Krisztina Tόth

August 22, 2014

USATT National Volunteer Coordinator

One of the best things USATT has done in recent times is create the position of National Volunteer Coordinator. Here's the info page where you can apply for the position. Even if you aren't selected for the position you might get selected for another volunteer position, based on your skills and interests. So now's the time to apply - or would you rather just sit around watching TV? I hope not!

Here's a short description of the position:

"This position's primary responsibilities are to plan and organize volunteer programs associated with USA Table Tennis's board of directors, committees, and staff efforts. Individuals who are not selected for the primary position, but bring value, will be referred to the selected individual as possible assistant coordinators."

I hope USATT will feature this prominently on their front page and in the magazine. When the notice first came out I think it was on the front page for a day or so, but now it's mostly buried in the news items. If you page down a bit there's a block about this on the USATT home page, but few will see it unless they are looking for it. (Also, it just says, "Opening Position: National Volunteer Coordinator." How about something catchier, like "Would You Like to be USATT's Volunteer Coordinator? USATT Needs Your Help!") Until the deadline comes up on Oct. 15, I'd like to see this featured all over the place, so we get as many applicants as possible, both for this position and for others who are willing to volunteer on other things.

I'm a member of Science Fiction Writers of America, which is nearly all volunteer run. They run regional conventions with over 1000 participants and national ones with 6000. (For comparison, USATT's U.S. Open and Nationals generally get 700 or so players, though they break 1000 sometimes. Regional tournaments get about 200 players.) Who runs these conventions? Volunteers. Who does the membership stuff? Volunteers. Who does their web pages? Volunteers. Who does their promotional work? Volunteers. And it all gets done very smoothly. The irony is their politics is even nastier than USATT's at its worst - these are people who are good with words and not afraid to use them. But they keep the politics (in particular policy making) and the volunteer stuff completely separate. (I'm also a former member of the U.S. Tennis Association, and they also make similar use of volunteers.) 

A key thing to understand is the difference between "fairness issues" and "progressive issues." Both are important, but need to be handled differently. It is the fairness issues that tend to get political, and so we don't want the same people handling fairness issues and progressive issues. (There can be people who work on both, but they too need to keep these types of issues separate.) Progressive issues can also be political, but far less so as they are actually doing things that are presumably positive for the sport.  

Fairness issues include such things as working out policy for choosing teams; choosing the site for U.S. Opens and Nationals; disciplinary proceedings; and other issue where it's important to be fair, and so you don't want just one person making the decision. Fairness issues should usually be decided by committee. In most cases, once the committee makes a recommendation, the USATT Board of Directors should go with it, unless there's something really wrong with the recommendation. More importantly, the USATT CEO and other such leaders should stay out of these issues when possible, going with the committee decisions whenever possible so they can focus on progressive issues.

Progressive issues are those that develop and promote the sport and/or organization. You do not want a committee doing these. Committees are great for working out the fairest way of doing something, but for progressive issues you need someone to take charge. So unless you have a committee chair who is able and willing to take charge and get things done, and committee members willing to act as only advisors while the chair actually does everything (unless they are asked to do specific tasks), committees don't get much done. For progressive issues, you need to put someone in charge and assign him a specific area where he has authority - and then let him go to work. If he messes up, he can always be reined in afterwards or replaced. Sometimes the person in charge works alone, sometimes he has others working for him - but he needs to be in charge and given the freedom to work on his area of authority and expertise.

In USATT, we have lots of committees. In recent times they were renamed "Advisory Committees," to make clear they only advise. So who does the actual progressive work? Neither USATT nor SFWA have the staff to do these things. So we need to bring in volunteers.

The National Volunteer Coordinator wouldn't be doing any volunteer work except for one thing - he'd be in charge of the other volunteers. Here's an example of how I see it working, which would be similar to SFWA.

Recently Lily Zhang won the bronze medal at the Youth Olympic Games. USATT doesn't really have someone to write and send out press releases, follow up with phone calls and more press releases, and in general work with the press to maximize publicity. What it could do is have several press volunteers, one perhaps for each of the following:

  • U.S. Open and Nationals
  • Elite players
  • Paralympics
  • Juniors
  • Seniors
  • Coaches
  • Leagues
  • Tournaments

Then, whenever something happens in one of these realms, that volunteer would spring into action. There'd almost be a friendly competition between the press volunteers to see who can get the most press! There would be some overlap, but the volunteers can either work out who works on which ones, or both send out press releases. The more the better!

Similarly we'd want volunteers who take care of other aspects for USATT. For another example, take coaching. As I've blogged about repeatedly in recent years, the single best thing that's happened to table tennis in the U.S. in recent times is the rise of full-time training centers, from less than ten in 2006 to about 75 now. USATT has never gotten involved in this, so every time a top coach wants to create a training center or a junior program, he has to start from scratch, perhaps questioning current ones to find out what needs to be done. There's a lot of reinventing the wheel. That's a major brake on the creation of these training centers - and anyone thinking we're anywhere close to approaching our limit with 75 isn't paying attention. With a little streamlining, we could end up with 500 to 1000 around the country.

But we need a volunteer who is in charge of the creation of a manual for creating training centers, who would recruit others to do most of the work, with payment for those workers in the form of commissions when it sells on Amazon, or perhaps a small direct payment from USATT. (I can assist with part about getting published on Amazon - I'm pretty experienced.) We'd have another in charge of recruiting coaches who wish to create training centers or junior programs, who'd put notices out everywhere - USATT magazine and web page, emails to coaches and top players, etc., promoting the idea that they can make a very nice living as a table tennis coach. We'd have another who would coordinate coaches to train these coaches, something I've toyed with doing, perhaps with a Hodges Coaching Academy. (I've already written the manual for much of this, the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I'd let USATT use at cost if they ever make these things a priority. The manual explains the professional side of table tennis coaching, i.e. how to make a living at it by getting students, keeping them, getting places to play, maximizing income, etc. )

USATT already does this sort of thing in some ways, such as the National Tournament Coordinators, where eight volunteers do the tournament sanctioning, reporting to National Coordinator Larry Thoman, but mostly working independently. This is the model we could use for other aspects of USATT volunteerism. In this case the "fairness issues" were worked out in advance by the USATT Tournament Advisory Committee, which set up the rules and guidelines for sanctioning, but then the progressive work - the sanctioning part - is done by specific volunteers.

Not Recognizing a "Prominent" Player

Yesterday I went to the club to do some private coaching. As I went to my table in the back I glanced over at one of the front tables and noticed we had some new girl dressed in a USA uniform. I didn't look closely as I was in a hurry to get to my table. (I was early, but so was my student, who was following me.) During the lesson, from across the room I saw the girl play some more, and while she looked somehow familiar, I didn't recognize her - the club is pretty big, so it was a good distance. Then Coach Jack Huang walked by, and I asked her who it was. He broke up laughing, and finally told me. It was Crystal Wang! You know, the girl from our club since age 7 (she's now a very tall 12), who'd I'd worked with countless times (though Jack is her primary coach), and coached many times in tournaments! The youngest in U.S. history to make the U.S. Team and win Under 22 at the Nationals! The highest rated of her age in history at about 2400! In fairness to me, I was watching from across the room; she'd been training in China for seven weeks and I'd been told wouldn't be back for another week; and she'd both grown another inch or two and had a new hair style.

New Poly Balls: How Do We Bounce?

Here's the article from Butterfly Mag.

Belarus Open: Non-Celluloid Balls, No Service Let Rule

Here's the article. The tournament, held Aug. 21-14, is the first international competition to use the non-celluloid ball. But they are also experimenting with not having a let on net serves. This means if the serve nicks the net, the point continues.

Lily Zhang Wins Bronze at Youth Olympic Games

Here's the USATT article on her win this past weekend. Here's USATT Board Chair Mike Babuin's congratulatory note to her.

Table Tennis Players Crib Sheet

Here's the article, which is about how fast the sport is and how you need to rely not just on your eyes but on your ears as well. One confusing statement - it says, "Sound helps the player because it reach[es] the brain 300 hundreds of a second faster than just using your eyes." This doesn't make sense, since light travels about 186,000 miles per second (i.e. sight), while sound at sea level travels about 760 miles per hour, or about 0.21 miles per second (i.e. hearing), meaning light travels almost 900,000 times faster than sound.

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. Ninety-one down, nine to go!

  • Day 10: Krisztina Tόth Advises Players & the ITTF to Collaborate to Create Stars

Table Tennis Brand Name Artwork

Here's the latest artwork from Mike Mezyan - or should we call this wordwork?

Ice Bucket Challenges

Here are three more prominent ones from a pair of Germans, a Swede, and a Frenchman. I was going to post more from "regular" players, but there are just too many. Note that Dmitrij challenged Jan-Ove Waldner - can't wait to see that!

Twelve Weird and Wonderful Ping Pong Videos

Here they are! I've linked to a few of these in the past. My favorites are #5 ("PongQuest") and #7 ("Ping Pong" – Armin Van Buuren).

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