USATT Super Camp - Day 7

By Videos/Images by Matt Hetherington & Story by Larry Hodges | July 17, 2016, 1:16 p.m. (ET)

USATT Super Camp - Day Seven by Larry Hodges

We’ve had sad farewells for the Week One coaches leaving us - Samson Dubina, Han Xiao, and Wang Qing “Leon” Liang, with Richard McAfee leaving on Monday night. But this morning we welcomed Sean O’Neill, with Dan Seemiller coming in tonight. Sean and Dan have each won five USA Men’s Singles titles - or as I put it to the kids, “Dan, Sean, and I have combined for ten Men’s Singles titles.” Lily Yip is also joining us, but she’s been here all along doing her own coaching here at the Lily Yip TTC. Sean and Lily give us two Olympians - and since about half the kids have put making the Olympics their primary goal, perhaps they’ll get some Olympic stories. They join Cory Eider and I for the second week. 

Today was an “off” day, with no table tennis training as they rested from a week of training and the tournament on Saturday. Instead, an even 30 of us made the trip to Lancaster, PA, 2.5 hours away, where Peter Scudner (chair of the USATT Board of Directors) and his son Evan Scudner, and the staff at the Triode Media Group, Ltd., gave the 23 kids a day of media practice. They did this for free - what would normally have cost many thousands of dollars. So a great thanks to them! These kids are elite up-and-coming players who may be looking for sponsors and get interviewed by the media - and now they are a lot more ready than before. 

We had two vans, a 15-passenger one we rented for the day (driven by Sean), and an eight-passenger one (driven by Cory), plus Arcot Naresh and I driving our cars. We left around 11:15 AM, with the various vehicles arriving between 1:30 and 2:00PM. There were many adventures along the way, in both directions, but we’ll stick to table tennis!

The kids were divided into three groups - roughly the 13 and over boys, the 12 and under boys, and the girls. They each spent up to an hour at each of three stations, which I will call the Sponsorship Talk, the Interview Room, and the Table Tennis Studio. 

The Sponsorship Talk was given by Sean O’Neill, who, besides coaching at the camp this week, is the USATT Director of Communications and Webmaster. He kept much of it interactive, asking questions to bring the kids into the discussion. Some of the main points - and it’s impossible to really condense an hour-long talk/discussion here, but I’ll try:
  • The four major media groups are TV, radio, newspaper, and social media. The kids guessed the first three, didn’t get the fourth. 
  • Why do companies sponsor players? Many players, including most of the kids here, thought it was to reward performance. As Sean pointed out, players are sponsored to help the company sell their product. It has to be a two-way thing - something for the player and something for the company. The best player often doesn’t get the best sponsorships; winning and losing isn’t as important as some think as companies would rather sponsor a player with a good attitude who is more saleable and willing to help promote their products while proudly wearing their uniforms and using their equipment. So players who wish to be sponsored need visibility and salability in order to be marketable. 
  • Do you have a story your sponsor can sell? For example, Sean gave the example of Dan Seemiller, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a baseball player - but chose table tennis instead. That’s a story! Everyone has a story; it’s just a matter of finding it. A good story sells products. 
  • You have to sell yourself if you want to get sponsored. Sean told the story of how he contacted the makers of Power Bars about his training and dreams of being an Olympian. They sent him thousands of bars!!! Since it was too many for him, he gave them out at a tournament. When the Power Bar company heard this, they sent him even more, with the idea being they’d hook all these people on Power Bars and sell more of them. 
  • When you lose a match, you can’t act like a turkey. It gets back to the sponsor. To reiterate, they want the guy with the great attitude, the one who, when he loses, does so graciously, complimenting his opponent for his play, not the one who whines and makes excuses. 
The second station was the Interview Room. The players stood in front of a white background with a microphone, and practiced introducing themselves on camera. A woman from Triode Media did the camera work while Peter Scudner coached the kids on their responses. The typical introduction was in this format: “I’m [NAME], I play at the [NAME OF CLUB], I’ve played [YEARS PLAYED], and my goal is to [GOAL - normally make Olympic Team, or USA or World Men’s Singles Champion. 

The third station was the Table Tennis Studio. They’d set up a table tennis court with great lighting, and huge cameras. Each player went up and would introduce themselves, explain a technique they were about to demonstrate, then demonstrate it (with USATT High Performance Director and 2013 USA Men’s Singles Finalist Cory Eider as playing partner and coach), and then look into the camera and say, “To learn more, go to USATT.org.” (I got to help out some in choosing some of the techniques to be covered and how to introduce them. We had to come up with 23 topics! All will go online sometime soon.) The kids had fun watching each other do their routines, and there will probably be a “bloopers” reel coming out along with the professional version. The kids explained and demoed essentially every major stroke and serve. 

Afterwards we all went to the Dragon Hibachi for dinner, and then came the 2.5 hour return trip. And then it was off to bed to rest of for another week of training!