“I Don’t Have A Hole In My Head To Alleviate The Pressure:” A TDQ Q&A With Table Tennis Coach And Writer Larry Hodges

Pro-tip: Table tennis really works the abs, as evidenced by USA Table Tennis Hall of Famer, coach, and author Larry Hodges.

This week we spoke to USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame Coach and writer Larry Hodges. Larry schooled us on where to put the hyphen when we mistakenly refer to table tennis as “ping pong,” shares the hate mail he and everybody else in the table tennis world got because of our recent article about him and Brad Pitt and reveals what keeps him awake at night. Here is this week’s TDQ Q&A with Larry Hodges: 

The Daily Quarterly: How did you hear about thedailyquarterly.com?

Larry Hodges: The chairman of the USA Table Tennis Coaching Committee did some sort of table tennis search, and found the hilarious spoof of Brad Pitt doing a movie based on my book, “Table Tennis Tales & Techniques.” He emailed me, and that’s how I found out both about the spoof and The Daily Quarterly. When I saw it, I felt like someone had yanked the rug out from under me – understandable, since The Daily Quarterly is just an anagram for “yearly quilt hatred.”

TDQ: How excited were you that The Daily Quarterly asked you for an interview?

Hodges: My excitement level can only be represented by large imaginary numbers, which are the square root of negative numbers. So my excitement level is imaginary and rooted in large negative numbers that cannot be squared with anything other than total negativity.

TDQ; Would you say the level of literary excellence displayed every day on The Daily Quarterly is “superlative” or “transcendent?”

 Hodges: Since I rarely follow instructions, and since I’ve already used one anagram, I think I’ll change those two to their respective anagrams, “virtue lapse” and “darn ten cents.” I wholeheartedly agree that the literary excellence at The Daily Quarterly is a virtue lapse that’s definitely worth those darn ten cents. Or at least a nickel.

TDQ: You started playing table tennis at 16. What took you so long? Didn’t other great players have paddles in their cribs?

Hodges: Those other players needed a head start. Me, I spent my first 16 years solving many of the word’s problems, reading science fiction, and touring the galaxy. Then I had my first mid-life crisis, discovered table tennis, and realized that was the meaning of life. And here’s how I discovered table tennis.

Back in 1976 (age 16), I was on my high school track team as a miler. I went to the library to get a book on “Track & Field.” I happened to look to my left… and there was a book on table tennis, “The Money Player,” by Marty Reisman! I had been playing “basement” ping-pong at a neighbor’s house, and spur-of-the-moment checked the book out. From it, I found out about USATT (then called USTTA). I contacted them, found a local club, and went there. I got killed, but I stuck with it, and a few years later became the best at the club. I later became a professional table tennis coach and writer, and from 1985 on, I’ve been full-time table tennis almost continuously in various capacities. In 1991, I was hired as editor of USATT’s national magazine. About a year later, at a tournament in New York, I met Marty for the first time (although I had probably seen him before), and told him this story. His response?  “Great … another life I’ve ruined.”

TDQ: How did you get into coaching table tennis?

Hodges: An inability to win by skill led me to learn to win with tactics, and then it just snowballed. By the time I was 19, I was coaching regularly, especially at tournaments, and writing coaching articles for USA Table Tennis Magazine (then called Table Tennis Topics). In 1985 USA Table Tennis hired me as the assistant manager for their resident table tennis program at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Eventually I became the director and assistant coach, which allowed me to boss around others and act important. Throughout I continued to write coaching articles. Then I opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center with two other coaches from China, and I’ve been coaching there for most of the last twenty years. Along the way, I’ve coached more table tennis gold medalists at the Junior Olympics and Junior Nationals then any other coach in the U.S., over 200. In an attempt to get me to retire, and spurred on by rival coaches, USA Table Tennis inducted me into the USATT Hall of Fame in 2003, but they failed, and I’m still coaching.

TDQ: What is the current state of table tennis in theUnited States right now? 

Hodges: I think USA Table Tennis is looking to the Greek economic system for ideas. There are about 15 million recreational players in theUSA, according to polls. USA Table Tennis has about 8000 members. One prominent USATT official argued for a program that he thought might bring in a thousand new recreational players. I said, “Great, instead of 15 million recreational players now we’ll have 15.001 million.” (Read that aloud: “fifteen point zero zero one million.”) If it brings in 10,000 recreational players, great, we’re up to 15.01 million recreational players. The focus needs to be on developing serious players who will join USATT, and you do that with leagues and by recruiting and training coaches to run coaching programs, especially for junior players. Fortunately, there are independent groups setting up full-time table tennis centers all over the country, and there are some new leagues that we hope will spread, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. But it is a heck of a long tunnel and we need a better tunnel transit system.

TDQ:  What sort of feedback have you yourself gotten on the Brad Pitt-playing-you article?

Hodges: I wrote the following in my blog on Oct. 19, a few days after it came out:

“This is kind of funny, but mostly sad. Someone sent out a letter early this morning to a group of people in response to the satirical article a few days ago about Brad Pitt playing me in a movie based on the adaptation of my book, Table Tennis Tales and Techniques. The letter writer still believes it is real, even though I explained in my blog yesterday that it was a satire. He says he also sent the letter to the ‘Table Tennis Tales and Techniques’ website, but I think he means the fake, satirical one at The Daily Quarterly that he still believes is real, not the real one, since I maintain that since it is my book. (And here it is!) As to The Daily Quarterly, I’m sure they took one look at the raving in the letter and put it aside. Or maybe they’ll publish it for laughs.

“The person, who for many years has been saying I shouldn’t be in charge of anything (and far, far worse – he gets pretty nasty), and in fact got kicked out of a USATT Coaching Seminar I ran for USATT for yelling such things and refusing to stop (the USATT coaching chair kicked him out, not I), now attributes those words to the great Sol Schiff. He also writes, “Mr. Marty Reisman, late 60s, beat him in the US Open Hardbat Finals around 1998 and Coach Larry didn’t have the backbone or the sense to put Mr. Reisman’s photo on the cover of our magazine.” To be accurate, it was actually in the final at the 1997 Nationals. Now, letter writer, you’ve been attacking me on this for years. So, one more time: I was USATT editor from 1991-1995, and from 1999-2007. I wasn’t editor at the time of the match in 1997. I wasn’t the one who chose the cover. I had nothing to do with it. But, of course, we’ve been through this many times, and facts don’t seem to matter, do they?

“Of course, this same letter writer once photoshopped me in a Nazi uniform with a Hitler mustache and sent that out to a large group of people, including the USATT board of directors and staff, claiming it was a school project.

“But I did enjoy these parts of this morning’s email: ‘If the movie was about the real Coach Larry, the man behind the curtain, the dirty, two-faced lying flat-sponge manufactures’ operative posing as a journalist and couch and ‘Hardbatter’–it would be a blockbuster, bigger than _ERAN BROKOVITCH…I’ve got the shrill characters.’ (I have no idea what that last part means. The ellipsis was the letter writer’s, not mine.) And this: ‘There is no doubt that The Game is broken, thanks to the Coach Larrys.'”

TDQ: What’s the worst fight you’ve ever gotten into with somebody who referred to table tennis as “ping pong?”

Hodges: Did you just say “ping pong”? Don’t you know it’s hyphenated, as in “ping-pong”? I don’t like it when people leave that out. It makes me very angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. I suggest locking your doors and windows tonight.

Part 2 of our TDQ Q&A with table tennis coach and writer Larry Hodges will run next Friday

1 thought on ““I Don’t Have A Hole In My Head To Alleviate The Pressure:” A TDQ Q&A With Table Tennis Coach And Writer Larry Hodges

  1. Pingback: “I Don’t Have A Hole In My Head To Alleviate The Pressure:” A TDQ Q&A With Table Tennis Coach And Writer Larry Hodges, Part 2 | The Daily Quarterly

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