Full-time Club Tips

December 4, 2012

Full-Time Clubs

The biggest change in the game over the past six years or so is the rise of the full-time table tennis club. There were about ten in December 2006 when I did a presentation to USA Table Tennis, trying to convince them to get into the business of recruiting and training of coaches and directors to set up such centers and junior training programs. (Nothing came of that - two board members literally laughed at the idea. I blogged about this on January 4, 2012 while writing about "USA Cadet Depth.") Anyway, since then the number of full-time clubs has skyrocketed as coaches see how others doing them so successfully. Here's my current list of 56 full-time table tennis clubs in the USA.

The biggest stumbling block for those who are setting up these centers is that there is no manual on how to do it. Each time they have to re-invent the wheel. It's not quite that bad - they can see others doing it successfully, and so know it can be done, and they have others to ask advice on how to do it. I don't have time to put one together. (I do way too many volunteer activities already.)

Nearly all of these full-time clubs have copied the rough formula made successful at my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center, which opened in 1992. We were the first full-time club in the U.S. centered on coaching and training. (There have been others that were league-centered, with part-time coaching, but our emphasis was toward coaching, especially junior training programs.) Many didn't think it would work, arguing that there weren't enough players for a full-time center, similar to the arguments made at the 2006 Board meeting. What they don't understand is the primary point of a full-time center is to attract new players. It is coaching and training that turn recreational players (there are millions of them) into serious players. I'd say "duh," but I've come to learn that this isn't as obvious to many as it is to those who are actively doing it.

I've advised many of those starting these centers, and those I've advised have advised others, and the "how to" of setting up a full-time training center has literally spread word of mouth. Here are a few guidelines.

  1. Center it around the coaches. From a financial point of view, the purpose of the coaches is to bring players in, not to make lots of money off of. You want coaches who want lots of students, and will go out and find these students. When they bring in a new student, the club usually gets a new player who buys membership, equipment, refreshments, pays to play in tournaments and leagues, to attend training sessions and/or junior programs, and to attend clinics and camps. That's where the money comes from.
  2. Have multiple coaches. I find you want about one full-time coach for every four tables in the club. So if you have eight tables, you need at least two. If you open a large center with, say, 20 tables, you'll want about five. (Don't bring them all in at once; start with two, then bring more in.) It helps to have at least one "name" coach or player, but that's not that necessary. You can usually build up any good coach as a "name" coach.
  3. Let the coaches make good money. If you want a coach who will work long hours, let him keep the bulk of his money. For example, if the coach charges $50/hour, he keeps $40, the club gets $10. (That's the MDTTC standard.) You want a coach with lots of incentive to bring in lots of students and work those long hours. You don't get that if you do what some clubs have tried, where they keep a high percentage of the coaching fees.
  4. Have multiple revenue sources. The club should get money from membership, coaching fees, training sessions, junior programs, clinics & camps, tournaments, leagues, and equipment and refreshment sales. Make sure the coach understands that he needs to guide interested students towards these programs and sales.
  5. Keep the place clean and neat, with good playing conditions. You don't need a Taj Mahal as long as the place looks neat and clean, with good floors and lighting, and enough room. Put up a few table tennis posters and you're set.

The Rise of Dimitrij Ovtcharov

Here's an interesting article from ITTF on Germany's Dimitrij Ovtcharov, who is now ranked #7 in the world. Along with Timo Boll (#5) and Bastian Steger (#25), is Germany a legitimate threat to the Chinese? More important, how the heck do you pronounce Dimitrij Ovtcharov?

Lily Yip Featured

Here's an article on two-time USA Olympian Lily Yip.

Gal Alguetti's Serve

Here's his last serve in a match at the Teams in Baltimore - not to mention the nice return and Gal's follow! Gal was leading 10-0 at this point against what he described as a 2000 player.

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