PROMOTING TABLE TENNIS IN IRELAND
Some Ideas by Owen Kelly
Table Tennis has advantages over many sports on offer to schools and clubs. In order to promote participation within the sport we need to show these advantages and encourage more schools and clubs to take up the sport.
A number of sports including soccer and rugby have taken active steps to approach schools with a demonstration of their sports directly within the clubs and schools themselves and even provide packs of equipment to National Schools (Buntús) in order to achieve this aim. I propose that table tennis make the same approach by developing a promotional presentation that can be easily transported and delivered within interested schools and clubs.
One of the difficulties of delivering table tennis within the PE Curriculum of schools is the requirement to regularly involve groups of 30 students at some of the larger schools. The limited number of tables that can usually be provided by the school either because of cost, storage or space requirements for regular 2.74m x 1.52m (9ft x 5ft) tables are some of the problems faced by teachers.
In order to overcome some of these difficulties it would be worth considering these issues. A smaller adapted table could be considered with simple fold down legs that can be stored flat would certainly address the issue of storage and reduce space requirements. Tables that could be transported in the back of a family sized car would also be of some advantage.
I have been concentrating on adapting various coaching techniques and games that cater for larger numbers of players on the table at one time. Team Table Tennis can easily cater for 16 players with 8 on each team. With class sizes of 30 this number can be catered to easily on just two tables. Other games including Table Cricket, Table Soccer, Guardian and others can also cater for larger class numbers. I am at present drafting some "Coaching Cards" that explain the rules and show how these can cater for larger numbers on a limited number of tables. Floor Table Tennis played over barriers has also had some success along with wall table tennis as well. (If you have any ideas or games that increase table capacity please let me know.)
The 1 Star Award can also be delivered without the use of a table tennis table at all. I have also been working on the PINGIS Scheme that provides opportunities for players of all ability to challenge themselves within individual skills. Ball Bouncing, Service, and basic shots can be performed on adapted tables, with players being awarded their 1 Star Awards as well as being able to compete within the PINGIS Level 1 Competitions held around the region. A recent inter-school PINGIS Challenge was held with great success accommodating players of all ability.
The ISC Buntús Programme includes 4 table tennis Poly bats within the existing pack, an accompanying activity card showing how these can be used and correctly held would be useful in promoting the use of this equipment in National Schools.
The Batskills equipment has been used to great effect within some pilot schools and clubs within our region. I recently gave a table tennis demonstration on 5 tables to 90 students (3 6th year classes) in 1˝ hours. The school has asked me to return in order to deliver the session to the rest of the 4th & 5th years. The school intends to purchase its own set of equipment and is interested in sending a teacher to the next available training course. There are a number of advantages in using the Batskills equipment, which is well designed, easy to use and eye catching for the participants.
It is important that after a demonstration in a school or club has been made that the school/club can be provided with some kind of follow up support. The ITTF have produced a TOPS manual that is available to download from the ITTF website.
The TOPS manual is very comprehensive and has a detailed breakdown of sessions divided into three development stages. Stage 1, 5-8 years, Stage 2, 9-16 years and Stage 3, 9-16 years. On completion of the three stages of development there are skills awards. These skills awards have been assimilated into the ITTA Proficiency Skills awards at 1 Star, 2 Star and 3 Star awards. The manual also has details on the use of adapted equipment including a recommended table size of 1.8m x 0.9m for level 1 students. (A smaller Breaking Down Barriers manual for youth clubs is also available.)
The TOPS manual has information and hints for coaches/teachers on how to deliver the course. Lesson Ideas, Player Behaviour, Group Organisation and Avoiding Injuries. Level 1 has 5 complete lesson plans that I have used as an introductory level myself to good effect and are simple to follow. Level 2 & 3 also have 5 easy to deliver lesson plans. All the lesson plans have games, drills and competitions laid out in a simple to follow format.
The manual itself is very comprehensive but can initially appear a bit daunting to unqualified coaches/teachers. Any demonstration would need to explain and encourage the use of this manual. The manual could be presented either in a hard copy format or on a CD-ROM.
Other useful information should be considered including local, regional and national contacts, information on coach education and information on the availability and sources of suitable equipment.
The question of how best the ITTA can deliver this promotional demonstration within schools would need to be considered and co-ordinated.
A suggestion that each province or region should be presented with a promotional pack including ITTF TOPS Manual, Batskills Equipment, posters and an information pack. A trained/qualified development officer to deliver the demonstration within clubs and schools with annual targets and follow up presentations could be instigated by a committee responsible for increasing participation. The scheme could also attract a number of sponsors if delivered on a national basis. I believe that the new Local Sports Partnerships would welcome and support such an initiative.
All the materials are available and a number of promotional demonstrations have already taken place with a lot of interest expressed by those who have taken part including National and Secondary Schools, Youth Clubs, Community Games Clubs and Special Olympic centres. All the scheme would need is National support and co-ordination.
If you would like to contribute to this idea or have any input please contact me at email@example.com or contact your local branch.
About the author: Owen Kelly was the ITTA PRO for 2 years as well as the Chairman of the National Development Committee. He is a qualified ITTA/NCDP Tutor, a full time coach with over 20 years of experience and has been Head Coach for Munster Special Olympics Table Tennis for the last three years.