By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chairman
First, Anastasiia Rybka showed off her amazing skills as a dynamic table tennis player at Texas Wesleyan University.
Coaches and teammates marveled at her abilities at tournaments on the Fort Worth campus and elsewhere. Game after game, her loops and smashes from both sides were impressive as the newcomer from the Ukraine immediately added strength to the perennial national champs.
During the 2016-17 NCTTA season, Rybka is proving to be a powerful addition to the mighty Texas Wesleyan squad as a coach. The season wraps up at the NCTTA’s 2017 championship games in Eau Claire, Wisconsin April 7-9.
A standout during her years as a Texas Wesleyan player, Jasna Rather heads the university’s table tennis program. She pours on the praise about Anastasiia’s smooth transition from player to coed team coach. Her presence at practices or during NCTTA tournaments has given the entire Rams team, both men and women, a boost. But really, her coaching career spans back to her days in the Ukraine. In 2013, she coached international athletes with hearing disabilities. In 2015, she was coaching USA para-athletes training for the Paraolympics in Rio in 2016.
“From the very beginning, Texas Wesleyan had plans to recruit Anastasiia as an athlete and coach,’’ Rather said. “We knew that her desire was to expand her knowledge in teaching styles so she can implement them in every day training and other educational assignments that she does. Anastasiia has been very valuable to the program as an athlete and as the coach.’’
Coming to Texas Wesleyan thousands of miles away from the Eastern European nation of Ukraine, Rybka also hit the books to pursue her master of education degree at Texas Wesleyan. She previously studied at the National University of Physical Education & Sport of the Ukraine.
With paddle in hand, the talented lefty easily made the switch from fabulous player to stellar coach in the Lone Star State. “She brought a fresh style into the program, which helped our growth,’’ Rather added.
That’s saying something because the Texas Wesleyan Rams squad captured a phenomenal twelve national team championships in table tennis, among many honors. Banners are hanging all over the Sid Richardson Center on the Fort Worth campus reflecting that success with many of the triumphs coming under Rather. The university is a virtual United Nations of table tennis with players from China, Brazil, Germany, the USA and many other countries.
Making the leap from player to coach seemed to be the right move for Rybka.
“Working with athletes who went to the Deaflympics changed by views on coaching,’’ Anastasiia said. “I realized what impact a coach has on athletes’ lives and their performances. From then, my goal was to become the best coach I can be and to use all possible opportunities to get great coaching training and needed experience.’’
Besides taking table tennis coaching classes and education courses, she’s been working with some pretty stellar coaches at Texas Wesleyan.
The group includes Jasna Rather, who’s in her 9th year as leader of the Texas Wesleyan University table tennis team. Then there’s Doru Gheorghe, head coach for the Rams women’s team beginning in May 2016. He is a former longtime head coach of the USA women’s national table tennis team. Another coaching heavyweight at Texas Wesleyan is Keith Evans. A native of Jamaica and former Jamaica Table Tennis Association national coach, Evans is a 20-year coaching veteran.
These role model coaches are quite an asset to have around for Anastasiia Rybka. Their teaching skills meshed well with Rybka’s qualities of hard work, patience and knowledge of the lively Olympic sport. It’s putting the table tennis standout on a path, she said, to “allow me to become one of the top coaches.’’