'I’d work on player’s potential rather than weaknesses'

Costantini: 'India should become the epicentre of training for its players, who go abroad randomly. The game shouldn’t be seen merely as hand skills but as a very athletic sport that requires high fitness levels.'

"Table Tennis shouldn’t be seen merely as hand skills but as a very athletic sport that requires high fitness levels." said Costantini during his interview with Sportstar.   -  A. Joseph Antony

“Too much of drills may have made the Indian game mechanical,” Indian table tennis coach Massimo Costantini told Sportstar on the sidelines of the 11 Even Sports National Ranking (South Zone) table tennis championships, at the Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) Rajiv Gandhi indoor stadium on Monday.

“China urges paddlers to play more games than do drills,” he reasoned. “But they have a system that may not be easy to replicate,” the Italian mentor said. He seemed more in tune with the sport in France as a model that could be adopted here.

“France makes sure it retains its players, because they have a sound system in place. They educate rather than impose. The mini-cadets and cadets academies they set up have borne fruit. The winner and runner up in the recent European championships are from France,” he observed.

“India should become the epicentre of training for its players, who go abroad randomly. The game shouldn’t be seen merely as hand skills but as a very athletic sport that requires high fitness levels. Sometime ago one of our leading players took 10 seconds to run 60 metres,” he says in disbelief, revealing that testing will be frequent in his scheme of things.

“I’d rather work on a player’s potential rather than his weaknesses. I work to strengthen their abilities and not aim at their disabilities. Why insist on something that doesn’t bring results,” asks the native of Senigallia in north-eastern Italy.

About 18 to 20 months of training preceded the 2010 Commonwealth Games that he oversaw. It’s a privilege to come and give India a role it deserves. I left my family behind at home to be super focussed,” quips the Woody Allen lookalike, on one occasion mistaken for the renowned director on a trip to New York.

Lack of planning seems to be the biggest bane for the sport in India. “I hope to give our training programme direction and coordinate it in India and abroad. India is a special country. I see dots all over and I'm trying to connect them,” he concludes.

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