Blogs

Larry Hodges' daily blog will go up Mon-Fri by noon USA Eastern time (usually by 10 AM, more like noon on Mondays when he does a Tip of the Week and has three days to cover). Larry is a member of the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame, a USATT Certified National Coach, a professional coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (USA), and author of eight books and over 1500 articles on table tennis. Here is his bio.
NOTE - Larry is on the USATT Board of Directors and chairs the USATT Coaching Committee, but the views he shares in his blog are his own, and do not necessarily represent the views of USA Table Tennis.

Make sure to order your copy of Larry's best-selling book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers!
Finally, a tactics book on this most tactical of sports!!!
Also out - Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips, which cover, in logical progression, his Tips of the Week from 2011-2013 and 2014-2016, with 150 Tips in each!

Or, for a combination of Tales of our sport and Technique articles, try Table Tennis Tales & Techniques
If you are in the mood for inspirational fiction, The Spirit of Pong is also out - a fantasy story about an American who goes to China to learn the secrets of table tennis, trains with the spirits of past champions, and faces betrayal and great peril as he battles for glory but faces utter defeat. Read the First Two Chapters for free!

May 19, 2011

 

Talent Revisited

Yao Siu-Long ("Siu") emailed me the following question, after reading in my April 27 blog entry about Crystal Wang, who recently became the youngest player ever to break 2000, at age 9 years 1 month. (She's rated 2031, but at the recent unprocessed Potomac Open, should go up even more.)  Siu asked the following:

"I read your blog about Crystal Wang.  It sounds like she was progressing but suddenly took off.  Why?  What approach to learning and practicing do you think is key to such spectacular success?  Is it the number of hours practiced?  The coach? Going to China?

"Before you answer "talent", I've read quite a bit of research (and maybe this could be something for you to blog about as well).  There is a large body of research that suggests that talent is overrated (take a look at the book "Bounce" by Matthew Syed, a table tennis player).  You need a certain level of talent, but after that it's hard work and, perhaps, the training methods.  For example, "deliberate practice" is key.  That is, practicing with intent and goals.

"What do you see as making the difference for the successful players that you've coached?

This is an excellent question. I actually wrote my thoughts on talent in my March 11, 2011 blog entry. And I definitely agree that talent is way over-rated. On the other hand, there is no question that talent exists - we are not all born with identical brains. However, as argued in "Bounce," it's not that there's no such thing as talent, it's that, at the world-class level, it's only a small aspect. I believe that at the beginning stages, talent does dominate, but if you start early enough with good coaching, and work hard, then deliberate practice dominates. I'm still on the fence as to whether an "untalented" player who starts very early - say, age 4 or 5 - and undergoes such deliberate practice can become one of the best in the world, but they can definitely become very good.

For Crystal specifically, she's been taking regular lessons from Coach Jack Huang since she started playing in the summer of 2008 at age six. Is she talented? For a six-year-old, she definitely had nice hand-eye coordination from the start, and yet in April of 2010 (when she turned 8) she was still rated "only" 1013. I put "only" in quotes because a 1000+ rating for a 7-year-old is still pretty good. However, it takes time for all the basics to really get ingrained.

Here's where the mental game counts. For her age, she's very focused and hard-working. Few players under age 10 (or older) have the focus and work ethic she had from the beginning. And so much of her first two years were spent building a formidable foundation. When you see her strokes and other techniques, they aren't something she just "picked up" because of talent. They were meticulously developed, one training session at a time, until they became the fearsome combos that now strike fear into anyone rated under 2300. Forehands and backhands? Forehand and backhand loops off underspin? Pushing and blocking? Serve and receive? Footwork? None of it came about without incredibly hard work and excellent coaching.

Was she more talented than most? She seemed that way. But two points on this.

First, a "less talented" player might do the same thing if they started even younger, i.e. age four or so. This is problematic in the U.S., since the tables are too high. In China and other countries, kids often start out on shortened tables. If we did the same, then by the time they are age six they could already have a few years of playing. I used to take tennis lessons, and was amazed to discover they have tennis sessions for three-year-olds. You don't need to be older than that to hit a ball - you just need a table that fits your size.

Second, there's little doubt that since Crystal seemed to pick things up early, it inspired her and her parents to really focus on table tennis. And now that she's really taking off, it's not only paying off, but now they are probably inspired to go all the way, and see just how good Crystal can be.

Here's a picture of an unsmiling Crystal after losing the final of Under 1600 in the May, 2010 MDTTC Open. Coming into the tournament, she was rated 1013, but she beat players rated 1381 and 1424 to reach the final before losing to Mort Greenberg in the final. I don't think Mort wants a rematch!!!

Chinese Immigrants

Here's a front page (sports section) story that ran in the New York Times on May 14, about Chinese players coming to the U.S. and other countries and dominating. (I'm quoted and mentioned in the article.) 

Space and Time Magazine

In non-table tennis news, my science fiction story "The Awakening" is in the upcoming issue of Space and Time Magazine, with my name on the cover. The story was the Grand Prize winner at the 16th Annual 2010 Garden State Horror Writers Short Story Contest in November. It was a unanimous choice of the judges!!! Here's the trophy. Here's a description: "A 4-D being plays around with the 3-D universe (ours), and just for fun, makes a fly super intelligent. The fly goes to war first with a woman who tries to swat it, then with the 4-D being, and eventually with the entire 4-D and 3-D universes. You don't want to know where it lays its eggs!!!" (Here's my science fiction and fantasy page.)

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May 18, 2011

I'm back!

I've been out of town since May 9, and as noted in my blog at that time, I wouldn't have time to blog while I was away. (I was visiting my dad in the hospital, who had a stroke. He's still mostly paralyzed on his left side, but with four hours of therapy each day, it's starting to pay off - he has some left-side movement now.) Hopefully the world of table tennis has survived my absence, though I'm skeptical. Did I miss anything? I heard rumors of some World Championships or something, and China sweeping everything, but I'm sure that was just a rumor. I wonder how Team USA did?

A Levels Approach to Tactics and Other Tips

Are you reading the Tips of the Week? This Monday's Tip was "A Levels Approach to Tactics" - see if that's something you've thought about! Last week's was "A Journey of Nine Feet Begins at Contact," which is all about the journey the ball takes when it serves and what you should be watching for and visualizing.

ITTF Level 1 Coaching Seminars

As I wrote previously in my Blog, I recently ran the first ITTF Seminar in the U.S. run by a USA coach. (The only previous ITTF Seminar in the U.S. was run by ITTF's and Australia's Glenn Tepper, where I was one of the first two USA coaches, along with Donn Olsen, to be certified as an ITTF coach, and where I did the follow-up Course Conductor seminar so I could teach the course.) Now these seminars are popping up like pushed topspin serves! There are now five planned - I'll post info on these seminars as it becomes available.They are:

  • Colorado Springs, Aug. 1-4, taught by USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee. Here's the USATT News Item.
  • BrownsvilleRecreation Center in Brooklyn, NY, by Sydney Christophe, in June and July.
  • ICC club in Milpitas, CA, by CoachMassimo Costantini, dates to be announced;
  • Lily Yip TTC in Dunellen, NJ, by Richard McAfee, dates to be announced;
  • NewgyTraining Center in Gallatin, TN, by Roger Dickson, dates to be announced;

Slow motion Homage to the Sport

Table tennis star and model Sooyeon Lee does this 90-second Slow-Mo Fashion Show and Musical Homage to the Sport, high heels and all. Think you can beat her? She has a USATT rating of 2468, #10 Woman in the U.S.

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May 10, 2011

As I noted in my blog yesterday, I'm in Eugene, OR, visiting my dad. He's in the hospital after having a stroke. It's not life-threatening, but he's paralyzed on his left side. (And he's left-handed, alas.) It's going to be a bit hectic here, and I have other things on my mind, so I'm going to take the week off. I'll go back to daily blogs after I return to Maryland, on Wednesday, May 18. 

May 9, 2011

Eugene, Oregon (Non-Table Tennis)

This afternoon I'm off for Eugene, Oregon for eight days, May 9-18, to visit my dad, who's 76. He recently had a stroke. It's not life threatening, but he's paralyzed on his left side. (And he's left-handed.) I still plan on doing the daily blog. Edit - Change of plans - it's going to be a bit hectic here, and I have other things on my mind, so I'm going to take the week off. I'll go back to daily blogs after I return to Maryland, on Wednesday, May 18.

Pushblocking with Long Pips (no sponge)

Because of a muscle tear, I'm trying to rest my back. And so yesterday in practice matches with our junior players I decided to play with long pips, no sponge (Tibhar GrassD.Tec5), and covered the entire table with my backhand. As expected, it caused complete havoc. I didn't play our top juniors, mostly ones under 1800, but let's just say it wasn't pretty. As a coach, I need to play more orthodox for my students, i.e. regular inverted. But if my goal was to just win, I'm pretty sure I'd shoot up a bunch with this stuff. My level these days is at most 2200, but who knows what it'll be when my back gets better so I can use my normal forehand (along with my serve & follow), etc.

World Championships in Rotterdam, Netherlands, May 8-15

Dying to follow the World Championships? Then visit the ITTF World Championships page. Dying to follow every move made by Team USA? Then visit the USA Team Page. Still not enough for you? Then train for 10,000 hours over the next ten years with the best coaches and trainers, make the USA Team, and go to the Worlds in person.

Here's some more coverage of Team USA - eight "Behind the Scenes" videos! If you are a USA Table Tennis fan, how can you not watch these? Brought to you by BayAreaTT, USA Table Tennis, and USA Men's Team Coach Stefan Feth.

  • Video1 Welcome from Men's Coach Stefan Feth (0:51)
  • Video2 Behind the scenes training (4:15)
  • Video3 Training Germany before Worlds, meet Timothy Wang & Michael Landers, others (14:56)
  • Video4 More behind the scenes training in Germany, and meet some of the players (7:30)
  • Video5 Behind the scenes when not training, with Mark Hazinski, Timothy Wang, and Michael Landers (4:39)
  • Video6 History of Grenzau Table Tennis (where Team USA is training), with long-time German team member Lucjan Blascyck (3:01)
  • Video7 Arriving in Rotterdam (5:30)
  • Video8 Final training before Worlds, both USA and top World Players, plus the Butterfly party, interviews with Ariel Hsing and Prachi Jha (6:58)

Zhang Yining learning English in Wisconsin

Yes, Chinese table tennis legend Zhang Yining (2004 & 2008 Olympic Women's Singles Gold Medalist, 2005 & 2009 World Women's Singles Champion) is learning English at the University of Wisconsin. Here's a good article on her new life in America.

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May 6, 2011

 

A journey of nine feet begins at contact

When you serve, do you just serve? Or do you stop and visualize the serve first? And when you visualize the serve, do you visualize all of it, or just part of it? You should visualize the entire journey the serve takes - the contact height, amount and type of spin, how fast it will go out, where it hits on your side of the table (this is most overlooked part), where and how low it crosses the net, how it curves through the air, where it bounces on far side, how it bounces each time, and where second bounce on far side should be? (A longer version of this might be next Monday's Tip of the Week.)

Brian Pace and Richard McAfee . . . reminiscing

Championship player and coach Brian Pace sits down with longtime friend, coach, and mentor Richard McAfee (USATT Coaching Chair), and they talk about their relationship that has spanned over 25 years. (24:10)

Catty Table Tennis

Here's vintage footage of a cat playing table tennis (0.29) - really! - just for fun. There are actually dozens of videos of cats and table tennis in the video section of the Fun and Games section here at TableTennisCoaching.com - why not have some quality time and take a tour? Who knows what you'll find. Maybe W.C. Fields playing hilarious table tennis from the 1939 movie "You Can't Cheat an Honest Man" (2:33) or a picture of the horse Mr. Ed playing table tennis (for real, not photoshopped, from TV show "Mister Ed").

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May 5, 2011

 

Coaching breakthroughs

Yesterday two of my students - who shall remain nameless - had nice breakthroughs. One, who we shall call "Sammy," who's about 10, has had trouble with his backhand. Yesterday he suddenly figured out how to hit it with topspin (rather than sort of a flat, almost backspin contact), and just like that had a steady backhand. Once he figured that out, his forehand also came alive, and for the first time, we had really decent backhand and forehand exchanges. He also made a breakthrough on service spin. We spent some time serving on the floor, and for the first time he was able to create enough backspin so that the ball would return back to him. You wouldn't believe how fun it is to serve on the floor with spin and make the ball do tricks - use backspin to make it come back, or sidespin to make it go around objects.

Another, who we shall call "Ryan," who's 11, went topspin crazy yesterday. His forehand loop really came alive. For the first time, he was able to really battle with me in backhand-to-backhand exchanges. (I had to really get down low and into "match mode" here.) Even more impressive, right after I explained that it takes a rather high level to backhand loop against a block over and over, he immediately backhand looped against my block over and over! Okay, okay, I'll stop trying to limit my students to low-level stuff. His serves also took a big jump, especially his sidespin. He was able to do what I call "The Journey," which I wrote about recently. You stand on your forehand side, and put a box on the far side of the table, down the line. Then you serve sidespin so the ball bounces on your backhand court, curves around, bounces over the net, and continues to curve until it bounces into the box.

Table tennis going corporate?

Here's a table tennis article that bounces around between Warren Buffett, Susan Sarandon, and Nicolas Sarkozy (with playing pictures of all three!); former U.S. and China table tennis stars Kim Gilbert, Glenn Cowan, and Zhuang Zedong; the "Clash of the Hedge Fund Titans" tournament at Spin Table Tennis; the 19.5 million recreational players in the U.S., a 53 percent increase over the past decade; and has quotes from promoter Alan Williams like, "Everyone should play table tennis. They’ll live longer, they’ll be smarter, they’ll be more attractive," and "I'm talking about Olympians. How often do you get to meet Andre Agassi? You can’t do it. Pete Sampras? Not going to happen. But I can have you in front of a national ping-pong team in, like, five minutes." How can any table tennis player not read this, and still look themselves in the mirror later in the day? It's what everyone will be talking about at work around the water cooler. Well, my water cooler; I don't know about yours.

USATT Coaching Certification

Dear USATT Certified Coaches: Good for you!

Dear Non-USATT Certified Coaches: What are you waiting for?

Of course, you can also become ITTF certified, but for that you'll have to wait until the next ITTF Coaching Seminar in the U.S. (I'll announce them here when they come up.)

Tom the Universe

In non-table tennis news, my science fiction story "Tom the Universe" went online recently at Escape Pod, the largest circulation audio science fiction market. You can either read it or have it read aloud - take your pick! I'm told that about 30,000 will read or listen to the story. Here's a short description: "A romp through singularities, universes, and just about everything else as our hero goes from common man to vengeful supreme being. He has a valuable lesson to learn about forgiveness; will he learn it in time?" (I've sold 48 science fiction and fantasy short stories and recently completed two novels which are making the rounds of publishers. Here is my science fiction & fantasy page, which includes links to many of my published stories.)

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May 4, 2011

 

Table Tennis Nets

Not nets for the table, or even nets for robots, but nets for picking up balls! How did the world (or at least table tennis clubs with lots of training going on) operate before we had them for picking up balls? We use Ball Amigos from Butterfly (since MDTTC is sponsored by Butterfly). Paddle Palace sells Stiga Ball Catchers. Newgy sells Pong Pals, a tube for picking up balls, though I prefer nets. (JOOLA also has nets for picking up balls, but their shopping site is temporarily down for maintenance so I can't look it up.) Feel free to comment on other ball pickup devises - there are more. (Addendum: There's also the PingPongBuddy sold at Megaspin, as noted by PipProdigy below.) 

One of the funnier moments at MDTTC came about ten years ago when an actual butterfly flew into the club. So one of the kids spent the next ten minutes chasing it with a Butterfly net! (Technically a Butterfly Ball Amigo, but Butterfly net sounds funnier, and it was a Butterfly net being used as a butterfly net.) He never caught the butterfly, but he did chase it out the door.

Team USA Table Tennis News Item

Team USA Table Tennis put up a news item on the ITTF Coaching Seminar I ran in Maryland April 16-17, 23-24. The same article (by Jef Savage) should appear as a USATT News item soon. On their home page, in the blue field (to the right of the large picture box), click on "ITTF Coaching Course in Maryland," and you'll a picture of me teaching, classroom style! (I'm holding the book because we couldn't fit the whole page on the screen without making it too small for people to read, so I used the book for reference so I could see the whole page.)

Are you interested in an ITTF Coaching Seminar? Keep reading this blog; there are some future ones planned which I'll announce here! (Not necessarily by me - there are other high-level coaches who are planning on teaching them. I'll probably teach another one in Maryland next year.)

Table Tennis Tales & Techniques

Now for some crass commercialism. Want to buy a copy of my book, Table Tennis Tales & Techniques? Below are where you can buy copies! (I put the amazon link up, but why not support table tennis and buy from your favorite table tennis distributor?)

If you are looking for a copy of my book Table Tennis: Steps to Success (not to be confused with the book by Richard McAfee with the same title), you can still buy copies from Butterfly and Amazon, and there are currently four copies on sale on ebay. Plus there's an online version.

Two other table tennis books of mine are online:

Plus, of course, there's Pings and Pongs, a collection of my 30 best published science fiction & fantasy short stories! (There's one table tennis fantasy story, and table tennis is mentioned in several other stories.)

Tahl Leibovitz Videos

U.S. Paralympic Champion Tahl Leibovitz - who came within a game or so once of making the regular USA National Team - has put together a series of 21 instructional table tennis videos. There's a 15-second commercial at the start of each (wanna buy some State Farm car insurance?), then they go on to good stuff.

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May 3, 2011

 

How Osama bin Laden really was killed.

He was swatted away at the end of a ten-year cat & mouse game. (The original photo is by Mal Anderson - it's real! Then I got busy in Photoshop...) Send me your own table tennis pictures showing Osama's demise and (if they are in good taste) I'll feature them here. 

Do something with the receive

I was watching one of our top cadets in practice matches this weekend. When I coach him, I'm always reminding him to "do something" when receiving. In other words, don't just push the ball back. If you do push it, do so aggressively, i.e. quick off the bounce, heavy, low, and angled. Or aim one way and go another. Or push short. Or flip. And if the serve is long, then you simply have to loop it, period. (Yes, there are exceptions, but they are exceptions. I'm talking higher-level here - but if you want to be good, you'll loop the long serve too. See my March 14 Tip on attacking deep serves.) The cadet, who knew better, was just pushing the serve back, relying on his reflexes and blocking ability to win points - while developing a bad habit. I spoke to him afterwards, and reminded him that practice matches are just that - practice matches, where you practice. Next time, hopefully, he'll use those practice matches to practice. How about you?

ITTF Coaching Seminar in Maryland

The ITTF is featuring the coaching seminar I ran at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (April 16-17, 23-24). I'll probably run another next year, maybe sooner. We'll see. If interested, contact me and I'll put you on my email list when I plan another one.

In an email to the USATT Board, staff, and committee chairs, USATT Coaching Chair Richard McAfee - the one responsible for bringing the ITTF coaching certification program to the U.S. - wrote:

"We now have Course Conductors in each region of the country and the Coaching Advisory Committee is working hard to get more regional courses held this year. These courses are completely self-funded and no USATT funds are being used to support the courses. Hats off to Larry, for demonstrating a model to deliver these courses in a way that makes it cost effective for the Course Conductors. The problem with starting any new program is getting someone to go "first."  I believe that once our Course Conductors give their first course and realize that it is not that difficult to do and also the importance of the contribution they are making to the sport, we will see regular regional courses being held."

My thanks goes to Richard, Glenn Tepper and ITTF, and especially to the 14 coaches who braved the horror of me speaking for (it seemed like) the entire 24 hours.

Want to be saturated with table tennis videos?

Reflex Sports, the table tennis video outlet, has figured out how to sell table tennis videos in an age where you can find videos of just about anything on youtube. They are selling access to essentially their entire table tennis video library - just about every major tournament since 1985 - as well as video coverage of the upcoming World Championships. It's only $59/year or $89 for two years. Here's where you go to buy access. One of my students bought me a subscription.

Here are three nice videos:

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May 2, 2011

 

Any big news from overseas last night? Perhaps a major killing?

Yes - the USA Junior Girls Team won the gold medal at the French Junior & Cadet Open! A lot of killing went on. More specifically:

  • Gold medal:
    • Junior Girls' Team (Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, and Erica Wu)
  • Silver medals:
    • Junior Girls' Doubles (Ariel Hsing/Lily Zhang)
    • Cadet Girls' Singles (Lily Zhang)
  • Bronze medals:
    • Cadet Girls' Team (Prachi Jha with Michelle Liaw from Canada) 
    • Cadet Girls' Doubles (Lily Zhang with Charlotte Carey from Wales)
  • Quarterfinals:
    • Junior Girls' Singles - Ariel Hsing/Lily Zhang
    • Cadet Girls' Singles - Prachi Jha
    • Cadet Girls' Doubles - Prachi Jha/Erica Wu

Speaking of killing....

I've hurt my upper back, and won't be doing any hard forehand looping or hitting for a while. It's a muscle strain or tear; we'll see how long it takes to heal. Meanwhile, yesterday I fooled around playing with long pips on the backhand, no sponge, and covering nearly the whole table blocking with the long pips backhand. From my initial rallying with a 1900 player, I have a feeling I'll cause havoc among many players if I show up at a tournament this way, especially since I also have a pretty good forehand, and can flip quickly and use inverted on the backhand when I want. Hmmmm....

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis

I just updated the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page. Updates include Jack Nicholson, Jennifer Connolly, Vince Vaughn, Howard Jacobson, Henry Kissinger, and Nicolas Sarkozy. And in case you missed last update, that included Justin Bieber, Kevin Spacey, Barbara Eden, Ginger Rogers, Susan Sarandon, Walter Mondale, Benjamin Netanyahu, and Rafael Nadal! The page now contains 1178 pictures of 699 celebrities, with sections on Politicians/Leaders, Athletes, Talk Show Hosts, Writers, Actors, Actresses, Musicians, Cartoon Characters, and Other. Send me your own!

Richard McAfee on Ping Pong Planet

Here are two videos of Richard McAfee on Ping Pong Planet, a weekly variety show in Thailand. The director and star is Don Mudtangam, who is the "Director of Coaches" for the Thailand TTA. Richard shows up at 4:17 into the first video (14:22 long), and begins speaking at 4:57. He's in from the start in the second video (13:43 long). The others are speaking Thai. In the videos, Richard uses a Newgy robot to demonstrate serve return drills.

Newgy Robo-Pong Seminar

Newgy's doing a free three-day Newgy Robo-Pong Training Seminar, for Newgy robot owners (2050, 2040, 1050, 1040 or 540). You can sign up for one, two, or all three days. They will be held:

  • Friday, May 20, 2011: 6-9 pm
  • Saturday, May 21, 2011: 9 am-5 pm
  • Sunday, May 22, 2011: 9 am-12 Noon

It will be held at the Newgy Table Tennis Center at 805 Teal Drive, Gallatin, Tennessee 37066 USA. Instructors will be USATT Certified Coaches Carl Hardin and Roger Dickson. First come, first serve basis; Men, women, all ages and all skill levels.

The seminar will cover:

  • Spin and shot selection, head angle adjustments
  • Oscillation, ball speed and ball frequency
  • Randomization controls
  • Pre-programmed drills
  • Programming your own customized drills
  • Plus, much more!

Also from their announcement, "See how the Robo-Pong can improve your table tennis skills while having fun and getting a workout all at the same time! This seminar will consist of both demonstrations and hands-on activity with the Robo-Pong and other attendees."

If interested, fill out form and email to Newgy Table Tennis. For more information, call 1-800-556-3949 or email.

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April 29, 2011

Table Tennis Troubleshooting by Brian Pace

I spent this morning watching the five-video series by Coach Brian Pace on "Table Tennis Troubleshooting" - and so should you. This goes over how players can identify and fix problems in their games. I'm amazed at how much time he's put into these, both on preparing and organizing what is said and shown in each video, and the nice graphics. Shots are shown both regular and in slow motion. Since Brian has very nice technique (and entertaining besides), every example is great to watch and copy. (Video 4 and 5 are actually listed as episodes 5 and 6; I think there's another one coming later.)

  • Video 1: Shot selection and short serves - great graphics and examples! This is really two distinct topics in one video. (10:01)
  • Video 2: "Technical Property Line" - nice graphical presentation of the various skills that make up your game. This one is harder to describe without watching the video. (3:45)
  • Video 3: When to start forehand looping - nice comparison of the loop and drive, and discussion of when it's time to learn to loop. (5:02)
  • Video 4: Sidespin serve return - demonstrates both the serve itself and how to return it. Nice graphics. (5:05)
  • Video 5: Building fitness - just what it says, with emphasis on cardio. (4:36)

Backspin and Sidespin Serve Exercises

When teaching backspin serves, I've always challenged students to serve so the ball comes back into the net. At first, I tell them to go ahead and serve high, since the goal is to create backspin. This makes it easier to make the ball come back into the net. Once they can do that, the next goal is to serve with just as much (or more) backspin and keep it low. If you barely graze the ball, and put little forward momentum, it'll come right back into the net no matter how low the serve. (In a real match situation, you probably want more forward momentum on the serve, so it might not go into the net; instead, the second bounce would be near the endline, and so it would go off the end after the second bounce, given the chance. This makes it harder to flip, to drop short, or to quick push with an angle.)

I'm now doing a similar exercise for sidespin serves. For the forehand pendulum serve, I have them serve from the forehand side of the table. I put a box of balls (we use Gatorade boxes at MDTTC) on the far side of the table on the right (opponent's backhand side if he's a righty). The goal is to serve the ball with sidespin so it hits on the left side of the opponent's table, then curves around and bounces into the box on the right. I start by demonstrating it. It's much easier than it looks - try it!

The Ping-Pong Song

This piano/ping-pong song is both compelling and relaxing to watch, but it'll play in your head all day! You've probably never seen table tennis played on a piano before, right? (3:40)

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