I would like to thank Pingskills for mentioning this interview in their blog.
When I first joined college, I found out that table tennis is the most talked about sports there. After some initial reluctance, I gave in to my curiosity and tried to figure out its rules etc. But what I thought would be a few minutes of surfing on youtube, turned out to change my views towards table tennis forever. And to personify the reason for such a drastic change, only two words comes out – Alois Rosario. Recently I served some questions to him which he looped back to my court.
You have been playing table tennis since you were 5 years old. Who encouraged you to play table tennis and what is the thought behind hitting the ball against the wall in the initial stages of learning the game?
My mother was Indian National champion in 1959 and played in the National team for many years. I used to go and watch her practice when I was very young.
Playing against the wall was because we didn’t have a table at home so that was the next best thing. I could play by myself and do it for hours and hours without worrying anyone else. I didn’t have in mind that it was particularly good for my development, but something I did because I loved hitting the ball.
Where did you learn playing? What do you remember from you first ever practice session?
I learned from my mother first. My first real coaching session with someone else was with a Mr Laffin who I don’t know where he is now. I remember him explaining what he meant by an opened and closed bat. Something that has stayed in my memory all this time.
If Mr. Laffin is reading this, would you like to say anything to him?
It would be great to know where he is now and what he is doing.
You were selected to represent your nation for the first time in the 1986 Asian Championships in Shenzhen, China. Tell something about your experience there. Were you under any pressure?
I was selected as a fourth player. I remember one of the selectors coming up to me after I was selected and saying there was no pressure on me as I was selected for experience for that event.
Who is the best table tennis player – past or present, according to you? Please don’t be diplomatic.
Jan- Ove Waldner. He is able to do anything with any given ball. His skill was just amazing to be able to watch.
What is the best match you have played so far and against whom? Why is it special?
The semi-final of the National championships against a player, Gary Haberl, who I hadn’t beaten for many years. Everything seemed to work and I felt like I was in a bubble.
What are your favorite shots? What types of rubber did you use?
My favourite shot was definitely the forehand topspin because I relied o it to win many points. Especially the slower topspin, because it was different to what most players did. I was able to use the lack of speed to my advantage.
I started becoming interested in coaching at my club, Coburg when I stated working with a group of juniors. I enjoyed working with the players and being able to share some knowledge. That was in about 1985.
How does it feel to coach the Australian Olympic Team?
I enjoyed the experience. It is always nice to be able to work with the best in their field. Working with the National team players is more like managing them and helping them to play up to their potential. In many instances it is about not getting in the way and knowing when you are required and not required. They are very good at knowing what is good for themselves as they have managed their playing independently for a long time.
I always wanted to ask this – what are the players told by their coaches before big matches? Do you tell the same to your players?
Each player is different in what they need to hear.
Just before a match it I usually just their basic tactics that they will be needing to focus on during the match. You don’t want to complicate things at that stage. Some may need help to calm down if they are feeling anxious.
What is the future of Table Tennis in Australia?
Table Tennis in Australia is a very small sport. It will be important for more development to occur first. Then it will take a lot of time to develop the players that are found. Table Tennis is a sport that needs 10 years to develop a good player so it can’t happen overnight.
What is the Table Tennis fan following in Australia? Has it increased over the years?
The numbers of players competing in Australia has remained quite stable. At the participation level the sport is popular. There are thousands of Table Tennis tables in garages and sheds around Australia. The difficult task is getting players to make the step up to playing in a club.
Your take on the various changes made in the rules of playing table tennis?
I like the change in playing games to 11. It has added excitement to the game and made it more marketable.
The ball size change hasn’t made a significant difference to the game.
The service rule is the one that needs cleaning up the most.
You have coached at the Coburg Club. Share some experience. How do you feel being inducted at the Hall of Fame in the club recently?
Being inducted into the Coburg Hall of Fame was something special for me. I love the feel of the club. It is open to all levels of players and has a really welcoming atmosphere. It is one of the only clubs in Australia that provides that.
When I was playing they treated me really well, supporting my playing and providing a place where I could train without having any hassles of a venue. There were also always players there that I could train with.
My coaching at the club happened because I saw there was an opportunity to develop a group of players at the time.
Tell us about your visit to India for the commonwealth games. Was it your first visit? Did you try any Indian spicy food? I also heard that you returned from India with a bit of extra weight.
I was born in India and left there when I was 5 years old. I had been back there a couple of times. I was also lucky to play at the World Championships in Delhi in 1987.
I did try a lot of the food while I was there. I can’t eat food that is too spicy, but I do enjoy the food.
What exactly is the history between you and the bird loop shot?
That is a funny story. It was just a friend, Greg Asling, who was watching the video of the match and thought that my action looked like a bird. He named it. It has stuck and been the butt of much frivolity over the years.
Any other sports other than table tennis that you like or follow in your free time?
I love watching Tennis as well. I think the similarities to Table Tennis make it easy to relate to.
Finally, is there anything you would like to say to the young generation who are thinking about playing table tennis?
Yes, take it up and look to get as far as you possibly can.
Like everything in life there are no short cuts. You need to spend quality time on the table and work hard. If you do you will reap rewards. Devoting your time into a sport like Table Tennis will be beneficial to you not only in sport but the whole of your life including your career and personal development.
It is a sport that you will be able to play forever.
I would like to take this opportunity and thank Alois for finding time from his busy schedule and answer my questions.
- One on one with Jeff Plumb Part 1
- One on one with Jeff Plumb Part 2
- Jeff Plumb talks about Ping Skills