January 22, 2018

Tip of the Week
Doubles Signals and Why You Should Use Them.

USA Team Selections
A few people have contacted me about the USATT National Team selection process. This is a frustrating topic for me for a very simple reason - I'm involved in so many other activities (USATT, MDTTC, and lots of coaching and writing) that I just don't have time to get too involved in still another issue. And yet, I'm on the USATT Board of Directors, so I'm one of the ones responsible for what USATT does, and so I will likely have to get involved.

However, right now I'm just too busy to look into it too much, but I plan to do so in February, probably after I run the MDTTC February Open (Feb. 10-11). I've got another conference meeting today at noon on the USATT Coaching Education and Certification process - and whenever there's a meeting, there's a lot of time spent preparing for it and even more time on it afterwards. It's hard to believe, but I also have some non-table tennis activities - readers here know that I also write science fiction and fantasy, and I'm currently in both a three-week online writing workshop, ending Feb. 8 - sort of like a top table tennis player going to a training camp - and in a five-week online writing competition, where we write a story each week, ending Feb. 5. Plus, of course, I'm coaching at my club, writing this blog, and a number of other projects.

For most of our history USATT has had annual Team Trials. However, as explained to me by Carl Danner, chair of the USATT High Performance Committee (HPC), "the approach has shifted from reliance on single trials to a multi-competition system paired with the expectation that players will commit to ongoing training and competition consistent with developing into world class adult competitors." The procedures for Team Selections are at the National Teams Selection Page. (Note there's a difference between making the National Team, and actually being on the team representing USA at a specific competition - and so the selection procedures are for both. In international competitions, the players are selected from the National Team Squad, now called the Unified 2018 Table Tennis Team USA.)

These procedures are set up by the HPC, with Carl as chair and members Stellan Bengtsson, Sean O'Neill, Wen Hsu, Erica Wu, Tahl Leibovitz, and Tara Profitt, all highly knowledgeable about High Performance issues. (Contact info for all USATT committee members is on the USATT Committee page.) Many believe that the USATT board sets up these procedures, but the USATT bylaws give the High Performance Committee this authority. According to the USATT Bylaws, 9.16, items #1 and #5 (page 36):

d. The responsibilities of the High Performance Committee shall be as follows:
     1. Develop Selection Procedures as needed for international events;
     5. Oversee and implement the Selection Procedures for international competition;

The USATT Board can overrule them on the procedures they set up, but think about it - the High Performance Committee is supposed to be the experts on Table Tennis High Performance. If the USATT Board of Directors, who have less expertise overall on this than the HPC, overrules them, then they are basically saying they believe they know better than the HPC on a High Performance issue - and so if they do so, that basically means they need a new HPC. Very few on the USATT Board believe this. As a Board member, unless I'm pretty certain they are wrong, I have to give deference to the very people we have chosen as experts - and that means the HPC as well as the High Performance Director, Jörg Bitzigeio, who comes to us from the highest levels of one of the world's most successful table tennis programs (Germany). He has been asked to revamp our high performance program to achieve adult success at the world-class level, and he and the HPC are working together to do so. If the Board gets too involved in this - well, there's an expression, "Too many chefs in the kitchen." 

However, I'm one of the Board members who is qualified on Table Tennis High Performance, so as noted above, I'll look into these matters sometime in February, and perhaps make my own recommendations to the HPC. I've already got an outline of something I'd like to submit to them, but it's not ready yet.

Readers of this blog may remember that I've generally been for the bulk of the team selected by Team Trials, with a few final spots selected, both to make sure we don't lose an obvious team member who was sick or injured at the Team Trials (or just had a really bad day), as well as up-and-coming players that our top coaches believe have great potential. I may want to have some discussions with members of the HPC to get the rationale for the various selection procedures. But remember that a primary change they are doing is going from annual Trials to using results from multiple competitions, which seems to make sense, though it means players have to travel more to the specified tournaments. It also means players have to peak many times each year, rather than focusing on peaking for, say, the USA Nationals and Open, Team Trials, and the World Championships and Olympics.

Besides player selections, there are also questions about how we select the team coaches. Here I generally go with the idea of trusting our High Performance Director to make the selections - if we can't let our hired expert select his own "staff," then why did we hire him? Of course one option is that he makes selections (for coaches, sometimes players), and they are approved by the HPC.

One issue keeps coming up - how do the other top countries in the world do their team selections? I'm told that most do it similar to how we are now doing it, but I don't know if anyone has actually done a systematic check of, say, the top ten countries in men and women. Anybody out there want to do some research and find out how the team selections are made for all of these countries? Make sure to cite sources. Now it so happens that the ITTF has World Team Rankings (page down to third and fourth listing), and so we can get a general listing of the best countries in the world. The following countries have a team ranked in the top ten in either Men's or Women's:

Germany, China, Japan, France, Korea, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Portugal, Sweden, India, Austria, Romania, Singapore, Netherlands, Hungary. Countries that are in the top ten in both are China, Japan, Korea, and Chinese Taipei. (I believe Germany was in the top ten in both until recently dropping to #13 in women - not sure how that happened. They are #1 in Men's Teams in the new ranking system, though some find that controversial and consider China #1. USA is #40 and #24 in Men's and Women's.)

Another thing to take into account is that whole Fairness issues vs. Progressive issues problem I've blogged about before, though not recently. When I ran for the Board I also wrote extensively about this. The gist of it is simple - Fairness issues and Progressive issues are equally important, but members of the Board of Directors invariably get drawn into these Fairness issues (like the selection procedures), and the result is we do not focus on Progressive issues, which are the ones that develop our sport. And so the sport doesn't get developed. I promised when I ran for the Board I'd focus on Progressive issues - such as the USATT Coaching Education and Certification program I'm working with Jörg, and other issues, such as a USATT Coaching Academy (which has begun as seminars we ran at the last Nationals). However, it's my responsibility as a Board member to also get involved in Fairness issues, even if it's not my primary focus - but when possible, I'd prefer to let the appropriate committee work out these issues, such as the HPC, and give deference to them when possible. That's why we appoint them.

Japanese Nationals
They were held Jan. 15-21 in Tokyo.

Hungarian Open
Here's the home page with complete results, articles, video, and pictures.

USATT Presents Unified 2018 Table Tennis Team USA
Here's the USATT article and listing.

2018 USA Hopes Program Homepage
Here's the USATT page. Here's the ITTF Hopes info page. This is for kids in the 11-12 age group.

ITTF Future Events Working Group Reaches Unanimous Agreement on the Future of the World Championships
Here's the ITTF article. USATT CEO Gordon Kay, who is also president of ITTF North America, was the host. In the picture, he's in the back, second from right.

How to Defy the Odds and Make a Comeback in a Match
Here's the article by Matt Hetherington.

How to Play Table Tennis with Low Friction Long Pimples
Here's the article from 2017.

Zhang Jike Training Backhand Again Backspin
Here's the video (4 min).

Training With GAUZY Simon Gauzy and Coach Patrick Chila
Here's the video (14:46) from the 2017 World Cup.

New from EmRatThich

History of USATT – Volume XX – Chapter 11
Here’s chapter 12 of Tim Boggan’s latest volume, which covers 1993-1994. Or you can buy it and previous volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com.

This Ping Pong Table Used to Be a Vauxhall Astra
Here's the video (1:26). "We accepted the challenge of turning a car into a ping-pong table."

Robot Pong?
Here's the image!

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