Ladies' table tennis proves a smash hit in Falmouth
A ladies’ table tennis session in Falmouth is proving to be a smash hit with its target audience.
The first Bat n Chat session in Cornwall was set up to encourage female players to try the sport or pick up a bat again, and the first 10 weeks – prior to lockdown - attracted up to 18 players a time.
The weekly event is run by journalist-turned-coach Jane Leigh, a Growth Hub client, who moved to Cornwall in late 2018. She says: “I used to run over-50s sessions in Gloucestershire, and I was looking for opportunities to set up something similar down here. With the help of a grant from Be TT, I started the all-female sessions in January this year, and have been delighted with the response.
“I’ve signed up an assistant, Cora, to help run the sessions and I think we’re both enjoying Bat n Chat as much as the players are. Certainly it’s helped me settle in, meet people and feel that I’m contributing to the community.”
Normally, Bat n Chat is held at the Dracaena Community Centre in Falmouth on Thursday afternoons, and attracts an average of 15 players each week. Players range in age from 27 to 69, and from complete beginners to those who’ve played before.
Part of Table Tennis England’s Women & Girls programme, the activity aims to give female players the chance to socialise, try the sport and get active in a friendly relaxed environment.
Jane adds: “I’ve been impressed by how everyone’s fitted in: there’s a lot of laughter and chat, but also some quality play and enthusiasm for coaching.”
At 27, Charlotte, is the youngest player in the group. She says: “Bat n Chat is a brilliant space for women of all ages to get together and play table tennis, without pressure to do anything other than have fun.”
Ros, 68, drives from near St Austell every Thursday to attend Bat n Chat, a 42-mile round trip. She says: “I thoroughly enjoy the sessions with the ladies. There is no pressure put upon us but Jane and Cora are very good at teaching and making it fun.”
And Jenny adds: "Bat n Chat is the highlight of my week. I’ve lived here for nine years but met a totally new set of people through these sessions. Being self-employed, getting out to do something completely different is mentally and socially stimulating, and it’s great to mix with such a cross section of ages and backgrounds.”
Each session is planned to offer regular features – a drill to start with, and a skills game to finish, for example – while everyone changes partners every 10 minutes, to ensure a good variety of play.
Jane says: “Cora and I are on hand to answer questions and offer suggestions on how to improve, and we also try to add something new to keep players engaged. So one week we had a visit from one of Falmouth’s top youngsters, 12-year-old Erin, and that was an eye-opener for people to see an up-and-coming player in action.”
At the moment the sessions are on hold while the coronavirus outbreak runs its course, but Jane hopes Bat n Chat will be back as soon as possible.
She says: “This has got off to a great start, and I’m hoping it might lead on to more table-tennis sessions for the community. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Falmouth Docks TTC (who loaned me their tables etc), the West Cornwall TT League (my financial bankers), the Dracaena Centre (grant application help and discounted hall hire), and to Be TT (for the grant).”
- If anyone would like a game of table tennis, or a news article like this, please contact Jane