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Even when dealing with older athletes, it is often the responsibility of the coach to help in choosing the equipment. When dealing with younger children, however, the coach must take over almost sole responsibility of choosing what equipment his/her charges should use. Children may not know the difference between the different racquet surfaces. After reading this chapter, you should be able to help guide kids into using adequate equipment.

Two common types of racquets are hard rubber and sandpaper. Sandpaper is illegal since it mars the ball. Neither gives the player the opportunity to play the game as it can be played with sponge racquets.

It is strongly recommended that kids be supplied with sponge racquets if at all possible. Sometimes this equipment is not available. If not, the situation is not a disaster, merely a handicap. If the switch can be made to sponge later on, you should do so. Avoid sandpaper at all costs!

Hard rubber was used by the best players in the world from the 1930’s until the 1950’s, when sponge was invented. Hard rubber is simply a sheet of rubber with “pimples” on it. The pimples are conical-shaped bits of rubber which enable the racquet to “grab” the ball more than without them. They were successful in their time, but in the 1950’s the sponge revolution changed the game.

Sponge rubber is hard rubber with a sheet of bouncy sponge underneath. This type of surface enables you to hit the ball harder, put more spin on it, and keep the ball in play at a faster pace. This is something that is difficult with other surfaces.

If the pimples on the rubber sheet are facing outward, as in hard rubber, the sponge rubber is called pips out sponge. A variation of this is having the pips reversed, so they point inward, giving a smooth and often sticky surface. This is called inverted sponge. It is the most common type of surface used by tournament players. It enables the player to put more spin on the ball and to keep the ball in play at a fast pace.

Although inverted sponge is usually recommended for advanced players, at the beginning level it is important that some type of sponge is used. Hard rubber is acceptable for students; but as the players advance, it is in their best interest to switch to sponge.

Two types of sponge rubber merit special attention. They are antispin and long pips.

Antispin is a type of inverted sponge where the surface is very slick, so the ball slides on it. Spin does not take on it. It is good for defensive play but difficult to attack with. Unless the player you are coaching is a defensive player, he/she should not use antispin (at least not at this stage).

Long pips is pips out sponge where the pips are extra long and thin. They are similar to antispin in that they are mostly for defensive play. They produce strange effects on the ball, and for this reason they should not be used at this stage. These effects are caused by the tendency of the pips to bend, producing different types of shots. The pips also return any spin given to them (changing topspin to backspin and vice versa) rather than putting on their own spin. This can be confusing to kids.

The racket is not as important at this level as is the surface. It is best to get the sturdiest ones so they will last.

The table itself is not too important. Top players are very picky about the table, but that will come later on. A bigger problem is getting enough tables. Ideally, you want one for every two players. Since you cannot always have that, ways to deal with too few tables will be dealt with later on.

Any net that is reasonably tight and six inches high will do. Nets do have a tendency to sag after a time, especially if treated roughly. The instructor should check the nets periodically to make sure they are securely in position.

The ball can be of two basic types: good or inexpensive. Good are listed as 3-star balls, although some 2- and 1-star balls are decent. They cost $1.00 to $1.25 each but last a long time. They also give a good bounce.

You can also get 0-star balls for $0.30 or so each. These not only don’t bounce well - they break very easily. It is recommended that you use at least 1-star balls and preferably 3-star balls. In the long run, they are cheaper and last longer.

Table tennis clothing requirements are simple. There are special shoes made just for table tennis, but they are not really necessary at this level. Tennis shoes or something similar is fine. Shorts and a non-white shirt (except when orange or yellow balls are used) finish a player’s outfit, although long pants are okay.

Care of equipment becomes very important when dealing with children. Damage to equipment can be avoided if the coach stresses from the start the importance of treating the equipment correctly. This means no banging or throwing racquets, no hitting or shoving of the table, and no sudden yanks to the net. Make it clear from the start that poor treatment of equipment will not be tolerated.

Care of sponge rubber should also be stressed. Inverted surfaces are especially delicate and need to be cleaned regularly. Clean the surface with plain water, wiping it clean with a towel.

Sponge rubber wears out after a few months. Many advanced players change their racquet surface every week! Most players cannot afford that, of course. But the surface does need to be changed periodically (at least every six months to a year). As a player advances, he/she might choose to change more often.

Sponge rubber is sold in square sheets which is attached to the racquet with special table tennis glue. Directions for doing so come with the sponge rubber. There are many manufacturers that sell sponge rubber sheets as well as other table tennis equipment. Contact USATT for a list of approved manufacturers and distributors.

Copyright Larry Hodges

Copyright Mark Nordby, Dan Seemiller, John Oros

Copyright USA Table Tennis

History of TT  <


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