Coach Corner

An Interview with Helmut HamplFrom Butterfly News

Without doubt: Helmut Hampl is one of the greatest in the branch. He turned his hobby into his profession at the age of 28. Outstanding success, which was not possible for him as a player in the Bundesliga, happened to him as a coach. In Germany the now 52-years old was elected Coach of the Year in 1997 and 2002 by the Members of the Federation of German Table Tennis Coaches (VDTT). And if measured objectively he might have won the election even more often. He is not only discoverer and supporter of Jörg Roßkopf and Timo Boll, the two greatest Table Tennis players since the era of Eberhard Schöler. For 25 years he now is Head Coach of the Hessian Table Tennis Federation and together with his coaches team has developed and improved a system of sighting and promotion, which can be considered most successful in Germany. The model of the TTV RE-BAU Gönnern as well is unique in the country, for it is based on the initial idea of the cooperation of the Hessian Federation with a Hessian club to play 1.Bundesliga with as many Hessian players as possible to prevent them from leaving to other federations. One of them was and is Timo Boll. Not only he has profited from this model, but the club as well, which has sensationally won the European Cham-pions League.

In this series of interviews Helmut Hampl, advisor for Butterfly since 1997, will give a deeper insight into his life in Table Tennis.

His club coach made him a coach: „... actually I wanted to continue playing“
Mr. Hampl, you are surely one of the most successful German Coaches, if not the most successful. You are considered discoverer of Jörg Roßkopf and Timo Boll. Many other German Top players have gone through your schooling. Recently you have sensationally won the Champions League with the TTV Gönnern against the Belgium favourite Royal Vilette Charleroi. Table Tennis is your life. How did it come to this?

Up to the age of 28 I played 1.Bundesliga myself. At the TTC Mörfelden I had a coach, which was Sports Director of the Hessian Table Tennis Federation at the same time. And at the same time the federation was looking for a head coach. He motivated me to make the Coaches A-Level, but I wanted to continue playing. For a joke I asked him, if he wanted to get rid of me. He said no, for he had actually meant, I had the capabilities to become a good coach. So I made the coaching diploma and now I’m Coach for the HTTV for 25 years. On the 1 st of January I had my anniversary.

So with 28 you abruptly terminated your career as a player to become coach?

First the HTTV set up the model „FTG Frankfurt“, where I was supposed to lead young talents as playing coach. There were Jörg Roßkopf, Thomas Roßkopf, Hans-Jürgen Fischer, Jörg Windirsch, Torsten Kirchherr. We have managed this for two years and got promoted into the 1.Bundesliga, but we couldn’t play there for the financial base wasn’t given. We grew faster in terms of sports than in terms of business. This ended the project. Jörg Roßkopf was 16 at the time and needed to play 1.Bundesliga. In spite of his contract with the FTG he was released to go to Düsseldorf.

Mr. Hampl, you are considered a talent discoverer. The Federation of German Table Tennis Coaches has made you Coach of the Year for this. You named some well known German players, which went through the Hessian promotion system. The Hessian Timo Boll is another one. Why does Hessia bring out that many good players?

Of course it’s a little luck. But it’s a fact, that from the beginning on we have put an emphasis on our sighting system. Until today we constantly work to improve it. And in the future we still will do anything to optimize it. All our top players went through this system. Besides we have outstanding training possibilities in our training base in Frankfurt, which at the same time is federal- and Olympic base as well. We can train every day. And – as far as I know – we are the only federation, which offers basic-, top- and professional training together in one base.

At which age do talents start with you? It depends – sometimes at eight, sometimes at nine or ten years.

Is a follower for Timo Boll in sight?

We have a very talented B-cadet, Patrick Franziska, who already is No.11 in Europe.

Besides your engagement as Hessian head coach you have been head coach of the TTV RE-BAU Gönnern as well. How can these two jobs be combined?

Twelve, thirteen years ago there was the situation, that there was no 1.Bundesliga club in Hessia at the men. The young top players left the federation latest when becoming senior. The leadership of the federation ordered me to look for a club willing to cooperate with the federation to play Bundesliga in the long run. By chance I met Torsten Märte, which club Gönnern played third league. Mr. Märte has already been well known for his management qualities at that time. So we set together and decided to test this model. The philosophy was to play with as many Hessian players as possible. In the first year we got promoted to 2.Bundes-liga. At the same time Timo Boll was contracted at the age of 13. He started on position 5 and we got promoted into the 1.Bundesliga. Timo became European Cadet Champion in this year and we decided to put him on position 4 at the age of 14. For this we have contracted Hans-Jürgen Fischer, an „old“ Hessian talent on three and Dany Heister and Xu Zengcai for the top two.

You said Timo was aged 14. He had to go to school, hadn’t he? And his hometown Höchst in the Odenwald is almost 200 kilometres away from Gönnern. How did you solve this problem?

Timo had to go to school for another two years till his 16 th birthday and for this we transferred the complete Bundesliga-training to Timo’s hometown Höchst. We wanted to give him the option of training as professionally as possible at the age of 14, without neglecting his educational duties. It worked out best. We trained twice a day. The school was very cooperative regarding schedule and days off. It was fruitful. In the first year we were underdog No.1 in the 1.Bundesliga and finally made a sensational 6 th rank. By the way, this was the season with twelve teams and four teams going down, for the league was reduced to ten in the year after. From that time on it was constantly going up. The next year we already became German Cup Winner.