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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

My Upcoming Novel and Ping-Pong

Yes, the two are connected. Table tennis or ping-pong is mentioned 19 times in 11 different scenes in the novel. Why? Because the 13-year-old protagonist (Neil, alias Armstrong though his last name is never mentioned in the novel) is a sorcerer's apprentice and wannabe ping-pong star who has to leave behind this childhood ambition to save the world in this humorous parody of the 1960s space race. Included in the scenes are mentions of several real players, the Florida State Finals between Brian "Speed Race" Pace and "Tricky Dicky" Fleisher, and two flying carpets that Neil names after Marty Reisman and Tim Boggan.

I'm going to list all the table tennis mentions below, but first, two news items. First, it's been retitled "Sorcerers in Space." (Previous title was the boring "The Giant Face in the Sky.") And second, the really horrible cover that I linked to a week ago has been replaced by a very nice cover. (I really like this one!!!) The novel comes out Nov. 15.

Here's the blurb on the back of the book - no table tennis mention, sorry. The novel is described as Hitchhiker's Guide meets the Space Race.

It is 1969, at the height of tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Neil, 13, badly wants to be someone. Instead he's stuck as a sorcerer's apprentice for Gus, the "meanest sorcerer in the world." Gus creates a magical talisman to spy on the Soviets, but instead it spies on them and sends text into space. A Giant Face in the Sky shows up, reading the text.

Since whoever gets to the Face will have the world at their mercy, the Race to the Face begins. The Soviets invade the U.S. in their attempts to kill Neil, who is prophesied to defeat them. A floating, talking meteor assassin named Buzz becomes Neil's companion--but in one week, Buzz must kill Neil.

Tip of the Week

Should you Choose Serve, Receive, or Side at the Start of a Match?

Knee Problems

Yes, just a couple weeks after getting over about ten days of arm problems (where I had to cancel or get substitutes for a lot of coaching sessions), now it's my right knee that's acting up. I hurt it on Saturday at the very end of my last session, with John Olsen and Kevin Walton. We normally do nearly 90 minutes of multiball each session (they take turns), then do live drills or games the last 30 minutes or so. I was playing John a game, and he returned my serve to my wide backhand. I stepped around to loop a forehand, and as I put weight on my back (right) leg, I felt something go in the knee. I made the shot, and the rally continued, with me hobbling about fishing to keep the ball in play. Then he went to my wide forehand, and I tottered over for the shot, again putting weight on the knee and aggravating it. We stopped play after the shot.

I did a lot of group session on Sunday, where I limped about. I did one private coaching session where I staggered around in live drills, but fortunately did a lot of multiball so I wouldn't have to shamble around the court running down balls. (Okay, I think I've finally run out of acronyms for "hobble.")

I'm resting it today (my day off), and have only one session tomorrow (Tuesday). But then things get busy again on Wed and Thur. I'll sort of get Fri-Sun off, as I'll be coaching at the South Shore Open in Indiana where hopefully I won't leap to my feet to celebrate some victory and hurt the knee again. Because then I'd be forced to stumble about next week.

How I Taught Serves in Class Yesterday

Jim's Forehand

About two months ago I started coaching Jim. He's a lefty in his early 60s, perhaps 1000-1200 level, and very tall. He had a pretty good backhand but very awkward forehand. When he'd hit forehands he'd lean over and down, tilting his head sideways, and sort of lunge at the ball. During his forward swing his head would move about three feet sideways as his whole body went off to the side, throwing him off balance and killing his timing. I wasn't sure whether we should fix the stroke, rush it to the nearest hospital, or just bury it in the local cemetery.

We decided to fix the stroke. And lo and behold, it worked! We made this the focus of over half of our sessions, using Saturation Training. Now he stays balanced throughout the stroke, and his head stays straight and only moves perhaps six inches sideways. He now has precision, and we now have vicious rallies, his forehand to my backhand. He has a very nice smash now, in practice.

However, he's not out of the woods yet. For example, when he smashes to my backhand and I block it back, he still has trouble with the second shot, and usually hits it soft. He doesn't yet have the deep-down confidence to just let the shot go over and over. It also means it's not quite ready for matches yet.

I explained to him Larry's Six-Month Law and its corollary, Larry's Six-Month Law for Strokes. The latter means that when you develop a shot until it's proficient in practice, it'll take about six months of practice before you can use it consistently and effectively in matches. He's now on that path.

Random Drills

One of the best ways to improve is through multiball training, and one of the best drills you can do there (besides an intense stroke workout) are random drills. When you play a match, you don't know where your opponent is going to put the ball, so you have to be ready to cover the whole table. When you do simple rote drills like forehand to forehand or backhand to backhand, or side-to-side footwork, you get practice, but you are not getting the practice needed to prepare you for the randomness of actual match play. For that you need to do random drills.

The problem with random drills is that you can't really do them very well live (i.e. with a practice partner) until both players are relatively advanced. And so players avoid doing them until they are somewhat proficient - and then they practically have to start from scratch doing random drills that they should have been doing early on. Once you can hit a decent forehand or backhand you should be doing some sort of random drills as well. Few do so.

So get a coach, or a practice partner you can take turns with, and do random multiball drills. At first have them feed the ball randomly to two spots - middle forehand and middle backhand. Make sure your first move is the right one; you have more time than you think, so don't rush. When you are comfortable at doing this at rally speeds, then go random the whole table. Learn to cover all five spots - wide forehand, middle forehand, middle, middle backhand, and wide backhand.

Let me emphasize - the key is that the first move must be the right move. No moving to the forehand and then changing when you see the ball going to the backhand, or vice versa.

RGIII Response Video

We're up to 689 views (as of 10AM EST) on the RGIII Response Video (1:15). Let's make it go viral!!! (I blogged about this yesterday.)

Last night I posted it two Washington Redskins forums, The Hogs forum and Extreme Redskins forum. I also posted it several times on Facebook, on my page and on the pages of the four players, with requests for others to repost, and it's been reposted by a number of people. (So should you.) It's also on the USATT web page and on the USOC web page. Today I plan to send it to some local media.

Video Review Before Tournaments

On Oct. 26-27 I'll be coaching at the 4-star South Shore Butterfly Open in Indiana. This means lots of practice for the players going there over the next ten days. For me, it means video review. I'll be coaching three top players, so I'm spending more and more time watching them in practice so I'm ready to coach them. More importantly, I'm about to hit the video screen soon to study video of their recent tournament matches. This is where you really learn a lot about a player. You can learn a lot by watching them play locals, but they are used to playing those locals, and so it's not the same thing. To properly prepare to coach someone in a tournament you need to see what they do against players they are not used to playing.

RGIII Response Video

On Friday, Robert Griffin III (alias RGIII, the Washington Redskins quarterback) put out a video (3:22) where he talked about his Olympic dreams. At the end of it (go to 2:57) he jokes that he might make the Olympics in ping-pong.

We at MDTTC decided we were not going to take this quietly. Here is the response video (1:15), put together by Nathan Hsu (17, 2303 but recently 2397), with players Derek Nie (12, 2297), Crystal Wang (11, 2267), and Roy Ke (14, 2261).

LET'S MAKE THIS VIDEO GO VIRAL!!! Post it wherever you can - on Facebook, Twitter, in blogs, any place you can. It's already the Video of the Day at USA Table Tennis, with RGIII's video featured on Friday.

Go Girls

Did you know that girls are dominating the lower age groups in the U.S. right now? Go to the USATT ratings, click on "Customizable Member Lists," and put in the proper settings (make sure to put in a number in the first field), and here's what you get.

In Under 9, the #1 player is Tiffany Ke of Maryland at 1749. (The #2 is Ted Chensheng Li of Texas at 1559.) Among girls, the #2 is Katherine Fang, also of Texas, at 819, almost a thousand points behind Tiffany.

In Under 10, the top two are Youruo Wu and Rachel Sung of California, both girls, rated 1978 and 1906. Tiffany Ke is #4 at 1749.

In Under 11, the #1 is Amy Wang of New Jersey at 2217. Youruo Wu is #4 at 1978, Rachel Sung #6 at 1906, Kelly Zhao #9 at 1796, and Tiffany Ke #12 at 1749.

In Under 12, the #1 is Crystal Wang of Maryland at 2267. Amy Wang is #2 at 2217. Youruo Wu is #12 at 1978.

Tip of the Week

Playing Choppers. This week I'm "cheating" - this is a previously published article that's listed in the Articles section here. However, I've had several requests for advice on playing choppers, and I realized that none of my 139 weekly tips since I started them in January, 2011, covered this. However, I did some rewriting of the section, so it's not exactly the same. Also, I plan on publishing a compilation of all these tips next year, and this will make them a bit more complete. (I was going to do a Tip on why it's often best to give the serve away at the start of a match, but I'll save that for next time.)


Last Thursday I blogged about my day on the set of the HBO comedy "Veep." I was only there on Wednesday - for 13 long hours. The episode featured table tennis, and I went in originally as one of the table tennis players - but they wanted only players in their 20's, and so I was relegated to being a possible extra as a janitor - but they didn't use me, alas, as even there they wanted people in their 20s. On Thursday they did the actual table tennis scene. I wasn't there, but Toby Kutler told me about it.

Blog Featured on USATT Page

My blog on Thursday morning (on my day on set with "Veep") is featured on the USA Table Tennis home page. Page down and the picture (as of this writing) is on the left. (Last night it was on the right.) I'm sitting next to Derek Nie, the 2012 U.S. Open Under 12 Boys' Champion (currently rated a monstrous 2297). As noted in past blogs, they also are featuring pictures of Derek and I in the numerous Tips of the Week I did for USATT a decade ago in their Tip of the Day feature.

Coaching the Backhand

One of the things I've improved in my coaching is how I coach the backhand. As I've blogged about a number of times, the average backhand these days has more topspin than backhands from the past. It's evolved this way as an interaction between better sponge surfaces, which leads to better topspin technique, and  better technique, which leads to players going to more advanced sponges. These days at the higher levels nearly every backhand is essentially a backhand loop, usually done right up at the table.

But what really stands out is how this has trickled down to the intermediate level. During the speed gluing era (roughly 1980s to early 2000s) most players didn't glue except at the relatively higher levels. It was a lot of hassle, and the conventional wisdom at the time was that you had to reach a pretty high level before you could control a glued-up sponge. These days, with ease of buying a sheet of super sponge, players are using it at lower and lower levels, despite the high prices. With these super sponges it's easy to topspin the backhand (as well as the forehand), and so players do it sooner in their development. This shows that players can do it earlier in their development than was thought before, and so more and more often they are taught to do so. 


I had a wild day on the set of Veep yesterday. And when I say "wild," I mean sitting around doing nothing other than watching for 12 hours. It was fascinating and incredibly boring. Yes, I got to spend lots of time practically standing next to Julia Dreyfus, Anna Chlumsky, Tony Hale, Gary Cole, Matt Walsh, and the rest of the cast and crew. But most of it was watching rehearsal after Rehearsal after REHEARSAL, and then watching take after Take after TAKE!!! And in between these rehearsals and takes? Lots of waiting around.

As I've blogged about before, Veep had an episode that would feature table tennis: Episode 3.3, which would be the third episode in season three, which will run sometime early in 2014. They had contacted me, looking for "high-level table tennis players in their 20s." I had helped bring in Khaleel Asgarali, Toby Kutler, and Qiming Chen. (Khaleel, rated 2391, used to be over 2400 and was on the Trinidad National Team; Toby is rated 2154 and used to be over 2200; Qiming, rated 2113, is the University of Maryland Champion and a graduating senior.)

I'm 53 and didn't quite fit the age profile, but they told me to come in anyway. I assumed I was part of the table tennis. However, at about 10PM on Tuesday night all the extras received a long email giving instructions on things such as what to wear, when and where to park and meet, etc. In the listings they had Khaleel, Toby, Qiming, and three others I'd never heard of listed as "Table Tennis Players." I was listed along with two others as "Clovis Custodial Staff." Huh?

Off to Veep

I'm off to the Veep taping this morning, leaving at 5:15 AM. I'll be there all day (and perhaps partially into the night) today and tomorrow. I'll say hello to Julia Dreyfus for you! I'll ask if I'm allowed to post anything about the taping, but I'm probably going to be sworn to secrecy. Or perhaps I'll come up with some wild, imaginary story about it and see if anyone believes me. (Julia, the Vice President, is hijacked by lizard-like ping-pong playing alien cyborgs! I play the lizard-like ping-pong playing alien cyborg leader!)

Don't Think About Form When Playing Matches

Here's a Guest Posting by Des Preston that I found interesting - and I agree with it. It comes at a timely time since (as noted above) I'm leaving at 6AM for the Veep posting.

I love the tips you give to your readers and I'd like to share one that I often remind myself of. A lot of intermediate-advanced players 1800+ spend too much time thinking of their own technique/form during matches. At the 1800+ level, unless you are purposely trying to fit a certain shot into your game, constantly reminding yourself of your own technique can be a hindrance.

To help me pay more attention to my opponent and less time watching myself I switch the wording around in my head. If I miss a shot or make a weak return, instead of saying, "Open your paddle more" or, "C'mon swing like this!", I think to myself, "Ok his serve has more backspin on it than I thought," or "His blocks are mostly dead." This way I'm thinking more about their shots, and letting my own subconscious figure out how to handle it. 

At a lower level this may be difficult, but once a player has all the shots they need in their arsenal, this might be a better way to think. It's less taxing on the player's mindset as well. I feel like I'm not blaming myself, I'm just pointing out that the other player did something I wasn't expecting.