06 Mar 2024

In the ongoing pursuit to bridge the gender gap in coaching and leadership roles within table tennis, the trailblazing women's initiative “My Gender. My Strength.” continued its journey in 2023. This initiative is specifically designed to empower female coaches through a comprehensive approach that combines theoretical learning through online mentorships, practical experience through onsite training camps, and the facilitation of a women's coaching seminar. With its holistic design, the initiative aims not only to enhance coaching skills but also to develop leadership and management capabilities among female coaches, providing them with the necessary opportunities to flourish in the world of sports coaching.

A total of 31 Member Associations submitted applications for the project, from which 15 female coaches were selected as beneficiaries for the 2023 MGMS initiative. The highest number of applications came from the Americas, with 11 Member Associations eager to support the personal and professional development of their female coaches, and coaches from Argentina, Canada, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago emerging as the selected beneficiaries. Interest from Member Associations in Africa and Asia remained strong, with 9 applications each from both continents. Beneficiaries came from Algeria, Botswana, Eritrea, Tunisia, and Congo Democratic in Africa, and Lebanon, India, Palestine, and Iran in Asia. Oceania’s female coaches could also benefit from the project, with two beneficiaries from Australia and New Zealand taking advantage of the initiative’s offering. Selected coaches hailed from diverse backgrounds, including former athletes transitioning into coaching roles, club coaches, national team coaches, and schoolteachers, all sharing a common goal of enhancing their expertise to empower local coaches and communities.

The project’s first stage focuses on theoretical learning delivered through online platforms, complemented by a personalized one-on-one coaching mentorship. Selected coaches had the opportunity to participate in interactive sessions covering various topics such as tactics, techniques, and physical and mental training strategies. These online mentorship sessions fostered a supportive environment where coaches could address challenges, seek advice, and receive tailored feedback to suit their individual needs and aspirations.

Reflecting on her experience, Houri Sadat, MGMS beneficiary from Iran, shared: “The ‘My Gender. My Strength.’ project has been an enriching journey that extends beyond table tennis coaching. It’s a transformative chapter in my sporting career, emphasizing the empowerment of women beyond the court. Joining this initiative has not only sharpened my coaching skills but also instilled a sense of purpose and responsibility. Learning from luminaries like Eva Jeler has been truly magical, turning our sessions into a profound journey of self-discovery.”

Building upon the theoretical foundation, the project’s second stage immerses female coaches in practical experiences through onsite training camps. The majority of the participants had the opportunity to attend a Regional Hopes Week & Challenge, where they could solidify their learning by assisting ITTF Experts and collaborating with other coaches. This hands-on experience allows coaches to apply theoretical knowledge to real-world coaching scenarios, enhancing their skills in player development, tactical planning, and team management.

Moreover, the training camps serve as networking opportunities, enabling female coaches to connect with peers and industry experts and gain exposure to different coaching styles and methodologies.

The final stage of the project involves organizing a Women’s Coaching Seminar led by MGMS Project beneficiaries, providing them with a platform to showcase their leadership, managerial, and coaching abilities, while benefiting local female coaches.

Aleena Edwards,  MGMS beneficiary from Trinidad and Tobago, expressed her gratitude: “This experience was truly once-in-a-lifetime. I’m thankful to ITTF for providing me and other women in coaching and table tennis around the world with this opportunity. I loved working alongside my very experienced mento Rafael Armendariz at the Caribbean Hopes and relished the opportunity to contribute significantly to the training sessions. Conducting the Women’s Coaching Seminar, where I could pass my knowledge on to other enthusiastic women in table tennis was another great opportunity this project offered me.”

Garci Feriel, MGMS beneficiary from Tunisia, emphasized the project’s impact on women’s table tennis development, stating: “This project will have a huge impact on the development of women’s table tennis in all aspects. For my part, I’ve had the opportunity to take part in the ITTF Regional Hopes Week & Challenge, where I was able to gain experience as a coach. I was lucky enough to be working alongside a great ITTF Expert, Mr. Massimo Costantini, guiding a group of talented girls and boys who will help me in my career. I also had an opportunity to lead a group of children’s club leaders and give table tennis lessons as a part of a two-day seminar. These leaders will now be able to introduce table tennis to children, which will enable the association to improve the number of people playing our sport, particularly in a new region where a new club can be created.”

By integrating theoretical learning with online mentorship, practical onsite experiences, and a Women’s Coaching Seminar, this project aims to empower and elevate female coaches in the sports industry. Through these carefully curated stages, the initiative aims to break down barriers, foster a sense of community, and create pathways for female coaches to excel in leadership and management roles. Ultimately, this initiative contributes to the broader goal of achieving gender equality and diversity in sports coaching, ensuring that the talents of female coaches are recognized and celebrated globally.

Christa Foulis – MGMS beneficiary from Australia: “Being a beneficiary of MGMS  signified a once-in-a-lifetime, steep learning curve for me. This experience, in which I was exposed to the best junior talent and the professionalism of an ITTF elite coach, was not only memorable, motivating, inspiring, and enjoyable, but also provided me with immediate upskilling and was a boost to my own development. My sincere thanks to everyone who made this experience possible for me.”

MGMS Women’s Coaching Seminar in Botswana

Boitshwarelo Butale – MGMS beneficiary from Botswana: “My overall experience with the MGMS project is that it has taken me out of my comfort zone to face some fears and address some limiting self-beliefs. Conducting training for national teams from other countries at the Hopes Week and holding a seminar for coaches proved me capable. With the experience gained I feel I can do much better in empowering other females to contribute towards the development of the sport. The plan is now to work more with female players and coaches. The more I embark on the journey of assisting other female coaches, the more I will improve my self-confidence, knowledge of the sport itself, and personal growth as we interact.”

The “My Gender. My Strength.” project will open soon for applications to the 2024 cohort.

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