One year ago, I wrote two messages as president of TTCAN. The first message was at the end of the year (25 December 2020), which was questioning the validity of Risk Assessments in an unpredictable year. You can find it here:

I also wrote another message on 30 December 2020 to welcome the new year 2021, entitled “The Leap from 2020 to 2021” in which the year 2020 accomplishments were listed as well as the objectives for the coming year. You can find it here:

I suggest you read the above two articles before you read any further.

This year I pondered what type of message I would send to the Canadian table tennis community in such unpredictable and challenging times. I am a very optimistic person by nature, but at the same time I am a very pragmatic person. These two traits do go well together in my case and could be called by some “cautious optimism”.

So, being cautiously optimistic, I can say that the last two years taught us many valuable lessons.

The first lesson: No one really know what they are doing. But everyone tries their best to do what they think may be the right thing to do. So far, the pandemic has created havoc, but the resilience and perseverance shown by many is remarkable.

The second lesson: We totally depend on our government. Without the financial assistance provided by our governments, at all levels, to business and especially to sport, we would not be able to survive this pandemic. We must especially be grateful to Sport Canada for their financial assistance and flexibility during this very difficult period. I am critical of several of Sport Canada’s methods and procedures, but I must salute Sport Canada for its help during the pandemic. Their financial support and flexibility made it mush easier for our sport to navigate through the twists and turns of this lengthy ever-changing resilient virus. On behalf of our table tennis community, I thank Sport Canada for their help.

The third lesson: Our athletes are resilient. Although our national team faced terrible conditions regarding possibilities for training amidst the constant and repeated lockdowns, our top plyers found ways to practice privately whenever they could. Also, our High Performance Consultant arranged for special training opportunities for our Olympians getting them ready for the Tokyo Olympics. As training facilities opened up gradually a special selection training camp was held in August to select the junior players for the Junior Pan Am Championships. Then an avalanche of international participation occurred at the Pan Am Juniors (Dominican Republic), Pan Am Seniors (Peru) , World Championships (Houston, USA), Pan Am Junior Games (Colombia) and finally the World Junior Championships (Portugal).

The fourth lesson: TTCAN is resilient. Under very difficult circumstances, and with very strict health conditions and limitations, TTCAN was successful in holding the 2021 Canadian Senior and Junior Championships in Laval, Quebec, in early October. This would not have been possible without the great help and hard work of the Laval Reflexe TT Club, the Quebec TT Federation, our Umpires and Referees from across Canada, and all the member provincial/territorial associations who took part in this very special event.

The fifth lesson: We allergic to GOLD. Although our athletes won many silver and bronze medals at the events held in the last quarter of the year, we did not get GOLD. Although some of our players did very well and better than expected, still Gold eluded them. One main factor that was very obvious is that our players lack “competition sharpness” at the top level. Other countries stayed open and held competitions and leagues during the pandemic. In our case, only limited training was possible, and almost no competitions at all with some small exceptions. I salute our athletes who took it upon themselves and competed in tournaments in the USA, and also those who when it was possible took part in international events at their own cost. Even then, some were held in quarantine and had to miss the tournament (Italy). The point is, that we need Gold in 2022.

The sixth lesson: Traditional methods and structures don’t work anymore. The World is changing fast, and we must change with it and adapt. It is possible to find creative ways to practice (one-on-one private coaching, small group training, online coaching, etc.), but we need to find even more creative ways to keep our top athletes “competition sharp” at the top level.

What should we change?

Here is a New Year wish list that I have in mind that needs to be translated into practical implementation actions before we embark on full-fledged comprehensive plans:

  1. Help our athletes find a balance between sport and education.
  2. Certify as many coaches as possible at all levels. The more the better.
  3. Deliver as many Umpire and Referee courses as possible online to develop the next generation of Canadian tournament officials.
  4. Recruit retired athletes to become coaches, umpires and referees.
  5. Create new training and competition opportunities for our top provincial/territorial and national level athletes.
  6. Create a new competition system considering the new realities caused by the pandemic.
  7. Include new types of events at our tournaments for young girls to keep them interested in our sport for life.
  8. Use the down time during the pandemic to strengthen our structures and to plan for the future.
  9. Start new marketing and promotion initiatives to find new sponsors and reduce the dependence on government funding.
  10. Increase the links between national and provincial/territorial programs.
  11. Get GOLD.

Being an optimist, I sincerely hope that the current wave of the Corona Virus and its variances is the last one, and that we can try our best to catch up with lost time. But also, being a pragmatic person, we need to adapt and work within the limitations imposed on us due to the pandemic restrictions. This will need creativity, perseverance and resilience.

On behalf of the TTCAN’s Board of Directors and staff, I wish our entire table tennis community a very Happy New Year and let’s make it a successful year regardless of the obstacles or difficulties facing us.

Adham Sharara