By Vicky Liu ‘20, School News and Features Reporter
As February draws to a close, the annual John Singer Table Tennis Tournament starts its first match in the Rex Gym on Feb. 25. A great number of students, faculty members, and staff have been having fun in the single-elimination tournament over the years. In this competition, any player has the opportunity to win if he or she has competitive strength, a bit of the “luck of the draw,” and a good feel for ball-handling on the day of the game.
The significance of the annual event goes beyond rackets and balls, though, as the tournament is named for John Singer, a former student at Friends’ Central who sadly passed away at the end of his freshman year here in 1998 due to cancer. The competition is run by Mr. Kennedy, the Assistant Upper School Principal, who was John’s English teacher here and is also a participant in the tournament. Besides cherishing his beloved former student and athlete, Mr. Kennedy hopes the tournament serves to bring relief from stress and a sense of relaxation to the community. He expresses, “It is a fun tournament. It is open to everybody [at FCS].”
Having been John Singer’s 9th grade English teacher, Mr. Kennedy shares some information about his former student: “[In his 9th grade year,] John wasn’t able to come to campus so often, so his teachers taught him at his house.” During Mr. Kennedy and John’s in-home sessions, they became book friends. Mr. Kennedy reminisces, “While he was undergoing his treatment, which was almost as bad as the disease, I would go over and talk to him about the English curriculum. He loved A Catcher In The Rye. It was his favorite book. He always wanted to go back and hold especially the funny parts of the book. He loved humor and comedy.” During Mr. Kennedy’s recollection of his student, he never hesitates to admire John: “Teachers who taught him got attached to him and were very fond of him. He was an incredibly smart, funny, brave, sweet kid.”
Mr. Kennedy recalls that Mr. Jon Harris, who had been the principal of Friends’ Central in 1998, started the tournament to provide John Singer the opportunity to come on campus and reunite with his friends. With the accompaniment of his parent, John Singer attended the first John Singer Table Tennis Tournament final.
While the tournament will always retain its spirit of friendly competition and commemoration of John Singer, several changes have been made to this year’s proceedings. Mr. Kennedy notes, “The opening round is going to be during community block so that we can get people who have sports after school and people who have rehearsals. Also, John Singer’s parents will come.” Additionally, Mr. Kennedy encourages more young women to participate in the tournament this year.
Last year, the ping pong champion was Adam Serota, and the runner-up was Justin Rubin, both of whom were 9th graders at the time. Will either of them be awarded the trophy again this year? Let’s check out the unpredictable result in the Rex during community block on Monday, Feb. 25.