Play table tennis in Moray, and learn from a Commonwealth Games coach
TABLE tennis is accessible to everyone in Moray, says Scotland's Commonwealth Games coach Stephen Gertsen.
With sessions at the Moray Table Tennis Club he helped set up resuming on Monday night, Gertsen is determined to find some new recruits as well as develop blossoming talent.
The Welshman heads up Table Tennis Scotland's youth development programme, a position which also saw him coach the national team at last year's Commonwealths in Australia's Gold Coast.
He also coaches Moray youngsters who come from all over the area to play in Elgin. "It went really well at the club last year, healthy numbers throughout the year and we want to keep that going.
I'm hoping the regulars will come from last year and a few new ones will come along as well.
"But it is a community club, not a performance elite club and we aim to be inclusive as possible.
"Disability players are welcome, for example. I met with a sports disability officer for Grampian and she was mentioning there were some guys who were keen to try it.
"Kids are coming in who maybe haven't played much sport before, or felt a little bit intimidated playing the more mainstream sports like football and rugby.
"They maybe lacked the confidence but they've come to table tennis and it has helped them build their confidence in not such an intimidating sporting environment.
"It is important for life skills, working as part of a team and communicating a bit better. That is the kind of stuff we are doing in the club a lot."
While the emphasis is on fun and taking part in table tennis, there are some youngsters showing promise to take their talents to a higher level.
"A couple of guys from the club are improving well; they have been through in Inverness training with me privately.
"I've got this one girl who started at the club in Elgin and she is starting to really show progress, coming through for training in Inverness.
"There is potential for her. They just don't play enough up here because there's no league whereas in the central belt there's leagues and more clubs and more opportunities to practice."
He hopes last year's Commonwealth Games buzz encouraged people to watch the table tennis action, sparking a possible urge to take up the sport.
"The Commonwealth Games is our main event for Scotland so having that on TV and in the profile has hopefully inspired some."
Gertsen is good friends with former Elgin Academy pupil Niall Cameron who went on to play internationally and appear in the Commonwealth Games for Scotland.
"Niall's achievements show it can be done from this area with the right opportunities.
"But the aim of the club is to slowly try and keep building and try to give the players from up here as many opportunities as we can. We want to get more players from the north in the national squads and coming through the pathways of Table Tennis Scotland.
"We have had a lot of adults wanting to play and we could do with it being all year round now. There was a good response from the last time there was an article in the Northern Scot."
Gertsen lectures at Moray College, where some of the students volunteer at the club and there is now a table tennis-specific unit built into the curriculum.
He is grateful to Elgin Academy for providing the facilities for club sessions to take place each Monday from 5.30pm. Adult sessions begin in October at the same venue from 7pm, hosted by international umpire Ken Kennedy.
Youngsters able to stay on after the junior sessions when the adults start, if they want to keep on playing.
Email Stephen Gertsen on firstname.lastname@example.org to join the club or for more information.