11 November 2016: The Table Tennis Training cum Talent Identification Camp began on 24 October and ended on 11 November 2016. It was held at Teflas Badminton Hall, every evening from 5 PM to 7 PM. Organized by the Sports Office, provisions were made for introducing, explaining and training the participants for the sport; for which tables were moved in, equipments procured and necessary arrangements were made.
The Informer caught up with the organizers to know more about the training camp, the response this year, the facilities available for TT enthusiasts and future programmes scheduled by the club. The participants who were busy doing their warm-up exercises too graciously replied to our inquiries.
Setting up the TT Camp
“There were plenty of problems,” explained Jatin Kumar, the TT convener, “the stadium is far off and students would not have come that far for the camp, so we decided Teflas will be good…” However, the TT hall in Teflas lies completely defunct, the camp thus had to be organized at the Badminton Hall and the space is now being shared by three clubs: the Badminton club, the TT club and the Taekwondo club. Moreover, he said, “there are problems with the light… also the Taekwondo people exercise in the same hall, they run along the hall for warming up and once while playing I collided with one of them… there is a lot of noise too… then there are the equipments…”
Yet, despite the bottlenecks, he informs that there has been a very positive response from the students for the TT camp. “We have a large participation this year, 22-24 students registered for the camp and most of them are beginners…out of 22 some 12-14 players have been regular and some players have shown tremendous development. There has been huge participation from girls as well, some girls are coming regularly.”
Jatin cited the example of an 82 year old lady who came up to them and asked if she could join the camp, she played for 3-4 days and also brought along her grandchild to participate.
“I am very grateful to the Sports Office and especially Dr Vikram Singh for his help and support. He in fact told me, Jatin you go ahead and organize the event, the Sports Office will support you as much as possible. It was Vikram sir who arranged two world class Tennis Tables for us, without his support it was really very difficult to organize this camp,” he said.
The Game Plan
Jatin informed that they have three coaches for the camp, all of them JNU students with National and State level experience in TT. While, he himself teaches the basic techniques, counter game, off-table technique and attack. There is Arib for Top Spin, Loop (forehand and backhand) and for the defensive game. Apam (Yaoreipam) also takes care of basic techniques, counter game and close table techniques. And Narendra, who has also been a TT convener himself, prepares participants for counter game and attack.
Arib explained that they start with warm-up exercises, and then comes the demonstration and training for the different kinds of shots; at least two days are devoted to each shot. Being a two hours camp the second slot is reserved for practice where the participants practice among themselves and with the coaches.
Yaoreipam, one of the participants at the TT camp also doubles-up as a coach at times said: “Footwork is very important…when you are training you spend the first few months just swinging your arms.” He emphasizes “this is a very fast game … the attention is very high, you cannot blink, my eyes get strained while playing for long stretches…people think it’s a light game but it is not.”
“People try to drive on the first day itself, the first two months one should just practice to keep the game on the table, one must learn well the footwork and how to hold the racket, these are very important,” commented Narendra.
“We started from ground level—nowadays players start early at the age of 8-10 years, we have players who are 24-25 years old…[Yet] we have tried our best to correct their style of playing…have attempted different exercises. They now know how to hold rackets, how to do service and know about the basic rules…most of them can play a counter game…there are some problems with the footwork but it will take time, we have limitation of time…I know they are interested and will take up from here,” says Jatin. He maintains the willingness to learn is the most important thing.
Response from the Participants
Roma Bhattacharya (PhD), Swati (PhD) and Gunjan (BA), participants at the TT camp agreed that it has been an enriching experience at the camp. Swati added that had there been another table and that the camp was organized twice a year it would have been better, however she conceded “the organizers on their part have done whatever they could.” She also said the games were explained well, the coaches are very approachable and that she has learnt much more about new techniques. “It’s a lot of fun, just the feeling of getting a decent rally—it’s good for your body, a good activity,” she said.
Gunjan, who had joined late, quipped that “because of classes I got late today, I reached around 6; they still let me play… I stay in Munirka and don’t have anyone to play with, but I can come to the camp and play with them.”
Roma agreed that there has been marked improvement and that she is looking forward to playing TT in her own hostel.
On Table Tennis Culture in JNU
Narendra pointed out “1-2 very good players are distributed across different hostels.” TT is quite popular in hostels like Brahmaputra, Tapti and Sabarmati. However as he explained that it is difficult to go and play in other hostels, as sometimes the residents protest against outsiders coming and playing in their hostels. A centralized table, preferably at Teflas with fixed timings in the evening will do much good.
“For trained players, when the opponent is not a good player – he or she is a simple player, one will get bored, there you cannot improve your game, mazaa nahin aata hai,” he commented. He has been a national-level player and was quite active in the TT circuit during 2009-12.
Infrastructure is not as big a problem as the inability of students to take initiative thinks Jatin. Students should take care of the sports equipments and handle them carefully and responsibly; they are after all a part of the public property he argued. People sitting on TT tables and having their meals is a common sight in JNU he laments. Also, most clubs who have been able to successfully organize events do so in their own individual capacity, if others don’t come up and take initiative these clubs will die soon he rues.
Sports are good for release and ventilating your frustrations. He opines that sporting activities are good for bridging regional barriers and inculcating a spirit of unity in diversity; apart from inculcating a sense of sportsmanship.
He concludes “Individuals in JNU have the potential to be professional players… however we are not being able to channelize their talents in the right way… more exposure and promotion of sports in JNU and most importantly a change in the mindset regarding sports are required.”
On Future Plans
The club is looking forward to participating in the O. P. Jindal sports tournament which will take place next year in January-February. They are also planning to make TT camps an annual sports affair. The university TT tournament is also in the cards.
Jatin is also hopeful that they will be able to make some permanent arrangements for TT enthusiasts in Teflas.
The Informer correspondent