Larry Hodges's blog

March 12, 2018

Tip of the Week
"Hot Anger" versus "Cold Anger."

Weekend Update - Coaching
In the Saturday Junior League & Camp (two hours, about 25 players), the focus was on serve and attack, and handling your opponent's attack. We had them play games where the server had to serve and attack (or counter-attack if the receiver attacked the serve), or he instantly lost the point. However, the receiver, if he won the point after the server attacked, won two points. It made things interesting!

In the Sunday Beginning Class (90 minutes, 15 players) - week nine out of ten this session - the focus was on serves, smashing, and smashing lobs. I was impressed with some of the kids who are really learning to spin their serves. Two kids were practicing serves on the same table, with one serving forehand pendulum serves from the backhand side, the other serving backhand serves from the forehand side, and since they often timed it so they served at the same time, it was interesting to watch their respective serves spin away from each other.

In the Sunday Talent program (28 players (two hours), I worked with a number of kids who are having trouble doing heavy backspin serves. I also worked with a number on forehand flipping, followed by rallying (with multiball). We also had contests to see who could do each drill the longest. Two girls who usually don't win these contests ended up winning the forehand-to-forehand footwork contest, to my great (but secret!) surprise. Hey, maybe they're getting better!

After the Talent program we had a big pizza party. The head coaches also spoke with the parents, giving player evaluations for each player. Then, when the pizza was gone, the kids (of course) went back out on the table to play various made-up games. I had come prepared - and brought out five mini-rackets (all surfaced with Tenergy), the huge Frankenpaddle, and an oversized 55mm ball! They, and many of the coaches, spent the next 90 minutes playing with them non-stop.

Weekend Update - History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 21
We've finished 22 chapters and 322 pages. Alas, a series of unfortunate time-wasting events took up much of Sunday morning, or we'd have done another two chapters. We'll try to catch up - we were hoping to finish the pages on Tuesday, and do all the corrections (Tim has a lot) on Wednesday. Most likely we'll now finish the pages on Wednesday, and then see how long it takes get the corrections done. Tim hopes to leave early Thursday morning.

Weekend Update - Shoulder
I've been dutifully seeing the physical therapist three times a week, and doing my daily shoulder stretching exercises, and the shoulder is a lot looser now - which is sort of like saying granite is softer than diamond. One thing - the therapy is more centered around loosening up the rock-tight muscles that surround the shoulder, which put great pressure on the shoulder and rotator cuff. I can now touch my back with my right arm for the first time since October. It's been years since I've been able to do it except after serious exercise that warms and loosens the shoulder up.

I haven't done any private coaching in a couple of weeks. My tentative plan is to do some sessions with beginners next Saturday. If that goes well, then I might try it with stronger players. But I don't want to re-injure it, so I'm toying with putting off private coaching with stronger players for a bit longer - just thinking about hitting with them makes my shoulder queasy!!!

2018 Seamaster Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, held this past weekend Doha, Qatar. Check out the results - especially for Men's Singles surprise finalist world #15 Hugo Calderano of Brazil!

Rule the Roost with the Right Rubber and Racket
Here's Table Tennis Tidbits # 12 by Robert Ho.

Simon Gauzy Training Short Game, Receive at World Cup
Here's the video (4:15) from Arnaud Scheen. 

China Team Needs to Watch Liam Pitchford
Here's the video (18:14) from EmRatThich on the world #53 English champion.

Top 10 Table Tennis Boys World Ranking
Here's the video (1:58) from Pong Universe.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 19
Here’s chapter 19 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Chapter 19 covers the 1993 U.S. Nationals.

Anna-Carin Ahlquist vs. Jan-Ove Waldner
Here's the video (3:48) as the Swedish wheelchair star takes on the "Greatest of All Time" - in a wheelchair!

Cartoon Funny-Faced Paddles
Here they are - lots of funny faces!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 9, 2018

USA's Best: Past, Present, and Future
Here's a quick look at our best in the past, present and future. Here goes - and if you aren't interested in our history, skip ahead to the Present and Future!


USA's best heyday was 1936-1938. USA had stars like Ruth Aarons, Jimmy McClure, Robert Blattner, and Sol Schiff. During that period they won the following titles at the World Championships:

  • Men's Teams: 1937
  • Women's Teams: 1937, finalist in 1936
  • Women's Singles: 1936, 1937 (Ruth Aarons both times)
  • Men's Doubles: 1936, 1937, 1938 (McClure/Blattner 1936-37, McClure/Schiff 1938)

Not a bad record!

There were no World Championships from 1940-1946 due to World War 2. And then Team USA returned almost as strong as before, with a whole new set of stars - Dick Miles, Marty Reisman, Lou Pagliaro, Mae Clouther, Reba Monness, and the sisters, Leah Thall Neuberger and Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer. Here are their results at the Worlds right after World War 2:

  • 1947: Finalist in Men's Teams, Finalist in Women's Doubles (Mae Clouther/Reba Monness), Semifinals in Men's Singles (Lou Pagliaro)
  • 1948: Mixed Doubles (Dick Miles/Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer)
  • 1949: Women's Teams, Semifinals in Men's Singles (Marty Reisman), Semifinals in Women's Singles (Thelma "Tybie" Thall Sommer)

Not a bad record!

So the "Golden Age" of USA Table Tennis was from 1936-1949, with that 1940-46 World War 2 gap. (Or call it two short "Golden Ages," 1936-1938 and 1947-1949.) But USA wasn't done - in the 1950s USA had a few last gasps:  

  • 1951: Semifinals in Women's Singles (Leah Thall Neuberger)
  • 1956: Mixed Doubles (Erwin Klein/ Leah Thall Neuberger)
  • 1959: Semifinals in Men's Singles (Dick Miles, led 2-1 in games and 12-8 in fourth)

So from 1936-1956, USA did the following at the World Championships - and note that we are 10-3 in finals!:

  • Men's Teams: 1937 (Finalist in 1947)
  • Women's Teams: 1937, 1949 (Finalist in 1936)
  • Men's Singles: Zilch
  • Women's Singles: 1936, 1937
  • Men's Doubles: 1936, 1937, 1938
  • Women's Doubles: (Finalist in 1947)
  • Mixed Doubles: 1948, 1956

And then, from 1960-2018 . . . Zilch. Nada. Nothing at the Worlds. And don't even ask about the Olympics, which included table tennis starting in 1988. (Note - we've won numerous titles at Disabled or Para events, but that's a separate issue.) We did have Eric Boggan reach #18 in the world in the early 1980s with wins over essentially all the top ten players in the world at some point, and Dan Seemiller also reached top 30 in the late 1970s. (Dan and brother Rick Seemiller reached the quarterfinals of Men's Doubles at the Worlds in 1977.) Wang Chen, formerly world #3 for China, reached the quarterfinals of Women's Singles at the 2008 Olympics. (I think Gao Jun reached the quarterfinals of Women's Singles while playing for USA one year, but not sure what year.) 

But there were two other more modern achievements that many forget.

In 1995, at the World Team Cup held in Atlanta, Team USA made it all the way to the semifinals with a series of upsets. Cheng Yinghua, Jimmy Butler, and David Zhuang pulled off upset after upset in doing so, with Cheng even defeating world #1 Jan-Ove Waldner. So as recently as 1995, Team USA made the Final Four at the World Team Cup. (But, as some would point out, Cheng and Zhuang developed their games in China before emigrating to the U.S.)

Just one year before, in 1994, another Team USA also caused an uproar at the King Kar City World Youth Cup Championships in Taiwan for players under age 18. China didn't play (because it was in Taiwan), but most of the best countries in the world attended. Team USA, made up of David Fernandez, Barney J. Reed, and Richard Lee, with a series of upsets, also made it all the way to the semifinals, upsetting powerful teams from Korea, Taiwan, and Sweden. (I was the team coach - it's an incredible memory coaching the team between games in front of 20,000 screaming fans.)

Former world #3 Gao Jun of China became a USA citizen in the 1990s and for a number of years she, Jasna Rather (previously from Romania and Yugoslavia), and Tawny Banh did pretty well in Women's Teams (and Gao in Singles) in events around the world. But other than that 1995 "Dream Team" and 1994 junior team, and a few Gao Jun-inspired scares in the 1990s/early 2000s, Team USA hasn't really threatened much since the 1950s. (Here's a complete listing of World Championship Medalists.)


Let's face it, our current USA Men's and Women's team aren't particularly great compared to the rest of the world. The men are ranked #38, the women #23. On the men's side, our #1 is Kanak Jha at #73, with no one else in the top 300. On the women's side, our #1 is Lily Zhang at #56, with no one else in the top 100 - but we do have Wu Yue (#113), Crystal Wang (#153) Angela Guan (#211), and Rachel & Grace Yang, sisters tied at #294. On any given day, our women's team can battle with most teams outside the top four or so, but they have a way to go before they are really threatening the best teams.

However - and that's a BIG however - did you notice that many of the players above are juniors, and still developing? That includes Kanak Jha, Crystal Wang, Angela Guan, and the Yang sisters. So let's take a look at the current junior rankings - and we'll now move to the. . . .


How many of you remember the days when USA would rave about having any kid ranked in the top 50 in the world? It didn't happen very often. And now - well, unless you've been hiding at a table tennis club practicing your serves and not checking the table tennis news, you probably know that USA's Kanak Jha is now World #1 in Under 18 Boys!!! That's a first. (Yes, there's a caveat - few of the top Chinese juniors are ranked, and of course the "best" junior in the world is 15-year-old Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, ranked #12 in the world in the Men's rankings, but he no longer competes in international junior events and so has no junior ranking.)

We also have a relatively new USATT High Performance Director, Jörg Bitzigeio, formerly a top coach from Germany, now dedicated full-time to working with our top players to turn USA back into the powerhouse it was from 1936-1949. He is in regular contact with our top players and juniors, and their coaches, working to focus them on developing world-class players who can battle with the best. He's also run trainings camps for them. (As the USATT Coaching Chair, I'm also working with him on developing a new USATT coaching education and certification system, but he's taking the lead in that.) Here are current world rankings for under 18 and under 15.

Under 18 Boys

  • Kanak Jha (USA), #1
  • Sharon Alguetti (USA), #29
  • Victor Liu (USA), #49
  • Jack Wang (USA), #78

Under 18 Girls

  • Amy Wang (USA), #11
  • Rachel Sung (USA), #46
  • Crystal Wang (USA), #48
  • Ishana Deb (USA), #78
  • Grace Yang (USA), #83

Under 15 Boys

  • Nikhil Kumar (USA), #4
  • Aditya Godhwani (USA), #112

Under 15 Girls

  • Rachel Sung (USA), #5
  • Tia Lynn Hsieh (USA), #50
  • Angie Tan (USA), #52
  • Lavanya Maruthapandian (USA), #64
  • Swathi Giri (USA), #65
  • Joanna Sung (USA), #111

Note that Amy Wang and Crystal Wang both just left the Cadet category, and have at least two more years in Under 18. At their highest in Cadet Girls, Amy was #3 and Crystal #2. Also, Swathi Giri, at #65 in Under 15 Girls, has at least two years left there, and last year was on the ITTF World Hopes Team, for the top four girls in the world ages 11-12.

There's a reason why USA has, in recent years, shown signs of coming out of its decades-long slumber (other than that short awakening in 1994-1995) - training centers!!! The Maryland Table Tennis Center (MDTTC) was the first successful full-time training center, opening in 1992. As recently as 2006 there were only eight such centers in the whole country. So of course few top juniors were being developed, and that, of course, is where top men and women come from. But now there are 93, and so of course there are more and more of these top juniors. And so Team USA is now highly competitive in world events, led by Kanak Jha and others listed above. Here's the Feb. 28 article by Matt Hetherington, TeamUSA Youth Capture Multiple Podium Successes in Sweden, showing just the latest successes.
I'm a coach at MDTTC, and we're doing our part, with great help from the HW Global Foundation, which runs our Talen Development Program. (The club is also sponsored by Butterfly, as am I.) Perhaps our brightest current star is Tiffany Ke, age 13, rated 2359, and #2 in Under 15 in the U.S., and #272 in the World - but with two years of eligibility left. (She's also #5 in Under 18 Girls in the U.S.) At the Nationals last year she did a clean "sweep," making the USA Under 12, Under 15, and Under 18 Girls' Teams. We have a number of others, but probably our brightest group is Under 10 Boys, where Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Andy Wu are ranked #1, #3, and #4 in the USA rankings. (Stanley and Mu both started out with me in my beginning table tennis class.) These three nine-year-olds play three very distinct styles - Stanley reminds me of a modernized Waldner; Mu Du plays like Ma Long; and Andy's a chopper/looper. (As of Dec. 31, we had 6 of the top 13 in 10 and Under Boys.)

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 21 - Update
After five slave-driven days, Tim (see "Tim 'Hulk' Boggan" segment at end) and I have done 15 chapters and 213 pages, plus the covers. Some of the chapters are relatively easy; others have taken half the day. There have been at least four individual pages that each took over an hour; one took two hours. We're mixing 21st century and 19th century techniques here - Tim cut and pasted every page with scissors and tape, and then Mal Anderson scanned the pages. Unfortunately, every scissor mark shows, there are smudges everywhere, and over half the columns aren't lined up, so I have to fix all these problems in Photoshop. And then Tim has zillions of changes, with lots of alternate photos to scan and stick in, and often having me move things around in Photoshop as if it were a word processor.

We worked from 7AM to 4:15PM yesterday (30 min lunch break), then I was off to the physical therapist, who worked on my shoulder for an hour. Then I taught my Thursday night Beginning Junior Class, 6:30-7:30PM. I didn't get home until after 8PM, and then my "real" work began. I won't bore you with a complete list, but I managed to go through my entire todo list (including writing this blog) - but I didn't finish until 2:15AM. I left a note for Tim alerting him to the fact that we'll be starting late this morning. (That "roar" you might hear around 5AM is Tim reading my note.)

If all goes well, we'll finish the pages on Tuesday, and do corrections on Wednesday, and then we'll be done, and I'll get to stop doing these crazy 7AM - midnight (or 2AM) workdays.

2018 Seamaster Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, March 8-11 on Doha, Qatar. Make sure to click on the news link!

A Simplified Approach to Returning Serves
Here's the article and video (7:58) from Tom Lodziak.

Sizing Up Your Opponents and Assigning Estimated Ratings
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

Translator: Learn to understand what he means...
Here's the article by Samson Dubina. "If someone says… 'I lost in the fifth'  - He means…  'I lost badly in the fifth.' (If it was close, he would have told you the score.)"

WAB Club Feature: New York International Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Tag a Mate: My “Win” Over Timo Boll
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

2018 English National Championships: How to Make it Better
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

USATT Insider
Here's the issue that came out Wednesday.

Italian Highlights Reel
Here's the video (3:35), which appears to be a top ten rallies from the Italian Championships.

Society 6 Home Décor Table Tennis Items
Here's the listing, with pictures!

Crazy Point with Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (20 sec)!

How an Olympian Opens a Water Bottle
Here's the video (12 sec) of Ilija Lupulesku!

Tim "Hulk" Boggan
Here's the image! Yes, that's Tim's face superimposed on The Hulk. (I did this a number of years ago, but thought this would be a good time to bring it out again.)

Send us your own coaching news!

March 8, 2018

Alas, between the long hours working with Tim Boggan on his latest History of U.S. Table Tennis volume, and catching up on things last night, I wasn't able to put together a blog for this morning - and now I'm due to go back to work with Tim. So no blog this morning. Back tomorrow with a nice feature blog, tentatively about the past, present, and future of our national level players. I'll leave you with this quote, which I said to Tim after finally finishing a page after spending an hour on it fixing up problems and making numerous changes to it: "Our short national nightmare is over. Let's start the next one." And here's two minutes and nineteen seconds of cats playing table tennis.

March 7, 2018

Update on History of U.S. Table Tennis and My Shoulder
Yesterday Tim Boggan and I spent most of the day going back and putting in captions and photo credits for the 116 pages we'd done on Sunday and Monday. Between that and the many changes Tim had, we only got one additional chapter done. (This time we did the captions and credits as we did the pages.) So we've now done nine chapters and 132 pages. I haven't kept track of the graphics, but I'll get a count later on.

Volume 21 covers 1994-1995. Since this was during my first tenure as editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine, probably half of the material is direct from things I wrote. So I'm having some nostalgic times seeing my past words. (Yeah, I have a lot of articles - 1791 to exact, plus 13 books. As to USA Table Tennis Magazine, I did 91 issues, 1991-1995, 1999-2007.)

It looks like it's going to take a little over eleven working days to finish, so if all goes well, we'll finish next Wednesday or Thursday. We'll see. It's a big project, put together by three USATT Hall of Famers - Tim Boggan, Mal Anderson, and, um, me. (My profile is well out of date - I hadn't even started this blog yet - it started in January, 2011, along with the weekly Tips of the Week - and I'd only written two of my eight books on table tennis, plus I've done about 14,000 hours of coaching since that time.)  

Meanwhile, I'm seeing the physical therapist three times a week for an hour, plus doing about 20 minutes of specialized stretches three times a day. I'm still doing group sessions where I just feed multiball and walk around and coach, and can do basic demos, but I'd likely hurt the shoulder if I did any private coaching with a strong player. However, I might be able to do some private coaching in a couple weeks with lower-level players who don't play as fast.

The Twelve Core Psychological Characteristics of Olympians
Here's the article from Psychology Today. I may turn this into a series of Tips of the Week, where I expand on each of these and how you can develop them. But right now I'm too busy working with Tim on the latest History of U.S. Table Tennis to think about this right now. Here are the twelve main topics - the article expands a bit on each.

  1. The ability to cope with and control anxiety. 
  2. Confidence 
  3. Mental toughness
  4. Sport intelligence
  5. The ability to focus and block out distractions
  6. Competitiveness
  7. Having a hard-work ethic
  8. The ability to set and achieve goals
  9. Coachability
  10. Hopefulness
  11. Optimism
  12. Perfectionism

2018 Seamaster Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, March 8-11 on Doha, Qatar.

USATT Nominates Players for 2018 World Team Championships
Here's the USATT article.

Spin, Spin, Spin: Learn to Boost Your Level With Mega Spin
Here's the article from Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tidbits #20: The 2016 Zagreb (Croatia) Open - Choppers’ Delight
Here's the USATT article (with links to video) by Robert Ho.

March 2018 World Ranking: How Timo Boll Made It Back to the Top
Here's the ITTF article.

Table Tennis Training Camp 2018 in China
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Nominations Open for ITTF Athletes’ Commission
Here's the ITTF article.

Invitation to Umpire at 2018 World Veteran Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

College Table Tennis

Ask a Pro Anything: Panagiotis Gionis
Here's the ITTF video (5:43) by Adam Bobrow.

Korean Doubles High-Toss Goof
Here's the repeating gif image - still the funniest one of all! (It's actually actors from the movie "As one.")

Send us your own coaching news!

March 6, 2018

ITTF Proposal that Boosting No Longer Be Illegal
Here are new rules proposals that the ITTF will be considering at meetings during the upcoming World Championships. See #3, where they are considering adding the bolded parted part:

2.4.7 The racket covering shall be used without any physical, chemical or other treatment that may be considered harmful or unhealthy for the persons.

Rationale: 1. It is impossible to control boosters with the current equipment/procedures, so the actual rule cannot be enforced. 2. The main problem of the harmful substances in the way rubbers were collated to blades was mitigated with the introduction of the VOC controls.

I think this is a good idea, since (as I've blogged before), most top players are already boosting. (See more on this in my proposal below.) Making a rule that can't be enforced is silly as it simply penalizes those who refuse to join others in cheating, while forcing all players to face the reality that if they don't also cheat, they can't compete equally. (The same argument goes for hidden serves.) I've made my own proposal on this, the Racket Testing Rule Proposal.

History of U.S. Table Tennis - Update
Tim Boggan and I have done eight chapters and 116 pages, plus the covers, of the planned 30 chapters and 460 pages. However, there's a catch - we haven't been putting in all the captions and photo credits as we zipped along, saving those for later. We're planning to go back and put them this morning, which will probably take at least a couple of hours.

The really bad news is that other than a one-hour session with a physical therapist for my shoulder (alas, the place is almost walking distance, so I'll only be away about 75 minutes), I have nothing else planned during the day tomorrow, so we might end up working almost non-stop from 7AM to perhaps 6PM, with Tim tying me to the chair and giving electric shocks if I try to escape. (Help!!!)

Most of the scanning was done in advance by Mal Anderson, who also supplied most of the photos. Tim is old school, and I mean very old school - his method is to take a pair of scissors and cut up all the old magazines - USATT Magazine, ITTF magazines, tournament programs, etc. - and put them together intricately so that they fit neatly on 8.5x11 pages. Then Mal scans them, and sends them to me on disk. However, this method means every page is full of scissors marks (which show up on the scans), and countless blemishes. Add that most of the pictures come from newsprint, which need a lot of work to fix up, and then adding all the captions and photo credits, and you can see why it takes 10-12 working days to get done. Oh, and did I mention that Tim constantly changes his plans for each page? Changing what's on a page is easy with modern layout technology, but trying doing it where you combine cutting and pasting old articles and Tiff scans! It often means I'm zooming in and highlighting a few lines or a paragraph to move to another part of the page, as well as regular changes to the pictures.

Here are actual comments I made to Tim while working yesterday:

  • "Tim, this is History of U.S. Table Tennis, not History of Everyone Who's Ever Touched a Ping-Pong Paddle Deserves His Picture in the Book!"
  • After a discussion of whether Tim would go to the U.S. Nationals, I told him, "We can't run a Nationals without you!" Then I asked him, "Tim, have you ever been to a Nationals where they decided to hold it if you weren't there?"
  • "Would you like to use the really bad photo where the player is a blur but happens to be looking in the right direction, or the really sharp, action-packed one where he's looking in the wrong direction? Sorry, dumb question." (Tim likes photos of opposing players looking toward each other, and we can't always just flip the photo horizontally and turn a righty into a lefty!)

Kanak Jha on Top of the World
Here's the ITTF article. "Winner of the Boys’ Singles title at the 2017 ITTF World Junior Circuit Finals, staged in early February in Luxembourg, Kanak Jha of the United States is the new name at the top of the Under 18 Boys’ World Rankings."

Tomokazu Harimoto Training at 2018 World Team Cup
Here's the video (3:27).

Young Talents First to Qualify on 2018 USA Hopes Tour
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Brazil and Chile Book Progress in Style, Argentina Follows Suit
Here's the ITTF article. "Unblemished records, not a single individual game surrendered, Brazil and Chile, the top two seeds in the Women’s Team event at the 2018 Latin American Senior Championships the Cuban capital city of Havana, duly completed their initial stage group contests unbeaten on the opening day of play, Sunday 4th March."

Westchester Table Tennis Club Plays Host to 2018 NCTTA Northeast Regionals
Here's the NCTTA article.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 18
Here’s chapter 18 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Chapter 18 is titled, "Jan/Feb 1994."

Pong Planet Open Singles Final: Ma Jinbao (2729) vs Ju Mingwei (2708)
Here's the video (33:28).

Player Kicks Table and Gets Disqualified at 16-17 in Fifth!
Here's the video (3:17) of Qian Wan and Sarah Mantz, starting at 13-12. The 16-16 points starts at 2:57, and ends with the kick and disqualification.

Ping Pong Ninja
Here's the graphic - and if you are in England, you can buy a tank top with it! But here is Ping Pong Ninja clothing you can get at Amazon. 

Send us your own coaching news!

March 5, 2018

Tip of the Week
What You Should Be Watching.

Busy Weekend!
Even though I'm taking time off from private coaching for my shoulder to heal, it was still a way-too-busy weekend. On Saturday, where I'd normally have five hours of private coaching, instead I spent much of the morning and afternoon at the Maryland Table Tennis Center booth at the annual Lake Forest Mall Summer Camps and Activities Expo. Wen Hsu was there the entire time, with Todd Klinger (just turned 13) helping out all afternoon. For insurance reasons, the mall wouldn't let us bring a full-sized table, so we brought a mini-table instead. (We used to do annual exhibitions there, where I'd bring a bunch of our top juniors and give exhibitions all afternoon, but apparently those days are past. The cover of my book Table Tennis Tales and Techniques is from a Lake Forest exhibition where I'm using an over-sized racket.) Despite my shoulder injury I was able to talk to and hit back and forth with those passing by, playing backhand only. When Todd arrived he took over the hitting duties. 

Here are three pictures from the Lake Forest, by Carolyn Klinger.

On Sunday, Tim Boggan arrived at 9AM, and we went straight to work on Volume 21 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. I had to leave to coach at 3PM, so we worked for six hours. We managed to do 42 pages, including the front and back covers. He expects it to be about 460 pages, covering 1994-1995. It'll take about 12 days, working most days from 7AM-5PM - Tim has early-morning habits. (Three times a week I meet with a physical therapist, normally at 4:30PM, so we only lose 30 minutes on those days. Plus I have to do various shoulder stretches three times/day, each time taking about 20 minutes - I do them early in the morning, just before dinner, and just before bedtime, so the last two don't interfere with our work.) 

Then came my Sunday 90-beginning junior class, where we introduced them to looping for the first time. We had three new players, so we got them started even though it was week eight out of the ten-week session. Then we had the two-hour advanced Talent program, where I mostly helped with serves and fed multiball. Several of them are getting pretty good at tomahawk serves.

And then I raced home, just in time to see the start of the Academy Awards! I wrote the blog above during commercials. Normally I do the blog in the morning, but while Tim is here I'll be doing the bulk of it the night before, then looking for any breaking news items or articles in the morning while Tim yells, "C'mon, Larry, let's get to work!"

US Prodigy Attains World Junior Number One Status
Here's the USATT article featuring Kanak Jha, by Matt Hetherington. 

Timo Boll Becomes the Oldest Ever World Number One
Here's the article

How to Improve Power of Forehand Topspin
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

Chinese Kids Train in Table Tennis
Here's the video (56 sec), where on player does the multiball while the others shadow-stroke behind them, with the players rotating. We do this type of training at my club as well. 

Ma Long and Fan Zhendong: Power, Speed, Consistency
Here's another video (3:38) of the two training at the World Team Cup. 

Olympians Top Proceedings at First National Ranking Tournament
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. 

Will Fan Zhendong be the Next Grand Slam Champion?
Here's the USATT article by Ray Huang. 

National Championships Take Centre Stage Across Europe: Stars Battle It Out for Glory
Here's the ITTF article.

ITTF World 2018 - Championships Division Draw Ceremony
Here's the video (55 sec). 

I Was Going to Be an Engineer, Table Tennis Found Me
Here's the article featuring Sathiyan Gnanasekaran.

Arnold Classic Results
Here the results, care of Omnipong. 

Arnold at Arnold Classic
Here are videos!

2018 ITTF Team World Cup | Magic Tricks with Japanese Women's Team & Leon the Magician
Here's the video (2 min).

Send us your own coaching news!

March 2, 2018

Table Tennis Inventions Needed
Today I'm going to turn some of you into rich inventors, and someday I'm going to regret all the hordes of money I gave away by not patenting all these inventions. But it's all for the greater good of table tennis, right? When you (or the big table tennis companies and distributors reading this) create these devices and are rolling in money, make sure to credit me with the idea! Here are some table tennis inventions we need you to create.

  • Rackets with Different Speeds on Forehand and Backhand. This is a simple one - just put faster wood layers on one side, slower ones on the other. There's no rule against this. Not everybody wants the same speed on both sides, just as not everybody uses the same surface on both sides. For example, if you only spin steadily on the forehand while playing an aggressive backhand, you might want the forehand side to be slower. Or if you chop on the backhand while attacking with the forehand, you might want slower on the backhand. And so on. (Note - I'm told that some of the smaller manufacturers already make these - see comments below and my suggestion.) 
  • Robot that Feeds with a Racket. Currently, all of the common robots feed the balls by shooting them out of a tube. It's an efficient way of doing it, and if you ever play an opponent who spits balls at you through a tube, you'll be ready. But if you really want to develop your skills so you react to a ball coming at you from a racket, then what we need is a table tennis robot that hits the ball at you with an actual racket. The simplest way would be for the balls to be shot upward out of a tube where it's hit by a robot-controlled ping-pong paddle. This is why multiball is so valuable as it allows you to react to a ball coming off a racket.
  • Robot that Feeds Out of a Video of Someone Doing the Stroke. If the ball is going to come out of a tube, then why not have it come out of a video of someone stroking the ball? If it's topspin, then someone looping; if it's backspin, then someone pushing or chopping.
  • Lightweight Telescoping Ball Pickup Device That Attaches to Belt. Many players, especially older ones, don't like having to lean down to pick up balls. What's needed is a simple telescoping device that clips or velcros to your belt, with a button to telescope it down, which picks up one ball at a time.
  • Thin Playing Gloves for Better Grip. Just as baseball players use batting gloves for a better grip (as well as to protect their hands), why not table tennis gloves? Ideally, they'd be very thin with a non-slip surface to maximize one's grip. This would be great for players who sweat a lot and so have trouble gripping their racket.
  • Ping-Pong Ball That Leaves a Mark. When serving, most players are only vaguely aware of where the ball hits on their side of the table. What's needed is a ball that leaves a temporary mark when it hits the table so players can see the bounce locations. It might be as simple as putting chalk on a ball, but it can't change the ball's playing characteristics when serving. This device would help especially in two cases. First, players have trouble controlling the depth of their serve because the first bounce moves around, so this would them feedback so they can learn where the ball should bounce first for each depth, and allow them to learn to control this. Second, most players do not maximize their fast, deep serves because the first bounce is out over the table rather than as close to their own end-line as possible. This would give them feedback on this.

So there you have it. Six possible table tennis inventions, each of which will greatly help table tennis players while making you into a filthy rich table tennis entrepreneurial tycoon.  

African Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event in Nairobi, Kenya, March 1-3. Top seeds in Men's Singles are Omar Assar (EGY, world #16) and Quadri Aruna (NGR, world #22). Top seeds in Women's Singles are Dina Meshref (EGY, world #33) and Olufunke Oshonaike (NGR, world #120).

World Veterans Championships: Two weeks to entry deadline, already more countries than ever before; Las Vegas sets new record
Here's the ITTF article on the World Veterans Championships, June 18-24 in Las Vegas. "An entry from Turkmenistan with just some two weeks to go before the closing day of Thursday 15th March, it means that players from no less than 86 countries have enrolled for the forthcoming 2018 World Veteran Championships. It is a new record." There are currently 3773 players officially entered, with over 400 more on the "pending" list, so there will be over 4000 players. Deadline to enter is March 15 or 5000 entries, whichever comes first.

Best Table Tennis Serves Tutorial. (part 1: backspin, hook)
Here's the video (20:54) from Tomorrow Table Tennis (which has other videos).

Self Discipline in the Table Tennis World
Here's the article by Coach Jon. "Really good players remain focused throughout the entirety of their matches, and don’t leave details to chance. These players tend to train exactly the way they play. You can’t turn self discipline on like a light switch. If you typically play an undisciplined game, it’s unlikely you will be able to play a smarter more focused game just because you paid a tournament entry fee."

Table Tennis Coaching in Schools
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "I think many under value the power of sport in schools especially minor sports such as Table Tennis. Yes, education is very important but it’s not for everyone and if it wasn’t for sport inside schools we would not have some of the great sportsmen of the past and today. I went to a school in Camden Town and there was access to virtually every sport imaginable: football, Gym, basketball, Gymnastics, netball, athletics, swimming, cricket and table tennis."

A Light-hearted Look at the Team World Cup 2018
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

"I’ll give $100 to any US player who can return 10/10 of these serves"
Here's the robot challenge video (64 sec) by Samson Dubina - of course, you might have to fly to Ohio to take the challenge. About 12 seconds in he starts calling out the ten serves.

Impressive in London, Liam Pitchford Aiming for Commonwealth Games Gold
Here's the ITTF article. "Following a fantastic outing at the 2018 ITTF Team World Cup, England’s Liam Pitchford is very much in the table tennis spotlight and is oozing with confidence ahead of the upcoming 2018 Commonwealth Games set to take place on the Gold Coast in early April."

Fan Zhendong vs. Liam Pitchford World Cup 2018
Here's the video (13:27).

"Ding Ning just doesn't back away from the table!"
Here's the video (32 sec) as she (the lefty on near side) plays Korea's Nam Hae Kim.

Pong Universe Newsletter
Here's the March issue.

Justin Bieber Serves It Up With Ukrainian Ping Pong Master Anastasia Rybka
Here's the video (70 sec). The 2329-rated Rybka might not be, "One of the best table tennis players in the world," but she's among the top players in the U.S. Here's another video (18 sec) from Steve Hopkins, where he wrote on Facebook, "Justin Bieber showed up unannounced at the Gilbert TT Center in LA looking to play a little. Club pro, Anastasia Rybka (formerly a women's national collegiate champion from Texas Wesleyan University) helped with his workout..."

Adam Bobrow Exhibition in the Philippines
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Red and Black Frankenpaddle
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Not to be confused with the original Frankenpaddle (which I created).

Tom & Jack in Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:01)!

Non-Table Tennis - "The Electrifying Aftermath of a Demon Thrice Summoned"
My story is now up at Galaxy's Edge.

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March 1, 2018

Who Has the Best Table Tennis Name?
Upon realizing that nobody has ever investigated this extremely important question, I took it upon myself to resolve this issue. Mostly using the USATT's database (which only goes back to 1994), here are some of the more interesting table tennis names.

The Pings

  • There are 44 Pings in the database, though I think some are duplicates. One of them is 2004 USA Olympian Whitney Ping.

The Pongs

  • Beth Pong Green Berggren of Monument, CO
  • Johnny Pong of Lake Forest, CA
  • Vivien Pong of Eugene, OR
  • Chin Pong Tsui of New York, NY

Those Who Love Table Tennis - the Lovett's

  • Cullen Lovett of Sebring, FL
  • David Lovett of Fayetteville, NC
  • Reuben Lovett of Searcy, AR

The Balls

  • Ian Ball of Nashville, TN
  • David Ball of AZ
  • Ed Ball of Santa Monica, CA
  • Kevin Ball of Loveland, CO
  • Russell Ball of Swanzey, NH

The Loops

  • Craig Loop of Los Angeles, CA
  • Tom Loop of Scotch Plains, NJ

The Blocks

  • Adam Block of Tucson, AZ
  • Eli Block of Philadelphia, PA
  • Gary Block of Coventry, RI
  • Jonathan Block of PA
  • Miwa Block of Tucson, AZ
  • Robert Block of Bethesda, OH

The Fishers - alas, no lobbers in our database

  • David Fish of Oak Park, IL
  • Aaron Fish of UT
  • Albert and Anne Fish of Columbus, OH
  • David Fish of Benbrook, TX

The Best(s)

  • Aubrey Best of Orlando, FL
  • Bryan Best of State College, PA
  • Gabe Best of Santa Cruz, CA
  • Mia Best of BRB

The Smart Tacticians

  • Jeff, Yvonne, David, and Eric Smart of Columbia, MD
  • Jeff Smart of Indianapolis, IN
  • Phil Smart of Hutchinson, KS

We Got the Goods

  • Christopher Good of Aurora, CO
  • James and Stephen Good of King of Prussia, PA
  • Kevin Good of Pickerington, OH
  • Ryan Good of De Pere, Wi

True Winners

  • 119 Victors in the database
  • 13 Viktors in the database, plus 5-time World Men's Singles Champion Viktor Barna
  • 395 Nguyen's - which surprisingly is pronounced "Win."
  • 16 Goodwins in the database

The Bangs

  • Chan Bang of Laguna Woods, CA
  • Heung Soon Bang of HI
  • Bang-Yuan Chen of MS


  • Brian Pace, head coach at Triangle Table Tennis
  • Rip Goulet of the Lagunitas Table Tennis Club in Marin County, California
  • Flip Carico, VA
  • Steven Power of Rangeley, ME (plus 8 others named Powers)
  • Lefty Spoons of NJ
  • Humberto Servello of Cranford, NJ
  • Tong Tong Gong who plays ping pong, from Ellicott, MD
  • Gordie Howe of Sylvania, OH - wrong sport?
  • William Trump of Sumneytown, PA - I hope he's not on Twitter.
  • There are no Chop's, but there are 6 Chopra's.
  • Shortest Names: Li Ai (CO) and Mu Du (MD) - any others?

So who has the best table tennis name? It's a tough call. I've always liked the fact that we have an Olympian named Whitney Ping, but there are 44 Pings, so that's too common. There are also four Pongs, so also too common. (If only someone with a first name of Ping would marry someone with a last name of Pong, and take on that last name, that person would be called Ping Pong. Please, let it happen!)

I also like the fact that we have a full-time coach known for his powerful forehand named Brian Pace, and a guy with long pips who flips named Flip Carico. There's only one Rip (Goulet) and only one Power (Steven) - but 8 other Powers - and names like Lefty Spoons and Tong Tong Gong just bring a smile to your face. There are five Balls - and if Ian Ball were Iam Ball, then he'd be the winner. I'm sure I'm missing some obvious ones - feel free to comment below, or name who you think should be the winner. 

But in the end, isn't God the most powerful of all? Now there are no Gods in the database (though there are 20 Jesus's), but there's one person you can look at and honestly say (well, sort of), "He's God" - and that's me, since that's just an anagram for Hodges. (But I'm not alone - there are nine of us.)

African Cup
Here's the ITTF home page for the event in Nairobi, Kenya, March 1-3. Top seeds in Men's Singles are Omar Assar (EGY, world #16) and Quadri Aruna (NGR, world #22). Top seeds in Women's Singles are Dina Meshref (EGY, world #33) and Olufunke Oshonaike (NGR, world #120).

New From EmRatThich

Training Routines Before a Tournament
Here's the new podcast (34:59) from PingSkills.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup | Ma Long & Fan Zhendong Training
Here's the video (6:04).

Social Responsibility, the ITTF Foundation Formally Established
Here's the ITTF article.

January Pongcast: Birthday Joy for Fan Zhendong as 2018 Campaign Gets Underway
Here's the ITTF article.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - January 2018
Here's the video (13:03).

Futuristic Alien Pong
Here's the repeating gif image!

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February 28, 2018

MRI Results
The results are in on the MRI on my shoulder on Friday. In layman's terms, the rotator cuff has a slight tear, but it's small enough that they call it "frayed." It's also badly inflamed, with some tendinitis and bursitis. The doctor showed me the pictures on a screen, and while I can't tell the difference between inflamed and normal, the small tear or fraying was obvious.

Now for the technical terms. Here are excerpts from the medical report - read these out loud. I'm not making fun of the doctor's terms, I'm in awe of them! And I thought "heavy no-spin" and "banana flip" were cool terms.

  • Rotator Cuff: There is mild supraspinous tendinosis with bursai sided fraying and interstitial fissuring. Infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis tendons are intact.
  • Subacromial/Subdeltoid Bursa: Mild bursitis.
  • Glenohumeral Joint: The inferior glenohumeral ligament is mildly T2 hyperintense and irregular at the humeral attachment.
  • Labrum: There is subtle signal abnormality within the superior labrum from approximately 1 o'clock to the 9 o'clock axis, suspicious for a nondisplaced tear. There is a punctate paralabral cyst near the 1 o'clock axis. … Nondisplaced tear of the superior labrum.
  • Soft tissues: there is trace, physiologic amount of glenohumeral joint fluid without synovitis.
  • Mildly hyperintense and heterogeneous inferior glenohumeral ligament near the humeral attachment, nonspecific but may represent a mild sprain or adhesive capsulitis.

I'll have a better prognosis after I meet with the physical therapist today at 2PM, but it most likely means I'll be back to at least "easy" coaching within a month. I'm still doing group sessions, where I mostly give lectures, simple demos (which I can do without hurting the shoulder), and do multiball. I can feed multiball topspin without problem, but backspin puts a small strain on the shoulder, so I'm avoiding that for now. In a few weeks I might have to differentiate in my private coaching between beginners and advanced players, since the latter is where I have to play at a faster, more physical pace, and would be at more danger of hurting the shoulder. Most of my main serves also put a small strain on the shoulder, so I have to be careful there, though I've learned to adjust some of them to take some of the strain away - but I have to be careful as such adjustments aren't natural, and could put a strain on the arm.

Meanwhile, I'm supposed to do 15 minutes of shoulder stretches three times a week. Yesterday was my 58th birthday, and to celebrate, I only did it twice. Shhh - don't let my doctor know! (I also had two scoops of Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream - they were out of Rocky Road - and despite that, this morning I was down to 181.2 pounds, my lightest in years and 19 pounds down from the 200 I reached at Christmas.)

Equipment: Here are the top 6 table tennis equipment questions
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

Absent in London, Boll Moves to the Top, Ma Long Undefeated, Moves Down
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. "As Federer reaches new heights by becoming the oldest tennis World number 1, it was 36 year old Timo Boll who returns to the top spot in the ITTF March World Ranking list. Notably absent from the 2018 ITTF World Team Cup it raises further questions about the adjustment phase of the new world ranking system."

World Team Cup Successes Launch Team USA Higher
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington on the improved rankings of USA stars Kanak Jha, Lily Zhang, and Amy Wang.

The Loop Drive Comes to the U.S—Crashes Against de Walle
Here's Table Tennis Tidbits #19 by Richard Ho. "The loop drive was formally introduced to this country at the U.S. Open in Detroit, Michigan in 1963 by Jacobsen and Baddeley from England. The Friday evening before the main matches of the following day, Jacobsen demonstrated the new technique.  Local aficionados lined up to take their turns returning the loop.  Those who attempted a chop return watched their balls flying “sky high” in coping with the extreme topspin not previously encountered.  A successful block return necessitated an extremely “closed” blade to prevent the ball from going long."

A Day in the Life of Kai Zhang: Table Tennis Master
Here's the article from the Binghamton University Newspaper. "Kai Zhang may look just like any other Binghamton University student, but in reality he is a nationally ranked table tennis player. Originally from Beijing, China, Kai moved to Pleasantville, N.Y., five years ago to have more opportunities in table tennis and his education."

SpinBlock Table Tennis Club Grand Opening Announcement
Here's the news item on the new full-time Indianapolis, IN club. Here's the SpinBlock TTC webpage. I've added it to the listing of full-time clubs, which is now at 93.

Across the Net
Here's the March issue from the Melton TTC in Australia, with a number of interesting articles, some of them coaching related. Here are their archives.

Army Pong
Here's the cartoon!

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February 27, 2018

58 and Jörg
That sounds like an address doesn't it? "Taxi, take me to the table tennis club at 58 and Jörg." Actually, it's two things.

First, today I'm turning 58. How did that happen??? To mourn celebrate I was going to take the day off from blogging, but I decided the last thing I wanted on my birthday was for legions of USATT members storming my house with pitchforks and torches. So instead I'll celebrate by going to the doctor at 1PM today to go over the results of the MRI on my shoulder on Friday, find out if I have a rotator cuff tear, and whether I'll be out for weeks or months. (I'll put in a small "Breaking News" item here when I get back.)

Second, USATT High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio was at MDTTC yesterday afternoon where he watched some of our top kids in training, and even worked with a couple. (One had a tendency to play backhands with his right foot in front, so Jörg put a wire cord on the floor in front of him and had him play backhands while keeping the foot behind the cord.) Afterwards we went out to dinner, along with Wen Hsu (one of the MDTTC directors and a member of the USATT High Performance Committee) and MDTTC Coach Wang Qing Liang, one of the National Team Coaches. We solved all of USATT's problems, and were well into denuclearizing North Korea and installing a truth detector in the White House when we ran out of Chinese food.

As to the shoulder, I'm meeting with a physical therapist three times a week for an hour, plus I'm supposed to do about 15 minutes of shoulder stretches three times a day.

=>BREAKING NEWS (2:15pm): Just back from the doctor. At first they thought I had a torn rotator cuff, and it looks torn from the images, but it was small enough that they classified it as a frayed and badly inflamed rotator cuff, as well as bursitis and tendonitis. More on this tomorrow. I'll likely be out a few weeks at least, but this is something never completely heals - but should get good enough to play if I do enough physical therapy. 

HW Global Foundation Talent Development Program - We Need Your Support!
Here's the video (2:49) - nicely done by Mossa Barandao of PongMobile. (I think I'm literally just off camera in just about every group training shot! You can just see the top of my head in one.)

Timo Boll, Once Again on Top of the World
Here's the ITTF article on the new Men's World Ranking - yes, Timo Boll of Germany is now ranked #1 in the world, with the previous #1, Dimitrij Ovtcharov, now #3. Timo, age 36, was last #1 in 2011. China's Fan Zhendong is #2. Zhang Jike is #70, just ahead of the top USA in the men's ranking, Kanak Jha at #73. Here are the world rankings. As I've blogged before, and others have written, the new ITTF ranking system awards participation, and so the previous world #1 for several years, Ma Long, is now #9. These are the rankings that will be used for seeding at the upcoming World Championships.

Zhu Yuling Regains Number One Spot
Here's the ITTF article on the new Women's World Ranking.

Wang Brings Expertise to the Table for One of USA's Young Prodigies
Here's the USATT article by Matt Hetherington on Wang Bo.

World Team Cup 2018 Recap: China Again, Germany Reloading, Flashes from Team England, a Marathon Win by Japan, and Kanak’s Signature Win
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup | GoDaddy Day 4 Review
Here's the video (2:57) covering the final day of the World Team Cup.

2018 Butterfly Cary Cup: Rematch of Champions
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 17
Here’s chapter 17 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at Chapter 17 is titled, "End-of-Year Interests." It includes my Coaching Report (I was in my first tenure as USATT Coaching Chair) and a coaching article I wrote, "Learning to Win."

Superhero Pong
Here's the repeating gif image - I have no idea what superhero this is. Anyone know?

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