If you look closely in amongst the thicket of words in the Bolton and District Table Tennis League handbook you will see, under Rule 21, the following: “Teams in the lowest division only consisting entirely of juniors may opt for home fixtures only.”
Such a rule, in part, is helpful. It means that younger players – those under 18 – without the means or legality to drive to away venues can choose to play in their locality. This has the effect of saving money, offsetting the worry of ‘getting to the game’ and generally being a pastoral arm around the juniors.
Up until recently this seemed fine – adequate and sensible even. But then a team of juniors – Harper Brass ‘D’ – had the audacity to get officially promoted from the bottom rung (Division Four) in April of this year. This prompted a flurry of emails between league secretary, Roy Caswell and Harper secretary, Kaushik Makwana with regard to the implications.
Verbatim extracts are here: “As you can appreciate the boys are only 14/15 years of age. We seniors should be encouraging youngsters to play and take up the sport…Surely the committee can come to an agreement to waive this rule. In time these boys are capable of climbing again to Division Two” – KM (6.8.15).
“This was nothing to do with the committee at all. It was a proposal in 2011 that came from clubs. The then Hilton ‘G’ made a proposal that the ‘home only’ rule should only apply to the bottom division. It was discussed and debated by all the clubs at the 2011 AGM. The result was unanimous. [I suggest you] get a parent on board to ferry them around. It’s only once a fortnight after all. Take it in turns. In my day juniors used to get the bus” – RC (7.8.15).
The Hilton’s own view on the matter, courtesy of Brian Young (8.9.15), remains: “Our objective is to allow our juniors to progress into other teams.”
What if – in the interests of camaraderie – some kids wish to stick together though? Maybe playing alongside old crocks isn’t so appealing. Who is to say that table tennis musketeers cannot progress without amalgamating with the seniors? One for all and all for one! More importantly, were any youngsters even present at the AGM four years ago to vote on their own fate?
Harper ‘D’s reward for promotion from Four to Three has arguably been the keys to an invisible car. They do get around (just) but away matches take them far afield to Horwich, Heaton, Lostock, Bolton, Little Hulton and Walkden.
Looking at the top of Four currently (Hilton ‘J’ well placed), the junior debate may well be revived in 2016. Perhaps player power from the likes of Steven Gao (win percentage 73%), Jei Makino (73%), Ethan Barker (58%) and Joseph Heyes (67%) will turn the tables.