Table tennis hooks students for life

Alisa Fox

There’s broomball, ice hockey, basketball and even water polo. Now, NMU’s PEIF is offering table tennis as an intramural sport that anyone with a recreational sports pass can join.

The table tennis club was introduced as an intramural sport last semester.

Brian Gaudreau, the associate programming director of intercollegiate athletic and recreational sports, said he is glad they have invested in this program.

“I think it’s great that we have an active club promoting a recreational activity that, in many ways, is a lifelong activity,” Gaudreau said. “Interested students now have the opportunity to play both badminton and table tennis.”

Getting the PEIF to take on the club as an intramural was a challenge at first, said Gianni Carli, the junior physical education major who founded the table tennis club last semester.

“Now, they’re pretty supportive and they think it’s a good idea,” Carli said. “They’ve been supporting our goals.”

Although NMU lists table tennis as an intramural sport, Carli said they call it a club because it is meant for everyone and not just those interested in joining an intramural.

“I started the club because originally, I wanted to play more table tennis,” Carli said. “Now, it’s about the community. I wanted to provide opportunities for table tennis and to have fun and to show people how much fun it can be.”

The club has four tables with barriers to keep the balls from getting away from the players. They also provide the balls and paddles for the players.

“We offer coaching, as well,” Carli said. “One of the tables is just for multi-ball training and running drills so you can still practice even if you’re intimidated by the better players.”

Even athletes have found a reason to come to the table tennis meets.

“Sometimes the USOEC athletes will come because its a great sport to improve footwork and hand-eye coordination,” Carli said. “Its also just a great way to get aerobic exercise in.”

One of the club’s goals is to be able to get a ball launcher and make it available to all members. Carli said he wants to form a team to compete against Michigan Technical University in the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association.

“The biggest reason to join is that you’ll learn a new sport that you’ll enjoy for a lifetime,” Carli said.

The table tennis club also offers the opportunity to play badminton or pickle ball.

“It’s hard to get people to come consistently,” Carli said. “I encourage everyone to get a PEIF pass so that you can come and enjoy the sports and clubs that the PEIF has to offer like table tennis or even Zumba.”

Carli said he enjoys having a recreational sports pass through the PEIF.

“Being a member is like being a part of a country club or something because you get to socialize and it makes you happier to meet new people and learn new things,” Carli said. “You learn things about yourself when you are challenged.”

Table tennis, also known as pingpong, started during the 1880s in Britain and came to the United States in 1930. The rackets were made of parchment stretched over wooden frames and the balls were often made out of champagne corks. The sounds these two instruments made gave the name pingpong to this game, according to

“It is the largest participation sport in the world,” said Carli “It’s also the most popular racket sport in the world.”

Today, the rackets are made out of a lightweight wood and the balls are hollow and plastic. There are many different moves and styles that a player can utilize, and the game has even become an Olympic sport.

“It’s a game that can be enjoyed by any age or any gender and regardless of skill levels,” Carli said. “It’s a fun activity and a fun way to get exercise. You can sneak it in on them because they’re having so much fun.”

Carli said his passion for the sport came from an early age.

“Every day, after school, I played with my friends and neighbors,” Carli said.

Carli said he became more serious about it when he moved to Florida and was able to join table tennis clubs.

“I was always the worst player because everyone was more experienced than I was, but I became better with experience and the game became more fun,” Carli said.

The table tennis club meets from 7 to 10 p.m. every Thursday night in the Vandement Arena. For more information about the table tennis club or about getting a recreational sports pass, e-mail the Recreational Sports office at [email protected].