The Youth League   by Adam McTiernan

For those that don't know, the Reading & District Table Tennis Association John Cunningham Youth League (JCYL) has run on a Friday evening for many years now. It is designed to provide those under 21 (mostly under 16 in reality) an opportunity to play competitive table tennis on a weekly basis. The league is divided into two divisions with teams of 2 to 4 players (a minimum of two players play each match). The format includes singles and doubles matches and the kids score themselves. It is the perfect introduction to competitive table tennis and a pre-cursor to a the senior league and ultimately a successful future in both the junior and senior game.

In the last few years, many of our top and aspiring young players such as Daniel Moses, Liam and Daniel McTiernan, Simon and Daniel Thorne, Danny & Sam Ricks, Leo Long, Jon Abbott and Joshua Gallen have all successfully played in the JCYL. Before that were the Farquhar sisters, Lisa Calcutt and the Gehlot cousins.

The JCYL perfectly complements the coaching and training sessions that our clubs and local schools conduct. It is extremely well run for the Association by a band of highly capable volunteers, previously John Cunningham and Alan Dines, and currently Wendy Porter (an ETTA Qualified Coach), Jade Fudge and Steve Ricks. Parents are encouraged to stay on and many help put tables up and down and some even spar with the more advanced players between matches (Alan Cummings and Ian Cole have been a great help in this area over recent years).

The emphasis at the bottom end is rightly on having fun but with the introduction of competition key to the success; and at the top end it is a deadly serious business of trying to win the coveted league title. In additional to league matches, individual competitions are also held periodically throughout the season (including a very exciting handicap tournament this year in memory of the late Alan Dines). The players learn about the rules of the game, good sportsmanship and of course how to win (or lose) gracefully!.

Players can either enter via their clubs or be put together to form a team so it’s very inclusive. Many of the players (who number 25 plus) return week after week to play for their teams with very few drop-outs, which is testament to the enjoyment they experience. The venue (Blue Coat School Sports Hall) is fantastic. It is safe, with good facilities and equipment and plenty of parking for parents.

I would personally recommend the JCYL to any aspiring young player. We are very lucky to have such a great junior league in Reading and are the envy of many other leagues up and down the country. I am very proud of what has been achieved over the years and thankful to those hard working volunteers for making it all possible.

My own children (Liam and Daniel McTiernan) used to absolutely love it and couldn't wait for Friday evenings every week. They progressed in the space of just a few years from losing nearly every match to winning the first division title. Having results and averages reported on the RDTTA website and regular reports written up in the Newsletter made them feel important and valued. They have gone on to win national titles and represent England at Schools level internationally. The JCYL was a vital stepping stone to their success.

Anyone who requires more information on playing in the league next season (from September 2012) or who may wish to volunteer to help out with the organising or running of the league should contact RDTTA Secretary Nigel Maltby on or 0118 9463191.

Adam McTiernan
RDTTA Junior Competitions Secretary