Halifax table tennis players set to benefit from Olympic legacy
Halifax Table Tennis Centre, based at Calderdale Business Park in the old United Biscuits factory in Ovenden, has been offered first refusal on the Olympic table tennis tables used by the world’s top table tennis pros at the London Games in July.
If the funding can be found Halifax table tennis players could soon be practising their serves, forehand and backhand drives on these top quality Chinese-made tables. This would provide a massive boost to the Centre which relies on funding and support from the Community Foundation for Calderdale (CFFC), the grant-making charity.
“It would be great to inherit these Olympic tables, if they are offered at a price we can afford,” says the Centre’s Development Officer and Head Coach, Alan Dickinson. “Running and maintaining the Centre is expensive; the rent has increased over the years and tables are usually at least £700 each, score boards £100 and lighting and flooring cost us over £8,000. We don’t qualify for lottery funding because we don’t have a long enough lease on the building.”
The Halifax Table Tennis Centre was formed in 1932 and operated from community halls and YMCA buildings in the early years. The present site was first offered in 1994 by former owner, the late Mr David Wood, who was a keen player in his younger days. The Centre has produced a number of successful international players including Ronnie Thompson in the 1950s and Kevin Beadsley in the 1970s.”
Unfortunately, table tennis is not as popular today. In the 1970s there were nine league divisions and now there are only three. Alan blames the advent of computers, social media, satellite TV and the ‘couch potato’ phenomenon. But despite the effects of the digital age, the Halifax Centre produces more junior players than most leagues in Yorkshire.
Nineteen-year old Matthew Shaw played for Yorkshire at Under 18 level, having started playing at the Halifax Table Tennis Centre at the age of ten.
“I was hopeless at first and put my success completely down to Alan,” says Matthew. “Some coaches push you too much, whereas Alan pushes you as much as you want pushing. His love of the sport, his enthusiasm and determination rubs off on the players and breeds success. He spends a lot of time with us, travelling all over the country to tournaments. And we work hard to improve our table tennis because we don’t want to let Alan down. He’s also still a fantastic player; we see him play and want to be as good as him.”
Halifax Table Tennis Centre also focuses on disadvantaged children with special needs, but they are hard to reach as Alan explains. “We’re in a high crime area with a lot of single parent families and the challenge is getting the underprivileged children to come to the Centre on a regular basis.”
The benefits of table tennis coaching to young people are evident. As well as being a physical activity, table tennis encourages social interaction and Alan has seen very shy, introverted children grow in confidence through the sport.
“Taking up a sport like table tennis can be character building, good for developing communication skills, team work and bonding,” explains Alan. “It gives young people a skill, teaches them sportsmanship and even how to be a good loser. As well as being something to put on the CV, table tennis is a way to meet people with similar outlooks and interests and form friendships. And it can help keep vulnerable teenagers off the streets, out of trouble and reduce anti-social behaviour.”
CFFC funding is helping to provide 100 hours of coaching and physical activity sessions over a 50- week period. During sessions coaches and volunteers work closely with school children in the Ovenden and Illingworth areas to improve fitness, skill and self-esteem.