He was victorious in the Under 21 Men's Singles at last year's US Open, and now Michael Tran is pursuing his goals to be a professional player even further by relocating to Germany for the next season of the league. Tran will move to join Kanak Jha and Nick Tio, along with Kai Zhang, to live and train full time in Grenzau, one of Germany's top spots.
Last season Tran received many good impressions from his warm welcome at home club SV Union Velbert, a club which has asked Tran to return for next season as a full-time player in a higher capacity in its 3rd division team after he went there twice last season.
"I think going to Germany was a very great learning experience and will be a perfect opportunity in the future for my development in table tennis. Last time I was there I was able to learn more, not only about table tennis, but about being independent and away from home.
I had a lot of help and guidance from the likes of my experienced teammates Lars Hielscher, Patrick Klos, Thomas Brosig and Adrian Dodean. They gave me a lot of feedback on my game and helped prepared me for my team matches.
I also had the chance to visit and train in Grenzau with Kanak, Nick and other top players. The training environnment was very intense and high level, but also a lot of fun. Coach Dirk Wagner was very dedicated to helping me train to become a better player. Overall in my last season's matches I performed a lot better than I expected and won some matches that I'm still surprised about." - Michael Tran, US National Team.
For Michael's parents, this is an opportunity they are happy to support for their son.
"Once you leave your own home you learn. We still believe that school is an important part of the learning process, but leaving to Germany is an opportunity to learn both in sport and in life skills. Some would consider taking this gap year as a sacrifice, but we believe that if you view these things as important to do in your life then this time is not considered sacrificed," says Michael's father, Hoang.
"There are a lot of financial restraints involved, and we thought a lot about what the best option would be to help Michael's development. We thought about China as an option as they are world leaders in table tennis, but this requires a lot of concentrated effort right at an early age. Michael is already 16 and that method of training, day and night, could certainly be considered a sacrifice. This is where other parents are struggling to make decisions."
With other players basing themselves in Germany, arranged by USATT High Performance Director Joerg Bitzigeio, and showing marked progress, they saw this as a good pathway to capitalize off what he has learned in the USA over the years and continue to gain knowledge, skill and experience.
"Thanks to help from Joerg and his connections with clubs in Germany, he has been able to help provide a club - SV Union Velbert, which offers to completely cover the cost of hospitality and training Grenzau, plus competition for the club itself. This is a big advantage for families with limited financial resources."
Compared to the expenses the player’s families like the Trans have in the US per year, it’s easily up to 20-30k for comparably way less training hours and competitive opportunities, money which they now can save, this is a huge step forward that USATT’s involvement and support makes possible, sporting and financially.
No doubt a full-time training and competition schedule in one of the world's best developed table tennis nations will provide Michael with more skills to continue improving his game.
Tran is very much looking forward to making the full-time commitment and returning in August to both Grenzau and his team at SV Union Velbert.
"I'm really looking forward to pushing myself even harder in the great practice environment. I expect that on my return to Germany I will be able to meet, compete and learn with a plethora of foreign players, as well as having the comfort of a few friendly American faces too."
Michael's younger brother Daniel, who just days ago followed in his footsteps by winning the ITTF North American Hopes Challenge, has also been signed with SV Union Velbert for their 6th division team, where he will compete when visiting.
We will be following their results and watching their progress intently!