There’s something mesmerising about watching Pat Duffy and his partner play table tennis. A blur of bats ricochets the ball to and fro as the players dance from one foot to the other, keeping the momentum going.
Pat, from Perth, has been playing the sport for over 50 years.
“I started at age 10 playing in what we knew as ‘the club’ in the Newrow, which was 50 yards from my house,” he says. “I would be there every weekend playing table tennis learning from the older guys”.
It wasn’t long before Pat and his partner Jimmy Moss were winning the Perth doubles championships time after time and Pat joined Perth City Boys Club before signing up for the Perth & District league in 1966, when he was 13.
These days he plays mostly at the Saints Table Tennis Club, which he helped found back in 1974, and he’s also the club’s secretary, treasurer and head coach.
“My interest in coaching started as soon as I left the junior ranks at age 17,” Pat, who has also coached various Scottish junior squads over the years, explains. “I was never going to be content just playing – I wanted to run my own club, do things my way and share my experience and the knowledge I has picked up along the way.”
Awarded Perth and Kinross Coach of the Year in 2005 Pat, he also received the George Mortimer Award for service to local sport over many years in 2012.
“I think you just get that for having been around for a very long time,” he jokes, “but a great honour none the less.”
Pat, 63, has played in Scottish teams over the years and taken part in the British Championships. He also travels to Bathgate once a month to compete in the Scottish Veterans tournaments.
“Veterans yeah. Any less competitive? No chance!” he says. “They are great days and I’ve made lots of good friends.”
Pat loves every aspect of the sport whether he’s playing, practising or coaching.
“I enjoy the competitions and of course it’s not just about winning – young or old it’s about being the best you can be and always looking to play better the next time.
“At our club the youngest player is just seven while at 80 years young Jack Oughton still plays a mean game,” Pat says.
“My team, which is top of division 1 most weeks, includes me at 63 and a 14-year-old player. I can’t think that that would happen in many sports.”
Pat points out that able tennis is ideal for families too.
“Grandad, son or daughter and grandchildren can all play together. It can bring families closer together and allows them to spend quality time with each other. The family that plays together stays together,” he says.
And he is keen to stress the health benefits of the sport. “It improves hand-eye co-ordination and reflexes, and stimulates mental alertness,” he points out.
“It’s easy on the joints but it really helps to burn calories . If you have had knee surgery, back problems or have been inactive for a long period your GP will often suggest moderate activity such as table tennis or ballroom dancing. I’ll stick with table tennis.
Burns calories. Someone weighing about 10 and a half stone can burn 272 calories by playing table tennis for one hour.”