The Focus of Youth, Newest Member Displays Initiative and Makes Quick Progress
Ian Marshall, ITTF Publications Editor
Josiah Pantophlet was the nine year old to attract the attention of Leandro Olvech
Photo By: Courtesy of Leandro Olvech
Situated in the southern half of the Caribbean island of Saint Martin, Sint Maarten was the home for an ITTF/PTT Level One Coach Education Course from Monday 30th July to Friday 3rd August 2012.
Organised under the direction of the ITTF Development Programme, in conjunction with the Latin American Table Tennis Union, Philipsburg, the capital, was the location. One of the most recent members of the International Table Tennis Federation, formerly accepted at the Annual General Meeting earlier this year in Dortmund, a total of 21 students attended, five being women.
Argentina’s Leandro Olvech, the ITTF Deputy Executive Director-Development was the Course Conductor.
One of Five Islands A new member of the International Table Tennis Federation but table tennis is not necessarily new to the area.
Sint Maarten was one of five islands that formed the Netherlands Antilles; the Netherlands Antilles was formerly dissolved on Sunday 10th October 2010.
Curaçao and Sint Maarten became countries with their own constitutions within what is officially known as the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
Official Acceptance The political change meant that the Netherlands Antilles Table Tennis Association was disaffiliated and replaced by the Curacao Table Tennis Federation; the official date of acceptance being 2011.
In addition to Sint Maarten, Chad in Central Africa was also accepted at the Annual General Meeting in March 2012; the introduction of two new members unquestionably pleased Adham Sharara, ITTF President.
Delighted President "When I was elected President, there were only 170 member nations; the first thing I wanted to do was to introduce the sport to places where table tennis was unknown”, said Adham Sharara in Dortmund. “I am glad our development programme has proved to be a success; after the Volleyball Association, which has 221 members, we are the biggest association in the world with 217; that's not an objective, just a result of our development programme."
Course Delivered Five Months Later Five months later the first ever coaches course was delivered in Sint Maarten.
“For the Development Department, we are not only doing our best to recruit new members, we aim to assist and advise them in their first steps once affiliation is approved”, explained Leandro Olvech. “My last three coaches’ courses were in Sint. Maarten, Mozambique and Swaziland, all are recent ITTF members.”
Course members learn the basic skill of controlling the table tennis ball Photo courtesy of Leandro Olvech
Challenges Ahead A constituted table tennis federation in Sint Maarten established but challenges still remain for the intrepid explorers of the ITTF Development Department.
“Our focus is to ensure that all International Olympic Committee members are also members of the International Table Tennis Federation”, continued Leandro Olvech. “We have seven remaining: Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Sao Tome and Principe plus Eritrea in Africa, while in the Americas we have the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands; we also want table tennis to be played in all world territories.”
Immediate Focus Reducing the seven to zero is the task but the more immediate task for Leandro Olvech was to focus on Sint Maarten.
“The course was very pleasant for me; most of the students were very young with an eagerness to learn in a friendly atmosphere”, said Leandro Olvech. “Even the Sport´s Technical Director of the Island attended the first sessions.”
Certainly attracting the top man to the sport of table tennis is a move in the right direction.
Participated in Caribbean Championships “Even if the association is small, they have participated in the Caribbean Championships with remarkable results in the youth divisions”, added Leandro Olvech. “Also, besides the support from the government, the local Rotary Club is an active sponsor”,.
The progress is rapid and a firm base from which to grow is being established.
All smiles as course member take the first initial steps Photo courtesy of Leandro Olvech
Schools’ Programme “They have a schools’ programme where the children can attend table tennis classes in the afternoon; sometimes they gather more than 200!” enthused Leandro Olvech. “My question was who are the coaches taking care of them; well, the answer was singular; only one coach, Franklyn Radjouki, an institution itself in the Island!”
He is just known as “coach” by the children or Radjouki.
“My first impression was that he is a very serious and strict man; then after dealing with the local children I understood him”, said Leandro Olvech. “Also we had lunch daily together and when no children were around I could see his teeth, there was a big smile almost all the time.”
Interesting Lunch It was one of several most interesting lunches.
“He showed me proudly an award he had received from the Dutch Queen and during one of our lunches he told me a story about Hurricane Luis that hit the Island in 1995, a milestone on their history”, added Leandro Olvech. “Many buildings simply disappeared, the wind made even large containers fly like pieces of paper.”
Vivid in the Mind Undoubtedly it was a frightening experience; one which Franklyn Radjouki remembers vividly.
“I was sleeping in my bed and suddenly heard a noise, then the roof of my house just flew away and I could see the heavens from my bed; some minutes after all my belongings disappeared including my house”, he recalled. “My only possessions were the clothes I was wearing, It was a disaster; luckily I had the chance to move temporarily to Saba where I could continue teaching table tennis until normality was back to Sint Maarten.”
Franklyn Radjouki, the coach, a mainstay of table tennis in Sint Maarten Photo courtesy of Leandro Olvech
Appreciated Course It was an event he will never forget and equally but in a totally different way, he will never forget the course conducted by Leandro Olvech.
“The course was very educational and helpful to me as a coach”, he said “It was understandable and to the point.”
Stalwart Franklyn Radjouki is a pillar of the Sint Maarten Table Tennis Federation as is Rignald Eugenio, a person who was no stranger to Leandro Olvech.
“I met him for the first time in Curacao where he attended a course I delivered, he was a key person in the ITTF affiliation”, said Leandro Olvech.
Equally Appreciated Course Like Franklyn Radjouki, he appreciated the course.
“The course was very interactive”, said Rignald Eugenio. “All coaches were satisfied in the way it was conducted; they learned new techniques and tactics.”
Undoubtedly the coaches learned and clearly Leandro Olvech enjoyed delivering the course.
Practical help from Leandro Olvech on the Para Table Tennis part of the course Photo courtesy of Leandro Olvech
A Star Was Born “Many children took part and when we staged games I told the coaches to take part; one young player was always asking for technical advice and making comments in an amusing manner”, explained Leandro Olvech. “The course participants must make a practical presentation to the group, it is considered a test; often people are shy to talk to a group but Josiah Pantophlet, the young player in question, asked several times if he could make a presentation, eventually I agreed.”
Leandro Olvech recalls the dialogue.
“Which topic coach?” he asked. “I don´t know, what do you think you can teach?” I responded. “Well, I am not a coach, just a good player”, came the reply. “Ok, present four tips to be a table tennis champion”, I said. “But I shouldn´t share my secrets as a player!”, came the immediate retort. “Right, but this a course for coaches!”
Watch Josiah Pantophlet on YouTube Nevertheless Josiah Pantophlet gave his opinions most eloquently.
Take a quick lesson in the local dialect then visit 4Four Tips to be a Table Tennis champion and watch the nine year old who won a silver medal in the Under 11 Boys‘ Singles event at the Caribbean Championships give his views.
Bright Future A character is born and with youngsters like Josiah Pantophlet and the support of stalwarts of the federation like Franklyn Radjouki and Rignald Eugenio, the future for table tennis in Sint Maarten looks very bright, very bright indeed.
Leandro Olvech (front kneeling) with members of the group in Sin Maartens Photo courtesy of Leandro Olvech