Massimo Costantini, the national coach of the Indian table tennis team, feels the country will progress in the game once the players find a way to unlock their self-confidence.

Having trained the national squad for six months now, the renowned Italian coach says there are only finer adjustments to be done in an otherwise ‘positively’ tuned system in which the sport is being run in the country.

Costantini, who had a long career with Italian national squad as a player, said the progress depends more on how well the players shape their mentality. The coach does not wish for any systemic transformation but has set himself the task of altering the mental orientation of the players under him.

“I want to help the players break some old habits and make them aim high. In table tennis, more than any other sport, mind is where a match is won and lost,” Costantini said.

Underachieving

The country has got enough in terms of infrastructure and funds but our players have somehow got used to underachieving. “Some of our national players like Sharath Kamal, Sourav Chakraborty and Subhajit Saha are technically very good and can match the skills of any top player of the world.

“But there is something that is keeping them away from the elite league," Costantini said. "Mental build up is the most difficult part of the three aspects of development technique, fitness and mental strength. Various social and economic factors contribute in building the mental faculties of a person and altering that takes time,” he added.

He said the junior players like Ankita Das, G. Sathiyan, Soumyajit Ghosh, Raj Mondal and Harmeet Desai are shaping up well but need to work on their mental strength to make it big in the international stage.

“I have to find the key to open the door of their self-confidence,” Constantini said with a chuckle. The coach said the Commonwealth Games in 2010 provides India an opportunity to reach a higher level.

“A good result there will definitely improve the image of Indian table tennis and give the players a feeling of importance that will spur them to go for bigger goals,” said Constantini.

Keeping mind open

The coach did not wish to pick any player for special mention now. “I am working with the players already selected for the national team. I am keeping my mind open and I want to give everyone a fair chance before I really go for my selection,” he said.

Costantini said he would start building his team next year. “The Asian Championships (scheduled in November) will be the real big test. I will be making my assessments all through this year and see as many players as is possible before starting seriously for the Commonwealth Games,” he said.

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