From the Olympics to Prettyman: a case for varsity ping pong

Robbie Werdiger

In 2014, the sport of table tennis became an official varsity sport in New York City public schools. Today, 22 public schools throughout the five boroughs all compete against one another during the winter season in the PSAL (Public School Athletic League). The sport does not demand large quantities of space and requires equipment that is easily accessible. There is no reason why Horace Mann shouldn’t add table tennis to its list of varsity sports.
At the start of the school year Jack Blackman(10) and myself founded a table tennis club at Horace Mann. The club has developed successfully over the past three months as we have had around 16 different students show up to practices. We were excited to have played our first match on November 16th against the Ramaz School located on the Upper East Side. Our expectations were low coming into the match considering we were without our second and fourth best players as well as the fact that we were inexperienced and didn’t have a coach. Surprisingly, the match turned out to be a success. Even though we lost to Ramaz 4-3 our players had a great time and worked their hardest. Ramaz has a full-time table tennis coach and routine practices, whereas we practice every Thursday I period without a coach. I was encouraged to see that our players were able to pull out wins and force third sets against opponents who clearly had more coaching experience and superior paddles.
Table Tennis is an Olympic sport that is unofficially declared as China’s national sport. Professional table tennis players compete year round on the ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) circuit, leading up to the annual World Championships. The sport of table tennis is so appealing because in order to be skilled you do not have to be born with height and muscularity, physical traits which are required in most american sports, making it one of the most popular sports across the world. Players must possess eye hand coordination, quick reflexes, mental toughness, and stamina to master the sport. Training involves physical workouts to develop core and lower body strength which are vital to build up stamina and increase shot timing and speed. In table tennis size is not a factor as the serve and groundstrokes revolve around spin rather than speed.
Director of Athletics, Health & Physical Education Robert Annunziata explained the steps needed to develop table tennis into a varsity sport and they were completely doable. It was evident from the match that if we had a coach who could teach us proper techniques with official paddles that we could make a decent competitive team that could compete on the varsity level. Although there are no ivy league private schools who have table tennis teams, we wouldn’t be the only varsity sport to compete against public schools as ultimate frisbee plays many public schools. We might be the private school that paves the way in turning table tennis into a varsity sport at numerous private schools in New York City. Most of our club members do not play winter sports and would love the idea of turning our club into a competitive team. By the time I graduate I hope that I can help achieve my goal of making table tennis a varsity sport.