Tournaments test mental and physical skills

Table Tennis has been determined to be one of the best "Brain" sports. The 2014 Alaskan Assassins. Alaskans Kyle Yan, Andy Hutzel, Karl Augestad Augestad is joined by Hannoch Marksheid from Israel and Robert Hodgson from New Jersey. Tournaments test our skill but really challenge our ability to mentally stay focused from the pre match warm through the conclusion of each 3-5 game match.  It takes concentration and adaptation through out the process of a match.  Not to mention during a weekend or 3-5 day tournament.  NATT Teams in Washington DC, 2014

During the month of August through November many Alaskan's have travel to tournaments in Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C., St. George, UT and Las Vegas to take on new opponants.  Many participants say they like to compete against tough players and find the new locations exciting and fun.

During competition our minds can drift if our shots and strategy is not going according to planned.  Or the opponent has strong aggressive shots or is playing well to our weakness.  Sometimes errors increase and those mistakes are the signs we're not well prepared.  Tournaments test our mental endurance during adversity in competition.  In some cases we can revert to a more conservative approach and play a bit more defensively.  Like pushing with focus on our footwork.  And blocking with a sense of balance with our feet and center of body.  Then focus on good form in our individual strokes.  I utilize my free hand in front of my body to use as a guide for my end position on my forehand stroke.  Also not forcing the shot too hard and take 10-20% off the shot with a steady follow through.  Sometimes just a few adjustments and help us refocus and regain consistency.  

Tournaments test our ablity to carry over our skills from practice to matchs.  From blocking out distractions of 30 to 150 tables surrounding you with sounds coming from all directions, balls flying in to your court and the nets and edges that test your reflexed.  Not to mention the maintaining consistency from round to round.  Often we practice our "shots" and hone our physical skills.  But the sport of table tennis is 80% mental.  The top players can slip briefly and then quickly adapt and adjust as the match progresses.  

This sport can be frustrating and over time it is difficult to maintain complete concentration.  Playing for 3 rounds of 3 matches back to back can be fun but when you advance out of the round robin phase will you substain the level of skill and mental toughness needed to make it to the finals and play your best.  

Tournament experience is the important and it is easy to be discouranged after entering one or two events and not playing up to your know ability.  Often the "mental part" of your game is where you need development.  Many say well "I just dont practice enough".  And who says you cant MENTALLY practice without hitting a single ball!  

Mental improveness comes with CONFIDENCE.  When confient you can over come challenges others would say you would NOT.  Belive in yourself with positive affrimations and improved mental imagines.  Develop, grow and mature to improve your mental resolve.  

George Wang from Oregon plays INTENSE. Alaskans Karl Augestad and Paul Elliott both faced him at the Pac Rim Table Tennis tourney in Portland. Karl played George in 2010 and edged out a victory. George did not take the loss well. But then only 4 ears later George defeated Paul Elliott and raised his game both mentally and physically. Boosting his rating from 1801 to nearly 2300! His mental level has increased. It is tough when you have limited experience in tournaments.  In the continental US I see competitive tournament players entering 8 to 10 USATT sanctioned tournaments a year!  In Alaska we are lucky to have one during the whole year.  So in 2015-16 make it your goal to come out and enter more tournaments and practice sessions.  

So the local Alaskans take the time to travel to tournaments outside the state.  In June yearly the "Alaska Yukon Challenge" handicap tournament is hosted in rotation each year in Fairbanks, Whitehorse and Anchorage. Regardless of your skill and experience you will have a great time with the opportunity to play top players and novice players in one event.  On August 22-23, 2015, Six Alaskans are entering the Seattle Open sponsored by SPTTC and Butterfly NA.  So travling for a weekend tournament allows players to experience different styles of players.  And tests our mental and physical endurance.  

In early October the Huntsman World Senior Games in St. George, UT will test Alaskans from Juneau, Fairbanks, Eagle River and Anchorage.  Bob Janes who has attended the HWSG the most is pairing up with fellow Juneau resident, 

Then in November every year the NATT Teams are hosted in Washington, DC.  A BIG Tourney with 155 tables in one large convention hall.  A 3 day event matching players of like skill level for intense multiday play.  By day 3 you will feel it and know if you prepared for the big dance.  

Alaska has received some excellent competitive table tennis players over the last 3 and a half decades.  Including top national and international players like Errol Resek in the early 80's.  Even as of 2014 and 2015 Errol won Singles and Doubles events at the US Nationals and US Open in Las Vegas.  And national junior team member from Bahrain, Haitham Salman in 2005-08.  He would travel to tournaments in the middle east representing Bahrain and faced some top players in the region.  These competitors have trained with great coaches and seem to have strong mental strength.  Some comes with coaching.  But some players just have "IT" from their life skills.  But their adaptation and creative resources remain consistent and quick adjustments to different styles and speed of their opponent make them successful.   Facing these players and other new opponents at these big tournaments I've noticed the shots I make offensively are blocked or counter hit in return.  This tactic in nothing new in the highest level of the sport.  

So come out and participate in TOURNAMENTS in Alaska and elsewhere.  Come to the practice sessions and talk to the locals about the opportunities to play in tournaments.  In order to improve ask about coaching from some of the top local players like Karl Augestad and Kyle Yan.  Check out future postings on clinics, leagues and drop in plays.  And enter those tournaments.  


Visitors to Alaska come for Adventure and Pong

This year is like many summers, Feel the crisp cold air, rumble of the power and enormity of the scale of the massive glaciers of Alaska! tourists come to our great state to see the wildlife in Denali, ice caving glaciers, marine life in south central and enjoying the midnight sun of the north land. Karl and his older sister Karen at Portage Glacier in the mid 60's As a lifelong Alaskan I like many locals take for granted the beauty of our wonderful state.   I've been to Portage Glacier when I was about 7 years old and remember the ice caving and floating up to the parking lot edge!  Now the glacier has receded and it takes a boat ride to feel the roar of the caving ice.  

Alaska is a wondrous state.  And 2014 has been an exceptional summer for south central Alaska.  Exceptional warm weather with records sunny days has blessed our city.  Along with the nature the state hosts table tennis sessions year round.  And with visitors coming to Alaska its a great opportunity to invite them to our many clubs statewide.  

In 2013 we were honored to host Will Shortz and Kyle Yan hitting at the Pavilion in Anchorage, June 6, 2013 New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shorts and Robert Roberts from the Westchester Table Tennis Club.  Will came to Alaska to continue his goal to play table tennis every day for a full year.  His 7 day journey to the state presented some tricky adjustments as he hit Juneau first with Bob Janes, Tim McLeod and company.  Next passing through Homer  and taking on Jimmy and Gary Gao while taking in the sights of the Spit and halibut country.  Then swinging through Anchorage on June 6th, (Karl Augestad's wedding anniversary and birthday) and taking on the gang at the AT & T Sports Pavilion.  Then of course heading up north to the FITT club in Fairbanks while seeing the "Great One", Mt. Denali aka" Mt. McKinley.  And yet still having time to pop back to Eagle River to the home of our first Alaska Table Tennis Hall of Fame inductee Boyd Bennett.  Both Will and Robert have traveled many miles to play this great sport in the desire for adventure and pong.

Well this summer we have visitors from Homer, Bethel, Karl, Joey and his wife Lucille and little Nevah from Bethal Alaska. Passing through and playing at the concrete table, June 21, 2014 Kotzebue, New York, Utah, Washington, Nevada, California, Korea, China, Germany and Europe.  Along with seeing the sights many contact us to play table tennis and most bring their gear to fit in a session or two.  When our club is notified early by these travelers we have often made special sessions in Anchorage or Eagle River to accommodate their schedule.  Many clubs like ours love to get challenges from new styles of players.  And this year is a hard bat chopper and hitter, Ralph Stadleman from Las Vegas is passing through twice while taking on the scenery.  Alaskans Kyle Yan and Karl Augestad joined Ralph in 2011 at the North American Teams in Baltimore MD representing the Arctic Frost Spin Team.  

Another top player, Karl-Josef Assenmacher from Germany is arriving August 5th should join us for 3 days while starting his journey through Alaska in route to the Alaska International Senior Games in Fairbanks in mid August.  What is special about Karl-Josef's visit, he is the current world champion from the Huntsman World Seniors Games in 2000+ level open singles and 65-69 age division single.  And along with that title Ralph and Karl-Josef are multiple (nearly 10 times claims Ralph) winners of their age group at this festive and competitive competition.  While at the AISG he will be joining top Alaskan women, Diann Darnall.  Also a multi year Gold and silver medalist who is obsessed with table tennis and the promotion of sports in Alaska.  Diann has proven to be a big promoter and advocate for inviting players she meets at these events to come to our state for pong and Alaskan adventure

In recent years South Korean  airline pilots Mr. Ha and Mr. Noh contact our club when stopping over on a couple of days layover.  Some intense high level action with new groups as they shop, dine and find time to play some competitive table tennis.  Another national and world traveler, Bill Ukapatayasakul from San Diego joined us in early 2000 when our club was meeting at the API facility.  An interesting session with another visitor from With sometimes only a day or two notice we can contact the local hard core players to set up a special drop-in session.   

I have to admit local sightings in Anchorage of moose and eagles are common.  But the real tours include the Prince William Sound in South Central Alaska.  Seeing the puffins, walrus, seals, whales and otters.  Hiking and camping in our parks allow visitors to be close to nature.  So try some fishing and land a salmon or Charter a boat and fight a giant halibut.  These adventures could make your Alaskan experience a memory of a lifetime! Oh yeah, play some pong at one of the local clubs or outdoor parks.  


Arctic Winter Games offers a lifetime of experience for Alaskan Athletes

In 1976 I was honored to have participated in the Arctic Winter Games in Shefferville, Quebec, Canada.  I was only 16 years old and traveling to an international table tennis tournament.  With only limited local practice and and play with friends and club members I had only one tournament experience before I competed.   Back then the team was selected by a one time tournament with the top 3 finishers immediately chosen as the AWG representatives.  The Anchorage tournament was my only experience prior to competing against the Canadians in only the 4th AWG.  

Now in 2014 this will be the 23rd AWG and now features 9 continents, 2000 athletes, 2500 volunteers, 3000 friends and family members and 600  VIPs and sponsors.  Venues will be spread out in Fairbanks and surrounding locations. A solid transportation system will deliver athletes and coaches to their venue and allow further shuttles to other sports for some exciting spectator action.  

Athletes will be required to wear their credentials at all times allowing them access to ceremonies and venues during their 8 day experience.  Housing in the athletes village will offer recreation, entertainment and sleeping quarters.  We were housed on the nearby military base in a multi story bunk house.  Other locations for athletes could include schools for housing and competition.  Some venues are within walking distance or right inside their  

The Alaskan juniors and juveniles are in for an exciting experience.  Like the "Winter Olympics of the North" The Actic Winter Games features 20 summer and winter sports.  Conventional sports like alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, basketball, volleyball, figure skating, hockey, short track speed skating, biathlon skiing, curling, snowboarding and table tennis.  But also host some less common sports like dog mushing, gymnastics, biathalon snowshoe, Dene Games, Arctic Sports, indoor soccer, badminton, wrestling and snowshoeing. For some this will be a second or third opportunity but for most this will be a frist time experience.  Meeting athletes from all over exchanging trading pins and taking in the new sensations and color of this great experience. 

The athletes will experience a friendly greeting and credential distribution upon arrival.  A festive and welcoming atmosphere will flood the team members as athletes, officials and coaches arrive like celebrities at a rock concert.  Cheering volunteers and spectators will be everywhere offering support and assistance.  Like the Olympics most athletes are attending for the experience and culture of the AWG and are not contenders for the top Ulu metals. And a select few are competing for the hardware and prestege of becoming a champion. 

Teams are selected from various try-outs or selections by coaches.  Some contingents field teams with the only representatives in there sport and larger contingent require team tryouts with tournaments and camps.  The results help guide the coaches to select the best team to fill all 8 positions.   The largest team is from Alaska and although a stron contender in many sports.  Table Tennis over the past 18 years has not been a strong sport for team Alaska.  Dominate teams have been Greenland and Yamal.  In th early years of AWG Alaska and Yukon would battle it out for Gold and Silver.  With top singles in male and female swapping out top honors from 1970 with the first gold ulu in male singles awarded to Alaskan Table Tennis Hall of Fame inductee, Boyd Bennett. 

Memories from the Arctic Winter Games will come from the competition and emotions at the various events.  From the opening ceremonies, marching of the athletes, intense action of the sport and cultural exchange among the participants.  I remember the sports banquet, walking to other sports venues to watch volleyball and badminton.  I was fortunate to have won metals during each of my attendance at the AWG.  I got several trading pins back in the 70's and 80's that I still have today.  Wish I had more photos as the amount of photography back then was limited.  


New 2014 tournaments test skills and themes

The first days of February and March in-club tournaments at the AT & T Sports Pavilion in Anchorage.  Feb. 1st and March 1st, 2014.  Check will feature skill divisions in Open, A, B & C singles.  Theme events will include A/CDoubles.  With combined pair of players limited to U2900 (CLUB RATING LEVEL) skill doulbes. What ever your skill level these tournaments will allow players to match well in a variety of events.  Players are encouraged to enter 2 singles divisions! 


Fall Open & Arctic Winter Games Team Tryouts Tournament

Alaska is know for the long summer days and dark winter nights.  But in preparation for the winter the Alaska Table Tennis club hosted the 2013 Fall Open and Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska Tryouts Tournament. 

Danette Weissler, Young Sun Elliott and Mary Nomani in their women's pool round robin play. With the new wood floor at the AT&T Sports Pavilion the stage was set for the battle of the ages.  Youth vs. the Older experienced players.  

A strong showing of 33 participants with 11 entering for the first time in an Mary Nomani looms large over Gretchen Wehmhoff at the Fall Open Women's Singles. Smiles all around.Alaskan tournament.   Players  were encouraged to enter up to 2 singles division and one doubles.  Most players got some great action with others waiting to play as rounds slowed down in midday.  

A good Alaskan women turnout of 5 females in the women's singles.  They gathered for a round robin of matches for fun, excitement and competition.  First time tournament players Danette Weissler and Young Sun Elliott who are spouses of Mark Weissler and Paul Elliott commented they had a great time.  Great action including juvenile female entrant and first time AK tournament player Erin Sivitz grouped with veteran players Mary Nomani and Gretchen Wehmhoff.  Great to see the women get a good turnout for a fun round robin of play.  Facing of in the finals were 2 previous women's champions, Gretchen Wehmhoff and Mary Nomani.  Ending up on top was 4-time Open Women's Singles champion Mary Nomani defeating Gretchen 7-11, 11-3, 14-12 and 11-4.   Mary's titles date back to 2002.   Look for mixed doubles in the next tournament in January 2014.

The Arctic Winter Games Team Alaska Tryouts were mixed with this fall event.  A good field of 5 juniors and 6 juvenile males & females fought for 2 positions in each division and gender.  Many of them were first time tournament players.  Tossed in to the mix was When not playing, Jimmy was scorekeeping the action. Juvenile male athlete Elijah Kim looks on as he finished in the top group of young players. 2012 juvenile AWG Team Alaska member Jimmy Gao from Homer.  Jimmy came home in 2012 with a bronze medal in the juvenile male team division with Eli Neslund. Jimmy came to town to reclaim his spot on team Alaska as a possible 4 time AWG team Alaska member if he keeps playing until 2018.  At 12 years old he stood his own unchallenged in the juvenile division and took on the big boys in the Open and A division singles.  Jimmy made the AWG cut but a 2nd pick is still to be determined with a closely fought bunch for the 2nd position.  

Sweeping the juvenile division un defeated he faced off with the A division players finishing 2nd in his pool of 4 players.  Advancing to the semi finals he faced Paul Elliott.  

Jimmy's consistant strokes, footwork and effective reverse backhand he spun his way to the finals against another young AWG 2012 Team Alaska athlete, Andrew Kim.  Now too old to tryout again he was up and down thought the day.  Players from Homer, Juneau, Eagle River, JBER (Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson) Military base and Anchorage attended this one day event.  

Doubles matches were fought in the morning with 4 teams in both the Open and 4 teams in the B/C Doubles.  A strong pair of Cade Loving and Brant Bennett came out on top pressing their opponants with their consistant play and sharp angles.  Brant Bennett is the grandson of legendary Alaska Table Tennis Hall of Fame member and first AWG coatch, Boyd Bennett.  Brant also was a junior player for Team Alaska in 2008.  

In the B Singles a good turnout of new players and strong local club players were split in to 2 round tobin pools.  The 2 pools would exchange matches with the top 2 players advancing to the semi finals in a cross over matchup.  With the new players not fully understanding the format, several left early with other engaments or unknowing they were to advance beyond the round robin pools.  In a head-to-head matchup semi finals one Cade Loving edged out Mike Mann 11-9, 4-11, 7-11, 11-4 and 12-10.  In the 2nd semi finals Mark easily defeated Sabastein Wetterlin 11-, 11-5 and 11-7.  Mark's focused play against Cade in the final prevaled with his first B singles championship.  

The Open Singles feature 7 of Alaska's top players.  Top seed and new Alaskan player, Rendy Tan was tested but his experience prooved too tough for the local players.  In the 1st pool of 4 stong players, Alaska Yukon Challenge Singles Champion, Chidi was upended with Kyles steady play and Yuriy's come from behind victory.  In the 2nd pool Rendy Tan easily overcame Karl Augestad and Paul Elliott to advance with Karl moving on to the semis.

The top 4 seeds ended up in the Semi-finals but not in their original ranking.  Kyle faced Karl in a rematch from 2012.  Kyle has been playing strong and loves the defensive game with rallies often pushing him back far from the table.  His steady blocks and placements prooved too tough for Karl as Kyle was well intended to move to the finals.  A strong but close 11-8, 11-9, 9-11 and 11-9 victory.  in the 2nd pool a past champion and now part time player, Yuriy Solovov participated but was not well prepared.  Frustration and emotions rattled him in the semi finals matchup with new comer, Rendy Tan.  Randy's agressive style prooved too strong for Yuriy to handle and advance to the finals to face Kyle Yan.  The styles of play in the open pairings displayed Kyle's ability to shag balls from all over the court.  But Rendy's heavy loop drive and tricky placement demonstrated too tough for Kyle to muster up a game agains the top seed.  Rendy Tan was victorious in the Open Singles and Open Doubles with Chidi.

Now several Alaskans will be heading to Portland Oregon to take on the Pac Rim players Nov. 2-3.  Players from Canada, Washington, Oregon, California and other nearby states will be fending or cash and trophies in this strong field of players.  Look for results soon.  Spin on and come out and play on one of the Alaska Table Tennis clubs open drop-in sessions.  See the calendar for dates and times.  


MORE TO COME... Off to play at the drop-in session now.  Thanks, Karl