The British Para Table Tennis team has recruited leading international coach Matjaž Sercer to work with the athletes on its Pathway programme, underlining its commitment to producing new talent that could follow in the footsteps of Megan Shackleton, Fliss Pickard, Tom Matthews, Billy Shilton, Joshua Stacey and Martin Perry, who all progressed through the Pathway programme to the Performance squad and have gone on to represent Great Britain in major championships.
''We are delighted that Matjaž has agreed to join our coaching team," said BPTT Performance Director Gorazd Vecko. "His experience will be hugely valuable and it is all credit to the team and the success of our athletes that we have secured a coach of his calibre. It is also thanks to UK Sport and the increase in funding we received for the Paris Paralympic cycle that we are in a position to increase our coaching team. We have some very promising athletes in our Pathway, Development and Futures programmes and it will be exciting to see how they progress under Matjaž' coaching."
After winning many cadet and junior titles in his native Yugoslavia, which was then one of the strongest countries in the world in table tennis, Sercer focused on coaching from the age of 21 and studied at the University of Zagreb before moving to Italy where he coached women's teams in Trieste and Castelgoffredo, winning a number of senior titles and guiding two athletes to Olympic qualification.
While coaching at club level he was also National cadet boys coach in Slovenia from 1981-85, Italian cadet girls coach from 1989-1993, Slovenian cadet girls coach from 1994-98, when he coached 1996 European junior champion Tina Safran, and the Slovenian cadet and junior boys coach from 1998-2002. In 2015, Sercer moved to England where he coached at the Table Tennis Academy at Grantham College and the Table Tennis Academy at Ackworth School; more recently he has been working for the International Table Tennis Federation on the West Asia project in Saudi Arabia, Nepal and Uzbekistan.
"I am really excited to join the British Para table tennis team," he said. "Great Britain is one of the leading nations in Para table tennis and this is an amazing opportunity for me. I am passionate about coaching young players and helping them to achieve their potential and I am really looking forward to working with the Pathway squad and hopefully see some of them go on to represent their country at future Paralympic Games."
Sercer has already made an impression at a recent Pathway camp in Sheffield and BPTT Pathway Manager Shaun Marples is also excited about the future.
"Matjaž was excellent with the athletes at the camp in getting his coaching style across, which the athletes responded to very well. Some of the athletes are at different levels for now, which is understandable after very little training over the past 15 months due to COVID. I’m now planning a good solid training phase with Matjaž, which will put the athletes in a strong position for the domestic and international competition calendars later this year."
Matjaž Sercer - Further Information
Sercer started playing table tennis at the age of 10 in Slovenia, which was then part of Yugoslavia. He trained at the Olimpija club in Ljubljana which was one of the best in the country and trained with Istvan Korpa, Eduard Vecko and Eva Jeler who were among the best coaches in Europe. He was ranked in the top two cadets in Yugoslavia, was in the top 10 at U18 level and won many cadet and junior titles in Slovenia.
At the age of 21 he joined the Yugoslavian Division 1 club Murska Sobota as a full time coach and player and following success with players winning the Yugoslavian Junior Championship and a medal at the European Junior Championships he started to focus more on coaching, studying at the University of Zagreb to become a table tennis coach.
Sercer moved to Italy to join Club Trieste where he coached their women's first division team and in his nine years at the club they won more than 35 Italian titles. He then spent five years at Castelgoffredo where he coached the first women's team to five senior titles with two players qualifying for the Olympic Games.
In 2000 he moved to club Asola where he stayed for seven years and coached a junior boy Marco Rech Dal Dosso, who is now the best senior player in Italy, and achieved further success in Treviso where he coached Luca Marcato to win the Junior European Team Championship and several Italian titles.
In 2015 Sercer came to the UK and spent two years at Grantham College Table Tennis Academy working with players including Tom Jarvis, Emily Bolton and Callum Evans before moving to the Table Tennis Academy at Ackworth School as national cadet and junior coach.
Most recently he has worked for the ITTF on the West Asia Project in Saudi Arabia, Nepal and Uzbekistan.
1981-85 Cadet boys Slovenia
1989-93 Cadet girls Italy (Club Kras, Trieste)
1994-98 Cadet girls Slovenia
1998-2002 Cadet/junior boys Slovenia
2015–2016 Cadet boys England
2017-2019 Junior – Cadet England