Our family grew up on table tennis, as did a generation before with my parents and so on. Table tennis is an Australian pastime. We like it. It is a family affair. Table tennis table sellers do well.
Like all such sports there are local and regional and state and national competitions. There are world cups and the Olympics. One year as the Shell Australia Padre I won the Shell Australia Table Tennis Title. I learnt my table tennis ticks from my mother who was an uncanny table tennis player.
The National Senior Top 10 Table Tennis Tournament gets held each year all over the country - one year it was held at Seagulls Tweed Heads and on the Friday night which saw this prestigious competition launched, and the only two “non-table tennis' people watching was my wife Delma and me.
This table tennis tournament was promoted in the local media inviting locals to come and see the nation's leading table tennis exponents 'live' rather than waiting for the Olympics in Rio next year where snippets of the table tennis get television coverage.
Delma's and my family respectively have been table tennis enthusiasts with family competitions, neighbourhood championships and last but not least, challenge matches between closely matched family members.
Table tennis is a great ice breaker with new neighbours and friends. Many a time our family invited people over for table tennis and although not battling over the table for sheep stations, had there been sheep stations on offer, they would have been on the table (as it were).
Table tennis can be serious. But with local table tennis, while the competition is under way, those sheep stations are on offer, but as soon as the last play is done and dusted, it's like cricket, back to the pavilion for a drink together. Table tennis can mean everything, but then nothing.
My late mother was a table tennis dark horse. Joan Tronson was tittle but sporty, had a determined eye, a strong winners spirit and in no way was going let any of her kids get the better of her. I can testify that right up to her sixties and beyond, my mother was hard to beat.
My elder brother and I were combatants over the table tennis table. Every point was a mammoth fight. Sheep stations eat your heart out, this was a day in and day out, gladiatorial contest, life and death was at stake. This is / was family life across the nation - this rings bells with so many of us.
Table tennis on the agenda
My parents moved to Harwood Island (Maclean, NSW north coast) to take up the Post Office business and on visits where I also met Delma, table tennis was on the agenda with a few mates I had met, one of whom was Colin Cowling who gave me two crinkled wood bats bats he had made at school. One of those bats become my weapon on choice.
Table tennis was big at seminary (Morling Theological College) and in happened that Colin Cowling came down for bible college during my tenure there. Many a theological discussion took place “in the den of sin” as the table tennis room became known.
When we bought our first house in Wallacia Sydney in 1980, one of the first things we did was to have a concrete pad put out the back with an open colourbond covering and a table tennis. Our family in turn became keen table tennis enthusiasts, thus continuing the 'Australian family' tradition.
In 1980 I won the Shell Australian Table Tennis Tournament in Sydney with my crinkled wood bat (courtesy of Colin Cowling) and in the early 90s our Hayley became an ANU Table Tennis Blue.
For the record
Looking down the list of all the 10 men and 10 women in that Seagulls tournament, only three had Asian names. This is a huge change in multiculturalism as table tennis has been associated with Australians with Asian cultural backgrounds. On the world stage the Asians and the Scandinavians have held sway.
Table Tennis is a players sport
In Australia, table tennis is not one of those spectator sports such as Rugby, the NRL, Soccer, Cricket, Netball, Swimming, Tennis, Basketball or the AFL. Table tennis is a player sport. The joy of table tennis is not watching it, but playing it.
This is very similar to hockey, volleyball, diving, shuttlecock and many other Olympic type sports where participating is so overwhelmingly enjoyable and challenging, you cannot wait 'til it is your turn to have bat in hand.
Delma saw the National Senior Top 10 Table Tennis Tournament notice in the local media and so we went. We were expecting a few hundred people, but the only non table-tennis people there was mum (Delma) and me. There were a couple of mums, coaches were there, officials were there, however non table tennis spectators - they were scarce on the ground.
This reminded me of the Gospel. So many Australians associate themselves as Christians. They are not flag wavers. They are not spectators. They go about their daily lives but with an underlying world view where Jesus is Lord.
It's not unlike the story of Elijah who complained to God he was the only one left. 'Rubbish' came the reply, there are 7,000 others who you know nothing about who have not bent their knee to Baal but worship the Lord.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand. Dr Mark Tronson’s Press Service International in 2019 was awarded the Australasian Religious Press Association’s premier award, The Gutenberg. In September 2020 Summer Moore presented her commission portrait of Dr Mark Tronson holding the Gutenberg plaque. The above photo is the upper part from this portrait.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at: http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html