USA Table Tennis What's New Chairman's Blog

Chairman's Blog

By Michael Babuin, PhD, P.G. | June 21, 2013, 9 a.m. (ET)

Regarding our Tournaments - Part 1

Mike Babuin

The 2013 US Open and accompanying 2013 America’s Challenge World Tour event will be breaking all attendance records for a US Open Table Tennis Championship.  Counting both events, we have almost 1,200 participants – a new record. It’s gratifying to know that so many people enjoy the US Open as one of our premiere events. With almost 80 events offered there is always something for everyone. If you have never been to a US Open (or a US Nationals) I truly recommend it at least once in your life. It’s a lot of fun, and is something every USATT member should experience at least once (next year the Open is back in Grand Rapids, Michigan so make plans now! 

Currently USATT offers several marquee events – the two that are best known are the US Open and US National Championship. Currently the format for both of these events is similar – the biggest difference being the US Open is an open competition while the Nationals is a closed competition to US Citizens and other qualified participants1 

As a USATT member myself for decades, one thing is certain – if you ask 10 people what they would like to see at the Open or the Nationals – you will get 10 different answers. Currently, USATT recognizes that these two competitions are similar but strategically, should they be? 

Let’s look at the US Nationals

Many believe that the US Nationals should be ‘the tournament for the masses’ that offers many, many different age and rating events, many doubles events, and many ‘specialty’ events such as classic hardbat and classic sandpaper racket events. This is a thought process that wishes to reward as many people as possible for their efforts, accomplishments, and journey to Las Vegas. These proponents also believe that events that have only a handful of people are still valuable, essential, valid, and part of the great ambiance of a National Championship. After all, if you’re a member that is 75 years of age and wish to play in an over 75 doubles event but there are only 4 teams entered – so what? Should members that are interested in competing be penalized for a lower turnout? Of course not!  

The trick to making things work…is in the scheduling of the events; the number of available tables brought in, and the number of days which the tournament is offered (and the hours in a day that events are offered). It is conceivable that the current offering of almost 80 events could be doubled by offering rating events at lower thresholds – such as U1500, U1600, U1700 instead of (as an example) U1500, U1650, U1800. And what about doubles events…if you look at the current listings of double events they are all offered at the same time! Therefore, if you wish to sign-up for U4200 Doubles, U3700 Doubles, and U3200 Doubles you cant sign-up more than one of these events this year because they are all offered on the same time on the same day - which is a real shame because it reduces member participation opportunities and revenue for USATT!  Likewise, we currently have a cap of only (8) events that anyone can sign up for anything more than that is prohibited – that too is something that potentially could be looked at and expanded upon. 

Two separate problems exist with respect to these type of issues…on one hand the last thing that participants want to do is to pay a lot of money to fly out from their home, pay money at a hotel, then be strapped with walking around the playing hall for four days with only two events per day to play in… 

Example: If you enter an U1500 at 9am on Thursday and the over 30 Men’s Singles at 6:00pm on Thursday what are you supposed to do in the 9-hour stretch between events? There’s only so much gawking at the equipment vendors that one can possibly do! This especially resonates home if you enter a rr group of four and are eliminated straight-away. That’s 60 minutes of playing time and your done for one event. Again, what do you do the rest of the day? 

On the other hand, the tournament must be managed and run to minimize conflicts. What if we had a tournament that had no resolution conflicts to deal with! Wouldn’t that be a worthy goal? Having said that – kudo’s must go out to NATT for the amazing job that they do in minimizing this. There is no easy answer to the issues discussed above, and yet, NATT does an admirable job in designing and running our major events.  Is there room to change things, expand things, and reduce event conflicts – yes, of course there is – but it is not an easy task and it will take a team of savy tournament organizers and participants to come up with key suggestions and solutions that are workable. If any of you reading this are interested in helping provide positive input in the form of a task force to look at these issues feel free to let us know. 

Next week – Discussion on the US Open – Strategic Goals to Consider! 

1 = seek headquarters for more details.