Florida Colleges

February 28, 2014

Making a Living at Table Tennis

I started this article by writing, "Not a lot of people in the U.S. do it," but by the time I was through, I decided to change that to, "A surprising number of people in the U.S do." So who and how does one make a living at this Olympic sport?

  • Professional Players. Right now there's really only one USA player who is basically a full-time professional player, Timothy Wang. Historically we've rarely had more than one or two at a time, though a few times we've had several making a living at it in the German and other European leagues, especially back in the 1980s. (Edit - I'm told that USA's Chance Friend is also a full-time professional player, playing in the German Leagues.) 
  • Coaches. There are a LOT of professional coaches out there. The numbers dwarf where we were just seven years ago, before full-time training centers began popping up all over the U.S.  My club, MDTTC, has seven full-time professional coaches, including me. (The other "full-timers" at my club work longer hours than I do, but I do many of the group sessions.) Four other local clubs have roughly another ten. That makes at least 17 full-time professional coaches within a 45 minute drive of me. There are equal or larger number of coaches in a number of other regions in the U.S., such as the bay area and LA in California, the NY/NJ region, and others. I would guess there are hundreds of full-time professional table tennis coaches in the U.S. right now, all busy plugging away day after day. The irony is that they mostly coach at about 50 clubs, so the other 350 or so USATT clubs never see them, and so most USATT members and leaders are oblivious to what's going on out there. (Want to make a living at table tennis? Then get a copy of the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook!)
  • Staffing at Professional Clubs. Many of these clubs have professional staffing that run the clubs. MDTTC used to have hired staff at the desk, though now the coaches and owners do this. I'm guessing there are several dozen people making a living primarily running professional clubs. Many of them may have other duties - some also coach part-time, as well as run other activities, such as tournaments.
  • Running Tournaments. A number of people run regular tournaments, but how many make a living at it? Primarily North American Table Tennis. They are closely affiliated with JOOLA USA, with some of their staff working for both. Overall, several people are primarily NATT staffers making a living running their North American Tour and the North American Teams. A number of others make a supplementary income from tournaments, but I don't know of others in the U.S. where it is their primary income. 
  • Leagues. Unlike Europe and Asia, there are few large-scale leagues in the U.S., mostly just small clubs ones. I believe Mitch Seidenfeld makes much of his living running leagues in Minnesota, along with other activities. There are large leagues in the New York, SF Bay area, and LA regions, but I believe they are all volunteer run.
  • Dealers. This includes both those who own such businesses, and their staff. The bigger ones are JOOLA, Paddle Palace, Butterfly, and Newgy. (I was shocked recently at how many people now work for JOOLA USA - not all are listed in their staff listing - but I'm not sure they want the exact numbers public.) There are also a lot of smaller dealers. I'd say well over a hundred people make a living in the U.S. this way.
  • Entertainers. The main ones I know of are Scott Preiss, Adam Bobrow, and Soo Yeon Lee. Scott's made a living for several decades as a table tennis entertainer. He's hired by corporations to put on shows, often at equipment expos and conventions. Adam's a stand-up comedian and actor (including lots of voice acting) who more and more is moving into table tennis entertainment. Soo is an actress, model, and does table tennis shows - sometimes playing in high heels! You don't have to be a superstar to do what they do - at their peaks, Scott and Adam were pushing 2200 level, which is good but not great - while Soo, former South Korean junior champion, is about 2450. All three have mastered the art of flamboyant table tennis play, and all have repertoires of trick shots as well as the usual toolbox of spectacular table tennis play, such as lobbing, long-distance serving, smashing, etc.
  • USA Table Tennis. USATT currently has nine people in their staff listing, each making a living at table tennis. I used to work for USATT, as magazine editor for twelve years (also as webmaster and programs director), and as manager/director/coach for four years for the resident training program they once had at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.
  • Authors. Every year a number of new table tennis books come out, but they are primarily just added income for the writer. Only one person in the U.S. that I know of is really making substantial money right now as a table tennis writer - ME!!! Last year I actually made more money as a writer than as a coach, though that was primarily because of the surprisingly sales from my book Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. (I've lazily cut down on my coaching hours as a result.) While continued sales of that and my other books will help, I expect my coaching will make more money this year. I also make some money for articles I write, and a small amount from this web page via advertisers.
  • Anything I missed?

USA's Kunal Chodri Picture Featured by ITTF

Here's the article!

Ma Long and Fan Zhendong

Here are two articles featuring these two. Sixteen-year-old phenom Fan recently beat Ma for the first time

Girls in Training

Here's a great music video (3:21) showing top junior girls training in Europe.

Jo Drinkhall Aerobic Table Tennis

Here's the video (3:24), featuring the British #1 woman.

Florida Colleges

Here's the article, Great Showing from Florida Colleges at Local Tournament.

LA Dodgers Play Table Tennis

Here's the article and a video (7 sec, looping over and over) of pitchers Brian Wilson and Chris Withrow playing. The article claims the Dodgers are better than the Orioles in table tennis, but sorry, it's not even close. I've watched half the Orioles play, and coached three of them, and I've watched this video, and it's like comparing U.S. table tennis to China. The Orioles have 5-6 players who would destroy either of these Dodgers players. JJ Hardy would beat them so bad they'd be sent back to the minors to work on their ping-pong.

Ping Pong Anime Series

It's coming this Spring - here's the article! This reminds me of the old anime cartoon series Ping-Pong Club from the mid-1990s.

Hovering Table

Here it is!

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