January 31, 2018

SafeSport and USATT Club Compliance
As of this morning, there were 262 clubs on the USATT Club listing. I'm going to check the number again tomorrow morning. There will likely be a sizeable drop. Why? Because, as noted in this morning's USATT Insider, "January 31st SafeSport Club Compliance Declaration Deadline."

SafeSport's slogan is "Make the Commitment. Stop Abuse in Sports." The intent is good, and the program is needed. However, I've blogged some of my misgivings about the program in the past, in particular that the video and quiz are too long and a few other problems, and my suspicion that much of the program is designed more to protect the USOC (and by extension, USATT) legally than the athletes themselves. But regardless, it is now required of all "USATT certified coaches, umpires, and referees; all owners and officers of USATT clubs; tournament and league directors and organizers; all USATT board members, committee members, staff, and other positions with USATT; and anyone else in a position of authority over athletes." If you are one of these, you need to pass SafeSport.

As of midnight tonight all USATT clubs that haven't done full compliance are going to be taken off the USATT club listing. (The clubs have been sent multiple notices on this. I'm not sure if it automatically will happen at midnight or will happen sometime tomorrow during the workday.) I've done SafeSport, as have all the coaches and staff at my club, MDTTC, which is SafeSport compliant. But SafeSport requires we do it every two years, so in two years we have to go through this all over again. I think that's overkill. But we have no choice - it's a USOC mandate for all Olympic sports organizations.

I'm a little frustrated by all the clubs we might be losing over this. For years I've been mostly a lone voice in USATT regarding clubs, arguing regularly that USATT needs the clubs more than the clubs need USATT, and that we should keep club affiliation fees down so as to have more such clubs. When new players come to the USATT website and look for a place to play, we want as many clubs listed as possible, so the chances of there being one near the potential new player - and potential USATT member - is greater. Some clubs do need the insurance USATT offers, but many do not. (I don't know the percentage of those who truly need it.) Beyond that, many clubs don't find USATT affiliation worth it, beyond a token payment, if the fees are kept low.

I was the USATT Club Chair in the early 1990s, and ran a program called "Club Catalyst and Creation Program." (The acronym, CCCP, was my little joke about the recent fall of the Soviet Union - it is an acronym for the Soviet Union in Russian. No, I'm not a communist!)  With the program we appointed over 45 state directors, whose job it was to develop a club in every city in their state with a population over 100,000, and then 50,000. The number of clubs went from 226 to 301, and later reached 350. But back then the club affiliation fee was $15/year. Now it's $75, and that's primary reason we've lost a number of clubs, down to the currently listing of 262. A number of years ago, after USATT increased the affiliation fee from $15 to $25 to $40 in one year, we lost 100 clubs, and membership dropped from over 9000 to about 7200. (We've since recovered to something like 9000 again, but we might instead be at 11,000 members or more.)

Assuming we charged $25 instead of $75, that's a $50 difference per club. Currently USATT gets 262 x $75 = $19,650 in annual revenue from club affiliation fees. If we had 100 more clubs at $25/year, that would be 362 x $25 = $9050. So for $10,600, we lose 100 clubs, and an unknown number of members (at $75 each for adults). If we got 141 new members from those extra clubs, we break even. If we get 200 new members (two per newly affiliated club), we come out $4425 ahead, plus we've done what USATT is supposed to do - promote table tennis, by gaining all these new clubs and members. Of course, it's always possible that we wouldn't get those 100 clubs back or the extra members, but we'll probably never know.

We used to have eight USATT affiliated clubs in Maryland. Now we have two. One closed, but the others just stop affiliating. I haven't spoken to all of them, but I know several have complained about the cost, and don't need the insurance.

But this is all rather pointless speculation if we lose a large number of clubs at the stroke of midnight tonight. We'll see. C'mon, club leaders, get on the ball! SafeSport isn't perfect, but it's needed, and it's required.

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