February 3, 2020

Tip of the Week
Did He Really Force You Out of Position?

USATT Introduces New Rating Access Subscription
Here's the USATT article. Here are my thoughts on this. One disclosure - I initiated and co-founded the USATT Singles League with Robert Mayer in 2003. (See the Singles segment, though I also created the Team League segment.) "Winner stay on" dominated club play back in those days, and this was a successful program to convert clubs from that into more league-based play. At the time I was told by most that changing the culture of table tennis in the US was impossible and that table tennis leagues just wasn't part of it. Well, now it is! (I will save writing about the benefits of league play for another time.)

I spoke on the phone with USATT CEO Virginia Sung on this issue for about an hour last week, as well as on future league plans. She was very interested in ideas for creating a membership-based USATT League, so I put together the draft of such a plan. The focus was learning from how it is done in European table tennis leagues and tennis in the US (where memberships are measured in the hundreds of thousands); finding USATT incentives to join (I came up with some); and making it a gradual process. More on this in a later blog. (The membership-based league would be in addition to the free one, not a replacement.) I sent the draft to her and to Robert Mayer. 

Here is the pertinent part of the announcement of the Ratings Access Subscription policy, which I've consolidated into one paragraph:

"Effective February 1, 2020, access to the USATT Rating System and Individual Rating display for both Tournaments and Leagues will only be available to current USATT members and, for a twelve-month period, to players who participate in a USATT Sanctioned Tournament on a Tournament Pass or who sign up for the new Rating Access Subscription. The twelve-month Rating Access Subscription will cost $25 and, beginning February 1, will be available for purchase through an individual’s USATT on-line profile portal. The new Ratings Access Subscription will have no effect on current USATT members and their benefits."

Here is the primary reason given:

"The new Rating Access Subscription is part of an effort by USATT to prioritize services for current members and active tournament participants. This effort includes an on-going project to upgrade all USATT web-based services, which will include the reduction of duplicate entries in the tournament and ratings systems and the integration of critical dates for completion of the SafeSport Tutorial and required Background Checks."

The first sentence means that USATT is trying to increase the benefits of USATT membership, hopefully leading to more members, plus of course added revenue from those who either join or pay the $25 rating access fee. I don't see how this will lead to an upgrade in USATT web-based services in the ways mentioned in the second sentence.

Here are the pluses of the new policy:

  • Incentive to become USATT member. This seems to be the primary motive - to increase the value of a USATT membership. It's a worthy goal - but is this the way to do it?
  • Added revenue. But I don't think many are going to do this, so this is rather minor. From my discussions with USATT people, this is not the motivating factor.

Here are the minuses:

  • Ill will. This has already started - just read the comments under the announcement, or at the MyTableTennis.net forum (and its unscientific yet somewhat telling poll), at TableTennisDaily, and at the OOAK table tennis forum. I've heard similar irritation from many others.
  • Loss of potential members. Many non-members start out as league players, and they first go to the USATT site to check their league ratings – and that’s how they find out about USATT. (As noted above, a small percentage may join or pay the $25 fee, but probably not many. I'm told there are 35,000 league players on the USATT database, with 5000 of them active in the past year, of whom about 2000 are USATT members. Alas, until recent years only contact info for league directors was kept, so there isn't contact info for most of the 35,000.)
  • Leagues switching to non-USATT systems. Based on the comments posted, a number of league directors are already looking into this - and for every person who posts these thoughts, there are many more who aren't posting. Since there will always be free online ratings systems, it's better for USATT to have the masses use there's instead of some non-USATT one.
  • Former members who want to come back can't look up their ratings before their first tournament, so don't know what rating events they can enter. We want to make it as easy as possible for past members to come back to USATT. (I hope we're doing regular emails to them!)

Given the above, I think the minuses far outweigh the pluses. I really hope USATT will reconsider this, and instead look into other ways for creating a USATT membership-based league system, similar to what is done in in European table tennis and in tennis in the U.S. The key, I believe, is that it has to be a gradual transition, with various USATT incentives. But I'll write about that another time. I've already sent USATT my draft of how to create such a membership-based league, but it won't be an easy process.

One thing - I've heard some say that USATT is just greedy with this new policy. But that makes no sense. No one from USATT is making extra money by charging any type of rating fee. If they do get more money for USATT, that allows USATT to better fulfill their mission. Isn't that a good thing? The question isn't one of greed, but whether it is better for USATT - both as an organization and for its membership.

What is USATT's mission? Here it is, directly from the USATT bylaws, is: "The mission of USATT is to support, grow and inspire the table tennis community, and to provide resources that enable athletes to achieve sustained competitive excellence and pursue Olympic and Paralympic success."

On a side note, I was at the board meeting when they created this new Mission Statement. I'm not big on this type of thing, but the "support, grow and inspire the table tennis community" was my idea! (I think the wording was tweaked some.)

2020 Olympic Selection Procedure Update Announced by USA Table Tennis
Here's the USATT news item. Basically, the new rules are simple - the highest world-ranked man and woman from the ITTF February rankings (which go up Feb. 4, after German Open) make the Olympic Team, while the top two men and women at the US Olympic Trials get the other spots (3 men, 3 women). Here's the link to the ITTF rankings. Almost for certain Kanak Jha and Lily Zhang will get the respective men's and women's spot from world rankings. Kanak is world #27, and no other USA men are close. Lily is #26 to Wu Yue's #33, but both lost in the same round at the German Open, so their rankings should stay the same, relative to each other. Lily and Wu were both on the 2016 Olympic Team, as was Kanak.
UPDATE - in the new rankings that went up Feb. 4, Lily is #28, Wu Yue #30, so Lily makes Olympic Team, Wu Yue has to compete in Trials.) 

So Wu Yue will have to try out for the other two spots. It's going to be a tight battle. Juan Liu, rated 2650, will almost for certain get one of the spots. (Prove me wrong!) Assuming that, battling for the final spot would likely be Amy Wang (2499), Huijing Wang (2498), Wu Yue (2483), Crystal Wang (2482), Wang Chen (2450), with a few others perhaps knocking on the door, including junior girls Tiffany Ke 2297, Sarah Jalli 2294, and Linda Shu 2220. (Here is the List of Entries from Omnipong. All of those mentioned above are already entered except Amy Wang, who I believe will be entering soon. There might be more entries, including four other junior girls rated from 2302 to the 2414-rated Rachel Sung. I'll be at the Trials doing coverage for USATT.)
NOTE - The online listing of entres for the US Olympic Trials no longer shows players who entered but have not paid yet, so some of the players listed above as entered are no longer showing up, and there might be others entered that aren't shown because they haven't paid. 

This ends a rather long conflict between two opposing groups in USATT. I will call one group the "Selection" side, which wanted the "perfect" team, and so leaned toward more selections, less trials. This allows them to choose the best players against international competition, not just who is best against other US players or who played well the weekend of the Trials. It also allows them to take doubles into consideration. This is actually how it is mostly done among the best teams in the world, which are competing for medals and want to make sure they send the team that gives them the best chance. However, my argument on this has always been that since we don't really have serious medal contenders at the world-class level (are we ready to take on the top Chinese and others?), we shouldn't be in the business of choosing among non-contenders.

The other group I will call the "Trials" side, which wanted the "fairest" system, which means a Trials where the players decide completely on their own, based on results. There are always problems here - a player may get sick or injured, some are very good against other US players that they are used to playing against but not so good internationally, a player may get hot or cold on the given weekend, and it doesn't take doubles into consideration. Yet, I think this is the best system for now.

Both sides mean well, but it's led to a year or more of extreme nastiness. Alas.

I argued early on that a team where over half the players are selected rather than make the team in a trials or some other direct performance-based method wasn't sustainable. There would be just too many complaints, which is exactly what happened. The culture in the US on this type of thing is a bit different than in other countries.

There really is a third group, which I will call the "Compromisers." I'm one of those. These are the ones that think there should be perhaps one player selected, to make up for the problems outlined above for a Trials. The new system is sort of a compromise between that and the "Trials" group - by giving a spot to the #1 ranked USA man and woman, it makes sure our "best" player is there, but doesn't take into consideration doubles, or the problem if the #2 player comes up sick or injured or just doesn't play well that one weekend. There's also the problem that ITTF rankings aren't as accurate as they used to be, since they started taking participation into account a year or so ago. But if our players aren't yet "serious" medal contenders, then we shouldn't worry about that right now.

If we ever do have multiple serious medal contenders and need them together on the team so they can win in teams and doubles, as well as singles, then we might want to rethink all this. For example, no Trials is going to keep the best Chinese, Japanese, or Germans off their team at the Worlds. But we're not at that level yet. At some point we might have to define at what level is a player a "serious" medal contender. Or, if you are firmly in the "Trials" group, then perhaps not.

Weekend Coaching and Writing
Last Thursday I went to the Lake Forest Mall Eatery to get some writing done. I go there or to a nearby Wendy's about 5-6 times per week, either for lunch or dinner, and stay for several hours, writing or editing. Both have lots of open table space, wi-fi, and . . . Dr Pepper! At Lake Forest, I always get pepperoni pizza; at Wendy's, I get the barbecued chicken sandwich.

After this morning's Tip of the Week, I need exactly ten more to reach the magic 150, which I can then put together as the next in my "Tips" series. I stayed at the eatery for six hours and wrote eight Tips of the Week! (I even managed to work on a science fiction story as well. I then went straight from the mall to MDTTC to coach the Thursday Beginning Class.) Hopefully you have already bought Table Tennis Tips and More Table Tennis Tips! (Each had 150 tips.) Well, in April or May I'll have "Still More Table Tennis Tips"! Sure, you can read them for free here, but in the books I put them in a logical progression, organized by category, so it's a lot more helpful.

My Thursday and Sunday Beginning Classes are both still in synch. The focus was serving rules, fast serves, and forehand & backhand live practice. Spencer & Ronald Chen, and Todd Klinger assist on Thursdays (14 players), Lidney Castro on Sundays (ten players).

On Sunday we had Trials for the upcoming Talent Development Program, the advanced junior program at MDTTC. The program currently has about 25 players. Seven players tried out, with a series of table tennis tests, skill tests, and physical tests. Along with other coaches, I had a clipboard and a chart (which I'd created for this), where we marked off scores for each category. I also did the receive test for all of them, where I threw a number of basic serves at them so we could test their receive skills. Selections will be announced soon.

This next weekend I have substitutes for my coaching as I'll be going up to the Lily Yip TTC in New Jersey to coach Stanley Hsu (11, 2289, #1 in US in Under 12 - but he has an injured finger and might have to drop out), Mu Du (11, 2012, #4 in US in Under 12), and Ryan Lin (just turned 10, 1825, #13 in US in Under 12, #4 in Under 11) at the Hopes Regional Tournament. (There might be one or two others from my club going - not sure yet.)

German Open
Here's the home page for the event held Jan 28-Feb. 2, in Magdeburg, GER, with results, news, pictures, and video. Here are two articles featuring USA's Kanak Jha.

All-Japan National Championships: A Complete Review
Here's the ITTF article. "In the final he [Yukiya Uda] prevailed over the more famous Tomokazu Harimoto." "The Empress Cup went to Hayata Hina who beat the more experienced Ishikawa Kasumi in the final stage with a dominating 4-1. The Champion beat Ito Mima in the semifinals (maybe the real final), while Ishikawa overtook Hashimoto Honoka."


New from Samson Dubina

How to Get More BACKHAND POWER – with Craig Bryant
Here's the video (6:47) from Tom Lodziak.

Want to Do a Table Tennis Tour in London?
Here's the info page from WorldStrides. "In partnership with professional Table Tennis player, Khaleel Asgarali, WorldStrides Sports will send a group of enthusiastic table tennis players on an international tour to London."

New Videos from MaLong FanMade Channel (MLFM)

Table Tennis Tidbits #49: Remembering Jim Scott
Here's the article by Robert Ho.

For the Love of Table Tennis: A brand new table tennis center comes to Atlanta
Here's the article by Coach Jon. (I've added them to my ongoing list of full-time professional table tennis centers in the U.S., which now number 103.)

Table Tennis Logic – The 49ers / Chiefs Superbowl
Here's the article by Steve Hopkins.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapter 27
Here is Chapter 27 of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis, "Readers Speak Up." (Page includes links to previous chapters.) Or you can buy it and previous (and future) volumes at www.timboggantabletennis.com. Volume 23 is 491 pages with 1841 graphics, and covers all the wild things that happened in 1997-1999 - and I'm mentioned a lot! Why not buy a copy - or the entire set at a discount? Tim sells them directly, so when you order them, you get it autographed - order your copy now!

Kobe Bryant in Commercial
Here's the video (35 sec)! It's in French, but I think they are advertising Actuping TV. And here's A story about Kobe Bryant playing — and quickly mastering — pingpong illustrates his insane competitiveness (from Business Insider).

Comeback Serve and Target Practice
Here's the video (6 sec)!

Timo Boll vs. Adam Bobrow
Here's the video (5:20)! One is the former world #1; the other is the voice of the ITTF and table tennis entertainer extraordinaire!

Sidewalk Pong Prophets
Here's the video (3:31)!

Table Tennis Movie Clip
Here's the video (5:22). It's in Chinese with English subtitles (usually), has some interesting serves, they are (mostly) using sponge rackets but with hardbat sounds, and it sort of just ends - it's apparently from a movie, but I have no idea what movie. But it's hilarious!

Pingpongman and Pingpongkid
Here's the video (1:42) of Scott and Austin Preiss doing an exhibition.

Peach Pong
Here's the video (13 sec)! (Or are those apples?)

Here's the video (7:44) from Pongfinity!

Non-Table Tennis - Science Fiction Sales News
I sold two science fiction stories this past week, "Space Force: First Victory" and "Space Force: The Poem," both to the anthology Alternative Space Forces. The first tells the story of our first battle and victory over invading aliens - with a twist. The second is a humorous poem about the exploits of Space Force.

As noted in previous blog, my story "Releasing Hitler" came out in Galaxy's Edge on January 1. Here's the first line: "In the year 1,001,945 AD, long after superweapons have caused the human species to go extinct, the next-to-last prisoner in Hell goes before the parole board."

Here's a review from SFRevu: "It is 1,001,945 AD and all but two people have been released from Hell. The penultimate person released is Adolph Hitler. He leaves expressing regret for his sins. Who the last person released is and what happens next, makes this a great little story." (Don't worry, Hitler gets his comeuppance - but how? Read the story and find out! It's pretty short.)

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