This past week, Sean O’Neill, Tim Aikey, and 17 other local Table Tennis players and enthusiasts sharpened their pencils and packed their paddle bags to enroll in an ITTF Level One Training course sponsored by Pure Pong in the Pearl. Approached by course organizer, Tim Aikey, Oregon’s current Table Tennis State Champion, Pure Pong owner, Duane Smith, did not hesitate to seize the opportunity to help educate local players, to inspire a higher level of play in the area. Smith hopes a trend of higher-level play, and Ping Pong play in general, will take effect nationally in the coming years.
“In order to promote Table Tennis as a legitimate sport, and encourage new players to get involved on a competitive level, it requires a good number of solid coaches that are able to go out into a community, and pass on their knowledge and passion for the sport” said Smith of his motive to sponsor the coaching course—donating Pure Pong’s optimal venue space with 20 plus tables and 40 foot ceilings, as well as audio visual equipment to facilitate an enhanced learning experience. Pure Pong also sponsored four local players to attend the course, in order to become certified nation-wide and in Portland.
“I was excited to have the opportunity to further my comprehension of Table Tennis in all aspects, and to gain the credentials to become a coach” said Tom Roeser, one of the players sponsored by Pure Pong who has been playing competitively since 2008.
The three day, 30 hour course is designed to equip coaches with the skills and resources necessary to transform a five year old beginning player, to an 1800 level player in five years. The forum of the course utilized both theory and practical segments, to provide participants with all-inclusive skills to effectively convey instruction both physically, and verbally. Nineteen local participants signed up for the course, taught by prominent figure in the Table Tennis community—Christian Lillieroos.
Lillieroos has been active in Table Tennis internationally, primarily as a coach and administrative figure as the Development Director for USATT and chairman and Coaching Officer for the ITTF Paralympics in Africa, Taiwan, Malaysia, Mexico, and Bermuda. During his time working with the USATT, Lillieroos worked with Olympian and one of the highest ranked Table Tennis figures in America, Sean O’Neill. O’Neil is now a Portland resident, and hosts coaching lessons at Pure Pong. Having the opportunity to work with O’Neil again, as O’Neil enrolled in the course, provided additional incentive for Lillieroos to make the trip to the Pacific Northwest.
Lillieroos has taught over 40 courses, five of which, have been under the new generation of the ITTF course standards. Of the 40 some courses Lillieroos has taught, the course instructor says he has never taught a group like the participants enrolled in the Pure Pong sponsored course—describing the group as a “Rare group of talent”.
“The Pure Pong group had a very high philosophical and spiritual aura. Everyone taking the course changes the dynamic depending on who they are, and this group brought a high level of thinking—one I have never experienced before” said Lillieroos. Lillieros was not only impressed by the students, but by the Pure Pong venue as well.
“Pure Pong is like a dream come true” said Lillieroos, “The United States is like a fourth world country when it comes to Table Tennis. The barrier between Table Tennis and Ping Pong needs to be broken. It needs to be ‘ok’ to play Table Tennis. Pure Pong is helping raise the level from Ping Pong to Table Tennis through ventures like sponsoring this course. The success of Table Tennis lies in the promotion of Ping Pong” Lillieroos continued, which is also a belief held by Pure Pong.
Pure Pong and Lillieroos are currently seeking opportunities to collaborate again in the near future, with hopes of ultimately raising awareness and respect for the sport here in the United States.