By Samip Delhiwala
Published: March 28th, 2018
The Brooklyn College Table Tennis Club women’s team was eliminated during regionals on March 10 and 11 at the Westchester Table Tennis Club in Westchester, NY after advancing past the second divisional round of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) tournament on Feb. 18,. The men’s team failed to advance past the divisional round.
BC freshman Ashley Rohit won second place in the divisional tournament for her individual play.
“I was so proud of her [Rohit], because she was facing off against serious competition,” BC junior Shanlin Li, president and captain of the club, said. “The first-place winner was a national Olympian from Princeton University.”
On the first day of regionals, the club was required to send out four players. If there was a tie, the competition would move on to doubles. The second day strictly consisted of singles. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the club’s tournament run is the competition the women’s team was up against in the regionals. Out of the five teams that competed, BC was the only public school in the group; the four other schools were New York University (NYU) , Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Brown University, and Yale University.
Because BC’s table tennis club is a relatively new club—it was created in August 2016 by Li—it doesn’t have enough funding from the school to employ a coach, afford a practice facility, or purchase better equipment. The self-coached club resorts to reserving rooms and using the tables in the BC Student Center. Its small budget and grants from College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) student government allows it to make small purchases, such as tournament-quality table tennis balls to get an authentic experience when the team practices. A newly donated table has also helped alleviate the lack of funding.
But according to Li, the president of the club and captain of the team on tournaments, it is the members’ sheer talent and dedication to practice that makes up for the lack of funding.
“I was so proud of our team when we advanced to regionals,” Li said. “Facing off against elite schools like MIT or NYU was challenging, but an important learning experience.”
Without adequate practice equipment and a full-time employed coach, Li said BC was already disadvantaged entering the tournament. But despite the lack of a hired coach, the club still had a vital presence to help them practice and succeed in the tournament: Albert Chieu.
Chieu, an alum from the City College of New York (CCNY) and very passionate table tennis player, reached out to Li and the rest of the club members. On top of serving as an advisor and encouraging them to apply for the tournament, Li claims that Chieu has been the team’s biggest influence and supporter.
But despite Chieu’s efforts, the club needs a consistent presence that can coach practices. That is only achievable through more funding from the school, which is why the club attempted to push for recognition as a school team. According to Li, the club first approached Christina Waszak, the college’s associate director of student activities. Waszak told Li that it is unlikely that the club can be recognized as a school team because it was created so recently. Li then approached the BC Athletics department, but was told that table tennis is not an official National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sport, making recognition as a school team highly unlikely.
“My primary purpose is to gather more resources for our club, so I changed my approach and asked for resources directly,” Li said.
Her change in approach included going directly to CLAS student government.
“We wouldn’t have had the opportunity to participate in the NCTTA tournaments if our grant proposals were not approved,” she explained. “But we still need more equipment, and purchasing them can be very costly.”
The club spoke with Chava Shulman, the chair of the CLAS budget and finance committee, but Shulman expressed the same views as Waszak. According to Shulman, the club has not proved that it will be active long enough to purchase items as expensive as tables to practice on.
Li’s final resort was speaking to Raymond Leung, a professor from the kinesiology department, to see if the club can use his tables in the Roosevelt Extension. Unfortunately, Leung cited security reasons and declined.
The club’s hopes for recognition as a school team and an increased budget cling to the actions of the NCTTA. The NCTTA currently serves as a non-profit organization that attempts to promote “competitive table tennis at the collegiate level,” according to its website. If table tennis can be recognized as an official NCAA sport, then the BC table tennis club would get the funding needed to purchase more equipment and employ a coach.
Li, along with the rest of her club members, believes the club deserves this.
“We have proven that we can compete at a high level with many top schools, so it’s only fair for the school to support us when given the opportunity,” Li said.