Playing to Win

July 9, 2013

No-Coaching Policy Against Countrymen at ITTF Pro Tour

There is an unofficial policy at ITTF Pro Tour events that when two players from the same country play, there is no coach for either player. This makes sense in Europe and Asia, where the top players train together, often under the same coaches. But in the U.S., where players mostly train on their own with private coaches in private clubs, it doesn't really make sense. I was hired to coach MDTTC players at the U.S. Open, but didn't do so in many of the ITTF pro tour matches because of this. The following isn't really a complaint, but more of an observation of the problems that arose because of this that I hope can be resolved in the future.

Complications arose because it wasn't a rule, just a guideline. All ITTF Pro Tour participants received an email from USATT requesting that they not have coaches when playing other USA players. However, since it wasn't a rule, we would never know in advance if the other player would follow the guideline. And so I had to be available to coach these matches, just in case. The problem was that to do that, it meant someone else had to coach other players from MDTTC, and often that meant I wouldn't be coaching a player I normally would coach because someone else was assigned that match since we didn't know if I'd be available.

The first time an MDTTC player went up against another USA player I tentatively went out to coach, at the request of the parents. The umpire immediately told me it was against the rules, which was incorrect. Then an ITTF official came over and asked me not to coach, that it was against protocol. Then the USA Men's Coach, Stefan Feth, asked me not to coach the match. I agreed (he meant well and made a good argument about us all being USA players and the ITTF protocol against coaching against countrymen) and instead watched from the stands. (Meanwhile, another match in a non-ITTF Pro Tour match that I could have been coaching was instead coached by someone who had never coached that player before.)

Later an MDTTC player played a player from China I'd never seen before, a non-USA citizen, from a club 3000 miles from us, and again I was asked not to coach. The player did live in the U.S. and had entered through USATT (as all USA players were required to), but somehow there seemed something strange about my not being able to coach this match. But I decided not to create an "international incident" and so didn't coach.

Then things go tricky in another match. The ITTF Pro Tour referee, Bill Walk, sat down near me. He noticed I wasn't coaching an MDTTC player who was playing a U.S. player from another club, and asked why. I explained. He got very angry, said it was not a rule, and encouraged me to coach the match. He said he had explained this to the umpires in the official's meeting, and didn't believe coaches should be asked not to coach their players against USA players. I was tempted to coach the match, but not wanting to cause problems, decided not to. Obviously we're not all on the same page on this guideline that isn't a rule.

I hope that the powers that be can get together and either make this a rule or drop it as a guideline completely. I don't see how it's different coaching a Maryland player against a California player in a junior singles event as opposed to an ITTF event. However, I also know it's easy to make an argument for or against this guideline - but if we're going to do it, please make it a rule, and not a guideline that we never know will be enforced. And if we are going to not allow coaching against USA players in these big matches because we're all on the same "team," then we need to actually train together as a team and play as a team, rather than just pretend we are when we really are not at this time.

This reminded me of problems in the past in international events. In Europe and Asia, most top juniors train under the national coaches for at least several months a year, often year round. When they play at international events, the national coaches know the players. In the U.S., this doesn't happen; at most, the USA national coaches have a few days per year working with the National Junior and Cadet Teams. And yet, when USA plays international matches, our top juniors and cadets are normally coached by the national coaches, who don't always know their games, rather than their private coaches, who do, even when the private coaches are available. Our top juniors and cadets reached the levels they did with the work of their own coaches, and it doesn't make sense to then send them on the international stage and handicap them by using coaches who don't really know their games. This isn't a rap on the national coaches, but on the situation where our top juniors and cadets don't train together with the national coaches. I'm all for the national coaches coaching our top juniors and cadets in international events once USATT is able to have them work together for at least a month per year. Until that happens, why handicap our top juniors and cadets when they reach the international stage?

MDTTC Camp

We just started week four of our ten Mon-Fri camps this summer. I missed week three because of the U.S. Open. Yesterday's focus was the forehand; today it'll be the backhand. I'm missing four of the weeks because of travel (see below).

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Here's USATT Board Member Kagin Lee's blog on the U.S. Open.

Best of Asian Championships

Part 1 (8:29) and Part 2 (7:50). And here's a video of one of the semifinals (3:25, with time between points taken out) between Ma Long and Kenta Matsudaira, with Chinese commentary. Originally I listed this as the semifinal, as the video says it's the "Final 2," but that's incorrect. In the final Ma Long defeated Yan An.) 

Playing to Win

Here's an essay on the topic from Table Tennis Master.

Best of Penholder Players

Here's a video (5:56) of the best penholder plays.

$6600 Luxury Ping-Pong Table

Here it is!

Despicable Me 2

I saw it last night. The movie features a very short TT scene. Here's the description from IMDB: "There's a brief shot in the film in which Edith is playing ping pong with a minion, but uses a pair of nunchaku as opposed to a ping pong paddle. This is a reference to a famous Chinese Nokia commercial in which a Bruce Lee impersonator in a mock "lost home video" also plays a game of ping pong using only a pair of nunchaku." There's also a party scene where the minions are sitting about on the ping-pong table.

Here's an online video (11 sec) of the minions playing table tennis (tennis-style) that's not in the movie.

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