Why  “basement ping-pong” beginners should not give up too early on table-tennis 


Welcome to the world of  “table-tennis”………and congratulations on taking the steps to move up to the Olympic athletic “sport” of table-tennis from the recreational basement “game” of  ping-pong. However it is important to keep certain simple facts in mind before choosing to move up to the “sport” of table-tennis as a serious club player.

           It happens almost every night in America………a ping-pong hacker who has beaten every other hacker in his / her neighborhood or bar ( usually having mastered a pet trick serve or a bizarre stroke)  using a sandpaper racket (illegal in table-tennis) or a cheap illegal  racket, walks into a serious table-tennis club with grandiose fantasies of annihilating the top player in the club….only to leave the club in utter disbelief after being decimated usually by the lowest player in the club….never to return ever…….which is quite sad because this does not mean that this new ‘hacker” is not athletic enough or not talented enough to become a decent table-tennis player. One really does not have to have the lightening reflexes or athletic talent of an Olympic table-tennis player to become an expert or even a master table-tennis playerIt is just that it is not going to happen in a day or a week or even few months , as most  “ping-pong” hackers seem to delude themselves (because basement ping-pong seems so ridiculously easy to play) when they come to a club for the first time or even first few 100 times.

It is important to understand that while basement ping-pong is a “game” of hitting the ball mindlessly back and forth, table-tennis is one of the most complicated and athletic individual sport there is . This complexity arises from several factors :-

1.       The spins are quite complex relative to any other sport even at VERY LOW skill levels of table-tennis.

2.       The spins are generated at significantly higher ball travel speeds relative to other sports.

3.       The spins and speeds are generated over relatively small area relative to other sports, thus demanding a far higher degree of consistent and continuous precision and accuracy.

4.       The spins & speeds are generated by high technology rackets  Whether good or bad, table-tennis is a super-extremely racket sensitive sport,  as not only matched to your own playing style but your opponents’ as well. Even many advanced players, let alone a newcomers, have absolutely no clue whatsoever about the complexity of modern rackets.

5.       Every player has a unique style of his /her own. Table-tennis is a sport of billion unique individual styles (due to infinite combinations of standard and unorthodox :- backhand / forehand grips, stroke execution mechanics & racket designs), though it is often incorrectly oversimplified down to few basic styles, grips and rackets. And every player needs to find a racket that exactly matches his/her playing style. In most cases this may  take years, as minute mechanical changes or even minute chemical changes (as you will learn about this controversial issue later if you stick around) to your (& your opponents’) overall racket design can greatly effect your performance (at any given equal skill level).

                   All this information is given here not to scare you and give up . Just the point here is that, if you think you are going to become a decent “table-tennis” player in a week or even few months , it is just not going to happen. Even if you are a world-class athlete and were born to be a table-tennis talent, it will still take probably at least 6 months to even become an intermediate table-tennis player, let alone an advanced, expert or master player and beyond……because table-tennis skills and equipment(rackets) are that much complex compared to a recreational meanderings of basement ping-pong.  More important , it is downright insulting (and laughable)  to a club player for a new basement hacker to think that (s)he can just walk into a club and beat everyone and anyone with a trick serve and an illegal 99 cent racket. (The club player has invested not only probably lot of money in equipment (rackets etc)  but also lot of time to develop the skills and endured lots of seemingly humiliating , but not really so, abuse from advanced players, when they started as ping-pong hackers themselves first)   Be prepared to pay your dues first to move up just as in any job or career. Therefore the good news is that ,  it is possible to become a decent if not an advanced table-tennis player and enjoy a lifetime sport as a fun exercise tool , if you apply yourselves methodically to understanding it as a “sport” and not an easy basement “game”.

                   So to summarize, if you plan on even just moving up to table-tennis from ping-pong , let alone becoming an advanced player. be prepared to  at least invest the time (if not a few bucks at least for good “table-tennis” rackets) to :-

  1. thoroughly understand if not master,  not just the intricacies of tabletennis strokes and strategies,  but far more importantly the  equipment (rackets). The racket design (both yours and your opponent’s) is usually greatly ignored by beginners and somewhat quite ignored even by advanced players
  2. Have the temperament to handle the constant beatings day after day at least initially for a period of at least 6 months (but can be over 2 years) but are willing to work on improving your skills instead of letting your ego get in the way (as is quite common in any individual sport) as you lose over and over to billion different styles of play in table-tennis, but are learning from your beatings. Keep in mind that even a low level club player has better consistency, touch and rackets compared to a newcomer just as a professional player does, compared to an elite player (except maybe rackets)

Therefore there is no reason to quit coming to a club after just few days or weeks or even few months. Most serious club table-tennis players understand how complex table-tennis is and don’t think of you as any less of an athlete or a person even if you keep losing to most other club players for years to come and are also usually more than willing to help you nonetheless, in every way possible to improve your skill level, regardless of whether you are an absolute beginner or even an advanced player.

Even if you are not interested in spending money for modern rackets and prefer only hardbat, there are some serious separate competitions available at most serious tournaments as well, if you prefer to stick to old style classic table-tennis, as long as you realize you may have no prayer with such rackets, though perfectly legal  to use (except sandpaper) , in regular events.

          Again this information is not meant to scare you away but rather to help you to graduate to table-tennis from ping-pong but only as quickly as practical. Once you first start solving the opponents’ complex spins and then start generating the spins on your own, you will get hopelessly fascinated and get addicted to the insanely vicious spins like a drug and to the sport forever,  as most lifelong players do, regardless of what final skill level they saturate out ……..and you also would have graduated to the table-tennis world of spin-lords from your earlier status of a “basement legend” of ping-pong.