Feature by Alex G., Concordia Applied Journalism
When walking through Concordia's lower level, it is hard to miss the pitter patter of table tennis balls and the excited voices that resonate from table tennis practices. In recent years, the development of the varsity table tennis team has garnered more and more support and attention from the larger Concordia community.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the team is how it has continued to become better and better each year that the program runs.
"I joined the table tennis team when I was in my freshman year,” recalls current varsity boys table tennis captain Cyrus H. “When I joined, the table tennis team practices weren't very structured."
In the 2017-2018 season, there was not nearly so much cohesion to the team at all, recalls Cyrus.
"We had a ranking system where we would initiate challenges with each other and if you beat someone else, you would take their spot," explains Cyrus. "Sometimes, people weren't even having fun, as they were very competitive and tried to one up each other to get to the top." Though competitive spirit is good to a certain extent, this system pitted the team against one another, causing higher levels of stress and the loss of motivation in many players.
"In my sophomore year, the person in charge got changed to Mr. Erik Paulson,” explains Cyrus. “His idea with table tennis is to make it more structured and have more training elements… Overall, we are more encouraged to practice."
With Mr. Paulson at the helm, the team has focused on more skill based drills while pursuing the fundamentals of the sport.
"This year, we got a professional coach,” adds Cyrus. “He teaches us how to have one-on-one training sessions where we help each other improve. So now, I think that practices are more professional and effective." With the support of both Mr. Paulson and a professional coach, the program is now headed in a much better direction.
Even with the positives that come from developing team culture and stability, COVID-19 has made finding matchplay for the players increasingly difficult. This prompted the team to shift towards more casual opportunities. In the closing weeks of 2020, the team planned and played an unofficial match against Yew Chung International School (YCIS).
"Talking to our table tennis team about these unofficial games, we were all very excited, honored, and enthusiastic," says Cyrus. The team's ability to take initiative and organize these matches shows that even COVID-19 can't hinder the fiery passions that players have for the sport.
"It's difficult at times because you need to organize a time, book the venue, bring scoresheets and paddles, and make sure everyone comes in on time,” explains Cyrus. “But overall, it's very fun and rewarding.”
Although planning games requires much effort, the value that comes from playing a sport that players love is indescribable; the team plans on organizing another game with SMIC in the near future.
With a top notch coaching system and more games to come, the enthusiasm in the community has clearly been magnified. In the future, these experiences will surely continue to shape the team and create an even finer program.
Alex G. is a student of Concordia Applied Journalism.