Where Are They Now? Wilson Club Series #2
(by Steve Hopkins)
Article 2: Brian Pace – The Perfect First Student
For a period from 1985-1992, Wilson, North Carolina became a model for developmental, grass-roots table tennis. With Butterfly’s North American distributor (Martin Kilpatrick – now Bowmar Sports) located in Wilson, there is a long history of expertise and resources in the sport there. But 1985 was the perfect storm of timing and effort and energy with Bowie Martin, Jr. and Ty Hoff bringing their coaching expertise and efforts to the small community in North Carolina. In a very short time, they had everything that they needed for a top program except for the first group of students.
Brian Pace walked into the Reid Street Community Center after school to find Ty Hoff waiting by the only table tennis table. Brian was an athletic kid, even at that age – built like a boxer or a football player. Ty was working hard with school exhibitions and after-school hang-outs to generate buzz about the new Butterfly program and he had already become adept at enticing new players to try the sport. Brian and Ty spent some time at the table, and Brian was instantly hooked.
When Brian first visited the Butterfly warehouse to start his table tennis journey, there was just one table. But the program expanded quickly – to four tables, and then to eight a year later with a warehouse expansion. From the beginning, Brian was one of the core of young players including Eddie Farmer, Howard Phillips, Oscar Melvin, Greg Daniels, and others. The players went on to a variety of successes within the sport – beginning with tournament wins as juniors and beyond. The coaches and visitors were able to use the Wilson program as a launching pad for other table tennis adventures as well. But Brian Pace is one of the biggest table tennis success stories to come out of the Wilson program.
At age thirteen, Brian declared to his family. “I’m going to be a pro table tennis player”. Such a declaration would catch most American households off guard. But in his household – with three siblings and a single mom, these aspirations were unexpected. But the teenage Brian worked harder than anyone, slept with his racket, and spent time gazing at Japanese table tennis magazines (just at the pictures – because they contained no English).
Brian made good on his childhood declaration. In a very short time he parlayed his athletic gifts and his work ethic into table tennis successes. He medaled at the Junior Olympics, he had two stints at the Olympic Training Center, trained at the Butterfly Dojo in Japan, and lived and trained in Europe. In an amazing ten-year span, Brian went from a true beginner to one of America’s few home-grown 2600 players.
After taking a break from table tennis, Brian’s run as an elite player transitioned to something else in 2006. His “break” included professional mountain and road bike racing and cross fit training, hearkening back to the physical attributes that helped him excel in table tennis so quickly. His playing years had exposed him to some of the best American table tennis coaches, some of the best international visiting coaches, and some of the best Asian and European coaching programs. In fact, it was one of those well-known coaches, Richard McAfee who ended a tactics discussion with a very young Brian Pace with “someday, you’ll be a better coach than a player”.
Brian returned to North Carolina in early 2007 and began to work for Butterfly. By 2008, he was creating instructional videos and he launched the Dynamic Table Tennis brand in 2009 to help market his style of table tennis and fitness over the web. Today, Brian still makes his living as a professional table tennis coach based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He is currently providing coaching in his region by visiting clubs in Myrtle Beach, North Charleston, and Savannah. He plans to continue to build relationships, reaching out to clubs in Tennessee and Virginia.
For his next endeavor, Brian has his eye on opening a club in his home base of Raleigh, with hopes of duplicating the same type of program that helped him develop – and that helped develop so many others. Expect to hear more from him later in 2019. Regardless of the mechanism or the location, he will be devoted to continuing to help students achieve their goals in much the way that Brian achieved his own goals.