KINGSTON, Jamaica— The Jamaica Table Tennis Association (JTTA) will be looking to develop the sport from the grassroots by placing equipment in community centres across the island to enable access to more people at an earlier age.
According to president, Andrew Lue, the Association has acquired from the Social Development Commission (SDC), a list of community centres across the island, which will be used to garner those that have proper managerial structure. He said a shortlist will be done, from which the table tennis equipment will be placed.
“What we want to do is to identify community centres that have a proper infrastructure in place that we can partner with them, give them a start-up kit like a board or two and some rackets, and the technical assistance in terms of the coach that will oversee the development in that community. I think as we do that around the island, we will see more talent coming to the fore.
“What we need though is for those community centres to be properly run because we don’t want to put a board or two in a location and then we go back the next day and we can’t find it or it’s destroyed. So they have to be properly managed, either by the community, the citizens’ association or the board for the community centre,” Lue said in an interview with OBSERVER ONLINE.
The funding, Lue stated, is expected to be financed by the Jamaica Olympic Association (JOA), the Sports Development Fund (SDF) and corporate Jamaica, as well as other fundraising methods of the JTTA.
He said the association will be working with other government entities such as the Institute of Sports (INSPORTS) and the SDC to implement the programme, while also strengthening the bond with the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) and the Jamaica Independent Schools Association (JISA).
Lue stated the JTTA is currently in discussion with ISSA for the restart of the high school table tennis competitions, which has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes this will also bolster grassroots development and ultimately the quality of players on the island.
Meanwhile, according to Lue, the COVID-19 pandemic has lowered the island’s table tennis standard with only the National Championships, last year, being able to play, because of the government’s ban on large gatherings.
“The standard has fallen because of all of this that has taken place with the pandemic and prior to that as well, we were sliding down the ranking, because we just didn’t have the programmes in place to have the younger players coming to the fore and supporting the middle tier players so that they could advance to the elite programme,” Lue said.
He is hoping that the grassroots plan, coupled with the restart of several local tournaments, entering tournaments across the world and the efforts to get national players from the Jamaican Diaspora, will assist in lifting the island’s ranking at the international level.
Lue took over leadership of the JTTA in February last year during the election. He was unopposed.