BARROW Table Tennis Club coach Paul Ackred is delighted with the way the beginners and fun play sessions held by the club every week have grown in the last year.

Every Thursday evening, the club hires the top hall at St Bernard’s Catholic High School, in Barrow, for the junior sessions from 6-7pm for players of all ages and abilities.

The emphasis of the sessions, which previously took place at Hawcoat Park and are run by Ackred and Matt O’Flynn, is for the kids to have fun, therefore encouraging them to stay involved with table tennis and develop their skills.

After a few weeks off for Christmas, the sessions restarted last month and they’re already attracting a healthy amount of interest from youngsters in the area who are keen to try out a new sport.

Ackred said: “We’re aiming for primary [school] age kids and they’re still finding their feet as to which sport they like the best, so we’re competing against the likes of football, rugby, basketball etc.

“But it’s grown and we’ve got about 15-20 kids here and what it’s also done is that they’ve got adults playing.

“As a result of the kids coming, the adults are taking part as well.

“The advanced juniors also take part in our adult sessions from 7-9pm, so the ones that are playing in the league and we also have a number of children playing in local competitions around the north of England.

“We have a team in the National Cadet League as well, so there’s quite a bit going on.”

As table tennis is a sport that often struggles to gain coverage in this country, other than during Olympic or Commonwealth Games, this can sometimes make it difficult to attract new players to the sport.

Barrow are doing their utmost to change this, however.

Ackred said: “We have some good junior table tennis players but, unfortunately, not as many as we would like.

“There isn’t a lot played in the schools, so we’re trying to grow that by going into the schools.

“There are six schools that we do – Matt does three and there’s a gentleman called Jonny Crawford who does the other three and we go in and do an hour after school, or before school, and do an hour’s coaching with the kids. The idea is that we then try to bring them along to events like this.”