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Father and son’s fledgling club is already flying high

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From one table in a garden during covid to a thriving club serving hundreds of people and competing in local leagues – that is the amazing journey of Dudley & Sandwell TTC.

When Chris Dunkley put a table in his garden, little did he imagine the interest from local people who wanted to join in some socially distanced sport.

That enthusiasm prompted Chris and his son Jackson to take the plunge and set up a club – and so Dudley & Sandwell was born and now holds twice-weekly sessions at the area’s African-Caribbean Community Network (ACCN).

“Everybody just wanted to play in the street,” said Chris. “So we decided, we’ll try and start something up, me and my son Jackson.

“We came with one table and probably since then we’ve had 300 people come through our doors and come and play with us and it’s just took off since then.

“We’re an underprivileged community, really, and because this venue was so cheap, we’re able to offer kids under-16 free table tennis sessions. That was our main aim, really, to get the kids off the street.

“With the start that the ACCN have given us, I reckon the sky’s our limit. We could probably run sessions and have 20 people here every night and if we got a bigger venue, we could probably even double that. We’ve stopped advertising now, because the venue’s that small.

“For the future, we’re looking for our own venue and we hope to be open seven days a week. Our main objective is going to be free table tennis for the kids under 16 in the area.”

It’s not about just participation – with weekly coaching sessions, players are improving all the time, and are competing well in the local league.

Jackson Dunkley said: “A lot of people are playing in school but never really played outside of that. They come here and you can see that over the weeks, they’ve improved and improved.

“We’ve gone into a league that’s really old and we’ve come in, started our new team – and we’re winning.”

Table Tennis England have worked with the club from the outset and will be working with them to stage TT Kidz sessions for under-11s and, potentially, tournaments. They are also helping the club look for bigger premises.

Chris Dunkley said: “To someone who wants to start a table tennis club, I would just say ‘go for it’ because we’ve created a monster here, it’s just growing every day.

“Everybody can play, this is the good thing about it. We’ve got 80-year-olds and eight-year-olds at the same time, playing table tennis on the same tables; we’ve got about 10 different nationalities all playing table tennis on one table – it’s amazing.”

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