We caught up with Chris Main at North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club and find out how the drastically shortened 19/20 season was actually very successful on the table, how the clubs members are doing during the lockdown and what they are planning once community clubs can re-open.
Tell us a bit about the club…
‘North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club is based in Saltcoats, North Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland. We were founded in 2002 and have been one of the sporting success stories within their local area. We have over 150 members and a wide range of classes on 5 days per week. Players range from 7 year olds who are just starting the game to senior Scottish internationals. Our club is based out of our 16 table venue where we have our club sessions, league matches and 1-1 coaching.’
How was the season going?
‘The 2019-2020 season was a shorter than usual but successful one for the club, with a great generation of players playing at the top of the game in Scotland and representing the club at Scottish National League and British League. We currently have 3 teams in British League, 1 team in British Premier League and 2 teams in Division C. Results at this year’s National Championships were the best NATTC have ever had, with players in at least the semi-finals of every event except from 3 events. Stand out result was from 17 year old Martin Johnson winning Junior Boys Singles, Men’s Doubles, Junior Doubles and reaching the semi-finals of Men’s Singles!’
There must be a lot of hard work by club members?
‘More than 6700 volunteer hours were delivered by our club coaches, committee and volunteers. We had over 1000 players of all ages and abilities attend sessions ran by NATTC. Over 50 of NATTC’s TT tables are in schools and facilities across North Ayrshire. The club gained 10 new qualified coaches and 8 of our players represented Scotland or Team GB at international events.’
How are you keeping moral and communication going with members?
‘We have been doing some on-line activities including video meetings, planning some HIIT sessions plus there’s a club quiz planned for a week or so ahead – there’s also some service and trick shot competitions in the pipeline.’
A silly question… but how has the lockdown affected the clubs plans?
‘As expected, another busy year for us has somewhat been cut short with COVID-19 and in result, postponing our two major fundraising events, North Ayrshire Open and NATTC Golf Day. North Ayrshire Open which is our Scottish ranking tournament was scheduled to be late March, and our Golf Fund-raising day mid-April. Those two events are our two biggest fundraising events so we are hoping to reschedule them for a suitable date next season.
How are the clubs players and members keeping active?
‘Our players have been keeping fit by going out for jogs, skipping and following online fitness videos from their house. Bribar sponsored players Martin Johnson, Jamie Johnson, Chris Main, Holly McNamara & Ryan Henry all have a table tennis table/robot in their house or garage, so they have been using that as best they can for various exercises and service practise.
Holly McNamara was involved in the Table Tennis Scotland online video Q&A with Don and Jill Parker MBE, asking them their thoughts on table tennis and training methods.
So far during the lockdown, our club historian Graeme Stevenston, is currently writing up the History of NATTC as the club heads towards its 20th year since it was founded. This will be a great and detailed piece of work looking at how our club has gone from a 1 table venue in a Scout Hut to a club which is on 5 days per week and classes all over North Ayrshire. We have asked all members, past and present to help Graeme out by sending any results, newspaper cuttings and info from their time playing or training at the club.’
What plans does the club have for when we are back playing again?
‘During the lockdown we have more time than ever to plan for the future and get our club as organised as possible for when our Table Tennis gets the go-ahead to open back up again.
At the club we have an incredible group of junior players who are involved in the National squad, so we want to give them as much support and opportunities as we can to succeed further.
We have a great grassroots set up with satellite clubs in North Ayrshire and local schools, our aim to improve on this and get more adults, juniors involved in our club training, attending competitions and playing in regional leagues.
Throughout the UK and especially in Scotland, Women’s TT isn’t as popular as the Men’s side of the game. At NATTC, we have 3 girls that have represented Scotland in the past year, Holly McNamara, Jess Hogg and Naomi Provan. We hope to build on the girl’s game over the next couple of years and generate more interest in schools and our club.
Is there anyone you’d like to give a shout out to?
During this season, we were very fortunate and thankful that we have support from our major partners and sponsors of the club. We send our thanks to North Ayrshire Ventures Trust, Bribar Table Tennis, Freshii, Joe Perry (Extra Access Scaffolding), Stanley Morrison Trust & Sporting Chance Foundation. This enables us to train with the equipment we need, maintain the weekly programme/classes we have and also reach out and open up Table Tennis to schools and other areas in North Ayrshire not previously supported.