January 9, 2013


As I've blogged about numerous times, they key to huge USATT membership figures is leagues, along with coaching development. But the U.S. is too big to try to set up leagues all at once. The key is to break the country into numerous regions. Even England, about the size of Alabama, has nine regions. (The English TTA has over 500,000 members, with a population of 53 million, about 1/6 of the U.S., which has 9000 members.)

USATT has tried regionalization a few times. I did so in the early 1990s with the Club Catalyst & Creation Program, which had pretty good results. I explained this program at the 2009 Strategic Meeting and at other times to board members. Here are excerpts from an email where I explained this to a board member yesterday.

We actually started regionalization in the early 1990s. I created the program, called the Club Catalyst & Creation Program. (That was my sense of humor at work - the acronym was CCCP. Google it if you don't recognize it, and note that the CCCP fell right about this time.) Dan Seemiller was president at the time, and strongly supported the program.

I was chair of the Coaching Committee, and started the process by appointing (if I remember my numbers correctly) 43 state coaching directions. Then I switched to chairing the Club Committee, and appointed 47 state club directors. (All of these appointments were made with consultation of locals.) The next stop was to appoint state league directors, which we were about to do before disaster struck in 1995 (see below).

The purpose of all these directors was to set up a club in every city with a population over 50,000 (I created a list), then a coach and league for each club. Once we had the state league directors set up, I was going to get a group of them together to plan out the actual creation of a nationwide network of regional leagues.

With all this infrastructure set up, the next step would be to set up the actual regional organizations, which I thought would be difficult to do effectively without a few years creating the needed infrastructure. (It would also allow those interested in developing their region to get active, and we'd be able to identify these people and encourage their work.) The various aspects of the program would play off each other, catalyzing an increase in the number of clubs, coaches, and leagues, and the leagues would lead to major membership increases. Once the regional organizations were set up, they would have open elections for their own officers. Those officers would then select future league, club, and coaching directors.

During the four years of this program (1991-1995, though we started work on it in 1990 when Dan was elected president) we increased the number of clubs from 223 to 301, greatly increased the number of coaches, and USATT membership went from about 5500 to 7500 - the only major membership increase we've had in modern memory. But those are still very small numbers in comparison to the potential of leagues. Superficially, this program started with clubs, but that was short-term and was for the explicit purpose of setting the structure for leagues and coaching programs. As I wrote before, they all go together.

Unfortunately, this program ended when Terry Timmins defeated Dan Seemiller in the 1995 election. When he came in, he brought in his own people and ideas, and all the regional stuff I'd been working on came to an end. (Ironically, he wanted to set up regional elections, but that didn't work out.) A lot of work went to waste, and a lot of state directors were left pretty angry.

We wrote back and forth a few times on this and related issues. I believe that the key is that we can't just set up regional organizations and hope things work out. USATT or some other organization needs to set up league and coaching programs so the regional people can implement them. They do this very well in table tennis overseas, and in other sports in the U.S. such as tennis.

Number of Daily Readers

We've had at least 500 readers for 25 consecutive blogs now, going back to Nov. 19 last year. I've been doing the blog for over two years now; this is the 477th blog. (I've also done 101 Tips of the Week - here's the Archives, with links to them all.) It started slow, and I spent a long time averaging 300 or so, but now we're averaging over 600. The topics vary quite a bit. I tend to jump around a bit. While it's usually coaching-centered, I also write a lot about related topics. Any suggestions on what type of stuff you'd like to see blogged? Here are the daily reader totals:

  1. Jan. 8: 539
  2. Jan. 7: 692
  3. Jan. 4: 924
  4. Jan. 3: 577
  5. Jan. 2: 584
  6. Dec. 17: 2884
  7. Dec. 14: 900
  8. Dec. 13: 615
  9. Dec. 12: 597
  10. Dec. 11: 658
  11. Dec. 10: 815
  12. Dec. 7: 1073
  13. Dec. 6: 599
  14. Dec. 5: 644
  15. Dec. 4: 528
  16. Dec. 3: 506
  17. Nov. 30: 732
  18. Nov. 29: 577
  19. Nov. 28:  573
  20. Nov. 27: 557
  21. Nov. 26: 825
  22. Nov. 22: 1060
  23. Nov. 21: 564
  24. Nov. 20: 660
  25. Nov. 19: 471

USATT Committee Openings

Want to serve on a USATT Committee? Here's a call for volunteers! Here's a link to the USATT Committee listing which the notice inadvertently leaves out. (I emailed about this, and presumably it'll be added soon.)

USATT Committee Reports

Here's a link to the 2012 USATT Committee Reports. (Minutes for USATT Board meetings are here.)

Top Ten Table Tennis Points of 2012

Here they are! (7:27) They replay each of the points in slow motion, which is why the video is over seven minutes.

1940 U.S. Open

Here's vintage footage (1:31) of the 1940 U.S. Open and the final where Lou Pagliaro defeats Sol Schiff.

Liquid Nitrogen vs. 1500 Ping-Pong Balls

Here's the video (1:08). The explosion takes place 22 seconds in, and is then replayed from different angles and in slow motion.

Send us your own coaching news!

Re: January 9, 2013 - ETTA membership numbers

Where'd you get the 500,000 number?  The ETTA's most recent annual report puts the membership at below 30,000. That's still much better per-capita than the U.S., but a long way from 500,000.


BTW, they only recently went to individual membership.  Previously players affiliated indirectly through their clubs.  Individual membership is a new development.


Larry Hodges's picture

Re: January 9, 2013 - ETTA membership numbers

I didn't realize they had started selling individual memberships again. Before they only had league memberships, where the club and the ETTA each got a percentage. The 500,000 number was the figure (or estimate) given for that when I looked into this a few years ago. Even on this report, on page 2, it talks about exceeding their goal of "once a week" participation of 92,200 by 42,700, implying a "once a week" participation of about 135,000, which would imply annual numbers likely in the 500,000 or more range. However, it's not clear if they are talking about league players or something else. I won't quote the English figures any more until I get better info. I wonder why they reverted to individual memberships?

Re: January 9, 2013 - ETTA membership numbers

A report that provides a number of a similar kind as the one from England would be the number from this publication:


This report shows once a week participation in Table Tennis in 2011 for the U.S. at about 18 Million people - well beyond the number of USATT members and even in excess of the number participating in Tennis.

We are far beyond the U.K. in this kind of participation.  My bet is that this is because we have far more home space (basements, garages, back patios, rec rooms) available to hold tables.  The average size of a new home in the U.S. is 2300 square feet.  That's almost 3 TIMES the size of the average new home in the U.K.!!!  No room for a table.  OTOH, more people per square mile and a greater impetus to get out of the (smaller) home and get some exercise elsewhere.  All quite good for the formation of table tennis leagues and such.

Note: It is likely that the average home size in the U.K. is larger than the average new home size.  The trend has been distinctly toward smaller and smaller homes over the decades.  So maybe overall the typical U.S. home is only 2 times the area of the typical U.K. home?

The problems, of course, is that this large number of recreational players is almost entirely divorced from organized, modern play.



Re: January 9, 2013 - ETTA membership numbers

Those higher numbers come from the Sport England "Active People Survey" and would include table tennis play that occured outside the auspices of the ETTA.  For instance if I played once a week at home I'd be in that 135,000 number.  Such a survey would include a lot of recreational and not very organized play.  This is the criteria on the questionaire.

"Please think about all the activities you did, in the last four weeks, whether for competition, training or receiving tuition, socially, casually or for health and fitness, but do not include any teaching, coaching or refereeing you may have done. "