January 14, 2019

Tip of the Week
If You Can't Do It Without a Ball, How Can You Do It With the Ball?

USATT Teleconference
We had a USATT Board of Directors Teleconference last night, from 7-9:20PM. Alas, only five of the nine USATT board members were able to attend. On the call were board members Anne Cribbs (chair), Gary Schlager, Carolyne Savini, Erica Wu, and myself; plus (in various capacities) Dennis Taylor (USATT lawyer), Carl Danner (chair of HPC), Jasna Rather (USATT Director of Para Programs), Gordon Kaye (former CEO, asked to be available on certain issues), Jörg Bitzigeio (High Performance Director), Mark Thompson (COO/Interim CEO), Chris Mauro (USATT Accountant), Han Xiao (Chair Of U.S. Olympic Committee Athletes' Advisory Committee), Roger Dickson, and Sebastian di Francesco.

We were supposed to review and approve the minutes from the October meeting, but we only had four board members at the start - there might have been a mix-up as I think we had all five at that time - so no vote was taken, and since the meeting went long, we never got back to this. So they'll likely be voted on at the Jan. 22 teleconference, though that one is supposed to be dedicated to financials. (If not, then they'll be voted on at the Feb. 11 teleconference.) Once approved, they can be posted publicly so you can see what took place in the meeting.

Next up was the High Performance Update by Jörg, covering the recently completed physical training camp in Colorado Springs (see article below by Matt Hetherington); Hopes Tour; Pan Am Cup; and Pan Am Games Trials. That was followed by a Para High Performance Update by Jasna Rather.

Then came the CEO Search Update by Anne and Carolyne. We have eight applications from the table tennis community, and are still debating whether to spend a lot of money on a CEO search firm. One option I pointed out here (and previously) was going with such a search firm, but postponing it for a few months, with Mark Thompson as Interim CEO, with the savings in CEO salary going toward the CEO search. But I'm no expert in this, and will await the report of the CEO Search Task Force.

There was a discussion of the upcoming ballot for the USATT election - there should be an official announcement on this any time now. (I know who is on the final ballot, but I really should let USATT make the official announcement - I'll add it here when they put the news item up.) There was also discussion of Committee Member Selections and an upcoming Invitation to Prospective Committee Members, which will be posted soon as a USATT news item. There was also discussion about three prospective candidates for the fifth position on the Nominating and Governance Committee, but that was tabled as most board members didn't really know the candidates and wanted more info and possibly a recommendation from the committee.

There was a long discussion of the Board of Directors Obligations and Responsibilities. I was involved in this one quite a lot. At issue were some apparent negative things said about the association by a board member. While I wasn't a "target," I know some were not happy about my blog last week about my disagreement with the current 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures. The gist of the problem is difference of opinion in interpreting the five-page Board of Directors Code of Conduct. (This was a new one, created in 2017, which I and others signed in December, 2017.) Here are some excerpts (bolds are mine):

  • "As a member of the Board I will respect and support the decisions of the board, including in instances where I voted against a particular decision/action."
  • "As a member of the nonprofit Board I will not be critical, in our outside of a board meeting, of other board members or their opinions. This does not restrict me from disagreeing with another board member."
  • Under "Board Social Media Policy": "Personal opinions about individual board members, specific board decisions, etc. are not appropriate. Once the board has taken action on a particular issue, the board speaks with one voice - even if a particular Board member's vote on an issue was a dissenting opinion.

In the first bullet item, it says board members must "support" the decisions of the board. But as I pointed out in a board meeting over a year ago (when we all signed this new version), the word "support" has multiple meanings and so is ambiguous. Some seem to think it means you literally have to openly be for whatever the board decides - for example, if someone asks my opinion on the 2020 Selection Procedures, a policy I disagree with, I'd have to say I support them. As I pointed out, using Webster's, there are several definitions of "support," and the one I prefer is, "to uphold or defend as valid." So yeah, I agree the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures are valid, as in they were passed legally and will be used unless overturned, but I don't agree with the policy. If I say I "support" them, that's subject to misinterpretation because of the multiple definitions. Also, think about the implications - with this Code, members know that board members may be forced to "support" things they don't really support, and so can't trust what those board members are saying.

In the second bullet point, it says we cannot be critical of the opinions of other board members. Really??? That's downright silly, and is basically contradicted by the next sentence. As I pointed out in the meeting, it is my opinion that the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures are not a good policy, and if anyone on the board criticizes my opinion, they are in violation of the Code of Conduct. The board of directors is essentially the Legislative branch of USATT, and to say that legislatures must agree to "support" that which they really don't "support" is just wrong. (I'm using the quotes because, as noted, the word has different meanings.)

In the third bullet point, it says that we can't post our personal opinions on "specific board decisions." Sorry, that's just wrong, and is again contradicted by the second part of bullet point #2. The idea that the board "speaks with one voice" is a historical way for the majority to force the minority to publicly agree with decisions they do not agree with. The board does not speak with one voice - but it does act as one. So while I disagree with the 2020 Olympic Trials Procedures, that doesn't mean we don't act as one in implementing them, since they are the legal rules at this time. (Technically, they have never come up for a vote as they were created by the USATT High Performance Committee and High Performance Director, and approved by the USOC.) What is important is that board members, when voicing disagreement with board decisions or the opinions of others, are respectful in so doing, as I was in my blog last week.

I asked a rhetorical question to a few people (outside the board meeting): What would happen if someone were legally elected to the USATT Board, but refused to sign the Code of Conduct due to the problems listed above? Can you imagine, for example, explaining to a judge that you won't let him on the Board of Directors unless he'll sign something saying he'll support policies he doesn't support?

I volunteered to make suggested wording changes to these, working with USATT lawyer Dennis, and will bring the new wording for a vote at the Feb. 11 meeting.

There was a closed session titled "High Performance Retention Effort," but I can't go into details on that. It lasted about half an hour. During this session non-board members had to get off the phone (other than High Performance Committee Chair Carl and lawyer Dennis).

There was a short discussion of the Strategic Priorities by Anne. Next came the Foundation and Fundraising Report by Carl. There was a financial report by accountant Chris, but they needed an extra week on this, so we'll be discussing this more at length in the Jan. 22 teleconference.

There was a very long discussion of the 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures. I gave my arguments for why I don't think we should have a scenario where, if we get the maximum six spots for USA, four of them would be selected by committee. Player Rep Erica gave a report on feedback from players, who seem mostly against this, and she gave the many reasons voiced. (Alas, I didn't take notes and don't want to write about it piecemeal.) She also agreed that she thought only two (one man, one woman) of the potentially six players should be selected by committee. Jörg and Carl gave arguments for why they believe the Procedures should stay as they are. (Many of those reasons I gave in my blog last week. But if they want to make their arguments public, they should do so on their own - and I will link to it from my blog. Or, if it's not too long, I could make it a segment of this blog.) At this point I think the Player Reps and the High Performance Committee should be discussing this, with any proposed change coming from them. Board member Rajul, who is outspokenly against the procedures, is in India and wasn't able to make the call. (Note - The 2020 Olympic Selection Procedures were created by the High Performance Committee, as authorized by the USATT bylaws. The USATT Board of Directors never saw them until they were published.)  

Next was a report on the status of the upcoming Nationals - Mark is the lead on this. We finished with discussion of the location of the next in-person board meeting in April, which will either be in Denver or Washington DC (with Gary arranging the latter).

Snowy Weekend
I was scheduled for three group sessions this past weekend, about 5.5 hours, but we had just over 12 inches of snow at the Maryland Table Tennis Center and they were all cancelled. With school cancelled on Monday, I'm guessing a lot of our kids switched from pong to building snowmen and sledding. (I'm tempted to post all the table tennis stuff I worked on since last week, but that would take about a week to write up.)

Hungarian Open
Here's the ITTF page for the event in Budapest, Jan. 15-20. Here's the promo video (30 sec).

How to Get Explosive Forehand Power – with Paul Drinkhall
Here's the article and video (5:44) by Tom Lodziak.

USATT Playlist
Here's the USATT Video Playlist Library. Why not explore this?

Why is Boll Strong? #5
Here's the article and video (3:32, in English)

How to Play Forehand Against Backspin - Ma Long
Here's the video (11:27).

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich at PingSunday

New from Matt Hetherington

Table Tennis Bad Boys and Bad Girls
Here's the article from Eli Baraty.

Signing Off On a Table Tennis Report Card
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Unified Korea at the Worlds?
They are planning a joint team at the upcoming Worlds. They did this at the 1991 Worlds - there's even a movie based on it, As One. (It's also the source for this hilarious outtake.) Here's an article and video on the plans for 2019.

Fan Zhendong, Seeking High Note Start to Year
Here's the ITTF article.

Six Months, No Titles, the Dragon is Breathing Fire, Ready to Roar
Here's the ITTF article on Ma Long.

Raising Awareness, Parkinson's Disease a Focus for World Table Tennis Day
Here's the ITTF article.

What's Your Idea for Bringing Positive Social Change Through Table Tennis?
Here's the ITTF article.

A Look Inside the Challenging and Misunderstood Sport of Table Tennis
Here's the article. "When you think of table tennis, also known as ping-pong, what comes to mind? Middle school gym class? Forrest Gump? Your grandparents' basement?"

WAB Featured Club: The TopSpin Table Tennis Center
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Where Are They Now? Wilson Club Series #2
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

Table Tennis Tidbits #41: Teens and Twenties Triumph
Here's the article by Robert Ho.

Truls Moregard | Ask a Pro Anything
Here's the ITTF video (4:48). Moregard of Sweden is world #3 in Under 18, #164 in Men. Learn about his "Hercules" pose!

Bouncing Ball on Edge of Racket
Here is 13 seconds of U.S. Minicadet Star Nandan Naresh bouncing the ball of the edge of his racket 27 times in a row.

Table Tennis Girls MAIKO
Here's the video (2:36)! It's only at the end that you find that the two Japanese Maiko's are (SPOILER ALERT!!!) . . . Miu Hirano (world #9) and Hina Hayata (world #43)!!! 

Incredible Serving Trick!
Here's the video (13 sec)! How many tries did it take to get this right?

3T Trick Table Tennis: Best of 2018
Here's the video (59 sec)!

Freestyle Table Tennis
Here's the video (3 min) starring Sabrine Winter of Germany (world #55, formerly #36). This video is incredible - they spent a LOT of time putting this together!!!

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