by Dora Jeler, High Performance and Development Operations Manager
National associations took ownership of the project’s creation in order to meet their needs and desired outcomes. The nature of supported projects was manifold, ranging from table tennis development in schools, to tournaments, workshops, training camps and coaching sessions.
Most significantly since the launch, Latin American national associations have been most active.
In Suriname, the initiative supported its own “Girls in Motion” programme, the concept aims at increasing the number of girls playing table tennis.
The Suriname Table Tennis Association organised a series of training sessions under the guidance of experts, Gieta Girjasing and Kurt Uhlenkamp. Overall 15 girls and two female coaches attended throughout weekends from September to December. The itinerary was complemented by two tournaments.
In addition, participants were able to take part in an educational seminar focusing on female empowerment. The experts were also able to advise on the set up of three new table tennis clubs, one step further in increasing participation numbers and the level of play.
Meanwhile, in Ecuador, the programme picked up speed from Friday 22nd to Sunday 24th November, when 28 girls met in the city of Cuenca for a training camp and workshop. The stated objective was acquirement of practical and theoretical knowledge required to target gender equity in sport.
“Sport has no gender,” was the premise of the workshop. Additional to providing lessons that optimised the athletic performance of girls, who were between nine and 13 years old, sports psychology, biomechanics, and physiotherapy were covered.
Under the direction of Rafael Armendariz, the players found new ways to improve both their workouts and sports careers. Maybelline Menéndez, current under 11 girls’ South American and Latin American Champion, was particularly impressed.
”It was a unique opportunity, I learnt many new things; I realised that there is nothing that is impossible for us.” Maybelline Menéndez.
The experience set a precedent to expand the possibilities of growth for national athletes.
Nicaragua was the next national association to embrace the programme in a wholehearted manner.
Currently, the national association is focused on increasing participation in schools and universities as well at amateur and high performance levels.
From Thursday 12th to Saturday 14th December, the first women’s table tennis camp “My Gender. My Strength” was held at the Nicaraguan Sports Institute in Managua. A total of 19 players of different ages participated. Notably 12 girls between the ages seven and 11 were beginners; also there were intermediate level players, nine from the youth selection, members of the senior team, and veterans.
During the Camp, theoretical and practical classes were presented, focusing on basic techniques, the teaching of the rules of table tennis, the importance of warm-up and physical preparation of athletes. Also, the planning of training and exercises were introduced plus the use of equipment such as balloons. Multi-ball was adopted for the advanced groups, for the starter group relaxation and stretching exercises were arranged.
At the end, a competition was held according to the levels of the participant; the whole itinerary being applauded. In particular Mariana Gutierrez, 10 years old, a beginner was delighted.
“I liked it because I learned several techniques. I played table tennis a year ago and now I realise that it is something more beautiful than I knew before. I liked it a lot. I have learnt new techniques, several movements, the rules and I have also met more people who have helped me, I played a lot. I invite girls to join because it is a very nice sport that can help them and it’s something fun that can distract them.” Mariana Gutierrez
The final activity under the programme’s umbrella in Latin America was Venezuela’s Table Tennis Festival of the Capital Region. The main objective was to strengthen the promotion of our sport through mass activities, as well as to offer the possibility to girls from the Vargas, Miranda and Capital District states to live a different experience through recreational activities focused on sport values.
Overall 26 players assisted by six coaches participated in the Festival, which was supported by the sports authorities from the local region. They are committed to the promotion of table tennis in the area through the combined efforts of community leaders and state coaches; the aim is to develop a rerecruitment programme in public and private schools.
During the activity, the expert Kathiuska Chirinos explained the importance of values in sport: effort, resilience, perseverance, respect and especially teamwork.
Practices were designed to assess the technical and physical level of the girls, with a view to implementing support policies from the Venezuelan Table Tennis Federation in the formation of the women’s national sports seed bed.
Finally, with the intention of assessing the attitude of the girls in competition, a tournament was held which served as a fun and enriching experience. Kenderly Brito, from the Pedro Fontes School, eight years old, was delighted.
“I am very happy to meet and share with other girls in table tennis. I like to learn, practise and play. Thank you for this beautiful experience to all who made it possible.” Kenderly Brito
In 2019, the “My Gender. My Strength.” Programme had 192 participants in total in Latin America, 165 of whom were female.
We are looking forward to seeing a significant impact on women’s development in table tennis in the five selected national associations and to witness a legacy. We hope that the continuation of the programme in 2020 will bring even more interest and further advance women’s development in table tennis.