Unfortunately, there is a lack of adult table tennis coaching in England! Competitive table tennis players in England are aged between 10-18 years and 40-70 years of age. There is a big gap between the ages of 18-40-year-olds, arguably the most crucial time in any sport.
What has happened and what can be done?
The English table tennis system lets its players down! We have a structured table tennis coaching system for cadets and juniors. This can be seen in practically every region and at most table tennis club across the nation. Very rarely do we see or have an adult coaching session! When I played in France each evening/night had a leading coach holding a coaching session for adults. I would often go to other local clubs and they too would run group adult coaching. In the whole of England, I am yet to physically see a week by week (daily basis) adult coaching session run by a coach/coaches!
A culture has been created,
A lot of adults don’t want to train or develop their game and feel more at home with playing games/matches. But this is because they have not been given inside a coaching cultured system. Some adults will train solely with a friend or a clique training group. This culture of only match play or selfish training does not help anyone to grow and develop. Sports like football, rugby, tennis flourish because they have set training for all age groups including adults. And most clubs have a coach if not a coaching team developing their club players regardless of age.
Most players start young and they alongside their parents invest hundreds-thousands of hours alongside financial investment. If you are: Beginner level, you often enjoy the game recreationally and it’s an inexpensive sport. A Good player level, expenses become higher due to tournaments, coaching, equipment etc. Very good players level, expenses become even greater, local national and international tournament and training come into play. Elite player level, Top in your age group and possibly an England squad/team player, after all, your investments you need to pay for the luxury of being apart of the squad! Only if you are exceptionally good, then you will receive most for free and if you are super exceptional you’ll earn money and have sponsorship from the sport. When I played full time in France and Germany, the clubs rewarded the player from a very good level. If you had played at the club and were at a good national level representing the club, you would receive free rubbers and blades (limit, was dependent on level). If are very good, coaching is given for free and if you’re exceptional you are paid to represent the club alongside other perks.
How can we make a change for the better and help cater to all age groups?
Firstly, if countries like Belgium, Germany, Poland, France etc. can do it then so can we! All we truly need is a greater support system in place via the governing body (TTE). A system which help’s clubs whether they are personally capable or not in producing good players. We must support and nurture those who are working hard towards success and not only the club’s who are incapable. I don’t mean to be critical but I often see clubs that have been granted money and frankly, it’s a waste of money. Further-more these clubs are supported and helped by the governing body and for what?
What you put in you get out
I believe if someone is helping themselves, it’s because they want more and they want success, those are the people and clubs we should give an extra helping hand. Some may argue with me here but I often tell my players, the more you give (to yourself as a player) the more I’ll give you. Some players may feel Eli has his favourites nothing could be further from the truth. I was desperate to be coached as a youngster and often saw other players regardless of talent or commitment receive more than me. I would be the first in the hall and last to leave, unfortunately, there was favouritism. In terms of investment, it was clearly poor because today I am alongside possibly 5 others from my age group remained in the sport. If I see a player with true hunger seen through his/her eyes, I will do my utmost to give them my attention. All they must do is impart continuous positive input. I’m sure most of you have heard of the saying in business, input versus output, I genuinely believe in that philosophy.
I aim to change the structure of English Table Tennis over the next few decades for the greater good and I need each one of you to help by doing your part in your table tennis clubs.
Written by Eli Baraty
eBatt (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis) Coach Me Table Tennis by Eli Baraty
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