FORT MYERS, Fla. — The Table Tennis Together program, established in 2011, is partnered with Lee County Parks and Recreation to offer individual and group lessons to the SWFL community. Over the last few months, they have partnered with the Hope Parkinson Program to offer table tennis therapy for those fighting neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and dementia.
Open to all ages and playing levels, this unique program is led by USA Table Tennis certified instructor Purvi Naik.
“Table tennis has always been my passion for as long as I can remember,” Naik said. “I have been fortunate enough to play table tennis in all different parts of the world. And I’m at that stage now where it’s about giving back to the community, especially to youth and seniors.”
According to the Hope Parkinson Program’s website, exercise is essential to help manage symptoms. In tandem with the mission of the Hope Parkinson Program, Table Tennis Together aims to help improve reflexes, physical coordination and cognitive functions.
“I learned many organizations are incorporating table tennis as a therapy for their clients, so I started to explore and discovered the benefits of utilizing table tennis skills to fight neurodegenerative disorders,” Naik said. “Our interest is to engage with the community to build a ping pong group and regularly practice the skills that help slow down those disease progression.”
For many players, table tennis has allowed them to strengthen their physical health, social connections and cognitive functioning. Martin Ng, who has been a regular player in the group since December 2017, continues to find the program rewarding and a great way to reconnect with table tennis and his community.
“I practice regularly twice a week and play competitively every week,” Ng said. “After three months of getting back to table tennis with stroke, stretching and stamina training, I lost eight pounds. There is also a mental aspect of the game. It is this part of the game that reconnects me with table tennis, so it is more than just a physical workout with hand, feet and eye coordination. I may not win every game, but I put up a good fight and learn.”
With over 15 years of coaching experience, Naik loves to work with SWFL community members and Parkinson’s ping pong players. One of her favorite parts about the Ping Pong Parkinson’s program is watching the players transform.
“When the players used to come, they were not even smiling and not even able to play the balls,” Naik said. “But now, they are all smiling, engaging and playing balls. We are making a difference in their lives.”
Currently, Table Tennis Together is held at the Estero Recreation Center throughout the week. Youth lessons are held on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 3:30-4:30pm and group lessons occur on Tuesdays from 6-8pm and Saturdays from 12-2pm. Ping Pong Parkinson’s sessions with table tennis therapy are also held on Saturdays from 2-3pm. Naik also offers private, individual lessons with table tennis therapy incorporated.
Currently, there is a minimum monthly fee for youth and group lessons. Drop-ins are also available for $15 each.
In the future, Naik hopes to officially establish Table Tennis Together as a nonprofit and find a larger space to be able to set up a regular schedule for lessons. Some of her long-term goals for this program are to open up an official Table Tennis Academy and to integrate this program into senior living and retirement communities.
For more information about Table Tennis Together or how to get involved, contact Purvi Naik at 239-272-8941.
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