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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2008, 08:17 
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Dear Forum members,

This section is for you to ask me any questions you wish regarding the ITTF in particular or Table Tennis in general with the exception of questions on VOC, Additives (Boosters, Tuners, etc) and the Minimum Friction level (25mN). On these three topics you will find detailed answers and explanations in another thread in this Forum called: "Adham Sharara accepts the invitation"

I look forward to your questions.

Adham Sharara

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Last edited by adham on 29 Dec 2008, 12:15, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2008, 09:33 
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Thanks for the invitation.

Does the ITTF have a goal in mind for the type of table tennis they want to promote? We all know about certain things that have hurt the game in the past and were legislated against (ie any thickness sponge, same colour rubber on both sides, hidden serves etc) in order to try to improve the sport.

So what is the ITTF using for the criteria of attractive table tennis? Length of rallies, dynamic play, easy to understand for spectators etc, or is it just one of those cases where you know attractive play when you see it?

I'm curious since I personally think table tennis was more attractive back in the 1980's when you had multiple styles all being competitive. Nowadays it seems as if the powerlooping style is the one in favour. So I'm wondering if the ITTF are interested in doing anything to help other styles become more competitive again, or whether they don't see this as their role. But mainly I'm truly curious as to whether the ITTF has a vision about what attractive table tennis is, and just what that vision is, if any.

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PostPosted: 29 Dec 2008, 13:57 
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DTopSpirit wrote:
Thanks for the invitation.

Does the ITTF have a goal in mind for the type of table tennis they want to promote? We all know about certain things that have hurt the game in the past and were legislated against (ie any thickness sponge, same colour rubber on both sides, hidden serves etc) in order to try to improve the sport.

So what is the ITTF using for the criteria of attractive table tennis? Length of rallies, dynamic play, easy to understand for spectators etc, or is it just one of those cases where you know attractive play when you see it?

I'm curious since I personally think table tennis was more attractive back in the 1980's when you had multiple styles all being competitive. Nowadays it seems as if the powerlooping style is the one in favour. So I'm wondering if the ITTF are interested in doing anything to help other styles become more competitive again, or whether they don't see this as their role. But mainly I'm truly curious as to whether the ITTF has a vision about what attractive table tennis is, and just what that vision is, if any.

Regards,
Greg


The ITTF's work is based on a set of priorities that we call P4 = Popularity, Participation, Profit Financing and Planning. To learn more about it please visit the ITTF's website and check out the President's Forum. I could also send you a Power-Point presentation if you like. These priorities guide the ITTF in all its programmes and objectives. basically we wish to increase the visibility of our sport (TV, media, spectators, recognition of the stars, etc.) and increase participation at all levels (increase the number of ITTF members, increase the areas in which TT is played, have more players, more coaches, more women, more juniors, more events, etc.), we wish to run our programmes at a profit in the sense that all our activities would have proper funding developing profit centres with all our events to benefit the development areas of our sport; and finally we do not do anything unless it is backed with proper planning (plans, budgets, etc.).

As for the game itself, the ITTF's role is to govern it at the International level. The actual sport develops and is oriented mainly by its participants. The ITTF passes rules and regulations according to the wishes of its member national associations. We do not decide whether the sport should be more defensive or more offensive, this is decided by the majority of those that practice the sport (same as all other sports).

Your question is valid when it comes to the "presentation" of our sport. In modern society if we wish our sport to be popular we must have it on TV, in newspapers and on the Internet. We try our best to do what drives to these results. We made the ball larger, we shortened the games to 11 points and we made the service open and visible in order to make the ball more TV friendly and easier to capture by the TV cameras, to make the games endings more frequent and hence have more exciting games with possibilities of upsets, and we made it easier for the receiver not to make errors on service return that were not understood by the general public. So, in this sense we did influence the "presentation" of our sport at the table. We also made many changes to the "presentation" of our sport around the table with new style surrounds that look professional on TV, with colour coordination and with new designs for the tables and their undercarriages. This is to give a more modern and clean look to our show-courts.

It used to be easy to get agreement on what is perceived as being "attractive" table tennis. I was present at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. I thought then that the TT matches were great. I often refer (as you did) to that period as a great period in TT and believe it was very attractive. 2 months ago I was able to compare all Olympic Games finals. I was shocked to find the game in 1988 to be extremely boring and not as attractive as I thought. It's the same if you watch Connors play Borg in the early 1980s. Our memories say that this was great tennis, but if you watch today you will be surprised on how it looks. Therefore nostalgia is always our favourite memories (those were the good old days). But in reality it is difficult to shape the future of a sport in a legislative manner. You can legislate here and there to improve things or stop things that may influence the sport negatively, but at the end the sport takes the direction its participants (majority) choose for it.

Now if you asked me my "personal" opinion of what I think is "attractive" TT, then I would say the following:
- Attack versus classic defense
- Attack versus modern defense
- far from the table topspin on topspin
- fast close to the table counter-attacking furiously
and last but not least
- all of the above combined within the same match.

And how would you make TT more attractive, other than going back to the eighties?

Adham

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Adham - thank you for the detailed reply. I appreciate the insight into the role the ITTF has in guiding the sport.

I quite agree with your personal opinion, with the addition of :
* blocking - ie Des Douglas style
* attacking long pimple play - ie Carl Prean
Basically a couple more styles that added extra variation and spice.

And since you asked, here's some thoughts on how I would make table tennis more attractive.

1) I would start with the thought that although the member national associations control the rules the regulations that the ITTF passes, this doesn't mean that they are good decisions, or done for good reasons. Member national associations have interests of their own which influence their opinions at the time.

2) Secondly, I would start trying to sell the associations on the idea that a diversity of styles is a good thing for table tennis as a whole. Variety is the spice of life, and the more styles that we can have as viable playing alternatives at the elite level, the more interesting our sport will become.

3) I would do a study on whether the current game is an attractive one. Easy enough (I think) - get a group of the general public, and group of beginners, and a group of advanced players. Get them to watch several hours of recent footage of the Worlds and rate each point on a scale of 1-10. Find out exactly how many "attractive" points there are in the game at present. See if there are differences between what's attractive to the general public, to beginners and to advanced players. You are trying to sell the game to the general public, so pay attention to what they like!

4) Then try a couple of variations. Get some of the sub-elite players (I doubt you'd get the pros to do it, so maybe players in the top 200-500) to participate in trials using variations such as 1.5mm sponge only, restricted to allround blades to limit speed, higher/lower net, etc. Get different styles involved at a similar level. Again, get your study groups to rate the points for attractiveness. And see if you can find a variation that helps reduce the dominance of the modern power looping game and that encourages other styles to compete on more equal terms.

5) If your study group finds the variations more attractive than the current pro play - then you have learned something. Take a closer look at which variations were more attractive. Examine which points the study groups found to be better to watch. Think a little about what can be done to increase the number of these types of points. Experiment a bit more, and refine as you go.

6) If the study group finds the current pro table tennis to be the most exciting and attractive, well, in that case you don't need to do anything, do you?

7) But if not, then *somebody* has to stand up and say that we are heading in the wrong direction, and we could do a better job of providing attractive table tennis to the general public. Somebody has to sell the idea that the good of the sport is more than just the will of the majority of the member associations. If not the ITTF, then who?

Regards,
Greg

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2008, 00:43 
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DTopSpirit wrote:
Adham - thank you for the detailed reply. I appreciate the insight into the role the ITTF has in guiding the sport.

I quite agree with your personal opinion, with the addition of :
* blocking - ie Des Douglas style
* attacking long pimple play - ie Carl Prean
Basically a couple more styles that added extra variation and spice.

And since you asked, here's some thoughts on how I would make table tennis more attractive.

1) I would start with the thought that although the member national associations control the rules the regulations that the ITTF passes, this doesn't mean that they are good decisions, or done for good reasons. Member national associations have interests of their own which influence their opinions at the time.

2) Secondly, I would start trying to sell the associations on the idea that a diversity of styles is a good thing for table tennis as a whole. Variety is the spice of life, and the more styles that we can have as viable playing alternatives at the elite level, the more interesting our sport will become.

3) I would do a study on whether the current game is an attractive one. Easy enough (I think) - get a group of the general public, and group of beginners, and a group of advanced players. Get them to watch several hours of recent footage of the Worlds and rate each point on a scale of 1-10. Find out exactly how many "attractive" points there are in the game at present. See if there are differences between what's attractive to the general public, to beginners and to advanced players. You are trying to sell the game to the general public, so pay attention to what they like!

4) Then try a couple of variations. Get some of the sub-elite players (I doubt you'd get the pros to do it, so maybe players in the top 200-500) to participate in trials using variations such as 1.5mm sponge only, restricted to allround blades to limit speed, higher/lower net, etc. Get different styles involved at a similar level. Again, get your study groups to rate the points for attractiveness. And see if you can find a variation that helps reduce the dominance of the modern power looping game and that encourages other styles to compete on more equal terms.

5) If your study group finds the variations more attractive than the current pro play - then you have learned something. Take a closer look at which variations were more attractive. Examine which points the study groups found to be better to watch. Think a little about what can be done to increase the number of these types of points. Experiment a bit more, and refine as you go.

6) If the study group finds the current pro table tennis to be the most exciting and attractive, well, in that case you don't need to do anything, do you?

7) But if not, then *somebody* has to stand up and say that we are heading in the wrong direction, and we could do a better job of providing attractive table tennis to the general public. Somebody has to sell the idea that the good of the sport is more than just the will of the majority of the member associations. If not the ITTF, then who?

Regards,
Greg

Yes, of course, the more variety the better. Let me address your points one by one:
1. I have to disagree. Perhaps some national associations do make proposals for their own interests, but at the end you need more than 75% in favour to change the Laws of TT. But, OK, I will go along with your suppositions.
2. Agree with you, and all national associations would agree as well, if not already convinced.
3. Yes, a very good idea, this is the "Focus group" concept used in advertising or testing products.
4. This is not easy to do in an objective way. I am not sure how in a practical way this could be done while allowing all possibilities to be tried. But OK, let's accept that this could be done.
5. OK
6. OK
7. I really do not see the ITTF taking this type of role on deciding a certain type of style is more attractive and then regulating that style. The style of play is determined by the players themselves. The ITTF can regulate to maintain some sort of standards and parameters, but we cannot go further than that without infringing on the liberties of players. We can ban certain elements that are considered harmful (VOCs), we can set certain limits to control the game (4mm thickness, etc.) but to actually impose a particular style would not be possible.

I like, however, your idea of promoting diversity and a variety of styles. It is obvious that the classic defensive style (for men especially) is missing and fewer players are using it. My theory is that it stems from the coaches. Most coaches do not know how to teach and coach this style so they do not introduce it. I would love to see the classic defensive (chop) style back in some capacity.

Adham

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2008, 00:47 
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speedplay wrote:
Kind of a basic rule question, but I don't see to be able to find the answer to it.

If I'm about to make the serve, I throw the ball up, but somehow, I manages to mess up the throw, so instead of attempting to hit the ball, I catch it with my free hand. Is this considered as a let or a faulted attempt to serve?


I am sure that I would give the wrong answer to this question. I would think that it would be a "fault", but I really do not know, so I asked your question to our Rules expert and will get you the answer soon.

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speedplay wrote:
Kind of a basic rule question, but I don't see to be able to find the answer to it.

If I'm about to make the serve, I throw the ball up, but somehow, I manages to mess up the throw, so instead of attempting to hit the ball, I catch it with my free hand. Is this considered as a let or a faulted attempt to serve?


This is clearly a fault. We had a thread discussing this some time ago. The only reason it would be a let is if there was a disturbance from somewhere external to yourself and the umpire allowed a let. Otherwise the serve has started once you project the ball from your hand. Therefore anything other than a "good" serve is a fault.

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2008, 02:13 
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Yes I agree totally it would be better to allow it like in tennis where if the toss is bad the player doesn't have to hit it. The way the rule is now makes it very hard as many things can happen as you toss the ball in the air. You could sneeze for example. Or you can just toss it badly. I think it would be great if the law on this was relaxed. :D

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adham wrote:
I like, however, your idea of promoting diversity and a variety of styles. It is obvious that the classic defensive style (for men especially) is missing and fewer players are using it. My theory is that it stems from the coaches. Most coaches do not know how to teach and coach this style so they do not introduce it. I would love to see the classic defensive (chop) style back in some capacity.

If coaches are the main reason, why do more women play it? I think it's clearly the speed of the equipment combined with the fact men hit a lot harder that makes defense difficult. Speaking of equipment, the primitive chunk of rubber they set the 4mm limit to regulate in 1959 is a lot different than the sophisticated rubbers of today. Since you like crazy ideas, if the 4mm limit was changed to 3mm to reflect the technology of today's equipment, imagine the effect that would have. If players were allowed to use probably 1mm sponge at the maximum, it would really bring back the defensive game.

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PostPosted: 31 Dec 2008, 03:37 
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mynamenotbob wrote:
Speaking of equipment, the primitive chunk of rubber they set the 4mm limit to regulate in 1959 is a lot different than the sophisticated rubbers of today. Since you like crazy ideas, if the 4mm limit was changed to 3mm to reflect the technology of today's equipment, imagine the effect that would have. If players were allowed to use probably 1mm sponge at the maximum, it would really bring back the defensive game.


Probably a much more sensible way to limit the speed in the game than the impossible-to-enforce speed glue/tuner/booster ban. Think of how many problems this would solve.

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Are cork and bamboo considered "wood" for the purposes of table tennis blade construction?

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adham wrote:
7. I really do not see the ITTF taking this type of role on deciding a certain type of style is more attractive and then regulating that style. The style of play is determined by the players themselves. The ITTF can regulate to maintain some sort of standards and parameters, but we cannot go further than that without infringing on the liberties of players. We can ban certain elements that are considered harmful (VOCs), we can set certain limits to control the game (4mm thickness, etc.) but to actually impose a particular style would not be possible.

I like, however, your idea of promoting diversity and a variety of styles. It is obvious that the classic defensive style (for men especially) is missing and fewer players are using it. My theory is that it stems from the coaches. Most coaches do not know how to teach and coach this style so they do not introduce it. I would love to see the classic defensive (chop) style back in some capacity.

Adham

Again, thank you Adham for you reply. One minor point though. You mention that the style of play is determined by the players, and then through the national member associations, if I am reading right.

But think of the history of our sport, and see if you can spot the problem with this approach.

1) 1970's - multiple styles in elite table tennis. Speed glue discovered towards end of 1970's
2) 1980's - power shift towards speed glue and speed looping style at elite level. Reduced numbers of defenders, pips-out attackers, and blockers. Local level still quite a variety of styles.
3) 1990's - almost complete dominance of speed glue looping style - very few other styles at elite level. At local level, speed glue is becoming the dominant style for new players to the sport as well. Reducing number of alternative styles.
4) 2000's - Complete dominance of speed glue looping style (with the odd exception such as Joo) at elite level. At local level, speed glue style has become the norm. Even fewer number of alternative styles due to overwhelming technology advantage of looping style (rubber + blade + speed glue, and now even without the speed glue the technology advantage is major for looping attackers)

So now the players decide which styles should be dominant. Guess which style they are going to choose - the one that has technology in its favour, or the ones that are at a disadvantage? I personally don't think that defenders and blockers and pips-out hitters died out because of lack of coaching - the coaches who had coached them in the past didn't just suddenly disappear. The styles died out because they were outgunned in technology and no-one did anything about it. And now we have no coaches for those styles, since we lost a whole generation of those players who would have become coaches due to the speed glue dominance. And while technology continues to favour one style over the rest, that's the style most players are going to use.

Coaching won't do the trick. Reducing the overwhelming tech advantage in favour of one particular style might.

Anyway, that's my (probably biased) opinion. Thanks for your time and input.

Greg

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speedplay wrote:
Glueless wrote:
mynamenotbob wrote:
Speaking of equipment, the primitive chunk of rubber they set the 4mm limit to regulate in 1959 is a lot different than the sophisticated rubbers of today. Since you like crazy ideas, if the 4mm limit was changed to 3mm to reflect the technology of today's equipment, imagine the effect that would have. If players were allowed to use probably 1mm sponge at the maximum, it would really bring back the defensive game.


Probably a much more sensible way to limit the speed in the game than the impossible-to-enforce speed glue/tuner/booster ban. Think of how many problems this would solve.


Might be more sensible, but I still wouldn't vote for this suggestion!


Care to elaborate?

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Here is the Official answer regarding the service toss question:

The service starts with the ball resting on the open palm of the free hand (2.6.1). Then the ball shall be projected 16cm near vertically upwards and shall fall without touching anything before being struck (2.6.2).

At the situation you are mentioning the ball touches something (the server's free hand) before being struck but after the service started. So the player fails to make a correct service and his opponent shall score a point (2.10.1.1).

Rationale:
Since a lot of flexibility is given in the throw (nearly vertical, etc.) there should not be a reason to make such a bad toss. However, if a reason beyond the player's control justifies a let, then the umpire only could call the let (ball came into court from another court, a disruption, etc.)

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mynamenotbob wrote:
adham wrote:
I like, however, your idea of promoting diversity and a variety of styles. It is obvious that the classic defensive style (for men especially) is missing and fewer players are using it. My theory is that it stems from the coaches. Most coaches do not know how to teach and coach this style so they do not introduce it. I would love to see the classic defensive (chop) style back in some capacity.

If coaches are the main reason, why do more women play it? I think it's clearly the speed of the equipment combined with the fact men hit a lot harder that makes defense difficult. Speaking of equipment, the primitive chunk of rubber they set the 4mm limit to regulate in 1959 is a lot different than the sophisticated rubbers of today. Since you like crazy ideas, if the 4mm limit was changed to 3mm to reflect the technology of today's equipment, imagine the effect that would have. If players were allowed to use probably 1mm sponge at the maximum, it would really bring back the defensive game.

Coaches: This is an excellent observation. About 20 years ago when I noticed a decline in men defensive players, I did a study on why more women played defense. The result of my study, which started as a Technical investigation turned out to be a Sociological study. I will not bore you with the details, but what I discovered was the following:
- Women who had Men coaches who employed a domineering aggressive style of coaching tended to play defense, especially if at early years the coach actually played at the table. The reason is that in their initial stages they had a sort of fear of the coach and tended to stand further away from the table, and the coach would detect defensive tendencies and would form the player as a defense player.
- Asian coaches have a good knowledge of the classic defensive style and continue to teach it. Also Asian men coaches have a very authoritarian style when coaching young women.
- Most contemporary European coaches do not know how to teach the classic defensive style
- Kids when they start playing like to emulate the champions, so if they see attacking players as the champions, then they want to attack. So, in fact the reduction of defensive players at the top is a self fulfilling prophecy.

I was hoping that the finals of the World Championships in Paris (Schlager vs Joo) would have been a turn around. It did not happen. The only chance now is for me to start training and winning the World Championships, with a little help from special made rules to favour me.

You are partially right about the equipment and the strength of the men's attack. That for sure also has an influence.But I would expect it to be proportional, meaning that men also could have a stronger defense.

Your crazy idea of 3mm is not crazy at all. It would surely reduce the strength of the spins and attack, and I will let every one know in advance where will be my funeral before the 4mm users have killed me, while the Long Pimple users rejoice.

Have a Happy New Year and tell everyone you know to play TT in 2009.

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