For the last few years, the popularity of the “My Gender. My Strength.” project has proven its efficiency to reach more girls to practice table tennis. Since the launch of “My Gender. My Strength.”, ITTF reports that 47 Member Associations have benefitted from the initiative. This year, Luba Sadovska, Head coach at North Shore Table Tennis Club in BC, had the opportunity to be part of it as a Canadian participant. She has been very generous to take the time to talk about her experience in Charleston, USA, as the first stage of the program. To read more about the ITTF “My Gender. My Strenght”program:

– Why did you want to be part of the ITTF My Gender My Strength program?

I’m a Table Tennis club co-owner and I see girls being less active than boys, and the gap is growing. I’m a huge supporter for increasing female participation in table tennis as well as developing their skills in wide ranging activities from playing to officiating, coaching and more. I want women to be leaders in our Sport, not just being part of it without having a word or space to make changes. And this is where it is a whole different story when it comes to women in leadership positions. Only 3% of leadership positions in Sport are occupied by women, when the Olympic Movement sets that goal at 30%. I constantly look for opportunities to change that. But an eye-opening Gender Equity leadership course was with APSO, Association of Paralympic Sports Organizations, called “Women Lead Sports 2023” for future female leaders. It was sanctioned by ITTF and I was selected and successfully finished it in March 2023. What was an eye opener for me was the first introductory words from CEO of Women Lead Sports, Gabriella Mueller, when she said that If we keep going with the pace we are going with Gender Equity, it will take 300 years to see changes. And that was really shocking for me!

To learn more about this course and graduates in table tennis:

ITTF’s “My Gender My Strength” program offered to receive support and guidance on the Gender Equity  journey to empower women to be more active and to be leaders in their respective roles. The program objectives are aligned with my vision and mission and that was one of the reasons I applied and was supported by TTCAN for this program.

– Can you explain the different stages of the program and what’s the main objective of the program?

“My Gender My Strength” main goal is moving from awareness to change. This new format will help to reach the ITTF’s overall goal and is a perfect vehicle for the implementation of the newly adopted Gender and Diversity plan.

Each successful candidate will go through a three-stage process of elevating the leadership and management skills along with the core area of coaching. In the first stage, the candidates will have a chance to learn from experienced, top-level experts in the area of coaching.

The second stage will be an opportunity to improve practical experience through participation in a selected athlete or coach-focused activity, such as the Hopes program or a youth training camp, which I have already done in Charleston, WV.

 At the last stage, each candidate will be responsible for implementing a two to three-day National Coaching Seminar for other female coaches, under the umbrella and with the full support of their respective National organization.

– Can you explain how it went in the USA  and what you learned and retained from that experience?

Being part of Regional HOPES training camp in Charleston, West Virginia held July 25-31, 2023 and working alongside ITTF High Performance Elite coach Massimo Constantini, was an experience of a lifetime for me. It opened doors to a whole new level of education and experiences for me. Coach Max is a worldly known and experienced international coach, who works with intentions to improve the experiences for all involved (parents, participants, coaches) by bringing in a new perspective that held the athletes attention and benefited their training. I learnt a valuable skill of a whole new level of evaluations and gained experience in testing athletes in different ways, from physical testing to technical testing to identifying and recognizing talents. We have to test and measure regularly in order to see improvements and success. And coach Max gave me the tools to do that so I can continue learning and improving. In his ways he taught me the crucial role coaches play in various aspects of an athlete’s growth. I also learnt from him that it is common to primarily associate coaches with competitive results, which in a way are overly simplistic. Consequently, coaches are often judged solely based on their ability to achieve favorable competitive outcomes. If they succeed, they are seen as competent coaches; if they fail, it is assumed that they are not the right fit for the athlete or team. But there is so much more we need to do to help our athletes succeed personally and professionally.

– What is the next step for you with the My Gender My Strength program?

As I mentioned earlier, there is 3 stages of the program. My next step will be a chance to learn from experienced, top-level expert in the area of coaching. This will be very important for future development in my career as I can ask questions and seek for answers. And then after all these steps I will be responsible for implementing a two to three-day National Coaching Seminar for other female coaches, under the umbrella and with the full support from Table Tennis Canada.

Thank you Luba and we are looking forward to following you throughout your experience and thank you to share your knowledge with the Canadian table tennis community.