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Table Tennis 101?

May 13, 2014

Table tennis paddle and ballLike a fine Italian dining experience, all the essential ingredients are in place to make Table Tennis 101 a terrific course for NIU students.

It all begins with having the right teacher in the classroom.

In many ways, Fede Bassetti brings much to the table.

First learning to love the Olympic sport as a youngster growing up in his native Italy, Bassetti serves as the USA Table Tennis Coaching Committee chair. He also is an asset to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association’s executive board. In addition, Bassetti is fresh from his stint as a referee at the 2014 TMS College Table Tennis Championships in Monroeville, Pa., in early April.

Despite long commutes to work on the NIU campus in DeKalb, Bassetti brings a tremendous amount of zest to his teaching job the moment he walks into the classroom.

That enthusiasm spills over to his students.

His students in the spring, including senior Aksel Bolin of Norway, learned athletic skills that can help with other sports. Bolin was a standout small forward on the NIU basketball team. His table tennis game definitely improved each week. Another student, Andrew Ray, plays on the NIU baseball team.

Putting this innovative class together didn’t happen overnight in the Land of Lincoln. And it didn’t come easy.

Aksel Bolin

Aksel Bolin

Getting the right equipment is key to any successful class.

“I had to start entirely from scratch,’’ Bassetti said. “I had the room and a place to store, but no tables.’’

He contacted vendors, but it wasn’t working out. Enter longtime collegiate table tennis leader and Illinois Ed Hogshead, who came through in a big way.

“Ed was able to find, by magic, 11 tables and other useful goodies such as nets,’’ Fede said.

Members of the Champaign Table Tennis Club in Illinois stepped up by donating plenty of paddles.

Add to the mix a splendid textbook by Richard McAfee, a former USATT coaching chair and ITTF trainer. “I found particularly useful how every drill suggested has a measurable objective, which in turn helps with creating lesson plans.’’

There’s more to make this NIU table tennis course first class.

James Yanik helped build a table tennis robot as a class project for senior mechanical engineering students. The machine helped NIU students develop their forehand loop. “Overall, it was a great help for building fundamentals. I wish we had more.’’

At NIU, that’s home to a table tennis club, Bassetti’s course scored points with students. He wants to make the class even better next year.

For more information, email [email protected].