The Bhutan Table Tennis Federation (BTTF) is currently holding the Junior Para Training Camp, and Coaches Education Program, catered to both able-bodied and para-athletes from 10 to 18 July. The para training is expected to lead to junior tournaments. The aim is also to have the coaches from schools introduce table tennis at the beginner level in schools.
The program is guided by a table tennis expert, 39-year- old, Trevor James Hirth from Australia. He has been playing table tennis since the age of 12. He joined in a club as a social player until he was 29, when his coach asked him to try for the para-athletes team, as Trevor lived with a neuro-muscular disability since birth. Trevor has represented his country at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Trevor James Hirth said, “In this country, the level is okay for a small population country, I didn’t expect the level to be so good so there are probably 6 athletes that have tried abroad before and had completed some competition and their level is quite good. And I think they can have their future, and they can possibly represent Bhutan in some more international competitions.”
He said the attitude toward learning is the value of the whole country, and as there is a good education system in Bhutan, it can also transfer to the sport.
“Table tennis is a thinking person’s sport. It’s like boxing, we have to swing the arms mixed with the mindset of chess player because we have to place the board in the different areas,” Trevor said.
The first couple of days of the para training camp focuses on developing basic skill, as not all the players had the basic skills.
Trevor said he was able to coach a girl struggling with her backhand swing. He said the determination of the girl in learning the technique is something he, as a coach, delights in seeing. He said it is important to never give up as he also made his way in the sport through grit and determination.
He added that “I will never say never, but there are other ways to make a career in table tennis other than being a top athlete. I am an example of it, I represented my country in para-sport, I still am, I can play early in an Asian tournament in Europe, this was all self-funded. I want to climb my own way and qualified for next year’s para game in Paris. Somehow, I manage to form the pathway living to become a coach, I also represented the international athlete commission. My passion is also my job.”
Trevor is working towards popularizing interschool table tennis programs so it can grow in prominence. There are plans to bring the principals of the schools or the education system on board to show the benefit of table tennis as it is a game of body and mind which will aide in achieving academic goals as well.
“In my experience, table tennis changes people’s life, especially people with hardship and disability getting involved in sports, we can enjoy and develop our passion for sports. Sports will always survive. Table tennis is a game that can be played from the beginner level to the expert level at any age and also people with disability can play as well,” he said.
17-years -old Utam, a 12 grader studying at the Motithang Higher Secondary School, and said table tennis needs more support.
Utam said, “We need a financial budget and support from the BOC so that we can get more opportunities. If there is no budget federation cannot organize any tournament. They organize tournaments once a year. After that we have to practice again, we feel bored of training. This is how we lose the players. So we need more exposure. With the help of a new coach, we get a new training technique and skills. We can improve new techniques and skills, on top of that we get mental training because while performing we see a lot of improvement.”
He added that it would have made a big difference if he had been trained by Trevor James Hirth in the previous tournaments.
“There are big differences between the Bhutanese coach and the international coaches, Bhutanese coaches teach us what they have learned and ITTF experts have more exposure and they know more about the game so they give mental training as well as physical which helps us in performing a game,” Utam said.
Table tennis is an indoor sport it can be played in any season. Table tennis does not require many equipment to play, and so it is an affordable sport.