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Springdale's Lawrence Downey tries to popularize table tennis on west coast

Lawrence Downey
Lawrence Downey - Contributed

Springdale native Lawrence Downey represented his province in table tennis at the 2007 Canada Winter Games in Whitehorse.

It’s a trip he never forgot and something he would like others to experience for themselves.

He wants to see more budding athletes from this neck of the woods experience the Games in the same manner and he’s willing to provide an environment for others to embrace the game the way he did when he was a child growing up in central Newfoundland.

Downey is the driving force behind forming a table tennis club in Corner Brook. He’s been trying to get the sport on the radar in the city for the past 18 months and finally secured Corner Brook High as a venue, so he hopes to see people grab a paddle and see what the game has to offer.

Downey is involved in a provincewide table tennis league with players spread out over the island, but he wants to popularize the sport on the west coast.

One of the challenges with getting people exposed to the sport is the misconception that the sport doesn’t offer much in the way of a physical challenge.

He said a lot of people just think it’s a matter of standing up at the table with a paddle and hitting the ball back and forth, so there isn’t much movement, but he begs to differ on that observation.

“In fact, if you watch some of the better players on the island or YouTube a video of the professionals, you’ll see that it’s quite a workout,” he said.

In smaller towns the sport has been popular with some people, but he has discovered that the much bigger centres don’t bring out big numbers because youth are tangled up in the more popular sports like soccer, baseball and hockey.

He saw the sport grow through exposure in some other places on the island and he hopes to see an increase in the number of players on the west coast, but he knows it will take some time to get the word out there.

The plan is to have the paddles going every Saturday from 12-2 p.m. at the local high school gymnasium, but there are instances where the school will be tied up with other events, so there won’t be a venue for those days.

It’s not the ideal situation, but he’d rather see people play the game once a month than not have them find out how much fun the sport can be for those who give it a chance to grow on them.

“Now that I actually have access to a gym and some tables, I’m hoping to turn it around, but for the past year and a half trying to find a venue that would consider it or look at it, for sure, it was difficult,” he said.

All it takes is a paddle in hand to find out if it’s a table setting for the liking, so Downey figures there’s nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Anybody who would like to check out the sport or wants more information about table tennis can contact Downey at 660-5221.

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