Larry Hodges's blog

December 11, 2017

No blog today - sick with flu. I went in to coach on Saturday, had to leave early when my fever hit 101.5. The fever's gone, but I feel like I just went 100 rounds with Mike Tyson. I singlehandedly have sent Kleenex's stock soaring while living on a diet of cream of wheat, chicken soup, and Dayquil/Nightquil. I also somehow lost two pounds from dehydration. And yes, I had a flu shot - last year. It's been on my todo list for a while to get a flu shot this year. Oops. 

December 8, 2017

Physical vs. Mental Stiffness, USATT &USOC Coaching, Sidespin/Backspin Serves, the Christmas Rush, and I Do Not Have A Cold

  • Here’s an insight that many don’t understand. Some players are physically stiff, especially as they get older – I’m one of them. It can lead to stiff shots, and make the player look, yes, stiff. But that’s completely different than mentally playing tight. You can have the stiffest muscles in the world and still be mentally loose and relaxed. I know, because I have the stiffest muscles in the world – 10,000 on the Vickers hardness scale – and yet I’ve always played relaxed and mentally loose, even if I don’t look it. I’m always warning my students not to copy the stiff, mechanical nature of my strokes (except perhaps for my forehand smash, which is pretty textbook), and to instead copy some of our 2600 coaches/practice partners, especially their looping strokes. But don’t mistake physical stiffness with the mental side, where anyone can learn to play relaxed and loose.
  • Yesterday at 2PM I was on a teleconference with USATT and USOC people about setting up a USATT coaching education and certification program. I have meetings about it at the U.S. Open, and will be flying out to USATT and USOC headquarters in Colorado Springs in early January for two days to work on this. (USOC is paying for it.) I’m working closely with USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio on this. Ultimate plan – a USATT Coaching Academy.
  • I had a lot of fun yesterday demonstrating one of my trick serves to students who were trying to develop spinny serves. It’s a forehand pendulum serve from the forehand side of the table, served crosscourt, about 3/4 backspin, 1/4 sidespin, where if I do it just right, I can get the ball to stop just short of the opponent’s end-line and break right, and just roll along the table, parallel to the end-line. Here’s an example (32 sec) I found online. Instead of cups, I put a ball net along the far side of the table, near the edge, and make the ball roll between the net’s handle and the end-line.
  • The Christmas rush has officially begun! In the first week of December I’ve sold 93 of my books. As usual, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers leads the way with 63 copies sold.
  • I do not have a cold. I Do Not Have A Cold. I DO NOT HAVE A COLD. (The power of positive thinking…) 

Coaching Articles
There don’t seem to be any new coaching articles since yesterday – how will we survive the weekend? I know – why not browse over some of the nearly 350 weekly Table Tennis Tips? Or just buy the books, Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips – a Christmas present to yourself!!! (Wow, what a shameless plug for my books!) Or check out the archives for others, such as MH Table Tennis.
(BREAKING NEWS - shortly after I put up this blog, Samson Dubina posted three new articles/videos, on In and Out Footwork, Table Tennis Nutrition, and Dynamic Table Tennis Warm-up. I'll link to them again on Monday.) 

T2 Grand Finals
Here’s their home page, with links to the matches. The Championship playoffs started yesterday, and continue to the Finals on Sunday. Today’s matches start at 6PM GMT, which is 1PM Eastern Time in the U.S. Playing today:

  • Timo Boll vs. Jun Mizutani
  • Yang Haeun vs. Suthasini Sawettabut
  • Chen Chien-An vs. Joo Saehyuk
  • Strangely, the schedule shows these three playing a second time, six matches in all, but I think that’s a mistake.

Final Publication, Ma Long Concludes at Top of Order
Here’s the ITTF article on the newest world rankings. Here are the Men’s Rankings, Women’s Rankings, and links to other ranking lists.

Ever Present, Just Not the Same Without Him
Here’s the ITTF article on the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Dec. 14-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan, featuring Chinese Taipei’s Chuang Chih-Yuan.

Olympic Table Tennis Champ Wang Chen to Open Jersey City Club
Here’s the article.

Timo Boll Reflects on the Greatest Shot Ever Played in the T2 Cavern!
Here’s the video interview (67 sec) where they talk about his incredible opposite-hand counterloop (33 sec), which I linked to yesterday.

Interview with Jenson Van Emburgh
Here’s the video (2:24) with the USA Paralympic player, who came back from down 0-2 in the semifinal singles match at the 2017 ParapanAmerican Championships in Costa Rica. (Alas, I can’t find a results page so don’t know how he did in the final.)

Final of Spin & Smash Open in Ohio
Here are the videos of each game between Chen Bowen and Samson Dubina.

Olivia Stack Reading Up on Her Favorite Topic.....Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!!!
Here’s the video (78 sec) as she pages through and gives valuable insight on Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. The picture she’s talking about halfway through is of Joo Se Hyuk chopping. I think she thought it was her dad!

Football vs. Ping Pong
Here’s the video (4:27) where the compare the two, with athletes from each competing. That’s soccer for us Americans! (This is from 2016, but I don’t think I ever linked to it.)

Send us your own coaching news!

December 7, 2017

How’s Your Big Breaking Serve Into the Backhand?
I had an interesting “comeuppance” recently when I was explaining to several players the importance of including deep serves in your serving arsenal, and going over the more valuable types – fast down-the-line, no-spin to the middle, and big breaking serves to the backhand. One of them finally asked me, “Larry, what’s a big breaking serve?” Turned out at least two listeners had no idea what I meant.

A “big breaking serve” is one that curves a lot. Probably the most successful and most commonly used is deep into the backhand, so that it breaks away from the receiver. This is most commonly done with a forehand pendulum serve from the backhand side, crosscourt, between two righties (or two lefties). For righties against lefties, and vice versa, it's most commonly done with a forehand tomahawk serve from the forehand side. 

One of my regular demos when I talk about serves in a clinic is to show the difference between a fast topspin serve and a big breaking sidespin serve. I’ll have a volunteer – someone who’s not too strong – return my serve. When I give him a fast topspin serve, he has no trouble returning it. But then I throw the big breaking serve, and he’s caught off guard, reaching for the ball, and his return goes flying off the side and way past the end. I did this demo in a private session yesterday with a junior player to instill in her the importance of learning to put spin on the serve.

At the Teams, during a timeout, I asked one of the junior players I was coaching if he could do a big breaking serve to the opponent’s backhand, and he asked me what that was. I explained that it was a deep sidespin serve to the backhand that would break away from the receiver. He said he could do it. He went back and served a straight topspin serve that the opponent smacked back for a winner. Later I asked the player about it, and he admitted that he didn’t really have a deep sidespin serve, but he was working on it. If I’d known that I wouldn’t have told him to use it!!!

So  . . . how’s your big breaking serve into the backhand? Can you curve it so it goes away from the receiver, forcing him to reach for it, and making good returns difficult? (For one thing, most players cannot return this serve down the line, and so predictably return it crosscourt, so you can set up for the return.) If not, what are you waiting for? Done properly, it’s often a free point!!! Against top players, of course, it usually gets looped, but even against them, if used sparingly, it can cause havoc.

On a related note, here’s the primary reason why so many players have trouble with serves that break away from them, whether on the backhand or forehand. They instinctively set up to receive them with their racket at the right height. And then, when they realize the ball is curving away, they step or reach for it – but as they do so, they lower their racket. It’s a natural reaction, but spells disaster. With their racket now too low, they either lift the ball off the end, or to keep it on the table they roll it back weakly. If they’d just kept their racket at the proper height they’d had before reaching they’d make a much better return.

T2 Grand Finals
Here’s their home page, with links to the matches. The Championship playoffs start today (Thursday), and continue to the Finals on Sunday. Today’s matches start at 6PM GMT, which is 1PM Eastern Time in the U.S. Playing today:

  • Shi Xunyao vs. Feng Tianwei
  • Chuang Chih-Yuan vs. Timo Boll
  • Liu Fei vs. Bernadette Szocs
  • Dimitrij Ovtcharov vs. Jun Mizutani

How to Attack a Backspin Ball with a Forehand Topspin
Here’s the article and video (9:38) by Tom Lodziak.  

Present in Astana Makes Feng Tianwei the Leading Lady
Here’s the ITTF article on the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Dec. 14-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Weiqiao in First Place as Lin Gaoyuan Crushes Xu Xin
Here’s the ITTF article on the Chinese Men’s Super League.

2017 Junior Worlds - A New Swedish Future Waldner?
Here’s the article and video (6:55, of the Boys’ Singles Final) by Shashin Shodhan.

The Table Tennis Coaching Ambush
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong: China Super League 2017-2018
Here’s the video (6:09).

Great Hand-Switch Point by Timo Boll
Here’s the video (33 sec).

TopSpin Charity
Here’s the video (2:04).

People vs. Ping Pong
Here’s the hilarious video (1:35), which I somehow didn’t link to when it came out in October.

Send us your own coaching news!

December 6, 2017

Knowing When to Change Serving Tactics
In the German Open Men’s Final (4:42) on Nov. 12, Timo Boll faced Dimitrij “Dima” Ovcharov in the final. Timo had already defeated China’s Lin Gaoyuan in the quarterfinals and Korea’s Lee Sangsu (who had defeated Xu Xin in the quarterfinals) in the semifinals. Dima had defeated China’s Fan Zhendong, world #2, in the semifinals, and so it was a rare non-Chinese final – in fact, an all-German final in the German Open. At the time Dima was world #4, Timo #5, but both moved up one spot since.

Dima went up 3-2 in games, and took a 4-0 lead in the sixth, with Timo to serve. Up until then Timo had been serving I believe all forehand serves. So what does he do? He switches to a rarely-seen backhand serve for his next eight serves. Here’s the video (17:36) starting at 0-4 – note how surprised commentator Adam Bobrow is at this. The umpire stops the point on the first serve and warns Timo on his toss, which is apparently too low – he’s probably not used to using this serve often. He increases his toss and gives a low, no-spin serve, and follows with a winner, 1-4. He again serves backhand, has a shot, but misses it, 1-5. He then scores the next two points on Dima’s serve, 3-5. Timo continues to serve backhand, and wins the next six points on his serve in a row with it to win 11-7 – with Dima missing three of the last four outright!!! The lesson here is that you shouldn’t be afraid to try out new things against an opponent if other things aren’t working.

However, the other lesson is that sometimes you can overuse that new thing. Timo continues to backhand serve in the seventh game, but is less successful. His first five serves are backhand serves, and he loses four of them. The points at 0-2 at 2-5 for some reason aren’t shown, but you can see them in the full video (50:15), where time between points is taken out. Here’s the backhand serve at 0-2, and here’s the backhand serve at 2-5 – and this is a surprise, it’s a reverse backhand serve that wins the point! Strangely, he never uses that serve again, but probably because it’s just a surprise serve that probably wouldn’t work a second time. He serves backhand again at 4-6, loses the point (now losing all four points when he used his regular backhand serve this game), and that’s when he finally switches back to his normal forehand serve – and loses that point, 4-8. He wins the next two points on Dima’s serve. At 6-8, Timo serves backhand again twice in a row, and loses both, and Dima wins the game and match, 11-6.

So in the sixth game, when serving backhand, he wins seven of eight points, including the last six in a row. In the seventh game, excluding the winning reverse backhand serve, he serves backhand six times and loses all six, but also loses the point when he uses the forehand serve one time. The backhand serves were mostly no-spin, with some backspin ones as well.

And just for fun, check out the clapping green dinosaur at 4-2 in the seventh!!!

How Do You Control Your Nerves at Big Tournaments?
Here’s the article from Pong Universe. “Being nervous is okay, but only a little. Nerves is an ever-present thing, whether you're the best in the world or a developing athlete. This is something everyone should understand and learn to deal with. If you allow yourself to get too nervous or too excited right before or during a competition, then your muscles will tighten up and you'll perform poorly. We asked some professional Table Tennis athletes - How do they deal with nerves at big tournament? Here's what they had to say:”

Heavy Backspin Serve and Control
Here’s the video (15 sec) – can you do this? If you can’t, then you need to practice your serves!

World Junior Experience Builds on Long-term Plan for Team USA
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington. “While no medals came home with team USA from this year's World Junior Table Tennis Championships in Riva Del Garda, Italy, a stronger and more united team came back from Europe than that which had left. The team performed exceptionally to make the quarterfinals in both the Boy's and Girl's team events, with the boys narrowly missing out on a guaranteed medal in the deciding game against Romania.”

Future Olympians on Show at Upcoming North American Youth Olympic Games Qualifier
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. “While you will need to wait almost two more years to enjoy the pageantry and excitement of the next Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2020, you only have to wait until later this month to get an early look at some possible future Olympians. Sixteen of America’s most promising boys and girls under the age of 18 including 2016 Rio Olympian Kanak Jha and Canada’s top teenagers will gather for the North American Continental Youth Olympic Games qualification tournament on Sunday, December 17 at the Las Vegas Convention Center.”

2017 US Open Final Table Celebration to be Held at SLS Casino and Hotel
Here’s the info page. Here’s the home page for the U.S. Open. Here are listings for players and for events (which show who’s entered in each event) – make sure to set “2017 US Open” in the dropdown menu. There are 843 players entered.

USATT Umpires and Referees Committee Safesport Memorandum
Here’s the USATT article by Joseph Yick, chair of the USATT Umpires and Referees Committee.

Different Styles, Germany Leads the Way
Here’s the ITTF article on the upcoming ITTF World Tour Grand Finals, Dec. 14-17 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Ruwen Filus's Chops are Incredible!
Here’s the video (59 sec).

Peace . . . Love . . . Ping Pong Clock
Here’s the Zazzle page to buy one!

Waldner’s Shoe Pong
Here’s the video (26 sec) – that’s some great defense and offense!

Send us your own coaching news!

December 5, 2017

Injured a Lot?
Someone recently asked me why I seem to be injured a lot. And it’s true – I have a revolving door of injuries, including problems with my right knee, upper back on right side, right shoulder (two spots), and right arm. Those with right-minded thinking may have rightfully noticed an outright pattern, and they are right. (We’re not talking rightwing politics, though I am a right-winger in table tennis since I am right-handed . . . in case you hadn’t figured that out.)

Years and years of long hours training, playing, and coaching have led to these problems. Somehow I don’t think any doctor ever saw an injured patient and prescribed, “Rest and twenty hours of table tennis per week.”

The knee problem has its roots in the fact that MDTTC, which opened in 1992, had cement floors for a number of years before going to red rubberized flooring. Playing on cement regularly is like banging your knees with a hammer. My left knee used to bother me at times as well, but not in recent times.

However, the simple reality is I’m 57 (gosh that sounds old…), and the muscles aren’t as tight as they used to be – they’re tighter. I’ve always been way too stiff, and now I’m older and stiffer. Worse, when I do have minor injuries, I have to keep going and continue coaching, because, you know, it’s my job! And when the minor injuries become not-so-minor, I still have to continue, because, you know, it’s my job! It’s only when they become rather severe that I take time off. The result, of course, is that minor injuries sometimes turn into no-so-minor ones.

My right knee is about 90% better, but I still wear a knee brace when I play to make sure. As I noted in my blog, last week was the first time since the U.S. Nationals in July that I was able to walk up or down a stairway with both legs – for four months I’d been stepping up or down with the left, then bring up or down the right, but never step up or down with the right unless I had a railing to help support my weight.

I haven’t had back problems in a year (cross fingers), but when they come on, I know what stretches fix that problem. One of the two shoulder problems hasn’t bothered me in about year as well. I still have arm problems, but the arm brace I wear when I play pretty much fixes that. I originally hurt the arm playing baseball when I was 12.

However, the other shoulder problem, a spot on the back of the shoulder, is a serious problem right now. I can’t really extend my arm to reach for a shot, or even for a ball that’s near the net. It doesn’t affect 90% of my playing, but there are certain things I struggle to do right now. Hopefully it’ll be better at the U.S. Open, which starts Dec. 17. While I’m there to attend USATT meetings and coach, as usual I’m also playing in the hardbat events. (I normally use sponge, but retired from sponge tournaments a while back.) We’ll see. (And since much of the U.S. Open is on cement floors, my knees have already scheduled some serious problems. I hope most of my matches are on the rubberized flooring.)

ITTF Coaching Course in Portland
Here’s info on the ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course to be held at the Paddle Palace club, Jan. 8-12, run by Christian Lillieroos.

Reverse Pendulum Backspin Serve
Here’s the video (3 min) from Elizabeta Samara of Romania, world #26.

When to Pivot
Here’s the podcast (32:24) from Pingskills, which covers: Joke of the Week, Ariel Hsing's Birthday, Tournament Wrap, The World Junior Table Tennis Championships, Tip of the Week, Keep your head still, Drill of the Week, Backhand or Pivot Forehand, Setting Goals, Flick vs Counterhit, and Sponge Thickness.

Wealth of International Experience Leads Names at 2017 US Open
Here’s the USATT article by Matt Hetherington.

Timo Boll Delighted with German Progress
Here’s the ITTF article.

African Table Tennis in Diaspora hosts 3rd Tournament
Here’s the USATT article.

2017 World Junior Championships Highlights: Sun Yingsha vs Wang Manyu (Final)
Here’s the video (5:18) of the Junior Girls’ Final.

Steffen Mengel Completely Freaks Out After Losing a Match
Here’s the video (21 sec) of the German, world #84, losing to Jakub Dyjas of Poland, world #61.

Solo Pong
Here’s the video (56 sec) from the Junior Worlds as USA team members Adar Alguetti and Nikhil Kumar challenge each other! (How can you challenge another in “solo” pong? See the video!)

Mrs. Met vs. Serena Williams
Here’s the repeating gif image as the New York Mets mascot and the legendary tennis player have a preliminary “dance off” before their table tennis match.

Send us your own coaching news!

December 4, 2017

Tip of the Week
How to Mess Up Your Opponent When Forced to Make a Weak Shot.

Weekend Coaching
Here are some highlights.

  • In the junior group session on Saturday we let them play Brazilian Teams for nearly an hour – but with one catch: whoever served had to serve and attack. If the server pushed the return, he lost the point. (Here’s where I blogged about the rules for Brazilian Teams and other table tennis games.) Too many of our kids at the North American Teams had played too passive on their serve, and so this was both the “penalty” and reward (since they love playing Brazilian Teams).
  • On Sunday, to teach some of the younger players to arc the ball with topspin when they loop, I spent about half an hour feeding multiball to eight different kids using the adjustable serving bar. (John Olsen made this for us.) I had to feed backspin under the bar – tricky to do! - while the kids had to loop over it.
  • After the Sunday session we had a party, with pizza and lots of other food. The coaches also met with the parents and kids, one by one – I think 28 of them – and went over our notes about their kids – where they’ve improved, what they need to work on, etc. I met with I think six of them, mostly ones I’d coached at the North American Teams.
  • In private coaching, I did something some might consider unlikely – I taught Serguei, a man in his 70s, to loop in rallies! We’ve been working on it for months, but for a time the stroke was ragged, awkward, and constantly changing, and so erratic. But in our previous session it began to really come together, and during the session on Sunday he had basically mastered the shot (in drills), looping over and over very smoothly, without backing up too much (which he used to do). He now can loop really well, against backspin and against block, in drills. The next step is incorporating this more and more into match play. 
  • In other private coaching, we're now really focused on footwork with Todd, age 12. He has a tendency to fall back on his heels, so we're focused on keeping his weight more on the balls of his feet. After playing a forehand he isn't always ready to play a backhand, so that's another footwork thing we're working on - lots of random drills. He's rapidly gaining confidence in his looping, both forehand and backhand, but still sometimes falls back into "guiding" the shot rather than just letting it go. Another thing we're going to really focus on now is serves - he gets good spin on his serves, so now we're going to work more on deception. 

Tomokazu Harimoto in Training
How did this Japanese whiz kid reach #16 in the world at age 14? Here are two training videos showing his techniques in slow motion.

New from Samson Dubina

Serve Placement
Here’s the video (6:43) from PingSkills.

Impact of Footwork and Balance On Making Contact With The Ball Part 3
Here’s the video (12:43) from ITTF Coaching Education by Joze Urh. It includes links to parts 1 and 2, which I previously linked to.

Training With Timo Boll and Coach Jörg Rosskopf at the 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (15:55).

USOC Coaching Education Newsletter
Here’s the new December issue.

New from EmRatThich

2017 World Junior Championships Highlights: Xue Fei vs Truls Moregard (Final)
Here’s the video (4:06). USA’s Kanak Jha lost 4-3 in the round of 32 to Moregard. Here’s the home page for the World Junior Championships, which finished yesterday, with full results, articles, video, etc.

2000 World Veteran Championships
Here’s the article (by Tim Boggan), and yes, you read that right – the 2000 World Veterans, in Vancouver, Canada, the last time it was held in North America. It’s from the July/August 2000 issue of USA Table Tennis Magazine, back during the twelve years I was editor. Here’s the home page for the 2018 World Veterans in Las Vegas, the next time it’ll be in North America!

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 5
Here’s chapter five of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

Under 15 Boys Training at Swat Table Tennis Academy
Here’s the video (50 sec).

Table Tennis Anyone? The Sport’s Growing and Paddle Palace Is a Popular Spot to Play It
Here’s the video (1:51) from KATU 2 News.

Timo Boll vs. Kenta Matsudaira – Around the Net
Here’s the video (27 sec) where they have a great rally that includes Timo’s around-the-net counterloop – but it takes more than that to score against Kenta!

Ma Long – Ding Ning Exhibition Play
Here’s the video (49 sec)!

Solo Pong
Here’s the video (55 sec) – which Romanian does it better, Cristian Pletea or Adina Diaconu?

Send us your own coaching news!

December 1, 2017

Ball Madness
There used to be a debate about whether there really was a difference between Nittaku and a Butterfly 3-star balls. But there really wasn’t a serious debate – every top player and coach knew that the Butterfly ball was slightly lighter than the Nittaku. The real debate was whether the difference was enough that you’d want to train with the ball to be used in your next tournament. I was firmly on the side of using that ball, since even a very slight difference made a difference to your timing – but the difference was so small that it was more psychological, where you wanted to use the same ball so that you’d know that it would play the same.

That were the good old days of celluloid, when the difference in balls was so small as to be almost a non-issue. These days, with the ITTF’s rush to adopt plastic balls, and with every tournament I know of now using them, you have to adjust to many different types of balls, and unlike before, the differences are much larger.

I’ve taken to buying a dozen or more of each major type that’s used in tournaments, plus of course we have three types of training balls at the club – the old celluloid ones, plus two types of Butterfly training balls. Keeping them separate is like cooking chili and then trying to separate the ingredients afterwards. So here’s my current ball situation.

I use plastic Butterfly training balls for most of my coaching. Except – when there’s a tournament coming up, I use the ball to be used in that tournament for coaching them. (Sometimes we’ll use a box of training balls the first half, so that we don’t have to keep picking them up and for multiball, and then switch to the tournament ball the second half.) So I’m sometimes switching balls on almost a session-by-session basis, based on the next tournament of the player I’m coaching. Here’s a rundown of what I have to deal with. (Note – I’ve been told that the three seamless balls below – Asian Pacific, JOOLA Flash, and Xiom – come from the same factory and are the same, but am not certain. I’m also told that different batches from different times come out differently, but I haven’t tested them.)

  • Three types of Training Balls for most coaching: Easy Ball Training 40+ (two types – old version and new version), and Butterfly training balls (celluloid)
  • Butterfly MDTTC Opens, four times per year, and 2017 Butterfly WDCTT Dec Open (next weekend): Butterfly 3-star G40+ balls
  • Howard County Opens: JOOLA Super-P 3-star 40+ balls
  • U.S. Open (December) and local Capital Area League: Nittaku Premium 3-star 40+ balls
  • Most international events (for some of our top juniors): DHS 3-star 40+ balls
  • Maryland State Championships: Asian Pacific 3-star 40+ seamless balls
  • North American Teams (last weekend): JOOLA Flash 3-star 40+ seamless balls
  • Tournament at Smash TT in Virginia: Xiom 3-star 40+ seamless balls

Nearly all of these balls play differently. THIS IS MADNESS!!!

Book Sales
It’s not too late to buy some of my books as Christmas presents! Here’s the Amazon page where you can buy them. I had a pretty good month in November, selling 178 books (not including bulk sales from major distributors). Here are the numbers for the month, combining print and kindle sales. Strangely, there were no sales of Table Tennis Tales & Techniques, which usually sells about 5-10 each month. The Tactics book sells pretty well in France, and is currently being translated into Korean. I need to find someone to do a Chinese translation.

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers 144 (95 English, 49 French)
Table Tennis Tips 16
More Table Tennis Tips 8
Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook 6
The Spirit of Pong 4

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. Teams are done; they are now starting singles and doubles. Here’s the article on the team competition, Tried and Trusted Trio, China Supreme. I wonder why Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto (world #16 at age 14) didn’t play?

Over 40 Tour Final Coming to Westchester Table Tennis Center
Here’s the article. It’s this weekend in New York, with $12,000 in prize money. “Entries are accepted up to the start time of each event so players may register to compete on the day and with over 200 players eligible to compete in the event from all age categories and abilities it promises to be a great event. The competition will be hot with players like US Olympian Jimmy Butler and top Over 40 contenders from the New York area - Gao Yanjun, Shao Yu and De Tran, all on the list of eligible contenders for the top spot.”

Who is the Greatest of All Time, J-O Waldner or Ma Long?
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty. (One small nit-pick – speed glue was around long before Waldner played, and he used it from the start of his career.) One other argument for Waldner, which for many is the deciding point, is that he led a very small country, Sweden (population around 7 million at the time) to the World Team Championship four times, overcoming the Chinese juggernaut.

Thirst for Knowledge Undiminished in Sri Lanka
Here’s the ITTF article on Richard McAfee’s coaching.

Evolution of the Laws of Table Tennis and the Regulations for International Competitions
Here’s the listing.

Irvine Levine – A Witness to 70 Years of Rhode Island Table Tennis
Here’s the article by Steve Hopkins.

7 Min of Heaven & Lesson at NYCTTA!
Here’s the video (7:10). (If you go directly to the Youtube version you can see the description underneath.)

IFO Veteran Open 2017
Here’s the video (5:07). See the article under the video (click “Show More”), which starts out, “First staged in 1991, the west coast Swedish city of Gothenburg was the recent home for what has become the biggest tournament for veteran players in northern Europe.”

Never Before Seen Smash By Timo Boll!
Here’s the video (51 sec) – or should we call this a non-smash? You decide!

Shot of the Tournament?
Here’s the video (16 sec) – as a wheelchair player goes wide to his right!

It's Time for Fun and Games!!!
Here’s the video (31 sec) from Andrew Williams.

Racket Sharing Table Tennis
Here’s the video (78 sec)!

Fight to the Death!
Here’s the video (1:38) – from the Scorching Ping Pong Girls. This is how table tennis is really played. If you do not play like this, you are an amateur who should be kururi-senpaied and banished from the galaxy.

Non-Table Tennis - Compelling Science Fiction
My story "Redo" just came out in the magazine Compelling Science Fiction. It's the story of a large, caterpillar-like galactic alien census taker who has spent the last 83,000 years doing a door-to-door census of earth - and he's only halfway done. After each interview, he hits a redo device, and while time doesn't stop, all the matter and energy on earth and around it zip back to where they were at the time that interview started, the one he interviewed has no memory of the interview, and he goes on to the next house. Then things go wrong, he gets killed by a Doberman (sort of), and another group of aliens (who've been caught in sort of a time loop those 83,000 years) is about to annihilate Earth. Can he (with his "redo" device - and a fire extinguisher?) and a resourceful human scientist save the world?

Send us your own coaching news!

November 30, 2017

Big Tournaments are Like a Month of Training
I’ve pointed this out in past blogs (not recently), and it really is true – if you play in a big tournament, where you are playing intense matches all day long for two or more days, when it’s done it’s like you’ve been training for a month.

The huge tragedy here is that the best time to play a tournament is when you are at your best – which is usually right at the end of the big tournament you just played in. Which is why it’s sometimes best to schedule several tournaments in a row, or at least in close proximity. (This can be taken to an extreme. I once played tournaments nine consecutive weekends. At the end I had my highest rating of my life.)  

Think about it. Imagine yourself the last time you played a tournament (assuming you have), where you played lots of matches. Didn’t you most often play your best near the end, at least until and if you got too tired to play well? Isn’t that the way you want to play at your next tournament?

That type of play doesn’t go instantly go away. When you hit that high level after lots of matches at a tournament, it stays with you for a time. Make sure to play some that week to keep your touch, and guess what? The following weekend, with a proper warm-up, you’ll likely pick up right where you left off the previous weekend, when you were at your best near the end. It doesn’t always work, but it works this way the majority of the time.

A lot of locals played in the North American Teams this past weekend. By the third day many had hit breakthroughs and were playing the best they’d ever played, except of course where exhaustion took over. But the exhaustion goes away soon, while the level of play reached does not. So many of the smart ones are now looking to follow this up at other tournaments, whether local (there’s one at the Washington DC TTC next weekend) or at the U.S. Open in December.

I know some of the kids I coached at the Teams hit major breakthroughs at the tournament. Some started off with losses, then their game came around, and by Sunday everything came together. (The kids never get exhausted. It’s exhausting just watching them run around on the third day.) Others started out well, and only got better. I’ll likely show up at the DC tournament to coach some of them, and try to make sure they continue the breakthroughs they achieved at the Teams.

RIP: Joseph Edgar Newgarden: 1929-2017
Here’s the USATT obit. Here is his USATT Hall of Fame profile.

German Bundesliga League Match Makes History at the North American Teams
Here’s the article - ASV Grünwettersbach defeats Post SV Mühlhausen, 3-1. ASV Grünwettersbach would go on to win the North American Teams as well.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3.

Pong Road Episode #5
Here’s the page with all five episodes. I blogged about the first three episodes on August 8. The episodes are “an episodic documentary that follows Rocky Wang along his journey. Get ready to see ping pong that you've never seen it before.”

Losing? Find the Solution...
Here’s the article by Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Tutorial with Videos by Coach Tom Lodziak
Here’s the page at Sports Flu. Here’s a direct link to Tom’s online video coaching page.

Accidently Visualizing Victory
Here’s the article from Coach Jon.

Ma Long Amazing Serve Training – in Slow Motion – at the 2017 World Cup
Here’s the video (6:20).

VIP Packages at the U.S. Open
Here’s info. It includes early access to the venue on Saturday, Dec. 16; Week-long access to the iPong Player’s Lounge (with unlimited snacks & beverages and VIP viewing area); Four dedicated warm-up/practice tables; a VIP seat to the “Final Table Celebration”; and lockable storage at the playing venue.

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

Pool, Ping Pong and Frosh Dorm Culture
Here’s the article from the Stanford Daily Grind.

Thanksgiving Pong
Here’s the cartoon, only one week late!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 29, 2017

Rules Questions at the Teams
A number of rules questions and issues came up at the North American Teams this past weekend. Here’s a rundown. (I coached two junior teams during the tournament, one with four players, and one with three.)

  • Late on the first day an umpire came by and watched the team I was coaching for a bit. Then he came over and said, “Yours is the first team I’ve seen where everyone is serving legally.” I’m not sure if this is a good thing – does this mean opponents are getting an advantage since we’re the only ones serving legally?!!!
  • In one of our team matches (not the one mentioned above), an opponent began to catch the serve of one of our junior players, saying his hand was cupped. The kid did have a tendency to cup his hand a bit on some serves, but it wasn’t anything worse than about half the players out there (see umpire comment above), and he didn’t get any advantage out of it. The problem was that rather than ask for an umpire, the opponent just kept catching the ball, over ten times in the first four games as they went into the fifth. Strangely, I was the one who finally called for an umpire after the fourth game, since I’d rather have an umpire call the serve than have an opponent who can catch the serve at any time, which was clearly bothering my player, who was nearly in tears. In the fifth game, no serves were called or caught, and my player won easily. Whether he served legally because the umpire was watching or because the serve wasn’t so bad, I don’t know. However, in this junior’s very next match against the same team, the opponent caught the very first serve, and once again I called for an umpire. Again, no serves were faulted and my player won. Afterwards, the umpire did warn the junior that his serves were borderline. We’ll fix that problem.
  • Hidden serves mostly takes place at the higher levels. I only saw one player hiding his serve against the teams I coached. In the past I would have called for an umpire, but I think the last ten times I’ve done that the umpire simply wouldn’t call hidden serves, thereby validating the opponent’s illegal serving. This type of cheating – yes, it is cheating, by definition – is now accepted as part of the game, to my great disdain. So calling for an umpire would have been pointless. All three of my players played him, and two managed to win. As to it being cheating, the general definition of cheating (and the first one that comes up on Google) is, “act dishonestly or unfairly in order to gain an advantage, especially in a game or examination.” So yeah, it’s cheating – unless your opponent does it first, in which case you can do so since you are no longer trying to “gain an advantage” – you are trying to keep your opponent from gaining an illegal advantage.
  • After one of the kids I was coaching won the first game, the opponent changed rackets. I immediately pointed out that that was illegal. He didn’t realize it wasn’t allowed, and switched back to his original racket without complaint. The pertinent rule is “A racket shall not be replaced during an individual match unless it is accidentally damaged so badly that it cannot be used; if this happens the damaged racket shall be replaced immediately by another which the player has brought with him or her to the playing area or one which is handed to him or her in the playing area.” This is also the reason why it is required that you leave your racket at the table between games, so a player doesn’t try to secretly change rackets illegally. The rule here is “Unless otherwise authorised by the umpire, players shall leave their rackets on the table during intervals; but if the racket is strapped to the hand, the umpire shall allow the player to retain his or her racket strapped to the hand during intervals.”
  • One opponent had long pips on one side with the label on the bottom mostly cut off. If we’d called an umpire, it might have been ruled illegal, but I didn’t think it was worth it. The pertinent rule is “Any ordinary pimpled rubber or sandwich rubber covering the racket shall be currently authorised by the ITTF and shall be attached to the blade so that the ITTF logo, the ITTF number (when present), the supplier and brand names are clearly visible nearest the handle.”
  • One player we didn’t play showed me his racket and asked if it was legal. It was likely illegal in two ways. First, the rubber had been chipped off along the edges, exposing the wood. The pertinent rule is 2.4.4: “The covering material shall extend up to but not beyond the limits of the blade, except that the part nearest the handle and gripped by the fingers may be left uncovered or covered with any material.” Also, it was pretty worn out in the middle, more than along the edges, and might have been declared illegal due to rule “Slight deviations from continuity of surface or uniformity of colour due to accidental damage or wear may be allowed provided that they do not significantly change the characteristics of the surface.”
  • A lot of team matches seemed to go on longer than needed as teams generally played one match at a time as soon as one team had won four matches. A lot of them didn’t know that you can still play two matches at a time at that point. If the first match is won by the team with four wins, thereby ending the team match, then the other match simply doesn’t count, even if it finished. (The rule on this has changed a few times over the years, so I checked with the referee at the start of the tournament to make sure.)
  • I was surprised nobody mistakenly complained about my coaching between points, which is now legal – I was often calling out or whispering advice, which became legal about a year ago due to the new rule “Players may receive advice at any time except during rallies provided play is not thereby delayed.” I still don’t like the rule, but so far it hasn’t been as bad as I’d feared. There have been cases I’ve blogged about where coaches literally signaled every serve. I also used a few signals at times, mostly for specific serves.
  • One thing I like about team competition is that everyone can coach. The pertinent rule is “In a team event, players may receive advice from anyone authorised to be at the playing area.” So when we played two matches at a time, while I was coaching one player, often the other player would get coaching from the rest of his teammates, or others from his club. Often there’d be two or three kids coaching one of the kids between games, which is a great way for them to learn tactics – both for the player and the junior coaches. Some might think it’s confusing to have more than one coach in a match, especially if you have three kids coaching you, but I think they did a great job – the kids really got into it, and the very fact that they were coaching the matches meant that they were watching the matches closely and learning.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. USA Boys and Girls both lost in the quarterfinals, to Romania and Korea, respectively, but it was a great performance. The boy’s team lost 3-2, but in two of the losses Sharon Alguetti was up match point in the fifth game, including in the decisive fifth match - so close! Here’s the USATT article on it by Matt Hetherington, Valiant Efforts, Medal Finish Passes Within Points of USA. Singles and Doubles are next.

Chen Longcan Coaching at MDTTC
Here’s info (and picture of him playing doubles with MDTTC coach Cheng Yinghua back when they were teammates on the Chinese National Team), and here’s info on MDTTC camps. “Former Olympic Gold Medalist, World Champion Chen Longcan visiting Maryland Table Tennis Center in December & January! He will be coaching at MDTTC Winter Camp: December 26 – 30, 2017 & giving private lessons. Register now for MDTTC Winter Camp! To schedule private lessons, please call 301.519.8580 or email us at” Chen won the gold medal in Men’s Doubles at the 1988 Olympics; Men’s Singles at the 1986 World Cup; Men’s Teams at the 1985 and 1987 World Championships; Men’s Doubles at the 1987 World Championships; and made the final of Men’s Singles at the 1985 World Championships (losing the final to teammate Jiang Jialiang).

2017 ITTF Star Awards: Who Will be the Table Tennis Breakthrough Star?
Here’s the video (75 sec).

2017 ITTF Table Tennis Star Coach Nominees
Here’s the article and video (75 sec).

2017 ITTF Para Table Tennis Star Nominees
Here’s the article and videos (male and female, 75 sec each).

Newgy Coaching Archives
Here’s their coaching page, with links to over 100 articles, including ten by me.

Plastic and Change
Here’s the article from Pro Table Tennis.

Returning to Table Tennis After a Long Break
Here’s the article by Sam Priestley at Eastfield.

Boll: We Are Closing Gap with China's Table Tennis
Here’s the article from Xinhua News. “Despite latest defeats and problems with the new ball used in international competition, China's table tennis stars are still the world's leading fraction, said German Timo Boll.” ‘We managed to close the gap a little bit, but they still rule table tennis,’ the German number two and former first of world rankings said in a recent Xinhua interview.”

The Korean Version of Ping-Pong Diplomacy
Here’s the article from Ozy.

Debut 2017 Xiom West Coast Teams a Success
Here’s the article by Shashin Shodhan.

Fun, Exciting Matches All for a Good Cause at Pong for Harvey
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn. “Nearly three months after Hurricane Harvey slammed into Houston with flooding rains and destructive winds causing an estimated $200 billion in damages, the area’s table tennis community came together for Pong for Harvey on November 18-19th at the Houston International Table Tennis Academy (HITTA).”

History of USATT - Volume XX - Chapter 4
Here’s chapter four of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at

World’s Biggest Table Tennis Tour Opens Bids for 2019
Here’s the info page if you want to sponsor the 2019 ITTF World Tour.

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2017 German Open
Here’s the video (5:12).

The Boy Who Taught Dinosaurs to Play Table Tennis
Here’s the video (1:38)!

Send us your own coaching news!

November 28, 2017

Tip of the Week
The Non-Playing Arm.

JOOLA North American Teams
I spent all day Fri, Sat, and Sun at the Teams in Washington DC, coaching two junior teams from MDTTC. It was my 42nd consecutive year at the Teams, starting in 1976 when I was 16. That year I played with Mike Shapiro and Jackie Heyman. The next year I played with Jim Mossberg and Mort Greenberg (and I think someone else – can’t remember) – and both of them were in action at the teams this year! Most of those years I played, but in recent years I’ve just coached.

Here are complete results. There were 963 players on 238 teams on roughly a zillion tables. Because I was busy coaching the whole time, I didn’t get to see any of the big matches, but here’s the excellent article on the tournament by Matt Hetherington, ASV Grunwettersbach Top the Field in World Class JOOLA Team Championships, with a link to a video of the final. Matt also created a “High-Speed Tour” of the tournament (35 sec)!

As usual, there were lots and lots of tactical things going on. I could write about this for hours. Here are just a few.

  • While warming up, I saw one opponent had this rather long, awkward, flat forehand stroke. I told our players, “With that forehand stroke, there’s no way of making a consistent strong return against a serve that breaks away to the wide forehand.” And so all three players used a steady diet of breaking serves to that player’s forehand, and all three won.
  • Kids tend to be weaker at the corners, while adults tend to cover the corners better but struggle with shots at their elbows. Because many of our juniors play each other a lot, they get into the habit of mostly playing to the corners. (They play adults in league play on Tues and Fri.) So I regularly reminded them to go after opponents’ elbows. By the third day, a couple of them were becoming masters at this, and will now make this a huge part of their arsenal. One player in particular started the tournament out as a forehand looper with no confidence in her backhand loop, and ended it with a series of wins as she discovered the value of a backhand loop to the opponent’s elbow. (“Like Crystal Wang” I told her.) Several players won matches when I told them to put an X on their opponent’s elbow and just keep going after it.
  • A key thing in each match was finding the right balance of serving short (or half-long) and looping, versus serving out (long). They got better and better at this as the tournament went on. Two of them even developed fast, no-spin serves to the opponent’s middle in mid-tournament, and it won them a lot of points.
  • Time-outs were really successful this tournament. I think there were at least five times where I called a time-out, and the player immediately scored three or more in a row. In one match, I called a time-out at 4-6 in the fifth, and the player won 11-7. The key was choosing what serves worked best (including placement), what types of receives to use, placement of their first attack, and (often most important), mental focus and control. Sometimes I called time-outs when a player was obviously nervous, and sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. Sometimes, to calm players down and clear their minds, I’d call a time-out and we’d spend half of it discussing their favorite movie or TV show.
  • I took full advantage of the ITTF rule of one year ago where you can coach between points, often whispering what serve to use. In one match, at I think 9-all in the fifth, my player walked over to pick up the ball. We’d already used the time-out, so I whispered, “Serve fast no-spin to middle, then short backspin to forehand.” He did both serves, and the opponent missed both serves outright! That might have been my favorite moment of the tournament.
  • There was an obvious difference coaching at different levels. When coaching players under 1600, the best winning tactic was often mostly pushing and letting the opponent make mistakes. I don’t like coaching that since it’s not good long-term, but tactically it was often the way to win. At the higher levels, the key to winning was often whoever used tactics to be the aggressor, which meant good choice of serve and receive and looking for chances to loop first to a well-chosen location, usually the elbow.
  • I took a huge amount of notes on the seven players I coached, and will be typing up these notes soon.

Here are some tidbits on the tournament from my perspective.

  • Bundesliga Match. On Friday there was the Bundesliga team match, where ASV Grunwettersbach defeated Post SV Mulhausen. There was a break from team play for this, so I got to watch this. There was a short intermission between matches where a number of local juniors (mostly ages 9-11) played “around the table,” with Wally Green (with a mini-bat) keeping the ball in play for them as they ran about, one by one dropping out until there were just two left – and the eventual winner was Ryan Lee over Kurtus Hsu.
  • Ryan’s Shot(s). That same Ryan Lee pulled off perhaps the Shot of the Tournament. He’s 10, and came in rated 1496, but picked up a lot of points this tournament. In one of his matches that I was coaching he stepped around his backhand – he’s a lefty - and looped a forehand down the line. The opponent blocked it very wide, outside the corner, to Ryan’s extreme wide forehand, an apparent winner. The stepped away from the table, thinking the point was over. Ryan raced to his left, going very wide (not sure how he got there so fast!), and with a last-second lunge, caught the ball very wide of the table, at about table height, with a big sidespin loop. The ball went around the net, hit the table about six inches short of the far left corner, and rolled across the corner. His stunned opponent tried to recover and return to the table, but even if he’d been there it was an unreturnable shot, so he just clapped. Dozens of people were watching, and we all gave it a big ground of applause.
    Ironically, Ryan had another show-stopping shot about five points later. The opponent dribbled a ball over the net to Ryan’s wide backhand. Ryan stepped way around his backhand to attack with his forehand, reached in, and literally smashed the ball after it dribbled over and hit his side. His shot hit the net as well, and dribbled over and hit the edge on the far side for a winner.
  • The Case of the Non-Missing Coat. On Friday morning after I arrived I put my coach around a chair and forgot about it. Throughout the day I moved to various locations in the convention center as I coached at different tables, and as far as I know I never moved or even saw the coat again. Late that night I returned home. Then I realized I was wearing the coat. But I have zero memory of how I came to be wearing the coat, or where and how I got it. It’s like a subconscious table tennis thing, where you rely on muscle memory for a shot – somehow while thinking table tennis thoughts all day I presumably moved the coat to the new table for each team match without ever really thinking about it.

World Junior Championships
They are taking place right now in Riva del Garda, Italy, Nov. 26 – Dec. 3. USA Boys and Girls both reached the quarterfinals, with the Girls losing to Korea, with the Boys playing Romania later today. The USA Boys team is Adar and Sharon Alguetti, Kanak Jha, and Nikhil Kumar. The USA Girls’ Team is Ishana Deb, Rachel Sung, Amy Wang, and Crystal Wang. Here are related articles.

Adjusting Tactics in Tournament Play
Here’s the article by Brian Pace. “In competition players go for the shots they are the most comfortable with, the shots that we have mastered, as well as the shots that expose your opponent. Tactical conflict is created when the players doesn’t acknowledge that the shot they are playing is not being effective. This will result in a bad string of points, as well as playing in a way that benefits your opponent. Adjusting Tactics is one of the skills you have to master, and it is not a technical or physical skill. It is by far a mental and emotional skill that needs to be developed. This blog post will take you through the process of implementing tactics, surveying the outcome, and adjusting tactics. These are the major 3 aspects that create the language behind HOW you get to 11 points before your opponent.”

New from Samson Dubina

Why You Should Make Notes About Your Opponents
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

How to Train Off the Table
Here’s the article by Eli Baraty, where he covers seven aspects: Physical, Nutrition, Visualization, Learn from the best by watching, Information, Serve, and Mindset. (Yeah, I changed “Visualisation” to the American spelling!)

New Articles and Video from EmRatThich

The Hand
Here’s the article by Coach Jon.

Performance or the Win – Which is More Valuable?
Here’s the article from Epic Table Tennis.

Drop Shot Off Chop
Here’s the video (4:07) from PingSkills.

New Podcasts from PingSkills

10 Christmas Gift Ideas for a Table Tennis Player
Here’s the article from Expert Table Tennis.

Melton Table Tennis Association Newsletter
Here’s the December issue, with lots of articles, including coaching articles. Here’s their archives page, with links to past issues. Make sure to read the table tennis adjusted movie quotes as conversation starters on page 7! Such as, “I love the smell of table tennis in the morning.”

US Players Win Medals At Australian National Veterans Table Tennis Championships
Here’s the article by Dan Green.

2018 ITTF Team World Cup to be seen by 500 million and will boost table tennis in Britain
Here’s the article from Inside the Games.

Get to Know the Chinese National Team When They Are More Relaxed
Here’s the video (59 sec) from Adam Bobrow. “From smiles and laughter to karaoke with Fan Zhendong and Xu Xin to Chen Xingtong's face during my basic beatbox (she's hilarious), I thought it was a fun night to share with table tennis fans. This was after the finals at The Swedish Open.”

Ping Pong with Water in Space
Here’s the video (10 sec)!

A Little Centaur Pong?
Here are two pictures, centaur 1 and centaur 2.

Send us your own coaching news!

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