By Michael Reff
NCTTA Media Relations Committee
Northwestern University is a model school for table tennis team building efforts and results. Just this last regional tournament at Lindenwood, the coed team pulled off a second-place finish by defeating formidable opponent Minnesota in doubles 3-2. It was a heartwarming experience and, as Northwestern coach Ned Leuchtner recalled, “The team came together in an embrace after and there was not a dry eye to be found among us.” This win qualifies them for the NCTTA championships that will take place April 20-22 in Round Rock, Texas.
Northwestern University has had a table tennis program for 10 years, the product of Coach Leuchtner’s hard work, passion and experience being a table tennis student athlete himself growing up in Elkhart, Indiana. “I went on to play in many National Tournaments, and played in the same collegiate tournaments that I coach in now as table tennis champion at Indiana University,” Ned reminisced. Before coaching at Northwestern, he taught table tennis to high schoolers. According to Ned, “I still am in touch with most of my former student athletes, who have gone on to good jobs and live in all parts of the world. They enjoy staying in touch with our program. Quite an honor for me indeed.” This statement epitomizes what college table tennis is all about: fostering athleticism and academics in equal parts.
Like many college table tennis programs among the NCTTA, Northwestern’s club had modest beginnings. For two years, they had to fight for practice times and space with the Ball Room Dancing Club in the Norris Center Student Union building (the author of this article can commiserate with this experience, having had trying times with cheerleading squadrons and volley ball teams in both undergraduate and graduate schools!). Mr. Leuchtner finally, with the accompaniment of the team captain, met with staff from Sports Clubs on campus, and successfully convinced them to move their practice venues to a better facility. “That was 8 years ago, and have not looked back,” Ned stated.
This most recent success at the regionals is due to several factors. One reason is because of the instructive table tennis coaching certification program that NCTTA president Willy Leparulo created. The first classes were conducted in September 2017 at Iowa University and Coach Leuchtner participated in them. He says that what he learned from the course “was to create individual goals for each teammate AND a team goal for the season.” Another factor for the impressive performance has been the team members themselves shining through in leadership roles. Coach Leuchtner cites graduating seniors David Lee and Eddy Lin as pivotal players that have exemplified consistency and tenacity in their respective tenures with the team.
In response to a question on how Northwestern was preparing for the championships in Round Rock, Texas Coach Leuchtner exuded optimism and was goal-driven. “Our preparation for Nationals, has been to stay the course on our practice schedules and stay focused on the various drills that we do,” he said. Congratulations on a strong finish Northwestern and best of luck at the Nationals!
The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock CVB and is one of the premier table tennis tournaments in North America featuring 6 events: Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Men’s/Coed Teams, Women’s Teams. The event is sponsored by iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis
Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.
The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) is a non-profit organization established exclusively for promoting the sport of table tennis at the college level. As the national governing body for college table tennis in the United States and Canada, NCTTA organizes intercollegiate competition throughout North America. www.nctta.org
About USA Table Tennis
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, USATT is the national organizing body for table tennis in the United States, serving 9,000+ members and nearly 300 clubs. USATT sanctions 200+ events a year including the US Open and US Nationals. USATT is affiliated with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). https://www.teamusa.org/USA-Table-Tennis