Alfred Dela Pena – Waitemata Table Tennis Club | Faces of Auckland Sport and Recreation Volunteers
Table Tennis is one of the most popular participation sports in the world – and its popularity is on the up in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, too.
But despite seeming like a simple game to the untrained eye, table tennis is a hard sport to master. It takes patience, repetition and coaching to progress. Alfred Dela Pena knows this better than most.
Alfred, who’s currently New Zealand’s fifth-ranked table tennis player, was introduced to the sport after tagging along to watch his father compete in a tournament at the Waitemata Table Tennis Club in 2010.
After picking up a racket himself, Alfred picked up the sport quickly, earning a call-up to represent New Zealand at age-grade level in 2014. Selection to the New Zealand men’s team followed, with Alfred representing his country internationally on many occasions – including recently picking up a silver and bronze at the 2022 ITTF Oceania Champs in Melbourne.
It was Alfred’s desire to help the next generation of Kiwi table tennis talent progress that saw him take up a volunteer role coaching, and helping out behind the scenes at Auckland’s Waitemata Table Tennis Club.
The coaching bug bit Alfred early, seeing him take on a role as a 15-year-old to “give back to this sport that I learned from, and teach our next level of juniors.”
He fills the role of Waitemata Table Tennis Club coach, coaches the clubs junior and para teams, and runs the casual night sessions and college competitions which are held at the club’s recently completed new stadium. And to top it all off, he also manages the club’s membership system, too.
It’s a busy time, with the club growing quickly says Alfred: “Our new stadium is a big, big jump up. With our old stadium, if it was raining outside, it would be raining inside as well. But with the new stadium, we’ve had a big influx of people join.”
“These kids, they learn quick. They're awesome. I think especially out in West Auckland, it's a huge place. To be the only table tennis facility here is a big thing, and our numbers are growing quickly.”
Alfred says he’s also volunteering to push the current crop of juniors at the club to the next level. “If I had slightly better coaching opportunities when I was a junior, I would have hopefully excelled a bit quicker,” says Alfred. “I'm trying to provide these young kids with that coaching so they can progress quicker.”
Alfred coaches for about five hours a week, and says he’s “still learning a lot from it. I feel like the reward of doing some volunteering work is that it teaches you things money can't buy honestly, in different ways. If you really love it, it doesn't matter if you're getting paid or not.”
“I just love teaching the art of repetition to these kids. If you spend a little bit of time doing something small, you'll learn something and you will get better. I think table tennis is the perfect sport to actually teach kids the value of repetition and practice.”