Cooke & Deaton Table Tennis - How it all began!
How it all began
After spending numerous years collaborating as the dynamic "Player and Coach" duo, Nicola Deaton and Alan Cooke reached a mutual decision to extend their shared Passion, Knowledge, and Experience in Table Tennis to a broader audience.
Our Cooke & Deaton Table Tennis journey began in the year 2000 when we organised the first Summer training camp at Grantham College. Despite the initial modest group of around 24 participants, players traveled from various parts of the British Isles. This initiative swiftly evolved, transforming into a second week with larger groups and additional coaches to provide support.
In the initial years, we continuously introduced modifications to tailor the experience for participants, both on and off the table, ensuring it met their specific needs. Over time, subtle adjustments have been made, and although the formula has evolved, it has been widely embraced by our participants.
Our Summer School now comfortably fills both weeks and now also draws an international crowd, attracting participants from various countries, including France, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, the USA, and even as far as Australia. The course is great for individuals of different age groups, offering exceptional content and high-quality training. Many of our players have achieved remarkable standards, with notable examples like Liam Pitchford and Tom Jarvis, who early in their careers stayed and trained with us at the Cooke & Deaton Summer School.
We've been fortunate to host renowned player/coaches such as Paul Drinkhall, Sam Walker, Gavin Evans, and our very own Kelly Sibley, who along with our regular high performance coaches have done, and continue to do, an amazing job. They not only provide technical and tactical guidance but also share their valuable experiences with participants during the evening and more relaxed social sessions.
Cooke and Deaton take pride not only in the quality of Table Tennis but also in our friendly approach and the ability to connect with people. Whether young or old, beginner or advanced, the Summer School has proven to be a success for all, boasting a 60% plus return rate and typically reaching full capacity early into the New Year. We are expanding our horizons, venturing into new Table Tennis experiences, aiming to allow others to partake in the exciting and inspiring moments that shaped our own successful careers.
Alan’s Table Tennis History
I first picked up a Table Tennis bat at the age of 10 while attending Primary School in Holmgate, near Chesterfield. Interestingly, my introduction to the sport came courtesy of Nicola's dad, Colin Deaton, via an exhibition at my school. This sparked an immediate passion for Table Tennis that continues to thrive within me today!
Shortly before my 17th birthday, I earned the opportunity to represent England at both Junior and Senior Levels, thanks to substantial improvements in my performance under the guidance of my lifelong coach and mentor, Derrick Marples. At 19, I relocated to Sweden (first in Falkenberg and later in Malmö), where my rapid development continued.
I reached the last 16 in the World Championships Singles in New Delhi and secured my first National Singles Title at the age of 21, defeating the legendary Desmond Douglas and preventing him from claiming his 10th consecutive title. Qualifying for Table Tennis's inaugural inclusion at the Olympic Games in Seoul 1988 became my next focus. While Yoo Nam Kyu and Kim Ki Taek took Gold and Silver in the Singles event, I had managed to defeat both of them just months earlier in the build-up to the Games at the English Open Championships.
A remarkable achievement came in 1989 when I simultaneously became English Champion, England's number 1, National Top 12 Champion, and Commonwealth Champion. Numerous other successes followed, both individually and with my National Team, alongside table tennis greats such as Desmond Douglas, Carl Prean, and Matthew Syed. Together, we won Commonwealth, European and World Team medals, as part on one of England’s greatest teams which I am proud to have been a part of.
In 1997, after the World Championships in Manchester, I decided to retire and focus on my coaching career. However, at the age of 36 and after five years without competition, I succumbed to the temptation to play once again in 2002. Focusing heavily on fitness, I went on to win three more National Singles Titles consecutively and became the World Veteran Champion in the Over 40s in Bremen. I played in various foreign leagues, including Norway (1 year), Belgium (1 year), Sweden (5 years), France (3 years), and finally Switzerland (8 years).
Having previously gained experience in the coaching world, I re-focused and devoted the following years to working with both England and Great Britain. I Captained GB Women in the London Olympic Games 2012 and GB Men in the Rio Olympic Games 2016, where we finished in 5th place. Earlier in 2016, I coached England's Men's Team to an unexpected Bronze Medal at the World Championships in Malaysia and was honored as "ITTF International Coach Of The Year" Runner Up (to the great Lui Gouliang of China) at the Star Awards in Qatar.
After dedicating my entire life to the sport, I decided to conclude my international coaching career in 2023, putting an end to the constant travel required to assist aspiring young Table Tennis players on their journey. Now, I devote my time to finding a balance between family time and golf, all while thoroughly enjoying the challenge of developing the Cooke & Deaton Table Tennis projects.
I firmly believe that none of my career successes would have been possible without the immense support from my family, lifetime coach Derrick Marples along with many others on the way.
Nicola’s Table Tennis History
I first developed an interest in playing Table Tennis at the tender age of 6. I was aboard the Cunard Cruise ship "Queen Elizabeth 2" with my parents, Sandra and Colin Deaton. They were promoting Table Tennis on the cruise liner, and many guests displayed a genuine interest in playing and improving. Intrigued, I decided to join in, and it became evident that I had a natural talent for the sport.
I continued to play, practice, and improve, fortunate to be part of the first ever English Table Tennis under 12 squad. At just 10 years old, I made my debut representing England in a match against Ireland, marking the beginning of my performance journey.
As the years went by, I became a national champion in every age group, starting from the newly established U11 category and progressing through cadet, junior, and senior levels. I represented England at all major championships within these age categories. Then, in 1989, at the age of 13 and a half, I made history by representing England senior women in a European league fixture against Sweden, earning a place in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest-ever senior female international representative.
In 1991, I participated in the Senior Commonwealth Table Tennis Federation Championships in Nairobi, winning three Commonwealth bronze medals. Following this achievement, I was honored as The Sunday Times Sports Girl of the Year.
My international journey continued, playing in the Senior Women's team at the World Championships in Stockholm in 1991. I even had to take a GCSE examination while trying to qualify from the group stage of the World Championships.
Alan became my personal coach, and under his guidance, I represented England at numerous major events, winning silver and bronze European medals at the 1994/1998 European Championships. I became England senior national champion five times and held the title of England number 1 senior women for five consecutive years. The close bond between player and coach inspired the creation of the Cooke and Deaton Summer School course, producing the biggest and best summer training opportunity for over twenty years. Alongside my sporting achievements, I pursued my academic goals and obtained a BSc degree in Psychology from the University of Nottingham. I made history as the University's first-ever Director of Table Tennis. Now, my focus is on the new expansion of Cooke and Deaton Table Tennis, and I currently work with the governing body's Futures program, training young players as they embark on their international journey.
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