Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

April 11, 2013

New Back Problem

I live life by several rules. And one of the main ones is never, Ever, EVER carry heavy objects with my playing arm. On Tuesday I broke that rule and paid for it. I went grocery shopping. Normally I'm careful not to carry anything heavy with my (right) playing arm. I own a townhouse and live on the third floor, and rent out the first two floors. When I was about to carry the groceries out of my car and up the stairs to the third floor, I picked up all of the bags in my left arm. But I also had a case of Deer Park water. They normally come with 24 bottles, but this one was some sort of special, with 28, each of them 16.9 ounces. That's about 30 pounds. No problem, I picked them up with my right arm. It wasn't until I was nearly at the third floor that I began to feel the strain behind and to the left of my right shoulder. I made it to the top, no problem. None whatsoever.

Yesterday I only had two sessions. The first was with a beginning-intermediate player, age 11, rated about 800. He'd just played a tournament and had had trouble blocking. So near the end of the one-hour session I did a multiball drill where I stood near the end-line of my table with a box of balls, and tossed balls up one by one and looped them at him so he could practice blocking. At first I didn't notice the strain, but after a few minutes of this the pain in my back began again. I'd hurt it the day before, but now I'd aggravated it pretty badly.

My next session was 30 minutes with a 2200+ junior, where we were working strictly on return of serve. We warmed up for a few minutes (no problem), and then I began the drill. I tossed the ball up, preparing to do a reverse pendulum serve - and had to catch the ball. I couldn't do any body rotation into the serve without hurting the back. As I quickly discovered, I couldn't do forehand pendulum serves (regular or reverse) or backhand serves. I also couldn't forehand loop or smash. We ended up spending the session working on his backhand loop while I blocked.

I'm off today, and have already cancelled my two hours on Friday. I've got a busy weekend, but don't know yet what condition my shoulder/back will be in. I can do multiball, and regular forehand and backhand drives or blocks, but that's about it.

Maybe I'm getting too old for this! (At 53?) On the other hand, after the session, while lamenting about my newest injury, I had fun watching "tag-team math," as four of our junior girls (all 11-12 years old or so) worked on math problems for school together between practice sessions at the club. There was a lot of giggling, and yet they seemed to get the work done.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

Are you interested in becoming a professional table tennis coach, but aren't sure if you can make a living at it? Do you feel you have most of the knowledge needed to coach, but aren't sure how to get started? Do you want to run a junior class or teach classes? Then this is the book for you, the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. I wrote an earlier version of this a few years ago; this is an updated and professional published version.

I mentioned this before in my blog when it came out a few days ago, but I was sort of holding back because, due to some error, it was showing two different pages, one for the print version, and one for the eBook version. Now they are together.

It's a short read, only 44 pages, but the price matches that - only $7.99 for the print version, $5.99 for Kindle.

ITTF Features Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers

Here's the article!

Want To Win a FREE Signed Copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers?

As noted in my blog yesterday, they are running a contest at Expert Table Tennis. All you have to do by this Sunday is answer the question: Why do you deserve to win a free copy of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers? I will personally sign and mail out a copy of the book to the winner. See link for details.

Forehand Flip

Here's a good tutorial (4:23) on the forehand flip (called a flick in Europe) from Table Tennis Master. What makes it good is that it shows the progression from the most basic flip (too high and soft) and works its way toward high-level flipping, with slow motion so you can see what's happening.

Rockford Media Try Table Tennis

Here's an article about a Celebrity Table Tennis Tournament held in Rockford, IL. It's part of the buildup toward the National College Championships there this weekend.

Golfer Webb Simpson in Table Tennis Commercial

Here's the video (32 sec). The table tennis is for two seconds, starting at second 15, showing them playing on an American flag table (!) out in the ocean (!).

Invading Alien Table Tennis Players!

Here's a new artwork from Mike Mezyan, with the caption, "To All Table Tennis Players....Be Ready...They Come To You With A Message..." The message is in ping-pongese (as you can tell by the use of ping-pong paddles for some of the letters). These aliens obviously have some good ideas, as you can see the light bulbs going off in their heads - except those are ping-pong paddles! All these years we thought a good idea was symbolized by a light bulb going off, but now we realize it was really an exploding racket.

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April 9, 2013

Covering Up the Weak Spots Against Fast Hitter/Blockers

Here is an excerpt from Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, from Chapter Seven: Tactical Examples, pages 78-79. Recently I've been using this tactics a lot against our top juniors, to great success. (Maryland juniors, do not read this. Go play video games or do homework or something.)

Here is an unconventional tactic I and some players I coach have used for years against fast hitters and blockers, especially in fast exchanges with junior players. Typically these players hit hard, quick shots over and over to the wide backhand, middle, and wide forehand. The tactic assumes you have a decent forehand and backhand, and can keep the ball in play pretty well, and can attack with your forehand against a quick shot if you see it coming and know where it’s going to go.

As soon as you get into a fast rally, stand toward your backhand side with your feet in a slight forehand position, but rotated to the left so you are facing the table in a backhand position. By rotating at the waist or taking a short step with the left foot, you should be able to cover the wide backhand and middle with your backhand, using the incoming ball’s speed to rebound it back. Watch the opponent until you see him about to go to your forehand. Immediately step over to the wide forehand and counter-attack. (This is where having your feet in a slight forehand position helps.) The key is you don’t try to cover the entire forehand side with the forehand; you anticipate that it’ll go to the wide corner and move there immediately to counter-attack. If the ball comes to your middle forehand, where you’d normally be comfortable, you’ll have difficulty since you are anticipating it going to the wide forehand, since that’s what top players and up-and-coming juniors are trained to go. What this strategy effectively does is move the middle weakness into the middle forehand, where few strong players will place the ball. Since your opponent is probably hitting down the line with his backhand, an aggressive counter-attack to his wide forehand usually wins the point.

Since I coach at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, where we have lots and lots of up-and-coming juniors who are extremely fast, I use this tactic in practice matches on an almost daily basis, to great success. I usually just counter-hit the crosscourt winner, but sometimes I loop it. It works either way. (Beware—if you use this tactic against a junior I’m coaching, I’ll tell him to put the ball to your middle forehand. Hah!)

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

It's now on sale at Amazon! There are two versions, one for Print ($7.99), and one for Kindle ($5.99). It's supposed to be one page with two versions, but there's some sort of blip on the system, and it instead is coming up on two different pages. (For example, here's the page for my Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers book - one page with both versions, paperback and kindle.) I've contacted Amazon about fixing this.

So what is this Coaches Handbook? It's a 44-page manual I wrote a few years ago. I use to give it away at coaching seminars, but it was just a rough printout. Now it's professionally published. See book description below.

"Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."

I now have five books on my Amazon page:

  • Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. This came out in February, and is selling like popcorn at a movie theatre. (You wouldn't watch a movie without popcorn, and you wouldn't play table tennis without this Tactics book, right?)  
  • Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook. This came out yesterday. Here's the Amazon description: ""Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."
  • Table Tennis: Steps to Success. This is my fundamentals book, originally published in 1993 and updated in 2007. It's sold 28,000 copies in six languages. I plan a new version this year, with all new photos and major updates, probably retitled as Table Tennis Success.
  • Table Tennis Tales & Techniques. This is a compilation of my best work, with both essays on technique and stories about table tennis, often humorous.
  • Pings & Pongs: The Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges. (This has my 30 best short story sales. I've sold 66 in all. See my Science Fiction & Fantasy page.)
  • Also listed is Willy and the Ten Trillion Chimpanzees. This is actually a short fantasy story of mine that was published as an eBook by Musa Publications. "What if William Shakespeare was a demon with ten trillion captive chimpanzees in his basement, where time is sped up a trillion-fold, and where they are forced to randomly type as they produce the works of Shakespeare? And then the chimpanzees rebel...."

Note shown is Instructor's Guide to Table Tennis, a manual for coaches that I wrote a while back that teaches coaches how to coach table tennis. I'm planning a rewrite and publication later this year. For both this and the upcoming rewrite of Table Tennis: Steps to Success, I have a major photo session planned.

2013 World Table Tennis Championships

Here's the Trailer (1:45). The Worlds are in Paris, France, May 13-20. These are the individual championships - Men's and Women's Singles & Doubles, and Mixed Doubles.

Join the Conversation - the 2013 Worlds

Join them on Twitter, at #ITTF Worlds! (Disclosure - I have a twitter account, but haven't used it or read anyone else's in about two years.)

Young Table Tennis Player

Start 'em early!

Table Tennis Muffins

Mmmmm . . . Good!

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April 5, 2013

Equipment Reviews

Long ago I decided not to do equipment reviews here at, because 1) it involves too many conflicts of interest, since I'm a sponsored coach; and 2) I'm more interested in technique and tactics than equipment. But I'm aware that I'm somewhat in the minority on this, as most table tennis players are divided into two camps: those obsessed with equipment, and those REALLY obsessed with equipment. For those EJ's ("Equipment Junkies"), visit Table Tennis DB, which specializes in equipment reviews - about 8000 of them!

When I meet a player who's obsessed with equipment and rated under 2000, I have a simple cure. I play them with a clipboard. I rarely lose. Technique and tactics beat equipment every time. (I've been playing with a clipboard during breaks in our junior sessions and camps for over 20 years, and am about 2100 now, mostly chopping and pick-hitting.)

It is important to get good sponge, especially for loopers. As I've blogged before, some of the modern looping sponges practically loop by themselves, and are well worth whatever you pay to get them, at least for serious players of the looping species. I often wish I could take a stack of these sponges and bring them back to the 1980s and early 1990s for myself.

And it is important for players to experiment with equipment to know what's out there. If you go to a club, there's a whole club full of players with rackets and sponge you can ask to try out. Once you find something that works for you, stick with it unless and until they come out with something truly better for you.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

I just finished updating and formatting this for Amazon. A proof copy is in the mail. If all goes well, it'll be on sale in a week, and I'll announce it here. The manual, which I wrote several years ago, is 44 pages long, and will sell for $10. (I'll probably do a Kindle version later.) It is intended for top players and coaches, and is about the professional side of coaching. Here's the Amazon description: "Long-time professional table tennis coach and USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer Larry Hodges shows how you can become a professional table tennis coach. This is not a manual on how to coach; it's a manual on how to make a living as a coach - how to maximize income, getting a facility and equipment, recruiting and retaining students, teaching classes, how to set up and run a junior program, private coaching, a drills library, sample flyers to promote your coaching, and more."

New World Rankings

Here are the new April rankings. There are few major changes at the top. On the Men's side, the top nine rankings were unchanged, with Ma Long at #1 for the second month in a row. On the women's side there were no changes in the top ten, and Ding Ning remains #1 for the 18th month in a row, since November 2011.

Crystal Wang

When the Cary Cup Championships was processed last week, there were a few mistakes, which primarily affected Crystal Wang, who is from my club. (I coach her in some of her tournament matches, including the key match at Cary Cup where she upset the top seed in her group to move into the "A" Division.) In the corrected ratings, Crystal, who just turned 11, is rated 2292. This makes her #1 in Under 12 (boys and girls), #1 in Under 14 Girls, #2 in Under 16 girls (6 points behind Tina Lin), #7 in Under 18 Girls, and #12 in Under 22 Girls. She's not quite back to the 2355 she achieved at age 10 (before that "blip" at the Nationals - she wasn't there mentally), but she's close. She's been causing havoc among 2300 players in our Elite League on Sundays for quite some time. 

Table Tennis Master

Here are three new coaching articles at Table Tennis Master.

Using Your Legs When Playing Forehand

Here's a video (2:14) from PingSkills on this. The key point - balance.

Chinese Table Tennis Team - Military Training

Here's a video from Dec., 2011, showing the Chinese National Team undergoing military training. It's in Chinese, but the video is rather interesting. Most of the "soldiers" shown training are Chinese team members, including the ones interviewed. How many can you recognize?

Artistic Picture of Ding Ning

Here's an artistic picture of World #1 woman Ding Ning, with an urban skyline background. I think that's New York City, but can anyone verify? Or perhaps it's Beijing or Shanghai? (EDIT - the artist, Mike Mezyan, has informed me it's the Chicago skyline! Shows how well I recognize our major cities.) 

Prince William and Kate Play Table Tennis

Here's a video (3:29) of Prince William and Kate of England playing table tennis. Someone needs to explain to Kate that high heels and table tennis don't mix well.

Improvised Table Tennis

Here's a video (1:30) with one of the more improvised nets I've seen - two boys grabbing hands across a table for the net.

Pigeons Playing Ping-Pong

You have to see this video (39 sec) - yes, actual pigeons playing "ping-pong," taught by behavior psychologist BF Skinner. As the narration explains, the pigeons were taught that they could eat whenever they won a point!

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September 23, 2011

Creating racket velocity on serves and strokes

Many players have great difficulty creating great spin with their loops and serves. They stroke through the ball with a constant not-too-high velocity, and the result is a not-too-great spin. There's little acceleration in their shots, and so there's little velocity.

There's a distinction between speed and acceleration. Velocity is the actual miles per hour; acceleration is how fast you are speeding up. To get a lot of velocity, you need a lot of acceleration. For maximum velocity, you need to accelerate right up until contact. How do you do this?

For looping, start with the lower body muscles, and work your way up. This means the legs, then waist, then shoulders, then arm, then wrist. Think of it as a whip, which also starts at the base (near the handle) and works its way down to the tip. This is especially true when looping and serving. Rotate your body around in a circle, creating great torque. You do so by using the muscles exactly as noted above, in that order - legs, waist, shoulders, arm, and then wrist.

On serve, you generally don't use your legs much, but for forehand serves you do rotate the body into the shot from the waist, shoulders, and arm. Then the wrist snaps into the shot like the tip of a whip, generating massive spin.

If you wave it, what moves faster, the tip of a whip or the tip of a stick? The tip of the whip. To maximize acceleration, you need to relax your muscles as if they were rubber. If they are tight, you'll have the velocity of the stick.

Ultimately, power comes from good technique (muscles used properly and in synch) and relaxed muscles.

Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook

Here is the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, a must read for all coaches in the U.S. (Or am I biased, since I wrote it?)  It is written as a professional guide for those who wish to coach table tennis professionally, with the U.S. market in particular, though most of it should be applicable anywhere. It incorporates most of what was originally in two previous manuals I'd written, "Junior Training Primer" and "Beginning Class Primer," as well as lots of other stuff. The focus is not on how to teach techniques, but on the "professional" side, i.e. how to get a facility, recruiting and keeping students, setting up and teaching classes and junior programs, etc. I originally wrote it a few years ago, with the last update on Jan. 1, 2010. The primer is based on years of experience coaching myself, along with co-coaches Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang and others, and numerous discussions over the years with other coaches. Here is the Table of Contents:

  1. The Profession of Coaching
  2. How Much Income Can You Make As a Table Tennis Coach?
  3. What Credentials Do You Need to Be a Table Tennis Coach?
  4. Getting a Facility, Tables and Other Equipment
  5. Start With a Plan
  6. Recruiting Students
  7. Setting Up and Teaching a Class
  8. Setting Up and Running a Junior Training Program
  9. Private Coaching
  10. Keeping Players Interested
  11. Drills Library
  12. Sample Flyers
  13. Helpful Links & Resources

Pro Players Equipment Page

So you want to know what equipment most of the top hundred players (and many more) actually use? Here's the listing, for the Equipment Junkie in you.

Scientists play ping-pong with an electron


Hello . . . I'm Mister Ed

Can a horse play table tennis? Yes, and they did this in the TV show Mister Ed (1958-1966). Here's the picture that proves it! There's no digital manipulation; they apparently got the horse to hold the paddle and probably filmed a lot to get what they needed. I remember seeing the footage, but alas, I can't find it on youtube. And so I'll leave you with this:

A horse is a horse, of course, of course, and nobody plays pong with a horse, that is, of course, unless, of course, the horse is the famous Mr. Ed! (Sung to the tune of the Mister Ed opening theme, 0:42, with some minor horsing around with the lyrics.)


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