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Sammy Kaye answered honestly about how it is being a full-time table tennis coach…

What does it take to become a true leader and create true team culture?
Credit: eBaTT

Sammy Kaye, shares his insights (professional table tennis coach), how it’s possible to make a living from the sport and what to expect…

Do we create systems in our lives or are we stuck inside one? I believe it’s a bit of both but we have a choice to make one greater than the other. The problem many face is direction, and I’m no different, having felt directionless and having no idea in the world what to do.

We’ve all been there to one extent or another, desperately scrolling through the Times Top 100 Employers or through the endless Linked-in/Indeed maze.

Well…that was me a year ago!!!

This time last year I was a 21-year-old graduate and truthfully, I was a little bit lost.
Luckily Table Tennis gave me a strong anchor and guided me to where I am today…

Many don’t believe or think it’s possible but I am on a pathway that makes me happy, healthy and prosperous, via table tennis. Today aged 23 I’m a full-time table tennis coach, based in London England.

What makes a good coach?
Legendary Jiu Jitsu Coach- John Danaher and Legendary TT Coach Liu Guoliang
Credit: LondonReal
Credit: Wiki,  Pierre-Yves Beaudouin/ WikipediaCommons

Table Tennis Journey

If you are reading this, then it means we share the same passion through Table Tennis which gives us all joy, meaning and purpose. The excitement that we all feel before practice and matches keeps us playing for years and for many it’s a life long relationship.

I have been playing for 10 years now and through the sport I’ve had so many amazing experiences; playing in school, university, local and national tournaments and I’ve even been lucky enough to play in international tournaments in several countries. I believe that table tennis is a life long journey for me and I’m very excited to see what adventures lay ahead.

Due to several experiences and good fortune I have made the first few steps in building a career in coaching a sport that I love. Going to work every day gives me genuine excitement, joy, meaning and purpose.

Opportunity Calls!

We are all young once.

Young people have so much energy, passion and want to give and learn…

However, we rarely know where to start.

Many of us feel overwhelmed by the immense social pressure to achieve academic success and then feeling lost after our university studies, with a degree in our pocket (not to mention a student loan on our shoulders!)

I was no different. Did all the right things at school, achieved good grades, went to a good university and got a respectable degree. But, at the end, (after passing my test, I didn’t know where to drive to?!) I felt lost, unassured and to be honest, quite down.

We must keep our eyes and minds open

Out of the blue I received a text message from Roger Close, a dad of one of my university friends Anthony.

Do I want to do some coaching at a Table Tennis Club? (he volunteers at).

Hmnn, an empty summer with not much to do, ABSOLUTELY I DO!

I was excited but also very nervous. I had not played for a long time due to covid and studying.

The kids at the club who know me now may not believe me when I say this, but, I was extremely nervous. The session I helped in seemed to go down okay as a week later I was called by the head coach of the club, Zoltan Hosszu. ‘Sammy I heard you did a bit of coaching at the club, do you want to help me out at another club of mine?’.

Sure, why not?…

A couple weeks down the line. I begin training again with my personal coach and mentor Eli Baraty.

We had a little catch up after covid-19 and my university absence. I tell him that I have finished university, am taking a year out and that I have been doing a bit of coaching. Eli lights up, ‘Sammy that’s excellent, you should have told me, I can also give you some coaching opportunities if you are up for that.’ I express my interest and thank him.

Follow your gut

Do you ever have that gut feeling that you are heading in the right direction but you can’t explain why?

For whatever reason, spending 50% of my time doing graduate scheme applications and 50% of it on Table Tennis, made me feel like I was making sense of the crazy world and path ahead of me.

Back to School!

My first consistent regular coaching work, was at a school.

Schools;
Manic, hyper, sometimes disorganised, random, ever-changing. These are some of the ways I would describe coaching in schools.

However, I would also describe it as; uplifting, inspiring, joyful, interesting, rewarding and a privilege.

The Coaching Balance in the School Environment

Over the past year I have probably worked in about 10 different schools so I have had a flavour of different working environments and cultures, and different kids.

Each school has different expectations of you, they have different kids (which often means varying levels of behaviour).

This means I had to become very astute, aware and ready to adapt.

Some of the kids in the programmes are wanting to play to just blow off some steam, others want to genuinely improve and train, and others train outside school and ‘think they know it all’.

So as a coach you have to be able to service all of these kids (and as a result satisfy the school in the process).

Not easy…
But here’s a few tips!

  • You have to be able to, assert yourself, command the attention and respect of the students and run a fun session which ultimately develops the skills of the students.
  • Each week you must keep things fresh and innovative; you have to be on the ball, and you MUST be ready to inspire and motivate.

Listen, understand, and then speak!

1-1 Private Coaching.

  • Are you observant?
  • Are you empathetic?
  • Are you adaptable?

These are some key traits that are required for 1-1 private coaching.

The private 1-1 session is like the ultimate litmus test for whether you want to become a table tennis coach in the UK as it will be about 50% of your income.

It tests your technical, observational, emotional and social skills as a coach.

It is an intimate, highly focussed and bespoke service as you are trying to cater for each individual’s unique table tennis requirements.

The key word here is INDIVIDUAL.

I shall elaborate

Your goal generally speaking, is to find ways of elevating your student/client’s game. On face value this may seem simple, but it is actually a much more difficult job than you may think.

Getting better at Table Tennis is not just about stronger forehands and backhands, it’s also about developing all parts of yourself, your mind, your body, your resilience, your character. To make someone a better table tennis player you must develop each part of that.

However, not everyone who wants private coaching is prepared to work on those types of things, so you have to understand the person that you are coaching and what they want to achieve in their game before you start working hard to develop their game.

Some people might be working on their fitness rather than technical ability, some people might just want a sparring session with a quality player/coach who gives them one or two tips along the way. Others may want to achieve high, high goals and you as a coach have to assess what is required for them to achieve it and then advise, manage expectations and provide yourself to them accordingly.

Furthermore, as a coach you must understand that the world is a vast tapestry and people are so different. Not everyone can think like you, look like you, talk like you and play like you.

For real coaching magic to happen, there needs to be a meeting of minds so that you understand and believe in your player and they understand and believe in you. (This also takes time and nurturing).

Learning on the job

Eli Analysing a new service receive that I am struggling to execute.

Eli started coaching me when I was 17. We have both come a long way since then. He understands me and I understand him. This allows us to grow together.
Credit: eBaTT

I have already had the immense privilege to have coached people all of all races, genders, ages and orientations. I have developed my skills by coaching all of them and I have also learnt a hell of a lot about life and people. I have coached some truly incredible human beings who have come from all walks of life. Lawyers, accountants, business people, businessmen/woman, millionaires, parents, ordinary average joes, and some truly fantastic kids.

I am indebted to them, as I have learnt so much from them all.

Credit: Peregrine Global Services

Administrate or Drown!

As a coach, you must possess many skills that are unique to you and your profession.

However, when it comes to organisation and business administration, table tennis coaching is very much alike to every other field. It is an essential.

In fact, it might even be more important to coaching than in a more conventional career because as a coach you are often representing yourself and if you mess up there is no one to cover you and you will bear the consequences of your poor organisation.

You must regularly, call, email and contact clients, you must organise your finances, keep notes on your students, you must dot your I’s and cross your T’s when going into new ventures such as managing health and safety, equipment etc.

I have been awake at 2/3am many times trying to keep everything organised and in order.

Mentoring and Growth

What do you want from life and do you want success?…

Then you must be prepared to eat humble pie, learn from people who know more than you…

The last year has possibly been the most significant growth period in my life.

I have the privilege of being mentored by a world class professional in their industry who also happens be a great person who cares about me and my growth.

Lessons learnt, are endless…

Initially my coaching began with small pockets of work for eBaTT. This includes; some schools, group coaching , 121’s alongside work for other clubs too. Eli must have seen something in me and offered me a 6 month part-time contract with a view to potentially renew.

This was exciting but of course, naturally I felt nervous.

Therefore I took my time in reflection of the opportunity and to think about what I wanted before accepting a new pathway.

I did not want to commit to something that I was unprepared to see through. I think it is respectful to take your time on job offers, but don’t take too long!

I took a few days and wrote some of my thoughts and questions down…

Eventually I decided that I wanted to take it, naturally I had questions and queries which Eli answered.

Experience over money

Before I accepted the contract, I had been doing coaching work for a few clubs across London and was getting paid a little more per hour than what I was initially being offered on the contract by eBaTT.

So naturally I asked for more than what I was offered on the contract.

Eli, then explained to me that looking simply at money is an extremely narrow view on our 6-month Contract. He explained to me that what the contract is really about is about growing, learning and experience, plus much more. He said that what I will learn with him on this programme will be much more valuable to me than being paid a little more money. I may be getting less on paper but embedded in the whole package has far greater value to me as an individual than a slightly higher wage.

He explained his reasoning from his perspective and his business’ perspective. The business has costs to bear (administration, liability risk etc). But also made it clear to me that a key piece of value that Eli would be giving me is his time. In Eli’s words, he would will be on call at any time (often at early morning hours if need be) to mentor and grow me as a coach, employee and human being.

Moreover, Eli noted his resume which as his student I am well aware of and thought, this guy is definitely the best in the business, if I am going to do proper table tennis work experience why would I do it with anyone else?

I thought about it, I wanted to work as a coach and it was only for 6 months, if I didn’t like it or wanted to change, I didn’t have to do it forever. Not much to lose and everything to enjoy and gain from…

I accepted.

Eli, asked me to do some experience with him during his 1-1 sessions before starting official in January.

I shadowed him in some sessions and took over a few… I WAS BLOWN AWAY!

I learnt and insane amount in such a short space of time. I was being taught so many secrets of coaching as well as general life and business lessons such as communication, people skills, body language and so much more.

I immediately understood Eli’s perspective when we discussed our contract.

Fast forward to the present…I can honestly say that Eli has kept to his word. He has put so much time into mentoring me, secondly, I have grown a tremendous amount as a result and thirdly, I truly see the embedded value that was promised in our original agreement. I have learnt that there are some (many) things when it comes to work which are much more valuable than money.

A quote from Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. ‘The poor work for money, whilst the rich work for experience.’ I can honestly say that I have had a very rich experience so far.

To this day I receive constant mentoring and advice on coaching, communication, business and table tennis knowledge.

Time and experience, from before I properly started coaching to where I am now, I genuinely believe that I’m positively unrecognisable- as a coach and as a person.

The love of coaching hooked me, so much so that I turned down a graduate scheme offer in order to pursue a new-found passion and now career.

Out the door in a heartbeat!

Loving something is unfortunately not enough, if you want it to thrive and grow!

You must be prepared to put the work in to get it to grow.

As a table tennis coach, I believe it is my duty to be ready to grow myself and the sport.

That means when opportunities come, I grasp them with a firm hand. This year I have been called up many times at the last minute by Eli…‘Sammy, do you want to do this?’, ‘Sammy I need someone to help me with this…’ ‘Sammy I have a wonderful opportunity for you’. 80-90% of the time I have said yes and learnt so much from each experience.

A particularly memorable experience. I got a call at 9am on my day off (a very early time for me on my day off AHAHA!).

Eli: ‘Sammy, what are you doing today…?’

Half asleep… I say: ‘errrrr…I’m seeing my girlfriend’

Eli: ‘I have a really exciting corporate event that I just got told about this morning at 7:30am, are you up for it?’ ‘

Me: ‘Yeah, but I need to ask ‘the girlfriend’’, (luckily she was relaxed about it. I treated her to a nice dinner afterwards) I called Eli back ‘Alright, I’m down let’s do it’.

Later in the day, we hauled a table into a van, drove into central London, parked outside the offices and wheeled the table into the premises and up into the lift and set it up in the middle of the company offices.

We put on a wonderful table tennis clinic involving an exhibition, coaching and match play. The Employees began to swarm in wanting to be a part of the tremendous vibe that we had created. It was fantastic.

It was such a mind-blowing experience for me. It reinforced the fact that we can literally take table tennis anywhere and everywhere. Our sport can really do great things and we can really elevate it.

With imagination, determination and partnership we can achieve great things…

eBaTT Entertainment Event
Credit eBaTT

Closing thoughts and Thanks

Firstly, it is my humble opinion that the world would be a better place with more table tennis coaches in it. However, it is a very difficult pursuit and in a way is analogous to starting a business…

Many coaches are on their own and are developing their skills, finding their USP, selling themselves, trying to manage all their administration, costs, personal issues all with knowledge that their will be no guarantee of success.

However, when are there ever any guarantees in life?

It is difficult, but, it is possible, there are several full-time coaches in England and of course it would be great to have more. I aim to become a worthy addition to the small network of coaches in the country and will continue to grow myself as a coach alongside the whole community.

I love competition, and see so many positives from it, therefore my aim is to work as hard and smart as possible to become the best.

I have been extremely fortunate in my coaching journey so far. You could say that I have been at the right place at the right time.

Moreover, I work for eBaTT who provide me constant support and mentoring and give me so many opportunities. I am now giving my full-time energy and focus to growing eBaTT and enacting our vision across the UK.

The eBaTT Centre is now open and we are working non-stop to make it a success and to transform table tennis across the UK.

I want to say thanks to eBaTT for providing me with such a wonderful opportunity. I also want to say thanks to Roger Close and Zoltan Hosszu who reached out to me out of the blue and helped kick start my coaching journey.

I have many more thoughts about the sport and coaching that I wish to convey in the coming months and years.

Stay tuned….

New Year’s Resolution! Learn from Cage Fighting!

An unlikely source of wisdom and model for success.

Opinion

The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of eBaTT and its employees.

Credit: Josh hedges/Zuffa LLC/ Zuffa LLC via Getty images
Credit: Table Tennis England
Credit: Table Tennis England
Credit: UFC
Credit: UFC
Credit: World Table Tennis
Credit: World Table Tennis
  • Our sport is not living up to its potential.
  • In several countries it is even regressing.
  • This is particularly apparent in England.

Clubs are closing down from financial pressure exacerbated by the pandemic, dwindling memberships, a lack of television coverage, a lack of strong youth talent, high teenage/20s attrition rate and rigid stereotypes surrounding the sport and it’s players. These are just a few of the many difficulties. Demonstrably, our sport is not seeing its best days.

However, there are solutions and sources of wisdom that can be harnessed to put our sport on the road to recovery and in the long run can elevate our sport to become the most vibrant, exciting, and revered sport in England and the world.

We all know that our beautiful sport deserves nothing less!

New Year’s Resolution! Learn from Cage fighting!

The fundamental message in this article is to think outside-the-box and learn from of others who have started from nothing to become astronomical successes. However absurd the comparison between Table Tennis and Cage fighting/Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) may seem, significant wisdom can be applied and our sport can learn a hell of a lot from the premier MMA promotion in the world- the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

In 1993 before the first UFC event, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) was almost non-existent in the United States (US). 28/29 years later, the UFC is one of the largest and (in my view) one of the most charismatic sports organisations in the world and is worth around $10 Billion. Furthermore, the sport of MMA is still growing and moving closer to the mainstream and constantly challenging prevailing attitudes and stereotypes.

How?

There are many factors that led to the success of the UFC. This includes luck, timing, investment etc. However, I shall discuss some key aspects of the UFC promotion that the sport of Table Tennis either lacks or can improve upon.

This article will discuss 4 lessons that can be learned by our sport for the upcoming year and beyond.

  1. Sport is a story!
  2. Take a risk!
  3. Let your stars shine!
  4. Charismatic Leadership!

Lessons from the UFC

Lesson 1:

Sport is a Story! ‘Sport’ is not simply the activity in question governed by a specific set of rules in which there is a winner and loser. Sport is so much more than that. It is a vessel for telling a story- telling the human story. The human story involves drama and narrative, good guys and bad guys, revenge and betrayal, redemption and salvation and everything in-between.

Credit: UFC
Credit: UFC
Credit: World Table Tennis
Credit: World Table Tennis

Fans of other major sports are rarely big aficionados of their sport but rather are encapsulated by the stories being told and are invested its main characters.

Table Tennis lacks this element of story. When a lay-person switches onto a match, they have no inclining of what is going on, what the stakes are, the back story and consequently, their engagement quickly fizzles out.

The UFC on the other hand has a strong understanding of the need to create drama and sell a story. It is never just about two individuals fighting in a cage. They use many tools at their disposal to achieve this.

One tool that they use to excellent effect are the inter-athlete press conferences pre and post-event. This gives the media and fans the opportunity to dig deeper and connect to the UFC fighters that are competing on each UFC Card.

Moreover, it also gives the athletes the liberty to publicly interact with and ‘trash-talk’ one another to gain an edge and/or create spectacle to sell more tickets to their fight.

Press conferences of this kind are enormously beneficial. They allow athletes to put their express themselves and build their brand. Furthermore, it helps fans feel like they are more engaged with the athletes and the sport. On to of this many iconic UFC moments have come from the press conferences themselves rather than the actual MMA fight.

Table tennis events at the moment are spectacular in the actual sport but are severely uncompelling in every other aspect. To my knowledge, the majority of table tennis events do not have (or at least

Credit: UFC Credit: World Table Tennis

do not publicise them) inter-athlete press conferences. This would be a very low cost but extremely effective way of increasing engagement with fans and can help them connect to the human side of the phenomenal athletes who rest at the pinnacle of our sport.

Lesson 2: Take a risk!

The UFC as an organisation is not afraid to take risks in order to sell the sport, expand its markets and change social perceptions.

One of the biggest and most monumental risks the UFC undertook was the introduction of the its own reality TV series called The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) which aired on Spike TV from 2005. The introduction of the series was seen as a make-or-break moment for the organisation as it was making a loss prior to taking this risk. The premise of TUF was that regional circuit fighters would be scouted by the UFC to stay in a mansion together in Las Vegas and compete against each other in a knock-out tournament over a period of six weeks and then fight in a live finale. The winner of the tournament would win a six figure UFC contract.

The show proved enormously successful partly because of the novelty of the sport but also due to the compelling characters that the show managed to find and conjure. The show opened up the human side of the sport to mainstream audiences.

The live finale of The Ultimate Fighter managed to attract viewership in the millions and gave Spike TV the confidence to offer the UFC another season of TUF. Indeed, fourteen seasons of the TUF have aired on Spike TV and the show has reached more than 20 seasons with other stations too including Fox.

Credit: Zuffa LLC/UFC
Credit: Zuffa LLC/UFC

Table Tennis can only benefit from the kind of risk taking and innovation that the UFC undertook.

An excellent example of such an endeavour is the Table Tennis Daily British League Series and the new TDDSL league. I can write pages about how wonderful it is. In short however, the series is a success because it creates rivalry between clubs and players, it has the high stakes of; money being on the line and making all the matches public on YouTube, it has high quality filming and presentation and importantly, it has a coherent narrative and story and has a diverse array of characters.

World Class Stuff!

Credit: Table Tennis Daily
Credit: Table Tennis Daily
Pocket Rocket vs Moses! Credit: Table Tennis daily
Pocket Rocket vs Moses! Credit: Table Tennis daily

Lesson 3: Let your stars shine!

All sports have stars and personalities that add an X-factor to their sport.

Indeed, some stars are shine so bright because they have that ‘thing’ that allows them to transcend their sport entirely and create shockwaves across sports and culture. Super-stars with this kind of ‘thing’ exist in the sports of Snooker, F1, Boxing, Tennis, Athletics and countless others.

Super-star power is not specific to a certain type of sport but rather is dependent on the personality of the individual and the quality of the promotion that they have at their disposal.

Indeed, a significant success of the UFC business model, is its ability to spot individuals who have that ‘thing’ or ‘X Factor’ whether it be charisma, humour, hot-headiness, beauty, intelligence and/or ability to attract a new or niche market to the sport. Prime examples of such ‘super-stars’ include Ronda Rousey being the first Women’s UFC Champion and a pioneer for Women’s MMA who had confidence, charisma and her gender at her disposal to create shockwaves across culture. Another example being Conor McGregor who was the perfect storm of brash confidence, charisma, humour and being from the proud nation of Ireland (a new market for the UFC). The UFC noticed these two goldmines and promoted them to no end. The numbers do not lie, PayPerView events featuring Rousey and McGregor have sold in their millions and introduced a new generation of MMA fans and participants.

Credit: Low Kick MMA
Credit: Low Kick MMA

Moreover, the UFC is privileged to have an eclectic mix of personality types in Stars. There are ‘respectful’, ‘honourable’, ‘traditional martial-artist’ types who captured the hearts of fans such as Anderson Silva, George Saint-Pierre, Khabib Nurmagomedov and there are rockstars and mavericks such as Conor McGregor, Nate Diaz and Ronda Rousey.

Stardom can be achieved by a whole spectrum of personality types, so long as there is a sellable ‘thing’- an X-Factor.

All sports need an eclectic mix of stars as the contrast of personality types actually complement one another. Respect and Honour are all very nice and well but they are boring if not contrasted with rebellion, disrespect and exuberance. The wise-old sages need the mavericks and the mavericks need the wise old sages. It works in a yin-yang relationship.

The sport of Table Tennis has countless individuals with star quality that are not being used to their full potential. They need more promotion!

Moreover, I would go so far as to say, that those with X-Factor should have ‘special treatment’ of sorts. This is because the net benefits this would bring would be immense. They would bring new eyes and commercial opportunities that would benefit themselves, their colleagues and the sport as a whole. Furthermore their star power would influence the next generations of athletes coming into our sport. It would make it an attractive sport to young people.

Some stars of the past and present who had popularity and/or notoriety, include Zhang Jike (Rockstar) and Timo Boll (wise sage) to name a few. However, but one cannot help the feeling that they should be more well-known than they are and more could have been done by TT organisations to promote them.

Zhang Jike-Legenedary celebration winning WTTC 2011 Credit: Getty image-Koen Suyk
Zhang Jike-Legenedary celebration winning WTTC 2011
Credit: Getty image-Koen Suyk
Ding Ning winning WTTC 2015 after injuring her ankle in the last set Credit: World Table Tennis
Ding Ning winning WTTC 2015 after injuring her ankle in the last set
Credit: World Table Tennis

However, in the present and future, our sport is oozing with X Factor.

To name a few that any promoter would kill for:

  • Truls Moregard- Young maverick, unlimited talent and potential.
  • Simon Gauzy- Magician and French charm.
  • Tomakazu Harimoto- Young fireball.
  • Hugo Calderano- Renaissance man and true athlete.
  • Bernadette Szocz- Passion, intensity and beauty.
  • Lily Zhang- Likeable, personable and down to earth.
  • Bruna Takahashi- Talent, beauty and new market (women’s TT in Brazil).
  • Mima Ito- natural charm and humour, insane talent.
  • Countless others.
Truls Moregard Credit: World Table Tennis
Truls Moregard
Credit: World Table Tennis
Tomokazu Harimoto Credit: World Table Tennis
Tomokazu Harimoto
Credit: World Table Tennis

Moreover, there are current legends who have even more to give:

  • Quadri Aruna- Zero to hero story, humble beginnings in Nigeria, now one of best players in the world. Carries the hearts of an entire continent and inspiration to whole world.
  • Ding Ning- Inspiration, role model, beauty, natural charm and all-time great.
  • Timo Boll- Natural sportsman, role model, evergreen talent and a future ambassador for the sport
  • Zhang Jike- Rockstar, handsome, massive fan base and unlock Western Market unlike other Chinese players can.

How to promote stars?

Linking to Lesson 1, stars (and all athletes) should be given the chance to promote themselves at pre and post event press conferences.

Secondly, Table Tennis organisations should be more ambitious, forceful and even aggressive in pushing their stars into the mainstream. Push them into reality TV shows, get them interviewed on national news programmes, invest in documentary series and sell it off to one of the major television channels or Netflix.

Be ambitious, be creative, believe in your athlete’s marketability and appeal and then, be there when the entire sport reaps the rewards.

Lesson 4: Charismatic Leadership!

Lastly, the UFC’s leadership style has been absolutely crucial to their success. It is bold, explosive but crucially, it is fan-friendly and open to new ideas and criticism.

Dana White, The President, is far from conventional, and does attract criticism and controversy. However, White was instrumental in forcing the UFC into the mainstream, pushing deal after deal with television companies, acquiring smaller promotions, relentlessly promoting fighters to fans, going far and wide to recruit the best fighting talent but also recruiting excellent staff and investors.

He, his investors and team have been relentless in promoting the UFC and the sport of MMA and it has truly done wonders for their sport.

Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images
Credit: Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via
Getty Images

A unique but admirable trait to White’s style is his constant engagement with fans and media. After every event White will speak to the media and answer any and every question. Moreover, he will praise (and sometimes criticise) the performances of his fighters. Whilst it may or may not be always appropriate to do so, fans of the sport can tell that White is clearly a fan himself and can truly feel his passion for MMA and his job.

Crucially, White and the UFC leadership give the fans what they want. They often ask fans for feedback and input directly and then the UFC delivers accordingly. If fans want a rogue fight outside of the UFC rankings for gimmick championship such as the BMF Title, the UFC will deliver.

To capture White’s leadership in a nutshell; he aggressively promotes his sport and takes no prisoners, to put it bluntly, he will do what’s best for his sport and his fans and, ‘does not give a f***’ what anyone else says otherwise.

Credit: The Fight Effect Youtube Channel
Credit: The Fight Effect Youtube Channel

This engagement and passion seem to be lacking or perhaps less at the forefront when it comes to Table Tennis Leadership. One feels that they are far too removed from the fans of the sport. As a fan this can feel disillusioning. It evokes images of figures operating behind closed doors in smoke-filled
rooms.

  • Who are these figures?
  • What are their goals?
  • Are they passionate about table tennis?
  • Do they have another agenda?

Given that as they hardly engage nor make themselves known, how are fans who care about the direction of the sport to do anything but ask these anxious questions? Table Tennis leadership is too detached and sterile. Do fans feel encapsulated, motivated and inspired by them?

Table Tennis Leadership, you can do more!

White, in spite of his flaws really loves sport that he promotes and is more transparent the majority of sport executives (Table Tennis included).

Whilst I am not suggesting they go to the extent as White which can sometimes be too aggressive, obnoxious and alienating, they should definitely take notes and adopt 20-30% of his style. Table Tennis Leadership should interact more with members and fans of the sport. They should be interviewed at press conferences and should praise the athletes and promote their stars.

Conclusion

To surmise, for our sport to expand and improve and even survive, Table Tennis organisations need to think outside the box by learning from ‘seemingly’ obscure and unrelated sports for inspiration and innovation.

Accordingly, the sport can only benefit from implementing aspects of the UFC business model into its modus operandi.

If nothing else, implementing even small changes will do wonders. Adding press conferences, hunting for and promoting star-power. Additionally, leadership being more in the public eye and coming across as slightly more human and less Corporate Strategy and Public Relations machines will create a cascade of opportunities for the future.

So, for 2022, we will all make our own resolutions, I propose we make some for our sport too. These are the ones I have made, feel free to make some more!

  1. Sport is a story!
  2. Take a risk!
  3. Let your stars shine!
  4. Charismatic Leadership!

Michael Gerrard, My Inspiration

Every so often I’m asked who’s your inspiration/role-model/mentor?

I always answer, I try to learn from everyone but if I was to pick one.

It would be Michael Gerrard,

He inspired me to be the best version of me and a man that has given me pure hope and belief in myself. Most importantly, recently he has shown me that anything can be achieved.

But first a quick story…

17 years ago Michael walked into my club (back then Barnet TTC), asking for some table tennis coaching.

He wanted a private session (1-2hrs per day) 4 times a week. At first I thought great I’m cashing in (not in a selfish way but in a way of, this is helping me) and then I wondered why is a 47 year old man having so much coaching?

Michael had played a little as a kid at Barnet and decided to come back into the game after 20 odd years out. But this time he had a purpose, a special tournament! A charity event held at Lords Cricket ground (London).

Entry fee: £10,000
Rules: must never have had a ranking or played league table tennis

Michael set his mind that he would win this event and donate all the winnings to a (Cancer charity) in memory of his former business partner, who passed away from the disease.

Michael’s level back then I would say bottom division local league (depending on the league of course).

I had no idea about his potential opposition but the aim was to give him the best possible chance of winning.

The key focus was to elevate Michael’s strength (forehand), develop a block and a spinny serve. After a few months all of the above had upscaled and it was show time.

Tournament:

A lot of extremely influential people had entered including Michael Sherwood (CEO Goldman Sachs), Philip Green (owner of Topshop) turned up to watch, Ray Kelvin (owner of Ted Baker) and a few other hot shots…

Coaching:

I looked at each player knocking and made notes, I formulated a strategy against all possible opposition. Michael was focused and determined in taking this event, and put all his trust in me (his coach).

Match time

First match Michael cruised through, eyes turned on him plus Michael Sherwood for the title. In the semi’s Michael faced Mr Ted Baker and was routed on by Philip Greene who was worth £9 Billion at the time. Ray was able to hold his own in the rallies but struggled to return Michael’s spinny serves. I have another story that followed on from that match, involving Philip Greene (but I’ll leave that for another day).

In the final Michael was in the zone and overwhelmed Mr Sherwood to take the title.

My treat:

Michael paid for my Nobu meal and gave me a kind donation to my table tennis centre to say thank you. Yet that was nothing because that day created a life long bond between us.

As the years passed, Michael was always there when I needed a friend with a big wallet but bigger heart. He always picks up the phone to have a chat but never answers any text messages 😜.

Godfather

I saw Michael as a father figure, a man that had build a small empire yet is the most humble guy. He treats everyone the same and cares for people’s well being.

I was down a few times over the years and Michael always provided me with his wisdom. He encouraged me to keep driving forward and to always keep the light lit no matter how dark or dim it may be…

Most importantly Michael believed in me and kept having his coaching sessions every week.

He joined the local league Barnet plus Harrow & Wembley where he began at the the bottom moved up to the top division over the years.

Success, beyond belief:

In the past few weeks just gone, Michael beat two players whom I would never have dreamt possible, considering his level when I first met him and the age he took up table tennis seriously.

The players are top local and national league players;
Darius Zurwaski and the legendary Costas Papantoniou. When I received a message showing me the score card, I couldn’t believe my eyes.

How has a man who’s level was so low and began playing seriously aged 47 moved into the top division local league and beaten some of the best players in the country, (Both players had played Premier British league).

Veteran scene here we come
Michael is 64 now and we are both aiming to hit the world veteran scene. I’ve learnt that age is just a number and that the table tennis ball doesn’t know your age. I’ve also learnt to believe in the impossible because of Michael, who is Mr Impossible…

And that’s why Michael is my inspiration!

Mental Health Benefits of Table Tennis


It’s funny because I got into table tennis by watching the award winning film Forrest Gump. The main actor is portrayed as “dump” but it’s clear he has some sort of autism. I quickly related to the character, personally suffering from Dyslexia and I was also labelled as the “boy who can’t read or write, the stupid one”.

Magic of Table Tennis

We can all play table tennis and aside from being a fun activity and sport which can be played almost anywhere and with anyone, table tennis also offers many health benefits. Of course like all sports it provides great mind-body stimulation, and social interaction.

But what sets table tennis apart?

  • Improving hand-eye coordination.
  • Very low risk of injury
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Improving reflexes
  • Improve decision making
  • Improve strategy
  • Develops your vision and eye movement
  • Increases synovial fluid in the joints
  • Scientifically proven to be the worlds best brain sport. This is because you have to make decisions physically and
  • mentally with minimal time.
  • Table tennis is used in hospitals and care homes as treatment for dementia.
  • It improves balance.

Unbeknown to me at the time, (when I first began playing, aged 14) these health benefits started to reshape my brain and body! My focus in school started to enhance, my understanding of things began to make sense and I began to strategically develop my reading and writing skills (still working on it lol). My life had changed and spun 180 degrees from the boy who was never going to mount into anything…

Into, ‘today’ a man who does what he loves for a living (I was told it’s not possible to be a full time TT coach) and now I use the sport that changed my life, to help and inspire thousands; locally, nationally and internationally.

I’m not saying table tennis can cure and heal with a flick of a finger. But it will provide you with so many hidden benefits that you won’t fully understand, know or feel until one day… You will wake up and realise that you have implemented a compound effect which all of a sudden has materialised into something special, Who you have become!

Table Tennis whether done in small or large quantities will benefit your body and mind.

All you need to do is pick up a bat and let the magic begin…

I share my journey, coaching, inspiration and TT updates on my social media platform. I hope to see you all soon and if not then please join me on the journey of table tennis at eBaTT 🙌🏓

Stevie Brunskill’s Kind Words Of Recognition

I have won 1 award in my 21 years of coaching and that brought me to tears!
Because I felt respected and recognised. I think it’s something we all want! Whether it be by one or one hundred people (that’s irrelevant), the relevance is making an impact and then for it to be recognised.
Today opening FB and reading a mini blog by Stevie Brunskill, felt like I had won my second award.

As a professional table tennis coach with over 40 years in the game, you could say that I have met, played, coached, and worked with some wonderful people. I have decided to write and pay tribute to some memorable people that have inspired and helped shape me as a person.

Everyone that knows me, knows I do everything from the heart and give without ever thinking I want something in return. So when I get a small complement or something written or said to me or about me in a positive way. It truly fills my heart and makes me want to give more. 

Mr TT – Eli Baraty

Eli Baraty must be one of the most well-known names in table tennis. His self-promotion and his promotion of table tennis is probably of the highest in quantity and quality.

Some people might knock him for this, but actually who else is promoting table tennis like he is?
I don’t think anybody is. Not just in this country but I think it would be hard to find anybody in the world who relentlessly pushes table tennis to the mass market like he does. He constantly preaches about how great table tennis is. Eli really does live, breathe and sleep table tennis. Eli is very professional in his attitude and manner. I think his video presentations are possibly some of the best produced on the internet.

Eli and I have worked on several camps together. Eli’s coaching style is very professional, and he is always looking to develop and be creative with his delivery, often thinking outside the box, never shy to try new ideas and create new methods of training. Over the years Eli and I have become great friends.

Eli is a really nice guy who is easy to get along with, easy to work with and has brought many top coaches together with his coaching collaborations. Eli always gives great tips and advice to develop players and coaches. His presentation skills and promotion of the sport are second to none.

Although Eli is big on self-promotion, he never puts others down, in fact he is usually one of the first to praise and promote others. He is always offering to help and support others for the greater good of the game.

Another side to Eli that I admire is he is always looking to self-develop, always wanting to learn more and expand what he does, he never sits still. If someone is doing something and he is not, pretty soon he will be doing it and trying to develop it further if he feels it’s of value.

Again those that know me, know I don’t like to talk about what I do or can do but actually do it. Which means I must keep delivering, thank you so much for the love 💕🏓

Eli is very respectful and a true family man with strong traditional values and will always take a stand for what he believes in and stands by what he feels is right and wrong. He works tirelessly to help the game of table tennis improve, grow, and develop. It actually hurts him to see his beloved sport falter and fail and if he sees this, he is quick to say, not in a bid to drag the sport down, but to hopefully point out weaknesses and give suggestions of how he feels it could be improved, such is his passion for the sport.

Eli has a great zest for life, not just for creating good table tennis players or great clubs but also a general zest for life, if ever you ask how he is doing? Eli’s reply is nearly always “amazing” or “fantastic” He really does have this mindset of life is wonderful and probably sometimes it isn’t for him, but Eli is not going to bend to this. His mindfulness is so strong that he will continue until life actually becomes good. He tries to improve every aspect of his life which is something I admire.

He takes his table tennis work ethic and attitude into every aspect of his life. I think that’s what table tennis has given him, that’s what I feel table tennis has given me and I see this in Eli. Eli pushes this ethos of self-belief into the people he meets, helping others to develop many aspects of their lives by removing the restrictions and verbal barriers which other negative people may put in front of them. Eli himself dreams big and wants others to achieve their dreams also.
Eli is an extremely motivated guy who is so passionate and in love with the game, and what I think sets Eli apart is that his passion and love of the game is at every level, he loves the game no matter what, whether it’s played at home for pleasure, played for leisure or top elite, for Eli it doesn’t matter, as long as there is a bat in someone’s hand that’s what Eli wants to see. He would want for the sport of table tennis to be the biggest sport in the world and especially in this country more than anybody I know.

Many years ago, I remember someone saying, “table tennis will never be a popular sport until people in table tennis are willing to walk around town with tee shirts saying I love table tennis and not be embarrassed to say they are a part of the sport”. Until this happens table tennis will never grow. People within table tennis need to wear the tee shirt and be proud to be part of this wonderful sport.

Eli wears the tee shirt, and he wears it with pride.

Unfortunately for the sport of table tennis there is only one Eli Baraty.

As I always say, “if you have a dream, wake up and make it happen”
🙌🏓

Ma and Fan final

There it is!

The inevitable, Ma and Fan are in the final…

BUT, they both had a huge scare and fight in the semi final’s. 11-9 in the last is truly anyone’s match and yet they both found a way to cross the line.

Is that due to; Belief? Tactic’s? Luck? Hard work paying off?

What could have Dima and Lin done differently to convert the match in their favour?

Behind every player, is a great coach

“Behind every player, is a great coach” I couldn’t have said any better!

Watching, talking and seeing these two Andreja Ojstersek Urh and Darko Jorgić over the past few years. Has given me hope, inspiration and even more love for our sport.

I first met Andreja, at the Olympic Qualification in Portugal and she made my eyes water. Telling me the back story of what she and her husband sacrificed for Jorgic and other TT players in Slovenia.

A coach that cares is a true coach and one that comes around rarely…