School Petition

January 4, 2013

How to Deal with Beginners at a Club

This is a semi-regular topic at table tennis forums, so I thought I'd address it.

Believe it or not, I actually did a skit on this for the USA Table Tennis Board of Directors about 10-12 years ago. It was probably the only skit ever done during one of their live meetings - and you wonder why I can never convince them to do anything!!!

They were discussing how to increase membership, a perennial topic for discussion, but rarely one for action. The problem was that none of the people in the discussion had any serious experience at the club level, which of course is where you get new players. (I've been doing this for decades.) The question of increasing USATT membership and how to deal with beginners at a club really are the same thing. In both cases we are trying to convert non-serious players into serious players - which mostly means converting one of the 15 million or so recreational players into one of  9000 USATT members. (That's roughly a 1700-1 ratio; we aren't converting very well.)

There are three types of beginners. (I'll get to them in a minute.) I'd explained this to the board numerous times, but generally to deaf ears, often to people with strong opinions that are not based on hands-on experience. I needed to find a way to get their attention and show them what really happens at the club level, and how we can convert these three types of new players into USATT members. It was while sitting in that board meeting, listening to discussions on how to increase membership by people who didn't know how to, that I hit on the idea of a skit to get their attention.

So I raised my hand and asked if I could give a short presentation on the subject. Since, for once, they weren't in a rushed schedule - they'd put aside something like an hour for the discussion - they agreed. So I told them I was going to act out the three most common types of interactions with new players - and note that this was exactly the same in table tennis and tennis, except that in tennis (and other successful sports) they had learned to address the needs of these three types of new players.

The skit was in three parts. For each part I actually walked out the door, and then came in. I played the part of both the new player and the club officer.

Part 1: I came in and said, "Hi, I'm a new player and I'd like play somebody." Playing the part of the club officer, and knowing that new player usually means beginner, and knowing that if I put a beginner up against an advanced player he'd get killed and we'd likely never see him again, I told him about our leagues, where he'd play players his own level. He played in the league against players his level, met new players, made friends, and became a regular at the club and a USATT member.

Part 2: I came in and said, "Hi, I'm a beginner, and I'd like to learn how to play better." Playing the part of the club officer, I told him about our coaching programs for beginners, both group sessions and private coaching. He signed up, learned about the sport, met new players, made friends, and became a regular at the club and a USATT member.

Part 3: I came in, and using a woman's voice, said, "Hi, my two kids would like to play table tennis." Playing the part of the club officer, I told them about our junior program. They signed up, made friends, and became regulars at the club and USATT members. And one of them went on to become National Champion.

I then explained that if a club doesn't have programs for these three types, then we lose them. (I also explained there's also a fourth type - a very small minority - which is the crazy guy who comes in, loses badly to everyone, but sticks around and becomes a serious player. They are rare, and are the ones we currently rely on for our membership (along with players from overseas).Hence the 1700-1 ratio.

How do we address these needs? For the player looking to play (Part 1), the answer is leagues. Until we have a nationwide network of leagues for players of all levels, we will keep losing these players. For the player who wants to learn more and for kids, we need more coaches. In both cases, either USATT or someone else has to take the lead in setting up these leagues, and in recruiting and training coaches.

Table tennis has done this in countries all over the world, and other sports have done so in the U.S. and all over the world. As I've blogged in the past, in Europe, nearly every country has more members in their table tennis association than their tennis association - because they address the needs of the new player. In the U.S., USTA has over 700,000 members to our 9000 - about an 80-1 ratio. If table tennis addressed the needs of new players as tennis does, and as table tennis does elsewhere, then we'd also have 700,000 members or more. But it's not going to happen by talking about it. It'll happen when someone does something about it.

I may actually take the lead in the coaching aspect, i.e. recruiting and training coaches. I've been toying with it for a while, but I'm too busy right now. USATT doesn't seem to have interest in acting on these issues, at least right now.

Petition for Table Tennis in School Curriculums

Last month I posted about this petition. Here it is again! (I'm the fifth signee; they need 25,000 by Jan. 11, 2013.) The petition is to do the following:

Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka "Ping Pong" as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice.
Table Tennis should be included as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice to participate and play. The sport isn't only a recreational past time but also an Olympic sport. The sport is considered and recognized relevant by other cultures. The sport is cost effective, fights the obesity problem among young Americans, and is non discriminatory. The sport can be easily incorporated in a schools current athletic curriculum, and easily be taught. Tables should be put on all middle schools to encourage start up programs. There are plenty of qualified coaches in the United States that would love the opportunity to teach and coach this fast growing sport. Starting in middle schools will also identify talented kids and Olympic hopefuls. This is the way It's done in China and Europe.

Review of the New Plastic Ball

Part 2 (14:35) just went up of the Plastic Ball Review from OOAK Reviews, "High speed filming of tests to compare relative rebound speed, bounce and spin." (On Wednesday I linked to Part 1, "Why the change and a comparison of their physical appearance.") Here's their home page, which links to both videos. I'll post here when Part 3 goes up, "Players from our Premier Division who have different styles of play and use different types of equipment try out the three balls and give their opinions on them."

World Championship of Ping Pong

It's being held this weekend, in London - but this isn't the World Table Tennis Championships; this is a sandpaper event, with $100,000 in prize money!!! (That includes $20,000 to the winner.) Here's the home page. Good luck to USA players Ty Hoff, Adoni Maropis, and Ilija Lupulesku!

Corkscrew Spin and Google

So you want to know what corkscrew spin is? This is where the ball spins so that the axis of rotation points away from you. Here's an example of clockwise corkscrew spin: just cut & paste "Do a barrel roll" into a Google engine - for most of us, it's the default search engine so you can just put this in your regular search box, or you can go to Google directly - and there it is!

Wang Liqin vs. Ma Long

Here's a great match (12:05, with time between points removed) between these two in a 2012 China Super League match

Best Table Tennis Clips of the Year

Table Tennis Nation chose the three best table tennis clips of the year, and the grand champion from those three. Two of them are paralympic players!

Amazing Shots While Rolling Around on Ground

Here's the video (1:12).

Modern Age Meets the Stone Age

Here's an iPong robot on a cement table. There's something really wrong about this. It's like a caveman with a machine gun.

Table Tennis Fun with Kids and a Panda

Kids and a Panda show how fun table tennis is in this video from PingSkills (2:23).

***
Send us your own coaching news!

December 13, 2012

USA Nationals Entrants

This year's Nationals (Las Vegas, Dec. 18-22) has 782 entries, a nice increase over last year's near-record low of 502 in Virginia Beach. In actuality, the numbers last year were a bit higher than 502 since that number, taken from the online ratings database, doesn't include players who entered only doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper events. So they probably had closer to 550 last year - but that's still the lowest number ever for a USA Nationals since the 1980s.

What do these numbers say about location, location, location? But the numbers are also a bit higher than the Nationals in Las Vegas two years ago, which had 686 (again, players in rated events only). We still have a ways to go to return to the heydays of 2005 and 2006, which had 829 and 837 players in rated events.

Here's a chart showing the number of entries in rated events at the Nationals every year from 1994-2011. I have not included the 2012 figures yet because they include all entries. When the tournament is processed and the number of players in rated events is known, it'll be a bit lower than 782, almost for certain under 750. We'll see. (While we're at it, here's a chart showing the number of entries in the U.S. Open, 1994-2012.)

How many players only enter in doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper? This year's U.S. Open had 611 total entries, but only 564 in rated events. So 47 played only doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper, about 7.7% of the total. Based on that, of the 782 entries in this year's Nationals, about 60 will only play doubles, hardbat, or sandpaper, leaving about 722 in rated events.

The number of entries listed on the charts for earlier years is closer to the actual number. After I won the Hardbat Open at the 1991 Nationals and 1992 U.S. Open, the event was discontinued. (They must not have liked me.) The event was restored in 1997. Now there are six hardbat events - Hardbat Open, Over 40, Over 60, Doubles, Under 2000, Under 1800, and Under 1500. And over the last couple of years they've added the sandpaper event. (At the Open, they had two sandpaper events - the Open, and Liha Sandpaper, which has somewhat different rules.) So there are more and more players entered these days in non-rated events. I wish there were a way of getting actual entry numbers for all these U.S. Opens and Nationals, but all I have to go on are the online ratings lists.

Crystal Wang and Lily Yip

Yesterday I linked to the ITTF article that featured Crystal Wang. Now they've done a video interview of Crystal (2:26, she's a bit nervous) and USA Junior Coach Lily Yip (2:43). Poor Crystal and the others on the USA Junior Team (eight of them) just spent a week in India at the World Junior Championships, and will have exactly two days to travel halfway around the world to play in Las Vegas at the USA Nationals. When they play a match in Las Vegas at, say, 4PM, which is middle of the night for them this past week. (And the same for their matches in India, where their daytime matches were like middle of the night matches in U.S. time.)

Petition for Table Tennis in School Curriculums

Here's a petition to do the following:

Include and recognize the sport of Table Tennis Aka "Ping Pong" as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice.

Table Tennis should be included as part of a school's athletic curriculum of choice to participate and play. The sport isn't only a recreational past time but also an Olympic sport. The sport is considered and recognized relevant by other cultures. The sport is cost effective, fights the obesity problem among young Americans, and is non discriminatory. The sport can be easily incorporated in a schools current athletic curriculum, and easily be taught. Tables should be put on all middle schools to encourage start up programs. There are plenty of qualified coaches in the United States that would love the opportunity to teach and coach this fast growing sport. Starting in middle schools will also identify talented kids and Olympic hopefuls. This is the way It's done in China and Europe.

It just got started, and I went ahead and signed it. (I'm the fifth signee; they need 25,000 by Jan. 11, 2013.) Let's see if it takes off.

Return Boards

Here's a video (2:03) highlighting their use. (The first two players shown are USA Junior Team Members (and sister and brother) Prachi Jha and Kanak Jha.) I have to get one!!!

1998 Olympics Gold Medal Match

Here's a highlights video (2:04) of the Men's Singles Final at the 1988 Olympics, the debut of table tennis as an Olympic Sport. It was held in Seoul, Korea, and (coincidentally?), it was an all-Korean final, with Yoo Nam Kyu defeating Kim Ki Taek in the final, 3-1. Players back in those days had great forehands and footwork, and lobbed more, but backhands were generally weaker, though most Europeans were looping their backhands. (Both of these penholders were backhand blockers, using conventional penhold backhands, which has mostly died out at the world-class level.)

Humans are Awesome

Here's a video (4:29) that shows humans doing various spectacular stunts. It includes a great table tennis rally from 0:21 to 0:33. (The player on the near side is Dimitri Ovtcharov. Anyone recognize the Asian lefty shakehander on the far side?)
Addendum: Julian Waters, and a few minutes later Bruce Liu, both informed me that the player on the far side is Mizutani Jun of Japan. Julian also corrected my original belief that the player on the near side was Primorac - oops!

Another Four-Person Table

Here it is!

Table Tennis Birthday Cake

Here it is!

***
Send us your own coaching news!

Syndicate content