I met up with Marty and Terese at their facility, the Broward table tennis club in Dania Beach, Florida. Having personally known this power couple for a number of years, it was easy to do the interview. Both are USATT Hall of Famers: Marty is an accomplished coach both in the national and international arena. He has coached national and international champions living in the USA, France and Belgium,and Terese being an achieved player with multiple National and International titles and medals including winning the Para World Championship and ultimately taking the number 1 world ranking in 87″ and double gold in the 88′ Seoul Para olympics. Their contributions to the sport have been numerous to say the least. They now spend their days cultivating young talents in and around the South Florida area, along with players that come from other countries for their expertise. This is their story:
Where did you first meet?
Terese: We first met at a Wheelchair Nationals in San Jose, California. Marty was coaching a friend of mine.
How did you get together after that first meeting?
Marty: A student of mine asked if i could take a look at a friend of his and evaluate her and see what I thought of her game and ability.
Terese: I wanted to buy a racket and have my friend’s coach see how I played and if I had potential. Marty was the coach at the Newgy Club in Miami at the time. I ordered a racket and while I was there Marty had me hit a little. The next day I asked my friend if Marty thought I had potential and he said I was OK but he had no time. When I went to pick up the racket he asked me how come I never called for lessons. Come to find out my friend didn’t want me to get better than him so he never told me!
How long have you been together?
Terese: We’ve been together since 1982.
How long have you been playing table tennis?
Marty: About 65 + years but it seems like an eternity!
Terese: I started in 1979. At the regional games you were allowed 6 events and I was doing 5 so I picked Table Tennis for a fun event to do and fell in love with it. The rest is history…
At what point did you know that he/she was, “THE ONE” ?
Marty: I knew right from the beginning, once she hit her forehand…..I was hooked!
Terese: One night after club play, Marty invited me to join a bunch of players at the Tin Lizzy and when I got there it was only him and I…Hummm…I thought it was really sweet. We started dating and one day I invited him to breakfast and he never left…I didn’t know my eggs were that good!
Do you ever play against each other?
Marty: No, not really. At the end of our training sessions we would play 2’s not really keeping points and games starting at 15 all or 17-18, all for strategy training…
How do you separate being coach/student and your personal life?
Terese: Marty never had a problem keeping both separate. On the other hand, in the beginning I had a big problem. In our 2 to 3 hour training sessions (5 days) we both knew what we needed to get out of each other to achieve what we both wanted. So we treated each session as coach/future champion. We would work hard, laugh and sometimes cry and when those hard crying days were over and we went into the house he would say, “So what’s for lunch”? It took a lot for me not to say, “McDonalds is right down the street”!!! HaHa…I learned to separate the two after awhile.
Can you tell us one advantage and one disadvantage of being a table tennis couple?
Marty: The advantage is the other is always there for you no matter what and you get to spend fun quality time together and do something you both love..
Terese: The disadvantage is if one doesn’t want to go and play you feel bad if you go alone and feel bad if you don’t go because you really wanted to play.
Has being in table tennis as a couple helped your relationship and if so why?
Marty: For me it’s being together and sharing every part of our life each day (the hard times and the fantastic times…we are one…
Terese: As Marty said, we are one, yet we give each other our own space and that only makes us love each other more…He is my Hero forever…I couldn’t imagine waking up each morning with anyone else…
What advice can you give other table tennis couples that are just starting a relationship?
Marty: Learn to separate your on and off the table life so you both can grow to be one while keeping your own identity…
Terese: Marty hit the nail on the head!
Thank you both for sharing your story with us. In memory of Marty Prager – July 1933 – January 2016