The Logan Pilot Project
(Conducted when I was State Director of Coaching for Queensland in 1992)

State Director of Coaching

THE LOGAN PILOT PROJECT 28/9-91 to 29/3-92.

When I arrived in Brisbane on the 28th of September it was to take up a position as Regional Director of Coaching, with the understanding that I should be based in Logan City and work for Logan Table Tennis Association.
On my arrival the first thing that I was told was that the Government would not allow the appointment of a new Regional Director of Coaching, not as long as the QTTA did not have a State Director of Coaching. This was discussed between the involved parties, and I was offered the position as State Director of Coaching. This was not the job that I have agreed to take on, but I had no choice: My wife and I wanted to immigrate to Australia, and we had lodged an application for permanent residence-ship grounded on an employer nomination saying that I should work as a Director of Coaching in table tennis. So I had to accept the offer, but made the reservations that I was unfamiliar with the Australian conditions and that my responsibilities to my family might prevent me to travel as much as I guessed it would be necessary as a SDC.
An agreement was made that I should work full-time as the State Director of Coaching, but that my main duty should be to conduct a Pilot Project in, and for, Logan.
The state of affairs of Logan Table Tennis Association:
The first part of my job was to familiarize myself with Logan Table Tennis Association.
I learned that Logan was one of the fastest growing table tennis associations in Queensland; it had increased its number of memberships from 27 to more than 80 in one year. The association had just moved into new club-rooms, with four tables, excellent lighting, nicely painted walls, ball barriers around each table and a small canteen.
I found that Logan had a very experienced and creative President and a competent and keen Administrator. The associations also had two performing Level 1 coaches, a dozen of young juniors, a few top-players and a solid base of social fixture-players (the fixture-system was quite new to me, it does not exist in Norway).
The start of the Pilot Project:
I received no duty statements or explanation of the nature of the Pilot Project from my employer the QTTA, the only guidelines I had was a letter that I had received from the Logan President before I arrived in Australia. The letter read that Logan needed someone with the visions of a strong and active club in all areas of the sport from the grass root level to the elite: That they needed someone with development ability, someone to lift the sports in schools, to bring the schools into the network of activity. Someone who could train the associations basic coaches, who could organize the elite coaching, and put the club in the forefront of the State League, open tournaments and other major competitions. The letter also mentioned that they would be looking for a Development Plan for 1992 at the Annual Meeting and in cooperation with the Administrator, a budget.
I had been very happy with the contents of the letter; even if it was a very ambitious program - it was almost as if I was looking into a mirror of my own thoughts of how to organize a table tennis association! I had left table tennis in Norway (after I had built up Norway's best and biggest club) because my own association and the NTTA was totally reluctant to make development plans - the letter had given me a desire to try again!

Part one - Organizing of the coaching
To organize the coaching with a view to make top-players would necessary take some time, and I had to spend some weeks just to study the situation to find all restrains and advantages.
The size of the venue was definitely what I saw as the biggest restrain - it is said that you at least need 500 players to find one talent, and with a four-table venue it might take several years just to find one player that would have the change to reach international standard!
The second largest (later I had to upgrade this restrain to the biggest) restrain I found was the general attitude to table tennis. How could I get the players to take their sport seriously when nobody (even the players themselves) seemed to consider table tennis a sport? The players were not physically fit; and they were not practicing enough, and they seemed afraid to show some pride for what they were doing. I knew the attitude well from Norway, but at least the juniors there were practicing a lot, lot more than one day a week! One other large restrain was the picture that the Queensland players seemed to have of a coach: "A good coach has to be a good player, and has to stand on the other side of the table during coaching". I had never been a good player, and the private-coaching style was quite unfamiliar to me. In Europe you have to choose if you want to be a good player or a good coach, you can not be both! I have my Level 3 certificate both from Norway and Sweden, and had in fact been involved in coaching of three of the residing world-champions, but I was still met with a lot of scepticism. It did not make it any better that I not was familiar with all the Australian/English table tennis sport's terminology.
I also feared that it would be a problem that I would have to change the practicing-pattern for the players and coaches - it is always hard to change a routine. And it was a wish from Logan that I should take over the coaching of the best and most promising players, which could easily lead to conflicts with the other coaches; when you have started to coach some juniors it is natural that you want to follow them till you see the results of your work.
Another restrain was that the TTQ playing-calendar showed me that-it was very few activities on the competition-side of the sport, - far from enough; To improve your game you need a lot of tournaments and other forms for organized match-play.
It turned also out to be a problem that the President of Logan TTA got more and more busy in his private business; it seemed hard for him to find time to get involved in development plans and to encourage the planning of budgets. No development plans or budgets were made, it was even hard for him to find time to call in a Coaching Committee-meeting to discussed my plans for the coaching activities (of course I understand that your work have to come first, but table tennis was my work!).
The last problem was that it was not made any clarifications of the role and responsibilities where both the Administrator and I would be involved, all the changes might lead to conflicts of interest.
The most obvious advantage was that Logan by getting me to help them wanted to restructure the association and was willing to aim high. The other big advantage would have to be that I had the necessary experience in development of associations, I had been educating coaches both on Level 1 and 2 and also had been coaching all sorts of players from beginners to international representatives - successfully done all the things that Logan wanted me to do.
We also had an advantage that we now at least had three accredited coaches who could be able to take on responsibilities for different groups of players; we had the coaching-capacity to grow. The number of players was perhaps not big enough, but we had a few good players and some juniors with development-possibilities.
Even if Logan's venue was small, we had the advantage that we could it every day, at any time.
It could also be said that it was an advantage that the standard of the players in Queensland was not very high and that it was very few associations that seemed to work hard to develop their players - with some efficient planning and coaching it should be possible to get Logan's name on the result-boards fairly fast.
The actions and the elements:
The first thing I had to do was to organize an elite/junior-elite squad, if we wanted visual results fast we had to start there. After discussions with the other coaches and planning of the practicing-schedule the players to the squad were selected and the coaching started. The elements were the following (enclosed on the next pages):
- letters to the selected players, explaining the associations goals and what we had to do to reach them.
- letters to the players, with information on practicing-schedule and methods.
- coaching programmes for each session (enclosed is the first).
- goal-setting, analysing and player discussions.
- physical tests and schedule for running.
- video-recording to analyse our weaknesses and strengths (no paper).
- video-viewing of international players to learn (no papers).
The next that happened was the establishment of the Logan Table Tennis Academy. Basically a change of name from Elite/Junior-elite squad, but it also meant that the players would get benefits like free coaching, free uniforms and almost free tournaments. It also meant a "upgrading" of the elements:
- "Academy News" - a newsletter to the players with information.
- new practicing schedule/plan for Logan activities.
- calendars for the seniors, with tournaments and practicing models.
- calendars for the juniors, with tournaments and practicing models.
- monthly planner for the players.
- weekly planner for the players.
- Academy-coaching programmes (hung up in the venue in advance) for the combined Sunday-session and for the separate senior and junior sessions on Wednesdays (enclosed three samples).
- tactics-forms to the players, to improve game-play.
- Brisbane-players analysing forms to the players, for tactics-discussions and preparation of match-plans for the State League.
- picture-series for the juniors to explain the correct strokes ("a picture tells more than thousand words").
- letters to the juniors' teachers, for the players to reduce frictions and gain support in their environment.
The Progress and the results:
"No pain - no gain" is a proverb that covers many aspects of life, also the organizing of the Pilot Project's coaching-activities: The best player suddenly chose to play for another club (basically because he is an individualist with some success in developing his own training program) and one of the coaches chose to withdraw (a period for obvious reasons, but later seemingly of dislike for the person responsible for the changes). Some of the players gave the expression that they were not happy with the form of coaching (not even after they had shown great improvements and unexpectedly good results), and showed surprisingly little knowledge of the principles of coaching.
The Administrator and some of the committee-members discovered that it cost money to run an Academy (even if they all had supported the President's proposal), and seemed to wanted to back away from the decisions they already had made, and to interfere with my ways to implement the decisions as the Manager of the Academy.
The things mentioned might be seen as a negative and disappointing result of the development, but when you look closer into the problems you will see that most of them are natural growing pains.
When I had been analysing the association's structure to find advantages and restrains it had not been very difficult to see the problems that might turn up when I should start to organize the coaching!
Many of the problems could have been avoided with more involvement from the Coaching Committee and the Management Committee. The proposal to establish an Academy came as a suggestion prepared solely by the President. It would have been natural for a Coaching Committee to take part in the planning from the start, and the treasurer (Administrator) should have been involved to prepare a budget to determine the economic feasibility of the project.
The positive side of the progress was that the coaching was getting organized in a more professional way; the players got into better routines and put a lot more effort into their practicing. The players were getting goals to look forwards to, and they could see that they were improving as players.
When the Logan Pilot Project was disrupted the association had a functioning Academy with 11 senior members and 6 junior, member, with other juniors knocking on the door. The Academy had organized coaching sessions two times in a week, and the association had also organized coaching for beginners and non-elite juniors.
The results of the efforts came perhaps best out front in tournaments and the State League:
The players had started to beat opponents they lost to when I arrived, and got results better than anybody could have expected in such a short time:
Winner and runner-up for the men teams in Logan Open Team tournament, 7 first prizes out of 7 possible in Logan Cadet Open Tournament. 6-0 win over Brisbane in the first round of the State League.
Conclusion to Part one - organizing of the coaching:
The organizing of the coaching worked very well. Some expected growing pains, but the results on the playing-scene were better than we could have hoped for.
Logan can safely follow the path that has been drawn up; provided that a Development Plan with mission-statements, goals and budgets are made as soon as possible (and that they then still want to be in the forefront of the State League, open tournaments and other major competitions).
For other associations that want to aim as high as Logan I will strongly recommend that a Development Plan with mission statements, goals and budgets is prepared before another step is taken!!

Part two - Media Drive -92.

It did not take me many weeks to realize that the major problem I would face in the Logan Pilot Project was the attitude towards our sport. "Table tennis is not a sport, but a recreational activity you do in your garage on rainy days", was a phrase I learned pretty fast. And I also learned, even if it took a few days longer, that this attitude penetrated the whole environment - from the general public to the players and administrators. Nobody seemed to dare to take our sport completely serious.
This attitude/problem is not specific to Australia, but I understood that it would be a much larger hindrance in my work here that it had been in my development-work in Norway. Because how can you get somebody to do something serious for a sport that nobody takes serious? So - I had to look into ways to change people's attitude. I have learned in my work in advertising-business that to change attitudes is one of the most difficult things to do, but at least I had the experience in trying!
Objektives and goals:
The objective of the Media Drive -92 was to try to change the attitude towards table tennis as a sport. It was very hard to put up a specific goal, but I hoped that the drive could get our own members - from players to administrators - to take their sport a little bit more serious (feel some pride in what they were doing), could get the general public in Logan City to understand that table tennis was more than a recreational activity and finally that the drive could help us to get 50 new members from our Beginners Drive.
Targeted media:
Albert & Logan News Radio FM 181
Pacific 8 Cinemas, TV's Channel 7
Elements, actions and results:
The local newspaper Albert and Logan News was the first and most obvious target for the drive. The President of Logan had told me that this newspaper was willing to use table tennis articles and that he had written a few himself before he got too occupied with his private business.
I contacted the editor of sports and he confirmed that they would take in as many articles from the local sports-scene that they could print, also from table tennis and that I was welcome to write. I presented him for an idea on whole-page advertising features, an idea I had adapted from golf, and was told that such a feature was welcome. It would in fact cost us nothing if we managed to get a certain number of advertisements to be used on the page, and they would be happy to make the advertising-articles themselves if we provided the information. The next step was to present the idea and information to the Logan board members and suggest that we tried to get enough advertisements for the advertising feature and that I should try to write table tennis articles. Positive response, but nothing happened concerning the advertising feature, and this element had to be cancelled. I started to write articles, and managed to get some into the newspaper. The problem I encountered was that the editor was very hard to get hold of, and I guesses one or two articles never was printed because I could not find him in time to write the copy to the pictures (he had the films). I do not know how many times I have called the newspaper in vain and how many messages I have left, but I guess the problem again is the attitude: Nobody take us serious enough to treat us in a decent way.
What I did next was to make a Logan Table Tennis Association Press Release and News Release sheet, to be used for articles and information to the newspaper (and other media). The design is rather bombastic but I wanted our Press Release to be seen among all the other article-sheets, and not so easily forgotten!
The next media chosen was the local radio station. Radio FM 101 presented a sports-program every Saturday morning, and the President and others from Logan hade already been interviewed. I approached the program-leader, Greg Jones from AussieSport, and it was agreed that he would let table tennis on the air every week if we were interested. It was agreed at a Logan board-meeting that it was important that we were on the radio, especially in confection with the launching of our Beginners Drive, but the fact is that if I did not go to the radio-station myself (or managed to send our twelve year old twins when I was busy at the QTTA's AGM) there was no table tennis on Radio FM 101!
From my work in advertising companies I have learned that the cinema is a reasonable and good advertising media, especially if you are targeting young people. So I contacted Pearl & Dean Ltd. The company that was responsible for advertising screenings at the local Pacific 8 Cinemas at Logan Hyperdome. Their representative gave me offer for the cost of production and screening of advertising stills, plus the timing-schedules. I thought that we had a big possibility to change people's attitude here, and reach our most important target-group - and presented sketches and ideas for the Logan-board. Again the board-members thought the idea was good, but after that nothing happened.
A media that I just had started to look into when the Logan Pilot Project was terminated was TV, ever if I felt that perhaps the ATTA and the QTTA would be the correct associations to look into the possibility of promoting our sport through TV. To get table tennis in TV the same way as the big sports would be impossible - they get paid to be on the air - but there might be other possibilities. TV-advertising would be the most easy way to get in, and it would be fantastic if Logan could come up with an idea on how to finance such a drive!
I also learned (Greg Jones again) that it should not be impossible for us to get table tennis on Channel 7's children program "Argo's Cartoon Collection", but I did not get the change to look further into the matter.
I am 100% convinced that table tennis will have to take up the fight against the attitude-problem, and my conclusion is that this should have been the most important part of the Logan Pilot Project. We targeted some media and came up with some suggestions and actions. Our drive did perhaps not give any measurable results, but it hard to measure change in attitude. And attitudes can not be changed overnight. I felt that the players got more self-esteem when they saw their pictures in the paper and heard table tennis on the radio. Greg Jones also told me that he felt that that our actions (if we kept everything up) could lead to a take-off for table tennis as a popular sport in Logan City within twelve months. The rather sad conclusion is that our drive was hindered by the attitude we were trying to change - not even the Logan board-members were prepared to do something serious for the drive that they all agreed was the way to go!
Take up the fight against attitudes! Make plans for another media- drive. Keep the elements from this drive, try new angles and try to come up with new ideas. Appoint a Media and Promotion Committee, and at least try to do the following:
- be on Radio FM 101 every Saturday.
- send newsletters to all other radio stations, and follow up with personal contact.
- "force" all the local newspapers to write about table tennis: send
them articles, press-releases and follow up with Personal contact.
- try to get all kind of table tennis results into the media (senior and junior fixtures, interclub matches, tournaments etc.) and inform on coming events.
- use everything that can be used in the media, nothing would better than a big scandale (the attitude can't get worse')!
- get into advertising features (in the newspaper).
- get into cinema-advertising.
- look further into the TV-possibility.
And of course, in this part of the report as in all other parts of the Logan Pilot Project report: make a development plan and get it implemented. Put into the plan the goals for the coming media-drives, and try to realize that this is the most important thing that can be done!

Part three - Promotional & Community Activities.

Objectives and goals:
It must be remembered that Logan TTA did not have a Development Plan, so none of the activities included in this report is a part of, or result from, such a master plan.
No objectives or goals were made, but the objectives with promotional and community activities must have been that the association were hoping for new members, and (from my side) to try to change people's attitudes towards our sport. (I had put up a goal to get 50 new members from our Beginners Drive, and this can be a goal also included in this part).
Street Parade in Logan City Community Week.
Visits to Boys and Girls Brigade.
Shopping Mall Demonstrations.
(plus Media Drive -92, see part two)
Actions and results:
The Logan City Community Week was announced in the local newspaper, and I read that several institutions and sporting associations should join in a large street parade. I suggested for Logan that we should try to take part, and got positive response.
We represented Logan TTA in the Street Parade on top of a truck decorated with balloons and Logan banners. Five young juniors dressed in Logan uniforms (plus Emma, Sonia and me) handed out brochures, gave away balls with Logan's phone number and tried to play table tennis on the moving table. Above the truck's cabin waved a big weather-balloon as a gigantic table tennis ball.
We must have created some interest, because lots of people run up to the truck as we moved along - and we run out of brochures!
The response later was poor; no phone calls, no new members. Hard to measure if we managed to change some attitudes, but people seemed interested and surprised to see ping-pong players in uniforms, and I guess that we at least managed to inform a lot of people (included the Council-members) that we have a table tennis association in Logan City!
The Boys and Girls Brigade in Runcorn wanted to start table tennis activities, and asked if we could give them a hand in the start. I was present at two of the three times we visited them. They had three new tables and plenty of room and young boys and girls, but what I noticed best the first time was the negative attitude. Table tennis was definitely a social ping-pong, and that we wanted to show them how to play was almost ridiculous.
I visited the Brigade again to deliver brochures when we started our Beginners Drive, but the measurable result from our efforts again were poor; no new members. But perhaps some of them now realize that table tennis is a sport?
Shopping Mall demonstrations are something that Logan was familiar with when we were invited by Arndale Shopping Centre to repeat last years activity.
Before I came into the picture there were put forwards some ideas of a big ball tournament and a Ping-pongathon, and I had to try my best to convince everybody that we should try to change people's attitudes to our sport - not confirm them. The theme for the demonstrations was finally decided to be The Table Tennis Challenge, and they were held on two Saturdays and two Thursdays.
The idea of The Table Tennis Challenge was that shoppers could come forwards and get themselves a shopping voucher, if they managed to beat the Logan-players. And they could choose if they wanted to start on 0-0, 10-0 on 15-0. This would show the spectators that table tennis is something different from the recreational activity; Ping-pongers that had been playing in their garage for 15 years would have to have tremendous luck to win the six needed points! Another part of the program was to dress up one of our best players as a typical shopper and call him (against his "protests" from the crowd for a challenge-match, and then end up with a show-match. We planned to get the local primary-schools to challenge each other, and to get celebrities to challenge each other. And we wanted the best Logan players to challenge Seref & Co from Brisbane TTA for real fights. Plus that we should get our juniors to show how they learned their sport, and bring the big balls and the robot for the pubic to try. I ended up only being involved in the first demonstration, and I do not know if Logan got any measurable results.
It is very positive that Logan wants to get involved in Promotional and community activities, even if the results often are hard to measure. This is a good way to change attitudes - it gives the general public a chance to see that the association exists and that table tennis is more than a recreational activity!
Promotional activities and community activities are tremendous important and Logan (and other associations) should get as many of them as possible into their Development Plans - and make sure to implement them!
Visit Youth organizations, call the City Councils to become a part of community activities, send letters and visit shopping-mall managers, find new channels to present the sport to the public and try to force yourselves into the media. The big problem is to get the snow-ball rolling!
When you do activities like the mentioned, make sure that you do it in a professional way (there are professional people that can help!) and always present table tennis as a tough and fast sport (never use social players in shopping mall demonstrations!). Planning and preparations must be taken serious; everybody should understand how important actions where we try to change people's attitudes are. Forget that you are feeling ashamed to show the people that you are involved in ping-pong, you have the chance to show the public (and your family and friends) that you have chosen the worlds biggest sport and that your sport is table tennis!

Part four - Fixture review.

The fixture-system that I found in Logan (and I understand is common for all clubs) was new to me - this kind of social activity does not exist in Norway. But I think the idea is great. In many cases the fixtures are the economical back-bone, and from the social players it should be possible to find persons that could help in the administration of the club.
I learned that the fixtures during the spring-season did not operate as smoothly and happily as the players and the administration wanted. A low rate of turn-up caused low income and the players complained that the fixtures was uninteresting.
I sketched a questionnaire that was handed out to all the fixture-players - and what I could see from the ones I got back was that they disliked that the grading was diluted; they wanted the grading kept and they wanted a form of penalty for the ones that did not turn up.
Actions and results:
I took the replies to the next board-meeting with a hope that we could form a sub-committee that could analyze all (there were more than the ones I had got) the filled-in questionnaires and come up with a suggestion. This did not happend - there were only a short discussion where the board-members presented their personal view on the matter. When the short-summer-season fixtures started each team was told that they should have a captain responsible for collecting the starting fee for each fixture-night.
I have not been able to follow the resent development, but I have got a feeling that Logan still got some of the same problems as before. (I have also noticed that many of the new members and fixture-players quite often disappears after just a few nights).
I believe that the fixtures are so important for Logan that problems should be taken serious. Here are some suggestions:
Appoint a sub-committee from among the social players themselves that can look into the matter and come up with ideas.
Make the fixture-nights to last for a shorter period of time; max 11/2 hour, but keep the venue open to those who want to play private matches and socialize after the fixtures.
Squeeze inn some picnic-tables close to the cafeteria, so that the players can sit down and socialize (and buy soft-drinks!). Use the score-machines/boards for each table!
Enforce grading - perhaps let the players choose their own teams and let the teams play in some kind of ranking-order (this in a way so the best players mostly play each other, and so that newcomers can start on the bottom of the ladder and try to climb to the top-team). Use suburb/area-names on all the teams! Plus sponsor's name!
Send the results to the local paper every week - and hang them up too! Make a fixture calendar to all the players before each season starts; with all the teams, captains, players and substitutes (with phone-numbers to all). Plus the times and dates for each match, name and phone number to the association's board members, venue and coaches - and advertisements from the sponsors!
The fixture-review was basically for the seniors, but I also started to look into the junior-fixtures. They should also be made more rewarding for the players; more interesting and more sports like!

Part five - Summer Camp-92.

Objectives and goals:
I did not have to stay long in Australia to discover that the players in Logan (and in general?) were not practicing enough. The juniors were practicing once a week, and the seniors perhaps a little more, and physical exercises were non-existent. Somebody mentioned that perhaps the Christmas-holiday would be a good time for training camps - and I planned and conducted a week's camp for the juniors and a weekend camp for the seniors.
I wanted the players to get used to the idea of practicing more, and I wanted them to get used to proper coaching: with both good exercises at the table and besides. I also wanted them to improve their standard enough to understand that proper coaching and more practicing hours would give results, and I even hoped to give them some pride in what they were doing - make them to understand that table tennis is a sport as good as any other sports.
Actions and results:
I made an invitation and enter-form to all the members of Logan TTA, but the visual response was poor. I only received two coupons from the juniors and one from the seniors, but I understood this mostly was because the members was not used to fill in entry-forms (!). I got an inquiry from one of the social senior players if a group of Chinese players could participate, and we said that was OK if their paid their membership fees in addition to the camp fee (the camp was only for members), and the night before the camp started I was told 12 Chinese children would turn up (in addition to our own five juniors)'
Even with this short notice, and with players of mostly beginner's standard, it must be said that the camp was a success. That no one missed out a day tells a lot!
The coaching model I used for the juniors was quite unorthodox, and my own idea based on experiences from my stay in the Solomon Islands (I helped a table tennis association there for a few months when on my sailing around the world): All the exercises were started from service, and we did not do even one forehand to forehand counter-hitting (or bh to bh) during the whole week! I also used a lot of tests; tests to make the coaching interesting and tests so that they could see how much they improved during the camp.
This worked very well, they worked far better than I am used to see in training camps!! The players also improved more than I guess they would have done with more common-style coaching. They were all able to play a tournament with proper rules on the last day.
The sad part was that the Chinese children never turned up to the Logan junior-coaching after the camp ended - even if their parents had ensured me that their children enjoyed every day. I called a few the parents later, and was told that their children perhaps would come if we made similar camps, but not to regular training during the week (and I heard children protesting to the last words in the background).
The senior camps were perhaps not as successful as the juniors - even if most of the players turned up. They were working very well on the Saturday, but we had to cancel the next day's afternoon-session. "Tired" was the explanation, and I guess we all are tired if we do to much partying - or are the senior-players less fit then the juniors?
Training-camps are important - so keep on making them, both for juniors and seniors!
Camps in your own venue is OK, but it is far better to travel to somewhere else (t.ex. Bundaberg) and make a joint camp with another association.
A one weeks camp can be too much both for seniors and juniors, but our camp showed it is very well possible to keep the intensity and positive spirit through five days; by the use of interesting exercises, tests, video and match-play.
Concerning the Chinese: Try again. Perhaps they can convince their parents to let them do table tennis as their sport the next time!
If possible, make the players do a lot of running in a period before the camps, so that they are physically (and mentally) fit for hard practicing.

Part six - Tournaments Drive-92.

Objectives and goals:
The first thing I noticed when I saw the QTTA-calendar for tournaments in 1992 was that there were so few activities for the players. In Europe (and other parts of the table tennis world) it is normal that the players are busy with tournaments and leagues for at least eight months of the year. If Logan wanted to improve the standard of their players it would not be enough with more coaching; they would also have to play in more tournaments - and I suggested that Logan should try to arrange more than their open tournament in 1992. I suggested that they made several smaller tournaments - then they could use their own venue and they could invite different groups of players to each tournament. I also hoped that this would be more rewarding for both the players and Logan than the traditional style tournaments.
Actions and results:
The first tournament was a team-tournament for seniors and juniors, and even if it was considered off-season and we had very short time from invitation to tournament-start we managed to get a very acceptable number of entries.
The tournament was played in a two-person teams form and each association could enter more than one team. We made a program that was handed out to each team-captain, showing times and tables for all matches to the finals. We used score-boards for the team-results, that was up-dated after each game/match, and also score-machines for the games in each match.
The second tournament was Australia's first Cadet-tournament, with entries in U-15, U-13 and U-11 events. All the events (except doubles for boys U-15) started with a pool-play that lead into a knock-out,
so that all the players would get more than one match. Again we handed out programs and used scoring-machines at each table.
The last tournament that I wanted to implement was a Ladies tournament, but unfortunately this had to be cancelled due to few entries.
Both the tournaments that I implemented were very successful, with only positive reactions from players and leaders.
Logan (and other associations) should try to make more of this kind of tournaments, not only the regular Open ones' (it is not very interesting for a 10 year old hopeful to sit the whole day waiting and then travel back home after loosing against a 17 year old junior!) Play more tournaments with pool-system and teams!
Make programs to inform the players about times and tables, and always mention the players association after his name (club-feeling must be improved!). Try also to make a sensible schedule, so that players do not have to stay in the hall the whole day!
Use score-boards and score-machines in every tournament!!!!!! Send the results to the newspapers and local radio stations the same day (and of course inform them before the event - and they might even turn up!)!
Work hard to get sponsors for the program and trophies - a tournament shall be a good source of income (but never on expense of the quality of the tournament)!
Invite the ladies again, but do not try to make it a social event this time, the players always want to show who is the best (include a handicap event, perhaps)!
Keep the rules and tournament conditions (entries, uniforms etc.)!!!

Part seven - School Drive-92.

The school drive was not an initiative that came from me, but I was very much involved - and includes it in the report with my comments and recommendations.
One of the first things I was told, and have heard again and again, is that table tennis must into the schools if we want our sport to grow. Well, I am not used to this claim. Table tennis is not played very much in the schools neither in Norway nor Sweden, You find the the table tennis players in the associations, and everybody is happy with that.
My personal believe is that to get table tennis into the schools in Queensland will not solve all the problems so that we all can live happy thereafter. This is a very naive remark, and more an excuse for not working properly in the administration of the associations. Just imagine if you got 30.000 students playing table tennis is school and 20.000 of them want to start playing in the associations. This will not solve our problems, as I read one place, but create enormous problems and perhaps the death blow to our sport in Queensland. We are not prepared to grow, we do not have enough to offer!!
Actions and results:
The first action towards the schools was an invitation to the sports-masters and principals of the schools in our area; to attend a lunch in our venue, to meet me and to be informed on the 1992 Secondary Schools State Championships Program.
Very few turned up. The ones that did (included two Aussie Sport Field officers, on my initiative) learned that we were situated in Slacks Creek, that the school championships program was on again and that I was SDC and Logan coach. For me it was very valuable that I could present to them my sketch to the School Starter and Recourse Kit, and was happy to get very positive feedback from the teachers.
The second part of the drive was quite unintentional and definitely not planned: When we visited the five targeted primary schools in Logan to distribute the brochures to our Beginners Drive two of the principals told us that they would be happy to include table tennis on their Friday afternoon-program if they could play in our venue. Logan said OK to both, and the first day there were 38 students in our venue, which usually is filled up with 8 players! Logan had to buy four new tables and a lot of bats, and was lucky enough to rent a four-table room for free adjacent to our club-room.
I believe that Logan rushed to fast into this school-drive, and I do not think the result will be very positive. The attitude towards table tennis was shining through from the first session; most of the students were totally uninterested in our sport, they had only joined to get away from school and mock around with ping-pong! So I guess that Logan will get very few new members (serious ones) and that the drive hardly will change anyone's attitudes to our sport. And what more is - this drive is far too expensive for Logan (new tables, bats and balls, coaches. electricity etc.)!
To make a school drive is a way to get new members to the associations, BUT a school drive must be planned properly; it must be part of a developments plan and must be budgeted!!
I do not believe it is worth while to spend too much time on the secondary schools - the students are too old to become good players, and the majority of them have already chosen their sport. Keep (and perhaps develop) the Secondary School Championships, but that is enough.
To approach sports-masters and principals to inform the schools on table tennis and events is very well, but this is a very difficult target-group to reach. Any approach must be done in a very professional and a guess also unusual way, especially since our sport is table tennis (can you find any good reason that they should go to a meeting with a table tennis associations?)!
I have an idea I believe in: Send a free video-tape to each principal, for them personally to take home, a promotional video-tape showing table tennis on international level (like "The wonderful and wacky world of table tennis).
To get students to play table tennis in the Logan club-rooms during school-hours is a way to get new members (read Beginners Drive-92, Part eight), but it must be done with greatest care. Besides from beeing a result of a development plan it also must be presented in a professional way:
Make sure the teachers are involved from before the first session - they must be motivated, they must be involved in the possess and the best thing is of course to get them really interested in our sport! There must be enough coaches to take care of the students, and it must be good coaches who can plan every session properly and also motivate them.
Make sure you show the students that table tennis is something else than ping-pong; use video-tapes, use demonstrations by the best players!
Give the students information of table tennis in Australia and on the international scene - work hard to change their attitudes to our sport.
Inform on Logan TTA; give them papers showing what they can do when the school-program has ended or if they want to join the club from the start.
Make primary schools competitions so that the students (and the teachers and the principal) have something to look forwards to - it might be a school-championship for each school and/or it might be inter-school championships/tournaments/leagues. Learn from the other sports how they do this, do not present them for the regular tournament style competitions that exists - find new and interesting ways that will attract and keep new members of the table tennis family!

Part eight - Beginners Drive -92

The objective was that Logan should increase its number of junior-players, and the goal for the February-drive was to get more than 50 beginners in the age-group 7-15 years old to take part in the first courses.
Elements of the drive
Brochures for all the students were distributed to 5 targeted primary schools, together with posters for the information-boards. Advertisement for the drive was inserted in the local newspaper. Announcements were made on the local radio station.
(Brochures and posters were also distributed to a Police Youth Association and to a previously visited Boys and Girls Brigade)
Results of the drive
Beginners in the category 7 to 10 years old: 1
Beginners in the category 11 to 15 years old: 2
(A boy and his sister who had received a brochure at school, plus a boy who had seen the advertisement in the newspaper)
Analysis of the result
The result can easily be described in one word: Disaster!
Three beginners as a result of all the effort and costs involved must be a clear indication that there is something fundamentals wrong with our sport. At least seen from a public point of view.
This might be a prejudice, so let us first take a closer look at the drive's elements to spot possible weaknesses:
The brochures had a professional look. Table tennis was presented as an exiting and large sport, and should easily get through the message that Logan Table Tennis Association invited children to beginners courses.
The posters were also looking quite good, and the format should be perfect for information boards.
The advertisement in the local newspaper was big enough to be seen among all the other sign-on advertisements, even if the picture was blurred and the typesetting not was made bolder as agreed. The announcements on the local radio station on several Saturdays should also have been noticed by the public in the area - other announcements/,advertising on the same radio station have given tremendous results.
I think it can be concluded that the elements included in the drive not can be blamed for the disastrous result; they were presented in a proper way. Should there have been other elements included in the drive - did we not get enough public attention? Not necessary, if all we wanted was to inform our selected target-group that we invited them to beginners courses. More than 1.500 students got our brochures in their hands - if all we needed was to inform then we should get a percentage, not a big zero!!
Let us take a look at "Sport for young Australian", a research undertaken by the Australian Sport Commission, to see if we have been offering our product in a wrong way:
One of the major reasons for not participating in sports is that it costs too much money.
Was the 30 dollars asked for a eight weeks course too much?
It should not bee so, because we deliberately put the course fee at a lower level than other sports that it is natural to compare table tennis with (tennis, squash, swimming). But the costs is perhaps still something that have inflicted on our result, especially since a similar research in Logan City showed that that the costs was more important here than it seems to be in the rest of Australia (high rate of unemployment, large groups of immigrants etc.).
The research by the Sports Commission also showed that the parents play a major role in the children's decisions when selecting a sport, and that both the parents and the children want to play their sport near home or school. And play as soon after school as possible.
Is our venue situated in the wrong spot, or did we invite the children to the wrong times?
No, the Logan TTA's venue is very central located even if it is in an industrial area, with one of the schools within a short walk's distance, and our courses starts shortly after school.
So what did we do wrong?
It does not seems to be much wrong with the way we invited the targeted group, and I am quite sure that if we had invited the children to beginners courses in basketball we would have no problems at all to fill all the courses!
I guess the only thing left is to look at table tennis as a sport; perhaps it is true that table tennis is not considered a sport, but something you do in your garage to pass the time on rainy days? What is definitely true is that table tennis get very little public attention as a sport. You will never see table tennis played on TV, not even the newspapers seems it worth mentioning that Australia are taking part in large international events.
Table tennis is a big sport all over the world, but to the Australian public it is definitely not!!
One might believe that the public in Logan City at least should be aware that a table tennis association has been operating in the area for some years, but only one of the children asked in the Logan research knew that it existed a sport called table tennis (and he/she put it down as a winter-sport). What more is; table tennis was not at all among the sports that the children wanted to try! Well, why should they want to try table tennis when there are a lot of popular sports to choose among? And the parents - who wants their children to play an non-existent sport when they might be as famous and popular as Wally Lewis if they choose the right sport??
"Want to learn table tennis?" This was the headline on the front-page on our brochure. I think that the reason to the disastrous result to the Beginners Drive -92 simply is that the answer to the question is ...NO!
(It would be good if I am wrong, but I also asked some schoolchildren that had received our brochures why nobody wanted to try table tennis and the answer was simply that they were not interested in our sport.)
If the conclusion to the findings is that nobody wants to try table tennis because they do not consider it a sport - then what can we do?
1. Give up. When I look at the level of table tennis activities in Queensland it seems to me that quite a lot of people involved in our sport already have. It has been said that table tennis in Australia is 20 years behind the times, but who wants to do something serious for a sport that nobody seriously considers a sport?
Well, I see nothing wrong in table tennis being a recreational activity or purely a social sport, there is - as mentioned - a lot of sports to choose from for the children and table tennis do not necessary have to be one of them!
What Logan TTA in this case can do is to change the association's constitution so it not says that they have to promote table tennis as a sport, and clarify that the club is purely for social activities.
2. Get table tennis into the schools. Most people involved in our sport in Queensland seem to be of the opinion that if table tennis is to grow as a sport it must get into the schools and the majority is here thinking of secondary schools.
OK, let us imagine that we get some schools interested in taking up table tennis, what will be the result?
The children in the schools will still be able to choose the sport they want to try, and table tennis will still not be on their list. The children that we will get to try table tennis will be the "leftovers", the ones not interested or fit for sports! Is that what we want if we ourselves consider table tennis a sport??
(And of course, the children from secondary schools should not be in our target-group, the motoric movements for sports is most easily learned in the age between 8 and 12)
Other major obstacles we will encounter if we first of all want to get table tennis into the schools is of course that most of the schools have no tables, many not a suitable venue, the teachers are not interested to promote table tennis as a sport and they are totally unfit and uninterested to teach their students table tennis, To get table tennis into schools is of course a possibility, but is far from easy and will most probably not give the results that we want. At least; not before we do something about the next point in this recommendation!
3. Try to change the people's attitude to table tennis. To change attitudes is one of the most difficult things to do, but if we want beginners courses to be successful I do believe we will have to try. The problem for Logan TTA is of course that this kind of work requires quite an effort, it is hard to find people motivated enough - and this is of course again related to the attitude-problem that we have to solve!! Here are some of the things that we should be able to do:
- be on Radio FM 101 every Saturday.
- send newsletters to all other radio stations, and follow up with personal contact.
- "force" all the local newspapers to write about table tennis, send articles, press-releases and follow up with personal contact.
- try to get all kind of table tennis results into this media (senior and junior fixtures, interclub matches, tournaments etc.) and inform on coming events.
- contact the major newspapers to see what can be done, and at least feed them with results and information on coming events.
- contact the TV-stations and try to force us in (good possibility at Channel 7's Argo's Cartoon Collection).
- make advertising features; implement the idea that was dropped for the first beginners drive (get one page for free by supply newspaper with advertisements).
- get into cinema-advertising, implement the idea that was dropped (young people goes to the movies - this is a cheap media!).
- plan and implement as many shopping-mall demonstrations as possible, and make them professional!
- take part in as many community activities as possible, find out when and where - and be there in professional style.
- contact a professional promoter, it might be possibly to fins one that only works for the percentage of the income he/she generates in our name!
- appoint a committee that shall look into the promotional side; all the above mentioned - and a lot more!
The Beginners Drive -92 had a bad start, but I hope that we will try again!
We must also remember that there are other ways of recruiting, and the easiest way should be through our own members. We might not get the large numbers that we want, but I am sure we can recruit some relative's and friend's children.
The most important thing of all is of course that Logan TTA makes a development plan and gets it implemented. Do we want, or need, Beginners Drives and beginners? What do we want for our association? I recommend that we start there!

Part nine - Daytime Activities Drive-92.

Objectives and goals:
Logan is Paying a rent of $1.700,- per month for their four-table venue, and this is of course a major hindrance to the development of the association.
When the Logan Table Tennis Academy was established I could clearly see that the extra costs would bring the association to the brink of a catastrophe, and I tried for the second time to get the board to look into daytime activities that could generate income.
I did not put up any goals for the drive (no development plan, no budgets exists for Logan, and such a drive should be a part of total planning) but I believe that daytime activities at least should generate enough money to pay for the rent and the electricity bills. And perhaps even money left over to employ a full-time administrator like other sports with a indoor venue can (gymnasiums, squash etc.)!
Actions and results:
Early in the Logan Pilot Project I tried to come up with ideas and initial plans on how to utilize our venue from morning to late night.
I made a rough sketch to a timetable and a poster, and suggested that we should try to approach the following groups of people with a PR/Information kit:
Housewives. Retired/Senior Citizen. Handicapped/Sporting Wheelies. Hospitalized/People recovering after illness.
I suggested that we could offer them the use of our venue, assistance by coaches and help to arrange fixtures.
No decisions were made by the board, no further actions taken.
After the establishment of the Academy I wanted to pursuit the issue once more, and made a sketch to show how we could invite business-houses in Logan to our venue.
No decisions were made, no actions taken.
Logan (and I guess a lot of other clubs) are struggling to survive economically, but the fact is that the association has a resource just waiting to be utilized: The venue is standing empty the whole day - fill it!!
Appoint a sub-committee that can look into the matter - see if my last suggestion can be printed and send out (a A-4 sheet with print on one side, made to be easy folded into an envelope).
Take the suggestion (and others) to some of the local business-houses and ask for comments!
When the DMs are send out - follow up with advertisements and personal contacts - and of course press-releases to the local newspapers! Visit other sport-venues and find out how they can survive, and what actions they are taking to attract people.
Make sure you get daytime activities into development plans and budgets!

Part ten - The venue.

Logan has, during the period of the Pilot Project, several times been looking for a new venue.
The objective has been that with a bigger venue: You can arrange your Open tournaments without having to go someplace else; you do not need to pay rent for the week-end and you can have income from cafeteria sales (and perhaps also more entries). You will also have room to expand your activities; more juniors, more elite-players and more social players. And finally; you can invite students from the area's schools to table tennis activities.
So far the search has been in vain; Logan has got quite a few offers, but the venues have been too expensive or they have not had the right dimensions.
Keep the four-table venue until development plans are made!
I can not see how Logan can afford a bigger and more expensive venue when the costs of the existing already are too high - and the increase of new members seems to be stagnant. The Beginners Drive-92 gave clear indications that Logan not can expect a massive growth in the near future that can pay for the extra costs.
It is true that it is very difficult to develop Logan TTA into the best association in Australia with the small venue, but look at Brisbane; they have one of the most excellent table tennis venues in the world, but where are all the players?'
So - first of all; make a development plan with mission statements, goals and budgets. When Logan has decided what the association wants, then it is the time to see if they need a bigger venue to reach their goals. If a bigger venue is necessary then the next must be to start budgeting - to see how much the total cost of running the association in a bigger venue will be, and if it is possible to make this project economically feasible. Is it possible to generate enough money both to the expenses of a new venue and all the existing and new activities?? If not, then the association will have to go back again to the mission statements and goals and see if they will have to aim a little bit lower.
Until development plans are made I believe that Logan shall try to utilize their existing venue to a maximum. Use six, or even nine, tables for practicing purposes and make sure that not even one table is unoccupied from six o'clock in the morning to eleven nigh-time! Make training-camps, use other facilities to warm-up and physical activities, make many smaller tournaments instead of one big, Put in a few picnic-tables for socializing and try to compensate for the small venue by making it to a smoothly run place with a lot of atmosphere!

Part eleven - Logan and the QTTA-activities.

I would like to quote from my State Director of Coaching yearly report for 1991:
When somebody wants to carry out a Pilot Project like this, one thing must always be remembered: A single association is always a part of, and is dependant on, the total activities in the state and the country.
The more I learned about the table tennis environment in Queensland and Australia the more I felt that I had to look far beyond the border of Logan city. I had to look into the structure of the QTTA and all it's associations. I had to find all the restrains and unfold all constructive thinking - to see how one could get everybody pulling in the same direction, which of course is a must for a positive development.
I started with what I believed was thought-provoking letters: suggestions on the State League, Grand Prix, a proposed calendar for 1992 with more tournaments, training camps and coach seminars, plus a new association report was send out to all the associations. In addition to asking for comments from all the associations before the 10th of December I also asked for feed-back from QTTA and the Executive Committee, and suggested that the QTTA appointed a League, tournament and Ranking Committee that could look into some of the matters.
In a sound environments this should be more than enough to get a dialogue started, but I also realized that if I wanted a positive development implemented in 1992 this would not be enough. To make the Logan Pilot Project feasible it would be necessary to have a good QTTA-constitution with budget and development-plan. The only way to ensure this was that the associations would forwards suggestions that everybody could accept at the Annual General Meeting in February, and that these suggestions would have to be put forwards before Christmas. So I included in my letters that I wanted to visit all the associations as soon as possible, so that I perhaps could work as a kind of catalyst to get all the necessary reactions started.
How many answers did I get from our 16 associations?
On State League: 5
Grand Prix: 3
Proposed calendar: 1
Association report: I
General comments: 2
No feed-back from the QTTA/the Executive Committee.
And what about the idea of visiting the associations?
I called to all the associations up north and most of them were very positive - and the National Director of Coaching supported my idea 100%. The Executive Committee did not. Hard to understand and digest, but I must of course respect my employers decisions, and perhaps I also one day will be given the reason why I had to cancel my visits.
Well, I left Norway and the table tennis there because I, after 15 years of hard work, got tired of explaining to the associations and the NTTA that they had to make development plans if they wanted to get the sport moving in the right direction.
Fortunately the situation is quite different here in Australia: The Government is now demanding that all the associations and QTTA shall present development plans. And what is more - the plans have got to be implemented before the end of 1992!
I am confident that Logan TTA soon will have their development plans ready, but will I just have to cross my fingers and hope that the rest of us involved in the Queensland table tennis will realize how serious the situation is?
This report was written the 15/1, and there have been some positive signs: Logan arranged two additional tournaments to the calendar, and a few other associations are planning to do the same and the State League has started.
The most positive that has happened was that Logan got a lot of its motions to the AGM in February carried trough. I said before the AGM that I would be very satisfied if we only got one motion carried; that the constitution should read that the QTTA shall make development plans and budgets. This happened, and of course I am very pleased, but I am still waiting for the first signs of planning and budgeting! If nothing happens fairly soon, I am afraid the whole Logan Pilot Project have been a waist of time and money.
Logan must encourage the QTTA to start their Development Plan. If possible; Logan should also try to contribute with ideas and support!
Logan should also start to look into the constitution and the playing rules, to see if they will have to make new motions to the 1992 AGM. The association should also put forwards items that they want to be on the agenda to the Executive Committee meetings, and the board-meetings (ideas, support to Development Plan etc.).
Logan should also look among its members to see if there is anybody who are interested and qualified to become office-bearers of the QTTA.
difficult for the Coaching committee to get together, and the same was also the case with another sub-committee (a kind of Executive committee, with only three members. PS: Some confusion in the constitution concerning the name of Executive/Management Committee). I do not think there were other sub-committees of permanent nature.
Actions:and results:
After 1 had learnt the positive and negative sides of the administration of Logan I first made the suggestion that the "Sub-Executive" committee should have meetings every fortnight to discuss the progress of the pilot project. This meetings ware also started, but came early to an end, I guess due to the President's private commitments.
I also realized that the Logan Pilot Project was greatly hindered by the fact that we did not have any development plans and budgets, and suggested that this process should be started as soon as possible. (The letter I had received before I arrived indicated that the association wanted me to make the development plan, but such a plan is not a "one-man-show" - mission statements and goals must be put forward from the Executive Committee!)
I got a positive response to the idea, and made contact with the Aussie Sport Field Officer Greg Jones who was willing to give his assistance. Greg Jones gave an introductory lecture at the first meeting after the Logan AGM, but nothing more has happened.
Get hold of all literature on club-development and administration (it exists quite a lot!) and let all members of the Executive Committee read as much as possible!!
Try to motivate the members of the Executive Committee to take administrative courses - it should be a must for everybody involved in sport administration!
Re-establish the contact with the Aussie-Sports field officers and get them to help you - that is what they are there for!
Start to make the Development Plan with mission statements, goals and budgets!
Try to back any idea that might come up on how to change the publics attitude to table tennis - motivation of the volunteers involved in the association's administration is essential for any development!!

Part thirteen - Conclusions and recommendations

The Logan Pilot was started the 28th of September 1991 and terminated on the 29th of March 1992.
A lot of actions were Planned and implemented:
Organizing of the coaching, Media Drive-92, Promotional and Community Activities, Fixture review, Summer Camp-92, Tournament Drive-92, School Drive-92, Beginners Drive-92, Daytime Activities-92, The Venue, Logan and the QTTA-activities and finally The Administration of Logan.
I would like to quote a part from my SDC quarterly report:
The Logan Pilot Project has just come to an abrupt end - and put me (and my family), QTTA and Logan TTA in a difficult situation. I want to quote the Sport and Recreation Minister's Council: "The recent boom in employment of professional staff in sporting organizations has been accompanied by a rapid turnover in many of these positions, with low salaries, inadequate secretarial support, excessive work hours and conflicts with voluntary administrators commonly beefing citied as reasons. All these factors can be regarded as indications that the organization (or more specific the volunteers administering it) has not developed a sufficient professional approach itself to manage a salaried employee effectively."
I do think that the Logan Pilot Project was heading in the right direction, and I can not see that there were any personal conflicts that could not be solved. What I can see is anxiety: Fear for financial disaster, fear for too heavy workload, fear for insufficiency in a new and unknown situation, fear for conflicts in the private environment.
These problems could have been avoided; the big mistake was that the Pilot Project was started without plans: No mission statements, no goals, no budgets. In my yearly report I said that I was confident that Logan TTA soon would have their development Plans ready, but I understand now that was mostly wishful thinking. After an initial information from Greg Jones nothing has happened, and I guess this is the main reason we never will see any final result of the Pilot Project. The Project showed that it is possible to improve the structure of our associations, and that it is possible to raise the performance of the players: The Logan-players were improving rapidly, with better results than anybody could have expected in such a short time. (The only goal that the association has put forward - to win this years State League - was getting within reach).
I really wish that I would be able to complete the Logan Pilot Project: we need to find ways to improve our sport, and it is of course very important to get the improvements where you find the performers - in the associations.

Make your Development Plan!!
Back any actions that are trying to change people's attitudes to table tennis!

Springwood, 23/4 -92.
Terry Dahl