April 20, 2017

USATT Board Meeting, and No Blog Until Next Wednesday
Tomorrow morning I’m flying out to San Jose, CA, for the USATT Board meeting on Sat & Sun in nearby Milpitas. I won’t get back until Monday night. I’ll have a lot of work to catch up when I return, so I’m going to take Tuesday off as well to catch up – so no blog until next Wednesday. I’m going to the meeting as a member of the USATT Board as well as the recently appointed chair of the Coaching Committee.

We’ll be staying at the Courtyard Marriot in Milpitas – which, I discovered by chance when I looked it up on Google Maps, is practically across the street from the full-time Silicon Valley TTC. So I may walk over there after dinner on Friday night. (Gee, this could be my big chance to do what I’ve always dreamed of doing – walk into a table tennis club dressed in a gorilla suit, and challenging and beating some of the top players – all without saying a word! If I did this at my own club, MDTTC, they’d all recognize my strokes, plus they’d figure I’m the only one who would do this. Hmmm...except I don’t own a gorilla suit, drat…)

On Saturday morning we’ll be watching advanced training at the ICC club. I may come dressed to play – perhaps they can use a practice partner! (No gorilla suit here.) Then we’re scheduled to do a quick tour of some local full-time clubs – Fremont TTA, Table Tennis America, and perhaps others, time and location permitting.

Then, starting right after lunch, the board meets for the rest of the day. That night we have the option to play in the ICC Saturday Night Advanced League. I’ll likely play in it. (I better go practice my serves.) On Sunday we meet all morning and into the afternoon. Afterwards we have a visit planned to the Alameda TTC. After that we attend the ICC annual fundraiser.

Items on the agenda include:

  • USATT Events Update (USA Nationals, U.S. Open, World Veterans, other USATT Events). Regarding the World Veterans next year, I’ll be doing daily coverage of that.
  • Advisory Committee Roles and Responsibilities.
  • Resource Development Committee Proposal.
  • High Performance and USOC Update (HP Director update, upcoming events, funding)
  • CEO’s Report (membership, clubs, tournaments, sponsorship, fundraising)
  • SafeSport Update and Bylaw Amendments. This is going to be a real headache. I’ll likely blog about this next week. I took the tutorial and quizzes – took just over two hours.
  • Financial Update and Discussion
  • Service Judges Update (a proposal to have, in some matches, service umpires at the court ends, behind the players, so as to better judge serves, which was tried out at the recent College Nationals)
  • Board Fundraising and Philanthropy Seminar
  • Closed session for legal update
  • Approved Tournament Venues and Regulations
  • NewCo/Table Tennis USA (involving them running or promoting certain USATT events)

ITTF Presidential Election, Illegal Serves Question, and ITTF Commenting
As I posted back in January, the upcoming election for ITTF president is a three-way battle between incumbent Thomas Weikert of Germany, ITTF Deputy President Khalil Al-Mohannadi of Qatar, and superstar player Jean-Michel Saive (former #1 in the world and Men's Singles Finalist in 1993). "The elections will be held on Wednesday 31st May at the Annual General Meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany, to be held on the occasion of the Liebherr 2017 World Championships." Here are their campaign statements:

All 222 member associations will be able to vote in the election, including USATT. Who should we vote for? I’m not a one-issue person, but perhaps the most important issue to me regarding the ITTF is their taking action on the problem of illegal hidden serves, which I’ve blogged about many times. (More on that in my note below, especially in the commentary in my proposal.) And so on Tuesday morning I decided to ask the candidates about this. I posted the note below under Saive’s statement. A note popped up saying that I would be receiving a verification email from ITTF that I needed to respond to, to verify I was real. However, no such email came over the next 20 minutes or so. There was a link to have it resent, and I did so multiple times, but still no email. Finally I emailed the ITTF webmaster and ITTF media director about the problem. They responded by saying they were looking into it.

The following morning, Wednesday, out of the blue, I received three verification emails. I responded, and my posting appeared under Saive’s note – but with a notice that it would not appear to others until it had been approved by ITTF. I then posted similar notes to the other two candidates, with the same result. I emailed the ITTF webmaster and media director that I had received the verification emails but was waiting for ITTF approval.

Another day has gone by, it’s now Thursday morning, and my notes still haven’t gone up. I don’t know why – presumably either they object to my note and won’t approve it, or they’ve set up such a cumbersome approval process that any serious discussion isn’t possible. Whatever it is, I can’t seem to get my posting to show up. So I’ll post it below. (You can click on the links above to see the campaign statements and any comments, from me or others, and see if they’ve “approved” mine and put it up. As of this writing none have any comments.) Later on perhaps I’ll research and find direct emails for the three candidates and email them the questions, but since this is an ITTF election, it seems like the logical place for such a discussion would be on publicly the ITTF site. I was hoping to hear from the candidates before the USATT board meeting, where we’ll likely discuss the election, at least informally.

Note that the USATT CEO will make the final decision on who USATT votes for, but the board and others will likely be advising him. This is from the USATT bylaws, which states: 

Section 14.3. Secretary General. "The Chief Executive Officer shall serve as Secretary General of USATT and in that capacity shall represent or designate representatives for the USATT in relations with the international sports federation for Table Tennis recognized by the International Olympic Committee and at international Table Tennis functions and events."

Here is my [non-published as of Thursday morning] note. [NOTE - after several querying emails, the notes finally went up on Tuesday night, April 25, one week after I first attempted to post them. Strangely, while the ITTF approved and posted the notes for Saive and Weikert, the note for Al-Mohannadi still had not gone up as of Wednesday morning, April 26. I emailed ITTF about this.]

[Candidate’s name],

One big problem our sport faces is illegal hidden serves. The rules not only state that you can't hide the ball or contact during the serve, but that it's the responsibility of the player to serve so the umpire can see that the serve is legal, and if the umpire is no sure of this, the serve is not legal. Currently, these rules are rarely enforced, and so top players essentially cheat on most serves, regularly hiding contact on the serve, either for illegal advantage, or to compete on an even basis since the opponent is doing so and the umpire allows it.

Individual umpires don't want to be the only one enforcing the rule, and since others are not doing so, they feel they cannot either. To change this it would take a strong emphasis from the top leadership positions so that all umpires and referees will enforce these rules equally. The key part is that if the umpire isn't sure of the legality of the serve, the serve is not legal. So borderline serves that might actually be visible aren't legal because the umpire, from their vantage point, can't be sure.

I've made a proposal on this, the "Net Visibility Rule," where the rules require the ball be visible to the net throughout the serve, making it harder to hide the serve without it being obvious. I've sent this to the USATT Rules Committee and to Samsonov (Athletes Commission Chairman), but haven't heard anything back yet.

Whether they adopt this proposal or some other, I would like to see the problem fixed. As a full-time professional coach, I am forced to explain to my students that if they want to compete on an equal basis, they will have to serve illegally since their opponents are doing so and umpires allow it. All coaches and players face this problem. This needs to change.

Do you have any plans to fix this problem?

-Larry Hodges

Have You Entered the USA Nationals Yet?
Here’s the home page for the event to be held July 3-8 in Las Vegas. I’ll be there; will you?

Korean Open
Here’s the home page for the ITTF Pro Tour event taking place April 20-23 in Incheon, KOR.

Forehand Pendulum Serve
Here’s the video (4:10) from EmRatThich.

Back Injuries - 7 Ways to Keep Your Back in Top Shape
Here’s the article from Samson Dubina. I’ve had some back problems as well – see #2 in Samson’s list – due to my right side being so much stronger than my left side that it literally pulls the spine out of alignment. I’ll blog about this and the stretching exercise I do for this later on.

Ask the Coach
Here are three more questions answered at PingSkills:

Certified Strokes Coming to China
Here’s the ITTF article. “Graded tests that will certify the ability of table tennis amateurs and enthusiasts will soon be part of the Chinese education system.”

USATT Insider
Here’s the new edition, which came out yesterday.

2017 World Table Tennis Day For All
Here’s the article by USA Women’s and Junior Girls’ National Team Member Angela Guan.

2017 Asian Championships – Chinese Supremacy Threatened
Here’s the article from Fremont TTC.

Ma Long vs Zhang Jike, Olympics Rio 2016
Here’s the video (5:12) from EmRatThich that reflects on the match. It speculates that the match was fixed, but seems to conclude otherwise.

USATT Top 10 Points from the 2017 USA National Team Trials
Here’s the video (3:52).

Short but Funny Table Tennis Scenes
Here’s the video (91 sec)! It's in Japanese, but it's mostly physical humor so you don't need to know the language. 

Tischtennis Cartoons
That’s German for Table Tennis – and who knew that the Germans had so many table tennis cartoons! When I Googled “Tischtennis Cartoons,” here’s what I got! While they are in German, you don’t need to know German to enjoy most of them. Warning – there’s a lot, and they are addictive!

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