November 3, 2011
How Leagues Spur Growth
I was asked this morning who could (or would?) play in a nationwide table tennis league. I'd already talked about Germany and its 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players, England's 500,000, France's 300,000, etc., and how other sports also do this, and how these huge numbers come almost exclusively from leagues. Here's an excerpt of my response, which explains a bit more precisely and concisely how this happens.
"Anyone can join the league as part of a team representing a club, with the membership rate to be determined. This is the stage where new clubs are often certified or created, as players list the place they practice as their club (solving the U.S. problem of hordes of non-sanctioned clubs full of non-USATT players), or find and create ones for the purposes of the league (leading to hordes of new clubs, which soon fill up with new players who join the league, snowballing membership). There are always details to be worked out, which is why you go to experienced league directors (in club to club leagues) in the U.S., overseas, and in other sports to see how they did it, and then design a U.S. model."
There was a lot more written in the discussion, but I can't print what others wrote, and much of what I wrote only makes sense in the context of what others had written. I may write more on this later. However, one thing I've concluded is that it is far more likely that an independent group creates such a league - some are already working on it - than USATT, since independent groups can make and implement decisions in ways USATT is simply unable to do.
Plus, of course, leagues simply aren't among USATT's three vague "priorities," as decided at the 2009 Strategic Meeting (and unchanged), which are "Junior Development," "Grow Membership Through Added Value," and "Communications." I do agree with the "Junior Development" one, but not in the direction they are going, which I won't go into. The focus needs to be on recruiting and training coaches to set up and run junior programs. But nothing has been implemented from the task force on "Junior Development" in the two years since it was created.
Someone did say that I had convinced USATT at the Strategic Meeting that leagues should be a priority, and I responded, "On the contrary, I completely failed to convince everyone, or even a majority, that leagues should be a priority, which is why it did not become one of the three priorities. Please, nobody argue otherwise; if a majority agreed that leagues should have been one of the top three priorities, than it would have been one of the top three priorities. A huge opportunity was missed."
In the Nov/Dec 2011 issue of USA Table Tennis Magazine, I have a coaching article on footwork entitled, "Are You a Tree or a Squirrel?" This is my 1300th published article (plus four books). Wowie! Here's a listing of all 1300, many linked online - why not spend the next few weeks reading them all? Here's the opening paragraph of the article:
"Squirrels run circles around trees, and there's a lesson there. If you are a tree, you just stand there, rooted to the ground, waiting on each shot to see if you have to move. By the time you realize you have to move - how often does your opponent happen to hit the ball right into your forehand or backhand pocket so it'll hit right in the middle of your paddle? - it's too late, and so you can only awkwardly reach for the ball. There are no proud redwoods in table tennis, only weeping willows."
Samson Dubina returning half-long balls
Here's Samson topspinning half-long balls, with his forehand (1:57) and with his backhand (1:46). These are balls that, given the chance, the second bounce would be just off the end. These are difficult for some players to loop, but once you get the knack, they are easy to topspin.
The Art of Table Tennis
Here's a video (4:05) of amazing points from 2010 and 2011. A lot of both great forehand and backhand play - many such videos focus mostly on forehand shots. Don't miss the Samsonov backhand counter-kill at 3:29, which they then show in slow motion from two angles.
The Table Tennis Collector
The November, 2011 issue of The Table Tennis Collector just came out, their 62nd issue. The Table Tennis Collector is a quarterly magazine published by the ITTF Museum. If you are really, Really, REALLY interested in table tennis history, especially U.S. history, then buy some of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis books. You won't be able to put them down.
The NBA and Table Tennis
Table Tennis Nation talks about NBA players and table tennis, including Michael Jordan, Yao Ming, Rod Higgins, Carmelo Anthony, and Speedy Claxton. (If you want to see more basketball players, or other athletes and celebrities playing table tennis, see the Celebrities Playing Table Tennis page.)
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