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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!

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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

15 Days a Slave

We're done!!! After 15 days of seemingly non-stop work, I finished the page layouts and photo work for Volume 14 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. (Mal Anderson does most of the photo scanning and supplies about half the photos. I do a lot of fixes on the photo.) It's 465 pages with 962 photos - a new record. I put it all in PDF format, and uploaded it to the printer yesterday afternoon. Now I'm exhausted - for weeks I've been running back and forth between this, coaching, and zillions of other stuff that constantly comes up (mostly involving table tennis or writing). At 11:30 PM last night Tim left for home in New York.

Yesterday we mostly were inputting corrections, doing pre-press work, creating the book flyer and ad, and updating the online page. I also did some coaching, and tutored two of our junior players in English and math at the club for an hour.

I celebrated last night by seeing the movie "I, Frankenstein." (I've already seen most of the good ones out there.) I think most would agree it was somewhat of a dumb movie with cheesy special effects, but it had its moments. Spoiler alert - since it took place in modern-day times, and much of the battling was over possession of Victor Frankenstein's notes, which kept changing hands as the two groups kept stealing it from the other, I wanted to scream at them, "Just make some photocopies and hide the backups!!!"

And now I get to attack the growing list of items on my todo list, which have accumulated like snow over the past two weeks.

Early Round Matches at Tournaments

Tip of the Week

Practicing Serves the Productive Way. (This is an article I did for USATT Magazine a few years ago. I'd like to get a few of these old ones up as Tips.)

Coaching Happenings

It's been an eventful weekend of coaching, as always. Here are highlights.

USATT Election and the Petition Rule

Recently USATT had a special election to fill a vacant At-Large seat on the USATT Board of Directors. USATT has a Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC). One of their duties is to evaluate candidates for office and nominate them for the election ballot. If you wish to run for the USATT board, and they don't choose you, you have no recourse. Right away alarm bells should be going off in your head. (The only exception is if you run for an Athlete Director position, but only elite athletes are eligible for that.)

For the At Large positions, here is the pertinent bylaw (from Section 7.6. Election/Selection, b-3 in the USATT bylaws.): "The Nominating and Governance Committee shall evaluate all candidates for At Large Director and nominate at least two (2) individuals per seat to the USATT General Membership for election."

In the special election, I was told six people applied to run. The NGC had to select two or more for the ballot, and could in fact have put all six on the ballot. Now I agree that, given the flawed rules to start with, the NGC had to make a decision, and not all six candidates were greatly qualified. But they could have put more than two on the ballot, and let the voters decide. Instead, they kept four of the six off the ballot, and allowed voters to choose only among the final two.

Emergency Room for Timmy

Things got exciting last night. As I've written about the last ten days, Tim Boggan is at my house so I can do the page layouts and photo work for his History of U.S. Table Tennis, Vol. 14. (Here's info on those books.) We've been doing this for each volume, and it takes about two weeks each, usually one volume per year. He arrived on Monday, Jan. 13. (Tim, 83, is in the U.S. Hall of Fame; here's his bio.)

On Tuesday, I came down with the flu and was pretty much out of it for three days. Then he came down with a bad cough, and we initially thought he'd caught the flu from me. On Friday I took him to see a doctor, who said it wasn't the flu (probably a cold), and gave him some medication (along with a lot of others he takes, mostly because he had a "minor" heart attack 25 years ago).

Tim had some sort of allergic reaction to the medicine, and his skin turned red all over. (I began calling him a Washington Redskin.) I took him to see the doctor two more times, but things didn't seem to get better. Last night, at 10:30 PM, the reaction got worse - his face was beet red, and it was itching all over. So I took him to the emergency room at Shady Grove hospital. (This wasn't the first time; about five years ago he had some sort of chest pains and thought he might be having a heart attack, and so I rushed him to the hospital then as well, but it was a false alarm.) 

All went well. The doctor there thought it was a problem with dosage, and changed the prescription, and prescribed something else. (I didn't get all the details - Tim was keeping careful track.) So this morning, as I write this, Tim is about to go to the pharmacy (again) for the new medicine. His face is still bright red.

Do As I Say, Not As I Do

One of the headaches I face as a coach is that I don't have perfect technique. I can demo pretty good technique for most shots, but in live play it's not always perfect - and if I'm not careful, that's what beginners begin to copy.

For example, I have an effective 2200 level forehand loop. If you analyze it piece by piece, the technique isn't bad; it's a bit short, which isn't necessarily a problem. But it's somewhat jerky. No one would mistake it for the smooth loops of your average world-class player. If I'm not careful, students will subconsciously begin to copy the jerkiness of the stroke when that's the one thing about it they shouldn't copy. So I always make a point of mentioning this to students, and often point out the smoother technique of our top players.

I also have a rather flat backhand, when these days most top players use far more topspin. I can demo this, but not that well. So again I often point out the more topspinny backhands of the top players in our club. But when I practice with students, they see my normal flat backhand, and so I have to keep reminding them to go for more topspin and not hit it as flat as I do.

MDTTC Mini-Camp

Yesterday we had day one of our two-day mini-camp, with local schools closed for Martin Luther King Day and teachers meetings. Unlike our regular five-day camps, there is no lecturing in these camps, just get the players on the table and start training, with lots of multiball in the morning.

Over and over idea keeps slapping me in the face, one I've said for years: Most of coaching isn't telling players what to do; it's getting rid of unnecessary stuff. For every time I have a player actually do something new, there are probably three times where I tell them to stop doing something they are doing, usually some sort of hitch in a stroke. For example, one beginning kid in the camp was hitting his forehand by dropping his racket but with the racket tip aimed upwards, tilting his wrist back, then doing this round-about stroke where his racket angle started open and ended up closed, with the tip always up. His elbow did all sorts of gymnastics during the stroke, and he used enough wrist to solve the national energy crisis. He couldn't smash to save his life, and his shots sprayed all over the place, often with crazy sidespins. By the end of the day, he had a pretty clean forehand (in drills), and he could smash over and over.

My group did a lot of serve practice in the camp, and I had a lot of fun demonstrating the various dances you can make the ball do with good spin - back into the net, big breaks to the side, etc.

No-spin and Backspin Serving Tactics

Tip of the Week

Playing the Seemiller or American Grip. (This is an excerpt from "Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers.")

MDTTC Mini-Camp

Local schools are closed today and tomorrow for Martin Luther King birthday and a teacher's meeting. And so we're running a two-day mini-camp at MDTTC, 10AM-6PM. Normally I'd be there all day both days, but because I'm working on Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis (Vol. 14), with Tim at my side ("No, stupid, that photo there!"), I'm only doing the morning sessions. What does this really mean for me? It means I'm up all last night working on this blog, the Tip of the Week, and all the other stuff I have to take care of each day; it means I'm at my desk with Tim at 5AM to get two chapters done before I leave at 9:30AM; it means I'm coaching at the club from 10AM-1PM (and likely taking a large group of kids to the 7-11 down the street afterwards); it means I rush home to an impatient Tim and do several more chapters that afternoon and night; and it means starting all over again that night with the following day's blog so I can get started early with Tim the following morning. Somewhere in there I sleep.

Tim's Book, and Tim's Trials and Tribulations

Flu and Coaching

I'm mostly recovered from the flu, but still pretty exhausted by it. What have I learned from this experience? 1) Flu bad; 2) Get Flu shot; 3) Flu very bad; 4) Flu very very bad; 5) Flu VERY very very bad.

On Wednesday I could barely eat anything. I managed to eat a blueberry muffin for breakfast, but almost threw it up. For lunch I tried a bowl of chicken rice soup, but gave up after two spoonfuls. I then realized there were only two things I could imagine eating at that time - fruit and vanilla pudding. I'm not kidding. So I sent Tim Boggan to the supermarket. And so for dinner I had a bowl of fruit and two cups of vanilla pudding.

After a height of 103 on Tuesday night, my fever hovered around 102 all day on Wednesday, dropping to about 101 a few times. I have an electronic thermometer, and having nothing better to do, I compulsively took my temperature about every two minutes or so. (Well, it seemed that often.) Late on Wednesday night the temperature dropped to about 100. Thursday morning it was down to 99, compared to my norm of about 97, which is where it's at now.

Besides nonstop agony, there was the extreme boredom. My head was on fire, and reading or watching TV made it worse. I tried a crossword puzzle, and my head almost exploded. I couldn't get out of bed without nearly collapsing in exhaustion after five steps. When I did get out of bed, I'd need ten minutes in bed to catch my breath. When I heard I'd won one of the Coach of the Year awards, did I go, "YAY!"? No, I went, 'yay,' and crawled back into bed, groaning.

Did I mention anywhere that the flu isn't fun?

So here's my public service announcement to all humankind: Get Your Flu Shots!!!

And to John Olsen and Kevin Walton, who were surprised several months ago that I hadn't had a flu shot, and who I told I hadn't bothered because I hadn't had the flu in decades, well, let's keep that a secret between us, okay?


Another short blog due to the flu. I'm mostly over it, with my temperature back to normal, but even standing up is exhausting. Here's your chance to say, "Larry, you fool, why didn't you get your flu shot?" (And if I weren't so tired, I'd google a video of people throwing tomatoes at someone, presumably me.) Next time I will. But it had been decades (I think) since I last had the flu, as opposed to way too many colds.

Coaches of the Year

Yesterday, USATT announced their Coaches of the Year - and I won the Doc Counsilman Coaching Award! Other awards were Coach of the Year to Lily Yip, Developmental Coach of the Year to Stefan Feth, and Paralympic Coach of the Year to Angie Bengtsson.

I was a bit surprised the announcement didn't explain what each of the four awards are for, or why the coach won it, or any bio info on the coaches. I've already received a lot of notes that basically say, "Congrats, Larry, but what the heck is the Doc Counsilman Award?" So here it is:

The “Doc” Counsilman Award is for a coach that utilizes scientific techniques/equipment as an integral part of his/her coaching methods, or has created innovative ways to use sport science.  The “use of science in sport” includes, but is not limited to, biomechanics, nutrition, psychology, technology, strength and conditioning, exercise physiology, etc.

I believe I won it primarily for TableTennisCoaching.com, though I've also used other new technology, such as Print on Demand to publish my coaching books. This is the second time I've been a Coach of the Year - I was Developmental Coach of the Year in 2002. I was also runner-up three different times, according to a selection committee member a few years ago.

Unbelievable. I've come down with the flu. I'm in continuous agony, with my fever reaching 103 last night, and 102.1 this morning. It's non-stop chills while my head is roasting. I'm pretty much going to stay in bed all day, staying warm with my warmups and a heavy quilt. Poor Tim Boggan is stuck here with nothing to do. Hopefully I'll be okay tomorrow.

I've had more illnesses and injuries this past year than any other year, and it's not even close. I'm living on DayQuil and NiQuil.

I'll have to cancel my coaching tonight. I'm also supposed to pick up two kids from school this afternoon and take them to our afterschool program. I'll probably do that, but leave as soon as I've dropped them off. I feel like the sole ping-pong ball in the Ping-Pong Afterlife.

So a short blog today. Below are things I already had ready to go.

Forehand Topspin Follow Through

Here's the video (2:33) from PingSkills.

Three Reasons Why You Should Not Third Ball Attack

Here's the article from TableTennisMaster.

Samson Dubina's Coaching Articles

Samson's put up some new articles - here they are!

2014 Aurora Open

Here's the first of a number of daily articles coming up from Barbara Wei on this 4-star tournament.

Clayton Kershaw Plays Ping-Pong