Winning Ugly

December 12, 2013

Developing Training Centers

The best thing that's happened to table tennis in recent years is the rise of full-time training centers. I predicted this for years, but most thought there simply weren't enough table tennis players to support more than a few of these. In December 2006, when there were no more than eight to ten full-time TT centers in the U.S. (including my club, the Maryland Table Tennis Center), I even gave a presentation to the USATT Board, urging them to get involved by using their resources to recruit and training coaches to set up these full-time centers and junior programs. I wanted them to set a goal of 100 full-time training centers in five years. The response was a room full of eyes staring back at me as if I were crazy, with two board members bluntly telling me that there simply aren't enough players in this country to support more than a few full-time centers. Others nodded in agreement. They also didn't like the idea of setting a specific number as a goal, since they thought they'd be considered failures if they didn't reach the goal. (This last was crazy, as if you have ten centers and make a goal of having 100, and get, say, 80, you are an incredible success, going from ten to 80 - and then you continue to strive for the 100.) I made a similar challenge at the 2009 USATT Strategic Meeting; same result. 

In the seven years since the 2006 meeting, we've gone from ten to 64 full-time professional table tennis clubs in the U.S., with more popping up every month. (There's a new one opening up in Houston that'll soon join the list, and another here in Maryland that's opening soon, and others I probably don't know about.) The ones who thought there weren't enough players to support full-time centers simply did not have the vision, experience, or knowledge to understand why this is happening - that when you open these centers, you develop the players needed to support them. They were stuck in the old-fashioned thinking that you opened a club if there are already enough players to support it, which is backwards. Professional clubs develop their own player base.

The result has been mind-boggling to those who have been paying attention. The number and depth of junior players who are now training regularly is so far beyond where it was just seven years ago as to be incomparable. The players who lose in the semifinals of major junior events would have dominated the events back then, especially up to the cadet level (under 15). There used to be one or two kids who'd dominate their age group for a decade; now there are a dozen of them in each age group, all battling for supremacy and at levels that approach or match the best in the world outside China. It bodes well for the future of U.S. table tennis.

The huge weakness in the growth of these centers is there is no manual on putting together a full-time table tennis center. Every time someone wants to do it they have to reinvent the wheel, or go to current centers to learn how to do it. What's needed is such a manual to grease the wheels, not just to make it easier, but to encourage those considering setting up one to do so.

I already did half the job, with my Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which covers the professional side of coaching - recruiting and retaining students, setting up and running a junior program, etc. But more is needed on the specifics of opening an actual center, from the finances to the specifics of what's needed to open one. It's a rather long todo list.

So here's my offer to USATT: If they bring in someone or put together a committee to create such a manual (and I'm not volunteering, don't have time, though I might help out), they can incorporate my Handbook, and create a manual, which can tentatively be called "Professional Table Tennis Center Handbook." (Can you think of a better title?) We can then put it on sale at (created via, which is how I now create my books), where it can be published "print on demand" at a cheap rate. And that will greatly encourage coaches and promoters to create even more of full-time table tennis centers.

The nice thing about this is that USATT doesn't really have to do much work. They just recruit the person or persons to create the manual, either from volunteers, with a small payment, or (my recommendation), whoever creates it gets the profits from sales, as well as the fame and prestige of being a published author.

Arm Problems

My first physical therapy session for my arm was scheduled on Tuesday. Someone also scheduled a snowstorm on that day. So the session was cancelled. Since I'm leaving for the Nationals this Sunday, I won't be able to get another session scheduled until afterwards. So I'll probably just rest it, and if all goes well, I'll be fine by January.

The Hobbit and Friday's Blog

I may see the midnight showing of "The Hobbit" tonight. If so, I won't get home until around 3AM, and probably not to bed until 4AM - which means tomorrow's blog will probably go up late, probably noonish or so. Brace yourselves!

Table Tennis Funding and the Lottery

For so many years people have wondered how to fund table tennis, when it was so obvious. The Meg-Millions lottery is now up to $400 million, with the drawing tomorrow, which is Friday the 13th. So I'm going to buy a few tickets, and use the winnings to fund table tennis. It's so obvious, why hasn't anyone thought of this before? What can possibly go wrong?

Nervousness and "Winning Ugly"

There's a great piece of advice for dealing with nervousness in the book "Winning Ugly" by Brad Gilbert and Steve Jamison. (I'm referring to the 1994 edition, which I have; there are newer editions.) Chapter 5 is titled, "Four "Nervebusters": Overcoming Pre-Match Nervousness." While he is talking about tennis specifically, all four relate to table tennis as well. The four items are:

  1. Breathe like you've got asthma (take smooth, rhythmic, deep breaths)
  2. Get happy feet (stay on your toes and bounce up and down between points)
  3. Read the label (watch the label on the ball to help you focus)
  4. Sing a song (hum a relaxing song under your breath).

USATT Assembly

In my blog yesterday I wrote, "Unlike past years, there doesn't seem to be time set aside for those who wish to address the assembly." Some seemed to think I was accusing USATT of breaking Article 15.1 of the Bylaws, which includes the statement, "Individual and organization members and other constituencies may be permitted to pose questions to the Board and Chief Executive Officer for response." Technically speaking, this is fulfilled by the 30 minutes set aside in the Assembly this year from 8:15-8:45PM for "Interaction with the Board and Staff." There's just one problem - I never accused USATT of breaking their bylaws. I said exactly what I meant, so I'll repeat it again: "Unlike past years, there doesn't seem to be time set aside for those who wish to address the assembly." I didn't say they didn't get to pose questions to the Board and CEO for response; I said they no longer seem to have time set aside to address the assembly, as had been done in past years.

Aerobic Table Tennis Official Launch

Here's the ITTF article. "After two years of detailed preparation, Aerobic Table Tennis will be launched in January 2014. Aerobic TT is an alternative way to keep fit. Music is played throughout the session to create a high energy zone. The session includes, warm up and stretching, table tennis movement to music, speed agility and quickness exercises plus of course table tennis."

Fan Zhendong Tribute

Here's video (6:16) of a tribute to the 16-year-old Chinese player, who's already winning ITTF Pro Tour events.

2036 U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team

Here's video (1:23) of Fiona (3) and Kenzie (1) demonstrating the beginnings of the forehands that will totally dominate the world in 23 years, care of Coach Samson Dubina.

Non-Table Tennis - "Satan's Soul"

On Tuesday I sold my humorous fantasy story "Satan's Soul" to Stupefying Stories. A depressed Satan knows he's going to lose at Armageddon - until a superbeing appears and offers to have him win, in return for his soul! Satan negotiates seemingly favorable terms regarding his soul, and even gets to keep possession of it though he loses ownership. Jesus and the anti-Christ will soon go at it in a UN parking lot, with the Anti-Christ throwing modern military hardware at Jesus in a somewhat over-the-top scene, while Jesus fights back while listening on an iPod to Beatles music. Oh, and a penguin is central to the story! Sorry, no table tennis in this one.

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