USA Table Tennis
1985: USTTA Preoccupations.
As readers know from just looking at the cover of my Vol. XIII, the USTTA—thanks in part to our Olympic Committee Chair Jimmy McClure who successfully urged at a USOC meeting that ALL U.S. Olympic sport bodies should share EQUALLY in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games windfall—our Association has come into quite a bit of money: over $1,000,000 and still counting.
Of course, as you can imagine, more than a few people offered me as USTTA President much well-intentioned advice as to what to do with this money. As an example, let’s take a Jan. 29, 1985 letter I received from the USOC/Caesars Palace-connected Paul Therrio whose USTTA involvement I’ve noted in past volumes. Don’t be deceived by his folksy colloquialisms—he feels that speaking to me as he does (his words, his rhetoric carefully chosen) is the best way to get me to take him seriously. Here’s what he says and how he says it:
“This is just another bucketful amongst the flood of great ideas you are no doubt getting about how to spend all that lovely loot forthcoming from the USOC. Avarice and downright greed will take on a new dimension by the time you wade through all of them—a dimension that you might never have envisioned otherwise.
Now, having dispensed with this proper preface, let me tell you how to spend what you’ve come into. And how to do it in such a way that Tim Boggan’s name will be remembered long after those other Boggans (I can’t think of their names just now) have been buried deep in the archives of the sport.
The idea whose time has come is defined by a charitable trust set up in much the same way as a spendthrift trust. Gusikoff [unable to pay the prize winners at his ’77 U.S. Open because ‘I ran out of money’] can probably detail the deplorable limitations such an arrangement can conflict upon the GNP. On the other hand, it ensures that the income stream never dries up; it is perpetual. Year after year after year the cash creek will steadily flow unimpeded by the likes of a Sol Schiff or a Bill Haid or any other sonovabitch on the EC who recognizes the direct relation between spending authority and political power.
By the terms of the trust, its corpus, or principal, could never decrease, only increase at a rate comparable to the CPI. What remains after that, and administrative expenses, could be thrown to the jackals to be wasted however they see fit for a particular fiscal year based on the trust’s income for the prior year. In other words, make the goddam thing inpenetrable. The USOC’s legal counsel can fill in the details of this satanic scheme, probably at no expense to the USTTA.
By all means make Fred Danner the trustee. He is so fuckin’ honest, and knowledgeable, that it’s disgusting. And insist that the chairman of the USOC’s investment committee act as an advisory trustee and give some balance to the investment decisions. Since a trustee has serious responsibilities by law, Danner should be paid, preferably at a flat-rate not on a percentage basis.
I would personally ask that the trust investments be limited to very low-risk bonds and/or money-market instruments. Speculative risks connote a measure of greed that in the long run is unwise. Just for talking purposes, if the USTTA gets a lousy million bucks from this windfall, a net return at today’s rates ought to be in the neighborhood of $125,000 to $150,000 a year. That’s more than enough to finance the administrative staff and services, which is what the bottom-line objective of the trust should be limited to.
Twenty years from now, the table tennis world will look back upon this deed and light a votive candle for ol’ Timmy and his Solomon-like wisdom (you should pardon the alliteration). DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES PERMIT THE PRINCIPAL AMOUNT OF THIS ONCE IN A LIFETIME WINDFALL BE SQUANDERED. Like the patriot’s dream, your vision must see beyond the years, where alabaster cities gleam, and all that shit.
Best regards to you & family,
Paul [in script]”
Eventually Jimmy McClure will head a new USTTA Foundation* that will ensure that this money not be squandered. I didn’t know if McClure was the right guy to invest this money to our maximum advantage, but, as I knew him to be very conservative-minded and too proud not to be responsible, I felt sure that at least the principal would be safe under his guidance. My E.C. agreed.
However, it was my personal opinion that anyone who still thinks there’s going to be considerable progress or, m’god, maybe any progress at all in upgrading our sport to make it far more visible, able to attract new members, with just volunteer help is not being realistic. At our Dec., 1984 E.C. Meeting, we hired Henan Li Ai, at a salary of $18,000 a year, as our first National Coach, and Bob Tretheway**, at the same salary, as our National Program Director.
Since I don’t want to be merely a caretaker President, I intend to try new and different things, and am willing to risk failure—as in my ill-fated attempt , despite Barry Margolius’s help and the public support of at least 100 players, to start a decent club in New York City. Barry had outlined a plan in which: “the owner gets a tenant who will improve the area, keep a steady flow of pleasant activity going on, generate some rental income, and yet be easily and fairly quickly removed in case the opportunity arises for the landlord to lease the entire building.” But after we’d been on “hold,” our hope let go.
I like a contest, so, as I indicated in my February “Up Front” column in our National Publication SPIN, I authorized an “I Want to Spend Money!” contest. First prize: $200. Second prize: $125. Third Prize: $75. All the winners have to do is convince me of eight significant ways the E.C. can spend some of our windfall money.
Realize it’s not enough just to list the ways, I want for each of the eight suggestions a convincing argument (of at least a paragraph).
All entries must be postmarked by March 31, not April 1…just so no one will think this is a fool’s joke.
You still don’t believe I’m serious? You’re wrong—I think the E.C. is in great danger of not being innovative and I want to do something about it. Carl Danner, for one, knows I’m serious. Here’s what he has to say (SPIN, Apr., 1985, 3):
“Well, it seems that our new-found wealth is already burning a hole in the USTTA’s previously threadbare pockets. Not only has the president announced that he wants to spend it (‘we must spend money’) but in the interim he is willing to spend some on ideas about how to spend the rest. [Tim, though it may take him a little time, wants to spend all the windfall money?]
It seems to me that the EC has never had any difficulty in emptying our treasury of those revenues that came in [into our “threadbare pockets”?]. Rather we have had tremendous problems in trying to coordinate that spending of money and of people’s valuable volunteer efforts into coherent, purposeful programs that lead to some measurable progress. For example, you might wonder why our membership stands no higher today than it did in 1971, before the millions of dollars of free publicity from the China trip and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of USTTA spending since [out of our threadbare pockets].
[Carl glibly repeats what I’d taken him to task for in Vol. XII (see Chapter Six: Selected Notes)—that we’d “wasted” our opportunity for table tennis success after the visit of the Chinese team in 1972. What opportunity? What would Carl have done? How? I drew a parallel with the success of Tiger Woods and professional golf. Both prospered. But, as I’d referenced, the boom in everyday American golf that was expected to follow such publicity never did materialize—not even with the #1 professional player in the world bringing more and more attention to the sport. Moreover, such a champion/celebrity in our amateur-minded table tennis association we of course didn’t have, far from it.]
I stand for programs that will increase the membership by focusing on increasing participation in organized play at all levels. I also worry that a rush to spend money will give most of it to the people on whom the USTTA usually spends its funds—a small group of current top players and officials….” [Well, at least there, those we‘ve supported have repaid us with some successes.]
I might point out to Carl that at least 125 USTTA members, donating anywhere from $15 to $200 apiece (detailed list in SPIN, July-Aug., 1985, 29) will think it worthwhile to support Gus Kennedy’s request for funds to help our U.S. Team attend the 1985 Gothenburg World’s. Gus had written earlier (SPIN, Oct., 1984, 17), “Although the USTTA will receive a large sum of money from the successful 1984 Summer Olympic Games, those funds will not be received until next year and even then we won’t want to spend the necessary money until we begin receiving annual interest. Hopefully, this will be the last time we ask members for donations. In consideration for your support, several choices will likely be available to you. For example, you may be able to indicate which of the team members you’d like to have a meal with in order to learn a little more about them and offer them your personal support. We also want to allow you to have your photo taken with the individual players.”
Following the World’s, U.S. Juniors will be going to Europe for training and competition, but sufficient funds have been set aside for them.
In a Feb. 6 “Update” letter to the E.C., I suggested some things we might do for our Juniors. I was mindful of our USTTA Junior Membership—for a concerned Sue Butler had pointed out to me (SPIN, Mar., 1985, 6) the following Aug., 1983 facts that had been available to the USTTA and its Executive Director: “First, concerning the girls: Only one state in the U.S. (CA) had more than 10 USTTA members; and only eight states had 5 or more. This meant that in 42 states you couldn’t find, literally, maybe more than a handful of girls who were very serious about playing. Also, in 30 states, you couldn’t hold, never mind an age event at a tournament, you couldn’t hold a single match because you didn’t have even two players to play.
Now the boys (while they’d last?): Only 13 states in the U.S. had more than 10 USTTA members. More than half of all the boys who were members were clustered in just 7 states (CA, OK, MI, IN, PA, NJ, and NY). In 27 states you couldn’t find, literally, maybe more than a handful of boys who were very serious about playing. Also, in 19 states, you couldn’t hold, never mind an age event at a tournament, you couldn’t hold a single match because you didn’t have even two players to play.”
Starkly put, this was the stop-the-bleeding problem Bob Tretheway faced when, a little more than a year later, he was hired by my administration to start getting new USTTA members—especially junior members—and get them quick. Yeah, yeah, I know…sounds like he was supposed to pick up a phone and order half a dozen hundred.
According to the latest (Feb. 1, 1985) information I have from Rating Chair Dan Simon, 507 juniors—428 boys and 70 girls—are bona fide USTTA members. The breakdown by region is as follows:
Region Boys Girls Total
Northwest 19 3 22
Pacific 47 19 66
North Central 1 1 2
Great Plains 50 6 56
Midwest 126 31 157
Eastern 153 17 170
Southern 32 2 34
Total 428 79 507
According to our Headquarters in Colorado Springs, the latest (February 23, 1985) information I have shows a 3-week increase:
Region Total (Boys/Girls)
North Central 2
Great Plains 60
As for Adults, well, we have about 600 Life members, many of whom have long been inactive (or dead); another 30 or so are Honorary members; also, we have more than 100 Family memberships; and hundreds more members who renew without ever going to a tournament. Factually, 3,903 different adults have appeared on Simon’s rating lists since Jan. 1, 1984. But since 1,180 of these played on playing permits, this means that for the last 13 months only 2,723 Adult members have played in tournaments.
What, I keep asking myself, is the Association? What do its members, its clubs want, have a right to expect?
Sanctioned tournaments, player ratings, SPIN?
Do we build up the Association through the kind of 200 more or less shaky, limited-member “clubs” that have been, as it were, storm-tossed round the country? If so, how? What can I, my E.C., offer these clubs? Allow them to retain not 15% but 50% or even 100% of all first-time memberships they bring in?
Do we, in an effort to recruit junior members, charge them just $1 to join the Association? Ought we to continue working with the very youth-oriented organizations that have what many think is a hopelessly debilitating Ping-Pong “rec” image of us? Boy/Girl Scouts/Cub Scouts, for example, do we really expect many sustainable USTTA members to come from their ranks? And in the schools, who, even with Tretheway’s help, is going to institute third through sixth-grade programs, and where?
Do we, in an effort to change to a more socially acceptable table tennis image, have to try an elitist tennis, squash, racquetball approach? (Last Sunday I visited the NYC Uptown Squash Club—five floors, a bar/restaurant). Are we then to work toward organizing table tennis into newly-built or expensively-rented clubs of our own, or tennis clubs, or resort hotels (where demographics show guests are more interested in table tennis than tennis)? And so draw spectators—would we? And get TV promotion? And TV spectators?
To me, and a number of others concerned with creating a market for our Sport, coming up with the numbers we all want but that, as everyone can see, we don’t begin to have, we must not continue as in a dream looking to people inside the sport, who it’s alleged haven’t the minds, or at least the needed experience, to help us. Instead, particularly in the area of public relations, we must go to outside professionals, turn the Game, or part of it anyway, over to them, be prepared to pay real money for their help.
At our Dec., 1984 E.C. meeting we opted for a marketing assist from Joseph Potocki and Associates, a Newport Beach, CA firm, that’s been of help to other Olympic sports. However, we’ve not given JP & A any unreasonable exclusivity, so our Fund-Raising Chairman Jay Harris and others can continue to try to find specific-project sponsors.
On January 31st, I wrote this letter (below) to Tony Andria of Nabisco (copy to E.C. members and others). Since it was outrageously late in getting to Nabisco, probably now nothing will come of it. Still, I felt I had to write it. I was at fault in that I shouldn’t have waited for Jay Harris, our Fund-Raising/TV Chair, to write this letter, though he had made the original connection (hopefully there’d be a commission in it for him), and had arranged our meeting with the Nabisco contact months ago in New York. Jay had other things to do (I shouldn’t have let him slide away from this Nabisco responsibility), and when he finally got the time to write, I think we both realized that, though this was his baby, so to speak, he was really not the best one to write the letter (and, since I’d been at the New York meeting with Jay, I felt it my duty to take over in his stead—though I wasn’t experienced at writing such a letter either). Amateurs we were in this—as one reader, Bob Tretheway, in his interpolations correctly implied. I’ve italicized his comments, which I welcomed, in my letter to Andria that follows:
“Dear Mr. Andria:
Since Jay Harris and I spoke briefly with you in New York this fall, we’ve been busily involved in a number of day-to-day table tennis activities—not the least of which are encouraging some more “Ping-Pong Diplomacy’ with the Chinese (they’ll probably be at our U.S. Open in Miami in July); beginning preparations this new quadrennial for our Olympic debut in Seoul; and, as usual, running our U.S. National Championships in Las Vegas (my son, Eric, again won the Men’s Singles).
Jay and I now have a specific suggestion as to how Nabisco and the USTTA might be able to work together—but first, as you requested, some clarifying background on our sport. [Tretheway notes that “You should not have approached Nabisco the first time without a specific project. As for table tennis background, you should be giving them demographics—who are the people who play our sport (men, women, juniors)? what kind of household income have they? what sort of market do they provide for Nabisco products…?” Would our answers to these questions have been helpful to us?]
In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that over 20,000,000 people play table tennis. The game is played by young and old in homes, offices, schools, and rec areas. However, since of these 20,000,000 enthusiasts, only 5,000 are members of the tournament-minded USTTA, our goal, under my new administration, is to increase dramatically the membership—especially the junior membership—of our Association.
Worldwide, the U.S., a member of the roughly 140-nation International Table Tennis Federation [“This means little to them”] is ranked 13th among the Men’s teams and 20th among the Women’s teams. Eric Boggan, our #1 player, is World #20 (behind eight Chinese and four Swedes). Quite clearly, if we are to climb up in the Rankings, challenge the Chinese and the Swedes, we will need to attract more and more young players sufficiently dedicated and sufficiently trained to compete.
This year, for the first time [“What about last year?”], the USTTA will be holding special junior training camps under the supervision of the best Chinese coach we’ve been able to hire at both our Colorado Springs and Lake Placid Olympic sites.
Also, this year for the first time we will be working to establish junior training programs in various pockets of the country—Sacramento, Oklahoma City, and Indianapolis. Experienced club managers and coaches will be paid so as to better organize clinics, leagues, and tournaments with the aim of recruiting new USTTA junior members. [“This maybe should have been the ONE project presented to Nabisco. Could still be?”]
One new project we’re very hopeful about—and here we’d really like the help of Nabisco—is our (first time ever in the 50-year history of the USTTA) separate National Junior Championships that, following preliminary qualification play, will be held in July at Lake Placid. If, however, we’re to make this tournament the nationwide success we want it to be, we need total Regional representation at the Lake Placid finals. That means boys and girls from all of our seven regions competing in five categories: Under 17, Under 15, Under 13, Under 11, and Under 9—70 final qualifying players in all. [It wasn’t accurate to say that U-17…U-9 sets of players from all seven regions would qualify (the North Central section had only 2 USTTA juniors all told), and that 70 was just a number. I assume I felt I had to be specific (changes would come).]
Our problem [“We should address Nabisco’s opportunities, not our problems”] is not in running the qualifying tournaments at the seven Regional sites—we have volunteers who’ll do this. Nor is our problem housing and feeding the final qualifiers who come to Lake Placid—for at this Olympic site all room and board charges for the players are borne by the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Our problem is, in bringing these qualifiers from all over the country to Lake Placid, paying their transportation costs. As it stands now, we just can’t afford to do this, and so may have to settle for something less ideal, less democratic. However, we are hoping that Nabisco—if they’d like to be identified with an Olympic sport and especially with junior play all around the country [these are Nabisco’s opportunities?]—might want to get behind this first Annual National Championship as an initial sponsor. [“Their first response should be that we are starting this project too late. We should be planning for 1986.”]
It could be an absolutely great tournament—one that would bring out many new young players and their families, one that would give table tennis the visibility we’re looking for toward Seoul in 1988.
If Nabisco is at all interested in talking about sponsorship of this program, I’d naturally be happy to follow up with more information at a meeting at your earliest convenience.”
Tim Boggan (script)
[“What a great product for Potocki to sell.” Oh, Oh, I want to support our Fund-Raising Chair Jay Harris if he can do the job, but I don’t want him to get in Tretheway or Potocki’s way.]
Might a Tretheway-Potocki-Nabisco avenue have been established?
A moot point, for, as I’d have to state in my March “Up Front” column, “Because of at-the-moment difficult-to-solve problems connected with running a separate 1985 National Junior Championship at Lake Placid [and specifically what problems were those?], the E.C. had decided to abandon that Championship until next year and concentrate instead on intensifying its support for the AAU National Junior Olympics.” Thus, this year the Junior Olympic Champions will be considered the U.S. National Champions. [Dick and Sue Butler, it would turn out, had other plans.]
Beginning May 1, 1985, the E.C. will allow any Junior (Under 17) to purchase a USTTA membership, including a year’s subscription to SPIN, for $5.00. And in an effort to make this ’85 National Junior Olympics the best Junior tournament our country has ever seen, the USTTA will now waive all sanctions and rating fees for tournaments everywhere in the U.S. that exclusively involve Junior Olympic qualifiers in Junior Olympic events. Moreover, any junior who participates in this year’s Junior Olympics ($3 AAU fee required) and is NOT already a USTTA member will receive a free USTTA Junior membership with SPIN.
Of course, Henan Li Ai will be very important to our juniors. In an article “Focus on Coaching” (SPIN, Mar., 1985, 12), we learn what Li and her husband Liguo have themselves learned about coaching:
“…As the first full-time USTTA coach, Henan feels greatly honored. At the same time, she also feels kind of ‘lonely.’ In China, she had more than 2,000 other full-time table tennis coaches to cooperate and compete with. In China, if you are good, you get to continue your job. If you are very good, you get more pay (according to whether you produce a world champion, national champion, or if your pupils have been chosen for the national team or a province team, and so on). If you are no good, then someone will replace you. This stimulates everyone to work hard.
In the last seven years before she left China, Henan was the head coach of the Chinese National Youth Team. She never lacked good juniors to choose from as there are thousands of them in the country. But she did have the constant problem of refusing most local coaches’ recommendations. She had to be very careful, very fair, not only to make a successful team, but to protect her own reputation….
Ideally, American table tennis should first have good coaches, then it can produce good players. It doesn’t necessarily work the other way. For example, a world champion is not necessarily a good coach, although he/she definitely has an advantage. That’s why Chinese world champions like Guo Yuehua, Liang Geliang, and Zhang Li cannot be qualified coaches unless they study in a sports college for at least two years and practice coaching until they pass all examinations, which they are doing right now.*** On the other hand, a relatively poor player can be a good coach if he is smart enough and works hard enough.
Coaching is an entirely different job than playing. It requires more experience, more knowledge, and more research. It’s very important not to equate the two disciplines. Otherwise, world champions would be content with what they’ve done as players and when they become coaches they would teach their players to do exactly as they did. The results likely would not be good. Why? Because the game changes (what was good before might not be good anymore), and because people play differently (what’s good for one may not be good for others).
Playing and coaching also need to be recognized as distinctly different or else people who are not any kind of champion, but are interested in coaching, would have no chance to succeed. In the U.S. we haven’t many world-class players yet, so we certainly want to have many more coaches who will at least try to produce such players.****
We have met a lot of coaches around the country. They are intelligent and some of them are willing to devote their lives to table tennis. But they are not well informed, are in fact far behind world experts. Too often, for example, they have little idea of what is involved in serious training. This is not their fault. They’re victims of circumstance. They have their job, have to work to make a living, so they can’t put too much time and money into learning how to be a good coach without being paid. True, coaching might be fun, but we doubt anybody would do such serious, demanding work for long, just for fun. [My feeling here and elsewhere in this article is that Henan is indirectly laying the groundwork for a raise in her salary in the not too distant future. If there’s money to be had, understandably everyone wants some.]
Still, American table tennis needs both ‘for fun’ coaches and professional coaches. The latter may grow from the former and help the former to have even more fun. Only the USTTA can further this growth process.
From our English lessons, we’ve learned that Americans often say, ‘The best way to learn something is to do it. That’s true everywhere. You want to be a coach? Do it now. Your certificate is important, but you can’t count on it forever. That paperwork (which everyone has to start with) can’t ever be compared with the actual varied experience you’ll get in the field. That keeps changing, while your certificate stays the same.
So far, the technique sessions of each USTTA Coaches Camp have been conducted by Henan and yet in some way each of these sessions has been different—just as individuals are different. Remember, as a coach, you are going to work with people as doctors and lawyers do. Any little bit of knowledge you have, like the right pill or the right precedent in law, must be used correctly in a given situation, and the only way for you to acquire this special ability is to practice your craft (coaching) properly.
If you are conscientious, you have every reason to expect the USTTA to help you lead your players in the right direction. In return, you’ll help the USTTA by producing good players. The better job you do in your coaching, the more help you deserve from the USTTA—perhaps even a trip to the World’s as Chinese coaches receive as a reward.
Each table tennis activity is a mountain stream. The USTTA should have the power to unite the streams to form a strong river carrying us forward. Money, if wisely used, generates lasting power. Why don’t we put some of our Olympic windfall into coaching, into transforming streams into rivers? It would be a creative investment in the future of American table tennis.
We can continue our Coaches Camps; we can send out national coaches to different areas to help local coaching programs; we can have experts doing research work and answering any questions any coach may ask by exchanging letters and video tapes; and we can put interesting coaching articles in SPIN.
On September 1, 1985 [advanced to August 15], the USTTA expects to start its first Resident Training Program at Colorado Springs. This is a great step toward modernizing American table tennis. It is also a great challenge for Henan the coach. But she is confident, determined to make the program successful. She wants all you local coaches, parents, school teachers, and club officers to recommend more and more good players for her to choose from to train. In a few years she’ll probably be able to send you back a world star or stars. Come on, let’s all work together.”
In a Resident Training Program article (SPIN, Apr., 1984, 4), editor Tom Wintrich opens with the following note: “It was announced by Bob Tretheway at the recent March EC meeting in Colorado Springs that the USTTA’s proposal for a Resident Training Program had been fully approved by the Olympic Training Center. Tretheway took the RTP concept one step further in his negotiations with the OTC and has secured for the program the exclusive use of a facility that will become a full-time National Training Center. Table tennis will be in the Berlin building, the same site the Pan American table tennis team trained in and the former site of the U.S. national women’s volleyball team.”
The article itself then follows:
“There are two overall objectives of the USTTA’s new resident training program (RTP). First, it is intended to aid in the competitive and personal growth of table tennis athletes. Second, it is designed to enhance the development of the best possible teams for international competition.
The program will better enable the U.S. to have an Olympic team in 1988 that can compete more equally with those teams from government-supported programs. The intent is not to develop an elite group or program [no Olympic medals to be won in this sport] but to help American table tennis athletes become better.
The RTP will begin August 15, 1985 and continue through June 15, 1986. The Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center will be the site of the camp.
Athletes will be selected by a special committee, subject to the approval and recommendations of the USTTA EC. Henan Li Ai, USTTA National Coach, will be directing the athletes’ training. In addition to Henan, there will also be a resident camp manager and a sports psychologist.
The USTTA will have exclusive use of its own gymnasium that features excellent lighting, hardwood floor, and exercise room. In addition, athletes will have access to all other training center facilities, such as the weight room and sports medicine.
The RTP selection committee consists of Bob Tretheway, National Program Director, Sheila O’Dougherty, Athletes’ Advisory Committee Chairwoman*****, and Henan Li Ai. Participants must be a USTTA member in good standing, must be eligible for U.S. citizenship prior to the ending of the Olympic quadrennial he or she is training in, and must be a tournament- active player. An emphasis will be placed on developing junior players 17 years old and younger.
Participants will receive at no cost: room and board, dental care, sports-injury treatment, vision care, nutritional guidance, periodic physiological evaluations, professional counseling, and resident status for attending junior high and high school.
Participants and or their families are responsible for: completing all registration forms and returning them to USTTA Headquarters before the athlete’s arrival; documentation of school records if planning on attending school in Colorado; documentation of athlete’s health and accident-insurance coverage; travel to and from the Olympic Training Center; attending all training sessions and meetings; attending school if not graduated from high school or working toward a GED; adhering to the USTTA code of conduct; providing own spending money; and providing own travel money and fees for outside tournament play.
Any USTTA member is invited to apply for consideration as a participant in the RTP. For additional information, contact Bob Tretheway, USTTA, 1750 E. Boulder St., Colorado Springs, CO 80909. Phone: (303) 632-5551—extension 3286.”
Think you’re going to hear more about coaching from Colorado Springs?
*This new Foundation McClure heads is not to be confused with the established but unproductive one the USTTA already has. Back in 1974, the National Junior Table Tennis Foundation was formed with Warren Rasmussen as President and Fred Danner as Treasurer (by 1982 Danner will be the Secretary and Dave Cox the Treasurer). At the onset of 1984, a troublesome development comes to light. On Feb. 10, 1984, a woman named Barbara Kuhns, with the title of “Director of Development” for the National Table Tennis Foundation, writes to USTTA Clubs/Affiliates Chairman Richard Feuerstein. I note on my copy that she writes on stationary that retains a school logo but that has as its heading NOT the “National Junior Table Tennis Foundation” but the “National Table Tennis Foundation.”
Turns out that, thanks to a grant from Mega Sport (representing the Spalding Table Tennis line), and the support of Rasmussen’s friend, USTTA President Sol Schiff, the National Table Tennis Foundation is setting up “a new National Headquarters, a National Tournament Center, to include services to all tournament directors and offering them pre and post tournament publicity.” Ms. Kuhns wants a list of all USTTA clubs and wants us to keep her updated on them.
On Apr. 9, 1984 Treasurer Cox writes Rasmussen with concerns:
“First, I do not believe the Foundation should get involved in any activity which might duplicate or compete with services provided by the USTTA. And, second, I think we must be careful not to endanger the tax-exempt status of the Foundation by undertaking any activity outside of the educational scope of the charter. An expert opinion on this matter would be very desirable.
In this general context I think it would be a good idea at this point for you to write to all the trustees describing recent developments and your future plans. I am sure that everyone will agree that a National Headquarters financed by outside grants is a very positive step forward, and it would be nice for everyone to be aware of this and have the opportunity to make suggestions.
Please, would you let Fred Danner and myself have copies of any written agreements with Mega, Keystone, or Ms. Kuhns for the records, and please also send me any invoices, receipts, etc. for the expenditures incurred so far. I’m afraid I haven’t been very conscientious about producing annual statements and getting the books audited….”
Rasmussen replies in an Apr. 13 letter:
“…I have enclosed a number of checks which are contributions collected by Richard DeWitt and Ricky Bowling, two juniors from Connecticut. The money raised was used to help fund further education for them in table tennis in Sweden….
The mailing lists being compiled by the NTTF are in only a small way related to the USTTA lists and reflect a much larger population of table tennis players who are not connected with the USTTA. It is my hope that some of these players, as they become aware of both the NTTF and the USTTA, will wish to become subscribers to our Newsletter and members of the USTTA. In addition to lists of players, we are also compiling lists of schools that currently have table tennis programs, lists of individual contributors to the NTTF, and lists of other Foundations that may be possible sources of funds for the NTTF.
I feel the reaction of some people in the USTTA to our offer to make some of these lists available to tournament directors represents a form of narrow-minded and parochial thinking that has severely limited the public’s awareness of table tennis as a sport in this country. It is the NTTF’s purpose to educate the public about table tennis, and everything we have been doing has been consistent with this purpose. The fact that we have gone far beyond the meager scope of the USTTA’s membership list has not been lost on our corporate sponsors. If the National Table Tennis Foundation is to live up to its charter then we must do the things that must be done, and not be bound by the self-imposed limited thinking that has caused the problems we are all hoping to correct. In order to reassure everyone, I will be contacting both a top-notch accounting firm and the Foundation Center in New York to get their opinion as to whether our programs are properly structured with regard to our status with the IRS and the US Post Office. I will pass along this information as it becomes available.”
Cox responds to Rasmussen on Apr. 19: “...You mentioned in your [Apr. 13] letter that you had enclosed a number of checks for contributions made for Richard DeWitt and Ricky Bowling. However, they were not in fact enclosed. So perhaps you could arrange for them to be sent as soon as possible, since we might as well deposit them and collect the interest.
I would appreciate getting an opinion about the status of the Foundation. I have just received a copy of the original charter from Fred, and it seems to be fairly restrictive as it stands….
PS. I managed to find a blank of one of the forms Fred always uses for expense. I think it would be a good idea to use this, so I made a few copies for you and also copies of the standard Thank You note.”
Here’s what I myself wrote to Warren:
“Earlier I’d asked Dave Cox, Treasurer of your National Table Tennis Federation (NTTF), formerly National Junior Table Tennis Federation, to see if he couldn’t fill me in on some particulars of your organization. This he wasn’t successful in doing though, since he really hasn’t gotten much info from you over the years.
We in the present management of the USTTA are concerned about what looks to be like your Foundation’s would-be attempts to establish a rival association to the USTTA. We don’t want that even to begin to happen, and we want to make sure, if need be, that Mega Sports/Spalding understands that the ITTF recognizes only one governing body in U.S. Table Tennis—the USTTA.
We on the E.C. would like to know just what, if anything, your Foundation has done, is doing, or will be doing (two of New England’s most promising girls, Rebecca Martin and Marta Zurowski, sure could use some help). We’d like to know if anybody other than yourself knows what the Foundation is doing, especially with Mega Sports/Spalding.
I’d heard that you’d received $5,000 for a North American Championship but that you couldn’t find a place to hold it, or anyone to run it. Is that possible?
If you want any USTTA cooperation…we on the E.C. would certainly like some communication from you.”
No surprise that my July 26 letter to Rasmussen went unanswered and so ended the correspondence I have on this matter, and no surprise later that a new President—Dan Simon—would be named. I repeat, though, that this is not the Foundation that has our Olympic windfall money. At the moment it’s not clear just what the NTTF can do for us. Later, Bob Tretheway will suggest that if Simon’s Foundation can provide transportation for the qualified ACU-I men and women students, the finals could be held at the Olympic Training Center at Colorado Springs.
**In deciding to hire Tretheway, the E.C. might have been influenced by this Sept. 13, 1984 letter they received from Norm Silver who I couldn’t help but recall sure didn’t want me (“I say, ‘Goodbye, Mr. Boggan’”) to continue as Topics Editor (Vol. XII, 1983, 216-217):
“Allow me to introduce myself. Norman Silver is my name and I am a Life member of the USTTA. I am a friend, confidant, and sounding board for Bob Tretheway. Although a friend, I remain objective in my dealings with Bob. I have known him since his coming to Colorado Springs more than a year ago.
Bob Tretheway has great talent. His ability to think through new ventures can be compared to a successful salesman’s preparation before presentation. He spends many more hours than just 8 each day thinking, discussing, and advancing ideas for table tennis, both on a local level as well as on a national scale. Bob and I agree on the future of table tennis, and the development lies in getting thousands if not millions of children to try our sport…on a serious level, not as a parlor game but rather as an Olympic entity. We all know future elite players will be more highly developed when they come from a players’ base that is ever expanding, and the skill level will be much higher than today’s America’s best.
Not only is Bob Tretheway sincere in his efforts to advance table tennis, he is constantly putting forth methods of accomplishing it. I can understand your skepticism when viewing the past, having seen the USTTA operate over the last 30+ years, mostly in a very negative way. Now we have the opportunity for the first time to get a man young enough, experienced in life, able—more than able enough, enthusiastic enough—and with the desire to want table tennis to grow into the nation’s number one recreation.
The USTTA does not need a name or important individual as its executive head. We need a man who has the desire, know how, and ability to succeed in making table tennis a top sport. Allow Bob Tretheway to do for the USTTA what no one before him has done. Have the courage to do what table tennis has needed from its infancy in this country. Vote with Bob Tretheway! Your foresight will be rewarded and blessed by us all. [Vote with Bob? For who? Does everyone know who Bob’s voting for? Or is it, Never mind who’s running for E.C. office—your best vote, whether Bob wants to run for office or not, is to give him a position of authority now and help him to do what he wants to do.]
***Zhang Li was on the Chinese World Championship Women’s Team in 1975/1977/1979, and in 1975/1977 was World Women’s Singles finalist to North Korea’s Pak Yung Sun. Ai Liguo (Table Tennis World, #1, 1982) tells us that after the 1979 Pyongyang World’s (in which she’d won the Women’s Doubles) Zhang Li, “then 27, turned to coaching. During the next two years she worked hard helping to bring up a number of young players…until in 1981 “she was staying in the training camp with the Chinese World Team members even while pregnant with daughter Nan.” Are we really to believe she can’t be a qualified coach in China unless “she studies in a sports college for at least two years and practices coaching until she can pass an examination which she’s in the process of doing now [in 1985]”?
Well, er, Yes. For after she and her celebrated star-player husband Li Zhenshi and her daughter Nan moved in 1991 to the U.S., to Colorado Springs where she became Assistant Coach of the Resident Training Program and the USTTA published some stats on her, we learn that in 1986 she did indeed graduate from the Beijing Physical Culture and Sports Institute. Where, could we say, her correct studies there helped her once wee babe, Nan, not only to become the U.S. Girls U-14, U-16, U-18 Champion, but eventually a coach herself?
****In 1982, with C.F.Liu’s help, the Chinese agreed to break precedent and send a professional Chinese Coach to this country. Price tag for Temporary U.S. National Coach Wang Fuzheng: $8,000 for six months. Larry Thoman, then National Coaching Chair, describes (Vol. XI, p. 433) how disappointing this arrangement turned out to be. In part because Wang didn’t speak English and so in conducting his coaching camps or visiting the relatively few clubs that he did, he had to have a paid interpreter with him. Also, said Larry, “I was forever in doubt as to whether the project was going to continue or whether it would be stopped. In-fighting among various members of the E.C. and the Committees was atrocious.”
As for poor C.F. Liu (see his Nov. 19, 1982 letter to the E.C. and his subsequent follow-up letter to them), first, he advanced not just pocket money but money for living expenses to Coach Wang that was supposed to be repaid to him by the USTTA, but wasn’t. Then, when Coach Wang’s interpreter was about to leave the U.S. and “the USTTA had not paid him for service rendered and expenses incurred,” Liu, after getting clearance from both President Sol Schiff and Executive Vice-President Gus Kennedy, paid the interpreter what was owed him. But after Treasurer Lyle Thiem issued the requisite check to C.F., Schiff put a hold on it, and demanded all kinds of financial details connected with Coach Wang which very much puzzled and angered Liu. Whether he ever got reimbursed, or brought legal action against the USTTA, I don’t know, have no record of. I do know, though, that this incident was the unpleasant end of Liu’s involvement with the USTTA.
Last summer in Beijing, after Sue Butler left that “Ping Pong Diplomacy” Dinner with CTTA President Xu Yinsheng, she had a talk with Qian Xiping, China Sports Service Co. representative, and (SPIN, Apr. 16, 1985, 16) got answers to questions she’d raised:
SUE: “When China’s players and coaches go to other countries to work, what kind of financial arrangements are made with the players?”
QIAN: “The China Sports Service Co. serves as business agents for any Chinese citizen representing any sport. We are a very large organization with a great many responsibilities. Any country wishing to employ a Chinese expert in any sport must work with us. We also arrange for any of the various exchanges and trips of teams and take care of the many details for competition outside of China. This is not to say that the various provinces cannot take care of such matters because they do. But the Sports Service handles all matters pertaining to national level personnel.”
SUE: “But how are the players/coaches paid when they are abroad? It’s my understanding everything they make goes to China.”
QIAN: “No, we aren’t that strict. The contract is negotiated and the player/coach is given [when?] the large part of the money. A small percentage is deducted for the Sports Service Registration fee and another percentage is deducted for the amount China has to pay to hire a replacement for the job that the player/coach leaves temporarily here in China. Also, while a person is employed internationally, he/she receives full salary.”
SUE: “That seems fair. It’s certainly not the slave labor situation I’d envisioned….
QIAN: “It is very difficult for my bosses to understand that although your country is very rich, your Association isn’t. In most countries, sports and government are entwined. Your situation is very foreign to us. Please understand that were we to send a player/coach to the U.S. we feel we must ask for $1,000 per month, plus room and board, health insurance, tournament playing opportunities for players, and of course round-trip air transportation.” [And were we to host China’s Men’s and Women’s teams to our U.S. Open, what would that cost?]
*****Sheila O’Dougherty, as USTTA Advisory Committee Chair, had urged players to respond to a questionnaire she’d sent out regarding rubber and table-top standards. On receiving a copy of this reply from Michigan’s Bill Rapp, one of the first sponge-rubber players in the country, I thought it striking enough to send to my E.C. and other interested parties. Here are Bill’s “Junk Rubber Comments”:
“…I personally consider table tennis a game of materials more than athletic ability, and as such it shouldn’t be in the Olympics. The way that materials can affect the outcome of table tennis matches is a disgrace to any athlete.
Now if the Olympic money can partially be spent to improve table tennis, I suggest the following be done. (Maybe the U.S. can take the world lead.)
One: employ an engineering research laboratory to help establish frictional standards on all new rubber-playing surfaces. The range now is from no-friction-Anti to Tackiness which will pick up the ball. This range should be tightened up to about 1/3 of what it is at present, toward the middle range.
Professional golfers are always putting on greens which have to meet rolling-resistance standards. If you can do something like this with grass, it should be easy to do with a manufactured product.
Two: establish table-top resistance standards. The table tennis ball-spin is supposed to work on the table and bounce according to the spin implied. However, many table tops when new have no resistance effect—they’re too slippery—so the ball always makes a no-action bounce.
Table tennis ball-bounce-heights-standards were established with the density of plywood many years ago. Cheap pressed-wood now used is harder than plywood, so the ball is probably bouncing higher than the standards established, and probably nobody checked that when the tables were USTTA approved.” [Rufford, Jimmy, anyone—any comments?]