Animals Playing Table Tennis

November 2, 2012

USA Table Tennis Newsletter

USATT's monthly eNewsletter came on Wednesday. (Go here to join their mailing list.) Kudos to USATT and editor Andy Horn for putting this together!

Now a little history and comments. The newsletter was "born" at the Strategic Meeting held in Colorado Springs in September, 2009. I put "born" in quotes because there were already plans to create it before the meeting, since nearly every other Olympic sport was already doing them. During the meeting we came up with three "priorities," with a task force for each: Communication, Juniors, and "Grow Membership Through Added Value."  (I wrote a lot about this in my blog on the two-year anniversary, on Sept. 26, 2011.) At the meeting I was initially against making Communication one of the three Priorities, but was convinced otherwise by attendees. However, I argued that Communication as a Priority would be meaningless unless we had programs to communicate about. I thought the three priorities should have been Leagues, Club-based Junior Programs, and (with those two to communicate about) Communication.

Unfortunately, nothing came of the Junior and "Grow Membership Through Added Value" task forces, and so we were left with just Communication. We did get a new website, as well as the eNewsletter. But my point from 2009 is still the same - Communication is somewhat pointless if you don't have programs to communicate.

The current eNewsletter has interesting stuff, with headlines about the USATT's Athletes Advisory Council Accepting Applications; Remembering Olga Feingold Kahan; News on the US Cadets medaling in international tournaments; Ping-Pong film making debut in New York City; Ariel Hsing competing against a celebrity; Playing table tennis with Peter Gabriel; the Annual Giving Campaign; and an item on Renewing Your Membership. These are all nice items, but they do not promote any USATT programs.

Contrast this with the October newsletter I received from the U.S. Tennis Association. Their first headline is about the 2012 League Division Champions (i.e. like a USATT rating event but with teams). It includes a picture of the "2.5 Men's National Champions," which is roughly the equivalent in table tennis of "Under 1500 Men's National Champions." Their second item is titled "Get Your Kids Active - Attend an Event!", which is about "Play Day," an event to bring kids into tennis. Below that there's a headline "10 and Under Tennis - a Whole New Ballgame," which also promotes kids to play tennis. And then there's a link to "The Road to Jr. Team Tennis Nationals." (They also have an item about USTA membership, which includes the headline "Enjoy a Sport for a Lifetime." They also include a tennis coaching tip in each issue.)

All of these items are geared toward getting people to play tennis and join USTA. Over and over in their newsletters USTA focuses on promoting their core programs - leagues, junior programs, and the U.S. Open (which is highlighted in most newsletters, but not this one). The key is that USTA has nationwide leagues and junior programs to promote. USATT does not. So there's not much to put in the newsletter regarding USATT programs. (I'm talking about programs for the masses, not just elite players, which USATT tends to focus on.) This is why Andy gets kudos for putting the issue together, despite it not really promoting USATT programs that don't exist.

USATT does have the U.S. Open and USA Nationals (promoted in the previous eNewsletter), but haven't really made any serious attempt to increase the number of entries at these events, which get far fewer entries these days than the 1000+ players at the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens or the 700 or so many years in the 1990s, and the 800+ at the Nationals in 2005-2006. (This year's U.S. Open had 564 players, one of the worst showings ever, while the last Nationals had 502 players, the second worst ever ands the lowest since the ratings went online in 1994, which allows us to see the number of entries for each tournament).

I run a monthly eNewsletter for the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Every issue focuses on promoting our programs - private and group coaching, junior programs, leagues, and tournaments. Mixed in with these are interesting news items, like the ones USATT does. Other major table tennis centers do the same. The key is to have a core focus, and focus on promoting it.

USTA has a membership of 700,000, USATT about 8000. By contrast, Germany, England, and France, which focus on leagues and junior programs, have table tennis memberships of 700,000, 500,000, and 300,000. Think about it.

Since USATT doesn't currently have many of its own programs to promote to the masses, other than the U.S. Open and USA Nationals, here's an idea: why not use the USATT eNewsletter (and webpage) to systematically promote the leagues and junior programs from around the country, even if they are not USATT programs? This brings players into the sport, and these players usually become USATT members. Specifically, they could have a central online listing of these leagues and junior programs, and use the eNewsletter to refer readers to them. (They already have this for tournaments, so they just need to refer to them in the eNewsletter. But there's far greater membership potential in leagues and junior programs, as demonstrated in Europe.) If a kid or parent gets the USATT eNewsletter (or goes to the USATT web page, for that matter), they don't learn about the great junior programs at clubs around the country. They don't learn about the great leagues in SF, LA, NY, and other regions, or in individual clubs. They don't even know these things exist. And so we lose them. Tennis and European table tennis actively refers people to these programs as their central focus. Why not use these non-USATT programs to promote table tennis, referring to them constantly in the eNewsletter and webpage, leading to a more prosperous USATT?

Bids Wanted for 2013 National Team Trials

Here's the info sheet. Deadline to apply is Nov. 15, 2012. This is for clubs or cities to bid to run the 2013 USA National Team Trials, scheduled for Feb. 7-10, 2013.

Call for Nominations - Annual Coach of the Year

Here's the info sheet. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 15, 2012. "The U.S. Olympic Committee annually conducts a Coach of the Year recognition program within the family of Olympic and Pan American sports. There are five categories for which nominations may be made and they are: Volunteer, Developmental, National, Paralympic and the Doc Counsilman (Technology) area. USA Table Tennis takes this opportunity to solicit nominations from our membership for these categories."

Opening Ceremonies for World Cadet Challenge

Here's the opening ceremonies to the World Cadet Challenge currently being held in Guam (54:32). The World Cadet Challenge is going on right now in Guam, Oct. 27 - Nov. 4. Team North America (USA and Canada) marches in at 5:41, and are announced at 6:01. Here's the ITTF World Cadet Challenge page, with schedules, results, articles, and pictures.

Fantasy Table Tennis Artwork

Here's the latest fantasy table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. Click on the picture and you'll through a whole series of his works. Better still, go to his home photo page, and see all the thumbnails.

Pongress: International Ping Pong Congress

Yes, they almost done with the second "International Ping Pong Congress," and I've never even heard of it. Here's their description - and there's a bit of exaggeration when they say the event "brings together the world's best players." (Somehow I can't picture the Chinese team being there.) "The second International Ping Pong Congress has just taken place at the Cumberland Arms in Newcastle. Ping pong players from around the world came together to celebrate 'Pongress,' a week-long event which brings together the world’s best players (or should that be beer drinkers!). Pongress runs until 3rd November." Make sure to watch the linked video!

Twelve Animals Playing Table Tennis

They may not be Da Vinci's, but they are hilarious! Here are color drawings of 12 animals playing table tennis, including five dinosaurs, an alligator, dolphin, tuna, swordfish, shark, octopus, turtle, and one grouping of six of them.

Ghostly Table Tennis

Here's an animated gif of two ghosts playing table tennis - Happy Belated Halloween!

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September 11, 2012

Twin Towers

The jets soared down from high and bright,
Tumbling towers in the darkest night,
3000 died in this crazy blight,
Who brought forth this unspeakable sight?

Towers toppled from a monster’s spite,
Bodies crushed with no chance of flight,
What was, to a madman, the highest height,
For the rest brought forth just rage and fright.

The world exploded in a bigger fight.
We bombed and killed in a show of might.
We avenged the act because we were right.
But when will humanity see the light?

Unexpectedly Playing Well and Best Wins

After spending much of two weeks lying around from my neck injury I returned to coaching last week, and did my first serious playing this weekend. The coaching helped me get back in shape, especially a joint session on Saturday afternoon with John Olsen (1950 pushing 2100) and Kevin Walton (1750 pushing 1900). The first hour is multiball, then we do an hour of one-on-one drills. I did a lot of serve & attack drills (they are so used to my serves they return them better than most 2300 players) and a lot of rallying drills, and I could tell my game was coming back. 

In a Saturday match session, where I'm a practice partner, the other coaches had me playing beginners, afraid I'd re-injure my neck and knowing I was out of practice. But I could tell that I was "on" for some reason, and told them to put me up against the stronger players. So they did, and I played great.

I actually have a history of having some of my best results when I shouldn't. For example, way back in 1980 when I was 20 and living for two years in North Carolina I was playing great in practice. I had a rating of about 1900, but was much better - I kept beating the best players in the club. With a tournament coming up I was too excited to sleep. On Thursday night I couldn't sleep. On Friday night I couldn't sleep. I remember lying in bed early Saturday morning in a panic, knowing I'd been up since Thursday morning - 48 hours - without sleep, and worrying how it would affect me at the tournament. I started out shaky, struggling against some 1700 player in my first match. Then I caught fire and beat a 2000 player. In celebration, I ate a quarter pounder with cheese. I had another good win, and ate another. By the end of the day, still without sleep, I'd eaten nine quarter pounders with cheese, had a near incapacitating stomach in my last few matches (duh!), and had won all four events I was in - Under 21, Under 2000, and Open Singles and Doubles.

Now I'm thinking about other matches. Here are my ten best moments or achievements as a player, roughly in order:

  1. First Open title, the 1980 North Carolina Open over Fred King at age 20. Down 13-17 in the fifth on his serve, with no sleep in over 60 hours, and with a near incapacitating stomachache from eating nine quarter pounders with cheese that day, I scored five in a row and won, 21-19. (I'd go on to win open singles at 14 tournaments.)
  2. Winning the 1991 National Hardbat Championships over Lim Ming Chui, the reigning champion (I'd win it one more time, along with four over 40 hardbat titles), and then winning 13 hardbat doubles titles (9 with Ty Hoff, 4 with Steve Berger).
  3. Winning the National Collegiate Doubles Championship in 1990 with Christian Lillieroos. My best moment was in the semifinals, where we were struggling and I caught fire to pull out that match against a "stronger" team. (Almost making list - winning 1995 National Collegiate Team Championships as a player/coach, but I played poorly in the final so it doesn't make the list.)
  4. Twice at the U.S. Open Team Championships in Detroit I played the ninth and final match to make the first division against a player rated about 2350, and both times I won.
  5. Going 31-0 and 21-0 at the 1996 and 1997 U.S. Open Team Championships in Detroit (the last two years before it moved to Baltimore). I was a player/coach those two years, playing on a weaker team, but the combined 52-0 included three players over 2100, eleven over 2000, 20 over 1900, and 31 over 1800. If you think it's easy beating 31 1800 players in a row, try it sometime!!!
  6. Hitting 2755 consecutive backhands at a Seemiller training camp in 1979, with lefty Ben Nisbet (who only missed three times, if I remember correctly, his forehand to my backhand).
  7. At a Seemiller training camp in 1978, when I had just broken 1800, we played Brazilian teams. The other team had players rated about 2300, 2200, 2050, 1900, and 1700. Down 33-43, I scored 18 in a row to win for our team, 51-48. At the end the whole camp had gathered around to watch!
  8. Beating members of the National Teams of Canada, Nigeria, and Israel.
  9. Going over twenty years (circa early 1980s to early 2000s) without losing to a chopper rated under 2400 while beating six over 2400.
  10. Winning Under 2400 at the Easterns in the early 1990s over Pat Cox from down 0-10 in the fifth (games to 21).

Michael Maze Plays Table Tennis with a Book as a Kid

Here he is in 1988! He's the lefty. And here is a more recent picture showing how the Denmark star's backhand has improved, leading to his current world #21 (and as high as #8 in 2010).

Animals Playing Table Tennis

Here are two more animals playing table tennis I just added to the collection - there are many more in the Humorous Table Tennis Pictures section of the Fun and Games page. I've also put in a larger version of the Chimpanzee picture.

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