In an empty unit in the South Gyle shopping centre in Edinburgh, Table Tennis Scotland have created a “Pop In & Play” initiative that enables shoppers to play the sport for free.
Pop In & Play
The project was launched in partnership with Age Scotland and aims to encourage older generations and others to become more active and reacquaint themselves with table tennis or try it for the first time.
Martin Hayman, Table Tennis Scotland community project manager, is passionate about the sport being accessible for the whole family.
“It is a fantastic inter-generational sport," says Martin.
"Parents and grandparents can play with their children, getting the whole family involved.
"There is nothing that kids like more than beating Mum or Dad. Here is their chance.”
As well as playing on the tables, passers-by can access information on a range of other activities including local walking groups, walking sports, local clubs and how to make contact with dementia-friendly classes.
Initially open between 11am and 2pm, seven days a week, organisers hope to extend these hours in future. A team of table tennis volunteers is on hand to help people get started.
Pop-up table tennis
Similar projects have been running in shopping centres in England and South Gyle’s agent saw one in operation and thought it would work at the Edinburgh venue.
Table Tennis Scotland were approached late last year and Pop In & Play was the result of the collaboration. South Gyle provided the space free of charge and Murrayfield Memorial Table Tennis Club, which is supported by sportscotland’s Direct Club Investment scheme, is taking a lead on behalf of local clubs in organising the volunteers to supervise the venue.
A gateway to getting healthy
There are many health benefits to playing table tennis, a gentle-to-medium level activity which gets the heart and muscles working on a regular basis, and Table Tennis Scotland are keen to promote this message through the venture.
“Table tennis is an excellent activity to get people active again," says Martin. "The vast majority of people have played before. That might have been at school, on holiday or in a youth club. Even if it has been decades since you picked up a bat it is incredible how quickly it comes back.”
The sport can be as strenuous as you want it to be. Even bending down and chasing loose balls is great for balance and mobility. You can play sitting down or in a wheelchair so almost anyone can participate. There are mental health benefits, too, as Martin explains.
“Above everything else, table tennis is a social sport. You can chat while you play.
"Add in a cup of coffee and you have the perfect setting for a fun session with your friends.”
Pop In & Play at South Gyle will continue until the unit is let, with the possibility of the “pop up” becoming a longer-term initiative in future.
In the coming weeks, Table Tennis Scotland plan to release dates for regular sessions for the public to join in with a social group, including an over-50s class from 11am.
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