The President's Report
How the ITTF is Changing the World of Table Tennis
At a recent event, someone remarked, “Just look at how much table tennis has changed over the past several years. In some ways, you can say it’s a totally different sport.” He was referring not only to the 11-point game and larger ball, but also to the heightened level of professionalism in the areas of international event creation and management, marketing, media coverage and development programs.
All of these concentrated efforts cause USATT to experience growing pains of our own. Most national associations cover far less geographical territory and can easily organize year-round training programs for their national team members. Many of the national associations also enjoy direct governmental financial support. In addition, with the designation of several new countries over the past handful of years, there were many new teams at the World Championships this year. Under this scenario, our teams faced the challenge of not only trying to advance, but also of just trying to maintain our current standing. Add to that the fact that USATT has chosen to allocate a greater percentage of elite athlete funding to the younger generation, to the juniors and cadets.
At the Board level, we knew that this financial re-allocation could have a short-term negative impact on national team performance, but it was nonetheless frustrating to see our players struggle so hard, to see them not adequately prepared at the World Championships. This experience heightened my resolve to try to improve the national team development situation. One initiative on the forefront is the designation of a national team training center. The criteria will likely be posted this summer. We look forward to working with interested communities toward the realization of this necessity.
Ways to Optimize Our Development
Continentally speaking, USATT is a member of the North American Table Tennis Union. NATTU is one of the ITTF’s six continental unions and its primary members are the United States and Canada. While we fight for the continental titles once a year, we also see that working together for our mutual development makes sense. We are in the process of figuring out ways to combine our limited resources to see how we can best work with Canada to our athletes’ advantage. USATT is also a participant in the Pan-American Games and several associations within the Latin American Table Tennis Union are considering ways to work more closely with us. For example, the ITTF has recently expanded its marketing presence into Latin America, with an impressive start. Miguel Delgado, the former leader of LATTU, is responsible for the effort and he sees a great opportunity for cooperative events among the Pan-American countries. The ITTF has also recommended some competitive integration within the Americas, and there will likely be zonal qualifications for future ITTF junior or cadet competitions. In the meanwhile, the ITTF continues to be open-minded about ways to coordinate initiatives with USATT.
Carrying on the Legacy of Ping-Pong Diplomacy
The bottom line for any discussion involving excellence in table tennis always takes us back to China. You can read all about the Hongshanshu Friendship Tour, celebrating the 35th Anniversary of Ping-Pong Diplomacy in this issue. Tim Boggan really captured the essence of our day-to-day activities. What stood out to me during the trip though was the emphasis the Chinese place on the historical importance of the seeds of friendship between our two countries through Ping-Pong Diplomacy. Recapturing our place in American history is a high priority for me. When I talk to people outside of our sport about Ping-Pong Diplomacy, they seem to have only a vague recollection of the historical event. The Chinese said that details about Ping-Pong Diplomacy are taught to school children, so the legacy of the event is ongoing there. We have a lot of “catch up” work to do on our end. I am in the process of collecting information from the original participants so that we preserve as much of the firsthand accounts as possible. I agreed to work closely with the Chinese Association to develop ways to integrate our special relationship into more specific future initiatives.
In the last issue I expressed USATT’s thanks to the sponsor, Hongshanshu, and the Chinese Association. Mere words cannot capture the true gratitude we feel. Our delegation was treated to a lifetime memory. I hope that in the future we can expand exchange visits so that all of our members who wish to participate can have a similar experience of a lifetime.
Health Benefits of Table Tennis
Through table tennis, may we all live a long and happy life. Our clothing sponsor Mitch Rothfleisch, showed up at the World Championships down 100 pounds! How did he do it? He primarily credits table tennis. He said that he just decided to lose weight and he thought that the best strategy would be to start training again. Congratulations, Mitch!
Through my years promoting the sport, the one thing educators always stress is that they are under constant pressure to produce good results when it comes to standardized testing. Everyone knows the health benefits of regular exercise, but what they always tell me is something with a different emphasis: “Hey, if you can produce evidence that table tennis is good for kids’ brains, then you could get into the school systems nationwide.” Well, we may have some good news. Just recently I learned of a book by Dr. Daniel Amen, Making a Good Brain Great: The Amen Clinic Program for Achieving and Sustaining Optimal Mental Performance. And, although I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, I did do some Internet research. I came upon this statement by Dr. Amen at his clinic’s website, “It is important to be smarter when it comes to our brains. Golf, tennis and table tennis are better sports, especially for children.” In another article, he wrote: “Golf is good. Tennis is terrific. Table tennis is the world’s best game!”
As I reported earlier this year, I am continuing to work with various individuals about club support and club growth. These initiatives and developments will be presented to the Board at our meeting in July.
At the ITTF level, I am working on producing a draft of a Code of Conduct for the ITTF. I have also volunteered to present a strategy for increasing the number of women serving on ITTF Committees. Only national associations can nominate candidates for the ITTF Committees. The next time ITTF Committee members will be elected is at the 2007 World Championships. I am in communication with some of our female members now and would like to hear from any women interested in being nominated for one of the ITTF Committees.