Members of the Carson City Table Tennis Club tossed jokes and barbs back and forth Wednesday evening, keeping pace with the more serious business of lobbing table tennis balls toward one another.
The club began about five years ago but has had stops and starts as meeting locations were gained and lost. Recently, members found a new home at Eagle Fitness on Research Way. With the new location, the club has room for growth and is hoping to attract new members.
A versatile sport, table tennis can be played by young and old in numerous locations. Equipment varies from simple to expensive.
Although the current members range in age from mid 40s to mid 60s, they've had younger members in the past.
Mel Inglima, the club's president and co-founder, said he'd like to see students from the high school or college pick up the paddle.
"That would bring the average age down to 75," quipped Mike Reynolds, with a long stretch of the facts.
Many of the club's members got their start as youths with simple equipment.
"We've all been playing quite a few years off and on - in garages, basements," Inglima said.
Inglima began playing in ninth grade with his best friend, he said. Keeping score through high school, Inglima won 109 games to his friend's 106. They recently got together and played again.
"I won all 12 games, so this club really has helped my game," said the retired stock broker, who now blogs at critterwisdom.com.
Scott Miners said his dad and his friends played in the military. After the service, the men would get together on weekends.
"Every once in a while, they let me pick up a paddle," he said.
Miners, who publishes Well Being Journal, picked up the sport again about seven years ago at the Carson City Senior Citizens Center. That whet his appetite.
"I just wanted to play more," he said. "I put an ad in the paper and Mel saw it."
The Carson City Table Tennis Club was born. About three years ago, members joined USA Table Tennis, a national organization that gives members an opportunity to play in tournaments throughout the region.
Members of the club have brought home a variety of tournament trophies. In 2011 at a tournament in Sacramento, both Inglima and Jonathan Ivanov, a high school exchange student, then 17, now back home in Switzerland, both won their divisions.
In sanctioned tournaments, players are divided by skill ratings rather than age. A 50-year-old player could be matched with a teenager.
Club play is less formal. Players rotate around to get a chance to play everyone. Soon, all the players are working up a sweat.
Table tennis can be strenuous, especially during tournaments, said club member Ed James, general manager of the Carson Water Subconservancy. Depending on the number of competitions, "you can be playing for three, four hours - really vigorous play."
Demonstrating the physical challenges of table tennis, Inglima dived for a ball and slid across the floor.
"The most dangerous part of the game is playing with Mel," James joked.
Benefits of the sport go beyond a good workout. Developing the necessary eye-hand coordination also benefits mental health.
Table tennis is the "world's best brain sport," said Inglima, quoting Daniel Amen, a psychiatrist and author of "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life" and "Making a Good Brain Great."
"At a tournament in Carson City, there was a guy, 72. He got out there and he killed me," said Reynolds, an instructor pilot at Carson City Airport. "Turned out he had been national champion. He was all over the place.
"The game is ageless."
IF YOU GO
Who: Carson City Table Tennis Club
Where: Eagle Fitness, 3242 Research Way
When: 7:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesdays, 6:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesdays and 2-5 p.m. Sundays
Cost: $3 drop-in fee or $10 a month for table tennis play only. Special rates are available that include memberships for both Eagle Fitness and the table tennis club.
Contact: Inglima at 775-297-3456 or James at 775-721-1026