February 15, 2021

Tip of the Week
Pushing Short: When to Learn?

Ongoing USATT Sagas
I'm resigned to the fact that I'm going to need to have a USATT segment in every blog, just to keep up with all the crazy things going on. If you have no interest in USATT matters, skip over this segment - though you might find the final item, the $200,000 arbitration case (technically, $170,000-$200,000), a doozy. (Keep in mind that when I speak of USATT, I'm speaking of their leadership as a whole. There are USATT people who are trying to fix these problems.) Here's the latest - and I hope there's nothing to write about next week.

  • USATT-NCTTA Grievance. I blogged about this in last week's blog. Here's the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association's news item on this, The USATT Motion and Grievance. It's still mind-boggling to me that USATT has chosen to pick this fight with NCTTA, one they will almost for certain lose, leading to great animosity toward USATT, both from NCTTA and their thousands of members, and others. Heck, even if USATT somehow "won" the grievance, they lose, due to the huge animosity they are causing. (NCTTA obviously qualifies, as I've pointed out in past blogs, but of course you never know for certain what a few people on a panel might decide.)

    One thing I've verified - there was no board vote on the apparent USATT decision that NCTTA no longer qualified for the National Organization position on the board - apparently it was just a ruling from the chair. (If there was a vote, it'd be in the USATT minutes.) If so, there's nothing I see in the bylaws that allow this. The board chair can't on his own decide who is or is not eligible for the board, or he'd essentially have absolute power. At the time of this apparent ruling, there were only five board members. There are now eight - four new ones and one who left. I think if they were to actually vote on this, they'd grant NCTTA their position, since they obviously qualify, just as they have for the past 13 years. But who knows what politicking is going on behind the scenes on this issue?

    I think this is a good time to reprint the email I sent to the USATT Board of Directors two weeks ago, before a board meeting where they might have resolved this conflict, but chose not to:

    "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."

  • Emails to USATT. I have been told a lot of people have been emailing USATT about NCTTA and the proposed bylaws, overwhelmingly in favor of NCTTA and against the contradictory proposed bylaws. I know of a number of people who sent such emails. Willy Leparulo, president of NCTTA, also said that NCTTA members and others have sent large numbers of emails to USATT. Hopefully, the board will carefully consider these emails before making any decisions.
  • Board Choosing Athlete Reps. I wrote extensively about the contradictory proposed bylaws last week. There's another serious problem in the proposed bylaws - USATT wants the Board to choose an athlete rep. This is both a seeming USOPC violation as well as making no sense. An athlete rep selected by athletes is an athlete rep, but an athlete rep selected by the board is a board rep. Here's how Kagin Lee (former USATT Rules Chair) explained the problem (with his permission to quote - and I believe he has written an email to the board on this issue.):

    "The proposed section 11.11 describes a new Athlete Director position, including this text: "The Board shall appoint the initial 10 Year+ Athlete to fill the vacancy and serve a 4 year term." If passed, this bylaw would transfer power from the athletes and give it to the board. It would be a clear violation of the USOPC bylaws, section 8.5.3.b: "All athlete representatives (10 Year and 10 Year+) will be directly elected by the pool of athletes who meet the requirements as 10 Year Rule Athlete Representatives for that NGB." In order to serve as an Athlete Director, you must (1) be an eligible athlete, and (2) be elected by the athletes. Someone who is appointed by the board, rather than the athletes, is by definition not an Athlete Director. The board should not be permitted to make this appointment."

    This, of course, is in addition to their violating the USATT bylaws recently by trying to appoint a third athlete rep to the board, even listing him on the USATT Board page. (The current bylaws specify the board shall have only two athlete reps, so adding a third violated those bylaws.)

  • Board Terms of Office. Kagin also pointed out that USATT seems to be playing somewhat loose with board terms of office. I may get into this more later (Kagin wrote more about this), but briefly, when USOPC forced the previous USATT board to resign, the new board came in and took their place. Presumably, if someone resigns and you take their place, you finish out their term. Based on that, at least two of these terms have already ended. So it comes down to whether they finished out the terms of their predecessors (as is usually the norm and seems required by the bylaws), or whether they all start from scratch with new four-year terms.
  • "New" Proposed Bylaws? [I added the following to last week's blog a day after it went up.] A day after I put up my blog last Monday, 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 [last week's blog] - 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.
  • High Performance Committee. Bruce Liu resigned from his position as chair of the High Performance Committee on Oct. 27, 2020, partially in protest of actions by the USATT CEO. It's been almost four months, and there still is no chair. I've heard they plan to just operate without a chair for the foreseeable future. I'm still mulling this one over. How can they even create an agenda for a meeting without a chair? The USATT bylaws are clear on this: "Section 9.2. Assignments. Committee agendas shall be developed by the Committee Chair in consultation with the appropriate members of management and with the input of other directors." (Italics are mine.)
  • $200,000 Arbitration. USATT lost an arbitration to former High Performance Director Jörg Bitzigeio (losing on five of six counts), but I'll write more about that some other time. Jörg had claimed USATT violated his contract and resigned for this reason. The $170,000-$200,000, which were awarded by the arbitrator, included Jörg's legal fees. It doesn't include USATT's own legal costs, so the actual cost to USATT was likely over $200,000. USATT had the opportunity to go to mediation, which likely would have saved them money, but turned it down. This could lead to severe financial problems. This actually happened three months ago, but somehow was kept secret. How many other sports would be involved in such a major case and be able to keep it secret?


Weekend Coaching
This Sunday had our first group junior sessions since early December. But there were severe precautions, the number one being that everyone - EVERYONE!!! - had to wear a mask at all times, including players and coaches at the table. This was new, but I got used to it rather quickly. Besides, I had the best mask of anyone, my T-Rex Playing Table Tennis mask. (It was too tight at first, and was hurting my ears - and then I made the rather obvious discovery that it was adjustable, and then it fit perfectly.) One girl made the interesting point that the mask wasn't realistic - "Dinosaurs weren't purple!" she insisted. So . . . a purple dinosaur wasn't realistic, but a dinosaur playing ping-pong, no problem? Because we still have to limit how many players can be in a session, we had them in four groups. I worked in two sessions with two of the groups, mostly the younger kids.

I also did a sports psychology session last Thursday with one of our kids. (I'm not a sports psychologist, but have a lot of experience in it, as a coach and player, from reading, and from numerous sessions at the Olympic Training Center many years ago when I was at various times the manager/director/one of the coaches for the Resident Training Center Table Tennis Program in Colorado Springs for four years.) I used as a reference two books:

First, I went over a number of sports psychology examples and principles. Then I gave an assigned reading: I marked off about 2/3 of the chapters in Dora's book to be read in the next two weeks, and then we'll discuss the "Four R's" from the book:

  1. Reaction (use the 80-10-10 rule - 80% neutral, 10% celebration, 10% challenged response, i.e. instead of "That was terrible!" try "You can make that!")
  2. Recover (recover from the point, relax, etc., with nine methods listed)
  3. Ready (this is where you do your tactical thinking, with a very good listing of things to think about - "Think before you play")
  4. Ritual (to prepare mentally for the next point)

As a long-term assignment, I asked him to read the second book as well. It's longer, about 190 pages, and packed with info. I gave him six weeks to read this one, with one stipulation - any section he doesn't feel applies to him he could mark with a red X, and skip that section. Later we'll go over it and see if I agree with him. I also gave him a multi-colored pen and told him to feel free to mark up the books with notes in the margins.

USATT Coaches Meeting
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, Dan Rutenberg, Dave Fullen, Sameh Awadalla, and Britt Salter. Here's a group picture, and here's video of the meeting (57:43). Discussions included Stupa Analytics (see segment below) and the next step for USA Coaching Classes. We talked about what makes a good coach - as others pointed out, not all top players become good coaches, and not all good coaches started out as elite players. My input on this was that while some top players are students of their own game, while others are students of the game, period. The latter are the top players who become top coaches. As to non-elite players who become top coaches, they too have to become students of the game - but that means more than just watching videos. It means going to top training centers to observe elite training sessions, perhaps volunteering to assist (at least with the lower-level players - they might not yet trust you with the elite ones!), and so on.

An elite player may know what it takes to be a top player, but might not remember much of how he got there - it might have been 15 years or more since he was a beginner, and may not remember much of it, plus he was only a kid at the time. He also might not really know how to fix technique problems with most players, since he likely started with good technique, and so while he knows what a player should do, he might have trouble finding ways to fix a player's technique to make it correct. A non-elite player may have a better understanding of the struggles to develop their game and fix bad technique, but won't have the experience of watching the development of top players unless he goes out of his way to see it.

Stupa Analytics
Here's the new version, available in the Google App Store. USATT High Performance Director Sean O'Neill wrote "I tested in last week and there are many new and exciting stats that aren't available in the standard version. Ball Speed, a new heat map of shots, etc." Here's a USATT news item on Stupa Analytics from last year that explains how they analyze your game for you.  

Liu Guoliang's Instruction Course
Here's the video (2:58), featuring Lily Zhang and Adriana Diaz.

New from Samson Dubina

New from Ti Long

Short Table Tennis Touch in Motion
Here's the video (36 sec) from eBaTT.

Forehand Flick and Follow Up with a Forehand Topspin from the Middle
Here's the video (27 sec) from Nick Li TTA.

Chinese Backhand Flick Serve Return
Here's the video (2:20) from inMotion Table Tennis.

Weekly Training Lessons - The Business Card
Here's the ITTF video (4:23) - where "The Business Card" is a serve where you send the opponent a message.

How Table Tennis Can Change The World
Here's the video (15:10) from TEDx Talks.

Nikhil Kumar from Valley Christian
Here's the video (7:22) from 49ers Cal-Hi Sports, featuring US star and national team member Nikhil Kumar, who just turned 18.  

Why China Dominates the World of Table Tennis?
Here's the article from the News Interpretation.

The Evolution of the Table Tennis Racket: From 50 cm Long Handles to Boosters (and Everything in Between)
Here's the article. It's from 2017, but I found it pretty interesting.

Harmeet Desai Hopes to Break into Top 50 Rankings in 2021
Here's the article and interview on the world #73 from India, from The Hindu.

New from Steve Hopkins



Sally's U19 Taiwan Team Qualifications
Here's the article by Sally Moyland.

Table Tennis Canada National Team Newsletter Feb 2021
Here it is.

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

Man and Robot Break World Record for Most Ping Pong Balls Hit with Nunchucks in 1 Minute
Here's the article and video (3:03)!

Bored Lad Creates Incredible 'Sport' In Lockdown
Here's the video (3:26). It's official, we've been stuck inside too long!

Hand Switch Pong
Here's the video (22 sec) - can you count the hand-switches by Tahl Leibovitz (near side)?

Hop Pong!
Here's the video (14 sec) - "Champions don't do different things. Champions do things differently."

Funny Pics of Dogs Playing Ping Pong
Here's the page, with both pictures and animated gifs!

Ping Pong Player Cartoons
Here's the page!

When the Cat is Away...
Here's the cartoon!

Send us your own coaching news!