This season I have taken on the role of Participation Director for Munster. This is a position that has been around for a few years both on the Munster Branch and on the ITTA. As I see it there are three main areas for organisations such as this: Participation, Performance and Publicity. These areas are often referred to in Strategic Development Plans and table tennis is no different.
It does appear though that there is a queue of people who express an interest in the area of performance, often coaches who are willing to get involved with driving the standard of the game to higher and higher levels. Often it is the competitive side of things that have attracted them into the sport in the first place. Coaches often will quantify and measure theirs and others ability as a coach by the success of their players’ achievements and this in our sport is measured by rankings and medals.
In my experience in this country participation is often over looked as a major aspect of our sport. Governing bodies struggle to find anyone who will take on this role; their measure of success is rarely rewarded or acknowledged by their peers. Some will even find that a higher level of participation encumbers performance as coaches face the problem of capacity. With a higher player to table ratio it is harder to develop a player to a higher standard. However a high level of participation does reap rewards but they are often either not as obvious or have less direct impact on the individual coach.
So what are these rewards? Well from an organisation perspective the higher level of participation the higher level of economic return. A higher level of affiliation would increase an organisations income. However from a Munster perspective this is not the case as the affiliation fee goes directly to the ITTA and there is a minimal return to Munster but from a club membership perspective the more players equals more membership income and if a club charges per session there is a higher income in order to pay for facilities and other outgoings. Within Munster if we have a higher level of entry to our events then we will see a higher return.
I do also believe that a higher level of participation from a higher number of different clubs does assist with increasing performance. This is by providing a number of factors one being a larger talent pool. Another is by increasing the sports profile, table tennis does suffer from being a minority sport in this country and if we had more players participating in more areas I believe we could significantly raise the profile of the sport and thus attract more players creating a self perpetuating circle.
In order to achieve this I believe we need to tackle a number of issues. Firstly we need to reach out to areas where organised table tennis is not reaching at the moment and promote what we have to offer. In order to do this we also need to provide training and education for the new leaders through a coach education program. Thirdly and very importantly we need to reorganise the Munster Branch into an effective and efficient body who has the tools to deliver and to provide opportunities for these new clubs and schools to get involved.
As the Munster Participation Director I hope to put in place the foundations for this development. Initially I am looking at a number of target areas; these have been identified through a process of identifying existing contacts and by trying to create new contacts to help us promote the sport. The initial target areas are: Waterford, Limerick & Tipperary.
I have made contact with Waterford & Limerick Local Sports Partnerships and hope to negotiate a “Participation Program” with their help within a number of existing youth clubs, scout clubs and schools along with Special Olympics Munster. I have made a number of inquiries within Tipperary and we also have a possible contact within a school in Charleville who have connections with schools in West Limerick.
Through the Munster Branch we hope to offer a free coaching session within these areas during the 2015/2016 season. If you are interested in getting involved or have any contacts within these areas who you think maybe interested in having an opportunity to participate in table tennis would you please contact me 083-1372013 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org