Coach Corner

"News & Views" by Andrea Glover
(3 times Irish Champion, Final Year Physiotherapy Student @ University of Ulster)
"French Experience"
Published in Ulster Newsletter. (Jan 2001)

"This is my second season playing in France; last year I arrived at Evreux E. C which is a club approx. 100 miles. outside Paris. The team plays National 1, which is the second division in France, the top division being the Superdivision, in which the best players from around the world play fulltime!

Our team is one of the strongest teams in the Division, finishing 3rd in the League last year. This is helped greatly by the No 1 player on the team who is a Chinese player from Beijing, where she was a member of the National Squad, and used to play with Wang Nan as a Junior! She is undefeated in three years. There is also a former French Junior international and a French Cadet on the team. Natasha Williams from Wales also plays some matches when available.

The League in France is taken very seriously and forms the main basis from which players get ranking points. Matches are every other weekend. Normally I leave for Paris on a Friday afternoon and am picked up at the Airport by someone from the Club and go for practice with the Team. On Saturday, we meet for lunch if it is a home match, otherwise we hire a Minibus and travel to the opposing team, which, when playing at National level, may involve a 7 hour drive.

At home matches, there tends to be good atmosphere. As Evreux is quite small, a lot of local people will come to support us. Initially, I found this quite bizarre, as there are posters advertising matches around the Cafes and Bars in the Town. Normally there are about 100-200 spectators, and these often bring drums and rattles and this can take some getting used to! The team gets a lot of local press coverage - about 5 - 6 journalists at Matches.

Currently our team is top of the Division after the first phase. Six teams have been relegated, and the remaining 12 teams will pay each other in 2 groups. The top teams from each group then go through to a Play Off Competition to determine the French champions for each League.

Over the last 2 seasons, I have gained a lot of experience playing in the French League. Also, it is brilliant being part of the high profile which Table Tennis has in France. Even though there are successful French players at major Championships, I never realised the sophisticated Club structure or strength in depth that they have in terms of both players and coaches eg there are 20,000 registered player in Paris alone!"

You Can Find Out More About The Irish In France in Brian Abroad