Interview With Tim Holtam
Tim Holtam is the lead coach and developer within Brighton City TTC. He took time out to tell us about his brand of ping pong evangelism, how he once scalped big names like Knight and Bryant, and why he sometimes wears a dress
So Tim, how long have you been playing table tennis?
I started in the local youth centre on the Isle of Dogs, East London aged 7 in 1991.
What got you started playing?
There was a really great coach called Laurie Laken who used to always have mini Mars bars for us to aim at and win.
What style of play have you got?
Shakehands offensive. I used to have really good footwork and no backhand but in my old age I have had to develop one.
What blade/rubbers do you use?
Butterfly Tenergy 05 Rubbers on a Nittaku Acoustic Blade.
What’s your best shot?
What’s your weakest shot?
I don't have any weaknesses
I think you might take some ribbing for that one!
What’s your temperament like on the table?
Any pet peeves about table tennis?
No. I love everything about it. I love the fact that you can play aged 3 - 103!
Who are your favourite professional players – past and present?
I never really used to watch professional players. Now with YouTube and internet access it is much easier, and a great coaching tool.
I suppose Michael Maze, as my mum is also Danish so there's a connection.
What changes would you make to make table tennis more successful in this country?
1. Make local leagues more accessible to young players. (ie. not play on one table and finish at 11pm on a school night!)
2. Get more girls involved!
Why do you like playing table tennis so much?
I like the sound it makes.
There’s not a lot to say to that one
Besides playing what else do you do in the game?
I set up Brighton City TTC in February 2007 and I can honestly say it has been one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done. Managing a club has opened so many doors for me and I have met so many new and interesting people. I can't imagine what my life would be like without the ping pong club to have to go to every Friday evening. It sets up my weekend perfectly.
What are your ambitions for developing your club Brighton City TTC?
I really enjoy seeing the positive impact table tennis has on youngsters that have ADHD and other behavioural issues. Ping pong was definitely my saviour when I was in year 8/9 and needed a focus in life. Personally, I would like to become more involved with local pupil referral units, special schools and young offenders institutes - I find working with these young people to be most rewarding.
I truly believe that there are no limits to what table tennis can achieve.
You’ve just been awarded some funding recently – what’s that for?
Sport England Small Grants have just awarded Patcham School a grant for the “TT 4 All" project it submitted in partnership with Brighton City TTC. The money will be invested in new equipment, outdoor indestructible tables, the training of coaches, work with the local feeder schools and the development of our wonderful game around Patcham and Brighton City.
Watch this space!
What’s your best ever win?
Beating Darius Knight after being 20-10 down in the final game. (He was 9 years old at the time...)
He doesn't like me reminding people but I regularly used to beat Craig Bryant when we were both cadets. (Before he learnt to serve like that..)
OK, Tim we’ll make sure that fact gets noticed for Craig’s enjoyment
Somebody told me you won some kind of dress last year for your table tennis exploits. Pray tell.
Brighton and Hove Council put on a Table Tennis event as part of the White Night Celebrations at Halloween. Over 1500 people played all night at the back of Pavilion Gardens- we put on a kids tournament, a zombie competition and in the main event I beat Wen Wei Xu in the final. A local artist had been commissioned to make a crown, cape and staff- all made out of table tennis bats, nets and flashing LED lights.
Just the sort of thing Ping Pong needs to be getting more involved with! It was a massive success and we are hoping to expand it this year.
What other sports are you interested in?
Cycling, swimming, tennis, badminton, racketlon (something Marc Burman introduced me to), cricket and football.
Who’s been the biggest influence on your table tennis career?
Initially, Laurie Laken on the Isle of Dogs for getting me started and then the legendary Mr Jon Kaufman of Progress TTC when based at Willesden High School. He still acts as a mentor to this day and it is a tribute to his fantastic energy and personality how many old Progress Juniors are running their own clubs across the country - myself, Eli Bararty, Bhavin Savjhani, Ashley Stokes, Jason Sugrue and Vidal Graham to name just a few.
What job do you do?
I am just coming to the end of my teacher training year, based at Patcham High School Brighton. I am a teacher of Life Skills (PSHE, Citizenship, RE and Philosophy). I got into teaching through table tennis coaching and have just managed to secure my dream job for next season that involves 3 days a week teaching in the classroom and 2 days a week playing with my (ping pong) balls!
What motivates you to do all the coaching and development work you do?
I really enjoy introducing young people to table tennis and motivating them to want to be the best at a sport that has been so good to me. I would call myself a ping pong evangelist.
Thanks for your time Tim and keep up the good work in moving the sport forward in Brighton.