Recently I had the distinct pleasure to introduce table tennis into Valor Games. For those unfamiliar with Valor Games it is a competition designed and geared towards military personnel and veterans who are physically disabled and/or who have suffered from one of several conditions, traumas, or disorders as a result of their service to our country. While many people may be familiar with the Wounded Warrior Program, Valor Games is a similar yet distinct competition that is gaining in recognition and participation across the United States.
The Southeast Valor Games was held in central North Carolina through efforts by regional adaptive sport nom-profit Bridge II Sports - at three University campuses: North Carolina State University (Raleigh), The University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and, Duke University (Durham). There were many sports represented but table tennis was introduced for the very first time at these Games. For table tennis to become an integral part of this competition is a very humbling honor and one which I was proud to be a part of. Several hundred competitors from over a dozen states participated in the competition and the feedback was extremely positive following the event.
Table tennis was set up in the historic Cameron Indoor Stadium on the campus of Duke University – probably the single most prestigious collegiate arena for in the USA for basketball in the history of the NCAA (arguably save perhaps UCLA). To see 16 tables set up in this stadium was fabulous. But the real treat was seeing the athletes compete in both standing and wheelchair events. Many of the participants are seriously interested in pursuing table tennis at a higher level in the soon to be christened full time table tennis training center coming to Cary, NC in a few months. Moreso, the athletes that participated are now becoming aware of the US para table tennis team through this introduction at the competition.
This event has an enormous growth potential and fortunately the 2014 Southeast Valor Games has just been awarded to the local organizers in North Carolina – Bridge II Sports located in Durham, NC. While the 2013 Valor Games Table Tennis competition did not have any sponsors indemic to table tennis, there were several other key sponsors that significantly contributed to its success including private donors, Omega Sports in Durham, and, the Cary Table Tennis Association.
Finally, was it mentioned that when Tom Gabriel (Omega Sports) and I showed up to run the competition there were 30 volunteers sitting there waiting for direction on what to do! In all the years of running table tennis events I have never, ever, had that level of support for a tt event. WOW! Hats off to the volunteers who were almost all from the Physical Therapy Department at Duke University – most all of them were PhD candidates – and without their help we could not have had the great success that we had.
Personally, I look forward to an even bigger and better 2014 event next year!
Mike Babuin, Chairman of the Board
USA Table Tennis