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Three years ago, I was nothing more than a beginner at table tennis. My dad, who played in his local league when he was growing up, consistently beat me 11-0 every time we had a knock around at the weekend. However, thanks to going to practice sessions whilst at university, I’m now the Development Officer of the table tennis club and I’m enjoying the sport more than ever as well as meeting some lovely people.
Originating in the late nineteenth century, table tennis was devised as an indoor version of tennis using very primitive materials. With a variety of names including my (and Boris Johnson’s) favourite, “whiff whaff”, table tennis was intended to be a social diversion, a game that could easily be constructed using the barest of equipment. Nowadays, however, there are so many varieties of table tennis bats, balls, and tables so that the game can be adapted for a variety of abilities. The rules are simple – one player serves, in any direction, so that the ball bounces on both sides of the net, and play is started. Service lasts for two serves each, and the winner has to score 11 points and has to be two points clear of their opponent. If the scoring reaches 10-10, each player serves once until a winner has been established.
The sport isn’t all about being competitive, however, just as it’s not all about the playing itself – it can also be a great social event. If you’re playing for the first time, you have the opportunity to talk to your partner and have a laugh whilst you get to grips with the game. As you improve, you could always bring out your competitive sides and start playing matches against each other. The college league, which was established last year, allows anyone to have a go at playing some matches as well as enjoying a Wednesday night in a college bar, free from the demands of your degree.
Like any good social event, playing table tennis is the best chance to take time out from your work. The sound of ping pong balls, believe it or not, can be incredibly relaxing and even therapeutic, especially when several tables are going at once (weird, I know). Table tennis can be as taxing or as relaxing as you like, and especially when practice sessions are run in the evening it can be a de-stressing and anxiety-relieving experience. If you’re more concerned about getting fit, table tennis is also aerobically a fantastic sport, so you and your partner can gradually ratchet up the impact levels at a rate where you feel comfortable.
Another reason to start playing is simply because it’s cheap. With the college set up, anyone can head down to one of the bars and pick up a bat. Even hiring out a table for an hour at the sports centre doesn’t break the bank balance at just £3.35. There’s no expensive equipment, no special clothing, and no special footwear. You can even have a go in your jeans! There are also kits that you can buy on the internet in order to transform any table into a ping pong table. Games at pre-drinks, anyone?
In all seriousness, the best thing about playing table tennis is that absolutely anyone can have a go – it doesn’t matter whether you’re tall or short, male or female, an expert or someone who has never picked up a bat before. Your build doesn’t given you any particular advantage as all the technique comes from the way you hold the bat, your wrist, and the rotation of your upper torso, so it truly is an equalising sport. All that counts is having a bit of fun and getting active, even if you spend most of the time missing the table and running around after the ping pong ball! With an abundance of opportunities to get started, all you need to do it grab a friend and head down to one of the bars. It couldn’t be simpler.