Trend – 1.a general direction in which something is developing or changing
2. a fashion
If you start googling trends in table tennis, the first results will point you towards equipment companies, and how many balls they expect to sell in the next five years. That was not exactly what I wanted to address. Instead, I’ve decided to look at trends based on my own research. I’ve been attempting to sell table tennis for over a decade. Whether it was trying to start a club, coach, or simply find somebody to play, I’ve noticed a few definite trends.
Who’s playing table tennis? I can’t speak for China or countries other than the United States; but the metro Atlanta area is pretty typical, and should be as good a place as any to promote table tennis. Men are playing more than women. Older people are playing more than younger. Recent immigrants are playing slightly more than other Americans. Nearly every nationality is represented in the community of table tennis players.
Where are they playing? This question continues to be the biggest challenge for table tennis. Even the most enthusiastic players frequently can’t find a place to play. Having your own table solves this problem, but only if you have available opponents who are equally enthusiastic. Most of the best players have stories about how they stumbled into table tennis, simply by being at the right place, at the right time. There are far too few places where love for our sport can happen organically. If there is not a club near by, you’re probably out of luck. See Starting a Table Tennis Club
When are they playing? Most players are not playing as often as they would like. Free time for playing or training may not coincide with club hours. Weekends and evenings are the norm, except for senior citizens. Older players have the freedom to play during the day, usually at senior centers. See Table Tennis for Seniors – You Just Might Be One
How are they playing? I really mean, how well do they play? Talent and ability is always relative. The typical new player that comes to coaching usually has about a 800 USATT rating. They can advance quickly, becoming competitive club players within six months. Other than finding places to play, the biggest obstacle to growth in table tennis is players who get stuck at a beginner level. Many of them could improve greatly from some table tennis basic training. See The Ghost of Ping Pong’s Past
How is table tennis changing? Changes have been accelerated by changes to equipment. It’s taken a while, but some of the effects of the 40 mm ball are just now being felt. Who would have thought that introducing a slower ball would speed up the game? A larger ball is harder to spin. Chopping, lobbing, and even looping become less effective. Blocks are slower, and long pips are less problematic. Quick hitting and playing close to the table seem to be emerging as the path to success. Mima Ito plays right on top of the table, loops only to bring the ball up to hit, and uses her backhand attack as often her forehand. There are two other factors that make her style so effective. She does use short pips on her backhand, and being 4′ 11″ seems to be an advantage for this type of aggressive play.
Table tennis continues to change. The trend is toward a faster and more athletic approach. Try to keep up.
Photos courtesy of Athens Georgia Table Tennis