May 9, 2017

USATT Teleconference
The USA Table Tennis Board of Directors had a teleconference last night from 7PM to close to about 8:45PM. All nine board members (including me) attended, as well as CEO Gordon Kaye, High Performance Committee Chair Carl Danner, and attorney Dennis Taylor. Here’s a quick rundown.

I had nominated Sydney Christophe to be the fifth and final member of the USATT Coaching Committee. The board approved him unanimously, so he joins myself (chair), Rajul Sheth, Han Xiao and Timothy Wang on the committee. Sydney is certified as a USATT National Coach, an ITTF Level 2 Coach, and is one of five USA ITTF course conductors. He’s a Lead Coach for the American Youth Table Tennis Organization, and a former Caribbean Men's Singles Champion.

The board also unanimously approved the Classic Table Tennis Committee. (They cover hardbat and sandpaper.) Scott Gordon was the previously appointed chair. The rest of the approved committee is Diann Darnall, Ty Hoff, Al Papp, Jay Turberville (Athlete).

There was a relatively short discussion of SafeSport. I say “relatively” since we had a very long discussion of this at the recent board meeting in California. One problem that’s come up is that some are reluctant to give their social security number for the background check. USATT is looking into other options for this.

Next up was discussion of the new High Performance Director, Jorg Bitzigeio. (I’ve come to accept that for the next few years, every time I want to use his last name I’m going to have to look it up. Or maybe I’ll just memorize it and save some time. After all, I learned how to spell USATT Hall of Famer Houshang Bozorgzadeh!) Jorg is working on getting his USA work visa. The question Rajul Sheth brought up was whether he should be working with USATT until and if he gets that visa. As explained by Gordon, it would be illegal for us to pay him until he does, but until then his work with us is voluntary. The other question was about his being named the coach of the Women’s Team at the upcoming Worlds. (Here’s the news item on the World Team and coaches. Note that Adar Alguetti had made the Men’s Team but had to withdraw for reasons I don’t know.) Some had been told that Jorg had chosen himself, but he was actually chosen by the CEO and the chair of the High Performance Committee.

This is where I spoke up. I pointed out that there were really three questions being raised: 1) Should Jorg be working for us before he gets the work visa; 2) Who chooses the USA Team Coaches; and 3) Who would be the best coaches for our teams at the Worlds? I said that I’d rely on the CEO’s judgement that we could use Jorg before he gets the work visa (#1 above), and that the third question wasn’t really a board question. The key question for the board was #2, who chooses the team coaches? It seems an obvious thing, and yet we don’t have anything in writing that says who does this.

I’d already emailed with Carl (High Performance Committee chair) that we need to have documentation that says specifically who chooses the National Team Coaches. As I pointed out, I’ve heard arguments that the coaches for our teams should be chosen by the CEO, by the High Performance Committee (HPC), by the High Performance Director (HPD), and by the Coaching Committee. Regardless of who we decide will make these choices, we need to document who makes the choice and how. I was assured they will be doing this. My personal belief is that HPD should nominate and the High Performance Committee approve the choices. If the HPD is in consideration as one of the coaches – as was the case here – then the HPC would make the decision.

One problem also brought up was that Jorg wasn’t as familiar with our top players as some other USATT coaches. But he is studying video and communicating with the players on this. He is going to be in overall charge of developing USA players for the foreseeable future, so this is one way to start. He was a National Team Coach for Germany for ten years, and is highly qualified. And while he may not be as familiar with USA players as some coaches, he has one advantage – he may know the international players better than most other USA coaches.

Next up was a long discussion of the recent North American Hopes Trials. Alas, there were a number of problems at the tournament, and the board received a huge number of emails on this. The tone of the emails was very civil, and Gordon assured us that they are compiling the list of problems, and that they will be dealt with for next time. Probably the biggest issue brought up was an incident where the boys began playing second round matches in their round robin groups when the girls were scheduled to play next. And so the matches, which had already started, with some already into the third game, were interrupted by the referee and told to stop playing. The girls then played their round, and then the boys were sent back to complete their matches from where they had left off. Others cited the lack of “pomp and circumstance” that would make the event feel more classic, such as playing the National Anthem or an awards ceremony. (Afterwards Gordon sent out a packet of “goodies” to all the participants.) Others pointed out that due to the way the tables were set up and the lack of room, it was almost impossible for coaches to coach at certain tables.

I pointed out that the first step for many of these questions that came up was to send them to the USATT Rules Committee and/or USATT Umpires and Referees Committee and ask for their input. (The referee for the tournament isn't on either committee, so no conflict of interest.) 

We had brief discussion at the end of the World Veterans Championships coming next year in Las Vegas, and of the U.S. Para Open – and then we were done!

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History of U.S. Table Tennis, Volume 19 (1991-1992)
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Here’s the cartoon!

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