Table Tennis in Kiribati
When the Pacific Region's first Development Officer for Table Tennis first visited Kiribati during 1997, he could not believe the aptitude and enthusiasm that the i-Kirbati had for the game of his choice. Not only that, for a Country in which land space is at a premium, the sport of Table Tennis just seemd to be a perfect solution.
As a result of his regular visits, table tennis affiliated to the International Table Tennis Federation and as such was one of the founding members of the Kiribati National Olympic Committee that was finally recognised during 2003. Kiribati sent a team to the Manchester and Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
The organisation of Table Tennis in Kiribati has gone through many changes as it strives to become a truely national sport. With the assistance of the second Regional Development Officer, Mr Steve Dainton, much effort was made to take the sport to the outer islands. This work was rewarded with Table Tennis taking its place in the 2006 Te Runga for the first time.
2005 Developing a National Sports Structure
An Olympic Solidarity Course "Developing a National Sports Structure" was completed in Kiribati, 24 November, 2005-January 24, 2006. Conducting the course was the new Oceania Development Officer, Surendra Suwal of Nepal. Steve Dainton, the previous Oceania Development Officer, will still maintain a managerial role in Oceania, while taking over as ITTF Asia Office Director.
Coaching outside-island style
Kiribati was my third visit to the South Pacific Region working for the development of Table Tennis on behalf of ITTF and OTTF, having previously conducted courses in Solomon Islands and Palau. Working with the people of different races, culture and religions for Table Tennis was full of curiosity, excitement, and a great pleasure.
For the first few days working with the senior, junior and beginner players, in a very small room with only one table at Bairiki National Stadium and outside in the open space of different clubs, I was very happy and surprised to see the potential and the skills of particularly the junior boys and girls.
While visiting the different primary schools for the promotion and demonstration they had been really supportive and thankful for having one more sports activity for their students in their school. The students and the teachers participated in the program with great interest and spirit.
Outer island courses
During the visits to outer islands [Nikinau, Kuria, Makin,Putaritari] with the Kiribati National Development Officer, Taraia Mwaitonga from 12th December 2005 to 16th January 2006, council members gave us a warm welcome and received us at the airport as well as at the harbor. The ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course was conducted successfully in all the outer islands including Tarawa. All together 72 males and 28 females participated in the coaching course with great enthusiasm including Tarawa. The different schools, office venues were used for the course. Plywood and classroom's tables were used as table tennis tables during the course following the Oceania motto "every table is a table tennis table". After the first few sessions of the course, to see the youngsters and youths, playing table tennis at their residence, communities and "Maneaba" (a place where the people gathers for different occasions) using plywood as a table was my happiest moment of the tour.
In the outer islands we were invited by the different religious communities and honored in their traditional way where we also had an opportunity to explain and explore the knowledge of our sport.
Outreaching table tennis even in the rural areas (outer islands) of Kiribati has definitely expanded the areas to hunt new talents. Also the formation of the associations in the outer islands was the vital achievement of the project for the future of Kiribati Table Tennis.
Over all hospitality in the whole project was excellent. The people were very nice and humble.
Table Tennis in Kiribati has a bright future thanks to the work of the OTTF and the ITTF. We have some good tables to play on and with the new magnificent Hall in Betio we have a venue of international standard to play in and even potentially host some international events.
2011 Developing a National Sports Structure
For a total of 100 days, Michael Brown was situated in Tarawa, Kiribati. The aim of the course was to further improve the structure of the Kiribati Table Tennis Association and increase the popularity of Table Tennis within Kiribati. There were also other projects in regards to Athlete's with a Disability, and structuring squads.
The popularity of the sport has been a big increase due to the numerous school visits and the sport of Table Tennis being introduced to so many young students. There has been a structure put in place to allow these new athletes to be able to follow a structure of Squads, and as they progress in their ability there will be a pathway they can follow. A coaching course was also conducted for School Teachers to allow for further improvement without the assistance of the National Development Officer.
A new system in regards to competitions and rankings has been implemented to ensure consistent training and competitions are held. This is very important for the continued development of Table Tennis within Kiribati.
Table Tennis became the first sport to officially introduce itself into the disabled community. It is planned for regular visits to continue, and for future tournaments to be conducted as well.