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Barrie father-son duo puts new spin on ping pong

While holed up in their south-end home during the pandemic, Darick and Ben Battaglia created 2Pong; 'I compare it to tennis and pickleball ... (but) there’s just a bit of a different technique'

Like everyone stuck at home during the first few months of the pandemic, Barrie's Battaglia family found themselves looking for creative ways to keep themselves busy and entertained.

And like many who found themselves discovering new passions or creative outlets, out of that eventual boredom an idea was born for a new sport called 2Pong.

“We were all inside and huddled in the house together and finding things to do,” said Darick, who, along with his oldest son Ben, created the game which they describe as the “ultimate hand-eye athletic experience.”

Ben, who had been in his first year at the University of Waterloo studying recreation and sports business, returned home to Barrie to be with his family. He told BarrieToday they were looking for things to do while stuck inside and found themselves playing a lot of ping pong. 

“We had nightly competitions and that sort of evolved over the weeks into trying to challenge ourselves and starting to experiment and try new things, using different items around the basement as paddles and playing like that,” said the 22-year-old. “We had paddles taped to our hands and that’s basically where the idea started.”

The basement of the family’s south-end Barrie home serves as a mecca for physical and creative activity, with father and son, along with Ben’s two younger siblings, using it for everything from training for karate, boxing to dance and shooting pool.

It was there, Darick said, that 2Pong evolved from something fun for just them, to a game they knew had the potential to appeal to a much wider group of people.

“We started off with the regular ping-pong paddles and experimented with different things like sawing the handles off and just trying to just hold the paddle itself," said Ben. "When we had these paddles on our hands we thought it was just way too natural and easy of a no-brainer sport to let the opportunity slip by."

Eventually, they brainstormed and came up with the idea for the 2Pong mitt, which was a result of combining a variety of different items they already had in the “dojo,” said Darick. Once they had a concept, they began to contact manufacturers of the things they had, which then led conversations with factories overseas. 

“They started sending prototypes … and eventually we got to a place where we were happy with what we had,” Darick added.

The mitt includes a Velcro strap that allows the player to tighten it to fit their hand snugly, as well as a removable ball chamber that fits up to three balls on each hand.

The game itself, explained Ben, is a twist on the traditional game of ping pong. 

“The paddles look similar to what a ping-pong paddle would look like, although you’re not holding a paddle with a handle, you’re wearing it on your hand and you have two of them. There are no backhands in our game, but the use of your non-dominant hand is the key point in 2Pong," he added. 

The family patriarch says everyone who has played has told them 2Pong is actually easier than ping-pong. 

“We are not trying to discredit ping pong, it’s a great game, but if you’re a beginner, I think you will find it’s easier than you think because the paddles are attached to your body," Darick said. "Traditional table tennis players will play and they will want it to be more like a ping-pong game where you can shape shots and do things like that — but we will tell them ‘this is not ping-pong. This is 2Pong.”

Ben added: “I compare it to tennis and pickleball. They use the same type of court and same net and layout, but the way you shoot it and the ball that you use, there’s just a bit of a different technique."

In addition to serving as a lockdown boredom buster, the original intent was to help Ben with a project for school, noted Darick, who said they quickly realized they had something great on their hands ... both literally and figuratively.

“There was a moment there where we had to decide how far we wanted to go with this: ordering product, patent lawyers, engaging marketing companies. We felt after the feedback we’d had from friends and family that we were going to write those cheques and see what happens next,” the father said. 

Sales were initially coming in “dribs and drabs,” but after changing their marketing strategy they have seen a huge increase in sales in recent weeks.

“At first, we thought our market would be university students … so we spent a lot of time in that area. Then when we did a few trade shows, when a racquet sport person approached the table. They were very good at it immediately and they wanted to buy, so we shifted our focus to that market," Darick said. 

"Once we did that, we really found our sales started to escalate."

He says they have seen a 300 per cent increase in sales in the last few weeks, and are now boasting customers from across the country and into the United States. 

Having the opportunity to work so closely with his father has been an amazing learning opportunity, said Ben.

“I think trying to go through this on my own, with little to no experience, I would have no idea where I was going. To have him by my side … and to be able to build our relationship from what it was, when most kids go away to school and start to lose that … is pretty special," he said. 

It’s been a little less than a year since the duo officially launched 2Pong, and Ben admits he’s definitely a bit taken aback by its early success.

“The growth we’ve seen in the last few weeks alone has surprised me," he said. "I wasn’t expecting to see anything happen this quickly. I am still balancing my school and the business, and not ready to fully jump into 2Pong the whole way because I want to finish my degree, but the fact that things are starting to roll and we’re getting some momentum is pretty inspiring.

"And it’s cool to see all the work we’ve done is starting to pay off.”

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