Southlanders encouraged to take a swing at table tennis

16 May, 2019

Southland table tennis wants to get more people picking up a paddle.

Apologies from the get-go – the official International Table Tennis Federation parlance for the thing that you hit the ball with in table tennis is a “racket”, although that doesn’t have quite the same alliterative impact.

In Britain, “bat” is also acceptable and alliterative.

Whatever. Equipment aside, Table Tennis Southland has ambitions to get more people playing, joining an estimated 300 million others worldwide.

Table tennis sits comfortably inside most top 10 lists of world sports played or followed.

In Southland, participation numbers are less straight forward than some other sports, because there is no annual subscription fee.

And that’s great news for the 350 or so people who are currently on Table Tennis Southland’s database, and for anyone else who is thinking of playing, because it means that anyone can come along to one of several events during the week and have a hit for the same price as a cup of coffee.

Table Tennis Southland operations manager Wayne McEwan sees plenty of potential for a code which can be played by a wide range of abilities, at any time of the day and for a relatively low cost.

“We had a new family in recently who had never played – Mum, Dad and three kids. It was something they could do as a family and it’s cheap as chips,” McEwan said.

“We’ve also got people who have previously been involved in table tennis and are starting to come back. Like all sports, we would love more numbers. There are some cool plans for supporting those kids who want to go further in the game.”

Southland table tennis is making an impact on the national scene, with players taking advantage of pathways through to New Zealand teams.

“Five of our juniors were named in New Zealand squads, and from there two of them went on to be selected for New Zealand teams, which has never been done down here before,” McEwan said.

“Our veteran players recently came back from the New Zealand championships with a haul of medals. We’ve got a dedicated schools co-ordinator, whose only focus is school table tennis and our high school numbers are bigger than ever before; we are going to have a full stadium. We’ve got some really good primary school kids who are moving up to high school level.”

The level of play in the schools category has become so competitive that McEwan would have difficulty predicting winners across the grades.

For those interested, club nights are held on Mondays and Tuesdays, from 7pm to 9pm, and anyone is welcome, as are any groups who want to make use of the stadium.

Social sessions are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 12pm, with a cuppa sometime in the middle, for those who find it easier to make it during the day. This option has proved to be increasingly popular, with two more tables recently added to accommodate numbers.

Thursday nights are generally for competitions and the weekends are for tournaments, but those with a key card can access the stadium at any time of the day, something which could be appealing to shift workers and SIT students.

Community Trust South and Invercargill Licensing Trust funding has enabled a recent upgrade of some of the amenities at the stadium on Lindisfarne St.

“We are really well set up for families and individuals who just want to have a hit,” McEwan said.

“It’s an indoor sport that the whole family can take part in.”