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 Post subject: USATT Happenings
PostPosted: 17 Aug 2019, 10:47 
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Dear USOPC Officials, USATT Board Members, and High Performance Committee,

We U.S. Table Tennis Olympians would like to show our solidarity in opposition to the new selection process for our National, Pan American, and Olympic Table Tennis Teams. Some of us were born in the United States, where we always had the ability to earn our spot on teams through our results in trials. Some of us were born in countries like China, where the coaches would choose who would be on the National Teams. All of us ended up representing the United States in the Olympics through earning our spots in fair competitive trials, and all of us support this method over the current selection process in place.

We have overwhelmingly decided that we do not want to have coaches or USATT staff decide who makes our National, Pan American, and Olympic Teams. We are strongly recommending that the National/Pan American/Olympic Team selection process be changed back to a trials based system as soon as possible, in time for the selection of the 2020 Olympic Team.

There are three main reasons why we believe a trials-based selection process is a more just and superior system:

A trials for the Olympics is representative of the competition and environment that a player will face in the Olympics-- allowing coaches to pick players or using world ranking to do so is not. The Olympic table tennis champion is not “crowned” by a committee or based on a culmination of highest world ranking, performance, or participation in training camps and tournaments over the past four years. Players are allowed to fight and earn their spot on the podium in the Olympics through competition, and players should be allowed to fight and earn their spot on the U.S. Olympic Table Tennis Team the same way.
The current team selection criteria of World Ranking (which can be improved purely based on the sheer quantity of tournaments you play, not how well you do in them) and participation in multiple non-sponsored training camps across the U.S. is not fair. These criteria are discriminatory against players who do not have the financial means to travel and attend these events and competitions. This is the U.S.-- all players should have equal opportunity to get the chance to represent our country.
A trials would remove all biases and/or perceived biases from the process and provides transparency and objectivity into the selection process.
We have heard the rationale that the old trials system encouraged players to focus on domestic competition and not international competition, and we understand that the new system is trying to “fix” that. But the premise that this is built on is not accurate. Every Olympian who has signed this letter believes that their ultimate goal was never to beat their American competitors-- we all have always had higher visions and hopes to be the best players that we can be and to win in the international scene. Beating American competitors might be a means to an end, but never the end in itself. To think that we would limit ourselves to prioritizing beating our American competitors over becoming the best that we can be would be an insult.

We believe that the new process that has been implemented was a sincere attempt to improve our national team selection process. However, we believe it has failed in its intention. It has alienated and caused a great amount of ill will amongst USA Table Tennis elite athletes. It has created an uneven playing field not representative of the American spirit.

USA Table Tennis athletes should have equal opportunity to go out in competition and earn the right to represent our country internationally. We have offered different ideas that we would accept as a fair system. We also plan on mailing Senator Moran and Blumenthal a copy of this letter, given their recent legislation to empower athletes and advocacy for fair and objective trials.

Thank you for your consideration, and we look forward to a system that will bring back good will and fairness into our national team selection process again. It is not too late to change.

Kind Regards,

USA Table Tennis Olympians

Sean O’ Neill, U.S. Olympic Team 1988, 1992

Diana Gee, U.S. Olympic Team 1988, 1992

Insook Bhushan, U.S. Olympian 1988, 1992

Jimmy Butler, U.S. Olympic Team 1992, 1996

Lily Yip, U.S. Olympic Team 1992, 1996

Amy Feng, U.S. Olympic Team 1996

David Zhuang, U.S. Olympic Team 1996, 2000, 2008

Todd Sweeris, U.S. Olympian 1996, 2000

Khoa Nguyen, U.S. Olympic Team 2000, 2004

Cheng Yinghua, U.S. Olympic Team 2000, 2004

Jasna Rather, U.S. Olympic Team 2000, 2004 (YUG Olympic Team 1988, 1992; Olympic Medalist 1988)

Tawny Banh, U.S. Olympic Team 2000, 2004

Michelle Do Reed, U.S. Olympic Team 2000

Ilija Lupulesku, U.S. Olympic Team 2004 (YUG Olympic Team 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000; Olympic Medalist 1988)

Wang Chen, U.S. Olympic Team 2008

Crystal Huang, U.S. Olympic Team 2008

Ariel Hsing, U.S. Olympic Team 2012


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 Post subject: Re: USATT Happenings
PostPosted: 17 Aug 2019, 10:59 
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There certainly has been a lot going on in USATT recently!

You probably are familiar with the team selection controversy. You may not know that three members recently resigned from the high performance Committee: Sean O’neil, Tahl Leibovitz, and Tara Profit.

We want fair team trials!

Finally, *I heard second hand* the HPD has submitted his resignation. Hooray!

Below is the letter I wrote to the Board and CEO regarding his resignation.

I encourage all of you US players to contact the board and ask them to listen to the membership, and choose a different direction with the new HPD.

You can find their contact info here: https://www.teamusa.org/usa-table-tennis/usatt/board-of-directors

Dave

USATT Board and CEO,

I have recently heard that HPD has offered his resignation. I can’t tell you how relieved I am. I felt he was really taking table tennis in the US in the wrong direction. Since some of you do not know me, I think it appropriate that I tell you something of my background, so you will have some context for my comments.

1 Background
I am not a high level table tennis player, and I have never won any national titles above the intermediate level. However, as the director of the Alameda Table Tennis Center, I have had the privilege to work with a number of very good coaches and high level players. We opened in 2008 and had our first national title at the 2010 US open with Kevin Li in the Boys Under 9. Since that time we have won multiple boys titles, and in the last six years we have had 5 different young players win regional Hopes tournaments. We currently have two players on the national team, and our 7 juniors who attended the 2019 Nationals earned 9 medals. So I think it is safe to say that I have some familiarity with junior development in the USA.

I write this letter in the hope that with the future incoming HPD we can avoid some of the mistakes made in the past.
When we opened Alameda Table Tennis Center in 2008, I did not see USATT as a very strong partner in our goals of player development. However the important thing was that USATT was not doing anything to hinder us. We took in on ourselves to try to provide the highest quality training to our players at the local level, and USATT gave us and other training centers the freedom to do so. As the number of full time training centers like us grew to somewhere around 100, this led to an explosion of junior success.

If I had to pick a moment when the change was becoming apparent, I think Lilly and Arial’s development would be when I saw the tide started to turn. Of course the training centers have now produced so many successful juniors who are medaling internationally that it would be very difficult to name them all.

2 “Super Camps” or “Sucker Camps”
I think the first time I realized our relationship with USATT was changing was in 2016. We lined up one of the most qualified coaches in the US and 2 high level sparing partners for our summer camps. Sometime after this we found out that USATT would be holding two weeks of “super camps” for young players. I thought, “Well this is twice the price, and not as good as what we are doing locally, so nothing to worry about correct?” Wrong. The camps were “mandatory” and could be used as national team selection criteria! Wow! I was so frustrated. We lined up the resources to provide the best for our kids, then lost thousands of dollars as our camp attendance plummeted when out top kids went elsewhere. I was incensed, but kept my mouth shut as I did not want to hurt our kids chances of making the national team.

Not everyone towed the line and kept so quiet. A large Bay Area club chose not to send its players to the “Super Camp” and some of them were not selected for the national team. Next came the lawsuits / threats of lawsuits, and a big blow up. Of course we all know that this situation led to the eventual resignation of the previous HPD. Afterward I was so frustrated to hear the CEO sum up the situation, ”Well the HPD was not a very good communicator.”

What! The problem was not a communication problem, or one trouble making club. The problem was the HPD’s message, “You need to come to self funded camps or you will not be on the national team.”

I don't know the price of all the USATT “Super camps”, but I know the price of the 2018 Florida Spring "National Team" Camp. This one was $1000 per week, or $600 for national team members. Of course that did not include the cost for our players to travel to Florida. Out of the 20 or so attendees I think 2 or 3 were national team members, and no sparing partners were provided. Meanwhile back in Alameda we had a 5 time Olympian running our camp and were charging $300 or $250 for our juniors. As a result, money that could have been spent locally, so that our club can continue to operate, and provide high quality training was flushed down the toilet. This last year, since our top players were compelled to go elsewhere, we had to cancel our spring camp, and our next generation of players had no spring camp. Table tennis is not an easy business in the U.S. As I look at our current finances, I wonder if we will be able to keep our current staff and continue to pay the rent. I know this was of little concern to Joerg, as when I complained of the impact all the camps were having, he replied with, "I don’t think it is right to blame USATT for doing so, as we have not set your business model." Our business model which is: to bring the highest quality training possible to our players. I honestly believe Joerg would have been be happy if all 100 full time training centers closed down and he was in control of one national training center, where he could choose the full team. I really believe he has ZERO respect for what the training centers are doing with our young players. This is truly a shame as those knowledgeable regarding global table tennis understand that almost no one does better that the US with young players.

Don't get me wrong. If USATT wanted to provide a high quality camp to our players for free, I would be foolish to be against it. However, the camps are not better than we provide. They are overpriced and take money away from the clubs that have been developing the players. Alameda has lost 10-20K in camp revenue per year since USATT began running their “super camps”. Players were under pressure to attend the camps, because we no longer had fair and impartial team trials, and some believed that if they were not on Joerg's good side they may not have a future in U.S. table tennis. Let me clarify. I am NOT against USATT running a couple weeks of camps, especially for older, high level players. However, currently when people ask how many weeks of USATT camps are your young players attending? I respond with "Not, how many weeks. How many months."
Look, I deal in certain financial realities. If an entity sells the same product as I do, and my customers are compelled to purchase that competing product, this is not my partner. This is my competitor.

“But all other countries have camps run by their national associations.” NO. NO. NO. Let’s stop with this lie. No country on the planet other than the US has expensive, self funded “national team” camps which then factor into national team selection! NOBODY DOES THIS!

3 Inflexible authoritarian = Round peg-square hole
Joerg comes from a completely different system, and he does not seem to be at all capable of adapting to what we are doing in the US. In the minutes of a recent board meeting Joerg said something like, "USATT does not have even one full time coach..." all the while completely ignoring the fact that the U.S. now has over 100 full time training centers staffed with full time coaches. The reality is that the top training centers in the U.S. are better than the national training centers in all but perhaps the top 10 countries in the world, and many have better coaches than Joerg. In fact a number of years ago when Joerg applied to work at some of them, he was not considered good enough to be hired. In the Bay Area there are probably more than twenty 2600+ sparing partners within 20 miles of each other. How many national training centers do you think have that? Just in California we have coaches like Stellan, Pieke, Stephan, etc. Yet to Joerg it was imperative that he break up the local training groups that are so successful, and sends our 10 and 12 year olds running all across the country to expensive USATT camps and trials.
The US and Germany are quite different regarding table tennis. In the US, some of the larger training centers have a larger annual budget than USATT. The German national association has a huge budget, and since they control the resources it, is only natural that they would exert a high level of control over how that money is spent. From the German articles that I have translated it appears that even in a top down, highly authoritarian centralized system, Joerg was so controlling, and such a bully, that the German national women’s team rejected him, and demanded a different coach!
( https://www.faz.net/aktuell/sport/mehr-sport/tischtennis-damenwahl-im-nationalteam-11643879.html?fbclid=IwAR3it15v47MdjZhJK_QFYl0OEcmHw875KeUC9-ym3AAZ9TDRlXF5cjEQH-g )

You cannot have an inflexible, authoritarian fill the role of HPD in the US! This is a role that requires a diplomat to work in cooperation with the clubs, and athletes. Not someone who says, “OK, Now that I am in charge, let me tell people what to do. After all, I know better than you”

In my opinion Joerg is a very charismatic, persuasive individual, until you disagree with him. In all my years I never dealt with another USATT staff member quite like him. I always had the sense that Joerg has the perspective that you are either for him or against him. And if you are against him, you had better look out.

In my estimation Joerg’s time in Germany was closer to a train wreck than a success story. Germany's most successful women of recent years (Petrissa Solja) is a player who Joerg predicted would have no future in international table tennis. In fact she was prepared to leave the country and compete for Austria as her sister had already done. Yes, it was so bad that top German women were leaving the country! Rankings of course are always changing. But I remember one day around 2 years ago (when Kanak was #1) checking the ITTF site for U18 and U15 world ranking for boys and girls and seeing that on EVERY list the U.S. was higher than Germany. I asked myself, "Wait, why is it again that Joerg is supposed to know more than everyone in the U.S. about junior training, and we need to copy Europe?"

4 The strength of US table Tennis is the 100 training centers
Local access to adequate resources is the key to young player development and this is why we have seen the recent explosion of success among young US players. You don’t make a 10 year old into a great 11 year old by having them travel the country competing with the other top 10 years olds. You help a 10 year old become a great 11 year old by providing him daily, local access to the necessary resources. This varies from place to place, but in Alameda we would have the 10 year old play in a group with 12 year olds and 14 year olds and adults etc. The idea that a 10 year old needs to travel all over the country to train and play with other 10 year olds is just silly.

5 The athletes and clubs want fair impartial team trials
This is very simple. In the US we don’t want the HPD, or any committee picking the teams. We don’t think it is right, and find it offensive that individuals would assume to be better at predicting who will be a better athlete in the future. Joerg made some predictions about Petrissa Solja when he was in Germany. I believe he said she was too fat, and would never attain any international success. How accurate were his predictions? Well, after Joerg left, Petrissa went on to medal in the 2016 Olympics, the 2018 world championships, and to win the 2019 European top 16. I have Joola blades in my display case named after this player who had no future in international table tennis.

6 SafeSport – Do we adjust USATT policies according to Safesport, or adjust SafeSport policies according to HPD agenda?
I provide the following quote from USATT Safesport Policies and Procedures version 1, last revised December 30, 2013:

“USA Table Tennis holds a firm recommendation that overnight stays involving minors should be avoided whenever possible.”

This statement does not appear after the December 2017 revision!
It was replaced with the following:

“Some USATT participation involves overnight travel for youth to regional and national events.”

Who originated, and authorized this change? Was USATT SafeSport policy modified to facilitate the agenda of the HPD? US parents don’t care what is the norm in Europe. They are NOT comfortable repeatedly sending their young children around the country to participate in USATT camps and trials. Many have not spoken up, because with subjective team selection procedures they were afraid to. One of our parents recounted to me how a young girl on a USATT Europe trip would have likely been killed, or grievously injured, if a parent had not been present to prevent her from stepping in front of a fast moving car on a busy street. Afterward the girl turned to the parent and stated, ”Wow, I think you just saved my life!” What if that parent had not been present?! Just as coaches are good at coaching, parents are good at parenting! Parents should travel with and supervise their children so that the coaches can focus on what they are good at, coaching.

7 We need our young players to stay in the sport.
If we are going to transition from successful juniors, to successful adult players, we need more young players to start, and stay with the sport. This is what has been missing in US table tennis. Ariel and Lilly were both top juniors ranked #2 and #3 in the world. Who became the more successful adult player? The answer is simple. The one who kept playing! Expensive camps and subjective teams selection leaves players feeling bitter and drives them from the sport. Recently I overheard one of our juniors explaining why he was leaving to play in Europe. Among other things, he stated that it was too expensive to train in the US. Yes. After you spend tens of thousands of dollars on national team activities it does get rather expensive!

8 The anger is greater than you think!
Lets stop pretending that only a few trouble makers are unhappy about the agenda of the HPD. For every” trouble maker” who has had the courage to speak up, there are another hundred who held their tongue because they were afraid of what the consequences would be in a system with subjective selection procedures. I kept my own mouth shut for more than two years. I really don’t think the USATT board has any idea just how angry the clubs, athletes, and members are over what the HPD was doing.

The truly sad part is, the division and damage that is currently being done to U.S. table tennis. We have champions like Sean O'Neill resigning from his USATT committee position, protest letters drafted by Olympians, and multiple lawsuits. There has never been this kind of anger and division in USATT before. Ever. Yet some board members seem sit in an ivory tower oblivious to the growing anger of the members.

Organizations that continue to ignore the will of their members normally don't have much of a future. Keep in mind USATT is a fragile organization that already has a difficult time paying its bills, and has collapsed before.

As our national organization continues to expand into the area of the training centers, what is to stop the training centers and athletes from expanding into the area of our national organization? How many training centers and athletes would have to become angry and pull out before there would be a collapse?

We need a new HPD with a different personality and a different vision. Someone who can begin to repair the damage that has been done.

I close with the following summary of some of the key points of my letter:

1. USATT camps and trials do not take place in a vacuum – respect needs to be shown to the clubs when scheduling camps and trials.

2. The USATT HPD need to be a diplomat, not and authoritarian.

3. Our player safety is the highest priority. USATT policies should adjust to SafeSport and not visa versa.

4. The strength of competitive US table tennis is the training centers. If you destroy the training centers you destroy the future.

5. Until the USATT has a budget equivalent to Germany, it is simple foolishness to try to copy the European model. To do so is to invite the collapse of USATT.

6. The athletes and clubs want fair team trials

7. We need to expand the number of new players. We can’t drive young players from the sport.

8. Ignoring membership anger can be very unhealthy for any organization.

Sincerely,

Dave Hanson

Director Alameda Table Tennis Center


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