Table Tennis is Social, Diplomatic, Therapeutic, and Mainstream

Pong: A Game You Can Play for Life.

It’s true, one can play table tennis or pong for life and this week we have 2 guest bloggers from the Decatur Recreation Center to tell you about their love, passion, scorekeeping style, therapeutic nature, and disability recovery angles one can glean from the game of PONG. Meet Niklas and Edwin now, and consider coming by the center this Thursday night from 6p-8p to watch the gym full of PONG teams compete in the Dekalb Senior Olympics table tennis (Pong) event!

Niklas’ Angle on the Social and Therapeutic Benefits of the Game

IMG_7103I pong – and pong sneaks up on you. Only recently did I discover that it is the second most popular global participatory sport – a sport that it is played by folks of all ages, abilities, and walks of life.
Did you know that pong is embraced by a number of elite athletes for training and recreation (the U of Alabama football team trainers use it for enhancing eye-hand coordination and many PGA players are itching to get off the fairways and greens to join the pong competition after the golf tournament, for example)?
My pong awakening stemmed from building a homemade table out of plywood and 1 X 3’s with my dad. We ponged for hours and our DIY basement table became a haven for spirited play among high school friends.

Therapeutic

I found pong again a few years ago – decades after all the basement fun — soon after a break up and the loss of daily time with my son. I needed something (not too serious) to do with myself – a place to manage my premature “empty nester” sadness and a way to step into the world again. There are tables all over the city and I sneak away to pong wherever and whenever I can – in homes, gyms, bars, restaurants, outside during snowstorms, and in sweltering summer heat.

Diplomatic

In addition to being serious fun, pong is social and intimate – and I pong with some of my favorite people (as well as a few who drive me crazy). Pong has brought governments in conflict together as a diplomacy tool and is employed by creative and business folk alike as an activity to keep people’s minds sharp, strengthen rapport, and aid in problem solving.
I have coached pong at the local Boys and Girls Club and found the experience of keeping kids active on the table rewarding and a terrific option for those not engaged in the traditional contact sports.  I appreciate being able to pong with all sorts of people at Decatur Rec — and it would be great to see the City of Decatur Schools cultivate pong clubs or teams as extra-curriculars.

Zen

I met my unofficial pong teacher, Edwin Quiambao, at Decatur Rec – and this sage guy says, “I don’t play for points, I play every point.” Edwin is a pong ambassador and often the first to invite anyone new to play (this is how I met him) – yet, even though he is a skilled player, he truly won’t play a scored game!
Pong is also my zen and helps me understand that I’m at my best when present and “in” every “point” (vs. “paying for points”). Learning to let go of the moment and reset has become hugely important to me – both on and off the table. Like my dad, I play pong with my son – and we pong without keeping score. Thanks, Edwin! Pong on!
Niklas Volmer, 48
Associate Professor of Film & Video
Georgia State University

Edwin’s Boost from Table Tennis in Coping with Disabilities

Pong downtown 1Hi!  As I reach my 71st birthday this year, I am reminded that I come from a family of long-livers: a grandma and a couple of aunts in making it to their mid to late 90s, one over 100, and most of the rest of my elders to their 80s.  I fully expected to enjoy my golden years to a similar extent, until I was diagnosed 4 years ago with Parkinson’s, a neuro-degenerative disease with no known cure.
At this point, I’m quickly learning to become prepared for anything as the fragility of life becomes more palpable.
I reacted with mixed feelings when my neurologist at the time surmised that the actual inception of my disease probably dated as far back as 5 to 10 years previous. Wishfully, that meant for me that the disease progression in my case would be a slow one, while on the other hand, it might have been progressing for long enough that I may now be nearing the more frightful stages of my disease.

Staying sharp

Be that as it may, even before my fateful diagnosis, I was already wanting to live life more fully and meaningfully, with a dash of optimism, fun and humor thrown in whenever possible. I was also forever nagged by that overused dictum “Use it or lose it”.
Knowing that dementia can be a side-outcome of Parkinson’s, I consciously engage my mind by being an avid reader and puzzle solver (as in chess); I’m quick to participate in volunteer opportunities that hopefully are socially meaningful; I keep busy in a nearly daily routine of physically challenging activities such as yard work, tai chi, piano-playing AND table tennis.  I can confess that of these, table tennis (more recognizable to most as “ping-pong”) has grabbed my heart the most.
For me, there is something intuitively absorbing (yes, addictive) about this little game, with its perplexing little ball forcing its players into a relentlessly problem-solving mind-set. It is also deceptively, very socially interactive – a widely accepted ingredient for health!
A Japanese study on Alzheimer and dementia patients revealed significant benefits for their subjects from playing table tennis, illustrating the compelling nature of the game, as though it were nearly impossible to play it without giving it one’s total mental and sensori-motor and -perceptual attention – a smart goal for helping rehab these subjects.

Everyman’s Sport

The safety benefits from practicing skills in balance control, coordination and timing become earmarked for a population that is known to be particularly vulnerable to falls, kitchen accidents, etc. Notably, anybody who has watched a variety of people playing this game quickly observes that its recreational features are similar across all categories irrespective of age, gender or physical or mental circumstances. It seems as close to being an “Everyman’s Sport” as you can get. And, oh, yes, it CAN be a serious sport! Decide for yourself in these video clips…Speed of Table TennisSo You Think Table Tennis is NOT a Sport?, The Hardest Sport (8 min)
Pong downtown 2Though my own disease progression has gradually denied me the weekly frequency with which I could engage in this potentially highly active sport, it is still taking up a healthful commitment from me time-wise. I know I would give it even more time if the practical logistics of my making it to and from available sites to play were made more convenient and less problematic for me. Right now, I can still drive myself (daytime) to my sites of choice, depending on changing personal circumstances every given day, making the issue of scheduled accessibility to these sites a crucial one for me.  Our seniors and other folks living with whatever challenges would be similarly susceptible.

Mainstream

A general effort to make access to the facilities required as round-the-clock user-friendly as possible would be a generous goal.  By succeeding to motivate such special groups to more happily embrace offerings as those possible at the Decatur Rec Center, it would be a quick step towards attracting an even larger and more mainstream public to join in and begin to experience the many benefits of this amazing sport and health activity. Just check out some local recognition that table tennis is starting to enjoy via these images seen recently at Atlanta downtown’s Woodruff Park and at the Decatur Recreation Center weekly.

Edwin Quiambao, 71
Citizen, Table Tennis Player for Life

About TSanchez
Bike/ped/trail/active living champion!

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