Meet our pride of table tennis volunteer of the year

Meet our Table Tennis England’s Pride of Table Tennis Volunteer of the Year!

 With the club locked down, like a lot of other places, it gave us a chance to have a chat to Pat Johnson about her story and get it down on paper to show what a difference table tennis can make to peoples lives and the opportunities and joy volunteering can bring.

Many Club members and people in the North East will have met Pat and the phase “what a lovely woman” keeps being said so, let’s find out a little more about Pat’s table tennis journey.

So Pat, When did you get into table tennis?

I was encouraged to play table tennis at a very young age by my parents, however in my 20’s as work, marriage and family commitments became priority, my involvement with the sport became less and less.

So when did you come back to table tennis?

In around 2005 in my early 50’s I visited a local table tennis group in Bishop Auckland. My interest was slowly returning but, it wasn’t until I met you and attended the senior sessions you were running, that the buzz really started to come back.

But it wasn’t smooth sailing from then till now was it?

Ha hah! No, certainly not.  My life was turned upside down as my father, husband and daughter   all suffered serious health problems only to be followed by my own diagnosis. I struggled with the impact it put on my mental, physical, and social wellbeing.  Gradually, due to not being able to attend sessions because of family commitments and the day to day stress of life, I began feeling anxious, vulnerable and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. Worst of all, I began to lose my confidence and was quickly becoming isolated. My GP said things must change and asked me “what do you do for yourself?” and explained why I should find something I really enjoy doing,  as a release from all the pressures.  Counselling followed and I recognised the need to get my life back on track. Luckily, I’d kept in touch with you all at Bishop Auckland during this difficult time. This meant I felt confident returning to the club would be met with a warm welcome. Now in my early 60’s this growing club continued to inspire me, friendly members, additional social events, with coaching    and competitive regular sessions and engaging with all ages and abilities, the enthusiasm was back!

So what difference has getting back into table tennis made?

Playing is totally amazing, it’s time out from all of life’s other demands, it helps clear my mind, giving me focus and determination to improve. All this gives me more confidence and the opportunity to be part of a very social friendly and understanding group. This reflects on home life as I have fun conversations on returning home and get great encouragement from family.  

Tell us about your volunteering Pat. . .

Well, table tennis has been my passion since I was a youngster and this year I was proud to be chosen as a Female Ambassador by Table Tennis England. I just hope my enthusiasm and commitment can empower women, girls – and anyone else on the planet, to take a small step through a club’s door to find out what happens inside and how great it is to play this sport. Through volunteering I know how much new players enjoy the thrill of the game.

I currently assist the club at the over 50’s group, the Primary School age sessions and others, when I can or if I’m needed. I lead the club’s women and girls sessions. We have got a wonderful group of females who all enjoy playing and the friendliness of the session.  In fact, the club has a great group of players of all ages and abilities. Coaching at the club has given me some fantastic stories to tell. I have recently started helping with the disability group we’ve just started, and I love it!  Their passion, concentration and the enjoyment they get, warms my heart.

In November I passed my UKCC level 1 award and I’m still learning so much. The other coaches at the club give so much help, the respect shown and the support from the club is to be admired. I continue to think of and experiment with new ideas to help vary sessions for players whilst hoping to encourage others to join. Seeing everyone enjoy the sport I love means so much.

And finally, your award, tell us about that.  

So, in March I won Pride of Table Tennis Volunteer of the Year. I was invited to go to Nottingham to the National Championships for the award ceremony. I had such a wonderful time over the weekend, meeting so many of the country’s best players and was delighted to see them competing. I was really well looked after from the time of my arrival to my departure. It was amazing how accessible the top players were, even willing to engage in conversation. Then for me to win the award and have it presented on centre court was an absolute honour. Bringing it back to the North East, to our club was absolutely fantastic.  

Thanks Pat, we would like to take this opportunity to thank you and all of the clubs volunteers, as without you all we wouldn’t have the club we have today.

Like all clubs Bishop Auckland TTC is run by volunteers and new skills and help is always needed, read all about our volunteering programme and volunteer opportunities here 

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