There is no scarcity of ping-pong balls in the many apartments of State College, but the only action those balls are seeing is the rim of a red solo cup during a game of beer pong. Most of us are long past the days of volleying on the ping-pong table in our friend’s basement, but a Penn Stater has been putting his paddles to use and has taken ping-pong to a whole new level.
Marcus “PingPong” Jackson, as his Facebook name so properly introduces him, has been playing table tennis since he was 6 years old, but this isn’t your typical friendly game of ping-pong. Competitive table tennis is intense; it’s an Olympic sport, for God’s sake — seriously, look it up.
And Jackson is a force to be reckoned with.
“I played my first tournament when I was seven. I participated in my first nationals when I was about eight years old where I won the under-10 national title,” Jackson said. “From there, I got sponsored by a company called Butterfly, which is based in Japan, and I was sponsored by the North American Branch from when I was eight until I was a sophomore here at Penn State.”
Ping-pong has afforded Jackson some amazing opportunities and has allowed him to meet people from all over the world: China, Japan, South Korea, France, England, Germany, Peru, Ecuador, India, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Slovenia, Slovakia, Australia, Iran, Sweden, Argentina, and Canada. However, he stopped playing his sophomore year here after being the top player on the Penn State club team to focus his energies on finding a way to give back to the sport that has given him so much.
“[Ping-pong] is an Olympic sport but it lacks popularity in the U.S. It is slowly growing though,” Jackson said. “Because of my interests in sports business, I began focusing on that by interning with Penn State basketball and being division director for Penn State Marketing Association, so I could begin to set up myself to be able to give back to my sport which was such an integral part of my life.”
Jackson used to prepare for tournaments by practicing for about two hours four-six times a week and his coach would use a technique called multiple ball to improve his skill.
“Essentially the coach would stand near the net with a box of balls, probably around 200-300 balls in the box, and hit the balls in strategic locations on the table and I would have to hit them back with proper technique. The locations ended forming different patterns that one could potentially seen in a game,” said Jackson. “The multiple ball training was typically used to improve technique, speed, and endurance because the balls were typically fed very fast.”
Clearly he’s got skills, but what’s his beer pong game like?
“I’d say I am pretty good at beer pong,” he said. “I am very competitive and I do like to think that I have a slight advantage because I have held many ping-pong balls in my day. I have never played with a paddle though. I think if I played with a paddle I would rarely lose if ever.”
As far as table tennis though, Jackson has multiple accomplishments under his belt with the best being ranked in the Top 25 of the nation right before his freshman year. To see his exceptional talents, here’s a video from a competition in high school.