Surrey County Life President, Ivor Montagu Award winner and coach to many international players, Mike Kercher, passed away on November 20 aged 89.

Mike was one of the most influential coaches in the south from when he first started coaching in 1957, aged 23. His original coaching took place at Tweeddale Old Boys School on Tuesday evenings and on Saturdays. There were four tables in the gym which later extended to more tables in the Junior School.

Mike’s funeral is to be held on 16th January 2024 at 1.20pm at North East Surrey Crematorium, Morden Cemetery, Lower Morden Lane, Morden SM4 4NU.

All welcome to attend, and also afterwards at the Small Hall, Banstead Methodist Church, The Drive, Banstead, Surrey SM7 1DA. Click here for more details.

Coaching supremo, Jack Carrington, spotted Mike and asked him to take his coaching badge, which he did in 1958 and Mike went on, eventually, to become an ETTA Level 4 coach. Mike was always grateful to Jack Carrington who encouraged him to pursue his coaching qualifications and skills.

Six years later and Mike was involved with coaching juniors for Surrey County Table Tennis Association where he ended up being non-playing captain for both junior and senior teams with many successes.

Over the years he coached many players who became internationals at junior and senior level. The first was junior international, Sandy Goldsmith, and Mike maintained he learnt a lot from this experience. He went on to coach senior internationals and sisters, Susan and Linda Howard, and also Martin Shuttle, Max Crimmins, Darren Blake and Nicky Mason, all England senior internationals, and David Hannah the Scottish international.

Mike also coached at the ‘Guinness School of Sport’ at Crystal Palace and at the Littlehampton Table Tennis Camps, the latter co-ordinated with the Reverend Bernard Rowley. In the early years, players and coaches stayed in tents, later they moved into the convent to sleep. Other top coaches – Jane Barella, David Fairholm, Peter Hirst and Gail McCulloch (later Johns) – also worked at these camps.

Mike would drive players around the tournament circuit and helped them with their player profiles, seasonal planning and review. His coaching policy was to ask open questions and encourage players to coach themselves and work out how to adjust and improve their techniques. This resulted in the players thinking for themselves at an early age which helped them improve quicker with their own understanding.

Mike’s work and knowledge resulted in being appointed the London Regional Assistant Coach from 1992-94 and England Junior Captain from 1978-80. Mike’s value was recognised, also, by being on several ETTA Committees – Selection Committee Member 1977-87, Ranking Panel Member 1980-84, Member of the Coaching Technical Sub-Committee and numerous roles on the National Coaching & Schools Committee including Chairman of several Regional Committees.

A member of the Surrey County Committee for many years, Mike was mainly involved with coaching although he was also their Press Officer for a while. He was awarded the honour of Life Member in 1985 and became Life President in 2008.

Mike Kercher with a young Darius Knight at the South of England Junior Open in November 2001

The Carshalton Youth League benefitted by Mike’s presence and he was secretary there for several years as well as being their ETTA representative. He was also secretary of the Sutton Youth League.

Rosehill Table Tennis Club reaped the benefits of Mike’s coaching skills for many years and he was still coaching there until July of this year, sharing his knowledge and mentoring and supporting the coaches. He was their Chairman until 2020 and also their President.

Although coaching was Mike’s passion he gained some notable successes as a player, winning the Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles and Mixed Doubles in the London Breweries Championships in the 1960s and at the Surrey Closed, one of the strongest counties in England, he won the Men’s Doubles with Peter Brennan, the Mixed Doubles with Susan Tame and was runner-up in the Veterans Singles.

The ETTA fittingly honoured Mike with the Ivor Montagu Award in 1985 “In recognition of his services to the National Selection Committee and his work in connection with the England team clothing”.

Jane Barella was one of the Surrey players who Mike coached and she in turn became a top coach and so Mike’s legacy is passed on through Jane. She says of Mike: “Mike will be missed enormously. He touched lots of lives from eight years to 88 years old.

“He would share his stories, experiences and encourage young players to focus on what they wanted to achieve from their table tennis.

“My own coaching skills had a huge head start as Mike always coached by getting players thinking and working things out for themselves ie open questions and being their own coach.

“Thank you, Mike, for sharing your experiences and knowledge”.

Our condolences to all who knew Mike and with grateful thanks to him for all his dedicated work from which so many benefitted.