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Are Adults the Real Future of Table Tennis?

Is Forty the New Ten?

By

Photo of table tennis player, Paul Pinkewich

Are veterans the wave of the future?

© 2007 Greg Letts, licensed to About.com, Inc.
Just before I get started I should mention that although the use of the term "Over 30's" has a nice ring to it, I'm really talking about working adults (or housewives / househusbands), who have settled into their careers and have the free time to spend playing table tennis, rather than having to spend it on extra study, overtime, or very young children who need extensive care. The Over 30's bracket generally fits nicely into this category, although of course there are some younger people who would have plenty of free time, and some older folks who are very busy.

Attracting Over 30's to Table Tennis

  • Get table tennis tables into workplaces. Many businesses have an area that can fit a table tennis table comfortably, and staff members can play during a lunch break, after work, or on those long Friday afternoons while waiting for the weekend to arrive.
  • When played at the casual level, staff members can play some table tennis and socialize without needing a shower afterwards, making it a time-efficient work activity, and reducing the need for shower and change room facilities.
  • With the modern fold up roller table models, the table can be set up and put away in a flash, and if a compact storage model is chosen, with a minimum of storage space required as well!
  • Make arrangements to have a list of club contacts included with any local table tennis tables that are sold. Pay a small fee for the privilege if you have to. It's advertising to a very targeted market - you know that they are interested in table tennis!
  • Make sure that those adults who do contact local clubs are welcomed with open arms. Encourage them, give them an enjoyable night's fun, and do your best to get them to come back again. These are the players who are likely to spread the word on your club's behalf to their ping-pong mates at their place of work.
  • While much talk is focused on juniors and their futures, remember that Over 30's have anywhere from 30-50 years left in the sport! That's not a bad future in table tennis by anyone's standard!
  • Also, while many juniors drop out of the sport due to various reasons, there are a lot less reasons for Over 30's to quit the sport. Possibly the most common would be getting married to a spouse that places a lot of demands on their free time, but even in this case most spouses will appreciate that table tennis is good exercise, so compromises can be made. Even changes in their work situation (such as a change in location) can be overcome, since there are table tennis clubs in many locations in the USA and around the world.
  • Another possible cause of Over 30's cutting back on their table tennis is the arrival of children into their family. This can work both ways, since sometimes the players can introduce their children to the sport, and a family sporting dynasty is born.
  • Over 30's with older children can also find table tennis a good bonding exercise, since it is something that can be done together with the family, even if family members are of different standards or keenness. Players who are parents are often more likely to view table tennis as a healthy outlet for stress during their children's big exam years, and be less likely to require their children to quit the sport.
  • Over 30's generally have more realistic expectations of their table tennis past-time. Generally, their focus is on self-improvement, rather than trying to top their country's rankings. As such, the number of adults who quit because they won't conquer the world is much less than when compared to juniors.
  • Adults also tend to appreciate the fact that table tennis is a sport that they can compete against younger players right up into their senior years. While juniors often have a wide variety of sports to choose from, it's not so common for older athletes to be able to compete directly against their younger counterparts with a good chance of success. Table tennis is one of the few sports where this is feasible for any player.
  • If you attract a junior to organized table tennis, a lot of time and money is often spent in developing the child's prowess, in the hope that he or she will become a high level player, and then stick with the sport through his or her adult years. Needless to say, that is often not the case, and the money and time spent is then wasted. In contrast, when you attract an Over 30 player, it is often the player that puts time and cash into the organization, spending money on equipment, club fees, tournaments, or coaching. These adults are also often the people who become the volunteers of the organization, bringing their time and skills into the sport for its benefit. These adults sometimes become the junior team managers and coaching assistants that help develop our junior players. Add to that the fact that fewer of these adults will leave the sport in comparison to juniors, and one may well ask which is more valuable to the sport?
  • Over 30's also have the social networks and contacts to help spread table tennis throughout their organization. Adult table tennis devotees are the enthusiastic teachers, college / university lecturers or administrators, or recreation center managers who can give table tennis a foothold in these places where children can then be attracted to the sport.
  • And finally, most adults don't need to be convinced that table tennis is "cool" in order to want to play. A huge marketing budget is not necessary to attract these players to the sport - just a bit of effort and ingenuity in making these Over 30 players aware that there are clubs that they can attend in order to get a table tennis fix against other good players, along with a bit of enjoyable socializing.

So as you can see, while the idea of cutting back our focus on attracting juniors in favor of older players seems crazy at first glance, there are actually a number of reasons why it might actually be more successful in growing our numbers than our efforts of recent years. At worst, the idea certainly presents some food for thought - given the current situation in regards to growing our numbers, it surely can't hurt to re-examine some of our basic assumptions about how we should go about doing so?

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