It was an absolute pleasure to represent Table Tennis England and present awards to the individual winners at the Special Olympics, held at Coppenhall Sports Centre, Crewe.
Wendy and Dennis Beech from Crewe Table Tennis Club were instrumental in enabling this competition to take place, which apart from the covid crisis, has taken place every year at their club’s facilities in Crewe.
Not only do they host this two-day event on a yearly basis for table tennis athletes with learning difficulties, but they also provide regular weekly training and coaching, every Saturday for these athletes to come together and play table tennis. The players travel from far and wide to attend the training, as Crewe is the only centre in the country that helps people access and play table tennis with intellectual disabilities.
I was amazed by the number of athletes playing in the Special Olympics, each representing an area, with North West, East Midlands, Devon, West Midlands, Northeast and London competing.
It was also fantastic to see parity amongst male and female players, something that Table Tennis England are striving more for across their current competition pathways.
The event was also supported by Table Tennis England qualified umpires, who informed me they love to support the event, they find it very inspiring, and rewarding being involved in helping with the running of the competition.
I was totally inspired by the hard work, dedication, commitment, enthusiasm, patience, understanding, and knowledge demonstrated by Wendy and Dennis Beech, who have been involved with working and supporting table tennis players with intellectual disabilities for the last 32 years. They truly are role models, ambassadors of table tennis which Table Tennis England will certainly be keen to work with Wendy and Dennis at marketing, promoting, and including their great work within Table Tennis England’s Level the Table strategy to help make table tennis more inclusive, equitable and accessible for everyone.
Alongside my visit, I also met Emma Kane who works for the Special Olympics. Emma informed me she is very keen to work much more closely with National Governing Bodies as the Special Olympics is a fantastic opportunity to help sports become more diverse and inclusive and to help clubs to grow further and support special Olympic athletes more locally. An exploratory meeting between Special Olympics and Table Tennis England is taking place this month to discuss potentially working in partnership.
By working in partnership collectively and using the fantastic resources now available, this is a great opportunity for Table Tennis England to try to grow the opportunities for athletes with intellectual disabilities to access and play table tennis across the country and not just in Crewe.