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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

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 - 14:28
May 4, 2016

USATT National Team System
Here's the new document with the USATT Statement of Core Beliefs, Team Selection Procedures, and National Team Funding Methodology. The document is 10 pages long. Pages 2-9 are about the selection procedures for the USA National Junior, Cadet, and Mini Cadet Teams, and page 10 is about funding for team members. The first page is perhaps of more interest to readers. Below is the text from page 1, starting with the Henry Ford quote.

Perhaps the most important of these is #3, about creating a "team first" culture. At various times in the past, countries such as Hungary, Sweden, Korean, and Japan challenged and beat the Chinese – and they did so by working as a team. It's somewhat eyebrow-raising, for example, that I can give a lecture on how to play most of the top USA junior players that juniors from my club often face, but have no real idea about the top juniors from China, Japan, Germany, etc. Why? Because the focus right now is on beating other USA...

Tuesday, May 3, 2016 - 13:55
May 3, 2016

Tip of the Week
React to Opponent's Swing.

Serve, Loop, and Follow Drill
Here's a basic drill I'm having a number of students do. It's a basic serve & attack drill, with minor restrictions. Starting at the intermediate level, the most common rally is where the server serves backspin, the receiver pushes, and the server loops. Let's take that one shot further.

The basic drill is similar. Server serves short backspin. Receiver pushes long to the side the server needs practice on (forehand or backhand). Server then loops, usually to a pre-arranged spot. Receiver's first block is also (not always) pre-arranged, often to the wide forehand. Then you POP – play out point. (POP is the shorthand I've used for decades.)

For example, server may serve backspin short to backhand; receiver pushes to middle; server loops forehand to receiver's backhand; receiver blocks to wide forehand; server moves wide and loops or smashes, and then POP.

There are endless variations. One important one is where receiver...

Monday, May 2, 2016 - 13:45
May 2, 2016

No blog today - while out of town this weekend (since Friday morning), I broke an old tooth filling, and so am off to see the dentist this morning. Plus I have a todo list longer than the Great Wall of China (which I visited in less busy times), and it didn't help that my three-hour car drive back from Williamsburg took 6.5 hours (due to 16-car pileup on I-95), and I had to then rush over to the club to coach, and so didn't get home until late last night...I'll be back to blogging tomorrow!

Thursday, April 28, 2016 - 13:37
April 28, 2016

No Blog on Friday
I'll be out of town at Ravencon - see segment below under "Now the science fiction stuff…"

First the serious stuff…

  • I wrote about how Sameer had a great tournament this past weekend, going from 1528 to 1826. He dominated with his serves, but I see a great opening for him if he develops his reverse pendulum serves – which we're going to focus on in today's session. He also had some trouble with players who played aggressively with deader surfaces, and so I'm going to pull out a sheet of short pips for him to practice against. There's a couple of other things he needs work on, but I can't write about them here or others might tactically use them against him!
  • Another student, Matt, is developing an inside-out backhand sidespin loop that you have to see to believe. Every time he pulls off this shot I practically freeze, as I'm not used to seeing it, and my muscle memory doesn't know what to do. I keep telling him this shot will make him world champion, and that the shot has no future. That way I'm covered no matter...

Wednesday, April 27, 2016 - 14:14
April 27, 2016

No Safe Lead
Here are some comebacks I've seen or heard about, including some recent ones. The key to a great comeback? Mental strength; good serve and receive choices; and general tactical play. You're near the end of a long match, so at that point if you don't know what serves, receives, and other tactics to use, you haven't been paying attention.

  • At the Cassel's Giant RR in Virginia this past weekend, the player I was coaching, 14-year-old Sameer Shaikh, twice was down 2-7 in the fifth, and each time scored eight in a row. In one of them, despite the 10-7 match point lead against a player over 300 points higher, he still lost. (Despite that, his rating still went from 1528 to 1826.)
  • At the USA Nationals in December, Derek Nie was up 9-2 in the fifth on Sharon Alguetti, and lost nine in a row. But this past weekend at the Westchester Open, he turned the tables – Sharon led 9-0 in the fifth, and Derek won in deuce!
  • Back in 1977, 13-year-old Curt Kronlage (rated 1677, son of USATT Hall of Famer Yvonne Kronlage) won the first and was up 20-6 match point in the second against Sid Jacobs (a...

Tuesday, April 26, 2016 - 13:03
April 26, 2016

No blog today - as is my norm, when schools are out, I'm out! And today's election day here in Maryland. Let's all go out and vote for Donald Trump for the entertainment value, and so that in a few years, amidst the crumbling remnants of civilization, we can all smugly say to his supporters, "I told you so!" It's tempting, but I'm a moderate Democrat, so naah. 

Monday, April 25, 2016 - 14:52
April 25, 2016

Tip of the Week
Clean Your Racket.

Saturday Coaching at Cassels Giant Round Robin
I spent Saturday at SmashTT in Virginia at the Cassels Giant RR, coaching one of my students, 14-year-old Sameer Shaikh. Here's the tournament write-up and results, care of Director Michael Levene, who also runs and coaches at SmashTT. Sameer is featured in the writeup. The tournament ran well, and we had a great time! 

Sameer went in rated 1528, and looking for the breakthrough that he's been on the verge of for many months. The first step was getting into a good division. The format started with groups of four, with the top two going to Division A (two groups of ten players), and the next two to Division B. Sameer was seeded third, and so seeded for Division B. He faced a 1613-rated player to get into Division A. Complication #1 was that the player had short pips on the backhand, something Sameer wasn't used to playing. (How the sport has...

Friday, April 22, 2016 - 15:16
April 22, 2016

USATT National Coaching Program Update
Here's the USATT news item on these big changes to our national team coaching system. If you are interested in applying as a coach for one of the National Teams – I believe these would include Men, Women, Junior Boys, Junior Girls, Cadet Boys, Cadet Girls, Paralympic - you need to apply by this Monday. I'll blog about this probably next week. (I'm putting this first because of that deadline. I may move this down later on.)

USATT Board of Directors Minutes and Illegal Hidden Serves
Our long national nightmare is over . . . the minutes to the USATT Board Meeting at the USA Nationals in December is finally up – four months later! So are the minutes to USATT Board Teleconferences in January and April. They are all linked from the USATT Minutes page.

Readers of this blog and anyone who's been paying attention to the...

Thursday, April 21, 2016 - 13:58
April 21, 2016

Rather Rare Shots
Yesterday in a coaching session with 14-year-old Matt, while practicing forehand counterlooping, I sidespin looped one extra wide to his forehand, drawing him out wide as it broke to the left (his right). He counterlooped, I counterlooped back to his middle forehand, and he was out of position - so he improvised and ripped (!) an inside-out backhand counterloop from the forehand side! The ball shot out to my wide forehand, curving away from me for an ace. I've seen the shot before, but only rarely - but very rarely, if ever, this fast, and with so much breaking sidespin. I dropped my racket in shock and told Matt that he had reached the pinnacle of his life, that for the rest of his life nothing he ever did would ever be at such a high level so that his life was now ruined, with nothing left to look forward to. (At the end of the session he insisted on trying the shot again, so we did a drill where he "practiced" the shot, and he pulled off two more, though not as good as the first one.)

I've played 40 years, and I've done almost the same shot - but not with speed, just a spinny but soft inside-out backhand...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 13:16
April 20, 2016

20 Things to Harp On
Here are some things I constantly harp on with students.

  1. When forehand looping, contact is to the side of the body, not in front.
  2. If you back off the table when looping, you'll probably be reaching for the ball in front of you instead of contacting it from the side with power.
  3. If you are straining, something's wrong. Power should come easily from proper technique – think "easy power."
  4. Step to the ball. Assume you will have to do so on every shot and be pleasantly surprised the few times you don't.
  5. Balance is the secret to recovery, which is the secret to getting to the next ball.
  6. The secret to a good push isn't doing anything great, but doing all of the following pretty well – quick, low, heavy, very deep or very short, angled, and with last-second changes of direction.
  7. Loop the deep serve unless you have a reason not to. An inability to loop a deep serve may be a reason not to do so in a big match, but it mostly means you have to practice it.
  8. The secret to super spinny serves is racket acceleration (not speed)...