Pingpong takes to the tables

Published 1:25 pm Saturday, January 17, 2009

It’s one of the most readily recognizable sounds you’ll hear — the rhythmic “knock-tap,” “knock-tap” of paddle and plastic ball that is pingpong.

Last year, Ellis Middle School began their pingpong (table tennis to the greater PC world) club as yet another activity in an effort to involve as many kids as possible in something active.

“I think Ellis is very good at that,” EMS activities director Mark Walski said. “One of our main goals is participation in sports, activities and getting them to do activities that spark them. Hopefully that goes over into high school. Having a kid going home, propping in front a TV is not as productive.”

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The club started at around 10-12 kids and in its second year has seen its numbers rise and has enveloped all kinds of students.

The club meets twice a week in a hallway with three tables Monday and Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. Students largely get started each day on their own and later build to competition.

Walski will set up tournaments with prizes and other games based on skills.

“I’ll bring out prizes and give them out for whoever can hit my serves, things like that,” Walski said.

Walski himself got involved simply because he is a fan of the game himself.

“I got hooked up because last year I found out they had a pingpong team, and I would go down and play with the kids,” Walski said. “It’s kind of neat.”

It’s not surprising that the players he advises join for many of the same reasons.

Isaac Schumacher, a sixth-grader, knew the game of pingpong from playing at home.

“We have a pingpong table at home, and I thought it would be fun to play other people and get to know other people.”

Fellow sixth-grader Jeremy Olmsted joined for the club for a similar reason.

“I thought it might be interesting,” he said. “We get to play around and Mr. Walski is our teacher. It’s fun.”

Walski has expressed an interest in expanding the program to include playing kids from other schools, but there are some complications, the biggest being that Ellis’s club is of the tiniest minority.

“There isn’t another school that has a program like this,” Walski said. “We’re pretty fortunate to have extra activities that allow them to explore different avenues, meet different people.”

There is also budget constraint in getting a bus for travel, but Walski is still working ahead in getting some outside competition.

Walski found out that Mankato schools have something similar and the hope is getting the two together.

“I’m kind of hoping by end of the year we can get the kids to compete,” Walski said.

Overall the club has been a success in more avenues than getting the students involved.

“What I’ve heard is both kids and parents really enjoy this activity,” Walski said.

“I think especially with so many different grade schools in town, a lot of the kids don’t know each other. A variety of activities gets them to meet classmates; get them to know other kinds of people.”

As it turns out, the pingpong club just doesn’t keep students. It’s got a pretty good hold on its advisor.

“Some of these kids are very good,” Walski said. “I enjoy it enough where I want to be an advisor for it.”

“I like just learning how to play the game,” Schumacher said.