Team and Singles Leagues, and the USATT League Committee
It's that time of year again - time to sign up for a Regional Team League! Oh, there isn't one in your area? Then why not set one up? Here is the USATT League Page, which links to the USATT League Prototype, which you can use as a starting model. (You don't have to be a member of USATT to play in such a league.). Here is a listing of Regional Team Leagues currently in operation – email me if I'm missing any.
- Austin Texas League
- Capital Area League (DC area)
- Chicago League
- Genesee Valley League (Rochester, NY)
- LA League
- Michigan League
Why are team leagues so important? It creates a different atmosphere than the "winner stay on" mentality so common in the U.S., fostering instead a "team" atmosphere, where you cheer for your team, and your team cheers for you. It's why European countries have table tennis memberships that dwarf USATT's, and why league-based sports have such large memberships. It's why the German Table Tennis Association has 600,000 members, the U.S. Tennis association has 700,000, and the U.S. Bowling Congress has over two million. USATT has about 8000.
But to quote from the USATT League page, "You don't play in a team league just so you can boost your association's membership; you do so because it's fun! You're pumped up because your teammates are cheering for you, you win and lose as a team, and when it's all done, you and your opponents go out for pizza."
One big difference in overseas leagues, however, is that in most of them, if you are a paid member of a regional team league, you automatically become a paid member of the national governing body, with each getting a share of the fees. That is the source of these huge overseas memberships. Unlike these leagues, USATT doesn't yet have team software to offer league directors, and without this to offer, it's hard to justify requiring USATT membership to play in such leagues.
And so, for now, USATT doesn't directly benefit from such leagues, though they do so indirectly from the increase in participation, which would likely lead to more serious players and therefore more USATT members. I hope league software can become a priority for USATT in the future, perhaps spearheaded by the League Committee. League software would automatically do scheduling, make entering results easy, present the results and standings, and optionally provide ratings.
Such software can be created by USATT, or leased from existing vendors, such as the league software developed by Pongmobile for the Capital Area League, which I can strongly recommend, or TableTennis365, used in England.
Why a Singles League? So you can put players in groups based on level, everyone gets to play competitive matches, and the matches can be rated!
- USATT Singles League - with league ratings. Since its beginning in 2003 to 2017 there have been 683,948 processed matches by 32,579 players in over 450 leagues (84 of them currently active). (I co-founded this with Robert Mayer back in 2003. In recent years he's been running it.) As of last fall, the Singles League has been integrated into USATT's Simply Compete membership portal. There have been some complications with this transition, but they are nearly all worked out now.
- USATT Rated Singles League - Coming Soon! For USATT members only, processed for USATT tournament ratings.
USATT League Committee
Now for a little history, and a call for help. When I ran for the USATT Board two years ago (a four-year term), one of the things I promised was to push for regional leagues. However, while they are among the most important things to the future of our sport, they are not what I personally wanted to work on. (I'm more into the coaching and writing side, and plan to get even more active in those areas.)
But someone had to do it, and USATT CEO Gordon Kaye convinced me to chair the committee. I agreed to do so, with the admonition that my primary task would be to create the much needed USATT League Prototype. How can we develop a nationwide network of regional leagues when every time someone wants to develop one, he has to start from scratch? It took a lot of work, as I studied successful leagues around the U.S., overseas, and in other sports, and used my own experience as co-founder of the Capital Area League.
It won't happen overnight. I co-founded the Maryland Table Tennis Center in 1992 and created the policies that made it the first truly successful full-time training center. Fifteen years later, circa 2007, there were only about eight such centers in the entire country - much like the current situation with team leagues, it hadn't yet taken off. Now there are nearly 90 of them. Similarly, I expect it'll take time for regional team leagues to take off - but eventually, they will, just as they did all over Europe. On the other hand, perhaps the future in the U.S. is in Singles Leagues - who knows. We should invest in both.
Now it's time for me to move on, and for someone else to take over. My two-year term is ending, and we're looking for a new chair. Are you ready to make a difference? Want to help develop the sport in this country? (Perhaps spearhead the acquisition of league software and incorporation of league members into USATT members?) This is your chance! If interested, contact USATT CEO Gordon Kaye, and CC me. Now's the time to get busy!