Nebulas

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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May 20, 2011

China's TV ratings

So what's the most watched sporting event in China, the most populated country in the world? The all-Chinese Men's Singles final at the recent 2011 World Table Tennis Championships. Nearly 100 million tuned in to watch Zhang Jike defeat defending champion Wang Hao. This topped the previous record, when China's Li Na lost to Kim Clijsters in the final of the Australian Open way back in January.

Let's remember that table tennis is practically the national sport of China. They didn't put table tennis on TV and the country went table tennis crazy; the country was already table tennis crazy, and now they are discovering it on TV. Table tennis isn't a particularly good TV sport - it's more of a participation sport - though it's often good as a "novelty" event on TV. But whenever it's been on TV, the initial good viewership seems to die down quickly. There just isn't a large enough base of table tennis people in the U.S. or other non-table tennis countries - right now - to create a base of table tennis viewers.

On the other hand, there are something like 15-20 million recreational players out there in the U.S. just waiting to become serious players (and future table tennis on TV viewers?) if we just find a way to convert them to serious players. Perhaps national leagues (like in Europe) and training coaches to set up junior programs are the way to go?

Kid in China feeding multiball

In China, juniors learn to feed multiball to each other, as this kid demonstrates in this video (7:08). This allows them to give each great training. He starts by feeding fast topspin side to side. At 0:48, he switches to backspin - notice how he now lets the ball bounce on the table to give a more realistic shot. (I recommend this for topspin as well, unless you are feeding a very advanced and fast player and need to push him. Note that when the coach feeds multiball to the junior, he always lets the ball bounce first.) Note the various combinations in placements and spin used to simulate real points, and see if you can get someone to do multiball training with.

Nebula Awards

In only semi-table tennis news, I'll be attending the Nebula Awards this weekend in Washington DC, where they give awards for the best science fiction & fantasy writing. (Most of the top SF & fantasy writers in the U.S. will be there - do you have a favorite?) I'll be jumping back and forth between that and nine hours of private coaching or group sessions at the Maryland Table Tennis Center, so it's going to be a hectic weekend. The table tennis angle? Edmund Schubert, editor of Orson Scott Card's Intergalactic Medicine Show (that's its name, really!), one of the premier online SF magazines, is a pretty good player, about 1300, and probably better at one point. I hit with him at a convention a couple years ago, and I expect he'll be here - I may take him to the club. On Friday morning and afternoon, I'm on tours (with a number of other SF and fantasy writers) of the NationalMuseum of the American Indian and the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. I practically grew up in the latter - both of my parents had offices there for many years, and I sometimes did homework while sitting against the wall under the giant blue whale.

And now for some crasscommercialism - why not buy a copy of "Pings and Pongs: the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of Larry Hodges," an anthology of my 30 best published stories? (Yes, when I'm not coaching or writing about table tennis, I'm writing science fiction & fantasy.) There's actually a ping-pong fantasy story ("Ping-Pong Ambition"), and several stories mention table tennis in passing. Of course, if you only want table tennis stuff, then get a copy of Table Tennis: Tales & Techniques.

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