UK table tennis swinging up in numbers

By T.J. Walker

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The UK club table tennis team is entering its fifth year of competition and every year the team bounces higher in popularity.

Senior Eric Rogier has always had a passion for table tennis and in January 2005, with the help of a couple of friends, he founded the UK table tennis club team and is still with the team today. He is the president and the manager of the club.

“I’ve been playing ping pong as long as I can remember,” Rogier said. “But I didn’t realize until I moved to UK that there was actually a sport called table tennis.

“I was able to find a few other people in the Cats’ Den and the student recreation center. We would play for hours just because, not necessarily even thinking about trying to form a club. But we believed we could take our playing to the next level o competition, so we registered the club. But we really had no idea where it was going to lead.”

Rogier said table tennis is the second-most popular sport in the world, and the United States is finally starting to catch on to the international phenomenon. But on a more local level he believes that UK has seen an increase of members because of the international influence at UK.

“In the United States, colleges are really the hotbed of table tennis. Of the top 10 players in the nation, three of them are in college competing right now,” Rogier said. “The sport is really growing quickly in America.”

The UK table tennis has seen a spike in recognition since its founding. The club started with four people and the membership grows every year and currently has around 30 consistent members. But while the club is succeeding in growth, they’ve had more success on the table.

Out of the 10 teams in UK’s region, UK has always finished in the top three. The team carried a top-20 ranking from 2006 to 2008, and in 2007 the team made it to nationals. Not an easy feat considering there are 158 schools competing in the United States, Rogier said.

Rogier said he never thought the club would take off like this. He created the club just wanting to have fun and get better, but with the growing success comes higher expectations. Rogier would like to see the team be top two in regions and consistently advance to nationals.

“(I enjoy table tennis) because it is really easy to play,” Rogier said. “Anyone can go down to the Cats’ Den and play with their equipment right now. You can play at any level, and, personally, I think it is really easy to improve.

“It is also a lot of fun to go watch each other play and laugh at each other, too.”

Rogier says the team is always welcoming new members who want to have fun and play table tennis.

“We want people to understand that there is more than just ping pong,” Rogier said. “There is this real competitive sport that is a ton of fun to watch, a ton of fun to play. It’s really a life-long sport. I’ve been beaten by 80-year-old guys before — sure, it’s humiliating, but it just proves that anyone can play table tennis. It really can be for everyone.”