Pep Talk

September 24, 2014

USATT Coaching Academy

As noted in my blog yesterday, I'm thinking about running for the USATT Board of Directors in the upcoming USATT election. I gave five things I'd focus on, including the following coaching item:

Recruit and train coaches and directors to set up and run full-time centers and junior programs.
The goal is to have a huge number of such training centers with junior programs, leading to both large numbers of junior players and the development of elite juniors, which leads to elite players. When I made a presentation on this to the USATT Board in December, 2006, two board members openly scoffed at the idea, arguing that there wasn't enough interest in the U.S. to support full-time training centers. The rest sat about silently, waiting for the next item on the agenda. In response I resigned my position as USATT Editor and Programs Director. At the time there were about eight full-time centers in the U.S.; now there are about 75. Once a successful model was created, others copied it. USATT could greatly accelerate this process by recruiting and training coaches and directors as other successful sports do. Since USATT already runs clinics for coaches, and since the coaches would be paying for it (as they do in other sports), the system pays for itself.

For several years I've toyed with setting up a Hodges Academy, where I'd recruit and train coaches to become full-time professional coaches, to run junior training programs, and to set up full-time training centers. We already have a proven model for such full-time centers that works - that's why there are 75 such centers in the country, and that's without any serious involvement by USATT or anyone else really helping out. My club, MDTTC, basically pioneered the model 22 years ago, and we have seven full-time coaches. By word of mouth others have adopted similar methods, and so these centers keep popping up all over the country. We have 75 now; why not 500 in ten years? (Seven years ago, how many people dreamed we'd have as many as 75 now? Well . . . I did! Others just laughed.)

The problem is that while I'd get a number of prospective coaches if I opened such a Hodges Academy - and make a bunch of money - I wouldn't get nearly as many as USATT could get, as the official governing body for table tennis in this country. So I think establishing a USATT Coaching Academy would be the very first thing I'd work on if I did get on the USATT Board. (In which case I wouldn't make a bunch of money, since it's a volunteer position. And the other four items on my priorities list would have to wait until my second day in office.) How would I go about this?

First, we'd need to create the curriculum. USATT already teaches ITTF Coaching Courses, but the problem with that is that it teaches how to coach, but not how to be a professional coach. We need a curriculum that also teaches how to find a place to coach, solicit and keep students, set up and run junior training programs, set up and teach classes, how to maximize income, and all the other issues faced by professional coaches. Most of this is already covered in the Professional Table Tennis Coaches Handbook, which I wrote and would make available at cost. One aspect that's not covered that much in the handbook is setting up full-time centers. A manual for that is a must, and would be part of the curriculum. 

Second, we'd need to bring in someone to teach the course. Ideally we'd bring in someone who is already teaching ITTF coaching courses in this country, who can simply add the additional curriculum. (Richard McAfee, are you listening?) This person would also likely be in charge of creating the curriculum for item #1, with my assistance if needed. 

Third, we'd need to find a site or sites to teach the course. They should take place at full-time clubs with successful junior programs and top coaches so the prospective coaches can learn how a successful program works. Ideally we'd use various clubs around the country. We have a number of such clubs now!

Fourth, we'd need to solicit people who wish to become full-time professional coaches, as well as ones who wish to run junior programs. It's not enough to simply put out a notice and hope some people show up. We need to sell the program, very publicly showing and advertising how coaches can make very good money - typically $40 to $50/hour, and more for group sessions, plus various commissions. We need to create a corps of professional coaches, who not only know how to coach, but are actively coaching and running junior programs, with the emphasis on those who wish to do so full-time. The students would pay a fee, just as they do for the ITTF courses, and this would pay for the person running course and other expenses. 

Fifth, we run the program, and the USATT Coaching Academy is born!!! I'll likely be there assisting at the first one - as an unpaid volunteer if I'm on the USATT Board. 

Full-time Table Tennis Centers - Cart Before Horse?

In the forum here I was told I "...continue to put the cart before the horse." Read the posting and my response (which I've updated a few times) and judge for yourself. I really don't get this. To me, this is sort of like having 75 people learn how to loop, while three people who do not receive coaching are unable to do so. Does that mean we can't learn to loop? Oh, and I've coined a new slogan: "If you build it and promote it, they will come."

Tournament Coaching

Here's the new coaching article by Samson Dubina, Ohio #1 and former USA Men's Singles Finalist.

Reading Serves and Medium Long Returns

Here's the coaching video (3:13) by Pierre-Luc Hinse, North American table tennis champion and Canadian Olympian.

Resting Injuries

I've always gone by the general rule that if there's a sharp pain, stop. If it's a steady pain, go easy. However, this is just a generality. Here are some articles on the subject. (Readers, comment below if you have input on this issue, or if you have links to other such articles that you think might be helpful.) 

Portugal Looking to Upset Germany at the TMS 2014 European Team Championships

Here's the ITTF Press Release. The European Team Championships start today in Lisbon, Portugal. Here's the ITTF home page for the event.

Back of Hand Serve

Here's a posting in the Mytabletennis.net forum on serving a ball off the back of the hand. It's perfectly legal. Here's my response. "I have that serve, and have used it twice in tournaments, both times against weaker players. Both times my opponent caught the ball and tried to claim the point. Both times I rolled my eyes and agreed to a let. Both times I should have won the point. (There was no umpire.) I also tried it in practice matches against Crystal Wang and Derek Nie (2350 12- and 13-year-olds), and both unhesitatingly backhand banana flipped winners, then looked at me like I was crazy."

Tribute to Ma Long

Here's the new video (6:31) that features the long-time Chinese superstar.

Rolling-on-Table Shot

Here's video (45 sec, including slow motion replay) of a great "get" by Pierre-Luc Hinse against Xavier Therien back in 2011. 

Adam Bobrow Around-the-Net Backhand Smacks Ball

Here's the video (5 sec).

Here's the Pep Talk of All Pep Talks

Here's the video (2:28) from a high school football player.

Stupid Game Spotlight: Pig Pong

Here's an article about the deadly sport of table tennis, pigs, and the connection. "Today I would like to talk to you about two things. Two things that should have never been brought together, but for some ungodly reason... they were. These two things are Ping-Pong (the game) and Pigs (the farm animal, not cops). Combining a sport (well Ping-Pong is kind of a sport isn't it?) with an animal that is the very personification of "sloth" just doesn't make sense to me."

The New iPhone 6, Wally Green, and Ping Pong!

Here's the video (38 sec).

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