Opening Serve A New Para Table Tennis Outreach Program

By Richard McAfee | July 28, 2016, 12:54 a.m. (ET)
First Serve
Opening Serve – A New Para Table Tennis Outreach Program

By: Richard McAfee, USATT National Coach and Joola Sponsored Coach

At this year’s US National Championships, a new Para Table Tennis outreach program officially came into existence.  The brainchild of USATT CEO, Gordon Kaye, the program was established to offer some new pathways to bring Para Athletes into our sport.

Para Sports in the USA continues to grow around the country.  This growth has led to many cities establishing Para Sport Clubs that are affiliated with the USOC’s Para Sports Division.  The problem is that while these clubs offer opportunities for Para Athletes to enter a sport and train for competition, almost none of them offer Table Tennis in their programs.  It is the hope of the Opening Serve Program that when given the opportunity and support that a number of these established Para Athletes may also be interested in becoming involved with table tennis.

The Opening Serve Program is a joint effort between USATT and the USOC Para Sports Davison and funded by an USOC Grant.  Para Sports Clubs from around the country were invited to join the program and three cities were selected, Atlanta, Ft. Wayne, and Seattle.  Several more Para Sports Clubs have expressed interest and are expected to soon come aboard.  Representative from the first three cities traveled to the US Nationals and on Saturday, July 9th, they attended a six-hour introductory training session on Para Table Tennis, conducted by USATT National Coach, Richard McAfee.  The participants included:

Seattle Adaptive Sports – Seattle, WA
Kim Goldov
Sung Yang
Thomas Veatch
 
Turnstone – Fort Wayne, IN
Kevin Hughes
 
BlazeSports America – Atlanta, GA
William Cudmore
Sara Thomas

Also attending was Kyle McKinnis, USOC Coordinator for Paralympic Sport Development and Gordon Kaye, USATT CEO.  Seminar participants received instruction on the basics of classification, History of Para Table Tennis, Rules, Equipment needed, Introduction to the USATT Para Program and ITTF Para program, Rankings, and much more.  After three hours in the classroom, the participants got a chance to watch some Para Matches and get some on the table instruction on how Para Athletes train for our sport.

The next step for Opening Serve is that each of the three Sports Clubs will be receiving an equipment package of two Joola Tables and an assortment of top-line professional rackets and balls.  The equipment packages were shipped directly from Vegas.

Each of the participating Para Sports Club has agreed to promote table tennis to the club members and find a minimum number of athletes willing to train in the sport and organized weekly training sessions for them.  Regular reports on their progress will be turned in to the USOC/USATT and in December the top two Para Athletes from each of the clubs will be invited and funded to attend the US Open.

Local USATT Coaches and Players are being recruited to serve as mentors for each of the clubs and help with the coaching of the athletes.

Congratulations to the USATT for having the courage and foresight to look for new ways to recruit more Para Athletes into our sport.  Also a big “thanks” to USOC’s Kyle McKinnis for establishing a grant to support this “Opening Serve” effort.