First Time Visit
Many of us grew up playing ping-pong in a basement or garage, with a recreational or even homemade table and hard rubber pips out paddles from Sears. Competitive table tennis is a bit different. Advances in technique and the technology of sponge rubber and paddle construction elevate the recreational game of ping-pong to the (at the highest levels) the Olympic sport of table tennis.
A recreational ping-pong player's first visit to a competitive table tennis club can be daunting. There are youngsters whose shoulders barely clear the tabletop hitting forehand topspin balls at astonishing velocity and octogenarians whose skill with long pips rubber makes the ball seem to defy the laws of physics.
It is important to understand that table tennis is one of the most complicated and athletic individual sports. This complexity arises from several factors:
Table tennis is an extremely racket-sensitive sport and dependent not only on your own playing style but your opponent’s as well. Even many advanced players, let alone newcomers, have absolutely no clue whatsoever about the complexity of modern rackets.
Table tennis is a sport of a billion unique individual styles (due to infinite combinations of standard and unorthodox grips, stroke execution mechanics and racket designs). Though it is often incorrectly oversimplified down to a few basic styles, grips and rackets, every player needs to find a racket that exactly matches his/her playing style. In most cases this may take years to determine, as minute mechanical changes or even minute chemical changes (as you will learn about this controversial issue later if you stick around) to your (and your opponent’s) overall racket design can greatly effect your performance at any given equal skill level.
All this information is given here not to scare you into giving up or not even trying. The point here is: if you think you are going to become a decent “table tennis” player in a week or even few months, it’s just not going to happen. Even if you are a world-class athlete and were born to be a table tennis talent, it’s still likely to take at least six months to even become an intermediate table tennis player, let alone an advanced, expert or master player.
It is possible to become a decent – if not an advanced table tennis player – and enjoy a lifetime sport as a fun exercise too, IF you apply yourself methodically to understanding it as a sport and not just an easy basement game. If you plan on even moving up to table tennis from ping-pong, let alone becoming an advanced player, be prepared to invest the time and money to thoroughly understand and master the intricacies of table tennis strokes, game tactics and strategies, AND the equipment (rackets). The racket design (both yours and your opponent’s) is usually greatly ignored by beginners and often ignored even by advanced players!
If you are willing to work on improving your skills you can become a true table tennis competitor. Keep in mind that even a low level club player has more consistency, more touch and better rackets compared to most newcomers. Understand that you will likely lose A LOT of matches at the start. As you lose over and over to every conceivable style of play you are learning - and players are usually willing to help you learn by explaining things, giving tips, and helping your practice and master parts of the game you find difficult. When we help you improve your game, it makes us have to improve our game, too.
There is no reason to quit coming to our 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. Most are 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 lots of money on equipment, you can get a good “basic” setup for less than $100 that can last for years. Or, many experienced players will have rackets they no longer use that they will let you try out and then if you like it will sell it to you for much less than the cost of a new racket and new rubbers.
Again, this information is not meant to scare you away but rather to help you to graduate to table tennis from ping-pong as quickly as possible. Once you start to understand and handle the spin and speed of your opponents–and start generating such spin and speed on your own–you will get hopelessly fascinated and addicted to the sport forever!