Developing a clear, coherent pathway to the top of the sport for our players has always been one of WTT’s central ambitions.
When we started to discuss the possibility of creating a new commercial entity for table tennis, supporting and nurturing future generations together with current up-and-comers was an immediate priority.
We are all aware that the future of our sport depends on the success and commitment of the next generations of players; their rise to fame, their role model status for young viewers, and the headline-grabbing upsets they cause at the table along the way. We saw a glimpse of this recently with Korean teenager Shin Yubin’s tremendous run during the recent WTT Middle East Hub in Doha.
To grow our sport, we must reach truly diverse young talent, and adapt our competitive frameworks to create routes to World Number 1 for future stars not only in East Asia but across the world.
There is already so much to look forward to. This year, despite the on-going challenges of a global pandemic, WTT has 30 scheduled youth events all over the world.
We’d like to take the opportunity to set out our vision in a little more detail, and, crucially, to ask for your support in achieving it. When we talk about the WTT structure, we often talk about “building a pyramid” of events; with the WTT Youth Series forming the foundation for players to begin their journey to World Number 1.
The wider that foundation, the richer and stronger our sport becomes at every level. We’re setting out our commitment to developing truly global and inclusive partnerships with all Member Associations to build that pyramid from the ground up.
Day One: Picking up a Racket
From mainstream news to backyard knock-about, table tennis is a sport for all. We are aware of the fragmented global cultural perceptions of our sport, and WTT is working hard to create more diverse, aspirational role models and competitive events that inspire more young people to become professional table tennis players.
We want to see our events and our stars have the same recognition and popularity that other sports currently occupy. Successful, visible events and athletes creates aspirational dreams for kids and will encourage them to pick up a racket and play, in turn leading to greater grassroots participation for all Member Associations.
As we collectively establish and grow WTT at all levels, our attractiveness in the commercial marketplace grows, recently evidenced by our partnership with Coca-Cola. Combined with our plans for immersive and “Instagrammable” events, we will provide exciting new content for our existing supporters as well as attracting new fans and creating a wider appreciation of our wonderful sport.
This is just the beginning. Our new WTT structure now establishes the journey from day one to World Number 1 and unlocks our sport’s potential. It encourages and supports Member Associations all over the world to further develop existing scouting and training systems plus generate clear pathways to the top of the sport.
Growing our Youth: the WTT Youth Series
This year, we transition from the ITTF World Junior Tour to the WTT Youth Series, with age categories of U11, U13, U15, U17 and U19. Crucially, players will again earn ITTF Table Tennis World Ranking points at these youth events.
It is also worth noting, that by introducing an U19 category, in favour of an U18 one, we have ensured that, despite the inevitable disruption of Covid-19, those players on the cusp of finishing their youth journeys have opportunities to still progress within the sport.
Currently, only 30-35 youth table tennis events take place each year. Other sports are simply outperforming us on this count. Our vision is for every single one of the 226 Member Associations within our Table Tennis family to be empowered to host at least one and where possible multiple youth events to grow our global young talent.
To some, this may sound ambitious, but it is our guiding target as we develop and embed the new WTT Youth Series. It’s exciting for young players and clubs to experience the international scene on their own doorstep, playing events in their home countries with the prestige and power to springboard them onto the global stage.
WTT provides the framework for Member Associations to maximise the local economic and cultural success of these events, which in turn provide prime opportunities to attract more local grassroots talent to the sport.
Activating the WTT Feeder Series
The WTT Feeder Series has been a linchpin of our planned structure strategy from the very start. Having first focussed on publicly establishing WTT’s overall direction and laying the vital groundwork for our Youth Series, we are pleased to start sharing our hard work behind the scenes on this critical part of the “pyramid”, which elevates grassroots talent to global stars.
The WTT Feeder Series will commence in January 2022 and provides an additional opportunity for Member Associations to host events and assist the transition of their players to elite levels. Over the last year, we have been fine-tuning the role of the Feeder Series in our wider structural change. As young players earn world ranking points through the WTT Youth Series, the most elite young players can graduate directly to the WTT Contender Series.
However, many young players will finish their youth journey requiring a little more time to develop and hone their skills before they qualify for this level. The WTT Feeder Series is designed to provide this opportunity, ensuring that young players showing high potential, but still maturing, do not drop off the map.
The Feeder Series also provides a “safety net” for those players formerly of the upper echelons who fall out of form, are returning from career breaks or recovering from injury. This provides the opportunity for all to play, earn prize money and accrue World Ranking points to build back up to WTT Contender Series qualification.
Transition through each of the various tiers is an important part of a player’s journey. The WTT Feeder Series and WTT Contender Series both have “optional entry” policies to ensure these competitions are more achievable and accessible for up-and-comers.
Participation of the Top 20-50 players depending on the event type is limited, opening up the adrenalin-fuelled, fan-filled global competitive experience to more players. At the same time, the new structure opens the door for more shock upsets, more unexpected match ups, and a more exciting experience for players, fans and viewers.
What happens now?
We can’t write this next chapter for the sport without the partnership of Member Associations. This year, we’re planning 30 WTT Youth Series events, starting with Portugal, Tunisia, the Czech Republic, Morocco and Slovenia. The other 25 events will take place after the Olympic Games, and we hope to continue building international momentum from there.
Hosting a WTT Youth or WTT Feeder Series event brings cultural and economic benefits as the world opens back up and will solidify the future of the success of our sport for decades to come. Please reach out to us with your questions, concerns and comments. We are listening, and we want to empower every nation and every young person, regardless of background and location, to join us in this new era.
For further information and enquires please email [email protected]
About World Table Tennis
Successfully launched in 2021, WTT heralds a new era for professional table tennis with the new WTT Series showcasing the sport’s best and up-and-coming table tennis players in up to 34 events around the world. The WTT Series features four Grand Smashes as the pillars of the sport, eight single-table, single-gender WTT Champions events, the WTT Contender Series and the season-ending WTT Cup Finals, all of which will entertain fans and inspire future generations of table tennis players. Complimented by the global WTT Youth Series, WTT creates a pathway that showcases the journey of a player from day one to world number 1 through the ITTF Table Tennis World Rankings. For more information, please visit worldtabletennis.com