Interview with Helmut Hampl*
You accompanied Timo Boll from an early age to No. 1 in the world. What kind of relationship is that?
The media often claimed that I am his father. I am not, I do not want to be. I think we have an incredible relationship of trust, together with Jörg Roßkopf. Nevertheless the respect between coach and player has to be there. Otherwise it would probably not work so well. If you have known each other, worked together for such a long time and spent five to six hours training every day, the players sometimes entrust me with things outside of sports. You’re a consultant on life issues – that’s part of it. But the boys know that training and competing is different from a meeting for dinner in the evening. These are two pairs of shoes.
The German Table Tennis Federation (DTTB) today has 700,000 members. How do you see the public appreciation of your sport ?
You have to look at table tennis with various factors. Table tennis is important in Germany, but it is one of the biggest sports in Asia. In China, table tennis is No. 1. There, Timo Boll and Jörg Roßkopf are top stars, real media stars. When Timo gets off a plane in China and goes to passport control, people shout „Mr. Boll, Mr. Boll“. If he plays in China, he needs police protection. There are crowds of people, you can’t really imagine that here. And many people in Germany know him. In the Top 100 Germans, he was ranked 32nd. Athletes with a larger media presence were far behind him. Jörg Roßkopf also ended up in the top 100. But when you see the two of them training here, young players, the 13-14 year olds, have no fear to contact them. They greet the top player Boll with „Hallo Timo“ and then they clap. The relationship is good, b I because I have always placed great emphasis on not creating a star cult.
How do you assess the level of professionalism in table tennis ?
Very high. Table tennis is very training intensive and a highly technical sport. It is punished to sling and not to work technically. Sure, there are also individualists – birds of paradise – but they will never arrive at the top. In addition, the body has to withstand physical strain in our sport and besides the actual table tennis training we do a lot of strength and endurance training. A day for a player like Timo Boll or Jörg Roßkopf is an 8 or 9 hour day.
What is the starting age in competitive table tennis and how long does a career last?
That varies individually. Timo Boll started at 10 years old. And Jörg Roßkopf is still playing at 35. A lot depends on the body and the game system. A player who is flexible, i.e. can play passively and actively will certainly be able to play longer than someone who can only play actively. A career won’t last that long with that.
Helmut Hampl followed his players Timo Boll and Jörg Roßkopf as head coach DTTZ (German Table Tennis Center) of the DTTB in Düsseldorf. There he oversees the successful young players of the DTTB. Patrick Franziska is also one of the Hessian table tennis players from the talent factory Hampl.