February 8, 2021

Tip of the Week
Locking Up Your Opponents.

USATT Board of Directors Seeks Applications for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee
Here's the USATT news item. Let's start with something positive!

USATT and NCTTA and Bylaws, Oh My!
The next three segments involve lots of USATT issues and politics. If you have no interest in these issues and battles between USATT and the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association, feel free to skip ahead! This blog starts with a LOT of USATT stuff, but there's plenty other things afterwards. 

USATT Board of Directors Seek Member Comment on Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws
Here is the USATT news item. (NOTE - on Wednesday, Feb. 10, USATT put up a new news item, linked to an apparently "new" set of proposed bylaws, with no explanation for the change. So I had to change the link here. However, the new version still limits the board to ten members and athlete reps at three, so they have not addressed the problem - explained below - of contradictory bylaws that seem to be used to block NCTTA from their legal position on the board. I am not sure what, if any, changes they made to this new version, and the news item strangely doesn't explain how these proposed bylaws are different than the previous ones. Are we really supposed to have to go over them, word by word, to try to figure out what new changes they are proposing from the version they posted a few days ago? I considered emailing them - again - but I'm starting to feel like a babysitter. I'm tired of wasting time on what shouldn't even be an issue. I'll never understand why USATT chose to create this huge self-inflicted mess by starting a "war" with NCTTA, one which makes no sense and that they are unlikely to win.) 

If you have a comment on this, you are asked to email USATT directly, and your email will be forwarded to the board of directors. (It's best to page down to the end and click on this: Download the full "USA Table Tennis Board of Directors Seeks Member Comment on Proposed Amendments to the Bylaws" here.) The issue has major implications for certain groups, in particular the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

I've been rather involved in this issue since I had pointed out the serious problems with these bylaw proposals in the chat box at the recent USATT board meeting (see next segment) and in previous blogs. The only purpose of some of the language in the proposed bylaws seems to be to set up a roadblock to keep NCTTA from their long-time seat on the board, even if they qualify for the position, as they have for roughly the last 13 years. Here is my email from last Thursday, Feb. 4, to the USATT Board of Directors - and skip ahead to paragraphs four and five if you want to ignore the "wonky" parts and get right to the "What does this mean" part:

Dear USATT Board,

I have gone over the proposed bylaws carefully. My main reaction is, "Is this for real?" You don't have to be a member of Mensa to see the contradictory nature of these bylaws, and the insidious way they "allow" USATT to illegally bypass the Ted Stevens Act of 1978 and make sure that there is no National Organization Director on the USATT board, such as NCTTA.

The Ted Stevens Act and our own bylaws (see 7.6.b.5, with essentially the same language) require USATT to seat a National Organization Director on the board if one qualifies. Let's suppose NCTTA does qualify. (They obviously do, but for now, that's a separate issue.) Then the USATT bylaws REQUIRES that USATT place their representative on the board as National Organization Director. It would be a bylaw violation NOT to seat them.

But the proposed bylaws state explicitly, in 7.5, that the board shall be made up of TEN members. It also requires that 1/3 shall be athlete reps, as now required by USOPC. Section 7.6.b.4.a of the proposed bylaws specify that, beyond the two Athlete Directors, "There shall be one additional 10 Year+ Athlete Director or at large Athlete Director." That limits the number of Athlete reps on the board to a maximum of THREE.

What does this mean? It means that if you do seat NCTTA, you would have ten board members, as the bylaws specify. But then you would also have to have four Athlete Reps, in order to keep the number at 1/3 or more. To do so, you would have to:

  1. Have four athlete reps, which violate the proposed bylaws;
  2. Go to eleven board members, which violate the proposed bylaws.

Let's suppose NCTTA qualifies for the National Organization position, as per our bylaws. Then these proposed bylaws make it a bylaw violation NOT to seat NCTTA, and a bylaw violation if you DO seat NCTTA.

So I fall back on my original thought - "Is this for real?"

May I once again respectfully point out that, unless you want to eliminate one of the current positions on the board, you will have to expand the board to at least eleven members, and allow up to four athlete reps?

-Larry Hodges

I had a short email exchange with the USATT lawyer on this afterwards, but nothing that added to the discussion - the USATT argument is that since NCTTA is not currently on the board, they can put it directly into the bylaws that there will be a maximum of ten board members and three athlete reps, ignoring the contradictory nature of these bylaws and how this essentially sets up a roadblock to keep NCTTA off the board (since if they ever fill that tenth spot, they'd need a fourth athlete rep and therefore an 11th spot on the board), even if they qualify. (I'm also not sure if it would be appropriate to post copies of the lawyer's emails. If he asks me to, I will post our entire exchange.) But here's an excerpt I wrote that further explains the issue.

Let's suppose NCTTA qualifies for the National Organization position, as per our bylaws. Then these proposed bylaws make it a bylaw violation NOT to seat NCTTA, and a bylaw violation if you DO seat NCTTA. You are setting up contradictory bylaws. You are literally setting up a case where you will have to get a 2/3 majority to change the bylaws just to follow the bylaws. This puts tremendous pressure on the board to agree that neither NCTTA nor other groups that might be considered National Organizations actually qualify (thereby violating our bylaws and the Ted Stevens Act), since to agree they qualify would mean they would have to change the bylaws. If a majority of the board agrees NCTTA qualifies, but you can’t get 2/3 to change the bylaws for this, then you have the worst case – NCTTA has to be given their position or you break your bylaws and the Ted Stevens Act, and if you do, you break your bylaws.  

I think we can agree that setting up such contradictory bylaws is not best practices. The statement by the USOPC lawyer about 1/3 athlete reps among those actually seated does not mean he was telling us to create contradictory bylaws that make it impossible to follow the Ted Stevens Act (or our own bylaws) unless we change our bylaws.

The irony is that fixing the problem is extremely simple – just don’t cap the number of board members at ten or the number of athlete reps at three. All that does is make it a bylaw violation to follow the Ted Stevens Act or to follow our own bylaws. There is no downside to this, unless the intent is literally to make it more difficult to seat a National Organization that otherwise qualifies for the board. Is there an argument for WHY we would want to cap these numbers in the bylaws at ten and three, thereby setting up such contradictory bylaws? Or do you agree that we should solve the problem in this simple way, by capping the board at perhaps eleven members, and athlete reps at four? There is no downside to this.

On a related note, I heard that someone made the argument that NCTTA doesn't qualify as a National Organization because they only run tournaments for college players, and so when they run the National Collegiate Championships, it potentially only qualifies for the World University Games, not the World Championships. Except, of course, the bylaws require that they run them at a level to qualify for an international amateur athlete competition, and the World University Games is, of course, an international amateur athlete competition. (And that's how USATT and their lawyers have ruled it for the past 13 years.)

Since it it keeps coming up, I have no connection to NCTTA. Nor am I working for or with anyone. 

USATT Board Meeting
The USATT Board of Directors had an online meeting on Uberconference on Monday, Feb. 1. (I wonder what the advantages of Uberconference are over the seemingly more commonly used Zoom?) There were 49 people in the meeting, about twice the norm because about 30 people from the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association attended, in addition to the USATT Board of Directors and many staff and volunteers. Why were there so many NCTTA people? Because USATT has been refusing to seat the NCTTA board spot that they have held for approximately 13 years. (See my rather long January 18 blog on this.) Not attending was USATT CEO Virginia Sung, who was not feeling well, so representing her was USATT COO Mark Thompson.

There were only three things on the agenda:

  • Amendment to Bylaws to increase Board size for additional Athlete Director and authorize 10 Year+ Athlete Director
  • Creation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee - PASSED (See segment on this above)
  • 2021 Board Committees

Strangely, the meeting didn't go by the agenda the first half hour. It started with COO Mark giving the 2020 CEO report, which included numerous items (I didn't take careful notes), but included the new USATT membership structure, Coaching certification, the Nationals and Open, and the T2 Challenge matches. (Perhaps they should post these for the membership?) There was also the High Performance Director's Report by HPD Sean O'Neill and the Audit Report by Kelly Watson. During these meetings, only board members, staff, and those recognized by board chair Richard Char can speak, but there's a chat room for anyone, which all participants can see. I asked why they weren't going by the agenda, and Richard responded (verbally), that the CEO and Audit reports always go first. That's generally true, but shouldn't they still be on the agenda?

Then they got to the actual agenda. Most had thought the issue involving NCTTA's not being on the board would be on the agenda, or part of the first item on the agenda (hence the large NCTTA participation), but it wasn't. Instead, it was strictly about adding one spot to the board to allow an extra athlete rep, to allow for 33% representation, as now required by USOPC. However, this doesn't really make sense, as I pointed out in the chat room - see the segment on this above. Briefly, if you go to ten board members with three athlete reps, that's only 30%, and the requirement is at least 33%. (Actually, 1/3, but I'm rounding off.) The explanation, from Richard Char and the USATT lawyer? Since the National Organization spot was not currently filled, they didn't need to have a fourth athlete rep or go to eleven spots (to allow a fourth athlete rep). All they had to do is make sure the National Organization spot remained vacant, keeping the board at nine members, and then the three athlete reps would fulfill the 33% requirement. 

Meaning that if NCTTA or some other group qualifies for the National Organization spot, then these proposed bylaws make it a bylaw violation NOT to seat NCTTA, and a bylaw violation if you DO seat NCTTA! (Again, see segment above.)

I wrote in the chat box, "I think the board needs to go to 11 or more members, since they will need four athlete reps." This seems somewhat obvious. Unfortunately, it seems like some people have entrenched themselves on opposing this and going for the contradictory bylaws. For what possible reason would they do that? (The USOPC person there, Dave Patterson, said that they only count the 33% against those currently on the board, but the key problem here is that the proposed bylaws seem set on keeping the number at 9, meaning the 10th spot, the National Organization spot, would stay vacant. Otherwise, they'd need to add a fourth athlete rep and therefore an 11th board member, both of which would violate the new proposed bylaws.) 

Of course, as I and many others have pointed out, NCTTA clearly qualifies as a National Organization (see my January 18 blog), and should have the spot on the board they've held for many years. I asked several times in the chat room why NCTTA didn't qualify, and the only response, over and over, was various recitations (mostly a quote from the bylaws rules for a National Organization) in various ways that, "They didn't conduct, on a level of proficiency appropriate for the selection of amateur athletes to represent the United States in international amateur athlete competition." But no matter how many times asked, they wouldn't specify how they didn't qualify in this way or how they could qualify. Since the best college players (and nearly the entire US Olympic teams) participates in the National College Championships that NCTTA runs, what more are they expecting? How does one argue against flat assertions made without evidence or explanation? It's not easy, when the ones making the assertions are also the ones making the decision. (NCTTA is currently in a grievance against USATT over this. I expect they will win.) As I wrote in the chat box, "So the reason why they are not eligible is top secret?" No response. The net result, of course, is a LOT of very angry people, especially from NCTTA, which has thousands of players. And for what possible purpose???

Here is the email I sent to the USATT Board of Directors before the meeting:

Dear USATT Board of Directors,

I've been in this sport for 45 years and I've attended about 100 USATT board meetings. And it's with a feeling of déjà vu that I watch as USATT seems on the verge of making the same mistakes as so many past boards. Apparently, USATT is seriously planning on leaving the National Organization position vacant, even though NCTTA obviously fulfills the requirements of the bylaws. If you do so, you will make a huge number of enemies and be rightly and widely criticized. Once again USATT will be split and once again it will be doing endless damage control, both on this issue and on other issues that are the inevitable result of dividing our sport rather than uniting it and focusing on developing it. And for what? You will gain absolutely nothing by doing this. I've seen one board of directors after another do these same self-destructive things, often with the best of intentions, and afterwards all they can do is defend the decision while wondering, "What were we thinking?" Here's the key thing to remember: We're all in this together. Dividing the sport is not the way to go. I implore you to not go down that path, because once you do, it's very hard to change course. 

-Larry Hodges
Member of USATT Hall of Famer
2018 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient
Two-time member of USATT Board of Directors
USATT Employee for 16 years

Here is the email I sent to the USATT Board of Directors after the meeting:

Dear Board,

I just got off the teleconference. The language of the bylaws clearly show NCTTA qualifies, and many have pointed this out with facts and logic, including me in my blog. The counter-argument is the simple assertion that they do not, and the reason is top secret? And we’re supposed to just accept that? Seriously, is this really the way USATT wants to handle this? I really hope you will rethink this. Remember that the USATT Board of Directors is in charge, and they get the blame or credit if they choose this route – not the employees, volunteers, or lawyers, but you. If you or your lawyers cannot voice a reason publicly for why they do not qualify, what type of an argument can you possibly have? It does appear that what I wrote below was for naught, and once again USATT history will repeat itself. Note that at least 26 people from NCTTA were in the meeting (probably over 30), and you just told them they aren’t eligible but won’t say why. Are you literally trying to anger them? (And once again, I have no connection to NCTTC, just a strong belief in fairness and truth.)

-Larry Hodges

The USATT Motion and Grievance
Here's the NCTTA's posting about the USATT-NCTTA Grievance (covered in the two segments above).
NOTE - this was posted early Tuesday morning, Feb. 9, so I'm putting it up a day late.)

USATT Coaches Meeting and Other Coaching Issues
We had another USATT Coaches Zoom meeting this past Friday, at noon (eastern time) for about an hour. Six coaches attended - USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill (who runs the meetings), myself, Samson Dubina, Dan Rutenberg, Wei Qi, and Mike Lauro. Here's a group picture, and here's video of the meeting (59 min). Discussions ranged from Covid to the proper footwork and recovery when moving to the wide forehand (see the Samson Dubina item, 90% of TT Players Have THIS Problem).

One thing I pointed out, based on my observations at the Ohio Open last weekend - this is going to be the "Year of the Weird Style." Because of the pandemic, there are fewer tournaments, but when we do have tournaments, players with weird or rare styles will tend to dominate. Why? Because right now, players are far more limited than normal in opponents to play in practice, and so they are not used to playing a wide variety of styles. As players return to playing in tournaments, they will at first not be "tournament tough," meaning they won't adjust well at first to styles they aren't used to.

The USATT Committee also grandfathered in a new Regional coach - as a member of the committee, that meant going over their credentials, etc. I also received an automatic email from USATT telling me that I had to take the SafeSport refresher course (every two years), so I took that - it took about half an hour. I also took a Covid test last Wednesday (as a precaution after coaching at the Ohio Open last weekend), and the result came back Friday - Negative. So I'm going to live.

USATT Magazines Wanted
After putting it off for months, I finally put up two new sets of shelves, and then went through the many disorganized boxes of old USATT Magazines and organized them. They are now organized!!! Some of you may remember that USATT had a print magazine until 2014, usually bi-monthly, though some years it came out more often. I started in 1976, and have all but seven issues since then, plus one magazine from Nov, 1952, and 28 others from 1962 to 1975. (Much thanks to John Merkel, who sent me a box of his old magazines, so I have fewer missing ones.) I lost a bunch of my old issues in a flood years ago.

I've been going through old magazines and helping Vince Mioduszewski compile all results at every US Open and Nationals at www.ustabletennisresults.com. Here's a picture of the shelves, which I set up in the stairway landing. The magazines are on the shelf on the right, and now that they are all organized, take up a lot less room than expected. (The ones on the bottom shelf, and in front of it, are extras.) The shelves on the left have copies of my books (I have 17 books published), along with the boxes on the floor. On the walls behind and on both sides are copies of the 71 issues of USATT Magazine I did as editor.

Here are the issues I'm still missing - if anyone has a copy of any of these, I'll trade you signed copies of my books for them! Missing issues:

  • July/Aug 1982
  • Nov/Dec 1986
  • Nov/Dec 1987
  • Jan 1988
  • Apr/May 1988
  • May 1989
  • Aug 1991

New from Samson Dubina

Long Distance Forehand Counterlooping
Here's the video (3:13) from Coach Jinxin Wang.

New from Joey Cochran/Table Tennis Junkie

How to Calm Nerves Before a Match
Here's the article by US Team Member Rachel Sung.

The Power of the Forehand Push
Here's the video (49 sec) from Eli Baraty.

Ultimate Guide to Playing Table Tennis at Home
Here's the article by Tom Lodziak.

Your Table Tennis Coordinates
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

How Japan Plans to End China's Olympic Table Tennis Dominance
Here's the article from Tokyo2020, with an interview with head coach Mike Baba.

Liam Pitchford on His Breakthrough and Setbacks
Here's the article on the English world #15, from the Olympic Channel.

Let Those Backhands Rip
Here's the video (26 sec) of Germany's world #12 (former #1) Dimitrij Ovtcharov ripping backhands, just as you should be doing.

Timo Boll
Here's the latest on the German world #10 (former #1).

How the Mozart of Table Tennis Learned the Rules & Became a World Champ
Here's the article on Jan-Ove Waldner from The Sports Daily.

Who Hits Hardest?! | TTD Team Speed Gun Challenge
Here's the video (4:39) from Table Tennis Daily.

Spin Shots! Who Did It Best?
Here's the ITTF video (1:40).

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

New from USATT


Super Bowl Michelob Pong
Here's the video (60 sec, but link should take you 34 sec in, where there's 3 sec of table tennis), one of the Super Bowl ads. Since 185 million people saw it, is this the largest "showing" of table tennis ever?

Scott and Austin Preiss Exhibition
Here's the video (57 sec)! Scott of pingpongman.com is on the right.

Top 10 Best Table Tennis Trick Shots 2020
Here's the video (3:32)!

Trampoline Ping Pong Trick Shots
Here's the video (8:08) from Pongfinity!

Tom Brady and Table Tennis

Non-Table Tennis - News Sales and Publications, and an Online Workshops
On Feb. 1, my science fiction story “The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame” was published in Paper Butterfly Flash Fiction. What happens if baseball spreads to the galaxy – but instead of great baseball players that make spectators feel inferior, what’s in great demand are really bad players so spectators can feel good about themselves?

On Feb. 3, 2021 I sold my science fiction story “Love Drops” to New Myths Magazine. (This was my 117th short story sale.) It starts out, “The greatest and most tragic love story began with a bomb exploding on a packed plane, six miles in the air.” But what happens to this elderly, loving couple after the bomb goes off and they are falling to the ground is the real story. It is tentatively scheduled to come out in September.

The cover for the May/June issue of Dark Matter Magazine just came out, with my SF story, “Nanogod,” and my name on the cover! What happens when a nanobot – i.e. a microscopic robot – has its processing system damaged, becomes an egomaniac, and travels the galaxy in a huge ship, enslaving entire civilizations and forcing them to build huge monuments to honor it? (Hint – now we know why the Great Pyramids were really built!) I’ve sold them two stories – I have another SF story coming out with them in November, “Ninety-Nine Sextillion Souls in a Ball.”

Meanwhile, I (and 14 others) just finished a one-month online writing workshop with Scott Andrews with the Odyssey Writing Workshop, “Emotional Truth: Making Characters Emotions Real, Powerful, and Immediate to Readers.” (It’s like a table tennis training camp, but for writers.)

Send us your own coaching news!