Larry Hodges's blog

April 6, 2017

Kids and Blocking
It always surprises me at how quickly kids pick up on blocking against loops, at least in a drill. But there’s a simple method I’ve found that leads to this. As soon as I explain that blocking is just like playing a video game, they go into “game mode,” and suddenly they are blocking champions! I can loop over and over and they’ll get nearly all of them back, even if their level is in the 500-1000 range. I can even get a little practice out of this.

But there are obvious weaknesses. They can’t really adjust to changing spins – if I suddenly throw a super-slow spinny one at them, they usually block off. If I loop very deep on the table, they get jammed and miss. And they aren’t yet in the habit of stepping to the ball, and so have trouble if my loop goes outside a roughly 18-inch wide zone.

A key here is to teach them, right from the start, that they should step to each ball, even if it’s a one-inch step. If you allow them to develop the habit of reaching for the ball, it becomes a habit that’s harder to break. Even if my loop goes to exactly the same spot twice in a row, they should assume they have to move, flexing their knees as I’m hitting my shot in preparation for moving. You should also teach them not to jam the table – arm’s length is about right – or they’ll always struggle with deep balls.

Related to this is that while blocking, they can’t help but see how the coach or practice partner is looping the ball. My loop is a bit ragged and stiff, with my elbow too bent. I warn students not to copy those aspects. It gets the job done, and is both consistent and (when I’m in position) pretty powerful. The key is that I do it the same every time, so the stroke, timing, and contact are consistent, leading to a consistent shot. When I introduce players to looping, or loop to their blocks, I often look about to see if one of our top players or coaches is looping so they can get a visual image of what a smoother and looser loop looks like. On the other hand, despite its deficiencies, students quickly pick up on the idea that when looping, if you can touch it, you can loop it over and over almost without miss, since that’s something I can do, as can most top players – and so they come to think of that as the norm they should aspire to.

World Table Tennis Day: Celebrations in Full Swing
Here’s the ITTF article, and here’s the ITTF video (73 sec). Yep, it’s today! “The idea behind this day is to gather Table Tennis enthusiasts, attract people who usually don’t play table tennis, promote the love for our sport, and ideally engage new players to the practice in the long term. I can’t wait for the entire world to play table tennis on 6 April.” –ITTF President Thomas Weikert. Here are more links.

Understand Your Mistakes
Here’s the article by Carl Hardin.

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

Top Five Unique Services in Ping Pong
Here’s the video (2:13).

Jun Mizutani Training Serve | WTTC 2015 Suzhou
Here’s the video (22:46). It’s from the 2015 Worlds, but the video just went up.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge – Interview With Ed Hogshead
Here’s the interview by Barbara Wei.

Youth Excel at NJTTC Hopes Regional Camp and Trial
Here’s the USATT article.

College TT: Table Tennis Set for Nationals
Here’s the article featuring Western University in Ontario, Canada.

When Your Flight is Delayed at the Airport and It’s World Table Tennis Day
Here’s video (16 sec) of Matt Hetherington this morning when his flight was delayed five hours, but it was World Table Tennis Day. Here are some other airport videos!

  • Here’s video (2:47) of how a group of MDTTC junior players and I spent our time at the airport when our flight was delayed in 2012 .
  • Here’s video (4:20) of college players at the airport in 2010.
  • Here’s video (3:24) of college players at the airport in 2007.

Ping Pong Rabbit
Here’s the trailer (65 sec) for “Ping Pong Rabbit,” an animated movie currently being filmed here in the U.S.! “‘Ping Pong Rabbit’ tells the story of a young country rabbit who loves playing ping pong. Big city ping pong turns out to be a rougher game though, and he must battle evil monkeys to save the soul of the game. From the co-director of ‘Corpse Bride.’”

Jerry Seinfeld on Tennis and Playing Table Tennis
Here’s the video – link should take you to 46 sec in. "Tennis is basically ping-pong where you're standing on the table." Here are three clips of Seinfeld playing table tennis in a Microsoft ad – Bill Gates is in the video as well.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 5, 2017

The Three Types of People and Long Pips
This past weekend at the Cary Cup Open in North Carolina, one of my students, just-turned-11 Jackson (that’s his first name) went in rated 1416, but pulled off a series of upsets, including a win over a 1939 player with long pips on one side. There’s an interesting story behind this.

About a month ago I’d watched him lose a practice match to a 1500 chopper with long pips. In our next session, I pointed out that throughout the match, he’d served and just stood in the middle of the table, waiting to see what return he’d get. Since most of the returns came to his backhand, he mostly followed up with soft backhands, and so both lost his serve advantage and took his strong forehand out of play. I explained that when you play a chopper (or most players with long pips on the backhand who receive defensively), you essentially get one “free shot” off your serve. (This assumes the chopper is willing to chop your serve back.) So I pulled out my chopping racket (with long pips) and had him practice against it, where he’d serve and follow almost exclusively with his forehand. He picked up on this pretty fast.

I also explained to him that there are three types of players in this world:

  1. Those who like to serve no-spin to long pips, so they get no-spin returns to attack.
  2. Those who like to serve backspin to long pips, so they get a light topspin return to attack.
  3. Those who like to serve light topspin to long pips, so they get a light backspin return to attack.

Now the above isn’t an exact thing – a good long pips player can often brush against a backspin serve enough so their return isn’t topspin, but at most it’s a no-spin or very light backspin. They can rush you by taking the ball quick off the bounce. And of course they don’t have to just push or chop the serve back. But many do, and the above is a general synopsis of the possibilities. Jackson liked #1, and that’s what he practiced against me, and that’s what he did down at the Cary Cup against the 1939 player.

I’m mostly a #3, since I love it when I get that light backspin that I can jump all over with a loop kill. When I serve no-spin or backspin, the no-spin or light topspin return seems to jump at me (since I’m more used to reacting to inverted returns), and I find it easier to time my shot if the return instead has a light backspin. But I throw all three variations at long pips, while favoring the light topspin. Others should experiment with all three and find what works for them. (If you do serve backspin or no-spin and get passive returns, you should be able to loop these right at the top of the bounce, so the opponent has little time to react to a wide-angled shot or one at their playing elbow.)

What’s most important is to understand that the concept above isn’t really about long pips or what to serve to them, though it has helpful hints on this. What is it primarily about? There are three types of players in this world:

  1. Those who think the above is primarily about how to serve against long pips.
  2. Those who rushed through the above and really have no idea what it’s about.
  3. Those who understand that the above is primarily about understanding and taking advantage of any situation in table tennis – and uses serving to long pips as an example.

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC April Open
If you are in the Maryland region, then why not enter the MDTTC April Open I’m running this weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg? Here is our tournament page and here is the entry form. You can also enter online at Omnipong. The ten events are (on Saturday, with prize money in all events): Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15, and (on Sunday): U1800, U1500, U1200, and Under 12. Deadline is 7PM on Friday.

Roger Federer: “"Staying the same means going backwards"
Here’s the video (1:41). There are more gems here in the 90 seconds he talks than many people learn in a lifetime. Here’s a recap - 11 pointers that'll win you an 11-point game!

  1. “I can’t stand it watching me throw rackets and embarrassing myself so I tried to change.”
  2. “It’s very important to move on.”
  3. “I think losses make you stronger. I think it’s important you learn from those mistakes and then you become better.”
  4. “A light goes up in your head, and you go like, ‘You know what? I think I now understand what I need to improve.’”
  5. “I always questioned myself in the best of times.”
  6. “What can I improve? What do I need to change?”
  7. “If you don’t do anything, or if you just do the same thing over and over again, you stay the same, and staying the same means going backwards.”
  8. “It’s important for me to actually hear criticism because I think that’s what makes me a better player.”
  9. ‘If you never set goals, you can never question yourself.”
  10. “When things are going great, what more can I do? How much better can I become? How much harder can I train?”
  11. “All I can do is give my best and then it’s going to be fine.”

Backhand Technique for Beginners – Push and Drive
Here’s the article with links to video from PingPoolShark.

Slump...How do I GET OUT of a slump?
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Inaugural Teams Day Coming to 2017 US Nationals
Here’s the USATT info page.

2017 World University Games – Want to Help Angela Guan?
Here’s the GoFundMe page where she’s trying to raise money to attend. “My name is Angela Guan, and I am a member of the US National Table Tennis team. I will be representing Team USA in the World Championships in Germany this May. In addition, I will be representing USA and UC Berkeley at the World University Games in Taiwan, which is a self-funded trip. I am looking for support for training and my trip to the World University Games. Please support me! Thank you very much! Go Team USA!”

Hoping to Return in Early June to Same Hall, Timo Boll and Petrissa Solja
Here’s the ITTF article.

The Best Defender EVER: Koji Matsushita, Extraterrestrial
Here’s the video (4:45) – some great chopping points!

7-Year-Old Dhatri Gundlapally in Action
Here’s the video (22 sec) – 345 forehands and 235 backhands in a row!

Bay Area Major League Baseball and Table Tennis
There are three new postings about the San Francisco Giant and Oakland A’s table tennis players in the Fremont TTC blog! I really wish Major League Baseball (and NFL and NBA?) would have a real table tennis championship. I’m betting on Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy, who I’ve coached and can verify is close to 1900 level. (He only spent one day at MDTTC a few years ago where he played practice matches, beating an 1808 player and getting to deuce one game with Nathan Hsu, who was about 2400 at the time.)

Why You Shouldn’t Sit on the Table
Here’s the repeating gif image (5 sec)!

The Truth About Table Tennis
Here it is!

Non-Table Tennis – “The Many Heads of Mr. Krup”
Even though my primary income is from table tennis coaching and writing, I still get a huge kick out of selling a science fiction story to a market, seeing my name on the cover, and getting a paycheck for it! (I wrote about this recently, when the cover image came out, but now the magazine is out.) It’s my 20th “cover story” in the science fiction & fantasy world, that other universe I attend when I’m not doing TT. (Here’s my bibliography there.) It’s a time travel story about (spoiler alert!) the world’s greatest female hunter/greatest hunter period (there’s some argument about that in the story), who is forced to hunt the ultimate game - herself! Sorry, no table tennis, though lots of kills! Space and Time will be on sale nationwide at Barnes and Noble.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 4, 2017

April Fools’ Blogs
I hope you enjoyed the groundbreaking exposé in my blog yesterday of the new techniques by the Swedes to beat the Chinese – edge serves, net receives, knuckle shots. Some of you may have noticed that although the blog was on April 3, it referred to events that took place on Saturday. April 1. The more attentive of you may have read the first letter of each line. If not, now’s your chance!!! And for the record, Jan-Ove Waldner does have an older brother sort of named Ake Waldner – his real name is Kjell-Åke Waldner, and he too was a top table tennis player.

Here are my past April Fools’ Day blogs, where the first letter of each line spells out this secret message.

Backspin/No-Spin Serves
On Sunday in our adult training session, for our last drill, I had the players practice their backspin/no-spin serve and attacks. I often have them do serve and attack where they serve backspin; now I had them mix up backspin and no-spin serves – or more precisely, “Heavy no-spin serves,” i.e. fake heavy backspin but serve with no-spin. When you serve heavy backspin, receivers may put the ball in the net, but more likely they will push it back heavy and low. If you fake backspin but serve no-spin, opponents will tend to pop it up and return it with less backspin (since they don’t have your backspin rebounding off their sponge). But they also are more likely to attack, if the read it properly. So when serving no-spin, players should tend to be more aggressive on the follow, while at the same time being prepared if the receiver attacks. If you serve the no-spin very low, then few players can attack this ball very aggressively, and so you still get to attack. Here’s my article on this, Those Dizzying No-Spin Serves.

The Smasher - Check out the tactics to beat this difficult opponent!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

How to Serve with Corkscrew Spin
Here’s the article and podcast (6:35) from Expert Table Tennis.

Zheng Chaoying Warm Up and Stretching Techniques for a Healthy Table Tennis Player Part 2
Here’s the ITTF article and video (25:14). Here’s Part 1 (16:49), which I previously posted.

2017 Butterfly Cary Cup: Kaden Xu Dominates Competition
Here’s the final article on the Cary Cup by Barbara Wei.

College Table Tennis: Table Tennis Titans Face More Battles in Wisconsin
Here’s the article by Andy Kanengiser.

Recognised Even Before Official Date, a Special Status for World Table Tennis Day
Here’s the ITTF article, which features Kanak Jha and Tahl Leibovitz.

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

Westchester March 2017 Open - Jishan Liang vs Kaden Xu
Here’s the video of the final (20:44).

Mini-Ice Hockey Pong
Here’s the video (21 sec)! I’m guessing the goalie has good defense.

Stephen Curry vs. Serena Williams in Table Tennis!
Here’s the video (91 sec) of the two going at it (and destroying a room) in the new Chase commercial.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 3, 2017

Tip of the Week
Coaching Tournament Matches.

How The Swedes Will Beat the Chinese Again
Ake Waldner visited MDTTC this past Saturday, spending the day watching our
players train. He is the brother of former Swedish superstar Jan-Ove Waldner, and was
recently named Head Coach of the Swedish National Men’s Team. Our players had some
interesting questions, of course. Sweden had battled with China for decades, with such
legendary players as Bengtsson, Persson, Appelgren, and of course Waldner.

First question, of course, was rather straightforward – how could Sweden, USA,
or any other team possibly beat China? I’ve always argued that if we use the same
orthodox techniques that make the Chinese so good, we’ll always be just a pale
likeness, with no chance of matching them.

Ake agreed with me! And it turns out the Swedes are working on new techniques,
practicing things that might allow them to beat the Chinese. Serve, receive, and
rallies – you have to win at all three, Ake said. The Swedish team had bought
into the new concepts, and have spent many countless hours preparing for their
likely showdown with the Chinese at the upcoming World Championships.

First, they’ve developed a revolutionary new serving technique. Ake demonstrated
over and over his ability to serve on the edge. He’d stand in his backhand side,
open his racket, and just tap the ball down the line. The ball would hit the edge and
lurch to the side, unreturnable unless you basically lobbed it up, an easy smash.

As if that weren’t enough, they had also developed new receive techniques,
pushing short balls back with a soft touch so they’d just teeter on the net, and then
roll over, unreturnable. The Chinese rely on these short serves to set up their crazy,
insane attacks. Now they’d be forced to serve long, and the Swedes would easily
loop those serves in for winners.

Finally, Ake showed me what they were doing to win actual rallies. The ITTF
ordained a few years ago that “unintentional” double-hits were now legal, though
of course there’s no way of judging that. The Swedish players had, amazingly,
learned to do double hits off their knuckles – crazy, unreturnable shots!

Anyway, we learned a lot from Ake Waldner during his day-long stay. He even
played a little with our very best juniors, though of course none of them were
ready for this non-stop barrage of edges, net dribbles, and double-hits. Basically,
it was a slaughter! I actually feel sort of sorry for the Chinese now – it’s too
late for them to copy these techniques or learn to play against them.

For what it’s worth, I think these new techniques will ruin the game. Isn’t the
object of the game is to win on real skill, not with silly tricks? Maybe I’m just
old-fashioned, and maybe this is the future of our sport. If it is, then I’m
likely to quit coaching. It just isn’t the same.

4-Star Cary Cup
It was held this past weekend in North Carolina. Here are links and two articles by Barbara Wei.  

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the new issue, with links to numerous coaching articles.

Forehand Technique for Beginners – Drive and Push
Here’s the article with links to video, from PingPoolShark.

Table Tennis Training: Ma Long Forehand Loop Against Heavy Backspin
Here’s the video (3:36). (Note – I put this up on Friday a few hours after I’d put up the blog, so I’m putting it up again here.)

Backhand Topspin Against Backspin: Ma Long Technique
Here’s the video (2:08).

New York Ignites World Table Tennis Day
Here’s the ITTF article, which features Kanak Jha, Tahl Leibovitz, ITTF President Thomas Weikert, and ITTF Director of Development Leandro Olvech.

Liu Guoliang Speaks Out on Liebherr World Championships Selections
Here’s the ITTF article.

2017 US Hopes Camp at ICC
Here’s the article and links.

College Table Tennis

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge - Jishan Liang Interview
Here’s the video (3:01).

Some Great Table Tennis Points
Here’s the highlights video (8:40).

“Table Tennis is playing chess while running a 100 meter Sprint”
Here’s the highlights music video (4:11).

Sidespin Through the Toilet Paper Tube
Here’s the video (25 sec)!

Multiball Gun Pong
Here’s the video (6 sec)!

Danny Williams Gets Hustled by Ping Pong Ringer
Here’s the article and video (1:51).

April Fools’ Jokes
These all came out on Saturday, April 1. Alas, I don’t blog on Saturdays, so I was unable to do an April Fools’ joke myself. April Fools!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 31, 2017

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC April Open and Coaching at Tournaments
I'm running the tournament next weekend (April 8-9) at the Maryland Table Tennis Center in Gaithersburg, MD. I hope to see many of you there! We've expanded our tournaments from last year, going to two days and three-star events, doubling the prize money, and going from seven to ten events. Here is our tournament page and here is the entry form. You can also enter online at Omnipong. The ten events are (on Saturday, with prize money in all events): Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, Over 50, and Under 15, and (on Sunday): U1800, U1500, U1200, and Under 12.

Some of you are playing a tournament this weekend. According to the USATT Tournament Page, there are four this weekend in the U.S.:

  • 4-star Butterfly Cary Cup in Morrisville, NC
  • 3-star DAC April Open in Davison, MI
  • 2-star NYISC April Over 40 Open in College Point, NY
  • 2-star Clearwater Spring Grand Open in Clearwater, FL

For these players, and for others in future tournaments, here is my article, Top Ten Ways to Play Your Best in a Tournament. Hope it helps! (Note – the following weekend there are ten USATT tournaments.)

But one thing that’s not on that list is having a match coach. What does a match coach do? He scouts out future opponents, prepares you for matches (often warming you up himself), gives last-minute tips before you go out to play, studies you and your opponent while you play, and coaches you between games and during timeouts, and (with the new ITTF coaching rule) at any time necessary, except when the ball is actually in play. This will be the topic of Monday’s Tip of the Week, “How to Be a Match Coach.”

How valuable is it having a match coach? It can make a huge difference - there's a reason essentially every top player in the U.S. (and around the world) has a coach at nearly all of their matches. However, to maximize this, the coach needs to be familiar with the player, and the player must have confidence in the coach. The last chapter of my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is about this. Here's an example from my November 29, 2016 blog - start with fourth paragraph under "North American Teams," which starts, "Does coaching make a difference? You better believe it!" A coach also should be able to teach the player to develop the habit of tactical thinking, a habit which will help them lifelong in table tennis and other endeavors as well. 

So if you are one of those happy souls playing in a tournament this weekend, or any future one, consider getting a match coach. Or perhaps arrange with a practice partner to coach each other – often one gets a better perspective by watching on the sidelines than the one actually playing. Often the smartest people don’t see things as well when they are actually playing, and can gain by having an outside observer.

Why I Coach Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty.

Table Tennis Training: Ma Long Forehand Loop Against Heavy Backspin
Here’s the video (3:36). 

2017 Butterfly Cary Cup Championship: Photo, Results & Live Stream
Here’s the Cary Cup Page! Follow the action all weekend from North Carolina from this 4-star tournament with 209 players.

USA Team Trials Videos
They are highlighting some of the best matches there on the USATT News Page, including Amy Wang vs. Rachel Sung, Adar Alguetti vs. Kanak Jha, and Crystal Wang vs. Rachel Yang. Or see the USATT Video Page, which includes the Team Trials and videos from past events.

Yet Another Comeback, on Home Soil Jörgen Persson Ready to Return
Here’s the ITTF article.

Jan Ove Waldner - Documentary
Here’s the video (58:49) – I’m not sure if this is new, but it’s dated March 22, 2017. It’s in Swedish, but you can pretty much follow what’s going on, from childhood on for the one often called the Greatest of All Time.

World Champs Top 10 Moments: Rowe Twins Triumph
Here’s the ITTF video (42 sec).

College Table Tennis: The Pong Potpourri
Here’s the article.

Retirement Community Teaches Ping Pong at Schools
Here’s the video (1:51)

A Little Paralympic Pong
Here’s the video (8 sec) – just another rally.

Curry, Serena Set to Square Off in Epic Ping-Pong Match
Here’s the article and 3 videos! So . . . are you Team Stephen or Team Serena?

Big Paddle, Big Ball?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Ollie and Quentin Table Tennis
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 30, 2017

USA Nationals Entry Form
While browsing around this morning I discovered that the entry form for the 2017 Supermicro USA Nationals was up. (Here’s a direct link to the print entry form.) This is the first I’d seen it – I printed it out and will go over it more closely later today. The tournament will be in Las Vegas, July 3-8 (Mon-Sat). (The hotel link still links to the U.S. Open hotel from December.)

There are a mind-boggling 97 events. Most are similar to last year’s Nationals. I did find some interesting items – for example, what appears to be Men’s and Women’s Singles are currently named simply “Hsing Family Foundation.” Presumably that’s a sponsor, but it probably should be “Hsing Family Foundation Men’s/Women’s Singles.” Beyond that are the usual events – Men’s & Women’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles; Junior, Cadet, and Mini-Cadet Team Trials (with the Cadets strangely listed differently as “Singles Team Trials”) for boys and girls; Under 10 and 21 & Under (also for boys and girls); numerous senior events, singles and doubles, ranging from Over 30 to Over 85; lots and lots of rating events, from U1000 to U2400, with the events from Under 2000 down mostly divided into Adult and Juniors categories, plus U4200 and U3200 Doubles; ten Hardbat and two Sandpaper events (Open and U1700); five Paralympic events; and something new, on Saturday, the last day - Junior and Adult Teams!

So what’s this about Team Events at the Nationals? We’ve had Junior Teams before, and there are both Boys’ and Girls’ Teams. But the Adults Teams is new. From the last page of the entry form:

Nationals Team Day

Saturday, July 8 2017

New – Adult Teams. Teams of 2-4 adult players. Teams must have matching uniform colors!

Teams will be divided into divisions of 8 teams. Limit of 80 teams (10 divisions).

Round Robin team play in two groups of four teams. Winners of each group will play for division championship.

Teams will be seeded by combined player rating of the team’s top-two players.

All team matches played in Corbillion [sic] Cup format (2 singles/1 doubles/2 singles).

Players must be 18 or older.

While I’ll be busy coaching, attending meetings (USATT Board, Coaching Committee, Hall of Fame Banquet), selling my table tennis books, taking on clipboard challenge matches, and probably running a coaching seminar, I’ll still find time for a few events. I’m playing Over 50 Men’s Doubles and Hardbat Doubles with Ty Hoff (so don’t even bother entering those events!), plus I’ll likely enter Over 40 Hardbat Singles. (I normally use sponge, but have won a number of hardbat titles at the Nationals and Open – Hardbat Singles twice, Over 40 Hardbat Singles four times, Over 50 Hardbat Doubles twice, and Hardbat Doubles 13 times (!) – nine of them with Ty.)

So now’s the time to start planning to spend July 3-8 in Las Vegas, playing, spectating, browsing the many equipment vendors, meeting old and new friends - plus, I'm told, there are other things to do in Las Vegas. Hope to see you there!

Videos from the USA Team Trials
Here’s the USATT Video Page, which includes the Team Trials and videos from past events.

China Confirms Players for the 2017 World Championship
Here’s the article and listing. Once again they are pairing up with non-Chinese in some of the doubles events, including Ma Long with Timo Boll (see below). The main surprise in the team listing is the #5 player on the Chinese Men’s Team is Lin Gaoyuan (world #49), not Fang Bo (world #10 and Men’s Singles Finalist at the last Worlds). The top four men on the Chinese team are also the top four men in the world – Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Xu Xin, and Zhang Jike.

Together Again: Timo Boll and Ma Long
Here’s the ITTF article.

ITTF Headquarters in Lausanne
Here’s the video (2:23) – “Take a walk with us inside the International Table Tennis Federation Headquarters in Lausanne!”

Lance's 'Lincoln Table Tennis' Journal
Here’s the local news video (4:03) featuring the Lincoln TTA in Nebraska.

Outrageous No Look Chopping Skills by Stephane Ouaiche
Here’s the video (69 sec)!

Winter Pong?
Here’s the video (82 sec).

School Table Tennis in Germany?
Here’s the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 29, 2017

Tip of the Week
Serve and Forehand Loop.

Pre-Tournament Preparation
One of the kids I coached last night is preparing to play in the 4-star Cary Cup Open this weekend. I had gone into the session preparing to really work on his looping game, both forehand and backhand. However, he was noticeably glum about this, and admitted he didn’t think he’d be looping much in rallies at the Cary Cup, that he’d mostly be looping against backspin and then hitting.

Now I could have said, “No, you have to think long-term and focus on looping more,” or the opposite, “Sure, we’ll forget about looping and worry about developing that later on.” Instead, I did something in between. I pulled out an invisible piece of paper, and wrote with invisible ink with an invisible pen the invisible words, “After the Cary Cup, I will focus on looping in rallies.” I then pricked his finger with an invisible pin, and he signed the agreement with invisible blood. And so we spent the session preparing him for the Cary Cup – looping backspin, then hitting, as well as serves, receive, and other shots. Next week we’ll focus on looping in rallies – and I’ll wave that invisible paper at him if necessary.

I also made him promise to practice his serves the day before the Cary Cup. This is one of the biggest mistakes players make, showing up at a tournament where they haven’t been practicing the shot they’ll be using at the start of half the rallies, the serve, and so end up serving mostly to just get the ball in play. Often they don’t even realize how much they are losing because their serves aren’t as low, as fast, as spinny, or as varied as they could be.

I also made him promise to arrange in advance who he would warm up with on Saturday morning at the tournament. It’s another common mistake players make, where they prepare all aspects of their game for the tournament (except often their serves – see above), and then show up and randomly hope to find someone good to warm up with. Top players almost always arrange in advance who and when they will warm up with in the morning. Those who aspire to not play their best don’t.

How to Improve the Placement of Your Attacks
Here’s the article from Tom Lodziak.

Mobile Multiball
Here’s the video (50 sec) – I may have to try this! We do so much multiball, but it’s almost all from the same spot.

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

Premier University, Texas Wesleyan the Ideal Venue
Here’s the ITTF article.

Keep Your Eyes on the Ball
Here’s the highlights video (66 sec)!

Alex Piech Competing in the 2017 Winter Classic
Here’s the video (1:54), set to music, of the 7-year-old on his way to getting second place in his bracket!

Table Tennis Philippines vs France
Here’s the video (3:40) – but what makes this interesting is the exhibition antics of the two players!

Crazy Cat Pong!
Here’s the video (39 sec) from the fifties of a cat that really could rally! (I may have linked to this long ago.)

Crazy Table Tennis Movie!
Here’s the video (4:40) – I think it’s in Chinese, with someone apparently translating it into another Asian language, but you can follow much of the strange table tennis battle.

Crazy Chinese Pong!
Here’s video (1:47) as Chinese team members do exhibitions and rally with fans, including sit-down pong, “triples,” and around-the-table.

Monty Pong
Here are two cartoons, care of Marv Anderson.

Non-Table Tennis – Space and Time Magazine Now Out!
The new issue of Space and Time Magazine is out, with my cover story “The Many Heads of Mr. Krup.” It’s my 20th “cover story” in the science fiction & fantasy world, that other universe I attend when I’m not doing TT. (Here’s my bibliography there.) It’s a time travel story about (spoiler alert!) the world’s greatest female hunter/greatest hunter period (there’s some argument about that in the story), who is forced to hunt the ultimate game - herself! Sorry, no table tennis, though lots of kills! Space and Time will be on sale nationwide at Barnes and Noble.

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March 28, 2017

Stomach Queasiness and the Tip of the Week
For the second day in a row I woke up to what feels like the World Table Tennis Championships going on in my stomach. I’m guessing it’s some sort of stomach virus, or some sort of cold or flu, or perhaps I swallowed a gross of ping-pong balls or something. Symptoms are extreme stomach queasiness and discomfort; runny nose; extreme exhaustion; and an extreme compulsion to lie down for a few years. I started writing the Tip of the Week (Serve and Forehand Loop), but I think I’ll finish that tomorrow. I did manage to get through 3.5 hours of coaching yesterday, despite exhaustion, helped out by one player having to cancel (I had 4.5 hours scheduled). Tonight I only have two. (My current schedule: Sun 8.5 hours; Mon 4.5 hours; Tue 2 hours; Wed 2 hours; Thu & Fri off - writing days; Sat 5-7 hours.) 

Some of this might have been brought on by recent very bad sleep habits. I generally go to bed sometime between midnight and 1AM, and up at 7AM, but recently I’ve been up until 3AM, and still getting up at 7AM as that’s when I keep waking up – probably because the sun is up. Last night I went to bed at 9:30PM, and got up at 7:30AM – ten hours! – something I never do except when I’m sick or completely exhausted.

USA National Team Trials
They were held at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina this past weekend, Thur-Sun. Here’s the USA Team Trials page for the event, with results, articles, and video. I was going to blog about this, but I think the articles by Matt give a pretty good picture.

New Articles from Samson Dubina

The Ten Commandments of Table Tennis Serves
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Backhand Topspin - Chinese Coach Learn
Here’s the video (5:48).

How to Serve Short with Side Spin in Table Tennis
Here’s the video (7:53) from EmRatThich Table Tennis Coach.

Essential Warm Up and Stretching Techniques for a Healthy Table Tennis Player Part 1
Here’s the ITTF video (16:49).

New World Ranking Scheme; Effective from January 2018
Here’s the ITTF article.

Women's Teams Bring Star Power to National Championships in Wisconsin
Here’s the NCTTA article.

Tribute to Kunal Chodri
Here’s the video (63 sec) of the new USA Team Member.

Incredible Rally at the ITTF World Junior Championships!
Here’s the video (46 sec) featuring USA’s Kanak Jha and Argentina’s Horacio Cifuentes.

Bill Gates Receives Signed Oversized Paddle
Here’s the picture of the gift he receives from Peking University students in Beijing. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Dining Room Table Folds Out into Full-Sized Ping-Pong Table
Here’s the video (46 sec).

Chinese Park Pong
Here are videos of Scott Preiss (57 sec, there will be lobs) and son Austin Preiss (44 sec) playing locals in a park in China.

Coach Max Between the Paddles
Here’s the repeating video (5 sec) as Indian Coach Massimo “Max” Costantini (formerly USA and Italian coach) sidespins loops between the paddles.

Awesome Japanese Skills in Ping Pong 3
Here’s the video (2:19).

Look Back on a Hilarious Year of Ask A Pro Anything with Adam Bobrow
Here’s the video (32 sec).

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March 27, 2017

Alas, I woke up this morning feeling sick to my stomach. So I think I need to take a sick day - or at least a sick morning. I have 4.5 hours of coaching scheduled today (3:30-8:00), and I'm determined to make that somehow. (The nice thing about coaching is that you can stay ten feet away from your student.) But I'm probably going to spend most of the day in bed, and see how things are this afternoon. (I don't think I have a fever, but I'll take my temperature later today.) I'll be back tomorrow. While I'm gone, you can browse over the results, articles, and videos at the USA Team Trials page - they were held this past weekend. 

March 24, 2017

USA National Team Trials
They had the preliminary qualifier yesterday, with the main Trials today through Sunday. Tournament is at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina. Below are links. Livestreaming  starts at noon today, Eastern time. I wish I were there!

USATT Team Funding Week
USATT has a funding page, Friends with Paddles, where you can “directly fund USATT’s National Team programming, including coaching, travel, training, participation in international tournaments, and direct athlete support.” Over the course of a year, funding comes in gradually, and it really helps. But we’re always short of funding.

I’m thinking of creating a “USATT Team Funding Week.” This would be an annual event where we direct all our efforts into raising funds for USA Teams. We’d solicit funding via all the media outlets and connections USATT has - USATT Insider, USATT News Page, direct email, USATT clubs, and ask regular table tennis bloggers everywhere to join in. We’d also ask “celebrity” members and contacts to help spread the word. This would dramatically raise awareness of the event. We’d also publish the names of the donors (unless anonymity is requested), and donors might receive some sort of USATT memorabilia (as they do with Friends with Paddles). 

Once the week is over, rather than struggling to support our national team members with limited funding, maybe for once we’d be able to instead struggle to figure out how to best use all the extra funding? I’ll run the idea by the USATT CEO and the Resource Development Committee. Meanwhile, if you have any suggestions on this, comment below or email me.

Table Tennis Book Battles
I spent a bunch of time the last two days in a pair of “Book Battles.” First, I had to get the 25 chapters of Tim Boggan’s Volume 19 of History of U.S. Table Tennis into shape for online publication at USATT, as they’ve done with the previous 18. This involved taking one huge file - about 500MB at the start, 200MB after some reducing in Photoshop - and breaking it into 25 parts, and then having to go to about half of them in Photoshop to reduce them to under 10MB each, since the software USATT uses can’t handle anything larger for online publication.

Then I had another little battle with the cover of More Table Tennis Tips. Though it’s been on sale for over a week, I had only proofed it online. I finally got my copy yesterday, and decided that the cover picture of me was too dark, that it blended into the background. So I lightened it, and resubmitted to, where I publish most of my books. (The front and back covers, as well as the spine in between, are submitted as one wide file.) When I got the digital proofs this morning, the front cover was fine, but for some reason the bar code on the back cover, which places, cover slightly overlapped the text. So I moved some of the text away from that, and resubmitted it again this morning. If all goes well, it’ll be finalized later today. (If you buy a copy now, it won’t go out until the new version is ready, so no need to wait. If you already have a copy, don’t worry, the only change is my picture on the cover is slightly lighter. UPDATE: New version went live at 7:40 PM Friday.)

Meanwhile, More Table Tennis Tips just got its first Amazon review:

"A very nice collection of tips that famed table tennis coach Larry Hodges has included in his blog postings over the past 3 years. Aimed at the intermediate and up player (or perhaps a rapidly advancing advanced beginner), it doesn't focus on the mechanics of the basic table tennis strokes, but instead how to improve your play generally. It ranges from tactics within points (sections on serve, receive, rally tactics) to more general game strategies and even how to do things like developing practice partners or what to do when you're playing in an unfamiliar tournament. It'a an invaluable supplement to table tennis lessons which tend to concentrate on stroke improvement but not on what you should do with your newly improved strokes! This is a stand-along volume - my favorite of his earlier books is his 'Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers'."

Dimitrij Ovtcharov Unhappy with New ITTF World Ranking System
Here’s the article from Table Tennis Daily. As he points out, with this new system (partially based on the tennis system), Timo Boll (for example) would drop from #12 to #44 in the world, and #6 in Germany, neither of which makes sense.  The change is meant to encourage more activity, but when the results don’t make sense, you should go back and make adjustments.

How to Smash
Here’s the article from Pingpoolshark, with links to five videos.

Short Ball Then Loop
Here’s the video (53 sec).

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association Articles

Maccabi USA Announces the Paralympic Table Tennis Athlete for the 20th World Maccabiah Games
Here’s the article - Congrats to Tahl Leibovitz.

William Henzell; Athlete to Academic
Here’s the article from the ITTF.

Integrity after a Bad Call?
Here’s the Facebook posting, and here’s a direct link to the start of the very nice point in question (at 5:21), at 8-10 in the fifth. Make sure to watch the next point. (The return was clearly a side, though it's a tough call from where the umpire was sitting.) 

Ma Long Backhand Against a Chopper
Here’s the video (62 sec).

Ping-Pong for Charity
Here’s the new video (31 sec) from the Table Tennis Charity Foundation.

World Champs Top 10 Moments: Xu Xin & Yang Haeun Win Gold
Here’s the video (54 sec) from the ITTF.

Rockies Ping Pong Tournament Gets Heated with Heavy Action on Vinny Castilla
Here’s the article and video (1:35)!

Some Serious Doubles
Kids vs. Seniors! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

The Moon Table Tennis Olympics?
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Octopus Pong - in German?
Here’s the cartoon. My online translator says the caption is, “You've won again - 21 to zero. And now I have no more pleasure!” And since we’re on the topic of Octopus Pong, here are other Octopus links, from a previous blog. (The first one may be my favorite table tennis video ever!)

Non-Table Tennis - Cover of Space and Time Magazine
Here’s the cover for the upcoming Spring issue of Space and Time Magazine - look at that name on the cover!!! It’s my 20th “cover story” in the science fiction & fantasy world, that other universe I attend when I’m not doing TT. (Here’s my bibliography there.) My story, “The Many Heads of Mr. Krup,” is a time travel story about (spoiler alert!) the world’s greatest female hunter/greatest hunter period (there’s some argument about that in the story), who is forced to hunt the ultimate game - herself! Sorry, no table tennis, though lots of kills! Space and Time will be on sale nationwide at Barnes and Noble.

Send us your own coaching news!

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