It’s early December in the year of 2o10. Christmas time for the fans of World Junior Table Tennis as we are about to roll out eight days of competition here in Bratislava – the home of the 2010 WJTTC. We are already in day two , in the middle of the team events, when your blogging director found peace in mind enough to start posting a few close up observations and for that matter hopefully some more sustainable thoughts about the future of our sport as the week goes along .
As always I would like to put up the “Take it or Leave it sign” for the readers of this Blog . Been a bit of thorn in then side for the traditionalists in this sport , already since iposted my first piece in the Danish Association Yearbook back in 1989. In fact my writing started there – in the hands of the acting ITTF Media Committee Chair at the time the chair of Danish Table Tennis Arne Madsen , who frankly told me to write a yearly column for his popular publication. He knew very little what was to come the following years, as i often used the window given to me, small but noticeable, to try to push for more quality decisions for the development of our sport. In those days, many moons ago , it was about the Danish Table Tennis reality ; the need for a change in direction – higher goals – improved ambition at levels. I guess that I was looking for excellence more than anything else . I fought hard, worked hard during my Seven years as the General and the Front-soldier in Danish Table Tennis to fulfill the GOALS and TARGETS presented to us ; The Danish National Team , by the Governing body of Elite Sport in Denmark ; Team Denmark.
They (Team Denmark) talked about medals at international championships and Olympic Success . That was then my goals – my life. I lived coaching , pushed the envelope and was perhaps not always the nicest person to be around – especially when we were climbing up hill if you understand what i mean.
Now .. Looking at the first initial proceedings here in Bratislava. My eight world junior championships ( yes , i have seen them all..) the first thing that comes to my mind is very much connected to the values i once fought to establish in Danish Table Tennis , the ability to COMPETE instead of to PARTICIPATE. It does take a lot of courage for young players , many of them still naturally unsecure by age and abilities to let it at all loose . To leave everything out there in courts of battle. Of course it relates to the ever so important factor of SELF CONFIDENCE – to believe in yourself and your abilities.
The creation of the ITTF Global Junior Programme with its top event the ITTF WJTTC opened up a whole bag of opportunities for national associations and their young players. The ITTF support structure that came along , and we are still using basically the same parameters, also removed some of the financial obstacles – clearly a limiting factor in many countries. Over the years the ITTF has invested close to 800,000 US in the With the Future in Mind project alone , allowing young and promising athletes mostly from developing countries to access individual scholarships. On top of that , funding has been plowed into the ITTF Global Junior Circuit and early key events like the ITTF Cadet Challenge and the ITTFWJTTC. The latest addition to a growing number of projects is the Talent Id designed ITTF Hopes programme .
OK – I say . Where are the results of all the efforts , the thinking( ambition if you like) and the support ? Do we stand up beautiful and best looking ourselves in the mirror ? Is a new direction needed and is the ITTF as an international federation doing the right things to develop our sport ? Have we made some participants to competitors and are the effects spread around , transferred into stronger and better national association programmes for young players. Because that was the idea was it not ? We need good attractive athletes carrying our sport forward. If some of those happen to come from what i call untapped market we are in a better shape to capture Olympic attention , TV deals and sponsors , vital factors to be able to grow the sport of table tennis.
These are only some of the questions we need to debate and discuss in the ITTF circles of knowledge. Personally I find that some positives does stick out such as individual athletes advancing relatively quickly from platform to platform and also the ITTF Cadet Challenge as a yearly , now established go to event for a crucial age. The ITTF work with the Youth Olympic Games does also demand plenty of respect .
However problems remain to be solved are many , before we can reach our goals to provide , from an athletes development point of a view – a level playing field providing quality training access to coaches and players from all over the globe. Even if emerging countries like Egypt (both Girls and Boys ) and India stick out as on their way – Elite Level of Coaching, Performance related planning , Managment of Young Talented are factors that urgently needs to be adressed. Not necessarily by the ITTF – but more on a national level for our support to make sense.
The new era – the next cycle of support must adress those issues in order for ITTF actions to be sustainable . A clear cut ITTF Athletes Development Model would be a start.