February 15, 2017

When I talk to members about how to develop the sport in this country, one seemingly simple idea inevitably comes up - they want to know why we haven't become an NCAA varsity sport. It would seemingly solve many of our problems, adding exposure to the sport, giving players incentive to develop their games in high school so as to make a college team (and perhaps get a scholarship), and of course lead to huge numbers of college players, and perhaps college table tennis on TV. It'd be the answer to our prayers! It's also something I looked into shortly after I became a USATT board member.  

Alas, the devil really is in the details, and it turns out that becoming an NCAA varsity sport isn't something that's going to happen in the foreseeable future, though perhaps someday. When the topic was raised recently via email from a player, I CCed Willy Leparulo, president of the National College Table Tennis Association (NCTTA), with my response, and asked for his input. Here is his response. (My response was somewhat similar, but without the detail Willy provides.)

Hi All,

(Thanks to Larry for ccing me on this email).

So Larry is correct that the NCAA option is very difficult to do. This is something that I have been working on for over a decade and as an organization we are no longer actively pursuing this option. Let me explain why.

1) NCAA is not accepting sports for men or coed, it is ONLY doing so for women. Currently College TT is a coed sport, not just only men or only women.

2) In College tt currently about 25% is women, not a high percentage to start with

3) There is a large proposal process that we have to go through and we have gone through its requirements and seen that we would not be able to reach the goal without a serious grassroots effort (i.e.) High School table tennis support.

In addition, it requires that 10 Athletic Directors where Table Tennis already exist to agree to sponsor (with letters of commitment) the sport at a Varsity level (highest level). We have not had success. Currently only one NCAA institution sponsors table tennis, Lindenwood University. (Note: Texas Wesleyan is not NCAA but offer scholarships and is a varsity sport.)

If we managed to get these 10 letters of commitment than we would have a decade to get 40 schools to become a full-fledged NCAA sport, and this is the killer of this all, these schools do NOT have to sponsor scholarships for the players. It is up to the school in question. The whole concept for us was being able to provide college scholarships for Table Tennis more than the affiliation of being with NCAA.

Here is the information that was provided to me a couple months ago (I get regular updates from NCAA):

On the High School table tennis side, I really wish there was more effort pushed into this area. We as NCTTA are only able to cover Collegiate Table Tennis, but we do help the NYTTA (the organization that handles High School TT in the USA) as much as we can. https://nytta.us/

Our current approach is to create as many scholarship programs in whatever kind of school be it NCAA or NAIA or any other type of collegiate organization possible. We feel that scholarship schools may be easier to help foster then being a championship sport in NCAA or NAIA. There were 3 schools that we have been assisting to help get scholarships for Table Tennis on board, all 3 fell apart when the Athletic Director's bosses (Board of Directors) of that school nixed the idea. There is interest, but it is unfortunately not catching as I thought it would be.

Last year we attended the NAIA national conference where we were invited to speak to 150 athletic directors in NAIA, we plan to attend every year as there is interest. Our overall goal is to get more schools to create a scholarship program though.


On a related note, Willy mentions high school table tennis above. Many believe that getting table tennis into the schools is the secret to developing table tennis in this country. Alas, we've tried many times, and while it sometimes happens locally, in general U.S. schools simply aren't interested in a small sport (in this country) like ours. When we grow the sport ourselves (through club-based programs), then the schools will be interested in us, and that's when they might be able to take us to the next level. But we have to get this started ourselves, though club-based programs such as junior and coaching programs, and leagues. That's how the sport developed, for example, in Europe. (In China, it was often school-based, but that was because the government ordained this. That doesn't happen in the U.S.)

How to Recover After a Wide Forehand
Here's the article and podcast (6:16) from Expert Table Tennis. (My book, Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers, is mentioned in the article.) One small note on the article: It says, "If you play a pivot forehand – where you go around the corner of the table and you play a forehand from the backhand side – what you want to do is make sure you never play it down the line. If you play that shot down the line you’ll be giving your opponent a really easy diagonal block which gets you wide out to your forehand making it tough for yourself."

I generally agree with this, and of course the article is focusing on how to avoid getting caught with those angled blocks to the wide forehand. But there are two times where you might want to loop this ball down the line. First, some blockers crowd the backhand, assuming you won't go down the line, and so leave it open. Against them, a down-the-line loop is an easy winner - so you should go that way if you can ace the player. (This is actually one of my favorite tactics.) Second, some blockers are slow on the forehand side, and if you slow loop down the line, they aren't quick enough to attack it, and so may have trouble with this variation - and the very slowness of the loop gives you time to cover that wide forehand. On the other hand, during my heyday I was very quick to cover my wide forehand, and looping down the line there was usually suicide - but I always had trouble covering loops into my very wide backhand, the ones Ben recommends.

Why learning to play table tennis is like learning to drive a car
Here's the new article by Coach Tom Lodziak. This is an excellent analogy that I might steal. I usually tell players how they must trust their subconscious, which is the whole point of training, to develop that muscle memory, which is exactly what you do in both table tennis and driving a car.

USATT Board Unanimously Elects Anne Cribbs as New Chair
Here's the USATT article.

USATT Club Logo Program
Here's the USATT article. "Does your club logo represent the true passion for the sport? Want to stand out from the crowd? USA Table Tennis (USATT) announced today a partnership with Manna Creations to offer USATT Affiliated Clubs the opportunity to design its own customized logo for use on websites, apparel, and more! For just $100, clubs will receive a design consultation with Manna Creations’ Charlie Jahner, the choice of two customized logos, and multiple file formats for virtually every use (embroidery file not included)."

USA's Brotherhood of Table Tennis Ready to Take on France
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington on the Alguetti brothers in France.

History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 18 (1990-1991)
Here's chapter 21! Or order your own print copies at TimBogganTableTennis.com.

Love Table Tennis
Here's the video (7:27) featuring the "Ten Best Table Tennis Shots." (I don't think I've linked to this.)

One-Legged Looping Pong
Here's the repeating video (7 sec) - why can't you loop like that with your TWO legs? He has amazingly good form. I wonder if he was a top player who lost a leg, or learned to play with only one leg?

Mario Brothers Pong
Here's the video (2:05) as plumber Mario and his brother Luigi go at it! (For you really young know-nothings, it's from the Mario Brothers video game.)

Deadly Green Monster Plays Pong
Here's the picture!

Non-Table Tennis - Funny Horror
This anthology of humorous horror stories went up on Amazon just yesterday. It includes a story by me, "Happily and Righteously." (Yes, they paid me for it!) The story is about paranoia, where every paranoid thing comes true, and features numerous assassins out to get you, a "deadly green alien" (see coincidental segment above!) and "the unimportant person who is no longer a part of this story" who keeps popping up in strange situations. The story was cited by the reviewer as one of the best in the anthology, and described it as "Brilliant!"

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