January 10, 2018

USOC Meeting on Coaching Education and Certification
I returned yesterday afternoon from a whirlwind trip to the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, where I met with USATT and USOC people on creating a USATT Coaching Education and Certification Program. Those attending the meeting were:

  • Larry Hodges (Chair of USATT Coaching Committee and member of USATT Board)
  • Jörg Bitzigeio (USATT High Performance Director)
  • Mark Thompson (USATT Chief Operating Officer)
  • Denise Parker (USOC Vice President, National Governing Bodies Services and former CEO for USA Archery)
  • Chris Snyder (USOC Director of Coaching Education)
  • Avery Wilson (USOC Director of Strategic Planning)

The USOC people have extensive experience in developing education and certification programs for Olympic sports, and so we weren’t starting from scratch. They were very knowledgeable and extremely helpful. We spent probably the first half of the meeting going over where USATT currently stood – who the coaches were, where they coached, the current business model of USATT clubs where the coaches develop players, and current resources. We went over the current coaching certification program – USATT has two, both the badly outdated USATT certification program (much of it created by me in the early 1990s when our situation was very different) and the ITTF program, which we have adopted as part of our program.

How is our situation different now than in the early 1990s? Back then, we had one full-time training center (MDTTC, which I opened with Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang in 1992); now there are 94. Back then we had dozens of certified coaches, few of them active; now we have 311, and twice that many before we had to trim the field due to the recent SafeSport compliance rules. Back then there were perhaps six full-time coaches in the U.S.; now there are about 300, though only about half are USATT certified. Back then we were desperate just to get anybody out there coaching; now we can focus on quality.

After a lot of discussion of the strengths and weakness of our current situation, we discussed how other sports did it – especially tennis and archery. Then we got into the real nitty gritty of what we could do, which included a lot of brainstorming. Many of the potential opportunities come from doing online programs, especially at the lower levels. They would focus on two aspects – the table tennis part (of which there already is a lot of material we might be able to use), and the non-table tennis part, i.e. how to teach, plus sports psychology, physical training, etc. (and here the USOC already had a lot of material we could use).

We spent a lot of time diagramming the way we could set up such a program, using large sheets of paper on an easel, which we would then tear off and tape to the wall. By the end of the meeting the walls were covered with such notes!  (We took pictures so they are not lost.) Anyway, we now have a rather strong vision and plans on how to develop a USATT Coaching Education and Certification program for the modern age.

After the meeting Mark took me to the USATT storage area, and I was stunned at all the boxes of vintage stuff – film reels of vintage players from the 1930s like Viktor Barna and Lezlo Bellak; boxes and boxes of VHS tapes from the 1980s, USATT Magazines, program booklets, and so on. It was way too much to go over in the short time I had there. I may discuss having a USATT history person do a visit and spend a day going over it all.

Perhaps the hardest part of the meeting for me was just getting there. I had a flight at 6:50AM to Chicago, where I’d transfer to another flight to Colorado Springs, arriving at 11:52PM. The meeting was scheduled 1-5PM. However, when I got up at 3:30AM to get ready for my flight, I had an email that said the flight had been cancelled, and that I’d automatically been put on a “Direct Flight” at 8:40AM. So I lounged about for a time, and then drove over to Dulles Airport in Virginia. It was there that I discovered that the direct flight was to Chicago, and that they had me on another flight to Colorado Springs, which would arrive there at 6PM – an hour after the meeting ended!!

So I spent some time with the agent, trying to find a way to get there on time, but there just didn’t seem to be a way. Then she said, “Well, there is this flight from National Airport, but I don’t think you can make it in time.” To make the flight I would have 55 minutes for the agent to book the new flight; I’d have to find a way to National Airport (about 30 minutes away if no traffic – but we were in the middle of rush hour); get through security; and make it to my gate. Not a chance, right? The cheapest way would have been to take a shuttle or Uber, but there just wasn’t time, so I ran outside and grabbed a taxi. It cost $80 ($68 plus tip), but he drove like a maniac, and magically, there was little traffic. At National, there was almost no line in Security, and I was “TSA Pre,” and I went through that really fast, and lo and behold, I made it with five minutes to spare!

So I made it to Chicago in time for my original flight, though there was a rush there as well, with only 30 minutes between flights. So I rushed through the terminals to the gate - and then, just as I arrived, out of breath, they announced the flight had been delayed two hours, due to weather! This meant I’d arrive around 1:45PM, well after the 1PM meeting began. I let the USATT know I’d be late, they alerted the USOC, and they rescheduled the meeting for 2:30-5:30PM. Once at the Colorado Springs Airport I Ubered over, and arrived around 2:15PM.

I spent the night at the USOC, where I lived in the dormitories from 1985-1990, so it was nostalgia time. Then I caught an 8AM flight back to Maryland on Tuesday.

USATT Announces 2017 National Coaches of the Year Awards
Here’s the USATT article. I was on the selection committee for this, and the choices were not easy as we had to choose between such quality coaches. Congrats to:

  • Coach of the Year: Jörg Bitzigeio (Colorado Springs, CA)
  • Mark Nordby Developmental Coach of the Year: Pieke Franssen (Alameda, CA)
  • Paralympic Coach of the Year: Mitch Seidenfeld (Lakeville, MN)
  • Doc Counsilman Technology Coach of the Year: Samson Dubina (Akron, OH)

Nets and Edges: Learn 5 Key Elements to Returning Some of the Most Difficult Balls!
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina.

Reshuffling the World Rankings: Progressive or a Mistake?
Here’s the USATT article by Ray Huang.

New World Ranking System Launches Jha into Top 100
Here’s the article by Matt Hetherington.

Estee Ackerman, Long Island Table Tennis Phenom, Spreading the Word
Here’s the article and video (1:38) from Newsday. “You might say that Estee Ackerman is an ambassador of Ping-Pong Diplomacy.” (She and I won Hardbat Mixed Doubles at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago! We both normally use sponge.)

Tom’s Table Tennis Tips
Here’s the monthly newsletter from Tom Lodziak.

Relocation Leads Tom Feng's Charge Towards 2020
Here’s the USATT article by Richard Finn.

Best Year Ever, Now Simon Gauzy Looks Forward
Here’s the ITTF article.

Paddle Palace Club Leads Charge for Safesport Compliance
Here’s the article.

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 10
Here’s chapter ten of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1991-1992. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

Dimitrij Ovtcharov – The Road to the TOP
Here’s the ITTF video (6:18). “What a year of 2017 it was for Dimitrij Ovtcharov that led him to the TOP of the new ITTF World Ranking! Relive his sensational journey to become the new world number ONE!”

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - December 2017
Here’s the video (8:29).

Ask a Pro Anything: Timo "the Bandana" Boll
Here’s the article and video (9:03) from Adam Bobrow. Great video – features a challenge match where the lefty Boll plays right-handed in a challenge match with Adam!

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