End of an Era at Chelsea Academy
Para Ping Festival Doubles in SizeEamon Brennan – 9th July 2018
Size isn’t everything but when an annual sporting fixture doubles in size in the space of a single year, you know that something must be hitting the spot. And so it was that the annual Para Ping Table Tennis Tournament, held at the William Hogarth School in Chiswick. Double the number of participants and as far as the feedback went; everyone, including teachers, parents, organisers and most important of all, participants, all enjoying a great sporting experience.
The magic formula for the tournament is a very simple one: those that want to play their table tennis with a net can do so, and those that prefer to play their table tennis without a net can opt for that format. Everyone is playing table tennis – removing the net simply makes this globally played game even more accessible to even more people. No need for unwanted labels or categories. It’s just a hall full of students playing Ping and doing their utmost to win for themselves and their school.
The event was organised under the banner of West London Ping with the majority of participants coming from host school William Hogarth and nearby schools Barnes Primary, Victoria Primary in Feltham and the Green Dragon Primary from Brentford. There was also a ‘home schooled’ student that gave the tournament a potentially exciting new dimension. Over thirty children, many of whom were representing their school for the first time, engaged in competitive sport and doing so in a friendly but highly competitive atmosphere.
Were there winners? Well the winning school was deservedly Green Dragon Primary but if you’ll excuse the well used sporting cliché, everyone that took part in this tournament was a winner and each player was duly awarded with a table tennis medal. Perhaps too much emphasis in British sport goes on seeking out and rewarding the winning team or individual and not enough attention is paid to those that were just happy to participate. Perhaps that is why, despite the government’s best intentions, participation rates in school sports and sports generally are actually declining. There is nothing wrong with winning in sport. Teaching children how to win and loose is a key life skill. But if the definition of winning is too narrow, then school sports are in danger of doing more harm than good. And it doesn’t take an Einstein to realise that focusing exclusively on the high achievers is a self-defeating strategy.
There are many ways to create and reward ‘winners’ in sport. The fact that we don’t more readily explore this concept is ultimately down to a failure of imagination on the part of the organisers. West London Ping, inspired as it is by the Ping England phenomena, is committed to finding ways to make table tennis not only fully inclusive but a rewarding experience where everyone leaves feeling, at the very least, some sense of achievement. That, we believe, is a truly winning philosophy.
PS. Two of the Para Ping participants were in action at the weekend in West London Ping’s first London Community TT Ranking Tournament with both students winning a significant number of games. Well done Alex and Archie!