Age Is Just A Number

By Michael Reff

Marcelo Calle is a shining example of how age is just a number, especially in the table tennis world. Donned the "Ecuadorian Uncle", at 48 years young, he is the most senior member participating in the 2018 iSET NCTTA Championships in Round Rock, Texas. Mr. Calle is a doctoral candidate at the University of Florida majoring in agricultural and biological engineering, with a minor in entrepreneurship. With a smile he said simply, “It’s agribusiness.” With an NCTTA rating of 2253, he is UF’s number two seed this year. UF had a strong run in teams this Championships, tying for 9th place.

Mr. Calle is no stranger to the Olympic sport of table tennis. He is from Cuenca, Ecuador and had a paddle in hand at age 10. He played from 1979 all the way up through 1996 until he took a long hiatus from the sport, returning only 2 years ago to participate in studies and table tennis at UF. During his earlier years, he had several noteworthy experiences, including spending three months in a Japanese training dojo for table tennis in 1987, and participating in the 1989 World Table Tennis championship hosted by Dortmund, Germany. About these experiences, he noted “In South America, it’s difficult to play in Europe or Asia.” Therefore, these opportunities were never taken for granted and always cherished. Mr. Calle also stated that his family was a major source of support for him on these ventures.

So, what made him return to the amazing sport of table tennis? Well, the answer is about health. Mr. Calle said, “It’s good for exercise while studying at UF.” He believes he has a lot more energy to perform well in studies as well as table tennis and overall life in general. Also, he stated, when playing he can “Forget studies and forget family problems.”

When asked about how he thought UF fared this year, he was clearly proud and happy for himself and his teammates. A 9th place finish in the nation’s highest college table tennis tournament is not such a bad credential. The last entry into national’s for a UF team was 2014. Mr. Calle said, at UF there’s “good people training” and a “good opportunity to motivate.” He wants to lead by example, showing that it’s never too late to be a college table tennis player, balancing the work, studies, and in many cases, the family load.

Mr. Calle has some simple, but sage advice to aspiring table tennis players. “Keep playing!” he exclaimed. “Table tennis is a sport that needs discipline that mixes with a high level of study.” Mr. Calle sets a commendable example for others that have taken long breaks from the sport and then returned with a vengeance.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock CVB and is one of the premier table tennis tournaments in North America featuring 6 events: Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Men’s/Coed Teams, Women’s Teams.  The event is sponsored by iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.


The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) is a non-profit organization established exclusively for promoting the sport of table tennis at the college level. As the national governing body for college table tennis in the United States and Canada, NCTTA organizes intercollegiate competition throughout North America.

About USA Table Tennis

Headquartered in Colorado Springs, USATT is the national organizing body for table tennis in the United States, serving 9,000+ members and nearly 300 clubs. USATT sanctions 200+ events a year including the US Open and US Nationals. USATT is affiliated with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC).