1983: Initial USTTA Coverage Continues in SPIN and Timmy’s.
ITTF Equipment Chair Rufford Harrison (SPIN, July-Aug., 1983, 9) describes some of the silly wrangling at the ’83 Tokyo World’s between the Chinese Taipei TTA (CTTTA)—recently affiliated with the International Olympic Committee (IOC)—and the People’s Republic of China (PRC). But the news is good, he says, for finally, after more than a quarter-century, and to much applause, the CTTTA became an ITTF “Member in Good Standing.” This meant it was given “half the voting power of a full member, and all other rights, but is subject to scrutiny during the first two years.”
At this point in time, says USTTA Executive Director Bill Haid, “the IOC recognizes 151 National Olympic Committees. The International Sports Federations that lead in their number of member countries eligible to vie for Olympic Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals are (Top 10): 1. Track and Field (168). 2. Basketball (151). 3. Soccer (150). 4. Volleyball (144). 5. Cycling (129). 6. TABLE TENNIS (126). 7. Boxing (125). 8. Weight Lifting (115). 9. Judo (104). 10. Shooting (98). [As I write in 2011, Table Tennis is #2 behind #1 soccer.]
We learn from USTTA Executive Vice-President/International Chair Gus Kennedy that the USTTA was able to provide $8,500—$3,500 from funds raised by President Sol Schiff and $5,000 from funds provided by the Olympic Committee—to send the U.S. Team to those Tokyo World’s. So again the Team was completely funded for this important competition. [In regard to Funding, SPIN points out that, since the USTTA has a non-profit status, Association members raising funds “must send all monies to Headquarters where they will be properly accounted for and acknowledged before reaching their intended use.”]
Also, on that same page, USTTA Recording Secretary Rufford Harrison gives us a synopsis of what happened at the June E.C. Meeting in Colorado Springs. First, an E.C. Officer change: Bowie Martin replaces Stan Robens (who resigned) as a USTTA Vice President. [However, the next USTTA Register to appear in SPIN will show “VACANT” Vice President positions for both Martin and Pat O’Neill. It’ll be January, ’84 before SPIN indicates their replacements are Jimmy McClure and Bill Hodge.]
Next, the changes in the USTTA Committee positions. The new USTTA Coaching Chair, replacing Larry Thoman, is Bob Tretheway who’s moved to Colorado Springs. As you’ll see shortly, Larry’s very upset at the way he was treated by the Schiff administration. Bob has previously had “a long-term involvement as the Director of the USTTA’s training camps in Colorado. Of the seven camps that have been held, Tretheway was involved with six of them.” Bob says that “Developing a strong national coaching program is one of the most important goals of the USTTA because it will help us expand our membership and complement our fund-raising efforts.”
Rex Burlison takes the place of Marshall Lipton as the USTTA’s Legal Advisor. Lee Berton, former Editor of the “Journal of Accountancy,” the official CPA publication, will become the new Public Relations Chair. Lee has done PR work for Mobil Oil, and has had a number of articles published in the “Wall Street Journal.” He rather quickly replaces Tom Wintrich, “a graduate of the New Mexico School of Journalism,’ whom readers have long been familiar with through his writing and tournament play. Tom had taken over both the National Publication and Public Relations Committees from Tim Boggan.
Boggan, however—get this—plans during his upcoming sabbatical to write a History of the USTTA. He says:
“From mid-May, ’83 until mid-Sept., 1984 I have only four months’ teaching duties. I’ve decided therefore that, for a working year (or however long it will take me), to do a 50-year History of the USTTA (1933-1983)—though of course in the beginning I’ll also go back to the turn of the century when recreational play first started in this country. I’ve begun collecting articles and pictures, and would very much appreciate the old timers particularly helping me with photos, stories, letters, memorabilia of any kind.
As many of you know, I’ve always looked on Topics as a continuing record of Table Tennis History, and now I’d like to leave behind, while I still can, another little labor of love.” [It’ll probably be difficult for Tim to get started, but, maybe, though not in one year but several, he’ll actually have gotten through a History of those 1933-1983 years. If so, be sure you pick up a copy of that volume, will you?]
After long service, Neal Fox is no longer the Rating Chair, his place taken by Dan Simon, well known to us from running his annual Lehigh Valley tournament in Bethlehem, PA. Dan, we learn (SPIN, July-Aug., ’83, 15), “is a full Professor at North Hampton Community College where he teaches computer science. Prior to his 15 years there, he was a Senior Systems Analyst for the Burroughs Corporation.” He says, “I feel blessed that I can combine my interest in computers with my interest in table tennis. Not everybody is fortunate enough to satisfy career and personal pursuits simultaneously.”
“Working out of their home and using the computer system that supports their company, Computer Consulting Association, Dan and his wife Patti will be able to provide regular daytime business hours in which members can contact them in regards to requests and inquiries. Patti will be the mainstay of the daytime operation, performing such tasks as mailing rating lists to tournament directors, keyplexing, and submitting monthly results to SPIN.
Although there will be no major differences between the old system and the new, Simon will write his own software, design new tournament results sheets…and will be able to vary data so that, if desired, ratings need not be listed in alphabetical order but numerically, so leaders can quickly, easily be noted in any region, state, or even club.”
We’ll see (SPIN, Sept., 1983, 20) that Dan will go on to make modifications in his rating system. For example: from now on, “each match will be worth at least one point to ALL players. Our top players, such as Danny and Eric, always put their rating on the line but could only win points from each other. Also, previously, if a 2250 and a 2000-rated player played 32 times with the match score 30-2 in favor of the higher-rated one, he would gain no points for his 30 victories and lose 64 points for his two losses. All matches should have meaning to both players.” Another point: “if a player’s NEW rating is a multiple of 50, say 1500, ONE point will be subtracted from the new rating to make it 1499 (and BANKED for next time)—so no problem now: U-1500 clearly means UNDER 1500.” Dan provides a practical Point-Spread Chart “for readers to cut out and place in their wallet,” so they themselves can keep pretty much abreast of their current rating at any time.
Two ideas Dan has won’t catch on. One is: “Provide visual identification for players and spectators through the use of special emblems or patches which may be worn on playing shirts or warm-up suits. Another, picking up on a suggestion made earlier by Tom Steen, is: “Provide the general public with a method of relating rating points to the national caliber of play. In his second Ratings article (SPIN, Oct., 1983, 2), Dan will present the chart I’ve appended here (“Players Per Classification Level”) and while it’s interesting to get a breakdown of how many players there are at various rating levels (for example, for Men: 2500+ there are 3; 1600-1799: 882; 500-799:127), the classification titles themselves—International Elite…Master Candidate Level II…Beginner—I can’t imagine being heard seriously in conversation (“Oh, you didn’t know? Pete May’s a Master Candidate—Level I”… .That just sounds silly).
However, in his Oct. article, Dan speaks of his rating system’s “built-in feature to assist rapidly improving players [only those rated Under 1600], such as many of our junior players, to attain their proper playing rating. Gain 40 points or more in any one tournament and that gain will be doubled (example: gain 50 points and you’re credited with 100). In this way the fast-rising player does not cause the more stabilized players to lose all the points required to fuel this rating acceleration. Also, for some players their first few tournaments are not a true indication of their ability. When they are more accustomed to competitive pressure, and practice at the local club, they may have a rating of 1275, but they can win the 1300, 1400, and 1500 events at one tournament.”
In another article (SPIN, Nov., 1983, 20), Dan explains the importance of every player bringing his/her membership card to a tournament so as “to be sure you’re properly CODED in the tournament records.” Your name, state, zip code, birth date, membership expiration date, and membership I.D.# are all very important to the tournament director who makes the draws and to Dan who seeks to establish an up-to-date correct rating for every player. “Only singles matches affect rating changes (no doubles, specialty events, or hard rubber matches). Defaults are counted only if the match has already started and play no longer continues.”
Bill Walk, “former 10-year President of Pittsburgh’s South Park TTA/former 10-year President of the Pennsylvania TTA, which, with Dave Dickson and Mal Anderson, he helped form,” replaces John Read as Selection Chair. And Perry Schwartzberg takes over from John as Team Manager. In the only change among the Club Chairs, Lyle Thiem replaces Andy Gad in the Midwest Region.
Assisting Executive Director Bill Haid is of course his wife Sarah, who’s “the backbone of the USTTA’s statistical and membership information [as of Apr. 7, 1983 the Association had 6060 members and 207 affiliated clubs].” Also assisting Bill is his right-hand woman, Emily Hix,” who monitors the phone, takes dictation, invoices the advertisers, types the letters, sorts the mail, maintains the files, makes or changes airline reservations, and occasionally takes a sip of coffee.” Also,” temporarily working out of Headquarters,” intern Melissa Campbell has been very helpful. Recently she’s worked on “the National Sports Festival, primarily writing player profiles, taking photos, and…editing and writing [unsigned as well as signed?] articles for SPIN. Melissa receives university credit, not cash, for her hard work. She is returning to CSU in Fort Collins to complete her degree in advertising and public relations, and will be greatly missed at Headquarters.”
Continuing his synopsis of the Association’s June Meeting, Recording Secretary Harrison highlights the following E.C. decisions. As it’s been suggested they would, the USTTA did indeed adopt the following ITTF law changes: (1) No foot-stamping during the service. (2) The free hand and the racket must be above the table throughout service. (3) The behind-the-back service is eliminated. (4) The use of bare wood is no longer allowed. Most importantly, effective Jan. 1, 1984, the surfaces of the racket must have different colors, whether or not the two sheets of rubber are the same.”
USTTA Rules Chair Mal Anderson (TTT, May-June, 1983, 12) adds that “the ‘racket blade, the layer within the blade, and any layer of covering shall be continuous, uniform, and of even thickness.” Moreover, “the sponge PLUS rubber and glue on each side of the racket must not exceed 4.0 mm.” Also, “a player must show his racket to the umpire and his opponent, allowing them to examine it, and examine it each time the player changes his racket, not just at the start of the match.” Jack Carr (Timmy’s, Nov.-Dec., 1983, 2; 4) worries that this inspection rule doesn’t say “how many times the player can change rackets.” Why, he could have “ten rackets with 20 different colors and combinations, and change his racket after every point.” Think so? Not if I were the umpire and he was delaying point after point. But, seriously, how many such players, er, pseudo-players really, would one ever encounter?
Jack worries, too, that the mandated two-color rule “will mean rackets being used in schools, military bases, and recreation centers will no longer be legal and that the players can’t buy locally legal rackets at Sears, Penney’s, Ward’s, etc.” Thus, the USTTA “will lose a prospective member, maybe a potential champion.” But how many players in such places belong to or even want to belong to the USTTA?
As is often the case, Carr continues to preoccupy himself with minutia, and often repeats points he’s made before. In “Stricter Umpiring Needed” (SPIN, Nov., 1983, 16), he has problems “with the ITTF rules as written.” He says: “Perhaps the first service rule should state that the following service rules shall be strictly complied with and strictly enforced. The phrase ‘resting on the palm of the free hand’ clarified to state that the ball on the free hand shall not touch any portion of the thumb or fingers but shall rest solely on the palm, which is the intent of the rule, although frequently not complied with and not faulted by the inexperienced or poor umpire.
“The statement that the free hand shall be ‘open and flat’ could be amplified to state that the hand shall be fully open with the fingers straight and with no cupping of the fingers or palm. (Cupping has become common practice but rarely called even though illegal technically.) The portion of the rule stating “fingers together and the thumb free’ could be deleted since a ring prevents fingers from being together, which is neither an advantage nor a disadvantage, and the words ‘thumb free,’ if not deleted, could be changed to more descriptive words such as the ‘thumb not touching the palm or fingers.’”
“The E.C. agreed to accept the US Olympic Committee’s Resident Athlete Program. Assuming that we can provide funding for transportation and per diem expenses, the USOC will provide room and board in Colorado Springs for full-time coaches and athletes. The E.C. is currently seeking the necessary funding, and hopes to have a full-time coach and resident players at the Training Center throughout 1984.”
“The USTTA now has an agreement with Melia International Travel [pronounced Meal-yuh, “the world’s third largest tour agency”] that should be of benefit to us. Using the toll-free number, 800-422-6621, all members are encouraged to make use of this agency.”
“The E.C. agreed to purchase liability insurance [“at no cost to any member”] that will protect clubs from damage suits brought by tournament players, members, and visitors. Whereas this would cost each tournament sponsor a few hundred dollars if purchased for a single event, it can be covered by increasing the sanctions by just $5.00.”
“It was agreed to allocate funds for a small number of umpires to officiate at the December Trials in Las Vegas.”
Bob Mandel (Timmy’s, Sept.-Oct., 1983, 26), who was in Las Vegas for the ’83 Open, says he has “a big question that might never be answered.” Here it is:
“…Why did we move from the glamorous Caesars Palace to the Ramada Inn? Granted, the Tropicana is a step above the usual Ramada Inn. Hell, your attic in your house is a step above your bedroom, but that doesn’t mean you should sleep in it.
Seriously, Caesars Palace is top dog in Las Vegas. Everyone knows this, don’t they? No place is as classy and no place carries a better name. They always treated us first class. The rooms were discounted to us at an extremely fair price. To reciprocate our support, the Tropicana charges us more than their normal rate! The rooms at Caesars were beautiful. Our room usually had one or two huge couches and many more extras at little or no cost. Let’s face it! The Tropicana rooms are pretty much just typical motel rooms.
The restaurants at the Tropicana are okay, but I’ve had some of the worst service there I have ever had. For example, this summer Quang [Bui], Angie [Rosal-Sistrunk], Kasia (Gaca], and I decided to have dinner in one of their restaurants. It was about eight o’clock when we sat down. Thirty minutes later, on a slow night, a waitress came over and we had her take our order. Thirty more minutes went by before the waitress told Angie they were out of what she’d asked for. Another 45 minutes later, I asked the Manager if they could give us a black tablecloth—‘our waitress died,’ I said. ‘Oh,’ said the Manager, ‘Janet went home a long time ago.’ Needless to say [Oh, come now, I think saying something, the earlier the better, would have been appropriate], this wasn’t the first or last time this sub-par service had happened.
I have also had some bitchy and intolerant people give me service at both the cashier’s booth and the registration desk. Again, this treatment is a far cry from what I received at Caesars.
O.K., the lighting is better at the Tropicana, and the playing site is arranged better. However, a tennis court is a tennis court is a tennis court. I think we all know the negatives on this.
Most important of all was the prize money. I wonder if most of us can really understand our star players’ disappointment in this area. I believe that the money was better at Caesars in 1979 than it is now at the Tropicana. And I wonder what it would be like if we were still with Caesars—if we’d have stuck with them, instead of sticking it to them.
Now to get back to the question of “Why did we switch?” I heard what the USTTA said was the reason. But, really, would an insider please give me the real scoop on this? Because I don’t believe that it was just because the Sports Director at Caesars left. I think we made a mistake in switching. And if we did, who made it?”
Mistakes—and who made them and made him mad—that’s what former USTTA Coaching Chair Larry Thoman wants to talk about (Timmy’s, Sept.-Oct., 1983, 2):
“…I am mad because of the way the USTTA has treated me. For the first time in 12 years of being an active supporter of the USTTA as a tournament player, a coach, a club organizer, a writer, a tournament director, an umpire, and a league organizer, I have seriously begun thinking about quitting the sport. Not because of the game itself, but because of the people in charge of the national governing body for our sport.
I am fed up with the people in power. With their improper decision-making. With using people as objects in their quest to keep themselves in power. With their non-communication with others who are affected by their decisions. With their outright lies. I hesitate only a little to say our present Association government is corrupt. The corruption is feeding upon itself and becoming bigger all the time. It has reached a point where it can no longer be covered up as it has in the past.
Our Association is currently facing a grave crisis. The more I tell others in our Association what has happened to me, the more people I find who, like myself, are immensely dissatisfied with the present situation. Many have experienced similar disheartening problems with the USTTA management. One ex-E.C. member told me he thought it would take a revolution to change what is going on. This just reinforces my feeling that we are headed on a one-way street to self-destruction unless something is done to remedy the situation.
Many of the dissatisfied people I’ve talked to are the volunteers who keep our sport going by serving on the E.C. or on one of the committees. They know from first-hand experience how messed up the situation is. Many of them continue to do their jobs because of love of the sport despite a gut feeling that something is seriously wrong with the way the USTTA operates and uses its volunteers. Many others have quit their positions because of management problems and the accompanying sense of futility. But the average USTTA member has no idea how bad it really is at present. I hope this article will enlighten the readers on just how poorly run our organization is by relating to you some facts concerning my recent removal as Coaching Committee Chair.
I was never informed of Bill Haid’s intention of removing me from my position until after the Summer E.C. Meeting. Therefore, I never had a chance to defend myself and tell my side of the story.
The President of the USTTA, Sol Schiff, has stated to me that ‘Bill Haid and the E.C. snuck it (my removal) past me’ at the Summer E.C. Meeting. Conversations I have had with other E.C. members since that statement was made contradict what Sol told me regarding a letter I sent to him at the Tropicana Hotel by Express Mail about my removal. He lied to me concerning the arrival of my letter and its distribution to the E.C. He did not show it to the E.C.
I have never been given a full explanation as to why Bill Haid wanted me removed from my position. Mr. Haid only sent me a letter stating, “there has (sic) been many disappointments in your conduct and your ability to handle the job as I originally specified.” Mr. Haid also refers to some project that needed immediate attention that I had not worked on to his satisfaction. Yet his letter does not explain the nature of Bill’s disappointments or even what project he is referring to.
Bill Haid is not in charge of the Coaching Committee. One of the Vice-Presidents is charged with this duty. Therefore I am supposed to receive my orders from and reply to that V.P. (who until the Summer E.C. Meeting was C.F. Liu). Yet the above quoted statement clearly reveals that Bill Haid believes himself (‘as I originally specified’) to be the man in charge of the Coaching Committee.
Further evidence of Bill’s self-appointed direction of the Coaching Committee can be seen in the fact that he canceled the Coach’s Camp last year without consulting me. As a matter of fact, I did not learn of the decision until almost two months later. I called Bill up to discuss the matter only after I heard from another coach that the camp had been cancelled. Bill also never consulted me in making coach selections for the World’s, the Pan Am Games, or any of the numerous Colorado Springs Training Camps. Yet Bill asked the President of the USTTA to give this power to Stan Wolf when he was Coaching Committee Chairman. And now it appears he has given this power to my successor, Mr. Bob Tretheway. It is interesting to note that both Wolf and Tretheway were hand-picked by Mr, Haid and that I was not. Stan will later say that “the articles written by Larry Thoman should not have been printed. Larry really didn’t have all the facts. Most of his remarks were not totally true.” [That’s it for Stan, however—no specifics as to what he’s talking about.]
I have never been officially notified that I have been removed as Coaching Committee Chairman. I have only read the Minutes of the Summer E.C. Meeting and been told orally that I am no longer the Chairman in a telephone conversation with Sol Schiff that I originated. According to the Minutes, V.P. Bill Hornyak was to inform me. To this date I have not been contacted by Mr. Hornyak. [Larry later makes a correction, apologizes to Bill, says it’s Gus Kennedy who was supposed to properly inform him that he’d been fired, but that he never did. Gus then responds that Thoman now has the required official letter, and apologizes, says that, because Larry had moved, he didn’t get the first one Gus had sent.]
Considering these facts, I believe it is clear that the manner of my removal was improper, unethical, and very, very un-businesslike. I feel I deserve, at the very least, a full written explanation of this whole sordid affair….
…Bill and Sol will try to sweep this issue under the rug like they do all the other dirt they have created. I already see this happening with the glossy cover-up of this matter and related matters in the first issue of ‘Spin.’ I get the distinct impression from the magazine that everything is going great guns at the USTTA Headquarters. ‘Spin’ talked about how wonderful the new magazine is, how great the people are who work at Headquarters, and how wonderful a future table tennis has now that all these ‘changes’ have taken place.
Yet what I see is a USTTA that has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dissatisfied members. I see an organization headed by a President who lies, who continually overrules E.C. decisions by using his ‘emergency decision-making power’ and who won’t take a firm stand on many issues. I see an Executive Director who is building a personal power base by surrounding himself with key committeemen who are ultimately under his control and who got these committeemen there by underhanded means.
Is it any wonder that our sport continues to stagnate in the mire of unpopularity?...
Is there any hope?
I sincerely believe there is. There are many, many people who are working hard for the good of the sport. They are the committeemen and the club organizers who are the lifeblood of the USTTA….But Sol Schiff and Bill Haid are like splinters in the thumb of the USTTA. They continue to fester and cause the thumb to become sore and inefficient. The only solution is to remove the splinters so our organization can heal and become healthy.
…[Meanwhile,] I will concentrate my energies on developing a strong local table tennis program here in Nashville centered around my Fortune Club. I will continue to be a USTTA member. I will continue to affiliate my club. I will continue to sanction my tournaments and play in other tournaments. But I will mark all funds I send to the USTTA ‘Sent Under Protest’ because I feel it is a sham that these funds ultimately go toward supporting a President and an Executive Director who are unfair and unjust.
…As for you, the reader, what can you do? I urge you (no, plead with you) not to vote for Sol Schiff should he seek re-election next year. I further urge all USTTA members to let the E.C. know that they do not want Bill Haid’s contract with the USTTA renewed….”
Sol, bothered by what he calls “needless controversy,” responds to Larry’s criticisms (SPIN, Dec. 1983, 7/ Timmy’s, Nov.-Dec., 1983, 6):
“…In presenting his view of the situation, Thoman used such words as corruption, lies, and abuse of power. Generally, those words were directed against me. I will not take the same approach. I just want to explain to the membership exactly why his coaching chairmanship was taken away from him.
Thoman was appointed Coaching Committee Chairman in the 1981-82 season. His performance at his first camp in Colorado Springs was poor. His job in conducting Chinese Coach Wang’s tour in the U.S. was also poor, although this was not entirely his fault. Worse yet, though, was his performance at the 1982 National Sports Festival in Indianapolis. He refused to wear the official uniform that was worn by everyone else. He was not supposed to do any coaching during the team play, but he insisted upon coaching only the team from the South and he refused to take any order that conflicted with his own.
From the time that Coach Wang went back to China in September of 1982, Thoman did almost nothing on his committee. The coaching camp in Colorado Springs scheduled for the fall of 1982 (which he was to conduct) was cancelled due to lack of work on his part and lack of interest by potential coaches. In comparison, our present Coaching Chairman Bob Tretheway had a very successful coach’s camp last October in which 27 people attended. Tretheway put this camp together within four months of being appointed. Thoman was chairman for 18 months.
Thoman had been enthusiastically named Coaching Committee Chairman in 1982. After 1 and ½ years in the position he was removed because of his lack of productivity. I ask the membership to contrast Thoman’s performance with his successor’s and decide for yourselves if you think the decision to replace Thoman wasn’t made for the benefit of the membership.
One last note on Thoman. In his article he infers that funds from the USTTA are being used to support me. This is really hitting below the belt. I have never received even one cent of income from the USTTA for my personal profit. In the time I have been President, I have discontinued my business, spent my own money many times on USTTA business, distributed merchandise to the USTTA, and directly brought thousands of dollars into the USTTA treasury. I have never advertised these facts, as I did this solely for my love of the sport. I am only relating this to the membership because Thoman’s insinuation really hurt.”
[Interested readers should check out Thoman’s complaints expressed earlier that it was the USTTA who was thwarting him—see my Vol. XI, Chapter 30, 433-434. Also, I myself don’t see any evidence that Thoman in his article “infers that funds from the USTTA” are being used literally to support Sol.]
Far from thinking it, as Schiff says, a “needless controversy,” an increasingly distraught Thoman continues (Timmy’s, Jan., 1984, 14) with the personal crisis he’s undergoing:
“Recently, I made one of the hardest decisions in my life. As of January 1, 1984, I am retiring from the sport of table tennis.
This decision was not an easy one. For the last 12 years table tennis has been my life. I love this sport with all my heart. Not a day has gone by without my thinking about the sport. I’ve practiced and trained to become a 2150 player. I’ve participated in numerous coaching camps and given several myself. I’ve been a directing force for t.t. in Nashville since I was 17 years old. During this time, I directed tournaments, organized leagues, gave exhibitions, edited newsletters, and planned and participated in numerous other club activities. I’ve been a certified umpire and coach since 1979. I’m the author of a 30-page coaching manual. I’ve coached and helped raise the playing level of many of my fellow players. In essence, I lived to play t.t.
To now give up the sport lock, stock, and barrel is a complete reversal of my lifestyle. I feel, though, that I have no choice but to act in this manner. The decisions and actions of our so-called leaders, President Sol Schiff and Executive Director Bill Haid, have left me with no hope for the future of t.t. in America. I strongly believe that they are two of the worst leaders I have ever known and that they are ruining the sport of t.t. in the U.S….
I predict that as long as our sport is led by those two men it will stagnate even more than it is doing now. Why? Because our organization’s foundation is built upon volunteer help, and Sol and Bill do not know how to properly use our volunteers…many of whom feel used and abused.
…The only way I will ever pick up a paddle again is if those two are no longer in power. This sport is not big enough for the three of us.
This article will be the last time I write for this magazine or give any more of my effort for this sport. T.T. has been, for the most part, very good to me. I’ve learned a lot about life, other people, and myself through this sport. I’ve met a lot of fine people and been fortunate enough to call many of them friends. I’ve enjoyed the thrill of victory and the sadness of defeat. But before I go, I’d like to take the time to critique Sol’s response to my original article.
My first reply is to ask why Sol feels the need ‘to explain to the membership why (Thoman’s) Coaching Chairmanship was taken away from him’ when he has never even told me why? Should I not have reasonably expected this explanation when I was removed back in June, ’82. Or, better yet, why did Sol not tell me before that time in order to give me a chance to correct my supposed errors and do better?
Instead, he makes a decision to remove me without my having any knowledge as to why he’s doing that, then, six months later, tells why he did so in an article in the National Publication which I may or may not have read. Now I ask the membership, Is this screwed up or what? As a human being, do I deserve to be treated in this manner?
Sol continues his lying tradition by stating that his (Thoman’s) performance at the first camp in Colorado Springs was poor. This statement is simply incredible considering that he told me and the rest of the coaches at the camp that he considered it to have been the best, most positive camp he’d seen to date. Quite a turnaround, huh?
As for my conduct regarding the Coach Wang Tour, I did my best for a project that was doomed to fail before it started. I was appointed just before Coach Wang was to arrive here. I had no part in arranging his visit but was expected to take over some of the arrangements for his stay. Why some kind of definite schedule was not set up for his visit before he was ready to come over here was a major blunder. Another major blunder was to not specifically request an English-speaking coach.
Dr. C.F. Liu was supposed to be in charge of the project, but because of Sol’s interference, he resigned his responsibility for the project. My involvement with the project was to schedule the coach at various clubs. I did the best I could, writing an explanatory article in Topics about the tour and contacting numerous clubs over the phone. The coach conducted clinics in Chicago, Peoria, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., New York, Baton Rouge, and Los Angeles. I feel many more clubs would have sponsored a Chinese coach had he not needed an interpreter.
As for Sol’s insinuation that I refused to wear the official uniform at the National Sports Festival, I believe further explanation is needed. I was presented with only one change of clothing for the entire 10-day duration of the Festival. (The participating athletes got three changes.) I was very proud of my uniform and wore it during the opening ceremony and several times thereafter during the practice sessions. As I had only been given one change of clothing, I did not feel that it was necessary to wear it every day. It was the middle of summer and quite hot.
During the first day of competition, after four days of practice and a rest day, I was not wearing the uniform. Bill Haid came up to me and in a quite demanding tone told me that I was supposed to be wearing the uniform. I slightly objected saying I had worn it enough times for it to be quite unclean. Bill said I should wash it, so that night I did indeed wash it. And I wore it for the final three days of competition.
As for my coaching the South team at the Festival, I must plead guilty. Let me point out, however, that, once competition started, the coaches seemed to be expected to just sit around and ‘observe.’ Because I was wearing a South team uniform, and because I feel strongly about the South, I decided on my own to coach the South team. After all, I was sent to the Festival to coach, not to sit on my butt and ‘observe.’…
Sol’s next paragraph is particularly riddled with lies and innuendo. Sol says that I did almost nothing with my committee after September, 1982. Within one month of Wang’s departure I prepared and sent out to over 100 coaches a ‘Coach’s Questionnaire.’ It took nearly three months to get all the replies back. I reported the results in my Coaching Committee Report for April, 1983. In early 1983 I also wrote to various foreign associations to seek information about their coaching systems. Additionally, I completed my ‘Coaching Articles List’ which listed 130 articles I had on coaching. This list I sent to everyone who requested coaching information. Also during this time, I wrote several other Coaching Committee Reports and Coaching Corner articles for the National Publication, dutifully answered all correspondence directed to the committee, and prepared notes for a comprehensive Coaching Committee Report. And Sol has the gall to say I ‘did almost nothing’!
Sol also says that I was to conduct the 1982 Coach’s Camp. Why was I never informed that I was put in charge of doing that? Of course, as Coaching Committee Chairman, I made plans for organizing and participating in the Camp/Clinic, but I assumed Haid would be put in charge as he seemed to have a monopoly at being put in charge of all Colorado Springs affairs. When I contacted Bill to try and coordinate plans for the Camp two months prior to its supposed date, he informed me that he and Sol had decided to cancel the Camp, not even bothering to tell me of their decision.
In comparing me to my successor, Mr. Bob Tretheway, Sol neglects to mention that as soon as I was kicked out and Bob replaced me, he was requested to move to Colorado Springs. This he did. With the great resources of the Olympic Center, there’s no wonder he’s been able to accomplish what he has. I feel that if anybody should have been asked to move to C.S. and head the Coaching Program, I should have. I would have been completely willing to do so.
While on the subject of Tretheway, I’d like to mention that his highly touted ‘National Coaching Program’ is nothing new. It is almost an exact replica of the program I was trying to institute….My feeling now is that Bob is a puppet of Bill Haid and that he will not do anything contrary to Bill’s wishes. [Isn’t that normal, though—not do anything contrary to your boss’s wishes?]
…[If you’re in doubt about the truth of what I say,] ask people who know me about me. They will tell you that I am honest and treat others as I wish to be treated. Ask people about Sol and see what kind of responses you get. The question who to believe, Sol or me, is academic.
…If you care about the sport…it is imperative that Sol Schiff NOT be re-elected. We need to elect leaders who will treat our volunteers with interest and respect, not intimidation, mud-slinging, and back-stabbing….”
The Hurt Within is clearly what we’ve been hearing from Larry. To close this chapter, we’re going to hear “The Sound Within” (TTT, May-June, 1983, 20) from Mike Lardon. This article previews what a quarter-century later will find full expression in Mike’s well-received book, Finding Your Zone (Ten Core Lessons for Achieving Peak Performance in Sports and Life). Here’s what he says:
“In searching for the sounds of sport, one quickly hears the roar of the crowd, the crack of the bat, and the thundering of racing feet. But if one listens harder and a little longer, one comes to hear silence—the sound within the champion.
“’Roger (Sverdlik), what the hell am I going to do against D.J.? Three months ago in Vegas I had an excellent tournament and he beat me three straight under ten.’
‘Could you do much worse?’
‘So why don’t you stop thinking and have fun?’”
Sure enough, in our first game, I knew D. J. Lee was up 20-17, but I felt relieved—17 being a respectable score. I decided to chop to his forehand and see what his big loop was all about. I chopped, he looped, I watched it, no fear. I was perfectly content, so I blasted it. As a matter of fact I just kept having fun, blocking, chopping, killing D.J.’s loops at will. His loop seemed so slow. I just lost myself in a world of ecstasy, a cocoon of concentration. I found myself up 2-0 and ahead 17-13 in the third before I woke up and realized that here I was, the U.S. #2 Junior, blowing away D.J. Lee, the six-time U.S. Champ, former World #23. Soon enough the game, the match, was over—I lost in five.
Seven years later, I find myself in a group of 16 athletes, ranging from Olympic gold medalists to NFL stars. Our experiences, combined with the insight of leading researchers in neurophysiology, have sparked the study of Human Optimum Performance here at Stanford University.
It has recently been shown that an individual in a hypnotic state can view a full feature-length film in five minutes with total comprehension. Similarly, we have all heard stories of mothers lifting their car up to free their children. We have even heard about those Zen masters who can catch a fired bullet with their teeth. Some of these stories seem utterly fantastic, and one finds them difficult to believe. But no one questions Eric Heiden’s five gold medals, O.J. Simpson’s 2000+ season, Bruce Lee’s mastery of the martial arts—these performances are equally fantastic. But the question is: what is going on when an athlete extends himself beyond his normal limits, when an artist creates, when a thinker suddenly incurs a flash of extraordinary insight? The answer in technical terms is called a Peak Experience Phenomenon, or extended present phenomenon.
The extended present? What the hell is the extended present?
Physiologically, our brains are divided up into right and left hemispheres. Our left hemisphere is linear in its thought processing—i.e., A to B to C to D. In contrast, our right hemisphere is intuitive, i.e., A to D, skipping B and C. Our Western society stresses a very technological and linear approach to life. Consequently, our left hemisphere is dominant. Present theory contends that extra-ordinary phenomena (Peak Experiences) are associated with increased right hemisphere activity. Consequently, it is no surprise that the Far East, a far less technologically-oriented society, commonly incurs what we, Western-culture oriented, consider extra-ordinary phenomena.
Furthermore, these Peak Experiences are associated with a resonance effect within the nervous system. This resonance effect increases nervous system sensitivity, discrimination, and overall effectiveness.
But that doesn’t help you and me to crack D.J.’s loop—so what does? Well, there seems to be a very large number of books dealing with an inner self, an outer self, a lesser self, a greater self. They all say let the inner self take over. But what are they talking about?
To examine this inner/outer-self division, let us first define anxiety as the gap between the now and then. For example, you sit here, now, reading this article. But if your thoughts are somewhere else, your awareness is interrupted and you are experiencing a fundamental level of anxiety. Many of us have seen Wild Kingdom’s famous fight where a rattlesnake attacks a mongoose with lightning speed, but almost always ends up being bitten in the neck. This instinctive reaction of the mongoose is a peak performance, and clearly if the mongoose had his mind somewhere else, if he was experiencing the smallest amount of anxiety, he would be dead.
So the bottom line is centering one’s awareness. Big surprise, huh? But the question is how.
Before we say how, it is insightful to understand what normally prevents us from centering our awareness and this is what all the inner/outer-self stuff is about. Let’s take an example: you are a 20-handicap golfer, and one day you shoot a 39 on the front side. You know your handicap is 20, and a 39 on the front side is not what a 20-handicapper should shoot. Therefore, when you go out on the back nine, you feel tension, anxiety, you do not know how you are going to keep up the pace. Each swing, you find yourself thinking, your awareness becomes interrupted, and soon enough you shoot a 55, and the tension is gone, and you’ve shot your handicap.
So, in analysis, what we have here is, in a sense, two selves. One that can shoot a 39 when allowed. And another, your own consciousness, that overrides the inner self. This situation can also happen in reverse. You can shoot a bad front nine, but you know you are better, so you make up for it on the back. What is happening is that your mental constructs, your self-image, contours your performance.
Another perfect example is our very own table tennis rating system. How often do people freak out when they are beating someone who is 200 rating points better? Clearly, far too often.
Now that we have gained insight to what curtails our performance, the question still stands: how can we tap into our reservoir of ability?
Clearly everyone has a different system. But, first, one must realize that a person’s long-standing personal traits are less relevant to producing a good athletic performance than the individual state of mind. Although McEnroe and Lendl are very different off the court, at the moment each contacts the ball their state of mind is in fact very similar. Fortunately there are some common techniques that enhance the chances of reaching this total relaxed awareness; this optimum state of mind.
Often the largest value in training occurs with an increased freedom of the mind. If you get used to training very hard, you become accustomed to the suffering, you learn to detach yourself. This detached state allows you to focus your awareness without interruption by thoughts of pain. Therefore, when you play a match, your learned skill of detachment can be of great value to block out thoughts and distractions, thus allowing you to react spontaneously, like the mongoose with the snake.
Meditation itself is training. Therefore, it has the same consequences. Meditation can be listening to your favorite music, taking a long walk, whatever relaxes you, thus reducing your susceptibility to becoming distracted.
Another very powerful tool in centering one’s awareness is mental imaging. If you can envision in your mind’s eye what you will be doing on the court, your mind experiences the phenomenon. Therefore, when you move to the court, you are ready—there is no surprise, just a natural feeling. Eric Heiden writes, “I became so proficient at pre-race rehearsal that within the last years of my career I could skate a race in my head and end up with a time, within one or two seconds of the time I could skate the distance.” By doing this, an athlete does not waste energy visualizing the competition while he is in the very act of competing.
But all the training and mental rehearsal will get you nowhere (in terms of your own potential) if you lack the most critical element of all—faith, or an understanding that one can achieve levels of performance that one ordinarily would not think possible. We must understand that our perspective is limited and learned. And therefore must be unlearned if we are to become the mongoose and our opponent the snake.”
Mike’s article drew the following Letter to the Editor response (Timmy’s, July-Aug. 1983, 2) from Milton Shiro Takei of Isla Vista, CA:
“It is with great surprise and pleasure that I read…‘The Sound Within.’ The article reminded me of the short book by Eugen Herrigel called Zen in the Art of Archery (Vintage Books, 1971). Herrigel describes how archery in Japan always had a spiritual purpose, the same purpose shared by mystics of all faiths.
Herrigel states, ‘It is not true to say that the traditional technique of archery, since it is no longer of importance in fighting, has turned into a pleasant pastime and thereby rendered innocuous. The ‘Great Doctrine’ of archery tells us something very different. According to it, archery is still a matter of life and death to the extent that it is a contest of the archer with himself, and this kind of contest is not a paltry substitute, but the foundation of all contests outwardly directed—for instance with a bodily opponent. In this context of the archer with himself is revealed the secret essence of this art, and instruction in it does not suppress anything essential by waiving the utilitarian ends to which the practice of knightly contests was put.’
To some extent, perhaps the same can be said for table tennis?”