Welcome to first North East Area blog, each month I will aim to update you with all things North East. I hope to be able to share my thoughts, feelings, and advice with you all in one place.

This first blog will detail information about the North East Area Plan. Each area that has been selected has been carefully researched and I believe it has real potential to grow and develop over the 2023/24 season. The plan has been created in line with the Table Tennis United strategy that was published in October last year. At the core of this strategy is four pledges:

  1. Table tennis will be a thriving community – a sport for everyone with no barriers to taking part.
  2. Culture changes across the pathway that inspires world class performances and medal success.
  3. Connection across the table tennis community.
  4. A high performing organisation that is not just fit for today but is fit for the future.

I have begun to establish a Local Organising Group, I have recruited the Chair who is Graeme Barella and wider group members whose skills and experiences will enable progress against the delivery plan. These members include Clare Flynn (Durham), Bob Moffatt (North Yorkshire), Tony Taylor (Durham), Modesta Vaitkeviciute (Barnsley), and Colin Li (Bradford). This links to the pledge of working in partnership.

I will now take your through the different areas (in no particular order) that will be my focus this season:

Priority Area 1: County Durham

County Durham has 13 clubs (including Darlington Table Tennis Academy, Darlington Dolphins, Brandon Table Tennis Club, Durham City Table Tennis club etc). Currently Durham represents 1.6% (396 members) of Table Tennis England membership, 84% of members in Durham are male and 16% are female.

Why: Collaboration – Those involved in the sport in Durham have shown the ability to work with partners such as School Games Organisers, Active Partnerships and charity organisations such as Sported. Diversity – There is an established women and girls’ group at Brandon Table Tennis Club  and an advocate called Clare Flynn who is driving this work in Durham and Northumberland. I believe this can be replicated in other areas and there is the interest to expand on this work. The dense number of clubs in Durham means that more people that could be introduced to the sport as there is a larger chance that there will be a club on someone’s door step. However, at this moment in time a lot of clubs are struggling with workforce, so it will be my priority to invest time into increasing the number of licensed coaches (more coaches = more sessions = more knowledge shared = more players engaged = increased likelihood of finding future star).

Priority Area 2: Northumberland/ Tyne and Wear

Background information: I plan to focus on the following local authorities: Northumberland, North Tyneside, Newcastle, Gateshead, South Tyneside, and Sunderland. There are 5 affiliated clubs including NETT and Cramlington Table Tennis Club. Northumberland represents 0.6% of Table Tennis England membership (145 members). 94% of members in Northumberland are male and only 6% are female.

Why: In Northumberland and Tyne and Wear there are 80,089 children between the ages of five- and nine-years old living in the area and could be engaged in the sport. In addition to this Graeme Barella has been providing more 1* competitions which means that any children who decide to start playing have a local opportunity to enter onto the competition ladder.

Priority Area 3: Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough have 3 clubs – Ormesby Table Tennis Club, Swerve Table Tennis Club and Northfield Table Tennis Club. Cleveland is the county in which Middlesbrough falls into, representing 0.6% of Table Tennis England membership (140 members). 90% of those members are male and 10% are female.

Why: The clubs are dedicated to driving participation and want to increase the number of u11’s in the area, by supporting these clubs more closely we will be able to introduce more young people to the area who could potentially feed into the Pathway Development Centre which is being hosted by Ormesby Table Tennis Club.

Priority Area 4: Sheffield / South Yorkshire

South Yorkshire has 15 affiliated clubs including Rotherham Scorpions, Mission Table Tennis Club, Barnsley Table Tennis Club and Kelham Island Table Tennis Club. South Yorkshire represents 1.4% of Table Tennis England membership (348 members). 94% of members are male in South Yorkshire, only 6% are female.

Why: Table Tennis in Sheffield has the backing of the council who are supportive of table tennis and see the value of the sport and how it can positively impact the lives of young people. There are fantastic and inspiring venues in Sheffield such as The English Institute of Sport and the Olympic Legacy Park that can host events. Furthermore, Kelham Island Community Table Tennis Club is situated in Sheffield and is surrounded by several deprived areas and the club hosts regular sessions for: children with disabilities such as Down’s Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and Special Educational Needs. As well as refugees, and young people (between 14-21yrs old) who identify as LGBTQ+. The club also deliver social Bat & Chat sessions that are open to all and offer weekly competitive coaching and structured practice sessions.

In Barnsley, there is Barnsley Table Tennis Club who is very active and bring lots of young people through, but recently a new Club called Mission TTC has emerged which are keen to develop players from Grassroots to performance.

What actions am I looking to make to ensure that our pledges are fulfilled?
  • Increase the number of licensed coaches – we have already delivered two level 1 courses, one in Sheffield and one in Darlington. It is important to understand why coaches are not becoming licensed members and to provide more CPD opportunities.
  • Work with partners to increase community outreach with people from low socioeconomic areas, ethnically diverse communities and women and girls.
  • Increase the number of entry level competitions – more 1* competitions that are good value for money.
  • Increase the number of clubs delivering TT Kidz, allowing them to shape the programme that works best for their clubs.
  • Deliver a women and girls 1* competition and deliver fun women and girls only table tennis sessions, including a table tennis training day for intermediate – advanced players.
  • Connect more clubs with partners including Sported and Rackets Cubed.

I would highly recommend viewing my North East evidence document which provides some visuals on the facts and figures that have influenced some of the decision making.

Furthermore, if you have an idea that you would like support, no matter what county you represent then please contact me to discuss.