Diversity of age, culture and background culminated in creating a wonderfully focused atmosphere as I visited a match practice session for players from a range of clubs across the West of Scotland. There was something distinctly refreshing about seeing this level of sporting talent and pride exercised through the majestic "art" of table tennis. As soon as I entered the sports hall, I was assured by Sinclair Houston, who is part of the West of Scotland league management team, that table tennis is a "sport for life." This is something which became increasingly apparent as I intertwined myself between each table, quizzing each player as I went along.
Table tennis truly is a sport of longevity, especially local level. With most players having been introduced to the sport through family members, it really was unique to perceive the same level of enthusiasm and skill radiated amongst players from 16 to 79 years old.
A testament to this was father and son duo Vincent and Tony McGreth. Tony, 79, has been playing the sport both competitively and recreationally for 64 years. He stated that game has "speeded up since then" as it has become increasingly more competitive and difficult to gain recognition in the evolving table tennis world. For many, table tennis represented more than just a simple leisure activity to engage with once in a while as this was a game which had been passed down through generations, spurring a sense of sentiment and long term commitment.
There was obvious sincere devotion and dedication to table tennis. Therefore, to be considered as a minority sport is something which instils a huge burden on the repute and credibility of the sport as a whole in Scotland. Thomas McGrotty suggested, "TV doesn't do it justice." He furthered that the tense and lightening speed nature is one which is only encapsulated through live experience. This has lead to alterations being made in order to the widen the length of rallies during a match and hopefully encourage better viewing on TV screens.
Precision is key to successful performance in table tennis. That may seem a little obvious considering that precision is a core aspect of most sports but in the reflex controlled world of table tennis, a flick of the bat in an incorrect angle may administer the largest of faults. Comments such as "move your feet man" and "you stepped in too quick" emphasised the extraordinary level of concentration required by players to make split second judgements during gameplay. "They play like magicians" was an accurate statement made in reference to the professionals who are able to able to control the ball both swiftly and elegantly with a simple touch.
The scale of the sport is immense. Although in Scotland it may be deemed as a minority sport, I began to comprehend just how tough it is to gain prominence in the world rankings. For local league players, it would be a dream to participate in the sport at such a high level - but the harsh reality is that within countries such as China and India the sport is an ingrained part of culture and heritage in comparison to Scotland's football orientated focus. Nowadays, this often leads to the sport being abandoned by young players as some league players suggested that particularly girls become self-conscious and disinterested as they approach their teenage years.
Nevertheless, the future of Scottish table tennis maintains optimism as fans remain confident that a Scottish gold medal will generate an uprising of enthusiasm and loyalty to the undermined sport. A Glasgow 2014 medal win would be the ultimate spotlight for table tennis.
Further information about the West of Scotland league and how to get involved is available here: