Dusseldorf Duo Reflect on German Experience (Part 2)
In this 2nd part Danny Bajwa of Dumfries TTC looks back on his time in Germany and what he’s learnt from it.
It should be noted that Scottish players benefitting from time spent in Germany is not unprecedented. 4 times national champion Bert Kerr (believed that his time playing in Germany in 1955-6 really brought his game on. While on National Service (at RAF Wildenrath) Bert played 2 seasons for RSV (Rheydter Spielverein), then one of West Germany’s strongest clubs.
Kerr played no. 4 in a team with ‘some very strong players’ including the Schöler brothers (Eberhard Schöler’s older brothers) in the German Oberliga West (the predecessor of the Bundesliga). Under RSV’s influence Kerr developed the defensive elements of his game (in his youth he was noted for his forehand-dominated attacking play: ‘originally I was a forehand hitter’). At Gambit TTC (in Edinburgh)- he was taught to play an all-round game but at RSV ‘they could see I could defend well..my orders from the team captain were mainly to defend and just hit the odd ball’.
Interview with Danny Bajwa.
- Where are you at the moment- back with your family? Yes , I came home around two weeks ago due to covid-19! Unfortunately our year was cut short.
- How are you keeping active during this time? Are you able to do anything to work on your TT skills? Due to lockdown I have not been able to pick up a bat ! I’m still trying to keep active which involves either going for a run or just doing some work in my house !
- Where did you been stay in Germany- with a family? We were staying with our coach ! He had a flat above us and that is where we were staying. We stayed in a city called Neuss which is around 35 minutes by tram and bus to the TT centre.
- How did you keep up your education/ schoolwork in Germany? This year was almost like a gap year for me, I took this opportunity due to being successful enough in my exams to take this chance to go play full time table tennis.
- How’s your German? Not great, Martin and me both found it difficult to learn! Most of the time we could understand the conversations but most of our teammates wanted to improve their English so we were mostly speaking in English!
- What things did you find difficult to adjust to in Germany?- It was a total change to living in Scotland, living away from home etc. At first it was difficult to adjust to a big city where we were taking public transport to training. At first we had to be proper focused on making sure we were on the right tram and things but after a few weeks we could direct ourselves around most places in the city no problem. Shopping for food was also a problem as it’s different with everything in German so we had to use Google translate a couple of times to make sure we were picking up the right stuff!
- What was your typical day like?- how many hours training and what’s the balance between fitness work and on table practice?
Monday to Thursday we would train with the international boarding school in the afternoon which consists of some of the top cadets and juniors in the country and their head coach is the former head coach of the Werner Schlager Academy! With him we would do different types of physical warm-ups not just jogging to start the session then also physical to end the session too.
Most mornings we would train with our coach on multiball. On Fridays we would train with the Borussia club. Saturday was match day and Sunday a day off but occasionally Martin and me would train on a Sunday as well.
Some weeks also there would be national teams’ training Monday to Thursday and we would train with them, which was 3 sessions a day! The last session of the day would be only around an hour and a half consisting of service and just third ball, fun games on the table or off the table like football tennis just to relax for a bit ! Most session last around 2 and a half / 3 hours.
- Did you find it physically tough?- and mentally?
Physically at first yes. It was very tough waking up early in the mornings at like 6/7 am and getting back to the flat around 8pm was very tiring at first but it’s like anything- once you get to grips with it, it’s not too bad.
Mentally I found it very tough at times! The main struggle was living away from family and the things we are used to! I’m sure for both of us it was very helpful to have each other as on your own would mean no one to talk to!
- Is the coaching style very different to what you’ve had in Scotland? -in what ways? I would say the coaching in Germany is more in depth like I have found out a lot more about in and out movement, tactical things, and how to take half long serves better ! They also focus with the youngsters so early on getting the perfect technique, spin ups and serves, not as many matches for the really young ones and not as many fun games. A possible reason why they are a successful table tennis country.
- What were the main things you worked on in Germany? The main thing I have been working on is counterspins which has helped me a lot this season already! In and out movement and the biggest one -half longs and how to take them early as possible
- What about the matches?- what level were you playing at? How were your results?
I think we were playing 6th division of German League, which shows the standard. There are maybe around 9/10 divisions and some of them are just regional divisions! Unfortunately they cancelled the season due to the Coronavirus. We finished the league in third place and I finished on an average of 21 wins 3 losses and Martin and me finished unbeaten in doubles with 17 wins! The league varies a lot in standard but some of the top players would do well in the Scottish National League but I wouldn’t say any would beat the likes of Colin Dalgleish.
- Have you been happy with your performances in recent Scottish tournaments, such as the Scottish Nationals & Jarvis Open. I was extremely pleased with my performance at the Jarvis Edinburgh Open with my best results to date and am extremely pleased the hard work is paying off! I was disappointed with nationals but trying to take the losses and improve from this! Hopefully next season will be successful and the goal would be The Commonwealth Games which is fairly soon which makes this a tough target to achieve.
- Do you think that you will be returning to Germany? I don’t think it’s likely I will be returning for next season but who knows what the future holds! We have been told we are welcomed back whenever we like and they have also invited us to a few camps so it’s good we still have them as contacts.
- What’s next in your table tennis career? You must be keen to get back on the table asap? At the moment I’m not sure. Could be abroad or could just be training at home who knows. I think this is the longest I have gone since starting table tennis without playing so I’m dying to get back on the table but at the moment it’s just best to stay home and keep as many people safe !
- Is there one single thing you’ll take way from your time in Germany?
The one thing that I will take away from this is the life experience of living in a different country ! The main thing I learned from the table tennis aspect is that the hard work needed is incredible ! No wonder it’s tricky to become a professional in Scotland. Germany has everyone you need for a table tennis player they all have physios etc and state of the art table tennis centres!
The hard work needs to start early if you want to become a table tennis player though you need to be working before and after school and in any free time you can do something like serves etc.
- Would you recommend moving abroad to other young players in Scotland? Yes I would recommend this to young players but as long as they have a backup plan! That was the main reason I took this risk because it is important to have something to fall back on!
By Charlie Ellis
Many thanks to Martin & Danny for taking the time to answer the questions and to Gordon Muir for his comments on an earlier version of this piece and for his photo of Danny in action at the Jarvis Sports Edinburgh Open in January 2020.
June 26, 2020