The Arkansas Table Tennis Academy (ARKTTA), located in Arkansas’ capital of Little Rock, is the passion project of lawyer, computer programmer, and USATT National/ITTF Level 3 Coach extraordinaire Mike Lauro. With 3 practice tables and one additional table solely for training with a robot, the modest 1800 sq. feet of facility space is used to the fullest. Lauro created the club in 2018 and previously he had been a coach at the Little Rock Table Tennis Club.
He was honored with the 2018 USATT Volunteer Coach of the Year award for his service to both clubs. A previous USATT article by Richard Finn on this very award highlighted Lauro’s longstanding history with the sport, citing his younger days in the mid 1980’s playing in the Junior Olympics, to taking a quarter century hiatus from table tennis, and returning in 2011 with renewed vigor for his old passion, this time taken a teaching role in the form of coach.
So far, as with all clubs out there, the ARKTTA has been temporarily shutdown for over a month due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to Lauro, the main task that the club was doing leading up to the shutdown was cleaning all the equipment, and they plan on being as vigorous in disinfecting things upon reopening the club as well.
Moreover, regarding the upkeep of his club, Lauro said,
“Fortunately, most of our members have continued to maintain their memberships and the academy has received some donations to help with our expenses... Because we are small compared to a lot of other clubs… our expenses are also relatively small. This makes it easier to plan for staying financially viable while we are unable to get together for activities at the academy.”
Lauro also noted that technology helps by maintaining contact with members. “From the beginning, our members and guests stay in touch with a chat group in the WhatsApp mobile app. We use this app to stay in touch with each other and to share things like YouTube table tennis videos of competitions, trick shots, lessons, etc.” Lauro further observed that when he offered lessons in WhatsApp, the connection was decent and functioned overall satisfactorily.
Coach Lauro had a lot of words of wisdom for struggling quarantiners out there, but he included a special shout-out to Samson Dubina of the Samson Dubina Table Tennis Academy, who has also been very pro-active in the technological realm to spread the #pongpositive love:
“Especially during this quarantine period, it's important for clubs and coaches to support each other, and hopefully this will grow stronger after all of us are able to come back to play this sport. Samson has been doing some very creative things during this quarantine period with his Facebook and YouTube Videos. I've shared with our club members links to his Motivational Mondays and Fitness Friday free online video sessions.”
Lauro concluded with these encouraging words, “It's important to remember that table tennis will be there for us when the time comes, but in the meantime, we may find unexpected [happiness] in some of the other adventures in life.”
So, here’s to staying safe and ponging positive. Thank you to Coach Lauro and ARKTTA for doing your part!