Beechmont Community Center: a hub for table tennis in Louisville

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By Walter Munday
Outreach Manager
e-mail Walter

Louisville is the home of many state champions. Most notable are those who’ve performed on the basketball court, in the boxing ring, or the baseball/football fields. But we’d like to recognize some other local champions and award winners. Louisville Metro Parks & Recreation is proud to recognize John Allen, Lewis Klien, William Hart, Shirin Rafizadeh, Jack Allen, Raymond Ho, Mark Meade, Jimmy Khong, Yao Chen, and Yueling Zhang. These are the TTCL medal winners from this year’s Kentucky Bluegrass State Games in July who participate at the Beechmont Community Center in South Louisville.

Table Tennis is just one of many events which take place at the Bluegrass State Games, which was designed to provide Kentuckians of all ages and skill levels a wholesome avenue for positive and healthy development through sports and physical activity, while promoting and developing amateur athletics to provide the amateur athlete an opportunity to showcase his/her talent and receive statewide recognition.

Kevin Kinney, Recreation Supervisor, Beechmont Community Center, invited me out to meet some of the players, and take a few pictures.   Beechmont is the hub for the Table Tennis Club of Louisville (TTCL). Beechmont, through TTCL, offers table tennis matches at the center.

“The cultural diversity and intergenerational aspects of the Beechmont Community Center table tennis program is amazing,” said Kinney.

Raymond Ho is one of the Bluegrass State Games Table Tennis Medal Winners. On Tuesday, after winning his first match against a much younger competitor at the center, he laughingly joked,

“These are the young guys up here. I’m moving down to the other end of the room to play in my age group.”

I said, “But you won.” He replied, “Yeah, I’m usually good for one win with the young guys.”

Ray said the reason why he loves Table Tennis is because age doesn’t matter.   You can be eight 8 or 80, and still play. And Ray was right. On the other end of the room playing doubles was gentleman Nick (pictured in the blue shirt below), who is 81 years old.

“There are sports where participants excel at a young age, such as gymnastics and swimming. And there are sports where participants can still compete at the highest level when past peak physical age, such as golf, archery and lawn bowls. But there aren’t many sports (if any) where it’s possible for an 11-year-old to get to the final of world event one month and a 52-year-old to win a tour title the next month,” said Tom Lodziak, a table tennis coach, player and blogger based in Cambridge, England.

“So table tennis truly is an intergenerational sport. You can start at any age, either playing for fun or playing competitively. And the best bit? It’s a sport you can play all your life.”

So…I asked Ray (pictured in the red shirt, below left) that one question that many of us non-table tennis players have always wondered about.

“What is the difference between Table Tennis and Ping Pong.”table-tennis-1

Ray said nothing really other than the name.  So, I checked in with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) for clarification. As I read through their history, what I learned is that the first use of the name “Table Tennis” appeared on a board and dice game made by J.H.Singer in New York in 1887, showing that the phrase “table tennis” had been around at least since then.

When the game started in the 1890s, various patented or trademarked names were being used by different manufacturers. So when the English sports company John Jaques & Son became the market leader in the 1920s with their version of the game called “Ping Pong”, they decided that they would only allow their trademarked name to be used. On the 12th December 1901, “The Table Tennis Association” was formed in England, and four days later, “The Ping-Pong Association” was also formed. These two associations would later merge in 1903 to become “The United Table Tennis and Ping-Pong Association”, and then would eventually change back to “The Table Tennis Association” before dying out in 1904.

On the other side of the ocean, the American rights were sold to Parker Brothers. As more and more ping pong tournaments were now being organized, The Parker Brothers also threatened legal action against anybody who used their proprietary trademarked name of Ping Pong without specifying the use of their equipment. Therefore an alternative name was required for this sport and the name Table Tennis was chosen. So, since that time, and particularly since the establishment of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) in 1926, the modern game has been known as table tennis.

If you’re interested in learning more about Table Tennis, stop by the Beechmont Community Center located at 205 Wellington Avenue off of South 3rd Street.   Table Tennis is offer on Tuesdays (4 – 8:30pm), Wednesdays (11 am – 2 pm), Thursdays (4 – 8:30 pm) and Saturdays (10 am – 2 pm).

“To see people from all walks of life and backgrounds coming together with a mutual interest and different skill levels to play a friendly, but completive game is truly what makes a community a community.  Louisville needs more programs like this,” said Kinney.

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