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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 07:11 
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I'm Rules and Research Secretary for Preston Table Tennis Association. We're a local league association and have approximately 200 members who play in 18 member clubs fielding a total of 35 teams in three divisions. We were formed in 1928/29.

What follows is an unashamed account of my experiences today, tomorrow and Saturday as the Indian men's and women's teams come to Preston to play England at Preston Guild Hall on 16th May prior to the Commonwealth Championships which start in Glasgow next week.

Jim Clegg our Association's chairman is the brains and driving force behind bringing the third in the series of England vs India Internationals to Preston which has involved amongst other things finding funding, arranging the players accommodation, transport, practice facilities, match venue, publicity, schools table tennis festivals ..... I think you get the picture of the cost and work involved. But this post isn't about all that. It's about how one local league official and player - me - is sat at home buzzing and grinning from ear to ear thinking about what has been the best table tennis day of my life, and the impact bringing the England vs India table tennis match to Preston is having on our local area.

First though, I must thank on behalf of our Association Preston Council, the St Augustine's Table Tennis Centre where we are based, UCLAN, The Preston Guildhall, Preston Gujarat Society, our leagues helpers and coaches, the local schools who took/will take part in the Schools table tennis festivals, Katy Parker, our volunteer helpers and coaches, the North West Develpment Agency and the ETTA. Lastly I'd like to thank the Indian Men's and Women's teams who have been simply brilliant today. I know this sounds like an oscars thank you speech, but organising this event is very expensive and time consuming for our league and without all these people helping in one way or another, we simply couldn't have afforded to host this event.

Wednesday 13th May

After getting back late from watching my summer league team play I read Jim Clegg's email again with all the planned itinerary for the days leading up to the international on Saturday. I double check what my roles will be as I've never been involved with anything like this before. Jim's running it like a military operation as he knows how important it is our league and table tennis in our area for everything to go well. He's worked extremely hard for this and isn't going to let us cock it up now! :shock: .

I'm buzzing so can't sleep and work in to the night making sure all my video recording equipment has been charged up, the tapes wound to the beginning and bags packed. I then make up my new bat - a 729 Red Spirit with a sheet of Gewo Proton XP450 I bought tonight from Bill Thornton's, who brought his stall down to our summer league and an old sheet of 802-40. I can't use my normal match bat as I'm not comfortable with the sheet of 799 I put on the backhand a few days ago and tomorrow will involve a lot of backhand feeding for kids.

I don't get to sleep until 2am. It all seems so unreal. Hopefully the Indian Teams will let me video them practicing after the schools table tennis festival has finished. Jim's asked once, and was told by someone yes but the actual coaches may say no on the day so I'm nervous about this happening

Thursday 14th May

7:10 I'm off to the see the physio at the hospital first for a further checkup on my elbow. The appointments 8:10. All goes well.
9:20 Time for a hair cut - can't look like a mess when on such an important day for our league. :roll:
10:20 Read haggisv's reply on the Adham thread and a quick check on some other new posts and then I'm off to our table tennis centre.
11:50 Arrive at the centre and meet up with Jim and some of our senior coaches. The Indian team is due to arrive at the centre 12:00 for a buffet lunch before we all leave for a local school where the table tennis festival will take place. Katy Parker has arrived just before me. She's joined later by the Schools table tennis coach for our local area. They're both here to help us out. Jim gets us all together and runs through what will happen at the school and what our roles will be. The kids will be under 11's with little or no experience of playing table tennis and will be coming from surrounding schools. The coaching will be basic level with the emphasis on keeping the kids engaged whilst practicing some of the easiest drills from the ETTA's coaching course. We'll have helpers - senior pupils from the high school - who'll keep those not practicing on the table engaged in some of the other ETTA coaching drills such as bouncing a ball on the bat. I'm nervous.
12:30 The Indian men's and women's team arrive along with their coaches. They look so young, or maybe I'm getting old. Very polite, but very quiet. We mingle politely and eat.
13:10 We all board the coach for the local school. On arrival it's a short walk to the gym which has already been set up with five tables all in a row. Two coaches per table with 1 helper. Jim has already spoken to the Indian team coaches last night about what's planned. I'm not sure at this stage whether they will just stand around watching, waiting for the last 40 mins or so of the afternoon when it's planned they play "exhibition" rallies, or if they'll join in.
13:20 I have a gentle knock with my buddy coach on my table to release some nerves and get used again to the 802-40 again. Constantini, one of the coaches and who seems to work closely with the women's team walks over to our table and looks at the ETTA coaching exercises on the table. He seems genuinely interested and recognises them. We have a quick chat. Nice guy. He then puts a ball on the bat face and turns the bat over, effortlessly rolling the ball as he does so on to the other side of the bat and then back again. It never leaves the bat surface and it's not rushed. Very sobering to see just how important touch is and how easy it can seem when done by someone who knows what they are doing. The school girl helpers mouth drops in amazement as he does this - mine would have too but I manage to stop myself. I take the opportunity to ask if he minds if I film the men's and women's team pratising later back at our Centre but he explains he can't make that decision and goes over to speak to who I think is the chief table tennis coach Bhawani Mukherjee. Whilst he's gone I try rolling the ball over like he did. Mmmm. Not as easy as he made it look. I stop :roll:

Before he comes back the coaching sessions begin. My job is to simply bounce the ball once and pat the ball back hand to backhand to one of the kids at the other side of the table 5 times. Once this is done the kids rotate and the next kid comes forward to try (they are lined up 6 deep). At fist they struggle to get the ball back so I pat the ball to them and catch their return. Then pat the ball to them again and catch the ball. It makes it easier to control this way, especially as I'm sharing the table on my side with kids lined up doing the same thing with my partner coach on the other side of the table. It's going well, the kids are laughing, their eyes are bright and wide open and they are keen to get to the front of the queue and have a try. Looking around the teachers are watching intently with smiles on there faces, the ETTA rep is happy, everyone is laughing and smiling and having a great time and photos are being taken. Then it gets even better. The Indian male and female players and coaches start to join in. They stop the kids and point out mistakes they are making holding the bat - often they grip it in their hand and don't extend their index finger - sorry no pen holders here :wink: They really are getting involved and the kids are loving it. One of the Indian women players suggests I try to rally with the kids now. I do as suggested! The teacher looking after my set of kids asks if she can have a go practicing too and of course this gets the kids even more engaged.

One of the Indian players who'd been watching asks if he can borrow my bat as he wants to feed some of the kids himself. He soon realises I have short pips on my backhand and switches it over to the inverted side! Of course the kids love this. They don't know who the players are other than they are Indian internationals and I doubt they realise how lucky they are, but right now that doesn't matter because they are having fun. As are the players, the teachers and the helpers. It's brilliant and the highlight of my time in table tennis. Some of the Indian women's team are also around the table I'm on and they help the kids out too with basic coaching tips. The same is happening on all five tables.

14:15 Jim calls the coaching to a halt and we collect the bats and balls back in whilst all but two tables are put away. Barriers are put down the middle of the gym to separate the two remaining tables and two of the Indian men's team and two form the women's team start to play exhibition style points. The women soon get the kids cheering and clapping as one steps back over the barrier in to the men's court to lob return the smashes of her compatriot. The men go for more power loops working their way around the table so they are almost in line with the net rather than behind the table. And so it goes on for about 20 mins. They can't do this for long as after the schools festival it will be back to our centre for a training session. Constantini comes back over to me to let me know it's ok for me to film the training session. I thank him and go over and thank the Head Coach too.

When they've finished Katy Parker (ex England women's number 1 and now involved with table tennis development in the North West Of England) takes over. She plays points against some of the teachers and the kids love this especially on the rare occasion a teacher smashes the ball past Katy. She then has a quick knock against Constantini - obviously only for show. He loop drives and she chops it back. With far more spin being used now, a few mistakes are made and I don't think the kids really grasp how difficult it is to play spin. Adham's idea might work after all, but the kids today preferred the spectacular to the technical rallies.

After almost an hour and half of the festival, the kids attention span is starting to wane and it's nearly home time.

15:00 it's time to wind it up. The Indian team receive a huge cheer and round of applause and are surrounded by the kids. They have been really brilliant joining in like this. A couple of the teachers come over to Jim and ask if our coaches can come back to the schools to help run more table tennis sessions. The whole purpose of the visit is working. People talk about what to do to promote table tennis eg change the rules, spruce up the game for TV, well they should have been here today and seen how alive the kids were. Nothing can beat hands on playing involvement for kids and the interaction of the Indian teams and their management was brilliant. I wish the ITTF would make it a requirement of all national teams to interact with school kids like this rather than leave it up to their good will.

Some of us drive back to the Table Tennis Centre to get it set up for the Indian teams to practice. The Indian team / ETTA official and the rest of our coaching staff travel back on the coach a few minutes later.

16:00 We've got the tables and barriers set up. Four tables, two for the men's team and two for the women's. I've got my camcorders sorted and get to work videoing. It's fascinating watching them. Nishant from my summer league team comes down to watch. He is in awe. He promises, no more messing around for him. He'll knuckle down. He'll practice harder. I smile.

17.40 I stop recording as the training session winds up. The Indian teams warm down and leave. They have a function in their honour to attend later at Preston Gujarat Society. Some of our officials will be there, but not me. Too high powerd for me :wink: We put the tables away.

18:00 Jim, myself, Tony and Nish have a chat in our office. It's been a tiring but brilliant day. The Indian Teams have joined in superbly and I hope they've enjoyed themselves too. They were certainly laughing and smiling at the Schools table tennis festival earlier.

And tomorrow it all starts again with another Schools festival but this time at the other end of Preston.

Final Thoughts tonight:

People around the UK will probably only see a couple of lines in the press about the result of the match on Saturday and they'll wonder what's being done to promote table tennis. Well I hope this helps. There is so much more going on and so much fun to be had doing it - as long as you're not the one tasked with the hard work of pulling it all together, which thankfully I wasn't! :)


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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 07:51 
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Very nice post Debated! It really shows the huge impact a few dedicated individuals can make. I think it's also important, as you have just done, is to highlight how much effort goes into such an event!

These dedicated people put a huge effort in which is often not recognised or appreciated. By highlighting what was done, it will make others appreciate it, and encourage many more to give a helping hand next time!

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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 08:03 
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Superb write-up, and congratulations for a wonderful day!

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Do you think having that specific controlled exhibition would be OK, or would an exhibition presenting the classical styles would be better?

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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 08:39 
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Thanks guys. It's almost midnight here and I've an early start so just a short reply this time.

Yuzuki wrote:
Do you think having that specific controlled exhibition would be OK, or would an exhibition presenting the classical styles would be better?

To be honest I was really surprised by how much the Indian team got involved. I think the exhibition side was very much off the cuff ie who would do it and what they would do, so we were well happy they agreed to do anything at all. With the Commonwealth Championships less than a week away and England on Saturday them giving us so much of their time meant we were grateful for anything they did.

The kids were'nt interested in styles - most were enjoying learning control and getting a ball back on the table - which some of them picked up quickly and well. I doubt any had really played the game much previously except maybe on holiday so classical styles etc would have gone straight over their heads. Judging by their reactions to the rallies, they wanted to see big smashes returned for another big smash. How the shots were played, what technique was used, spin etc wasn't what they wanted. It was power and defence, power and defence and of course some of their teachers or themselves to play the professionals. This is the thing. You need to pitch the level of play to the level of experience. If someone was to talk about the intricacies of base ball or all the stats etc I'd soon get bored, but show me a curve ball, or a spectacular catch or home run and I'll watch it.

If these kids had more experience then yes classical styles may be a good idea, but at this level fun was what they wanted. Fun and direct involvement.


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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 17:44 
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great write up mate. would be nice to see some clips of this practice. Also i'll be looking out for any write-ups for the event, probbly will be in the broasheet if anything, but will still be wortn looking for. Just a shame these tests couldnt of been televised

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PostPosted: 15 May 2009, 18:27 
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Practice lasted about 1hr 30 mins. I had two camcorders running usually of the same action but different angles ie I'd take a close up of one player and have the other showing the bigger picture. There is the sound of them practising and it would have been brilliant if I could have had time to edit it down in to 5 mins, showed the coaches and asked if they could explain why they structured the practice the way they did and what they were trying to achieve, but that simply isn't going to happen :(

I could post about 5 mins of the practice - edited sections of what they did ie warm ups, set practice sessions, multi ball, serving and playing points out then warm down on our youtube channel. I might do that so people can see what they did but it'll take a few weeks to do and some may find it boring without commentary.

I was worried about your report of the TT Masters Skull and the number of people attending. The Guild Hall holds 1500 people for this type of event and we were really concerned how it would look if only 100 people or so turned up. On Monday,despite issues around publicity, based on ticket sales and VIP guests, officials attending etc it'll be be about half full which considering the size of the place and the problems we've had with publicity is good. Where possible we've tried to control the seating so blocks are sold where the good viewing angles will be and are next to each other. Other blocks will be left empty so a it'll be a semi circle of full blocks and the other semi circle left empty. This should give more atmosphere than if people were scattered. Hopefully what we're doing with the schools will bring more kids along too. One of our committee members is also involved with the local paper so there has been press exposure here and the schools festivals are guaranteeing us even more.

We have no control over the television involvement. We've tried to get the television people interested in just doing a short 60 second feature on the local news to promote it but it's so hard to get their interest for what is a minority sport in their eyes. Televising the event at the Guild Hall shouldn't have proved to be a problem for any of the television companies logistically. It's hosted big televised snooker tournaments, world indoor bowls championships and other events so it's a major venue in the north west for all types of events. I guess the cost to TV companies of setting up all the camera's etc far outweighs the advertising returns they'd get. Pity.

One thing I have learnt from this. Everything costs money. The question is who foots the bill and unless you have a backer or grant support OR there is a big viewing audience it's very hard to make things happen. Let's face it, why should EuroSport spend thousands publicising and promoting the game for the ETTA or ITTF to say thanks for bringing us to the attention of the major televsion company, you've done the hard work, now lets sell the viewing rights on to the highest richest television company . They can benefit from all your hard work and investment. It's catch 22. No one will invest and take the risk. And if no one takes the risk, there will be no returns to attract the investment. Very frustrating.


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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 08:51 
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Friday 15th May. A legend meets table tennis.

7:00am Another early start. My car has to go in for it's MOT - a yearly roadworthy vehicle test in the UK. If it doesn't pass, I've got problems as I need to be at our table tennis centre for 12:00. It passes. Phew. I spend the remainder of the morning editing some of the training footage I filmed last night and burning it to dvd so I can give it to Constantini. It's only a few minutes of a multi ball exercise of some of the women practicing hitting chopped returns but it's interesting to watch their technique close up and Constantini seemed keen they practice this technique yesterday. Doing this takes longer than I thought and makes me late. I have to text someone that I won't have time to pick them up as previously arranged as I need to hurry to get to the Centre.

12:10 I arrive. The Indian teams had noticed the other day that the Centre has a gym so they'd asked yesterday if Jim could arrange for them to use it - something which hadn't originally been asked for when Jim had put the itinerary together. The Centre very obliging agreed, so the Indian team had arrived early today to work out. It's another buffet lunch as that's the best compromise between the flexible hours with the arrangements, the cost and facilities we have available. A couple of our coaches talk to the players about last nights function and meal at the Gujarat Temple held in their honour. They seemed to have thoroughly enjoyed it especially as some of the Gujarat people originate from the same places in India as some of the players. I think the Indian teams have been away from home now for about 40 days, including stops in China, the world championships in Japan and also Europe. After so long away on the road, they must be missing their own food, culture and families - I know I would be. I give Constantini the short DVD I've done. He says thank you. I'm smiling again.

13:00 The Indian team request an unscheduled stop back at their hotel, I think to freshen up after using the gym. We have a little flexibility in transport times to the school festival but not much so a 10 minute stop is agreed. Because of parking restrictions the coach driver can't wait for the teams and has to drive around Preston town centre to pass the time. When we return to the hotel not all of the Indian players are ready. The head coach, conscious of our concerns sends one of the players back inside the hotel to make sure the others hurry up. We arrive about 20 minutes late for the start of the Schools festival.

13:50 Fortunately, Jim and a few of the other coaches had made their way separately to the Schools festival and been able with the aid of the teachers and helpers to get the festival off and running. We get our instructions from Jim and join in. It's the same format as yesterday. This time, one of the Indian players asked to take over from me almost straight away. He spends the remainder of the session feeding the kids whilst the coaches and other players do likewise on the other tables. Sometimes the balls go everywhere and I joke with him he's very patient. He smiles back and simply says "I was once like they are". In that one moment you can see what he means. School kids probably new to table tennis having fun enjoying themselves knocking a table tennis ball back and forth with an international player. Everything comes full circle. The Indian players and coaches are excellent again, mixing and helping on all the tables and all this, the day before a match too. The way they interact with the kids is excellent - they are a credit to their national shirt. When I get to be world number one, I'm going to promise to put something back in to developing table tennis in schools around the world. Mmm. I'd better get practicing ready for another life time as it's not going to happen in this one :wink:

14:30 Demonstrations. Again the kids loved this. Gasps of "oooo" could be heard as the women practiced forehand to forehand rat a tat tat rapid style. The men continued with their power sidespin looping. Throw in some defending and attacking and the occasional Mexican wave attempt - which failed as the children were mainly watching the table tennis - and things were going well.

15:00 The exhibition from the Indian players stops. Queue the announcement of the arrival of a football legend. Sir Tom Finney. Some people are known just by their first name. In Preston that is Sir Tom. He is a highly respected and admired ex England International footballer and is now in his 80's. He can't attend the England India international so agreed to support the Schools festival instead. Sir Tom was introduced to the school kids and I think judging by his reaction, Constantini knew who he was and his reputation too. Sir Tom had agreed to sign autographs for the school kids so Jim asks anyone wanting one to form an orderly queue. Whilst Sir Tom signs autographs, Katy Parker and Andrea Holt, two ex England internationals will have a hit with some of the school kids. Mmmm. Where do you think the biggest queue was? To play two ex England international table tennis players or to queue to meet a local football legend and get his autograph? Sir Tom won hands down. In England football is king. And in football in Preston, Sir Tom is king. He is a well loved and respected man who is much in demand so whilst this was a table tennis event, him being here to support it was much appreciated.

The Indian team packed up and returned to the coach except Constantini who was stood near Sir Tom. After the kids got Sir Tom's autograph they came over to Constantini for his too and he was excellent with them. A few of the Indian team also came back and signed autographs. This was a good end to the Schools festival. The kids seemed happy. The teachers were happy. We were happy. Table tennis had been introduced to a new young audience and that was the whole point of these table tennis festivals.

15:45 The Indian team returned to their hotel for a rest. We returned to the Centre to set up the equipment for the Indian teams practice session later that evening. Our table tennis hall is used for exams this time of year and once again the Centre were very obliging rapidly clearing the hall of chairs and tables so we would be able to having everything set up and ready for the Indian teams. We set more chairs out this time as we've invited our Friday and Monday night helpers and regular attendees down to watch the Indian teams train and then join us at the reception afterwards which the England team have also agreed to attend. It'll be a good age range mix from kids to OAP's - although the OAP's won't appreciate me calling them that. That's the beauty of this sport, it's played and enjoyed by all ages and despite concentrating on kids these past two days, we can't afford to ignore our more mature audience! It is our way of saying thank you to our league volunteers for all the free help they give throughout the year.

16:30 We finish ahead of schedule and everything is up and ready. I even have time for a knock. After two days of helping out, and watching the Indian players, I'd been dying to have a quick practice.

17:30 The Indian teams arrive for practice. Practice is different tonight. There is still the same warm up and drills but it's much more doubles and mixed orientated, with the players playing actual games or points out in full. As it's all singles in tomorrow nights match against England I can only assume this is practice for the Commonwealth Championships next week. UCLAN who have helped us a lot with the publicity and printing for the event also send a film crew down. More promotion for the event, themselves and table tennis. A win win situation.

19:30 Practice ends . By this time, the England team and management have arrived and everyone mixes upstairs at the function, except us - we stay behind to put all the equipment away. One of the England players comes down and asks about arrangements for practice tomorrow. The Guild Hall will only be available for practice in the afternoon as it has to be set up in the morning. The player asks Jim if he can practice at our centre instead but it's too late in the day for us to arrange for this now and Jim has to regretfully say no. Job done, we go upstairs where both sets of players mix with our league players. I ask Constantini to demonstrate to some of my friends the ball rolling technique from yesterday. He does so without complaint. Smiling he says it's easy. We'd already tried it - unsuccessfully. We smile back knowingly.

21:00 The function ends and the day is over. Both teams had been polite and very patient at the function which must be an unwelcome distraction to them so near to the match but it was another example of promoting and putting something back in to local table tennis - this time for our members. So a big thank you to them.

21:30 I'm home. Very tired. But content. Today was definitely harder. What ever the reason, today I've learned that no matter how well plans are thought out, something somewhere will happen to change them. When they do, you've just got to accept it, adapt and carry on.

Today's mission accomplished.


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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 18:16 
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great review of the day man. great to see the kids enjoying the game, and great to see the indian team interacting with the kids

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PostPosted: 16 May 2009, 19:48 
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Thanks

I'd loved to have been able to video the schools festivals especially with the Indian players mixing, or even post some photo's but with child protection legislation and issues in the UK it's too much of a minefield to get involved in.

Jim's already been on Radio Lancashire this morning. He had a five minute slot and was talking with the presenter about the match, table tennis in the north west and development in schools. She was good. She didn't make fun of the sport and asked questions based on Jim's replies so she was listening to what he was saying rather than reading from a script.

Match is tonight at 18:30 but I need to be at the Guild Hall for about 16:00. A lot of our committee and helpers all have rolls to play tonight to make sure the right people get access to the right places, helping with scoring etc.

The overall match score after London and Stoke is 10 wins each. The England men's team has lost 4:1 twice but the women have won 4:1 twice.

The England mens team tonight will be Paul Drinkhall, Darius Knight and Andrew Rushton. The England womens team will be Joanna Parker, Kelly Sibley and Lindsey Reynolds. The Indian teams hadn't been decided last night so I'm not sure who will be playing for them.


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PostPosted: 17 May 2009, 09:39 
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Wow, this is great. I really enjoyed the two days you described, but felt almost as tired as you. Great description.

Please say hello to my friend Costantini. You could use some Italian on him. Try "Ciao Massimo, come stai? Il tuo amico Adham ti saluta"

Here is the pronounciation if you read this phonetically:

"Tcheeaow Massimo, komi sta'ee ? Eel two'o ameeko Adham tee saloota."

Try it.

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PostPosted: 17 May 2009, 11:56 
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Adham the match is over now. The Indians have asked for an extra practice session tomorrow at our Centre before going on to Glasgow. If they don't cancel it, I'll ask.

Smartguy, having spent two days watching how Costantini interacts with children and strangers he's never met before I have a very good idea he will take it in his stride. As a coach he needs to be very well versed in tact, diplomacy and man management and everything I've seen suggests that's exactly what he is - at least to the public looking in. I'm also sure Adham wouldn't have suggested it if he didn't have a good idea how Costantini will react.

If I hadn't spoken to him on a couple of occasions I wouldn't do what Adham suggests, and I'll certainly print off Adham's message before hand, but I think the point of this thread has been to show how we are trying to reach out to people about table tennis and you don't do that without trying to talk to them first. If he thinks me an idiot, I don't mind. At least I gave it a go. If he understands, I'll ask him for a reply for Adham. If he speaks too much and has too long a message for Adham, I'll tell him to post his own thread and stop stealing mine! :lol:

I understand your comments smartguy. I have not seen eye to eye with Adham on a few things in his own thread but I am positive he has no intention to make me look foolish. I have been very open in this thread - far more so than I would be normally - and I think Adham is aware that there is gentle humour in it and his comments reflect this and are addressed in the context of this thread. As it's me he's asked, I'm am more than happy to trust his and my own judgement and take Adham's suggestion in the context it was offered.

This thread is about the impact the India vs England game has had in Preston and what it's been like to be involved in it, I'd like to keep it that way please.


Last edited by Debater on 17 May 2009, 14:30, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: 17 May 2009, 14:12 
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16 May 2009: It all comes together.

It's down to business today for the two teams and there is no practice at the centre so I can have a lie in. :D

16:30 I leave for the Guild Hall. I'm nervous again. Today will involve mixing with VIP's and dignitaries. I'm much more of a practice and play person than a politics / networking type of guy. I also won't be able to recognise many of the people invited. This could get embarrassing.

16:50: Arrive at the Guild Hall and meet up with other members of our Committee. Jim has given us all tasks to do to ensure the VIP's, ETTA management and other invitees are met at the entrance to the Guild Hall and escorted to the right reception areas where they can meet and talk before being escorted to their seating areas. The Guild Hall staff will deal with the paying public. Sorting out who to invite has been a nightmare for Jim. It's a bit like choosing a wedding list for the main dinner and then another for the reception. Who do you invite to the dinner and who to the reception. How can you do it without offending someone or missing someone out who should be in. Great care had gone in to the wording of the letters to those being invited. Because of restrictions on how many the Guild Hall can allow in to the VIP area, we were under strict instructions not to admit anyone not on the list.

17:00 Meet up with Tony and find out that the VIP and ETTA list has changed. Great! There have been a couple of last minute changes and last minute requests from various people for additional tickets. Where we can Jim has tried to accommodate them but where we can't he's had to decline their requests. We aren't being nasty or off hand, we simply have to stick to the numbers given to us or the whole thing would get out of hand and there would be more people than seats available and fire safety regs would be broken.

17:15 This was the time our guests were due to start arriving, some are early but that's not a problem. Our Committee members all have their roles and ensure that our guests are directed to the right areas. Bribar, who have a big supporting role for the ETTA set up their table tennis stall in the main foyer to the satisfaction of the Guild Hall staff and things are ticking over nicely. Upstairs in the Guild Hall the teams take turns to practice. There are two tables. The men(x3) will play five games of singles (best of 5) on one table the women(x3) will do the same on theirs. The Guild Hall has purpose built seating all around the rectangular playing area and excellent lighting. The way it's been setup everyone will have excellent views and will be able to choose which table to watch at any point of the night. The ETTA photographers arrive and set up. The two teams have their camcorders set up to record their matches. The England team also have laptops out - probably for match analysis. The whole setting is looking excellent and is a fitting climax to the these passed few days and indeed the series between England and India.

17:30 Down stairs, the Guild Hall staff officially open the doors to the general public which includes some of our own league members.

18:00 The Guild Hall staff allow people to start to take their seats. We have our juniors handing out the ETTA's free programme to people along with a letter of introduction from us to give people some background as to who we are and where they can get information on playing table tennis in our area and also to thank those people and bodies who have helped make the event possible. More of our juniors will be keeping scoreboards up to date so everyone in the audience can tell instantly what the scores are - very important when there are two matches on at the same time and people are frequently switching from watching one game to the other.

18:30 The match is ready to start. Apart from two occasions that I know of and which we were able to sort out amicably, everything seems to have gone smoothly - much to my relief. We make our way to the VIP seating - hey what can I say, I think after all this we deserved a little perk! :wink: Unfortunately, with the last minute changes and various people sitting where they wanted our seating plan has gone out of the window. This isn't a problem though. Because Jim insisted we stick to our guns on who to admit to this section, it doesn't matter. The number of seats matches the number of people.

The players are introduced to the audience by the ETTA official who had been escorting the Indian team during their stay. The national anthems are played and we settle down to watch international table tennis - in Preston.

I won't go in to details about the individual matches, if you want that type of detail you should have been here :wink: .

The results of the first three matches are:

Men Women
Drinkhall 3 : Chakroborty 1 Sibley 3 : Aggarwal 0
Rushton 3 : Amaalraj 1 Parker 3 : Patkar 0
Knight 1 : Mehta 3 Reynolds 0 : Kumaresen 3

There is a 15 minute break for each team after their first three matches and then it's game on again.

Men Women
Drinkhall 3 : Amaalraj 0 Sibley 3 : Patkar 1
Rushton 1 : Chakroborty 3 Parker 3 : Aggarwal 0

England win the three test series after almost 3 hours of entertainment. Not bad for £5 adults, £2.50 children for international table tennis in a superb venue like the Guild Hall.

21:25 With the matches over, we move quickly to our positions at the entrances to the VIP lounge and the players, coaches and VIP's mix in comfort and enjoy a gorgeous buffet selection and drinks. It may seem elitist but we couldn't have afforded to put this event on without the help and co-operation of a lot of people in the VIP room. I really don't like playing politics and am uncomfortable when I have to but I needn't have worried. There is no doubt that networking goes on here, contacts made and potential projects discussed but that's how this world seems to work. I doubt anybody outside those I've met at the coaching sessions know who I am. People don't rush up to talk to me, but then I don't rush up to them either. But that's ok. Everyone I come in to contact with treats me courteously and with respect and that's how I judge people. I hold my hand up and say my initial thoughts about being in the VIP section were wrong - doesn't mean I don't feel like a fish out of water though. And for the record, although the bar was "free", I stuck to non alcoholic drinks so no single malt whiskey for me.

00:00 It's finished. Most people had gone by 23:15. Jim has stayed late talking to some friends. I'm giving him a lift home, but I don't mind the late finish. Jim and I first met after one of our Friday night coaching sessions. We ended up having a heated "debate" about something, I've forgotten what now. Jim told me, if I didn't like the way things were being done I should either shut up or do something about it. He proposed me to the other Committee members and I was invited on board. After previously playing badminton for 16 years and thinking it was enough to turn up on match nights and pay my fees I thought it was time to put something back into sport. I'm very grateful to Jim for giving me that opportunity. We still argue, but there is no doubt without him England vs India would not have taken place in Preston and certainly not been as successful as it has been.

Over riding impressions:

I was only marginally involved in the background to bringing this international to Preston but I do know it took months in the planning. If anyone else is reading this and wants to give it a try, then do it but be under no illusion it is very hard work, expensive and time consuming. Without the help of our sponsors, the good will of the St Augustines Centre, the backing of Preston Council - in particular their sports department, the Gujarat society, UCLAN for their help with the printing and publicity and the Guild Hall for their generosity and support and the North West Development Agency for providing us with significant financial support we simply could not have done this.

So was it worth it?

Too right it was. The co-operation from the Indian team with the way they attended the schools festivals was fantastic.

800 people were able to see international table tennis brought to Preston in one of the best and most suitable venues to watch table tennis in.

Not since the Commonwealth Games held in Manchester have I seen international table tennis and I'd have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. The match format was good. Long enough to keep you interested, not too long to bore you. Playing the mens and ladies at the same time gave an excellent contrast in styles - for the record Adham, fast attacking play, long spectacular rallies and the contrast between attacking play and chop defence were what got the audience going most. And both the England and Indian teams didn't disappoint with the quality of their play. Watching the ball land on the red floor surface and spinning at angles from 90 to 180 degrees gave some idea of the amount of spin. I'm still trying to figure out why when they push a spinny serve back it doesn't fly long or pop up in the air for an easy kill?! :roll: And the speed and power hitting, well you have to be there to believe it and none of these players are in the worlds top 100... yet! With the local Gujarat society's support, the schools festivals and all the promotion, there were Indian fans in the 800 strong audience as well as English fans. Some were local , some had travelled to see players from their own area play. The age groups were a mixture from young kids to people who had retired. Men and women, boys and girls. Yes, I'm not sure the audience knew how to react at first to two games going simultaneously, could they cheer after a good point or would it put the other players off - heck, I play the game and I didn't know what to do. Yes it would have been great if there was a full house of 1500 people. Yes it would have been great if there were more kids from the schools we visited, watching tonight. But that can't detract from the fact that this was an audience many of whom had probably never been to watch a table tennis match before, who got involved in the games and stayed to the end and judging by the people I've spoken to, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and who I hope left wanting to know more about table tennis and to play it themselves.

That's what these last three days have been about. Wetting peoples appetite for table tennis and getting them involved. I hope this thread has wet your appetite too. Now the really hard work begins as we try to build on it. Tonight England beat India and I thank both teams for putting on a great show. But in the bigger scale of things, tonight table tennis won in Preston.

Thanks for your patience.

ps if you got this far and think it took a long time to read, just console yourself that it took a heck of a lot longer to write. :wink: Time for bed.


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PostPosted: 17 May 2009, 22:00 
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Debater wrote:
Adham the match is over now. The Indians have asked for an extra practice session tomorrow at our Centre before going on to Glasgow. If they don't cancel it, I'll ask.

Smartguy, having spent two days watching how Costantini interacts with children and strangers he's never met before I have a very good idea he will take it in his stride. As a coach he needs to be very well versed in tact, diplomacy and man management and everything I've seen suggests that's exactly what he is - at least to the public looking in. I'm also sure Adham wouldn't have suggested it if he didn't have a good idea how Costantini will react.

If I hadn't spoken to him on a couple of occasions I wouldn't do what Adham suggests, and I'll certainly print off Adham's message before hand, but I think the point of this thread has been to show how we are trying to reach out to people about table tennis and you don't do that without trying to talk to them first. If he thinks me an idiot, I don't mind. At least I gave it a go. If he understands, I'll ask him for a reply for Adham. If he speaks too much and has too long a message for Adham, I'll tell him to post his own thread and stop stealing mine! :lol:

I understand your comments smartguy. I have not seen eye to eye with Adham on a few things in his own thread but I am positive he has no intention to make me look foolish. I have been very open in this thread - far more so than I would be normally - and I think Adham is aware that there is gentle humour in it and his comments reflect this and are addressed in the context of this thread. As it's me he's asked, I'm am more than happy to trust his and my own judgement and take Adham's suggestion in the context it was offered.

This thread is about the impact the India vs England game has had in Preston and what it's been like to be involved in it, I'd like to keep it that way please.


Please do not say anything if it makes you feel uncomfortable. I am sorry I suggested it to you. Massimo Costantini is a very good friend and we know each other from my playing days when he was a junior. I always speak in Italian to him and he appreciates it. What I asked you to say is: "Hello Massimo, how are you, your friend Adham says hello". He will be very happy to hear it in Italian and will appreciate your effort. You will not be a fool, you will be his friend. I am very surprised that Smartguy has objected, shame on him. By the way, I will see Massimo on the 25th in Scotland and I will ask him about this. I'm sure he will love to hear you say a few words in Italian. Go for it ! But if you feel uneasy, then don't. It's up to you. Regardless, you are doing a great job promoting our sport in your area and I am very pleased to hear of the Indian full cooperation, I will thank them when I see them in Scotland.

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PostPosted: 17 May 2009, 23:20 
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adham wrote:
Massimo Costantini is a very good friend and we know each other from my playing days when he was a junior. I always speak in Italian to him and he appreciates it. What I asked you to say is: "Hello Massimo, how are you, your friend Adham says hello"....


I figured it to be something like this. :)

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PostPosted: 18 May 2009, 01:19 
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Debater wrote:
I understand your comments smartguy. I have not seen eye to eye with Adham on a few things in his own thread but I am positive he has no intention to make me look foolish.


I agree with you, I think he had no intention to make you look foolish.


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