2003 Connecticut Post Table Tennis Article

Connecticut Post - Jan 28th 2003


Article republished here is available as originally published at:

Strang finds local table tennis enthusiasm

By BILL Mc Donald


photo: Andrea A.Dixon

Ernest Virgo of Middletown,
the top-ranked table tennis player in the state,
is part of the Connecticut Table Tennis Club
that was started by Dave Strang.
Dave has clubs in Fairfield and Middletown.

FAIRFIELD, CT - Dave Strang came from his native Ohio, where table tennis clubs flourish in every(major)city, to Connecticut, where he heard they did not. He wanted to make a difference, and he believes he has. "I saw Connecticut as a great opportunity," said Strang, a Berlin resident whose clubs meet twice a week in both Fairfield and Middletown. "I feel pretty good with the setup now since we get players from all over the state going to one place or the other. Some people play in both places. We get about 30 a week in Fairfield and 45 in Middletown."

Strang grew up near the campus of Kent State Univesity in Ohio where his father was football coach. As a youth, he played table tennis in the student lounge, then as a student himself. He won the Ohio U21 championship, and on graduating opened a club nearby for everyone to join the game.

Table tennis is the official name. The term, ping pong, most likely from the sound the bouncing ball makes, was coined by Parker Brothers, who sold the game as a set, Strang explained. "I used to compete in tournaments all the time," Strang said. "Now I compete in one a year due to the running of the club. There are hundreds of tournaments all over the country - every weekend." He answered an ad in a table tennis magazine to come to Connecticut to help continue a serious club in Middletown and perhaps start more.

This is my full-time job," said Strang, director of the Connecticut Table Tennis Club. "I take the fees ($5-7 per session), sell equipment, and teach. I do well enough."

The Fairfield group meets 7-10 p.m. Thursdays and 2-5 p.m. Saturdays in the gym of the Fairfield Senior Center, the former Oldfield School off Mona Terrace. Middletown meets Wednesdays and Sundays. "We have eight of our own tables which are stored when not being used," (11 in Middletown) said Strang. "We appeal to all skill levels and all ages. We're open to people from other towns besides Fairfield. We can handle a couple dozen people at one time." Strang has seen declining attendance at Fairfield, which he attributes to the loss of "dot-com jobs" in the past year. "We seem to appeal to people in the computer and engineering industry," Strang said. "They like the challenge mentally. Maybe they have sendentary jobs, but they like the mental challenge. We also get a lot of people from China and Russia where the sport is so big. We're up against the team sports that American schools promote."

He is careful in choosing equipment. His tables are twice as thick as so-called "basement tables" for better bounce. The serious racquet costs between $60 and $150 with a thick spongy core for springy rebound and sticky surface for best spin.

Cotter Michaels, 42, of Fairfield, played serious table tennis at Baldwin High School in New York City and Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., then started playing in tournaments around the East Coast. "My U.S. table tennis rating is 1518," said Michaels who works as a sound engineer for rock bands and is married with no children. "The average tournament player in the United States is 1400. A really good player is around 2000, which can usually beat me. The best player in the USA is 2600, which is about 50th in the world. This country is kind of backward compared to the rest of the world in table tennis." "I'm so glad I found a serious club in Fairfield," said Michaels. "I don't get to go to tournaments on weekends since I've got to work. Age and sex have little bearing in this game. There are 14-year-old girls who make me look like I don't know how to play."

Rich DeWitt, 37, of Fairfield, is ranked second in the state with a rating of 2226. "That makes me about 93rd in the country out of 4,000 active males and females," DeWitt said. "Generally, men and women do play together. Once in a while there are women-only tournaments." He entered his first tournament at age 13. This was after he got hooked on the game at a Massachusetts resort while on vacation with his parents, and then seeing the U.S. Table Tennis Open on television. "It didn't look that hard," he said. "But when I went to Brooklyn for my first tournament, I found I didn't know anything. There's a big discrepancy between the basement player and tournament player." DeWitt improved and competes monthly in tournaments around New England and in the U.S. Open the first week in July at Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "I love the speed, strategy, techniques," said DeWitt. "It's a great social activity. It's great to have a club so close to home where I can stay sharp each week."

WHERE: Connecticut Table Tennis - A group of serious table tennis players who never call it ping pong that meets twice a week each in Fairfield and Middletown. The Fairfield location is the gymnasium of Fairfield Senior Center (former Oldfield School), Mona Terrace 7-10 p.m. Thursday, 2-5 p.m. Saturday. Beginners welcome.

CONTACT: David Strang, director, 860-586-7055 or 860-922-8578, or visit the web at http://realtabletennis.com/

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Connecticut Post incorporates The Bridgeport Post, The Telegram and The Valley Sentinel

Sunday, February 02, 2003 11:31 AM EST

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