HISTORY - WHY WAS SEVENOAKS SET UP?

• In 1977 Sevenoaks was a TT backwater; players could either play in the Bromley, NW Kent or Tonbridge Leagues which meant late nights and a fair bit of travelling.   This was difficult as the Darenth club had a lot of juniors and some players who worked up town and got home too late to play in a conventional league.   So, a centrally based one operating at weekends seemed to be an answer.
• It would also give players who stood no chance of playing for another League the opportunity to compete in Kent League thereby raising playing standards locally.
• There was a fair bit of interest from other clubs when the central venue idea was put forward.
• A Steering Committee was formed with officials from other local clubs and drew up the rules.
• The League began on 1st October 1978 with six Divisions, having originally estimated five, using both the Darenth venue at Donnington Hall and Otford's at the Memorial Hall.   Later the Wildernesse School gym and Sevenoaks Prep School hall were used.
• David and Janet Field helped run the League until they retired in the mid 80s.   The League continued with a variable number of Divisions until they returned in 1997, using Donnington Hall and Sevenoaks Prep School.   Only three Divisions were being run and no inter league teams were being organised.
• All Divisions were then shifted to Donnington Hall.
• The League went from three to five divisions in 2003, increased to six in 2008 and set up the Development Division last season.

WHY DOES IT WORK?

• Central venue – clubs don't have to book and pay for a venue independently.    
• Quality playing conditions – well lit hall, equipment kept in good repair.
• Simple rules.
• No postponements are allowed.
• Two player teams are easier to organise.
• Regular meetings but not every week on Sunday afternoons. 
• Everybody gets six sets per meeting.
• Small Divisions of six generally meaning a much more even standard of play.
• Very competitive either fighting for promotion or to avoid relegation.   There are some fierce but friendly rivalries.
• Sociable with a break for refreshments giving everyone a chance to chat, developing a special atmosphere.   Each Division becomes like a club.   It provides much needed income for the League and funds for providing refreshments at the tournament.
• Players like being able to check on how things are developing within the Division during the afternoon and towards the end of the season there are always big conflabs going on – who needs to do what to get promotion/avoid relegation.
• No age/gender restrictions.

WHY DOES IT CONTINUE TO GROW?

• New clubs, not able to play in conventional evening leagues for various reasons, have been formed and joined e.g. Bromley Common, Coney Hill, Crownwoods and Halstead.   They have to be bona fide clubs with their own facilities.
• The League is well organised – both administratively and at meetings.
• The standard continues to improve year on year.   Some players who once graced the first Division now compete in either Divisions 3 or 4.   The standard in Division 6, which usually has a high percentage of novices, is astonishing.
• Word of mouth – players come in, enjoy it and pass the word on.
• Involvement – there's only one set per match when you are not either playing or umpiring.
• Doubles – players like doubles.   It accounts for 10 points in the course of a season.   Win those and you are on your way to surviving or promotion.
• Reports at all levels for every meeting are published on the website – people like to see their names in print, particularly when favourably mentioned.
• Divisional tables and individual ratings are updated after every meeting and usually published on the website the same evening.
• Extensive annual championships over two days including two handicap events.

MINUSES

• Clubs have to find money for fees up front.
• The League cannot expand any more unless a second facility and volunteers to organise the meetings could be found.   A second Junior Development Division could be accommodated on a Saturday afternoon if there is sufficient interest and someone to officiate could be found.
• It's a big commitment for Venue Supervisors being present every Sunday for eight months of the year.
• The length of the season – with six Divisions at one venue it is a long gap between each Division meeting.   The League begins in mid September and runs until end of April when the Annual Closed Championships are staged.
• Dodging major tournaments, religious festivals and half term dates when the fixture schedule is set.
• There are problems with finishing the League Competition within the season if there are power failures or adverse weather conditions prevent players travelling to the venue.   Although the League was allowed to start early at Donnington Hall on a Sunday morning to clear meetings aborted through the winter snowfall, the scheduled meeting was delayed accordingly, this can't be done on a regular basis.
• Some players are lazy, don't turn up on time, drifting in, expecting everything to be ready, don't want to muck in and help with the equipment.   Some won't even put up a net and resent being asked to do so.
• Assessing playing standards for new players and new teams when a vacancy occurs can be difficult.
• Somebody has to manage refreshments and the tea fund.
• Replacement of equipment is not easy to fund.

WHAT WE TRIED AND DIDN'T WORK

• Paying on the day.   People forgot to pay and somebody had to be detailed to collect/pay in funds.   It was easier to get everything paid for up front.
• Seven team charts.   Numbers need to be even, players don't like turning out for a single match.
• Playoffs where teams were tied for either promotion or relegation after points and match results were taken into account.   It proved difficult to set a convenient date, teams brought in different players changing the balance of things so a rule was brought in whereby the teams concerned now play a deciding doubles on the day which means the same players are involved.
• Saturday afternoons were suggested but a poll showed they wouldn't be well supported by seniors.
• School venues – Wildernesse involved a huge amount of work blocking out light and keeping equipment safe.   Sevenoaks Prep degenerated into individual matches being played unsupervised in classrooms. 
• Newspaper reports – they get hacked about by someone who doesn’t know A from B about the sport and the end result is often laughable and frustrating for the author.   One sub editor confused the name of a player with that of a club and insisted on shortening one club's name to that of a sister league!


Last Updated:
National #TableTennisDay
Share This Page