January 30, 2023

Tip of the Week
Don’t Fix a Problem You’ve Already Fixed.

Classified Information Found in Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers
The US Government has announced a recall of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers by Larry Hodges, following an FBI raid on his home where they confiscated dozens of copies. Said FBI Director George Santos, "The book is full of classified information on serving, receiving, and even killing. Nobody is above the law, not even Hodges, and the Forehand Blocking Institute will not rest until we've gone over every tip on how to play long pips."

January 23, 2023

Tip of the Week
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Size in Table Tennis.

Weekend Coaching and What's In My Bag?
I coached in four group junior sessions over the weekend. In two of them, I mostly fed multiball for most of the 90 minutes. In the other two I split my time between walk-around coach and practice partner.

A lot of the emphasis this weekend was on remembering the feel of the good shots, and then repeating them. This means that when you mishit a shot, you don't focus on the missed shot – that's a great way of ingraining a bad habit! Instead, you immediately focus on what the shot should have been – and so you think about the feel of when you do it right, and try to repeat that. When a player makes a nice shot, I often tell them to "Remember the feel of that shot!" (This will be the focus of next week's Tip.) There was the usual focus on fundamentals. One player kept shortening his backswing, leading to a jerky, uncontrolled shot, but we fixed that. Another kept lunging for shots instead of stepping, so we worked on that. Another player couldn't seem to hit forehands down the line, so we worked on that. One player was feeling sleepy, so I explained how you can fix half that problem – go in the bathroom and splash water on your face! (But to completely solve it – get more sleep.)

December 5, 2022

Tip of the Week
Lobbing.

Weekend Coaching, MDTTC Open, and Books
With the North American Teams over, the focus switches from preparing them for a major tournament to long-term development. Which means lots of foundational work! Footwork, strokes, serve, receive, and so on. I coached in the usual four group sessions this weekend. In two of them, I mostly fed multiball. In another, I did both multiball and hit with various players, working on consistency. In the other, I was a “walk around” coach, where the focus was on good technique. They played games at the end of the session, and I kept harping on some of them that this was the time to practice their shots, because this was practice. (Way too often some get “scared” and just push.) I also worked with players on serves, including working with two on how to do a really effective no-spin serve, i.e. “heavy no-spin,” where the serve looks like heavy backspin but is no-spin. As we demonstrated, receivers often push them as if they are heavy backspin, and so the ball pops up. The returns also have less backspin then returns actual heavy backspin serves. I also had a good discussion with one of our top juniors on sports psychology, and I gave him a copy of “The Inner Game of Tennis.”

November 29, 2029

Tip of the Week
What Comes First, Speed or Consistency?

JOOLA North American Teams
I spent Thanksgiving weekend coaching at the Teams at the National Harbor in Maryland. It was my 46th consecutive Teams – every year starting my first year in table tennis, 1976, back when it was in Detroit from the early 1970s to 1997. (It would be 47 years in a row, but they didn’t hold it in 2020 due to Covid.) I was a player or player/coach for most years, but in modern times I’ve only coached. (I’ve also been to every US Open and Nationals since 1984, plus a few before that.) Here are complete results. (Make sure to set the dropdown menu to 2022 JOOLA NA Teams.) Here is the list of entries.

November 21, 2022

Tip of the Week
Recovering from Forehand Attacks from a Corner.

Weekend Coaching and the JOOLA North American Teams
Our junior program at MDTTC is divided into four groups (66 players total), and this weekend I worked with one session for each. It was also an exhausting weekend as I acted as a practice partner for three of the sessions, for two reasons. First, we had an odd number of players, though we can work around that by doing multiball or bringing in another player. Second, and perhaps more important, we’re getting them ready for the North American Teams next weekend (Fri-Sun after Thanksgiving), and so it’s valuable they get a good practice session with a good player. (Yay, I’m the “good” player!) For drills, I mostly blocked – and boy, after a short time it really came together and I stopped missing. They rotated the players who hit with me, and each time I greeted them with the warning, “The rumors are true, I never miss.” And, of course, if I did miss, I’d explain I was only showing them what a miss would look like if I were to miss – after all, how could they identify a miss by an opponent if we don’t show them what it looks like?

November 14, 2022

Tip of the Week
Backhand Counter Domination.

Weekend Coaching
I coached in four group sessions over the weekend, as is my norm. As usual the focus was on fundamentals, technique, footwork, placement . . . yada yada yada. I did do extra down-the-line drills - too often players focus on crosscourt. I also worked with two players on their grip. One of them has begun changing his grip drastically between forehand and backhand, with a wristy finger-down-the-middle forehand - NO!!! (1967 Men's World Champion Hasegawa might disagree - he used that grip.) It's important to catch things like this early, and the player in question only started this past year. 

I had a realization during one session, which I explained to some of the players. If the players can't beat me after I've coached them for a full 90 minutes, I must be a bad coach. But if they can beat me after 90 minutes of training, I must be a bad player. Hmmm... Of course, I also explain to them that if they are tired during a drill, they must be out of shape and so we must work them harder. If they are not tired then we must not be working them hard enough and so we must work them harder. And if they won't answer us when we ask if they are tired, then we must punish them by making them work harder. Hmmm...