Building new TT links in Banbury

Banbury 1

During the last 16 months the Banbury & District Table Tennis Association (B&DTTA) has embarked on an exciting new project to establish an integrated school-club-league coaching scheme.

The aim is to address, like many other sports, a worrying decline in TT participation which has, over recent years, resulted in a gradual reduction in the size of the Banbury League.

Working closely with its external partners Cherwell District Council (CDC), North Oxfordshire School Sport Partnership, Table Tennis England and Oxford Sport Partnership, the task of this B&DTTA project has been to significantly increase both junior and adult table tennis participation with the aim to grow the Banbury league.

The project target is to expand the league by at least 10% each year over a five-year period.

Previously there had been some ad hoc coaching in the area with some success, but it was realised that it would not deliver the desired growth.

A great amount of work has recently taken place in which we have been looking to build our project infrastructure. The B&DTTA have now provided many more playing and coaching opportunities in schools and clubs to help attract then hook new players to the sport with a ‘Learn to Play Table Tennis’ approach.

A team of 16 volunteer qualified coaches and their assistants has been recruited and trained during the last year, facilitated by generous financial support from Banbury Charities. Now, for example, each participating school is supported by a qualified TT coach. The goal of the B&DTTA was to develop a coaching infrastructure with devolved responsibilities that would become sustainable. The success of the scheme should not be dependent totally on any one person.

Andy Hook, our silver medallist GB player, recently returned from the World Transplant Games in Argentina, has been instrumental in co-ordinating coach education and publicity campaign activities.

Project funding has been fraught with difficulties and much work has been carried out to raise more than £10000 from a range of local and national bodies which has funded coach training programmes, purchased school and club equipment. Sixteen mainly new TT tables plus ancillary equipment have been purchased and located in a number of our local clubs and schools (BGN, Bishop Loveday, Warriner and Bishop Carpenter).

The B&DTTA are also extremely grateful to CDC Sports Development because it has provided this project with specialist development advice, logistical support and facilitated various publicity campaigns which have helped to initiate set-up of a range of individual coaching schemes and allowed them to become self-sustainable.

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The project has arranged a number of TT taster sessions in schools and now runs regular coaching at several lunchtime and after school clubs. Since October BGN School has become the new League Coaching Academy, the apex of the structure. The weekly coaching sessions feed players into the TT Academy in order to develop the skills of players at a competitive level to take them through to local league ability and, undoubtedly for some, both County & National representation over time.

The league now has a fantastic new table tennis facility with 15 tables located in BGN’s School sport hall. Head Coach Paul Rowan, supported by a team of coaches, has clearly been delighted with the initial success of his Sunday evening coaching.

He says: “Being inspirational and aspirational are the two key factors that convince kids to take a sport seriously.”

Club development at leading local TT clubs has been critical. The best clubs have the following characteristics: committees, club mandate, good playing facilities, social events and junior coaching.

In Banbury where possible, we have formed community clubs with strong club/local school links, to create pathways for young players to develop their TT. Bloxham (Tuesday) and Millennium (Friday) clubs now run junior sessions coached respectively by Andrew Wilson and Dann Mitchell.

The Bodicote club have been particularly active in this respect and Club Chairman Eddy Tait’s hard work has helped establish a mutually beneficial partnership with Bishop Loveday School in Bodicote, facilitated by excellent co-operation from the school teaching staff. At the school, coach Dave Joyner supports an after-school club plus junior club coaching every Wednesday evening.

An adult ‘Learn to Play TT Scheme’ has also resulted in eight ‘adult beginners’ joining the club, leading to the creation of two new 2015 league teams. To enable the table tennis club to expand, it has formed a joint venture with the local Banbury Rugby Club and now use their new clubhouse for some league fixtures.

The Bodicote scheme has been generously supported by grants from Sanctuary Housing and Bodfest. Eddy said: “This is a fantastic development for our club and the village. A great opportunity for local people to experience the thrills of table tennis.”

Since September there has been another exciting development with the formation of a completely new table tennis club at North Newington and based in Bishop Carpenter School. The village and school raised about £1,000 to buy two new TT tables plus nets, bats and balls. Now more than 20 juniors attend the after school TT coaching club.

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On Wednesday evening there’s also another junior coaching session followed by the very popular adult TT club. It is another ‘Learn to Play TT Scheme’ for beginner adults to have some fun, play games but also to get some structured coaching – this group of 10-12 players are really enjoying it and by next season North Newington may be able to enter teams in the local league. This successful mini-project has been achieved by the enthusiasm and co-operation of the villagers, school and B&DTTA. Are there any other village communities who would also like to start-up their own club?

Since the start of this coaching development project, junior and adult participation has increased sensationally by more than 200 new players and a significant proportion are female. Children who have previously shunned traditional ‘school sports’, have had the opportunity to try out and enjoy this exciting, very skilful, explosive, individual sport. The trick now will be to convert this increased participation into sustainable growth to ensure the future of the Banbury Table Tennis League.

We have worked on this project for over a year now and most elements are now in place. The next phase is implementation and delivery of project goals. B&DTTA would very much like to thank its project partners, schools, clubs and volunteer coaches for their kind co-operation and very hard work! Very well done coaches.

For further information on this scheme contact the B&DTTA coaching officer: Eric Barlow via eric.barlow@outlook.com

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January 27, 2016