Table Tennis Yukon is hoping to see a resurgence in members in preparation for the Arctic Winter Games after a struggling prior season.
Club past president David Stockdale, who recently stepped aside as president after more than 20 years, said the 2016-17 season was a bit of a “hiatus” with no real clubs or tournaments.
“Last year was difficult because we had no major competition to train for, no Arctic Winter Games,” Stockdale said. “A lot of kids backed off the sport and we’re hoping to get going again this year.
The club’s executive will be meeting this weekend, Stockdale said, to plan a calendar of events for the club’s season including trials for the Games which is the number one priority, he said.
Part of the problem, Stockdale said, is the club loses young players to school sports that are more intriguing for athletes as it allows them to play on a team.
The club will be holding trials for the Games Dec. 8-10 looking to fill the team of eight players: four juvenile players born in 2003 or later, two boys and two girls, and the same for junior players born between 2000 and 2002.
The table tennis competition at the Games consists of a singles, doubles and team event.
In 2016, the team won three bronze medals at the Games and overall had a tough go in the medal round, losing several other bronze medal matches including in all four singles categories.
In order to increase interest and numbers at club practices, Stockdale said the club is planning other events in the interim including the possibility of getting a professional coaching regiment set up where the same coach will come for three consecutive years to lead a program for the club.
This will be in addition to the coaching of the club already under Kevin Murphy who has been the head coach for about 30 years.
This coaching clinic is a possibility because of ample funding received from the government, Stockdale said.
“With the funding we’ve received it won’t be that expensive for the kids,” he added.
Another idea for Stockdale is to increase participation from youth by getting into the schools, especially the ones that already have table tennis tables to try and get younger players involved with the club.
“Some of the schools have tables now that they didn’t have a few years ago, so there’s advancement there,” he said.
After a slow season in terms of events and competitions, Stockdale said the next three are looking up for the sport in the Yukon.
“The next three years are going to be very exciting,” he said. “There’s something to focus on for the next three years and really build on that from the funding by the government.”
Starting with the 2018 Arctic Winter Games in March, the team will then look to the 2019 Canada Winter Games in Red Deer. It will culminate in the 2020 Arctic Winter Games at home in Whitehorse.
With a big three years ahead, this is the time to recruit, Stockdale said, noting table tennis has always been a difficult sport to develop.
“Some of the school sports take away all the players,” he said.
For the Yukon trials, players will be coming down from Dawson City to compete as well and Stockdale said players from Dawson made up about half the team at the last Games.
This year, Dawson will also be hosting an Alaska-Yukon challenge in June, Stockdale said, allowing both places to meet in the middle and have a competition in preparation for nationals.
Last year’s national championships were in Markham, Ont. and cost “an arm and a leg,” Stockdale said. He hopes they are further west in 2018. The team is also looking into a couple of competitive travel tournaments in Alberta in preparation for the Games.
With practices three days a week, including drop-in sessions on Sunday afternoon, Stockdale hopes adding more competitions and events will attract more players this year – especially with a trip to the Arctic Winter Games up for grabs.