RICHARD BUTLER

 Courtesy of Tim Boggan, USATT Historian

            Richard Butler, after wearing many hats, was inducted as a Contributor into the U.S. Table Tennis Hall of Fame in 2014. I’ll take up individually the sport’s activities we honor him for, but I need tell  you that in real life he was an equally productive fellow. For 37 years (1962-2008) he was a very successful instrumental music teacher and Band Director at various schools, but most prominently at the Iowa City, Iowa  High School. 

Dick as Father of Champions

            Dick and his wife Sue, also very involved in table tennis, were long-time supporters of their two sons, Scott and Jimmy, and daughter, Andrea, all of whom Dick coached to prominence from a young age.

            Very briefly, some of their children’s major accomplishments:

            Jim (himself inducted into the U.S. Hall of Fame in 2011—see his Profile): USA Olympian, National Men’s Singles Champion, Pan Am Team member, USA Table Tennis Athlete of the Year….

            Scott:  Junior Olympic Champion, Pan Am Team member, National Men’s Doubles Champion, National Intercollegiate Champion….

            Andrea:  U.S. U-11, U-13, U-15 National Champion….

Two-time Olympian Jimmy Butler said, “My father has been the most influential person in my career. He created a base for me.” Here are a few instances of Dick’s beginning activities with sons Scott and Jimmy:

1978—Dick  has driven from Iowa City, Iowa with  Scott (10) and Jimmy (6), whom obviously he’s intent on making Champions of, to the Jan. 14th Michigan Open in Grand Rapids. When he and Scott were interviewed by an ABC TV crew, Dick was wearing a “Scott Butler’s Dad” shirt. Nor was mother Sue to be denied: she arranged a Swedish-American Exchange program with Angby Club mentor Nisse Sandberg, and first Scott then Jimmy went for training there just outside Stockholm.  A few years later, Sue chaperoned her boys and the best of their young rivals, including Sean O’Neill who’d grow up to precede Jimmy as National Men’s Champion, to China for training. Jimmy emphasized that both his parents gave him “every opportunity to improve. They are an embodiment of selfless love. I can never repay them.”

1979—Dick writes an article for the Association’s national magazine, “On Coaching Young Kids,” (Table Tennis Topics, Jan.-Feb., 1979, 19) in which he says you should start teaching a childd t.t. when he (or she) is 6 or 7 (as he did with Scott and is doing with Jimmy). How do you begin? Well, using a ball hanging from the basement ceiling, you guide the player to a correct stroke, then graduate him to a ball sitting atop a foam tee on the table, etc.

1980—Dick took Scott and arch-rival Sean O’Neill to New York for an appearance on ABC TV’s “Kids Are People Too.” They also visited Marty Reisman’s Table Tennis Club to pose with the legendary star.

As the kids keep playing in major U.S. tournaments, and traveling abroad (Scott goes as observer with Sue to the 1979 Pyongyang World Championships, and to play in the May, 1981 Scandinavian Junior Open), Dick himself becomes more and more active. 

Dick as Champion Himself—Championing the Sport. His Major Contributions:

1981—Dick does a good job of handling the mike as Play Announcer at the National Sports Festival (NSF), later to be called the Olympic Festival.

1981—Dick is named USTTA Junior Olympics Chair. For this first Annual AAU-USA Jr. Olympics National’s, Scott and Sean are playing against one another for the 15th time in National competition. Scott and brother Jimmy’s long and successful t.t. careers (see also Hall of Famer Sean O’Neill’s Profile) can be predicted from the shelves full of trophies accumulated in their youth.

1981—Following the Jr. Olympics, Dick, with the help of Ron Shirley and Table Tennis America, takes Scott to Japan to attend an Ogimura Training Camp. They also spend a couple of days in Tokyo visiting their Yasaka sponsor.

1982—Dick again is outstanding on the mike at the NSF. His reputation as “a splendid in-sport color commentator” is established, and he will continue announcing over the years.

            1983—In Feb., Jimmy McClure becomes USTTA’s Olympic Chair, and Dick becomes Chair of Junior Development. It’s not surprising then that later that year Dick writes an article titled: “Scott Butler Wins 10th Jr. Olympic Gold Medal.” Other kids, he suggests, with the encouragement of their parents, can develop their games to be winners too.

1985—In Feb., Dick is Jr. Olympics Chair and Scott Preiss is now Jr. Development Chair.

1985—The Jr. Olympics and Jr. National’s are combined—Dick’s the Tournament Director (wife Sue, who continues to be involved in the children’s t.t. progress both at home and abroad, assists).

1986—At the Olympic Festival, Dick and Shonie Aki are Co-Tournament Directors. Dick’s again excellent as the Play Announcer.

1986—Dick is the Jr. Olympics/Jr. National’s Tournament Director (assisted by Sue and Scott).

1986—Dick writes a long, diagrammed Nov.-Dec. article for Table Tennis Topics (TTT) on “Table Tennis Geometry—A Tactical Coaching Analysis.” Other articles will follow, such as the 1987 “Training the Beginning Player.”

1987—Dick wears another hat, is Chairperson of the USTTA Nominating Committee.

1988—Dick’s Master of Ceremonies at the U.S. Open, and will be again.

1988—Dick’s again Tournament Director of the Junior Olympics/Jr. National’s (with assists from Sue, Scott, and Yvonne Kronlage).

1988—Dick officiates at the Nissen Open. More officiating will follow.

1989—Dick’s the Jr. National’s and Jr. Olympics Chair, and will continue as such for years more.

1991—The Jr. Olympics is now in its 11th year. “Dick and Sue did their usual great job” (Yvonne assists). Dick and Sue (often doing the write-ups) continue to work in tandem. When one is at Junior tournaments, the other is too. Their work at these Jr. Olympics will continue for another six years.

1995—Dick’s the Assistant Manager to Richard McAfee at the World Team Cup (a warm-up test for next year’s Olympics). USA has best Team success in decades—Jimmy is voted MVP.

1996—Dick’s the Table Tennis Assistant Manager (to McAfee) at the Olympic Games.

1996—Dick’s the Table Tennis Competition Manager at the Paralympic Games (McAfee assists).           

            So, as a suitable ending to this brief bio, strike up the band, for tonight there’s another taking his honored place, with wife and kids applauding, among our Sports’ “first family” patriarchs, and tonight he receives the personal recognition due him. Welcome to the Hall, Dick Butler.