Sarnian elite put through paces by former world No.4
A month before they go for Island Games glory, Guernsey's elite table tennis players had the chance to learn from the best last week thanks to the visit of Branka Batinic (pictured). The Croatian-born player, who was ranked as high as world No. 4 in her pomp, led four days of coaching and training for 40 players.
Among those involved in the seven hours per day of sessions were the likes of Garry Dodd and Dawn Morgan, part of the Sarnian team that will compete in Jersey. During a break in the intense training, Batinic explained how she varies training in order to ensure the maximum benefit for each individual player. 'The main things I worked on with them are fitness, footwork and the consistency of getting your shots on the table every time and not wasting shots,' she said. 'There are some good players in Guernsey and the standard is pretty high, but the important thing to remember is that not every player will ever be the same. 'You have to treat each person differently because they will have different strengths and different weaknesses that need more focus on, which is vital.' As well as reaching those lofty heights in the world rankings, the now 57-year-old represented both Croatia and Yugoslavia during those illustrious playing days. She was a 42-time Croatian champion, a 22-time Yugoslavian champion and represented the latter over 250 times at national level, as well as winning seven World and European Championship medals between 1973 and 1986.
Her pedigree is clear and she outlines some of the approaches she uses now as the head coach for the European Table Tennis Union Eurokids programme. 'You introduce different things to keep it fresh, like you may well play 10 sets in a row, but each set starts at 7-7 instead of 0-0, which means that every point is important and pressurised. 'Then you may do the same again but with the score 9-7 in favour of one player and then reverse the situation later on because you have to play very differently depending on whether you are up or down. 'It is important that you do as much as you can to replicate different situations from different points in a set or a match so that you can deal with it when the time comes.