Leagues

May 7, 2013

Spammers

Due to massive spamming attacks, I've been forced to switch to requiring administrator approval for new accounts. Yesterday I had to block over 50 new accounts, each of which was posting spamming notes all over the comments section on my blog and the forum, which I also had to delete. (Fortunately I can generally delete all postings by a spammer with a few clicks - but it does take time.) So starting last night, new visitors can create accounts but administrator approval is required. It seems to be working - since last night 18 more accounts were created, but only two legit. (On a related note, anyone who has to constantly waste time battling these spammers believes in the death penalty.)

Table Tennis Leagues in the U.S.

Last night I had a debate on the MyTableTennis forum on the future of leagues in the U.S., and whether a nationwide network of local leagues is possible. Here's where I join the discussion. I ended up posting thirteen notes. (You can also read the previous postings of course.) I was thinking of copying and pasting the entire discussion here, but I'll just post my first note, and link to the rest. There's some lively discussion, so if you have any interest in leagues or the growth of table tennis in the U.S., I hope you read the rest of it.

The goal of a nationwide network of local leagues isn't to set up leagues for currently existing clubs. The purpose is to use the leagues spur the creation of new clubs and players. This is how it was done in places all over the world, including Europe. Germany didn't start with 11,000 clubs and 700,000 and then decide to set up leagues; the leagues are what spurred the development of these 11,000 clubs and 700,000 players. The whole point is to set up local leagues, so nobody needs to drive hundreds of miles. [Note: I'm responding to a note that said leagues wouldn't work in the U.S. because players might have to drive hundreds of miles to get to the next local club.]

I remember when we opened the Maryland Table Tennis Center many years ago. Over and over we were told there weren't enough players to support a full-time table tennis center devoted to coaching, and that there was no way players would pay enough hours for coaching to make it pay for itself. They missed the point - we weren't going after current players, we were going after NEW players. Now we have seven full-time coaches and over 300 hours of private coaching per week (plus group sessions), and full-time clubs with full-time coaches are popping up all over the country (about 60 of them now, compared to about 10 just seven years ago). Similarly, the purpose of a nationwide network of local leagues would be to bring in new players and new clubs, not just for existing ones.

It will not an easy task, and it probably does need to start in populated regions. If there are local organizers, as tennis does in the U.S. and other countries do in table tennis, than any city can develop table tennis leagues, and from the players signing up for those leagues more clubs can pop up, just as they do overseas. Tennis has such local leagues all over the U.S. and huge numbers of players, and they started out just where we are now. There's no reason why table tennis can't do the same; in Europe, nearly every country sports associations have more table tennis members than tennis members.

Striped Balls and Backhand Flip

Yesterday I blogged about using colorful soccer-style ping-pong balls for table tennis, since it makes it easier to see the spin on the ball. Here's a video (3:25) of Ma Long's backhand flip (also called a flick) where he's using a striped ball so you can see the spin. The video quality isn't good enough to really see the ball spin with the stripes - you can see it much better in person. I wonder how it would show up on normal TV?

USOC Athletes of the Month

USATT has two nominees for USOC Athlete of the Month for April - Lily Zhang and Timothy Wang. Please vote for them! You can vote for both a male athlete and a female athlete. Here are short bios on both, provided by USATT Webmaster Sean O'Neill.

Timothy Wang, Table Tennis
Olympian Timothy Wang (Houston, Texas) battled to a silver medal at the 2013 ITTF-North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. Rising to the occasion, Wang registered an impressive 3-0 win over top-seeded Pierre-Luc Theriault of Canada. He followed with a 4-1 semifinal victory over 2011 U.S. champion Peter Li (Laurel, M.D.). Wang, the current U.S. men’s singles No. 1, will lead the U.S. men at the 2013 World Championships taking place in Paris in May.

Lily Zhang, Table Tennis
Olympian Lily Zhang (Palo Alto, Calif.) captured first place at the 2013 ITTF North American Cup, held April 21 in Westchester, N.Y. With the tournament featuring some of the best players from the U.S., Canada and Bermuda, Zhang defeated Olympic teammate Ariel Hsing (San Jose, Calif.), 4-1, in the women’s singles final. The victory qualified Zhang to compete in the STARTS Women’s World Cup, while ending Hsing’s attempt to three-peat as the North American Cup winner. Zhang advanced to the final upon beating fellow world team member Tina Lin (Edison, N.J.), 4-0, in the semifinal. Zhang will be representing the U.S. at the 2013 World Championships in May in Paris.

Table Tennis Master

Here's another interesting coaching article from Table Tennis Master, "Mastering the Counterloop."

Chinese Ping-Pong Song for the Worlds

Here's a music video (4:37) of the Chinese National Team singing their Ping-Pong Song for the 2013 World Championships and thanking their fans. How many of the players can you name?

Jesse Metcalfe

Here's a short article from Table Tennis Nation where actor Jesse Metcalfe (best known for his work on Desperate Housewives and the remake of Dallas) says he sees ping-pong as the future of nightlife.

Six Pictures Preparing for the Worlds

Here are six Facebook pictures from the ITTF showing players preparing for the Worlds at the Werner Schlager Academy in Austria. How many of the players can you name?

Ariel Hsing with Uncles Warren and Bill

Here's an article and photos from Table Tennista on Ariel Hsing, Warren Buffett, and Bill Gates playing table tennis at the annual Berkshire Hathaway Shareholder Meeting this past Sunday. They've been bringing her in annually for this since she was a little kid. And here are three more photos.
Ariel with Bill and Warren
Warren Holding Ariel
Warren and Bill Play Doubles
(If you can't see these on Facebook, try this, this, and this.)

Learn from a Pro

"Adam Bobrow Now on Table 1." Here's the Facebook picture. (If you can't see it there, try this.)

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March 7, 2013

Biggest Things Happening in Table Tennis

Here are the biggest things happening in U.S. table tennis right now. (I'm toying with putting in sandpaper table tennis, with all the new money events they are offering. I may feature them in an upcoming blog.)

  • The rise of full-time training centers. They are all over the place now. Ten years ago there were about ten. Now there are well over fifty, with more popping up regularly. The result is by far the strongest group of cadet players in our history. The depth of the competition these days is just mind-boggling. Now if we can just get them to continue training when they reach college age....
  • Influx of top Chinese players and coaches. This dramatically raises the level of play in the U.S., as our up-and-coming players get coaching, practice, and compete with these top players and coaches. My club, MDTTC, has Cheng Yinghua, Jack Huang, Jeffrey Zeng Xun (currently out of the country, but returning full-time in June), Wang Qing Liang, Chen Bo Wen ("Bowen"), and our two newest, Chen Jie ("James") and Zhang Liang Bojun ("Brian"). This list doesn't include local Chinese players, only ones who came from China to coach and be practice partners at MDTTC. Clubs in New York, California, and other regions similarly rely on these Chinese coaches and players, and is one of the driving forces for the rise of full-time training centers.
  • Spin NY, LA, Milwaukee, Toronto. These bring a lot of publicity to the sport. By themselves, I don't think they'll make the sport big, but by keeping us on the media radar, they could help a lot when the time comes.
  • Strong team leagues in the SF, LA, and NY regions. This is long-term, since it'll take time for this type of thing to grow and expand in each region, as it did in Europe. MDTTC takes part in the NY league, and of course runs its own singles leagues. We plan a new junior team league starting this fall.
  • Publication of Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers. Duh!!!

Book Signing

Reminder! Tomorrow (Friday) at 7PM I will be doing a book signing at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, in Germantown, MD, USA. I will be selling and signing four of my books - hope to see you there! All books will cost $15, with a Special - buy the Tactics book, get a copy of the Tales & Techniques book for only $5! Here's the info flyer. Below are the books - later I hope to go back to selling Steps to Success and Tales & Techniques online.

Table Tennis part of 2014 Youth Olympics

Here's the article. The event will be held in Nanjing, China, Aug. 17-28, 2014.

Wang Hao vs Fan Zhendong

Here's a video (4:44) of these two at the Chinese World Team Trials, with time between points removed.

Judah Friedlander on a Ping-Pong Paddle and NBC Sports

Here he is, Judah Friedlander (from 30 Rock and stand-up comedian), looking like he's just faced one of Ma Lin's ghost serves. The other paddle shown, "How to Beat Up Anybody," comes from Judah's book. And here's Judah on NBC Sports (2:34) giving a table tennis lesson to anchors Michelle Beadle and Dave Briggs. Since I've given Judah several lessons, that sort of puts me on NBC Sports, right?

Table Tennis Meme

Here's a great table tennis meme: "What society thinks I do ... What my friends think I do ... What Asians think I do ... What Americans think I do ... What I think I do ... What I really do."

Non-Table Tennis - Orioles Top Ten List

My article entitled "Top Ten Reasons Brian Roberts Will Have a Monster Season" was the cover story at Orioles Hangout for much of the last two days. Here's the direct link.

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January 23, 2013

USNTTL and Leagues

Alas, it seems the U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League is no more. When you go to www.usnttl.com, you get a note saying, "This account is expired due to non renewal of services."

I was already a little irritated at them for another reason. Late last summer, after the entire thing was set up, I was invited to be a member of their Advisory Board. I agreed, and I took part in a one-hour phone conference with other newly appointed Advisory Board Members and the ones setting it up, and where I was told about the league. I gave a few recommendations (not sure if any were followed, since it was a bit too late for major changes since the league was already set up), and that was my entire involvement with it. Later, when the league was "postponed," I only found out about it by emailing them after the planned start-up date, after it had already been postponed. When nothing was happening, I asked to be taken off the Advisory Board. But I was told the person who did the web page was now in India and out of contact. So a number of months went by where there was no league going on, and the only names people saw there were the Advisory Board, none of whom had anything to do with the actual creation or running of the league. The names of the ones who set everything up never had their names on the web page.

So at least I'm no longer listed as an Advisory Board for a league that I never really was involved with.

Putting aside their apparent disappearance, and rumors that they kept the entry fees despite never running a league (anyone know if that's true?), it was a good try, but it was likely doomed from the start. The problem with trying to set up a nationwide league the way they did it is that there was little existing infrastructure to support it. To set up a nationwide league, several things have to happen.

First, someone, whether it's USATT or some other group, has to study successful leagues (both table tennis overseas and in the U.S., and other sports in the U.S.) and come up with a prototype of a league that can be run in the U.S.

Second, the country needs to have regional organizations. This is the big one. This means, at minimum, a State Association in every state, with some larger states, like California, having more than one. We started doing this in the early 1990s, but a new administration came in and went in a different direction, and all that work was lost. I blogged about this on Jan. 9.

Third, the leagues have to be organized and promoted at the regional or state level. This likely means starting in one region (perhaps with the existing leagues in the SF and Bay areas in California and the NYC area), and expanding both in their region and surrounding ones.

Fourth, with the leagues beginning to spread, the regional organizers need to focus on bringing in sponsors so the league can continue to grow. Sponsors bring in revenue that can be used to hire organizers and (at some point) as prize money for the Championship division.

When something like the above happens, a growing nationwide league will be possible, and serious table tennis participation - as well as USATT membership - will explode.

USATT League

I led an attempt to set up a nationwide league about ten years ago with the USATT League, but USATT wouldn't get behind it. (Robert Mayer did the software development and now runs it, though it's pretty much self-run.) It's the most active series of leagues in the U.S., but it's only a singles league - we never got to the all-important team leagues, which would have been the next step. To set up the team leagues, the plan was to appoint state league directors, but we never got to that step.

How active is the USATT League? In the past ten years, 16,703 players have competed in 364 different leagues in a total of 359,592 rated matches. In December, 2012, 5023 rated matches took place in 49 different leagues. In October, 2012, we had the all-time record for USATT League matches in a month with an even 6700 in 56 different leagues. So far this month there have been 4451 rated matches in 51 different leagues. (For perspective, other than the Nationals, there were only 4158 processed USATT tournament matches in December. In months where there are no U.S. Open, Nationals, or North American Teams, the USATT League sometimes has more rated matches than USATT tournament matches.) It's a good start if USATT ever wants to build on it - especially since they can email all of the league directors with the press of a button. 

Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers Update

Yesterday I finished the tedious line-by-line proofing of the book. Starting today I get to input the numerous edits, including some new paragraphs and sections I'm adding. Hopefully I'll finish this by Friday. Current version is 99,534 words long, but I expect it'll go over 100,000 before it's done. In the 9"x6" book format, it'll run a little over 240 pages. In 12-point Time-Roman, double spaced, regular 8.5x11 paper, it runs 482 pages.

LPGA Ping-Pong

Here's a picture of LPGA golfers Michelle Wie and Belen Mozo battling it out in ping-pong. No word on who won.

Waldner Scores in Soccer

Here's a video (14 sec) of Jan-Ove Waldner in his younger days scoring a goal in soccer (football for you overseas fans) with some fancy footwork.

Adam Bobrow vs. Timo Boll

Here's the point Adam won (37 seconds), and his reaction. The two played exhibitions points at the Spin LA event this past weekend.

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November 2, 2012

USA Table Tennis Newsletter

USATT's monthly eNewsletter came on Wednesday. (Go here to join their mailing list.) Kudos to USATT and editor Andy Horn for putting this together!

Now a little history and comments. The newsletter was "born" at the Strategic Meeting held in Colorado Springs in September, 2009. I put "born" in quotes because there were already plans to create it before the meeting, since nearly every other Olympic sport was already doing them. During the meeting we came up with three "priorities," with a task force for each: Communication, Juniors, and "Grow Membership Through Added Value."  (I wrote a lot about this in my blog on the two-year anniversary, on Sept. 26, 2011.) At the meeting I was initially against making Communication one of the three Priorities, but was convinced otherwise by attendees. However, I argued that Communication as a Priority would be meaningless unless we had programs to communicate about. I thought the three priorities should have been Leagues, Club-based Junior Programs, and (with those two to communicate about) Communication.

Unfortunately, nothing came of the Junior and "Grow Membership Through Added Value" task forces, and so we were left with just Communication. We did get a new website, as well as the eNewsletter. But my point from 2009 is still the same - Communication is somewhat pointless if you don't have programs to communicate.

The current eNewsletter has interesting stuff, with headlines about the USATT's Athletes Advisory Council Accepting Applications; Remembering Olga Feingold Kahan; News on the US Cadets medaling in international tournaments; Ping-Pong film making debut in New York City; Ariel Hsing competing against a celebrity; Playing table tennis with Peter Gabriel; the Annual Giving Campaign; and an item on Renewing Your Membership. These are all nice items, but they do not promote any USATT programs.

Contrast this with the October newsletter I received from the U.S. Tennis Association. Their first headline is about the 2012 League Division Champions (i.e. like a USATT rating event but with teams). It includes a picture of the "2.5 Men's National Champions," which is roughly the equivalent in table tennis of "Under 1500 Men's National Champions." Their second item is titled "Get Your Kids Active - Attend an Event!", which is about "Play Day," an event to bring kids into tennis. Below that there's a headline "10 and Under Tennis - a Whole New Ballgame," which also promotes kids to play tennis. And then there's a link to "The Road to Jr. Team Tennis Nationals." (They also have an item about USTA membership, which includes the headline "Enjoy a Sport for a Lifetime." They also include a tennis coaching tip in each issue.)

All of these items are geared toward getting people to play tennis and join USTA. Over and over in their newsletters USTA focuses on promoting their core programs - leagues, junior programs, and the U.S. Open (which is highlighted in most newsletters, but not this one). The key is that USTA has nationwide leagues and junior programs to promote. USATT does not. So there's not much to put in the newsletter regarding USATT programs. (I'm talking about programs for the masses, not just elite players, which USATT tends to focus on.) This is why Andy gets kudos for putting the issue together, despite it not really promoting USATT programs that don't exist.

USATT does have the U.S. Open and USA Nationals (promoted in the previous eNewsletter), but haven't really made any serious attempt to increase the number of entries at these events, which get far fewer entries these days than the 1000+ players at the 1974 and 1975 U.S. Opens or the 700 or so many years in the 1990s, and the 800+ at the Nationals in 2005-2006. (This year's U.S. Open had 564 players, one of the worst showings ever, while the last Nationals had 502 players, the second worst ever ands the lowest since the ratings went online in 1994, which allows us to see the number of entries for each tournament).

I run a monthly eNewsletter for the Maryland Table Tennis Center. Every issue focuses on promoting our programs - private and group coaching, junior programs, leagues, and tournaments. Mixed in with these are interesting news items, like the ones USATT does. Other major table tennis centers do the same. The key is to have a core focus, and focus on promoting it.

USTA has a membership of 700,000, USATT about 8000. By contrast, Germany, England, and France, which focus on leagues and junior programs, have table tennis memberships of 700,000, 500,000, and 300,000. Think about it.

Since USATT doesn't currently have many of its own programs to promote to the masses, other than the U.S. Open and USA Nationals, here's an idea: why not use the USATT eNewsletter (and webpage) to systematically promote the leagues and junior programs from around the country, even if they are not USATT programs? This brings players into the sport, and these players usually become USATT members. Specifically, they could have a central online listing of these leagues and junior programs, and use the eNewsletter to refer readers to them. (They already have this for tournaments, so they just need to refer to them in the eNewsletter. But there's far greater membership potential in leagues and junior programs, as demonstrated in Europe.) If a kid or parent gets the USATT eNewsletter (or goes to the USATT web page, for that matter), they don't learn about the great junior programs at clubs around the country. They don't learn about the great leagues in SF, LA, NY, and other regions, or in individual clubs. They don't even know these things exist. And so we lose them. Tennis and European table tennis actively refers people to these programs as their central focus. Why not use these non-USATT programs to promote table tennis, referring to them constantly in the eNewsletter and webpage, leading to a more prosperous USATT?

Bids Wanted for 2013 National Team Trials

Here's the info sheet. Deadline to apply is Nov. 15, 2012. This is for clubs or cities to bid to run the 2013 USA National Team Trials, scheduled for Feb. 7-10, 2013.

Call for Nominations - Annual Coach of the Year

Here's the info sheet. Deadline for nominations is Dec. 15, 2012. "The U.S. Olympic Committee annually conducts a Coach of the Year recognition program within the family of Olympic and Pan American sports. There are five categories for which nominations may be made and they are: Volunteer, Developmental, National, Paralympic and the Doc Counsilman (Technology) area. USA Table Tennis takes this opportunity to solicit nominations from our membership for these categories."

Opening Ceremonies for World Cadet Challenge

Here's the opening ceremonies to the World Cadet Challenge currently being held in Guam (54:32). The World Cadet Challenge is going on right now in Guam, Oct. 27 - Nov. 4. Team North America (USA and Canada) marches in at 5:41, and are announced at 6:01. Here's the ITTF World Cadet Challenge page, with schedules, results, articles, and pictures.

Fantasy Table Tennis Artwork

Here's the latest fantasy table tennis artwork from Mike Mezyan. Click on the picture and you'll through a whole series of his works. Better still, go to his home photo page, and see all the thumbnails.

Pongress: International Ping Pong Congress

Yes, they almost done with the second "International Ping Pong Congress," and I've never even heard of it. Here's their description - and there's a bit of exaggeration when they say the event "brings together the world's best players." (Somehow I can't picture the Chinese team being there.) "The second International Ping Pong Congress has just taken place at the Cumberland Arms in Newcastle. Ping pong players from around the world came together to celebrate 'Pongress,' a week-long event which brings together the world’s best players (or should that be beer drinkers!). Pongress runs until 3rd November." Make sure to watch the linked video!

Twelve Animals Playing Table Tennis

They may not be Da Vinci's, but they are hilarious! Here are color drawings of 12 animals playing table tennis, including five dinosaurs, an alligator, dolphin, tuna, swordfish, shark, octopus, turtle, and one grouping of six of them.

Ghostly Table Tennis

Here's an animated gif of two ghosts playing table tennis - Happy Belated Halloween!

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May 15, 2012

$100,000 U.S. Nationwide Table Tennis League

Yesterday I was in on a phone conference with the organizers, advisers, and sponsors of the upcoming USNTTL. (I'm not sure I'm at liberty to say who was on the call. Attila Malek, 1979 U.S. Men's Champion and long-time coach, is the driving force behind it.) I'm now on their advisory committee.

I had some suggestions for promoting the league, which I've used regularly in the past - meetup.com, craigslist.com, mailings to clubs (including a request that clubs call a meeting to discuss the league with members), and an online printable roster sheet that league directors can use to sign up players. Mailings to coaches was also discussed, as coaches are often the ones running local leagues. I also suggested they contact some "big names" to help them promote the league. (For example, see the segment below on Susan Sarandon. A few words from her to the proper news medium would be hugely helpful.)

I only agreed to be on their advisory committee because they really seem to be dead serious about setting up this nationwide league, which has been paramount importance to developing table tennis in this country for so many years - and the fact that it's never been done is a primary (if not the primary) reason the sport has so long stagnated in this country. Successful countries used leagues to bring in large memberships and revenue, and (if you are more interested in elite table tennis) used that money to develop their national teams. It's win-win. I've constantly been dumbfounded at the refusal to undertake any serious league development by USATT, but now we have someone actually taking action. I hope you will support this league. I hope USATT will support it.

Note that a nationwide league doesn't mean you have to travel all over the U.S. to participate. A nationwide league in a country this size is set up regionally, so all your competitions would be within driving distance.

And you did read the headline correctly - the league has $100,000 in prize money. They have sponsors!

DEADLINE: The entry deadline for the league is June 30. See the USNTTL web page for info, and especially the Regulations page, which gives all the rules, etc.

Some of you may remember that I once tried to create a national league, the USATT League, which is still in operation. I was never able to get USATT to take it seriously, and even when it brought in money ($15,000), the money was used for other things rather than going back into developing the league. My plan was to start with a Singles League to bring in players, and then expand to Team Leagues, which are the key - players like playing on teams, and it's why countries like Germany (700,000), England (500,000), and others have such large memberships. Since I could never get USATT support, I was pretty much operating alone (except for software development from the ever-helpful Robert Mayer), and eventually gave up the idea of moving on to the team aspect. Though it mostly operates under the radar, there are currently 272 active leagues in the USATT League, with an average of 6000 processed (i.e. rated) matches per month. (Not sure how active the 272 leagues are - I think it means leagues that have played matches in the past year.) A total of 14,193 players have played in processed league matches since its creation in 2003.

Eastern Open

The deadline to enter the Eastern Open is this Friday. I'll be there coaching. Will you? Stop by and say hello!

New coaching videos from PingSkills

Susan Sarandon talks table tennis on Anderson Cooper

Actress Susan Sarandon told Anderson Cooper on his show about her passion for ping pong and said she enjoys playing it because "it cuts across age, body type, gender… little girls can beat their fathers, they can beat their big brothers." Here's the video (1:15).

Non-Table Tennis - Nebula News!

This weekend is the annual Nebula Awards Weekend, where the science fiction and fantasy writers from around the U.S. gather for workshops, panels, and the awards banquet where the best writers are honored with Nebula's (their equivalent of the Oscars). This year it is being held locally in Arlington, VA. I just found out that a story of mine is included in the Award Weekend's Collector's Anthology! I'll be at the Science Fiction Writers of America table Friday night with other writers included signing copies of the book for buyers. Unfortunately I'll have to miss all or most of the rest of the weekend because of coaching commitments. (On a side note, this morning I sold my 60th short story to an anthology - but the editor asked that I not yet announce the sale until they have made all their selections. Here's my science fiction & fantasy page.) 

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September 22, 2011

USA Table Tennis Infrastructure

No sport can get big without infrastructure. In countries like Germany and England (700,000 and 500,000 members of their respective table tennis associations), the focus is on their leagues, with a secondary focus on junior development. The U.S. Tennis Association (700,000 members) also focuses on its leagues and junior development, as well as the U.S. Open. Little League Baseball, pretty much by definition, focuses on leagues and junior development, and has millions of players. The United States Bowling Congress, with over 2.5 million members, has over 70,000 leagues administered by 35,000 volunteers in 2900 local and state associations. I could go on and on and on, with country after country, sport after sport, but it's always the same message. What can USA Table Tennis (8000 members) learn from this?

A number of times in our past we've had huge media coverage, and a large influx of players. Each time it was temporary because, predictably, without the infrastructure to absorb the players - leagues for all levels, junior programs for kids - the players came, didn't find what they wanted, and they left. And so the media coverage from Ping-Pong Diplomacy in 1971 and 1972, the Olympic debut in 1988, the Olympics in the U.S. in 1996, even Forest Gump in 1994, didn't help; we simply weren't ready. We've been on national TV numerous times, from the ESPN coverage circa 1980, Prime Network in the early 1990s, various times during the Olympics, and more recently Killerspin ESPN broadcasts. Again, it didn't help without the infrastructure. USATT is like a shoe store with bad shoes; until they fix the shoes, TV and other promotions aren't going to develop a membership base. If we were a shoe store, we'd be out of business. Since we're a non-profit, we stay open, a monument to how not to grow a sport.

USA Table Tennis, don't just say leagues and junior programs are priorities, and create task forces to look into these issues, and then do nothing, as we've done over and Over and OVER. If you can't make these your top priority (or make a strong argument for something else), and act like they ARE your top priority by actually making it your, *cough* *cough* TOP PRIORTY, by actually implementing something - then you are just caretakers for a sport waiting for true leadership.

I've blogged about this numerous times, so here it is in a nutshell. Create the prototypical USA League, make it available to potential league directors, recruit volunteers, and promote the heck out of it. Recruit and train coaches who wish to run junior programs. See sport grow. Grow sport grow.

This is not a sport where talking the talk will get anything done; we need to walk the walk. There is a well-trod path to success; to quote the great Yoda, "Do or do not." Which will it be?

Returning short serves to the forehand

Having trouble with those short serves to the forehand? Often find yourself barely getting them in time, since you also have to be ready to cover deep serves? Try practicing in and out movement. Go into your regular receive stance. Then step in, with the right foot well under the table (for righties), and shadow-practice flipping or pushing that serve. Do this a few dozen times, in and out, in and out, in and out. It can be tiring, but it'll pay off if you do this regularly, perhaps a few times a week.

How to Be a Champion

Required reading for all players and coaches. (I posted this once before, but I should post this a few times a year.) These are from the May/June 2005 USA Table Tennis Magazine "How to Be a Champion" issue.

Werner Schlager

Here's a profile of 2003 World Champion Werner Schlager.

iPhone table tennis app

This seems to be table tennis, but since I use a phone designed to make, you know, phone calls, I'm not really sure.

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September 16, 2011

Wang Liqin forehand loop

In regular and slow motion (0:46) The perfect loop? Note the smooth weight transfer and body rotation as he creates torque. He's a three time World Men's Singles Champion (2001, 2005, 2007), world #1 for 25 consecutive months (second most ever), and winner of 21 Pro Tour singles events, the most ever. And I once interviewed him (through a translator) and shook his hand. Yes, my playing hand touched his. Regrettably, I've washed it since.

Service practice reminder

The following is a public service address. Remember that serve that let you down at the last tournament? The one that was going slightly high, or slightly long, or that nobody seemed to have trouble with? Isn't it time you go out and fix that problem for next time? Get a bucket of balls and practice. Here's a ten-point plan to serving success. I've got a bunch of other articles on serving here

USA Table Tennis Leagues

Yesterday there was an email exchange among USATT and other officials regarding the USA League Finals at the USA Nationals. Should they be an open event, where anyone can show up representing a region, or should they only allow teams representing a region with an established regional league? I'm strongly for the latter. There are established leagues in some areas (such as BATTF, LATTF, and NYTTL, representing the bay area (San Francisco region), Los Angeles, and New York (which includes teams from states as far away as Maryland). Here's my response.

"I really, Really, REALLY hope we can turn these leagues into a national thing. This is how many European countries developed huge memberships. I strongly recommend going with only allowing regions that have established leagues; otherwise, it's just another open event at the Nationals, and there's no incentive to grow. We need a nationwide network of leagues like these or we'll always struggle to gain membership. I also hope that those developing these leagues (BATTF, NYTTL, LATTF, others) have studied or will study how the European and Asian leagues started up and grew so that we can steal ideas from them in developing a USA model."

In another email, I wrote:

"I think there are some misconceptions about leagues. First, setting up leagues should not be a primary goal; they are the MEANS to a primary goal, which is to drastically increase membership, as has happened in other countries all over the world and in other sports. (They are an intermediate goal on the way toward this primary goal.) Our membership has been described as a round-off error, and that's not going to change until we do something to change it."

"Second, leagues are not set up for the benefit of the few existing clubs. They are set up to bring in new players which leads to new clubs set up primarily for league play. Germany, for example, didn't create its leagues for the benefit of its 11,000 clubs, which didn't exist at the time. It was the leagues that led to the 11,000 clubs. Before they created their leagues, they were in a similar situation as the U.S."

"Leagues and full-time training centers with full-time coaches and junior programs are beginning to take off around the U.S. . . . and that is the most promising thing I've ever seen in our sport."

I also wrote some strongly worded criticism of USATT's lack of effort in the league department, but I won't post that here at this time. Suffice to say they were severely reprimanded. Severely!!!

U.S. and NA Olympic Trials in Cary, NC

Here's your chance to buy tickets to see the U.S. Olympic Trials (Feb. 9-12, 2012) and North American Olympic Trials (April 20-22, 2012), both in Cary, NC.

Golf Pong

Yes, it's Golf Pong as former junior star Grant Li takes on golf pros Jason Day, Matt Kuchar, and Frederick Jacobson. Jacobson was a nationally ranked player in Sweden twenty years ago, who still plays in San Diego occasionally with Stellan Bengtsson in San Diego. (3:33, but doesn't get to the table tennis until 2:12.)

Machete Pong

Yes, it's Machete Pong as Comedian Jimmy Fallon takes on English adventurer, writer and television presenter Bear Grylls. (2:47, but starts with a 16-second commercial.)

Car Pong

Yes, it's Car Pong. Really. (0:14)

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