One journey to the Land of the Free. Four working days visiting clubs, talking to stakeholders in the red hot Bay Area Table Tennis market, followed by five days at the US National championships in Las Vegas – a gathering of table tennis nuts like no other.
Mission? You may ask.
For a starter to understand more of the dynamics driving the growth of our sport in one of the most challenging , intriguing markets in the world ; United States of America .
Extended mission; connect ideas with reality for professional initiatives down the road. The drummer should keep drumming also in the after ITTF life.
The dominant part of this text is written above the clouds, crossing an ocean that for so many years separated land of origin and home. Must have travelled North America to Europe and back at least one hundred times during my sixteen years of ITTF service with Ottawa, Canada at the time being my home city. Somehow my ITTF career had to end here – in the sky thinking about North American Table Tennis – its development – or lack thereof? Many of the programmes that I did have the fortune to implement when working for the ITTF , all under the Global Junior Programme umbrella , did come with the dynamics – the pathways to excellence clearly outlined for young talents from USA and Canada.
Is there really a verdict to be had at this point? – So let’s bring it on. In my eyes the ITTF Global Junior Programme brought life to table tennis in the North American market. It provided young and upcoming talents and their supporters with clear cut goals and the much needed international measuring stick. Sure – you would like to have a deeper cut of domestic activities following along, supporting players and coaches – but implementation of even the best initiative is a challenge in North America –let alone to run the national team programme on a shoestring budget.
So there I was attending my second US National Championships – listening to the Star Spangled Banner – feeling proud when the USA Junior Girls team was recognized for their bronze medal achievement some three weeks ago at the World Juniors. Strange how deep my passion runs for junior development – and NA specifically. Perhaps it all relates to the life-long desire to change the world of Table Tennis. After all, few people working for the ITTF takes the time to engage in those kind imaginaries of the future. Something I always liked to do.
Spent a few days here in Las Vegas back in 2012 as well – and just like then – the same goes for now; what a fantastic event!!! The Nationals has the tendency to draw in ALL kind of personalities, to one event under the same roof. You will find unique styles -The Power of Passion – Good Takes on the World of Table Tennis – Lots of specific nut like knowledge… You can get it all here if arriving with an open mindset of course. This is the everyman/women show as close to 800 players hit the concrete in the gigantic Vegas convention center for five long days each December. Eighty-four official courts – Big playing small – old versus young – para-athletes going head to head with promising juniors – good matches – poor matches – you name it , its all here – and even a little bit more, especially if you count the many side discussions that often have a tendency to consume considerable time without you knowing it.
The red floor is rolled out for the best players who goes neck to neck mainly on the two centre-court tables. This time the blogger was talking and walking in Vegas for the complete duration of the 2014 National Championships. Interesting times for sure. This is a bubble – a unique style of sport family gathering very much framed off from the outside world.
You could argue of course that the USATT could absorb to old cliché that “What happens in Vegas – stays in Vegas”, at least when it comes to the outcome of specific events. To have good old Jimmy BUTLER squeaking out the national men’s singles title for the fourth time – his last title came twenty one years ago!!, is one of those things that doesn’t fit into the future frenzy discussion dominating the USA TT talks right now? But then again – the private coaching machine spitting out talents all over the country is not exactly fine-tuned on tactical sense and mental awareness. Jimmy fought the fight – brought the game down to his level and was brave / confident enough to take down his twenty five year? younger opponent, fifteen year old Kunal CHODRI in the final despite trailing 1-5 at the seventh game turn.
Lily ZHANG finally won the women’s singles title. Clearly not in her prime form the ICC , Milpitas poster girl , fresh from Youth Olympic Games success , fended off the twelve year old super-talent Crystal Wang from Maryland in a somehow exciting final played over six games . Good to see also that the US Women’s National team well is not dried up. Instead it is flowing steadily with plenty of young talents filling in when collage girls like Ariel HSING – Erica WU and others decides to downgrade their international TT careers quiet dramatically due to the academic pressure. That’s all good I guess – but the fact is that school easily can be combined with training and competition – but only in a strict school – training only setting. Not too much room for other things in life. This is the cruel reality that so many female table tennis players not only in North America, but also world-wide struggles with. Can you blame them though? Professional opportunities are still slim and the competition out there from the many Asian players harder than a rock. .
Back to that flowing well. Besides Crystal WANG – clearly on of the best twelve year olds in the world we have Prachi JHA showing great improvement, almost by the minute. It is a pretty safe bet that Prachi will be a factor, also at international level, as soon as she gets a better understanding of the tactical aspects of the game itself. The motivational much needed hunger factor is World class!
So – Did we find any answers – solved the riddle of USA Table Tennis – its future direction and general trends in Las Vegas? . Probably not right off the bat – but shame us if we do not keep digging deeper with clear ambition and purpose. The backyard will not change unless the gardener goes to work. The new USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, having spent only six weeks on the job, will need all the support the world of Table Tennis can muster in order to improve the situation and to continue to grow the sport.
As the good reader of this blog may know – the ever truth-seeking Eleven Point Blog is not giving up – far from. So here they come my Christmas presents to the USA TT community – the findings from the 2014 US Nationals if you may say so – nicely packaged with the best Christmas present wrapping made in Sweden I could find.
A sizeable doze of PATIENCE – SUPPORT and CONFIDENCE to the new USATT CEO Gordon KAYE.
What an intriguing job he has. But having skated as a Hockey pro in Hungary and Sweden you would imagine that Gordon can both take a hit and give one back which most certainly is a quality he may need to steer the USATT ship out of the isolated harbour and on to the open sea.
One good talk show to Tim Boggan and his USATT Hall of Fame friends.
Attended the USATT Hall of Fame dinner as an invitee of Paddle Palace. It was not the biggest gathering – but what an amazing chance to learn from history it became . The story on screen for the introduction of Dick BUTLER – the father of Jimmy and Scott Butler was an excellent piece of USATT history. Listening to Tim Boggans introduction style of stories was another form of pleasurable entertainment. “I am writing one book a year on the history of Table Tennis in the USA the eighty-four year old Tim Boggan said when I met him in the venue the morning after. I guess you can question the real value of the work itself – but I often catch myself covering many international happenings connected to our players as well – that makes it kind of interesting Tim explained.
Here is a link showing some of the amazing work by Tim; Check out the players profiles!
COURAGE to be DIFFERENT to members of the 2014 USA Junior Boys National Team
Fourteen year old Kanak JHA fighting face.
In the last few years I have seen young very skillful table tennis playing kids – step by step become group depending teenage boys. Important learning now awaits for those wanting international success… Preparation – Tactical sense – Style awareness – Leadership are all attributes that must stick with the best more ambitious players. Keep trying boys!
Solid INTERNATIONAL AMBITIONS to the ICC Table Tennis center in Milpitas
They do many things right – Rajul Sheth and his group of TT soldiers. Kudos for arranging the lounge at the Nationals and for trying to service the members. Close to fifty ICC players participated in Las Vegas and the medals trickled in as well. This is a good club that hopefully would like to become even better. A new venue is planned for March next year. Future plans may include also an international event which no doubt will help to raise the level of the activities another step. I would like to see the ICC not only offer international level training programs – but also to compete internationally. Good for players – good for coaches = Good for everybody.
The new USATT COACHING LICENCE model to the USATT board
Perhaps time has come to demand some kind of official USATT coaching licence to coach at the Nationals..? Clearly it would be good to try to raise the standards of the coaching made available and also to create a communicative educational style of platform. Think about it for a moment. Is it really good for the profession of TT coaching that most of the work in an event of this nature is carried out by sparring partners/players – working as private coaches in homes and in clubs. What I am trying to say here is that there is much more to the picture than blocking and top spinning for a couple of hours per day. For the development of the game itself – and the players – we should at least try to connect to the outside world a little bit more. I can even see more advantages – protection and recognition for those clubs or programmes that are ready to invest in the future by absorbing such a model.
NATTPL – North American Table Tennis Pro League to all
The time has come to make a move. Discussions and meetings should be replaced by firm hands on action. If there is a will – there is a way! Plenty of hard-nosed footwork is needed and we should start by scanning all potential key markets as well as the ITTF calendar for opportunities. Will it happen without an outside force getting involved? I doubt it.
Vote for Larry! Signs to the membership
I am frequent reader of Tabletenniscoaching.com. Larry is running for a board position and we should by all means vote for him. The five campaign points starting with regional leagues are all well thought out and right on. And… there is more. Table Tennis Tactics for Thinkers is one of Larrys many books on TT. Not a bad read for some of the young talents ( and their parents) fighting for competitive advantages .
A smoke on the Peace Pipe to JOOLA and BUTTERFLY
Funny how the two leading TT companies in the USA are engaged in a competitive battle by pounding each other point for point. Both companies have launched their own low level pro tournament model – and are also running a major team championship on the very same weekend. It might be better to perhaps cooperate and to support a more comprehensive – better structured USATT calendar.
One solid BOX for outside thinking – goes to all – including myself.
This is after all the Land of the Free Thinkers. Perhaps that’s why I am drawn to it.
Merry Christmas !