My name is Christopher Main and I am head coach of North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club which is based at St Matthews Academy, Saltcoats. Ten years ago, no young people played table tennis in North Ayrshire until my dad, Billy Main, took the initiative to set up his own club.
Over 500 members
Since then, we have had over 500 members join and have introduced table tennis to over 3000 people in our community. We are three times Scottish National League Champions and take great pride in being pro active in promoting our sport and running projects that will benefit the local community. We run classes 6 days per week with over 150 people playing each week.
When I heard that my dad (founder & treasurer of NATTC) had applied to Voluntary Action Fund to deliver an anti-sectarianism project, I first thought “this will be interesting, how can our table tennis club, help tackle such a prevalent issue?” But as you read on, you will see how we are successfully going about this. I never had any issues with sectarianism as a kid or as an adult, I was aware that it existed but wasn’t aware of the scale and how intense sectarianism can be. As I attended several workshops and discussion days, it was clear that this is a subject which I feel strongly about and would strive in playing my part (even though it might be a small part) in eradicating it from our society.
Working with the Voluntary Action Fund
North Ayrshire Table Tennis Club are currently in their second year of working with the Voluntary Action Fund on delivering our project and this year we have been as proactive as ever as we feel it is a subject which people can relate to very easily; everyone has an opinion on the matter and has maybe had issues with sectarianism in the past.
There are five main parts to our project as followsAnti-sectarianism Ambassadors
We have a group of anti-sectarianism ambassadors ranging from 12 to 60 year old, who are all top nationally ranked players and compete all over the UK. They are influential people who continually raise awareness of sectarianism & the problems it is associated with by networking, publicity and support. This has been a great success from start to finish and you can read more about it in our “Anti Sectarianism Ambassadors” section.
We hold a national table tennis tournament each year which attracts the top 150 players from all over Scotland, including several of the Commonwealth Games players this year. Four of our ambassadors ran an anti-sectarianism drop in area where we had questionnaires for the players to fill out, leaflets on the activities we have been doing and how to access more information on the subject. We received more than 100 questionnaires back and it was intriguing to hear everyone’s views on the subject, including people who live in Aberdeen, Dumfries, Falkirk etc.
We have recently launched this section of our website and and its has been highly anticipated by the team of volunteers on our project. The idea behind having a section of our website dedicated to our project is to make it as easy as possible for our members, their familiy members & players/coaches from the table tennis world, to be able to access information on sectarianism from a website they are familiar with. We have created a section where members and visitors can access online surveys, extracts from newspapers articles, links to websites with information on sectarianism and be able to learn about the subject. We have became partners with Action on Sectarianism who have set up the first independent website designed to challenge sectarianism in Scotland. This has been great way for us to share their information, blogs & news online to our followers.
We have conducted several case studies and interviews with junior members of our club who have had bad experiences of sectarianism. Some experiences took place at football matches, some at their school and some in their family home. They have given a small presentation to other junior players about their experiences and make them aware of what can be done to help themselves and others. Martin Johnson, who is the current under 13 Scottish champion recently spoke about the award winning Nil By Mouth (www.nilbymouth.org) who came into his school and delivered a workshop on sectarianism and educated the pupils on the issue. Kayser Collins, s3 pupil at St Matthews Academy, recently written up an article for our website on the problems he has had with sectarianism and how he overcame them.
This is a big part of our project and has been a fantastic and positive experience for every pupil involved. We run table tennis sessions in several catholic schools and non-denominational schools, which sit directly across from each other and get them playing the game in mixed teams. For example, we run weekly classes in St Matthews Academy and Ardrossan academy inviting pupils from both schools to attend, which provides them with a common interest to enjoy and connect over. We also have discussion sessions, which I facilitate, and take the form of an informal chat in a class room with drinks and food. Pupils have the opportunity to discuss sectarianism between themselves and usually 15 mins into the session most of them will be passionately talking about it and telling everyone their views and what is right and wrong in their opinion.