NCTTA Adds Service Umpires to Championships

By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
Complaints about questionable table tennis serves never seem to go away at tournaments. Even with a couple of umpires around, complaints from players, coaches and fans persist.
But the NCTTA is taking new steps to address the issue. And it started Friday at the 2017 TMS national collegiate table tennis championships.
Call it the use of two extra sets of eyes and ears as the three-day tournament played out at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. The extra officials are called services judges.
Umpires who volunteer at the tournament may be called upon to act as the two extra judges to monitor player serves.  Their chief task is to ensure that players serve balls legally throughout featured contests.
For many years, umpires stayed seated in a position that's not good for deciding whether a player's serve is legal or not. Table tennis matches utilize two umpires. But no doubt, they can't see everything as players slam hollow white balls back and forth.
So why not add a couple of service judges to the mix? What can it hurt when championship matches are at stake?
NCTTA President Willy Leparulo applauds the use of new service judges to oversee key games throughout the tournament. Two additional officials will be stationed at the ends of the court. Their job is to notify the umpire if they detect a faulty or illegal serve.
The NCTTA experiment at the April 7-9 tournament in Wisconsin will get thoroughly checked out. And if the test case is successful, service judges would be added to the USATT National Championships later this year. And then it would be forwarded to the ITTF for potential approval at international tournaments.
Towards the end of the first day of busy competition at the McPhee Center on the Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus, Leparulo said the extra judges detected a few illegal serves.
With 250 college players coming from schools across the USA & Canada, it would be impossible to use service judges at every single match at the Wisconsin tournament.
Arcot Naresh, the NCTTA's Upper Midwest Division director, serves as a volunteer umpire at the games in the Cheese State.

Umpires "are looking at so many things, and don't get to see it all,'' says Naresh, a Chicago resident who often plays in tournaments around the Windy City. "This is a step in the right direction. It's another set of eyes.''

Mark Wei, an umpire at the NCTTA's biggest tournament of the year, agrees. "This is a great idea,'' says Wei, who doubles as the NCTTA's Northern California Division director.
Wei has been involved at table tennis tournaments with disputes arising over serves. And sometimes the umpires on hand are unsure what's the right call.
NCTTA competition manager Kagin Lee says the change is something he's wanted for many years. He believes there will be a few tweaks made along the way.
But Lee remains hopeful the additional service judges will "result in clearer and more consistent enforcement of the rules, which should lead to fairer competition.''
By comparsion, major NCAA Division I college basketball tournaments use referees on the court and instant TV replays to help refs make the best calls. The list of sports constantly making rules changes, from football to baseball, goes on.
In table tennis, service must start with the ball resting freely on the open palm of the server's free stationary hand. And it goes from there. But too often service balls are hidden or other rules violations occur. And when umpires cannot see illegal serves, it can change a game's final outcome.

The 2017 TMS College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Eau Claire CVB and is one of the premier table tennis tournaments in North America featuring 6 events: Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Men’s/Coed Teams, Women’s Teams.  The event is sponsored by TMS International, Gerflor, Double Fish

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the TMS College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 7th and continues through Sunday April 9th. 


The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) is a non-profit organization established exclusively for promoting the sport of table tennis at the college level. As the national governing body for college table tennis in the United States and Canada, NCTTA organizes intercollegiate competition throughout North America.

About USA Table Tennis

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, USATT is the national organizing body for table tennis in the United States, serving 9,000+ members and nearly 300 clubs. USATT sanctions 200+ events a year including the US Open and US Nationals. USATT is affiliated with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).