Stephen Gertsen Interview – Table Tennis Scotland Coaches Course 2017
Stephen Gertsen Interview – Table Tennis Scotland Coaches Course 2017

Is it your first time here or have you been
to Inverclyde before? Is my first time for a long time. I came here
maybe – I was trying to work it out- 15/16 years ago. I came here as a junior player
playing for Wales. Yeah, long time ago… I haven’t been back since. It’s a lot different
to how it was before- it’s lovely: It’s done the job for us this weekend. Good accommodation
– the players have enjoyed the residential camp, its been a good start to the season
yea. How, in general, did your first session as
national youth squad coach go? Really well. It’s helped that I know the players
pretty well – for the last 3 years on and off. I’ve been involved with some of the squads
in Scotland anyway, so I had an idea of what to expect. What’s nice is that I can have
my own sort of slant on it – I know that’s not going to be a one-off – we have a certain
number of days that Richard’s sort it out with the governing body. Really happy with
the level and the energy level and the atmosphere in the hall, the players work rate… massive
room for improvement but a good start and I’m encouraged by it – plenty to work with;
a lot of potential. So really happy with what there is about. Coaches are doing good stuff
outside – in the clubs and that as well, which is pleasing – and that’s what I want to try
and build on as well. As you say, lots of the club coaches are here.
What advice would you give us? What particular things do we need to work on? Something that stands out for me (we’ve always
got to work on technique) – a bit more irregular stuff – getting the guys to switch on a bit
more in terms of what they are doing and thinking a bit more. They are fine when the balls going
where they expect it, things are going right for them when things get tougher a bit more
challenging for them – so looking to challenge them a bit more. But also what needs to happen
a bit more – I get a lot of phone calls from coaches and parents but I’d like it to come
more from the players; get the players to go to their coaches and tell them what I need
to work on from this training camp. That’s something I want to build on. So the players
know what they need to do and take more ownership in terms of what they need to do. But coaches
are of massive importance – guiding and helping them along. I want to make sure there is much
better communication than there has been maybe in the past. That’s really what I’m all about-
making sure that everyone’s aware of what we want to do. I’ve got to speak to Richard
about how it works – to make sure the things have done the right way, transparent. To make
sure the what I’m doing in the hall passed over to coaches. I’m willing for them to call
or email me – speak to me about anything or get involved in the camps in the future – I
want to make it much more open and accessible in terms of all we’re doing. I’m looking forward
to creating that kind of atmosphere and network; I’ve had some success with in the past; I
want to bring it to Scotland as well. A theme of Michel Gadal’s talks has been the
involvement of parents over the top players – he’s looked at a lot of the top players
and it feels like they have had very involved parents. Should that be the model – should
parents be active? I think we really have to value what parents
offer – the amount of commitment, dedication that parents have to put in. I know for myself
the amount of money and time my parents spent – paying for tournaments, transporting me
all over the place. So can never be that parents can take a back seat – I understand they care
and want to be involved but there’s got to be a good balance. Parents have to be educated
as well and know when’s the right time to leave their child to it – the child to learn
for themselves and not talk for their child and play for their child – they can’t do it
for them. We need to create some sort of independence and I’d like parents to be involved, to care
and support but let the players work with their coaches and those who know what they’re
doing. Finally, what have you got planned for the
players for the rest of the year? So we’ve got about 22 days up until March
to work with the guys. I’m going to the European Youths with them next month as well. Obviously
I’d like to be more involved in competition but I’m just going to be the training with
them – I’m relying on the coaches to feedback to me and we can build the training around
individual games – and we’ll see how they get on in Jersey and I’ll be talking to the
coaches after Jersey. Like I said I won’t be at all of these competitions but I’m only
part-time and I’ve got other stuff in my life – I’ll do everything I can to make this sport
successful. In terms of what we’re going to be doing, making sure we are pushing forward,
working hard, doing the right things, working around individuals games; and I think just
making sure that the culture is right, the training is right and everybody is on the
same wavelength and wants to win for Scotland. This camp my philosophy was sort of no egos
– it’s been too much in the past. Obviously people want to win for themselves-
at the nationals they want to beat each other but it should be more about winning when we
go abroad and starting to see the bigger picture; getting the guys to work more as a team and
fighting hard to get into the team but support each other when they’re not selected or not
involved. I think the whole culture needs to be better – that’s what we need to create
from everyone and I think everyone’s got a part to play in that whether you do a club
one night a week or you’re at a bigger club, everyone’s got to buy into it – support the
players, parents, get involved and create a better kind of community around everything
that we’re doing; that’s the way forward. You’ve enjoyed moving to Scotland? I’ve enjoyed moving to Scotland, yeah. I didn’t
move here for the table tennis – up in Inverness, that’s just something that’s come along. I
moved up for different things, different reasons but I’m enjoying the blend I’ve got now. I’ve
been full time in table tennis for a long time, but it’s been nice to have a little
bit of a break from it and realise how much I miss it. I think I’m enjoying coaching more
than I ever have done because I’m doing something else in my life as well. I think I appreciate
from the other jobs I’ve been trying over the last couple of years just how much table
tennis is what I enjoy most and probably better at maybe. It’s been nice, been a good move
for me. Miles away from everywhere but I haven’t seen Nessie yet either!

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