March 21, 2014

The Ping-Pong Apartments

Below is an essay I wrote that was published in USA Table Tennis Magazine in 1991. (Back then the USATT board of directors was called the Executive Committee, hence the "Mr. Ec.") Has our situation changed in the 23 years since? Before we get to the essay, let's look at the current situation.

The rise of full-time training centers all over the U.S. is a dramatic improvement, and growing leagues in NYC and the SF and LA areas in California are promising. But we still have a long way to go. We're not going to really fix our sport until the leaders of our sport actually focus on fixing our sport, i.e. developing the infrastructure as it is done overseas, and in other sports in the U.S. There's no systematic development of these full-time centers or professional coaches, i.e. recruitment and training on how to set up a full-time center or be a professional coach; entrepreneurs have to come forward on their own each time and either learn from others or make it up as they go along. There's no model of a regional league to streamline the process needed to set up a nationwide network of such leagues, as is done all over the world but not here.

When a new player walks into most clubs, he's usually thrown to the wolves, i.e. told to call winners against an established player who will kill him, and we rarely see that player again. What's needed are professional coaches we can send these new players to (adults and juniors) for instruction, and leagues for all levels so the new players can find other players their own level. This is how it's done overseas, and how it's done in successful sports all over the U.S., whether it's tennis, bowling, soccer, basketball, baseball/softball, and so on.

These problems can be fixed by calling on the membership for qualified volunteers to develop these aspects. Get our top league directors in a room and tell them they can't come out until they develop a prototype of a regional league that can grow throughout the country. Ask the coaching committee to focus on the recruitment and development of professional coaches. I already wrote the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook; as I've told them already, I'll donate them at cost (about $2/each) if they'll actually use them in a serious way.

No, I'm not volunteering at this time to do these things for USATT anymore because I've been through this before, and it won't work without their strong support, which won't happen if they aren't equally motivated to do these things - but they have other priorities, and so the issues I bring up are barely afterthoughts. All you have to do is read the USATT minutes (see segment below) to see if developing the infrastructure is a serious priority. Over the years I've given a number of presentations to the USATT board on plans to develop our sport, to deaf ears. Maybe I just don't look good in a suit.

Beware of those who promise to focus on clubs, schools, leagues, coaching, etc., but don't have any specific plans to do so, or have anyone to actually implement any plans. Generic promises aren't promises at all. Beware of those who come up with small things instead of the big things needed. Small things are nice, but we've had over 80 years of small things in our sport, and it's why we're small.

Until we fix these problems, we'll continue to have around 8000 members while overseas countries measure their paid memberships in the hundreds of thousands or even millions. There's a well-traveled road to success if we'd only follow it.

The Ping Pong Apartments

Mr. Ec bought the Ping Pong apartments in 1933.

The first thing he did was to take a tour of the facilities. He found the rooms were unheated, the plumbing broken, and there was no air conditioning. The building was drab and unkept, and rats and cockroaches infested the building. Paint was chipping.

Mr. Ec did not have the money for renovations, and so he couldn't fix up the building. He spent 52 years lamenting what he would do if he only had more money.

In 1985, Mr. Ec. received a grant from the Olympic Committee to fix up the Ping Pong Apartments. Suddenly he had the money so desperately needed.

It was a great time for ping pong. According to a Gallup Poll, over 21 million Americans had expressed an interest in the Ping Pong Apartments. Ping Pong was now an Olympic Sport. Yet, for some reason, few wanted to stay at the Ping Pong Apartments, once they saw the condition of the building.

For some reason, the other Apartments always did better. The Football Apartments, the Basketball Apartments, the Baseball Apartments, the Tennis Apartments, even the Bowling Apartments - all of these buildings were full of happy tenants. And the Ping Pong Apartments in Asia and Europe were full. Mr. Ec was determined to do something about this.

He bought ads in newspapers and TV, advertising the Ping Pong Apartments. He sent agents to the other Apartments to do exhibitions, trying to get them to come to the Ping Pong Apartments. He went to the schools, urging kids to come to the Ping Pong Apartments. He sent literature out to everyone, telling them all the advantages of the Ping Pong Apartments. And all of these ideas were good.

But nobody would come to the Ping Pong Apartments.

The rooms are still unheated. The plumbing is still broken. There is no air conditioning. The building is drab and unkept, and cockroaches and rats still infest the building. The paint is still chipping.

Why won't people come to the Ping Pong Apartments?

Back to Coaching - Serve Practice!

Have you practiced your serves lately? Why not? There's nothing harder to coach against than a player with good serves, so please, Please, PLEASE, if you are going to play against anyone I coach, don't practice your serves. Here's a Tip from a few weeks ago: Practicing Serves the Productive Way.

Game Strategies

Here's an interesting article on tactics by Samson Dubina.

Four New Full-Time Table Tennis Clubs

I've added the follow four new ones to the growing list I maintain of full-time table tennis clubs, bringing the number to 71. Three of them are in California, making 23 for that state. This includes twelve in the San Francisco Bay area - here's a map of clubs in the San Francisco Bay area, including twelve full-time ones, courtesy of Bruce Liu. There are also twelve full-time ones in the New York City region. Maryland has four, plus a fifth just over the border in Virginia.

Seemiller Camp in Newport News, Virginia

Dan Seemiller Sr. and Jr. surprised us at MDTTC yesterday afternoon when they showed up unexpectedly. Turns out the two were driving in from Indiana (ten-hour drive) to join Rick Seemiller (Dan Sr.'s brother) to run a three-day camp in Newport News, VA, March 21-23, Fri-Sun. (Here's info on the clinic.) The two hit for a time as they waited for rush hour to end. 

New York Table Tennis League

The deadline to join the NYTTL is March 31, so sign your team up now! From their invitational email: "Some people said it was not possible have a club league. And we did it. Some people said nobody will play without awards. And we played for many years only for trophies. Other people said it was not possible to have a national final. Well, you know."

USATT Teleconference Minutes

Here are the minutes for the USATT Feb. 17 teleconference. Here are minutes of all USATT board meetings.

ITTF Legends Tour to Debut in May

Want to see Waldner, Persson, Appelgren, Gatien, Saive, and Jiang Jialiang compete again? Here's the ITTF Legends Tour page!

Table Tennis on 60 Minutes

A feature on Westchester TTC member Bob Mankoff, the cartoon editor of The New Yorker, will be aired on Sunday, March 23, 2014. Morley Safer and a film crew from "60 Minutes" were at the club on February 19 to film Bob Mankoff and Will Shortz playing table tennis. Check your local listing for details.

Table Tennis on Rachel Ray Show

"Killerspin Kid," Estee Ackerman, the 2013 US Nationals Under 1800 Champion, will be on the Rachel Ray Show this Monday, March 24. The program airs on the ABC network.

Suge Knight Plays Ping Pong

Here's the story and video (12 min) from Table Tennis Nation of the "infamous" hip hop executive playing.

Attempt on World's Longest Rally

Here's the article. On March 23 (this Sunday), Peter and Dan Ives (father and son) will attempt to break the record for world's longest table tennis rally, currently held by Max Fergus and Luke Logan at 8 hours, 30 minutes, and 6 seconds. The Ives are doing so to raise money for Prostate Cancer UK Charity. The event will be live streamed if you want to watch two players pat the ball and forth for ten hours.

2014 PaddleYou Celebrity Ping Pong Madness

Who is the best celebrity table tennis player? The brackets are all set up; let the voting begin!

Chewbacca Plays, Yoda Umpires

Here's the picture - better let the Wookiee win! (Who is that supposed to be on the right?)

Great Ping Pong Balls of Fire

Watch Ethan Chua's fiery serve (26 sec)!

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