by Bob San
SUN PRESS NEWSPAPERS
Dave Carpenter remembers fondly the time when he and his dad played table tennis in the basement when he was a kid. Today, he is spreading the joy of table tennis with the club he founded, the Northwest Table Tennis Club (NWTTC).
Housed in the Grove Christian Center in Maple Grove, the club opens each Saturday morning to allow a group of table tennis lovers of all levels to practice their skills, compete and build friendships. Carpenter, a member of the church, started the club last November.
“I put notices in restaurants and grocery stores and people started responding,” he recalled.
Carpenter didn’t know what kind of response he’d get but he knew there must be table tennis players in the area because of the sport’s popularity.
“Table tennis is the No. 2 or No. 1 sport in the world as far as participants,” Carpenter said. “Not in the United States, but in other parts of the world it’s a major sport.”
In the beginning, a handful of players showed up and Carpenter purchased a couple used table tennis tables from Craiglist. The number of players grew to 18 regulars this summer (with some that visit once in a while) and Carpenter expects the number to keep growing. With membership fees, Carpenter was able to add several tournament-ready tables. There are now seven tables and a machine that players can practice their strokes with.
Not surprising, the membership reflects the international flavor of table tennis with players who came to the U.S. from Germany, China, Laos, Vietnam, Nigeria, India and other parts of the world as well as American-born players. The club membership also covers a wide range in ages with the oldest being 75 and the youngest 12.
Each Saturday, the players engage in round robin competition. There are some players who are more advanced but every participant works up and good sweat and learns a thing or two from each other.
Carpenter said the club belongs to USA Table Tennis and its players are in the USATT ranking system. The club visits and plays other clubs and Carpenter is trying to set up a league so the clubs can compete regularly.
Ron Lucas of Maple Grove, the oldest member at 75, enjoys the workout and the competition. “I have been playing on and off my whole life,” Lucas said. “It’s a competitive game and a good workout. When I saw the sign I joined.”
Lucas winters in Arizona and plays in a table tennis doubles league there. By joining the NWTTC, he hopes to improve his game.
“I am very competitive. I want to get to a certain level,” Lucas said. “I want to play with better players here so when I play in the league I’ll have an edge. I have met better players here. I don’t win many games but I learn a lot.”
The club’s youngest player, Ethan Wagner of Wayzata, is happy to find a club where he can play a sport he grew up with against good players.
“I lived in Germany when I was 8, 9 years old and it’s a really big sport there,” Ethan said.
He plays with table tennis clubs at school but he is happy to find NWTTC because he can play against better players. He does not mind going against much older opponents.
“It’s OK,” Ethan said. “The players are really good and it’s fun competition.”
Carpenter is thrilled that the club has brought fun and joy to others.
“The club is a memorial to my dad,” Carpenter said. “He was such a great dad. When I was a kid, every night we’d play in the basement for years and years.”
Carpenter hopes his club can provide an avenue where families and friends can do things together and foster better relationships between parents and children and between people of all races and faiths. And he also wants to get more people interested in this great international game.
“In table tennis, anybody can compete with anybody,” Carpenter said. “It’s not about your weight, age or how strong you are. It’s about how good you are.”
For more information about the club, goes to its Facebook page at facebook.com/NorthwesttabletennisClub.
Contact Bob San at [email protected]