The game of ping pong
Ping pong, or table tennis, is a fun game played everywhere in the world and appreciated by people of all ages for being dynamic, compelling and engaging. Ping pong also has a significant advantage: it can be played anywhere, even at home, and you don't need large spaces to do so. In fact, many people usually play ping pong in the attic, in their own tavern or in the shelter of a porch. Table tennis is also an Olympic and Paralympic discipline, and the practice of competitive sport is very different from table tennis played for recreational purposes. In this case, in fact, large spaces and professional equipment are needed, and the athletes involved in competitions undergo tough daily training. Those who practice this sport at a competitive level must in fact train qualities such as coordination, agility, ability to concentrate, speed of movement and quick reflexes. The same skills, however, can be developed simply through playful activity, thus benefiting from them in everyday life. A curiosity: the correct name of this sport is "table tennis", since "ping pong" is a commercial trademark registered in 1901 by a manufacturing company in the sector. Currently the two terms coexist without problems, or almost: "ping pong" is in fact an expression that is readily understood by everyone, while the same cannot be said of the official "table tennis".
According to the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF, or International Table Tennis Federation ), the ping pong table approved for international competitions must respect the following dimensions:
- table height from the ground: 76 cm;
- table length: 274 cm;
- table width: 152.5 cm.
The table should be made of Masonite (or another similar particleboard material) and covered with a smooth, low-friction cover. The playing surface is divided in two by a 15.25 cm high net and the official colors for the ITTF are green and blue. A table of this size is the obvious (as well as obligatory) choice for those who intend to seriously dedicate themselves to the sport of table tennis. Of course these are the standard sizes; On the market you can find more compact or larger ping pong tables in a wide variety of sizes and models. The smaller ones can be simple plastic "covers" to place on an existing table, and which can be placed in the cellar or storage room when not in use. The "mini" tables are slightly larger, particularly suitable for children and small rooms; these tables can be conveniently folded and put away. For those who have very little space, or are a lover of challenges, there are also "miniature" 20×30 centimeter ping pong tables, complete with custom-made rackets and balls. Warning: despite its small size, playing ping pong with this equipment requires considerable skill! Finally, for those who love being in the water, there are models of floating ping pong tables to be placed directly in the pool and played with special floating rackets.
How to choose
Before proceeding with the purchase of a ping pong table, it is a good idea to ask yourself a few questions to understand what use will be made of it. In particular, it is appropriate to consider these aspects:
- First, how frequently will it be used: every day, once a week, once a month, or more rarely?
- Who will mainly use the table: family, friends, acquaintances, or amateur players, or even professional athletes?
- How much space do we have available to place the table? And, in particular, is there enough space to leave it assembled, always ready for use? Or is it necessary to fold it up and put it aside for space reasons?
- Where will the table be placed: at home, in a club, in a bar, at the headquarters of an association, in a sports centre? And, above all, will it be possible to place it indoors? Or will the table have to remain outdoors?
This last aspect is very important, since not all ping pong tables are made to withstand outdoor conditions. Even though the ping pong table will probably be placed under a porch or a shed, atmospheric agents (such as humidity) and temperature changes can still seriously affect it. If possible, it is always better to purchase an indoor table since the playing surface is of better quality. This aspect is very important if you play table tennis not only at home, but also in other places. In fact, the most common types of tables are indoor ones and "getting used to" playing on an outdoor table can represent a handicap for future comparisons in other venues.
Choice of color and thickness
It may appear to be just a question of aesthetics, yet even the choice of color of the ping pong table should not be left to chance. The color of the surface must in fact create a good contrast with the floor, walls and background of the area in which you play. Until a few decades ago the surface of ping pong tables was typically green or grey, but with the advent of television in the 1990s there were numerous experiments with alternative color shades. The result was that the "best" color is blue, especially because it creates an excellent contrast with the typical reddish colors of the floor. Currently the International Table Tennis Federation indicates blue and green as the official colors, but tables of many other colors can be found on the market. Even more important than color, however, is the thickness of the playing surface. The best ping pong tables have a thickness of around 25-28 millimetres, and the top is made exclusively from wood-derived materials. To demonstrate this, in the most important tournaments only tables with these characteristics are used. On the market you can also find tables made of plastic, fibreglass, concrete or metal, of different thicknesses and weights, which are suitable for beginners, for example. If you level up, however, it becomes essential to practice on an "official" table.
Where to place the table
If the ping pong table is intended to be placed outdoors, it is important that the chosen location is protected from rain and humidity. And, of course, by the wind since the ball, being so light, can be moved a lot even by imperceptible movements of air. The wind can also deposit dust, dirt and other material on the surface of the table, thus hindering the correct bounce of the ball. It is essential to purchase a specific cover for the table placed outdoors, in order to protect it from the external environment when not in use and during the night. Alternatively, a waterproof plastic tarpaulin of sufficient size can be used. An indoor table, on the other hand, can be placed wherever you want, as long as the spaces are large enough to accommodate it and allow players to move freely. Some tables are fixed, while others are designed to be easily moved; the latter are certainly the most practical and easy to handle, suitable for home use. For example, the table can be mounted on casters and, once folded in two, can be transported from one place to another effortlessly. This operation can easily be performed by one person. Other tables can be divided into two halves, each to be stored separately, but at least two people are required to assemble and disassemble them. For those who have a lot of space at home or intend to permanently position a ping pong table, there are fixed models which are sometimes made with particular designs, and which can be used as original furnishing accessories.
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