Table TennisToday

Joola Desk Tennis – An Interview with Richard Lee

Q.  Are you able to inform us slightly bit about your self and the way you turned concerned in desk tennis?


A.  I began enjoying desk tennis once I was about 12 years outdated. I am in Maryland, USA, and we had a Chinese language coach in our space.

I additionally began enjoying at Chinese language college on the weekends and began getting non-public classes. My two fundamental coaches – Cheng Yinghua and Jack Huang – have been each earlier Chinese language staff members who moved to this space. Cheng represented the USA on the 2000 Sydney Olympic Video games. They obtained me began in desk tennis and I performed for the US Junior Workforce for a few years earlier than I went to The Johns Hopkins College.

My sister additionally performed for the US Junior Workforce for one or two years, however my dad and mom do not play.
Within the USA many gamers begin enjoying after they’re in school, however are likely to cease enjoying after they go to College as they give attention to their schooling.
I play often now, however not as typically as I might like. It is nice for health.
I did play within the 2018 World Veterans Championships in Las Vegas and that was a blast.

After I was nonetheless in school I obtained concerned in beginning a desk tennis membership. We obtained some funding from the varsity for tables and training and we determined to do a fundraiser event. We obtained a few locals concerned that I do know from desk tennis and we ran a 4 star event that 12 months. We have been solely anticipating about 100-200 gamers however we had 450 gamers enter.

I am a Pc Science Main, however this stage of entry obtained my curiosity in enterprise much more.

From there, I used to be doing an Internship over the summer season in Taiwan and Larry Hodges and Jim McQueen approached me.
There was once a US Open Groups Championships which was held in Detroit for about 30 years and when the organiser determined to cease operating it, we took over the organising. It was a giant occasion on the calendar over Thanksgiving.
I used to be requested if I used to be involved in serving to run that event. Inside a few months we organised the whole lot and ran it because the North American Groups Championships and moved it to Baltimore.

After ending at College we wrote some software program for the USATT to assist them handle their scores system and that continued for about 15 years.
We additionally helped the USATT run the US Open and US Nationals, so after ending at college I turned somebody selling desk tennis.

We additionally ran the North American Tour for about ten years with six or seven 4 star tournaments throughout the USA, and we have been operating the Junior Olympics.
So we have been the “go to” occasion administration firm for bigger scale desk tennis occasions.
And the height of that was after we labored with Gordon Kaye on the World Veterans Championships which happened in Las Vegas in 2018.

Operating occasions has all the time been our ardour in selling desk tennis, and one in every of our missions is to deliver skilled desk tennis nearer to the leisure gamers right here within the USA.

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Q.  How did you first become involved with Joola?


A.  Round 2006 after we have been organising our occasions, we have been sponsored by Stiga, however we determined to modify away from them as a result of there have been some monetary points on their aspect, so we went to Germany for a gathering with Joola.

We had an thrilling dialog with them and so they steered that we take over their US distribution. On the time, Paddle Palace have been the US distributors, however as a result of they handled round 10-15 completely different manufacturers, they weren’t in a position to give attention to simply the Joola model. Nonetheless, we may focus solely on Joola.

So in 2006 we turned the US distributors and began promoting simply their top quality skilled merchandise.
Later we moved to promoting their leisure/leisure ranges as properly and we went to among the largest retailers within the USA equivalent to Sears, Walmart, Costco, Amazon, Goal and many others, and so they all turned clients of ours. We do a lot of enterprise with them.

It was plenty of work to maneuver from occasion administration to promoting gear after which to go after the big retailers as properly. So we have transformed ourselves over time into what we’re right now.

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Q.  How did your current acquisition of the Joola model come about?


A.  Joola have been in existence for the reason that Fifties and Michael Bachtler has been with them for the reason that begin.

Michael has completed nice work with Joola together with being the official desk tennis desk provider for the Olympic Video games in 1996, 2000 and 2004, however he was exit methods and what can be the subsequent step for Joola.

We have had an important relationship since we took over because the US distributors, but it surely took us two years to finalise the deal.

Michael stays a part of our staff for now while we get all the appropriate individuals in place, however he’ll retire quickly.

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Q.  What proportion of your enterprise does the Joola model contribute?


A.  Joola is the biggest model inside Sport Squad, and it accounts for round 70-80% of our enterprise.

We even have the iPong desk tennis robots, and so they’ll turn out to be a part of the Joola model. The truth is we did a Kickstarter project last year for the Joola iPong Infinity which can launch on the finish of this 12 months (December 2020). In order that iPong product will turn out to be a part of the Joola model.

We’re additionally within the means of rebranding the Joola vary and we’ll have a brand new catalogue out quickly.

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Q.  Are you able to inform me in regards to the new Joola brand?


A.  Branding and logos evolve and develop over time and the unique Joola brand was wanting slightly bit drained and we thought it wanted a bit extra power. It additionally appeared like the appropriate time to revamp it, so we have now made it extra trendy, and given it a brand new power.

New Joola brand

It is a stylised “J”, in a triangular form, with a contemporary font. It was all completed in-house by our graphic designers by means of our advertising and marketing staff and I am actually happy with it. It is taken about 6-8 months of improvement to get to this new brand.

In our new catalogue we have defined the triangular formed icon. It represents how we describe our enterprise. There are three pillars – Innovation, Inclusion and Inspiration.

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Q.  Are you able to give us an thought of the scale of your enterprise?


A.  We have about 30 staff within the USA, and about 50 in Germany, 25 in China and 4 in Brazil.

For Germany that features workplace employees, warehouse and manufacturing, while the China workplace offers with sourcing, product improvement and again workplace assist. The Brazil workplace will give attention to the south american market as properly.

The German workplace will proceed, however we’ll be shifting model advertising and marketing and product evaluation to the US workplace as a result of we wish to put a brand new spin/course on the model.

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Q.  Do you will have any plans for the enterprise you could share with us?


A.  Sure. In our new catalogue you will see that we have utterly redeveloped our Joola rubber strains. We have diminished the vary by about 30%, and we’ll in all probability cut back it much more within the subsequent couple of years.

At current, it is means too complicated for the typical participant to grasp all of the completely different rubbers. Even the nice gamers want loads of time to check the vary earlier than they will make an knowledgeable selection.
So we have set out 5 completely different ranges – Premium, Skilled, Efficiency, Progressive and Precision. It is now a way more targeted product line.

The premium stage is aimed on the prime participant and our new premium stage rubber is the Dynaryz ACC and AGR rubbers.

Joola Dynaryz ACC rubber

Joola Dynaryz AGR rubber
Joola Dynaryz ACC and AGR rubbers

Beforehand our prime stage rubber was Rhyzer Professional 50 and we might ask our producer to make a particular model only for our professional gamers. Properly that particular model is now our Dynaryz ACC and AGR rubbers.

With these 5 completely different ranges of rubbers, we wish to make it simpler for patrons to decide on the appropriate ones.

As well as, all of the packaging has been redesigned so that you’re going to now see the model identify extra prominently which can increase the Joola profile.
Beforehand, the identify of the rubber was extra distinguished and we needed to alter that.

We would like our model to be one of many first that clients see on the shelf after they go into a store.
Up to now, Joola was perceived as a less expensive model simply because there wasn’t as a lot advertising and marketing in comparison with different manufacturers.

We wish to preserve related sort pricing but in addition inform shoppers that they are nonetheless getting a premium product, and to present us a strive.

Most of our rubbers are made in Germany, however some are made in Japan and China.

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Q.  Are you able to inform us about your sponsorship settlement with USATT for Joola tables?


A.  We have supported USATT for a really very long time however our sponsorship contracts ended a 12 months in the past, and so they’re presently on maintain.

The USATT had a brand new management final 12 months and we’re not clear what their imaginative and prescient of USATT is, going ahead.

After I was working with the prior management it was very clear. That they had clear imaginative and prescient, clear objectives and clear course. There was an actual technique behind the whole lot they have been doing.

Sadly there was a shake-up within the management and we’re simply ready to see what occurs subsequent.

We have not mentioned any renewals but, and I feel they’re nonetheless making an attempt to determine their future course.

We’ll assist them once more sooner or later if it is sensible to take action.

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Q.  Are you able to give us your ideas on the state of desk tennis within the USA and the place Joola suits in?


A.  Desk tennis within the USA, or Ping Pong as we name it, is massively fashionable in individuals’s houses.

Within the USA we are likely to have bigger homes which implies we’ve room for desk tennis tables in basements, garages and again yards.

The truth is, our Joola recreation/leisure tables account for greater than 90% of our desk gross sales, far out-stripping our gross sales {of professional} “ITTF accepted” Joola tables.

We’re in a robust place within the recreation/pastime market. It is a large a part of our enterprise and there is loads of alternatives to develop much more.

What we’re making an attempt to do is to get these gamers from pastime gamers to “pro-sumers” and away from shopping for rackets at $2-$3. We wish to present them that there are higher rackets obtainable and to get them to strive them. They will study extra in regards to the gear and it will introduce them to prime stage sport.

However we’re a great distance from desk tennis being seen as a significant sport within the USA. Now we have the highest skilled sports activities of Soccer, Basketball, Hockey and Baseball which dominate and the rest is simply “noise”.

For my part there’s an excessive amount of politics in desk tennis and so they have not discovered a very good course but.

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Q.  Do you get to attend and/or watch the highest ITTF occasions?


A.  Sure. I am going to the World Championships yearly and I feel the ITTF placed on a very good present. It isn’t how I might current it within the USA, however they do placed on a very good present.

We have the World Championships Finals in Houston, Texas subsequent 12 months (17-26 June 2021) and that’ll be an enormous alternative to showcase desk tennis within the USA, however I have never heard a lot about it but.

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Q.  Are you able to inform us extra in regards to the new Joola catalogue which shall be out quickly?


A.  In our new catalogue we have included much more details about our Joola rubbers and blades with a purpose to assist the client determine which rubbers will swimsuit them. For instance, you will discover detailed specs in regards to the pimples, such because the width and geometry of the pimples.

The rubbers and blades are actually proven in 5 completely different ranges – Premium, Skilled, Efficiency, Progressive and Precision.
There are 2 Premium rubbers, 6 Skilled rubbers, 10 Efficiency rubbers, 7 Progressive rubbers and three Precision rubbers.
Then there are 7 Premium blades, 7 Skilled blades, 9 Efficiency blades, 4 Progressive blades and three Precision blades.

Our new Joola clothes vary will use extra technical materials, with dry-fit and breathability and many others, and naturally they’re going to all characteristic the brand new Joola brand.

The desk tennis balls can even have the brand new brand prominently featured, as will the brand new desk tennis footwear, tables and equipment.

I am actually happy with the brand new look we have created.

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Q.  Are you seeking to have extra participant endorsements to complement these adjustments?


A.  Not in the mean time. We’re nonetheless within the rebuild section and we would like gamers to decide on our Joola model as a result of they like our product. The timing must be proper for us.

The highest 10-15 gamers have already got good relationships with manufacturers, so we’ll be seeking to be part of the event of a future prime participant.



Thanks Richard.

I admire you taking the time to reply my questions.


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