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Welcome to TableTennisCoaching.com, 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, 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

Friday, March 6, 2015 - 13:56
March 6, 2015

Playing Fair and a Rules Proposal

I read the following recently on a table tennis forum:  "It's the coach's job to teach a player how to win.  It's the parent's job to teach ethics to their kids. If a player resorts to cheating to win, then the parents have failed."

I was tempted to jump in and respond - harshly - but thought better of it. This is probably a somewhat common attitude, though I don't think most agree with it. The simple reality is that much of what is considered "good sportsmanship" comes from the coach. I'm pretty sure I can convince most parents that their kid should always play fair, including serving legally. I'm also pretty sure I can convince most parents that their kid should learn to serve illegally, since so many of his opponents will be doing so, and so he needs to do so to compete. These are contradictory positions. While parents can put their foot down, they are rarely as experienced in these matters as a coach, and so they rely on the coach for guidance in such matters.

I could teach the up-and-coming juniors at my club how to illegally hide...

Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 15:08
March 5, 2015

How I Hurt My Back and How Not to Do Multiball

I think I hurt my back shoveling snow on Sunday or Monday. Because of snow and icy roads, I didn't do any serious coaching from Sunday to Tuesday, other than a one-hour multiball session on Tuesday, where I probably aggravated it. On Wednesday, when woke up, my back was in agony. I did a one-hour multiball session, but had to cancel a one-hour private session. Today I had 3.5 hours of coaching scheduled, but due to the snow (5-8 inches expected, it's coming down pretty hard) they are all cancelled. If not for the snow I'd have had to cancel them anyway.

I think my new mattress is also a culprit - it's not firm enough. Rather than buy a new mattress (again), I just ordered an extra firm mattress topper. Hopefully it'll be firm enough.

I'm probably going to cancel all my coaching on Friday as well. I'm not yet sure about Saturday - I have two hours of private coaching and a two-hour multiball session scheduled. I'm almost for certain going to cancel the private coaching for that day. We'...

Wednesday, March 4, 2015 - 14:41
March 4, 2015

Eleven Questions with Larry Hodges

Here's the USATT interview with me yesterday. Not a policy interview, but hopefully some interesting stuff. I had a lot of fun with it, but hopefully some of it is informative as well.

Upcoming Events and Back Problems

Tomorrow we have another 3-5 inches of snow scheduled to come in - yeah, these days we schedule these things. (So it's likely school and all coaching will be cancelled tomorrow.) There's also a USATT teleconference at 8PM where we appoint committee chairs. I have to go over dozens of applications. Alas, not a single worthy bribe. And then on Saturday there's a Super League Organizing Committee Meeting at 7PM. ESPN and USA Today just did interviews with Crystal Wang at our club, so those are coming out soon, plus the Washington Post is doing a feature soon on Crystal and Derek Nie, so more on those when they come out.

Mixed in with these, of course, is the...

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - 14:29
March 3, 2015

The Sayings of Bruce Lee

I read over these quotes from Bruce Lee and was amazed at how many of them apply to table tennis. I picked out the 30 most pertinent to our sport, in no particular order. I guess you can say that Bruce Lee is ghost-writing my blog this morning. Which are your favorites?

  1. "The successful warrior is the average man with laser-like focus."
  2. "Be happy, but never satisfied."
  3. "Adapt what is useful, reject what is useless, and add what is specifically your own."
  4. "Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend."
  5. "If you always put limits...

Monday, March 2, 2015 - 15:24
March 2, 2015

Tip of the Week

When Should You Go For a Winner?

Rest in Peace Leonard Nimoy

Famed actor Leonard Nimoy (best known as "Mr. Spock" from Star Trek) died on Friday, which happened to be my 55th birthday. He was 83. Mr. Spock, the logical Vulcan, was one of my heroes growing up, and that it happened on my birthday was especially memorable, in a bad way. I have several connections with Nimoy.

  • My mom told me that when I was about two years old (circa 1962), when Nimoy was already a well-known actor but before his role as Mr. Spock, we were at a bank in the Los Angeles area, and Nimoy was in line. She said I began running and crawling between people's legs, and that I crawled between Nimoy's legs.
  • I met Walter Koenig ("Chekov") at a science fiction convention.
  • I attended a writers' workshop with Ann Crispin, a famed Star Trek...

Friday, February 27, 2015 - 15:07
February 27, 2015

Beginning Junior Class

I teach two beginning junior classes, one on Thursday 6-7PM, and the other on Sundays 4:30-6:00 PM. And so should your club!!! Yesterday's session had 16 players ranging in age from 7 to 12. Assisting me were the Triple J's - Coaches Jeffrey, John, and Josh. Here's the info page.

We started with ball bouncing. This is especially important for beginning juniors as it helps them develop the hand-eye coordination needed, as well as helping them get used to the proper grip. First they bounced on the forehand side (calling out every tenth in a row they make), then on the backhand, and then alternating. For the very, very brave (but mostly older ones) I challenged them to alternate between forehand and off the edge of their racket! Many can do a couple of these. While they did this, I worked with two new players who were there for the first time, showing them the proper grip and stance.

Then we did some forehand and backhand shadow practicing as a group. By this time everyone was there, so I then did a roll call.

Then we went into...

Thursday, February 26, 2015 - 15:11
February 26, 2015

Most Interesting Rules

Here are some of the more interesting rules in table tennis.

  • Table Dimensions. Contrary to popular belief, the table is not 9 feet by 5 feet. It is roughly 8.98950 feet by 5.0038 feet. To be specific, the ITTF rules state that the table is 2.74 meters by 1.525 meters. A 9x5 table would be about 0.132 inches too long, and 0.036 inches not wide enough. Nor is the net 6 inches tall - it is 15.25 centimeters tall, which is about 6.003937 inches tall, or about 1/254th of an inch over 6 inches. No wonder all your smashes nick the net.
  • Net Extension to the Side. The net extends 15.25 centimeters outside the table, about 6 inches. I'm told the reason was players like Istvan Jonyer (1975 World Men's Champion, already European Champion in 1971) became so good at nearly unreturnable around-the-net sidespin loops that they had to change the rules to require it to extend those six inches.
    EDIT - At least two people had...

Wednesday, February 25, 2015 - 15:31
February 25, 2015

Willie and the Coat, and Other Competitions

Yesterday I lost a competition. Willie, an eight-year-old, has this habit of wearing his coat while he plays. We usually convince him to take it off. Yesterday, while coaching him and another in a one-hour multiball session from 4-5PM, I secretly (and jokingly) told others I had one goal this session: to get Willie to take the coat off by 4:30PM without my having to tell him to do so. And so I worked him to death with lots and lots of side-to-side footwork drills, with constant mentions of how tiring this must be, how sweaty it was, and how hot it was. But he never took the coat off. At 4:30, I gave up and told Willie what I'd been doing, which he thought was pretty funny. I'm guessing he's still wearing that coat. Did I mention he also tends to lose his shoes while playing?

I have other little "competitions" with students. With Daniel, a 1639 rated ten-year-old with a supernatural ability to get nets and edges, we often count how many we get. (He kills me, and believe me, he'll beat you at this. It's uncanny, and he does this with Tenergy on both sides - usually it's...

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 - 15:25
February 24, 2015

Why Players Are Getting Better at Younger Ages

Yesterday I blogged about and linked to videos of 11-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto, the new Japanese sensation. And on February 13 I blogged about how much stronger the current USA cadets and juniors are than their predecessors. As noted there and in previous blogs, a primary reason for this (especially in the U.S.) is the rise of full-time training centers, where more and more kids are training full-time. This, of course, leads to more and better junior players (and ultimately better players).

But there's another reason why in recent years we're getting more and more prodigies, where kids compete on an almost even level with much bigger and older players. As I've blogged before, modern tensor-type sponges make looping much easier, practically shooting the ball out, where before players had to put far more energy into a shot to get the same result. So looping becomes both easier and more powerful than before - all the player has to do is supply...

Monday, February 23, 2015 - 14:52
February 23, 2015

Tip of the Week

Shadow Practice When You Miss.

Forehand Topspin Against Backspin, and Proper Forehand Technique

Here's the new video (3:36) from PingSkills. You should study it to learn to loop against backspin. However, it's also a chance for many of you to fix up your forehands in general by fixing your contact point. While this video features looping against backspin, many of the principles apply to all forehands.

Note in the video how he basically rotates his body around an imaginary vertical rod going through the top of his head, and how he contacts the ball almost directly to the side of this? Most players violate one of these principles, either moving the body forward too much as they do the shot, or (even more common) contacting the ball too far in front.

There are times when you should move the body forward on a shot, such as against an easy high ball or when you are rushed in stepping around the backhand corner, but normally you should go more in...