by player/coach Jim Langley (also a bicycle aficionado)

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Our Santa Cruz Table Tennis Club

Updated January 2013

Table Tennis

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Timo Boll

The great Timo Boll
Click to enlarge

I have been addicted to table tennis since childhood, and I enjoy it as much now as then. I’m an intermediate-level player and a club-level coach who plays at the Santa Cruz, California Table Tennis Club. I train and get coached at the World Champions Table Tennis Academy by coaches Stefan Feth, Li Zhen Shi and Zhang Li. This page starts with an article about table tennis that I wrote for a sports magazine. Below it is my coaching advice, a fun rules quiz, links and more. I am always happy to talk about table tennis, so feel free to email me.

The wonderful sport of table tennis

The most popular sport in the world, the one played by more people than any other, is soccer. Everybody knows that, right? (more)

Game, or sport?

About now you may be thinking, “Sure, lots of people have ping-pong tables and play the game, but that’s what it is — a game; not a sport.” (more)

A thinking person’s game

In fact, one of the reasons table tennis is so challenging and fun is that athleticism is just a part of the puzzle. (more)

Everyone’s sport

One of the most appealing things about table tennis is that it’s a game for everyone, and one that has no divisions. (more)

How to get involved

Does table tennis sound like something you’d like to try? Or have you played at home and think you’re pretty good and would like to test yourself out in the real world? (more)


ping-pong politics

Cartoon by Bernard Partridge, Punch, April 24, 1901

USA Table Tennis

Timo Boll Blade

The paddle I use
Click to enlarge

If you’re starting out, purchase a paddle that offers a lot of control. You can find one in the $40 to $80 price range. Get a case for it, too, because the rubber on the paddle deteriorates more quickly when it’s exposed to air and dirt. And be sure to get a box of 3 balls (Nittaku 3-star 40mm in orange).

My current rating is 1823, which means I'm an intermediate-level player. I play an offensive looping game and use the same fast, spinny and expensive equipment used by many professionals with this type of game, a Butterfly Timo Boll Spirit blade with Butterfly Tenergy 05 max thickness rubber on both sides.

Table Tennis Rules Quiz

True or false? (Click on a question to reveal or hide the answer)

  1. A score of 6 to 0 is a skunk, game over.
  2. You must serve so that the ball lands in the right box on your side and your opponent’s side of the table.
  3. If you serve so that the ball bounces twice on your opponent’s side before going off the end or side, you lose the point.
  4. If you serve twice and hit the net both times, it’s a point for your opponent.
  5. Paddles with sandpaper on the surface are the best.
  6. All the great players come from China.
  7. To decide who serves first, you hit the ball back and forth until someone misses, but it must cross the net at least 3 times, or you have to start again.
  8. You must win by at least 2 points.
  9. Your paddle may be as big/small as you want.
  10. In China, many public parks have cement tables provided
    for public play.


Coaching tips for better play

Some pointers on playing better table tennis, which I’ve been taught (but have yet to master) by many great coaches, such as Stefan Feth, Li Zhen Shi, Zhang Li and Nan Li of the amazing World Champions Table Tennis Academy in San Jose, California, where I now train, and past coaches Dennis Davis, Danny Seemiller, Christian Lillieroos, David Rudesill and Masaaki Tajima. Here are some excellent high-level training videos by coach Stefan Feth.

I hope these tips help you reach your goals!

— Jim

The author forehand looping

Here I am forehand looping (the main offensive weapon today) a few years ago in a tournament in Fairfield, California. I've now shortened my forehand loop (notice that the arm is almost fully extended here). By keeping more bend in the elbow, dropping the right shoulder and bending the right leg more, it gets much easier to contact a fast ball and generate more power/spin from the larger muscles in the upper and lower body. You can also see that my grip is slightly wrong and that the top of the paddle needs to be more down, toward the floor.

These minor changes have improved my footwork, because by focusing on a tighter upper-body position you bend your knees more and drop the shoulder more, which brings the feet more into each loop. And, when the feet are right, you move to the next ball more easily and naturally.


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