January 16, 2015

Writing Sabbatical Next Week

[NOTE - I'll have one more blog and tip on Monday (Jan. 19), and then start my writing sabbatical.]
As I wrote earlier this week, I'm taking a writing sabbatical next week, so this will likely be my last blog until Monday, January 26. (However, I'm thinking of doing one more on Monday, which I'd put together Sunday night - including the Tip of the Week - so check back Monday morning just in case.) I plan to write "Parents Guide to Table Tennis," and if I have time after that, work on my table tennis fantasy novel "The Paddle of Pong." It's going to be a busy week. Besides all the writing and the usual coaching, there's a bunch of USATT stuff going on, including a USATT board teleconference on Wednesday night. The current focus is the upcoming committee appointments - see below.

USATT Board Seeks Nominations for Committee Appointments

Here's the notice from USATT - you likely also received it via email, if USATT has an email address for you. (If not, contact them!)

One of the things I argued during the recent election campaign was that we need to take the word "Advisory" off these committee listings. Historically USATT is a group that does far too much advising and far too little implementing. That needs to change. We've already moved one step in that direction. Here's the current USATT Committees; note that all the non-standing committees (most of them) have "Advisory" in their names. After some discussion, the word was removed from the committee names in the call for applicants. However, they are still listed as "Advisory" committees, which implies that they are just there to advise, when we really need them to actually do stuff.

Besides USATT, I'm a member of several other organizations, such as Science Fiction Writers of American and (previously) the U.S. Tennis Association. Both groups are great at making use of volunteers via committees. SFWA is a master at this - I'm always amazed at how much they get done despite the constant politics. They've learned to separate the two. The committees get things done, and we can learn from them.

Here's my take on each of the 17 USATT Committees. (We also need a Ratings Committee; I'll make that motion later.) In many of these cases the current chair is eligible to return, and might do so. Some are doing excellent jobs.

Advisory Committees

=>Umpire and Referee Committee

This is an important post, with many responsibilities. However, I'm primarily looking for a chair who will push for umpires to enforce the rules, in particular the hidden serve rule. I've blogged about this repeatedly, such as here. The problem is the rules are rather clear, and yet there's little enforcement. The current rules state:

2.06.04 From the start of service until it is struck, the ball … shall not be hidden from the receiver by the server or his or her doubles partner or by anything they wear or carry. 

This is difficult for an umpire to tell. And since players know they can get away with it, they often hide the serve (a huge advantage), and the umpire isn't sure. So what is the umpire to do? Oh, there's a rule on that - in fact, two of them!!!

2.06.06 It is the responsibility of the player to serve so that the umpire or the assistant umpire can be satisfied that he or she complies with the requirements of the Laws, and either may decide that a service is incorrect. If either the umpire or the assistant umpire is not sure about the legality of a service he or she may, on the first occasion in a match, interrupt play and warn the server; but any subsequent service by that player or his or her doubles partner which is not clearly legal shall be considered incorrect. 

So if an umpire isn't sure if the serve is hidden, then he has to call it, usually with a warning the first time, and a fault thereafter. How much more explicit can you get than the second one above, where it says explicitly that if the umpire is not sure about the legality of a serve (i.e. if it was visible or not), then it's not legal? But the rule is rarely enforced. I want a chair who will push for umpires to enforce the rules. I still don't understand why this is even an issue - of course they should enforce the rules! But because of the laxness in enforcing them, we've created a culture among the top players (both in the U.S. and worldwide) where they know they can get away with illegal serves, and so many do so. This has to change. (Of course, the service rule would be a lot easier to enforce if we changed the service rule - see next item.)

=>Rules Committee

I'm tired of rules changes, so unless there's a huge reason, I don't want any more - except for fixing the hidden serve rule. Since we have so much difficulty getting umpires to enforce the hidden serve rule (see above), the simple solution is to change the rule to something like the following: "Throughout the serve, the ball must be visible to the opponent and to both umpires, or where the umpires would sit." I'm going to keep pushing for this rule, probably looking for a USATT tournament to test it, and then to the ITTF. I want a Rules Chair who will support this.

=>Seniors Committee

This could be a hugely important committee. Golf, for example, got very popular primarily through seniors. However, I haven't seen any real plans on promoting table tennis to seniors. This is not really my area of expertise, but I will be looking for a chair who will actively look to promote the sport to seniors.

=>Tournament Committee

This committee is perhaps more advisory, as they help out tournament directors. They work out the standards for the various star level tournaments. This is one of those committees that, if they do their job well, you don't notice them; if they do it poorly, they are noticeable. (The same is true of some others, such as the Umpire and Referee Committee.)

One big issue that keeps coming up is the idea of sanction protection. It used to be that if someone sanctioned a tournament on a certain date, if you wanted to run one on that same weekend you pretty much had to run it on Mars (or at least in a different region or far, far away). Now they've gone the other extreme, with zero protection, where if you run a million dollar tournament, someone else can run a rival one the same weekend across the street. I'd like to see a little moderation here rather than having to choose between these two extremes, but I'm not planning to get too involved in this issue - if I do, I'll be bogged down in it for the next four years. I'll be looking for a chair who is experienced in running successful tournaments who has good common sense.

=>Editorial Committee

I'll be looking for the obvious - someone with good editorial sense who'll help make our national publications high quality. Nothing special here.

=>Clubs Committee

I'd like an activist here, someone who will focus on developing clubs in this country. However, much of the Club Committee activities would coincide with the League, Coaching, and Juniors Committees (and perhaps the Senior Committee), so these people need together. I'm worried that we'll end up with each committee coming up with their own rival plans rather than working together. Since clubs are the place where all of these intersect, I'll be looking for someone here who can work with the others.

=>Hardbat Committee

As a long-time hardbatter myself (though I usually use sponge), I want a chair who looks to (duh!) promote hardbat table tennis. Nothing special here.

=>Leagues Committee

This should be one of the most important committees we have. I've blogged about this a zillion times, such as here; USATT needs to develop a regional system of team leagues. I'm working this now, and will likely work with this committee. I'm looking for a chair who is ready to get active.

=>Juniors Committee

Another one where we need an activist chair. This person needs to work closely with the Coaching Committee. The key is to recruit and train coaches who wish to be professional coaches or run junior programs.

=>Coaching Committee

Along with the League Committee, perhaps one of the two most important committees. We currently use the ITTF coaching program for certification. We need to go to the next level. I've blogged about this a number of times, such as here. I want an activist chair who's hungry to recruit and train professional coaches and those who want to run junior programs - i.e. set up a USATT Coaching Academy or equivalent.

=>Marketing and Fundraising Committee

We've never done this well, so of course I'm looking for a chair who will actually do these things. However, the new USATT CEO is focusing on these, and we recently hired a National Media and Marketing Consultant, so much of this might be happening with those two. So I'll be looking for someone with experience who can help with this.  

Standing Committees

=>High Performance Committee

This is a hugely important one, as they govern what USATT does for our elite and up-and-coming junior players. Much of this comes down to funding, and we're currently in a funding crisis here since USOC has, for now, cut our funding. Overall I'm happy with what they've been doing. The chair needs to be an open-minded person with experience, who can work in what might be the most difficult committee chair position - lots of people with strong but conflicting opinions here.

=>Nominating and Governance Committee

As I've blogged about, I believe we need to allow people to get on the ballot by petition, as before. I'm looking for a chair who will support this, as well as the usual fair-mindedness needed here. See #11 on my Election Page.

=>Compensation Committee

This committee is primarily responsible for staff salaries and related issues. Not really my area of expertise.

=>Audit Committee

Not my area of expertise, but we need someone we can trust to regularly audit our books.

=>Athlete Advisory Council

They advise our current and former top players. Need a fair-minded chair (duh!).

=>Ethics & Grievance Committee

Here we need a very fair-minded judicial type - so that's what I'll be looking for!

Exhibition at Smash Table Tennis

I'm doing an exhibition with Stefano Ratti at Smash Table Tennis in Sterling, Virginia, Monday at 8:30PM. Come join us! (Afterwards, at 9PM, we have an organizational meeting of the Capital Area Super League - I'm on the committee.)

Capital Area Super League

Here's a USATT news item on the new league. If you're in the DC region (Maryland & Virginia area), come join the Capital Area Super League!

New York Table Tennis League

If you are in the NY area, there's the NYTTL, which is now inviting players for the new season. (I'm mentioned in regard to my focus on leagues.)

Pro Table Tennis with Rowden Fullen

Here's an interesting table tennis site that has a HUGE number of coaching articles.

Returning Heavy Backspin

Here's the coaching video (4:48) from Tao Li.

Ask the Coach

Episode #59 (18:20) - World Ranking Predictions

  • Yesterdays #PQOTD  - 1:57: Who will be number in the World in Mens and Womens at the end of 2015?
  • #PQOTD  - 3:45: What is your favourite activity apart from Table Tennis?
  • Question 1 - 4:34: Hey Pingskills,, What is the best sort of bat and rubber you can buy? Brock
  • Question 2 - 6:02: Which Training camp did you guys join first before you started make Pingskills videos? Brock
  • Question 3 - 7:08: I put a second coat of sealer on the blade and then when i used free chack the glue was drying as fast as I spread it. It clumped up. I scraped the glue and tried putting more this time. When I put the rubber on the blade, the rubber is peeling off. John
  • Question 4 - 9:28: I am a righthander, I do a backhand serve from the left side of the table with my left foot further away from the table. If I dont know the ball is coming short I stand parallel to the table and kind of fall over. I cant figure out the problem. Manuel
  • Question 5 - 12:10: After they blocked my loop it touched the top of the net. When I touched it, because it has lots of topspin it went out. What should I do when the ball has topspin or underspin or sidespin and touches the net and bounces on my table. Long
  • Question 6 - 14:48: I noticed while playing against someone, their drive would sometimes 'sink'. Is this behavior dependent on the intensity of spin or power? I usually see this done with topspin but can this be done with other spins? Waley
  • Question 7 - 17:20: If I want to block a spin, should I do it slow or fast? Brock

Lily Yip Repeats as Coach of the Year

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. Here's the USATT notice on this from yesterday on the four big winners, which I blogged about Wednesday

Will We See a Top Defensive Play at the Top?

Here's the article by Matt Hetherington. 

Navin Kumar Plays Table Tennis for Life

Here's another article on my student at MDTTC - the "Bionic Man"!

Interview with Panagiotis Gionis

Here's the interview at the OOAK TT forum with the Greek chopping star and world #21.

One on One with NCTTA President Willy Leparulo

Here's the article and interview.

USOC Players and Teams of the Month

Here's the list for December - Jim Butler came in second in Men's, and the USA Junior Girls Team came in third for Teams. Phooey on luge, bobsled, and swimming!

Have Paddle, Will Travel

Here's the article as puzzle master Will Shortz plays table tennis in Casper as part of quest to be the first recorded person to play table tennis in all 50 states. I've been to all 50 states and have played table tennis in 47 (all but Alaska, Hawaii, and Connecticut), so he's about to one-up me. (Strangely, I can't get the text of the article to appear on my screen, just the headline, photo, and a bunch of gray lines where there should be text.)

Local Chicago Players Aim for Titles at 2015 Butterfly Aurora Cup

Here's the article by Barbara Wei.

Funny Point

Here's video (45 sec) of two kids going at it, with an unfortunate "What am I supposed to do about that?" ending!

Jan-Ove Waldner Drop Shot

Here's video (44 sec, including slow-motion replay) of the shot in an exhibition with Jorgen Persson. (That's Dan Seemiller doing most of the commentating, the one who says, "That's table tennis at its best.")

Rock-Paper-Scissors for Serve?

Here's video of Fukuhara Ai and Ichikawa Azusa doing rock-paper-scissors to see who serves at the start of a match - I've never seen this! (The link should take you directly to where they do this, 39 seconds in, but you could watch the whole video.)

Table for Two?

Here's the latest TT artwork from Mike Mezyan.

Business Pong

Here's the cartoon - and perhaps a reason little gets done at many USATT board meetings!


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