End of an Era at Chelsea Academy
National Ping Pong Day at Westfields Shopping CentreEamon Brennan – 30th July 2018
Two West London Ping coaches, after a hard day’s work at a local primary school, descended on the outdoor tables at Westfields Shopping Centre in Shepherds Bush by way of celebrating National Table Tennis Day. We were in for a somewhat dispiriting start. When we arrived, two of the four beautiful outdoor tables were unused and unloved whilst the other two were in use but sadly, not for table tennis. Young shoppers had decided that the tables would make an ideal resting place for themselves and their shopping.
They weren’t abusing the tables but neither were they using them for their intended purpose. That was not altogether surprising, given that Westfields, one of Britain’s premier shopping destinations, had failed to provide either bat or ball. Not a good omen. As for the tables themselves, they had been placed in a windswept plaza with absolutely zero attempt by the shopping centre to construct a distinct and sheltered area to make outdoor table tennis attractive to potential users. In fact, everything about the set-up suggested thoughtlessness and neglect.
But things were quickly about to changes for the better. The two abovementioned coaches started knocking a ball about. That did the trick. Passersby took note. Some stopped. We had some extra bats just in case and hey presto – all four tables were soon in use. One such interested party was an elderly Chinese gentleman who, employing the pen grip technique, soon got into his youthful stride. A young lady started to practise with one of the coaches while her boyfriend looked on a little uneasily. After about fifteen minutes he ushered her away. Three young lads of South Asian origin were into it with enthusiasm. One had some decent shots. Another was keen to work with one of the coaches. He improved rapidly. Two more couples had a go for ten minutes or so. Momentum started to build.
The moral of this story is simple. If Westfields shopping is serious about generating some table tennis activity for their shoppers and employees, they need to provide free bats and balls, create a more protected and sheltered area, and above all, employ a local coach for a couples of hours each day. Will they do it? Probably not. But if they are at all interested, they need only contact West London Ping and something really interesting could emerge. We await their email. Of course, this applies to all outdoor tables. Left without TLC they are all too often abandoned and unused. Now if every local table tennis club were to ‘adopt’ an outdoor table the benefits for both club and community would be instant. ‘National Table Tennis Day’ is a great idea but if it is to have any significance beyond a bit of fun once a year, a more considered strategy is required. ‘Adopt an outdoor table’ could become a slogan for the whole table tennis community and it might just create a few thousand new members. Existing clubs, schools, local authorities, shopping centres and other public spaces could all be connected via the humble ping pong table. I think they call it joined up thinking
End JPK 18/7/18