Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
21 chapters, 240 pages, 102,000 words. Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each! Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational ficiton, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

April 20, 2017

USATT Board Meeting, and No Blog Until Next Wednesday
Tomorrow morning I’m flying out to San Jose, CA, for the USATT Board meeting on Sat & Sun in nearby Milpitas. I won’t get back until Monday night. I’ll have a lot of work to catch up when I return, so I’m going to take Tuesday off as well to catch up – so no blog until next Wednesday. I’m going to the meeting as a member of the USATT Board as well as the recently appointed chair of the Coaching Committee.

We’ll be staying at the Courtyard Marriot in Milpitas – which, I discovered by chance when I looked it up on Google Maps, is practically across the street from the full-time Silicon Valley TTC. So I may walk over there after dinner on Friday night. (Gee, this could be my big chance to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing – walk into a table tennis club dressed in a gorilla suit, and challenging and beating some of the top players – all without saying a word! If I did this at my own club, MDTTC, they’d all recognize my strokes, plus they’d figure I’m the only one who would do this. Hmmm...except I don’t own a gorilla suit, drat…)

On Saturday morning we’ll be watching advanced training at the ICC club. I may come dressed to play – perhaps they can use a practice partner! (No gorilla suit here.) Then we’re scheduled to do a quick tour of some local full-time clubs – Fremont TTA, Table Tennis America, and perhaps others, time and location permitting.

Then, starting right after lunch, the board meets for the rest of the day. That night we have the option to play in the ICC Saturday Night Advanced League. I’ll likely play in it. (I better go practice my serves.) On Sunday we meet all morning and into the afternoon. Afterwards we have a visit planned to the Alameda TTC. After that we attend the ICC annual fundraiser.

Items on the agenda include:

  • USATT Events Update (USA Nationals, U.S. Open, World Veterans, other USATT Events). Regarding the World Veterans next year, I’ll be doing daily coverage of that.
  • Advisory Committee Roles and Responsibilities.
  • Resource Development Committee Proposal.
  • High Performance and USOC Update (HP Director update, upcoming events, funding)
  • CEO’s Report (membership, clubs, tournaments, sponsorship, fundraising)
  • SafeSport Update and Bylaw Amendments. This is going to be a real headache. I’ll likely blog about this next week. I took the tutorial and quizzes – took just over two hours.
  • Financial Update and Discussion
  • Service Judges Update (a proposal to have, in some matches, service umpires at the court ends, behind the players, so as to better judge serves, which was tried out at the recent College Nationals)
  • Board Fundraising and Philanthropy Seminar
  • Closed session for legal update
  • Approved Tournament Venues and Regulations
  • NewCo/Table Tennis USA (involving them running or promoting certain USATT events)

ITTF Presidential Election, Illegal Serves Question, and ITTF Commenting
As I posted back in January, the upcoming election for ITTF president is a three-way battle between incumbent Thomas Weikert of Germany, ITTF Deputy President Khalil Al-Mohannadi of Qatar, and superstar player Jean-Michel Saive (former #1 in the world and Men's Singles Finalist in 1993). "The elections will be held on Wednesday 31st May at the Annual General Meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany, to be held on the occasion of the Liebherr 2017 World Championships." Here are their campaign statements:

All 222 member associations will be able to vote in the election, including USATT. Who should we vote for? I’m not a one-issue person, but perhaps the most important issue to me regarding the ITTF is their taking action on the problem of illegal hidden serves, which I’ve blogged about many times. (More on that in my note below, especially in the commentary in my proposal.) And so on Tuesday morning I decided to ask the candidates about this. I posted the note below under Saive’s statement. A note popped up saying that I would be receiving a verification email from ITTF that I needed to respond to, to verify I was real. However, no such email came over the next 20 minutes or so. There was a link to have it resent, and I did so multiple times, but still no email. Finally I emailed the ITTF webmaster and ITTF media director about the problem. They responded by saying they were looking into it.

The following morning, Wednesday, out of the blue, I received three verification emails. I responded, and my posting appeared under Saive’s note – but with a notice that it would not appear to others until it had been approved by ITTF. I then posted similar notes to the other two candidates, with the same result. I emailed the ITTF webmaster and media director that I had received the verification emails but was waiting for ITTF approval.

Another day has gone by, it’s now Thursday morning, and my notes still haven’t gone up. I don’t know why – presumably either they object to my note and won’t approve it, or they’ve set up such a cumbersome approval process that any serious discussion isn’t possible. Whatever it is, I can’t seem to get my posting to show up. So I’ll post it below. (You can click on the links above to see the campaign statements and any comments, from me or others, and see if they’ve “approved” mine and put it up. As of this writing none have any comments.) Later on perhaps I’ll research and find direct emails for the three candidates and email them the questions, but since this is an ITTF election, it seems like the logical place for such a discussion would be on publicly the ITTF site. I was hoping to hear from the candidates before the USATT board meeting, where we’ll likely discuss the election, at least informally.

Note that the USATT CEO will make the final decision on who USATT votes for, but the board and others will likely be advising him. This is from the USATT bylaws, which states: 

Section 14.3. Secretary General. "The Chief Executive Officer shall serve as Secretary General of USATT and in that capacity shall represent or designate representatives for the USATT in relations with the international sports federation for Table Tennis recognized by the International Olympic Committee and at international Table Tennis functions and events."

Here is my [non-published as of Thursday morning] note.

[Candidate’s name],

One big problem our sport faces is illegal hidden serves. The rules not only state that you can't hide the ball or contact during the serve, but that it's the responsibility of the player to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal, and if the umpire is no sure of this, the serve is not legal. Currently, these rules are rarely enforced, and so top players essentially cheat on most serves, regularly hiding contact on the serve, either for illegal advantage, or to compete on an even basis since the opponent is doing so and the umpire allows it.

Individual umpires don't want to be the only one enforcing the rule, and since others are not doing so, they feel they cannot either. To change this it would take a strong emphasis from the top leadership positions so that all umpires and referees will enforce these rules equally. The key part is that if the umpire isn't sure of the legality of the serve, the serve is not legal. So borderline serves that might actually be visible aren't legal because the umpire, from their vantage point, can't be sure.

I've made a proposal on this, the "Net Visibility Rule," where the rules require the ball be visible to the net throughout the serve, making it harder to hide the serve without it being obvious. I've sent this to the USATT Rules Committee and to Samsonov (Athletes Commission Chairman), but haven't heard anything back yet.

Whether they adopt this proposal or some other, I would like to see the problem fixed. As a full-time professional coach, I am forced to explain to my students that if they want to compete on an equal basis, they will have to serve illegally since their opponents are doing so and umpires allow it. All coaches and players face this problem. This needs to change.

Do you have any plans to fix this problem?

-Larry Hodges

Have You Entered the USA Nationals Yet?
Here’s the home page for the event to be held July 3-8 in Las Vegas. I’ll be there; will you?

Korean Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF Pro Tour event taking place April 20-23 in Incheon, KOR.

Forehand Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (4:10) from EmRatThich.

Back Injuries - 7 Ways to Keep Your Back in Top Shape
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. I’ve had some back problems as well – see #2 in Samson’s list – due to my right side being so much stronger than my left side that it literally pulls the spine out of alignment. I’ll blog about this and the stretching exercise I do for this later on.

Ask the Coach
Here are three more questions answered at PingSkills:

Certified Strokes Coming to China
Here’s the ITTF article. “Graded tests that will certify the ability of table tennis amateurs and enthusiasts will soon be part of the Chinese education system.”

USATT Insider
Here’s the new edition, which came out yesterday.

2017 World Table Tennis Day For All
Here’s the article by USA Women’s and Junior Girls’ National Team Member Angela Guan.

2017 Asian Championships – Chinese Supremacy Threatened
Here’s the article from Fremont TTC.

Ma Long vs Zhang Jike, Olympics Rio 2016
Here’s the video (5:12) from EmRatThich that reflects on the match. It speculates that the match was fixed, but seems to conclude otherwise.

USATT Top 10 Points from the 2017 USA National Team Trials
Here’s the video (3:52).

Short but Funny Table Tennis Scenes
Here’s the video (91 sec)! It's in Japanese, but it's mostly physical humor so you don't need to know the language. 

Tischtennis Cartoons
That’s German for Table Tennis – and who knew that the Germans had so many table tennis cartoons! When I Googled “Tischtennis Cartoons,” here’s what I got! While they are in German, you don’t need to know German to enjoy most of them. Warning – there’s a lot, and they are addictive!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 19, 2017

The Relationship Between Stroking and Footwork
I worked with an adult beginner yesterday. She’s only had a few lessons, and her forehand and backhand shots were still more or less patting the ball back and forth. Until yesterday.

Here’s what happened. We probably spent a good 20 minutes at the start just hitting forehands, first multiball, then live, and she was unable to do more than awkwardly pat the ball back and forth, hitting the ball flat (no topspin). Then we did backhands, and it was the same, though a little better. We did some pushing and serve practice, then came back to forehands, and still mostly just patting the ball back and forth. Then I decided to introduce her to footwork, which we normally hold back on until the strokes are more solid. So I fed multiball side to side as she hit forehands from the forehand side and the middle.

And suddenly she was driving the ball! The balls even had some topspin. She hadn’t been able to do this while standing more or less stationary, but once I had her moving, the stroke fell into place. Presto, instant good forehand! (Well, it still needs a lot of practice, but a lot less pitter-patter.) What happened was that when she was forced to move, she became more aware of getting into position for each shot and rotating the body. When she didn’t have to move, she more or less reached for the ball, which also led to using less body rotation.

We finished the session with something I wouldn’t have expected we’d be doing that session: I fed high balls (multiball), and she smashed. After getting the stroke right while moving, she was now able to smash balls. Quite a transformation!

Regarding that serve practice mentioned above, it was her first time – she’d never served before. When I asked her to show me a serve, she dropped the ball on the table and hit the ball after it had bounced. So I went over the rules and showed how you do it properly, and she picked it up quickly. I also brought out the colored soccer balls for pushing practice so she could get feedback on the spin on her pushes. We’ll work next on putting spin on her serves.

Side note - this is the same woman I mentioned in a previous blog who has an uncanny resemblance to former USA Team member, 3-time Canadian Open Women's Singles Champion, and USATT Hall of Famer Barbara Kaminsky - twice I've tricked locals into thinking she was Barbara, who lives nearby in Virginia. But I think Barbara still has the better forehand! 

Kanak Jha: My Quest for Olympic Games 2020
Here’s his funding page, where he talks about his training, including a video (2:24).  

10 Benefits Of Playing Ping Pong For Your Health And Brain
Here’s the article from PingPoolShark.

Ask the Coach
Here are more questions answered from PingSkills.

Zhang Jike Pendulum Serve Slow Motion
Here’s the video (18 min).

Sportfist Launch Offline Tournament Software for Windows
Here’s the USATT article. I haven’t tried this new software as I use Omnipong for my tournaments, and am quite happy with it.

Young Talent Overcomes Obstacles on the Road to Hopes Qualification
Here’s the USATT article featuring Shishi Hu, by Matt Hetherington.

Seeking Elusive Title; Timo Boll Returns to Korea
Here’s the article.

Taiwan's Top Female Table Tennis Player Aspires After Glory at Upcoming Taipei Universiade
Here’s the article featuring Cheng I-Ching (鄭怡靜). (I thiink that's the first time I’ve put Chinese in my blog!)

Top Ten Shots from the Asian Games
Here’s the video (4:09).

Tribute to Liu Shiwen
Here’s the video (4:18).

Smacking Things with Paddle
Here’s the repeating gif image!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 18, 2017

Tip of the Week
Serving to the Backhand Flipper. (This is similar to a Tip I did a few years ago, but with a different perspective and expanded. I linked to this yesterday in my “shortened” blog.)

Down the Line
This past weekend I emphasized down-the-line shots in much of my coaching. Players habitually drill crosscourt so much that they often forget there’s that other direction. I once realized in my match coaching that about one-half of players at the intermediate to advanced levels automatically cover the crosscourt angle when an opponent is attacking – meaning they are wide open down the line. The reason players don’t take advantage of this is 1) they are so used to going crosscourt; 2) there’s more table if you go crosscourt; and 3) they are worried about leaving themselves open to a crosscourt angled return if they go down the line.

While these are legitimate reasons, all are easily overcome. If you practice attacking down the line, it becomes almost as easy as crosscourt, which takes care of the first two objections above. As to leaving themselves open to a crosscourt angle, that’s may be a problem, but if the opponent is so used to players going crosscourt that he leaves the down-the-line side open, then you don’t have much to worry about as the opponent will either miss or be lunging for the shot. Worse, if you don’t go down the line when it’s open, you let the opponent camp out on the crosscourt angle, making things much easier for him. That’s not a good idea.

I’ve seen so many players lose matches, even at the 2600 level, because they predictably went crosscourt to end points, allowing opponents to camp out there and so win points they would not otherwise have won – while leaving the down-the-line open. I’ve also seen players lose because they were helpless against a smart opponent who punished them for guarding the crosscourt and leaving the down the line open.

It does take training. A few years ago, in preparation for the Cadet Team Trials, we had Tong Tong Gong train regularly in counter-attacking down the line, to prepare him for the top seed in the Trials, who was rated over 200 points higher – but videotape showed that he always guarded the crosscourt in fast rallies. Sure enough, when they played, he struggled with Tong Tong’s down-the-line counter-attacks, and Tong Tong pulled off the upset (and made the team).

It just comes down to practicing it, and then using it in matches until you gain enough experience to reflexively go to the right spot – and jumping all over any part of the table the opponent leaves open. And there’s an added benefit to practicing down the line – if you can attack that way consistently, then going crosscourt is easy.

Here’s my Tip from last month, Everything You Wanted to Know About Down the Line.

By the way – you hyphenate it when it refers to something (“He has a good down-the-line attack”), but don’t hyphenate it when it is the subject (“You need to attack down the line!”).

Capital Area Table Tennis League
The Capital Area Table Tennis League (for players in the DC, MD, and VA area) had a meeting this past Saturday, with all 24 teams competing at various times from noon until 10PM on Sunday. Click on the division to see the results! I was coaching on the back tables much of the day, and had to stay to close, so ended up spending 12.5 hours at the club. That was a long day!

New Full-Time Club - Spin & Smash TTC
The Spin & Smash Table Tennis Club opened yesterday in Columbus, OH. Coaches listed for the club are Dave Fullen and John Tannehill. This makes 93 full-time professional clubs in the U.S., a big jump from around eight such clubs just ten years ago. There should be such clubs in and around every metropolitan area in the U.S. – I once calculated we should easily be able to accommodate 500 such clubs.

Pro Tip Blog: Pioneering the Backhand Banana Flick with Petr Korbel
Here’s the article, with link to video (6:28), from MH Table Tennis.

How to Return Spin Serves
Here’s the article, with links to video, from PingPoolShark.

Ask the Coach
Here’s the page where PingSkills has answered 24 more questions just since Friday!

Playing in High Altitudes
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. (Note that Las Vegas is high altitude at 2000 feet above sea level.) 

Practice Table Tennis Drills Alone: Without the Table
Here’s the video (7:26) by EmRatThich.

Ma Long Serve Technique
Here’s the video (10:03).

Ma Long Reflects On Losing First Match In 5 Years!
Here’s the article with links to video. (It was his first loss to a non-Chinese player in five years.)

NYISC Hold Successful ITTF Coaching Course
Here’s the article of the course taught by Sydney Christophe.

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They were held in Wuxi, China, April 9-16.

Teen Sensation Challenges China's Table Tennis Dominance
Here’s the article on Miu Hirano of Japan winning Women’s Singles at the Asian Games, ending China’s long-time dominance.

Westchester TTC Presents “Chip and Gus”
Here’s info on this table tennis play to be held at the Westchester TTC in New York on Friday, April 28. “Chip and Gus, oddball acquaintances meet once a month in the back room of a rundown bar to play ping pong.  But on this funny, smart, sad, and surprising night, something will change their relationship forever.”

ITTF Working Group discusses strategies to promote full participation of all member nations in World Championships
Here’s the ITTF article.

RIP: Jack “Buddy” Melamed, June 27, 1928 - April 13, 2017
Here’s the obit of this long-time table tennis player and promoter.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter four! Or order your own print copies at, as well as Volume 19!

Now That’s a Backhand!
Here’s the video (25 sec) – it happens so fast that you have to see it in slow motion to verify it actually hit.

World Mini Pingpong Festival
Here’s the video (1:41).

Smack Your Sidespin Serve
Here’s the video (20 sec) of Allen Wang pulling off this trick shot.

Trick Shot Rally
Here’s the video (35 sec) as the player (apparently using sandpaper) does behind-the-back shots, alternates hands, and lobs/chops while sitting on floor.

Happy Girls on Table
Here’s the picture from Samson Dubina. “Cloudy with a chance of Nittaku Premiums.” (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Arizona Closed: No Snow-Trees Allowed
Here’s the cartoon! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

April 17, 2017

Happy Pong Easter!!! Local schools are closed today for Easter Monday, and so I’m off too. (Not really – I still have 3.5 hours of coaching tonight, and a bunch of USATT work, alas. I do need the break – I was at the club 12.5 hours yesterday, coaching and doing other work, and about eight hours on Saturday.) But here’s the Tip of the Week, Serving to the Backhand Flipper. (This is similar to a Tip I did a few years ago, but with a different perspective and expanded.) And in case you missed it in the "Animals Pong" listing on Friday (under "Beagle"), here's Snoopy playing table tennis

April 14, 2017

Interview with Larry Hodges – and the Best Tip Ever!
USATT is featuring my interview from yesterday

MDTTC Spring Break Camp Days Four and Five
Here’s the official group picture! Today’s the final day of the camp. Much of yesterday's focus in my group was serve and receive. I confess I still get a kick out of watching a new kid's eyes go wide when I demo the various spin serves. After explaining and demoing the serves, they went out on the tables to practice their serves.

Best part? When we called break, one kid stayed and practiced serves the entire 20 minutes. The highlight? I had introduced the exercise where you try serving a high backspin that bounces back over the net. The kid was very excited when he served his first one! Then he worked on serving it lower, with the goal of getting the ball to bounce back into the net. Soon there was a small collection of balls there.

There was a bit of excitement in the air all day, and for a good reason. In the morning I'd announced that on Friday we would be playing the "Candy Game." At 12:15 PM today (Friday) I'll be putting a huge stack of Jolly Ranchers and Hershey Kisses on the end of a table, and the kids will line up, three shots each, taking turns trying to knock them off as I feed multiball. Anything they knock off, they get to keep! (Trade-ins are allowed, so they can trade what they knock off for different flavors or candy types.) We’ll do this for about 30 minutes. So there was an extra focus on accurate shots yesterday! I think this might be the key to developing a new generation of players to challenge the Chinese.

Today’s focus, in addition to winning lots of candy, will be pushing and smashing – two extremes.

USATT Coaching Committee
I was recently appointed to chair the USATT Coaching Chair, my second tenure. However, I can't really do much until my nominations for the rest of the coaching committee are approved. We have a USATT Board meeting in the Bay Area in California next weekend where they'll vote on this. I'm not going to go public yet with my nominees - I'll announce them after the vote. 

Once they are approved, some things I want to focus on are 1) Recruiting and training professional coaches to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs. 2) Coaching seminars at the Nationals and Open; 3) Updating the USATT coaching certification process; 4) Communicating with our current coaches - in particular, asking them what USATT can do for them, given USATT's limited resources. Any other suggestions? (Addendum, added Sunday morning - I blogged more at length on my plans on March 17.)

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16.

Fan Zhendong Forehand Loop kill Technique
Here’s the video (4:51).

Featured Table Tennis Questions
Here’s the page from PingSkills. (I’m going to start linking to these as they come up.) Here’s a separate video from them, Physical Warm Up (7:38).

Amazing Rally Between Pistej and Storf
Here’s the video (24 sec).

Ping Pong Movie: “I’m Number One”
Here’s the video (8:50). In Vietnamese with English subtitles.

Sofia Polcanova . . . Balancing-on-a-Board Pong?
Here’s the video (11 sec)!

These Guys Are Using PORSCHE GT3 As A Ping Pong Table!
Here’s the video (17 sec)!

Grandma Trick Shots: “Ball is Life!”
Here’s the video (92 sec)!

What Type of Table and Net is This???
Here’s the picture!

Animal Pong
Let's have a little fun today. So . . . what are the best animal table tennis players? And the worst? Let's go to the videos! (Comment below if you have a link to any animals I missed below.) 

Send us your own coaching news!

April 13, 2017

MDTTC Spring Break Camp, Day Three
Yesterday the focus was on honing the forehand and backhand strokes, and footwork. I did a lot of multi-player multiball drills, where I'd work with two or more players at a time. Here are some of the drills we did. (All of the players I worked with were righties.) 

Two players: The Multi-Player Side-to-Side Drill. The A player would stand in the forehand corner, the B player in the backhand corner but a step back. The A player hit a forehand, moved to the backhand side, hit a backhand, moved back to the forehand side, hit a forehand, then step back. Then the B player would do the same, going backhand, forehand, backhand, step back. Then repeat. It's continuous, with me feeding the balls side to side. Halfway through the drill I'd have them switch sides. (If the players are complete beginners, then they just stand in separate corners and practice forehands or backhands.)

Two or more players: Circling Drill. Players lined up on the backhand side, and hit three forehands, one from the backhand side, one from the middle, one from the forehand side, and then circle back to the end of the line. Halfway through the drill they'd switch and line up on the forehand side, and hit forehands from forehand, middle, and backhand. Two other variations: Just two shots, a forehand from each corner, or a forehand and a backhand from the corner. Each drill should be done in each direction. (I did variations of these drills with five players.)

Two or more players: The 2-1 Drill. The players would line up by the backhand side. Each player would get three shots: backhand from the backhand side, forehand from the backhand side, and forehand from the forehand side, then circle around to the end of the line. Note that this drill, when done continuously, incorporates the three most common moves in table tennis – move to cover the wide forehand, move to cover the wide backhand, and step around forehand.

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16.

“The Bionic Man”
Here’s the video (1:47) from WJLA ABC News 8 last night, featuring Navin Kumar. That’s me in the video hitting with him throughout (bright blue shirt), and quoted one time. (This is Navin’s recording of the video; the online version from WJLA hasn’t gone up yet.)

Forehand Flick: Three Tips
Here’s the article and video (3:22). Note that “Flick” is the same as “Flip.”

USATT Insider
Here’s the new issue, which came out yesterday.

2017 NorCal Juniors League Mid-Season Report
Here’s the article.

Eight New Blue Badge International Umpires Announced
Here’s the ITTF press release. One of the new ones is USA’s Esther Aliotta.

The Beast is Back
A little multiball, anyone (46 sec)?

Why This Self-Made Millionaire Takes Meetings While Playing Ping Pong
Here’s the video (48 sec) from CNBC.

Somewhat Amusing Ping Pong Videos
They’ve been accumulating – time for some Spring Cleaning!

  • Popeye vs. Bluto (2:29) - the table tennis is from 0:18 to 1:14, then it switches to some sort of live concert, and finishes with a non-table tennis Tom and Jerry cartoon
  • Sardine Pong (7 sec) – it’s apparently ping-pong on a large sardine, though it looks more like a flattened whale.
  • Ping Pong Movie Preview (1:26) – involves a somewhat hilariously poorly animated ping-pong ball as these two go at it.
  • 3D Animation Robotic Table Tennis (25 sec) – two robots go at it.
  • South Park Pong (1:59) – some shooting involved! No sound.
  • Chipmunk Pong (52 sec) – I’m not sure if the high-pitched “chipmunk” voices of the two girls playing table tennis are from speeding up the video or helium.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 12, 2017

Interview with Larry Hodges – “The Best Table Tennis Tip…Ever”
Here’s the article and interview from Todd Lodziak at TableTennisCoach in England. I’m a bit embarrassed by it!

MDTTC Spring Break Camp
Yesterday was Day Two of our Spring Break Camp. I’m in charge of a group of seven players who are mostly beginners. The complication is their diversity - there are four boys who are all about 10-12 and about the same level; a girl about 8 who is a beginner; and two very young kids, a boy and girl, about ages 5 and 6, who struggle to hit the ball. During the multiball sessions I tend to break them into two groups, the four older boys and the other three, and go back and forth.

We’ve done a lot of work on forehand, backhand, and footwork so far. I started the younger ones on serves on the first day to give them a “head start,” and introduced the others to serving with spin yesterday. I was going to have them practice their serves, but was running out of time, so instead we had sort of a “fun” ten-minute session where they took turns trying to return my spin serves, while I called out where their return would be – “Lonely” meant to the left, where the box of balls were; “Thirsty” meant to the right, where the water fountain was; and “Net” meant the obvious. I think my favorite time in every camp is the first time I serve heavy backspin and make the ball come back into or even over the net, and see the look on the faces of the new kids, who are oohing and aahing at this witchcraft!

So today I’ll introduce them to serving these spins, starting by having them spin and catch the soccer-colored balls (so they can see the spin), and then have them try it at the table. I may introduce pushing as well, though I suspect that after practicing serves for a while they’ll want to do something more physical, like smashing. I did promise to show them how to smash high balls today, we’ll probably do that this morning.

After the camp I had two private coaching sessions. One was with Dolores, a new player who causes double-takes from long-time players due to her incredible resemblance to USATT Hall of Fame player Barbara Kaminsky from nearby Virginia. Twice already I’ve played gags on locals who know Barbara, convincing them that she was Barbara – the resemblance really is that close! But Dolores has a ways to go before she’ll have Barbara’s forehand, but we worked on it a lot, as well as backhand and pushing. Following that was a session with 11-year-old Jackson, where we focused on his gradual transition from mostly forehand hitting to mostly forehand looping, and on staying low.

USATT Announces Updates to League Ratings Processing
Here’s the USATT article. I’m happy it’s back in top form! There have been database problems that have led to a lot of time and effort by USATT to get things fixed, but hopefully all is working smoothly now. (I instigated and co-founded the system with Robert Mayer many years ago, which helped transform USA clubs from the then prevalent “winner stay on” systems to leagues. It processes more matches than the tournament rating system.)

Butterfly MDTTC April Open
My write-up, results, and pictures from my blog yesterday are now featured as both USATT and Butterfly news items. Congrats again to all those champions!

Push or Flick
Here’s the article and video (2:02) from PingSkills. (A “flick” and a “flip” are the same thing.)

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16. China just won Men’s and Women’s Teams over South Korea and Japan, respectively. Here’s the ITTF press release on that.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - March 2017
Here’s the video (8:14).

Table Tennis Club 4 Fun - Some Olympic Rallies!
Here’s the highlights video (3:49).

Samson Dubina – Back in Training
Here’s the video (5:21) as he comes back after a hand injury.

Upping the Speed for Fitness Sake
Here’s the video (41 sec) of Matt Hetherington in Training.

Pingsider | 90 Years of ITTF
Here’s the video (7:45).

Exhibition at Chinese Lantern Festival in Boca Raton
Here’s the video (51 sec) of Andrew Williams and 5-year-old son Shia do the exhibition.

Classic Old TT Picture from the Turn of the Century
Here’s the picture. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Boy and Monkey Pong
Here’s the animated video (21 sec) as the two go at it – with the Monkey doing a little multitasking. It’s reminiscent of this video (31 sec) where it’s a dog that’s multitasking!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 11, 2017

Butterfly MDTTC April Open
April 8-9, 2017 • Gaithersburg, MD
By Larry Hodges

Players from six states, DC, and Nigeria competed in our 3-star April Open at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, with over $2700 in cash prizes. I sent the results in on Sunday night; found a mistake on Monday morning and resent the new results at 9AM, and USATT still managed to process the tournament that day! So the rating results of both the 4-star Cary Cup from the week before the MDTTC Open went up on Monday at the USATT Tournament Ratings Page. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong.

The Open final between the lefty top-seeded Alex Ruichao Chen (2689 and a full-time coach at MDTTC) and second-seeded Azeez Jamiu (2609, former Nigerian star visiting New York) was a nail-biter at the end. Alex may have the best pure serve and forehand attack game in North America, but Azeez’s tricky serves, receives, and his own relentless looping gave Alex fits, especially at the start. Azeez went up 2-0 in games, but Alex came back. In the seventh, Alex led 9-4 and 10-7, and then it was 10-9, Alex serving. His serve went slightly long, Azeez looped it really, really wide to the left Alex’s backhand – and Alex stepped way, way around, and absolutely pulverized a crosscourt forehand counterloop for the winner!

Two things jumped out at me from this match. First was Alex’s serve and forehand loop attack. He’s absolutely relentless with this. Any return that goes long, no matter how wide or even aggressive is attacked with his forehand, meaning he’s racing about at about light speed – not easy for a guy who’s well over six feet tall. The other is how well Azeez mixed up his receive, often handcuffing Alex on those third-ball attacks. (If Alex gets hold of one while balanced, you won’t even see his loop – you’ll just hear the sound of it smashing into the table as it whizzes by.) Alex may have followed his serve with a loop over and over, but he was often forced to do so in awkward or off-balanced positions, forcing misses or counter-attacks to the other corner. Azeez is a master of varying his receive with last-minute changes of direction and hiding what he’s going to do until the last second, whether it’s a short or long push or a flip, or (if the ball’s the least bit long) a loop. There was a lot of short pushes, with both returning short serves back short as each looked for a ball to attack.

The Under 2400 event was an apparent 18th birthday present for Roy Key, who celebrating his birthday by romping through the event, winning his matches 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-1, 3-0, and 3-0. The scores in the semifinals and final were 4,7,5 and 7,7,8. Only Ping Li, a newly arrived senior player from China, way under-rated at 2102, got a game off him, losing in the quarterfinals at 7,2,-9,9. But don’t feel bad for Ping, as he won Under 2200, defeating local junior star William Huang in the final, 4,6,7. Ping’s big struggle was in the semifinals, where he defeated another junior star, George Li in a battle of Li’s and nines, at 9,-9,-9,9,9.

But in an historical oddity, we had an all non-junior semifinals in Under 2000, with Xinsheng Michael Huang defeating Mohamed Kamara in the finals at 9,5,-10,-3,4. Kamara had to battle with Kallista Liu in the semifinals, 6,-8,-7,6,4, while Huang had perhaps an even more difficult battle in his semifinals with Thomas Olausson, 9,-9,7,10. Most watched match of the event – Kallista’s closer-than-it looked win in the quarterfinals with 8-year-old Stanley Hsu, now rated 1674, at 9,10,8

Huang had less luck in Over 50, where he made it to the final before losing to Lixin Lang, -11,7,7,7. Huang likes sevens – in the semifinals he defeated Robert Lande at 7,7,7. In the other semifinals, in an effort to one-up him (and also a battle of pips-out penholder vs. chopper), Lang defeated Frederick Nicolas at 8,8,8.

Chase Womack, rated only 1381, matched to the Under 1800 title with ease, winning his matches 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0, 3-1, and 3-0. Think his rating will go up? In the final he triple-nined Arndt Plagge, 9,9,9. (There were a lot of triple scores like that this tournament.) In Under 1500, it was chopper/looper John Miller over Mahmoud Youssef in a titanic final against that seemed longer than a baseball game, 9,-8,7,-4,5. But Mahmoud, rated only 1108, would follow that by winning Under 1200, -10,9,6,6 over another chopper, 13-year-old Stephanie Zhang, -10,9,6,6. Perhaps Miller warmed him up?

In Under 15, it was second-seeded Spencer Chen’s relentless attacking over top-seeded George Li’s hyper-versatile game (looping, fishing, chop blocks, you name it), 6,6,9. In Under 12, Jackson Beaver was top seed with his new rating of 1752 after the Cary Cup, but showing no respect for ratings, Mu Du (age 8, 1389, but 1513 after this tournament) held on to win the title, 7,8,-5,-5,5.

I ran the tournament, but with great help from Mossa Barandao (who acted as assistant director – check out the ratings presentation he created at Pongmobile!) and Wen Hsu, as well as Referee Paul Kovac and Umpire Steven Yeh. Thanks also goes to sponsors Butterfly and the HW Global Foundation, to Omnipong tournament software, and to the real backbone of running a tournament – lots and lots of tape, paper clips, balls, pens, clipboards, and printing paper. 

Butterfly MDTTC April Open Results
Complete results at Omnipong. Click on names for pictures!
Open Singles – Final: Chen Ruichao d. Azeez Jamiu, -9,-5,8,10,-8,8,9; SF: Chen d. Jeffrey Zeng, def.; Jamiu d. Chen Bo Wen, 8,8,6,7; QF: Chen Ruichao d. Meshal Alduaig, 5,7,9; Zeng d. William Huang, 3,5,6; Chen Bo Wen d. Bojun Zhangliang, 7,9,13; Jamiu d. Roy Ke, -7,3,9,8.
Under 2400 – Final: Roy Ke d. Bojun Zhangliang, 7,7,8; SF: Ke d. George Li, 4,7,5; Zhangliang d. Meshal Alduaig, 7,4,10.
Under 2200 – Final: Ping Li d. William Huang, 4,6,7; SF: Li d. George Li, 9,-9,-9,9,9; Huang d. Tiffany Ke, -6,7,6,14.
Under 2000 – Final: Xinsheng Michael Huang d. Mohamed Kamara, 9,5,-10,-3,4; SF: Huang d. Thomas Alausson, 9,-9,7,10; Kamara d. Kallista Liu, 6,-8,-7,6,4.
Under 1800 – Final: Chase Womack d. Arnd Plagge, 9,9,9; SF: Womack d. Mu Du, 6,-6,9,4; Plagge d. Elliott Hamilton, 7,4,7.
Under 1500 – Final: John Miller d. Mahmoud Youssef, 9,-8,7,-4,5; SF: Miller d. Eugene Zhang, 3,2,1; Youssef d. Stephanie Zhang, 6,-8,5,10.
Under 1200 – Final: Mahmoud Youssef d. Stephanie Zhang, -10,9,6,6; SF: Youssef d. Matthew Dovel, 7,4,8; Zhang d. James Zhang, 3,9,-12,3.
Over 50 – Final: Lixin Lang d. Xinsheng Michael Huang, -11,7,7,7; SF: Lang d. Frederick Nicolas, 8,8,8; Huang d. Robert Lande, 7,7,7.
Under 15 – Final: Spencer Chen d. George Li, 6,6,9; SF: Chen d. Abbas Paryavi, 3,10,10; Li d. Bowen Zhang, 8,7,-10,6.
Under 12 – Final RR: 1st Mu Du, 3-0; 2nd Jackson Beaver, 2-1; 3rd Kay O’Hara, 1-2; 4th James Zhang, 0-3.

Online Registration for USA Nationals Now Open
Here’s the USA Nationals Page – enter now!!! They are in Las Vegas, July 3-8.

Seamaster 2017 ITTF-Asian Championships
Here’s the home page, with results, articles, photos, and video. They are taking place right now in Wuxi, China, April 9-16. Here’s a good match: Zhang Jike (CHN) vs Kang Wi Hun (PRK) (6:43).

Three Tips on How to Fix a Dented Ping Pong Ball
Here’s the article, with links to videos.

2017 TMS College Table Tennis National Championships
Yesterday I linked to their home page, with results, articles, and video. There are also lots of feature articles at the National Collegiate TTA’s page. It was held this past weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

'That' Ding Ning Serve in Slomo
Here’s the video (22 sec).

MArvelous LONG - Fan-made Trailer for Ma Long 2020
Here’s the video (1:59). “This is a fan-made trailer by @昰龙 (Sina Weibo). Ma Long is a big fan of Marvel and has a good collection of action figures of Iron Man and others. Inspired by the trailer of Iron Man 3, this clip tells about the story of Ma Long who starts his new journey to 2020 Olympic Games after achieving the full Grand Slam in 2016.”

Ping Pong The Animation - Kazama is a monster
Here’s the crazy video (2:46)!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 10, 2017

Tip of the Week
First Step to Blocking Well is Taking That First Step.

Tournament and Camp
I spent all day Saturday and Sunday running the 3-star Butterfly MDTTC April Open, assisted by Mossa Barandao. Here are complete results, care of Omnipong. I’ll write more about this tomorrow, but suffice to say I was there each morning at 8AM, finishing around 8PM on Saturday, and 5PM on Sunday – and then coaching for 1.5 hours. I was going to blog more about it this morning, but I’m running out of time – have to go coach at our MDTTC Spring Break Camp this morning, which is Mon-Fri this week, 10AM-6PM. Combined with the usual private coaching at night, it’s going to be a VERY busy week. (I ran out of time this morning, despite getting up at 6AM, because I had to fix some problems in the results for the tournament - technical problems - which I just managed to do before putting this up, and in a few minutes I'll be off to the club....)

USA Table Tennis Names Jörg Bitzigeio New High Performance Director
Here’s the USATT article and picture. “Bitzigeio was an integral part of the German Table Tennis Federation national team programs from 2005 – 2015, including serving as the Senior National Team Head Coach from 2006 – 2012. Under his guidance, German teams achieved unprecedented international success, including a bronze medal with the Women’s National Team at the 2010 ITTF World Team Championships.”

2017 TMS College Table Tennis National Championships
Here is the home page, with results, articles, and video. It was held this past weekend in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

The Perfect Stroke - Read about the 4 Elements!
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Separating Play and Practice
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Cadet Underdogs Rise to the Occasion at 2017 Australian Junior & Cadet Open
Here’s the ITTF article, which features USA’s Lavanya Maruthapandian.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
Here's chapter three! Or order your own print copies at, as well as Volume 19!

Five Years Ago: Table tennis Tiff Lands in Civil Court
Here’s the article, featuring table tennis coach Joel Mitchell – fighting for his club!

11th Annual Parkinson's Symposium – Navin Kumar Talks Table Tennis
Here’s his speech (4:52) Saturday in New Orleans, where he explains the benefits of table tennis for Parkinson’s. He does something I’ve always wanted to do – give a speech while bouncing a ball on a ping-pong paddle!

Ping-Pong Variations for Kids
Here’s the video (1:18).

Here’s the caricature of the 1971 Men’s World Champion and San Diego coach. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

The Three Stooges in Table Tennis Tussle
Here’s the video – link should take you to 2:24, where the table tennis video of the animated Three Stooges starts and runs for about three minutes.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 7, 2017

China and USA National Team Coaches
China just announced their new National Team Coaches Lineup:

  • Head Coach: Liu Guoliang
  • Men’s Team Head Coach: Qin Zhijian
  • Men’s Team Coaches: Liu Guozheng, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, Liu Heng, Ma Junfeng
  • Women’s Team Head Coach: Kong Linghui
  • Women’s Team Coaches: Xiao Zhan, Li Sun, Chen Bin, Zhang Qin, Huang Haicheng

As explained in the article, “Ma Long’s coach Qin Zhijian has been promoted to fill the role of Men’s Team Head Coach, with Liu Guoliang now overseeing the entire team. Meanwhile Xiao Zhan, Zhang Jike’s coach, has moved to the Women’s Team. The staff also sees the return of some familiar faces but in new roles. Ma Lin and Wang Hao are back in the national team, but now in the guise of coaches. Both will be looking to make their mark in this new chapter of their table tennis career.”

Much of this is a near who’s who of past championship players, as the previous generations works with the new – Liu Guoliang, Kong Linghui, Liu Guozheng, Wang Hao, Ma Lin, and others. Others were also top players, but are more notable and are being rewarded for their work with current top players, such as Qin Zhijian (Ma Long’s coach, but also 2001 World Mixed Doubles Champion and two-time semifinalist, and 2003 Men’s Doubles semifinalist with Ma Lin) and Xiao Zhan (Zhang Jike’s coach).  

USA does a similar thing. Here’s the listing of the USA National Team Coaches.

It too includes many past or current USA stars, such as Sean O’Neill, Han Xiao, Samson Dubina, Gao Jun, and Lily Yip. Unlike China (for obvious reasons), we bring in foreign stars as well, such as Stefan Feth (former German star), Teodor Gheorghe (former Romanian star), and a number of former Chinese stars.

Right now we’re between High Performance Directors – Cory, our previous one is still listed on the page, while a new one, who should be hired and announced soon, isn’t up yet. [BREAKING NEWS ON FRIDAY NIGHT - He's been hired!) Once we get the new HPD, hopefully he and the National coaches can work together so that (drum roll please!) soon we’ll, maybe, just maybe, start challenging some of those Chinese players. Our current group of cadet and junior stars is the best we’ve had in history (I’ve blogged about that a few times), and while it might be a bit much for them to start challenging the Chinese, at the least they have the potential to challenge everyone else, and then we can take a good, hard look at the Chinese.

I was one of the USA National Team Coaches for about ten years, mostly in the 1990s. (“National Team Coach” is different than being certified by USATT as a “National Coach,” which is a coaching level, but doesn’t mean you are one of the National Team Coaches. I’m certified as a USATT National Coach, but didn’t apply to be a National Team Coach.) Some of my best memories are coaching U.S. junior teams at international tournaments in Taiwan, Canada, Mexico, and around the USA. But sometimes the baton must be passed. I’m “only” 57, and yet, when I look over the listings above, I can’t help but notice that I’m older than any of the current eleven USA National Team Coaches except Teodor, and probably older than all the Chinese National Team Coaches. (Anyone know if any of them are older than me?) Besides, I'm busy enough with USATT, as a board member and recently appointed chair of the USATT coaching committee - lots of stuff in the planning stages right now!

Database of Colleges for TT People Initiative
Here’s the page. I filled it out – why not you? “The purpose of this form is keep track of college status of people involved in table tennis. This may not be entirely scientific but at least partially shows that table tennis not only helps players develop their physical capability but also mental aspect of their lives. If you are/were involved in Table Tennis - either have graduated, a current college student, or just got your admission for college, you are more than welcomed to fill the form. Please fill in the form only if you agree that we may use it to promoting the sport.”

2017 TMS College Table Tennis National Championships Day 1
Here is the livestreaming (2 tables) – the tournament begins today! Here's the results page.

How to Get More Speed and Spin on Your Forehand Topspin Attacks
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Forehand Topspin in an Awkward Position
Here’s the picture and notes by Eli Baraty. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

“Ask the Coach” from PingSkills
Here are 25 questions and answers.

Happy World Table Tennis Day Videos
I linked to eight of them in Thursday’s blog. Here are more.

2017 Butterfly Cary Cup: Bright Future for Triangle Table Tennis & Cary Cup
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

Ma Long Training with Zhang Jike
Here’s the video (10:17).

Ma Long Training with Yan An, Lin Gaoyuan, Joo se Huyk
Here’s the video (13:05).

Ma Long vs Ma Lin Chop Block Technique
Here’s the video (11:08).

Fan Zhendong Training at Age 11 in 2008
Here’s the video (5:03).

How to Make a Solo Mini-Table
Here’s the video (59 sec). Or you can just buy one.

Bench-Net Pong
Here’s the picture!

Hippo vs. Dog
Here’s the video (30 sec).

Snake Pong?
Here’s the video (4 sec) – yes, snakes can play!

Send us your own coaching news!

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