February 24, 2020

Tip of the Week
Fundamental versus Creative Tactics.

US Olympic Trials
Here's the home page for the event, which is Feb. 27 - March 1, in Santa Monica, CA (near Los Angeles and Hollywood). It includes the event Prospective (essentially the entry form, with rules and procedures), Schedule, Seedings, Playing Format, Selection Procedures and Policies, and info on buying Tickets. Here's the Omnipong listing, which includes an incredible 20 men rated over 2500 and eight women rated over 2400. I hope all these players will be there for the Tournament meeting this Wednesday at 6PM - has there ever been a stronger gathering of US players in one room than that would be?

I'll be doing online coverage for USATT. I leave this afternoon, arriving at LA airport around 8PM. There'll be no livestreaming of the event - apparently NBC Sports has the rights and won't allow it unless we pay them a lot.  I'll probably write my first article on Wednesday night, on the Tournament Meeting and the Draws. My articles should go up on the USATT News Page.

I'm spending Tuesday, much of Wednesday, and the following Monday and Tuesday, doing sightseeing (at my own expense). I've been to LA a number of times, but never did any real sightseeing. My plans includes seeing the Hollywood sign; the Hollywood Boulevard and Walk of Fame (including the Hard Rock Café); Los Angeles Zoo; Griffith Observatory and Park; La Brea Tar Pits; Natural History Museum of LA County; Santa Monica Pier & Aquarium; and Universal Studios.

The Elite Pipeline
A good pipeline is better than a great one that's broken in one part. And once you have a good pipeline without those broken parts, you can turn it into a great pipeline. But the pipeline is only as strong as its weakest part.

To develop truly elite players that can challenge the best players in the world, I believe a developmental pipeline needs four parts. I've often lamented on how USATT would sometimes focus on one part of the pipeline or another, often depending on the politics, or, sadly, the age of aspiring players whose parents were in influential positions. (Not a current or recent problem, fortunately, but there have been some horror stories.)

For most of USATT's history, one broken part of the pipeline was obvious - there simply weren't enough aspiring juniors training full-time with elite coaches, the lifeblood of elite development. And so the rest of the pipeline was damaged through lack of players before we even got started. Why was this? In 1992, MDTTC opened as the first successful full-time training center. (Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, and I founded it.) At the time, there were no others. As recently as 2007, there were only about eight. And now we have over one hundred. (I tried to get USATT involved in this in 2006, and resigned my job with them when they showed no interest in my "One Hundred Training Centers in Ten Years" plan.) We've gone from perhaps five full-time professional coaches in 1992 to probably around four hundred. There was a time when you could count on two hands how many elite juniors were really training full-time. Now the number is closer to a thousand.

Result? Our best juniors are now among the best in the world. And yet, we often lose them right when they are on the verge of challenging the best players.

So the first part of the pipeline is getting pretty good. It's not as good as, say, China, where they have far more kids training. But like I said, it's pretty good - and it gives us a fighting chance against anyone - maybe even China! But it is not easy for USATT to create such a complete pipeline due to their limited money and staff, but we can still strive to do so, taking advantage of the far greater combined resources of all of the full-time training centers, coaches, and parents in this country.

I believe there are four parts to a USATT National Developmental Pipeline. All four need to be developed to the highest level - the overall pipeline will only be as strong as the weakest of the four. They are:

  1. The Numbers Game. This part is very simple - you have to have a large number of training centers with junior programs, coaches, elite coaches, and juniors in training. This leads to a large number of kids getting introduced to the sport - and the more you have here, the more likely you are to find ones with the qualities it takes to become a champion. Note that I mention both "coaches" and "elite coaches." You need both - a large number of coaches, and enough elite coaches to work with the ones that early on show promise. They way to get elite coaches? If you have lots of coaches, the creme will rise to the top and you'll end up with some great ones. There needs to be ways to train these coaches so they can, like players, reach their potential. Many former top players, and others who have spent years coaching or in training programs, become excellent coaches.
  2. The Hopeful Hopes. This is where you turn these large numbers of kids into a smaller core group of kids, roughly ages 9-12, who train many hours with elite coaches and in general have a great training environment. They play tournaments and quickly are on the radar as the ones to watch. Having lots of training centers with elite coaches and junior programs is key. The USATT Hopes program is a great part of this program.
  3. The Long Junior Slog. This is that long period, roughly ages 12-18, where promising kids train, Train, and TRAIN, and compete, Compete, and COMPETE, and go from promising kids into contenders at the highest levels. They learn to compete with the best of their age both in the US and from around the world. To make this happen, they should be part of junior programs that train together. Those who do not have such a "peer" group usually burn out, fall behind and lose interest, and we lose them. Even if they continue, their ceiling is lower since they don't have peers pushing them to excel. During this long "slog" many kids fall behind their international peers for this reason, though not so much in recent years. These elite juniors also need training camps with their peers from around the country - there's nothing like training with your peers to spur your own training!
  4. The Last Stage - the "Right When You Are About to Make It" Moment. This link is problematic. After training for ten years or more, an 18-year-old kid is now approaching the highest levels - and suddenly has to choose between putting all that aside and going to college, or to continue to train and put off college. It's a difficult choice, and most choose college. (Some do both, but you are at a severe disadvantage if you go to college full-time and train on the side, while your rivals are training full-time. Going part-time might work better.) From an elite development point of view, this is a key stage where players go from almost making it big, to actually making it big. This is where it's important to have overseas opportunities where they can turn professional for a few years, training full-time and playing in a professional league, often in Europe, like nearly a dozen US players are currently doing. (USATT, via their High Performance Directors, has greatly helped in finding these connections, and is one of the most valuable things they do for this pipeline.) If they do this from age 18-22, they can probably reach their potential, and perhaps continue to play professionally if they choose. A key here is that we need to find ways to encourage elite players to do this, while finding ways to make it easier for them to later transition to college or (for some) perhaps coaching table tennis professionally.

Weekend Coaching
In the Thursday Beginning Class we introduced them to pushing and to down-the-line shots. In the Sunday Beginning Class we introduced them to spin serves and down-the-line shots. For both the pushing and spin serves demos I bring out the JOOLA spin balls so the players can better see the spin.

For the Saturday night junior league - which is half league, half training/coaching - several of the players needed work on specific issues, and I spent most of the two hours feeding multiball. I did the same on Sunday - lots of multiball this weekend! Some were interactive where I'd feed a specific shot to one player to get a rally started, then let them play out a point. But there was a focus on fundamentals. One girl has a bad habit of not really backswinging much when looping, so we spent a bunch of time on that. Another is great at smashing relative low balls, but misses over and over when the ball gets above his head, so we worked on that.

Hopes in Houston
This past weekend in Houston was Stop Three of the six regional stops of the USATT Hopes Program. (I'll be coaching at and running the tournament for Stop Six in Maryland.) Here are some links:

Table Tennis Community Fundraiser to Support Sally Boggan
Tim asked me to post the following update: "Sally's still left-side paralyzed, can't speak, has a feeding tube in her stomach, but can think and write well enough to respond to Tim's readings and do a daily puzzle with him." He also asked me to give "a big Thank You to everyone who's been and continues to be so encouraging to Sally and me. We much appreciate it." The GoFundMe Fundraiser has raised $6434 so far, with 58 donors. (Sally is the wife of USATT legend Tim Boggan.) I thought I'd run this one more time - Tim really appreciates the help, and it's a serious situation, both medically and financially.

History of USATT - Volume 23 - Chapters 29 and 30
Here is Chapter 29 ("International Play") and Chapter 30 ("April - May Tournaments") of Tim Boggan's History of U.S. Table Tennis. (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!

Hungarian Open
Here is the ITTF home page for the event held in Budapest, Hungary, Feb. 18-23, with complete results, articles, pictures, and video.

2020 ITTF-Africa Top 16 Cup
Here is the ITTF home page for the event held in Tunis, Tunisia, Feb. 24-26, with results, articles, pictures, and video.

New from Samson Dubina

7 Steps to Improve Your Forehand Loop (with Ferenc Horvath)
Here's the video (11:45) from Tom Lodziak.

New from eBaTT

New from Steve Hopkins

US Table Tennis Athletes Association
Here's their page about a USATT & USTTAA Potential Collaboration, from Michael McFarland.

The Class of Clearwater – Sunrise Table Tennis
Here's the article from Coach Jon.


New from the Malong Fanmade Channel (MLFM)

Jimmy Butler - Memory Lane
Here's the video (3:01).

Best Points of Russian Championships
Here's the video (4:37).

Nine Seconds of Shirt Changes and a Bottle Dunk
Here's the video!

Team China Cell Phone Tournament
Here's the video (90 sec) - they really did this!

Dive Pong
Here's the video (41 sec)!

Balancing Trick Shot
Here's the video (10 sec)!

Funny Moment of Table Tennis
Here's the video (4:30)!

Zillions of Animated Table Tennis Gif Images
Here they are!

Ping Pong Battleship Game
Here's the video (3:18) from Pongfinity! "You popped my battleship!"

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