Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/ Illustratie Janneke Swinkels
UM Sports opened the doors of the new university sports centre one year ago. Each week, Observant shows up in sports gear to participate in one of the sessions, and will do so until the summer. Today: table tennis.
The beginner: Fortunately, there are other beginners this evening. We quickly reserve one of the three table tennis tables for the four of us. While on either side of us the balls are already flying across the tables at high speed, we deal with the basics. When you serve, does the ball first have to bounce on your own side of the net? (Yes) And how do you hold the bat? (Like you are giving someone a handshake, with forefinger outstretched).
There is no competition during these walk-in hours. “The difference in levels is too great for that,” says co-ordinator Stefan Le Sage. And that is probably just as well. Because, to be honest, we are really bad. Balls land far behind or beside the table, and we mishit regularly. From time to time, someone holds up the bat in a reflex to ward off a hard ball, thus completely ignoring the table and simply hitting the ball back and forth. The excitement needs to come from the question whether or not we can grab the ball that has bounced onto the floor before it rolls into the dark equipment locker, rather than from great smashes or a miraculously saved ball.
But that doesn't spoil the fun. Because it is good fun. The tap-tap of the ball has a relaxing effect and it is quite possible to hold a conversation while you are playing. Before we know it, the hour has passed.
The expert: “What was a real eye-opener for me too, was that it really matters what equipment you use,” says Stefan Le Sage. “For example, we had balls that vibrated in the air. When you hit a ball with an effect, you could see them zigzagging. You can't play with them. The bats that we have are fine, but the fanatics bring their own bats. If you have an aggressive style, you should have a heavier bat, for others it would be a lighter one.” Posture is also very important in table tennis. “I played tennis, so I tend to lean forward slightly. With table tennis, you should completely turn in with each hit.” Lastly: what do you train when you play? “Mainly your reactions. Technique is important, learning to play a fast ball. If you play at a high level, you would also train your fitness.”
Target group: All levels are welcome. “There are some who participate in competitions in Limburg, but also beginners. People come with friends or by themselves. They rotate at a table or play doubles. We only have three tables, so sometimes you have to wait your turn. It's a mix of men and women. That doesn't make much difference with table tennis, experience is what counts. I am quite athletic, I have enough power and endurance, but if I play against a woman who has been playing for a while, I don't stand a chance.”
The facts: there are walk-in lessons on Tuesday from 18:15-19:15hrs, Friday from 17:30-19:00hrs and Sunday from 17:15-19:15hrs