April 5, 2021

Tip of the Week
Reading Service Spin.

Weekend Coaching
I had a busy Sunday - was at the club almost all day. I started with the advanced beginning junior class, where I spent much of the time working on basics and serves. When we went to the more advanced sessions later in the day, I acted as a practice partner for an hour - I may not be as fast as before, but I can still block very consistently, and I wore a few players out. One of the advanced players was having some problems with his serves, so I spent a full half hour on this with him - the main problem was his contact point was too high, and it's often difficult to make that transition. But I also showed him how to make the serve bounce really low. I finished the day with the beginning junior girls' group, where I introduced them to serving with spin. (I'd built up to this the last few weeks by having them practice tossing a ball up and spinning it off their racket.)

All players and coaches are required to wear masks at all times in the club, even when playing. It's a hassle, though the kids have adjusted well. Those with glasses have problems with them fogging up. But things might get a bit easier soon with the vaccines out. Soon everyone who wants to be vaccinated will be. I have my two vaccinations now scheduled - the first is tomorrow (Tuesday, April 6), with the follow-up on April 27.

Dan Seemiller's "Smash! Moments, Memories and Tips"
Now's the time to go to the Dan Seemiller Book page and order a signed copy of his new book, "Smash! Moments, Memories and Tips"! (Or his two previous books, also listed there.) He will have a large supply of them by the end of this week. They are already available on Amazon, but why not get a signed one?

USA Table Tennis Magazines I Edited
Here's a secret project I've been working on - all 71 issues of USA Table Tennis Magazine that I edited are now online!!! One huge thing - they are all searchable! You can do a search for the name of your favorite player (or your own name) and find them all. This includes 24 issues I did from 1992-1995, and 47 from 1999-2007. Also included are the three copies of Table Tennis World I did independently in 1996.

I initially put together a page that links to them all, but I thought it best that it be a USATT page, so I had Hall of Fame Committee Chair Sean O'Neill copy and paste the page to the new USATT page.

I could have tried doing it myself, taking a picture of each page, but I wanted the text searchable, and I wanted a professional job, so I hired Arc Document Solutions in Gaithersburg to do it, and supplied them with backup copies of all my magazines. Their charge was 15 cents/page if they could destroy the binding (i.e. destroy the magazine), or 45 cents/page if they could not. Since I had backup copies, I went with the 15 cents/page version. Total cost, which I paid myself, was $740.

Here is a listing I put together of every USATT Magazine editor since they began in 1933. (It also lists all past presidents, board chairs, and CEOs/EDs.) There have been a total of 556 print magazines done. I'm hoping someone will spearhead an effort to get them all scanned and put online, either by doing the work or by funding it. It would take an effort to collect copies of all of these magazines, especially since few will allow vintage magazines to be destroyed. (I know of some people with extensive collections, and I have most since 1976.) There are 556-71=485 issues to be scanned. The older ones were smaller. Let's say they average 32 pages each. Then there are 485x32=15,520 pages to scan. At 45 cents/page, that's $6984, or about $7000. Someone can either sponsor this or start a GoFundMe. Unfortunately, I'm just too busy on other things to get more involved in this, but if you are interested and have questions, email me.

USATT's Nominating and Governance Committee, and Clubs and Leagues Committee
The deadline to volunteer for either of these committees is TODAY, Monday, April 5. Here is more info:

USATT Board Meeting
They have an online meeting tonight (Monday, April 5) at 8PM eastern time, on Uberconference. (It's similar to Zoom - not sure why they don't use that, but there must be advantages.) The meeting is open to anyone, and I will be there. You can watch and listen; you can't say anything without permission from the chair. However, you can speak up in the chat box, the board does see that, and usually responds to questions there. The agenda is not up as I write this, but it says it will be posted prior to the meeting.

I believe the main issue is going to be the Proposed Bylaw Changes. (Make sure to page below the actual note, where the proposed bylaws changes are listed. The note doesn't mention they are below, and so many, including me, didn't realize they were there at first.) USATT is getting a lot of flak from members over these, with a number of emails from prominent table tennis people. At issue are whether there should be direct elections of the two new athlete reps or if one should be selected by the Athlete Advisory Committee, and the apparent extension of the terms of some board members.

USATT Nationals Entry Form and USATT Coaches Meeting
It's out!!! Here are some links:

Why am I combining the US Nationals and the USATT coaches meeting? Because that was the primary discussion in the coaches meeting, by far the longest we've ever had, almost two hours. Here's the video (1hr 55min). There are a number of issues with this year's Nationals entry form, though many are communication problems. I'm told there will likely be updates to the entry form to address these communication issues.

Here's a rundown of some of the issues, which I hope will clear up some of the confusion on these issues.

  • Why Single Elimination. I tried to convince USATT to put in the entry form the reason why they are going all single elimination this year, but they chose not to. (Alternately, they could put in large letters that the explanation is in the FAQ page, and put it there.) It seemed to me and others that, regardless of the pandemic, you can have just as many tables and so just as many matches as needed with round robin events - and it's even easier since they are not having any doubles events (to avoid Covid spreading). It was explained to me at the coaches meeting - but why not simply give the following explanation up front? Here's what I was told, primarily by High Performance Director Sean O'Neill, who runs the weekly coaches' meetings.

    Because of the pandemic, it was feared there would be a low turnout at the Nationals. If USATT rented the normal hall, expecting perhaps 800 players, but only got 300, they'd lose a fortune on the tournament. So instead of getting one with room for perhaps 90 tables, they rented one with room for only 45. But then they realized that if they did get a big turnout, they'd be overwhelmed running RR events on just 45 tables, and decided they couldn't risk that - and so went with all single elimination.

    Now this makes some sense, and I wish they'd had the sense to explain this up front. At least there is an argument for why they went all SE, especially if they were being extremely conservative. However, I still disagree with the decision. By the time of the Nationals, anyone over age 16 who wants to be vaccinated will be vaccinated. Plus, there's been no Nationals or Open since 2019. People are starved for one. I'm pretty certain this year would have had a huge turnout, easily justifying the larger hall. However, by going with all SE, it's sort of a self-fulfilling prophesy as they may now end up with a small turnout. The irony is if they still get a large turnout, imagine what they might have gotten with regular RR! (I'm told that if there is a large turnout, they may then go for a larger hall.)

    UPDATE - at the USATT board meeting tonight (Monday, April 5), USATT CEO Virginia Sung said, "Reason for running all single elimination is to better manage schedule and conflicts more efficiently." This seems to differ with the reasons given above. If this really is the reason, then it seems to imply that this is a permanent change. Someone in USATT recently told me that often the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is thinking and doing. This seems to be another case of that. 

  • Consolation Events. In the earlier version of the entry form that I proofed for USATT, there's no mention of Consolation events. (A Consolation event is where all of the first-round losers are put into another draw and play it out to the final, with prizes.) In the version that went online, it says in the small print near the back, "For further information on the rules for preliminary round play, consolation events, qualification for the Main Draw and Seeding, please refer to the USATT website." Hidden in there was a passing mention of Consolation events. What they should be saying is, "Every event has a Consolation event, so players are guaranteed at least two matches in every event they enter." See the difference? It should be highlighted, in HUGE letters, that players will get at least two matches in every event, due to the Consolation event. Instead, players are left in the dark on this, and so believing they only get one guaranteed match.

    I do think USATT made another mistake here. As I blogged previously and suggested to some USATT people, instead of consolation events, why not simply have a 2020 and 2021 National championships for each event? You end up with two single elimination draws, and except this way we can crown our 2020 champions. It would mean a few more matches and conflicts, but with SE, you have fewer matches and so this should have been relatively easy.  

  • Parents Coaching. The entry form says, "Minor-Aged players are permitted one parent or adult guardian to enter the venue during their match." Then it says, "Coaches must be on the USATT coaching registry to enter the venue for the player(s) match(es)." The problem is that while parents/guardians are allowed in the venue, the moment they coach their kid's match, they become coaches - and so, by this wording, are required to be on the coaches registry. (That means undertaking the USATT's online club coach course for $299, passing SafeSport, getting a background check, paying $75 for an annual USATT "Pro" membership they will likely never otherwise need, and paying an annual $50 for a USATT Coaching License that they also will likely never otherwise need.) When I brought this up at the coaches meeting, I was told that was NOT what USATT intended, and that parents CAN coach their kids. Hopefully, they will fix the wording on this. I was also told that to be a guardian, they would need a signed letter from the parents. (I wonder if anyone will abuse this and get signed letters from all their students, and so be able to coach them as "guardians" without getting on the USATT Coaches Registry!)
  • Event Completion. The entry form says that events are not guaranteed to finish on the day they begin. So players don't know how long to book their hotel and flights for. I'm told that all events will finish by the day after they are scheduled - this should be on the entry form. So, for example, all the junior events are starting on Sunday, July 4, and will finish that day or on Monday. If your last rating event starts on Tuesday, you will be done on Wednesday. And so on.  
  • Hopes. Normally the Nationals has Hopes events, for boys and girls. They are for players under age 12 as of Jan. 1 of that year. When the entry form came out without the events, there were some unhappy players and parents. (My club has two of the top three seeds on the boys' side, and they were training hard for this event.) But ITTF is now phasing out the Hopes event, and instead is going with the following age events - Under 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, and 21, which is what USATT went with. That's understandable, but again, why no explanation? Plus, it turns out USATT is looking to run the usual Regional and National Hopes programs in the fall, so there will likely be a National Hopes Championships after all. I just wish this had all been communicated widely in advance.

There are other things I wish they'd done. The lowest rating event is Under 1400. Why not Under 1200, for example? I just checked, and 13 of the 74 players currently entered are rated under 1200 (including two unrated players). That's 17.6%, a pretty big proportion - and that's without running Under 1200. If they had the event, presumably there'd be even more players rated under 1200 entered. That's pure lost revenue, plus making it a better tournament for some.

The entry form also says that water will not be provided, so I'm hoping they'll make sure water will be available in some way. Imagine the plight of someone who shows up the first day without bringing a gallon of water! Basically, players will need to buy a case of water on the first day of the Nationals and bring as many as needed for each session. Perhaps USATT can communicate to all players the closest place where they can buy a case of water - but with hundreds of players, they will likely get sold out quickly.

Regarding the Coaches meeting, there were six attendees, Sean O'Neill (High Performance Director as well as Hall of Fame Chair), Larry Hodges, Britt Salter, Mike Lauro, Dave Fullen, and Priya Kannan. We also discussed the USATT licensing fee, the new $50 annual fee coaches must pay to be certified. That too was a long discussion. I blogged about this issue in last week's blog. (Search for "USATT Licensing Fee".) I still think we should drop that fee, and instead charge a coach's pass at the Nationals, Open and Team Trials, for those who choose to coach at those events.

Let's do some math. We now have about 50 coaches paying the $50 licensing fee. That's $2500. But we lost 138-49=89 coaches, or around 90 coaches who were USATT certified on Feb. 28 but no longer on March 1. Suppose half of those 90 were paying the $75 USATT "Pro" membership fee just to stay certified as coaches, but decided the additional $50/year was just too much (i.e. $125/year), especially on top of all the hassle of SafeSport and background checks. Then we lost 45x$75=$3375 in membership fees. $3375-$2500=$875 in lost revenue. Now it's not that simple - extra members cost office overhead, and a number of coaches will pay the $50 to get recertified at the Nationals (including me) - but overall, USATT will likely only come out a little ahead with this, and it's simply not worth the loss of all these certified coaches, not to mention the anger over this. As I said in the video, when you go from 400 to 138 to 49 certified coaches in a short period of time, you have a coaching pandemic. To put it another way, the market has spoken. (My suggestion: Cancel the licensing fee until the pandemic is over, and when we have more advanced online coaching courses to offer, and start with a lower fee.)

For me personally, the entry form works well. I'll be coaching the first four days of the Nationals, Sun-Wed. And then, on Thursday, I play in three hardbat events! (I'm normally a sponge player, but play hardbat on the side for fun.) I'm the defending and six-time champion (Nationals and Open) in Over 40 Hardbat Singles, and will likely be top seed in Over 60 Hardbat, where I'm playing for the first time. I'm also playing Open Hardbat, which I've won twice - back in 1991-1992! So I'm playing that more for warm-up, though there'll be a glint in my eye as I secretly expect to win it. Alas, no doubles - I've won Hardbat Doubles 13 times.

USATT Coaching Committee
The new coaching committee has been approved by the USATT Board. I'm returning as a member, as is Chair Pieke and member Dave. The others are new. They are: Pieke Franssen (chair), Larry Hodges, Dave Fullen, Qiumars Hedayatian, and athlete reps Jennifer Wu, Terese Terranova, and Juan Liu.

New from Samson Dubina

New from EmRatThich/PingSunday

New from Ti Long

Table Tennis Penhold Grip (Feeding Multiball)
Here's the article and video (40 sec) from Eli Baraty, on why he often feeds multiball with a penhold grip.

Butterfly Training Tips: Rachel Yang – Defensive Specialist – Drill #2 Video
Here's the video (1:21). Here's Drill #1 (1:18) from last week.

Bruce Lee Philosophy in Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:35) from InMotion Table Tennis.

The Fitness Tests Before the Chinese National Games 2021
Here's the video (6:54).

Explained: The Science Behind TT Racquets with Pimples

Here's the article from the Indian Express. It's written for non-table tennis people, but still pretty interesting.

New from USA Table Tennis

New from Steve Hopkins

All the Things We Don’t Know About Table Tennis
Here's the article by Coach Jon.

Table Tennis Climbs Up Social Standing
Here's the article from World Table Tennis.

New from the ITTF

New from the Malong Fanmade Channel
Lots of new videos here!

Hou Yingchao vs Liang Jingkun | 2021 Chinese National Games (QUAL)
Here's the video (8:47) of this nice chopper vs. attacker match. Spoiler Alert - the chopper Hou, who has no world ranking, upsets world #10 Liang Jingkun.

Linn Sandstrom is Stunning Table Tennis Star Who Quit Sport for Boxing
Here's the article and video (59 sec) from the U.S. Sun.

Come to the Dark Side: We Play Table Tennis All Day
Here's where you can buy the shirt from Etsy!

Darth Vader vs. the Martian
Here's the cartoon!

20 Funniest Moments in Table Tennis
Here's the video (8:06)!

Funny in Table Tennis
Here's the video (3:46)!

Playing Ping Pong With A Cap | Annikas Roller
Here's the video (6:08) from XOLAY!

King of the Frozen Table
Here's the video (7 min) from Pongfinity!

Send us your own coaching news!