How important are table tennis balls and do the characteristics and different ball companies, truly affect your game?

The History of Table tennis balls

Since I first began playing there has been two major changes to the ball, the size and the material of the ball. These changes can be seen both as a positive and negative. Nevertheless, they both have been implemented and thus we must all make best use of the current situation.

Table Tennis Makes and Brands:

The balls vary from brand to brand and depending on your ball purchase the quality will vary from little to greatly. Some brands such as butterfly have a glossy shine but depending on which class of butterfly ball you purchase, you will notice a considerable difference in texture and quality. Different brands produce and develop the ball slightly differently which can make it very hard to choose which ball to train or play matches with!

Table Tennis Balls

Same Brand Different Quality

Table Tennis Ball Variation and Characteristics:
  1. Texture: is the ball shiny, or smooth?
  2. Round: is the ball symmetrical?
  3. Bounce: what is the height and bounce, if you hold two different balls at the same height and drop them you may see a difference in the bounce of the ball? Is it the same or does one bounce higher? Is the weight or density different? Does one ball bounce longer because it’s denser? 
  4. Speed: does one travel faster due to a smooth surface?

You must understand how a ball can affect your game to enable yourself the best possible outcome. You will often hear people say, “it doesn’t matter what car I have as long as it gets me from A to B”. This statement is true if that’s all you require but if you have a specific requirement, any car just won’t cut it. For Example, if you want to go off-road, you may consider a Land Rover, if you want to win on a race track a formula 1 car is your best bet and if you have a big family, a 7 seater may be a good option.

Does a table tennis ball really matter or affect your game?

To a ping pong player (home, social club, or office player) any table tennis ball will suffice and rarely will you hear a complaint about a ball having a soft spot, or unsymmetrical! Yet a professional player will spend a good few minutes checking a selection of balls prior to his/her big match. As mentioned above any car will get you A to B but once you become proficient at anything your requirements become a lot more tailored.

A table tennis ball, does and can have a big effect on a players game and you must understand what, why and How.

What – If the ball has a soft spot, you will find variation in the ball (bounce) characteristics, some jump up too high, another may skid through. This will affect your timing and technique which can also affect your mindset.

Why –  You must try your best to train with high-quality table tennis balls, this develops technique, confidence (via consistency) and develops good timing.

How – Have a variety of high-quality tournament balls and vary your training by using different balls on any given occasion. Most importantly prior to an event or tournament, find out which ball brand is being used and practice with those balls as soon as possible. Each ball has a slightly different characteristic, therefore, the more practice you get with the ball beforehand the better you’ll manage on the day.

Over Thinking:

Table tennis is one of the most technical sports in the world and often due to its unthinkable variants, people overload themselves trying to out-think the sport. It’s nice and its good to know what’s best for you and your game but sometimes its just as good to just get on the table and fight with your heart. The elements are often shared and you can use them as your advantage if you just accept what’s in front of you while your opponent fights to beat you and the elements.

Try to create and have the best elements in your favour but if all that fails, then do what every dog in a corner (FIGHT), your way towards that winning edge.

Written by Eli Baraty

eBaTT (Eli Baraty Academy of Table Tennis)                          
Coach Me Table Tennis 
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