WHAT’S GRIPING TABLE TENNIS?
Concerns grow about stagnation under current administration
THERE IS disquiet within the Jamaica Table Tennis Association (JTTA), with the island languishing in the dungeons of the sport at the regional and international level, a far distance from previous eras when Jamaican players royally ruled the Caribbean.
According to insiders, who want to remain anonymous, missing structures within the JTTA hierarchy, compounded by the lack of insightful leadership by the current Andrew Lue-led administration, are sinking Jamaica into an abyss that will take years to get out of.
A source claims Lue and his team have not delivered the manifesto promises that swept them into office two and a half years ago. The individual argues that many of these were achievable deliverables, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the issues the sources outlined hampering the island’s progress in the sport is a clear marketing strategy to woo corporate Jamaica, which has shunned the it in recent years. This has affected annual tournaments that have failed to garner sponsorships.
LACK OF SPONSORSHIP
“I can say for a fact corporate Jamaica is willing to come on board, but table tennis is not marketed positively,” a source said.
The lack of sponsorship has morphed into inactive players at all levels, with the absence of business house, intercollegiate, primary and prep school competitions, with only the ISSA-run high school competition being played.
According to the sources, the situation is getting worse, with several active players at the junior level leaving the sport after participating for Jamaica at the under-19 stage, which former JTTA president Keith Garvey claims must be concerning.
“What we are finding now is that as children leave high school, that’s it for table tennis. Even players representing the country at the under-19 level, the cadet, are not seeking a place on the senior teams because there is no motivation to continue to play the sport.
“There has been no club league for the past two years, so we are at a standstill, and we have seen a significant decrease in the numbers that are playing, that used to play, and we have not seen any newcomers, basically,” one source said.
Garvey added: “The problem is, how do we fix the youths table tennis, how do we get more people playing, how do we popularise the sport? We can only do that by going into the nook and crannies of the country, bringing the sport into the primary and all-age schools.”
Ironically, there was also disquiet in the immediate past administration, led by Godfrey Lothian, which dwarfed the efforts of Lue and his team, according to Sunday Gleaner sources, who disclosed that competitions were intrinsic to the former’s reign.
The sources claim that efforts to get competitions at the various levels going again since the lifting of the COVID-19 protocols have been stalled by the leadership of the sport.
“We have no structure, as they don’t even know how many clubs are operating,” one source said.
Lue’s detractors also proclaim that he has allowed deals brokered by Lothian to end by not being able to fulfil basic requirements.
According to one insider, the JTTA had a two-year renewable deal with table tennis equipment manufacturer Stag from India. Under the agreement, Stag provides Jamaica with equipment (tables, racquets, nets, counters, balls, barriers, etc.), with the JTTA having to find the shipping costs and the island’s players wearing the Stag brand at international tournaments.
“We could have gotten it again. All we needed to do was to sign the deal and send the money to ship it to Jamaica because we were getting them free, but it would be a tidy sum to ship it. That deal has fallen through under this administration,” a source said.
It was also outlined that Jamaica is yet to fully benefit from a bilateral deal with the world’s top-playing table tennis country, China. Under the agreement, Jamaica would take on the expenses for Chinese coaches in Jamaica while they lecture their Jamaican counterparts on mastering the sport.
A meeting to have JTTA president Lue respond to The Sunday Gleaner about the going concerns on Wednesday fell through.