The power of ping pong
Think of Brighton and why those who live there love it so much and most will say it’s that mixture of friendliness, openness, energy and creative craziness; so much to offer in a small place. Brighton Table Tennis Club encapsulates all that and more. From the outside, it may seem like just any other local sports club, but go through the door and Tardis like, a whole new adventure begins.
Grassroots growth and innovation is the key. BTTC started small in 2007 with two worn out tables in the Brighton Youth Centre but with the strong belief that table tennis can be used as a powerful tool in engaging people of all ages and transforming lives. The best sort of ambition. Today the club has its own full time centre with ten tables in Kemptown and runs over 200 tables across the city in parks, squares, schools, sheltered housing schemes, a centre for homeless people, sports centres, a psychiatric hospital and it works in two prisons outside the city.
More than 1,500 people play in the club’s weekly sessions (before the pandemic). As well as nationally ranked table tennis players, the number includes people with learning disabilities, young people from the the Brighton Travellers site, Looked After Children, people with physical disabilities, people from the LGBT community and young asylum seekers. The youngest player is 2 and the oldest is 100. Table tennis is known to be one of the most accessible and exciting sports, helping both physical and mental agility for all ages. The coaching training programme is remarkable, uniquely qualifying a wide range of people as coaches, including those with Down’s Syndrome, prisoners, refugees, people living with cancer, as well as high performance players. The club is the world’s first recognised Club of Sanctuary, for its work with refugees. In 2019 it won the the national Daily Mirror/TSB Sports Club of the Year.
Always innovative and outward facing, lockdown did not stop the club from invention. They were one of the first off the mark to create a Food Hub, using their many volunteers and established partners such as the Real Junk Food Project. BTTC was also one of the first nationally to keep the community together through online means. Their Daily Show allowed people to be together, and to be caring, silly and creative in one fun distracted hour; the perfect antidote to isolation. They completed 100 shows with additional workshops of yoga, keep fit, art and music, before return to play at the club was allowed, making it a lifeline for vulnerable and sedentary people especially. During the school holidays BTTC organised successful sessions at Moulsecoomb to provide activities for SEND children across the city. They have also created a national course for other clubs and organisations called “ Building a Grassroots Community” commissioned by Sport England and they are just launching AllStarsTT, a mass participation competition which is completely free and for anyone to play, anywhere in the world.
BTTC reaches out positively with ping pong power, welcoming everyone. The guiding principles of the club are respect and solidarity through combining competitive sport with community building and BTTC is a place brimming with optimism, excitement and energy.