One of Westchester’s most treasured institutions, the Westchester Table Tennis Center in Pleasantville, is hosting this year’s New York State Table Tennis Championship. On April 10, fans from all over New York will gather to watch some of the world’s best table tennis players (including boys and girls ages 11 and under) compete to qualify for the U.S. nationals in July. It will be a fun family-friendly day of the highest-quality table tennis (ie ping pong), and a great opportunity to check out the legendary center.
The Westchester Table Tennis Center
The Westchester Table Tennis Center (WTTC) was opened in 2009 by Will Shortz, the New York Times’ crossword puzzle guru, and his long-time friend and tennis table partner, Robert Roberts. With over 21,000 square feet and 23-foot ceilings, the center is the largest of its kind in the Northeast, and caters to both beginners and experts, with lessons, leagues, games and events for both kids and adults. It has 30 top-quality tables and over 100 parking spaces.
Not only did WTTC survive the pandemic — thanks in large part to the physically distanced nature of the game — but its business is currently thriving. “I would say we’re basically back to where we were before the pandemic. Our tournament last month had our all-time record,” Shortz says. “Ping pong, or table tennis, is just a helpful sport, so people want to do it. I think things were on the upswing even before the pandemic stopped, and I think we will surpass where we were before.”
According to Shortz, the club, which hosts on average 40-50 players a day ranging in age from 8 to 80, is also one of the most diverse. “Once, I counted that our members were born in 35 countries,” he says. “For our tournaments, we bring in players literally from all over the world. From Europe, Africa, Central and South America, China. So, we are a destination for table tennis enthusiasts everywhere.”
Ping Pong for Westchester Kids
According to Shortz, ping pong is an ideal sport for kids. “It’s something you can pick up when you’re 6 or 7. And it’s a game for all ages. It makes you happy. It just makes you feel good.”
WTTC now offers afterschool lessons for kids on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday morning. These are taught by table tennis pros like Kokou Fanny from Togo who competed in the Olympics last summer in Tokyo. The monthly tournaments, with $6,000 in prizes, are the largest monthly table tennis tournaments in the U.S. and are often open to kids ages 12 and under.
The center has trained many of Westchester’s top young players. For example, Amoolya Menon, who lives in Chappaqua, learned table tennis at WTTC and became one of the top-rated girls (13 and under) in the country. “Her goal is to compete at the 2028 Olympics,” Shortz says.
Table tennis can also be useful for kids with autism, according to autism and Asperger’s specialist Rob Bernstein — who has played with kids on the spectrum at WTTC, as a way to help them connect. “Ping Pong provides the perfect opportunity for me to help these kids deal with social interactions. They have to be able to say, ‘nice shot,’ when an opponent gets a point, ask someone new to play — even just learn how to play by the rules.”
And if you’re wondering about the difference between table tennis and ping pong, here’s Shortz’s take: “Personally, I don’t care what you call it. They are exactly the same. If you are just having fun in your basement, that’s ping pong. If you approach it as the Olympic sport that it is, then it’s table tennis.”