November 18, 2014

PBS Video on MDTTC's "Ping-Pong Academy"

It seems a number of people who read my blog didn't see the recent PBS video that featured Crystal Wang, Derek Nie, and myself. Looking back, I realized it was the third item down, when it should have been at the top! So here it is again (4 min). (Note that we tried to get our other head coaches into it - Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang - but they didn't feel confident in their English and asked me to do the talking.)

USATT Board and Committee Minutes, and NCTTA Reports

Here are links to the minutes to the October 7 USATT Board Meeting, and to three reports from the National College Table Tennis Association. Here are direct links to all four, plus to USATT and Committee Reports, all newly put up by USATT webmaster Sean O'Neill:

A Few Key Things in the USATT Minutes:

  • There was an attempt to allow USATT members to get on the ballot by petition (a good thing), but the actual motion was probably doomed from the start as it would have made things way too easy. (Plus a motion like that needs to have a second lined up in advance, and voters ready to vote for it.) The motion by Board Chair Mike Babuin was to amend the by-laws to state, ". . . all qualified candidates securing the 25 requisite number of signatures shall be placed on the election ballot." It didn't even get a second.
    Getting on the ballot with just 25 signatures is way too easy. As I've blogged about in the past, it used to be that anyone not placed on the ballot by the election committee could do so with 150 signatures - and every year potential candidates use to collect signatures at the U.S. or North American Teams. Getting only 25 is simply too low a threshold. My disappointment here is that there was no counter-proposal that would have required 150 or so signatures, and to require that the election dates be set so potential candidates could get these signatures during the Thanksgiving weekend holidays, when the North American and Butterfly Teams are held. If I'm on the USATT Board, I'll make this motion. I've discussed this with two board members, and I'm sure I can get the votes.
  • It says that "USOC funding was cut significantly this year relative to last year's funding." No reason is given and the amount cut is not given. Presumably they are looking into this.
  • The new CEO, Gordon Kaye, said that, "…his fundraising approach generally involves 'thinking outside the box.'" This is a good thing as we've spent most of the last 80+ years stuck inside a box. The last time USATT had a major money sponsor was in the late 1980s/early 1990s, care of Bob Tretheway and the Gee sisters. 
  • It says membership went up 2.7% this past year (up 231), and that the greatest increase was in the junior category. While the junior increase is probably due to new full-time training centers, I'd like to see more specific figures for these categories. Regardless, gaining 231 members in a year means we'll overtake USTA's 700,000 membership in about 2996 years, i.e. in the year 5010 AD. I'd like to hasten the process.
  • The number of USATT registered clubs dropped from 294 to 264. For perspective, when I was USATT Club Chair in 1990-91, the number of USATT registered clubs climbed from 226 to 301. Yes, we had more USATT clubs back in 1991! The increase back then came about from the Club Catalyst and Creation Program (where we targeted cities with populations over 50,000 and actively looked for people to open clubs there), and because the club affiliation fee was much lower back then.
    We now charge $75/year for club registration, when in fact we need them more than they need us. Of course we are losing them. I'd like to lower this to $50 or $60. We'd likely get back to around 300 clubs, but still come out slightly behind financially on this alone - but more affiliated clubs means more potential members can find them, leading to more USATT members, which should make up the difference. Remember, the whole idea is to increase membership. Often we focus on raising money, forgetting that that is a means to an end, i.e. developing the sport, which includes more clubs and more members.
  • Once again I ask the question: Where in the meeting was there anything devoted to growing the sport? That should be the main focus.

From the NCTTA Reports:

  • The NCTTA Report to the USATT Board of Directors says they "Had a handshake deal with [former USATT CEO] Mike Cavanaugh for all NCTTA clubs to automatically become USATT." I'd like to get back to this. It also says, "There is still minimal connection between NCTTA and USATT." This should increase, though it must be emphasized that this does not mean USATT gets any sort of control over NCTTA; it means they should be finding ways to mutually grow.
  • The NCTTA Annual Report shows they have had steady growth. I think the two most important takeaways from their growth that USATT should learn is 1) they are league based, and 2) they are governed regionally.
  • From the NCTTA-NCAA Brief, I'm slightly taken aback that it says, "In order for a sport to become a full NCAA sport, it must successfully go through the 'emerging sports' process, also known as emerging sports for women. As the name may indicate, the primary criterion used to judge a potential new sport is its viability as a women's sport. There is no corresponding 'emerging sports for men'; inclusion of table tennis as an NCAA men’s sport is dependent on the development of table tennis as a women’s sport."
    I'd heard about this second-hand, but this is the first time I'd seen it in writing. Nothing against women's sports, but it does handicap us, since I'd guess women make up perhaps 5-10% of our membership. One thing that's not a criticism but that should be looked at - if NCTTA needs to focus almost entirely on developing as a women's sport in order to get NCAA recognition, then perhaps their board of directors needs to have women, as it's currently made up of seven men. (And yet I'd hate to break up a team that seems pretty successful.) Regardless, if I'm on the USATT board of directors, getting NCAA recognition is something I'd like to work with NCTTA on. It basically means getting ten colleges to submit letters that they sponsor or intend to sponsor table tennis as an NCAA women's sport, and over the next ten years get forty more. Let's get it done!

Camera Angles

Jerry Goldman - an old table tennis buddy of mine from the late 1970s and 1980s - emailed me about camera angles, a pet peeve of his. He pointed out the following two videos, one of which I'd featured in a previous blog. They both show the same spectacular point between Timo Boll and Jun Mizutani - but from different camera angles. The first one shows it more from the side, where you can see the speed of the ball and how far off the table the players are as they race about. The second one (link should take you to 1:24, where the point starts) shows it from one end of the table - and now, with the ball coming more toward you, you cannot see how fast it is moving, nor can you see as well how much the players are moving. As Jerry points out, the latter angle is the standard camera angle at most international tournaments, and as he puts it, "is so utterly terrible" and "uninspiring," and "The ball even when smashed still looks so slow." With the side view (the first one), as Jerry puts it, the play is "utterly exciting." I agree.

He said there is only one other enjoyable angle that he has seen, this one (Ma Long vs. Wang Hao), which is sort of in between the two

Jerry asks, "Why don't the promoters of table tennis tournaments realize what a detriment the end angle is to the sport (at least to me)?" I think it's simply they are used to doing it this way. It's the standard angle from where coaches sit and thereby put video cameras to study later, and so we are perhaps used to it. Plus perhaps the wide-angle view is trickier to catch the whole field of action - but as shown in the first video above, it can be done, and I agree it looks much better that way. Any comments from readers?

Snake Serve

Here's the video (4:32), from Australian Coach Brett Clarke. He has a highly entertaining way of teaching, but stay with him even as he hunts down snakes in the jungle (!) as the serve he teaches is a version that few below the world-class level understand or can do properly. (I posted this once before, but that link is no longer valid.)

Ask the Coach

Episode #29 (16:05) - Expedite System in Action

  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 0:40: Should the rules of Table Tennis be continuously evolving?
  • Question 1 - 2:45: My style of playing table tennis is as an attacker But when is the time to defense just like block or chop? As I only try to attack the ball as an attacker. Frendy Halim
  • Question 2 - 5:18: I have switched over to the shakehand grip and long pips on my backhand. I play 95% of my balls on the backhand. What are the best strokes to use with long pips to fool the other player? The group I play with hit about 75% underspin. Craig Smith
  • Question 3 - 8:40: Can you please explain what rule is being exercised in this rally and why the point was given to Ai Fukuhara? Arnab Ghosh
  • Question 4 - 14:24: Can I hit the ball with the side of my racket? it create some good speed, and it's also surprising. is it legal? Chezki Indursky

Top Ten Shots at the Swedish Open

Here's the video (6:14). 

2015 Ethnic Minority Women in Coaching Leadership Conference

Here's the USATT article.

U.S. Olympic Women's Team with Personalized Paddle Pictures

Here's the picture of Lily Zhang, Ariel Hsing and Erica Wu at the premier of the Top Spin movie Saturday, holding up their rackets with their pictures on them, care of Uberpong.

Pips & Bounce Ping Pong Social Club Opens

Here's the video (4:37) of the new club in Portland, Oregon.

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage).

Snoopy Playing Table Tennis

Here's a repeating gif image of Snoopy racing side to side playing table tennis by himself as Woodstock watches.


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Re: November 18, 2014

Regarding camera angles, those are what the ITTF specifies for streaming video.

Read it and weep.



Larry Hodges's picture

Re: November 18, 2014

Just looked it over - turns out they require the weaker camera angle, from one end, rather than the view from the side. Jeez. It really is more action-packed when videoed from the side, as noted in the blog.