By Jimmy Butler | June 26, 2012, 9 a.m. (ET)

Jim Butler

I'd like to share a few examples of some experiences I've had the past 6 month regarding scorekeeping at tournaments.   I've traveled far west, and far east so far competing in 4-star tournaments the past 6 months.  I played two tournaments in California, and several in Westchester, N.Y., and Cary, N.C.    I'm going to share three examples recently where tournament directors made the wonderful decision to add scorekeepers to matches in the middle of the tournament. 

Cary Cup, March 15-18.  This was a 4-star tourney, and in the round of 16  there were hundreds of spectators that came from the community.  Many high level open singles matches were playing in front of the spectators, with no score keepers.  The tournament had made a decision to have scorekeepers for the quarter finals  on, but not before.  The spectators were very quiet, and didn't know what was going on with the matches.  There was an occasional clap for a good rally.   Tim Boggan  was covering the event for the TT Magazine and was frustrated he didn't know the scores of the matches.  He brought it to the attention of tournament director Mike Babuin.  Scorekeepers were sent out to the matches.  The whole environment immediately changed in the gym.  The crowd was suddenly cheering all the time.  They were even cheering for points that were not good rallies, because they could see the score.  It is very exciting to watch a point at deuce when you know it is deuce.  That same point has much less value to a spectator when they have no idea it was a deuce point being played in an important game.  For the rest of the tournament the crowd was engaged  because there were scorekeepers out there.

Westchester open, March 24-25.  No scorekeepers were present in this tournament and there were several hundred people crowded around the main tables to watch the final day of Open Singles matches.  I brought it to the attention of tournament director Robert Roberts.  Scorekeepers were sent out, and the whole gym changed from quiet, to regular roars.  It was so loud at times when I was playing I couldn't hear the ball bouncing, from the roars of the spectators from adjacent tables being played.  The spectators could see the scores of all the open singles matches now, and they were enjoying the game of table Tennis.

Meiklejohn Seniors, May 31st-June 3rd.  This tournament attracts spectators all  day from the community.  It's a 4 day tournament and there were no scorekeepers present except for the semi's and final's of the open singles and elite semi's and finals.  On the 3rd day of the tournament, I asked tournament director Craig Krum if he could send out a scorekeeper for the featured table, which was right next to a stage where most of the spectators had been sitting throughout the tournament.  Although he was extremely busy, he made it happen immediately.  The whole ball room went from relatively quiet, to a loud and excited environment.   I was hearing constant cheers going on the rest of the day.  I had to go inside and watch a few times because the crowd was  so loud  I felt I was missing something.  There were twelve tables going on, and adding just one score card to one table changed the whole environment.  I  recall  watching Danny Seemiller and Mark Nordby play doubles against Atanda Musa and his partner.  It was the match with the scorecard, and the crowd was going crazy because they could see the score and the match had many deuce points and close games. 

Scorekeepers are  a necessary part of the presentation of the game.  There are some tournaments that provide them, and there are some tournaments that provide little to none of them.   I think we should strive to make scorekeepers a standard for all of our tournaments.  We do have spectators come to our tournaments, and our paying USATT members also become spectators when they are not playing their own matches. 

I also think we should strive for more barriers.   Many tournaments do not have the space to barrier off every court, but having one or two courts with full barriers and a scorekeeper is realistic for the tournaments currently not providing any. Barriers create a  more professional  atmosphere for people to watch, and play Table Tennis.

Thank you to Mike Babuin,  Robert Roberts,  Craig Krum,  and their hard working staffs for three of the great tournaments I  personally experienced this year. 

-Jim Butler

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Image of Jimmy and Gregg Robertshaw courtesy of CaryTTA