August 24, 2011

The Creation of a National Franchise-Based League

I put together a rough proposal for a professional league for our top players - see below! Feel free to steal this idea, though it'd be nice to credit me.

Highlights from 2009 Worlds

Table Tennis Master has put together a great video (11:21) compiling the greatest points from the 2009 Worlds. Enjoy!

The Rise of Table Tennis

Here's an interesting article on the growing popularity of table tennis.

Connor Crane, football, and table tennis

Here's an interesting article on football star Connor Crane and table tennis.

Kevin Garnett, basketball, and table tennis.

Here's a 37-second news video on basketball star Kevin Garnett in China, where he plays table tennis at the end.

Update on back problems

After putting it off all summer while we held our training camps at MDTTC, I finally saw the physical therapist yesterday. (The earthquake hit while I was in the waiting room - see below!) It turns out the stretching I've been doing for my back, mostly up and down, wasn't helping; it was side-to-side stretches that were needed. Already the back feels a lot better, and I almost feel ready to play again. For the next few weeks I'll be doing five minutes of back stretches three times a day, and meeting with the physical therapist twice a week. The good news is she thinks I might be ready to play again in three weeks. She knows how strenuous it is, and I'd obviously start by taking it easy. Meanwhile, I have others (John Olsen, John Hsu) doing my hitting for me while I coach. Plus I'll get this weekend off (my busiest coaching time) since I'll be coaching at the New York City Open.


While in the waiting room yesterday for my 2PM appointment with the physical therapist (see above), the Great East Coast Earthquake of 2011 hit. The news reports had it as a 5.8, then upgraded it to 6.0, then downgraded it to 5.9, then downgraded it again back to 5.8. (If we get angry aftershocks, we know who to blame.) They evacuated the building for half an hour while they checked for obvious cracks, then invited us back in. The therapy session was only 45 minutes late. The earthquake was apparently the strongest in the region in at least a century. 

Mostly non-table tennis: car, house, dog, and Larry repairs

Over the last 48 hours, I've had car, house, dog, and Larry repairs. Here's the cost-benefit analysis.

Car repairs
Reason: Engine was making vibrating sound and other problems, plus general checkup.
Cost: $457.91
Benefit: I can get to club to coach to make money, and to grocery store to buy food using this money, and so won't starve to death.

House repairs
Reason: The neighborhood townhouse association asked me to fix the rotting wood under the front windows of my house.
Cost: $149.50
Benefit: By repairing this, the townhouse association won't throw me out of my house, thereby making me homeless.

Dog repairs
Reason: My dog, Sheeba, is 13 and a half years old, and needed a tune-up.
Cost: $182.00
Benefit: She's still alive and begging for bacon snacks.

Larry repairs
Reason: My aching back!
Cost: $183/hour for initial diagnosis, $65/hour thereafter.
Benefit: I might play table tennis again.

Non-table tennis: Escape Pod mention

I was mentioned in an article on alternate realities in Escape Pod, with my SF story Tom the Universe cited as an example of using a black hole to create an alternate universe! Also mentioned in article were my peers, Albert Einstein and Max Planck.


The Creation of a National Table Tennis League

A Professional USA Franchise-Based League
DRAFT (Yes, feel free to make changes. I actually put this together years ago, and did some minor updates this morning.)
By Larry Hodges


To start up a championship league system for top U.S. players, with the goal of becoming a major league with TV, spectators, substantial salaries for players, and profits to owners.

The League will most likely start up in one region, one with a substantial population base and top players. It is hoped that other regional leagues will start up separately, which would lead to playoffs and a possible “World Series” final.

For the first two years of the league, to get the league off to a successful start, the League Commissioner shall have near absolute say in all matters.  All rules may be changed or waived by the commissioner at any time during the first two years, but only for extenuating circumstances. This is to avoid bureaucracy. Only a 2/3 vote of the owners can overturn a decision of the Commissioner during this period.

It is the goal and plan of the NTTL to have the owners take compete control of the league after two years.  As the league’s finances improve, player salaries and/or bonuses will increase, as will owner profits.

During the start-up phase of the league, it is hoped that owners, players, officials, spectators and volunteers will assist in all ways possible to get the league off to a successful start. Owners and players need to look at the NTTL as a long-term investment, and do whatever possible to make the league a success during the formative years. It is hoped that the league will be a financial success within the first two years.


§         All teams will represent a geographic area, preferably a city.

§         All teams will adopt a team name.

§         All teams may have six players on the roster for the season, although only three may play in a given meet.  Changes in team rosters must be made with at least one week's notice, with approval of the commissioner.

§         Players must reside within 50 miles of team’s home venue.  This rule is primarily to allow players to play at least half of their matches locally, and may be changed eventually or waived in certain cases.

§         To be eligible to compete in the NTTL, a player must have attained a minimum rating of 2200 at some time in the two years previous to the start of the league. (This may be waived by the Commissioner in specific cases.)

§         All players on a team must wear matching uniforms, but different from the opposing team’s uniforms.  It is recommended that teams contact manufacturers and distributors to get sponsors for this, with assistance from the commissioner and executive director.

§         The two highest rated players who compete in at least 12 of 14 team matches during the first year automatically have right to be on roster for the same team in the second year.

§         Each owner will designate who the team coach will be.  This person may be anyone, including the owner or a player on the team's roster.


§         All teams will play two team matches per month.

§         Team matches will be scheduled on Friday nights, Saturdays or Sundays in such a way that no two team matches ever take place on the same day. In this way, the Executive Director may attend and publicize all meets.

§         The League would meet for six months of the year, with each team playing a league match roughly twice each month.  These numbers may vary, depending on the number of teams in a league. If there are eight teams in a league, then each team would play seven home matches, seven away matches, or 14 team matches total.


§         All league matches will be best of 9, with 3-person teams, with each player on each team playing the 3 players on the other team.

§         Generally, teams would play against all other teams in the league twice, once at home, once away.


§         All franchises will be responsible for holding half their meets in a home playing area.

§         Playing area shall have one feature table, two practice tables (preferably in separate region), and adequate seating for spectators.

§         Venues should have concession sales available.


§         Owners would pay a $3,000 franchise fee, plus $2,000/season (starting the second year), payable to NTTL. (These numbers may be adjusted by the commissioner.)

§         Upon buying a franchise, an owner has perpetual rights to that franchise for the duration of the NTTL, unless he sells these rights with 2/3 approval of other owners. New franchises can only be accepted upon approval of the commissioner in first two years, and of 2/3 of owners thereafter. The franchise fee will be decided by commissioner in first two years, by owners thereafter.

§         Owners will elect a president, vice president, treasurer and secretary from among themselves; however, they will mostly be an advisory function for first two years, except for the treasurer, who will maintain all financial records.


All team matches will be umpired by an umpire hired by the NTTL. Local owners will pay this umpire $20/team match, but no expense money.  Umpires are expected to dress in appropriate uniforms. When finances improve, officials may be paid more.


§         Concessions

o       100% of concessions go to the local owner.  Concession income must be reported to NTTL.

§         Ticket Sales

o       10% of ticket sales go to NTTL.

o       10% of ticket sales go to the Championship Fund.

o       25% of ticket sales go to the local owner.

o       15% of the ticket sales go to the visiting owner.

o       40% of ticket sales go to the 6 players in the meet.

q       60% of this money goes to the winning team’s three players, divided evenly.

q       40% of this money goes to the losing team’s three players, divided evenly.

§         Other Expenses

o       All local expenses, including $20/meet fee to the match umpire, will be paid by the local owner.

o       Visiting teams must pay all their traveling expenses; however, local owners should assist in providing hospitality when possible.

§         NATT Fees

o       90% of all NTTL fees (after expenses) go to the Executive Director.

o       Remaining 10% goes to the Championship Fund.

§         Championship Fund

o       The Championship Fund will be split by top four teams in the league in the following proportion: 1st 40%; 2nd 30%; 3rd 20%; 4th 10%. Players who win these funds split them evenly in proportion to how often they played.


For the first two years, the volunteer Commissioner's word is final in all matters. The Commissioner will hire the Executive Director to run the league for the first two years. After two years, the owners will create bylaws, and run the league themselves via a hired Executive Director.

Executive Director

§         He shall organize and publicize each meet. 

§         He shall work with local owners in bringing in paying spectators, media, and sponsorships. The Owners and Commissioner will work closely with him on this.

§         He will do whatever is necessary to turn the league into a success.

Sample Match Finances

This is just at the start - as league grows, there would be more money from more spectators and sponsors.

§         100 spectators, $5ea, $500 total

o       $125 to local owner (minus $20 umpire fee and other expenses), plus concessions

o       $75 to visiting owner

o       $50 to NTTL

o       $50 to championship fund

o       $120 to winning players ($40 each)

o       $80 to losing players (about $27 each)

Championship Fund

If there are 8 teams, and each team plays each of the other teams twice, there will be 56 team matches. At $50/meet, there will be $2800 in the Championship Fund. This is just at the start - as league grows, there would be more money from more spectators and sponsors.

§         1st:             $1120

§         2nd:            $ 840

§         3rd:            $ 560

§         4th:             $ 280

NTTL Finances
Annual Income for 8-team franchise

§         $2000/franchise/year, or $16,000

o       $1000 of the $3000 initial franchise fee goes to expenses and league promotion.

§         10% of all ticket sales, or $2800

§         (Sponsor money additional)

§         Total annual fees: $18,800 minus expenses

o       80% to Executive Director

o       20% to NTTL


§         Flyers

§         Phone & fax

§         Promotion

§         Other?


Send us your own coaching news!

The NTTL matches should definitely include doubles as a regular component. With only three players of the 6 person team playing singles, 2 of the other 3 who didn't play singles would play a best 4 of 7 doubles match after the singles are over. Set up the match points so that the doubles match counts double points (or whatever) so if the singles matches results aren't a complete blowout, the entire match could be decided by the doubles.  This would force coaches to make strategic decisions about which 3 play the singles and which 2 play the doubles finale. That would be a very exciting conclusion to a match and doubles are fun for spectators!



Do think it would be better for each major table tennis state to have statewide leagues, and then have that blossom into a national league?  Or, do you think it would be better to just start a national league from scratch?

I think the ideal situation is for USA Table Tennis to create a model of a U.S. league that states and regions can use. This is not a matter of USATT imposing its model on others; it's about having such a model so those interested in creating leagues will have a model to work with. This is how it was done in table tennis and other sports all over the world. At the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting, I argued strongly that USATT should meet with German, English, and others from European table tennis leagues at the Worlds, to find out how they had created their leagues. (Key is how they started them, not how they are now.) Since we already send numerous officials, this wouldn't have cost anything. Then we take this info, study other successful leagues in other sports, and then get successful table tennis league directors in the U.S. to meet and create a model for a USA Table Tennis League that can be used by those interested. Sadly, none of this has happened that I know of; USATT is perpetually in a cycle of things we're going to do without actually ever doing them. (I might put this in my blog tomorrow.)