When I first picked up a paddle at Club Statisztika in Budapest, Hungary I never imagined the places I could go playing table tennis. From traveling around the world playing juniors to meeting other amazing athletes with the Olympics—Ping Pong opened many doors for me to make friends, experience other cultures, and ultimately find a passion for sports psychology. In my new life at Spin New York I have been honored to meet another woman who believes in the power that Ping Pong can have in young people lives, the Academy Award- winning actress and activist, Susan Sarandon. She has been a patron of the sport and a partner of SPIN Galactic, high end ping pong social clubs that provide a new trendy twist for the sport. I was honored to interview Susan recently on how she got involved in ping pong about her hopes and beliefs about this in vogue sport in the United States and in all around the world.
– How did you get involved in ping pong?
I was doing post production on a movie and started playing occasionally for fun and discovered what a great game it is for so many reasons. I decided it would be worthwhile to open a club in Manhattan with my partners –who were all obsessed with introducing New Yorkers to a new presentation of the classic game of ping pong.
– Did you ever played ping pong as a kid?
Not much, maybe a couple of times. I’m the oldest of nine kids so I was busy taking care of my brothers and sisters when I was a kid, so I’m trying to make up for lost time now.
– Who do you play ping pong with and how often?
I don’t get a chance to play very often, unfortunately, but when I do it’s usually with family or friends who come by SPiN and we hit back and forth for a few minutes. I’ve taken some lessons with you (Dora), Wally Green, and Ernesto Ebuen. It’s fun to play with great players who can keep it on the table for a long time.
– What celebrities have you played against?
I played Jimmy Fallon on his TV show and beat him in a quick game to 5 points, so it wasn’t exactly an official match, but I was happy I won!
– What do you enjoy/like the most about ping pong?
I really love the democratic nature of the game. Not politically, of course, but in the equalization of genders and ages and even handicapped players. It’s also a great game for your brain which I think is important.
– Do you have any favorite styles to watch in table tennis or a favorite player?
I am a fan of Jan Ove Waldner who I met and was able to convince to travel to our club and perform his incredible style with former world champion Mikael Appelgren. I also really enjoy a young player at our club who’s 11 years old, his name is Alex Lippan and he’s a top junior under 12.
– Why do you think table tennis is catching on as a cool game to play socially?
Because it’s more fun to play while drinking and socializing than bowling or billiards and people are just bored with typical bars where there’s nothing to do but stand around. Also, so many exciting entertainers and athletes enjoy ping pong so they’re bringing a new awareness of the game to the public.
– Where do you think the sport will go over the next 5 or 10 years?
I expect it to become a national school sport and for a professional league to emerge that creates high profile matches with large prize money.
– Are you getting involved in the promotion of the sport – or are you only focusing on ping pong as a social/relaxing/entertaining activity?
I’ve been working with Ben Nesbit who runs the American Youth Table Tennis Organization (AYTTO) to get ping pong into the new York city public middle schools.
– When were you exposed to the Olympics/competitive table tennis?
I watched a little of the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. And I’ve seen forest Gump, of course.
– How do you think SPIN is changing how society views ping pong?
SPiN is helping to establish ping pong as a sexy night time activity and bringing attention to some of the exciting American players who play it.
– Where are you planning to Open SPIN clubs around the world?
All over. We are talking with people right now in England, China, South Africa, Germany, Dubai, Hong Kong, Malaysia, and we are opening in Toronto next month.
– You are on your way to China for the 14th Shanghai Film Festival in June. You mentioned that you are going to use the trip as an opportunity to play some ping pong with the SPIN Team against China! Are you expecting to do well? Are you preparing for it now?
I am expecting the worst! I’m really not a good player and a little nervous about playing on TV in China, but I’ve been told they will pair me with a comparable player. However, I fear there aren’t any players in all of China at my low level. I’ve taken several lessons with you (Dora), Wally Green, and Kaz (Kazuyuki Yokoyama), so hopefully that will help me.
SPIN Galactic www.spingalactic.com
SPIN New York: 48 East 23rd Street New York NY 10010
SPIN Milwaukee: 233 East Chicago Street, Milwaukee, 53202
SPIN ST. Pete: 242 1st Ave, ST. Petersburg FL 33701
SPIN Toronto: 461 King Street West, Toronto, ON, M5V 1K7