Playing ping pong: The sport you never knew but should
Ping pong is a sport that is often neglected or misunderstood. Many view it more as a hobby or game, not fitting of the “sport” classification. Yet to those in the know, ping pong is one of the greatest sports you can play. Having evolved greatly since its inception, ping pong is challenging to play, thrilling to watch, and brings with it a whole host of health benefits.
Tracing back to the late 19th-century, ping pong or table tennis as it is now commonly known, has evolved into a much different sport. The first time table tennis appeared it took advantage of the popularity of lawn tennis. Being marketed as a version of the game that people could play indoors.
Similar adaptations emerged, each trying to improve on the last, but none were very successful. Drum and string rackets were not fitting, and rubber balls bounced unpredictably while cork balls barely bounced at all. The first major step towards modern table tennis occurred around the year 1900. This is when celluloid balls appeared. A year later the Table Tennis Association and Ping Pong Association formed in England — key milestones.
However, modern rubbers would still not feature for some time. This occurred in the 1950s. In the years prior hard bats dominated. The emergency of rubbers made the game much faster and more spinny. Making it highly competitive and much more entertaining to watch. It’s hard to believe that during the hard bat era rallies commonly lasted minutes. In fact, at the 1936 World Champions in Prague, one point took a staggering two hours to complete. It’s no wonder they made changes to the equipment!
Ping pong by many metrics is one of the healthiest sports you can undertake. First and foremost, because anyone can play. Be it young, old, skinny, or large, ping pong doesn’t discriminate. This is because it does not place as much stress on the body as most other sports. There is no heavy lifting, running, or anything else that poses a serious risk of injury.
This means you keep fit, have reduced recovery periods, and play more frequently without aches and pains. On average, most people burn 275-400 calories per hour playing. But you can easily exceed this if you undertake hard training drills.
It is also well known to be a super sport for the brain. Brain specialist Daniel G. Amen claims it’s the “world’s best brain sport”. Quite the statement. But it’s true. When you take a look past the basic nature of hitting the ball back and forth ping pong is exceedingly complex. You need to determine positioning, speed, spin, and angles for every stroke you hit. And if that wasn’t hard enough you have a fraction of a second to do it. Table tennis demands among the quickest reaction time of all sports.
How Do I Get Started
While you can pick up any old bat and walk down to your local sports center and get playing right away, I would advise first getting your hands on some quality equipment. The primary piece of kit you are going to need is a table tennis bat. Bats are made of two parts: rubbers (what you hit the ball with), and blades (the wooden part).
Even if it is your first time playing, I would advise getting a custom table tennis bat. These are usually higher quality than premade bats and going custom allows you to select which rubbers and blade you want. Manufacturers list important stats such as speed and spin to help you decide what to buy. Consider what you can handle and read some reviews online to see what other players think of the equipment that interests you.
Once you’ve got your bat, joining a club is your next step. It exposes you to a variety of different styles of play, helps you make new friends, and significantly improves the rate at which you will improve. Many also enter teams in leagues. This is another great opportunity to test your skills.
If you are really serious about improving you should consider purchasing your own ping pong table. Paying for individual training sessions gets expensive very quickly. And there might not always be availability to train when you are free. This is why having your own ping pong table is so useful. If you are going to commit to the sport, the table essentially pays for itself after a few years.
Also, do some research and make sure you get a high-quality table. You need to make sure that the model you purchase has a reliable bounce and is built to last. I advise sticking to well-known table tennis manufacturers and buying a table with a thick playing surface.
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Above: 2015 Cyprus Women's Cup Canada v England 11 March 2015, Larnaka, CYP GSZ Stadium. ©Can...
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