Someone close enough to the action in the Bay Area , USA probably made the correct call when describing the new fun-loving , passionate ITTF Junior Commission chair Dennis Davis from the USA . He concluded , short and sweet; “Dennis is Dennis “
The first time I met the fifty year old american was in Santiago, Chile during the first ever ITTF World Junior Table Tennis championships. In a moment of I guess optimism – think Big USA style he told me during one dinner; Well this is not that difficult . We can do the ITTF World Juniors in the United States!
With that memory-note in my “never stop thinking how to promote the ITTF Global Junior Programme mind ” – I landed in San Francisco sometime in the winter of 2005 to meet with Dennis – Anne Cribbs and the Stanford University athletic department staff. Even Today, thinking back , I don’t know how they managed the organization of such an event , other than of course utilizing around the clock dedication and hard work by very few persons – plus a solid support from the local host – Stanford . The organization of the 2007 World Junior Table Tennis championships at Stanford University was an admirable and gutsy effort that forever will put Dennis on my personal top ten list of international junior table tennis heroes.
Today we know that one of many positive effects from hosting the 2007 World Junior Table Tennis championships at Stanford University, is a steady progress of the sport of table tennis in the Bay area, and in fact all over the USA. These days’ players of all ages can enjoy table tennis in eight fulltime club s in the Bay area alone with various standards of coaching offered. Here in Slovenia – four out of the five young US players present at the ITTF WCC are practicing with Bay area clubs. It is also interesting that the number of full-time facilities for Table Tennis in the United States has grown from less than ten to more than fifty in six to seven years.
Dennis Davis is replacing Tony Yue from Hong Kong as the new ITTF Junior commission chair starting with the 2013 Morocco World Juniors. It will be interesting to see what kind of agenda he will try to drive. Not an easy gig with the politics of our sport starting to conquer also the junior events and fine-tuned effective ( offensive -sure ..) programs with sweeping suggestions on how they should be constructed and operated. Considering this – Dennis might find himself sprawling on the dry-land as a fish out of water pretty quickly.
It seems to me that the overall discussion also during an event like this – The ITTF World Cadet Challenge has the tendency to be more about pleasing the ever so growing political movement rather than talking – with the future in mind , about athletes’ development and the general progress of our sport . I have said many times – and it is a proven fact that the most effective development tool in emerging countries sometimes is pure and simple; One ( of course several if possible ) good (world-class) player with ambition and the willingness to ; Just Go for it. All the positive effects from such thinking will come in the next phase ; YES – we are interested to organize events to satisfy the growing interest . YES – more players and coaches see the opportunity to have success. YES – success do feed success… and finally YES – outside (very important ) parties like the NOC;s do understand and appreciate efforts as well as direct links with International federations.
Here in Otocec . Slovenia one of the most discussed ITTF programs has been the ITTF Hopes , and more in-depth the presence of an ITTF World Hopes team at this event . It would of course be a huge mistake to block some very promising young talents from tasting the finest world class event we have on the calendar . By offering participation here and engaging all forces in the Hopes programme overall we are touching young , pure talents ready and eager to embark on a journey to excellence . The symbol of Hope is one of the most powerful promotional tools we have and to tell you the truth it is also the nr one reason for the Barbados bid to host the ITTF WCC next year. The president of the Barbados association Mr Trevor Brown told me at dinner the other day along the lines of ; You know Mikael . We have this 12-year-old guy that i really believe can be something…He participated in the Guatemala Hopes camp organized by the ULTM ..
Now back to Dennis and his future whereabouts . Properly equipped with that pure love of our sport it is of course possible that he can stay firm on the task to try to lift junior TT around the world. He has the right passion for table tennis and is on a daily basis touching the floor, coaching – managing in his Pong Planet club in the USA. If we – that is the staff involved in the ITTF GJP can push through with a clear vision and quality activities – continued success is around the corner. It is after all easier to utilize staff support and financial resources at the ITTF level compared to Dennis last assignment; USATT Junior chair. Let’s face it not much happened there understandably enough with the complete lack of organizational structure that exists in the land of the free.
A complete other ballgame is ; We need to sort out some issues and re-establish the ITTF Junior Commission as the true driver of the ITTF Global Junior Programme !
But, that is very much a question for another time – another day. Until then let us all swim quietly in safe waters.