Students hit the Ping-Pong tables at Clayton State

By Greg Gelpi

A slight turn of the paddle can cause the ball to "jump" off the table or to "dive" into the net, Dennis Groseclose explained.

Groseclose, 48, and other students at Clayton College & State University are doing more than simply hitting the books. They are hitting the tables and forming the university's first club sport and first Ping-Pong team.

"We're very hopeful, optimistic about the future," the information technology student, who is helping organize the team, said. "We fared pretty well against some pretty good teams (already)."

In its first competition, which was held earlier this month, the newly formed team defeated teams from the University of the South, winning three of the four singles matches and the doubles match, and sweeping Georgia College & State University in five matches.

Other wins at the tournament included Clayton State's No. 1 player Pablo Indacochea upsetting Emory's No. 1 player. The tournament wins put Clayton State at No. 4 in the state, which has nine teams.

"(In the end) Indacochea prevailed and, in its first entry to the world of competitive table tennis, Clayton State's team put this campus on the map," Groseclose said.

Groseclose, who played football, basketball, golf and more in high school, said Ping-Pong offers many advantages over other sports in that it is easy to learn, can be played anytime, only requires two people and doesn't cost much.

"You don't have to be 6-foot-5-inches, 250-pounds to play Ping-Pong," he said.

The challenge of starting a club table tennis team is attracting players and keeping their interest, said Robert Marcus, the assistant professor of Information Technology, who is coaching the team. The team just needs experience.

There aren't many players in Clayton County, Marcus, 56, said, but "they seem to have taken a liking to it."

"Some of them are picking it up pretty quickly," he said.

Marcus started playing table tennis around the age of 11 or 12, he said, and is ranked in the top three in the state in his age group.

"I think a lot of people don't realize how athletically involved it is," Marcus said.

Depending on who is hitting it, the Ping-Pong ball could be traveling up to 80 or 90 mph, he said.

"Speed is one thing, but when you combine that with spin that's what determines a good player," Marcus said.

According to the USA Table Tennis Association, there are nine table tennis club teams in the state with nearly 200 members. The tennis association has more than 7,000 members nationally.