Drumchapel Table Tennis Club

Drumchapel Table Tennis Club

Drumchapel Table Tennis Club


A case study in club development, recently published by SportScotland




This thriving table tennis club in a disadvantaged area of Glasgow has attracted around 250 players at several centres regularly for the past fifteen years.   With a strong emphasis on fun and participation, the club has also succeeded in attracting and retaining many national and international players.  It has won several club and coaching awards, and continues to operate on a volunteer basis.




Drumchapel is a large housing scheme on the west side of Glasgow.  Originally built to replace poor housing in the centre of the city, the area has struggled to re-establish the original sense of a community, and over the years, the public perception of Drumchapel has been often been associated with social problems and economic difficulty.  In the past twenty years, considerable sums have been invested in Drumchapel, by the former Strathclyde Regional Council, the present-day Glasgow City Council, and by the Scottish Executive.  The Drumchapel Initiative has sought to co-ordinate redevelopment and inward investment by the public sector as well as the revitalisation of public housing and the social infrastructure.  One of the recent projects was the opening of the multi-sport Donald Dewar Sports Centre.



The original Drumchapel Sports Centre was opened 30 years ago on a much smaller scale.  The single-storey sports hall accommodates just one multi-function court together with changing rooms and an outside pitch.  When the Drumchapel Glasgow Table Tennis Club was formed here in 1989, it shared the hall on a Friday night with a local badminton club.Terry McLernon


By that time, Terry McLernon had already developed a passion for the sport.  A local man, he had discovered table tennis as a teenager, and his self-taught amateur skill at the game provided a route to personal success and fulfillment.  He was already coaching table tennis in the local youth centre and the number of tables in regular use had been increased to four.  When his role at the youth club started to change, Terry was invited to help out at the fledgling Table Tennis Club at the Sports Centre, and within a relatively short space of time, he was taking a leading role in the new club.


Stages of development


Drumchapel Sports CentreThe club operated on a weekly basis.  As numbers and tables started to increase, the club was forced to temporarily relocate to the local swimming baths when the sports centre was closed for a year for refurbishment.  An unexpected consequence was that table tennis became more visible and interest continued to increase.  By the time that the club moved back to the sports centre, the old equipment had been damaged by the builders.  A new table was purchased and five used tables were scrounged locally.  ‘The Drum’ moved to regular Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions, and standards started to rise.


Some of the youngsters were also playing at a Knightswood Club from which they could enter West of Scotland leagues.  Drumchapel followed suit and won the 5th Division in their first League season.  Thereafter, the clubs entered with Strathclyde Youth Club Championship where both boys and girls were successful in each age category.  The club was starting to flourish.


The club was also starting to attract attention from more experienced players who visited the sports centre to see what was happening.  The club needed some decent equipment and was advised to become more formally organised in order that external funding could be sought.  A constitution, committee and bank account were quickly organised and local grants enabled the purchase of new equipment. 


In 1993, Terry met with Richard Yule, the Racquet Sports Development Officer for Glasgow City Council and himself a successful international table tennis competitor.  This partnership resulted in a plan to expand table tennis activities into a network of satellite clubs and centres throughout the Drumchapel area.  Terry was employed as a table tennis coach, and facilities were provided on a rent-free basis to encourage uptake of the sport.  A significant grant of £40,000 through Drumchapel Initiative provided the necessary table tennis facilities to support this rapid expansion.


Within a couple of years, over 250 youngsters were playing the game.  The sports centre continued to develop as the base where the coaches decided to provide more challenge by entering the British National League – the first Scottish club to join.  In the first year, the club won the 3rd Division North with a combination of local and international players, and shortly after, the club applied for a place in the Premier Division with a team comprising four Scottish national champions.  By 1996, the club was regularly represented in the National Championships as well as the West of Scotland Leagues.


With teams travelling regularly throughout Scotland at under-12, under-14 and under-18 levels, the club recognised the opportunity to contribute to the broader education of its members.  These visits were expanded in length to give the players the opportunity to explore new cities and enjoy the social experience of each trip.  Over the next few seasons, the club had representatives playing at the World Championships, European Championships, European Youth Championships, Commonwealth Championships, European Cup and Six Nations Championship.


In the late 1990’s the club went through a period of retrenchment.  The break-up of Strathclyde Regional Council led to  loss of funding for the coaching post.  The emphasis upon the elite players – and the essential fund-raising to support that level of national and international travel – meant that grassroots participation in the club was dwindling.  As the older teenagers moved on to other adult activities and away from the game, the club started to rebuild its focus as a community sports centre.


The club itself has won several awards over recent years including Club of the Year (British National League, 1995), Scottish Community Coach working at a local level (Scottish Sports Council, 1996), Glasgow Community Coach of the Year (Glasgow City Council, 1997) and Club of the Year (Glasgow City Council, 2000).  A new generation of young people have grown up through the club, and the club continues to be successfully represented each year in the West of Scotland League and at National Championships. 


Sports activity today


Drumchapel Sports Centre provides weekly sessions of table tennis on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and throughout Saturday afternoons.  In addition, regular table tennis activities are organised at two other centres in the locality.


Around 250 young people (and a significant number of adults) are regularly playing table tennis at the centre; up to 50 people attend each session, when ten tables can be in use throughout the hall.


Players regularly travel up to 50 miles from Perth, Saltcoats and Kilwinning to play at the club because of the quality of the coaching on offer.


The Drum is a base for several international players including one veteran, four European Youths and up to twenty youngsters with the potential to represent their country.


As well as travel to matches throughout Scotland, teams have also visited France, Germany, Holland and Belgium.  The club has twinned with Amiens Table Tennis Club in France and there are regular exchanges between the two clubs.


Coaching for both juniors and seniors is provided in-house by other members.  A coaching structure has been introduced that enables the more experience players to gain a Level 1 Coaching Certificate and use their skills with the juniors.  The club receives a grant from the West of Scotland Table Tennis to assist with some coaching.  This is used in part to provide a coaching camp for the elite players with an experienced international coach.  At least one young player has been accepted by the Grantham College Table Tennis Academy where he is studying sports science.


Managing and maintaining the club


Most of the youngsters playing table tennis pay a standard sessional fee (75p for junior and £1.50 for senior) to use the sports centre facilities.  Formal membership of Drumchapel Table Tennis Club is only required for those players within to enter the regional or national leagues and competitions, and they pay an annual subscription.


The club is managed by a committee of enthusiastic junior and senior players and coaches, all of whom are very active in supporting the club’s wide range of activities from coaching to transport and hospitality.


The club receives an annual grant of £2,000 from Glasgow City Council towards the cost of equipment.  All the costs of team strips, competition equipment, national and international travel have to be met by an extensive programme of fund-raising.  This includes raffles, race nights and other events organised throughout Drumchapel on a regular basis.  Young players are encouraged to raise funds which are then earmarked towards their own expenses.  Those many players who are unable to pay for their own travel are supported by the club to ensure that they are not disadvantaged.  A few local sponsors have also been recruited who will help with specific projects.


Drumchapel Sports Centre is a self-managed facility in which the user-clubs form their own management committee to organise and centre’s programme.  There are no paid staff.  When the new Donald Dewar Sports Centre opened, an agreement was reached between the two facilities to ensure that their activities were complementary rather than competitive in attraction.



Key factors in the success of the project


1.    The drive and enthusiasm of Terry McLernon has been a very important factor in the club’s success.  For many years, he has provided much of the coaching and inspiration for the young players; he has also been instrumental in seeking out grants and other sources of funding for the club’s activities.  In recent years, the more senior club members have taken a much greater role in the management of the club and Terry has become involved in West of Scotland and national activities.


2.    The club has a strong emphasis on ‘Fun’ throughout all its activities.  It is not just simply focused on competitive singles and pairs games.  Youngsters are introduced to a wide variety of games including table-top variations of ‘football’, ‘cricket’ and ‘basketball’.  Many sessions end with round-the-table table tennis.  There is a strong belief that the club needs to be enjoyable for all its players if they are to be attracted and retained.


3.    This approach extends to visits to other clubs and competitions, both at home and abroad.  Rather than being regarded as simple journeys, each is turned into an event.  Teams enjoy extended weekend visits often staying overnight in a new city and learning something about these different locations and cultures.  The club offers a way in which young people from a disadvantaged neighbourhood can learn about the wider world.


4.    The club deliberately creates a safe and organised environment for its members.  There has been almost no trouble within the club because the members themselves exercise an informal yet disciplined approach.  Care is taken to ensure that young children and those living outside the area are transported late at night and avoid any threat to their personal safety.


5.      Finally, through the enthusiasm of the club’s main driving individual, there is a very pro-active approach to generating media interest.  Numerous articles have been written about the club and the achievements of its individual players and teams (including case studies such as this one!).  Terry and others have deliberately built contacts with the local media.  Others may accuse them of being “brash” but the result has undoubtedly been to put the club ‘on the map’ and paint a very different picture of Drumchapel.  For the individual players there is a sense of kudos and recognition for their achievements, and for the club as a whole, a definite sense of national recognition.


Problems and issues


As a sport, table tennis tends to have an attraction for the younger players.  In Drumchapel, many youngsters have risen through the game during their teenage years and reached a peak as a national player at 17 or 18.  Then as adult interests of clubs, pubs and relationships arise, they suddenly leave the game.


The club has sought to counter this trend by providing opportunities through coaching for the more experienced players to retain their interest in the game.  This has tended to be more successful with the ‘reasonably good’ players, rather than the elite individuals.


Developing the fun and social aspects of the club has also been an important element in retaining interest.  Visits to competitions held elsewhere in Scotland, the UK or Europe have become social trips where members have time to experience and enjoy new locations.  This has led to some very successful trips to Aberdeen, Paris, Newcastle, Budapest, Ostend and other cities.


Finally, buying team strips and competition equipment is expensive, as is the cost of travel and accommodation at other venues.  Many individual club members could never afford these costs and in many cases, their families may have only limited resources.  The club is engaged in extensive fund-raising activities to support its members and this requires both ingenuity to develop new schemes, and energy to sustain the effort.


Key outcomes


·         Around 250 youngsters playing table tennis regularly from three centres in Drumchapel.

·         A diverse range of fun activities offered around the game to attract and retain young people’s interest

·         Players attracted from across west and central Scotland to play regularly at the club

·         A strong emphasis on coaching at all levels

·         Support and encouragement for more experience players to acquire a recognised coaching certificate

·         A disciplined and organised environment that requires a minimum of rules and formality

·         Very regular success in regional leagues, national championships and international events across all the various age groups.


Anticipated future developments


Glasgow City Council has recently offered new funds to re-establish a coaching scheme throughout the Drumchapel area and Terry has plans to introduce table tennis to all young people through the local primary schools.  This would provide a taster for the support and offer and entry route for new youngsters to join the existing centres.


The club is also exploring the TTK Greenhouse scheme, established in London in 2003, which offers matching financial support for the coaching of talented younger players growing up in deprived areas.  The scheme has developed a track record in spotting talented teenagers and supporting them to develop their competitive skills.


For more information about the club, please see www.drumchapeltabletennisclub.com


This case study has been prepared for sportscotland with the assistance of Drumchapel Table Tennis Club in October 2005 for publication on the Help for Clubs website at www.helpforclubs.org.uk