The COVID-19 pandemic has postponed almost everything worldwide in recent months; table tennis enthusiasts throughout the Caribbean eagerly await the moment when they can hold a racket again.
Some countries are on the brink of returning to their regular schedules and have already released guidelines for resumption upon receiving final approval from their respective governments. Others are uncertain of recommencement which is mentally draining for the players, although they understand severity of the pandemic.
Notably Barbados is ready; thanks very much to the efforts of Dale Rudder, President of the Barbados Table Tennis Association.
“The Executive Committee has worked extremely hard to put things in place to meet the stringent Covid-19 protocols. The building has been outfitted with the requisite sanitization stations and signage, with an appointment system set up and the number of tables reduced to maintain proper social distancing.” Dale Rudder
Most of the players are based at the Barbados Table Tennis Centre in Bridgetown a venue that is solely for the sport.
“We are all extremely eager to resume playing but must also be cognizant of our elderly, more at-risk demographic as we seek to maintain the safest environment for all. COVID-19 has forced us all to take an introspective look at how we operate in our day to day lives. Having put all things in place to ensure a safe return to what can only be described as a “new normal”, we are only now awaiting building inspection from the COVID-19 task force and official permission from the National Sports Council (NSC).” Dale Rudder
Progress in Barbados, it is the same in St. Lucia where play has resumed adhering to the strict health protocols.
Chris Wells, a true Caribbean ambassador, for the sport who performs several integral roles for the sport on the island such as tournament organiser, public relations officer and coach was elated upon receiving authorisation from the government.
“Table tennis allows us to adapt to change knowing that playing the game forces us to adapt and make adjustments on a regular basis. The challenge will be in achieving this as a collective group. How do we get our developing athletes to reclaim their standard of play prior to the lockdown mentally, physically, technically and tactically.
Everything can change in a blink of an eye; the world is continually changing. Also, we are more connected to the rest of the world than we think; it reminded me to make more time for family and take occasional rest. It also forced me to become creative in many ways from connecting with athletes and sending out physical tasks and challenges on a daily basis just to keep them active as well as positive messages.” Chris Wells, Public Relations Officer
Also, despite the obvious limitation of the pandemic, the Guyana Table Tennis Association, under the direction of Godfrey Munroe has been commended by their neighboring countries and onlookers for their proactive approach towards utilising this period to improve the functioning of their association.
The fraternity held several sessions online focusing on players technical and tactical training methods, umpiring courses, improving media presence and futuristic plans for table tennis in the country. They have also developed a Selection Criteria Provision and Policy Guidelines, Policy, directives on coach’s disciplinary matters as well as tournament co-ordination.
President of the Association, Godfrey Munroe believes one of the most underlying issues faced in the sport is providing a more holistic professional stance:
“Our response as a national federation in the initial phase was one of precaution. As an affiliate member of the International Table Tennis Federation, we were guided by ITTF guidelines as they provided significant guidance, training and other material and platforms to assist its affiliates in mitigating against the impacts of COVID19 Pandemic.
There is need to critically accelerate our programmes that while the service to national federations is one of volunteerism we have to have people seriously committed to the task of progressing the sport. It cannot be business as usual. We have to institute the systems and structures that are necessary to insulate us against similar type intrusion and advance the sport so that the potential of our athletes is fully realised.” Godfrey Munroe
Trinidad and Tobago
Somewhat differently, the Trinidad and Tobago Table Tennis Association (TTTTA) is uncertain about the re-opening of the National Racket Centre because it is being used as a quarantine facility for returning residents.
It is a concern for David Joseph, the national association’s president.
“Adjustments are needed to be made and new strategies introduced to adapt to the new normal. Players are eager to play some have started back to train already but we are unsure as to when we will be back in the Centre.” David Joseph, TTTTA President
The countries of the Caribbean will continue to rally together by obeying the health protocols in an effort to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and making small but important steps towards a future where we can all play our favorite sport again with a smile on our faces.