Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Man in the Driver Seat for Oceania Table Tennis

I was fortunate enough to snap up an opportunity to interview Oceania Development Officer Scott Houston after his recent success in organising the Oceania Cup event in Adelaide, Australia. I was interested to go behind the scenes with the development of Table Tennis in Oceania. Thanks again Scott, hope you readers enjoy!

Full Name: Scott Houston
Date of Birth: 10th May 1984
Nation Represented: Australia
Highest World Ranking: Not high enough!!

Scott Houston in his element at a high school in Wallis and Futuna

Equipment Used?

Blade: Donic Waldner Senso V1
FH Rubber: Donic Coppa Speed 2.1mm
BH Rubber: Donic JO Gold 2.0mm


Your Career

How long have you been playing table tennis for, when and how did you start?
I started to play when I was 14 years old through my local club. As time progressed I began to take table tennis more seriously and I got to a stage where I was training every day and looking to achieve goals. I stopped playing professionally at the end of 2008 when I was 24 years old as I started working as the Oceania Development Officer for ITTF-Oceania.

What was the highlight of your table tennis career as a player?
Winning the Oceania Championship in Men’s Doubles with Chamara Fernando in 2008 at the Oceania Championships in Tahiti.

What made you get involved in your current role as Oceania Development Officer?
The opportunity arose at the end of 2008 when the position became available. After being interviewed for the job I was told that I could have the job if I wanted it. At the time I was living in Austria where I was playing for a professional team, TI Sparkasse Innsbruck. I then had to make a decision as to what to do with my table tennis life – if I took the job I would effectively end my professional playing career and close the door on my aspirations of qualifying for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2012 Olympic Games. If I didn’t take the job I would effectively lose the chance to make a long term career out of table tennis. It was a very hard choice at the time, but I have never regretted taking up the role of Oceania Development Officer, I think it gives me a much greater chance to make an impact in the sport than what I would have otherwise had as an athlete.

We have seen the huge efforts you have put into organising our continental events, how rewarding has it been to see the hard work pay off?
When I started the role as Oceania Development Officer I didn’t really know what to expect. Fortunately though I have been lucky enough to be guided and mentored by Glenn Tepper, ITTF Executive Director of Development, for all the purely developmental work and by Steve Dainton, ITTF Marketing Director, for all the TV and marketing work. Both Glenn and Steve have showed me the ropes but also allowed me enough space to work on some ideas of my own. I think this combination has been the key to the expansion and growth that has been achieved over the past 2.5 years.

What do you think is vital for Oceania's development in the next year or two?
The LIEBHERR 2011 ITTF-Oceania Cup was just played in Adelaide, Australia at the end of July. This event set a new bench mark for the presentation and marketability of Oceania events. It is my belief that we must continue to strive to improve our events and provide the Oceania countries with opportunities to participate on the international stage. The next event will be the 2012 Oceania Olympic Qualification event and following this the 2012 ITTF-Oceania Championships and the 2012 ITTF-Oceania Cup.

On top of this the developing Oceania countries must look to continue to develop in all areas and the more established Oceania countries must look for ways to become more sustainable.

If all of the above can continue I believe that Oceania can begin to close the gaps with the other continents.

In your role you get to travel quite a bit, which has been your most enjoyable trip so far and do you have a favourite destination in Oceania?
I have been fortunate enough to travel to 21 out of 24 Oceania countries/territories to date. From the more developed Oceania countries/territories Guam would have to be my favourite and from the less developed countries/territories Kiribati is at the very top. One place that I haven’t had the chance to visit but is said to be amazing in Tuvalu, hopefully an opportunity will arise in the future either for work or holidays for me to go there.


Off the Topic Questions

Who’s your favourite sportsperson of all time?
Steve Waugh – he always performed at his best when the team needed it the most.

Favourite food?
Red hot pot from Sichuan province in China

What do you do when you aren't playing/working?

Relax with friends, watch movies, play other sports such as golf, cricket, 8-ball or 10 pin bowling.

Dream Car?
Honda S2000 or BNW M5

Ideal holiday destination?
Greek Islands or Bora Bora in French Polynesia

First thing you would do if you won $1million?
Upgrade my house and car


Your Team Mates (from your time playing)?

I was lucky enough to play professionally in Germany and Austria, and I also represented a team in China as well. Additionally I played 7 years in the South Australian Men’s Team, a few times in the Australian Men’s Team and a few times in the Australian Junior Teams as well. Out of all of the teams I have played for probably the most famous/well known player is William Henzell – we played in the South Australian Men’s Team every year at the Australian Championships.

Who’s the funniest player in the training hall?
When I was playing professionally in Austria we had a very good team spirit. We would always be laughing and having a good time before and after training, but we knew when to switch on when it was time for training as well.

Who trains the hardest in the training hall?William Henzell – he makes every ball count at all times. Another hard trainer is Krisztian Gardos (older brother of Austrian National Team Member Robert Gardos), he was in my club in Austria and always led by example.

Who’s the funniest team player?
Chamara Fernando always made us laugh with his intensity. There was never a dull moment when he was on the table.


And Lastly
Would you like to add one last tip, or an inspirational message for the Oceania Table Tennis Community?
We need each and every person to strive to improve all aspects of table tennis on a daily basis. The improvement of table tennis in Oceania can’t come from the ITTF or ITTF-Oceania alone – it has to come from each National Association, State/Province/District Association, Club, Coach, player, parent, and everyone else. If everyone is working towards a common goal one day I believe that an Oceania player can win a medal at the Olympic Games and World Championships.


Thanks for taking the time Scott, congratulations on your achievements so far in gaining a reputation as arguably the most enthusiastic and successful Oceania Development Officer there has ever been. Wish you all the best in carrying Oceania forwards!


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