December 2, 2014

USATT Election

Below is Part 5 of my series of blogs about my plans if elected to the USATT Board. Here is my Election Page, and here's the USATT Election Notice. Here's my blogging schedule:

  1. Monday, November 24: Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues
  2. Tuesday, November 25: Create State Associations
  3. Wednesday, November 26: Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches
  4. Monday, December 1: Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events
  5. Tuesday December 2: Create a Professional Players Association and Professionalize the Sport
  6. Wednesday, December 3: Other Issues (Balloting opens on this day, and continues until Dec. 27.)

Create a Professional Players Association and Professionalize the Sport

=>The Goal: For top USA players to make a living playing professionally.

We need to bring in an entrepreneurial leader to create an independent USA Professional TT Players Association. He would focus on creating a professional league or circuit, and bring in local & national sponsorship money for each event to turn table tennis into a money and TV sport. (He'd be paid primarily via commissions, though USATT might need to put in seed money.) This could grow out of the current NA Tour. A possible model is tennis, where there is a partnership between USTA and the ATP (the professional group).

Right now there are essentially three "Tours" in the U.S., with the NA Tour the largest. There is also the Butterfly Tour, and North American Table Tennis runs a series of 4-star tournaments. I'd like to get them all together, perhaps as part of the NA Tour, but that could get tricky. For now I'm going to call it the USA Tour.

We need to recruit an entrepreneurial leader to be President of a USA Professional Table Tennis Players Association (hopefully with a better name), whose job it would be to go to cities in the USA Tour and bring in sponsorships for each stop (to dramatically increase prize money), to promote the events (both to bring in paying spectators and to interest sponsors, who aren't interested in an event that nobody knows about), to organize activities, to find ways to make and save money for the top players (free places to stay, etc.), and other ways of professionalizing the sport in this country. 

The President of the Players' Association would promote the events locally, both to bring in paying spectators (and therefore more prize money) and to bring in TV. With the publicity and TV there is a growing awareness of the event, and that is the bait that brings in sponsors. He'd then focus on bringing in those sponsorships. He'd do this at each event, with the goal of turning each event into a big event, with large prize money, lots of paying spectators, and TV.

Most sponsorships are local - there are only a few sporting events large enough to bring in more national sponsors than local ones - and so he needs to focus on bringing in those local sponsors. If there's a tour stop in, say, Chicago, he'd focus on local sponsors in Chicago. For example, if there's a large local car dealership, then he'd try to get that car dealership to be a sponsor.

Publicity, TV, and sponsorships go together. Publicity leads to paying spectators and TV, and both lead to sponsorships, and that's what leads to big prize money and professional table tennis.

Can we get paying spectators for table tennis? When China sent players to the U.S. Team Championships in the 1990s I ran two "USA vs. China" team matches, and got about 500 paid spectators at each. That was before we had the Internet to publicize such events - I had to rely on local newspapers and TV News to promote it. In Europe local club matches are big spectator events. It's all about marketing and promoting.

How do we pay for the President of the Players Association? Ideally, he'd be paid by commission. If he brings in lots of money, he makes lots of money. I'd like to find someone who sees this as a huge opportunity to be the next David Stern or the next Pete Rozelle, the guys who turned the NBA and NFL into huge properties. Rather than work for a set salary, he'd rather work for commission and become both rich and famous. Realistically, we might have to pay this person, at least at the start. So I will try to get USATT to spring for some of this. Knowing the USATT budget is tight, that'll be a battle!

This won't be just a USATT thing. We need to get the top USA players together to support this new organization. Their player reps (who are on the USATT Board) would be the main ones involved in the hiring of this person. We need to find someone who will make professional table tennis his top priority, and who will work with both the players, with USATT, and with the USATT CEO in achieving the goal of professional table tennis in this country. Are you (yes, you, the one reading this) that person?

There's going to be some resistance. We're essentially setting up a rival organization, i.e. a professional table tennis players association. But that's no different than how other successful sports operate. For example, USTA and the ATP (Association of Tennis Professionals) work closely together, and they are both highly successful. (ATP is a worldwide association, but it was once USA dominated.) USTA focuses primarily on amateur players (leagues, juniors, colleges, seniors, coaches, and the U.S. Open), while ATP focuses on the professional players (tour events, prize money, TV). USATT is always split between the interests of the average player and the pros, and so serves neither very well. By splitting the duties between two organizations both groups will be better served.

Sometimes I think we have to remind USATT people that the goal of USATT is to develop table tennis in this country, not control it. There's a distinction. 

Of course, if USATT is against such an organization, and I'm unable to convince them otherwise, the players themselves could do this. The very act of trying to get USATT to instigate this could lead to the players organizing and getting this done. I'll support them all I can.

ADDENDUM ADDED DEC. 24: At the USA Nationals I learned not of one, but of TWO different plans being created to professionalize table tennis in the U.S. for the top players. I will have to go over these other plans and see if they can be developed and would be better than what I propose above. It's either a headache or a wealth of riches.

World Junior Championships

USA Junior Girls (Lily Zhang, Prachi Jha, Crystal Wang, Angela Guan) upset South Korea (3-0!) to make it to the semifinals. Here's a video interview with them (1:23) after the win, and a team picture. (L-R: Angela Guan, Crystal Wang, Coach Lily Yip, Lily Zhang, and Prachi Jha.) Here's an ITTF article on USA making it to the quarterfinals, and another on their win over South Korea. Alas, they lost in the semis to Japan, 0-3; here's the ITTF article on that. Here's the ITTF home page for the event (results, articles, pictures, video). Here's the USATT page for the event, where you can see USA results, picture, video, and lots of great quotes from the USA juniors.

Coming up are singles and doubles. In Girls' Doubles, USA teams are Lily Zhang/Prachi Jha and Crystal Wang/Angela Guan. In Boys' Doubles it's Kanak Jha/Kunal Chodri and Krish Avvari/Aashay Patel. In Mixed Doubles it's Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha, Aashay Patel/Angela Guan, Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang, and Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang.

Crystal's from my club - I've coached her a number of times in tournaments and worked with her some when she was younger before she got too fast for to practice with. (Her primary coach is Jack Huang). I watched her 10, -10, 7, 10 win over South Korea's Kim Jiho. (Kim had earlier upset Doo Hoi Kem of Hong Kong, ranked #1 in the world in Under 18 Girls and the top seed here.)

Ask the Coach

Episode #39 (23:06) - Spin Reversal

  • Response to the #QOTD  - 0:36: Should edge balls be ruled out?
  • PingSkillers #QOTD  - 2:07: How many different serves do you use?
  • Question 1 - 2:23: When a topspin ball hits a bat with pimples, the rotation isn't reversed, so it comes back with backspin. In table tennis terminology this is spin reversal, while actually it is spin continuance the ball keeps spinning in the same direction right? Thomas K
  • Question 2 - 5:14: When it's 10-8 for my opponent and it's my serve, what type of serve should I do if I want to do a comeback, or does it just depend of the player you're playing against. And also if I am the one leading 10-8 what serve should I use to finish the set. Luke W
  • Question 3 - 8:32: Finally i was able to join in. So i only have 2-3 hours daily for working on my table tennis and i want to rework on my game from basics. So should i start with stroke mechanics and then footwork? and in which order should i learn strokes?
  • Question 4 - 12:11: I've got a question. How do you determine whether a rubber has long pips or medium pips? Do you measure its length? If so, how? Thanks! Kong Wen Ge
  • Question 5 - 15:51: I've noticed that most players have more than one serve. Is this a good idea? If so please could you recommend another serve or other serves that I should try to learn? I currently only use the pendulum serve. Matthew
  • Question 6 - 18:48: Another question guys: Difference between european and Chinese looping style and pros and cons of both.

Ping Pong for Fighters

Here's the new book, on sale at Amazon, by Tahl Leibovitz. I just ordered it. (Stellan Bengtsson wrote the foreword.) Here's the book description:

This book is called Ping Pong for Fighters, and it’s about fighting all the different elements that are attached to table tennis. The fight starts inward and eventually moves outward, from within ourselves, to the ball, to our opponents, to the environment and the external conditions. I think what’s interesting about this book is that the reader takes the journey with me. All that I learned in over 20 years of competing in table tennis, is in this book. The goal of this book is to try and get the reader to approach the game differently. The book is basically a philosophy for the thinking and feeling player. A philosophy that encourages one to stay in the present moment, have self confidence and compete to the best of their ability. This book is also very direct and very easy to understand. It is not an intellectual discourse or any kind. The book reads more like a conversation consisting of helpful direction through experience and a philosophy of table tennis that is concerned more with experiencing what it feels like to think and play table tennis like a top table tennis player.

Meanwhile, Tahl's been getting some unlikely endorsements!

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger: "If you read this, you will terminate your opponents!" 
  • Andre Agassi: "Tahl definitely serves up an ace!"
  • George Foreman: "It's a Knock Out!"
  • Albert Einstein: "Pure Energy!"
  • Tom Cruise: "Note to self, 'Get Ping Pong for Fighters' for character help for next Mission Impossible sequel"
  • Michelle Obama: "Tahl, your book really hits the right target for kids and adults to get up and play! Congrats and I can't wait for my copy to arrive at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave!"
  • Donald Trump: "This is the most luxurious table tennis book ever written. Tahl Leibovitz is an amazing player. If you don't get this book, YOU'RE FIRED!"
  • Jackie Chan: "Exactly what I was looking for!"
  • Adam Sandler: "He doesn't play table tennis, he destroys it!"
  • Mark Zuckerberg: "I LIKE this book!"
  • Beyoncé: "All the Single Ladies, get this book!"
  • Starbucks: "Starbucks - The perfect place to sit down and enjoy a little Ping Pong for Fighters!"
  • Usher
  • Billboards
  • New York City: "If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!"

Pong Universe

Here's Pong Universe, a relatively new table tennis site that's "Everything Table Tennis."

Using 40+ Poly Balls in Newgy Robo-Pong Table Tennis Robots

Here's the article by Larry Thoman from Newgy Industries. It has a lot of general info on the new plastic balls.

Plastic Ball Still Needs Improvements

Here's the article from Tabletennista.

Michael Maze in Recover Process

Here's the article from Tabletennista.

Pictures from the North American Teams

Here they are, care of JOOLA USA.

North American Teams - Best Team Names

Here's the listing of all 207 teams. Here's my picks, in alphabetical order, for the twelve best team names.

  • Aardvark Assassins
  • After School Learning Tree
  • Alaskan Assassins
  • Beta-lactamase Inhibitors
  • Experience Over Youth
  • Fire Breathing Rubber Duckies
  • LYTTC - Buddy Wuddies
  • LYTTC - Oompa Loompas
  • LYTTC - White Water Buffalos
  • Squatting Dragons
  • Swedish Pong Mafia
  • Wolves of Pong Street

Your Basic Forehand Underhand Pendulum Sidespin Around-the-Net Countersmash from Backhand Corner

Here's the video (12 sec) as Adam Bobrow demonstrates this fundamental shot.

Racket Edge Chop Lob Winner

Here's the video (33 sec, including slow motion replay) as we see this crazy point by Hou Yingchao in the Champions League. (I'm assuming Hou is the player who hit the crazy shot. If so, does anyone know who was the helpless player trying to return it?)
UPDATE: Dan Seemiller emailed me that the other player was Hui Xu from Team Eslov. 

Shakespeare Pong

Here's the picture!


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