The Knoxville Table Tennis club has been an active, fully sanctioned, USATT member club for more than 35 years. During this time, club members have been state champions in a number of competitive categories and competed in many state, regional, national, and international events. Our membership has varied, but in addition to our regular members, we also have frequent visitors from other U.S. table tennis clubs, local players, and competitive players from the Chattanooga, Kingsport, Crossville and Cookeville areas. During the past, we have had more than five-hundred different players visit and play table tennis at our club(s). KTTC has conducted several Boys & Girls Club tournaments and provided training for a number of Boys & Girls Club members and YMCA & YWCA youth program children.
The roots of our present KTTC can be traced to 1971 when John McKenna of the University of Tennessee organized a UT table tennis club. Steve Lee recalls that John McKenna, Nina Robinson and Lyle Newlon were mainstays of the club and that the club conducted an open tournament in 1972 with approximately 100 people competing. By 1975 the UT club was more or less nonexistent, until Joe Ching started a table tennis class at the Westside YMCA. Ching convinced the YMCA to buy several Nisson tables and a few local tournaments were held. Joe moved to Idaho and Steve Lee took over his table tennis duties, which included instructing the YMCA classes. In 1976, a Knoxville city tournament was held and Steve Lee beat out 55 other Knoxville residents for the city championship. Homer Brown won the city championship in 1977 and 1978. In 1978, Homer beat Scott Leamon in the city championship finals and Steve Lee bested Dave Abbott to win the Class A event. By 1980 club play had moved back to UT and club affairs were led by David Abbott who graduated from UT in 1987 with a PhD in Chemistry. It was in the early-1980s when David formalized our club sanction with the USATT. Notable during this time period, Scott Leamon developed into one of the nation’s top players and won several Tennessee state championships. Dave Abbott, perfected his backhand and forehand loops, and also won a Tennessee state championship in 1983. After Dave’s graduation the club disbanded for lack of UT support and membership interest.
During 1988, some of the club members continued to play at homes and churches. Then in early 1989, six decided to reactivate the club: The six were Steve Riley, Wayne Maples, Bill Neely, Dwain Kitchel, Stan Wallen and John Hodges. Dwain Kitchel served as president from 1989 until 1994 and part-time until 1997. During 1994 through 1997, Bob McKinney, Sharon Carney and Jeffrey Hines all served short periods as President. Bill Neely has served continuously as KTTC president since the early part of 1998. Only Wayne Maples and Dwain Kitchel have maintained continuous membership since the club was re-activated in 1989.
The club met and played at Moses Center in Knoxville from 1989 until 1992 when we moved to the Alcoa/Marysville Boys Club. We relocated to Knoxville at the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA in April, 2004.
Some activities of the club included sponsoring Boys Club tournaments in 1990 and a Knoxville city league teams competition in 1991 that was partially sponsored by the Knoxville City Recreation Department. For two years (1991 and 1992), KTTC fielded a team in the Volunteer League. The commissioner of this league was Larry Thoman of Nashville. The Volunteer League had teams from Knoxville, Nashville; Atlanta, Ga; St. Joseph, Mo; Lexington, Ky; Huntsville, Alabama and Indianapolis, Indiana. In 1991 KTTC organized and hosted the Tennessee Sportsfest table tennis tournament. Dwain Kitchel served as commissioner of this statewide event. In 1994, KTTC held a USATT sanctioned tournamentâ€”the Rocky Top Open. KTTC organized and hosted, in association with the University of Tennessee, the AICU eastern United States collegiate tournament in 1995, 1998, 2001 and 2003. We also hosted the United States 1992 and 2000 Junior Olympics table tennis tournaments which were held in Knoxville. Hosting means KTTC furnished our equipment and organized and conducted or helped conduct the events with KTTC volunteers.
Bill Neely, during his presidency, has designed our club old logo and shirts; has organized a number of club training sessions; coordinated inter-club play with other cities including Cookeville, Chattanooga and Ashville, NC; promoted club growth and participation (especially in Senior events) inaugurated the KTTC Joe Newgarden Dogwood Arts USTTA sanctioned tournament; and has improved and upgraded our club equipment. He has also found time to compete in numerous tournaments, increasing his USTTA rating to 1955 and accumulating so many Senior Age event championships and medals (including state championships, and national and international awards) that he has lost count of them. As a direct result of Bill’s energy, dedication to the sport of table tennis and leadership, the club has grown in membership and is now positioned for additional growth. KTTC is now one of the best clubs in the state of Tennessee, if not in the southeastern region of the United States.
It should not be overlooked that the full support of playing facilities and friendly personnel of the Phyllis Wheatley YWCA have added greatly to the recent growth and success of the KTTC.