Since the early 1990s, the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) has been expanding the sport of table tennis across the nation. Today, the NCTTA has 200 collegiate teams within its association. “High schoolers contact us saying they’ve seen footage of the National Championship. They are about to go to college, and they say, ‘I can’t wait to play,’” Willy Leparulo, President of the Board of Directors and Championship Director at the NCTTA says.
The NCTTA’s Mission
“NCTTA is the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association which is the governing body of Collegiate Table Tennis. The mission of NCTTA is to promote the sport of table tennis by providing collegians an opportunity to compete in this enjoyable lifetime sport and to provide student athletes the avenues to compete in serious intercollegiate table tennis competition at a club or varsity level. NCTTA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is seeking to have table tennis included as a sport in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).” – NCTTA
The NCTTA successfully manages over 60 table tennis tournaments each collegiate academic year. From mid-April through September, the NCTTA is busy in full planning mode for the following year.
Willy Leparulo has been involved with the organization since 2001. As Championship Director, Leparulo gets directly involved with the CVBs and sports commissions to ensure each tournament’s success. The NCTTA is comprised of 53 volunteer staff members across the US who assist in a variety of areas like website design and tournament management. At everyone’s core is a pure passion for the sport and its growth. “We’re all professionals in our own industries. Our organization runs on passion,” Leparulo says.
In either singles or doubles, table tennis players use a wooden racket to hit a 40mm ball back and forth over a net. A game is won by being the first to earn 11 points, which are earned when your opponent cannot return the ball. The match is won by winning the best of typically five or seven games.
The National Championship
“The National Championship is our prized event. Imagine the Super Bowl and World Cup rolled into one for college table tennis,” Leparulo says. Each year, 250 of the best college table tennis athletes compete in the National Championship. Throughout the multiday tournament, the NCTTA truly does it all to make their athletes feel like royalty. The 2022 Championship will be held from April 7-10, 2022 in Round Rock, Texas.
The 2023 National Championship is currently an open RFP. “We’re looking for people, CVBs, sports commissions, etc. that could be interested in what we are doing,” Leparulo comments. Their most important requirement for the event is a capable facility with sport court or wood floors. The NCTTA is open to hosting the Championship in any location nationwide.
Ingredients for a Successful Event
For Leparulo and the NCTTA, a successful event is the result of a few components: social media exposure, player & spectator feedback, and spreading public awareness of the sport. The unsolicited “thank you’s” they receive after a tournament go a long way. “That is what makes it. These are people taking the time to share. This leaves me with buoyancy,” Leparulo shares.
Growing the Sport & How You Can Start Playing
“For us, in terms of growth, we haven’t hit our ceiling yet. Hopefully we never do,” Leparulo shares. Expanding the sport can be a multifaceted approach, according to Leparulo. Growth comes from both ends: youth players and high-level role models. The base of the pyramid needs to be full of kids playing across the nation, but the top should comprise of high-level players. These high-level athletes, some of whom go on to the Olympics, serve as important role models and ignite sparks of inspiration in younger players.
For those looking to take up table tennis, Leparulo recommends joining a local club. “There is table tennis everywhere. Find a community center. Generally, they are going to have tables and they are going to have people playing there. Whether it’s ‘organized’ or not, it’s okay because at least you’ll get to play and that fun feeling about the sport.”
With its passion for the sport and dedication to its athletes at its core, the NCTTA’s room for growth is exponential. Keep an eye out for next year’s National Championships in Round Rock.
The RFP for the 2023 National Championships is still open! Check it out here.
For more information or to contact the NCTTA, head to their Playeasy profile!