Girls in UK 2009

Rowden Fullen 2009

Many girls give up with table tennis in their early years. Clearly many more boys continue rather longer with the sport. Internationally, especially with the women, England has slipped dramatically in recent years since the halcyon days of the late ‘40s and ‘50s when we were world champions in team and doubles and in finals in the singles events. Even in the ‘70s and 80’s we were a force to be reckoned with and one of the best 3 to 4 teams in Europe. Now we are nowhere.

So just how do we set about changing the position and getting back to the situation where we can at least be a force in Europe? Times are different now – we must first start by creating the situation where our girls have opportunities to progress. If we don’t have the economy to collect national training groups together, we must be creative and find other methods to evolve.

One method used by Donald Parker in 1988/89 and detailed under his Junior Training Policy document was as follows: ‘We have had some excellent training sessions at Grove, these will now continue but will be organised by the Grove Club and will operate on a self-financing basis. Clearly this sort of training is excellent preparation for players hoping to make the England Training Camps and the England Team’. Are we saying that now in 2009 we don’t have big clubs which could help in this type of venture?

The Association should also be prepared to look at training opportunities abroad and be prepared to support more of our girls in private training initiatives in Europe. We have a number of coaches and top players both in and out of the system in UK, who have good connections with National Associations and big clubs in Europe and in Asia. It is time that we should start to use such connections to help in organising training and exchanges abroad. But in most cases where possible players need to take advantage of such opportunities alone or in small groups – in this way they are faced with new ideas and learn to evaluate and understand for themselves when and where the training and development is suitable to them as individuals. If they are to grow as players they must learn to work things out for themselves.

Many things are changing in our sport and we must change too. That things happen is in most cases a matter of ideas and the ability and energy to translate ideas into reality. This applies to associations even at district and national levels. We cannot afford to be too traditional or parochial in our outlook. At the moment unfortunately it’s quite obvious that the top English girls are not getting the same advantages/input as the top junior boys. If the Association doesn’t have the finance or the know-how to develop our girls then it should be ready to let others have a go. Ignoring the situation and doing nothing is hardly an option.

One of the first areas to look at is the possibility of competing more abroad in both leagues and tournaments. Many of the top players in England have done this for a number of years. The more our young girls can compete outside of England the better for them and for the development of our table tennis. They will have much more varied opposition and their game will quickly gain in strength and maturity. Even if the Association cannot afford too many trips abroad it can certainly encourage players to compete privately in Europe or even further afield and support them with accreditation where necessary.

We must place a great deal more emphasis on setting up individual training programmes. Every player must without exception have their own personal trainer – even if this means daily contact on MSN or by e-mail. We must work much more with outside specialists, chiropractors, physiotherapists and sports injuries experts. It’s very important too that we have continuity in the National Teams and that we have a policy of working together with all who are involved with top players. The willingness to cooperate must always come from the top. We should think along the lines of the officials in the Football Association, who admit quite openly that they have major difficulties and problems trying to work with certain top managers, but that this is something they have to deal with if they are to get their cooperation and the access they require to the best club players.

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