Darlington Table Tennis Academy- Re-igniting the Sport

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Darlington Table Tennis Academy was formed in 2013 to try and revitalise the sport in our area, and to stop the demise of the Table Tennis League.

Over the past thirty years, the Darlington Table Tennis League has seen a reduction from six divisions and seventy-two teams, to two divisions and twelve teams, which prompted a group of league players to get together and form the Academy, hoping to reverse this trend.

With the support and funding of the Darlington Sports Development Team, Sport England and Durham County Community Foundation, we were able to purchase equipment, cover our initial venue hire and coaching course fees, and eventually established the Academy at the Education Village in Darlington.

Within a very short time, interest and membership grew beyond all expectation, and in need of the flexibility to run more sessions, we moved to Longfield Sports Hall, and finally to our current venue at the Kings Centre Darlington.

When establishing the Academy, we agreed three main objectives:

  • To increase table tennis in Darlington and the surrounding areas.
  • To increase the number teams in the Darlington T/T league.
  • To ensure interest in table tennis is sustainable, and to promote and increase participation within schools.

These objectives are ongoing, and we have made significant progress in all these areas.

The Academy now has over a hundred members of all ages, and offer sessions on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursday evenings, and Friday mornings.

Along with these sessions, we’ve also set up satellite clubs at two secondary schools, offering further sessions on Wednesday and Friday evenings.

This year, we’ve entered eight teams into the Darlington League, representing the Kings Centre, which is a 50% increase over 2013.

We’re currently working with four secondary schools in Darlington, running weekly after-school clubs with average attendance of over a hundred students per week.

We firmly believe that inspiring youngsters within schools is key to sustaining interest in Darlo’s table tennis, and over the past two years – through taster sessions and demonstrations – we’ve involved over 1,500 children in the sport.

As the Academy has developed, so has the ability of our youngsters, who are now playing in the local league, entering local, regional and national events, and establishing themselves within the junior England rankings.

Because of costs and availability of volunteers and coaches, we were unable to offer more sessions at the Kings Centre to cope with the increase in membership, but with the support and funding of Tees Valley Sport, we were able to extend the influence of the Academy by setting up satellite clubs in Polam and Longfield secondary schools, offering more sessions to youngsters and the community.

Our partnership with the schools has resulted in the Academy receiving the award for the North East Regional Satellite Club of the Year 2015, recognising the hard work of our dedicated coaches and volunteers.

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Our challenge for the future is to continue maintaining that impetus and achieve our core objectives. However, every successful sport organisation needs dedicated volunteers to make it happen, and we encourage you all to get in touch.

Interested in taking part or volunteering?

You can contact Giulio at giulio.pontone@yahoo.co.uk, visit the DTTA website, or call 01325 300942.

Andrea Holt
October 30, 2015