Brighton Table Tennis Club had to close for lockdown in March - so how has the club made sure players can all still be involved and keep in touch?
Since Brighton Table Tennis Club (BTTC) closed for lockdown on March 18th 2020, we have had to find new ways to keep in touch with our players and community. This has made our coaches and volunteers become incredibly creative in terms of finding ways to stay in contact. Relationships have become even more important, not just between coaches and players, but the whole community. Our players are missing the club and many are lonely. So how have we made sure we can all still be involved and keep in touch?
One of the first online sessions we set up from March 19th onwards has been the BTTC Daily show on Zoom. We are now on to show 81! The photo is of Show 50, where we had over 50 members join us. The show has not only been a chance to see each other’s friendly and supportive faces daily but for sharing bat and ball skills, talents, poetry, art, photography, singing, cooking, music and dance to name but a few! Each show there is a Daily check in for our players to share their thoughts on how their day has been and it has been wonderful to also have over 25 special guests on the show including top table tennis players such as Tin Tin Ho, Will Bayley and Paul Drinkhall amongst many others, plus local celebrity and community guests too. We have celebrated plenty of birthdays on the show and had a special Volunteers' Week Daily show with prizes for our volunteers, which was a wonderful celebration.
The BTTC Daily show is just one of 15 online weekly sessions that we have been running at the peak of lockdown. There have also been yoga classes, fitness classes, Fitness Gold a more gentle session aimed at our 50+ and those with mobility issues, table tennis skills sessions and an amazing BTTC Radio show too! The aim has been to find something for everybody. Early on we realised that some of our members were struggling to get online so personal invites to fitness and Daily shows were made, and support given to those who needed it. Early on a “Keeping in Touch” list was made for coaches and volunteers to contact members by phone calls, to keep people connected during these isolated times.
Online sessions have only been one way in which we have stayed in touch. Our wonderful team of staff and volunteers has been sending out postcards featuring some classic shots taken by BTTC resident photographer Alexis Maryon to isolated BTTC players. Postcards have gone out to HMP Downview and HMP High Down, Patching Lodge, retired players from the club, and people and organisations outside Brighton with links to BTTC. Players and coaches have also used them to keep in contact with their fellow session players. I think it has brightened everyone’s day when a BTTC postcard has dropped through their letterbox.
BTTC has also been keeping in touch via Facebook, by re-sharing videos from the club over the years and all that has been going on in our online sessions.
Finally one of the most rewarding aspects is that BTTC has become a food hub during lockdown. While the club has not able to run our usual activities we have set up a Food Hub to help support members of the community who are struggling during the crisis. The fantastic volunteers at the BTTC Food Hub have helped prepare food for collection and delivery for 250 - 400 people each week! BTTC have taken referrals from the Council and local community groups, and have been working in partnership with Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, FareShare Sussex, Sussex Gleaning Network, The Real Junk Food Project Brighton, Brighton Food Factory and Brighton & Hove City Council to source food.
Sport England Club Matters have made a video to show how BTTC are keeping in touch with members during lockdown. The video documents how we have stayed connected, and is available on YouTube.
As the club now begins to make plans for return to play, with some activity already in action on the many outdoor table tennis tables across the city, we are gradually reducing our number of sessions online. There have been 205 online sessions in three months, with 169 individuals joining in and 3,356 people in total on all together - what an experience it has been!
The team has also presented their story at the Brighton Tech for Good Meetup: