by Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
It was for Maxime Surprenant, his first such venture. He was a member of the first official “Hopes Expert Training” held in Qatar in conjunction with the 2015 World Hopes Week.
Led by Polona Cehovin and Dejan Papic, members of the ITTF Education and Training Team, one coach from each continent was targeted to attend; for Maxime Surprenant the mission was to head south to the warm waters of the Caribbean.
“I hope that when I leave the kids will ask for more table tennis and that this will increase the number of young players on the island”, Maxime Surprenant.
In Castries, the capital city in the island and known as a safe harbour for ships, from Saturday 5th to Saturday 12th November, the region proved a safe harbour for nine aspiring boys and five ambitious girls.
Training was staged each day from 9.00am to 12.00 noon and from 2.00pm to 5.00pm with time being allocated for theory sessions which both coaches and players alike attended.
“Now that the kids have more experience they can set themselves some goals, they have more motivation. There was a “wow factor” to this training camp and now their passion is even deeper for table tennis. The group got along together very well. Our next goal is to organize an Under 13 Team for the Caribbean Championship, the players will come from this group, we will use this week’s camp as spring board”, Chris Wells
Assisted by Chris Wells, the island’s national coach, in addition to Derrick Destang and Stephen Joseph, both local coaches; the first five days were allocated to a Training Camp, the concluding two days to a tournament, the highly popular Challenge.
“I really enjoyed learning innovative warm up drills, multi-ball drills, the way to get the kids to play following Maxime’s instructions and without having to enforce too much discipline”, Derrick Destang
Furthermore, similar to all such initiatives, the response from both players and coaches was most positive; all enjoyed the multi-ball sessions, all being very open minded, as Maxime Surprenant explained the most recent developments, ideas and concepts in the sport of table tennis.
A National Hopes Week is the first step, it is the base level, next is Regional, followed by Continental and the World Hopes Week from which the Hopes Team is selected to compete in the ITTF World Cadet Challenge.
“It was a very instructive week for me I will bring this back to the schools in my area and pass on the knowledge, new ways to play with fun”, Stephen Joseph
Thus Maxime Surprenant very much followed in the footsteps of Germany’s Eva Jeler who had recently conducted a similar training camp for Latin America in Chile.
She explained the need to build the house with firm foundations; the Hopes age group is the perfect time to construct the fundamentals. It is one reason why China is so good; there may be little difference in playing level at a very young age but then compare when 16 years or 18 years old, there is a chasm.
“I had a very good training week I feel I got better faster, the way the coach treated us was friendly and we had fun; also, I also learned new ways to play in team matches”, De’Andre Calderon
Equally, in little St Lucia as in massive China, there is talent with two boys in the guise of 11 year old De’Andre Calderon and 10 year old Zackim Malaykhan alongside an 11 year old girl named Nhij Myers attracting the attention.
“It was great fun and I am getting better. I can place the ball better and I miss less now. I can stay low without thinking about it and my control is a lot better”, Nhij Myers too.
Stars of the future and is there a table tennis player in the making who could follow the cricketer, Darren Sammy? In October 2010 he became the first cricketer from St Lucia to be named West Indies captain; moreover, in 2012, he led his team to a World title. The seeds have been sown.
“I feel good and I learned quickly and I am getting better and better. I am starting to move my legs more and bend more, now I can play better shots. I will remember this week; thank you”, Zackim Malaykhan
The Challenge tournament will serve to provide a ranking list for the young players.