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Ricardo Jaimes
Instructor: Malcolm Campbell
English 1101
October 29th, 2014

This ethnographic study will focus on a two month observation of the recreational table
tennis club at the University of North Carolina Charlotte. This is an organization that I,
personally, joined this year. According to Merriam Websters dictionary, Table Tennis can be
described as the following: A game in which players stand at opposite ends of a table and use
wooden paddles to hit a small plastic ball to each other across a net. Often played as a casual
sport, table tennis has also reached a highly competitive level, making it all the way to the
international Olympics. The table tennis club at UNC Charlotte is centered on creating a better
understanding of the sport, and building on the skills of members to competitive level.
All of my observations took place in the weekly practice/meeting areathe student
activity center. The student activity center is a large gym used for basketball games and other
sporting events. When the area isnt being used for that instructed purpose, its being used for
recreational sports activities like basketball, volleyball, and table tennis. The area is divided into
portions so that each activity has its own area for use. For example, the table tennis club has a
basketball court sized area that is sealed off, and is reserved specifically for their use. The club
has a large cardboard divider, keeping balls from going loose into the gym. There are four tables
lined up for play. Two tables are dedicated to learning drills, where members can learn new

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techniques and skills to use in games. The other two tables are dedicated to free play where
members can utilize and hone their newly acquired skills.
The meetings take place every Monday and Wednesday, from five to seven in the
afternoon. The student organization was created in 2013 by the former president. He is currently
no long a student at UNC Charlotte. During my time of observation, the former president was
still a large part of the organization, taking part in most of the important functions such as
collecting dues, coaching new players, organizing practice times, and organizing tournaments.
He would carry out most of the drills, and train the weaker players.
When asked the question, Why do you spend all of this time and money to come here
every practice day? he responded with this:
Well I started this club, and I dont want to see it end so quickly. I want to see what I
built grow. I mean, I love this club, and I love the game of table tennis even more. I love the hell
out of it. I think that alone is why I do it.
The total amount of members ranges from twenty to thirty; although, not all members
attend every practice. Attendance to all practices is not mandatory. In fact, about half of the
member only attend one out of the two practices in the week. The majority of the members are
male, with only two consistent female members. The females that are part of the club seem to be
very skilledbetter than most of the male members of the club. Overall ethnic diversity is
apparent amongst members. The stereotype that most talented table tennis players are Asian,
however, does seem to remain true in this specific community. After surveying, and asking many
players, the majority of the skilled players were, in fact, Asian or of another foreign ethnicity.
The majority of the lesser skilled, newer players were mainly Caucasian.

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Most members kept to themselves during the beginning of the club sessions; however,
after a few weeks, groups and friendships began to form. The friendships seemed to be defined
by skill level. The more skilled players were more acquainted with similarly skilled players just
as the less experienced players were more familiar lesser skilled players. This is largely due to
the time spent during the club practice. Since the section consisting of drills was largely occupied
by newer players and not experienced players, the newer players grew more accustomed to each
other.
In regards to the way everyone dresses and talks, everyone is fairly diverse. Some of the
more skilled players come to practice with actual indoor athletic shoes, and athletic shorts.
However, some of the more casual players will simply come in with long pants, and more casual
shoes. When it comes to terminology, a lot of the words that are specific to the group involve
sport specific words. Things like looping, chopping, or pushing are all terms that describe
different types of moves used in the game. At first, not all players understood the terms but, after
months of training, most players understand the majority of the shots, and can perform them.
I interviewed two male members of the club to gain a different perspective for this
observation. These are the following questions asked:
Question #1: Why did you join the table tennis club here at Charlotte?
Interviewee #1: Because I enjoy it, and its just convenient. I live on campus and the
club makes it easy to find someone to play. Theres a lot of competition inside of it, so theres
usually someone new to play each day.
Interviewee #2: I joined because I really love the game, and I wanted to get better at it
and compete. I watched some of it on TV, and thought it would be a fun sport to pick up. Im

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really competitive but I felt like I wasnt physically fit enough to play any other sports
competitively.
Question #2: How seriously do you take competitive play within the club?
Interviewee #1: Im not very serious at all about winning. I like playing the game, but I
dont get too upset when I lose. Its more of a hobby that I use to take a break from studying and
other work.
Interviewee #2: I wouldnt say that I take it very seriously, but I do strive to be one of
the top players. I really like to win, so naturally I want to be good. I stay after a lot to get in more
practice and drills.
For the most part, all club members have relatively similar goals and purposes for
meeting; however, some take their interests more seriously. For example, all club members are a
part of the organization because they enjoy playing table tennis, but not all players desire to
become really competitive. Some players are just looking to enjoy themselves for a bit and not
get too serious. This recreational group, compared to other ones present at UNC Charlotte, seems
to take competition a little more seriously. This can be drawn from the tournaments that take
place that can eventually lead to some of the very skilled players going into a national
tournament.
The groups goal, however, is not restricted to just playing the game. It does a good job
of matching people with common interests. Many people have befriended one another through
this organization. The group itself plays a role in the promotion of the sport of table tennis. It
does act as its own community, and gives its members something to look forward to each week.