September 13, 2012

Tokelau, a non-self governing territory of New Zealand, is made up of three atolls, situated 500km north of Samoa. The combined population between the three atolls is 1,500 and has a total area of less than 12km2.

The International Table Tennis Federation became the first international sporting body to visit Tokelau in 2010 when Scott Houston made a maiden voyage to introduce Table Tennis. In 2012 the ITTF made a second visit, this time to further the work performed in 2010 and to further establish Table Tennis as a sport within Tokelau by providing Coach Education which will enable the sport to prosper.

A Dream Building with Double Happiness Development Visit was undertaken from 20 August – 8 September 2012.

Not only is Tokelau one of the smallest territories in the world, it is most often considered the hardest place to reach in the world. In 2012 Michael Brown, took no less than 3 flights from Melbourne, Australia, to reach Apia, Samoa and from there it was a staggering 58-hour boat ride! To the northern most atoll, Atafu. (The return boat trip was only 40 hours!)

An ITTF-PTT Level 1 Coaching Course was planned for the duration of the visit, with enough time to undertake the five hours of supervised coaching. Unfortunately there were changes to the schedule that did not allow the PTT section of the course to take place. However, the course attracted five participants who all successfully met the requirements to become ITTF Level 1 Coaches, upon completion of a further 25 hours coaching.

The final session of the ITTF Level 1 Coaching Course is to conduct a series of competitions for the other participants in the course, due to the low number of participants, the competition was open to all, and a great turnout saw no less than 22 competitors, and an astonishing 60 spectators. What makes these numbers significant is that the population of Atafu during the course was 474, therefore 1% of the population participated in the coaching course, just under 5% participated in the competition and over 10% were spectators during the competition! The competition was a huge success with several participants already calling for the next competition to be held. The newly trained coaches are now in the position to conduct further competitions for the village of Atafu, and with increased competitions, it is expected an increased amount of coaching opportunities with Tokelau looking to make their international debut at the 2015 Pacific Games in Papua New Guinea!

During the final day of the course there were several events happening on island as the village prepared for two weddings the following day, and with New Zealand Government visitors assisting with environmental sustainability. The day quickly changed once one of the brides for the wedding the following day became ill and was required to board the boat departing that day to reach the hospital in Samoa, therefore the wedding was held within hours and the happy new couple were able to board the boat with the rest of us and make it to the Samoan Hospital in time – not the wedding day most people would be dreaming of!

With the support provided by Double Happiness, and the ITTF Development Program, there are five new Dream Builder’s in Tokelau in the form of coaches!