This article was written with Chieli Maldonado.
Centennial’s PE classes offer a variety of options for students to choose from when they are selecting what activity they want to do for the semester. One of these many options is ping pong. A benefit of having table tennis as an option is that it may be the only opportunity a student gets to play the sport. Unfortunately in Champaign, Illinois, there are very few places that people are able to publicly practice table tennis.
Although Centennial offers other sports to choose from, such as volleyball, basketball, baseball, and bowling, there are many places where a person could publicly practice this any time they would like. PE ping pong is such a great opportunity for students to get to experience the sport. Usually if people at Centennial say they have played table tennis before, it is because they have played it previous years in their PE class or they have their own personal table.
PE is the one class period that students are really able to take a break from their workload and enjoy time with their friends while also getting their exercise for the day. Ping pong specifically allows students to enjoy this hour of free time learning how to play a new sport they would otherwise probably not have played. The option of having something that is not offered in many places really captures the students’ attention and makes them want to be more active.
Teachers take PE table tennis to the next level by allowing students to play in friendly tournaments. This allows students to compete with each other and enjoy their time in class. Teacher Mr. Barnhart talks further about Centennial’s PE ping pong option.
The Centinal: Why do you think ping pong is such a good option for students to choose?
Barnhart: It is low impact, so it is easy on the knees and other joints. It is great for your hand-eye coordination and reaction time, so it improves your fine and gross motor skills. It can be as competitive as you want to make it, but it requires you to compete against and out-think a living, breathing opponent. It can be played and enjoyed into your elder years. Anyone can put a table in their house such as a basement, garage, rec. room, etc.
The Centinal: What to you enjoy about teaching ping pong?
Barnhart: Teaching the students the correct/legal way to play a game and match. Teaching the students to appreciate the history, techniques, and strategies of the game. Seeing the students develop and progress in their skills, while also enjoying the game.
The Centinal: Have you noticed students participating more when they have ping pong as an option?
Barnhart: I think so. It has proven to be a popular student option every time we offer it (at least 90 students). I think this is because students can compete as hard as they want to against themselves, which has an individual sport concept, and then they can also easily compare themselves with other players.
The Centinal: Have you gained anything as a teacher and/or player from teaching the class?
Barnhart: Yes, I continue to gain an appreciation and respect for the sport. I also continue to gain an appreciation and respect for the highly skilled players. I also get excited when I see students working hard and seeing their improvement.