Pong to the People

February 27, 2014

Coaching Scams

In my February 14 blog, I wrote about a coaching scam from England. (See fifth item.) The scam has apparently expanded, and now sometimes comes from England, other times from Nigeria. The scam works as follows: you get an email that someone wants to send his son/daughter to the U.S. for coaching. They make the arrangements, and want to pay in advance. They send the check, which is for way too much - apparently an extra zero is added at the end. Then you get an email saying they made a mistake, and asking for you to send back the difference. Many people think that they can do this, since they've already received the check, but the check will bounce, and you'll be out the difference. I've been getting varieties of this scam for years. At least ten coaches have told me they received it, and I expect many more have. I think they are simply taking emails from the USATT certified coaching list. At least one coach I know of almost fell for it - he had already made out the refund check, and would have sent it except heavy snow stopped him, and then someone told him to go to the bank first to make sure the incoming check cleared. They were advised it was a bad check, and they have turned the info over to the FBI.

USATT was the beneficiary of a major scam for years back in the late 1980s/early 1990s. (One of those years I was in charge of inputting all the entries in the computer, and remember entering all those one-event Nigerians.) For several years in a row USATT received sometimes close to a hundred entries from Nigeria for the U.S. Open. Each "player" would enter exactly one event, Men's or Women's Singles. In return, USATT would send out an invitation letter. The invitation letter was apparently all the Nigerians needed to get into the U.S., and so both sides "won" - the Nigerians got into the U.S., and USATT got their entry fees. At least one year we even had arrival and hotel info for the Nigerians, who apparently arrived and then all disappeared. Not once did any show for the tournament, and so for those years Men's and Women's singles was full of Nigerian no-show defaults. Then USATT was advised by the FBI on what was going on, and told to stop accepting these entries or we'd be in violation of immigration laws. After that I believe we required entry of all or most foreign players through their national associations.

Blade vs. Racket

In my Monday blog, I wrote about the interview with ITTF President Adham Sharara, and about the apparent upcoming bounce test. In the article I inadvertently interchanged racket and blade, when the two are different. (Racket includes the covering; the blade does not.) So the article might have been confusing. I've fixed it. The bounce test would presumably be on the racket, i.e. a measurement of how high the ball bounces off a racket and covering.

Tournament Event Selection (Why you shouldn’t avoid YOUR events)

Here's a new coaching article from the OKCTT Blog (that's Oklahoma City Table Tennis). But if you page down, there are a number of other coaching articles. Here's a listing - take your pick!

  • TT Robots…  Good or Evil?
  • Don’t Overlook the Basics
  • Spin, Spin, Spin!
  • Match Play Tips (July 2013)
  • Balance, Anticipate, Move Your Feet!
  • Play a Variety of Players
  • Serving
  • Doubles vs Singles

USATT Help Wanted

Here's the position announcement for a USATT Administrative Assistant. Presumably this is to take the place of Joyce Grooms, who is retiring soon after many years with USATT. Apply by March 5.

Add ITTF Videos to Your Website

Here's a widget that'll allow you to put these table tennis videos on your websites.

Volunteers Needed at Cary Cup

Want to volunteer at the Cary Cup Open in Cary, NC, March 15-16? Here's info! (I'll be there, playing the hardbat event on Friday, then coaching the rest of the way.)

Mental Fitness for Long-Term Athlete Development

Here's a brochure on the subject - with a table tennis picture featured at the start.

22 Jump Street to Feature Table Tennis

Here's the article. The movie 22 Jump Street comes out June 13, and is the sequel to 21 Jump Street, the hit comedy from 2012. Both star Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill, and Ice Cube. (Okay, it'll be beer pong, but close enough.) 

The Dalai Lama on Ping Pong

Here's a video (1:30, starts with 30 sec ad). He mentions playing with China's Prime Minister Zhou En-lai in the 1950s. They also discuss golf and the movie Caddyshack.

Ping & Pong: Toy Robot Players

Here's the picture - they are from the Kid Robot Dunny 2012 Series.

Pong to the People!

Here's the picture.

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February 26, 2014

Vision

I've previously blogged about some of the below, but I'm going to rehash some of it here so as to get to the point about vision.

Way back in December, 2006, I made a proposal to the USATT board for them to get involved in developing training centers and junior programs. The plan basically involved them recruiting and training coaches to set up these centers and programs. They'd use their web page and regular mailings to get prospective coaches into coaching seminars that USATT was already running. The seminars would cover not only how to coach, but the professional side as well - how to get students, set up and run programs, etc., with a major emphasis on developing full-time coaches who would set up full-time training centers and junior programs. I even wrote the manual for the program, which I've since had published, "Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook."

I ended the proposal by asking the USATT board what their vision was for table tennis in America, and gave them mine:

"Hundreds of professional clubs with coaches, junior training programs, classes, and leagues; thousands of recreational clubs with leagues or training programs; and hundreds of thousands playing in leagues or training programs."

At the time there were only about ten full-time centers in the U.S., and about that many serious junior programs. When I finished my proposal, thirteen board members looked back at me with seemingly little interest. Two of them spoke up, saying there weren't enough table tennis players in the U.S. to support training centers except in a few unique areas. I stared back in absolute disbelief. I was so disgusted that I told several people that very night I was resigning my position as editor of USATT Magazine, co-webmaster, and program director, which I officially did one month later.

That was just over seven years ago. Without USATT's involvement, there are now nearly 70 full-time training centers in the U.S., and nearly every one of them has a serious junior program. It happened because many others saw what I saw - there would be a demand for such centers, and where there's a demand, entrepreneurs step in. In this case, lots of table tennis coaches and top players filled the demand. The two board members were correct that there "weren't enough table tennis players in the U.S. to support training centers." What they and others without vision did not see is that you create this demand. With USATT's support, who knows how many more we would have.

Some would say we're better off without USATT getting involved, but as one who's out in the trenches, who's actually set up full-time centers and helps others doing so, I guarantee the lack of any national leadership is perhaps the biggest handicap here. Everyone who opens such a center has to practically re-invent the wheel. Other sports recruit and train coaches and promoters to do these things; we rely on them figuring it out on their own. There should be a partnership between USATT and those trying to set up such centers and junior programs, since both should have the same goals.

The result of all these new junior programs has been staggering. The level of play in the U.S. at the cadet and junior level is so far ahead of where it was just seven years ago it's not even comparable. Two years ago I blogged about this, and gave a comparison of the top juniors in 2011 to those in 2006, and it wasn't even close. In the last two years, the level has dramatically gone up again. Kids who are now battling to compete with the best of their age would often be the dominating #1 player just seven years ago. The top ten players in every age group are now doing things that at most one player their age might have been doing seven years ago. We have multiple 12-year-olds who could have been the U.S. Under 18 Champion in many past years.

Since USATT still has no interest in helping out in the recruiting and training of the coaches and promoters to set up training centers and junior programs, and also have shown no interest in setting up any sort of nationwide network of regional leagues, they either have some other vision, or no vision. Which is it?

While the staff does the day-to-day running of the sport, the board, with help from committees, sets policy. You can't set effective policy until you know where you are trying to go. Those who don't understand this do not have the vision needed to lead our sport to prosperity.

So here's my question to all USATT board members, as well as committee chairs and members, staff, and anyone else involved in the development of table tennis in the U.S.  Think this over, take your time, and give a serious answer.

What is your vision for table tennis in the U.S.?

USATT Fundraising

In yesterday's blog I linked to the new minutes of two USATT board meetings and reports. I'll blog about them sometime soon. However, here's one really good thing that jumped out at me from the December meeting - the part about raising $5 million in four years in the amended motion #2. The good thing isn't about the proposed raising of $5 million. Here's the motion:

"MOVED to direct the CEO to develop a major fundraising plan that would raise $5,000,000 per quad, in addition to our current operations. The major concepts of the plan are to be presented to the Board at the Spring 2014 Board meeting."

It's good that they are trying to raise money, but there's nothing new about it. What jumps out is that they did one small, seemingly insignificant thing that USATT almost always forgets to do in the past - they put someone in charge of actually doing it - the USATT CEO. Voting to do something may make it look like something is being accomplished and may make the voters feel good about themselves, but it doesn't accomplish anything unless you put someone specifically in charge of actually getting it done. It's a lesson USATT should have learned long ago, but over and over has failed to do, and so rarely gets much done. (Anyone remember the People's Front of Judea in the movie "Life of Brian"? They kept voting to do hugely important things, then would adjourn without actually doing anything.) Perhaps this time it'll be different - I'm actually hopeful here, since I know raising funding is a top priority of board chair Mike Babuin, and now we have our CEO directly in charge of doing so. In the words of a famous captain, "Make it so!"

Crossword Puzzle

Late last night before going to bed I decided to do the crossword puzzle from that morning's Washington Post. Here was 62 across, eleven letters: "Olympic sport with the smallest ball." Let's see, what could that be? Spitballer? Peashooting? ProMarbling?

Poly Balls

Here's an article on the new poly balls, which are supposed to replace celluloid balls starting in July. The newer versions have apparently passed all eleven required laboratory tests. Will they pass the players' test? USATT has announced they will still use celluloid balls at the U.S. Open in July (they had already ordered the balls), but after that we'll see. I believe tournament directors will be able to choose which to use, but I'm not sure.

Richard McAfee's New Knee

Here's a picture of former USATT Coaching Chair and current ITTF roving coach Richard McAfee after having knee replacement surgery. He looks so comfortable, lying back and reading with all those tubes sticking out of him.

Westchester Open Singles Final

Here's the video (35:47), with Eugene Wang of Canada (U.S. Open Men's Singles Champion and North American #1 ranked player) defeating 16-year-old Kai Zhang, -11,10,3,8.

Crazy Rally

Here's an incredible rally (47 sec) posted this morning from the Swedish League.

Pong to the People

Here's the picture!

He's Having a Ball Playing Table Tennis

Here's the picture!

Headis - Soccer-style Table Tennis

Here's video (43 sec) of the fastest growing sport in America. While we're on the subject of soccer, here's video (5:11) of three members of the U.S. Soccer team playing table tennis (Brek Shea, Juan Agudelo, and Heath Pearce).

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