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Table Tennis - The best sport you're not watching, and should be playing.

Posted by paul caparatta on

Table tennis, aka ping pong, is believed to be the second most popular sport in the world in terms of participation. And yet here in the United States it is not taken seriously as a sport, but rather a fun game to play in a basement or maybe at a bar.  However, if you enjoy a game of pong every now and then you should consider taking it more seriously.  Unlike many other sports, table tennis can be played competitively your entire life.  While many adults in the U.S. played soccer, baseball or football as a child and teenager, these type of sports are difficult to compete in at an older age.  Not only are they likely to lead to injury, but they require a large number of participants.  Same goes for lacrosse, hockey etc.  Most sports are outdoors and cannot be played in the winter in much of the country as well. 

Table tennis, on the other hand, can be played year round as it is an indoor sport.  You only need one partner to have a fun competitive match.  While injury is still possible, it's far less likely as it is a non-contact sport and if you get hit with a ping pong ball it won't hurt like a hockey puck or a baseball. 

While size and strength do a play a role in high level competitive table tennis, you can still excel and reach incredible levels of skill without much size, skill or even mobility.  China's retired Deng Yaping, considered by some to be the greatest women's table tennis player in history, is only 4 foot 11 inches tall!  Visit a sanctioned USATT tournament and you will see 8 year old girls competing and beating muscular adult men.  Some players compete in their 60's, 70's and 80's. 

While mobility isn't required to play at a pretty high level, it certainly helps and you won't reach the highest levels without it.  If you treat table tennis like a sport you will get a tremendous workout.  Using a treadmill or stair master is boring, table tennis will get you exercising just for the fun of it.  Try doing a multi-ball exercise or use a robot where a new ball is fired at you ever second and you'll be dead tired in 60 seconds.  Plus it is an amazing workout from the mind, your brain will never age if you play regularly!

If you're interested in competing and improving ideally you should find a dedicated table tennis center in your area if it has one.  Recently many have opened so if you live close to a major city it shouldn't be much of a problem.  Consider taking a few lessons, table tennis is a sport where developing your own technique is almost guaranteed to result in poor technique that will hold you back.  Starting a child at a young age with a coach is ideal, they won't have the poor technique and muscle memory to overcome and can improve dramatically.  And if they reach a high enough level they can always come a coach as an adult if they desire.

Buying a prebuilt $20 paddle from amazon or your local sporting good shop might be good to start but ideally you'll want to buy a "real" setup from a dedicated seller like Megaspin, Dandoy Sports, or TableTennis11.   Youtube has tons of educational videos as well as highlights from the top players in the world such as current world number 1 Ma Long.   Live matches can be watched for free on ITTF TV.

Once you feel confident in your play, see if there's a sanctioned USATT event in your area. 

Coincidentally, I believe used to be a table tennis website.  While we currently don't sell any ping pong temporary tattoos, perhaps we will in the future!


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