I believe table tennis is the most undervalued sport on the planet! If you are a serious table tennis player, you have surely heard this comment before by someone! “Is table tennis a real sport?”
As a full-time table tennis coach, I often hear this comment and struggle to contain my frustration when hearing such an ignorant comment.
I have often asked myself why does table tennis have a poor sporting value in society! And how can it be changed?
I’ve come up with a few key points:
- Table Tennis can be played by anyone almost anywhere. This automatically gives an impression of, if I can play and hit a few good shots then it’s a fun recreational game!
- It’s very rarely seen on TV; few people see the true skill and athleticism required.
- Rallies and spin, rallies are seemingly short, I say seemingly because the average rally lasts between 3-5 strokes. When in fact the ratio in Tennis is very similar depending on surface 2-6 Strokes per rally. The court is far bigger than a table tennis table making the rallies seem far greater. And therefore has an increased appeal commercially and to the naked eye. In Tennis; the angles, curve, spin, agility, placement, skill and athleticism is easily observed due to time. These key elements are overshadowed in Table Tennis due to split second rallies. Spin is the most technical part of the game and one that is almost invisible to the naked eye. Many sequences and errors occur due to the spin created by players (at times 100 revs per second). Table Tennis skills are seemingly degraded by an observer, due to ignorance.
What can be done?
I thrive to develop my beloved sport and believe Table Tennis deserves its dues.
There have been many changes to the game in the last 20 years of which some have worked and others can be developed upon.
- Possibly increase the size of the ball once more to 42mm. This would once again reduce speed and spin increasing rally strokes
- Increase the height of the net by 2-5cm implementing a reduction of power strokes and developing other attributes (consistency, placements and variations) and of course potentially increasing rally length once again.
- The ball has a logo stamp, I would put a black dot on the opposite side helping the viewers see the spin slightly more. This would also reduce unforced errors from the players.
- Entertainment: every sport I go to watch or be a part of I noticed an external entertainment factor. E.g. Football; flags, whistles, music, commentators, mascot, halftime challenges for fans and fan merchandise. This is very similar in most popular sports. Table Tennis can follow the lead from the recent Ping Pong World Championships (how it’s run and aims to engage people).
Table Tennis is the most undervalued sport, but it’s up to us to change that stigma
It’s down to us to focus on developing a positive culture in and outside the sport. This can only be done if we thrive towards developing and growing our sport. This can be done via media and various internal and external investments.
Written by Eli Baraty