Last year I watched a fascinating British television program on aging, called How To Stay Young. Despite the familiar theme, it proved to be full of interesting and inspiring information which spurred me into thinking about playing table tennis for its beneficial effects.
I had played as a teenager and I now have a ping pong table in the basement for an occasional game with my grandsons. However, that was the extent of my table tennis experience and the idea of playing as a sport had not occurred to me. In part, that was because I had never seen it mentioned in my search for fitness classes, so I had low expectations of finding a club within easy reach of Stittsville.
Finding information online was a challenge but perseverance paid off and I was delighted to discover a group, right here at the Johnny Leroux arena.
With a little trepidation I registered and went along only to find a great group of people who made me feel really welcome. Despite the fact that I had no idea of the correct rules, held my paddle in a restrictive manner, and my reflexes were slow, I was amazed by the support and acceptance I received.
Playing as part of a foursome I was soon able to return the ball in an appropriate manner, at least part of the time. A friend joined the group once she heard about it and as the two newbies we were encouraged and helped by everyone. Never made to feel incompetent, instruction and reassurance was constantly forthcoming from our experienced partners and opponents as we played doubles. Then Bob Schwenger, the coach, would explain tactics and the finer points of the game when we took a break.
The club-like atmosphere made Tuesdays and Thursdays days to look forward to and I was amazed at how quickly we improved. I can’t thank the experienced players enough for being so tolerant and helpful. What a great bunch of people. Time out was spent chatting with others and a lunch at the end of the session all added to the social element of the sport which proved to be challenging, fun and a very good workout. No wonder table tennis was rated so highly in the TV documentary.
The City of Ottawa is offering table tennis as part of their Senior Recreation program. In their words, “this table tennis program is a way to improve reflexes and speed up thinking. You will develop your skills and a better understanding of the sport as you play the game”.
Stella Eyres, a long time member of the Stittsville table tennis group told me that three members have been playing together since it started more than 10 years ago, with the same leader and coach, Bob Schwenger.
She mentioned that their players are from a wide variety of backgrounds and when not playing table tennis they each enjoy other sports and forms of recreation which makes for interesting conversations, which I can attest to.
Their one common interest is table tennis and all the benefits it offers. Improving hand eye coordination, mental agility and physical agility too. This means overall improved health benefits as well as the social aspects and the sense of achievement in mastering a sport. As the group caters to people new to the sport as well as those with previous experience, all are welcome and encouraged to join.
When I joined last year, people seemed to be unaware of this group’s existence and locating it took some dedicated research. Hence this attempt to share my story and to make table tennis available to others. However, once word gets out I am sure it will mean registering early to guarantee your place.
The Stittsville Table Tennis group meets at the Johnny Leroux Arena, Warner Colpitts Lane, off Main Street on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 12:15pm-1:45pm.
The fall course starts September 19 and ends December 7 offering 24 sessions. Further courses are offered in the winter and spring. Registration can be done online, on the City of Ottawa Recreation website at http://join.ottawa.ca/act/885/
The BBC programs on aging are available on Youtube: