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The Austin Table Tennis Association: Looking for Gumps

New facility shines

By Carly Yansak, 10:38AM, Tue. Nov. 13, 2012

The Austin Table Tennis Association: Looking for Gumps

Pingpong isn't just for Forrest Gump.

It's a game of detailed skill, focusing on extreme hand-eye coordination and relying on sharp reflexes. "Don't take your eye off the ball," was the counsel given to Forrest and he excelled fantastically, especially for a fictional character.

So imagine what you, a real-life individual, could do with more than just one line of advice.

The Austin Table Tennis Association is a growing society in Austin. Started in 1990, the club existed in bars, churches, and warehouses. The click of bouncing balls moved with the members, but after 20 years of dedication, the sound is now concentrated in the ATTA's official home off of Research Boulevard and North 183.

The facility was hand-built by members and specifically designed for the sport. It has rows of courts wall to wall and lights bright enough to always find the ball. The attendees have even created a lounge space upstairs, equipped to host social movie nights and bring fellow table-tennis enthusiasts together.

"We try to keep a family atmosphere here," says Kenneth Beauchamp, president of the ATTA.

Playing since the 1970s, Kenneth is one of the original founders of the club and a regional level coach. He hosts clinics two nights a week (Monday and Wednesday from 6-9) where he imparts his knowledge on players of all skill levels.

"It's like a game of chess with a racket. It's a lot more than just whacking the ball at somebody. You need to learn how to control the ball."

Right there, you already know more than Forrest did.

"It's a learning experience," he says. "If you like to learn, this is one of the best things to do."

Pingpong works motor reflex skills, keeping the mind sharp. Studies have shown it helps with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Parkinson's disease because of the increased brain activity. It's also a chance to gain physical benefits, as lunging for saves and swinging for points constantly keeps a player moving.

Even though the name Austin Table Tennis Association has a formal ring to it, the club itself is laid back. Walk-ins and nonmembers are part of what they strive for, looking to encourage new players and strengthen the skills of previous ones. This goal is what has prompted their upcoming amateur tournament in December, one where their seasoned members will sit out and the floor is open to all and any.

"If you've played in your garage, come on out. I want the garage people!" Kenneth exclaims.

For only $7 per daily session, the garage people can start to become so much more. The daily sessions, as the ATTA website points out, "cost less than a fast food meal" and are a gateway to a healthier mind and body. Monthly membership fees are $50, $30 for students, and $70 for families.

To become involved and find more information concerning the amateur tournament, click here. Or show some Gump-tion and simply walk into the facility.

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