January 20, 2011

What's Your Table Tennis Bucket List?

A "bucket list" is a list of all the things you want to do in your life before you, well, kick the bucket. I've got my own list, but this is a table tennis blog - so let's apply this to table tennis. In table tennis, coaches often tell players to set short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals. (I suggest starting with the long-term goals, and work backwards.)

So what are your short-, intermediate-, and long-term goals? (Of course, if you just play for fun, then maybe this doesn't apply to you. Or rather, it does, with all three goals to have fun at table tennis.) Below are mine (as a player). Note that my "long-term" goals are both for this year. For others, those might be intermediate goals, with long-term goals possibly years away, i.e. making a team, winning a title, or reaching a certain level or rating.

  • Short-term: Beat our top cadet players at the club this Friday night and Sat & Sun afternoon. (As a coach, of course, if I do beat them, it's a disappointment. I can't win.)
  • Intermediate: Get my weight under 180 so I can get my old forehand attack back (both with my normal sponge game and also when I play with a hardbat), and win Hardbat Singles at the Cary Cup in March. (I weighed 196 on Dec. 26; I'm now down to 186.)
  • Long-term: Win Over 40 Hardbat Singles and Hardbat Doubles at the U.S. Open and Nationals in July and December. (If I win at least two of the four, including at least one singles, I'll consider it a success.)

(Note - I'm normally a sponge player, but I seem to win a lot more titles in hardbat events. With sponge, I'm mostly a practice partner/coach for the junior players at our club.)

Now let's move back to the bucket list I mentioned. Other than improvement, winning titles, etc., what do you want to do in table tennis? These are similar to your long-term goals, but are things you know you can do if you decide to do it, or to work at it. (In contrast to my long-term goal of winning Hardbat titles, where my opponents may have something to say about my winning.) So what's your Table Tennis Bucket List?  Develop a specific shot? Attend a major tournament? Compete overseas? Set up and run a club or league? Coach a junior program? Develop a top junior player? Pull off an off-the-bounce backhand counterloop against a net ball? The possibilities are endless.

I've already achieved many of the items that would have been on my table tennis bucket list. A bucket list is things you want to do, and most of the things I'd put on my list don't qualify, such as seeing USATT membership skyrocket from a nationwide league (with a 500,000 or more members, like in Germany and England, with lots of prize money for the top players), or the systematic recruitment and training of professional coaches. Hello, USATT? smiley

But I have to choose, don't I? Okay, how's this for an item on my table tennis bucket list? I'd like to help arrange and coach at an annual training camp for top USATT junior & cadet players. I've coached at over 100 table tennis camps, and spent decades working with many of the top juniors in the U.S., so why not up the ante, and turn it into a nationwide thing? But I wouldn't be the head coach, oh no. First choice for that is Stellan Bengtsson. (There are other possibilities, however.) There's something about getting all our top juniors together in one camp to train as a team.

Since this is my blog, I'll go off on a tangent now, and give you my actual bucket list, which I wrote years ago. Not my table tennis one, my actual one, including non-table tennis. If you only want table tennis, stop reading now!!! (But there is some table tennis.)

The Larry Hodges Bucket List

  1. Visit all seven continents. Not even close. Because of table tennis, I've been all over North America and Asia, but that's it. Not even Europe. Sigh. But I will.
  2. Tour China. Check!
  3. Tour the ruins of Greece and Rome. Not yet, but I will. I'm a history buff.
  4. Get a college degree. Check! (Bachelors in math, Masters in journalism.)
  5. Publish a book. Check - four of 'em!
  6. Publish a novel. I've written one, and have nearly finalized another. Haven't found a publisher yet.
  7. Qualify for membership in Science Fiction Writers of America with three or more "Pro" sales. Check!
  8. Get published in a science or math journal. Check!
  9. Run a marathon. Check!
  10. Hit a home run over an outfield fence. Sigh. I may take lessons someday and get this done.
  11. Become a table tennis champion. Check!!!
  12. Get certified in table tennis as a national coach. Check!
  13. Coach a National Table Tennis Champion. Check, many times over!
  14. Set up and help coach at an annual training camp for USA Junior & Cadet players. We'll see!

New Articles

  • In the Articles page, in the Sports Psychology section, I've added two articles by Stanley Popovich.
  • Also in the Articles page, in the Equipment Reviews section, I've added a link to the OOAK Forum.


  • The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association January Newsletter is out! College students, your regional championships are coming up fast in February, so don't forget to enter!
  • Tong Tong Gong, who made the USA National Cadet Team at the Nationals in December, wrote an article about his experience for Butterfly. I coached him in his matches, and so was mentioned. In the picture, I think we're discussing what to have on our pizza for lunch. (I want pepperoni; I think he wants watermelon or Chinese fish heads or something.)

Send me your own coaching news!

In reply to by cmetsbeltran15

And that Sunday's dinner inspired today's blog. Feel free to Facebook Tong Tong that he was mentioned. The watermelon thing is an inside joke he may or may not wish to explain.

Above, I wrote my short-term goal was to "Beat our top cadet players at the club this Friday night and Sat & Sun afternoon. (As a coach, of course, if I do beat them, it's a disappointment. I can't win.)"

Well, in this afternoon's session I had a great day. Or a horrible day, I'm not sure. I beat all four of the the top junior/cadet players I played. On the other hand, the "weakest" of the four, an 11-year-old rated 1900, played out of his mind and made it to 9-all in the fifth in my last match before I pulled a couple of trick serves on him. I consoled him afterwards - the kid'll be 2100 very soon. However, two of the others I beat were over 2250, and they are supposed to be pulling away from me, not playing down to my normal 2200 level. (Hey, I'm 51 next month, it's not easy holding that level!)