Gainesville Table Tennis Community (GTTC) is aptly named. With a large Facebook following, 89 members situated in the local Gainesville, Florida area, as well as three locations to play with combined schedules totaling 7 days a week, the community is appropriately a mini haven for aspiring table tennis aficionados. It has grown from humble origins, at first not having permanent facilities. According to GTTC president Diana Rivera, about one of the founders of the club, Jen-sung Tan, although the community is not associated with the local University of Florida’s (UF) club, it
“First gathered at Palominos Sports Bar and temporarily utilized the J.W. Reitz Union Game Room(at UF) and the Baptist Collegiate Ministries (BCM) locations while seeking a long term facility. The purpose of starting our club was to share our passion for Table Tennis by making it available to the community.”
And promote their enthusiasm for our favorite Olympic sport they did, as the club grew to a community of larger size and fulltime schedules. Rivera says the first of the permanent locations, Westside recreational center, was secured by Jen-Sung.
The second facility at Tower Hill Insurance (THI) was the product of persistence from an employee at the insurance company itself who happened to also be a GTTC member. He spoke to his employer of the positive attributes of table tennis and effectively persuaded them to buy a couple of tables. Eventually, that table count increased to 9 in total!
Rivera says the third location was her brainchild, successfully finding the Hal Brady recreation complex, which had already been seeking a sport to promote that would be as inclusive in age demographics as table tennis is.
As one can see, Rivera and the GTTC are very active in the community, so the pandemic has put a damper on things. To keep in touch, she uses social media, email, and phone calls to make sure her table tennis community has the latest news regarding Covid-19 and table tennis as well. On a lighter note, she says, “As president, I'm also trying to make sure I'm keeping up with Birthday wishes to everyone while we are out lol.”
Additionally, Rivera acknowledges there will have to be necessary adjustments once clubs are back up and running, to be safe and healthy. “Never take anything for granted,” she notes. “Respect your fellow members by being more aware of how you can keep the equipment and yourself germ-free. Washing hands and staying home if you are sick or not feeling well.”
For now, Rivera is optimistic and looking towards the future. She says GTTC is working with the Gainesville Sports Commission at the THI to hold a table tennis senior games qualifier event on September 20, 2020. One must be 50 or over to be eligible. Rivera proudly states that this location will take full advantage of all their table tennis tables to deliver a stellar Senior Games experience.
Finally, Rivera has some encouragement for those in the pandemic blues itching to play pong.
“Don't lose your focus. Stick with your goals and where you want to be personally with table tennis. Make the commitment whether you are at home or the club to keep practicing. Call a fellow table tennis player, use your social media to stay connected and work together on new things. Never give up! You're not alone during these uncertain times. Be safe and always be grateful for your table tennis family[.] I AM.”
We wish President Rivera and the GTTC a safe and socially distanced return to their inspiring locations once the time comes to reopen.