The Son of a Butcher-Man

To use an American expression; we have to take care of our own. With that I mean to support and honor a perhaps dying breed in table tennis; the Elite coaches. The guys  or gals ( has been a few ) that are prepared to go that extra mile for their players, push the envelope , wake up the dead , walk on water – you name it  .

Here in Guam we had one of the very best there is to lead the training camp for the young cadets of the world.  He was sharp ,  well prepared and active in the training hall  .; Richard “Richie “ Prause – former German National Team coach for both the women and the men and now  the head-coach  for the Werner Schlager Academy  in Schwechat , Austria .

What I do know now as well is that we should send a huge thank you to his late grandfather back in Germany for having him here in the first place.  It was he who forced the decision by putting the choice of career to an early face off.

“My family, for generations, have all been butchers. When I was twenty-four years old and playing table tennis professionally, my grandfather called me to his house for a close talk about the future.    Well Richard, when are you going to stop this ping pong business and become serious in life..? I thought for a while and said; Grandpa – not to disappoint you, but I think I will stick to table tennis.

So here is the situation. The family meat shop outside Frankfurt is now closed and the son of a Butcher- man is still enjoying his choice of career with no regrets.   The good thing is – You can clearly feel that so important love for coaching when you speak to the forty- four year old German native.

  “Yes it’s true, I really like what I am doing Richard explains. To make the jump from coaching in the German national team system to my present job as the WSA coach I think was good for me personally.  Even though it might not be that easy to handle the different aspects of coaching at a training center,   I am now in touch with a broader base of players and I kind of like the international opportunities that comes along as well   .  I have for example been working with the Iranian association on a regular basis with Noshad Alamanyin who played well now in the Olympics as the nr one focus. On top of that, we have by now at the WSA center a good group of highly ranked Europeans that I am working with on a daily basis   “Richie” says.

For an aspiring coach – could there be anything better than getting a first-hand look at sixty-four young prospects from all over the world by working this event the World Cadet Challenge?

It has been a pleasure to work here in Guam. It’s a great event and also fun to see how the continental teams are coming together. There are plenty of interesting young players competing here  and if I had to pick a few , for sure,   Kunal Chodri from  USA born 1999 and Adriana Diaz from Puerto Rico born 2000 are two players that I would like to see as guests in the WSA training center in the near future.  Richard Prause explained.

As a player – and here the Eleven Points blog has first-hand info, Richard Prause was a runner of very good caliber, covering I would say 98 % of the table with his forehand.  His service was also well thought out, always setting the scene for a lethal forehand top spin.   All in all, good enough to make the German National team as nr four or five – but when it came to the important team matches Richard was often nailed to the bench.

“It was pretty simple Richard admits.   . I was nr four or five for many years and with Rossi, Fetzner and Peter Franz ahead of me.  The coach would send the call mostly for matches against slightly weaker countries.  

The desire to become a coach started early.

“For me it was just something I liked to do and I remember very well how it started.   I simply jumped in to coach Steffen Fetzner at one international competition when I was knocked out and his chair open.

The opportunities to continue on the chosen path would come both quickly and in a very natural way, like it was meant to be kind of thing.  In a period of four years; 1996 to 2000 Richard retired from international playing duties, started his DTTB coaching education and began to work in what I always referred to   Helmut Hampl land – Gonnern  ,in the German bundesliga where he in the beginning was combining playing duties as the nr four to five players with match coaching.

Why is it that this man; Helmut Hampl always come up as one of the key coaches to almost all the better German players.  Timo Boll of course the best of the best but also the new German up and comer Patrick Franzsiska is from Helmut’s stable of players.  I am asking Richard to try to give his take on Helmut Hampl and his coaching success;

“Helmut was of course my mentor and I really grew up as a player with him coaching in the hall.  He has always been a coach with the ability to make his presence felt in the training hall. As a player you always felt a pair of eyes watching and that made you focus even more on your task on hand Prause rememebers .  What I also always admired with him is that he cared – even today he is sending an email   or an sms to his player reminding them to get ready. Tough as nails in the practice hall – but a good friend and supporters outside – that is one of his absolute strengths.

Soon enough the German Association came asking,  offering the female team as the first gig and then in 2004 the men’s team.

Following four successful years with the men crowned with Silver medals for teams in the Beijing Games the tank was partly empty.

“I had given all my knowledge to the players and it was the right time for them to have another person come in as their coach.

In 2009 Richard Prause was appointed head coach for the Werner Schlager Academy in Schwechat, Austria.  The project, by now three years old, has been a challenge for everybody involved.   The center is catering to a wide range of clients and Richard prefers to use three groups when he is describing the current situation.

The way I see it is like this. We have the national associations in need for expert coaching and ready to pay for that service.  It might be specific preparation for Arab championships – gulf championships etc.. The level of those players might not be extremely high and we then need to work with having a good group of sparring for that level.   The second group is more the self going elite level Europeans.  Here we are making only small money – but the group is growing and I think we are now having some + 40 players calling WSA their training base.   The third group would be younger players who can come to the WSA on regular basis for practice shorter or longer periods.

For sure we can improve in all areas. The project with the WSA team in Serbian Open was interesting and I personally hope that we can find the right formula to attract younger clients and their coaches moving forward Richard Prause concludes.

With a lot of players circulating through the WSA operations there are very few coaches in the world of table tennis having the opportunity to see so many players fighting to get better.  Any key observations, or specific ideas for the future of Table Tennis ?

“Obviously the WSA has been pushing for a closer cooperation with the European Table Tennis Union for quite some time now Richard recalls.  I have attended many meetings over the years to discuss the status of European Table Tennis.  We are interested in trying to attract female players at this point – no doubt about especially with our new coaches Tamara Boros and Aiay Umamura starting their jobs.”

“One more thing that I have noted as well is that many coaches coming to the WSA with players are often taking the passive role rather than becoming actively involved with their athletes. I think that more than ever young players are in need for strong and active coaching in order to improve”  said Richard Prause



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