USA Table Tennis

History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 13: 1984

CHAPTER TWENTY 

            1984: Post-U.S. Open Preoccupations 

            As we’ve seen in this volume, I, Tim, even before I began committing myself to run for Executive office and followed with a public Campaign Statement, had been making what I’d hoped were progressive suggestions for the USTTA. I’d then explained in Chapter 17 how, when I became President-Elect, I began taking necessary action to try to right the floundering Ship of State I’d more or less already taken command of.

In the July-Aug. issue of SPIN, I started a President’s column (“Up Front”) with the intention of furthering everyone’s awareness of what was up-to-date happening in our fast-action world of U.S. Table Tennis. In the future, every SPIN issue will contain this column and I hope members will find it informative. I must say, though, that my ending to my second, Sept. column is to me now, 30 years later, an embarrassment. Here’s what I’d written: “…You who love table tennis, take strength and encouragement, then, that we on the E.C., in addition to doing our everyday shipboard duties, are very much aware where our priorities lie—and that, given financial help and some gentle breezes from above, we’re going to cross the occasional stormy deeps to a new sea, an entirely different sky.” Who the hell was I trying to convince with that awful artificial rhetoric? I know now: Me.

As readers learn from Editor Tom Wintrich’s extensive coverage in SPIN, we’ve just had a very successful U.S. Open. As our hard-working Physical Operations Director Dick Evans has made clear, we received better support from the Tropicana than ever before. Praise is certainly due Open Directors Dennis Masters and Dan Simon. They showed almost superhuman patience

 in painstakingly accommodating player after player. There’s no doubt in my mind that both men are very fair and just, and that they have the abstract common good of wanting to improve table tennis.

            Of course, if readers ever want to add to (agree or disagree) with what I say—would you call that “The Official Line” on the Open I just put forward in the paragraph above?—I urge them to do so. Here are excerpts from a July 31st letter I wrote to Hal Reynolds in response to “Thoughts on the U.S. Open” he sent me: 

            “…I take note of your very good idea about a portable floor. I’ll make sure Dennis Masters gets a copy of these “Thoughts” of yours—I’m sure he’ll find a number of them interesting. Actually your idea about a wooden floor for the major matches would be excellent for any large tournament—at that cement-floor Cobo Hall in Detroit where they have the Team Matches , for example.

            I like your idea of trying to sell tickets through the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Bureau.

            I also agree with you that we need a big (if possible electronic) scoreboard in all major tourneys, especially round robin tourneys, to keep us up-to-date on the action.

            If we drastically reduce the events in the Open we will need Regional qualifying, for we’ll have decided to go for quality not quantity, will have decided to showcase the tournament.

            No, Hal, I don’t want BOTH the Open and the Closed in Vegas—it’s just not fair to the very large East and Midwest membership blocs. Trick is: to get a comparable resort venue in the East.

            An available Tournament Doctor, name on the entry form, is a great idea.

            As is encouraging more bi-lingual volunteers.

            The award ceremony at the end of the tournament was very disorganized. Worse, we didn’t even have enough trophies for the winning foreign teams. I was embarrassed—and so were Masters and Simon. At least I later saw to it, with Wintrich’s help, that the requisite trophies were sent overseas.

            Keep suggesting things to me, Hal. I’ll read, I’ll listen to what you say.” 

            And of course don’t I always listen to what Rufford Harrison has to say? On July 26th, he writes to me: “I think we need a little more decorum in our meetings, and we should start by keeping people in their places. The [U.S. Open Summer EC] meeting was for the EC; other members of the USTTA are welcome, but they should not be butting in unless asked. And they certainly should not be assuming the air of an EC member by sitting at the EC table. Keep them in the chairs along the wall, and they will be much more likely to be silent until spoken to.”

            On a copy of his letter I penned back to him the following answer: “O.K., a little more decorum. However, the people I want involved don’t always want to be ‘put in place.’ I often ask for strong-willed, outspoken people’s input, especially if I have reason to believe that what they have to say is important.”

            Rufford added: “Not welcome, however, are non-members. Huging and Jovanov [Kosanovic’s father-in-law, formerly a prominent Ontario TTA official] had no right whatever to be present in our meeting in Vegas. [Not even when I as President invited them?] I find it very embarrassing for us to behave as we do, with the rest of the world watching. [Huh?]”

             I responded: “C’mon now, Rufford, Huging and Jovanov, good friends of mine, share my approval of emotion. If anything, they’d approve of my somewhat unorthodox handling of the meeting, for they’d feel that I can get things done for table tennis. Remember, a lot of voters like my natural behavior. But, o.k., o.k., I don’t want to make EC working conditions uncomfortable for you or anyone.

            I don’t object to your reminding me about decorum, about structure—I’m not neurotically rebellious about that. But you are a little stiff, you know. And, yeah, yeah, I am a little loose. However, in the interests of harmony (and because you care about and are helpful at the meetings) I’ll amend my conduct…a little.” 

            In that same letter to Hal Reynolds, I made the point that Dan Simon labored, labored, labored long before he got to Vegas. There, trying to be scrupulously conscientious, he was faced with the chaos of late entries and also foreign entries who never showed. He was as accommodating as possible. But his “game plan” had to be constantly revised and this took a toll on both him and his wife Patti. You can only go out of your way so many times before going bananas.

            I was glad to see Dan’s proposal to Gilbert Benoit, Canadian Rating Chairman, that they work together on a “Ratings Adjustment Chart.” U.S. and Canadian players participating in the CNE, the North American Championships, and the USOTC’s, on one side of the border or the other, ought to be assured their matches will count.

            Dan made it clear beforehand (SPIN, Apr., 1984, 14) that the Ratings in the April issue of SPIN would be used for the U.S. Open. He thinks “the advantage of using up-to-date ratings is outweighed by the danger of a player traveling to the OPEN only to discover that his (her) rating is not what he thought it was and, ineligible for the event he entered, was placed in a higher event that had started the previous day.”

Understand, though, that “all U.S. tournaments preceding the OPEN will be processed in a calendar sequence. This means that current ratings will be used when the OPEN results are PROCESSED.”

            Question: What to do about the infrequent tournament player “who receives lots of coaching and practice between tournament appearances and so unquestionably improves his play beyond his rating?” Answer: “When such a player in any one tournament has no losses to any lower-rated player and a minimum of four wins over higher-rated players, his rating may be adjusted to the rating level of his best win BEFORE the tournament is updated by the computer. This will have the effect of changing the wins from upsets to normal wins…and his opponents will not lose upset points.”

            In keeping with the increased rating fee ($1.50 as of Sept. 1st), Dan says (SPIN, Sept., 1984, 20) his experience has shown him improvements are needed in the Rating Chart:

 “To do some fine-tuning comes the newest member of the Rating Committee, Californian Leonard Hauer, Jr.—a ‘nit-picking mathematician’ by his own admission. Len recently had an awful bicycle accident, but while recuperating he was willing to undertake the ‘fun’ assignment of investigating improvements for our system.

The current system is working well, but it’s been determined that the Chart underestimates the proper rewards for winning upset matches. This is more noted when the players’ ratings are far apart. The new chart gives more points for your upset wins and will be more responsive to improving players.

The current Chart has nine irregularly-spaced rating brackets; some have 25-point spreads, others 50 or 100. The new Chart (pictured here) has 11 brackets, each of 25-point spreads. Also, a system of adjusted ratings for improved players that will help prevent inequities has been incorporated. Players are eligible for a rating adjustment if the rating gain is 50 or more points in one tournament. A player’s adjusted rating will be his initial rating plus his rating gain. This will be his official rating to start the tournament.”           

            Hal Reynolds had touched on reducing the events in the Open, but it’s more the Closed where that might happen. Bids are now being taken for a proposed National Junior Championships—perhaps in conjunction with the Junior Olympics, but perhaps not. The idea is to hold it in the summer rather than in the winter—so as to get more (out-of-school-for-the-summer) juniors to play, and so better showcase their talent.

            Get more juniors to play—how often have we heard that? But Danny Seemiller’s experience has been that it’s very, very difficult to get table tennis into Indiana high schools. Others, too, have an opinion on this. On July 18th, USTTA Interscholastic Chair Dave Elwood presented to the USTTA E.C. a lengthy Report on a survey that grew out of a high-powered meeting “held to explore the possibility of table tennis becoming a sanctioned varsity sport in Indiana high schools.”

In attendance at this April 27, 1984 meeting were: “Commissioner Gene Cato and Assistant Commissioner Ray Craft of the Indiana High School Athletic Association (IHSAA) and a number of leaders in the sport of table tennis in Indiana that included Bill Hornyak of Michigan City, Bill Connelly and Jack Rudibaugh of Evansville, John Boyle of Indianapolis, Bill Hall of Newcastle, Jimmy McClure of Indianapolis, and Dave Elwood of Columbus. Joe Shumaker of Indianapolis was a member of this group but was unable to attend the meeting.” They agreed that the first step—“with the help of the IHSAA directory that listed the names and addresses of the athletic directors for 400 high schools”—was to take a survey of the interest in table tennis that currently was present in high schools.” A sample of the 11 easy-to-read questions asked: “Is table tennis taught in physical education classes at your school? (Circle your answer.) Yes…No…I don’t know.” Here’s something of what the 183 completed surveys told these leaders:

“…On the average, approximately 2-3 playable-condition table tennis tables are present in Indiana high schools. Approximately 78% of the high schools have at least one table in playable condition.” [But play is “at a considerably informal level.”]

“…Apparently, none of the schools in the state (‘0%’) are involved in any kind of interschool competitive play.” [Some hostility even against this: ‘We’ve already a super-saturated high school athletic program,” wrote one director. “What’s next? Bowling? Archery? Sorry.”]

“…Approximately 11% have an interest in, 43% have no interest in, [and the other 46% don’t even know how to respond to such a question about] a t.t. exhibition or introductory meeting.”

“…About 40% of the athletic directors indicated that no staff member would be interested in receiving training to become a table tennis coach; but 50% said they didn’t know [and apparently would make no effort to know] if they did.” Also, 68% didn’t know [and apparently would make no effort to know] if students would be interested in receiving table tennis training.”

“…It’s estimated that 6 of every 100 students plays some t.t.” [If the opportunity presents itself I think there’d be a lot more casually playing.]

…The fact that “17 high school teachers may be interested in attending a coaching clinic,” or that “21 athletic directors or principals would possibly be interested in attending a coaching clinic designed specifically for high school table tennis coaches” gives Elwood hope that, if there’s the necessary follow-up for these people, “some interschool competition or leagues could be started immediately.” 

Perhaps professional Bob Ashley who, with many different partners, has been giving school exhibitions for decades, should be interviewed. He certainly has connections—is advertising (SPIN, Nov., 1984, 26) for players, is promoting, for himself or others (teams of two), “a midwestern school tour that begins Jan. 6, 1985 in Wisconsin and ends May 17, 1985 in Nebraska.”

Later (SPIN, Apr., 1985, 7), we’ll read that “John Allen of Louisville and Randy Seemiller of Pittsburgh are currently on tour performing table tennis exhibitions for the National School Assemblies at Jr. High and High Schools in the Midwest.

As advertised, Allen and Seemiller started out in Kenosha, Wisconsin and have since played in Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan. Along the way they’ve been the guests of many USTTA members during their stays at various towns. They manage to play in local tournaments on weekends when they’re free of their exhibition responsibilities.

Allen and Seemiller travel by car with a wood box on top to store their table. The box was built by John’s dad and protects the table from bad weather. The two young stars perform up to three exhibitions a day—generally averaging 10-12 per week before 4,000 to 6,000 students per week. Although often hindered by bad weather, causing a few cancellations, they have adopted a ‘show must go on’ attitude. Randy recently wrote Headquarters: The tour is very interesting. John and I are doing a good job for ourselves and for table tennis. The schools have been very nice to us and we get a warm response for our program. Our schedule is booked solid till the end of March. If a school is closed because of bad weather, we just simply continue to the next town.

Here’s how our Exhibition Program works. Following the principal’s introduction, John talks about table tennis, the USTTA, and explains what the two of us are about to do. He then introduces Randy. Following is John’s explanation about their exhibition:

We start with a warm-up for a few rallies and then go into some trick shots before pulling out two miniature rackets. After hitting without missing, we stop and say, ‘This is too easy, the table’s too big. So we pull out a little 2 and ½-foot table my father made and we hit on it for a while.

Randy then talks about the history of table tennis and together we demonstrate how the game has changed over the years. Following that, Randy and I play a championship game to 15 points and then accept challenges from the audience for games to 11. We also demonstrate doubles by calling on teachers to pair with us. Randy then briefly talks about our personal history in the game by demonstrating top-level drills. I close the show by reminding the audience that table tennis is a rather new Olympic sport and thank the school for their attention.

ED. Note: The USTTA is very appreciative of having such fine ambassadors of table tennis on the road, and Headquarters has supplied USTTA literature and membership applications for John and Randy to pass out at each school.” 

Focus was on two back-to-back USTTA player-camps held by Perry Schwartzberg at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center (SPIN, Sept., 1984, 24). “The 12 players participating at the Aug. 1-8 camp were over 17 years old and had a rating under 2100. They were intrigued with Perry’s “Attitude” lectures which preceded every session of play. Attitude became the theme of the camp. Or, as the three New Jersey players in attendance would say, “The attitude factor had a mega-impact.”

As light-hearted as the discussion would sometimes be, the players were all serious about Schwartzberg’s thoughtful approach and they worked hard applying the lessons learned to their own games. It was perhaps the most congenial group to train together at the OTC. Thajav Ananhothai did a superb job as the camp manager.

Participants included: John Andrade, Bob Bagley, Toni Gresham, Marcia Johnson, Bill Kenig, Randy Kiser, Chris Lehman, Ken Lewis, Al Matlosz, Joel Placnic, and Ken Reynolds.”

The second camp, Aug. 15-21, was a junior developmental camp for beginning players, and the benefit to the players proved to be much greater that Coaching Chairman Bob Tretheway originally anticipated. By the second day, it was obvious that the kids were enjoying themselves and were intent on learning the basic skills of the game.

Providing the OPPORTUNITY to develop amateur athletes is the major purpose behind the OTC, and this USOC camp was an ideal example of offering such an opportunity. Assisting Perry Schwartzberg was camp manager Randy Kiser of Kansas. He was so impressed with his previous participation in USTTA/USOC camps that he volunteered to help run this developmental camp.*

Players participating were: Brian Devries, Todd Devries, Heather Haines, Dean Herman, Robbie Johnston, Danny Kerner, Richard Mills, Debbie Moya, Tim Roberts, Michael Stillwell, and John Zinn.”

Schwartzberg follows up with this Letter to the Editor (SPIN, Oct., ’84, 3): 

“The Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs may very well be the finest facility in the U.S. any table tennis player has ever used for training. After coaching juniors and adults at this facility last August, it became obvious to me how much participants enjoy their stay at the OTC.

Besides the excellent playing conditions (ITTF-approved tables and balls, wood floor, and good lighting), the OTC provides weight rooms, an Olympic track, swimming pool, and recreational facilities. In addition, the OTC has a superb Sports Medicine department, free dental care available, and also provides lodging and meals. In short, the OTC provides an ENVIRONMENT that is highly suited for athletic training, and it’s no small point that you share the complex with many other athletes, including Olympic stars.

Young or old, novice or expert, the USTTA/OTC camps can help you improve your game, physical fitness, and mental attitude. Consequently, I applaud the efforts of the OTC personnel and the USTTA officials who organize these camps. Ask others who have been fortunate to work out in the ‘Springs.’ After talking with them, I’m sure you’ll want to do the same.” 

Of course Perry continues with his SPIN articles. This one (Sept., 1984, 14) tries to answer the question, “What would be the best blade for my game?” Two things are important here—“the weight balance and the style of grip (trust your personal preference). Other considerations: the type of wood used and the number of plies of wood. The construction will affect the rigidity or vibration of the blade which helps determine whether the bat is best suited for spin or speed….

BASSWOOD: The more plies a basswood has, the faster it will play (rigidity equals speed).…CYPRESS OR HINOKI WOOD: Generally, the fewer plies these blades have, the faster they will play. These are the most rigid of the popular blades and therefore have little vibration. Variations of these blades are used by penhold or shakehand attackers. ….SCANDINAVIAN WOOD: The five-ply models are slower than the seven-ply ones. These are the most flexible of the popular woods and so give a better ‘feel’ for the ball. Spinners, all-around attackers, and topspin defensive players prefer this wood….CARBON FIBER BLADES: Generally, the fastest and lightest blades available. An excellent bat for all attacking players, especially hitters. However, their rigidity causes definite control problems, so you need to play with them for a longer time in order to acquire ‘touch.’

CHOICE OF STYLE: Control players usually prefer a more flexible racket such as ‘Scandinavian’ wood or Basswood. Defenders prefer a stiffer racket (but not too fast) so that the spin won’t ‘grab’ as much. Basswood or slow Carbon is good for defenders…Danny Seemiller, known for his powerful loop, prefers slower wood because it affords him ‘more all-around play.’ Defense expert B.K. Arunkumar plays with a fast bat. Randy Seemiller bases his bat selection on the handle first. He says, ‘The handle has to become part of your hand as does the racket itself.’

So we’re back again to personal preference—the final deciding factor in racket selection….” 

And of course you can’t expect a SPIN without a Larry Hodges coaching article. Here’s one (Sept., 1984, 14) on the “Backhand Counter”:

 “…The backhand counter,” says Larry, “should be a controlling shot first. You can score with it by outlasting your opponent, moving him around, or by attacking.” Larry points out that “there are various spots on the table you should aim your backhand for, but that your basic backhand counter-drive should be deep to the backhand corner. This gives you maximum depth, the most table to aim for, and a good angle into the opponent’s backhand. He will have to move to make his shot and cover a lot of ground if he wants to use his forehand….

When your opponent is angled out of position toward his backhand side, you can snap in a quick, often point-winning shot to his forehand. But you must go to his WIDE forehand. Off a short ball go very wide. When you go to the forehand try to disguise your shot. Also, try hitting it quick off the bounce—don’t give your opponent time to get to it.

In a given situation, you have to be able to put shots together in combinations….

Remember, the forehand is almost always the more powerful shot, the point winner. But you must develop both wings, relying more on consistency off the backhand and power off the forehand. If you play both wings, you gain an advantage and provide yourself with the opportunity to score with the backhand.” 

Regarding Larry and Perry’s coaching articles, Wilfredo Escobar, from Long Beach, CA, writes the following Letter to the Editor (SPIN, Dec., 1984, 5): 

“I personally enjoy SPIN so much that I read it many times, wishing it was longer.

I consider myself a beginner and I think we need to read more articles offering strategy, analysis, and advice to help us improve. (Like ‘Backhand Counter’ by Larry Hodges, Sept., ’84, or ‘Blade Selection’ by Perry Schwartzberg, Sept., ’84.)

One of the best articles that helped to improve my game (from 1300 to 1632) was ‘Serving Short’ (Apr., ’84) by Larry Hodges.

I hope you run even more of these strategy articles.”   

Changes are often the order of the day with a new president. In a July 26th letter to Selection Chair Bill Walk, I included a note from our Olympic Committee Chair Jimmy McClure that said, “I checked with USOC regarding our new proposed method of team selection in which two out of the four (or five) members would be selected by the Selection Committee. The USOC would not be in favor of this method of selection, but would agree to one out of four (or five).” This was also the feedback that Sheila O’Dougherty’s Players Advisory Committee was getting. As a result, our By-laws regarding this matter have been rewritten to the USOC’s satisfaction. 

Replacing Bill Haid’s son-in-law Rex Burlison as our Legal Chair is Bob Hibschweiler. On June 11, I’d written my EC, given them the following introduction to Bob, a table tennis enthusiast from Denver (rating 850 quickly going on 1100):

“I hasten to say that my first understanding with Bob, who seems to me a very nice, very sincere guy, was that if anything he’s about to do for us is gonna cost us any money, he must make that clear to me before he does any work and I must then get the EC’s approval before he can do that first thing.

Bob was proud to take home to his wife his first t.t. trophy, won at Paul Williams’ Fort Collins tournament this past weekend. Naturally I played doubles with him—we won two, lost two—and since he’s so gung-ho on the sport (he’s also into long-distance running) he’s willing to do some out-of-office work for us FREE.

Consequently, with the understanding that we’re in no way financially obligated, I’ve sent him, per our discussion over the last weekend, some info on our history with Addison—and he’s going to look into the possibility of getting OUR tapes from Addison. I’m very encouraged by this, for Wes Wolfe, who runs the Aurora Club, was telling me that Bob saved him $1,800.”

Bob did look into the matter and that month dictated the following letter to me (which on Aug. 29 I formally received (written on his Littell & Dickinson firm’s stationary):

“…I have reviewed all the documents concerning William Addison. I contacted Attorney Rex Burlison over the telephone on June 20, 1984….

The letter of November 8, 1982, signed by Sol Schiff, gives William Addison authority to negotiate on behalf of the U.S.T.T.A. in regard to a promotion of the sport with the television media. President Schiff further appointed Addison as Chairman of a committee. Schiff notes that any contractual agreement must be submitted to and approved by the Executive Committee of the U.S.T.T.A. However, this is after he gave authority to Addison to negotiate on behalf of the U.S.T.T.A. In my opinion, a court would construe the document as giving express authority to William Addison to bind the U.S.T.T.A., subject to approval of the Executive Committee. Further, it is my understanding that the U.S.T.T.A. had full knowledge that the tournament was being televised. The Executive Committee, by its inaction, waived any rights to disapprove of the agreement. I agree with Attorney Burlison that it was in the best interests of the U.S.T.T.A. to negotiate settlements with Video East and the workers in Las Vegas.

Attorney Burlison has obtained one of the one-inch master tapes held by William Addison. Addison still has the remaining tapes in his possession and will not relinquish them until he is reimbursed for his expenses while acting on behalf of the U.S.T.T.A. Addison submitted a proposed agreement to Sol Schiff for signature on October 16, 1982. In paragraph 6, there is a clause concerning a budget for Addison’s expenses in the amount of $16,000 per year. The agreement was never signed by Mr. Schiff, so the U.S.T.T.A. is not bound by its terms. Therefore, Addison’s claim of reimbursement, at best, will only be for those expenses that are usual and customary to the duties of a chairman and negotiator as authorized by the Sol Schiff letter of November 8, 1982.

…The proper place to file a legal action to gain possession of the tapes is within the state of Missouri. The defendant, William Addison, is a resident of Missouri and the property is located there. A judgment obtained in any other state would have to be transferred and filed within the state of Missouri for execution. The Missouri court would have the power to order Addison to release the tapes to the Sheriff until the matter is resolved in the court.

Attorney Burlison [Bill Haid’s son-in-law] was upset for being summarily discharged by the new regime. However, he indicated that he dislikes William Addison and would like to assist the U.S.T.T.A. in gaining possession of the tapes. While on retainer for the U.S.T.T.A., Burlison’s fee was $65.00 per hour. I told him that I am not charging for any of my services. He indicated that he would reduce his hourly fee by fifty percent if he could delegate the research and other work to myself. Attorney Burlison enjoyed working for the U.S.T.T.A. and has a personal interest in getting the tapes back from Addison. I am not a member of the legal bar of the State of Missouri and, therefore, cannot file any legal papers in the Missouri State Court. I also am not familiar with the Missouri Rules of Civil Procedure. Attorney Burlison’s proposed fee of $32.50 per hour is well below the customary fee for such services. Therefore, I recommend that the Executive Committee of the U.S.T.T.A. approve and authorize Rex Burlison to initiate a lawsuit against Addison for replevin or possession of the tapes.

There is no charge for my services and expenses incurred to date. Should it be necessary to charge the U.S.T.T.A. for any services of myself or the law firm of Little and Dickinson, the Executive Committee of the U.S.T.T.A. must approve the fee agreement before the charges are incurred. Please indicate how you would like to proceed in this matter.”

[We’ll see how this turns out—a $300 cash offer for the tapes will be made to Addison, but he’ll reject that.] 

Speaking of tapes, I might mention that the USTTA Film Library has added three new ones: (1) the Men’s Team finals at the 1981 World’s (China over Hungary); (2) the finals of the 1982 U.S. Open Team Championships (USOTC’s) between Nigeria and Canada; and (3) the 1983 U.S. Open (Men’s Singles semi’s and final, featuring Eric Boggan, Huging, Kosanovic, and Danny Seemiller). 

 

Alright, back to more money mistakes. I wrote to my E.C. on Aug. 16th that “I was very disturbed to hear on Tuesday that we were overdrawn on our Colorado Springs bank. The bank had called Emily to say that we were $400 over—and that, though they’d been nice enough not to let any checks bounce, we were going to be charged $12 apiece for the two checks that so far weren’t covered, and, hey, we’d better quick get some money into the account.

Then, as if that weren’t bad enough, at almost the very same moment Emily got an accounting from Lyle that (when she and Audrey alertly checked it out) showed, my god, we now had a total of +$8,030.60 going into the bank, but -$12,138 in checks that were to be paid out! Which meant that Lyle had written out over $4,000 worth of checks that we don’t immediately have money in the bank to cover.

Since then, Lyle has written checks at least through 2521 that I know about, including one past due for over $2,000 to Intermountain Color (no old payment, no new ‘SPIN’?).

Naturally both Emily and I spoke to Lyle about all this, spoke to him more than once, and, as of course we’ve come to expect, he was conscientious, straightforward, and as helpful as possible. No, he said, he hadn’t been keeping a running total of the balance as he went along, he’d instinctively thought we had more money in the bank than we did. But he did have more income from the U.S. Open he’d been trying to apportion to the proper accounts and would now quickly abandon such niceties and get money to Emily as quickly as possible.

Emily confirmed for me this morning that Lyle was sending $4,800 and was in the process of trying to figure up just how much checks numbered 2503 through 2521 amounted to (he apparently does not have this information at his fingertips). If we need more money (Emily says that the end-of-the-month Payroll is pretty much o.k., no need to worry there), we may be able to get our September Olympic allotment a little ahead of time (one check, 2520, for $900 I’d just sent to Taiwan, so that will take some considerable time to get to our Colorado Springs bank), and thus we’ll probably be O.K.

            Of course, income-wise, this is the worst month of the year—and money-maneuvering isn’t easy, for we haven’t the luxury of any surplus to play around with.

Excuses, and human error (which of course we’re all subject to) aside, however, what’s quite clear from all of this—and it’s a subject that must be definitely taken up at the Sept. EC  meeting—is that we’ve GOT to exercise far more fiscal responsibility than we’ve been doing. Personally, I feel the ultimate responsibility rests with me, and I’m embarrassed, I’m mortified, at our sloppiness.

Nor will September be the end of it. In December I’ll get a letter from Lou Whiting, USOC Director of Protocol. We’ve abused our USOC-United Airlines connection—have somehow fallen behind in paying our United Airlines bills. Of course, I quickly sent a letter of apology (copy to USOC’s Colonel Miller), clarified with our Treasurer Lyle Thiem that a $2,000 check was on its way, and gave assurances that in the future all United bills would be paid within thirty days.

So again the question is raised: should Lyle without a ($1,500?) terminal hook-up to Headquarters be issuing checks?” 

Tim says, “I’m also not happy about the way we’ve handled our U.S. Team’s participation in the CNE tournament that begins Aug. 30th at Toronto. It’s Aug. 16th, and, as I know from talking with Selection Chair Bill Walk this morning, the players and officials have still not been, are only now in the process of being, established.

The four U.S. Teams are to be picked from players who’ve entered the CNE on their own—no availability forms were sent out ahead of time. Moreover, no one to my knowledge, before the entries closed, with the exception of Dennis Masters, who was appointed Team Manager, requested financial help from the USTTA (this I told Dennis I didn’t think we could give him), nor was it ever announced to the players that there would be any such financial help for them.

True, there was $2,000 in the Budget for this tournament—but, given our lack of planning, our lack of communication, and given our at the moment somewhat precarious financial position, I, for one, certainly don’t want to just be nice and give away that $2,000 to 15 or more people who’ve decided on their own to go to the CNE.

Were the Olympic officials to ask me, ‘Why aren’t you spending the budgeted $2,000 on this CNE tournament?’ I again would be embarrassed at our sloppiness.

Surely we all agree that we absolutely have got to get our act together. Certainly we have to get a handle on our financial situation….” 

As we’d seen in Chapter 17, I’ve been trying to get Bob Tretheway to go “on the road” to open up new avenues of table tennis interest and advancement. He did travel to California (SPIN, Oct., 1984, 12). He was not likely to make many new inroads in this Southern California TTA hot spot, but, “with the organizational help of Dr. Eugene Taw and Peter Antkowiak, he conducted a training program in Alhambra for 14 coaches well-known in SCTTA activities, and a ten-day camp for juniors in Corona coached by Henan Li Ai.” 

From Corona Tretheway went up to Sacramento “and spent a day with Jeff Mason and his staff at Table Tennis World. ‘One of the most progressive junior programs in the country,’ is Tretheway’s observation of Mason’s activities.”

Here is what Jeff himself says (SPIN, Sept., 1984, 13): 

“…We feel our Junior program is the largest and most successful in the country, with over 600 young people participating. We concentrated our efforts mainly on reaching elementary school kids. Junior High and High School children [Take note, Dave Elwood] are not at the ideal age to introduce the sport to in the U.S., since table tennis is not America’s most socially acceptable sport. Older kids have much more peer pressure and tend to pick more culturally appropriate sports to play. Elementary children on the other hand are not so aware of which sports are socially correct and which are not. Besides offering a place to play and improve, TTW also offers a non-aggressive social atmosphere which is very important for those children who do not fit into the more traditionally aggressive sports.

To get this program going, we called the principals of schools and told them about our Center and arranged to give a free exhibition. Out of 34 schools we contacted, 32 were extremely excited about the program. Our success was partly due to the fact that we have built up a name within the Sacramento area through our many exhibitions, TV spots, newspaper articles, etc.

The main objective was to sign up children for our free coaching program. The children gave us a wonderful response as they were very excited about the lobbing, smashing and dropping rallies they saw….

We found that the most effective way of recruiting was to take sign-ups at the end of the exhibitions when we invited the kids to try to return Jeff’s serves, which they loved to do. We also found that we had the most sign-ups if we had female players take the girls’ names and male players take the boys’ names. The children, especially the girls, were shy of signing up with an adult of the opposite sex.

After completing all of the exhibitions, we had a staggering 1500 kids signed up. These were practically all from elementary schools….” 

Some of what Bob might have learned at Table Tennis World can be conveyed via a long Interview Yim Gee had with Jeff (SPIN, Sept., 1984, 11-13). Here are excerpts: 

[To begin, Yim tells readers something more than what they already know from past articles about “the three dedicated, highly educated young people running TTW.] “Jeff Mason and Mona Miller are both cultural anthropologists. Jeff holds two bachelor’s degrees and has completed two years of graduate work. Cindy Miller is an art student, just short of her B.A. degree. Jeff also has A.A. degrees—one in Recreation and Physical Education and another in Psychology.

Q. Jeff, can you tell me something about the geographic location of the club, the ethnic composition of its players, and the layout and facilities?

A. Table Tennis World is located in the south area of Sacramento. The location is in a middle-income area, one block from two main streets. There is no bus service directly to the club, but there is a bus stop a quarter of a mile away. There are two schools within a half-mile of the Center. Jeff has introduced accredited table tennis classes into the curriculum of these schools as well as three colleges in Sacramento and six other junior high and middle high schools. [But note how he’s said his success was with elementary school children.]

The ethnic background is mostly Caucasian with many Asian players, especially Vietnamese.

The building itself is a standard 200’ by 70’ warehouse with cement walls and floor, and a 16’-high wood ceiling. The Center offers 10 tables on a specially-treated no-skid tennis-court green floor. The club also offers a snack bar, office with equipment, pro-shop, lounge and TV room, table tennis robot area, pool table, pin-ball and foos-ball games, and chess table. The Center also has a tape collection which offers players the opportunity to view top world-class players. Jeff’s students can also have themselves taped during lessons and camps to study their own games. Both the playing area and office are heated, but only the office has air-conditioning. The rent for the facility is $2,200 per month; our other expenses bring the total up to $4,500 a month….

Q. How can the USTTA help TTW and other clubs?

A. What TTW and other clubs need is funding [the USTTA will help Jeff]….We would like to be a role-model club: want to continue to provide a Center which encourages good sportsman-like behavior, and to remain a facility for families as well as individual players. We do not allow alcohol, drugs, or smoking. The three of us each work between 40-60 hours per week, each with special jobs—Jeff, as a well-regarded National Coach whose students have won 19 National titles in the last three years, is of course preoccupied with classes, camps, clinics, exhibitions, leagues, and tournaments; Mona is the financial manager, bookkeeper, and graphic designer; and Cindy is our equipment salesperson focusing on ordering and mailing, but also can be a fill-in worker capable of doing to some degree Jeff and Mona’s jobs. Jeff’s parents, Jack and Kathleen Mason help out, as do a number of others, including Greg Smith and Morgan Lehman.

Jeff, Mona, and Cindy earn a minimal income which, after all the expenses are met, turns out to be well below minimum wage. [Little income, with home mortgaged—how long, even with the soul-satisfaction their Center brings them, can they keep up that kind of life? I as President want to help Jeff, but, especially given our unstable USTTA finances, I can’t begin to give him the $12,000 he wants—that’s out of the question. [To make his Center self-sustaining enough to provide a decent living for its three primary workers, it seems Jeff needs professional help]….” 

So could Tretheway somehow make this club profitable? Actually his thoughts are back at USOC Headquarters. “He’d been researching out corporate sponsorship for a resident athlete program which would provide long-term training at the Olympic Training Center for elite players. That research has led to Joseph Potocki and Associates, a marketing firm from out of Newport Beach, CA. While in Corona, Tretheway met with Potocki and Peter Hale, Vice-President of the agency. Potocki has been successful in finding corporate sponsors for Rowing and Modern Pentathlon and has now expressed his interest in working for the USTTA. Tretheway says, ‘Potocki’s proven track record has earned him respect in the marketing industry—he’s this year’s recipient of the President’s Award from the Promotion Marketing Association of America. The USTTA EC can take an important step toward securing a corporate sponsor if they act without undue delay in accepting Potocki’s proposal.’” 

I’ll end this chapter by maintaining focus on Tretheway who continues to avail himself of any opportunity open to him to further advance into a preeminent position in U.S. table tennis. Here’s an Aug. 23 letter “Boggan’s Thoughts on Tretheway’s Proposal” I sent to the E.C. [Bob’s proposal itself I’ve no copy of]: 

“Neither I nor the other E.C. members have asked Bob to be the USTTA Executive Director. And, correct me if I’m wrong, I think it’s generally agreed by all concerned that, though at last count we had almost 50 resumes, we are not now, or perhaps even soon, gonna hire an Executive Director.

I mention this because it seems to me that Bob is still persisting in his original aim, the one he held to when I first met him—which means that his proposed ‘National Program’ or ‘Development’ Directorship is but another name for ‘Executive’ Directorship.

Of course I can’t blame him for persisting in trying to get what he wants—that’s the very kind of aggressive person we need in our little world of more introverts than extroverts.

And yet I can’t help but think Bob wants too much too soon, that really he has not yet proved himself the heavyweight that we need—has certainly not proved himself by his resume or even the successful Coaching Chair work he’s done with such enthusiasm and strong staying-power.

On the whole, I’m personally not at this moment impressed by:

The unnamed audio/visual counselor, whom three months ago I met, and who with Bob was gonna do what?

            Bob‘s ‘negotiation’ with Tru-Power, a table company, untried, just starting up, who won’t be in production for months (and so, though we may have Lake Placid as an Olympic Training site, we wouldn’t have Tru-Power tables there for months?).

            Bob’s ‘negotiation’ with Sitco Robots, who, like Tru-Power naturally wants their product at an Olympic site.

            (Doesn’t Bob have to do a better selling job on us than this? How much ‘negotiation’ has really been called for here?)

            Bob’s Salvation Army Program…which we haven’t seen any results from.

            Bob’s Cub Scouts of America Program…which we haven’t seen any results from.

[But  my god, Tim, it takes time. True.]

Bob and Audrey Vernon’s analysis and demographic review of our USTTA membership. Where the hell is it? I’ve asked for it.

Bob’s Boys Club activity…which we haven’t seen any results from.

[Time, time, Tim—patience.]

Bob’s ‘on the road’ Coaching Program—which was applied to how many coaches and juniors there at that one California clinic? Coaches and juniors who were already captively interested. 

For this ‘ground work’ we’re gonna hire Bob for a year? Why in the world would anybody reading Bob’s arguments feel that the above ‘ground work’ will ensure success?

Of course I do see Bob as hard-working, as a go-getter, as an organizer. But, in danger of spreading himself paper-thin (he also speaks of developing a merchandising program), he seems to want to do what he wants to do—and not what I (what we?) want him to do.

Bob says he’s ‘available’ for travel—as if somehow it hadn’t quite penetrated to him that the person I, for one, want to hire HAS to travel. Is Bob going to Indiana? Does he see any point to it? Has he laid any ground work for that? (I don’t know of any.) If Bob doesn’t go to Indiana, who goes in his stead? Duke Stogner, former owner-manager of Tickey’s, who told me he wants a table tennis job? 

The CENTRAL questions before us, the ones that have plagued us for years, Bob has not talked about in terms of programs. I mean:

Finding prospective players places to play

Dramatically increasing individual memberships

Developing a fund-raising strategy 

Bob does tell us that he wants $18,000 a year, $5,000 for travel expenses, a $2,000 budget for ‘special purposes,’ an ‘operations’ budget (what exactly is that?), $2,000 for every 400 new members, and $500 for every 22 or so new clubs he’s responsible for (which affiliates would bring us in what?...for how long?).

 [Yeah, yeah, I’m coming on strong here. But Bob wants Executive Director pay.]

I saw that insane contract Bill Haid was given for doing a lot of peripheral, paper-pushing work—and I don’t want that to happen again. So I’m very leery of giving Bob (whom of course I’ve championed from the beginning) what, as ‘Executive Director,’ he wants. 

O.K., so now that I’ve gotten all that out, where are we? Obviously Bob can’t work like he’s been working for the USTTA without making a decent living. And yet from my point of view (our point of view?) the work he’s been doing doesn’t warrant our hiring him for a year at the salary he wants.

Supposing we offered others in the USTTA something less than what Bob proposes. Would we get as good a man?

Are we expected—with our financial situation and what we know of Bob—to unequivocally accept or reject his proposal? Or, as Mel Eisner suggests, is some compromise possible?

I personally am willing to compromise—though perhaps too drastically for Bob. If no compromise is possible, if we must accept or reject Bob’s proposal as is, I say, much as I think Bob could be very valuable to the Association, to the Sport, REJECT it…and look for other workers.

It’s quite clear to me that Bob’s situation will be of paramount concern to us at the September meeting. Perhaps in two weeks’ time, with Bob and everyone else’s input and cooperation, we’ll all have a better perspective on our priorities and programs, and a better understanding of what funds we’re going to need to implement them and where such funds are likely to come from. 

SELECTED NOTES.

            Amazing (and wonderful) how Randy Kiser’s volunteer coaching help at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center this August of 1984 impacted one, Sunny Su, as may be seen in Su’s In Memoriam obit of Kiser 27 years later (USA Table Tennis Magazine, Jan/Feb 2012). Here are some excerpts: 

            “…I had played table tennis for about five months at my workplace, and had fallen in love with the game. However, during my free time I couldn’t find anyone who had time or liked to play as much as I did. I was so happy when I found a table tennis club in my small town.

            On that night I noticed an older man sitting in the corner silently. I noticed him watching me so seriously like he was studying me. While I played he never smiled, never said a word to me. As he left the club, he gave me his phone number and address. He told me he used to be a table tennis assistant coach at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Whispering, he said to me, ‘I am retired. But I can play 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.’ Hallelujah! Randy was an answer to a prayer. For five months I had been looking for a person with the same enthusiasm for the game as I had.

            Next day, after work, I drove to his well-lit and well-equipped garage and started to play. From that day on, we played two hours, almost every night, for 9 whole months.

            We struck up an odd friendship. I was from China and am about 5’4” tall, Randy was about 20 years older than I and over a foot taller at 6’5.” He was a veteran of the Viet Nam War and worked for many years as a Correctional Officer in a Federal Correctional Facility. He was adopted at the age of four. He never spoke of these experiences. He was a stern man and a very demanding coach. He was a very private man who had experienced a hard life.

            But there was something beautiful about him when he played the game he loved. This stern man was also a fun person. He played air guitar; loved rock & roll and blues, and danced to the music while we played. I think this was who he was before the war. Randy hid this part of his personality from most of the world, yet our bond with the game allowed him to open up to me. We were opposites in many ways, but THE GAME united us.

            He laughed when he got me with a very weird shot. He smiled when I returned a good one. He trained me hard so I could make the shots he wanted. He wanted me to return a shot exactly where he wanted it to land. There were two reasons for this; it made me a more precise player, and he suffered from a war injury that made it difficult for him to move as most players could.

            He would put his finger in his mouth and with a wet finger mark the exact spot where he expected the ball to land on his side of the table. Maybe there was a third reason—and that was to drive me crazy. Every time he raised his hand to his mouth I shuddered. Sometimes I wanted to throw down my paddle and quit, because he did this with his finger all the time. Who did he think I was, Babe Ruth? He’d point; I’d have to hit the exact spot. He would forgive me for missing the mark once, but never a second time. On the second miss he would take his massive palm and slam it down hard on the table.

            I was tempted many times to quit, especially in the first three months. I wanted to throw my paddle at him and never return.

            After the first three months two things happened. The first was that we found a rhythm, a space where we could be a little bit more at ease with each other. The second thing that kept me playing with him was because my mother came to visit from China. She was gracious and felt it would be kind to continue playing with this man who must have suffered earlier in his life. She even proclaimed him to be a ‘nice’ man. Before she went back to China, we dined at his home with his wife Melody.

             Mother was right; even during those first three months I saw the goodness in him, his passion for the game, and came to realize it was a blessing to have such an excellent coach. I learned through my suffering. Yes, he drilled me; he also showed me how to protect my body from injury, and how to relax—at least until I saw the finger going to his mouth. What an honor that a former Olympic coach took an interest in me!

            When I entered a tournament last year, he showed up to watch me play and brought me a box of dried fruits. He believed in me! He didn’t smile much, but when he did he became the nicest guy.

            As sometime happens in close relationships, ours hit a bad spot. We argued. Looking back, it was probably due to a misunderstanding based on stubbornness and pride….Thus our months of playing, coaching, and friendship ended….

            The last time I saw Randy was at the Hutchinson Spring Open in April, 2011. He watched a few games, left early, and we did not speak. Within six months, at 65, he was dead of a heart attack.

            When I heard of his death I lost sleep for two nights. Then I got sick for one week. My guilt overwhelmed me with pain….

            I still love to play the game, but the memory and loss of my friendship with Randy Kiser will haunt me for the rest of my life.

            Rest in peace, dear friend. Someday, we will meet in heaven and play again. Until then, in your honor I will play all future tournaments in your memory. I hope you can see me from above.”