Table tennis coach John receives highest award

John Mapletoft
John Mapletoft

A GRANTHAM table tennis stalwart has been recognised for all his years of dedication to the sport by the English Table Tennis Association.

Septuagenarian John Mapletoft has been playing table tennis since he was 12 years old and has been coaching for almost 50 years. For all his years of hard work, he was awarded the ETTA Children’s Coach of the Year trophy at the England Open event in Sheffield.

John said: “It’s definitely a prestigious award. I am a very proud person and I have been doing this for many, many years. I have been nominated before and been runner-up, but this is the first time I have won.”

John, 75, began coaching in the 1960s and qualified as an ETTA coach in 1971. In those early days, sessions were held at the Brownlow buildings in Finkin Street, formerly the old Girls’ Central School, and from there John said progress was quite rapid, with the Grantham League quickly swelling from two divisions of juniors to six.

Like John, the town’s interest in table tennis has never waned and, in fact, continues to rise. Arbons were a major sponsor when play was concentrated at Walton Girls’ High School, and then Terry Bly’s Plamore Sport took a major part in the sport’s development within Grantham. John then went on to help found Cliffedale Chandlers Table Tennis Club.

John has been involved in the development of many champions, from the early 1970s through to the present day, ranging from schools, county, regional and even national successes.

John said he first started playing seriously as a young teenager, at what was the Wesleyan Youth Club in Bridge End Road, but began by utilising the furniture at home.

He said: “I was bought a ping-pong set when I was about 12 and played on the kitchen table as many people do.”

John said that all the success he has enjoyed with clubs over the years could not have been achieved without the consistent help of having good committees, coaches and helpers by his side.

He said one of the most prestigious areas of development had been working out of Grantham College where a table tennis academy has been running for the last 10 years. He said another monumental event in the sport’s progression in the town had been the building of Grantham Table Tennis Centre at The Meres, which this year celebrates its 20th anniversary.

John said that he has been asked to coach elsewhere during his table tennis career but has staunchly stayed with his roots in the Grantham and district area, where his own initial involvement with the sport he loves first began.