Sep 24, 2015 - Things to Do

My experience at the Charlotte Table Tennis Club



There is no reception desk or greeter at the Charlotte Table Tennis Club. Everyone at the Hawthorne Recreation Center is there to play. As you walk toward the top-of-the-line butterfly tables filled with competitors engaged in fierce play, just slide a crisp Lincoln into the wooden chest next to the door and prepare to be humbled.

“People come here a few times, they get beat and then they never come back,” club president John Pahl said. “The people who do come back get better, and they get better fast.”


And that’s because the sport of table tennis is a different animal than the recreational game of ping-pong. On the surface there are a lot of similarities, but once you start to dig deeper it becomes clear that table tennis requires a completely different mind-set and approach than your typical friendly game of ping-pong. Even the lowest ranked player at the CTTC is on a completely different level than the best recreational player.


Before you go to the Hawthorne Recreation Center make sure to visit the CTTC website. Not only will it tell you more than I ever could about the club, including specifics about membership, hours of operation, codes of conduct, etc; it also highlights some of the key differences between ping-pong and table tennis, the biggest of which is the serve. Just a heads up, the CTTC website is incredibly intimidating, and the players at the CTTC are very serious about their sport, but if you are earnest about improving your game every single person there is happy to help.


On Thursday, which is league night for the CTTC, not only did I have the opportunity to play a variety of opponents, I also had the chance to meet more of the club. They are a fascinating group and every member has their own style, approach and reasons for playing.

“I have a stressful job and with table tennis there is no time to think, so its relaxing for me,” said Heiko Plankenhorn, originally from Germany. “I used to play golf, but golf had so much down time, I would naturally start to think about work. With table tennis there is no time for that.”

The CTTC has an interesting cultural dynamic as well, with players representing a wide range of nationalities.

“You’ll notice there aren’t too many Americans here,” Pahl said. “Table tennis is just not that big in the States… a lot of these guys grew up playing competitively.”

So there’s the added bonus of having the opportunity to meet and engage with players from completely different backgrounds, experience their unique world views, and broaden your horizons. All while enjoying the intricacies of well-played table tennis.

“We are a regular United Nations here,” said Feme Ogundpipe, an IT manger originally from Nigeria who has been playing at CTTC since 2002.

Table tennis is a game of skill, not brute force, so you also have this incredible democratization of the playing field, with teenagers playing septuagenarians, women defeating men, and everyone striving for their ideal game, which is a challenge because there are so many variables to consider.

“It’s a beautiful sport. I am fascinated by all of the things you can do with spin,” said Alexander Hohl, a champion table tennis player originally from Switzerland.

If you honestly want to take your table tennis game to the next level then you need to check out the Charlotte Table Tennis Club. They offer coaching, host tournaments and enable athletes from around the globe to come together and play the game. Go to the CTTC website for all of the details. But be prepared to work, like most things in life, improving your game won’t be easy.

“If you’re serious about your game then, like me, every time you play you realize how bad your game really is,” Pahl said. “People who just play ping-pong, they don’t realize how bad their game is.”

P.S. John Pahl’s game is sick.

CTTC Hours & Fees (view)

  • Saturday: 2:00pm-6:00pm
  • Sunday: 1:00pm-6:00pm
  • Tuesday: 6:00pm-10:00pm
  • Thursday: 6:00pm-10:00pm
  • Visitors Adults: $5 per visit
  • Children under age 18: $2 per visit
  • After 4 visits in a quarter you will need to become a member to continue playing. Membership levels include: Individual ($60 paid every quarter or $180 paid yearly), Family ($75 paid every quarter or $240 paid yearly) and Children (under 18 years of age, $30 per quarter).

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