November 26, 2014

Last Blog Until Monday

I'll be coaching at the North American Teams this weekend (Fri-Sun), and so this'll be my last blog until next Monday. If you're there, stop by and say hello!

USATT Election

Below is Part 3 of my series of blogs about my plans if elected to the USATT Board. Here is my Election Page, and here's the USATT Election Notice. Here's my blogging schedule:

  1. Monday, November 24: Create a Nationwide System of Regional Team Leagues
  2. Tuesday, November 25: Create State Associations
  3. Wednesday, November 26: Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches
  4. Monday, December 1: Turn U.S. Open and Nationals into Premier Events
  5. Tuesday December 2: Create a Professional Players Association, and Professionalize the Sport
  6. Wednesday, December 3: Other Issues (Balloting opens on this day, and continues until Dec. 27.)

Create a USATT Coaching Academy to Recruit and Train Professional Coaches
=>The Goal: Large numbers of coaches, training centers, and junior & adult programs.
This leads to large numbers of juniors and adult players. The Academy would expand on the current ITTF Program. Since the coaches pay for their training (as they do in the ITTF program and in other sports), the system pays for itself.
More Training Centers => More Junior Programs => More Players and Higher Level of Play

First, a brief history. At the December, 2006 USATT Board Meeting I gave a presentation on how and why USATT should get involved in the recruiting and training of coaches and directors to set up full-time training centers and junior programs, with the goal of 100 successful ones in five years. Two board members openly argued that there weren't enough players in the U.S. to support such training centers, and the rest either nodded their heads or kept silent. They missed the obvious - that the point of such centers was to develop the interest, not rely on the current non-interest. But they didn't have the vision to see this (or at least didn't speak up), and so they checked the item off the agenda and went on to the next forgettable item. I tried again at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting, but again couldn't find interest from USATT leaders.

Back in 2006 there were only 8-10 such training centers in the country, and in 2009 they were just starting to pop up around the country. Now there are 78, with most of them running junior programs. Once a successful model was shown, others rushed in and copied it. And so, with little help from USATT, full-time centers have risen all over the country. (Just four years or so ago Maryland had just one full-time center - MDTTC; now there are seven within about a 30-minute drive, in Maryland, Virginia, and DC. More and more are opening in California around the Bay Area and LA, in the NY/NJ area, and other locations.)

Now 78 full-time training centers may seem like a lot, but it isn't; we've barely tapped the surface. My best guess is that we could comfortably have 500 to 1000 such full-time centers in this country. (Eight years how many believed we'd have 78 now?) Each time one opens it increases the local activity, bringing in more and more players and turning the region into a hotbed for table tennis. When one first opens, it does temporarily take some players away from other local clubs, but that's just temporary - soon they are adding players to the local table tennis community, and everyone wins.

As these centers open, guess who also wins? USATT, as it both gains members and rises in the world rankings with the elite players produced by these centers.

I was so disgusted at what happened at that 2006 board meeting that I resigned my position as USATT Editor and Program Director. (I was equally disgusted by the 2009 meeting.) However, I'm hoping that the current board is more open to such things, now that we've seen the rise of full-time training centers in the intervening years. It is time to get involved.

So what should USATT do? It should actively recruit and train coaches and directors to open such centers. Sure, we could just sit on the sidelines and let things happen on their own. Or we can get involved and spur it to the next level, as other successful sports do. USATT wouldn't be taking control of these centers; they'd be recruiting and training interested coaches and directors so they can do this themselves. USATT already has the ITTF coaching program, which I endorse, but it doesn't go far enough. It only teaches coaches how to coach. Here's what USATT needs to do:

  1. Actively recruit coaches to become professional coaches. We need to show that coaches can make good money as coaches, which happens to be true. I know many coaches who make over $100,000/year. And I make good money as a coach!!!
  2. Train them on the business of being a professional coach. This includes teaching them how to open a full-time center; how to recruit and retain students; creating and running programs (junior training, adult training, classes, training camps, leagues, tournaments), how to maximize profits, etc. I've already written and published the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which covers much of this, and which I'll donate at cost to this program. (Retail cost is $5, but I can donate them at my cost, which is $2.15 plus shipping.) I'm told that someone is writing a manual on opening full-time centers, and I hope to meet with that person at the USA Nationals to discuss what needs to go into it. Right now every time someone wants to open such a training center he has to either start from scratch, or find someone else who's run one and grill them for info.

And that would be the purpose of a USATT Coaching Academy - to recruit and train coaches to be full-time professional coaches who open full-time training centers and run junior training and other programs. There is some gray area here. Should the USATT Coaching Academy be at a specific location, perhaps at one of the full-time training centers? Or should it move around, with the program taught at different centers? We can decide that later.

How do we go about creating a USATT Coaching Academy?

  1. Step One: Create the curriculum. USATT already teaches ITTF Coaching Courses, but the problem with that is that it teaches how to coach, but not how to be a professionalcoach. We need a curriculum that also teaches how to find a place to coach, solicit and keep students, set up and run junior training and other programs, how to maximize income, and all the other issues faced by professional coaches. Most of this is already covered in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote and would make available at cost. One aspect that's not covered that much in the handbook is setting up full-time centers. A manual for that is a must, and would be part of the curriculum. Perhaps the two could be combined into one manual.
  2. Step Two: Hire someone to teach the course. Ideally we'd bring in someone who is already teaching ITTF coaching courses in this country, who can simply add the additional curriculum. (Richard McAfee, are you listening?) This person would also likely be in charge of creating the curriculum for item #1, with my assistance if needed. 
  3. Step Three: Find a site or sites to teach the course. They could take place at full-time clubs with successful junior programs and top coaches so the prospective coaches can see how a successful program works. Ideally we'd use various centers around the country - we have a number to choose from now!
  4. Step Four: Solicit people who wish to become full-time professional coaches, as well as ones who wish to run junior programs. It's not enough to simply put out a notice and hope some people show up. We need tosellthe program, very publicly showing and advertising how coaches can make very good money - typically $40 to $50/hour, and more for group sessions, plus various commissions. We need to create a corps of professional coaches, who not only know how to coach, but are activelycoaching and running junior programs, with the emphasis on those who wish to do so full-time or who wish to run junior training programs. The coaches would pay for their training, just as they currently do for the ITTF courses (and in other sports), and this would pay for the person running course and other expenses. 
  5. Step Five: Run the program, and the USATT Coaching Academy is born!!! I'll likely be there assisting at the start - as an unpaid volunteer if I'm on the USATT Board. 

It seems to me that much of what I've written is rather obvious. Back in 2006, we had at most a few dozen kids in the whole country doing serious training for table tennis, while countries all over the world had thousands. So we obviously needed more junior programs. That meant more training centers.

More training centers => more junior programs => Ariel Hsing, Lily Zhang, Crystal Wang, Amy Wang, Kanak & Prachi Jha, Jack Wang, Alguetti Brothers, Derek Nie, Victor Liu, Krish Avvari, Kunal Chodri, Felix Gao, Michael Tran, Nikhil Kumar, Erica Wu, Angela Wang, etc., etc. (with huge apologies to those not mentioned - the list is just endless). It used to be we’d have perhaps one good player in each age group, if we were lucky. Now the player that would have been good is often just a quarterfinalist. Eight years ago Derek Nie, Victor Liu, Michael Tran, or the Alguetti brothers would have dominated their age group. Now they are just in a pack of such great cadets – and not since the days of Eric Boggan have we had juniors like Ariel, Lily, Crystal, Amy, Kanak, and Jack. Players that used to make the final of age events now can't make the final 16.

And all of this remains true whether we have 8, 78, or 508 full-time training centers. So let's get involved and start recruiting and training these coaches, and watch the sport grow.

The Ping-Pong Apartments

Here's a perfect encapsulation of why I'm running for the USATT Board - "The Ping-Pong Apartments." I'm running to fix the Ping-Pong Apartments. And I plan to continue to be a Man in the Arena. I hope others will join me!

Why I Can Work with the USATT Board of Directors

Here's what someone wrote on the Mytabletennis forum:

"I have seen Larry running kids camps with as many as ten to twenty 6-12 year olds.  The camps run a lot smoother than you would expect.  If he can keep those kids on task, working with the USATT Board of Directors should be a piece of cake." -Aman1234

Health Benefits of Table Tennis

After my interview on Sunday with a reporter from the Washington Post I sent him links to articles on table tennis and health. Here's what I sent him - feel free to use these to promote table tennis!

  1. MDTTC's Health Benefits of Table Tennis
  2. This Is Your Brain on Table Tennis
    "Table Tennis is the No. 1 Brain Sport, Scientists Say"
  3. The Secret of Ping-Pong
    "Dr. Oz reveals the secret behind ping-pong: it can actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The game requires hand-eye coordination, quick decision-making and the rapid eye movement of the game requires the brain to do intensely fast analysis. Predicting where the ball will fall demands mental power and constant recalculation."
  4. Sport and Art Education Foundation Table Tennis Therapy Program
    "SAEF Table Tennis Therapy Program is an innovative tool designed to benefit early stage Alzheimer's individuals through carefully supervised instructions in 'table tennis therapy.'"
  5. Analysis and research on the benefits of table tennis activities in improving the fitness of teenagers
  6. The Health Benefits of Table Tennis
  7. Ping-Pong: Never Too Old for Gold
  8. What Are the Benefits of Playing Table Tennis to Lose Weight?
  9. Why Ping Pong Just Might Be the Elixir of Youth
  10. U.S. Aerobic Ping Pong

New USATT Magazine

Here's the new Holiday Issue - it just went online! I haven't had a chance to look over the issue yet. I have two articles in it:

North American Teams

As noted above, I'll be coaching at the North American Teams this weekend (Fri-Sun). As of this writing there are 815 players on 207 teams registered - here's the listing. I went through the entries, and I believe these are all the teams, in order, where the average rating of the top three are over 2500. (I've put the team average at the start.)

  1. 2772: Atlanta Inter TT Academy 1 - Zhang Chao (2876), Lin Chen (2800), Xu Ruifeng (2640), Shi Diwei (2627), and Xia Chu (2600)
  2. 2734: Team JOOLA - Chen Weixing (2776), Quadri Aruna (2750), Joerg Rosskopf (2677)
  3. 2700: China Shan-Dong Provincial Table Tennis - Cao Jin Ze (2700), Zhang Jie Te (2700), Zhang Shang (2700), and Li Bochao (2652)
  4. 2688: Westchester Elites - Feng Zhe (2766), Zhang Kai (2664), Liang Jishan (2633), Feng Yijun (2577)
  5. 2627: Spin New York - Michel Martinez (2685), Damien Provost (2681), Jon Ebuen (2516)
  6. 2610: Tianjin University - Zhao Yang (2663), Guo Kai (2600), Xu Ran (2567), Li HaoSong (2300), Yu DeXin (2200)
  7. 2596: Stars of the Future - Zhao ZiRui (2710), Zhao GaoXing (2600), Jack Wang (2478)
  8. 2588: LYTTC Professionals - Adam Hugh (2619), Yoo Chang Jae (2604), Grant Li (2540), Cory Eider (2533)
  9. 2576: Maryland TTC A - Chen Ruichao (2601), Jeffrey Xun Zeng (2585), Wang Qing Liang (2541), Nathan Hsu (2440)
  10. 2576: Maryland TTC B - Lu Ying (2606), Wu Tong Yu (2600), Han Xiao (2521), Chen Bo Wen (2520), Harold Baring (2492)
  11. 2511: Girls Power - Zheng, Jiaqi (2565), Ooka, Hiroka (2512), Wu, Yue (2456), Tong, Fei-Ming (2431)
  12. 2505: Robo-Pong One - Samson Dubina (2514), Zhang Yahao (2511), Xavier Therien (2491), Sameh Awadallah (2454)

Samson Dubina Coaching Articles & Videos

Here are some new coaching articles from the Ohio coach and top player.

Ask the Coach

Episode #35 (17:05) - Which Serve is Best?

  • Discussion - 0:19: The ITTF World Tour Grand Finals
  • PingSkillers Question of the Day - 4:06: Have you ever seen yourself play on video and did you find it useful?
  • Question 1 - 5:25: Should players allow their opponent to examine each others rackets before a match? - Shezie
  • Question 2 - 6:34: Is it better to serve short topspin serve or would it be better to serve short side spin serve. Or a short side topspin serve? Luke
  • Question 3 - 8:48: Should I first explain grip, let them play with proper grip. Then stance, footwork, ball mechanics, full strokes etc? Or should I explain a full stroke including all those aspects and then correct all aspects together while observing? Dieter
  • Question 4 - 11:37: When i go to tournaments, i see some players playing a long stroke and some playing short stroke. Which will suit me best? and what factors does it count for the type of stroke i play? Which is the more advisable stroke, short or long? Earl
  • Question 5 - 14:38: How does Kenta do his tomahawk serve both reverse and normal one, it is quite difficult to return that serve. Could you give me some clue to make that serve even better. Long

International Table Tennis

Here's my periodic note that you can great international coverage at TableTennista (which especially covers the elite players well) and at the ITTF home page (which does great regional coverage). TableTennista has a nice article "Quadri Aruna Receives Recognition" - he'll be at the North American Teams on Team JOOLA.

Incredible Rally, Incredible Shot!

Here's the video (23 sec).

Kitty-Kat Pong

I think it's a cat!

Easter Island Table Tennis Federation

Here's the cartoon!

Shaun the Sheep - Table Tennis Championships

Here's a new video (62 seconds) where Shaun the Sheep demonstrates the best lobbing skills you'll find around the world - and when I say "around the world," I mean that!


Send us your own coaching news!