December 3, 2014

USATT Election

Voting began today - and here's the ballot! Alas, the picture of me in the ballot makes me look like a pixilated monster. For comparison, the same picture I sent them is on my Election Page. I've already emailed asking them to fix it. (I'm told it's a technical issue. Or maybe that's what I really look like?)

If you've been reading my blog or have visited my Election Page then you know where I stand on the issues, and know something of my background. I really need your support - please vote!

Below is Part 6 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 USATT Issues (Balloting opens on this day, and continues until Dec. 27.)

Other USATT Issues

I'd like to focus on the five issues I've blogged about - see links above. However, there are a lot of other important issues. Some might be just as important as the "Big Five," but as I've also blogged about, I want to focus on progressive issues that develop the sport, and I didn't want to have 17 main issues. That would be a shopping list. However, here are twelve other issues I'd like to take care of. Here they are, in no particular order.

  1. Mailings to past members. There are something like 60,000 former USATT members on our database, and I'd like to try to bring them back. That's what other successful organizations do. I still get regular mailings (both email and postal) from USTA and other organizations that I once belonged to. We should do the same. We don't have emails for most of them, so we need to do at least one big mailing to all of them. We might want to wait until we've fixed the sport up a bit so we have more to offer, but eventually we need to do this. I'd like to have someone "famous" be the "face" of USATT. I want these past members to get a personal invitation from one of our past big stars to rejoin USATT. Sure, a mailing is expensive, but you can budget an overall profit from this - plus you get new members, which should be high priority. (I blogged about this on Feb. 19.)
  2. Hidden serve rule. The current rule is that the ball must be visible to the opponent throughout the serve. The problem is that umpires cannot usually tell if the serve is visible or not. The rules state that it is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire is satisfied that he is serving legally, and if an umpire can't tell if the serve is visible or not, then he cannot be satisfied that the serve is legal, and should warn or fault. In reality, few umpires do that, and so many or most of our national titles go to players who abuse this rule and hide their serve. I'd like the rule changed so that it says that the ball must be visible to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit. I'm going to keep pushing for this rule, probably looking for a USATT tournament to test it, and then to the ITTF. (I blogged about this on Nov. 11 and numerous other times.)
  3. Rules changes and the plastic ball. I'm not interested in more rules and equipment changes, other than fixing the hidden serve rule. I'd be very hesitant on any others - I'm tired of rule changes. Aren't you? However, I am going to look into the problems with the new plastic ball - the ITTF jumped the gun on this. They shouldn't have made the change until the balls were high quality, standardized, and training balls were available.
  4. USATT Advisory Committees. A few years ago most of the USATT committees had the word "Advisory" added to their names, which emphasized that they are only advisory rather than action committees. That was a mistake. We need committees that get things done, not just sit back and advise.
  5. Committee Chairs. Too often committees are chaired by the first person who volunteers. We need to do searches and recruit the right candidate for each. I've seen times where a committee chair was decided like Jeopardy - whoever hit the buzzer first (i.e. raised their hand) got the position. Additionally, task force committees need to have deadlines set up for when they'll report back. Far too often these task forces are set up and never even meet, or if they do meet, nothing gets done and they are forgotten, and become just another inactive committee on the USATT committee page.
  6. NCAA recognition. I want to work with NCTTA on this. Here's some info on this. I blogged about this on November 18.
  7. Fix rating system. Too much to go into here. To start with we need a USATT Ratings Committee. We don't have one.
  8. Publish USA citizens ranking lists. This was actually required by a past USATT board vote that's long since been forgotten. Too often U.S. players are buried in the rankings behind foreign players. We need both an open listing and a citizens listing.
  9. U.S. Open and U.S. Nationals info. The dates and location of these events should be available at least one year in advance. The U.S. Open Tennis Championships the next two years will be on Aug. 31-Sept. 13, 2015, and Aug. 29-Sept. 12, 2016, at Flushing Meadows, NY. Where and when will the 2015 U.S. Open and Nationals Table Tennis Championships be held? We don't know yet. Many people need this info far enough in advance so they can schedule for it. Also, by getting the info out way in advance, players begin thinking about it, and are more likely to attend.
  10. Bring back print magazine if financially feasible. About one-third of our membership doesn't play tournaments, and that's all they really get. U.S. Tennis still has a monthly print magazine, and it's one of their major membership recruiting tools. I think USATT jumped the gun in canceling it. I'd like to have both the online version and the print version - and by adding the online version to the previous print version, we can bring in more advertising than before. (I had two tenures as editor of USATT Magazine, totaling twelve years, and I increased advertising revenue by a factor of six.) USATT budgeted the advertising for the online version to be the same as the print version, which had no chance of happening, and advertising is dramatically down, unfortunately. (I blogged about this on February 11, where I predicted the large advertising decrease.)
  11. Let members get on the USATT ballot by petition. It used to be that USATT members could get on the ballot with 150 signatures. That was changed a few years ago - now the entire ballot is chosen by the USATT Nominating and Governance Committee (NGC). We need to allow others on the ballot with the 150 signatures (from adult USATT members), and schedule the election so they can get these signatures during the Thanksgiving weekend (where there are major team tournaments), as they used to schedule it.
    There have been a pair of half-hearted attempts to fix this. At the June 2014 meeting at the U.S. Open the USATT Board voted unanimously to "recommend" that the NGC place "all eligible candidates on the ballot." (The NGC didn't act on this.) At the October board meeting Mike Babuin moved that "…all qualified candidates securing the 25 requisite number of signatures shall be placed on the election ballot." However, this standard is too low, and it didn't get a second. If I'm on the board, I'll move that candidates be placed on the ballot with 150 signatures, and that the election be timed so they can do this during the Thanksgiving weekend. Also, the USATT Club Representative is currently an appointed position. I'd like to see this position get voted on by clubs. There's also been talk of having a Coach Representative - I'm all for it!
  12. Change USATT's Mission Statement. Here is our current bureaucratic shopping list mission statement, followed by the mission statement of the U.S. Tennis Association. I like theirs, and would like to quote the table tennis version of it regularly at USATT board meetings. It needs to be the driving force behind everything we do.
    1. "The Mission of the USATT shall be to enable United States athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence in Olympic/Paralympic, Pan American or Para Pan American Games, and other international competitions, and to promote and grow the sport of Table Tennis in the United States, while creating a lasting value for our members."
    2. "To Promote and Develop the Growth of Tennis."

Training for Nationals

Now that the North American Teams are over, we've made the switch from JOOLA 40+ plastic balls to the Nittaku Premium 40+ balls to be used at the Nationals in two weeks. I did a test with one of my students going to the Nationals (Daniel) where, before we started the session, I took three balls and we randomly rallied with each. The first ball we both quickly realized was the same JOOLA ball we'd been using at the Teams. The second one we both thought at first was a celluloid - but it was the Nittaku Premium plastic ball! It plays like a slightly heavy celluloid ball. As soon as we hit with the third ball - a regular Butterfly celluloid training ball - we realized that that was the celluloid, and that the previous one must have been the Nittaku plastic ball. It plays roughly in between a celluloid and the JOOLA (and Sha and Butterfly) plastic balls.

We had 23 Nittaku Premium plastic balls - we both had a dozen, but he'd left one at home. It made multiball a bit short as we're used to doing it with a gross of balls. To keep the balls separate from others who were still using celluloid we used the two tables in the back. One has the robot; when someone asked to use it near the end of our session I asked if he could come back in 15 minutes after we were done, since otherwise the celluloids in the robot would mix with our plastic ones, which would have ended life on earth as well as make us have to search through the balls separating them.

Daniel's going to be on a steady diet of looping (and game-type drills that involve looping) between now and the Nationals. He played well at the Teams, but did way too much pushing, blocking, and smashing. In practice he's a looper, and eventually he's got to get that into his tournament play!!! At the Nationals I'm going to let him smash out of rallies, but I want him to loop off backspin more. After the Nationals he'll be going more and more to looping nearly everything in a rally. He just turned ten, and is about 1600. He has a few technical issues we're working on.  

One problem he's facing is that in the Tuesday and Friday night leagues that he usually plays in the players are still mostly using celluloid. He skipped it last night but he's going to go back to playing it probably this Friday, but only with opponents who agree to use the Nittaku Premium plastic ball. I think most will be willing, but we'll see.

While I worked with Daniel, our Chinese practice partner/coaches worked with our other top juniors on other tables, also with Nittaku Premium plastic balls.

Here's something interesting I discovered last night. Celluloid balls, and most of the new plastic balls (Nittaku Sha, JOOLA, Butterfly) are hard to write on with a ballpoint pen. (Try it.) But the surface of the Nittaku Premium plastic ball is different - it's easy to write on. This'll make it a lot easier to sign autographs!

Table Tennis: It Might Be Time to Take It Up Again

Here's the article from the Washington Post, which features Navin Kumar, a student of mine at MDTTC with both Parkinson's and a partially mechanical heart. (It'll be in the print edition tomorrow.) The article features table tennis and its health benefits. (I'm quoted in it a several times.)

World Junior Championships

The action continues at the World Junior Championships! Here's the USATT page where you can follow the USA results. As noted yesterday, USA Girls made the semifinals, and so got the bronze, while USA Boys finished 13th. As expected, China swept both team events. Three of the four USA teams advanced yesterday to the main draw (64 teams) in Mixed Doubles:

  • Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha (USA) defeated Deas Markhabayev/Selena Selvakumar (KAZ), -13,3,6,8
  • Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang (USA) defeated Roger Rao/Ruofei Rao (NZL), -10,-9,8,5,8 (NICE COMEBACK!)
  • Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang (USA) d. Marko Medjugorac/Alicia Cote (CAN), 10,-8,6,6
  • Alexander Valuch/Maria Malanina (SVK/RUS) d. Aashay Patel/Angela Guan (USA), 6,-7,-6,4,8

Alas, all three lost in the first round in the main draw:

  • Patryk Zatowka/Natalia Bajor (POL) d. Kanak Jha/Prachi Jha (USA), 3,9,9
  • Kilian Ort/Nina Mittelham (GER) d. Kunal Chodri/Crystal Wang (USA), 10,6,-7,6
  • Asuka Sakai/Miyu Maeda (JPN) d. Krish Avvari/Lily Zhang (USA), 6,6,4

Great Point at World Junior Championships

Here's the video (44 sec) of Carl Ahlander of Sweden (the disbelieving chopper pick-hitter) vs. Stanislav Kucera of Czech Republic.

Team Thailand Celebrates Their Upset over Romania at World Junior Championships

Here's the team picture after their win at the World Junior Championships - I think they had too much soda!

Actions of the USATT High Performance Committee

I'm glad that we're getting these regular reports (see below), and given the funding level, I'm overall happy with what they are doing. However, we've got a serious problem for next year. From the Oct/Nov report is this disappointment: "The USOC informed USATT that no funding would be provided to support our High Performance program for 2015. Although the USOC’s support in recent years has tended to be targeted for particular athletes, this was a significant financial loss to the program. The USOC explained that it is focusing on sports with more immediate potential for medals." I believe the USOC funds USATT in other ways in addition to the High Performance program, but I'm not sure of the specifics.

Pips in a Nutshell: Understand Your Opponent's Weapon

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina.

International Table Tennis Skills

Here's the coaching DVD by Samson Dubina. I just got my copy!

Ask the Coach

Episode 40 (20:32) - Shut Down a Killer Forehand

  • Our Response to Yesterday's #QOTD  - 0:25: How many different serves do you use
  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 1:58: Would Waldner survive in the modern game?
  • Question 1 - 2:23: In a match against Xu Xin, Samsonov seemed to put him under all sorts of pressure, almost as if he cut Xu Xin down to size by not letting him play that fast forehand. Was there something wrong with Xu Xin in that match, or was it Samsonov’s game? Shripathi
  • Question 2 - 8:19: I have a problem when they do topspin stroke, I block but sometimes they heavy topspin and sometimes it has no spin, so when i block it, it sometimes goes out or net. What should I do to keep the block on the table and know how much spin it has? Long
  • Question 3 - 12:06: i have a major problem witch is that i know a lot about ping pong but when i start a match i scare a lot and i lose ! plzzz help! Ramzi
  • Question 4 - 14:24: If my head moves up or down because of my stance does it matter in judging a ball? Should its position remain at same height all the time? Should I constantly look at the ball during play or shifting the sight between ball and opponent? Ahsan Ali
  • Question 5 - 16:38: For Backhand serve, where should I stand? Maybe more than one position? Should I have my left foot in front ( I am right handed), right foot in front, or feet even? Anthony Capasso

Dubai 2014 ITTF Star Awards Nominees

Here's the ITTF Press Release. You get to vote for the winner! The nominees are:

Male Table Tennis Star:

  • Quadri ARUNA (NGR) - World number 30, highest ranked African player of the last 30 years.
  • FAN Zhendong (CHN) - 2014 Youth Olympic Games winner, World number 3.
  • Marcos FREITAS (POR) - 2014 European Team Table Tennis Championships winner, first Portuguese player to be ranked top 10 in the World.
  • XU Xin (CHN) - 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals & 2014 Asian Games winner, World number 1.
  • Nomination video:

Female Table Tennis Star:

  • DING Ning (CHN) - 2014 ITTF Women's World Cup winner, World number 1.
  • FENG Tianwei (SIN) - Won 3 World Tour events in 2014, World number 4.
  • Kasumi ISHIKAWA (JPN) - Leader of Japanese National Team, Silver medalist at the 2014 World Team Table Tennis Championships, World number 6.
  • LIU Shiwen (CHN) - 2013 ITTF World Tour Grand Finals & 2014 Asian Games winner, World number 2.
  • Nomination video:

Kenta Matsudaira vs. Vladimir Samsonov

Here's the video (11:16, with time between points removed) of their very nice match at the Worlds. Sometimes it seems as if Samsonov isn't doing anything and yet he dominates most of the points.

Righty Flip, Lefty Smash

Here's the video (12 sec) as Sean O'Neill switches hands to end the point in the Under 21 Finals in Las Vegas (many years ago, circa early 1980s?) against a disbelieving Eric Boggan.

Ten Christmas Gift Ideas for a Table Tennis Player

Here's the list from Expert Table Tennis! (And don't forget to buy one of these!)

How to Be a Table Tennis Player

Here's the video (1:45) from the "Piing of Power" that explains the five steps to becoming a top table tennis player - strength, endurance, diet, practice, and service. But somehow I don't think this is from any of my coaching manuals!!!

Mad Sport

Here's the table tennis parody song (3:02) that parodies the song Mad World (3:02) by Gary Jules. Since it is produced, lyrics by, and sung by "Heavyspin," we can conclude it's by the infamous Larry Bavly!


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Re: December 3, 2014

Both candidates look like pixilated monster, so I don't see any discrimination. :)


Larry Hodges's picture

Re: December 3, 2014

Agreed - it was an equal opportunity pixilator. A bigger problem is the mass emailing by McQueen - see the "BREAKING NEWS" item at the top and on my election page. I'm in discussions right now with USATT people on this.