The Isle of Wight Table Tennis Association, which celebrates its centenary this year, is one of the oldest in England. In fact, there are only about 10 associations which are older. A handicapped (and very competitive) tournament was held a few weeks ago to celebrate this event.
In 100 years the association has come a long way. After many years of playing in cold and inadequate community halls on makeshift tables, today it can be proud of its excellent facilities; one of the best in the south of England.
For years, Isle of Wight table tennis was dominated by the Prean family. It was John Prean who was instrumental in the building of our TT Centre at Smallbrook, just a mile south of Ryde. His son, Carl was an outstanding player, who represented England and won many national trophies.
The Centre is now owned by the Island TT Association and is let out to other sports groups. However, there are still ample opportunities for table tennis – two mornings and three evenings for practices, in addition to tournaments and league fixtures and three different coaching sessions for juniors; 10 of whom are now playing regularly in the Winter League.
As an incentive, each junior player is presented with a sponsored shirt with the Island TT logo as soon as he or she starts league matches.
In the recent centenary tournament all four semi-finalists were junior players. This reflects well on our association and emphasises the great potential and optimism that we have for the future, with home-grown players encouraged, coached and supported by their seniors, freely giving their time to enthusiastic youngsters; a number of whom are following parents and even grandparents into the sport.
A happy and positive environment is essential for progress in any club. In a way, members look upon our association as a happy, sporting family, with a warm welcome to newcomers, and facilities and an environment conducive to experienced, competitive players as well as the recreational and social players, happy just for a knock followed by a chit-chat over tea or coffee.
Spring is a busy time for the association. There is a Finals’ Night when the final matches in all the tournaments are played and members come to see the best that the Isle of Wight has to offer. At the Annual Presentation Evening, members come together for a social event to award trophies and to celebrate achievements.
In addition, the Island usually welcomes “overseas” players from the mainland for the English Leagues Cup (southern area) Competitions and the annual charity tournament for the local hospice, which last year raised £1,000.
In July eight of our best players will be participating in the Island Games in Guernsey. Such international events raise the profile of table tennis locally. Team captain and Island TT stalwart Danny Burns says: “The squad have all enjoyed good seasons so we go into these Island Games in good form. We will all be determined to do our very best.”
Anniversaries such as the Island’s centenary allow us to look back and reflect on past events, maybe with a critical eye and to see what was achieved and (let’s be frank) sometimes, also, where we failed.
It also helps us to celebrate and appreciate our achievements and the dedication and determination of past members who strove (sometimes against the odds) to provide the excellent home and facilities for table tennis that we have today.
The future for Isle of Wight table tennis looks bright. As we go forward and promote the sport amongst the wider community, in this our centenary year, we remember, with appreciation and gratitude, those no longer with us who started and developed our association.
A happy 100th birthday to the Isle of Wight Table Tennis Association.
Is your county, league or club celebrating a centenary? Let us know by emailing [email protected]