Every Wednesday after school, upwards of 40 students in New Paltz High School (NPHS) congregate around tables with nets. Dozens of white balls populate the upper stratosphere of the cafeteria: soaring across nets, zooming wildly through the air, ricocheting off walls and often bouncing along the cafeteria floor. Other tables have a quick-paced chatter of knocking between paddles. Welcome to the Ping-Pong Club, where not every serve is returned, and that’s okay.
Club advisor and NPHS Social Studies teacher Tim Burger said, though the Club is only in its second year, he credits the consistently high student turnout to the “fun factor.” “It’s one of the few afterschool activities that is not academic or athletic-based,” he said. “The Ping-Pong Club is a safe place where students can come and go with their sports and schedules, make new friends, have fun blowing off steam and hang out, with teacher supervision. There is no pressure here.”
The Club honors traditional rules of table tennis, though it supports student social/emotional wellness with a looser structure, in line with afterschool play. “The idea is for students to grab a paddle and just have fun,” Burger explained.
Student skill levels range from beginner to seasoned pro. Many players participate with little to no experience, but quickly learn – such as Steven Hunlock in Grade 10, who feels that ping-pong is the most appealing afterschool activity for him. Hunlock has been enjoying making gains in his performance. “It’s something fun, not stressful,” he said. “I have fun making a satisfying shot.”
Grade 11 student Johnny Lynn plays at home with his family and rates himself “better-than-average.” Lynn attends the club with his sister. “It’s fun, fast-paced, and friends are here,” he said.
Grade 11 student Charlotte Hjeltnes plays on the NPHS tennis team for sport, but plays ping-pong for pleasure. Hjeltnes said that she comes to the Club because “It’s chill and fun; no pressure.” She also appreciated that joining the Club required no skill or experience.
The occasional staff or faculty member stops by as well. High School guidance counselor Ben Shuchat said that he visited the Club one afternoon to play and found himself being greeted with joy. “The Club added no pressure, and the only rule is just to have fun,” he said. “It’s a good environment, with a great teacher running it. It’s no wonder why it has grown and become a popular club among the students.”
For more information about the Ping-Pong Club, e-mail Burger at email@example.com.