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National League Finals at U.S. Table Tennis Nationals

National League Finals at U.S. Table Tennis Nationals
Courtesy of USA Table Tennis

Regional Team Leagues
By Larry Hodges, USATT League Chair

Those who study sports association memberships can help but notice a pattern: those with huge membership do so through team leagues. That’s the reason why the German Table Tennis Association has 600,000 members, why the U.S. Tennis Association has 700,000 members, and why the U.S. Bowling Congress has over two million members. And the lack of such a league structure is the primary reason USA Table Tennis has only 9000 members.

But you don’t play in a team league just so you can boost your association’s membership; you do so because it’s fun! You’re pumped up because your teammates are cheering for you, you win and lose as a team, and when it’s all done, you and your opponents go out for pizza.

But someone has to start up these leagues. Until now anyone wanting to create such a league has to start from scratch, a huge problem. What was needed was a prototype regional team league that can spread nationwide. And so here it is – a USATT Regional Team League Prototype. (It is also linked from the newly updated USATT League Page.)

There’s little in it that is set in stone – it’s in Word format so you can make changes. Use it as your starting basis, and go from there. It’s based on successful leagues in the U.S., such as the Capital Area League and the LA League.

But first we need people in each region willing to take charge and start up these leagues. It can be a single person or a group. Or a single person can put together such a group, as I did for the Capital Area League, and then step back as others take charge. (And we owe a big thanks to there to Stefano Ratti, Mike Levene, John Olsen, and Richard Heo.)

Playing table tennis in a team league is almost a foreign idea to U.S. players. Most U.S. leagues are singles. That’s fine for a club league, but if you want it to spread and get huge numbers, you need team leagues, where players represent their club in various divisions, based on level. This is how it’s done not only in successful table tennis countries, but nearly all other successful sports, as noted above. I’ve even played in tennis leagues – I was part of a six-man team – and it was all run by volunteers. And that’s how they got 700,000 members. (A key is to have regional team leagues where everyone in the league is in easy driving distance. In general leagues should cover an area no more than perhaps an hour drive across, preferably less.) A typical league would have multiple divisions, from beginning to elite.

Keep in mind that tennis having more members than table tennis, as it does in the U.S., is not the norm – we have to get away from that type of thinking, which has been indoctrinated into us along with an inferiority complex to tennis and other sports. All over Europe table tennis memberships are higher than tennis – though both table tennis and tennis memberships there dwarf USA Table Tennis membership. Table Tennis is often called the #2 participation sport in the world, and some surveys show this, but whether we’re actually #2 or merely #3, we’re near the top of the list, along with soccer, basketball, and volleyball. (Here’s a typical listing, which has us at #3.)

There’s also the National League Finals, held at the U.S. Nationals each year, where the winners of the major team leagues play single elimination to determine the National Champion!

Here’s our current listing of team leagues – please email us if you have information on others.

So, are you interested in a Team League in your region? Then go over the League Prototype, and start up your own league. If you have questions, email me. Together we can create a national network of such leagues.

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