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There are a number of misunderstandings about the rules of table tennis, and it is likely that your students will all have vague but incorrect ideas as to the actual rules. Explain the rules to them as simply as you can, demonstrating as often as possible rather than just telling.

Shown below are important points that should be explained. It is important that kids get the rules right. It gives them a framework from which to work. Without making the rules clear, they will argue and bicker every time a disagreement about rules comes up. Get the rules ingrained from the start!


  • The game is 11 points.

  • A game must be won by two points.

  • Serves are alternated every two points, except at deuce (when they are alternated every point).

  • The game does not end at 7-0 or any other score except 11 or deuce.


  • The ball must be held in an uncupped hand, with the thumb free.

  • The ball must be tossed up at least six inches. The net is six inches high and can be used for comparison.

  • The ball must be struck while it is dropping.

  • Contact must be above the table level and behind the endline or its imaginary extension.

  • Let serves (serves that nick the net but hit the other side of the table) are taken over. You can serve any number of let serves without losing a point.

  • From the moment the ball is tossed up and until it is struct, the receiving player must be able to see the the ball clearly at all times.


  • You may not volley the ball (hit it before it bounces on your side of the table).

  • The rally continues until someone fails to return the ball.

  • You may not move the table or touch it with your non-playing hand.

  • To start a game, one player hides the ball in one hand under the table and the other tries to guess what hand it is in. Winner gets the choice of serving or receiving first (or choice of sides).

You can find the complete rules of table tennis at the USA Table Tennis home page at www.usatt.org (click on “Rules of the Game”).

 Copyright Larry Hodges

Copyright Mark Nordby, Dan Seemiller, John Oros

Copyright USA Table Tennis

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