USATT CEO

September 22, 2014

Tip of the Week

Power in Table Tennis.

USATT Hires New CEO

Here's the USATT announcement. Gordon Kaye is a USATT member rated 1469, who's played in 32 processed USATT tournaments since 2009, plus the Badger Open in Wisconsin this past weekend. (Highest rating: 1510.) Our paths even crossed once - he and I were both at the 2010 Eastern Open in New Jersey, him as a player, me as a coach. Here's his tournament record. He's a standard inverted shakehands player, who likes to attack but doesn't always have confidence in his loop, and so often blocks and counter-attacks. Here's an interview with him at the Badger Open by Barbara Wei, which includes an action picture. Here's another picture of him posing with Barbara.

I'm told he successfully transformed two failing organizations before coming to USATT. One was a minor league hockey team. Here are some online articles I found on him:

What does he need to do to be successful as USATT CEO? I'll write at length about this later. But the most important things are the following:

  1. Recognize the doers and the "empty suits" in our sport. I don't really like the phrase "empty suit," but it gets the idea across. Some "empty suits" are successful in some non-table tennis activities, but it doesn't always cross over. Doers are those who do table tennis things and get results, who understand how to develop the sport. Empty suits are far better at selling themselves than doers, who are better at selling the sport than themselves. Historically, guess which type has had the most influence in USATT policy?
  2. Understand how table tennis grew overseas, and how other sports grew in the U.S., and then come up with a model that'll work for USATT.
  3. Set specific goals to develop the sport, and create and implement plans to reach them.
  4. Think long-term.
  5. Break out of USATT sponsorship logjam. There are two main ways for USATT to find sponsors:
  • Find a rich table tennis person who will give us money. We've been trying that for 81 years. How has that worked?
  • Find a business person who believes he can make money by sponsoring USATT. To do this we need to convince him that USATT is growing, and that he should get in on the ground floor. If we were focusing on developing the sport (developing regional leagues, recruiting and training coaches, etc. - all the stuff I've been arguing for the last two decades or more) this would be a lot easier. In the late 1980s Bob Tretheway raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for USATT (more when adjusted for inflation) - with the selling point that table tennis had just become an Olympic sport in 1988, and so was about to take off in the U.S. (it didn't). How do we sell it now? I believe that the best way to convince a business person that USATT is growing is by USATT actually growing. Getting the process started doesn't take much funding. (I've blogged about this many times, and will elaborate on this tomorrow.)

One obvious problem is that Gordon will face what all USATT CEOs face - conflicting direction from the USATT Board of Directors. Some are forward thinkers; some are not. Should his primary focus be raising money? Developing the sport? I know that at least one board members believes the primary focus of the CEO should be as office manager!!!

Anyone who reads my blog knows I believe the focus for now should be to develop the sport. Rather than trying to sell faulty shoes, fix the shoes first, then sell them. USATT has even had Strategic Meetings about growing the sport (i.e. fixing the shoes), and I've attended several. Somehow the main focus of these meetings has been vague generalities with no follow-up, slogans, and lots of self-congratulatory back-slapping for such a productive meeting.

So how did Gordon do at the Badger Open? Here are the complete tournament results. He had a pretty good tournament, with wins against players rated 1741 (congrats!), 1490, 1221, 1138, and 962, and losses to players rated 2073, 2056, 1879, 1705 (went five!), 1689, 1652, 1603, and 1562. Since he went in rated 1469, my ratings calculations say he'll pick up 49 points, and so come out at 1518 - a new high for him. (See, we know what's important.)

Now that we've read about him, know his rating and playing style, and know how he did at the Badger Open, we have to judge him. And I prefer to judge a person by anagrams. (After all, "Hodges" is just an anagram for "He's God.") So what do we get from Gordon Kaye?

  • Okay Go Nerd
  • Gone Ya Dork
  • Rake Yon God

So he's either a nerdy dork or a God. Only time will tell. Let's support him, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be the one to break the long-time USATT lethargy.

Celluloid vs. Non-Celluloid - Who's Using What?

While for the time being most tournaments in the U.S. are still using celluloid, the two upcoming big ones are both using non-celluloid. The North American Teams just announced they will use the non-celluloid balls, presumably the JOOLA Super-P 40+ balls they were selling at the U.S. Open. And as noted in previous blogs, the USA Nationals will use Nittaku Premium 40+ balls. (They aren't on sale yet, but should be available in mid-October. Don't mistake this for the Nittaku Sha 40+ ball, which is on sale now but plays differently.) My guess is that most tournaments will switch to non-celluloid sometime in 2015.

$10,000 Butterfly Badger Open

Here are the results of the tournament, which was held this past weekend in Waukesha, Wisconsin, with 204 players. (Included among the players was Gordon Kaye, the newly hired USATT CEO.) Butterflyonline has video and a photo gallery. Here are three articles on the tournament by Barbara Wei. (She tells me she has three more coming.)

The Forgotten Skill - Blocking

Here's the coaching article by Samson Dubina.

How to Receive Serves from Opposite Handed Players

Here's the coaching video (2:32) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Ma Long Serving Technique Slow Motion

Here's the video (3:03).

Sandpaper Qualifiers for $100,000 World Championship of Ping Pong

Here's the news release.

Nothing is Impossible Video Reaches Two million Views

Here's the ITTF press release on the video (2:44) of armless Egyptian player Ibrahim Hamato.

Nathan Hsu in China

Here are two more videos from Nathan in China. (All eight are linked from the initial video, China Day 4.)

Zhou Xin Table Tennis Academy Physical Training

Here's the video (64 sec) by Bruce Liu.

George Brathwaite

The USATT Hall of Famer called me a few days ago to discuss USATT issues. He might be getting active in USATT again. Here's his web page.

Ping-Pong 4 Purpose

Here's another article on the charity event that was held Sept. 4 at Dodger Stadium, by Kim Gilbert.

Adam Bobrow Exhibition at Bloomingdales

Great Point

Here's the video (61 sec) - the point lasts about 40 seconds!

Katy Perry - This Is How We Do

Here's the music video (3:29), which includes three table tennis segments - seconds 19-24, second 33, and seconds 1:21-1:23. In the first segment she sings, "Playing ping-pong all night long."

Rickie Fowler, Tiger Woods, Ryder Cup, and Ping-Pong

Here's the CNN article. The eighth and final picture shows Tiger playing table tennis penhold style, with the caption, "But with Mickelson's erstwhile ping pong partner Tiger Woods missing the Ryder Cup with injury, could self-confessed table tennis fan Fowler partner up with "Lefty" in Scotland?"

Teasing a Dog, Ping-Pong Style

Here's the cartoon.

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June 20, 2014

MDTTC Camps

I've coached at over 180 five-day or more training camps, usually six hours per day. That's over 900 days of camp, or two and a half years. (Add camps I went to as a player and it comes to over three years. Add group sessions I've run, and the numbers go up astronomically.) I can do lectures on every topic we cover on the drop of a ping-pong ball, and most of them probably come out word-for-word the same every time as they are so ingrained now. I have changed the lectures somewhat over the years as techniques have changed and as I've learned better ways of explaining them, but most fundamentals haven't changed a lot since we opened up the Maryland Table Tennis Center 22 years ago. (Probably the biggest change in my lectures is a greater emphasis on topspin on the backhand than before.)

This camp I'm not giving many lectures, as most of the players are locals and we decided to get them out to the tables more quickly rather than have them watch demos and listen to lectures from me that they've all heard before. It's actual a surreal experience not giving these lectures.

As always, the players can be divided into three types. There are the goof-offs - the ones who are here strictly for the fun, or because their parents made them, or are just too young to be serious yet, and aren't really interested in learning. They are the hardest to deal with. There are the in-betweens - the ones who do want to learn, sort of, and will do what you ask, but are really counting the minutes until we get to playing games. They're okay to work with, and you push them as hard as you think you can without losing them. And then there are the ones who are determined to get good, and really work at it. They are great to work with. I often surreptitiously give them longer sessions, and sometimes hit with them at the end of a session or even on break. These are the ones who want longer turns at multiball while the others can't wait to finish their turn. They are also the ones who get really good.

Here's an interesting question of biology and physics. Did you know that the average mass of a seven-year-old's foot is many thousands of times greater than an adults? It may not seem so until you see the gravitational pull between the bottoms of their feet and any ping-pong balls that lie on the floor, leading to many broken balls.

Due to this blog and other writing projects, I've been operating on little sleep this week at camp. I confess I've taken the easy way out. When I take the kids to 7-11 during lunch break I've been buying a Mountain Dew each time. I try to go easy on soft drinks, with a general rule of only drinking them at restaurants and at home when working late at night, but I made an exception here. Hopefully I won't be this exhausted all summer.

I've got the summer divided roughly into six segments:

  1. June 16-29: first two weeks of summer camp plus private & group coaching
  2. June 30-July 6: the U.S. Open in Grand Rapids
  3. July 7-24: three more weeks of camps and private & group coaching
  4. July 25-Aug. 3: Writers workshop in Manchester, New Hampshire
  5. Aug. 4-24: three more weeks of camps plus private & group coaching, ending with MDTTC Open
  6. Aug. 25-29: Rest and Recover!!!

Help Wanted - USATT CEO

Yesterday I linked to the job description and application info for CEO of USA Table Tennis. As I noted the, they have a LOT of requirements!!!

One thing that jumped out at me near the end is where it said near the very end under Qualifications, "A genuine passion for the sport of Table Tennis.  Exposure to, or involvement in the sport is a plus." If exposure or involvement in the sport is only a "plus," then how could it be required that the person have a "genuine passion for the sport of Table Tennis"? There were a couple of other things that threw me that I won't get into. It said to apply or respond to this opportunity, please visit www.prodigysports.net/search. I visited it, but it was a bad address. However, under it was a link to apply.

No, I'm not applying. I don't qualify for much of what is required - I'm not what they are looking for. I blogged about this on March 27 and on May 21. As I wrote in those blogs, I believe we are once again playing the lottery in trying to sell the sport now rather than focusing on the process of developing our sport so we can sell it. (You don't need large sums of money to start this process, as I've pointed out repeatedly.) Maybe we'll get lucky this time, but we've tried this unsuccessful approach for many decades. Playing the lottery can be addictive - instant get rich schemes are always more attractive than doing the hard work in developing the sport.

At the end of the application info there's a "Characteristics of the Successful Candidate" section. I decided to grade myself on the ten items. Why not grade yourself as well?

  1. Proven success in effectively leading, building, mentoring, managing, motivating, encouraging professional growth of, and delegating to staff.
    C or Incomplete; I don't have a lot of experience in these areas.
  2. Credible, truthful and honest; a person of high integrity.  Able to express themselves frankly but with respect.  Conflict resolution and sound decision-making skills critical.
    I would hope I get an A here.
  3. Experience in planning and executing fundraising activities in non-profit and/or amateur sports organizations.  Track record of growing revenue and creating progressive, stable and sustainable funding sources.
    C or Incomplete; not a lot of experience here.
  4. A self-starter able to independently assess or enhance existing programs as well as initiate new programs as needed.
    A; this pretty much defines much of what I do.
  5. Skilled written and verbal communicator on all levels along with ability to liaise with Board of Directors, the USOC, and other organizations within and related to the sport.
    Easy A for me here!
  6. Ability to initiate, develop, and maintain favorable relationships with athletes, volunteers, parents, officials, sponsors, members, other related organizations, such as the ITTF, and the United States Olympic Committee.
    I think I'd get an A here as well.
  7. Knowledge and skill to manage a budget effectively.
    Another A. Besides a bachelors in math, I was familiar with the USATT budget for years. I don't know advanced accounting systems, but that's not needed - we have accountants for that.
  8. Ability to successfully negotiate contracts.
    D; I'm not that good a negotiator. I hate haggling. I used to bring in record advertising when I was editor of USATT Magazine, but I sold the ads based on the strong content and timeliness of the magazine, not by salesmanship.
  9. Organizational competence and multitasking proficiency.
    Easy A here.
  10. Tested business savvy coupled with strong people skills.
    C+. When I put aside my idealistic side, I have pretty good business savvy, other than my weak negotiating skills. My people skills are pretty good via email, not so good in person, especially with strangers.

Stop Pushing

Here's a new coaching article by Ben Larcombe at about.com. Yes, at about.com - the table tennis site there is back up, but I don't see the forum yet.

How to Make the Most of Similar Level Training Partners

Here's the new coaching article by Matt Hetherington.

Footwork Training with Jorgen Persson

Here's the video (33 sec) - it's a great and fun way to develop quick feet!

USA Nationals

It's official - it'll be held in Las Vegas, Dec. 16-20. It now shows up in the USATT Tournament listing.

100-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

Former USATT President Sheri Pittman Cioroslan is doing an article every day during the last 100 days of Adham Sharara's ITTF presidency, counting downwards from 100. Previous ones are linked from the USATT News page, as well as in my past blogs. Twenty-seven down, 73 to go!

  • Day 74: The Ravages of World War II & Resulting Peace Initiatives in the ITTF

ITTF Schools Program

Just thought I'd give a shout-out to their Table Tennis in Schools Program, which is especially helpful for teaching groups of younger kids. Recently I was looking for more table tennis type games kids in the 6-8 age range could play, and copied a few of the ones they have in their manual in section four, "Activity Cards."

The Internet Wins Pingpong Battle with Obama

Here's the article, where they show how a picture of Obama playing table tennis with English Prime Minister David Cameron has become a hit with online memes.

Ping Pong - the Animation

I'm not sure if I linked to all four of these animated table tennis cartoons before, so there they are. Each episode is exactly 23:07. I haven't watched them yet - I may do so tonight. Can anyone tell us about them in the comments below?

Ping Pong with Oncoming Traffic

Here's the article and pictures - yes, the guy rallied off oncoming cars and trucks!

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June 19, 2014

Is the USATT Rating System Inflationary, Deflationary, or Stable?

I don't have exact numbers on this, but it's fairly obvious that, over the years, the ratings have inflated. When I started out in 1976 there were only three players rated over 2400 (Danny Seemiller, D-J Lee, and Gil Joon Park, with the latter two from South Korea); now there are 116, and this is only among USA players. There are more foreign players now listed as USA players than before, so this is part of the reason, but the bulk of these 2400+ players are just as much USA players as those back in the late 1970s. Dan Seemiller had just reached top 30 in the world with a rating just over 2500. Insook Bhushan (then Insook Na) had just come to the U.S. from South Korea, and was top ten in the world among women, but was rated only about 2250. These days top ten in the world among women would be about 2650. At one point I was 18th in the country among U.S. citizens with a 2292 rating; these days it wouldn't make the top 100. So yes, the ratings have inflated. (My impression, however, is that any inflation has decreased or stopped in recent years. For one thing, the highest rated USA players now are actually a bit lower than some from the previous generations, but that's offset by the fact that the previous generations had players with higher world rankings and deserved the higher ratings.)

But wait, some of you are thinking, hasn't the level of play improved, and that's why there are so many more higher-rated players these days? That modern players have improved is absolutely true - but that has no bearing on the ratings. As players on average improve, so do their opponents. Think of it this way. If everyone were to suddenly improve 100 rating points in level, there would be no effect on the ratings themselves since opponents would also be 100 points better. And so even though everyone's about 100 points better, the ratings themselves would stay the same. 

The level of play has improved because of more training centers, more coaches, better equipment, and more advanced techniques. For example, backhand play these days is far stronger than it was when I started out. Players attack from closer to the table, making it harder to keep a rally going. And if I could have had some modern sponges back in the early 1980s, I (and most top players) would have caused some serious havoc.

The interesting question here is what has inflated faster, the rating system or the level of play? It's a tough call. I would say a 2000 player from the 1970s is more skilled than a 2000 player of today, but that doesn't mean he'd beat the 2000 player of today, who makes up for his lesser skill with more modern techniques and better equipment. (For this, I'm not going to worry about details like the larger ball, different serving rules, etc.) To use a simple example, I'm fairly certain that any modern 2300 player could go back in time to the 1940s with a sponge racket and be World Champion. The very best players from the 1940s were more skilled than a modern 2300 player, but the 2300 player would have modern sponge, looping, serves, etc. (To put it another way, at my peak, and with my sponge racket, I could have beaten the best players in the 1940s, but I don't think I was a more skilled player than the best hardbatters of that era. An interesting question is how long it would take the best players of that era to adjust?)

So why has the system inflated? Actually, the system would be a deflationary system except the adjustment factor is too high. The inflation comes from all the points pumped into the system from the adjustment factor, where any player who gains 51 or more points in a tournament is adjusted upwards. (There are no downward adjustments.)

If there were no adjustment factor, the system would be deflationary, and the average rating would be dropping. Why? Because the average player improves after his initial rating. Assuming no adjustment factor, let's say that the average first rating is 1200, and that the average player then improves to 1500. That means the player takes 300 rating points from others in the system. Result? Assuming the same number of players in the system, there are now 300 less points distributed among them, and so the average rating goes down - even though the average level of those players has stayed the same. This should be true of any rating system where there's a direct or indirect exchange of rating points.

Let's assume that the average player instead got worse on average. Then they'd be giving the system points, and so the system would be inflationary

One distinction to make here is the difference between the ratings going down on average while the average level stays the same (a deflationary system), and one that goes down because there is a large influx of new players with lower levels. The addition of all these lower-rated players would lower the average rating, but deservedly so since the average level will have gone down. But among the established players, where the level has stayed the same, the ratings wouldn't change, and so the system isn't really deflationary, though the average rating has dropped. 

"Can You Predict the Odds in a Match from their Ratings?" Revisited

Yesterday I blogged about the above. In it I showed why a rating system will always have more upsets at the lower levels than at the higher levels, even if statistically it appears that the odds should be the same at all levels. Here's an easy way of explaining this, using 100-point upsets as an example.

The most accurate rating system in the world is still going to have more 100-point upsets at the lower levels (and upsets in general) for the simple reason that no matter how accurate the rating is at the time the player last played, players at lower levels are more likely to have major improvements than players at higher levels. In other words, the ratings might be accurate at the time the players played, but they become inaccurate at lower levels more quickly than at higher levels. 

Here's a simple example. Suppose you have a highly accurate rating system that accurately rates 20 players. Ten are accurately rated at 1000, and ten are accurately rated at 2500. The next time these 20 players play, the ten who were rated 1000 are more likely to have improved to 1100 than the ten players rated 2500 are to have improved to 2600, and so it's more likely the 1000-rated players are going to be beating 1100 players than the 2500-rated players beating 2600 players. Therefore, it is more likely that these 1000 rated players are going to pull off 100-point upsets than the 2500 players. 

Here's still another way of looking at it. The odds of a 1000-level player beating an 1100-level player may be the same as the odds of a 2500-level player beating a 2600-level player, i.e. 1 in 6. The problem is that it's more likely that a player listed as 1000 is actually 1100 in level than a player listed as 2500 is actually 2600 in level. 

Playing the Middle

Here's a new coaching article from Samson Dubina, "Are You in a Jam?"

Help Wanted - USATT CEO

Here's the job description and application info for CEO of USA Table Tennis. I read over the listing - that's a LOT of requirements!!! I'll probably blog about this tomorrow.

Review of the Nittaku Poly Ball

My review of the ball in my blog on Monday is now an ITTF featured article. (I did a few minor updates to the blog yesterday when they asked if they could use it.)

Follow Your Favorite Players on Facebook

Here's the article, with links to these player pages.

Lily Yip's China Trip Photo Album

Here's the photo album of Coach Lily Yip in China with Lily Zhang and Krish Avvari.

2014 U.S. Open Foreign Players

Here's a chart of the number of players attending from each country. Here's the U.S. Open Home Page. Here's the where you can see who is entered and who is entered in each event. There are 713 total entries.

Ping Pong Summer Openings

Here's a list of scheduled openings for the movie around the country, including Ocean City; Omaha; San Francisco; Phoenix; Miami; Louisville; Grand Rapids; Athens, GA; Goshen, IN; and Winston-Salem.

Table Tennis Camps for Veterans & Members of the Armed Forces with Disabilities

Here's the listing.

Table Tennis Nemesis

Here's the article about author Geoff Dyer and table tennis.

Promotional Video for Waldner & Appelgren's Club Sparvagen in Sweden

Here's the video (1:57).

Table Table Tennis

Here's the video (11 sec) - they are playing with two tables set a distance apart.

Earthly Table Tennis

This is what I call an out-of-this-world ping-pong table. I want one!!!

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April 18, 2014

The Next USATT CEO

I'm somewhat surprised that there still isn't any "help wanted" note from USA Table Tennis for the next CEO. Previous CEO Mike Cavanaugh announced his resignation on March 26. Presumably someone is working on this.  

I just hope the USATT Board doesn't fall into the same ongoing trap we've been ensnared in since our beginning in 1933, and try to sell a "broken" product. I put "broken" in quotes because there's really nothing wrong with the sport (which is why it is so successful overseas in Europe and Asia), but with the way it is developed and promoted in the USA. And I should put "developed" in quotes as well since there's no serious effort to develop the sport from USATT.

There's this belief that the solution to our problems is to raise money. That's like saying the solution to being rich is to be rich, which sounds great except it doesn't explain how to get rich. Raising large sums of money for USATT is an extremely difficult job at the moment (and in our past) because we are a status quo organization. Sponsors want to get in on the ground floor of a growing sport, not the attic of a small one that's satisfied with the status quo. (And when I say satisfied, I'm referring to actions, not words.) Raising money has been a priority of nearly all our past CEO's, it just isn't publicized much because none were successful at doing it. 

I've blogged about this before, and I'll undoubtedly blog about it again, but what's needed is a CEO who is a table tennis person, whose primary focus is to develop the sport. That means developing a growing network of regional leagues; the recruitment and training of professional coaches and those who wish to run junior programs; a professional league or circuit; setting up regional associations that focus on developing their own regions; developing the U.S. Open and/or Nationals into truly premier events; and similar projects. (Some of these are being developed independently, and USATT could help tremendously by making them top priority items.) We don't need these programs to be highly successful to attract sponsors; we need them to show promise, and that's when sponsors will jump in to be on the ground floor of our growing sport.

USATT needs to hire a CEO from inside the sport committed to developing the sport from within so as to better sell it outside. It's a lot better to fix the product and then sell it then to try and sell a faulty product. That's the point of my Ping-Pong Apartments essay. Any amount of money we can raise now will pale in comparison to what we could raise if we first create a more saleable product. 

We need a five-year plan. There are two types of five-year plans: those that are made for political purposes (for show), and those made to actually accomplish something. The latter is what is needed. And then we raise money and take the sport to the next level. But alas, we'll likely try to skip the development step, just as we have done in the past. It doesn't take great money to get started on this process, but it is the process to develop the sport that will attract the sponsors and money needed to take it to that next level.

We have the opportunity to start fresh. We rarely have this opportunity - the last time was at the 2009 Strategic Meeting, where we had a brand new group of board members. But a few people at the meeting were able to convince them to stick to the same old stuff while convincing them it was new, and the opportunity was lost. Alas, it's not hard for a few people to do this. All they have to do is look convincing and argue for the same great-sounding non-specific general stuff that never works. Specific programs are needed to develop the sport, not just general proclamations to develop something or other.

Who will be the next CEO? It probably won't be me. To be blunt, I don't look good in a suit. (For the too-literal minded, that's a metaphor, meaning I don't look like a "conventional" CEO.) So who will it be? I don't know, though I keep hearing rumors. Whoever it is won't be successful unless he has great table tennis experience, vision, energy, and gets complete buy-in and support from the USATT board.

Training Camp in China

Want to train in China for three weeks this summer? Here's info! There are camps all over the U.S. and the world this summer, including my club, MDTTC.

Table Tennis Tutorial, Beginning to Advanced

Here's the video (58:58). Alas, it's in Chinese, no English sub-titles.

2014 Highlights "Special Moments and Great Plays"

Here's another great video (9:00) from Jim Butler for USATT, showcasing many of the most memorable rallies and moments over the past year.

Elderly and Disabled Encouraged to Play Table Tennis

Here's the article.

Ariel Hsing is Running for Class of 2017 Social Chair

Here's her campaign page! Amazingly, her "About Me" page doesn't mention table tennis - you have to go to her "Events" page to find that. (Though there are a few small photos at the bottom of the home page.) But we do find out she's allergic to bananas!

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March 27, 2014

USATT CEO and Membership Director Leaving

Huge changes are afoot at USATT - here's the article. USATT CEO Mike Cavanaugh resigned after seven years, taking a job with USA Handball. (Here's his goodbye letter.) And Membership Director Joyce Grooms is retiring on April 4 after a long tenure - I'm not sure how long, but I'm guessing it goes back to the 1990s or so. I've worked with both of them for many years and consider them good friends - and now we'll have some big shoes to fill. It's going to cause some serious continuity problems. 

Who should our next CEO be? With all due respect to Mike, I believe we need a real table tennis person who can develop the infrastructure of our sport. That was the point of my Ping-Pong Apartments essay in my March 21 blog - we have got to stop trying to sell a broken product and fix the broken product first. Then we can sell it.

I doubt if I'll apply for the CEO position, but several people have urged me to apply. I don't think the USATT Board would want someone who would push for such major changes - most boards, by their very nature, are highly resistant to change. But I was urged on Facebook last night to apply for the position. Here is my response:

I'd want to completely change the focus of the organization, and I don't think the USATT board of directors is ready for that. Focus should be (not in order of priority) 1) setting up a network of regional leagues throughout the U.S., with the goal of hundreds of thousands of members, as is done in Europe and Asia; 2) recruiting and training professional coaches to set up and run full-time training centers and junior programs; and 3) striving for a professional league or tournament circuit for the top players. (There is a current one, which needs to continue to grow and gain sponsors. But membership growth is the best way to increase revenue for this and other programs.)

Also need to focus on college scholarship programs as incentive for junior players and their parents, and on turning the Nationals and/or U.S. Open into a serious event that brings in real sponsorships, and on fund-raising. I'd also want to bring back the print magazine (and the advertising they are about to lose), and instead simply add the online magazine as a way to increase advertising. 

We also need to regionalize the sport, breaking the country into a number of self-governing regions, and develop the sport region by region, as it is done overseas. Once the sport is moving in the right direction, then we can sell it to the masses and to sponsors.  

I'd be very hands-on with the first three items listed, on magazine issues, and on regionalization. I'd be focusing on membership growth, which has never been a serious USATT priority. But USATT probably isn't ready for such change, and isn't likely to hire someone who can barely tie a tie.

Another important issue: We need more working committees made up of volunteers. I'm a member of SFWA, and they have all sorts of things going on, all volunteer run. They run conventions with 6000 people with no paid workers - that's nearly ten times the size of our Nationals and Open. Even their extensive web page is all volunteer run. The key is to find qualified volunteers, put them in charge of something, and let them loose. And then others can focus on developing the sport instead of trying to do every little thing. (Key word: "working" committees. USATT has lots of non-working committees.)

Another big issue: USATT (staff, board, and CEO) spends huge amounts of time and energy on what I call "fairness" issues, which keeps them from progressive issues, i.e. the issues that develop our sport. Fairness issues are important, but should go to committees, and unless the committee's conclusion is nonsense, USATT should normally adopt the committee's recommendation. This allows the CEO and others to focus on developing the sport. 

Having said all this, here's the problem I would face as CEO - I've been urging USATT to do these things for many years, not just here on my blog but in person at USATT Board Meetings and Strategic Meetings. I've done a number of reports to the board on how to increase membership, develop juniors, grow leagues in this country, etc. Much of this stuff is obvious to anyone involved in our sport - and if I can't convince the USATT Board to do the obvious stuff, how can I get them to do the less obvious stuff? So I wouldn't even consider such a CEO position unless I had almost complete buy-in from the board on these changes that are necessary if we want our sport to grow. The USATT Board sets policy, and the CEO enacts policy - so to do the policies I'd want, I'd need the Board to go along with them. I have zero interest otherwise.

Two other weaknesses I would face as a CEO: I don't look good in suits, and I have little patience with incompetent people in high places. (And I've made enemies in our sport because of this.) I can overcome this last one and smile and show patience with incompetent people when necessary, but I'll never look comfortable in any type of a suit other than a warm-up suit. Another weakness is I'm not particularly comfortable with strangers - I'm much more comfortable working with people I know or who are already within USATT. I'm not one to "work the room" or to wine and dine people - I'm not a "schmoozer." I don't think much of this is necessary while we are developing the sport in this country.

There's also the small problem that despite all my experience in table tennis, I've never actually been a CEO. But we'll have an office manager, so the CEO's primary job right now (in my opinion) would be to develop the sport in this country, which takes more table tennis experience and know-how than CEO experience. As I wrote above, once the sport is moving in the right direction, then we can sell it to the masses and to sponsors. That's when I'd have to get out of the way and let someone else do that job.

Bottom line - if we want to continue as a status-quo organization like we've done for so long, then USATT should once again hire someone who looks like a CEO rather than someone who will develop the sport.

Reality check: Me, as USATT CEO? Not likely. I'll hold onto my day job. (Actually, it's a day and night job as table tennis coach, organizer, promoter, and writer.)

Crystal Wang and Sports Illustrated

Just got the word that Crystal Wang should be featured in next week's Sports Illustrated in their "Faces in the Crowd" section. (This is for her recently becoming the youngest U.S. Team member ever at age 12 years 14 days, along with youngest ever Under 22 Women's Singles Champion.) I'd been sending out regular press releases, and finally got a big bite! (Though she'd also been featured recently in the Baltimore Sun.) I took the picture they will be using at the club last night. The issue should come out next Wednesday, with the online version coming out the Monday afterwards.

Chinese Team Special Training

Here's an article on how the Chinese Team had a special training session where they played matches where players were prohibited from using certain receives, forcing them to develop other receive techniques. Zhang Jike and Xu Xin were banned from using the banana stroke or the chiquita [backhand banana flips] while Ma Long was prohibited from using a drop-shot reception in their respective matches. I often have players do similar training, where a match is played where a player has to do certain things, such as every point starting with a serve and loop, or where a player has to attack every serve.

Table Tennis Great Deng Yaping Encourages More China Players to Represent Other Countries

Here's the article. And here's info on the all-time great Deng Yaping, often called the greatest woman player of all time. (3-time World Women's Singles Champion, 2-time Olympic Gold Medalist in Women's Singles, and #1 in the world for eight straight years.)

Interview with Mike Mezyan - Parts 1 & 2

Here's an interview with Table Tennis Artist Mike Mezyan - Part 1 and Part 2. Here's his home page, which shows much of his artwork.

What Will Happen to Anyone Hired as USATT CEO

Here's the picture!

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