Encouraging Participation and Young Talents Crowned at 2019 USA Hopes Week and Challenge

By Mike Lauro | May 08, 2019, 2:14 a.m. (ET)

From April 15-21, 2019 in Sacramento, California, the Sacramento International Table Tennis Association (SITTA, https://www.sittafit.com/) hosted the 2019 USATT Hopes Week Camp and Challenge.

The 2019 USATT Hopes Week Camp and Challenge marks a new chapter in the USATT Hopes Program, with this year’s event being the first ever national training camp and qualifying tournament for domestic Hopes players.  In previous years, the regional qualifiers advanced directly to the ITTF North American Hopes Week and Challenge event. This year, over 40 of the USA's most talented young athletes attending the USATT Hopes Week Camp and Challenge got the added benefit of 5 days of training and 2 days of matches in the qualifying tournament.  The competitive qualifying tournament on Saturday and Sunday gave players an opportunity to claim a spot at the 2019 ITTF North American Hopes Week and Challenge event in Florida from May 27 through June 2.

Hopes athletes who won first place in one of the 8 regional Hopes tournaments on the 2019 Hopes Tour automatically qualified for participation in the USATT Hopes Week camp and tournament.  Additional invitations were accepted by 8 other Hopes Girls and 14 Hopes Boys. A selected group of minicadets also attended as training partners during the camp. With over 13 states represented (CA, TX, PA, MD, NJ, NY, AR, MA, VA, GA, NC, WA, IL), the camp allowed players and coaches from across the country to come together for mutual love of table tennis and an opportunity for everyone to grow.

Hopes Girls Regional Qualifiers:

Natalie Chan (WCTTA), Amber Liu (AITTA), Daria Fahimi (LYTTC), Ava Sun (New Jersey), Amy Zhang (California), Alanis Hamilton (Rogers Activity Center), Michelle Kang (MDTTC), Rory Liu (Plano, Texas)

Hopes Boys Regional Qualifiers:

Darryl Tsao (ICC), Andrew Yang (AITTA), Xianyao He (TT America), Stanley Hsu (MDTTC), Jayden Diep (Alameda TTC), Aryan Jha (BTTA), Patryk Zyworonek (Experior TTC), David Qin (DFWTTC)

Players who received an invitation to attend the camp include:

Hopes Girls -  Mridula Anand (WCTTA), Isha Bajpai (WCTTA), Aishi Dassarma (LYTTC), Emily Goodwin (WCTTA), Kayla Goodwin (TT America), Amoolya Menon (Westchester TTC), Rachel Wang (Triangle TT), Ellie Yan (SPTTC).


Hopes Boys:  Andrew Cao (HITTA), Mu Du (MDTTC), Austin Gao (HITTA), Deniz Guney (LYTTC), Ryan Lee (MDTTC), Charles Shen (Topspin NJ), Daniel Tran (HITTA), James Zhang (MDTTC), Albert Yang (Topspin NJ), Andrew Zhou (San Diego), Andy Wang (HITTA), Michael Peng (TT America), Jadon Yuan (Plano, TX), Aditya Sareen (Princeton Pong LLC).

Minicadet Girls:  Ivy Liu (LYTTC) and Ann-Ping Shangguan (NJTTC)

Minicadet Boys:  Darius Fahimi (LYTTC) and Raghav Thiruvallur (ICC)

Seven USATT National-Level Coaches teamed up with the players for a week of intense physical and mental training.  The camp leader was USATT National Team Coach Pieke Franssen (Alameda TTC) who was assisted by six coaches: three from the USATT National Team Coach Development Group including Wang Qingliang (MDTTC), Wenting Zha (Champion Star International Academy), Yang Shigang (Atlanta International TTA), and three other National-level Coaches including Meng Lingshuai (Seattle Pacific TTC), Judy Hugh (Lily Yip TTC), and Mike Lauro (Arkansas TTA).

Coaches (from Left): Pieke Franssen, Meng Lingshuai, Mike Lauro, Judy Hugh, Wang Qingliang, Wenting Zha, Yang Shigang.

With each coach assigned to a group of tables, we were able to effectively coordinate the drills and demonstrations in a very efficient way to maximize training time involving 40+ players on 20+ tables.  The low player-to-coach ratio allowed the coaches to spend quality time with all of the players.

The first training session kicked off on Monday afternoon after players and coaches arrived.  The 3-hour session started off with introduction of players and coaches and an overview of the week of training ahead.  The remainder of the session followed the typical format that would be used during the daily training sessions.

The regular daily schedule started with everyone meeting in the hotel lobby at 7am for a short walk to the back parking lot where players greeted the morning with several laps around the hotel.  


After the morning jog, coaches led short physical exercises before everyone headed back to the hotel lobby for breakfast.  The Arden Star Hotel did an excellent job of making sure that there was plenty of seating and food for our large group each morning.

After breakfast, everyone carpooled at 8:30am to the Sacramento International Table Tennis Association located about 10-15 minutes from the hotel.  At 9:00 am each morning, we started with 20 minutes of physical warm up. After the physical warm up, players went through on-table warm up routines followed by a variety of training drills designed to improve many aspects of the players' abilities and to provide challenging, competitive, and fun practice.  There were a total of 10 training sessions during the week with most of them lasting for 3 hours.

[Video:  recorded video of physical warming up session from Day 3]


[Video:  livestream of training session from Day 4]


[Video: livestream of Day 2 practice matches, winners table, best of 5 from deuce]


Lunch and dinner were delivered to the training hall each day.  Players and coaches were able to relax and spend time together while enjoying Chinese or Italian food.  After lunch, everyone headed back to the hotel for a short afternoon rest to prepare for the afternoon training sessions.  After dinner, we carpooled back to the hotel to rest up for the next day. Bedtime was set at 10:00pm so that everyone could get much needed rest and recovery time.

On Wednesday evening, Coach Pieke guided the players through a 1-hour session focused on mental training.

In this session, players were given an opportunity to think about times when they get nervous and the better understand what makes them feel this way.

Applying a model from the behavioral sciences, players learned that certain situations can evoke an immediate thought, which in turn causes an emotion that leads to an automatic type of behavior.   Because players cannot necessarily control the situations, the emotions or the behaviors, they learned to focus on the thoughts they have in response to situations. By better controlling their thoughts, players can learn to use positive thoughts that will lead to positive emotions and behavior.  

One example can be seen when a player is losing in a match after the opponent has come from behind to take the lead. Coach Pieke reminded the players that in table tennis, they can win the match if they always win the next point.  Focusing on the next point and determining how to play in order to win the point will improve the chances of the player to be successful. Negative thoughts in response to situations can lead to negative emotions resulting in behavior that does not help the player achieve success.

After the week of training concluded on Friday, players prepared for the 2 days of tournament on Saturday and Saturday.

The qualification tournament consisted of 4 stages, designed to provide 3 first place finishers for both boys and girls. The winners in each of Stage 2, 3, and 4 would directly qualify themselves for the 2019 ITTF North American Hopes Week & Challenge in Florida. The first stage was a round robin event consisting of 4 groups of 4 players each in both genders. All 16 players in each gender category advanced to stage 2, a main draw of 16 players in single elimination format. The third stage was a main draw of 15 players in single elimination, with the first place finisher from the stage 2 removed.  Similarly, the fourth stage was a main draw of 14 players in single elimination with first place finishers from stages 2 and 3 sitting out because they had already qualified for the 2019 ITTF North American Hopes Week & Challenge Event.

Results of all stages can be seen on Omnipong here

Below are the list and photos of first place finishers who qualified for the 2019 ITTF North American Hopes Week & Challenge in Florida, including links to the livestreams of the tournament stages so you can watch or relive all the action!

Tournament 1 (Stage 2):

Winners:  Ava Sun (LYTTC) and Daniel Tran (HITTA)



Tournament 1 Live stream: https://www.facebook.com/arktta.org/videos/279664392921486/

Tournament 2 (Stage 3):

Winners:  Natalie Chan (WTTCA) and Darryl Tsao (ICC)

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2181897378513956&set=gm.617160715433460&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Tournament 2 Live stream: https://www.facebook.com/arktta.org/videos/2341101492842264/

Tournament 3 (Stage 4):

Winners:  Rachel Wang (Triangle) and Stanley Hsu (MDTTC)

Photo: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2182927185077642&set=gm.617529418729923&type=3&theater&ifg=1

Tournament 3 Live stream:  https://www.facebook.com/arktta.org/videos/2097925887173123/

Congratulations to the players who won the events and qualified for the ITTF North American Hopes Week and Challenge to be held later this month on May 27 through June 2 in Florida at Broward Table Tennis Club (https://www.2xtremepong.com).  This is a well deserved accomplishment!

We caught up with some of the players after the tournament for their impressions on the camp.

Rachel Wang (Cary, NC) replied, "Even though the camp was challenging and pretty tiring, it was still SUPER fun. It was one of the most exciting weeks of my life and that is because of the other 40 kind, funny, and energetic kids plus the 7 most helpful coaches there can be, including Mike, Pieke, Qingliang, Wenting, Judy, Shigang, and Lingshuai. Not only did I improve on my table tennis skills, but my leadership and teamwork got a lot better too. I’m so thankful for everyone at the camp and I’m looking forward to Florida."

Patryk Zyworonek (De Plaines, IL) exclaimed, "I loved this camp!  It was really hard and I really have to apply myself. I was tired at the end of the day but our coaches and all the kids made it fun.  It was my first camp and now I'm looking forward to the next one."

Alanis Hamilton (Bentonville, AR) reflected, "The Hopes Camp and Challenge was a great experience where I made a lot of new friends and received great training.  I am especially grateful and want to thank my friends and table tennis supporters who helped make attending this event possible."

We also owe a big thank you to the other coaches as all of us worked together to keep everything organized:  the training sessions, transportation between hotel and training hall, picking up the lunch and dinners, and looking out for the players during the camp.  Thanks to Vikash Sahu from Alameda Table Tennis Club for handling the tournament director duties and making sure everything stayed on track so the tournament could run smoothly.  I was honored to be able to serve as the tournament referee and to umpire the semifinals and finals of all of the events. Having a front row seat to watch these Hopes players compete at a high level with lots of spirit and energy was a rewarding experience I will remember for a long time.


We also specifically recognize the management and staff at the Sacramento International Table Tennis Association.  Owner Han VoQui and his family reserved their wonderful facility and welcomed us with open arms. They made sure the venue was in excellent condition each day, provided bottled water for all participants, and helped coordinate some of the food delivery.  On tournament days, they also worked with us to print everything we needed from the Omnipong software since we didn't have a printer. SITTA is a first class table tennis facility!

For more photos and videos on the 2019 Hopes Week, visit Mike Lauro's Google photo albums, James Goodwin's Google Drive photos, and USATT Facebook.  For live streams of all the tournament stages and some various training livestreams from the week, visit the Facebook page for Arkansas Table Tennis Academy by Mike Lauro.

Live stream of presentation of Certificates of Participation:  https://www.facebook.com/arktta.org/videos/1064467670390089/

Mike Lauro's Google photo albums:

Day 1+2 https://photos.app.goo.gl/P1vhjewFTnZXADVE7

Day 3 https://photos.app.goo.gl/23E8GENau6qbathY7

Day 4 https://photos.app.goo.gl/EF7m7Skxqh8rn9tR7

Day 5 https://photos.app.goo.gl/5hNfShHAPkYUickq9

Day 6 https://photos.app.goo.gl/i4qUBj8sD6CbPb1d8

Day 7 https://photos.app.goo.gl/29RMBPCajqvozkw17

James Goodwin's Google Drive photos: