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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

Coaching Scams

In my February 14 blog, I wrote about a coaching scam from England. (See fifth item.) The scam has apparently expanded, and now sometimes comes from England, other times from Nigeria. The scam works as follows: you get an email that someone wants to send his son/daughter to the U.S. for coaching. They make the arrangements, and want to pay in advance. They send the check, which is for way too much - apparently an extra zero is added at the end. Then you get an email saying they made a mistake, and asking for you to send back the difference. Many people think that they can do this, since they've already received the check, but the check will bounce, and you'll be out the difference. I've been getting varieties of this scam for years. At least ten coaches have told me they received it, and I expect many more have. I think they are simply taking emails from the USATT certified coaching list. At least one coach I know of almost fell for it - he had already made out the refund check, and would have sent it except heavy snow stopped him, and then someone told him to go to the bank first to make sure the incoming check cleared. They were advised it was a bad check, and they have turned the info over to the FBI.

Vision

I've previously blogged about some of the below, but I'm going to rehash some of it here so as to get to the point about vision.

Way back in December, 2006, I made a proposal to the USATT board for them to get involved in developing training centers and junior programs. The plan basically involved them recruiting and training coaches to set up these centers and programs. They'd use their web page and regular mailings to get prospective coaches into coaching seminars that USATT was already running. The seminars would cover not only how to coach, but the professional side as well - how to get students, set up and run programs, etc., with a major emphasis on developing full-time coaches who would set up full-time training centers and junior programs. I even wrote the manual for the program, which I've since had published, "Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook."

I ended the proposal by asking the USATT board what their vision was for table tennis in America, and gave them mine:

"Hundreds of professional clubs with coaches, junior training programs, classes, and leagues; thousands of recreational clubs with leagues or training programs; and hundreds of thousands playing in leagues or training programs."

Want to Improve? Compete with a Junior!

Here's a little tip for those who want to improve. Every club has some up-and-coming junior who practices regularly and keeps getting better. Well, why not grab his coattails (even if you are currently better), and try to stay with him? It gives incentive and can lead to great improvement. Make a friendly rivalry out of it, perhaps practice with and play the kid regularly. As he improves, he'll push you to improve.

It may be counter-intuitive, but even if you are better, and practicing with the kid seems to help him more than you (and thereby make it "harder" to stay with him), it works both ways. His improvement will push you to higher levels, either to stay ahead or to stay with him. He probably plays faster than you; his speed will push you to rally and react at a faster pace. As he gets better, he'll push you to find new ways to win points, and suddenly you'll be thinking more about the aspects where you should have an advantage due to experience: serve, receive, heavy spins (topspin and backspin), placement, or just plain consistency. You'll have incentive to develop these aspects in ways you might not do against other players who are not improving so much. The more he adjusts to you and improves, the more you'll adjust to him and improve. And you can ride his improvement as long as you can, right up to a pretty high level. And if he does finally pull away, with you metaphorically kicking and screaming all the way as you try to stay with him, you'll both have improved dramatically, and will be able to point at this star in the future and say, "I was his practice partner." He may even remember you someday during his USATT Hall of Fame induction speech!

Beginning/Intermediate Class

Tip of the Week

Backhand Sidespin Push.

Adham Sharara Interview - More Changes Are Coming!

Here's an interview with ITTF President Adham Sharara. Some of the things he says will make some players nervous or even downright scared. Three of the main things he talks about are ending Chinese domination, slowing down the game by using a ball with less spin and speed (bounce), and starting to restrict rackets with a bounce test. Here are excerpts, and my comments. (Note that I'm saving for last the most revolutionary item - the testing of rackets, i.e. a bounce test, and an apparently new racket approval process.)

When asked why he thinks it's necessary to end Chinese domination, he uses the example of USA basketball, and says, "Hence, we felt it’s necessary to take our sport to other nations and requested China to help others. Table tennis should be played everywhere. Otherwise, it’ll become very boring." I'm a bit leery of the whole idea of making it a goal to end a country's domination, though of course he might have a point about it being more interesting when more countries are competitive.

USATT President's Blog

Here's USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's new blog on "Changes for 2014."  It's mostly good stuff. Many of the items he writes about we can't really judge until we know more about the programs, and see if they will actually be implemented. USATT historically doesn't have a high batting average in that regard. Here are my short comments on each.

Warming Up

One of my junior students had a sort of bad experience yesterday. He came in a bit early while I was coaching another junior player, who was a friend of his. They wanted to play some, so at the end of the session with the first player I let them play some games - but I was bit worried since the second player had no warm-up. I was right to be worried.

The first player was all warmed up and playing really well, but the second player wasn't. He was rated a bit higher, but while the first player mostly kept the ball in play, the second was an attacker who couldn't attack because he hadn't warmed up. (Both were around 1500 level or so.) With just five minutes warm up he might have played okay. Instead, the second player played horribly, and after a while was reduced to swatting backhands from his forehand side since he had no confidence in his forehand anymore, which was normally his strength. He lost a series of games, and was pretty depressed.

When we started our session (15 minutes late, but I had told him I could go 15 minutes extra at the end), he couldn't play, mentally or physically. He couldn't get himself to care after the drubbing he'd just taken, and his shots were all messed up. It took about 15 minutes before he could play serious. But gradually he got back into it, and by the end of the one-hour session he was back in full form. The other kid was long gone, so no rematch.

USATT Membership and Mass Mailing

USATT has about 8000 members. That's pretty weak in a country of 314 million.

A few days ago I received another brochure in the mail (regular mail, not email) from USTA (U.S. Tennis Association). For many years I played tennis on the side (and had a heck of a forehand!), and used to go to group training sessions twice a week for many years. I also played in their doubles leagues, and joined USTA to do so. Being a smart organization with 700,000 members, which are overwhelmingly league members, they have been trying to get me back ever since. Which is why I regularly receive both mail and email from them.

Is it cost effective? Of course it is; they are not idiots. I still get mail from many other organizations I used to belong to (and I bet you do as well), always encouraging me to rejoin or re-subscribe. Former members are probably the single best group of people to target when trying to increase membership. USATT should target this group.

USATT has a membership of around 8000 or so. (If you include life members who are no longer active or even alive, organizational memberships which were mostly given out for free, and club memberships, the number may shoot to something like 9000, but I don't have up-to-date figures, and USATT doesn't seem to publish them as they used to do.)

How many is 8000? Let's see:

Adult vs. Junior Classes

Last night was the first session of the new beginning/intermediate class I'm teaching at MDTTC, Mondays from 6:30-8:00PM. (Here's the flyer.) The class is for beginners up to roughly 1500 level. We had eleven in the class, but one apparently dropped out and another had to miss the first session, but emailed that he'd be there next week. John Hsu, an ITTF certified coach, assisted.

There's a huge difference between teaching adults and teaching kids. Adults have more patience, and so you can lecture and demo a lot longer, and they have lots of questions. Do that with kids and you get a lot of impatient kids. Kids rarely ask questions other than ones like "Are you almost done?" or "When's break?" Working with kids is fun, and you can develop top players from them, but teaching adults is often more interesting because you can go more in depth on each topic. There were lots and lots of insightful questions. Let's face it, I could talk two hours non-stop on any table tennis topic, so I have to restrain myself!

We covered four things in the first session. First was the grip. I went over what a neutral grip is and why players should use it while developing their strokes. (I wrote about this in this Tip of the Week, Should You Use a Neutral Grip?) Then I went into proper ready position, as well as the relationship between the two. (I wrote about this in another Tip of the Week, Feet and Grip. A related Tip is Use a Wider Stance.)

Then we went into the forehand drive. John and I demoed it, and then I went over the basics of the shot. Then the players went out on the table and practiced.

Tip of the Week

Five-Ball Attack.

Most Difficult Questions for Coaches and Players

For me, here are the seven most difficult judgment calls for each student. I could write entire blogs and Tips on each. Whether you're a coach or a player, you too should be thinking about these things. (Readers, let me know if there are any below you'd like me to elaborate on.) 

  • When to stop serious tinkering with the forehand and backhand loops.
  • How much to topspin the backhand.
  • When to go to advanced tensor sponges.
  • Whether they should play tournaments when working on something new.
  • Balance of rote drills, random drills, and game-type play.
  • How much to focus on counterlooping on forehand, as opposed to blocking.
  • How to motivate them.

One-Day Camp

Today we have a one-day camp at MDTTC. Schools are closed because of President's Day. Come join us, 10AM-6PM! (There's a two-hour lunch break, with Chinese food delivered to the club.) It'll be mostly kids, but adults are welcome as well. No lectures today; just training.

Beginning/Intermediate Class