All things considered, Atlanta, Georgia is a pretty good place to live if you want to stay active in table tennis. Great clubs, multiple training centers, experienced coaches, regularly scheduled tournaments, and – best of all – plenty of good players are all available to anyone willing to fight the Atlanta traffic to get to them. I decided to do some research to see what it might be like to try to stay active playing somewhere else, say…..North Dakota.
Currently there are two USATT members in North Dakota. Enos lives in Grand Forks. He is rated 1745. Thomas lives in Bismarck and has a USATT rating of 761. If they decided to have a North Dakota State Championship at either of their home cities, somebody would have to make the 270 mile trip that would take four hours. Clearly, Enos would be heavily favored to win State. In fact, based on their ratings, he is such a favorite he should probably get a bye for his first match and we can go ahead and declare him State Champion right now. Consider the money saved on gas as prize money.
I certainly don’t mean to offend the USATT members in North Dakota, either of them, and I have to admit I have never been to the Dakotas. Upon further review, I see where our State Champion plays a lot of tournaments in Minnesota and recently traveled to Atlanta to play, beating some pretty decent local players. It does appear that there are a number of good players in North Dakota, although they are not current USATT members. So, what does this have to do with starting a table tennis club?
If you live somewhere like North Dakota, it might be a challenge to play regularly. The solution could be to start your own club. I have done this myself and know that it can be difficult dealing with parks departments. It probably takes more time to launch a club than most people would imagine. But the reward for following through is also far greater than most people would expect.
Starting a club is very doable, even with very limited funds. The real key, if you are serious about it, is to start small. Finding a location that will let you set up two tables on a regular basis can support a club of about ten players. A small club that is really well managed may be exactly what your community needs. In addition to starting small, remember to enlist the help of your members. Don’t try to do everything yourself. Small clubs that are really well run have a way of growing. And as the club grows, you will need the help of more and more of your members.
If you have a passion for table tennis and some basic organizational skills, maybe you can bring table tennis to where you are. It beats driving 270 miles.