Paddle Du Jour

Happy Valentines Day! Let’s talk about polygamy. While it is illegal in the United States, that’s not the case worldwide. Actually, I’m hardly qualified to discuss marriage customs in other countries. I’m slightly more qualified to address how loyal table tennis players are to their paddle of choice.

Some seem to be extremely monogamous, clinging to their Hock bats with Leyland rubber. These paddles play exactly the way they did fifty years ago. No need to change now. Later generations of players were faced with far more choices. Blades could be fast or slow, all wood, or composites, that might include carbon or Kevlar. Rubber could be smooth or pimpled. Handles could be straight or flared. Balsa blades are extremely light. Seven ply blades feel different than five ply. Some rubber is expensive, while some is very cheap. It’s no wonder that the modern table tennis player might be tempted to play the field when it comes to equipment. 

Sometimes, this is just a matter of the grass looking greener on the other side of the fence. This can start when players indulge in paddle swapping. “Just this once, I’ll show you mine, if you’ll show me yours.” Inevitably, the allure of a faster, lighter, and friendlier paddle begins to make your own racket seem rather boring. This can lead to a series of affairs. Who among us hasn’t flirted with Tenergy, just to see what it’s like. 

Well, nobody’s perfect. At some point, you might need to part ways with your old racket. A seven year itch with table tennis equipment doesn’t make you a bad person. If you’ve been using the same paddle for seven years, it’s probably a good time to consider an upgrade. But, what about a seven day itch? As a coach, I get to try out and recommend equipment on a regular basis. I’m constantly exposed to all types of rackets. I’ve never met a racket I couldn’t play with. I definitely have my preferences, but what I really crave is variety. 

I no longer expect to play better with any particular paddle. My general style of play stays about the same, regardless of the paddle du jour. It’s not easy being a table tennis swinger. Opponents are always double checking your racket. It can get expensive hitting the club with a new set up every few days. I’d love to find the perfect paddle and be true to it for better or worse, but I’ve seen too much to go back. There’s a beauty to a great backhand loop, an anti-spin block, a short pips hit, and a long pips chop. It’s fun to experience all of these. 

The ability to play with all types of rackets won’t make you a better player. It might make you a more versatile player, or a better coach. Expect some disapproving looks and comments from your more monogamous friends. Not everybody appreciates this much variety, and they’re probably just jealous.  

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