Dear Santa Cruz County Table Tennis Club players,

Based on a few recent questions, comments and emails from players, Willie and I thought it was time to share some of the club’s basic operating principles and rules of play.

The one big change you will read about below is that Reuben has volunteered to open the club on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 5 p.m. (Thank you, Reuben!) BUT, please continue reading to learn all the important details.

Wyreless & Willie

Wyreless & Willie

About our club

We are a fun, friendly and loosely organized club. From day one we always wanted the club to be a place for all players, beginners to experts. We never wanted ours to be an elite club like those that give you a feeling that you’re not good enough or unwelcome. Thanks to you all, we have an awesome club and in many ways one of the best you’ll ever play at.

The club was founded circa 1991 (no one is certain of the exact date), by J.P. Monnerey, Willie (Richard Williams), Stephen Pollard and Jim (Jim Langley). J.P. left the area and Stephen Pollard died. Willie is the president and Jim is the vice president. These are the only club officers. Ray is the club webmaster. Debbie has helped a tremendous amount with legal advice and documents. And many of you pitch in in many ways which is greatly appreciated and very helpful. The club wouldn’t work without great members.

Who “owns” the club

We have never thought of the club as having an owner, but from a legal standpoint, Willie is the defacto owner of the club. He deals with all the bill paying and banking and equipment purchases, etc. Willie and Jim do talk about this stuff and make decisions based on the best interests of the club. If something were to happen to Willie, Jim has the access to the books and bank to keep the club going.

Willie is also the reason we get to use the Portuguese Hall. He is a member of the Hall. We are very lucky to have been able to play at the Hall for 27 years non-stop (!). It is extremely difficult to find a place in our super expensive Santa Cruz, that’s big enough to play and where you can also store your equipment. And, while our rent has gone up over the years, we have always been able to offer a low entry fee nightly (fun trivia: in 1991 we charged $3 to play all night; today it’s only gone up to $5).

We pay rent to the Hall. The $5 fee the club charges you to play covers our rent (which includes a fee for storing our equipment) and allows us to buy new equipment. We are a not-for-profit club. We are a member of USA Table Tennis and pay a yearly fee for this, too – in part to have insurance.

Things we’ve tried at the club

Since players ask about certain things that seem like good ideas, we’d like to explain that over the years we have tried all kinds of different “great ideas.” If they didn’t work, we discontinued them. For example,

  • We tried having little punchcards so you could pay the club fee for many months and get your card punched instead of having to pay each visit (sounded good but turned into a bit of a nightmare).
  • We ran 2 pretty big USATT approved tournaments attracting a few high level players (great fun but a ton of work for only a few members who wanted to help – and we lost money).
  • We tried opening on Sundays but there weren’t enough players to pay the rent or to open and close. (Now, Brooks and Reuben are trying this again with the league – see them for more information.)
  • We have also tried robots and devices like this that let you practice alone. (Very unpopular because 1 person takes up a table, and these machines can be loud and constantly require adjustments and repairs.)


We’ve always had the official opening time of 7p.m. The idea of the 7p.m. opening time is that we should definitely be open by then. We didn’t want to promise players we would be open before then because in order to open, someone with the key has to get there and we have to get the tables setup. This isn’t always possible. Sometimes people get sick, etc. We didn’t want people to show up and have the club be closed, so we made 7 p.m. the “official” club opening time.

A couple of years ago, though, Willie retired, so we started opening earlier (approximately 5:30) for the purpose of giving lessons. As mentioned earlier, we are a learning club. We have always had lots of interest from players in lessons, so we open early for lessons. In this way we are not taking up tables for lessons when people want to play matches on them.

AS MENTIONED AT THE BEGINNING, Reuben has volunteered to open the club at 5p.m. So, we are letting you know that there’s a good chance the club will now be open earlier than 7 and maybe as early as 5. Remember that the club has to be setup on Tuesday nights, which takes some time. Players who get there early help setup. And, the money box and sign-in sheet need to be out for collecting the fee from players. This 5p.m. opening time is new and Willie and Jim aren’t comfortable guaranteeing it yet – so if you get there and the club is closed, you just have to wait for someone to get there to open.

PLEASE NOTE that tables number 5 and 6 are reserved for lessons from when the first lesson starts to approximately 8 p.m. If no coaching is going on, it’s fine to use the tables. When coaches arrive, players need to move to another table. Usually, coaching on one of these tables will end by 7 so only one table is being used later.

How coaching works

Will and Jim are certified USATT coaches. Willie is a Club level coach and Jim is a State level coach. The coaches charge a fee for lessons. This fee goes to the coach not the club. The reason for this is that the coaches paid for their education to become coaches and learn how to teach table tennis. Stephen Alfred (our highest rated player ever) has also starting coaching some players (we didn’t have a chance to ask him about his coach level or details about taking lessons with him, so please ask him to learn more).

You are welcome to ask Wille, Jim or Stephen to explain more about coaching or anything else. Coaches are happy to give basic tips and advice for free, too. It’s just actual lessons that cost.

Advice for buying paddles

If you are looking for advice on types of paddles and rubber to buy, the club’s leading expert is also one of our best players, Charley Aebersold. Charley has actually made his own paddles and has travelled in Asia to train and learn more about table tennis. But, don’t interrupt match play to ask him. Wait until he’s not playing and see if he has time to give you some tips. You can also ask the coaches and there’s endless information online.

Rules of play

We have 7 excellent Butterfly tables. The tables have numbers on them from 1 to 7. The number 1 table is to the far right as you walk in the door. Number 5 is closest to the door to the far left. Number 7 is the only horizontally placed table and the one at the back and middle.

To repeat, tables 5 and 6 are usually reserved for coaching between 5 to 8. If no coaching is taking place, the tables are open for play until/if coaching begins.

How our “challenge system” works

Anyone is allowed to challenge on any table in the club where matches are being played.

“Challenge” just means telling the players on the table that you want to play next. If people are waiting ahead of you, you become next in line. Or you can ask other tables if a “line” of players is already waiting for that table. Some of the tables have little racks near the floor for putting your paddle as a way to keep your place in line. First paddle is first challenger, second is the second and so on. If there’s no rack on the table you wish to challenge or you don’t want to put your paddle in the rack, then you need to keep track of who is challenging the table. It’s easy.

If someone challenges the table two players are practicing on, then the two players need to start playing a match within a few minutes. Be considerate to each other. If you need to warm up a little longer, that’s fine but keep it reasonably short. Challengers are free to remind players warm ups shouldn’t run on too long. As a related factoid, in professional table tennis competition, the official warm up time is two minutes. We try to keep warm ups to 5 minutes.

If doubles are being played, find a partner and challenge to play doubles or wait until the match is over and see if people want to play singles on that table. Often one doubles partner has to leave and a doubles table becomes a singles table.


There is a special rule on table 1. If a person keeps winning they can stay up and keep playing on that table as long as they want. It doesn’t matter how many people are challenging the table. Table 1 is where our best players usually play so we call it a “winner’s table,” i.e. the winner stands if they want.

All the rest of the tables, 2 through 7 follow a different and important club rule – the “two match wins” rule. Please understand, remember and follow this rule. When there are players waiting to play and those waiting players have said that they are challenging tables, the rule is that players currently playing on that table may stay up on the tables for two (2) consecutive match wins.

After that player has won 2 matches, they must leave the table and the loser of that second match must leave the table too. That means that 2 players that are challenging get to play on the table, while the 2 people who were just playing leave the table.

So, please remember, you can win 2 matches and then you have to leave that table. It’s fine to re-challenge the table or challenge another table.

If no one who is waiting to play is challenging a table, it’s fine to ignore this rule. But if people are challenging, then players must follow the rule. Challengers should remind players that they can only win two matches and then must surrender the table to the “next 2 players.” In this way, more people play sooner and no one has to wait too long. Many clubs follow this exact rule and it works well in a small club like ours. But only if players abide by it.

Also, this rule is an equalizer when there are experts and beginners trying to get on tables. If two “experts” are on a table and let’s say that “three beginners” want to get on that table, the beginners all challenge that table. Once one of the experts has won two matches, the table now changes to having “beginners” on it. Of course the experts can do the same thing.

Related to this rule is that it is not allowed to play on one table and challenge on another table UNLESS there is no one waiting in line for the 2 tables affected.

Summing up, the “challenge system” and the club’s 7 tables help make it so you don’t wait too long to get on a table – even if you get to the club when coaching is taking place. Be sure to ask the players on a table the status of their match and how many people are challenging. That’s the only way to know what the status is. Try to ask in between points, never during a rally.

We know the challenge system and rules can be confusing. Please ask Willie or Jim or other players to explain how it works if you don’t understand.

We hope this letter answers most of the questions we’ve been receiving. Feel free to talk to Willie or Jim or others if you need more information. Thanks for coming to our club and keeping it so much fun – and thanks to everyone who pitches in and helps!

Jim & Willie
April 10, 2018


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