Table Tennis competition
From 9-year-old kids to adults older than 50, the table tennis tournament seeks to unite local community members of all ages and skill levels in friendly matchups.
"One year a guy was making a video and came in wearing a boxing robe with music, " Atwell said, chuckling. "It really livened it up."
He noted the excitement that surrounds participants each year, which explains the growing crowd the tournament has drawn since its beginning almost 30 years ago.
A participant in the tournament for five years now, John Brandt is no stranger to competition. Brandt says competitors feel a significant sense of camaraderie and that the tournament provides a great social atmosphere.
With 80 to 100 participants in recent years, players compete in divisions by age and gender, with six to 10 players in each division. This makes for a better competitive atmosphere, Atwell says, because players must win a few games in order to place first, instead of a simple one-and-done game.
"It's a friendly atmosphere, but there are some people that take it pretty seriously, " said Bill Schafer, liaison for the Naperville Table Tennis Club.
With the presence of players who return year after year, it's no wonder the competition heats up.
When Atwell started organizing the tournament, he said, he didn't know what to expect, but he always senses the excitement in the room - especially when the games winnow down the competition to the final few players.
Win or lose, participants are passionate and excited to share their love of sport with each other and the next generation, both Atwell and Schafer say.
The Naperville Table Tennis Tournament takes place Saturday, Jan. 23, at River Woods Elementary School, 2607 River Woods Drive, Naperville. Adults start play at 9 a.m., with youth beginning competition at noon.