Learning from a Korean

Coach Jong-son an at a camp in Hyderabad.-

North Korean coach Jong-Son An was in Hyderabad recently, spreading the fragrance of table tennis. J.R. Shridharan has this report.

North Korean coach Jong- Son An's two-week stint in Hyderabad brought to the fore the significance of fitness in modern-day table tennis. "If you want to stay afloat in competitive table tennis, staying fit is paramount. To stay for a longer duration and play longer rallies your body should be in the best of shape," emphasised Jong to his trainees.

The affable coach, who is on deputation to the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI), has already organised camps in Gandhidham (Gujarat), Lucknow and Agra. For the 40-odd teenage paddlers of Andhra Pradesh their rendezvous with the internationally- acclaimed coach was a memorable one for they got a taste of the nuances of contemporary style. "This game is all about quick reflexes, speed and ball control," the North Korean said and advised the youngsters to maintain consistency in their strokes.

COACHES SRIDHAR, M. Venu and Jagannath, who assisted the visiting coach in his interaction with the wards and in executing the daily practice schedule on 13 new tables at Lal Bahadur indoor stadium, also benefited from the Korean's visit.

"Paddlers realised the importance of meeting the ball on the up while executing their drives and also playing aggressively from the front (close to table). A majority of the Indian kids met the ball a bit down thus losing out on the sting in their drive. If you meet the ball up, you can pack more punch," said M. Venu, who coaches at the Gujarati Seva Mandal, Hyderabad.

THE KOREAN ALSO MADE the paddlers learn the art of ball control by unleashing a series of multiball rallies. "Multi-ball drill is a strenuous one, but teaches precision. It also helps improve certain areas, such as overall speed, control and service returns," said Sridhar, who tutors at the Anandnagar Welfare Academy.

Jong kept feeding the players with balls carrying top, side and under-spin in different places on the table thus introducing the importance of consistency and focus.

"He taught the players how to push the rival from the area of comfort with the right mixture of strokes to gain the upper hand," said Jagannath, who coaches at the LB stadium.

For two weeks the kids were introduced to various forms of exercises - such as skipping - towards achieving flexibility and strength. "The footwork of players deteriorates after many matches on a tournament day thus forcing them to make mistakes hich they normally don't make. Superior conditioning would help players maintain proper footwork for a longer duration," Jong said.

The Andhra Pradesh Table Tennis Association secretary, S. M. Sultan, said the coaching camp would help young paddlers immensely in the coming domestic season as they would be keen to exhibit their newly-acquired skills.

"FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS, young girls from APTTA are doing exceptionally well in the national and international fixtures. The recent effort by 14-year-old Akula Sreeja, who won the gold medal in the team championship final against Sri Lanka in the South Asian Table tennis championship, will give a new impetus to the game in Andhra Pradesh," he felt.