Hello and welcome to the first of the monthly London Blogs.

Going forward I foresee these being less formal and provide insight that may help your organisation in the London area BUT for this first edition, please grab yourself a cuppa to read what we have been up to over a number of months as we start our Table Tennis United Journey.

Table Tennis united is the exciting new strategy of Table Tennis England. The purpose of the strategy is ‘hosting generations of players at our table’, with the vision of being a ‘Table Tennis nation’.

 Within the strategy there are guiding principles and pledges to transition strategy to implementation. The pledges are:

 1. Table Tennis will be a thriving community – a sport for everyone with no barriers to taking part

2. Culture change across the pathway that inspires World Class performances and medal success,

 3. Connections across the table tennis community

 4. A high performing Organisation that is not just fit for today, but it fit for the future.

 Within pledge one of Table Tennis United, it is underpinned by key elements, working in partnership, growing a grassroots workforce, competition for all and participation with a purpose.

 To undertake these elements an area network has been formed. Leading the development of table tennis across a geographic area, Area Managers support participation with a purpose, providing assistance to strengthen clubs and leagues, source coach and volunteer learning opportunities, and engage with competition planning and pathway development. With the support of a Local Organising Group, made up of passionate and knowledgeable volunteers, the Area Managers have led the design and implementation of the Local Area Plan that delivers the aspirations of Table Tennis United.

The following piece will highlight the local delivery plan of London which will enable table tennis to become available to anyone, from any background, creating a lifelong love of the sport, while enabling a clear pathway to support those players and coaches on the journey to the very top of the game, the Olympic podium. 

  1. What the focus areas are?

Through a period of consultation via the area audit, contacting clubs/leagues/counties and the insight dashboard, Community Table Tennis Partnerships (CTTPs) were identified. The CTTPs highlighted in London are Barnet, Croydon, Enfield, Lewisham, Newham, Brent and Harrow. The general premise around the geographical locations identified is through the high population of under 9’s in each area but a low percentage of this population playing table tennis (except for Brent and Harrow where the World Teams Championships will shape the focus).

Furthermore, through the area audit and insight dashboard it has identified the CTTPs areas (and surrounding areas) have clubs and/or leagues who are willing to develop junior participation and/or have the capacity to do so through the workforce they currently have. Through creating or building links with schools via local club/coaches/partners, the priority will be to have a clear pathway for u9’s to progress in the sport at every level whilst building a diverse workforce around this to support the delivery of junior sessions and competitions and beyond.  By doing so, it will create stronger clubs, leagues, and counties alongside larger talent pools for future England athletes and wider table tennis participation.

  • What will you be doing in those areas

Within these areas the main focus will be on developing U9 participation alongside growing the workforce, creating more competitive opportunities and developing partnerships. Each of these areas will also have a thread of tackling inequalities within e.g. women and girls, unrepresented groups.

  • Why this area?

One of the threads of Table Tennis United is to use data and insight to inform decisions. The below section identifies the rationale of identifying the chosen areas.

Participation with a Purpose

As mentioned above each of the areas identified have a high population of under 9’s but low participation rates in table tennis. Within Barnet there are over 25,000 under 9’s and only 723 registered juniors/cadets. Likewise, in Croydon there are over 24,000 5–9-year-olds and only 595 registered young players. This trend follows in Enfield, Newham, and Lewisham, with all three having over 22,000 (Enfield), 23,000 (Newham) and 18,000 (Lewisham) under 9 population respectively. However, a low number of registered junior and cadets, 259 (Enfield), 196 (Newham) and 379 (Lewisham). Therefore, the delivery of TT Kidz as a fun introduction to table tennis will be utilised via clubs and schools in the area, with the ambition of providing a festival in the area to incorporate the sessions delivered within schools and clubs at the end of the 6–8-week sessions.

Within each of the areas mentioned, most have established clubs and coaches available to support development of table tennis as indicated in the area audits and insight dashboard.

Growing a grassroots workforce

Although each of the areas have established clubs in the area, upskilling or recruiting a new workforce to create a sustainable future for the sport is key. Between the areas the number of coaches are: Barnet (23 level 1, 5 level 2, 3 level 3), Croydon (14 level 1, 3 level 2, 2 level 3), Enfield (34 level 1, 10 level 2, 1 level 3), Lewisham (11 level 1, 1 level 2), Newham (9 level 1, 1 level 2).

There is a healthy number of level 1 coaches (albeit not licensed ones, so it will be useful to identify active coaches going forward).  The number of level 2 coaches in each area is much lower, therefore, upskilling current level 1’s to level 2’s will help assist with the delivery of programmes such as TT Kidz.

In addition to coaches, developing tournament organisers, umpires and having a pool of volunteers is crucial to deliver competitions and events in the area and support programmes. Within the 5 areas, there is a limited number of umpires, referees, and tournament organisers. Currently the areas have: Barnet (12 Umpires, 1 referee, 10 tournament organisers), Croydon ( 3 umpires, 1 referee, 1 tournament Organiser), Enfield (1 Umpire, 1 referee, 1 tournament organiser), Lewisham (0 umpires, 0 Referee, 1 tournament organiser),  Newham (Umpire 0, Referee 0, tournament organiser 0).

Therefore, providing courses to create a new workforce in this area will enable more competitions to be delivered on a regular basis locally and not reliant on an already stretched workforce. Additionally, providing opportunities for volunteers to have access to training from Club Matters will enable them to increase their knowledge of running their club/league or organisation and sharing best practice.

Tackling inequalities

Everyone should be able to access and play table tennis regardless of their background and circumstances. The level the table strategy outlines a commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion. Therefore, increasing the number of women and girls (W&Gs) is important. Currently 10% of membership nationally are W&Gs, therefore, providing more opportunities is crucial. Whether this is playing provision or training qualifications, ensuring the sport is accessible for W&Gs is a priority. Therefore, the delivery of a W&G 1 star competition and coaching courses will only be the beginning and discussions with organisations such as Women in Sport will help further activity in this area. Additionally, developing further conversations with organisations that deliver activities for unrepresented groups such as: ethnically diverse communities, low social economic groups and people with disabilities will highlight further opportunities in this area and to thread EDI through the whole LDP.

Competition for all

Within the Table Tennis United strategy providing opportunities for competition is a priority. The London local delivery plan has highlighted the requirement of providing more competitions in the priority areas through introductory development/1* tournaments which will enable new or existing players to experience competitive table tennis where you can play, compete, and socialise.

Additionally, through the partnership with the Jack Petchey Foundation, the delivery of the school’s competition in the London and Essex area provides opportunities for Young People to be involved in the schools pathway competition. This will be through the 6 Jack Petchey counties in East, West, North, South, Central London and Essex. In previous years, the competition has seen well over 1200 students participating in the teams and individual competitions, with successes in the national finals for the London Schools.  

World Class Environments

Within the Local delivery plan, the London Area will support the development of the Pathway Development Centres. Greenhouse has been chosen as the Centre for London.

Who you will need to be working with to be successful?

Working in Partnership

A key element of Table Tennis United is partnership. Developing partnerships with people/organisation who share our excitement and ambition to grow table tennis. Key to this will be recruiting an Area Chair and building a Local Organising Group. Additionally, working with active Partnerships (London Sport) and local authorities/development teams/School Sports Partnerships, the Greater London Authority, London Youth, London Youth Games, The Jack Petchey Foundation, Sported, Women in Sport, clubs, leagues, Middlesex County and coaches to name just a few. Each partner will provide different expertise from funding, local knowledge, in kind contributions, signposting, delivery, or opening doors to new opportunities for table tennis in the area. By doing so will enable us to make us get to where we want to go, faster. 

  • How do we know we are successful

The local delivery plans will be clear, relevant, and measurable. Therefore, each area mentioned above has a SMART objective associated.)

Alongside quantitative figures, collating qualitative insight to show impact will be made. By doing so we will be able to share best practice across the table tennis community through the development of an area wide communications and engagement plan which includes but not limited to a space on our website to show local good news stories, blogs, coaches courses, monthly newsletters and quarterly webinars/forums.

  • What about the areas not mentioned?

The CTTPs above have been identified for phase one of the delivery plan through the insight gathered.  We will provide a minimum of 2 days per week support in these areas (if required) to deliver what is set out above. The remaining time will be given to all areas across London to provide support where assistance is needed. Please do get in touch if you require help and I will do my best to assist or signpost to people who can.

How can I get in contact?

If you have a question, no matter how big or small, please get in touch via email [email protected] or 07583899507.

I look forward to meeting more of the London Table Tennis Community in the coming months and years ahead! I always have my bat in my bag so please challenge me to a game or two!! 🏓🏓