One of my students recently confirmed a training session by stating that he would arrive at 11am at the “Carriage Lake underground table tennis dojo.” I frequently refer to the same location as the “T3 training studio.” Sometimes I go with “home training facility.” My neighbors are vaguely aware that I’m running some sort of business from home. They see cars parked in front of my house at seemingly random times. Occasionally they catch a glimpse of suspicious looking men coming and going at my side door, often carrying small bags of potential contraband. To add to the confusion, some of these characters arrive in business suits, and leave wearing shorts and t-shirts. I can frequently be seen taking phone calls while pacing in front of my house. The pacing is usually followed by greeting customers in the street, and ushering them into the table tennis underground for their first lesson.
I, out of necessity have to keep my activities somewhat secretive. My training center is in a residential area that is not zoned for business traffic and outdoor advertising. Wherever you happen to play table tennis, it’s likely you’re part of an underground society as well. Particularly in the United States, table tennis is misunderstood, misrepresented, and even ridiculed. Lifelong friends will consider table tennis a curiosity, and a very odd sport to devote much time to. Not everyone has been exposed to all the positive aspects of our sport. It’s not an easy sport to excel at, and while most people have played, relatively few people stick with it long enough to reap all the benefits.
While I think the table tennis community would love for our sport to be more widely accepted and more popular, I think we’ve been going about it all wrong. What if we fully embraced our underground roots? I’m considering designing some t-shirts with the word underground in large letters, and table tennis in small print. Anybody can sign up to play a sport, but it’s far more interesting to be a member of a mysterious secret society. Maybe we should come up with a password and a secret handshake. The beauty of this approach is that every exclusive club eventually is overrun with new members, leaving the founders longing for the good old days when being part of the club was something special.
Welcome to the table tennis underground.