Coach Li's Introduction and Acceptance speech

 

 

Good Evening and Thank you for giving me this great honor.  I was happily surprised when I first heard that I was to be inducted into the USATT Hall of Fame.

I came to the United States in 1983. Everything was new to me and I hardly spoke any English.  I am grateful to everyone who helped and encouraged me and my family as we started our lives in this great country.

Sue and Richard Butler were instrumental in helping us come to the U.S. and adapt to our new home.

Sue made travel arrangements for me to coach at clinics and training camps throughout the country.

Richard was always kind and supportive. He helped me with my English and gave me advice about life in America. He is greatly missed.

As the U.S. Team coach, I participated in quite a few international Games. With all the players’ trust, support and corporation we made some achievements. That gave me confidence and courage to work and live in this country.

As the number one women’s player, Insook Bhushan was an invaluable member of the U.S. Team. Her trust and collaboration (from the very beginning to the end) gave me strength and made for a positive dynamic.

When I arrived in the U.S. in 1983, Yim, Lisa and Diana Gee met me at the airport and gave me a warm welcome.  When I arrived at their house, Betty had a feast ready for us. The next day I started coaching Lisa and Diana.  The Gee’s hospitality helped me feel less anxious.

I wish to thank Tim Boggan, who was Chairman of USATT in 1984, and the entire USATT community for sponsoring the Resident Training Program at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs. Those years of working with the top juniors from all of the U.S. was a happy experience, and I felt useful and productive.

RTP athletes included Sean O’Neill, Diana Gee, Lisa Gee, Jimmy Butler, Todd Sweeris, Dhiren Narotam and my daughter Li along with the 80 kids Scott mentioned already. 

We were also lucky to have several assistant coaches throughout the years including Cheng Ying Hua, Xu Hua Zhang, and Jack Huang. I treasure those years working with all of them.

I’d like to pay tribute to Bob Tretheway. He had such enthusiasm for table tennis and provided great support for the RTP athletes. He put in much time and energy getting the RTP up and running smoothly. He was also a great English teacher. My dear friend Bob, thank you and I miss you.

As a long-time RTP manage, Larry Hodges was very helpful. He was devoted to the RTP kids, practicing with them and helping them with homework. These kids were young and far from home. His presence provided much need stability.

I have met so many wonderful people through table tennis, too many to name. I am grateful to all of them.

To tell you the truth, I felt lost when I first started coaching in the U.S. I was famous in China and had coached world champions. I thought I was doing great things by winning world titles and brining glory of China! I expected to do the same in the U.S.

However, in the U.S. all athletes are amateurs. There was no government sponsored teams or training programs. What can I do to produce world champions here?  How do I measure success?

In the U.S. table was a small sport and very few played competitively. The people I coached ranged from 4-years old to over 80. What was the point in coaching those who would never become world class athletes, nor desire to?

After many years living in the U.S., I finally realized something---something that I did not experience in China. People played the sport for fun. Table Tennis contributes to their health and happiness. So simple, yet essential! I realize that sheer joy is the greatest accomplishment and contribution one can make to others.

And US table tennis is lucky to have Scott Preiss as an ambassador. He is an entertaining showman and can always solicit oohs and ahhs from the audience.

Thank you for entrusting me with coaching the table tennis athletes of this country. Thank you for the Hall of Fame induction. I am humbled by this honor.

Last night I watched the junior finals at the convention center. I was totally amazed at the skill level and speed of play.  USA Table Tennis has a great future ahead and I wish them the best of luck!