I am somewhat late in generating this letter but that is due to immediately being immersed in other areas of responsibilities awaiting my return to the national office from Las Vegas and the U.S. Open and Americas Challenge. Not all of the dust has settled yet but I wanted to take just a moment to reflect on all that we attempted to do. BTW – whenever you start to thank folks you invariably leave some very deserving person(s) out and that is a pity but it is the human condition.
We started out before most of the participants arrived in Las Vegas with taking on the responsibility of conducting an IR Course. Roman Tinyszin did all the lifting for staging this event and we did it for two reasons – to give some US folks the opportunity to take and test through the course and also to possibly attract a few more IUs to stay on and work our Open and Americas Challenge! Michael Zwipp from the ITTF URC was the Course Conductor and he was gracious enough to stay and serve as Deputy Referee for the Americas Challenge. We were fortunate to have him with us from the start to the finish.
The U.S. Open drew a near record level of entries and trust me that Joyce Grooms and Deborah Gray were pushed to new levels of performance in managing the entries, preparing player packets, t-shirt coupons, athlete water tickets, fee processes and hotel accommodations for officials, staff and volunteers. NATT too had to react to increased scheduling and increased equipment demands and all that entails. We learned some very valuable lessons in managing the crush of registration that we experienced the first morning. Less experienced staff and volunteers would have been overwhelmed but the comments I heard were mostly that those staff members involved (Deborah Gray, Joyce Grooms and Andrew Horn, along with key volunteers), calmly and methodically worked through to manage the situation as effectively and humanly possible.
Then, as you know we took on the ITTF Americas Challenge. Lest we forget the primary purpose of taking on this event was for our US players to participate in that level of competitive experience on our ‘home turf’. It was gratifying to see many of them enjoying the experience with some impressive results. This event was unusual because of the increased technical demands made by the ITTF - lighting had to be at or above 1,000 lux, we had to have a wooden sub-floor beneath our floor mats, we had a directive for reserved practice tables, increased demands for sponsor exposure through barriers, floor decals, sponsor backdrops, athlete lounge with minimal refreshments and on and on. The ITTF Directive called for one day of broadcast production with streaming and we were able to produce four full days of streaming on two courts with multiple cameras, live scoring and graphics and expert commentating – the HEROES of this aspect of the operation were David Del Vecchio and Sean O’Neill. Sean was able to recruit additional commentating expertise through the services of Han Xiao, Jim Butler, Richard McAfee, Larry Bavly, Matt Winkler and Alex Figueroa. Adam Bobrow managed the announcing and spectator enhancement music in an upbeat, balanced and professional fashion.
The ITTF Competition Division sent us Didier Leroy (BEL) to serve as our Competition Manager. Didier represents a small group of professional competition managers who help raise the bar in terms of how the competition is managed, raising the presentation of the competition and serving as a point person to the athletes who are regulars on the tour to assure them that technical expectations are being met to certain standards around the world. Didier was a patient task master with us and we were grateful to have his expertise and guidance. Ian Marshall of the ITTF provided outstanding press updates around the clock throughout the championships.
I can’t say enough about the performance of Greg Cox. He was there for the first three days when the air conditioning was not on because there were so many truck deliveries and forklift work that needed to be done to set up the venue using the large open doors – all amidst near record heat in the Las Vegas area. Greg was nearly always the first one at the venue in the morning and nearly always one of the last to leave. He also managed the venue tear down and shipping needed after the event. During the event he was there to put out fires and make adjustments as needed. There were challenges for sure but they were met with professional attention promptly.
Doru remains a quiet HERO as well managing all venue service contracts, security, printer / computer rentals, electricity, custodian, internet, water and food services, vendor booth arrangements, fork lift rental, delivery scheduling - all while managing our national team coaches and coaching our NT athletes in their matches!
NATT‘s Richard Lee, John Miller and Marynes Parra along with a corps of volunteers managed the Open and AC in a very competent and professional manner. NATT folks were also amongst those who were the first to arrive and last to leave on any given night!
BTW – we also tacked on a 2014 Youth Olympic Games trials event to add to the heavy workload for our National Team coaches throughout the AC and YOG events!
Also, on July 6 we observed Olympic Day in the venue as part of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s effort to recognize a nationwide observance as part of a worldwide recognition of Olympism. The USOC provide temporary tattoos that featured the Olympic Rings and Olympic Day on them and these went like ‘hot cakes’ at the registration area especially with our young players. I anticipate a photo in the next USATT magazine that depicts USATT Olympians that spanned several generations all wearing Olympic Day shirts near courtside at the Americas Challenge.
Our referee and umpire leadership and corps, along with racket control officials included Azmy Ibrahim (Open Referee), Joseph Yick (Open – Deputy Referee), Stephen Banko (Open – Chief Umpire), Scott Ryan (Open, Deputy Chief Umpire) , Wendell Dillon (Open Evaluator), Bill Walk (Referee – AC), Kagin Lee (Deputy Referee – AC), Michael Wetzel (Chief Umpire – AC) , Lee Kondo (Deputy Chief Umpire – AC) and Larry Kessler (Racket Control) all rose to the occasion and contributed their professionalism as they always do – we couldn’t have done it without them. In fact, there were so many moving parts to the entire operation that “couldn’t have done it with you” applies to virtually everyone. Ideally our event photographer, Steve Hopkins, will be able to provide photos that capture the essence of the overall events in the next issue of the magazine. He always seems to come through with an all-encompassing coverage.
It was also touching to see the Men’s and Women’s Singles winners posing for photographers with their individual trophy and medals flanked on either side by the large perpetual trophies made available through the USATT Hall of Fame / the US Table Tennis Foundation and USATT and named after the Thal Sisters for the Women’s Open Champion and Sol Schiff for the Men’s Open Champion.
Ideally we favorably impressed our ITTF officials who worked with us throughout the events. ITTF President Adham Sharara was not with us as he hoped to be due an IOC meeting he needed to attend in Switzerland. However, he sent me a note that said he was following the event streaming every chance that he had. These were clearly learning experiences at many different levels but for me all I can say is that you all made USATT very proud of your efforts and I simply wanted to express my heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you!