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 1PM, 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

The U.S. National and Pan Am Team Trials

They start today, with the qualifier today, and the main trials on Sat & Sun. Here's the USATT coverage page, with draws, results, live streaming, media coverage links, etc. Here's a three-minute video about the Trials. Good luck to everyone, and may both players in every match win!

Playing the wide angles

Why don't players focus on this more? For the great majority of shots, everything should go to one of three spots: wide backhand, wide forehand, or at the opponent's middle, i.e. playing elbow. And yet most intermediate players tend to play most shots to the middle backhand or middle forehand.

Giving examples of specific matches where this made a difference makes it sound like unique examples, when in fact this is a regular tactic that will win for you. But I'll give two good examples. At the Junior Olympics a while back, I was coaching a player who had made the final of Under 14 by upset. In the final he faced the top seed, who he'd never beaten. The top seed had a very nice serve and forehand loop. So what was the strategy? I told the player I was coaching to early on return a few serves to the wide forehand. Then the rest of the match he took the serve (mostly backspin serves) right off the bounce and basically chip it back inside the server's wide backhand. He didn't do it aggressively at all, yet this simple placement strategy completely took away the server's third ball attack, and won him the National Championship. The following year he played the same player in the Under 16 final, and using the same strategy, upset him again.

Serve and Attack

A discussion I had with Dan Seemiller (5-time U.S. Men's Champion) has always stuck out with me. It was back in 1990-1991, when I spent two summers staying at his house all summer as his assistant coach for all his summer camps. He said that the thing that confused him the most about players was why so many didn't understand what he considered the simple concept that the purpose of the serve was to set up your attack, and that if you aren't attacking off your serve, then something's wrong.

There are two ways of going about this. One way is to develop an attack based on your best serves and the type of returns you get off those serves. For example, early on I developed tricky side-top serves, and so I developed a nice serve & smash. It wasn't until years later that I really learned a good backspin serve & loop game.

The other is to develop serves based on your attack. If you have a good loop, serve short and loop. If you have a good smash or counter-hitting skills, serve more side-top and fast, deep serves.

I finally figured out that the best way to develop serve and attack was to go both ways - learn to attack the type of returns I got off the serves I had developed, and to develop serves that set up my best attack shots. That gives quite an arsenal of serve & attack, and if an opponent can stop one, you can switch to another.

Some might argue that it's better to develop serves based on your best attacking shots, and while there's a good argument for that, it limits your game in that you may find a tricky serve that messes opponents up, but doesn't match your best attacking shots. By using that serve, you'll develop the attacking shot that works with that serve, and you'll have another major weapon.

ITTF Coaching Seminar

Looking for coaching in the Gaithersburg, Maryland area?

I have openings--contact me if interested. Coaching rates and other info are at the Maryland Table Tennis Center webpage - click on "Private Coaching."

The last few years I've been doing a lot of outside writing (science fiction!), and wrote a lot of short stories (47 published lifetime) and two novels (both now making the rounds at publishers & agents), but with the second novel now done, I'm about to increase my coaching hours. (Here is my science fiction & fantasy page.)

What should you do when you have extra time for a shot?

Someone asked me this recently, and I told him my response would probably become a blog posting. Here it is!

When you have extra time, there are four things you can do.

Why Players Use Too Much Shoulder on Forehands

I was watching players at the club this weekend, and noticed a number of them use too much shoulder on their forehand strokes, both drives and loops. The problem with this is when you use a lot of shoulder, you aren't using your full body rotation. The key is to rotate the shoulders, not stroke with them. Otherwise, you lose power (which also leads to a loss of control), plus you'll probably eventually hurt your shoulder.

Older players often do this because of muscle stiffness, and so don't rotate the shoulders back. If you don't rotate the shoulders back, you can't rotate them forward. And so their stroke becomes mostly arm.

Beginning juniors, especially when very young, are natural mimics and so often copy what they see others do, whether it's good or bad. But even if they copy good strokes, and learn to backswing properly, sometimes they stop their shoulder rotation early on the forward swing, and so end up using too much arm at the end, and losing the power from the body rotation. It's important to rotate forward through the stroke, and not stop early and end up with just the arm swinging forward at the end.

A good way to overcome this is to imagine a rod going through your head when you do a forehand. Rotate in a circle around that rod, and make sure to do so completely through the ball.

That growing realization that you better try something different

Happy President's Day!

With people off work today, I'm off to coach this morning, something I rarely do - nearly all of my coaching is afternoons and nights.

Clinic in Lancaster, PA

Barney J. Reed will run a three-hour clinic just before the Manor Open, in Lancaster, PA, on Friday, March 4, 6-9 PM. $55/player, maximum ten players. For info, contact Assistant Coach Rich Burnside, 717-968-2713.

The 2011 U.S. Open Entry Form...

...is up!

It's in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, June 30 - July 4. Note that this year it's five days long, Thur-Mon, unlike recent years when it's been four days, Wed-Sat. There's also been some rescheduling of events, so check it over carefully. I'll be there, but other than some hardbat events (I normally use sponge), I'll just be coaching and probably attending some meetings.

Playing the Wide Forehand

Adham Sharara interview

Here's an interview with ITTF President Adham Sharara, done in Shanghai this month (6:39). It covers the various rule changes in the sport and whether they were aimed at China or for the betterment of the sport, Olympic representation, various top players, and other issues.

Why do so few players mix in fast, deep serves?

It always amazes me how so many players spend years playing and practicing their games, often developing advanced serves, and yet so many of them never learn to vary in fast, deep serves. When your opponent isn't a threat to serve fast & deep, then you know the serve is either going to be short, or slow and deep, so you have plenty of time to loop it. When you add in the threat of a fast & deep serve, then you can't assume you have all that time to loop the deep serve.

You should learn all the variations:

  • Placement: Wide backhand, wide forehand, middle (elbow).
  • Spin: Topspin, sidespin breaking right, sidespin breaking left, no-spin. (You'll note there's no backspin here - a truly fast serve with backspin will fly off the table. But see note below about no-spin serve, which sometimes has a light backspin.)

Let me elaborate a little on the topspin and no-spin serves. If you basically meet the ball straight on, is that a topspin or no-spin serve? After bouncing twice on the table, it has a light topspin, so I call this . . . light topspin. You can, of course, contact with a more brushing motion and create more topspin.

The Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

Interested in being a table tennis coach? Or just want to read about the subject?  Check out the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. I wrote this for USA Table Tennis a few years ago, and have periodically updated it since. It covers most aspects of coaching, including some key aspects that are rarely covered elsewhere, such as how much money you can make at coaching (quite a bit, surprisingly). I look at it as both an educational and recruitment tool.

I've made the argument for years that USATT should focus on recruiting and training coaches to be professional coaches and to set up and run junior programs. It's always boggled my mind that the most common response to this by many of those who run our sport is "There aren't enough students for all these coaches." Well, jeez! The whole point is that coaches need to learn to recruit new players, not focus on those who are already playing! It's not a zero sum game; it's a constantly expanding base of players, IF we focus on constantly expanding the base of players.

The chapter listing tells you much about the content:

Table of Contents

  1. The Profession of Coaching
  2. How Much Income Can You Make As a Table Tennis Coach?
  3. What Credentials Do You Need to Be a Table Tennis Coach?
  4. Getting a Facility, Tables and Other Equipment
  5. Start With a Plan
  6. Recruiting Students
  7. Setting Up and Teaching a Class
  8. Setting Up and Running a Junior Training Program
  9. Private Coaching
  10. Keeping Players Interested
  11. Drills Library
  12. Sample Flyers
  13. Helpful Links & Resources

The Takeover Tour Commercial

Teaching table tennis to a tennis player

I've always found it interesting, even fascinating, to coach table tennis to a tennis player. I've had many tennis players as students over the years. I also play tennis at a 4.0 level (that's like 1800 in table tennis), but with an extremely lopsided forehand-oriented game. But that's true of most table tennis players - the first time we play tennis, we have nice forehands, but find the backhand somewhat awkward.

Yesterday I coached a 6'5" former 5.5 (that's like 2100-2200) tennis player. He'd never had lessons before, and had only been a "basement" player. He very quickly picked up the forehand, and after five minutes, was pounding forehands. He also quickly picked up on the backhand, but did so in a very backhand stance (like tennis), and basically played an aggressive blocking backhand from a bit off the table. Near the end of the session we did a drill where I looped my forehand rather aggressively to his backhand, and though it was the first time he'd ever done this, he was able to block them back very consistently, though he took the ball a couple steps off the table rather than off the bounce, as you are "supposed" to do when blocking. But the blocks were surprisingly effective, as he kept them rather low. (It did leave him open on the wide forehand, and I don't think he has a counterloop yet!)

Because of his tennis skills, he quickly picked up just about every aspect, could even loop backspin after a few tries. He had great difficulty in reading my serves, but without any coaching, quickly figured out how to push my backspin serve back, i.e. did a tennis "slice." He also learned to serve with backspin pretty quickly, though he wasn't able to get a good sidespin. A few times when I went to his forehand, he did a highly professional-looking running forehand.

How many hits in a minute?

Can you do 173? If a 12-year-old from Japan can, why can't you? You really should watch this video - great counter-hitting, and a real example of concentration. (There's a short commercial at the start - sorry.)

I'm toying with trying this, but going backhand-to-backhand right off the bounce, perhaps with one of our local juniors, who have natural machinegun-like backhands. If you want to see how many you can do, here's a key hint: don't think as you hit, don't try to control the shots, just blank out the mind, just watch the ball, and let the strokes happen. After about 20 seconds, you'll start sweating--mentally, if not physically. After 40 seconds, your eyes will glaze over.

Arrested at a Table Tennis Camp?

Here's an article about a fugitive who was caught because of his table tennis addiction. They picked him up when he went to a table tennis camp in Delhi! Inspired by this, the Maryland Table Tennis Center (my club) will now operate as a sting for the police, attracting table tennis criminals from all over the world. (Note to the criminal table tennis underground: I'm just kidding, feel free to come to our camps. We will teach you to kill. Maybe even loop kill.)

So . . . how bad did you play?

[This is from an article I wrote a while back.]
"How’d you play?"
"How bad?"
"So bad that--"

Ma Long and MDTTC Juniors

Let's start with the big news. Many of you know of China's Ma Long, currently world #4 but #1 in the world for nine months last year? Well, Ma Long was at the Maryland Table Tennis Center last night, as a guest of Cheng Yinghua. I played a challenge match - and beat him, 3-0! We're not talking hardbat or sandpaper - we played with regular rackets.

Okay, it was Ma Long's 9-year-old namesake, a student of Cheng's. But it was fun to beat him!