32. Ping pong

The parks in our area are home to several static ping pong tables and so in the summer months we take advantage and the whole family strides out and attempts to play either as a doubles match or more usually as two singles. But if you have enough space, it is possible to make the kitchen table into a makeshift ping pong table. Sometimes all you want to know are the basic rules to play a friendly match of ping pong, so here they are…

In singles, the centre lines serve no purpose, so ignore it. In doubles the centre line is supposed to mark where the serve goes so when playing with kids, ignore this too. But it can be useful to determine who plays in what area.

For scoring, a match is officially played best 3 of 5 games (or 4/7 or 5/9). For each game, the first player to reach 11 points wins that game, however a game must be won by at least a two point margin. The family version there is just one game usually although we have been known to play ‘best of three’.

A point is scored after each ball is put into play. In the official rules, the serve must be made as follows: the ball must rest on an open hand palm. Then it must be tossed up at least 6 inches and struck so the ball first bounces on the server’s side and then the opponent’s side. However when playing with children, just getting the ball over the net is OK. If the serve  touches the net, it is called a let serve. Let serves are not scored and are repeated. We also play a lenient system where if you mess up the first serve you can have a second, as in tennis.

Table tennis tables count their edges (of the table) as part of the legal table surface, but not the sides. The match flows as follows: each player serves two points in a row and then switch server. However, if a score of 10-10 is reached in any game, then each server serves only one point and then the server is switched. After each game, the players switch side of the table. In the final game (ie 5th game), the players switch side again after either player reaches 5 points.

In winter, we have been known to play a form of table tennis whilst sitting on the floor, as our floor is wooden. This is basically played by attempting to keep the ball in play by batting it to each player in turn. In fact, this game, which is non-competitive, often proves more fun than actual table tennis, although admittedly we have not played it very often.

Overall ping pong is a great option for a warm sunny evening. Although it does not always feel appropriate, due to adverse weather, and is not an improvised game in the tradition of family time, I have included it here as it is relatively inexpensive and gets the family doing something together.