With an incredible 11 days of sport from the 2022 Commonwealth Games gracing our screens and the eyes of the world on Birmingham, the host city delivered a spectacular Games and the biggest integrated para-sports programme in Commonwealth history. We all witnessed an amazing event of awe-inspiring moments and sporting highlights where the Games will leave a lasting impact on the world of sport. England’s athletes hauled a huge array of 176 medals including 57 gold, 66 silver and 53 bronze making Birmingham one of the most successful Games ever.

Beyond the medals won and records set, these Games delivered a fantastic legacy with a positive sporting, cultural, economic and social impact on the people of Birmingham, the West Midlands and the world.

The Games have created a lasting legacy around the parameters of sport as they fostered inclusivity, helped to tackle inequalities and inequity and provided an impetus to get everyone involved in sport from the ground up with significant public investment in regional programmes committed to bring sport into the heart of communities. This includes a range of kick-starter initiatives in the West Midlands designed to help support those in need get physically active.

Ultimately, the Games bring people together and encourage communities to engage, connect and unite through sport and live happier and healthier lives, paving the way for future generations.

Birmingham has played its part in a once in a lifetime summer of success with athletes rising to the challenge, inspiring others, changing lives, empowering beliefs and making dreams a reality. This legacy will be passed down to the next Commonwealth Games and will live on in the skills, confidence and optimism of the local people who have been positively impacted by the Games in their daily lives and the positivity instilled in the global pool of athletes and spectators.

The Commonwealth Games embraces diversity at its heart with all the countries involved and in terms of table tennis showcases it as a sport that can be played around the world and in so many different environments. The high spirits generated from the incredible performances of the men’s and women’s players will help to motivate a new audience inspired to give table tennis a go and encourage existing players to aspire to be better players. The amazing gold medal win by England’s Liam Pitchford and Paul Drinkhall in the men’s doubles, fantastic silver for Liam in the men’s singles, brilliant bronze for the English men’s team and Welsh women’s duo of Anna Hursey and Charlotte Carey and the incredible para players gold medals for Joshua Stacey in the men’s singles classes 8-10 and Jack Hunter-Spivey in the men’s singles classes 3-5 besides Ross Wilson’s bronze in the same event as Joshua have helped put table tennis firmly on the map.

Women in sport

With the recent spotlight on the England women’s football team winning at the Euros coupled with the overall success of female athletes at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and

more medals being awarded to women than men, there has never been a better time for more women to be engaged in sport.

The incredible performance of the Lionesses in the UEFA Women’s Euros has helped to propel women’s sport into the mainstream. Faces of female players are taking up more space on the back pages of newspapers and social media is awash with conversation about these events including the ‘sensational Stanway screamer’ and Russo’s clever backheel!

Prime-time TV coverage for the women’s matches and female events at the Commonwealth Games have attracted millions of viewers – and record-breaking crowds have attended the events.

This incredible evolution for women’s sport is great news for table tennis which is currently underrepresented by females. Currently, whilst women make up 51% of the national population only 12% of Table Tennis England’s members are female. Common misconceptions around the sport being male dominated have often misled people, particularly women and girls from playing. With so many great female role models inspiring thousands of women and girls into sport, including tomorrow’s stars, and the Games unveiling what table tennis has to offer, the tables are turning.

Physical Inactivity

Whilst increasing participation for women and girls is paramount there is also a need to reverse the nation’s high levels of physical inactivity. According to Sport England one in four people do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a week, and one in six deaths are caused by inactivity.

A lack of motivation is the greatest barrier to physical activity and ‘not knowing how to get started’ prevents most women and young people from exercising according to Nuffield Health. Sport England’s Active Lives survey found women to be less active than men by 2% where 60% of women aged over 16 in England undertake over 150 minutes of exercise a week compared to 62% for men. Women’s inactivity levels are also found to be higher than men’s with 28% of women averaging less than 30 minutes of exercise a week compared with 27% of men. Other data indicated that South Asian, Black and people with other ethnic origins were less active than Mixed and White Other adults.

Evidently, there is a need to reduce the number of inactive people in England and encourage more people to move. This can help to elevate mental and physical wellbeing, personal growth and happier, healthier communities.

Table Tennis is such an incredible sport that has the capability to harness our passive community whilst overturning the growing concern over our physical and mental health and the impact of Covid-19 over recent years.

Strategies for equality and diversity in table tennis

Table Tennis England are at the forefront of changing the existing landscape around table tennis by encouraging uptake of the sport amongst a broader diversity of participants that fully reflect the people who live in England.

As part of their diversity and inclusion strategy to shift the dial and encourage equality in participation Table Tennis England are:

· Focusing on improving the experience of girls entering the sport by supporting TT Kidz for girls’ projects

· Encouraging women to upskill as coaches or follow through with continuing professional development via the Charlie Childs grant

· Building a women and girls community through the Women in Table Tennis Facebook page

· Doing focused projects that allow us to better understand and overcome barriers to women in the sport over the next year

· Providing Level the Table funding for women and girls projects engaging them into table tennis

· Raising the profile of different women in the sport through the Ambassador programme

· Delivering ‘It’s Time to Play’ campaign encouraging women and girls to play table tennis, inspired by the 2022 Commonwealth Games

This provides a brilliant opportunity for the sport to flourish and achieve Table Tennis England’s vision of gender parity in table tennis as more women and girls get involved.

With a move towards equality, greater diversity and inclusion for all, this will encourage the life enhancing power this brings. Empowering and engaging more women and girls into the sport will ultimately improve their experiences, encourage long term participation, increase their visibility in table tennis and ultimately provide future opportunities for women and girls to develop and make a difference in the sport.

Furthermore, Table Tennis England has partnered with Parkinson’s UK to support clubs and groups to welcome people living with the condition into the sport and table tennis will feature at the Invictus Games in 2023 for the first time, aiding wounded servicemen and women.

The benefits of playing table tennis

Communicating the benefits of table tennis will help more people to understand what this fantastic sport has to offer and encourage mass participation.

Table tennis is a fun game for everyone and a great way to exercise and overcome physical inactivity. The benefits are fantastic from improved health and mental wellbeing to increased energy and fitness levels, enhanced cognitive function, the ‘feel good’ factor and greater concentration with day-to-day activities.

Other benefits of playing table tennis include a greater sense of community from the social experience and interaction it brings, making the sport ideal for people who want to play and have fun.

It is one of the most accessible and inclusive sports available and can be enjoyed by everyone, regardless of age, sex, disability, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity.

Participation provides important qualities including better communication skills, increased resilience and skills to deal with and overcome failure.

Spreading greater awareness of how inclusive and easily accessible table tennis is will help diverse audiences understand the sport better, open the door to participation and provide a catalyst for growth.

With the fresh inspiration of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games now is the time to pick up a bat and get playing. You don’t need to bring anything but yourself and maybe a bottle of water, as playing is good exercise as well as great fun.

Long may the highs and incredible spirit of the games continue.