12-year old Arnav Khinvasara took part in the Hopes competition this past weekend which is a selection for the best kids in the US and world for their age. It was a good chance for me to see him play in competition which I haven’t been able to do since he won 3 singles golds at the US Open. He has been practicing and playing good overall in his two weekly private lessons but his play in the Hopes tournament didn’t look like his lessons with me so it was good that I got this chance. He lost a close 3-2 match in the round robin group to a similar-rated player and lost to the eventual winner of the tournament 3-0. He had a decent chance to win the bronze in this tournament as if he won the close match, he would have played a kid in the quarters who he beat at the US Open in a come-from-0-2-down to win 3-2, 11-9 in 5th match en route to one of his golds.
There has been a major overhaul by USA Table Tennis in how they are doing national team selections for all ages in hopes of winning more international medals. It’s so incredibly hard to win an international medal and they want to take away a fair system of trials performance when the fair system wouldn’t adversely affect potential medals? Now they are giving a single coach sole discretion to add players to the final Hopes trials and giving the High Performance Director final say on who makes the national teams for all ages. Do the coaches given this authority really feel comfortable doing this? I definitely do not want my students to have to get involved in politics but does the USATT board really think this is ok? One person controls the fate of a nation’s group of players? He may discuss with other national team coaches but many have serious conflicts of interest as they have national team hopefuls paying them for lessons. This is getting totally political in my opinion. I don’t see how they can take away solely trials performance to determine teams. I have expressed my views to the High Performance Committee and Director and got no responses or no valid responses. I guess when there are no valid arguments or are guilty, there is usually no response. The Olympic Trials is going to be strictly trials but I’m guessing only because the IOC or ITTF decides that process and not the USATT staff.
In the US, there is no government support for sports like every other country in the world so everyone is on their own supporting themselves in hopes of making national teams. Now their performance in trials can mean something or can mean nothing? It’s all upto one person?! I don’t see how this is a fair system giving one person sole discretion and final say over selections. I keep hearing that the High Performance Director comes from one of the most successful nations. It’s possible he could be a really good coach but if he didn’t have two Chinese immigrants playing from him, I’m guessing I would not be hearing that. I’m not at all saying that Phil Jackson is not a great basketball mind but would anyone talk about Phil Jackson as the greatest basketball coach of all-time if he was coaching a high school basketball team and not Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal, and Scottie Pippen, 4 of the greatest basketball players of all-time? Coaching matters but success of a coach is largely dependent on the players and their work ethic. NBA Champion Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr has made the Warriors a better team than they were before he coached them but modestly admits he’s lucky to have the talent on his roster that he has.
I heard USATT wants to include kids who can be great. How are they going to explain to kids who outperform others but are then not selected where as kids they outperform are selected? Top talent evaluators in every major sport have been dead-wrong at times. Tom Brady, the greatest football player of all-time, went undrafted. Hundreds of players were seen as more valuable to each team than him. There are many other examples like this. In team sports, you have to use judgement as wins and losses don’t necessarily give each individual player’s value to the team. In an individual sport, it should be easy to make fair selections as you have to defeat others.