Novice’s guide to table tennis: A five-part series to help you on your table tennis journey.
Table tennis is an easy game to pick up and play at a beginner and social level but what if you wish to take it more seriously and start playing competitively? There may be many questions that you have, and I will attempt to use this five-part blog series to pass on some advice to make your entry into the sport a little less nerve-wracking! Points I will cover include:
Is there a table tennis club near you? How do I find a club? How do I know it it is the right one for me?
How much practice does it take to become “good”? How much will it cost? How to find a coach and what should I be looking for in a coach? Group coaching or 1 to 1 coaching?
What equipment do I need? What type of competitions can I play in? Is there a pathway to elite performance?
This guide is aimed at adult players who are new to the sport as well as for the parents of youngsters who have just taken up the sport.
In todays blog, I will attempt to provide a guide to how you can find a club near you and how do you know it is the right wrong for you?
So, you have started playing table tennis? Fantastic! It might be that you have played it on holiday, in school, at home (the Covid-19 lockdown saw a huge increase in the sales of table tennis tables due to people looking for an activity they could do in the home/garage/garden). Maybe you have been playing on one of the many outdoor tables that can now be found around the country that have been installed as part of the Ping! Initiative to get people active in non-traditional sporting settings. Or perhaps you are lucky enough to live in a town or city where a Ping Pong Parlour has been opened on the high street or in a shopping centre? Whatever it is that has sparked up your interest in this wonderful sport, you are now looking at taking your game ‘to the next level’ and looking to find a club and other players to play and train with.
So how I you find out if there is a table tennis club near you? Simple answer………………….Google it! Many clubs will have their own website these days and a quick search should quickly reveal several clubs within your area. Just be aware that when you type in table tennis into your search engine, it will also display results for tennis clubs too! Click the link below to view some of the results that came up when I searched for ‘table tennis clubs in Northamptonshire’.
Some clubs also have a social media presence with Facebook seemingly the most popular, but they may also have accounts on Twitter, Instagram, or any of the other popular social media channels. A further way of finding a local club is by checking out your relevant County Council’s Sports Department’s website (if they have one). Here is the link to the club finder section on the Northamptonshire Sport’s website:
And of course, you could always visit the website of the governing body (Table Tennis England) and use their ‘table and club finder’ search function which displays a list of clubs as well as outdoor Ping! Tables and Ping Pong Parlour venues in your area:
You might find that you are lucky enough to live in an area of the country with a relative abundance of table tennis clubs. Alternatively, you may be unfortunate and live in a desert when it comes to table tennis clubs. If you fall in to the second category, you might decide to set up your own club. Details on how to set up your own club can be found here:
Once you have found a list of local clubs, you now have a choice to make on which club you would like to attend (hint: visit as many as you can so you can compare. You would not buy the first car or house you viewed without looking at others too). But what are you looking for in a club and how do you know it is the correct fit for you? This answer could depend on what you are looking to achieve in the sport. Are you after a social night with the opportunity to make some new friends, burn a few calories and maybe play some competitive table tennis in the local league? Are you looking to play or train several days a week and wanting to improve rapidly? Or maybe you want to be an Olympic Champion?
Types of club:
Many clubs still operate as a one table venue out of church halls or social clubs and may only meet one night a week to play their league matches and have no practice opportunities at any other time. It might be that the club are looking fir a new player to join their team but very often these clubs have a long-established team and are happy with the 3-4 players that have played together for years.
Most table tennis clubs operate out of multi-table venues based in community use venues such as schools, community centres and leisure centres. Many of these clubs will operate on multiple days each week. Some might have a designated “match night” for the teams that play in their local league(s) which could meant that no practice or coaching is available on that night. However, on the other days they are open they are likely to run a mixture of open play sessions and organised group coaching sessions. The group coaching sessions are often ability based as opposed to based on the age ranges with sessions for beginners, intermediate and advanced players. One to one coaching can sometimes be arranged at these clubs with an additional charge for this service.
Dotted sporadically around the country, there are a few table tennis clubs that operate out of their own venue. These clubs usually have table tennis opportunities available seven days a week, with some even offering 24 hours a day availability. Similar to the clubs that operate out of community use venues, they offer a range of practice and coaching sessions as well as the opportunity to play competitive table tennis.
A well organised club is likely to be run by an elected committee and will hold an AGM every year as well as several committee meetings each year. The committee should have a Chair, Secretary and Treasurer on their committee at the very least. They may have other roles too such as Child Welfare Officer, Coaching Officer, Website Officer, Social Media officer, Social Secretary, Team Manger/Captain etc.
Most clubs will affiliate with Table Tennis England, either as an Associate Club or as a PremierClub. Some clubs are also ClubMark accredited. Clubmark was a cross sport accreditation scheme for community clubs that raised the standards of delivery, welfare, and programmes within clubs. As of August 2019, Sport England stopped providing general support for accreditation through Clubmark but are currently developing a new self-analysis tool that will allow clubs to perform a ‘health check’, expected to launch in early 2020. Details of both the Table Tennis England affiliations and the ClubMark scheme can be found here:
I hope you have found this blog helpful and it has given you some understanding of the opportunities that are out there for you to play table tennis. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions.