I have done my coaching dues. I have been on the floor for more than twenty years. Started early back in 1983 , when I wisely dropped a very average and low-key playing career , which never reached higher than second division play in Sweden. My first coaching gig was with Halmstad BTK – one of the top clubs (still is) in Sweden. I was lucky to have good ambitious group of young players to start with and off we went on what did become a life long journey in Table Tennis. My seven years as the “General and Front-soldier” in Danish Table Tennis (1988-1995) was tough , but memorable . There has been a few low points – but off course also plenty of good memories now neatly packed away in the back of my mind.
But I have to admit that I still like coaching. Maybe this is the reason why an event like the ITTF Cadet Challenge so easily turn on the coaching mind . To spend time on the floor with Peter Karlsson during the camp brought back the eagerness to evaluate athletes – to judge and have an opinion on their techniques , tactical skills and using a very long perspective ; their future career in our sport. Some of these and yes , lets call them kids , will go on and have a very succesful professional life in table tennis. Fast forward some seven years and you will most likely find the best players near the top of the ITTF world ranking list preparing for much bigger life changing sporting events .
A good coach will always trust his first impression. Now, as added value to this column, i have seen some of these young players perform at other cadet events prior to this one which makes my predictions just a notch safer.
So – Here we go with some first impressions, light style and only positive , from the training camp and two days of competition ;
Congratulations to Brazilian Table Tennis. In fourteen year old Hugo Calderano from Rio De Janeiro you finally have a male prospect with plenty of upsides. Hugo is playing well here and has shown the much coveted quality of being able to perform in practice and in matches. The tough part is to answer the question : Where to go from here without passing stop ? Training center and quality coaching in Europe must kick in sooner rather than later.
Hugo’s room-mate and buddy here in Hyderabad is also the youngest player in the 2010 Cadet Challenge ; Charles Deng from Houston, Texas, USA . I like this little fellow a lot. Good practice habits and fresh offensive style of play. Not to forget ; a very sharp service !
Just from first impression point of view ; Wow – what a talented player !!. I am talking about the left-handed Indian number one male cadet player ; Abhishek YADAV (born 1996) . He put on a good display of his golden touch and nice shots yesterday when he grabbed two points against Europe defeating much higher ranked Tomas Lakotos and Leonardo Mutti.
The best defensive players in the world for this age is in Hyderabad competing. I have always had a soft spot for Yuto MURAMATSU from Japan. Still young (born 1996) , exciting playing style with clear-cut offensive capacities. Olga Bliznet from Moldovia was a sensation at the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore two months ago. Perhaps not showing the same form now , but still safe and solid defensively.
Here is the story with Alia DOAA from Egypt ; Hard working – very tight and fast game when the other players produce speed to work with. Much less effective in service and return combined with a small but noticeable lack of confidence . The final outcome in matches then ; Mostly on the wrong side of eleven. Please – please Egyptian coaches .. I know that you are reading ; When will we have an Egyptian player with a five start service and return game ???
Nice to see Ariel Hsing maturing and showing signs of confidence in the international courts. Step by step she is learning to relax and read the spin in the rallies much better. However You do pay a steep price from a competitive point of view when you play few international competition and mostly use sparring partners for daily training more than equal level training partners.