February 7, 2023

Next Blog on March 6
Next Blog will be on Monday, March 6. However, the Tip of the Week will go up every Monday. I’ll be out of town at the Samson Dubina Elite Camp in Akron, OH, Feb. 13-23, and then coaching at the US Junior Team Trials in Charlotte, NC, Feb. 25-28.

Tip of the Week
Blocking Spinny Loops.

USATT Election for Board Chair – an Illegal Chair of the Board and Other Problems
USATT had a board meeting on Zoom last night. Amazingly, Richard Char was re-elected as chair of the USATT board last night despite not being eligible to run. Here’s the short version.

After serving just over three months as chair of the USATT “interim” board, Richard Char was elected chair of the permanent board on June 1, 2020, to complete the term of the previous chair, who had resigned. According to the bylaws, there was supposed to be an election for chair in January, 2021, but despite reminders, he claims he forgot about it. As of June 2, 2021, he had served over one year as chair and so his first term was officially a full term, as per the bylaws. On Dec. 6, 2021, after 18 months as chair (21 if you include his three months as chair of the “interim” board), and just before the election for four athlete reps, Char said he had forgotten to run the election and so they held the board chair election eleven months late. He was re-elected as chair and began his second term. However, stuck into the wording of the motion was that it was “effective” Jan. 1, 2021 (eleven months before), thereby trying to retroactively make his first term less than one year and so not a legal first term. However, as of June 2, 2021, he had already served over a year, the bylaws say he had served a "full term," and nothing can change that reality. It would be as if the US congress  or Supreme Court were to vote that when Obama or Bush Jr. were re-elected to a second term, they retroactively made those elections effective two years before, so that their first term would be less than two years, and thereby not counting as a "full term," thereby allowing them to run for third term. (It’s likely that some board members did not understand the implications of the wording at the time. Now they do.) So, as of June 2, 2021, Char had served over a year and so his first term was a “full” term. He was re-elected on Dec. 6, 2021. They then ran the next election for the chair on Feb. 6, 2023, 14 months later, which is also over a year, and so Char had completed a second “full” term. The bylaws do not allow a chair to run for three consecutive terms, and so Char was not eligible to run again. 

Now the longer version. (Feel free so skip ahead if not interested in USATT stuff.) For reference, here are the USATT Bylaws, the USATT Minutes and Actions page, and the USATT Agenda and Notices page.

=>Feb. 26, 2020: Richard Char is elected chair of the USATT Interim Board by a 4-0 vote.

=>June 1, 2020: USATT Permanent Board is seated. Richard Char is re-elected chair, but this time of the USATT Board, not just the Interim USATT Board. However, since Anne Cribbs, the previous chair, had been elected chair in January 2019 to a two-year term, Char was only elected to complete her term after she resigned at the end of 2019. So Char would only be chair until Jan. 1, 2021, when there would the next election for chair. (Char does not contest this.) Here’s the bylaw on that:

Section 8.6. Resignation, Removal and Vacancies. ... A Chair elected to fill a vacancy shall be elected for the unexpired term of such Chair’s predecessor in office.

=>Jan. 1, 2021: The date passes, and the first board meeting of the year is held Feb. 1, 2021, but no election for chair takes place, violating the bylaws. Kagin Lee, former chair of the USATT Rules Committee, writes a letter to the board on March 28, 2021, pointing this bylaw violation out. (He wrote of the USATT board, "Now it cannot follow the simple instructions regarding when terms begin and end - not only board members' terms, but also the chair's: 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.") I blogged about this twice. Others (including me) point this out during later board meetings in the Zoom chat. But no election is held. Informally, we are told that Char’s term is through Jan. 1, 2022, after which there would be a vote for chair. As per the bylaws, Char’s term continues until his successor is elected.

=>June 2, 2021: USATT Chair Richard Char has now served over one year as chair of the permanent board, meaning his term now counts as a full term, as per the bylaws. You cannot retroactively change this fact.

=>Dec. 6, 2021: There are elections for four player reps to take place at the start of 2022, after which there’d presumably be an election for chair of the board after his apparent two-year term ended in February 2022. However, with five days’ notice to the board, Chair Char suddenly calls an “urgent/special” board meeting on Dec. 6, 2021, saying that he “forgot” (direct quote) to hold the election for chair of the board in January of 2021, eleven months before, as required by the bylaws. The public notice of the meeting went up the morning of the meeting on Monday, Dec. 6, 2021. Many of us, including me, argued that with four new board members coming in, and since they had already waited eleven months, and since there had been such short notice about the election, they should wait another month or so and then have the election for chair, with the new board. However, this was not done. At the meeting, Char wins re-election, 5-2, and so would preside over the next year over a board that was about to change quite a bit with four new athlete reps coming in.

The wording of the motion was even more problematic. Here’s the motion from the Dec. 6, 2021 meeting:

RESOLVED: That Richard Char is elected as Chair of the Board effective as of January 1, 2021 to serve until January 1, 2023 or until his successor is duly elected and qualified. The Board acknowledges and ratifies Richard’s service as Chair from January 1, 2021, to date.”

Even though Char had served as chair of the permanent board from June 1, 2020, to the vote on Dec. 6, 2021 (18 months, plus three months as chair of the interim board), the vote tries to retroactively change that to having him getting re-elected on Jan. 1, 2021, which never happened. The reality is that as of June 2, 2021, he had served over a year as chair, making it a full term. Nothing can change that, not even a later vote of the board. It would be like the US congress voting that Obama or Bush Jr. had only served one term and so were able to run for president again. But by trying to make the vote retroactive to Jan. 1, 2021, it tried to create the fiction that his first term was only seven months (June 1, 2020 to Jan. 1, 2021) – meaning it wasn’t a full term, making him eligible to run for another term. According to the bylaws:

Section 8.5. Term Limits. No individual shall serve as the chair for more than two consecutive terms, or for more than three terms in any eight (8) year period. In the event the chair serves a partial term, any term served more than one (1) year shall constitute as a full term.

In reality, Char’s first term as chair of the permanent board was from June 1, 2020 to Dec. 6, 2021 (18 months, plus the three as chair of the interim board), and he was re-elected on Dec. 6, 2021 to a term that would end when they held the next election for chair, on Feb. 6, 2023, or 14 months. Both terms were over a year, and so are considered full terms. Result? He’s served two full terms as chair and isn’t eligible for a third consecutive term. HOWEVER . . . by retroactively claiming he was re-elected eleven months before he was actually re-elected, the claim is that his first term wasn’t over a year, making him eligible to run for another term. But it isn’t reality. (It’s likely some board members didn’t understand the implications of the wording of the motion. Now they do. But those who did the motion, or wrote the text for it, knew exactly what they were doing. Alas, this administration doesn't include in the minutes who makes and seconds the motions, so we don't know who did it. Previous administrations did so, with more detailed minutes.)

=>December 2022: It’s looking like board member Dan Reynolds, one of the ones who voted against Char in the previous chair election, will run against him for chair of the board. Behind the scenes there is much discussion as it looks like it could be a close vote. Two interesting things happen.

  1. On Dec. 27, 2022, SafeSport temporarily suspends Reynolds due to an anonymous accusation of a SafeSport violation. (We don’t know how far in advance the accusation was actually made.) This could be completely legitimate – we don’t know. But the timing is somewhat suspicious. We’ll have to wait and see on this. But I’ve been told these things are often resolved rather quickly. Alas, this one has not, but nobody knew that at the time.
  2. The bylaws (Section 20.2) require that the 2023 budget be approved by Dec. 31, 2022. No vote is taken on this, violating the bylaws. This would have implications.

=>January 13, 2023: With Reynolds temporarily suspended, and with 30-days’ notice required for a regular board meeting (and one already scheduled for Feb. 6), Char calls for an “urgent/special” board meeting to vote on the budget, claiming it was necessary since they were late on approving the budget. Here’s the key thing – if the budget had been approved by Dec. 31, 2022, as required by the bylaws, then all would have been fine. But by violating the bylaws, it gave a pretext to call the “urgent/special” board meeting for Jan. 13, 2023, which they can do with five-days’ notice, as opposed to the normal 30-days’ notice required by the bylaws, or wait until the already scheduled Feb. 6 meeting – and then, since the budget meeting now takes place after Jan. 1, 2023, after the expiration of Char’s term, the bylaws require they vote for the next chair.

Section 8.2. Election/Selection. The Chair of the Board shall be elected by the Board, as the first order of business at the Board meeting following expiration, removal, or resignation, incapacity, or death of the previous Chair

Result? By not approving the budget in 2022 as required by the bylaws, it both gave a pretext to call an “urgent/special” meeting in January, 2023 to approve them (rather than wait until the Feb. 6 meeting), while coincidentally forcing an immediate vote for chair of the board while Reynolds is under the cloud of temporary suspension and legally unable to take part in USATT activities. (The temporary suspension says that Reynolds cannot take part in any “USATT-related activities and events.”) If they waited until the Feb. 6 meeting for the chair election, and it was very possible that his case might have been resolved by then. (It hasn’t yet.)

So what happened on Friday the 13th in January? The meeting was called with five-days’ notice to the board. However, unlike all past board meetings in modern times that I know of, there was no notice in the USATT Agendas and Notices page. Bylaw 7.24 says, “Ordinarily, all meetings of the Board shall be open to members of USATT,” and then gives provisions for the board to vote to close a meeting for executive session – but what’s the point of having an “open” meeting if it’s held in secret, with no notice to the membership? (And since there was no vote for executive session in advance, it was an “open” meeting.)

So it was a secret meeting. The membership had no idea that there was going to be a meeting that would include voting for chair of the board for the next two years, and so were unable to give input to their representatives on this. A number of board members objected, believing they should wait until the Reynolds situation was resolved or at least until the Feb. 6 meeting. But the chair has the power to force these things and rule on many other matters. (That’s why these elections matter.)

However . . . when the Zoom meeting took place, only six of the twelve board members attended. Since they were one person short of a quorum, they were unable to hold the vote. That night a vote went out to approve the budget by email. It was approved with “unanimous written consent.” So the “urgent/special” budget meeting wasn’t really necessary. (Any discussion of the budget was already done via email.)

=>February 6, 2023: The meeting was held last night (Monday). Tara Profitt nominated Char to run for re-election. Player rep (and current US Men’s Singles champion) Nikhil Kumar nominated Thomas Hu to run for chair. Char wins, 7-2-1. Nobody brought up the issue of Char’s eligibility. 

My personal opinion is that some of these board members are living in a bubble. (And three of them, including Char, are non-table tennis people, brought in by the USOPC, and know little of our sport. The other two have supported Char in every vote taken since they joined the board in 2020.) Many on the board have also become overly chummy, seemingly supporting each other out of friendship and team unity rather than just the merits. Those who disagree on something feel great pressure to go along with the others. When there are problems, they “circle the wagons.” There's also a huge amount of politicking behind the scenes, with board members often changing their votes once they realize their candidate probably won't win, jumping on the bandwagon and allowing them to be on the "winning" side, often making close votes not so close. I’ve seen the same thing happen in past boards, leading to many of the same problems we have here. (This type of thing also happened during my two tenures on the board, though not as much as is happening now.)

Yes, Char runs the meetings efficiently, as one board member said. So has every past board chair. The problem is how the power of the chair is used – and if you’ve been reading my blog over the past few years, you’ll know I’ve pointed out all sorts of abuses and bylaw violations. I don’t see the potential for that to change until the next set of elections at the end of 2024. (At some point before then I may have to do a complete listing. It’s long. I also disagree with many of their policies, but that's a separate issue.)

I don’t like writing about this stuff, but someone has to. If USATT just followed their own rules, nobody would have to. 

Weekend Coaching and Training in Akron
I coached in four group junior sessions over the weekend. Most memorable part – teaching a group of them during break how to blow the ball in the air! But on a more practical level, some of the things I worked with players on included recovering from shots from the wide angles (follow through back into position), especially after playing a forehand from the wide backhand or forehand; keeping the ball wide during practice drills (“What you do in practice you will do in a match”); follow up the serve with an attack unless the opponent does something to stop it (as opposed to the old-fashioned thinking of serving and attacking only if you happen to see an easy shot); teaching beginners to smash (backswing regular or even lower, then raise the racket up); and a lot of work on serves.

One small/medium/maybe large worry – I was a practice partner in one session for 30 minutes, and my shoulder was hurting. Right now the shoulder hurts if I extend it or raise it over my head. How fast can I heal at my age? (63 in three weeks.) This is worrisome, since, as noted last week’s blog, I’m going to the Ohio Elite Training Camps– as a PLAYER!!! Yes, I’ve decided to get back in shape. The camp is for players rated over 2000. The level of play will be very high – look at the current list of 23 players, with more likely to enter. It’ll be the first time since 1980 that I won’t be among the strongest players in a camp! (I could, of course, train at my own club, but it’s easier in a group, and at my club I’d be either a coach or practice partner in our camps, which are for junior players.)

Help Wanted - Table Tennis Head Coach
Here’s the notice from the Triangle Badminton & Table Tennis Club in North Carolina.

Ping Pong: The Triumph
The movie comes out on Feb. 17, but was released in China on Jan. 22. It tells the story of China’s comeback in the early 1990s, when Europe (and especially Sweden) had begone to dominate table tennis. “Based on an amazing true story, Deng Chao stars as Cai Xinhua, the man entrusted with forming a new national table tennis team. Assembling a motley crew of dynamic personalities, he must inspire and rally them to rise to their best against the face of incredible competition during the championships.” 2hr 20 min. Trailers are in Chinese with English subtitles, so presumably the movie will also have English subtitles. The listings give the actor's names but not who they play, but presumably the five members of the 1995 Chinese Men's Team at the Worlds (Kong Linghui, Liu Guoliang, Ma Wenge, Wang Tao, Ding Song), Coach Cai Zhenhua, as well as the Swedes. The trailer shows someone who apparently plays Waldner, though it's not a good resemblance. Here are some links:

University of Maryland Table Tennis Club Fundraiser
Here’s their GoFundMe page to help them raise funds to go to the 2023 National Collegiate Table Tennis Championships! They have raised $1690, and so are over halfway to their goal of $3000. C'mon, chip in!

How Should I Practice?
Here’s the video (5:42) from Samson Dubina and Sarah Jalli.

A New Strategy Was Born This Match
Here’s the video (13:07) from Seth Pech (vs. Wilson Wei).

Butterfly Training Tips

New from Pingispågarna

New from Ti Long

New from PingSunday/EmRatThich

New from PongSpace

Backspin to Win
Here’s the video (4:46) from Table Tennis Central.

Tahl Leibovitz
Here’s the video (1:36) from Jimmy Butler. “A fun congratulations to 47 year old Paralympian Tahl Leibovitz. He needed one tournament to gain 234 points last week at Westchester, New York TTC. His previous career high USA Table Tennis Rating of 2531 was when he was 26 years old in 2002. In American table tennis, the computer rating is how we identify level from player to player, so it is always a fun moment for a player when that computer rating is at its highest point!”

Artificial Intelligence vs. Ma Long!
Here’s the video (4:17).

Istvan Jonyer | The Greatest Sidespin Looper Ever
Here’s the video (5 min) about the 1975 World Men’s Singles Champion (and many other titles).

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

New from TT11TV
Lots of new videos here!

New from Taco Backhand

New from Steve Hopkins/Butterfly


 ITTF News

There’s No Crying in Table Tennis
Here’s where you can buy the shirt at Amazon!

Beetle Bailey
Here’s this past Sunday’s cartoon, “Fight to the Death”! Here’s my archive of 31 Beetle Bailey table tennis comics

But Dad, I Love Him!
Here’s the cartoon!

Jesus Came to Serve
Here’s the cartoon!

Pajama Kitchen Pong
Here’s the video (19 sec)!

Somersault Pong
Here’s the video (23 sec)!

Bounce with this Racket, Win $100
Here’s the video (8:06) from Pongfinity!

MozART Group Table Tennis
Here’s the video (4:24)! It’s from four years ago but I don’t think I’ve linked to it.

Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions
Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions, my best science fiction novel – which includes a lot of table tennis! – has been republished by Phoenix Pick Publishers, with a new cover and a few minor internal changes. Get your copy today!!! (Or any of my other books.)

Send us your own coaching news!