Table Tennis is on the move
By Edison Jefford
There is no doubt that in approximately five months, Guyana Table Tennis Association (GTTA) President, Police Commissioner, Henry Greene has transformed the sport locally with innovative initiatives that has received excellent extensive support.
From rewarding players lucratively to players’ international exposure to deliberate development mechanisms to an ambitious intention of owning their own facility, local table tennis was placed on the mainstream to challenge other major sport genres.
Kaieteur Sports writer Edison Jefford sat down with Greene during the just concluded National Table Tennis Championships for his first exclusive interview since he became President of table tennis in Guyana. Following is the complete interview.
Jefford: There has been an obvious enthusiasm surrounding local table tennis ever since you took over as President; what are some of the things that have led to that?
Greene: One of the first things that I must let you know is that I was a table tennis player from an early age. I started playing table tennis at Dolphin Government School before I went to Queens College. I represented Queens College in table tennis. I played among the likes of Mike Christophe and others. Since then, I have always had the passion for table tennis; I have never stopped playing and about six months ago, I was told that the GTTA will have elections, so I offered up myself for the Presidency. My sounding for the post came when I heard that the association wanted to send a team to the CAC Games; I arranged sponsorship for them from the corporate community then I hosted a Masters’ tournament. I offered financial incentives, and that is one of the things around sports today. You have people sacrificing their time and work to play. I think if there are financial incentives, players tend to be boosted. Remember people have their own careers, but one of the things that have caused the game to be hyped is the financial incentives that we offered and that is coming through the corporate community. We had a lot of support from the corporate community. We had to get money for the Commonwealth Games; we paid off the Guyana Olympic Association, which we had owed for the last two years and we paid off all our debts to the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation).
Jefford: Do you think that the enthusiasm has to do with your administration of the sport or with the fact that you are Commissioner of Police?
Greene: I think it has to do with the administration of the sport; we have put in place a lot of systems, for instance, the players overseas were at an unfair advantage because there were no trials before, so people were just selected to represent Guyana. I said clearly that we have to stop that and allow players to compete for their place in the national team and if you recall, before the Commonwealth Games, we had a playoff where players played for their place. We said that the National Championships will set new standards in that regard. One, players will have a rating and two; we will use those ratings to select our national teams. Players overseas will have to continue to satisfy us that they are worthy of national selection. One of the problems we had in this year’s National Championships is that two of our senior players: Idi Lewis and Michelle John, both based in the United States did not come to compete, so I don’t know how they plan to satisfy us that they are worthy of making our national team. We had Paul David, Trenace Lowe and everybody else here to show us that they are still fit and ready to represent Guyana. So we are doing things, its not just about being the Commissioner. The fact is that we are doing things and playing a lot of tennis.
Jefford: After this renaissance, as I would call it in the sport, where do you see table tennis going in terms of preventing lulls? (Since you probably know, it’s not just about getting good starts).
Greene: We have already chartered our programmes for next year. We have several tournaments locally and overseas that we are going to compete in and we have two young players to go to China. So far, our sponsorship is good and it is just a matter of finding out when the youngsters will be out of school so that we can send them. We have to send a senior player with them. We have our Strategic Plan, which we are still working on. That Plan has to do with, one, the Schools Programme where we will be looking at our nursery of players. We have 18 coaches already trained for the schools. Two, we are looking at coaching programmes for communities where we will be bringing in coaches from overseas to help upgrade and develop our coaches. Three, apart from the training, we plan to develop more school competitions. Four, we plan to take the sport to the other communities. We have already started in Bartica where we have trained people to carry out our programmes there. We have just come back from Corriverton and we plan to engage Linden as well. Five, we will be developing our umpires. We trained about 18 of them for the National Championships and we plan to make that process continual. We want to also train officials, who can help us administrate the sport when we have competitions. Six, we are looking at our international participation; you know we have several competitive categories; we have been doing well at participating in international and regional events and we want to maintain that. Seven, we will be developing an interactive website for table tennis and we have several other things in the Strategic Plan that we hope to complete.
Jefford: Are you completely satisfied with the progress the sport has made so far? If not, what are the areas that you think has to improve?
Greene: We want our own home for table tennis. We have to get $50M to do that. We have to change our constitution. I think that the one we have now is outdated. We have to include in our new constitution things like sub-associations because it’s not good enough to have clubs alone; clubs must now report to sub-associations and the sub-associations will report to the GTTA. We are working on our constitution; we want to bring our finances into a more defined form within the constitution because the present constitution says very little about that. Some other things I think we have to look at are players’ conduct, discipline and uniformity. We want to instil a little more discipline in table tennis because we believe that any disciplined player can go to the top. We are hoping to get that aspect dealt with through rules and regulations. We will be giving incentives to ensure that players continue to dress properly because we want to raise the standard of the game. We have to get our ‘Buy-a-Table Programme’ off the ground where past players from schools and the business community will be able to buy a table for a respective school. We have to host a lot more fund raising events and work in conjunction with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport, the National Sports Commission and Guyana Olympic Association to maintain some amount of symmetry, because I believe that we cannot work alone to achieve the type of success we want in the sport. So to answer your question, I am satisfied despite these outstanding things, which I know we will get going.
Jefford: What about support for your administration from players?
Greene: Their support has been overwhelming. There are still some things that we have to make clear but those are minor. They are not things that would push me to say that I am not getting support for the sport. Generally, table tennis is on the move. Players will soon be able to offer themselves up for scholarships and compete on international circuits because of the vision we have for them. We are working together. I know the future of table tennis is bright with the kind of development we have planned for table tennis and players.