Nearly all table tennis academies in the city are full in the evenings. It’s a boom period for the sport, indeed.
But with so many children jostling for consideration, it’s a challenge for coaches to attend to each student individually. Do clubs adhere to a coach-player ratio when enrolling students?
“If that’s the case (ratio)”, said Christopher Anas, chief coach of Lord’s Academy, tongue-in-cheek, “then there will be no coaching here.”
Anas said that the major problem was not the ratio, it was the infrastructure. “For us it’s a hand-to-mouth existence. We can’t afford more coaches. The rent, the electricity, etc take a toll. The workload is tremendous with meagre returns,” he said.
Anas narrated a story his ward had told him after the latter’s visit to Germany. “There were 40 tables, as many players and 40 coaches! Here it is a question of managing your resources, never the question of the coach-player ratio,” he said.
V.M. Ravi Venkatesh, chief coach of Maharishi Vidya Mandir and Ransa, said the reason there weren’t more coaches per children was the wage. “For coaches of my Academy, it’s love’s labour. It is pocket money. The ratio is skewed because of the money angle,” he said.
Former National champion V. Chandrasekar of SDAT-Chandra Academy said coaches had it tough, having to balance a regular job with their coaching commitments. “So timings become a problem,” he said.
Muralidhara Rao, coach of the SDAT-AKG Academy, said a manageable coach-player ratio at the beginners’ level was 1:20 — “depending on the number of tables (minimum number is 4)” — while T. Raghuram, chief coach of the Agility Academy (Hosur), was of the view that the ideal ratio would be 1:15.
R. Abishek, once ranked among top five men’s players in the country, now a Chartered Accountant, said the current ratios in clubs were skewed. “Coaches are far fewer than the players in an academy. For me the ratio is 2:30 on an average,” he said.
Shortage of coaches
National paddler G. Sathiyan agreed that there was a shortage of coaches. But he added there was also a shortage of quality and stressed the need to invest in training them. “With more kids taking up the sport, there is no equivalent increase in coaches,” said the National youth champion.
“Earlier, when I was growing up, there used to be a group of five to six players in a particular age group doing well. Now it is not so. There is a vacuum,” said the National youth champion.
Former National champion S. Raman highlighted the fall in standard of the coaches. “There is no standard criteria,” he said. “This has resulted in poor coaching standard all over India. There should be a standard accreditation for coaches. They should go through a process before calling themselves coaches,” said the Olympian. “The coaches here have a wonderful opportunity to take the TENVIC’s programme (approved by the National body, TTFI).”
As more and more youngsters flock to the academies of late, there is a need to address the coach-player ratio and maintain the quality of coaching.