TABLE TENNIS: Club foursome rule at School Games

Cliffedale Chandlers young umpires, from left - Ben Johnson, Benjamin Rigby and Alexandra Robinson.
Cliffedale Chandlers young umpires, from left - Ben Johnson, Benjamin Rigby and Alexandra Robinson.
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Cliffedale Chandlers Table Tennis Club had four of its members officiating at the 2017 School Games at Loughborough University over the weekend.

Walton Girls pupil Alexandra Robinson (15), Benjamin Rigby (16), a Grantham College Table Tennis Academy student, and Ben Johnson (16) from the King’s School, along with now a veteran of the umpiring scene Alex Mercer (26), who himself started being an official at the young age of 16, were selected to attend this prestigious event in the school sports calendar.

Ben made his debut at last year’s event and actually read the Officials’ Oath at the opening ceremony, while Alexandra and Benjamin were making their debuts at this year’s gathering after less than a year of qualifying to County Umpire standard.

A hectic schedule awaited the three younger members of the quartet when they arrived at the campus. After collecting their uniform for the weekend and booking into their accommodation, it was off to a Young Officials’ Seminar before finally grabbing a bite to eat and rest before an early start to the Friday morning.

Over the course of the weekend they took charge of 30 matches apiece, including disability events.

The young trio are used to playing in tournaments where it is more physical tiredness that kicks in, but when umpiring its more mental tiredness and by all accounts all three coped extremely well and won lots of praise from players and organisers, as well as other officials and the sport’s governing body in the process. Alexandra said: “‘It was a fantastic experience. I was extremely nervous at first but the other guys here put me at ease and I soon began to enjoy it. I’m definitely wanting to apply again for next year’s event.”

The club has actively pursued encouraging their members including the youngest to become umpires, the first step being a Junior Umpires’ Course which gives basic guidance of the rules and the role of an official. This season, Table Tennis England have revamped the Umpires’ Course to make it more inclusive for young people and easier to access.

l As part of Cliffedale Chandlers’ 20th anniversary, the club is holding a quiz night on September 23, and is seeking any former members, young or old, to come along and help celebrate this milestone. More details are available on the club Facebook page as are details of the club’s session timings.