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Table Tennis Association keen to expand range for members and ping pong players


by Frank Molema | 28 January 2021

The Dutch Table Tennis Association (NTTB) is undergoing a process of change. The association is not only keen to activate and attract the many ping pong players but also wants to enhance its range on offer to members. ‘We have to make sure that our range is more flexible’, says Marthijn van der Wal, the NTTB’s head of sports participation and association development.

In 2017, the Dutch Table Tennis Association (NTTB) announced a change in course and presented a multi-year plan. The association wanted to increase its range, to serve the tens of thousands of people who like to play ping pong occasionally.

New impulses
SOS-tafeltennis-1This calls for a different approach, confirms Marthijn van der Wal of the NTTB. The change project Slagvaardig Organiseren van Sport (SOS or responsive organizing of sport) came at the right time for the NTTB. ‘We were ready for new impulses’, says Van der Wal. ‘And then there was the SOS-program. A great opportunity for us to join. We were in the middle of a change process, but lacked the tools.’

With the project ‘Heel Holland Tafeltennist!’ [The Great Dutch Table Tennis Drive] the NTTB hopes to score on activating and attracting new members. One of the ideas is to enable ping pong players to rent tables at table tennis clubs using the app PingPongbaas. Van der Wal: ‘We will help the clubs find those ping pong players. The trick is to offer not just a table, but to make ping pong players feel welcome and at home.’

Range on offer dated
The association also uses a platform like ‘Kantinebaas’ to get ping pong players interested in table tennis. But more changes are needed: the range on offer focused on the current members of table tennis clubs is dated. ‘The way competitions are set up, and our choice of tournaments has been the same forever, while the world around us changes. Today’s players have different needs than players twenty to thirty years ago. We have to make our range more flexible. Offer choices. How to do that properly in the future, is an important question’.

‘We aim at proactive and ambitious clubs, not at passive organisations that sit back and wait for us to help them’

The association’s objective is to increase membership. In the eighties the NTTB united some 50,000 table tennis players. Meanwhile, this number has halved, although since 2017 the association was happy to see that negative trend stemmed, even recording a slight increase in 2019. Last year saw a decrease in membership, when the Coronavirus discouraged aspiring members from joining.

Developing the Association
There’s more on the association’s list of goals via the SOS-program. The project ‘Verenigingsontwikkeling 2019+’ [Association Development 2019+) should cement a new way of working. Van der Wal: ‘This is not just about supporting the association but also about developing the association. We aim at proactive and ambitious clubs, not at passive organisations that sit back and wait for us to help them. A new way of working is called for.’

SOS-tafeltennis-2Van der Wal remarks that the organisation’s capacity for change is significant. He believes this is because the 2017 policy plan already focused on change, and put all members of staff in the right mindset. ‘Everyone saw the wide range of opportunities and how we would have to do things differently than before.’

After the offices’ move to Nieuwegein early 2018, the NTTB has become part of Samenwerkende Sportbonden. As the other associations in the building at Kelvinbaan also take part in the SOS program, it was easy for the NTTB to spar with colleagues. The NTTB also exchanged ideas at the meetings held under the guidance of the change experts of The Brown Paper Company. The NTTB furthermore joined nation-wide programs like NLsport Frontrunners and Clubkadercoach, bringing new tools and knowledge to the organisation.

‘It is not for just one project, it affects the entire organisation’

The SOS program is challenging, and is like a fresh pair of eyes, enthuses Van der Wal. ‘It is good to be aware that the program calls for the commitment of everything and everyone. It is not for just one project, but affects the entire organisation. If something like this comes your way, you must discuss internally whether this is what you really want, and which choices you will make. People often underestimate the time people have to put into programs like this.’

For more information:

SOS - responsive organising of sports
Slagvaardig Organiseren van Sport (SOS – responsive organising of sports) is the name of a project – developed by several medium-sized sports federations and financed by the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports – that should help smaller and medium-sized sports federations become more responsive and better equipped to anticipate changes in society. To start with, twenty sports federations took part in the SOS programme. Over the next six months Sport Knowhow XL will feature a series of articles on how those sports federations experienced the programme, describing, among other things, how one federation executed the change process, the effects and any follow-up steps. Previously we published in English the change process of Royal Dutch Cricket Federation, the change process of Badminton Nederland, the change process of Dutch Handball Federation and the change process of the Dutch Rugby Federation.
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