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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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 14:03
November 24, 2015

Ma Long Serve - the Illegal Elephant in the Room
Yesterday I linked to this video (5:18), "Ma Long - King of Epic Shots," and asked, "Notice anything strange about the serve he does at the start? Watch the slow motion replay starting 12 seconds in. I'll blog about this tomorrow."

The strange thing is that the serve, the standard motion for most top players, is so illegal it's mind-boggling that the world #1 player can get away with serving like this over and over, very publicly where all can see, without it getting called. Most of his opponents do it just as much – it's the norm at the higher levels. It's like the proverbial elephant in the room that everyone pretends isn't there. As I've blogged before, cheating is rampant in our sport at the higher levels, even among cadets under age 15.

The problem, of course, is that the serve is hidden, something I've harped on many times here. Here is a five-picture sequence of the...

Monday, November 23, 2015 - 14:59
November 23, 2015

Tip of the Week
When Playing a Strange Player, Focus on Serve & Receive.

Crazy Month
It's been a crazy month, and it's only getting crazier. Over the past month or so I've launched the State Championships Initiative and the Regional Associations Initiative, and the Regional Team Leagues Initiative will be out probably in a couple of weeks. (I'll blog about these more later.) MDTTC was named an ITTF Hot Spot. We've spent lots of time preparing players for the upcoming Team Championships (whether in Washington DC or Philadelphia) and for the...

Friday, November 20, 2015 - 14:06
November 20, 2015

The following is also a USATT news item that went up last night.

Regional Associations
It's a New Era - and We Need Volunteers!

By Larry Hodges
USATT Board Member, League Chair, and Regional Associations Coordinator

Let's be honest. It's silly to think that an organization with six full-time staff members (plus a few contractors and volunteers), with a budget the size of a 7-11, can organize and run table tennis all over the United States.

Instead, we need to have Regional and State Associations all over the country, with each one primarily in charge of the table tennis activity in their region or state. There are surprisingly few right now and that needs to change. This is how successful table tennis countries are organized, as well as successful sports in the U.S. And that's what we need to do as well.

And that's why we need you. We're looking for volunteers interested in taking charge of developing the sport...

Thursday, November 19, 2015 - 15:03
November 19, 2015

Periodic Physical Checklist
Okay, here's mine! (Confession – I was up half the night on something, and woke up with a headache. This inspired me to write about health stuff. It's also why today's blog is a bit shorter than usual. Back to more serious table tennis tomorrow!) I have very tight muscles, and because of that I tend to get too many injuries, alas. Part of it is my insistence of playing a physical game rather than just be steady and block. If this is boring to you, skip to the other stuff below!

  • Weight. I started dieting early in October. In about six weeks I've gone from 196 to 181, mostly by practically living on a wide variety of soups and snacking on granny smith apples and carrots. The only problem is I've been stuck at 181 for a week – I'm not sure why as I haven't changed my diet. I plan to get to 175, or maybe 170. (I'm 5'10" for perspective.)
  • Back problems. I've had minor one recently. Some may remember that twice I've had to take weeks off because of these back problems. The solution turned out to be simple – the...

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - 15:21
November 18, 2015

Mental Strength – with Jan-Ove Waldner's Tips for Peak Performance
Wow, what a great book! I just read Mental Strength (available from Amazon), by sports psychologist Gregor Schill, former Swedish star Malin Pettersson, and of course Jan-Ove Waldner, the legend and arguably the greatest player of all time. There are nine chapters:

  1. Mental Training – in Theory
  2. Attitude and Enjoyment
  3. Self-Confidence
  4. Stress Management
  5. Winner Instinct and Goals
  6. Preparations and Continuous Development
  7. Focus and Concentration
  8. Twelve Tips for Sports Parents
  9. Mental Training – in Practice

Most chapters starts with Waldner's comments, followed by Schill's (which usually build on what Waldner said), followed by Pettersson's, followed by exercises. I marked my copy up with notes; here are some highlights. (There is great stuff by all three, but I'll focus here on some of the best stuff from Waldner, with apologies...

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 14:20
November 17, 2015

Yesterday and Today – SF & TT
Yesterday and today are rather weird days for me. I normally would pick up two kids for our afterschool program, and after the program I have a 90-minute coaching session. Normally this means leaving my house by 2:45PM, and finishing at 7PM. (I usually leave by 2:30 PM so as to be safely on time and so I can spend some relaxing time in my car reading or doing a crossword puzzle while I wait for the school bell to ring.) But by a weird coincidence, all the players I pick up or coach yesterday and today are injured or away – one has shoulder problems, one is at a chess tournament, and two others are doing an afterschool activity. And so I had no coaching yesterday or today. (I do have an eye appointment at 12:30 PM today.) So what did I do? I devoted yesterday to science fiction & fantasy, and today to table tennis.

Today I plan to "finalize" the plans for regional associations and regional team leagues. By "finalize" I mean have them ready to go public, though they will be an ongoing thing as they are perfected and updated. (I ran the plans by the USATT League Committee,...

Monday, November 16, 2015 - 15:05
November 16, 2015

Tip of the Week
Loose Grip Leads to Better Shots.

Is There a Mathematical Advantage to Serving First?
I keep reading online postings about whether a player should serve first or not. Many of them insist you have a better mathematical chance of winning by serving first. That's simply not true. Here's a simple way of looking at it.

A game to 11 is really just a best of 20, where you just happen to stop once a player clinches it by scoring 11 points. If it goes to 10-all, you alternate serves so both players serve just as often, so there's no mathematical advantage to serving first or second there. So we'll assume that the game doesn't go deuce. Is there a mathematical advantage to serving first or second? Ignoring deuce games, no matter what the final score is, one player scored 11 points in this hypothetical best of 20, and so even if both players had an even number of serves (i.e. ten each), he'd win 11-9 or better.

Some would argue that if a player gets to serve first, he'd get to serve more often, which is...

Monday, November 9, 2015 - 12:48
November 9, 2015

Tip of the Week
Sidespin Serves that Break Away Tend to Be More Effective.

Writer's Retreat This Week and Table Tennis
No blog this week after today – I'll be back next Monday, Nov. 16. I'll be away all this week at a writer's retreat at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD, which they call a Writing Staycation. It's a day thing, where I drive over early in the morning, and return that night. So little table tennis for me this week – I've got others subbing for me in most of my sessions until next Saturday.

As I blogged about on October 16, I recently sold a science fiction novel to a publisher, "Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions." (As noted in the blog, it has lots of table tennis.) So this week I'm starting the sequel, "Campaign 2110: Scorpions in Space." The first one was 123,000 words (that's 622 pages in...

Friday, November 6, 2015 - 14:16
November 6, 2015

Serve and Forehand Attack, and Serve and Two-Winged Attack
Ilia asked the following on the TableTennisCoaching forum:

In your amazing book "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers" [Larry's note: I'm blushing – but I also added the link] I read that it is beneficial to be able to have different tactics for games, i.e. Plan A, Plan B, Plan C. I can loop both with backhand and forehand, but my backhand open-up against backspin is weaker. So my Plan A is to use forehand loop whenever possible, and use backhand loop for receive and when caught off-guard. The Plan B is to play forehand from the forehand side, and backhand from the backhand side. I have two questions:

1) What is the best recovery position after the serve for Plan A and for Plan B? Should they be the same?
2) How to practice these two plans with the best efficiency? Should I spend, say, a few weeks strengthening the Plan A, and then a few weeks...

Thursday, November 5, 2015 - 15:02
November 5, 2015

What to Do with Defaulters
Recently there's been discussion about what to do with players who default matches to protect their rating. (Here's a discussion on this at Mytabletennis.net – it starts with the third posting on page 3 of the thread.) It's a problem, though overall it's often overblown. But there are a few players out there who do this regularly, i.e. "strategic" defaults to protect their rating. They'll enter a rating event, play the players ahead of them, but default to those below them. This means the players below them paid for an event and expected to play matches, but instead got defaults for their money – and unlike the player who defaulted to them, didn't get the chance to play the players above them.

There are also more "legitimate" defaults, where a player defaults a match in one event because he's tired, and perhaps wants to save himself for another event. But that's part of the game – if you are so out of shape...