With more and more people quarantined at home or working remotely, and sports at a standstill, it’s important to shine a light on exceptional USATT clubs around the nation that will open their doors later when the pandemic subsides. Although practices have stopped since 3/16, Pensacola TTC at Fricker Community Center is one such standout club.
The club initially had humble beginnings, officially forming about 24 years ago with the aid of a USATT “grassroots” grant. Later they amassed upwards of 12 tables, increased membership size substantially, as well as being host to biannual USATT events and several other non-sanctioned tourneys.
L.A. Johnston, President of the Pensacola TTC for the 20 years, attributes the great success of his club to many factors. He said, “The Grass Roots grant from USATT helped Bert Saria (one of the original club founders) buy enough tables to allow our club to host the tournament.”
He also noted that when he commenced his presidency, the tables were not consolidated in one location of Pensacola. Therefore, he said, “The City had two good tables and they approached me with the idea that they would give us the tables if we would take care of them.” In exchange, Pensacola TTC works with the city in splitting a part of the fundraiser tournament profits. “This was a ‘Win/Win’ situation for everyone,” Johnston remarked.
He believes that local and out of state members are attracted to his tourneys because of the excellent table tennis environment as well as how efficiently they are managed. “I try to make it fun for all players,” Johnston said.
When asked what his main long-term goal for the club is, he replied that he would love to have it open on a more permanent basis instead of the usual two days a week. He has however done his homework and realizes that it would take a lot more resources to get to that point.
Mr. Johnston has advice for other clubs: “contact their local Parks and Recreations locations trying to form a symbiotic relationship with them.”
Kudos to Pensacola TTC for being an exceptional club, and best of luck weathering the storm in the days to come!