January 26, 2017

USATT Teleconference
The USATT Board had a teleconference last night. It was schedule for 7:00-8:20PM, but I think went on until after 9:45PM. There were three main items on the agenda, which I list as separate items, designated with a "=>". There was also a fourth, sort of, "New Business."

=>SafeSport Policy
Here's the USATT page on this which actually went up a few years ago. (Click on the three "Attachments" at the bottom for more info.) Basically, it means that a huge number of people are going to have to get background checks, and do so every two years. These include (and I'm copying this from the USATT page):

  • USATT Certified Coaches
  • USATT Board Members
  • USATT Staff
  • USATT Committee Chairs and Committee members
  • Affiliated Club Owners and Operators
  • Referees and Umpires
  • Tournament Directors and Organizers
  • Anyone else who has access to minors within USATT sanctioned competition or club activity.

SafeSport is supposed to safeguard us from the following, which I'm copying directly from the "USA Table Tennis SafeSport Policies and Procedures" document that's linked from the above.

  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Hazing
  • Emotional Misconduct
  • Physical Misconduct
  • Sexual Misconduct, including Child Sexual Abuse

I am not happy about all this bureaucracy. Every one of these background checks (which you have to do yourself, online) is a hassle and costs $16.75. (At the moment, you pay for this, and when I went through it - yes, I passed! - I paid the $16.75. I'm told that USATT is going to change this policy for USATT members who are required to have these background checks, and take the $16.75 out of their membership fee - but for now, the online listing says you pay.) I did a quick count and was amazed at the surprisingly large number of people just from my own club that would need these background checks, with just over half of them not normally having direct access to players - but I'm not going to single my club out and list them. Let's just say that some clubs will have over 20 people in the above categories - and that's not including the final item in the listing above, "Anyone else who has access to minors…" - more on that below.

I'm quite aware of the legal reasons for doing this, and we really have no choice - it's a USOC mandate. However, I refused to vote for it at this time until the USOC explains to us why they require people who normally do not interact with players (and in particular minors) to get background checks. The example I used was simple: Why are they requiring members of, for example, the USATT Audit Committee to have background checks? Are we afraid the number 7 will sue us? (Please click on the link or ten minutes of my life will have been wasted!)

I strongly believe only those who normally have direct access to players (in particular, coaches) should have to undergo these background checks - the rest is pointless bureaucracy gone amok. The USOC took the easy way out here, with blanket requirements for just about everyone.

I don't see the reason why, for example, every umpire who shows up at tournaments and publicly umpires matches needed background checks. If we're worried we might have a crazed umpire who would attack someone at a tournament (perhaps in the restroom?), what about the far larger number of players and spectators? Don't they need to be background checked as well? (No, I'm not for that, I'm just making a point.) Sure we could get sued if an umpire attacks someone at a tournament, but the same thing would happen if a player or spectator did so. The same argument goes for many club officers. Does the club treasurer really need to be background checked? (See cartoon linked above!)

Do we really need to do background checks on the owners, presidents, operators, etc., of every USATT affiliated club? That's what the new rules say. My guess is we'll just lose a lot of affiliated clubs. Unless they need insurance through USATT - some do, I don't think most need it - this, and the $75 annual affiliation fee is enough to lose us a bunch of them. (It's already cost us a bunch - since raising the affiliation fee from $15 to $75 in a few years, we've gone from about 350 to 200 affiliated clubs. This is a separate issue I'll raise later.)

Note the wording of the final item of those who need to be background checked: "Anyone else who has access to minors within USATT sanctioned competition or club activity." Well, that means anyone at the tournament or club, doesn't it? Can't anyone at a tournament or club walk up to a junior player and say "Hi!" (or worse)? That means they have access to these minors. Oh no! So does everyone at a tournament or club need to get background checked? (Presumably before they can even enter the playing site or club, if there are kids present?) This is getting silly. I'm sure I'll be told that's not what it means, but words are scary things - they have meanings, and anyone who doesn't think this can be interpreted as everyone in the club or tournament needs to have a background check is kidding themselves. Will USATT actually enforce this part, or will they change the wording? (I'm guessing the latter. Hopefully. When they do, I'll blog about it.)  

Others did not agree with my objections to this new rule, or my request that, before we vote, we ask the USOC why they require background checks for those without direct access to players. Most believed we simply had to comply with the USOC, and to do so immediately. And so it passed 6-0-1, with me the abstention.

=>NewCo Licensing
This is the new deal we have where "Table Tennis USA" takes over commercial rights for the U.S. Open, Nationals, and possibly other tournaments. There's be more on this later on, but it seems a good deal for us. They will be taking all the risk, while paying us for the rights. We'll still be running the events, presumably through North American Table Tennis. More on this later - USATT will likely have a news item when all is finalized.

We went over the 2017 budget in detail, with USATT CEO Gordon Kaye going over it almost line by line. There were major cuts in some areas I wasn't happy about, but unfortunately there was a budget crunch, with cuts in a number of revenue areas (such as an expected $75,000 decline in the USOC Digital Media Agreement, after a big jump last year, partly because it was an Olympic year) and unexpected expenses (such as $14,000 in legal fees on one disciplinary case, and I think a similar amount in another, though I don't have specifics on the latter). I think the budget goes public later on, so I'll hold back on more comments until then. When we got to the part in the budget with cuts to athlete spending, I was hoping to discuss this with the High Performance Committee Chair, Carl Danner, who had been on the call, but he had to leave, and so we didn't get his input on this. We then voted to approve the budget, which passed, 7-0. I grudgingly voted for it, despite my misgivings about certain cuts.

=>New Business
I was waiting for this so I could raise a new issue. In 2015 (and in a number of past years, though not all), the rule had been that the U.S. Men's and Women's Singles Champions automatically made the USA National Team to the Worlds. For some reason, they changed this for 2016 - but few knew about this until the 2017 National Team Trials Information came out on Tuesday. And so Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang, the two winners, are now both required to try out for the team - and we're in danger of not having our National Champion on the team.

This was especially a hardship for 16-year-old Kanak, who is training and playing in leagues full-time in Sweden, and will have to miss certain league commitments to fly back to the U.S. for this. Kanak's father sent an email to me and others just before the teleconference.

However, when I brought up the issue at the end as "New Business" (which was on the agenda), I was told that I was "out of order," that since the teleconference was a "Special Meeting" called to discuss three issues, no other issues could be raised, and that the "New Business" item on the agenda was a mistake. And so no discussion of this took place, and the meeting ended. I did get some info on this in a phone call afterwards, but can't discuss that here. Perhaps this will be discussed at a later time.

Team and Singles Leagues and the USATT League Committee
Here's the USATT News Item I wrote - the title is mostly self-explanatory. If not for the Teleconference info above, I'd be blogging about this. I'll probably do so next week. 

New Podcasts from Expert Table Tennis by Matthew Pearson

Rules Updates and Guidance
Here's the USATT news item on this, with links to three items.

USATT Insider
Here's the new issue, which came out yesterday.

Ex-Terp Han Xiao to Chair USOC Athletes' Advisory Council
Here's the article in the Baltimore Sun. Here's the USOC article I linked to yesterday.

Butterfly North American Tour
Here it is - are you ready to join the Tour! Ten tournaments!

Ma Long Multiball Training
Here's the video (64 sec) as he does a 2-shot multiball drill: A random backspin, then a random topspin.

NYCTTA Table Tennis Exhibition Friendly Match
Here's the video (10:34).

Fun Fitness
Here's the video (2:04) of Samson Dubina and three players doing ladder physical training.

Weird Table Tennis
Here's the video (30 sec) of the weirdest table tennis you'll ever see!!!

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