is accelerating at contact, it grabs the ball like a slingshot and practically spins it out of orbit. Or perhaps this acceleration leads to high velocity that you can control, but the smooth acceleration makes the racket appear to be moving slower than it actually is going. If you instead think in terms of velocity and try to snap the racket into the ball all-out rather than with this smooth acceleration might get more racket speed (not sure), but they can't control it and so lose the...