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

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

March 10, 2017

More Table Tennis Tips
The book is almost done! This is a compilation of all 150 of my Tips of the Week from 2014-2016, put in logical progression. It’s the sequel to Table Tennis Tips, which did the same for 2011-2013. Yesterday I finished inputting the edits and suggestions from the Terrific Trio of Mark Dekseyser, John Olsen, and Dennis Taylor, who read the first draft. So the text is now done. Today I’ll be formatting the pages. I also have to do the back cover. (Front cover is done.) If all goes well, it’ll be ready for final proofing in a few days. When it comes out (by the end of this month), I may put together some sort of special where you can get both volumes at a discount. Or why not buy Table Tennis Tips and read it now, so you can go straight to More Table Tennis Tips when it comes out?

Shadow Practice
I’ve been encouraging some of my students to shadow practice. This is a big part of the Talent junior program at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where the coaches lead the players in shadow-stroking drills, and then feed multiball to each player, with the others in the group lined up behind and shadow-stroking. (Parents take turns picking up the balls so it’s continuous, with short breaks.) Here are three videos I sent to them as examples.

Full-time Clubs
On Wednesday, I wrote about how we had reached 90 full-time clubs in the U.S. Well, now we’re at 92, with the additions of the New York City Table Tennis Academy and the Houston International Table Tennis Academy. I’m not sure how these two were left out before, but now we’re just eight away from that magic 100 mark. I hope to focus on developing more of these centers over the next couple of years. (If you know of any not on the list, let me know.)

It was at the December 2006 USATT board meeting that I urged USATT to make it a goal to have 100 full-time centers in the country within ten years. I created a plan and made the proposal where we’d actively recruit and train people to set up these training centers, focusing on how they could make a full-time living coaching table tennis. (At the time there were about eight such centers, with perhaps a couple dozen full-time coaches in the U.S.; now we have many hundreds.) The program would be paid by the coaches themselves, who already were paying to attend USATT certification clinics. My point was that we were only teaching them how to coach, not how to be professional coaches, and so few of them extensively used the skills we taught them.

The idea was scoffed at, with the eternal argument that there aren’t enough table tennis players in this country – but here we are. It was the primary reason I resigned early in 2007 as USATT editor and programs director. Two board members in particular ridiculed the idea, and others sort of quietly looked the other way. Now imagine where we would be if USATT had helped out by recruiting and training people to set up and run these centers? Instead, people have had to do it on their own, one by one, with experienced people like myself advising informally. Instead of 92, we’d probably have twice that many. If that seems like a lot, remember that back then eight seemed like a lot, and the idea of having 100 seemed a joke. I once calculated that we should have about 500 in this country.

I get scoffed at a lot. When I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992, it was the first successful full-time training center of its kind, and we were also told it couldn’t work, that there just isn’t enough table tennis activity in this country for something like that to work. What they were missing, of course, is that you develop the interest. We’re the same species of human as people overseas, and it works there, so why not here? But every step of the way the idea of full-time training centers has been scoffed at, with people believing each step of the way that we had saturated the market and there was no room for more.

I was toying with creating a comprehensive lists of all the things I’ve been scoffed at for, but then I’d be here all day. (Do you play in a rated table tennis league, using the USATT League ratings? When I co-founded that with Robert Mayer as an attempt to break away from “winner stay on” mentality of most clubs, it was scoffed at. In both of my tenures as editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine I was told that they had saturated the table tennis advertising market – and each time I tripled the ad revenue. Heck, I didn’t start table tennis until I was 16, and guess how many people believed someone could start that late and reach top 20 in the U.S.?)

How to Plan a Third-Ball Attack
Here’s the article and podcast (7:50) from Expert Table Tennis. I thought I’d comment on one statement, where it says, “If you’re a player with a really strong forehand, but a weak backhand attack, then it doesn’t make sense for you to do loads of pendulum forehand serves when you’re playing matches. Because you’re just increasing the chance that you’ll need to use your backhand for the third-ball.”

I believe this was written more for beginning and intermediate players, where it’s generally true. At the higher levels, among those with fast footwork, it actually changes, and forehand-oriented players (like myself) favor the forehand pendulum serve. Why? Because it allows us to attack with the forehand from the backhand side, which puts us in position for a second follow-up forehand. If we used sidespin to put the ball to the forehand (say, a backhand serve, tomahawk serve, or reverse pendulum serve), then the ball might tend to go to the forehand side, giving us a forehand shot, but pulling us to the wide forehand side – and then the opponent could block to the backhand, taking away the forehand.

MH Coaching Blog
You’ve got a long weekend ahead, so why not curl up with a few good coaching articles at MH Table Tennis (by Matt Hetherington)? They’ve accumulated over the years, so there are a lot of nice ones!

Adam Bobrow 'The Voice of Table Tennis' on Board for the Next Four Years
Here’s the ITTF press release.

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge Collegiate Players & Alumni Dominate Rating Events
Here’s the article by Barbara Wei.

MasterChef rivalry: Heston Blumenthal’s Table Tennis Battle Royale with George Calombaris
Here’s the article from the London Daily Telegraph.

LIVE NOW: The Marvellous 12 - Stage 2 Finals
Here’s where you can watch the Chinese Team Trials – live! (Presumably you can go back and watch them afterwards as well.)

War of the Worlds Pong?
Here’s the picture of these tripod beings taking up table tennis!

Humorous Table Tennis T-Shirts
Because only a really boring table tennis player doesn't have at least one humorous table tennis shirt in his collection!

Ping-Pong in Kong!
When you see Kong: Skull Island, watch closely early in the film when they set out on the big boat - there's a ping-pong table on deck! As to the movie itself (non-table tennis aspects), this is what I posted on Facebook after seeing it last night (with a few minor edits): “Kong: Skull Island is basically Apocalypse Now + Jurassic Park + Moby Dick + Robinson Crusoe + Beauty and the Beast + Godzilla (as King Kong played by "Caesar" from the Planet of the Apes) all in one. Great movie, very different from past King Kong movies. 80% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stay for the after-credits scene.”

And since we’re on the topic of King Kong, here are King Kong/Gorilla table tennis pictures!

Non-Table Tennis: Funny Horror
The recent anthology Funny Horror has a story I wrote in it, “Happily and Righteously,” a parody of paranoia. The first review of the book is out, from Imagine Books, where my story is listed as one of the favorites. The reviewer then went over each story one by one, and gave the story the shortest review of all: “Brilliant!”

Send us your own coaching news!

March 9, 2017

Backhands to Get the Timing for Forehands
I have a new student who has been struggling with her forehand. It’s sort of strange – she has a very good backhand, and we can really go at it on that side. But on the forehand, her shots go all over the place. Sometimes she’ll hit a few good ones, and then she’ll swat it straight down into the net, then loft it way off the end, as if there’s no control over the timing or the stroke. The contrast between the two sides is huge. Her background was that she had trained as a kid in Poland, then stopped for decades, and was now picking it up again.

From a coaching point of view, it was rather frustrating as each session would start with us going forehand-to-forehand, sometimes multiball, sometimes live, and no matter what we did, the balls flew everywhere. Eventually we’d wear down and switch to backhands, where she’d have no problem – though by then she’d be a bit tired, physically and mentally, and so even there it wasn’t as good as it could be.

Yesterday (our fifth session) I had a brainstorm. We so often start off sessions going forehand to forehand and then backhand to backhand, and it made sense here – she needed more work on the forehand, so we should start there, right? After a while we could then go to the backhand for a time, and then come back to work on that problematic forehand again. But more and more I was suspecting the forehand problem was strictly a timing problem, and the changes in stroke were her adjustments to timing problems – lunging forward and swatting the ball into the net when she was too early, lofting it off the end when she was too late. We worked on the timing, trying to take the ball at the same spot each time, but were only semi-successful. So what was this brainstorm?

We started yesterday’s session going backhand to backhand. She did so well that I began to increase the pace, and soon she was hitting them like a pro (perhaps at a 1900-2000 level). When I played my forehand to her backhand I began to really tee off, and she got better and better, as if those skills from years ago in Poland were coming back.

Then we switched to forehands – and the change was dramatic!!! Hitting all those backhands, where she’s comfortable, helped her develop her timing, and so when we switched to forehands, she had no trouble. By the end of the session she was smacking in forehands like a pro! (Next week we begin looping, something she learned all those years ago in Poland – and she hinted that she was stronger on the backhand loop than the forehand loop.)

How to Transfer Practice Skills to a Match
Here’s the article and podcast (7:42) from Expert Table Tennis.

Small Steps Training Drill
Here’s the article by Tom Lodziak.

Coaching Articles from Coach Me Table Tennis
Here’s a site with regular coaching articles.

SPiN Announces Its Latest Expansion Into Austin and Launch Of Its New Digital Programming
Here’s the article.

Ask a Pro Anything - Paul Drinkhall
Here’s the video (5:10) with Adam Bobrow. Drinkhall, the #1 player from England, is #39 in the world (#32 in September)

Top 10 Men’s World Rankings – the Video!
Here’s the video (33 sec) from Pong Universe, featuring the new March rankings. Here’s the ITTF World Ranking List, with Men, Women, and boys and girls Under 21, Under 18, and Under 15.  

Incredible Kreanga Over the Barriers
Here’s the video (36 sec).

Ping-Pong as the Fountain of Youth
Here’s the article from the New York Times.

How to Make Ping-Pong Ball Monsters
Here’s the info page and video (47 sec)!

Octopus Table Tennis Shirt
Here it is!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 8, 2017

Celebrities Playing Table Tennis - Want to Host It?
Many years ago, “In a moment of sudden clarity, I realized what this world needed was a web page devoted to pictures of celebrities playing table tennis.” And so I created the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis Page. I maintained and continued to add to it for years, and it now has 1440 photos of 870 different celebrities playing table tennis. Why not browse over it?

How’d you like to take over the site?

A lot of blogs and web pages have links to the site. Here's a list of 68. It was even a "Yahoo Pick," and is one of their "Celebrity Picks.") At its peak, for several months the page averaged over 15,000 downloads per day! (Alas, I’m having trouble accessing the current stats, but I know it still gets a lot of daily hits.)

But it go to be a time-consuming job. A major reason for this was the way I’d set it up, with simple old-fashioned HTML and tables. I think some of the code got messed up, and it became a time-consuming headache adding more pictures. But it’s all there, easy to read, in nine different categories: Politicians/Leaders ... Athletes ... Talk Show Hosts ... Writers ... Actors ... Actresses ... Musicians ... Cartoon Characters ... Other.

I’m just too busy to devote time to it, and so few years ago I stopped maintaining it. And so it just sits there, an orphan in cyberspace, looking for someone it can call “Mommy” or “Daddy.” Yes, I’ve abandoned it; I’m a horrible parent. (I even have a folder of new photos for it that I’ve never added.)

But I’d like to find a good home for it. It would be a great way to attract traffic to your site. You’d have to host it – that means transferring it all to your server, and setting it up in any format you choose. (I'm sure there's a more efficient, modern way of setting up this photo gallery than the way it's currently set up.) Right now it’s a purely non-commercial site – it even says that in bold at the top – and I’d prefer it go to some semi-noncommercial site, rather than a purely commercial one, but let’s see who’s interested and motivated to take it over and maintain it. If interested, let me know.

USATT Young Officials Seminar
Here’s the USATT article – now this is something new and interesting! It’ll take place on Sunday, March 26, at the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey. Cost is $25. “The one-day seminar . . . will give aspiring young officials 13 – 18 years old the chance to learn the rules of table tennis and earn their USATT Club Umpire Certification. The seminar will be conducted under the supervision of ITTF International Referee and International Umpire Roman Tinyszin, who served as the Deputy Referee at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.”

And Long Island TTC Makes 90!
With the addition of the Long Island TTC, we now have 90 full-time table tennis centers in the U.S. C’mon, just ten more!!! (I was once laughed at for predicting ten years ago that we could have 100 such centers in ten years – back then we had about eight.)
UPDATE - I just added the New York City Table Tennis Academy, so we're at 91. 
UPDATE - I just added the Houston International Table Tennis Academy, so we're at 92. (I thought I had already added them.) 

How to Recover After Your Service
Here’s the article and podcast (6:31) from Expert Table Tennis.

Top 3 Table Tennis Injuries (and How to Prevent Them)!
Here’s the article.

Best of 2016
Here are the eight best videos from Samson Dubina in 2016.

Young Players Excel at 2017 Maryland Hopes Camp and Trial
Here’s the USATT article – by me! It’s from my blog on Tuesday.

2018 Buenos Aires Youth Olympic Games Initial Announcement
Here’s the news release.

Serious Fun: Augusta Table Tennis Classic to help put food on tables
Here’s the article from the Augusta Chronicle.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 24! Or order your own print copies at, as well as Volume 19!

Ma Long vs Fan Zhendong (Marvelous 12)
Here’s the video (7:12) in the Chinese Team Trials – with links to other matches on the right. Here are the current standings and article – and Zhang Jike (who has dropped to 2-4) has withdrawn from stage one with a foot injury.

Crazy Point!
Here’s the video (43 sec)!

Desperado: Man vs. Cactus
Here’s the picture! (Here’s the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!


March 7, 2017

Tip of the Week
Footwork and Strokes: Use ‘Em or Lose ‘Em.

Maryland Regional Hopes Camp and Tournament
Maryland Table Tennis Center, March 4-5, 2017
By Larry Hodges

They were held this past weekend at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, with 25 players taking part. The camp was on Saturday, with two 2.5 hour sessions, with the tournament on Sunday. A great thanks goes to ITTF and USATT (especially Andy Horn and Gordon Kaye) for arranging these events, and to HW Global Foundation, which helped sponsor it. Here is the USATT Hopes Info page.

Head coach for the camp was Wang Qing Liang (“Leon”), one of the USATT National Cadet Coaches and one of nine full-time coaches at MDTTC. Also coaching were the MDTTC coaching staff, and Jessica Lin helped out as a practice partner. Here’s a group picture of the players and some of the coaches. (Not all the players in the tournament were in the camp.) Here’s a picture of me in action, with Wang Qing Liang on far right. (Notice how attentive the kids are?)

For the morning session I acted as a practice partner, doing one-on-one coaching. There were lots of footwork and serve & attack drills. The afternoon session was mostly multiball. I had a group of three players and went through nine drills:

  1. 3-point forehand footwork (forehand corner, middle, backhand corner, repeat);
  2. Backhand-forehand-forehand footwork (2-1 drill, with backhand from backhand side, forehand from backhand side, forehand from forehand side);
  3. Random topspin;
  4. Side-to-side footwork forehand looping against backspin;
  5. Side-to-side footwork backhand looping against backspin;
  6. Backhand flip against short backspin and no-spin;
  7. Random backspin;
  8. Alternate backspin and topspin (forehand loop vs. backspin followed by forehand vs. topspin);
  9. Repeat previous drill with backhand.

The tournament was on Sunday, with five events. I ran the tournament, with Wen Hsu assisting. Another great thanks goes to Referee Paul Kovac and Umpires Joseph Lee and Stephen Yeh, who umpired all of the Boys’ and Girls’ Final Four matches. Here is a group picture of the players in Boys’ and Girls’ Singles, and staff (with Stephen Yeh missing).

The two main events were Boys’ and Girls’ Singles, for players born in 2005 or 2006. (Alas, many of our top juniors were born just before or after this.) The top three finishers at each of the four Hopes Tournaments become members of the USA Hopes Team and qualify for the North American Hopes Qualifier, to be held April 29-30 in New Jersey. The top four finishers got medals and certificates. There were also three rating events, with players under age 16 eligible. Congrats to the two champions, Jayden Zhou and Faith Hu, both from New Jersey, and to the others who qualified or won medals! Here are complete results from Omnipong. Below are the main results – click on the names to see pictures.

Hopes Boys – Final: Jayden Zhou d. Avi Gupta, -11, 5,3,1; SF: Zhou d. Robert Sun, 8,-5,-9,3,7; Gupta d. Alexander Yang, 7,6,5. 3-4: Robert Sun d. Alexander Yang, 8,9,3.
Hopes Girls: 1st Faith Hu, 3-0; 2nd Linda Shu, 2-1; 3rd Nicole Deng, 1-2; 4th Hina Sheikh, 0-3.
U2100: 1st Linda Shu, 3-0; 2nd Nicole Deng, 2-2; 3rd Kallista Liu, 2-2; 4th Stanley Hsu, 1-3.
U1700: 1st Ainish Dassarma, 4-0; 2nd Daniel Sofer, 3-1; 3rd Jackson Beaver, 2-2; 4th Andy Wu, 1-3.
U1300: 1st Kay Okawa, 3-0; 2nd Jason Liu, 2-1; 3rd Kurtus Hsu, 1-2; 4th Hina Sheikh, 0-3.

Brian Pace Appointed Head Coach of Triangle Table Tennis Center
Here’s the article – Congrats Brian! I was the manager of the Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs when Brian went there at age 15 in the late 1980s for I think two years. Later he came to Maryland for five years or so, training at the Maryland Table Tennis Center (which is when he hit his peak, breaking 2600) – for about a year I shared a house with him and several other players.

Articles and Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

R U Ready? The Ball is Coming Back!
Here’s the article and video (23 sec – see last 5 sec) by Samson Dubina.

Tom's Table Tennis Newsletter
Here’s the newest one, with links to numerous coaching articles. (I’ve linked to all or most of them, but a second read often helps.)

Ellen Meets Table Tennis Champion Siblings
Here’s the video (4:21) – GREAT JOB by Sid and Nandan Naresh! And for those who missed it, here’s a screenshot of the “Ellen Table” they got at the end.

2017 USA National Team Trials
They are at the Triangle TTC in North Carolina, March 23-26.

Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge

Revealing the Diamond Within
Here’s a great video (2:39) that, while technically an ad, is really a great statement about the sport.

Lily Zhang and Mark Zuckerberg
Here’s the picture after they played – one of them is an Olympian!

Trump Immigration Policy Worries Ohlone College Table Tennis Champ
Here’s the article from The Mercury News (centered in San Jose, CA), featuring Ying Wang. (Picture shows her holding the YUUUGE trophy she won for Women’s Singles at the 2016 College Nationals.) “Uncertainty regarding the immigration policy of President Donald Trump is causing anxiety for an Ohlone College student who also happens to be a table tennis national champion. A native of China, Ying (Emily) Wang said her fear of being sent back home or not being able to find a job after graduation resonates among the more than 420 international students from nearly 30 countries at Ohlone.”

Donald Trump: Photoshopped into Table Tennis!
Here’s the gallery, which have him photoshopped as (mostly) a wheelchair table tennis player in numerous ways – as a turtle, juggling, and (my favorite), the alien from “Alien” coming out of his chest!

Over-the-Top One on Five
Here’s the video (61 sec) – it’s hilarious! Five men take on one woman in this truly over-the-top video. It gets crazy about 20 sec in.

Send us your own coaching news!

March 6, 2017

And On the Third Day He Rested….
After coaching nine hours on Saturday (including the Hopes Camp), and twelve hours at the club on Sunday (running the Hopes tournament, then 4.5 hours of coaching), I need a day to rest and catch up on my todo list, which is growing like bamboo. (I also have 2.5 hours of coaching tonight, and need to work on my new book, the creatively titled “More Table Tennis Tips,” which should be out by the end of the month.) But here’s a funny dog video (1:40) – skip to the last six seconds to see the dog playing “ping-pong”!

March 3, 2017

USATT Club Affiliation Fee
On Tuesday night and into the early Wednesday morning hours I was involved in an extensive email discussion with USATT people and others regarding the USATT affiliation fee. For many years, it was kept low because we wanted clubs on the USATT club listing, since that's a primary way USATT gets members - through potential players who find a local club. If a local club isn't listed in the USATT club listing, then they don't find the club, don't get into table tennis, and never join USATT.

But a number of years ago, when USATT had a budget crunch, it raised the rates rapidly, and in just a few years it went from $15 to $75. We lost at least 100 affiliated clubs, and "coincidentally," about 2000 members. Alas, many clubs are happy with their current membership - more players mean crowded tables - and so getting onto the USATT club listing isn't a priority for them - but it needs to be a priority for USATT. (Alas, I can't post emails received, as they are confidential, but I can post what I wrote. Will Shortz, who owns the Westchester Club in NY, is also arguing for lowering the club affiliation fee, for the same reasons.) Below are excerpts from my emails.

When we argue that they [clubs] are getting all these wonderful things (i.e. insurance) for the money, we have to remember that many of these clubs don't need that insurance. (This is why we've discussed the idea of perhaps having two levels, a low standard one, no more than $25/year, and $75 for those who wish insurance.) As I've said, we went from $15/year to $75/year in just a few years, and that's when we lost about 100 clubs, and untold numbers of potential members who went to our club listing, didn't see a club near them because the local club wasn't listed, and so we lost it. (And now our membership, which broke 9500 shortly before we began raising the club affiliation fee, is down something like 2000 members to about 7500.) Think about it - every time a potential player from Baltimore finds our club listing, he doesn't see the Baltimore Club, and so we lose him as a member.  If we lose 100 clubs on our listing, and lose just two members per year as a result, that's $15,000/year, far more than what we'd get from the higher affiliation fee - and those members accumulate year after year so it's really a lot more per year.


Actually, when you write, "I believe some of those clubs simply don't care about USATT, don't care about being listed on our website, don't care about our insurance, and don't care about using our products (tournaments, leagues)," we are almost in complete agreement. It's not that they don't care about USATT or being listed on our website, they just aren't high on their priority list. [Technically I'm quoting someone else's email, but since we both agree on it, I don't think that's a problem.]

My point is that we need most of them more than they need us. When the price was low, they joined because it's inexpensive, and we gained members from players who join their club. It's pretty much a fact that a much larger percentage of clubs in the past were USATT affiliated than now; it's 100% true in Maryland, and it's what I hear regularly all over the country, that we have more and more non-affiliated clubs. (Alas, while we want more members, many clubs aren't actively looking for more - they are happy as they are, and so affiliate only if the price is low. We offer them value, just not $75 worth.) [Note - in one of the emails I pointed out that only two of the eight clubs I know of in Maryland are USATT affiliated, when all of them were previously before we dramatically raised the rates.]

I've been "out in the trenches" running or helping to run numerous clubs since the late 1970s (New Carrollton TTC where I started, Prince Georges TTC, Butterfly Wilson TTC, Univ. of MD TTC, Northern Virginia TTC, Beltsville TTC, Club JOOLA, and MDTTC, plus working with dozens of others), and talking to other club leaders regularly, and I guarantee that the price absolutely does make a difference. If you really truly believe there's no difference between $15 and $75, then you've just rewritten the rules of economics. :) More seriously, there was a very noticeable drop in clubs affiliating as the price went up, which was predicted in advance, and now we're down at least 100 clubs and 2000 members for no seeming reason, other than paralleling our dramatically rising cost. The reasons you give about the clubs not caring about USATT, etc., are no different than before, except we now offer more - insurance, which we didn't do before - and yet many joined before, but not now. Sure, there might be other factors, but the quintupling of the affiliation fee is by far the biggest.

If you were running a business, and decided to quintuple your rates, and you were told in advance that if you did this your sales would go down a lot, and you still quintupled them, and sales went down a lot, what would you conclude was the most likely factor in sales going down? I don't think one needs an MBA to answer this. The ONLY serious question here, IMHO, is whether it's worth the loss of club affiliation revenue to regain those 100 or so clubs. I think that's rather obvious as well, though using a two-fold system (more for those who need insurance) is the best idea.


Most of our members come from tournament players, but nearly 100% of tournament players start out as club players. When there are fewer clubs, we have fewer club players, and then we have fewer tournament players, and so fewer USATT members. It's a simple cause and effect relationship.

We've already gone over the case of quintupling the club affiliation fee and losing 100 clubs and 2000 members. Here's another example. In the early 1990s, I chaired the club committee. I introduced the Club Catalyst and Creation Program (yes, CCCP, an inside joke), whose goal was to create clubs in every city in the country with a population over 100,000, then 50,000. We set up club directors in I believe 43 states. While there were screams and cries that USATT was trying to take over the clubs and that the program wouldn't work (sound familiar?), we went from 226 to 301 clubs in two years – and membership went up about 2000, from about 5500 to 7500.

Then a new administration came in and wanted to do their own things, and cancelled the program (which had a $500 annual budget for postage and phone calls – no Internet those days), and clubs and membership numbers went back to static for years. But gradually, with the club fee staying the same, its relative price went down, and gradually the number of clubs increased to over 350, and membership to over 9500 – we were on the verge of breaking 10,000. And then USATT had a budget crunch, and took the "easy" way out, increasing the club affiliation fees while assuming that they wouldn't lose any clubs or members, which of course were silly assumptions. (I was at the meeting arguing strongly that they'd lose clubs, members and money this way, to no avail – it's in the minutes if I search around for them.) Anyway, the result was exactly as described above, and now we're back to around 250 clubs and 7500 or so members.

The strange thing is that, despite these facts, I can't seem to get people to understand that it is the number of clubs that has driven the number of members. When we did something that increased the number of clubs, but no change for members, membership shot up 2000. When we did something that lowered the number of clubs, but no change for members, we lost 2000 members. Let's learn from our history.


The first thing we need to do is get info – primarily, how many clubs use or need the insurance. Once we have that, then we can work from there to see what the cost would have to be for clubs that want insurance. As to the values listed below, until we add something new that many clubs want, or lower the cost, we won't get back to 350 clubs, or the 450 that we should be at, or the corresponding members we lose by not having them on our club listing.

Why not do a survey of clubs, and explain that we have to go to a two-tier system, and need to know how many clubs need the insurance? Then we might be able to charge those clubs more than $75/year. Ideally, we would include former clubs in the survey – hopefully we still have contact info for former affiliated clubs?

Some of these increases may have been rationalized because of the insurance – not sure. But as I keep pointing out, if we raise the club rate to pay for insurance, and end up LOSING money by doing so (from lost clubs and memberships), then the proper thing to have done would have been to keep the rates lower so as NOT to lose that money.


Ideally, I'd still like to see the two-track method ($25 for non-insurance club affiliation), $75 (or more) for the insurance option. Or perhaps sell them separately - $25 for the affiliation [which puts them on the USATT Club listing - which will soon have an interactive map], and whatever more is needed to make the insurance cost-effective, taking into account how important it is that we get them on the club listing.


I was told how much money USATT made when they raised the club affiliation fee. My response was to ask how much money we made when we lost 2000 members after raising the club fee. We have to look at the big picture.

Sid and Nandan Naresh on Ellen DeGeneres Show TODAY
Here's a Facebook photo gallery (6 pictures - click on each to see the next) of the taping. It airs on the Ellen DeGeneres Show today at 3-4PM on NBC. (Check your local listing to verify the time in your region.) Someone nobody with a weak forehand named Emma Watson is also on the show. (Hermione from Harry Potter, Belle/Beauty in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast.) Sid, 13 (on Feb. 13, probably after the taping), is rated 2260, and was on last year's USA Mini-Cadet Team; Nandan, 10, is rated 2014. (Let's not forget father Arcot, who has been rated as high as 2066!)
=>BREAKING NEWS - here's the video (4:21)!

How to Recover From a Dip in Form
Here's the article from Tom Lodziak.

How to Hold Your Free Arm During Play
Here's the article and podcast (5:11) from Expert Table Tennis.

3T Table Tennis Training
Here's the video (42 sec) of physical training for TT.

Scientists Tested 3 Ways to Psych Yourself Up - One Was the Clear Winner
Here's the article. (And don't miss the hilarious 49-sec video of the little girl at the end!)

Ping Pong for Parkinson's
Here's the video (1:48). "The Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville just unveiled a new initiative to help people with Parkinson's. Every Wednesday, will be 'Parkinson's Night', when those battling the disease can play for free on their first visit."

The Marvelous 12 live on ITTF Facebook
Here's the article. "The Magnificent Seven, the Dirty Dozen, and now the Marvelous 12; the China trials for the Liebherr 2017 World Table Tennis Championships are here."

2017 Butterfly Arnold Table Tennis Challenge: Jian Li Ready to Defend Title
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

U.S. Men's Coach Stefan Feth
Here's a video (13:31) showing highlights of one of Stefan Feth's more memorable tournaments. Here's Stefan's Facebook posting on this:

15 years ago (March 2, 2002) today marks a very memorable day for me. I did not only play well in the 2002 German National Championships, but the tournament was also held in my hometown Koblenz in front of my parents, family and friends. Back then my parents didn't get to see me play much and I will never forget this special day. After years of sacrifices for me from my parents, it was their first time seeing me play in a professional tournament. With the tremendous support of my Coach Andrzej Grubba guiding me through all my matches, I had an incredible run with a third-place finish in Men's Singles, eventually losing to Timo Boll.

In the Doubles, I finished second in Mixed Doubles with Nicole Struse. In Men's Doubles, I had an early exit with my partner, former Men's Doubles World Champion Steffen Fetzner, in the round of 16. Check out some of my highlights with the players below. In this video, we were still playing with the 38mm ball, old service rules, and speed glue, representing our state federations at the German Nationals.

Singles: Round of 32: Nico Christ 4:1; Round of 16: Lars Hielscher WR#68 4:0; Quarterfinals: David Daus WR#120 4:0; Semifinal: Timo Boll WR#3 0:4.

Mixed Doubles: Final: Nicole Struse Wr#41 & Stefan Feth WR#156 vs. Elke Schall WR#55 & Torben Wosik WR#40 1:3.

Ten Hilarious Table Tennis Gif Videos
Here they are! I've linked to many of these individually, but now they are all together on one page.

Four-Way Sit-Down Pong?
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 2, 2017

MDTTC Happenings

  • The Gang's Back Together
    With Coach Zeng Xun ("Jeffrey") back from vacation in China, all our coaches are back in action - and all of them were coaching at MDTTC yesterday. The coaches are Larry Hodges (hey, that's me!), Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun, Alex Ruichao Chen, Wang Qing Liang ("Leon"), Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), Wu Jiacheng, John Hsu, and Wen Hsu. Ten active coaches in one club, often coaching at the same time - that's a lot of coaching!!!
  • Hopes Camp and Tournament
    We're holding it this weekend at MDTTC. The camp is for players under age 13, the tournament for players born in 2005 or 2006 (though players under age 16 may play in the rating events). Here's the USATT Hopes Program Page - see the "Maryland Regional Hopes Training Camp and Trial." I'm one of the hoard of coaches at the camp on Saturday, and am running the tournament on Sunday.  
  • Wootton and Robert Frost
    Wootton High School and Robert Frost Middle School in Maryland (near MDTTC) are among the strongest schools in the country. At the club last night we compiled a list of the players at these two schools. (All of the Robert Frost players will be going to Wootton in the next few years.) Hopefully I haven't missed anybody!!! (We have plenty of other strong junior players, but they don't go to these two schools.)

Wootton High School

  1. Roy Ke, 17, 2428
  2. Derek Nie, 16, 2350
  3. George Li, 14, 2133
  4. Spencer Chen, 14, 2089
  5. Darwin Ma, 16, 1964
  6. Matt Stepanov, 15, 1641
  7. Patrick Chen, 17, 1626
  8. Edwin Yu, 17, 1602
  9. Eileen Chen, 17, 1558
  10. Callie Xu, 15, 992

Robert Frost Middle School

  1. Ryan Dabbs, 13, 2275
  2. Tiffany Ke, 12, 2247
  3. Ronald Chen, 12, 2024
  4. Daniel Sofer, 12, 1646

New Articles/Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

Try a Little Defense
Here's the coaching tip from Carl Danner.

Butterfly 2017 Arnold Table Tennis Challenge Press Release 2
Here's the article by Barbara Wei. (Here's the first Press Release.)

College Championships

Zoran Primorac - Croatian Legend
Here's the video. He was ranked as high as #2 in the world, won the Men's Singles World Cup in 1993 and 1997 (and made the semifinals four other times), won the silver medal in Men's Doubles at the 1987 Worlds and 1988 Olympics (both times with Ilija Lupulesku), and made the final of Men's Singles at the European Championships in twice and won the bronze four times.

Illinois Table Tennis Association
Here's a nice state association page. Wouldn't it be nice if we had something like this for all 50 states?

Weird Ping-Pong Tables
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

March 1, 2017

Breaking the Rules?
In 41 years in the sport, I think there has been only one time where I intentionally broke the rules (other than joking around) - and it wasn't as a player; it was as a tournament director. I've run over 170 USATT sanctioned tournaments, and rest assured I try to run them by the rules. But there was this one time, around 1983, when . . . okay, I confess, I broke the rules!!! So sue me. But there's actually a coaching lesson involved.

I was 23 and had only recently began running USATT tournaments (at the Northern Virginia Table Tennis Club) though I'd helped out at a few before. As the tournament director, I'm supposed to do legal draws, right? Well, the day before the tournament I was talking to players at the club, trying to get last-minute players. There was this one player, who shall remain nameless, who said he'd play, but he had a simple condition - he'd only enter if I guaranteed him he could play me in Open Singles.

Now I was perhaps 2200 at the time, and was seeded in the top four at the tournament, with Sean O'Neill and Dave Sakai likely the top two seeds. (Yes, I was playing in it even though I was also running it.) The player who wanted to play me was rated about 2000 - a very good player, but a level weaker than me. But why did he want to play me to the point that he wouldn't enter unless I guaranteed he could play me? As he laughingly (but correctly) explained, he'd beaten me 14 times in a row in practice matches.

Now for some of you, what jumped out in that sentence was "14 times in a row." For others, what jumped out was "practice matches." And there's a big difference between practice matches and tournament matches. It so happened that this player was a very good counterlooper. And so when I played him in practice matches, I liked to take him on in counterlooping battles. We had great rallies and my counterlooping improved - but he won every time. I was determined to improve my counterlooping to the point where I could beat him this way, and later that year I would finally do that - but not yet.

Legally, I can't "fix" the draw like this - players are flipped in at random (taking seeding into account). And why would I do this, fix a draw so I'd play someone I'd lost 14 times in a row to? But I confess. I DID IT!!! I gave him the guarantee, and when I did the draws, I quietly moved him to my part of the draw, and so we played I think in the second round.

Of course, when we played I had no intention of counterlooping with him - I stayed close to the table, opening with loops, then following up with close-to-the-table loops and smashes, and blocking when he attacked. I won rather easily. Afterwards, he was rather irritated, and demanded to know why I hadn't even tried to counterloop. I told him, "Because I wanted to win."

The lesson here for some players is that practice matches are just that - practice. While you should fight to win every time, that doesn't mean you should use the same tactics in practice that you'd use in a big match. Sometimes it's better to use those practice matches to develop a part of your game. I remember when Sunny Li was national junior champion and around 2500, and had these great deep breaking serves. He could serve me off the table with them - if I looped them aggressively, I'd miss too many, and if I looped them back softly, he'd rip winners. (I didn't really have an effective backhand loop, so I was forced to cover the entire table with my forehand if I wanted to loop the serve.) Instead, he was instructed to serve short against me in practice, because I'm very good against short serves, and so he got much better practice that way.

I've run about 170 tournament since the "fixing" episode above, and never did it again. If the powers that be want to remove my tournament director's card for that one, horrible infraction 34 years ago, I'll plead guilty, throw my fate on the mercy of the court, and then go play in the only court that matters, the TT court.

(Side note - I wasn't going to blog this morning. I have to see my tax accountant this afternoon at 2PM, and meant to prepare for that the last few nights - but TT stuff kept getting in the way. I was up past 4AM this morning on other work. So I decided to go to bed, and when I got up, I'd put up a note that there'd be no blog this morning, and then I'd go to work on the tax stuff. But I couldn't sleep, so I ended up returning to my desk after five minutes. I finished the tax work around 6:30AM, and thought what the heck, and so did the blog as well. Now I will go to bed, although I have a suspicion I won't get much sleep.)

2017 SuperMicro US National Table Tennis Championships - Event Listing
Here it is! Note the new Team events on Saturday. I'll blog more about the Nationals later on. 

New Articles by Samson Dubina

How to Practice Effectively ... for just about anything
Here's the video (4:44).

Naresh Brothers to Appear on Ellen Show
Here's the article - they'll be on the show this Friday! I got to work with Sid and Nandan at the USATT Supercamp last July - and I know they'll put on quite a show! (In the picture, that's Sid in front, with brother Nandad peaking over his shoulder.) 

Top National and International Players in Local Table Tennis Tournament
Here's the article on the Triangle Club in NC.

Coffee and Drinks with Jimmy Pelletier . . . and Marty Reisman?
Here's the video (60 sec)!

Putting Green Ping-Pong Table?
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 28, 2017

Navin - on the Attack!
Here's video (53 sec) from my session with Navin Kumar last night. He also did a nice write-up to go with it. Many of you already know of him, either from this blog or elsewhere, as "The Bionic Man," since he has a mostly mechanical heart, as well as Parkinson's. (He gives many talks on the latter as a motivational speaker.) Here, for example, is the video The Bionic Man - Navin Kumar (9:22), and here's the USATT article, Navin Kumar: A Passion for Table Tennis.) He's mostly a blocker, with long pips (no sponge) on the backhand, often called a "pushblocker." But we've been working on his attack, especially on the forehand. The video shows his increasingly aggressive forehand. We're working on establishing it more in games.

In last night's session, after hitting crosscourt for a while (as on the video), we did a lot of down-the-line hitting, his forehand from the forehand side to my backhand. The reason is that too often players see him about to hit a forehand, and so camp out for the crosscourt shot. In practice games, I do this all the time, and Navin usually couldn't get the ball past me, since I'm just standing there, waiting.

But at the end of last night's session, we played several games, but with one twist - rather than my usual attack, I played purely consistent, trying to rally him down. I'm pretty consistent, and so can rally like this forever, but I'm playing soft so he can pick shots to attack. Navin made three discoveries.

  1. When I put the ball to his forehand, if he attacked down the line, I often couldn't even touch the ball since I was anticipating the crosscourt shot. He scored a number of points this way before I adjusted. Even if I did get to the shot, as I did more often once I realized he was going to do that, the returns were generally softer, allowing him to continue hitting.
  2. When my returns got too soft or high, rather than smash at a corner he'd smash at my elbow, the hardest place to defend, and thereby stopped me from returning ball after ball.
  3. When I got into a backhand rolling contest into his backhand, I could go on forever against his long-pips dead blocks, but since the shots I'm doing are soft, they are very hittable. Navin was able to look for the right shot to suddenly step around and smash forehands (the inverted side). Sometimes he'd set this up by moving me around, going to my wide forehand and then to my wide backhand, so I'd have to hit those backhands on the move, making them softer.

We had a lot of long rallies, and many ended with Navin smashing, and one game he made it to 9-all. (If I lost, I'd have to turn in my coach/top player union card, right? Navin was also taking advantage of the fact that I'd already done 2.5 hours of coaching when we started up, and he kept moving me around!) He still plays a mostly blocking style, but as we add more forehand smashing to the mix - as well as forehand looping against backspin, which we're feverishly working on - he might start to shock a few of his rivals.

Capital Area League
This past weekend they finished the latest season in the Capital Area Table Tennis League, for players in the Washington DC region (which includes MD and Northern VA). There were four divisions; click on the division to see the results. Congrats to the four division winners: MDTTC Lions, NVTTC One, PPG Potomac, and Rebel Alliance! Sign-ups for the upcoming season has begun; deadline is March 20. 

Pips Out, Enemies Rout: Guide to Short Pips Supremacy
Here's the article by Ying Wang.

Articles/Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis

2017 Swedish Junior & Cadet Open
Here are USA Results.

Qatar Open - Finals Summary
Here's the video (1:11).

Olympians Clash in NCTTA South Regional Final
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

SVTTC Hosts First Family League Night
Here's the article by Angela Guan, featuring the Silicon Valley TTC in Milpitas, CA.

Incredible Ping Pong-playing Robot Earns Guinness World Record
Here's the article and video (3:31).

Nice Backhand by Toomas Libene from Estonian National Championships 2017
Here's the video (30 sec) - the rest of the rally is pretty good too!

Grit: A Complete Guide on Being Mentally Tough
Here's the article. So . . . do you have it? Want to have it? It's a hallmark of all champions!

Trick-Shot Video
Here's the video (3:40) - it's from last year, but I don't think I linked to this one.

Ice Skating Table Tennis Championships
Here's the video (54 sec) from Russia!

Sunny-Side Up Ping-Pong Table?
Here's the picture!

Send us your own coaching news!

February 27, 2017

Tip of the Week
Forehand Follow-Through Back into Position.

Weekend Coaching
Well, it's finally happened . . . after a year of zealously keeping Saturdays free from coaching, I've opened it up again, and did three hours of coaching this past Saturday. But don't feel sorry for me, before I did this I cleared up my Thursday schedule so I'm now off on Thur & Fri each week. (Used to be Fri & Sat.) I'll probably gradually pick up more hours on Saturdays, one by one, until I wake up one morning and discover I'm coaching twelve hours that day. Nightmare!!! (Note that my "off days" are really just "writing days.")

Sundays I had three consecutive 90-minute group sessions, as usual. First I ran the Beginning Junior Class, where the focus was on serving, which we did for the first 20 minutes. Then we did the usual series of footwork drills. Training is one hour, then 30 minutes of games, with the group divided in two: The older and stronger players play regular games, while the younger ones play various target practice games, by far the favorite being the "Cup Game." (They stack the cups in pyramids and walls, and then line up to knock them down as I feed multiball. They are actually getting great practice doing this - shhh!)

Next came the Talent Program, which now has 22 kids, roughly 7-12 years old, all invitation only. Many of those kids are really looking good! Each of the coaches were put in charge of 3-4 kids, and led them in shadow practice footwork drills for about 15 minutes. (That was exhausting as I was doing it with them - not easy considering I turned 57 today [Monday] - yikes!) Then we did about 45 minutes of multiball, feeding one student while the others shadow practice behind them, with parents getting the balls with ball nets. Finally they went out to the table for various drills. For one drill we put quarters on the far side of the table (first short, then long), and one player tried to serve on them, then they'd play out the point.

Finally came the Adult Training Session, which I ran. We had eleven players this time, and we did the usual stroking and footwork drills. The last half hour was all serve and attack - I gave them various options to choose from, with each choosing two variations, then they'd each do 7.5 minutes of each chosen drill. One complicating factor is that we had several cases of stronger players who don't drill well, and weaker players who drill better, plus players making changes in technique which hurts their drill performance - so matching them up is tricky.

Then I raced home, and only missed the first 30 minutes of the Academy Awards. (Of the nine nominated films, I was rooting for "Hidden Figures," "Hacksaw Ridge," "Lion," and "Arrival." Oh well.)  Then I saw a 12:45AM showing of "The Walking Dead." And then it was 1:45 AM, and guess what? Rather than try to get everything done in the morning (i.e. later that morning), when I'd be exhausted, I decided, heck, let's get everything done now. So I went through unanswered emails and my todo list like a Tasmanian Devil in a basket of ping-pong balls, crossing items off like Zorro, and guess what? I got mostly caught up on things. (If I gave a complete list of all that I got done last night it'd take up most of this blog.) Even my emails are down to zero unread or unanswered. Then I did the Tip of the Week and most of this blog - and went to bed after 4:30AM. I was up against at 8:30AM, and after finishing this morning's blog, will get to the next item on that dastardly todo list, the MDTTC March Newsletter. And then it's three hours of coaching tonight. Sometime between finishing the newsletter and the 3.5 hours of coaching I have to run some errands (bank, post office), and then I might catch up on sleep - we'll see….

Cousin of USATT CEO Wins Academy Award
One of the producers of "O.J.: Made in America," which won the Academy Award last night for Best Documentary Feature, was Caroline Waterlow, who is a cousin of USATT CEO Gordon Kaye. Congrats!!! (Is this our moment of national fame?)

New Articles and Videos from Samson Dubina

How to Keep Your Wrist Loose
Here's the new article and podcast (7:46) from Expert Table Tennis.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov: We Need Less Breaks Between Points
Here's the article from Table Tennis 365, quoting the world #5 and top European.

Qatar Open
Here's the ITTF site for the event held this past weekend, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

Crazy Rally Between Marcos Freitas and Ma Long - Semifinals of Qatar Open
Here's the video (50 sec).

More News Articles
There are new articles on the USATT News Page and the ITTF page.

Pong Gear
Here's a place where you can get things like shirts and mugs with TT slogans!

Foot Countersmash
Here's the video (11 sec, with slo-mo replay)!

Table Tennis Exhibition at Tennis Tournament
Here's the video (2:35) of Don Flowers (left) and Atanda Musa (right, former Nigerian champion) on the tennis court - with a ping-ping table!

New Table Tennis Mannequin Challenge!
Here's the video (47 sec) from the Table Tennis Academy in Montreal - love the outstretched diving kid at the end! Here's an updated list of table tennis mannequin challenges that I know of, with this added at the top as the "Table Tennis Academy in Montreal."

Beachball Pong!
Here's the video (3:13) - is this our sport's future?!!!

Send us your own coaching news!

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