50-Day Countdown to Change in the ITTF's Presidency

By Sheri Cioroslan | July 13, 2014, 5 p.m. (ET)

The Countdown Has Reached Its Halfway Point!

“We are blessed to have such a talented, caring and unique table tennis family.”

Sheri Cioroslan and Adham ShararaExactly a week ago President Sharara kindly “hijacked” the Countdown and said some complimentary words about my efforts.  I really appreciate that.  A few days ago he asked me to express my feelings about the “daunting” Countdown now that we are at the halfway point.

First I’ll first share some more details about the genesis of the Countdown than I shared on Day 79.

I checked through my emails this morning and discovered that I proposed the 100-Day Countdown / P5 project to Adham on May 20: 

To address the dual goals of promotion and the last 100 days of your presidency, I am proposing a 100-day countdown, beginning May 24 of a series of mostly succinct posts, which I would like to do for USATT with copies to the ITTF, if you wish. 

I have made a list of about 60 items so far, including profiles of new people to ITTF leadership positions as well as a roundup of information about the previous presidents.  All with the common thread of counting down your last 100 days and placing everything in that context. 

The new media platform seems to favor "sound bites" as opposed to lengthy analytical pieces, so this is a good way to keep up the stream of info without exhausting anyone's interest. 

What I want to ask of you is to participate in some interview-style written questions and answers.  They will be very straightforward.  I have already written a lot of the questions.  Of course, you could also alter questions or add some.  This way there will be a record of your legacy and these postings will promote your accomplishments and thoughts at the same time. 

You will have 100% editorial review and approval pre-publication. 

My goal is to send the pieces in advance, which means probably submitting them in "packages" or bundles -- say, maybe a week's worth of mini-articles. 

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. 

On the following day, I sent this message to USATT’s Director of Communications, Sean O’Neill: “I am working on a 100-day countdown until the ITTF changes presidents….  That would mean starting May 24.  What do you think?  We can discuss.”

Then, on May 23, I wrote again to Adham, in part: “Just want to let you know that tomorrow begins the 100-day countdown.  As I mentioned earlier, I am planning on posting a series of articles and I hope that you will participate in some of them.  Please let me know your thoughts.”

On May 24, Adham replied: “I am in Singapore.  Will get back to you in a few days.  Please go ahead with the articles.  If you agree, I will ask Ian to post on our website.”

Then, on May 26, Adham wrote: “Hello from London.  I suggest you do 10 articles in all, one every 10 days.  This will have more impact.”

Obviously, everyone knows that I chose to ignore that advice and stayed the course I’d set from the beginning! 

So now for some reflections.

“Sound bites” went out the window in favor of lengthy analytical pieces within about a week.

It should be obvious by now that I already had a strong base of information as well as unpublished work and other copious notes that I could easily draw upon for many articles.  Because I had also previously researched and studied various bits of the ITTF’s archives, along the way I had often wondered how, in this digital age, the archiving of Adham Sharara’s presidency would be addressed.  So I thought an approach, such as the one I suggested, could establish a base of information for future researchers.

Having been heavily engaged internationally during the first half of his tenure (1999-2008), and having had various other roles before 1999 and after 2008, I also have known most of the people I would look to interview for quite a long time.  Based on the team dynamic of the ITTF and the quality of the individuals, I felt confident that the project would be well-received.  And it has been.  I am grateful that this idea and the collective efforts have been embraced.

With regard to the interviews, I do have a favorite question couplet, which almost everyone so far has answered.  It is how they were introduced to table tennis and what about our sport attracted them to see it as a part of their lifelong journey.  These answers build a “magnetic field of attraction” around us.  When we read about their journey, we feel a sense of belonging with them and, as the stories intersect and develop common threads, we see ourselves as part of the developing picture.  As Petra Sorling alluded to yesterday, we consider each other as being members of an extended family.

Moving on to the other questions and answers:  There is a saying that every good lawyer should know the answer to a question before asking it.  But I have another philosophy that I penned, I think, during my university years: “Speak and you will only know what you already know.  Listen and you will learn.”

Anyone who knows me might tell you that is another piece of advice I often ignore!

But, I assure everyone, although I frequently do have a very good idea of how someone will respond to a question, that is not always the case and it’s been a learning process.  So it’s been an interesting and “energy-giving” undertaking. 

The main pressure was that I activated the series at roughly the same time as I was working on it.  So, in the beginning, there was nothing in the “queue.”  A lot of the early articles were historical in nature, which made them very time consuming.  That made it difficult to get out questions to create a comfortable working margin.  That was daunting in some respects.

But I have tried not to view it as “daunting.”  If we want to achieve “TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO,” we have to BELIEVE in our destiny.  We have to be FEARLESS.  We have to TRUST.  We have to have FAITH in what we set out to do. 

I created a process.  I believe in the process.  And the process is working.  How?  I receive about one response each day.  That is exactly the pace I need to file one article, edit another, and request participation from others.   And, at the mid-point, it’s still working that way.  There’s no “stress” that there aren’t a bunch of articles in reserve.  There’s just belief, fearlessness, trust and faith.

A big thank you to everyone who has already been featured.  You have helped the Countdown evolve into a celebration of who we can “count on” in our sport.  Your extraordinary input, thoughtfulness, and spirit of giving have added a lot of texture and depth to the ITTF.  We are blessed to have such a talented, caring and unique table tennis family.  That is the primary fact I already knew and relied on to see the series through.  As a result, we are all getting to know and appreciate each other more. 

To reiterate, the “churning out” of articles (edits and filing) automatically puts a brake on how many requests I can get out simultaneously.  The main point is that there are many people who still haven’t been contacted, and I apologize for that.  I ask those of you in that category for your indulgence and patience!

An interesting FACT (see Day 52) is that so far this whole project has been done cost-free.  Not a cent has been spent!  I hope this inspires people to think about similar imaginative approaches to not only our opportunities, but also to our challenges and obstacles. 

I want to express my gratitude to President Sharara for assuming a workload that he wasn’t anticipating.  He initially welcomed the concept and, since then, he has fully supported the series.  He often offers wise advice and helpful suggestions.  He has left the creative process in my hands, but has freely collaborated. 

Similarly ITTF Publications Editor Ian Marshall has contributed contextual remarks as a preface to most Countdown articles at ittf.com.  And Sean O’Neill often posts on USATT’s Facebook page links to the Countdown articles, which are also featured at usatt.org. 

So, I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this process in one way or another, including a few people who have even forwarded stimulating and thought-provoking questions to ask others in interviews. 

Besides learning a lot about our colleagues and peers, I did not expect to laugh so hard at a number of unexpected responses.  Tomorrow the Countdown finishes off the “Blonde Trio,” as Adham dubbed the three-day run of Petra Sorling, myself, and Polona Cohovin Susin.  I hope Polona’s startling and humorous revelation of how chewing gum changed her life has tears rolling down your cheeks, as it did for me.

Enjoy the second half beginning tomorrow, dear readers! 

In the meanwhile, here is the reminder President Sharara posted last week:

Since I have received many requests to extend the deadline to submit proposals and ideas to the P5-DBI plan, as well as to register for the Human Resources Database of DBI, it is with great pleasure that I announce that the deadline has been extended for contributions to the P5 plan to 31 July 2014. This will be the last deadline for everyone for the first draft plan and priorities. However, the DBI system is an open system, and requests for ideas and proposals will be made by the ITTF on a yearly basis, so those that did not contribute this time will have the opportunity to contribute next time.

If you wish your input to be considered for the first draft plan, then send your ideas, proposals and suggestions to: dbip5@ittfmail.com

Do not forget to provide your educational and expertise background, as well as your area of interest within our sport and the ITTF.

Everyone has specials gifts and talents.  I encourage everyone to exhibit a spirit of helpfulness, camaraderie and commitment to achieve the goal of “TOP 5 IN ALL WE DO” because, as we all know, Table Tennis is the sport that changed the world.  If we all work together with a unified vision and common purpose, what we can accomplish together in the future is unlimited.