January 3, 2022

Tip of the Week
Outcome Versus Process.

The Usual USATT Rundown
Sometimes, when I think about USA Table Tennis, I just want to cry out, "USATT, USATT, USATT!" :) Here's a quick rundown, hopefully the last one for a while, other than general news. But we'll start with the positive. (Skip ahead if not interested in USATT issues.)

=>USATT 2021 Year in Review. Here's the video (17 min).

=>USATT Athlete Elections. USATT First and Second Elite Athlete Elections Certified – Nomination Period for Third and Fourth Athlete Positions Opens.

=>USATT Announces 2021 All-American Honors. Here's the announcement! Three of the players named are from MDTTC and started out with me, and I still work with them in groups sessions and coach at tournaments - Stanley Hsu, Mu Du, and Ryan Lin. (But they work extensively with the rest of the MDTTC staff.) I've also worked with a number of others in camps and tournaments recently in Ecuador and Jordan, and in past USATT camps. Congrats to all! (Interesting note - I've coached or coached against all 17 of the boys, and 11 of the 17 girls.)

=>USATT Board Chair of the Board. Back in February, 2020, Richard Char was elected chair of the USATT Interim Board. The "Permanent" board took office in January, 2021. At that point, there should have been an election for chair of the board since Char had only been elected chair of the Interim board. However - they didn't hold the election. There were complaints about this, including comments some of us remember (such as by Willy Leparulo, president of NCTTA) in the comment section of USATT Board Zoom meetings. Long-time former Rules Chair and International Referee Kagin Lee emailed the board about this on March 28, 2021, saying, "The chair's term expired at the end of 2020 and there should have been an election of a new/renewed chair at the first meeting of the year." While nothing is in writing, I remember it being explained that Char had been appointed to a two-year term, ending in February, 2022, which is next month. When the athlete elections for four board spots began a few weeks ago, this was a key issue - who should be the next chair, with the upcoming election in February. Many of them were not happy in the direction of USATT and might favor a new chair. With four new athlete reps replacing the two current ones (USOPC required the increase), the board was about to change dramatically. So what happened?

On Dec. 6, out of the blue, there was a notice in the USATT Agenda and Notices page that there would be a USATT Board Meeting that night, with election of the Chair of the Board on the agenda. At the meeting, Char admitted that there should have been an election in January, 2021, but said that he "forgot" - that's a direct quote. (Will it be in the minutes? We'll see. I'm guessing no.) So he, the CEO, and the two USATT lawyers all forgot about this, despite reminders at Zoom meetings and Kagin's email, until they were faced with an election that might bring in four athlete reps who might not support them? Okay. There was little time for anyone else to consider running against him or put together any campaign. He ran unopposed and won, I believe 5-2. (Take out the two current athlete reps who voted for him, add in four athlete reps who likely won't, and suddenly it's 3-6. For further perspective, only one of the five who voted for him was actually elected to the board.) They did make his term only through January, 2023, when his term would have ended if they had held the election in January, 2021.

So, what are the odds that they really "forgot" about the election, as opposed to interpreting Char's initial term as a two-year term, but changing that interpretation when it became convenient? You can judge for yourself, but there's no way of reading their minds. But let me quote from the USATT Staff and Volunteers Code of Ethics:

"Recognize that even the appearance of misconduct or impropriety can be very damaging to the reputation of the USATT and act accordingly."

An argument for holding the election as soon as they "remembered" it was that, until they did so, there was no elected board chair. (I won't get into the legality of nearly a year of board meetings without an elected chair, by this new interpretation.) And so, yes, they should have held the belated election as soon as they "remembered" it - but with one catch. Since it was their mistake, then rather than have outgoing board members choose the chair for the incoming board members, and thereby saddle the board with a chair most did not vote for, they should have simply voted for another "interim" chair, through February (and so after the athlete elections), and then hold a new election for chair at that time. Then, whoever wins - whether it be Char or someone else - would truly represent the board. Isn't that what we want?

=>USATT Membership. I keep hearing celebratory talk of USATT having "record membership." They claim membership this past year shot up from 4600 to 8900. That's a good thing! But let's take it in perspective.

  • First, the reason membership was down to 4600 was because of the pandemic. It's normally around 8000 or so.
  • Second, 8900 is not a record. Membership broke 10,000 twice. It did so circa 2005, but then they raised membership rates from $25 to $40, and lost 2500 members in a year. (In 2021 dollars, that's raising the rate from about $36 to $57.)
  • Third, the recent increase is the obvious result from dropping the basic membership rate from $75/year to $25/year, the reverse of what they did in 2005. In 2005, IMHO they raised it too much too quickly; this time, again IMHO, they dropped it way too much. The result is that to get the same revenue at $25/year as $75/year they need triple the membership. Perhaps $40 to $50/year would be a good number for basic membership.

=>"Discussions" with Virginia. At the US Open, as I walked out of the playing hall and down the hallway back to the hotel, I was confronted by USATT CEO Virginia Sung on several issues. (This was in a public place, witnessed by one board member who listened in and numerous others who walked by, with neither of us saying it was off the record, so there's no expectation of privacy here.) I'm still debating whether to give the blow-by-blow - but much of it would end up being my word vs. hers.

It all started with her again claiming she wasn't "involved" in the High Performance Committee's change of the Selection Rules, a big issue from a year or so back. She had called me on the phone and convinced me to take out that mention in my blog, saying it wasn't true, that she hadn't been involved in it, and talked me into doing so, despite two people telling me she had. As it turned out, she had argued for it in a Zoom meeting and in an email to the HPC, and after the 3-2 vote, one of the members even emailed that Virginia had convinced her to change her vote - so she was heavily involved, as my initial blog said, and as I wrote in the following blog once I had more info. (I also made a mistake - I thought the video of Virginia arguing for the change was at the meeting where they took the vote, but it was at a different meeting. But that doesn't change the substance of the argument.) She now says that when she said she wasn't "involved," she meant she hadn't voted on it - but of course she didn't vote for it, since she's not on the HPC, but my blog never said she voted on it, only that she was very involved, which she was. (Involved: "having a part in something; actively participating in something.")

She also insisted that she had no choice but to get involved in the HPC's discussions on this, that she is required by the USATT Bylaws to do so - and she was surprised, even scornful that I didn't know this. I looked this up in the Bylaws, and later went back to her and pointed out this wasn't true - see pages 33 (Section 9.16. High Performance Committee and Para High Performance Committee) and 45 (ARTICLE XIV CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER). The closest thing is the HPC is required to make recommendations to the CEO, not the other way around. When I pointed this out to her, she quickly changed to saying she felt that, as CEO, she should get involved - which was completely different from what she had been arguing before. (But as I wrote last week, I'd rather a CEO who focuses on the big picture and on raising money, and stays out of these issues.)

We discussed other issues - some covered in my previous blog - but I don't think it's going to accomplish anything giving the blow-by-blow. I really don't like writing about these types of USATT issues. Anyone want to talk about ball placement? :)

=>US Open. In my blog last week, I wrote about the problems with the US Open. In the following days I did some updates. The number of confirmed Covid cases is now at 31 (though of course there are actually far more, as these are just those who were tested and who announced they were positive); I added a long paragraph under "Scheduling" on how to stop the cascading effect; and added two segments, "Loudspeaker" and "Event Finishing Day."

=>USATT Youth Trials Petition. This morning I was sent the 2022 Junior Trials Petition. When it was sent to me, I did make a few editorial suggestions, but I didn't originate the petition, nor did I see or know about it until this morning. When I got the final copy, I put it online on my own. The petition pretty much speaks for itself - it's unfair that both of the US Junior Team Trials are held in the same area on one coast. IMHO, it would be better to have an annual trials at the US Nationals in July, when kids are out of school and almost all at the Nationals anyway. The petition is in response to the USATT news item of a few days ago, USATT Announces Dates and Locations for 2022 US National Youth Team Trials. If you agree with the petition, then I'm told you should send it to the USATT Board of Directors, the CEO and HPD, and to admin@usatt.org.

I'm sure there are arguments for having them this way - but as usual, USATT doesn’t communicate these things as they communicate at the 1000 level. I heard they plan a USATT training camp between the two, for example, but somehow they left that out of the news item. Or perhaps they only hope to run one, and so aren't committing yet. I don't know.  We shouldn't have to ask USATT about these things - they should be telling us. Regardless, I don't think the benefits outweigh the arguments against, as noted in the petition - including the Covid problem. That's a long, expensive 11-day trip to the west coast, with lots of missed school, plus the COVID problem just recently got much worse. (31 known cases from the US Open, and that's likely just the tip of the iceberg.)  

UPDATE - USATT has delayed the Youth Trials due to Covid

Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips
Here are the first three books in the series:

Notice a pattern? Tentatively, the next two will be "Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips" and "And Yet Still More Table Tennis Tips." One big change - the first three volumes had 150 tips each, but I'm switching over to 100 tips per book. (The Tips are compiled from my weekly Tip of the Week, but put in order by topic.)

I thought the next volume would be out this month, but I made a silly mistake. When I do a tip, I put it into a master volume, with a # after each tip. When I want to know how many tips I've done, I just do a count of the #'s. I reached 100 a couple weeks ago - or so I thought. Then I discovered that one tip mentioned a number of world-ranked players with their ranking, and so had 16 #'s in the tip, plus it was used two other times. So there were 18 #'s in the tips themselves, meaning I only had 82 tips!!! I should hit 100 tips on May 2, and the next volume should then come out soon afterwards.

Books I Read in 2021
Here's the listing. I ended up with one book per week, at 52. It was a wide range - 21 fiction, 9 science, 13 history, 4 sports psychology, 3 writing, and but only 2 on table tennis. I have a small stack of table tennis books that came out the last two years - I should probably read them this year. But the 52 is a "down" year for me - I usually read more. For comparison, the previous four years, 2017-2020, I read 57, 84 (!), 68, and 67 books. I think I did too many crossword puzzles this year. (Plus I did a lot of science fiction writing.)

New Butterfly Training Videos

New from Samson Dubina

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from Ti Long

New from the Performance Biomechanics Academy Table Tennis

Ask the Coach
Here's the PingSkills page.

Is Table Tennis Defense Dead?
Here's the video (9:13) from Coach Jon.

New from Steve Hopkins

2021 U.S. Open – U15 Girls Teams
Here's the article by Isabella Xu.

Here's their news pagevideo page ("World Table Tennis") and home page.

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

Ma Long Guides Children to Play Table Tennis in Macau
Here's the video (2:12).

2021 Table Tennis Rewind
Here's the video (12 min) from Table Tennis Media.

Certified Ping Pong Champ
Here's the video (9:15)!

Table Tennis Battle
Here's the dramatic video (1:43) from PingSunday/EmRatThich!

Double-Edge Serve
Here's the video (20 sec) from Table Tennis World!

Table Tennis, Archery, and Blondie
Here's the cartoon!

You Want a Pong Shirt?
This is my Ping Pong Shirt!

Non-Table Tennis - Another Fiction Sale
Yesterday I sold another story, "Soul Testing in Major League Baseball," to Daily Science Fiction. Forget steroids - what happens when major league baseball players sell their souls illegally to Satan to become stars? Finding ways to test for souls leads to an ever-escalating battle between players and Major League Baseball. It's my 124th short story sale and second sale to Daily SF.

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