Seeking the Kirani James of Table Tennis, the Search for a Star in Grenada
Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Christian Lillieroos who conducted proceedings
Photo By: Brain Storm Productions
Situated off the northern coast of the South American continent, a tourist destination renowned for its expansive beaches; Grenada, with a population of only 110,000, was the recent home for an ITTF Para Table Tennis Coaches Course and Training Camp
Organised under the auspices of the ITTF Development Programme, proceedings commenced on Monday 3rd December and concluded on Saturday 8th December 2012.
The expert on duty was Christian Lillieroos, Chairman of the International Paralympic Table Tennis Committee from 1996 to 2006 and thus well versed in the skills and expertise needed to coach athletes with disabilities.
Local Hero Not only is Grenada known for its magnificent location, it is also possesses a celebrated Medical school at St George University with 12,000 students but its current claim to fame is a certain Kirani James.
At the London Olympic Games, he won the gold medal in the 400 metres; the first ever athlete from Grenada to secure an Olympic gold.
“When you arrive at the airport you have arrived in Kirani nation”, smiled Christian Lillieroos. “They have even renamed a street in downtown St George to Kirani James Boulevard; this shows how much sport can impact a country’s feeling of pride and self-respect.”
First ITTF Level One Coach He is the country’s talisman, seemingly the most important person in the country.
“Grenada does not yet have a Kirani in table tennis but the local national champion Jason Staniclaus is also the national coach and he became the first certified ITTF Level One coach from Grenada when he took the course in 2006”, explained Christian Lillieroos. “Later he completed the practical requirements; he is working full time promoting table tennis in the school system in the islands and still also playing for the national team.”
Previous Courses Jason Staniclaus sets an example to which other coaches must aspire.
“Grenada has had its fair share of coaches courses that started with Richard McAfee’s arrival in 1998 when he led the first course”, added Christian Lillieroos. “Grenada was also able to secure an Olympic solidarity grant in 2010 when Coach Ramon Ortega “Moncho” Montes from Spain conducted two Level One courses.”
Christian Lilieroos provides the group with an explanation Photo by Brain Storm Productions
Assistant Course Conductors Notably Peter Joseph, who attended the course in 2010 and since qualified by completing the necessary 30 hours, has worked consistently with younger player on the Island.
Alongside Jason Staniclaus, he helped on the course as an assistant conductor.
Talented President “The President of the Association, Dr. Alister Antoine, who also was the organiser of the course, worked tirelessly and encouraged the participating coaches to take part in the development of table tennis on the island”, said Christian Lillieroos. “Furthermore, local authorities gave tremendous support; the President of the Grenada Olympic Committee attended the Opening Ceremony and effortlessly returned the course conductors serve from behind his back; he can play!”
All the dignitaries encouraged the coaches to find a Kirani James of table tennis.
Closing Ceremony “The closing ceremony of the course was attended by the Secretary General of the Grenada Olympic Committee who is also the standing secretary of the Ministry of Sport”, added Christian Lillieroos. “She promised to do their best to support the development of table tennis on the island, so table tennis and the course has all the support you can ask for.”
However, the biggest challenge in Grenada for table tennis is the availability of indoor facilities. Most sports are played outdoors.
Christian Lillieroos demonstrates the technique necessary for a backhand push stroke Photo by Brain Storm Productions
No Paralympic Committee Also, Grenada does not currently have an active National Paralympic Committee but Carlene Pezar from the Grenada Council for the disabled took part in both the opening ceremony and in two meetings”, explained Christian Lillieroos. “The goal was to better learn how to support a new membership in the International Paralympic Committee and activate participation in sports among the approximately 11,000 disabled individuals on the island.”
Physical Education Teachers Predominantly, the participants on the course were physical education teachers and thus had good communication and teaching skills; many did not have a great deal of technical knowledge with regards to table tennis but all learned and improved.
“On the last day of the course Rudy James, not related to Kirani James, helped out”, said Christian Lillieroos. “He is a Standing Class 6 athlete who never played table tennis before but he received first class treatment from the 20 coaches.”
An Example Certainly Christian Lillieroos was pleased to see Rudy James attend. “Rudy is an example of a Grenada disabled athlete with international potential in the future if coached properly”, continued Christian Lillieroos. “One of the Grenada Table Tennis Association board members, who is ranked in the top four among able bodied, discovered that he is disabled and is most likely Class 8; he would have great international potential but was until now unaware of the disabled sports world.”
Everyone would be pleased to see him soon in international competitions.
An enthusiastic group of potential coaches attended the course Photo by Brain Storm Productions
Coaches Motivated “All coaches were excited about going back home and playing more after the course and practising what they had learned; also to complete their 30 practical hours needed to complete their certification”, added Christian Lillieroos. “The Grenada National championships will be played on Saturday 15th December, so we hope that there will be 10 new entries for the tournament.”
Following the coaching course a training camp was also conducted.
Training Camp “There was one session for 10 promising cadets and one session for the advanced players in the country; many of the coaches from the course took part in the advanced session and gained a glimpse of modern advanced play and what is coming for the future”, said Christian Lillieroos. “Hopefully many of them will be part of a Level Two Coaches course in the future.”
A successful course and there was a pleased and grateful course conductor.
Grateful for Support “My thanks to Dr Alister Antoine and the Grenada Table Tennis Association for a great organization of the course”, concluded Christian Lillieroos. “I hope to see both able bodied and disabled athletes from Grenada in future ITTF tournaments.”
The sentiments are echoed by all.
Young players who attended the Training Camp with Christian Lillieroos (far right) Photo by Brain Storm Productions