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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 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

Different Short Serve & Follows

There are no rules, but here are a few guidelines that many players often don't realize or think about. You have to think about these things so you can make them a habit, and then you don't have to think about them as much, except tactically.

When serving short backspin, most opponents won't attack the serve until the higher levels, but they may be able to push low and heavy. So you might have to focus more on spin on your first loop. However, if you serve short and low no-spin while faking backspin (i.e. "heavy no-spin"), you'll get mostly pushed returns that tend to pop up more and with less spin. So when you serve these types of no-spin serves, be ready to end the point with loop kills and smashes. (Don't use 100% power - a well-placed shot at 80% is more consistent and a higher percentage shot.) I'm always surprised by how few players below the higher levels effectively use backspin and no-spin serves - most will serve straight backspin over and over and over, perhaps mixing in a few obvious deep topspin or sidespin serves.

While you're at it, besides serving short backspin and no-spin, why not short side-top? It's not that hard to learn. Learn to do it with essentially the same motion as your backspin and no-spin serves. Result? Opponents will tend to pop them up or go off the end. (But don't overuse them and let opponents get used to them.) Learn to serve with a semi-circular motion so you can serve different spins with the same motion. Here's how.

Forehand Accuracy

One of my favorite tricks for new players is demonstrating forehand accuracy. (You can also do this with the backhand.) It's a simple trick - I put a bottle on one side of the table (typically a 16oz Gatorade or water bottle), and standing at the other end, I drop a ball on the table and smash it against the bottle. I hit it easily over 80% of the time, and over 90% once I get warmed up. It looks impressive, even to advanced players. When they try it, they often miss. But there's a simple reason for that. They don't know how to aim.

Here's what you do. Assuming you are a righty, put the bottle on the far left side, perhaps a foot from the sideline. You stand on the same side (your wide backhand), so you are next to your left sideline. Practice dropping the ball a few times and note where your contact point would be. Now here's the secret: put your racket up against where contact would be made, and simply make sure it's aimed directly at the bottle at that point. You should be able to keep the racket aimed exactly at the bottle for at least a foot during your forward swing - about six inches before and after contact. Practice this a few times without the ball, making sure the racket is aimed directly at the bottle whenever the racket is near where the ball would be.

Then drop the ball and smack the bottle. You might mess up a few times at first, but with practice you'll be surprised at how consistent you can be with this. I'm guessing that the large majority of the readers of this blog will be able to hit the bottle at least half the time. If you can't, there's a simple answer - practice! You can also do this looping, though hitting is probably more accurate.

Table Tennis Ball Pickup Devices

When MDTTC first opened 22 years ago we didn't have any ball pickup devices. Correction - we had our hands. Two of them, in fact, and that's how we picked balls up our first couple of years. What were we thinking???

Then we got the Butterfly ball amigos, and life became much better. They are great for picking balls up quickly, which is big when you are coaching or training long hours. We have seven full-time coaches at MDTTC, and usually have two nets per court, so that's a lot of nets. Most of the major companies sell some sort of ball pickup net or similar device. (We have ball pickup nets, table tennis nets on each table, and nets to catch balls on the robot. We're practically a net club. Wonder what our net worth is?)

There are now a number of ball pickup devices on the market. Most come in three types: nets to scoop them up (probably the fastest); tubes to pick them up one at a time (not as fast, but easier to get balls in tricky spots like in corners); and the "ping-pong buddy," which grabs the balls a bunch at a time. (The kids love these.) There's a nice review of all three types at the Breaking 2000 page, which includes pictures. It also has video of three ball-picking up robots. Here's another (1:30).

Back in the 1990s or so there was sort of a ball pickup wars, where Newgy introduced their ball pickup tubes. There were a number of ads in USATT Magazine for these tubes and ads by other companies for net pickup devices. Personally, I've been using the nets for about twenty years, and swear by them. During training sessions I often have ball pickup contests with students to see who can pick up the most.

Tip of the Week

Improvised Games.

Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis Books

As long-time readers here know, about once a year USATT Historian/Hall of Famer/Legend Tim Boggan moves in with me for 10-12 days, where I do the page layouts and photo work for his U.S. Table Tennis history books. (Most of the photos come from Mal Anderson, who fixes them up before sending them to me.)

The Ping Pong Diet, Table Tennis, and Academics

Dr. Chris Ko just came out with a new book, The Ping Pong Diet: The Twenty-One Point Plan. A few of you may remember Chris as a top MDTTC junior from the early 1990s, usually known back then as Christopher Ko. Here's his home page/blog, where he focuses on diet and nutrition. (The diet part might be of interest to me, though I think I've figured that part out, going from 196 this past summer to 178 this morning.) I just ordered the book, and will likely write about it after I read it. I'm not sure yet how much it applies to table tennis. Here's the book description:

"The Ping Pong Diet teaches you how to use the power of plants and protein to control your hunger and manage your weight. No counting. No calculations. Just eating, and a lot of it! But unlike other diet books, this book teaches you how to both lose the weight and keep it off. These strategies make up the twenty-one point plan for weight management that teaches you to eat well, be well, and finally feel well again. Engaging and inspirational, the Ping Pong Diet combines practical nutritional insight with motivational psychology to give you a new appreciation for food and for yourself. So pick up the Ping Pong Diet and get in the game!"

Here's a list of Chris's titles, where at the Junior Olympic, Junior Nationals, and U.S. Open he won three silvers and seven bronze in various junior events. (I only have a listing from 1992 on, when MDTTC opened, so don't have some of his earlier titles. I believe he also won Under 10 Boys at the Junior Olympics before 1992.) 

Timeliness and Table Tennis

One of my proudest accomplishments in table tennis is that, in the 22 years since we opened MDTTC, with countless private and group sessions, I've been late to a session exactly two times. Yes, just twice. Once I had a coaching event out in Virginia, and got stuck in a two-hour traffic jam on the way back, which normally would have been about 40 minutes, and so missed a session with Sammy. The other time I got my times mixed up and missed a session with John & Kevin. Ironically, both times when I was late, I missed the entire session. Not once have I ever actually shown up during a session late. (Technically, I showed up for the session with John and Kevin about 15 minutes before it ended, thinking it started in 15 minutes.)

I remember when we first opened MDTTC back in 1992 one of our coaches had a session scheduled with someone from Baltimore, an hour away. The coach forgot about the session, and the person from Baltimore wasn't happy. I ended up subbing for the coach. Later I met with him, and gave him a serious lecture about timeliness and scheduling. The coach was relying on memory to keep his busy schedule, which is a no-no. (He'd forgotten about a session the day before as well, and was walking out the door when the student came in, and so he returned and did the session.) If you have more than a couple of sessions per week, write them down. Full-time or near full-time coaches should keep a schedule book, and go over it each day to make sure they don't miss anything.

Twice in these 22 years a coach has been fired or replaced at MDTTC because of consistent lateness. Other coaches have lost many hours of valuable coaching time because students were unhappy with their lack of timeliness - and the coaches who do this often never know. Timeliness is one of those really important things for a table tennis coach.

USATT Coaching Academy

As noted in my blog yesterday, I'm thinking about running for the USATT Board of Directors in the upcoming USATT election. I gave five things I'd focus on, including the following coaching item:

Recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs.
The goal is to have a huge number of such training centers with junior programs, leading to both large numbers of junior players and the development of elite juniors, which leads to elite players. When I made a presentation on this to the USATT Board in December, 2006, two board members openly scoffed at the idea, arguing that there wasn't enough interest in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. The rest sat about silently, waiting for the next item on the agenda. In response I resigned my position as USATT Editor and Programs Director. At the time there were about eight full-time centers in the U.S.; now there are about 75. Once a successful model was created, others copied it. USATT could greatly accelerate this process by recruiting and training coaches and directors as other successful sports do. Since USATT already runs clinics for coaches, and since the coaches would be paying for it (as they do in other sports), the system pays for itself.

Five-Part Plan for USATT

Below is a five-part Plan for USATT. I've blogged about these issues in the past, but now that USATT is under new leadership, here's a good time to consolidate them together again. I could write a small book about each of these issues, but I'll keep them short here. 

Tip of the Week

Power in Table Tennis.

USATT Hires New CEO

Here's the USATT announcement. Gordon Kaye is a USATT member rated 1469, who's played in 32 processed USATT tournaments since 2009, plus the Badger Open in Wisconsin this past weekend. (Highest rating: 1510.) Our paths even crossed once - he and I were both at the 2010 Eastern Open in New Jersey, him as a player, me as a coach. Here's his tournament record. He's a standard inverted shakehands player, who likes to attack but doesn't always have confidence in his loop, and so often blocks and counter-attacks. Here's an interview with him at the Badger Open by Barbara Wei, which includes an action picture. Here's another picture of him posing with Barbara.

I'm told he successfully transformed two failing organizations before coming to USATT. One was a minor league hockey team. Here are some online articles I found on him:

USATT Board of Directors August 2014 Teleconference and Stuff They Should Do

Here are the minutes. Here's the same question I ask after every such meeting: Was anything done that might lead to the serious growth of our sport?

I sometimes look at USATT as being perpetually like the U.S. in 1932, in the depths of a depression and with leadership who believed in doing things the same old ways. We need an FDR or TR type to come along and shake things up by actually doing things. But no one wants to be The Man in the Arena. Back on Nov. 13, 2013 I blogged about ten relatively easy things USATT could do to grow the sport (and I've referred to them a number of times since), but there just doesn't seem to be interest in doing such things - though as the new minutes show, they are interested in things like new formatting for the minutes. That's nice, but perhaps we should focus more on doing things rather than on how we format them?

Below is that same list from a year ago of things USATT could do to develop the sport. It's not rocket science. Note that the first three are just different ways of developing leagues, since that's where there is great membership potential. I'm personally most interested in #4 and #5, though #7 (along with any of #1-3) could lead to serious growth potential. And #8, by getting USATT leaders to focus on developing the sport, could be most important of all. Let's make things happen. Or we could continue in our Hooverish ways.