Butterfly Online

July 15, 2014

USATT Minutes

Here are the minutes to the USATT May 19, 2014 Teleconference, which just went up. Below are some items I found interesting, in order, on usage of USATT's logo by distributors of USATT approved equipment; on the digital magazine's ad revenue; and on usage of the poly ball or celluloid ball in future Nationals and Opens. There's also an interesting item in the minutes you might want to read about, "The Chinese Table Tennis Association wants to have a North American Friendship Tour." (I started to write about RailStation, which is talked about in the minutes, and in particular the line, "To ensure smooth transition, RailStation and NATT software will be run concurrently for a specified period of time." As I blogged previously, USATT jumped the gun on that, but has since remedied the problem for now by going back to the old software until the new software is ready.)

As usual, my main frustration with USATT is not what's in the minutes, but what's not in them. There's nothing in there about increasing the USATT membership base of 8-9,000 (basically a round-off error for most sports memberships, and for table tennis in most other countries), which is the source of most of our problems, i.e. lack of revenue. Besides the increase in revenue, large membership should be a goal itself, but few from USATT seem interested in this, for reasons I still don't understand.  Membership growth comes primarily from leagues, and from junior training programs and coaching development. I'm sure the other issues are important, but they are dwarfed by the need to focus on growth, but it's not even on USATT's radar, alas. Anyway, here are some items I found and my commentary.

"While USATT places equipment and product suppliers on USATT’s approved list, use of USATT’s logo on this equipment has not been approved. Suppliers should be contacted informing them that USATT approval is restricted to usage of their equipment and/or products in USATT events."

This seemed strange and unfair. Companies pay a lot of money to have their products USATT approved. Note that USATT doesn't even test them - ITTF does that at no cost to USATT. So these companies are paying money directly to USATT just to have them approve their equipment for USATT tournaments. And now they are going to be told that, even after getting USATT approval, they can't advertise these USATT-approved products with the USATT logo? I don't think that's fair. A USATT-approved product should be allowed to advertise this status with the USATT logo.

"The digital magazine generated $9000 in ad revenue for the Spring 2014 issue, constituting a $6,000 shortfall to budgeted revenue."

In my blog on February 11, 2014 on the cancellation of the print magazine and going digital, "But they'll lose money on advertising and membership." I also wrote, "I'm told they are budgeting advertising to stay the same, which of course won't happen." As verified here, they really did budget $15,000 in advertising for the issue (which is what was budgeted for print), expecting to get the same ad revenue with an online magazine as a print magazine. There was no chance of that happening, and yet they convinced themselves of this. And so they lost $6000 ad revenue in the issue, and presumably $36,000 over the course of a year. I'm guessing that some advertisers stuck with it for now, but will cancel or decrease their advertising later - we'll see. Eventually we'll reach a new rough status quo on advertising at a level considerably lower than before. As noted in my blog, they do save money now on printing and postage. The amount they save in that way would be roughly offset if they simply had kept the print magazine while also going digital, thereby increasing the value of their advertising, and thereby increasing it.

As I also wrote in that blog: "This reminds me of the group-think that took place a number of years ago when USATT increased the membership fee from $25 to $40 in one year. I was in the room as the 13 board members voted unanimously to do this, and unanimously budgeted membership to stay the same. That was crazy, and I told them so. Membership had just reached 9000, the most ever. I predicted they'd lose 2000 members; I was told by all 13 that I was wrong. One year later they were down to 7200 members. I was in the room one year later, alternating between anger and laughter, as the USATT board had to painstakingly cut about $60,000 from the budget."

Just for the record, they lost me as an advertiser as well. I was planning to advertise my in USATT Magazine my new book, Table Tennis Tips, as well as my other table tennis books, just as I had advertised in the magazine my previous book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. But I changed my mind on that when they cancelled the print version. (Note how I instead cleverly inserted ads for the books here?)

However, it was recommended that the celluloid ball continue to be used at the upcoming U.S. Open and Nationals.

This might be a good thing as I don't think many people have the new balls yet. It's even more problematic for the many full-time clubs and junior programs that use large quantities of training balls (for private and group coaching, and lots of multiball), since they are all currently celluloid. Do we have to toss them out and buy new poly training balls? Will they be available anytime soon at the same inexpensive price of training balls? I only know of 3-star balls so far. I hope we aren't ever going to be stuck with using 3-star poly balls in major tournaments but only celluloid training balls. You don't want to train with one if the other is what is used in tournaments - they play somewhat differently.

Please, USATT, do not make the change until poly balls are widely available and affordable both in 3-star and training-ball formats.  

Serving Deep

Here's the new coaching article from Brian Pace, with lots of pictures and links to videos.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov's Serve

Here's video (3:12) of the world #4 German star serves in slow motion.

Talent or Practice?

Here's an article in yesterday's New York Times on the topic. Here's the study in Psychological Science that much of the article is based on.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Fifty-three down, 47 to go!

  • Day 48: Polona Cehovin Susin’s Approach to the ITTF’s Education and Training
  • Day 49: Polona Cehovin Susin Combines Hard Work with Passion

This Was Tokyo

Here's a new highlights video (1:39) on the recent World Team Championships in Tokyo, set to music.

Chinese Article on Lily Zhang

Here's the article and video (2:28) for our Chinese readers. It's apparently about her hopes for a medal at the upcoming Youth Olympics.

Four-Handled Paddle

Here it is.

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USATT membership cost

Speaking of the price of USATT membership, would you like to try an interesting exercise? Go to their site and try to discover the cost of membership. Maybe it's there, but I didn't find it. I think you have to enter your personal details in the Join Today before you get to the page that will tell you the cost. If I google USATT membership cost  there is a PDF dated April 2011, but there doesn't appear to be a link to it on the site, and there's no way to tell if it's current.

This is like a restaurant that says, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it."

Re: USATT membership cost

And the Wikipedia page says one year adult membership is $40. I don't think that's current -- at least that's not what's being charged to register at tournaments.

USATT seems a little weak on the fundamentals.

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: USATT membership cost

I noticed this as well a few months ago, and debated whether to do anything about it - and then forgot about it. I may blog about this, or at least email the USATT people to fix this.