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            1985: E.C. Interests. 

Rufford Harrison & Jimmy McClure

            USTTA Secretary Rufford Harrison (pictured on right) did a very good job detailing the Minutes from the June E.C. Meeting at the Biscayne Bay Marriott in Miami.  Here are items of more than routine interest: 

             Headquarters Expense: “SPIN Editor Tom Wintrich and Headquarters Office Manager Emily Cale had requested raises. It was agreed that their performance should be judged and reported on by a special committee (Boggan, Eisner, and Seemiller), and that if the EC were to agree on a raise it should be retroactive to July.” 

Wintrich was requested “to publish a tournament calendar arranged chronologically, coordinating U.S. events with those overseas.” Who’s going to be where? When? Who’s available? Ah, an admirable suggestion: Clubs no longer waiting to schedule their tournaments—players committing. This would work well locally with Perry Schwartzberg’s idea of “USTTA/Club-funded set-up teams operating out of barn-storming, sponsor-painted vans, with salaried player/coaches capable of transporting tables, barriers, portable floor, tapes, scorecards, umpires’ jackets, and trained to do school exhibitions and work with the media.” Could it happen?           

            [Wiggy’s. A new slick-cover t.t. magazine, edited by Minneapolis teenager Scott Bakke, is being put together—circular coming Sept. 4; introductory issue, Sept. 25.] 

            Committee Chairs: Ratings Chair Dan Simon proposed “that the sanctioning of all tournaments now handled by the Regional Directors be transferred to Headquarters.” It was agreed that “all tournaments two stars and below will now be sanctioned by USTTA Headquarters—Directors, please send sanction forms directly to Colorado Springs. Tournaments three-star a

 Simon notes that, although both the U.S. and Canada now publish conversion charts, some CTTA members also had US ratings obtained from actual play. Dan said that he always used the higher of the two available numbers. He planned to rate the upcoming Toronto CNE  Championships—but not on Team appearance, since at the moment the USTTA doesn’t have uniforms for its players. Neither the CTTA nor the OTTA provide hospitality at these Championships, but if they could provide some assistance to dress up the International Team matches, up to $1,000 could be budgeted on the U.S. side. nd higher will be sanctioned by National Tournament Director Andy Gad.”

Mal Anderson remains as Rules Chair. But Barry Margolius replaces Mal as Nominating Chair, and Robert Compton replaces Mal as Photography Chair. The E.C. had agreed that “the number of photographers at the top four tables at the U.S. Open should be limited by means of a fee.” 

Tom Miller succeeds Manny Moskowitz, who resigned as Umpires Chair, and, as a going-away gift, received an encomium of admiration in SPIN from Paul Vancura.

It had been agreed that at the U.S. Open the Point-Penalty Rule would be in effect—but just among the very good players starring in the arena and enforced only by national and international umpires. The following penalties were decided on: (1) Warning (first offense).  (2) Loss of Point (second offense). 3. Loss of game (third offense). (4) Loss of Match/Mandatory Report to Disciplinary Chair. The Umpires Committee was to take up the suggestion that “national and international umpires, after successfully reaching these grades, be observed in action by two peers and one top international player.” 

Waugh and Associates in recently auditing our Association’s books commented that (1) we “didn’t have much long-range planning (but prior to our windfall that was understandable); that (2) we’ve improved internal control (now covered by a fidelity bond); that (3) we have better record retention but still need a good business-report format; that (4) we must use Expense Reports; and that (5) we must spend much more money on a professional Public Relations program and Fund Raising in order to at least try to get greater recognition for table tennis. 

Television Chair Gary Ruderman “had proposed the development of promo films and tapes, and had requested a USTTA commitment. It was felt, however, that not enough of his work had been seen. It was agreed to attempt [sic] to budget $4,000 for a one-minute promo tape….”

After the World’s, Gary makes the following points in a Letter to the Editor (SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 4):

“I know you share my enthusiasm for table tennis, and recognize the need for an expanded public relations program. You are doing your part with SPIN and I hope to be able to contribute as USTTA Television Chairman.

There is a market for table tennis in the U.S. That is evident from the audiences at Alhambra for the China/Chinese Taipei matches and at the U.S. Open in Miami. There has also been much interest in the videotapes I have produced of the 1985 World Championships.

Along those lines, I’d like to advise all those who have been interested in purchasing U.S. Open tapes that they will not be available this year. The need to cover my expenses forced me to accept the Taiwan team’s offer to tape their matches for Taiwan television. I hope in the future to work out arrangements acceptable to the USTTA Board so that the minimum funds necessary will be allocated to allow for professional coverage of major tournaments.

All other sports that have become popular and financially productive to the competitors have done so as a result of television exposure, and I strongly believe that increased financial priority must be given to promoting table tennis via television.” 

Dave Strang, who continues as Chair of the Film Committee, responds (SPIN, Sept., 1985, 4) to Ruderman’s article above:

“I am writing to correct the false impression created by Gary Ruderman in his letter in last month’s SPIN that videotapes of the ’85 U.S. Open will not be available because the USTTA did not choose to pay Gary to produce videotapes in Miami.

The truth is that the USTTA Film Committee has produced many hours (USA vs. China, Europe vs. China, Europe vs. Sweden, Open Singles matches) of the ’85 Open which will be available for rental or purchase by USTTA members. I spent many hours editing these tapes and I believe that they are among the best made to date.

These new tapes, along with nine other tapes previously available through Kent State University (KSU) Audio-Visual Service, will now be available to USTTA members directly from USTTA Headquarters, since Headquarters will soon take over the rental program. The Film Committee is also pleased to announce that thanks to new equipment purchased we are now able to make all files available in Beta as well as VHS format.

I believe the USTTA showed wisdom in not unnecessarily giving Gary the thousands of dollars requested by him to videotape the tournaments when I, representing th

e Films Committee, had already made arrangements to videotape the tournament, including portions of it in 3/4” industrial grade videotape, for a cost of only a few hundred dollars—not thousands.

Gary Ruderman has produced some good videotapes which he is selling at a reasonable price. From my conversations with him, he seems to be honest and dedicated. However, I must set the record straight and correct the error of his statement that ‘85 U.S. Open tapes are not available and that the USTTA was somehow negligent to this instance. Nothing could be further from the truth. I hope that in the future he will be more careful in his statements and that the editor of SPIN will contact the appropriate USTTA officials before printing misleading information in the official publication.”

Ruderman responds (SPIN, Nov., 1985, 4):

“I don’t want to belabor the issue, but I feel it necessary to correct the impression left by David Strang’s letter in the ’85 Sept. SPIN. In my original letter to SPIN (’85 July-Aug.), I intended only to advise those who had inquired as to when my tapes of the U.S. Open would be ready, that, due to certain circumstances, I would have none for sale. I apologize if my statements were misleading in any way.

I must commend Mr. Strang and other volunteers for their dedication in maintaining a film and video library and for providing the video coverage they have. We need to do more, however, if table tennis is ever to achieve recognition as the exciting and challenging sport that it is. We can no longer depend just on volunteers using VHS or borrowed commercial equipment if we are to provide professional-level footage acceptable for promotional or broadcast purposes.

It was suggested that I had asked the USTTA for an exorbitant amount to produce video coverage of the Open. Actually, I had been asked, as television chairman, to submit a committee budget for this purpose. I submitted several alternatives, including one, the last, in which I offered to contribute, at no cost to the USTTA, the use of professional equipment plus my services and those of a crew member, with the USTTA covering only our minimum out-of-pocket expenses. A good portion of those expenses would have been reimbursed from tape sales.

This is the time for all of us to work together to promote table tennis. The Los Angeles Times, in reporting on the National Sports Festival, stated that the biggest surprise of the Festival was that table tennis is an exciting spectator sport. It has been proven with other sports that television coverage is the key to attracting sponsors and new players. It would be blatant false economy not to take advantage of the leverage the ’88 Olympics gives us to gain media exposure for our sport. If we don’t do this now, we might regret it forever.” 

Meanwhile, I have to say that Dick Miles tells me that ABC is definitely not going to air the Wide World of Sports TV show from the Gothenburg World Championships. They just don’t think it’s interesting enough. Dick says that, without just the right kind of players, the right matches (preferably with a defensive player), the Sport is impossible to “showcase.” Spin is killing the game. Serve and follow is killing the game. Attack of serve is killing the game. Players’ errors, quick errors—that’s killing the game. Why don’t we have a major tournament with good prize money—but outlaw smooth rubber? Dick wants either to turn back the clock or turn it ahead. It’s about time the U.S. took the lead in World Table Tennis to bring back spectators. 

            Dr. Michael Scott, as Sports Medicine Chair, remains ready to provide readers with health-related articles. Here, for example (SPIN, Mar., 1985, 20), he’s talking about “Overtraining’:

            Overtraining, the point where too much training puts the athlete over his (or her) peak, can leave him below strength for a long period of time.

            Symptoms of overtraining are depression, insomnia, anorexia, and weight loss. Injuries may follow these signs. When the symptoms occur, coaches and physicians should maintain close, continued observations of the athlete.

            In order to prevent illness and injury as a result of overtraining, the following signs should be observed:

  1. Afternoon post-workout weight is below normal.
  2. Evening fluid intake is greater than normal.
  3. The athlete is going to bed later than usual or is sleeping less than normal.
  4. The morning heart rate increases around five beats per minute.

Preventive measures include having good communication between coach and athlete, training in a logical progression, and conducting mood profiles.” 

We’d like Dr. Scott to be our liaison in the USOC Drug Control Program. But the Doping Agreement between the USOC and the National Governing Bodies (NGBs) was rejected—not by the USTTA but by 25/40 NGBs. Hence our agreement will most certainly be declared null and void, and we’ll have to sign a new one (Basketball says they won’t sign any such agreement). NGBs didn’t want results of tests disclosed to the media. They wanted to represent, wanted to protect, their athletes. 

Boggan vs. Scott
Tim Boggan and Dr. Michael Scott in action             

History of U.S. Table Tennis Volume 14: 1985-86

1985 U.S. Closed Championships: Three Las Vegas venues—Caesars Palace, The Tropicana, and The Showboat—were being considered for the 1985 U.S. Closed. Back on May 30, I sent to my E.C. the following appraisal of the three hotels:

            Caesars’ $38-a-room-for-two offer was good only for the Wed.-Sun. just before Christmas. The playing venue is not nearly as large as The Trop’s, so, concerned as we are about appearance and aisle-way mobility, it’s unlikely that we could use more than 32 tables there. Of course we could have no finer liaison with management than Neil Smyth, and if we had any problems he’d quickly be on the scene to help us. Clearly Caesars’ hole card is that we’re being offered, as something of a favor really (for how much have we to offer them?), Caesars’ NAME—for it’s undoubtedly the classiest hotel on The Strip.

            The Trop’s $28-a-room-for-two offer was also good only for the Wed.-Sun. before Christmas. The timing’s bad here, though, because this specific weekend follows the Rodeo—which means that the dirt venue used by the cowboys will become the inevitably dusty t.t. arena. Improvements in the appearance of the Trop are already obvious and when construction is finished (by Jan., 1986?) it will unquestionably be one of the top three hotels in Vegas.

            The Showboat’s $17-a-room-for-two offer was good for the Thurs.-Sun Rodeo weekend (with the tight tournament schedule, a four-nights stay was likely there too). Advantages are: we’re provided with 5 two-night certificates that can be given out as advertisement awards at our tournament; up-to-8:00 p.m. bus service free out to The Strip and back (but wouldn’t it be after 8:00 when players would still likely want to avail themselves of such hopefully reliable service?); use of bowling lanes for a USTTA-sponsored bowling tournament (the best warm-up for table tennis play?); a three-hour smash of a cocktail party with hors d’oeuvres and FREE drinks; and, most importantly perhaps, its already set up TV platform for boxing and wrestling events that are periodically held in the arena where we’d be having our tournament. Perhaps Steve Waldman, the very likeable and cooperative Sales Manager of The Showboat, could be of some influence in getting ESPN to film our Nationals?

IF we could get ESPN I would certainly go where that takes us. But I must say you get what you pay for. When I saw this Showboat hotel, in an isolated downtown area (it features 110 bowling lanes), when I went in and looked around, I was personally mortified to think that, under my proud presidency, I might have to bring the U.S. National Championships to this venue. It’s just not class. People know what they’re getting for $38-a-double at Caesars (and can cheerfully take pot luck elsewhere if they so choose), but people don’t know what they’re getting for $17-a-double at The Showboat, and if they don’t like it, they’ll start their tournament off with bad vibes, the more so if they decide they have to move.

Early in the Meeting, the E.C. agreed to accept The Showboat (favored by Mel Eisner), but then a reconsideration occurred. When Harold Kopper, unsolicited by me, vehemently echoed for himself and I’m sure at least some part of the Southern California Association my own feelings and those of Stan Robens, Howie Grossman, George Weissberg, and who knows how many other players, I had to ask the E.C. to reconsider their vote. I then went to Neil Smyth at Caesars and found him receptive to making a goodwill move toward us to prove that, contrary to what some thought, he certainly did want the tournament, and made a $2,500-$3,000 prize money move toward us dependent on projected room nights. Thus, at the next E.C. Meeting in September at Lake Placid, NY, Caesars Palace would be chosen. Mel and I had exchanged views on the venue following his three-page caring and helpful June 1 letter to me, but I rejected his cost-conscious arguments that favored The Showboat. Here’s what I later wrote to Mel, copies to the E.C.:

            “Mel, with regard to the different Vegas hotel costs, what the hell are we talking about? We’re talking only $22 a person more total for a 5-day, 4-night stay at the Trop rather than The Showboat or $42 a person more total at Caesars. This IS a small item—especially since I’ve seen the quality of the three places and you haven’t. I’m telling everyone: there would be mass unhappiness if we went to The Showboat. Many players would just be unprepared for the isolation, the drabness, the dirtiness of this hotel. And, dammit, it would be ME ultimately, not Mel, not anybody else, who would have to bear the heavy burden of the criticism.

            Mel says that from The Showboat the whole town is ‘easily available.’ Yeah? Not if one is worried about saving a few dollars. For such a person nothing is accessible. Be realistic. The Strip is 15-20 minutes away by cab. How much, back and forth, is that going to cost? It’s even a cab ride to the Golden Nugget downtown. And people will want to leave that drab, dirty hotel, and they WILL leave (whether there’s a timely bus to take them to the place they want to go or not). Between the Trop and the Showboat we’re talking per person $5.50 a night, less if there are three in a room; between Caesars and The Showboat we’re talking $10.50 a night: $5, $10—a bet or two for practically anybody who goes to Vegas. To say, among the three, The Showboat wins ‘hands down’ is to be a very suspect poker player….”            

            Seemiller as Lake Placid Coach/Administrator: “Seemiller proposed that he be hired as a coach/administrator at a salary of $10,000 for nine months to establish a training camp for elite players at Lake Placid, and that up to eight players in residence there be given expenses of $100 per month.” (Danny feels that the Colorado Springs RTP ought to be youth-oriented, and that the Lake Placid RTP ought to be for USA Team members.) While the E.C. was receptive to this proposal, it had to have a three-month trial run and be assessed at our Dec. E.C. Meeting. Why? Because we have a bylaw prohibiting USTTA employees who are making more than $1,000 a year from serving on the E.C. and Danny is a V.P. Since SPIN won’t be giving us any info for a while as to what’s going on at Lake Placid {why not?], we’ll have to wait and see what Danny’s plans will be. 

            Budget: “If Olympics Games Preparations Funds become available at the rate of $12,000/year, as expected, they should be allocated to a branch of the Resident Training Program at Lake Placid, aimed specifically at the 1988 Olympics. The Resident Athletes Committee was requested to consider administration of the Program, particularly with respect to equal treatment of male and female players. Seemiller to be the coach at Lake Placid, and therefore to be a member of the committee.”

            Slide Projector: A slide projector to be purchased for $300-$400, for use in the coaching program. Funds also to be allocated for a display booth that can be moved from site to site.

            Our Treasurer Lyle Thiem continues to negotiate with the Melia travel agency. You recall their announcement: “The USTTA’s partnership with Melia is a simple business deal that will be worth thousands of dollars [to the USTTA] in annual funding….” Apparently they have almost no record of any table tennis player using their services. Lyle says he can prove they’re wrong, so we’re certainly not going to pay them what they want….Or are we? Later, Lyle writes, “It looks like we’ll soon have to pay Melia $2,252. We’re getting screwed out of some commission, but we can’t prove it.”           

            Christian Lillieroos: Christian to be employed as a coach/administrator, reporting to Boggan to work with local areas, up to $6,000 to be provided by the USTTA for his services if needed. On June 14, I’d written the following follow-up letter regarding Christian to the E.C. and other interested parties:

            “I remind everyone again that I’d like to hire Christian Lillieroos…not just as a coach but as a table tennis administrator. I want to base him in Westfield, N.J., or Indianapolis, or Oklahoma City, or Sacramento, or perhaps even at the new Training Center in Anderson, S.C….somewhere.

            You remember that Christian, 25, is not only the highest level Swedish coach there is, but that he is also running one of only two table tennis high schools in all of Sweden. (A student goes to a high school where he gets his regular diploma in normal subjects but also, because of administrative cooperation, he gets in 10 or more t.t. practice periods per week in the school gymnasium.)

            Christian, you’ll recall, coached Sweden’s 8-member Team at the World Wheelchair Championships in Stoke, England.

            He was the Administrator, then President, for a club of 400 members (his duties included running tournaments and tours). He worked countless hours as a Coach in Sweden’s junior high schools, and organized and ran several schools for beginners. Also, at another club in Sweden—a club of 1100 members—Christian alone was responsible for the education of their 15 coaches.

            You know, too, finally, that Christian has been highly recommended by Nisse Sandberg, who is most anxious to see table tennis make it in the States.

            Let’s care about this man, O.K.? Let’s find him a place.” 

            Liguo Ai: “Liguo to be employed at a salary of not more than $6,000 to work on specific projects, including the writing of coaching articles, and the training of coaches, as directed by Boggan.

            Here are a few excerpts I’ve selected from “What Should You Learn First?” the latest article (SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 15) by Liguo and his wife Li Henan:

            “Coaching is a very enjoyable job as you never feel bored since each day brings something new. When you see your player is going to be a local, national, or even world star, you will feel that life is wonderful, full of hope and excitement.

            On the other hand, coaching is not an easy job by any means. You can receive many complaints and easily get fired by your employer if you’re a professional, or by your player(s) if you’re an amateur. When you see your student playing clumsily and you can’t help, it is a most miserable moment. Sitting or standing there, you feel your heart is heavy and you can’t imagine it is a bright sunny day outside….

            [The Ais recognize that if you’re going to compete in a sport you certainly have to learn to play to win—though they’ve seen the exception.] In China, during the Cultural Revolution, some officials abolished scoring from all sports competition, saying the scoring makes the players fight each other, which goes against the principle of ‘Friendship first, competition second.’ Instead, they enforced a new rule, asking players to compete in keeping their bedrooms clean, being polite, helping cook, and so on. It looked very nice, but the result was not desirable for most people. Why? Because there was not going to be sports any more. So the ‘revolution’ failed in spite of all the nice behavior.

            [The Ais then go on to another part of learning.] We don’t like misbehavior in sport and we think it’s the coach’s duty to instill sportsmanship in the players. We don’t think there’s any causality between trying to win and misbehavior….

            [The Ais then focus on…focus.] The ball in table tennis is so small, so light, with so much spin, you must concentrate on it so intensely. The Chinese players often say there is nothing in the world but the ball…and to control it you must control your temper….

[And of course you must always try hard.] In table tennis, like any other part of your life, you will lose nothing by trying hard, but you will not know what you lose by not trying hard….

You see, life is sort of tricky; its bright spots rarely come to us in a straightforward manner. You must work hard to seek the sunshine of life and sometimes you must suffer darkness for long periods. But when success does come you will discover immense joy and you will find yourself more capable, more confident, and stronger in skills and will power. In short, you will feel great.” 

Workshops: Following Mel Eisner’s suggestion, the E.C. for a time split into two sections, each to better focus on the subject at hand. In the one case, Juniors; in the other, Tournaments and Clubs.

            Regarding Juniors, here are just a few suggestions made: (1) a removable Junior section in SPIN, with a Junior Editor and a monthly Junior column. Wintrich requested to implement such a section. [A Junior column was done on a small scale back in the 1950’s.] (2) A separate and well-publicized National Junior Championship (the idea of a combined Senior/Junior Championship was rejected). (3) an emphasis on Resident Junior Coaches in specific areas.

            Regarding Tournaments: (1) Have Headquarters be an important Publicity Center. Help sponsors by telephone, sending press releases to local and national papers (the particulars having been conveyed in a standard way by a tournament designee). Hire a journalism intern to do this. (2) Have all rated events in large tournaments finish by Friday evening, perhaps with the finals on Saturday. (3) Insist that individual courts be set up for final matches. (4) Insist that tournaments be run in gymnasia, in good surroundings, instead of poor clubs. (5) Noting that most of those playing in any tournament lose, run the event in such a way that losers go home happy and satisfied. [Easier said than done. I satisfied some players by waiving not the sanction fee but permits and membership for first-time players in Larry Thoman’s recent Tennessee tournament. Some said I should have authorized, as I did with a Jeff Mason group, a minimal $1 fee to play and be rated. But many others disagreed and that option won’t be repeated. Actually the important thing is: if we’ve given them incentive enough to play again, then they have to pay.] 6. Hold funded or partly funded clinics for tournament directors who, not satisfied with their earlier efforts, want to improve.

            Regarding Clubs: (1) Publicize Clubs more in SPIN—have Regional pages. [I did a variation of this in Topics and Timmy’s, moving from East to West across the country. (2) Publicize by mentioning the name of a player’s club the first time his own name is mentioned. [A whacky improbability.] (3) In publicizing Regional news, use a smaller font to permit the inclusion of more copy. (4) Be prepared to take advantage of Jeff Mason’s Club Manual (it should be available at Headquarters by mid-August). 

            A Tournament-a-Year Controversy. Here are four responses to the USTTA’s decision that if a USTTA Club is to remain a USTTA Club it must run at least one tournament a year. 

            First (in an Apr. 23, 1985 letter to me), from Rick Hardy, Solon, Ohio:

            “…A majority of the E.C. evidently believes that at least most of the USTTA clubs currently not running tournaments will choose to do so, but I believe that most will choose not to do so….So a few (or a lot of?) clubs drop out. What have we lost? We have lost contact. We have no way of answering the inquiry of a potential club player as to the serious play in his or her city. [I question how many inquiries in the course of a season are forthcoming to any one club not capable of holding a tournament. I question how much “serious” play goes on in such a club. (And I want serious play.)]…There are those clubs who’ll be put off by this requirement because they’re not yet ready to run a tournament. [I don’t want to wait for them to be ready, if ever they will be.] Most importantly, you will have fostered an impression that the USTTA is only interested in tournaments, not in casual recreational play. [Well, I certainly don’t want the USTTA clubs to be known primarily for casual recreational play. I want imaginative, enterprising club leaders and supportive members who care collectively about making their club better and better known.]

            …After all this criticism of your means, I now wish to praise your goal. I suggest, however, that this be achieved by additional benefits for those clubs holding regular tournaments. [I certainly want deserving clubs to be rewarded. And the clubs that can’t run one tournament a year I don’t want representing the Association that I’m trying to bring at least a touch of prestige to.] 

Next, from Peter Johnson, Shellburne Falls, MA (SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 4):

            “I applaud the Executive Committee’s recent decision to require all USTTA affiliated clubs to run at least one sanctioned tournament a year or forfeit their affiliation. We need to eliminate the undesirable clubs, the ones who must play Ping-Pong, not Table Tennis. Hooray for the elite clubs, the elite tournaments!” 

            Next, Steve Hochman, Virginia Beach, VA (SPIN, Sept., 1985, 4):

            “Peter Johnson in last month’s ‘Counter Drive,’ applauded the E.C. decision requiring sanctioned clubs to conduct at least one sanctioned tournament a year to maintain their affiliate status. He stated that this would eliminate ‘the undesirable clubs, the ones who must play Ping-Pong.’

            The Virginia Beach Table Tennis Club recently lost all future tournament dates with its sponsor, the Virginia Beach Recreations Center (VBRC). Does this make us less of a club than previous years when we conducted three or four sanctioned tournaments a year? [The obvious answer is “Yes.”] We still have a large following. We have a solid group of players rated over 1700, and occasionally 2000’s stop in to play. [So, with your solid group of players, you have a whole year to find a place to run a decent tournament. Is that so formidable a task?]

            We encourage participation of new players and help with their development. Many of us travel to tournaments and we’ve put on local mall exhibitions promoting the sport of table tennis. Don’t we sound like a typical club?

            Why can’t we remain affiliated with the USTTA? Although we are disappointed about our ‘tournament impasse’ with the VBRC, would one tournament a year really make us that much better? [Impasse? If you can’t put on a tournament at that one rec center, you can’t put on a tournament at all? C’mon.]

            Perhaps we should challenge Peter Johnson’s ‘elite’ club to a team competition so they could show us ‘Ping-Pongers’ how to really play. I have a feeling we would kick their…” 

            And lastly, Jack “Buddy” Melamed, Houston, TX (SPIN, Sept., 1985, 4):

            “I read in SPIN about the new rule that states all TT clubs that do not hold a tournament once a season will not be allowed to remain affiliated with the USTTA. Members of those clubs that will be disaffiliated will certainly have a much warmer feeling toward the USTTA and no doubt will go to great lengths to continue their personal memberships. Getting rid of the ‘Ping-Pong’ players will prohibit them from becoming anything else. The editor of SPIN won’t have to open so many letters to the editor, the USTTA will not be burdened with printing so many copies for memberships, and, best of all, it will make our USTTA membership card more valuable since there will be much fewer in existence. [Why are you repeatedly so negative, regaling in thinking the worst?]

            It will surely help the sport because we can eliminate the small clubs so inexperienced that they are incapable of running a tournament, as well as getting rid of many groups of young players like university clubs who have a limited number of transient players. The major tournaments won’t be so crowded with participants since the local tournaments must be attended by the local players. Listing the affiliated clubs in SPIN won’t take so much space in the future. For those who travel they can pack less, for they won’t need their table tennis equipment because chances are they won’t find a USTTA affiliated group in the area.

            What a brainstorm!”*

            [This response is disappointing. Is not only sad but laughable too as it approaches hysteria at the thought of running a tournament. But what can I say? It’s precisely this malaise of mediocrity, this satisfaction with the status quo, that, on every front, I’m trying to do something about. Why the resistance to change? Why the persistent inertia?]           

What I Want Our Aspiring Juniors To Do

            In my recent Up Front column (SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 11) I’d written what I’d like to see were the aims of our most aspiring Juniors:

            To develop an image of self as an intense player for whom the sport (as opposed to recreational Ping-Pong) really matters.

            To learn to “see,” really “see,” how good players play so as to consciously or at least unconsciously absorb their techniques (best perhaps to try to do this with the aid of a paid analyst or coach—someone, it may be, who’s had coaching experience at Colorado Springs/Lake Placid who might be rewarded by the USTTA if his/her student of any age shows fast improvement.

            To better adapt to what’s actually happening in the sport—to the many different styles, rubber surfaces, strokes, serves, and spins. Is it really fun the other way—to monotonously play-practice the TV hours away in the same old way? Get some juice.

            To become pressure-oriented, tournament tough—able to extend oneself both mentally and physically, and so prepared to rise to a challenge.

            To at least peripherally begin to understand, perhaps by talking with or closely observing a good, if possible world-class player, what the sport you love, played ideally the way you’d love to play it, is all about. (In a few years, our juniors will begin getting continual coaching help from the ever-increasing flux of immigrating Chinese. See the accompanying Coach Jack Huang photo and story.)

            It seems to me that the USTTA is for players (or dreamers) who, whatever their rating level, want seriously to engage in sport—want to play in tournaments. Accordingly, I want to reward clubs (with tables or robots, coaching or tournament-travel funds) not simply because over the years they’ve endured, but because they show me they aspire to excellence and, with a proven interest in juniors, look to the future. 


            *On Jan. 9, 1986, I received the following letter from Buddy:

            “Dear Tim,

            Believe it or not, you are getting a letter from Buddy Melamed where he isn’t complaining, being sarcastic, or giving someone the needle.

            What I want to do is thank you for helping my TT game. For about six months my backhand has been terrible. I found myself bending my wrist down when trying to hit…like trying to ‘lift’ more with my wrist movement. I use Curl P-2 and to hit all you need do is simply hit through the ball with ‘touch.’ Anyway, I heeded your suggestion and now I consciously place my thumb up a little higher on the blade (and hold the bat close to the blade) AND IT WORKS. When I lift my thumb up on the blade it stops me from bending my wrist when I hit my backhand.


            I responded:

“M’god, Buddy, I’ve made your game better! And you beat me (us) the last time we played….Ohh.

Still, it’s good to have your letter. It shows everyone that I certainly DO know something about Coaching. I’ll save your letter and when I get more like it I’ll have a collection, and then maybe I’ll publish that.

Just two days ago, Sally and I were reminiscing about 11-year-old Eric going off by himself on that plane to the Houston U.S. Open…and how hard it was for her at the airport to finally just turn her back on him and so insist that even though he didn’t want to go by himself he HAD to. Do you remember the password you were to meet him with? [It was ‘Mr. McGillicuddy’—Eric’s name for his imaginary friend (alter ego) who would come visit us, always wearing a scarf, but who invariably would just miss seeing Eric.”]