As the Creighton Prep campus minister, Kelly Barth has always wanted to have the opportunity to get to connect with his students and sports. Sports have been a big part of Barth’s life as he grew up playing basketball and tennis in high school at Skutt Catholic. Ping pong was another game in which he and his family competed against each other.

Barth will compete in Table Tennis at the Cornhusker State Games this summer.

During his free time at Creighton Prep, Barth usually carries around a basketball or a ping pong paddle to see if any of the students want to play a quick game. During the 2020-21 school year, Barth was playing a couple of games of ping pong and defeated many of the students. The Creighton Prep activities director noticed he was pretty good at it.

Barth was then asked if he would want to start being more involved with the school’s table tennis club. “Sarah, our activities director, believed that if I could make this work, this would be one of the best social distancing activities we could possibly do in school at the time,” Barth said.

When Barth first started, he believes there were only about 20 to 30 students, but now it’s up to at least 200. The club is very competitive with tournaments during practices on Tuesday and some students are also involved in different sponsored table tennis events. Barth decided to try and create a team that could compete against different club table tennis teams.

“We’ve had this team for two years. There’s nobody else in the high school level that is doing the same thing. We competed against the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s club team and were able to win. This was a top accomplishment seeing my team go up against them,” Barth said.

Being able to see his students succeed has inspired Barth to seek improvement with his individual table tennis skills. He discovered from one of his friends that he and the club could train with a table tennis robot that could help improve their technique.

“We subscribe to this online group called Table Tennis Academy. I realized if I’m going to coach I need to be able to keep up with the students and play just as well. I started doing my own training weekly and with the robots, I record video to keep working on my technique,” Barth said.

Everything he learns is meant to help his students with what they should do to get better. It works well as they’re able to work on improving their skills and technique together. The impact that table tennis has had on Barth’s life in just a short time is something he is thrilled about.

“Coming to work every single day at Creighton Prep has always been a joy, but now it’s just fun. I walk by our tables and have a student I know who wants to play a quick game and see how he’s doing with life. It can also be a kid I’ve never met before and get to break down the barriers right away. It’s helped me with bringing back community into my life,” Barth said.

Barth sees himself playing table tennis for as long as possible. He is excited to keep learning and wants to help his brothers get as good as him just like when they used to play ping pong. Table tennis has taught him that you’re never too old or too late to keep learning and growing.

With the Cornhusker State Games coming up, Barth knows it’s another opportunity to work on his game. He’s excited to see how some of his table tennis club students perform as they compete in table tennis. His daughter will also be competing in fencing for the first time.

“I’m super excited. I’ve always loved the Cornhusker State Games. I haven’t really had this desire to go and try to compete, but now I want to see what I can do in table tennis.”

It will be a lot of first times at the games for everyone involved with Barth. A memorable and exciting Cornhusker State Games waits for him this summer.