September 24, 2018

Tip of the Week
Top Ten Guidelines for Playing the Unconventional Style.

USATT Board Meeting
This past weekend I attended the USATT board meeting at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Sept. 21-23. (I attended both as a member of the board and as chair of the coaching committee.) Friday was travel day, plus an informal dinner at the OTC dining hall. I flew on the same flight as USATT legal counsel Dennis Taylor. Others attending the meeting included fellow board members Anne Cribbs (chair), Rajul Sheth, Ed Hogshead, Carolyn Savini, and Erica Wu (who just took a job at Facebook), with Gary Schlager and Tara Profitt attending via e-conference. Also attending were USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, COO Mark Thompson, High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio, and High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner. Also attending for a few hours were new USATT employees Chris Mauro (accounting) and Tammy Kuyper (administrative assistant).

The meeting started at 9AM on Saturday. First on the agenda were formalities - roll call and call for any conflicts of interest. Then came approval of the minutes of our August teleconference - there were no substantive changes, though I did point out a missing period, which was duly added - my great contribution. The minutes were approved unanimously.

Next up was planning for the upcoming USATT Strategic Planning Conference, which is scheduled for Nov. 3-4 in Colorado Springs, with the USOC hosting, moderating, and funding much of it. The plan is for 16 people from USATT to attend. As coaching chair, I get to nominate two people, which could include myself - but I won't be able to attend as I'll be a panelist and doing book signings at the World Fantasy Convention that weekend. I have my list of possible invitees down to six people, but it's going to be a very tough choice. I've been to five of these Strategic Meetings, but past ones haven't been very successful - and the last time we had a full weekend like this time, it was a disaster. (Here's my blog on that 2009 meeting.) 

Next we had committee reports, including my own Coaching Committee report. Others were from the Junior, Nominating and Governance; Rules, Umpires and Referees, Tournament, Clubs, and High Performance Committees. (I believe these all go online later on the USATT web page.) Next up was discussion of NewCo/ITTF North America, and a long discussion of the Directors and Officers Insurance Program.

Then came a long and valuable discussion of the strategic direction of USATT. Much of this involved discussion of regionalizing USATT. I explained past efforts, including the Club Catalyst and Creation Program (CCCP) and Coaches National Network (CNN), two program I ran back in the 1990s when I chaired the Club and Coaching Committees, with a very supportive President Dan Seemiller. (Yes, I had fun with the acronyms.) With CCCP, we appointed state club directors in 47 states (some had two, such as CA and NY), with the plan to find or start a club in every city with a population over 100,000, then 50,000, then 25,000. In two years we went from 223 clubs to 301. With CNN, we appointed 43 state coaching directors, with the plan to have a coach and coaching program at every club. We doubled the number of certified coaches during those years, from about 100 to over 200. During this time, USATT membership also increased from less than 5500 to over 7500 (about a 2200 increase in all). The plan was to continue next with state league directors, and then start up actual state associations with state directors - but USATT had an election, and a new president came in. He wanted to bring in his own people, and cancelled essentially every program started by the previous administration, including CCCP and CNN. (After the meeting I sent a detailed email to the board explaining these programs, as something to consider at the upcoming USATT Strategic Meeting in November.)

There have been numerous "attempts" to regionalize USATT. For one thing, it's required by the USATT bylaws. Here is Article VI from our bylaws in its entirety:

Section 6.1. Regional Divisions. The Board of Directors shall divide the United States into geographic regions as the Board determines in its sole discretion will best serve the interests of the sport of Table Tennis. The regions shall be an extension of USATT and not separate entities. Additionally, USATT may hold regional competitions or conduct such other regional activities that promote the mission of USATT as the Board and the Chief Executive Officer determine in their sole discretion.

Over the last 20 years there have been a number of "attempts" to fulfill this. I put "attempts" in quotes because, to me, they were not serious attempts, though those who made these "attempts" would likely disagree. In each case, they did pretty much the same thing, in this order – and I apologize if this is sarcastic, but I've been through this nearly exact sequence a dozen times already.

  1. USATT board agrees that we must regionalize USATT.
  2. USATT board spends time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decides that they should, in fact, do what they had already decided to do, which is to regionalize.
  3. USATT assigns small groups or sets up a Strategic Meeting where they spend much time analyzing the plusses and minuses of regionalizing and decide that they should, in fact, do what they have already decided to do, which is to regionalize. Some discussion is done on the specifics of how it might look like. No specific plans are made, no implementation plans are made, no one is assigned to do anything, and no timeline is created.
  4. A small number of people point out that we aren't actually doing anything to actually accomplish the goal of regionalizing, i.e. little discussion or plans on actual implementation, just as in past "attempts" to regionalize. They are told this is a new group that would get it right.
  5. They report back to the board that we should regionalize with vague ideas and plans, but no implementation plans.
  6. Nearly everyone goes home happy.
  7. USATT never regionalizes.

We also discussed USATT's staffing and structure. This, and over lunch (spaghetti!), is when we got to meet new USATT employees Chris Mauro and Tammy Kuyper.

After the lunch break, we had a membership update, with the primary focus on the new USATT Code of Conduct. There were two versions that we are looking at. Next up was the USOC Compliance Update, which mostly involves following the many requirements of SafeSport and USADA, as required by USOC, as pretty much mandated by Congress. There's a push by certain people in Congress to require ALL members of an association such as ours to watch the SafeSport videos and pass the exam and background checks. (Currently it is required of all club officers, coaches, umpires, tournament directors, etc.) Some want to make parts of it an annual thing. Hopefully none of this will happen. We ended up passing several bylaw amendments to fulfill these compliance requirements.

We next had a long discussion on the new U.S. Open format (here's the entry form), which continued the next day. (Don't even THINK about asking questions until you've read the U.S. Open FAQ.) As with any major change, reactions are mixed, yet based on numerous emails received the reaction for the decision to put players into two "tracks" (Elite and Performance), and replace the rating events with the Tiered Singles and Doubles events (far more matches, fare more competitive matches) has been positive.

The main problem faced with this two-track approach is that players can only be in one. For seniors, this means that if they want to play, say, Over 40 or Over 50 Singles or Doubles (men or women), they cannot play Men's or Women's Singles or Doubles. For the junior events, most were okay, but one event in particular faced a problem for some - the Mini-cadet events (roughly 13 and under). With Cadets and Juniors in the Elite Track, and the Mini-cadets in the Performance Track, it meant that Mini-cadets couldn't play both their event and one age event up, i.e. in Cadets. Instead, as recommended by HPD Jörg Bitzigeio, they would play in far more matches by playing in the Mini-cadets and in the Tiered RR, which he considered more important for that age group. But some of the higher-rated Mini-cadets apparently preferred to play in Mini-cadets and Cadets, and skip the Tiered RR. This was both because they were competitive in both events, and because they preferred playing kids their age instead of mostly adults.

There was much discussion over this. From the schedule, it would be feasible for a Mini-cadet to play in Mini-cadets, Cadets, and Juniors, if they skipped the Tiered Singles and Doubles RRs. But the problem with that was it would mean allowing players in one track to play in both tracks - a dangerous precedent, since there would then be senior players who would want to know why some are allowed to play in both tracks, while they cannot. Plus, of course, the entry form and rules had already been posted.

Two board members - myself and Rajul - argued to allow Mini-cadets to choose to play either the Tiered RR events or in Cadets and Juniors, along with Mini-cadets. (At the start of the discussion, I had been under the false impression that the only argument was to let Mini-cadets play in Cadets, not Juniors, and so hadn't examined that schedule, and so at first I mistakenly thought they could not play in both.) Carl Danner, chair of the HPC, also thought they should have that choice. However, we also agreed that this was a staff decision, i.e. the CEO and HPD would make the decision. The day after the meeting (Monday morning) they emailed that they had decided to stick with the current rules, so players could play only in their track. It was not an easy decision, but I understand their reasoning. The situation will likely be looked at again after this U.S. Open, when we've had a chance to see the new format and make any needed changes for next year. (Note that while the Open format has changed, the Nationals will stay as before.)

The meeting ended a little after 5:30PM. Then all the board members present had an informal meeting on setting up Regional Associations, using SWOT Analysis. I wanted to jump right into making plans for implementing, but we'll hopefully get to that later. That night Dennis and I had dinner (a fancy Mexican place) with former USATT President Sheri Pittman and her husband, Dragomir Cioroslan, a bronze medalist for weightlifting for Romania at the 1984 Olympics, the U.S. weightlifting coach for 13 years, and now Director of International Strategies and Development at the USOC. Lots of interesting discussion that night on how to make USATT great! (Sheri and Dragomir now live near Colorado Springs.)

We started up again the following morning at 9AM. Up first was an executive session (so confidential, as the norm when discussing legal and personnel issues), then a discussion on the future of USATT events, including outsourcing. Then was the High Performance Report from Jörg. Next followed a discussion of the LA Open, which was also a USATT Ranking Tournament. It had some problems, in particular poor lighting and high temperatures (no AC, someone described it as "playing in a sauna"). The problem was they had had to changed venues, and with limited choices, it was the best they could get. As pointed out by Gordon, it's a reality that there are a limited number of facilities that are both affordable and meet basic USATT requirements. Hopefully the situation will be improved for next year. (Ed Hogshead pointed out that there now relatively cheap ways to improve lighting.)

Next up was a short financial update. (We'll be discussing this more in the Oct. and Nov. teleconferences, and in particular at the in-person meeting at the board meeting at the U.S. Open in December in Orlando, where we will likely do next year's budget.) Next up was discussion and plans for the upcoming USATT board elections and committee appointments. There are a number of committee chair positions opening up, and one board election - for my spot. There will be USATT news items on these soon.

These days I'm very busy trying to do both table tennis and write science fiction as joint careers. I finally came to realization that, twenty years from now, I'll look back and be very disappointed if I don't see just how far I can get in the science fiction writing world. (I currently have four published novels and have sold 97 short stories, including four this past week, and have a story in the current issue of Analog, the largest SF magazine in English.) And so I've decided to cut down on my volunteer hours. For that reason, I do not plan to run for re-election when my term ends on Dec. 31, 2018. I also do not plan to continue as coaching chair when my term ends on March 1, 2019. 

We went to lunch (spaghetti again!), and then came another long, exciting discussion of SafeSport and their requirements. I understand the importance of this, but for me, it's become so pervasive that it sometimes seems like it takes up half our time. Maybe I'm a poor board members, but these days when the usual SafeSport discussions come up, my eyes start to glaze over. Then came another executive session for a legal update. After this was the continuation of the U.S. Open discussion (see above). We were now at about 2:45PM, and I had to leave for the airport - but we were done! So we adjourned, and I (barely) made my flight after about a 45-minute line at security. I didn't get home until about 1:15 AM.

And now I'm looking over my todo list - so much for SF writing. This next month will be one of the busiest table tennis times I've had in a while, including Tim Boggan moving in with me next Monday for two weeks to do Volume 22 of his History of U.S. Table Tennis, immediately followed by the MDTTC October Open I'm running, and dozens of other time-consuming things. (I'm also a panelist at the Capclave Science Fiction Convention next weekend, with two book signings scheduled.) 

European Championships
Here's the home page for the event held this past weekend, in Alicante, Spain, with complete results, articles, photos, and video. Congrats to champions Timo Boll (7th time!) and Li Qian! And see who the aging but ageless Samsonov knocked off!

Women's World Cup
Here's the home page for the event to be held Sept. 28-30 in Chengdu, China.

McAfee's Mechanics - The 3 Pillars of Sport Performance
Here's the article by Richard McAfee. "In all sports there are three “Pillars” of Performance for the athlete. These are: technical skills (hands), physical skills (feet), and mental skills (head)."

New from Samson Dubina

New from Tom Lodziak

New from EmRatThich

Understanding the Fundamental Table Tennis Shots
Here's the article from Table Tennis Spot. "Table Tennis is similar to many other sports where there are some fundamental or essential shots that you should know in order to practice and improve them. The main shots which I will explain through the course of this article are the counter-hit, block, loop, counter-loop, lob and pushing."

How Important are Parents in Table Tennis?
Here's the article by Eli Baraty. 

Top 10 Serves of Table Tennis: Basic Serve, Punch Serves, Pendulum Serve, Tomahawk Serve
Here's the video (8:01).

7 Common Ping Pong Injuries and How You Can Avoid Them
Here's the article.

Table Tennis Euphoria
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

National Collegiate Table Tennis September Newsletter
Here's the new issue.

WAB Featured Club: PongPlanet 6th Anniversary
Here's the article by Bruce Liu.

"It's Good Fun": Local ping pong guru says sport can keep seniors sharp
Here's the article in The Virginian-Pilot featuring USATT Hall of Famer Dean Johnson.

Butterfly Labor Day 2-person Teams Wrap-up
Here's the article from Triangle TTC in North Carolina.

Manika Batra Asks Indian Table Tennis Players To Get Rid Of Mental Block, Says Chinese Opponents Can Be Beaten
Here's the article from the Hindustan Times.

Nittaku ITTF Monthly Pongcast - August 2018
Here's the video (17:57).

Jang Woojin: Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (5:03), featuring the world #21 from South Korea, with Adam Bobrow. Woojin does a great Michael Jackson impersonation!

Player Ask Player with Kristian Karlsson & Mattias Falck
Here's the ITTF video (2:09).

The Best Table Tennis Rally of 2018!
Here's the video (53 sec) of Jakub Folwarski (POL) and Can Akkuzu (FRA)!

DHS ITTF Top 10 - 2018 Bulgaria Open
Here's the ITTF video (4:35).

Penhold Chopping Great
Here's video (13 sec) of Zhang Xielin, "The Magic Chopper" from China and the 1963 World Men's Doubles Champion. He notoriously chopped with both backspin and often sidespin. His Chinese teammates were used to him and so often could beat him, but he apparently gave the Europeans great problems.

Bowie Martin Sr. Highlights
Here's the video (2 min) of USATT Hall of Famer, co-founder of Butterfly USA (Martin-Kilpatrick TTC) and one of the claimants to be the first person in the U.S. to develop a loop! (For six months in 1979 he was my daily practice partner.)

History of USATT – Volume 21 – Chapter 18
Here's chapter 18 of Tim Boggan's latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at This chapter covers "Members Interests." Volume 21 is 438 pages with 1667 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1994-95 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Chair Pong
Here's the video (20 sec) - just don't make him get up out of that chair!

Panda Ping-Pong Commercial
Here's the new commercial (30 sec) from Cox Communications G1gaBlast TV!

Ping Pong Against Yourself (crazy spin)
Here's the video (4:17) from Pongfinity! Best parts were push-up pong, balloon pong, and of course the horse!

2018 Badger Open NBA Dunk Contest Mashup
Here's the video (3:29), featuring Jason (11) and Alex (9) Piech at the 2018 Badger Open Milwaukee, WI. Alex won Under 1200, Under 1300, Under 1400, and made the final of Under 1500!

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