How about some old school table tennis? I’ve invested in an official hardbat paddle. I have the privilege of coaching two full time hard bat players, so I’m honing my hardbat skills. As you might imagine, old school ping pong players tend to be on the older side as well. In both cases my students grew up in an era where there was no sponge rubber. Unwilling, or unable to make the transition, they both stuck with classic ping pong….for better or worse. I think that they are both very aware that they are at a disadvantage when they compete against modern players using modern equipment. But, they experience enough success, and love the game enough to continue to fight the uphill battle.
I think that they both could benefit from at least a little sponge on their backhand, but neither is interested in changing equipment at this stage of their careers. It would certainly be different if there were an abundance of hardbat enthusiasts available. With both players using hardbat, it levels the playing field, and makes for some fun and interesting matches. I’ve found that transitioning to hardbat once a week isn’t too difficult. The biggest challenge is on my backhand where adding topspin isn’t nearly as easy. There is a misconception about hardbat, that spin isn’t as big a factor as with sponge. If you only play hardbat occasionally, you may feel like you actually have to pay more attention to spin. This could be because you will naturally spin the ball with your normal racket. But, good hardbat players know how to use spin effectively, given the limitations of their paddles.
I don’t find attacking to be too difficult as long as I am playing close to the table. It’s definitely easier with the forehand, but I occasionally will land a nice backhand attack, although placement seems to be more important from the backhand side. Since I’m less confident in my backhand attacks, I’ve found that chopping is an essential skill. While I normally do some chopping with my regular paddle, I rely much more on it with hardbat.
Coaching hardbat players really isn’t any more difficult than working with modern players. The basic skills and strategies are essentially the same. Serves are just as important, and footwork and timing are skills that are equally essential. I don’t necessarily coach using my hardbat, since my students won’t be facing those types of players as often. It is fun to break out the old time paddle once a week though. I still prefer playing my normal game, and playing players with a more modern approach. But, there’s still a place in the table tennis world for old school ping pong, and it’s not as easy as some players might imagine. I get a good dose of it every Thursday. It’s a nice change of pace, and a good once a week habit.