A step towards a table tennis revolution
Table Tennis Federation of India and Stag India aim to create one million players by 2020
India, which is currently ranked 30th in the world, has produced just one player ranked in the top 50, who is Sharath Kamal. Though the country has won many medals at the Commonwealth level, our paddlers fail miserably at the world and Olympics level.
Four paddlers had qualified for the Rio Olympics, for the first time, but they crashed out in the first round itself. To avoid such a debacle in future and to create a wide base of table tennis players, Stag India, a leading table tennis tables and equipment manufacturing company, has, in association with the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), launched a massive programme of creating one million players by 2020.
Under the scheme, Stag India will be organising 20,000 camps in the next five years. Each camp will have around 60 players. Two to three players from each camp will then be selected for training at the district level. From the district level academies, players will be selected for the state academies, and ultimately, to national academies. These academies will employ advanced training methods, and will be supported by international coaches. The camp module has been designed by five times World Champion, Peter Karlsson. A robot training machine will be provided for the duration of the camp to attract more kids.
A project on this massive scale, will require equally massive investment of money. Asked how much Stag India will be spending on their dream project, company CEO Rakesh Kohli said that they will be investing Rs one crore initially.
“We will be conducting the first 500 camps on our own, where equipment will be provided by us. Later on when the concept picks up, we can look for sponsors. We will be charging Rs 200 as registration fee for every student, out of which Rs 100 will be transferred to the national federation and Rs 100 to the state. The funds thus collected will be used to sponsor international level players for their preparations,” Kohli said.
“However, we will exempt kids who can’t afford this, and they will be provided everything free of cost. The school authorities will provide us names of students from the underprivileged category, and we will take care of them.”
Under the programme, Stag India will conduct a five-day introductory event. Stag will provide a professional coach, two TTFI approved table tennis tables, one mini table, 60 racquets and six dozen plastic balls.
“If the institute wants to continue the facility, they will have this equipment at a subsidised price. Last month, we held a camp at Silchar, Assam, where 80 kids turned up. Later on they converted the camp into a full-fledged academy and all 80 kids are currently undergoing regular training. We want this model to be repeated everywhere in India,” said Bhushan Thakur, project head and international table tennis player.
Infrastructure at affordable cost is the most essential thing for sportspersons in India. When it comes to table tennis, it’s anticipated that it requires expensive tables, big hall and other quality equipment, which are accessible to the rich and elderly recreational players. However, Kohli says that all it requires is just any
table, a ball and racquets.
“I say that table tennis is most suited with minimum facilities. We have designed a compact TT product, which includes a folded net, two racquets and balls. With this you can convert any table to a table tennis table. One can always start without any infrastructure. While other sports need at least some space of ground, TT requires none. We will be provide all that is required to those who want to take it to a further level,” he said.
Stag India received the international ‘Peace and Sport award’ for the best corporate social responsibility initiative of the year, in 2010. Stag has been involved in social programmes in various countries, like Ukraine, where they built an academy for disadvantaged children, and the Solomon Islands, where they set up a project for the schools in a region affected by civil war and a recent hurricane. They provided equipment for tsunami rebuilding, a programme to restore table tennis activities in countries affected by tsunamis.
They have also signed a contract with International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), where they will be providing free equipment to every new associated country that gets affiliated to ITTF.
“Last year we provided kits to 14 countries in Africa, Latin America and Oceania, and will continue in future too,” said Kohli.
Originally published on The Golden Sparrow