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This is an evolving website and Table Tennis Community. Your suggestions are welcome.

Want a daily injection of Table Tennis? Come read the Larry Hodges Blog! (Entries go up by noon, Mon-Fri; see link on left.) Feel free to comment!

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Want to Learn more directly? There are two options. See the Video Coaching link for info on having your game analyzed via video. See the Clinics link for info on arranging a clinic in your area, or finding ones that are already scheduled.

If you have any questions, feel free to email, post a note on the forum, or comment on my blog entries.

-Larry Hodges, Director,

Member, USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame & USATT Certified National Coach
Professional Coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center

Recent blog posts

Monday, August 14, 2017 - 14:04
August 14, 2017

Tip of the Week
Attacking the Middle with the Forehand and Backhand.

Basics, Basics, Basics!!!
It seems like half my students were on vacation recently, and so they all seem out of practice. So what are we focusing on? Yes, BASICS!!! This doesn’t mean just forehand to forehand or other simple drills like that. But it means a lot of basic stroking and footwork drills. One of the things about taking time off is that when players come back, they often fall back into old habits we had spent so much time fixing. So I’m being very careful to watch for that.

For example, I have one student who used to habitually lift his elbow when he hit forehands, thereby closing the racket during the forward swing, leading to erratic shots. He kicked the habit, or so we thought – but he was right back to it in our last session. But we quickly fixed it, and did a lot of forehand drills to make sure.

Another student felt like he’d completely lost the feel of his forehand loop – nothing seemed right. We spent quite a bit of time in our...

Friday, August 11, 2017 - 11:20
August 11, 2017

Progressive Coaching
A few days ago a student complained that while she could rally in drills, in games she not only missed, but tended to hit the ball right at the opponent, as if it were a drill. She wanted to know how she could fix this. So I put her through the following progression of drills, in this specific order. The key was to first build up accuracy from both the forehand and backhand sides, then do so off random balls, while always attacking the three spots you should always go after in a match – wide forehand, wide backhand, and middle (the elbow, the mid-point between the forehand and backhand). (This will likely be expanded into a Tip of the Week.)

  1. Forehand to forehand and backhand to backhand warm-up.
  2. Forehand down the line to my backhand.
  3. Backhand down the line to my forehand.
  4. Alternate forehand and backhand, to my backhand.
  5. Alternate forehand and backhand, to my forehand.
  6. Alternate forehand and backhand, to my middle. This is where my elbow (midpoint between forehand and backhand) would be in a rally, typically perhaps a foot to the left of the middle line. I stood toward the...

Thursday, August 10, 2017 - 11:55
August 10, 2017

Coaching a Junior Class for the First Time
At the MyTableTennis forum someone asked about teaching a junior class for the first time, and how to get them serious about the sport. Below is my response. The last paragraph might be the most important. But note the sale on the Handbook in the first paragraph! I’m willing to supply them at cost to large groups or to USATT events.

I have ten pages on this in my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which comes in print ($5.99) and Kindle (currently on sale at 99 cents). I've run the beginning junior classes at MDTTC for decades. 

I generally go with a 2-1 ration - 2/3 practice, 1/3 games. (More like 50-50 for kids 8 and under.) For new players, you'll be doing a lot of multiball. At the high school level, they should have the coordination to hit among themselves after some multiball practice. 

For games, have them play king of the...

Wednesday, August 9, 2017 - 10:22
August 9, 2017

Why Waldner Doesn’t Have to Move
Here’s the meme that’s making the rounds on Facebook. (Here’s the non-Facebook version.) “I am standing where the ball comes, that is why I don’t have to move, I can Read the Game,” said the great Jan-Ove Waldner.

Some will misunderstand this, taking it literally. Waldner did have to move, of course, but if you watched him play it often seemed like he wasn’t moving – because he was moving before the opponent hit the ball, and so was already there, waiting. Most players react to the ball as it is coming toward them, or perhaps as the opponent is hitting the ball  - but this is way too late if you want to be a good player. Instead,...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017 - 11:42
August 8, 2017

Pong Road
On Friday night I saw Pong Road, a roughly 30-minute video (in three parts), “an episodic documentary that follows Rocky [Wang] along his journey. Get ready to see ping pong that you've never seen before.” Alas, it’s not online yet so you’ll just have to wait until they do so, or there’s a showing in your area. They do have more segments planned. Here’s their Facebook page, here’s “The Story,” which explains more about Pong Road, and here’s their About Page, with more on Rocky Wang, and on Mark Weismantel, who was the “director, cinematographer, editor, sound designer and art director.”

I’ve known Rocky since he was 13, in 1987. He’s also from Maryland, but strangely I first met him in Colorado. I was (at various times) the manager, director, and one of the coaches for the Resident Training Program for...

Monday, August 7, 2017 - 11:55
August 7, 2017

Tip of the Week
Feet Parallel to Table is Usually a Backhand Stance.

Weekend – Pong Road, and History of U.S. Table Tennis, and Coaching
I had a hyper-busy table tennis weekend. Here’s a rundown.

On Friday I saw Pong Road, which features table tennis player and coach Rocky Wang on the road, at MDTTC (my club), Ashville, NC, and at a tournament in Knoxville, TN. I’ll blog about this later this week. I also managed to see Dark Tower on Saturday night and Game of Thrones on Sunday night. All were excellent, though the critics don’t seem to agree with me on Dark Tower. (I’ve read the five very long Game of Thrones books by George R.R. Martin – who I’ve met - but not the seven Dark Tower novels by Stephen King.)

I’m still working with USATT Historian Tim Boggan on his...

Friday, August 4, 2017 - 11:42
August 4, 2017

ITTF Hall of Fame
One of my pet peeves is how international organizations can sometimes be so . . . short-sighted. Here is a classic example. How do you get into the ITTF Hall of Fame? Well, for players, the eligibility rules are very simple: “Eligibility for the highest honor in international Table Tennis requires that the player must have won 5 Gold Medals in World Championships or the Olympic Games.”

This is downright silly. Winning a gold medal in Singles, where you were the best player, is worth more than winning it in Doubles (Men’s, Women’s, or Mixed) or Teams, where your finish is largely determined by other players. The result is a travesty of justice. The rules dramatically favor players who happen to have strong teammates.

Let’s take Stellan Bengtsson as an example. He won Men’s Singles at the 1971 Worlds, and won Men’s Doubles and Men’s Teams in 1973. He had five other silver and bronze medals at the...

Thursday, August 3, 2017 - 11:14
August 3, 2017

Moving to the Wide Forehand, He Zhiwen, and Update on History of USATT, Vol. 20
Most of my students have figured out that while I can still move quickly to my left (i.e. to step around my backhand to attack with my forehand), I don’t move very well to my right anymore. And so they take great glee in finding chances to go that way. I actually encourage it – I want them to develop good tactical habits, and so the last thing I want them to do is develop a habit of holding back when they see the right tactical move. If I leave my forehand side open during a rally, they should jump on it, making it a habit that will carry over in real matches.

This problem with moving to my right has been true for a number of years, but for the last month or so I’ve been having problems with my right knee, which made it far worse. At the USA Nationals, where I was mostly coaching and attending meetings, I did manage in my free time to win Over 40 Hardbat Singles, but most players didn’t realize just how much trouble I was having moving that way – and I used a variety of tactics to cover for it. A knee brace really helped....

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 - 12:32
August 2, 2017

Timmy Boggan’s Coming to Town! [Sung to the tune of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”]
He’ll be here at 10AM, and when he says 10AM, he means exactly 10AM. Knowing Tim, at 10:01AM we’ll be working on Volume 20 (!) of his History of U.S. Table Tennis. As noted in previous blogs, I do the page layouts and photo work. Mal Anderson has already scanned the photos and sent them to me. We’ll be working from 7AM to 5PM for the next 10-12 days (working around my coaching schedule on weekends), with Tim looking over my shoulder and periodically saying things like, “That goes there, you fool!”

Tim keeps strange hours, going to bed every night around 7PM and getting up around 3AM. So he’ll be puttering around my house each morning, impatiently waiting for me so we can get started at 7AM. But he’s a USATT Hall of Famer and the USATT Historian, so who are we to judge?

This is a tricky time for me—or should I say exhausting? After I finish my work with Tim, I’ll be leaving nearly every day to the club for a few hours...

Tuesday, August 1, 2017 - 13:14
August 1, 2017

He Zhiwen
One of the strange things about being at a club where we have ten full-time coaches, where I’m the only one who’s not Chinese, is often I don’t know what’s going on. Others assume I do since they are all talking about it – but in Chinese!!! So I didn’t know that He Zhiwen was even at our club until he’d been there about a week. I had just finished a long coaching session, and as I was walking to the front of the club I saw this elderly lefty pips-out penholder practicing with one of our top juniors. I stopped to watch because there was something about this player, whose strokes looked like machine guns as he almost mechanically smacked in ball after ball, both blocking and hitting, obviously a great player. So I asked Coach Jack, and he was surprised, thought I knew.

He was the famous Spanish player He Zhiwen, 55 years old, formerly a Chinese National Team member. He has now been at my club (MDTTC) for about three weeks, and I believe will be there another week or so. Last year at the World Veterans Games he won the 50-54 Men...