Lord, please forgive me for the rough and rowdy ways I have travelled in the name of Table Tennis. I have been places – done things – provoked people – entertained some – argued with many – encouraged – taught coaches – but most of all, I have “lived our sport” for almost thirty years by now.
This week was interesting. One day World championships 2018 meeting with the same club (Halmstad BTK) that one time back in 1984 gave me the chance to pursue coaching on a professional level , and in the next moment you sit in a beautiful medieval inspired castle in Slovenia to help out with the twelfth edition of an event that my very own inspired mind ( yes I do have my bright moments after all ) created, after travelling the world in the name of the ITTF High Performance program for a couple of years in the late nineties.
The ITTF World Cadet Challenge was supposed to give the continental associations the opportunity to strengthen their role in the field of athletes’ development and was already from the beginning one of the backbone events of the ITTF Global Junior Programme. We thought that by introducing young athletes to world level table tennis at the age of 14 – 15 their interest (and here I count national associations as well as the individual athlete) to become something in our sport would increase and take over as the driving force for the future. Very early in the process we got some support program going with assistance from the IOC Solidarity which allowed us to identify and manage – together with developing national associations some interesting emerging talents during some crucial , very often career defining years , basically leading up to the ITTF World Junior Championships as the main event for the ITTF GJP.
That was it. That was the ITTF Global Junior Programme – something we all saw as both refreshing and interesting. Today the opinions and the discussions related to the “programme part” of the ITTF GJP appears to be different. Seems like we have successfully managed to tone down the importance of the programme itself and also the events included , although they ( the key events ) in my opinion stand out as shining examples of good organization and well received , appreciated opportunities. Of course – Raul Calin the hard working ITTF Competition guru is playing his part in all of this constantly pushing the envelope with the local organizers
I have today – more than ever, the feeling that we need to revisit the strong values of the ITTF Global Junior Programme and work hard to keep up the quality in our delivery. . Somehow and I do not know how? we have to, with all our minds and efforts return to the floor to understand how the future dynamics of our sport is working and more importantly what is awaiting around the corner in the land they call the future.
There is no way for example that national associations can remain the only driver of excellence. Things are a-changing for many reasons. Investments from private sources – from external sponsors – from private academies – from elite level clubs and last but not least now fully affiliated continental associations must be harnessed for the greater good of international table tennis.
What I mean here is not to question the role of the ITTF – nor the people making the decisions – but only to ask for an open discussion concerning directions and priorities. There is a new world emerging out there and our sport is in need for ideas (always) and positive re-enforcements. To continue to embrace the ITTF Global Junior Programme and its properties is important – more now than ever.
Because the truth is – and it is even more than evident here in Slovenia , with the sixty four cadet players getting ready for competitive action in the 2013 ITTF WCC , good things are happening out there, that in fact completely could change the general perception of our sport. We have young players and national associations making positive – “go for it” style of decisions. The energy, the optimism and last but not least the will is there. Our job is to provide the way – and thanks to hardnosed development and educational work we are slowly been able to build the pathways – now understood by more and more clients out there.
I did do my walking and talking both yesterday and today. Many of us here – coaches and team managers are WCC veterans by now and to feel the energy and the anticipation is always encouraging. The standard this year seems to be higher than in the last few years. My answer to such a statement is to spell; ITTF H-O-P-E-S and improved continental preparations. Because here comes the Hopes generation of 1999 and 2000 with some super interesting talents eager – motivated and most of all with a level of ambition that we – call us officials or fans of our sport at the same time simply must love.
Full credit for the ITTF WCC – its pure existence ( and what a wonderful event it is ) should go to the ITTF Education and Development drivers ; Glenn Tepper – Polona Cehovin Susin and to the ITTF Hopes crew of Dejan Papic and Zita Pidl for getting it all fixed and more importantly on budget. They have with straight forward hard work clearly inspired the continental teams to dig deep and to show up in much better shape. The improvement is clearly seen with both Team Africa and Team North America boys team who has gone from bad to good in a heartbeat. By adding those competitive values to the 2013 ITTF WCC – we can look forward to a great competition.
“I think the girls play in the same tempo almost all the time. They need to be able to change the speed and the spin Istvan said. When it comes to the boys I see a lot of good backhand play – but maybe too much at times. It is good to play backhand from the backhand corner – but more players need a strong forehand to rely on.. But overall – I am quite impressed by the level said the Altmeister.