The Noble Act of Trying

Since two years now I have a dog at home. We spend considerable time together when I happen to be just home and not on the road for the ITTF preaching the game of Table Tennis. My wife simply hands me the leash and off we go in the morning, at lunch time and finally at night.

“Nellie”, that’s her name, is a goofy, funny and loveable creature, easily entertained by the simplest things in life.  For example she likes to chase leafs – yes in  fact she loves running around in the dog-park  trying to catch each and every one of the perhaps thousands of leafs flying around a windy day . Its mission impossible by all possible definitions. You are lucky to grab one, but at the same time another hundred is swirling around your ears.  But my dog goes on – she doesn’t give up and seems to be very satisfied with herself every time luck strikes. Back into it again and on and on she can go for an hour easily – fully focused.

The Deep Thinker

I am on the other hand  thinking that a good rake might help cleaning up the park in a week or so  – or perhaps one of these blowers could do the trick when the Canadian fall kicks in  – and that’s soon I can promise. !

So – todays learning lesson offered by the always straight shooting Elevenpoints Blog  is as simple as the Columbus egg; The most important thing is to keep trying even if the wind happens to blow hard in your face. My dog goes after another leaf and I am thinking strategy –like I always done.  Table Tennis world strategy that is ; How we can develop our sport and how can young players  get their wings in order and eventually give us a ride high above the clouds  – please the crowds at our major events ,  draw in fans  and attract sponsors to our sport.

Ten Years with the ITTF GJP

This year we can in the ITTF celebrate ten years with the ITTF Global Junior Progamme – a creation that when it was put in play back in 2002, was supposed to, if not completely change the world of table tennis, at least re-write some the world map just a little bit and most importantly create a flow of opportunities for young and promising players to excel in our sport.

Over the years we have enjoyed both this and that, seen young players start, mature and in some cases reach world class.  The number of young players stopping by each year to play at least one junior event are these days close to 2000 individual participants. Not a bad number considering the general lack of funds made available for junior programmes by national association around the world.

North American Success

Not too many of them, counting the more successful ones have over the years been from the North America continent. In fact, I can recall only one major success story and that was the 2003 world junior championships bronze medal in doubles by the talented duo Faazil Kassam and Bence Csaba from Canada. But after that for quite a while, following some heavy cutbacks   in Canada and a complete lack of drive in the USA it did look relatively bleak. The participation in GJP events was modest to weak and the playing level did not exactly ooze competitive world youth class either.

Things would start to move with Ariel HSING and Lily ZHANG – today two of the more interesting female players in the world. They entered the Cadet Challenge concept early (Ariel played 2006 in Serbia) and did by that taste international high level youth table tennis in an early age.   The World Junior Championships 2007 – bravely organized by my friends Dennis Davis and Anne Cribbs down at Stanford University did push the window open for Table Tennis in the Bay area. No doubt about that.

Things Are Moving Now

The USA Junior Girls selection from Cary . With the best players all in the team a potential medal candidate in the ITTF WJTTC in India.

Then today, and I write this post from the town of Cary in North Carolina and the ITTF North American championships, things are finally starting to change for the better, the momentum is there and even if it’s still in small circles people are starting to believe to seek out opportunities rather than spending energy and time on the many obstacles and difficulties our sport is facing in North America. Playing in Cary are a number of ( in fact a deep entry for the cadet challenge qualification)  very promising North American cadet prospect, and even better, they are backed by some of the best coaching competence there is in the world of junior and youth table tennis today.  OK – I still lack the proper match intensity at times and when I speak to some of the youngsters about long term planning and proper goal-setting clearly sticks out.  Exactly in those two crucial areas of attention and of course in the always present school versus sports debate the young boys and girls need some tough love from the believers out there. They need to know and the parents too that support is coming – that a career choice for Pro Level Table Tennis is an option to consider and that it is something to desire.  Too many parents that I speak with are in doubt – too many coaches do not believe deep down that solutions are coming

The Will – The Way and the Wow

If There is a Will – There is a Way is how I see it.  It is important for the USATT and the CTTA to find flexible solutions to the problem of planning and goal-setting.  Here comes to good thing with the new ITTF North American platform that so far perhaps is more bark than bite. But lets dream for a moment and allow the following thoughts to flow;  Hello change – Hello a North American Pro League (already 2013) – Hello active and vibrant training centers getting an opportunity to showcase skill and determination on the international scene. – Hello at least five ITTF event in North America already 2013 and finally – the Big Hello; ITTF World Individual Championships in North America sometime before 2020!  Be brave ITTF Executive Committee and start floating that idea and make at the same time a case for special model of approach to adjust that giant to reality and have it work for the growth of our game.

You see – Life is full of Leafs to chase down and live is full of opportunities – and we are after all responsible for the future of our sport.

Otherwise here in Cary –    the WOW factor is definitely knocking on the door carried high not only on the shoulders of two of the ITTF Hopes prospects Kunal CHODRI (born 1999) – who paved the way for the US victory in Junior Boys team tonight by winning the third singles and the ever so amazing Kanak JHA  ( born 2000) who started his day with two wins in the cadet singles – challenge qualification – but also for a number of other players , not to forget a group of much better prepared and better trained  Canadians.  Here comes a name to look out for in the future from the true blue area of Hamilton , Ontario .  Fourteen year old Alexander MORAN is a powerful lefthander that for sure is ready to be introduced on a much bigger stage than this. Simply loved the way this young guy acted under pressure this morning ( Saturday) playing to get into the top eight qualifying stage for the ITTF North American Cadet Challenge team .

ITTF Hopes Programme – The eye opener for many

The Big game changer I believe, for many young players in North America  in the last three years or so is the ITTF Hopes programme. International recognition drives motivation and the internal competition then becomes much stronger. Coaches are more into it and each and everyone is suddenly looking long and hard for the next stage ; The  ITTF Cadet Challenge .

Double USA for the World Junior Championships 

By the way, it was two times the USA in the qualification matches for the World Junior championships in India later this fall. The junior girls followed suit with the boys and won 3-1 against the Canadians as well.

One More Thing 

One more thing, that   I forgot to tell you  about my best friend Nellie , not  only does she  like to chase the LEAFS – she also likes  to try to go after Butterflies. That’s even more difficult IMO – they quickly disappear up in the air and there you are – bound to the ground.  But – yet she displays the same attitude with the Butterflies as with the LEAFS – nose down and try to find another one to catch.

Reality and Dreams

Here in Cary, North Carolina we are still standing tall , both feets on the ground – but now finally some of us with the big dreams. Common sense still rules the agenda for both the USATT and the CTTA – but suddenly there are more players on the field which means that in the future  strategy becomes so much more important . The reality is what it is – but to me the opportunities outshine the obstacles. Somehow  we suddenly  on the way to somewhere – better quickly find where or we will end up once again in the land of nowhere.   We are not exactly chasing leafs – but on the other hand  here we are chasing the future talents of Table Tennis and not letting anything pass by. Who would have thought that only a couple years back?

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