Sports fans and stay-at-home parents found common ground at the Table Tennis Youth Tournament which took place Saturday where several schools took part in this competition.
Upwards of 40 students competed in the tournament which took place at Carl Ben Eielson Middle school. Event runners included several North Dakota State University faculty such as Steven Qian, Chanchai Tangpong and Di Gao.
A 12-year-old participant, Josh Peterson, got into table tennis through a Christmas gift and playing the game with his family. He said, “My parents all played ping pong when they were young and their parents played with them so I guess I just enjoyed playing it and it was fun for me.”
This was Peterson’s first tournament. He came because his school’s announcements recruited participants although he does not see himself in the table tennis Olympics.
Qian, a professor in the pharmaceutical science department, said table tennis is an important sport not because it’s particularly physically involved, but because it teaches students and parents alike that there’s a song set of mental skills that go into the game. “They need to learn patterns, time, concentration, and it needs to get to a certain level and that’s really good for kids and adults.”
Although table tennis is not as popular as it is in some Asian countries, the sport has peaked interest in Fargo.
Qian said keeping American children invested in the sport is a bit of a challenge due to the sport’s lack of popularity, but the leaders of the tournament try and coach some of the participants.
The youth tournament started six years ago and has continued every year since due to the interest of the kids who participate, increasing in numbers of participants along the way. Qian said the tournament saw “about 40 kids the first year, the last two years it’s been in the 70s.”
Finding space for all of the participants becomes more difficult as time goes seeing as the numbers continue to increase, but the faculty is determined to keep the tournament going.
For Qian, it’s important because not only is the sport accessible to him as a 50-something adult, but it’s accessible across age groups again bringing up the mental capacity needed to engage in the sport.
Qian has been training in table tennis for years and has been coaching the individuals that participated in Saturday’s tournament three years ago. Training usually takes place four or five days a week with the elementary and middle school students, though he doesn’t coach high school students.
The tournament brought together students from elementary through high school with some participants who had participated in all six years of the tournament’s existence.
This tournament was only the first round of challenges. From there, the winners of the tournament would continue to another few rounds of competition and eventually go to the championships.