March 1, 2012

Peter Li

Imagine a country that has an 18-year-old National Men's Singles Champion. Suppose that country decides to fund four players to the World Championships. You'd think that winning that Men's Singles title would automatically qualify you for the team. Right? Wrong.

That's the story of Peter Li, who won Men's Singles at the USA Nationals a little over two months ago in December when he was 18. However, at the USA Team Trials (just after turning 19), he finished in a four-way tie for second place with a record of 8-3. But after the tie-breaker (going to matches and games among those tied), he finished in fifth place, just missing the top four. He was then offered the fifth spot as an unfunded position, meaning he would have to pay his own way to the worlds. His family is already spending over $10,000/year on his training, and simply couldn't afford to pay more. And so he will not be going to the Worlds, and will not gain the experience he would get there.

Can anyone imagine this happening in any serious table tennis country? I don't think there are very many countries that fund teams to the Worlds that would not fund a teenaged National Men's or Women's Singles Champion.  

There's little chance USATT will change their procedures for this Worlds. The question is if they will look at the result of their procedure, and ask themselves if that procedure is really getting them the best result. Perhaps anyone winning or making the final of Men's and Women's Singles at the Nationals should automatically qualify. (Conflict of interest note - Peter developed at MDTTC, my club, and still trains and coaches part-time there on weekends.) 

Hit the ball harder!

I'm coaching an eight-year-old girl whose forehand is coming along pretty well, except for one problem: she absolutely will not hit the ball hard. Every shot is the same soft keep-it-in-play stroke that wouldn't break wet tissue paper. I've tried to get her to gradually hit the ball harder, to no avail. She just doesn't want to. So what did I do?

I did the obvious thing. I tricked her.

Near the end of our session yesterday, while feeding multiball, I put a half-filled water bottle on the table. I told her if she could knock it over, she could have a chocolate. (I conveniently had a stash handy.) It took her a few shots to hit the bottle, and she discovered she'd have to hit it harder to knock it over. That's when she started hitting harder, and with good form. She won two chocolates. Afterwards I told her mom about what I'd done, and she promised not to tell her daughter. (Shhhhhhh everyone! Hopefully she's not reading this blog.)

Sol Schiff

Here's the obit on Sol Schiff by his longtime friend Dean Johnson.

The Ma Long serve

He's #1 in the world, and here's his serve (2:31). Here's another video of it (0:55), showing it in action. Both videos show it in regular time and slow motion.

Table Tennis in Bed

Yes, you too can play table tennis in bed, using your hands and feet to rally back and forth!

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Re: March 1, 2012

Most countries that have a trials have a funded coach's pick so that they can make sure to bring in the most promising players. USATT has done that in the past, but stopped doing so. USATT has also used Men's Singles at the Nationals as the Team Trials. I would recommend both putting the Men's and Women's National Champions automatically on the National Team, and funding the coach's pick. The most promising player might not always be able to pay their way.

ok, i see your point here.

with regards to my comment on "6th player......", I meant to say: I don't think that the 'particular comment' is what your complaint is about. But nevertheless I am putting it in, just to make the argument complete and perhaps 'cool'.

hahaha....yes, I do not know you. just know you as much as a reader would know the writer.

A major goal of USATT is to develop talent. That is different from importing it from other countries.

totally agree with that. maybe USATT should work on a two pronged strategy:

  • short-term strategy: importing the best players (for this I am assuming that USATT is also responsible for ensuring that US wins a decent number of medals at the olympics)
  • long-term strategy: developing local talent

The "Maybe you are angry at something else." comment was partly to say that 'maybe its actually some other aspect of this issue which is bothering you and has not been expressed properly" and partly to the blog-writer who maybe generally upset with something completely unrelated, but let that irritation creep into this write-up. (hey! that happens to human beings.)

 

So in this saga, what went wrong? after reading your blog post, I understand that the crux of the issue is:

  1. the singles winner should automatically qualify for the team (and that did not happen)

 

 

Larry Hodges's picture

Re: March 1, 2012

I fail to understand the complaint.

A primary goal of USA Table Tennis is developing elite athletes. A teenager won Men's Singles at the USA Nationals. Few if any serious table tennis countries wouldn't fund such a player to the World Championships, where he can gain the necessary experience to become a world-class player. 

Are you saying that tournaments other than the 'USA Team Trials' should decide who represents the country?

Most countries that have a trials have a funded coach's pick so that they can make sure to bring in the most promising players. USATT has done that in the past, but stopped doing so. USATT has also used Men's Singles at the Nationals as the Team Trials. I would recommend both putting the Men's and Women's National Champions automatically on the National Team, and funding the coach's pick. The most promising player might not always be able to pay their way. 

or maybe the complaint is that the first 5 people should be funded (until the 6th one complains)? [well, knowing you, I am pretty sure this is not the complaint. but putting it in here, 'cause it sounds cool.]

Are you saying I'm putting it in there because it sounds "cool," or you are? It's not clear. As to the sixth person, that's not relevant. My complaint wasn't that the #6 player wasn't funded, but that we set up a selection procedure that didn't end up with the best result for USA Table Tennis, i.e. having their teenaged national champion on the team. As to your knowing me, do you actually know me?

or maybe the issue is that the men/women's singles champion should always go and perhaps does not even have to play at the 'USA Team Trials'

That I agree with. If you are the Men's or Women's Singles National Champion, you've already proven yourself. Ideally, they'd go back to combining the Team Trials with the Men's and Women's Singles Championships, but there were logistical complaints about too many matches per day. 

Also, why should "age" and "native or non-native" bias any such decisions? I thought "no discrimination" of any sort, even if doing so is deterimental to the sport, is the hallmark of a democratic process.

You are correct - I shouldn't have said "native born," I should have said "USA trained." (Though he has trained in China the last two summers, most of his training has been in the U.S., which is where he primarily developed his game.) A major goal of USATT is to develop talent. That is different from importing it from other countries. (I will put in a small edit with a note. I'll just say "18-year-old National Men's Singles Champion.") 

Maybe you are angry at something else.

No, and I'm not sure why you would throw that in there. In a discussion, it's better to respond to one's ideas than to disparage one's motives without evidence. 

Re: March 1, 2012

I fail to understand the complaint.

Are you saying that tournaments other than the 'USA Team Trials' should decide who represents the country?

or maybe the complaint is that the first 5 people should be funded (until the 6th one complains)? [well, knowing you, I am pretty sure this is not the complaint. but putting it in here, 'cause it sounds cool.]

or maybe the issue is that the men/women's singles champion should always go and perhaps does not even have to play at the 'USA Team Trials'

Also, why should "age" and "native or non-native" bias any such decisions? I thought "no discrimination" of any sort, even if doing so is deterimental to the sport, is the hallmark of a democratic process.

Maybe you are angry at something else.