Larry Hodges' Blog and Tip of the Week will go up on Mondays by noon USA Eastern time. 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. (Larry was awarded the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award in July, 2018.)
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!

April 26, 2018

I'm Off to See the Surgeon - in Song
I see him at 11AM this morning. (I blogged about this yesterday - it's just a consultation about whether I should get shoulder surgery.) Then I buy advance tickets for The Avengers: Infinity War tickets (via Moviepass, which requires I go in person) for the 8:30PM showing at Germantown. Then I spend the day doing the MDTTC Newsletter and a bunch of other TT stuff. Then I teach a junior class from 6:30-7:30PM. Then I see The Avengers! And now, in honor of my upcoming visit to the surgeon, I give you . . .

By Larry Hodges
(Sung to the tune of We're Off to See the Wizard, with Apologies to Harold Arlen, the munchkins, Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Lion.)
I'm off to see the Surgeon
The wonderful Surgeon of Oz
I hear he is a jock of a doc
If ever a doc there was
If ever, oh ever a doc there was
The Surgeon of Oz is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the great operations he does
I'm off to see the Surgeon
The wonderful Surgeon of Oz!

Then I got to thinking - what about players who come to see me, a table tennis teacher?

By Larry Hodges
We're off to see the Teacher
The wonderful Teacher of Pong
He's beyond reproach as a coach
If ever a coach there was
If ever, oh ever a coach there was
The Teacher of Pong is one because
Because, because, because, because, because
Because of the wonderful coaching he does
We're off to see the Teacher
The wonderful Teacher of Pong!

Two Upcoming ITTF Level 1 Coaching Courses in the U.S.

The Secret Life of the Table Tennis Counter Driver
Here's the article from Coach Jon.

World Championships Prediction Contest
Here's the info page, with $200 in prizes for those who most closely predict the first four finishers at the upcoming World Championships in Men's and Women's Teams, and who will finish higher, USA (world #44) or Canada (#53) Men.

Help Wanted: ITTF Equipment Manager
Here's the info page. But you might have to relocate - "The position will be preferably based in one of the ITTF offices in Switzerland or Singapore, but other flexible arrangements will be considered."

Ma Long is Unstoppable Against Chop!
Here's the video (2 min). Here he is against world #21 Ruwen Filu of Germany.

Two Great Points
Here's the video (90 sec) - Ma Long (near side) vs. Jun Mizutani, and Zoran Primorac (near side) vs. Michael Maze, probably the best modern lobber.

The Story of Ibrahim Hamato
Here's the video (2:07) - playing table tennis with his mouth. (I think this is a new version of one I posted before, but it's always fascinating to watch.)

Double Bottle Serves
Here's the video (32 sec)!

Dude Jumps Through Ping Pong Table
Here's the video! (23 sec, but link takes you to jump 12 sec in.)

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

Send us your own coaching news!

April 25, 2018

Frozen Shoulder Syndrome
I've been seeing a physical therapist three times/week, 90 minutes/visit, for two months, where I go through rigorous massage and shoulder stretching routines. I also do a 20-minute stretching routine twice a day.

Yesterday I saw the doctor again for an update. He put me through a number of tests. The good news was that my shoulder flexibility has gone from 50% normal to 70%. The bad news is that the shoulder hurts just as much as before - no improvement there. I can play with the pain - it's not that bad - but I'd just be injuring the shoulder further.

I'd already been diagnosed with a frayed rotator cuff, tendonitis, and bursitis in the shoulder, and with an extreme lack of shoulder flexibility due to muscle stiffness. Yesterday the doctor gave me a final diagnosis - Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. If I were to quit table tennis completely and only do normal things with the shoulder, it would gradually go away in 1-3 years - but that's not really an option, is it? So here are my real options.

OPTION ONE: I continue the stretching routines, and the shoulder will most likely return to near normal - but it would take many months, and could take a year, and it may never get well enough to play serious table tennis again.

OPTION TWO: Surgery. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting with a shoulder surgeon to go over this option. But the doctor told me that if I go this route, the shoulder most likely will be back to normal about two months after the surgery. Based on what I know right now (but before meeting with the surgeon), this sounds like the best option. But I am a bit surprised at the two-month recovery period from surgery to serious table tennis. He may have meant two months to "normal" activities. Table tennis isn't normal.

For now, I still can't do private coaching, though I'm doing a number of group sessions, and regularly feed multiball. But as noted in past blogs, if I feed backspin repetitively, it aggravates the shoulder. I've practiced left-handed backspin multiball, and can do a decent job of it, but probably not for high-level players. I can do easy hitting with beginners, but have to be careful not to reach for a ball - which is tricky since beginners hit the ball all over the table. I've actually hit with beginners a few times recently where I held my right arm in with my left, and any ball that I'd have to reach for I'd just let go. (It means a lot of footwork for me, getting to every ball without reaching!) But advanced players, while they have more control, hit faster, and one sudden bad move and I'd kill the shoulder. I have been doing demos in classes with other coaches, but I'm just blocking and doing easy stroking.

Tactics for Beating Weird Players
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

PingSkills Podcast
Here's the podcast (32:49), where they cover:

  • Joke of the Week
  • Competition
  • Win a PingSkills T-Shirt
  • On This Day: Jorgen Persson celebrates his birthday
  • Tournament Wrap: 2018 World Team Championships
  • Trill of the Week: Variation of speed with topspin
  • Practicing Backhand Chops
  • Difference Between Counterhit and Topspin
  • Rare Serve
  • Switching Sides
  • Video Translations

"Extra Events" – Building Excitement at a Small/Medium Club
Here's the article featuring Rhode Island Table Tennis, by Steve Hopkins.

World Team Championships History | China Claiming Record 20th Gold in 2016
Here's the video (55 sec).

Out of this World Table Tennis Rally between Xu Xin & Zhu Linfeng
Here's the video (65 sec).

Incredible Point Between Joo Saehyuk and Chuang Chih-Yuan
Here's the video (48 sec). Check out Chuang's footwork about halfway through, when he forehand loops from the extremely wide forehand, and follows with another forehand loop from the extreme backhand!

Meet the Chinese National Women's Team
Here's the video (7 sec)! I couldn't find a similar one for the Men's Team.

Addressing Needs, International Umpires Course Staged in Minsk
Here's the ITTF article.

What Is the Most Expensive Ping-Pong Paddle?
How about this $2712 one? (Also talks about expensive rubbers.) Here's another article on it.

Dog Watching Table Tennis
Here's the video (14 sec).

Donald the Penholder vs the Robot
Here's the cartoon! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) "O Pato Donald" is apparently the Spanish version of Donald Duck.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 24, 2018

Coaching Is Like Awkwardly Programming a Computer
How is this true? When coaching, you are trying to change the habits of the student's subconscious, which is what controls his conditioned shots. The student's conscious mind might be a partner in doing this, but it is the subconscious that is really the student.

If the student really was a computer, you'd just program him properly. Is he hitting forehands without rotating his body? Just go into his forehand programming, click the "rotate body" button, and you're done. But in real coaching there's no "rotate body" button, so you have to do it more awkwardly. Here's what really happens.  

STEP ONE: Tell student's conscious mind he needs to rotate his body on forehands.

STEP TWO: Student consciously rotates his body while hitting forehands.

STEP THREE: Student's subconscious mind notes that body is rotating while hitting forehands, and protests, since this isn't "normal," and so gives student feeling of awkwardness, which the student attributes to not being used to rotating his body while hitting forehands.

STEP FOUR: Student's subconscious gradually stops protesting as it gets used to this weird and newfangled idea of rotating the body while hitting forehands, and stops protesting as much. Student starts to feel more natural with the shot.

STEP FIVE: Student now rotates body somewhat naturally on forehands since this is now the "norm" for his subconscious. All is well.

STEP SIX: Student takes a week off from playing. Subconscious starts to yearn for those days of playing table tennis, causing subconscious to want to go back to playing as well.

STEP SEVEN: Student returns to playing. But subconscious remembers those good ol' days of not rotating while hitting forehands, and goes back to that.

STEP EIGHT: Go back to Step One.

Table Tennis Match Play
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. "How important is match play?"

Table Tennis Tidbits #25
Here's the USATT article by Robert Ho: "Ishigaki:  Moving Up in the Whirl?"

National Collegiate Table Tennis
They have a number of articles on the College Nationals held this past weekend. (I linked yesterday to USATT articles.)

Ormeau - Point of the Day!
Here's the video (46 sec).

Pong and Song
Here's the video (2:40) from Jules Apatini. Music starts about ten seconds in, singing about 30 seconds in.

$100 Robot Challenge!
Here's the video (3:43) from Samson Dubina. I posted his challenge before, but this is a new video. It's pretty funny to watch the kids in the camp try to return the robot's feeds!

Love All - A Table Tennis Story
Here's the article as they try to fund this unique project. "If you were in a room with lots of people, and you realized that everyone around you believed the Earth was flat, how would you feel? This is the kind of situation millions of table tennis athletes face as they struggle for table tennis' identity as a "real" sport, despite it being one of the most physically and mentally challenging sports. NO FILM exists which dives deep into this subject that affects the perception of the most played sport in the world. Help us make one!"

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 25
Here’s chapter 25 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at Chapter 25 covers "1994 International Tournaments." Note that Volume 21 is now out. This volume is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Street Pong
Here's the picture from China! (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

April 23, 2018

Tip of the Week
Are You a 10-8 or an 8-10 Player?


  • MDTTC Talent Program Party. Last night we had our Talent Program Party at MDTTC, which we do about every six weeks. It took place after the usual 5:30-7:15 PM session, which is for our best and most dedicated kids, mostly ages 7-13. (The Talent Program is run by HW Global Foundation.) First up was buffet style Chinese food. (I had sesame chicken and beef with broccoli, on rice.) While this was going on our coaches met with the players and parents and went over how they have developed over the past six weeks. Then it was fun time - the kids and coaches went out on the table and battled it out with over-sized rackets, mini-rackets (with Tenergy), over-sized balls, and Wobb-Ball!
  • Beginning Junior Class. In the 90-minute session on Monday the focus was on spin serves, and then footwork - lots and lots of footwork!!! As usual, the last 30 minutes was games - the older and stronger players played up-down tables (11-point games), while the younger ones did what they always want to do - build large towers and walls of paper cups, and then knock them down as I feed multiball.
  • Saturday Junior League. They meet 2-3 times/month, but it's not really a league - it's more coaching the league play. We started with doubles, and then singles. For the singles, we often have them play with improvised rules. For example, we played games where if the receiver could stop the server from attacking the first ball, he immediately won the point, and if the server did serve and attack and won the point, he'd get two points. Another was that the score started at 7-9. This would greatly favor the receiver except for one additional rule - if the server won the first two points to tie it at 9-all, he immediately won. Sometime I'm going to do a mathematical study on who is favored in this type of game - but if any of you want to do it, comment below!
  • Shoulder Update. As I've blogged previously, they are mostly working on the muscle around the shoulder, which are abnormally tight and only have about 50% normal range. (I meet with the physical therapist three times/week for 90 minutes, and do two 20-minute stretching routines each day.) Meanwhile, the shoulder injury itself, while in theory should be healing, doesn't seem to be getting much better. But until the surrounding muscles are looser and no longer pulling on the injured part, there's not much that can be done on it. I still might have surgery later on, but the earliest might be summer, and it might not be needed. It seems like about once a day I'll do something that at least slightly aggravates it - I'll reach across a table for something and go "Ow!", or forget to use my left arm to support my right when combing my hair or reaching for a light switch, or reach up in my car to turn on the overhead light. During a group session yesterday I hit easy forehands with a beginner - and held my right elbow in with the left arm to make sure I didn't extend the arm and hurt the shoulder, and it worked pretty well.
  • Lefty Multiball. Due to my shoulder problems, I've experimented with this recently. (I can feed regular topspin normally, but when I feed repetitive backspin it aggravates the shoulder injury.) I ca do it borderline adequately. I'm starting to get decent backspin. I still don't have anywhere close to the control I have right-handed, but it might be okay for beginners.
  • Regional Hopes Camp and Trials. It's this Fri-Sun. Friday afternoon and night and all day Saturday I'll likely be feeding multiball, then I run the Regional Hopes Trials on Sunday. These are for kids who were born in 2006 or 2007. Other junior players are allowed in the Camp on a player by player basis.
  • Avengers: Infinity War. It's in three days!!! I coach a junior class from 6:30-7:30PM, and plan to go straight to the Germantown theater afterwards for an 8:30PM showing. I plan to order a chicken sandwich (dinner), small popcorn (easy on the butter), Mr. Pibb, and because this is an "event" movie, perhaps Reese's Pieces.

National Collegiate Championships
They were held this weekend, Apr. 20-22, in Round Rock, TX. Here are some links.

$2700 3-Star Butterfly MDTTC April Open
Here's the article, results, and photos on the tournament I ran last weekend.

Progressive Training Explained
Here's the video (3:11) from Samson Dubina.

Table Tennis Push Techniques
Here's the article from EmRatThich.

New Videos from EmRatThich
Here's been busy!

World Table Tennis Day: Nominated for 2018 Sports Business Awards
Here's the ITTF article and photos.

ITTF and Twitter Announce Live Stream of 2018 Challenge Series
Here's the article.

ITTF Legends Tour 2018 Teaser
Here's the video (1:04). This year's ITTF Legends Tour players are Werner Schlager, Jean-Michel Saive, Kalinikos Kreanga, Zoran Primorac, Mikael Appelgren, and Jiang Jialiang.

Trick Shots from Pongfinity
Here's the video (2:02)!

Little Door Trickshot
Here's the video (41 sec) as Liu Guoliang smacks three balls - one to open a tiny door, one to smack away a ping-pong ball, and one to lose the door.

Captain Jack Sparrow vs. Ragetti
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Sparrow is of course the main character from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise, while Ragetti is a recurring comic character.

Send us your own coaching news!

April 20, 2018

Forehand Blocking
Here's the last point of the match (18 sec) where 14-year-old Japanese whiz Harimoto Tomokazu (world #13) recently upset world #1 Fan Zhendong at the ITTF-Asian Cup. The camera angle shows just how fast these players play. But to me the key thing here is what Tomokazu does at the start of the rally when Fan loops to his forehand - he blocks. Yes, at the highest levels of our sport, where nearly everyone tries to counterloops everything on the forehand (and often on the backhand) - he forehand blocks. And this is a well-placed block. He has an angle into the forehand, so Fan has to be ready to cover that - and so when Tomokazu instead blocks down the line, he forces Fan to play his backhand, followed by an awkward, out-of-position forehand, which sets Tomokazu up to win the point. (Fan would have tried to counterloop.)

One of the most under-used shots in table tennis (at all levels) is the down-the-line forehand block - most players automatically go crosscourt, both because of the angle (which forces the opponent out of position) and because it's easier. And that's probably the best shot at least half the time. But with the opponent reflexively moving to cover that angle, he's almost always vulnerable to a down-the-line block to his backhand. It was one of my bread-and-butter shots when I competed regularly. When I play practice games with students it drives them crazy, not just because it catches them off guard, but because they claim few of their other opponents block forehands down the line. And because players tend to copy other players, few of them have developed this shot. Jeez, talk about a simple way to improve!

It's always been a debate whether it's better to become so good at one thing, such as counterlooping, that you become overpowering with that one shot, where you don't even have to hesitate as you decide what shot to do; or whether it's better to develop multiple shots, so you can do the appropriate shot at any given time, such as a well-placed forehand block.

A pure counterlooper would have tried to counterloop Fan's first loop, and it not only would have been a difficult shot, it likely would have forced the player to step back, thereby giving Fan time to play another super-powerful forehand, where he likely would dominate. But there is the argument that trying to have too many shots means none are as dominating. But in this case, Tomokazu's shot flexibility allowed him to play just the right shot, which rushed Fan and took away his powerful forehand.

Years ago I was coaching one of the top 12-year-olds in the country against another kid who was a year older and a little better. The opponent was being developed as a "pure" counterlooper - it didn't matter whether you blocked, looped, or smashed to his forehand, if the ball went long, he was supposed to loop it back. In this match, my player fell behind in the first game, 5-10. Then he served short to the forehand, bringing the opponent in over the table where he made a weak return. My player ripped a powerful forehand to the opponent's forehand, and the opponent reflexively blocked it back for a clean winner, winning 11-5.

When the opponent went over to his coach between games, I couldn't believe what happened - the coach started screaming at him, saying he was insulting him as a coach and more - all because he had blocked that forehand rather than attempt to loop it back!!! Suffice to say that knowing his tactical inflexibility - and taking advantage of the fact that the opponent was now crying and could barely play - I had my player loop all over the table (wide forehand, middle, wide backhand) at varying speeds, and of course the opponent missed his counterloops over and over, and my player won the next three games.

I don't necessarily disagree with the way the other coach was developing his player (which is basically how Fan and Ma Long play, the two best players in the world), just the extremism of it. His player had been caught too close to the table and so, rather than throw away a point he made a perfect, reflexive block. But the way the coach reacted was inexcusable. A better reaction would have been, "Nice shot, but remember you are supposed to counterloop everything on the forehand side." And then, in their next training session, he could work at the root of the problem - that the player had gotten stuck too close to the table, and so was unable to counterloop. Or perhaps, in that one situation, he should block.

Perhaps the coach should learn from 2003 World Men's Singles Champion Werner Schlager, who also sometimes blocked on this forehand. Here's video of him against defending World Champion Wang Liqin in the quarterfinals of the 2003 Worlds, leading 7-4 in the seventh, when he gets caught too close to the table - just as the player above - and so rather than trying to force a forehand counterloop, does a simple down-the-line forehand block (just like Tomokazu above), catching Wang off guard (he makes a soft backhand loop) and wins the point.

Adoni Maropis Stars in "Taken" Friday Night
=>NOTE - it got rescheduled, with Dateline on in its place. It will now play in late May - I'll post when it's coming up.
In the episode on NBC at 9PM tonight (Eastern time), actor and table tennis star Adoni Maropis will be starring as the "arch villain." Here is the episode description: "The team captures an accused bomber and sets out to prove that he's been set up." Adoni is a full-time hardbat and sandpaper player, who has won Hardbat and Sandpaper Singles at the Open and Nationals several times, and has a 2103 rating with hardbat against sponge players. Here's what he wrote on Facebook about the episode:

"I play the arch villain who is a bald gun dealer... errr... I mean a Greek gun dealer who happens to be bald. The lead, Clive Standen... and Jessica Camacho were class acts and fun to be around. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. I was hoping to meet Jennifer Beals... who I told my mother I would marry after seeing her in Flashdance many moons ago... but I had no scenes with her. Oh well, another time perhaps."

Should You Play Chinese or European Style in Table Tennis?
Here's the video (5:42) from Keenan Southall. It has some great insights. However, one thing I strongly disagreed with is where he said of European styles, "You don't need to be as strategic," and "Not a lot of strategy is required." I don't think there's a real difference in the strategic needs of these two styles - I would say it takes just as much strategy to offset the Chinese style and force your European game on them as vice versa. However, putting aside this disagreement, he has some great stuff here. 

Poker Face
Here's the coaching video (2:28) from Samson Dubina.

New from EmRatThich

The 2018 Commonwealth Games and Other Items
Here's the podcast (40:49) from PingSkills. Topics covered:

  • Joke of the Week
  • On This Week
  • Vladimir Samsonov turns 42!
  • Tournament Wrap
  • 2018 Commonwealth Games
  • 2018 Asian Cup
  • Tip and Drill of the Week
  • Basic No Spin Serve
  • Dealing with Long Fast Serve
  • Moving Faster
  • Serving off the Side

National Collegiate Championships
They are this weekend, Apr. 20-22, in Round Rock, TX. Here are links:

Table Tennis and the Brain
Here's the article from PongBoss.

Sharon Alguetti: Work Hard, Play Hard
Here's the video (3:19).

Side-to-Side Multiball Looping Practice
Here's the video (74 sec) of a great way to work on footwork and forehand. I sometimes do similar drills. The kids here look pretty good!

WAB Club Feature: Allen & Sons Table Tennis Club
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins on this club in the greater LA area.

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

Politics and Sport Don't Mix, Theory Disproved, Universal Party Support for World Championships
Here's the ITTF article.

World Table Tennis Day: Bridge Building, Laying Foundations
Here's the ITTF article.

World Table Tennis Day in Poland
Here's the video (2:34).

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - March 2018
Here's the video (20:18).

Maria Sharapova About to Smack a Forehand
Here's the picture. (Here's the non-Facebook version.) Strangely, even though she plays tennis right-handed, she plays table tennis lefty! (Here's another picture of her playing table tennis, also playing lefty. There are many more - Google Maria Sharapova table tennis pictures.)

Ball in Cup of Water Shot
Here's the video (15 sec). How many tries would it take you to do this?

Here's the t-shirt! Nice graphic. Note that it comes in your choice of 16 colors. (No, I have nothing to do with it, just found it browsing.) 

Family Table Tennis Showdown
Here's the video (6:30)!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 19, 2018

Tip of the Week
If You Miss a Practice Session, You Will Know. (This normally goes up on Mondays, but I was away on Mon and Tue, and had so much on Wednesday that I decided to postpone it one more day.)

USA Nationals
It's that time of year again - time to enter the USA Nationals! You can enter online or with a paper entry form. They are in Las Vegas, July 2-7.

There are 91 events this year. They include:

  • Men's and Women's Singles, Doubles, and Mixed Doubles.
  • 18 junior events, ranging from Under 10 to 21 and Under, for boys and girls, with singles and doubles, plus Junior Teams for Boys' and Girls'.
  • 34 senior events, ranging from Over 30 to Over 80, with both singles and doubles, for men and women.
  • 17 rating events, from Unrated and Under 1000, to Under 2400, including the ever-popular Under 2200 tiered Super Round Robin (lots and lots of matches!). Most of them are divided into Adult and Junior rating events, so adults can avoid those way-underrated kids, and kids get to play other kids.
  • Under 4200 and Under 3200 Doubles, plus the new Adult ABCD Doubles with four divisions and lots of play!
  • Ten hardbat and two sandpaper events.
  • Two Paralympic events for Classes 1-5 and 6-10.

But the Nationals is much more than just playing and competing. You also get to mingle with your friends and peers from around the country, as well as perhaps a contingent from your club - a built-in cheering section when you play. (But make sure to cheer for them when they play as well!)

You get to spectate as the best players in the country battle it out, with you right there at courtside. You can follow your favorites around like a groupie! (Okay, go easy on that.)

There's also the equipment booths. It's like the Garden of Eden for table tennis players as the various manufacturers and distributors exhibit their stuff on huge, seemingly endless tables - Butterfly, JOOLA, Paddle Palace, Newgy, and more! There will be unending rows of sponge, rackets, shoes, balls, clothing, books (including mine!), robots, playing bags, and all sorts of knick-knacks from towels and racket cases to mini-paddles and keyrings. Plus there's the "shirt shop," where all players get a free US Nationals t-shirt, which (for additional cost) you can upgrade to something really nice. (I always do.)

There's also the Hall of Fame Banquet on Thursday night (July 5) - I hope to see you there, considering I'm winning some award! Come and see Li Ai, Dhiren Narotam, Norm Bass, Henan Li Ai, and Doru Gheorghe as they are inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame. (I blogged about this yesterday.) You'll get to meet and hobnob there with the greats of our sport - Dan Seemiller, Sean O'Neill, Insook Bhushan, the Sweeris's, Sakai's, Tim Boggan - heck, seemingly half the people from the USATT Hall of Fame will be there! (Here are links to the annual Hall of Fame program booklets from 1979 to 2017, which show that year's inductees and their credentials, etc.)

If you want to be pampered, for just $50 you have access to the Players' Lounge: Unlimited snacks, drinks, Wi-Fi, Games, and a place to relax between matches. Or the VIP package for $99, which includes the Player's Lounge plus a personalized locker and a Finals ticket.

There are also other reasons to go to Las Vegas, something about gambling and shows, but I wouldn't know about that as I'm always at the hotel or playing hall, or traveling from one to the other - well, mostly.) This year I plan on doing a bit more sightseeing, perhaps doing a Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam trip ($142 - I'm planning on going on Sunday, July 8, the day after the Nationals), or visit the Mob Museum or the Mandalay Bay Shark Reef Aquarium.

There's also a USATT Board meeting during the Nationals - feel free to show up and watch as we solve the problems of our sport (or don't)! I'll be attending that and other meetings, as well as coaching. I'll also likely run a USATT coaching clinic, tentatively on Serve and Receive Tactics. I won't be playing due to shoulder problems.

Now admit it - you are either going, or you are thinking about going. C'mon, you're a table tennis player, you don't want to miss the Nationals!!!

Attacking the Half-Long Ball in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

Dog Eat Dog Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

4 Quick Picks: Table Tennis Flicks
Here's the article, which features Balls of Fury, As One, Top Spin, and Ping Pong Playa. "If you are a lover of all things ping pong, these are the movies for you."

National Collegiate Table Tennis
They have five new articles!

Wie Love Ping Pong: Michelle Wie Raises Money for Hawaii Junior Golf
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins. "The celebrity participants included Michell Wie along with LPGA compatriots Danielle Kang and Paula Reto. … Other celebrity participants included actor Daniel Dae Kim, from the CBS series Hawaii Five-O, Miki Ueoka a doctor at Queens Medical Center, Jerry Foltz of the Golf Channel, and Hawaii News Now weather man Guy Hagi."

Raincoat Boat Pong
Here's the video (24 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

April 18, 2018

USATT Hall of Fame Inductions and Lifetime Achievement Award
They have been announced, and so today is sort of a "WOW!" day. Why?

I'm this year's recipient of the USATT Lifetime Achievement Award! (The official title is "Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award," named after 1931 and 1932 U.S. Open Men's Champion, then called Marcus Schussheim.)

This year they are inducting five new members to the USATT Hall of Fame - most years it's two or three, but this year we're inducting a basketball team!!!  This year's inductees are Li Ai, Dhiren Narotam, Norm Bass, Henan Li Ai, and Doru Gheorghe. The induction ceremony for all six of us will take place at the USA Nationals in Las Vegas, on Thursday night, July 5.

This could also be called the "Resident Training Program" (RTP) induction ceremony, as four of the honorees were from that program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, circa 1985-1992. I was part of it from 1985-1990, at varying times the manager, director, and (mostly at the end) one of the coaches, and as chair of the RTP Committee. Li Ai and Dhiren Narotam were players there. Henan Li Ai was the head coach for about five years.

I worked closely with Doru Gheorghe during his years as USATT Executive Director and as Chief Operating Officer and High Performance Director. However, I don't believe I've ever met Norm Bass, but I'm dying to meet him at the induction ceremony - he's not just a table tennis player, but he's a former major league baseball player (a pitcher) and NFL football player! (Here's his autobiography, Color Him Father: An American Journey of Hope and Redemption.) Maybe he can show me how to throw a slider?

Since I mentioned basketball above, I must mention that Dhiren was good at it - very good, as I played with and against him many times during our years at the RTP. I have many fond memories of playing on Dhiren's team. I couldn't dribble to save my life, and when I'd get the ball, if I was covered, I'd be stuck - but Dhiren, aged 13-16 during those years, would always get open so I'd have someone to throw the ball to. But I was, and always will be, the King of the Two-Footer, as long as I wasn't covered and had enough time to take careful aim.

Since this is my "day" (along with the other five), I'm going to go ahead and post the bulleted list on me from the USATT announcement. Feel free to skip ahead to the more interesting articles afterwards!

2018 Mark Matthews Lifetime Achievement Award:
Larry Hodges

This year's recipient of the annual Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Larry Hodges. He has done just about everything in the sport, despite starting at the late age of 16 way back in 1976. However, it was as a writer, a coach, and a table tennis entrepreneur that he truly made his name. Rather than a long narrative, a simple bullet point list will suffice to show his credentials. (Previous recipients are on the Hall of Fame Profiles page, at bottom.) 

Writer and Editor

  • Author of 8 books, about 1600 articles, and (at over 1800 blog entries on table tennis.
  • Editor of USA Table Tennis Magazine for 12 years, 71 issues.
  • Editor of nearly 200 table tennis program booklets and newsletters.


  • USATT Certified National Coach and ITTF Level 2 coach.
  • Two-time USATT Coach of the Year (Developmental and Science Awards), three-time runner-up for Coach of the Year.
  • Many-time coach of USA Junior National Teams, coaching them at camps and at tournaments around the world.
  • Coached over 250 gold medalists at the U.S. Junior Nationals and Junior Olympics.
  • Ran over 100 five-day training camps. That's 500 days just running table tennis camps, and is in addition to running weekly group sessions for many years.
  • Manager/Director/Coach, USATT Resident Training Program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, 1985-1990.
  • The majority of his 8 books and 1600+ articles on table tennis are coaching related.
  • Founder, head coach, and daily blogger since 2011 at
  • Professional coach at Maryland Table Tennis Center since 1992 with about 30,000 coaching hours. He's been late for a session exactly two times.  

Promoter, Director, and Official

  • Pioneered the idea of full-time table tennis training centers by opening the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992 (with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang), the first successful full-time table tennis center in the country. The model has been copied all over the U.S.
  • Instigated & created (with Robert Mayer) the USATT League Rating System, now used in clubs all over the U.S., processing more matches than the USATT tournament rating system.
  • Created the Club Catalyst and Creation Program, which in 1990-1991 increased the number of USATT clubs from 226 to 301, and membership from 5500 to over 7000.
  • Arranged over 100 TV showings on CNN, Headline News, ESPN, Nightline, and on local stations, and many hundreds of newspaper articles.
  • Director of over 200 USATT sanctioned tournaments, nearly all of them two days long. That's over 400 days just running tournaments.
  • USATT certified umpire
  • Wrote the original draft to cancel the infamous Paddle Point Rule.


  • Reached #18 in the country, won Open Singles at 18 tournaments, and was National Collegiate Doubles and 2-time Team Champion. Though he normally uses sponge, at the U.S. Open and Nationals he was 2-time Hardbat Singles Champion, 5-time Hardbat Over 40 Champion, and 14-time Hardbat Doubles Champion.
  • Has played or coached at 42 consecutive North American/U.S. Open Teams (1976 to present), 34 consecutive U.S. Opens, and 34 consecutive U.S. Nationals.
  • Is about 2100 with a clipboard!!!

USATT Positions

  • Member of USATT Board of Directors, 1991-1992, 2015-2018 (current)
  • Chair of USATT Coaching Committee, 1991-1995, 2017-2018 (current)
  • Editor of USATT Magazine, 1991-1995, 1999-2007 (12 years, 71 issues)
  • USATT Club Programs Director, 2000-2007
  • USATT Co-Webmaster, 1999-2005
  • Assistant to the USATT Executive Director, 1989
  • Chair of USATT League Committee, 2015-2017
  • Chair of USATT Club Committee, 1990-1991
  • Chair of USATT Resident Training Program Committee, 1990-1992
  • Member of USATT Coaching Committee, 2010-2013
  • Member of USATT Club Committee, 2012-2013
  • Member of USATT Junior Committee, 1990-1995
  • Member of USATT Senior Committee, 1990-1995
  • Member of USATT Grassroots Committee, 1990-1995
  • Member of USATT Ratings Committee, 1990-1995
  • Member of USATT Hall of Fame (inducted 2003)
  • 2007 USATT President’s Award for Contributions to Table Tennis

Butterfly MDTTC April Open
Here are the results, are of Omnipong. I ran the 3-star tournament this past weekend. (I should have linked to the results in my mini-Monday blog - they were up already.) The tournament has already been processed - here are the ratings. I did one thing at this tournament I hadn't done before - I set up a table next to the control desk and exhibited and sold all 13 of my table tennis and science fiction books - I ended up selling 18.

USATT News Items
The USATT news page has 12 new items since my last blog. Here they are!

New from Samson Dubina

  • Setting Goals (2:41)
  • Ten Tactical Timeout Tips. "Many international matches have been won or lost based on WHEN the timeout was called and WHAT was said during the timeout.  In this short article, I’m going to give some brief tips about timeouts…"
  • Spin Videos. "Most of the questions that I receive are about spin - importance of spin, types of spin, how to read spin, how to generate spin, how to generate more spin, etc... Today, I wanted to share some of my best videos on spin."

Table Tennis Grips: Pros and Cons
Here's the article by EmRatThich.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Training with Calderano Hugo - Serve, Backhand, Forehand, Slow Motion
Here's the video (3:53) from Arnaud Scheen. Calderano is the world #12 from Brazil.

I’m Now a Full-time Table Tennis Coach!
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Candidates for ITTF Athletes Commission
Here's the ITTF article. There are 21 candidates for five positions, including USA's Jasna Rather and New Zealand's Matt Hetherington (who currently coaches and trains at the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey and is USATT's Media & Communications Director). USA's Ashu Jain is currently the Vice Chairman of the Commission, with Vladimir Samsonov the Chairman. Others of interest among the 21 include Wang Liqin, Zoran Primorac, Jean-Michel Saive, Krisztina Toth, and Claude Bergeret.

Who Will Create History at the 2018 World Table Tennis Championships?
Here's the ITTF video (46 sec). The World Team Championships are April 29 - May 6, in Halmstad, Sweden.

Grand Opening of Glen Head Table Tennis Center & Chess Academy
Here's the video (14:18). I linked to two previous ones, but this is probably the best of them.

Table Tennis and Soccer Have Fused into Headis
Here's the video (65 sec). But don't they get a lot of concussions? Unless it's a ping-pong ball or nerf ball, I'm going to say no to hitting a ball with my head. You also head the ball in soccer - no thanks - but that's only occasionally, while this is nonstop.

A Small Outdoor Tournament?
Here's the picture! (Here's the non-Facebook version.) As near as I can count, there are 57 rows of ten tables (including that block of tables on the back right), or 570 tables, but there might be more above or below the picture. I'm guessing this is in China.

Your Next Opponent
Here's the picture! Click on it for more versions. (Here's the non-Facebook version.)

Send us your own coaching news!

Off Monday and Tuesday


  1. Because I'm totally exhausted from running the 3-star Butterfly MDTTC April Open this weekend, plus teaching a class Sunday night.
  2. Because Tuesday the power will be out from 7AM to 5PM for electrical repairs. (They were supposed to do this a few weeks ago but it got postponed at the last minute.)
  3. Because I have to put together the write-up, formatted results, and photos for the tournament.
  4. Because I have to do catch up on some writing projects.
  5. Just because!

But to tide you over until Wednesday, here's Ukulele Pong (14 sec), with Mary Lieu!

April 13, 2018

Summer Table Tennis Training Camps
Summer is coming, and it's time to plan for your summer training needs!!! Email me if you'd like me to add you to the listing below - I will likely link back to it numerous times. (With apologies to those missed - I put out a note last week asking for those running camps to contact me, plus I listed the ones I already knew about. I visited many of the major full-time clubs to find info on their camps, and listed those I could find.)

Why would you go to a table tennis camp? The simple answer is . . . to get better. But many would say, "I can train at my home club, why go to a camp?" At a camp, besides getting expert coaching, you get intensive training typically for five days, which is enough time to dramatically improve your game. This type of saturation training will lead to far more improvement than just practicing on and off for longer periods of time. Plus, it's a memorable event - you love table tennis, and this is a table tennis vacation! Some of my best table tennis memories are from the late 1970s when I was a regular at the Seemiller Camps. (I've emailed to see whether Dan is running camps this summer.) But I do suggest researching the camps and finding the perfect one for you. Some are primarily for kids; others are for all ages. 

Alameda TTC (Alameda, CA) has 8 weeks of camps with a kids-only and kids/adult program:

WAB Club Feature: Maryland Table Tennis Center
Here's the profile I wrote of MDTTC! It actually started as an interview by Steve Hopkins of me for an article he was going to do, but he decided to mostly just reorganize my answers and publish it as an article by me, which was fine. 

Croatia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which finishes tomorrow in Zagreb, CRO, April 10-14.

Commonwealth Games
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which finishes this Sunday in Oxenford, Australia.

The Importance of an Assertive Mindset in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

High Quality Shots in Table Tennis
Here's the article by Eli Baraty.

Long Island's New Table Tennis Center and Chess Academy
Here's the interview (written) with Tahl Leibovitz by Ryan Green.

National Collegiate Table Tennis Association
Here are recent articles from them.

World Class Training with Dimitrij Ovtcharov
Here are the two videos (18:06 and 24:59). "World Cup Champion Dima demonstrates his unyielding concentration, tremendous forehand and backhand topspins while never giving up the table. Watch the extreme wrist angle change on Dima’s forehand to backhand combo to understand why his backhand attack is so spinny! Table Tennis BelgiumTV provides a real treat to watch Anton and Dimitrij show how the Pros do it in the training hall."

Timo Boll Training at T@ APAC Arena
Here's the video (4 min). Timo's the lefty, not sure who the other player is.

Loop Around the Net Practice
Here's the video (22 sec). Why haven't you done this?

Interview with Jishan Liang
Here's the video (5 min) as Jishan is interviewed by Al Herr at the Butterfly Cary Cup. Jishan will be playing in the MDTTC Open this weekend, which I'm running, and is in fact staying at my house for the weekend.

2018 Asian Cup Recap: An Early Knockdown Doesn’t Deter the Champ
Here's the article on Chinese difficulties in winning the Asian Cup, by Steve Hopkins.

Butterfly America Open Hosted by ICC Features Top Talent
Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Third Place At Start Of Day, First Place At End
Here's the ITTF article that features USA's Amy Wang winning her group at the Croatia Open.

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

Table Tennis in T.V. Ads and Media
Here are numerous links to them from the forum.

Spin and Catch Challenge
Here's the video (52 sec) from Keenan Southall. 

Friday the 13th
Jason says hello!

33 Table Tennis Cartoons from The Cartoonist Group
Here's the page! (Marv Anderson found this one.)

Send us your own coaching news!

April 12, 2018

Michael Maze Short Push
Denmark star Michael Maze retired in 2016 after a series of injuries, but recently has been training for a comeback at age 36. He's a former top ten player, who won the bronze medal in Men's Doubles at the 2004 Olympics, made the semifinals of Men's Singles at the 2005 Worlds, won the Europeans Men's Singles Championships in 2009, and made the quarterfinals of Men's Singles at the 2012 Olympics. At the 2005 Worlds he beat two Chinese players, Wang Hao (Men's Singles Silver Medalist at the 2004 Olympics and world #1 or #2 at the time) and Hao Shuai, often lobbing them down. Against Hao in the quarterfinals he was down 0-3 and saved three match points before winning in one of the great comebacks in history. He's a lefty looper, and probably the best lobber in the world. But he's also known for his soft touch, such as in receive. 

Here's a video (1:35, some of it in slow motion) of him practicing his short push against a side-backspin serve. Most players, when pushing, whether short or long, just aim in the opposite direction of the sidespin to compensate. But at the advanced levels they do more than that. Notice how he not only angles his paddle sideways to offset the incoming sidespin, but sidespin-grazes the ball back, meeting the sidespin straight on and putting his own sidespin on the ball? (Watch how the ball curves away after he hits it.)

By finely grazing the ball, most of his energy goes into spin, and so there's little forward energy, making it easy for him to push short. That's probably the most common reason players do not push short well - they try to just tap the ball back softly rather than graze it back.

Potomac Pizza and Table Tennis
Come join me for Pizza! Today, from 4-9PM, Potomac Pizza at the Traville Gateway Center in Rockville (9709 Traville Gateway Drive, Rockville, MD 20850) will donate 20% of all proceeds. Here's the promotional flyer! You may either bring this flyer with you or tell your server that you’re here to support HW GLOBAL FOUNDATION and they will add you to the totals. I teach a class from 6:30-7:30PM, and plan to drive over afterwards, probably arriving around 8PM. Hope to see some of you there!

Butterfly MDTTC April Open
I'm be running the MDTTC April Open this weekend, April 14-15, in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Deadline to enter is 7PM on Friday. It includes a link that allows you to enter online through Omnipong, as well as a link to the PDF entry form you can print out. Events are Open, U2400, U2200, U2000, U1900, U1600, U1300, U1000, Over 50, Under 15, and Under 12. Don't miss the great Promotional video (2:32) put together by Mossa Barandao of Pongmobile! Also, the HW Global Foundation Talent Program Kids will hold a bake sale at the tournament - come support them!

Croatia Open
Here's the ITTF home page for the event, which started yesterday, which started yesterday in Zagreb, CRO, April 10-14.

Importance of Spin!
Here's the article by Samson Dubina.

New Videos from EmRatThich

Semi Brilliant Thoughts From a Table Tennis Think Tank
Here's the article from Coach Jon. "As far as I know, there are no table tennis think tanks. There are no brain trusts that we can put our faith in to solve our table tennis issues.  I get to share my thoughts on a daily basis through coaching. Once a week I gather up the best insights and blog about them."

Grand Opening of the Glen Head Table Tennis Center and Chess Academy
Here's the video (3 min), with talks from Tahl Leibovitz and others.

What a Way to Save Match Point from Singapore
Here's the video (31 sec) of this incredible doubles point from the BBC as England wins the point.

Creative "Big Backhand"
Here's the video (1:22, but the actual shot is in the first 8 sec, the rest is various slow-mo replays).

2018 TATA Trickshot Competition
Here's the video (38 sec) as Liu Guoliang challenges you to rally with as many balls as he can!

Super-High Ball Mishit, Set to Music
Here's the video (27 sec)!

Send us your own coaching news!

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