Games and competitions

There are loads of ways to enjoy your table tennis table.

It’s not just singles and doubles. Playing social ping pong can be very different to the sport you see at the Olympics, the atmosphere at your local club or the sport you were taught at school.

Ping pong can be as social, collaborative or competitive as you want it to be.

Some games are perfect for small numbers while others can be played by dozens of people at once. Some formats are great for beginners, others for competitive smashers and some for both, and everyone in between.  Try out some different ideas and see what works, see below for the classics and some of our favourites:

See Rules of the Game which explains how to play table tennis, singles and doubles. However, if you’d prefer to make your own rules up, go for it…just make sure you all agree on them and have them written down somewhere!

It’s really easy to set up some simple target practice games, just gather some objects from the space around you (stapler, mug, glass, cuddly toy…) and place these on one side of the table, along with a player and a bucket of balls. Another player stands at the opposite side of the table and tries to return the ball, hitting a target. Add points for each target and see who can get the highest score!

This game is for 6 – 20+ players. Each player will need a bat. Each player starts with three lives. If there are twelve players to start with; six people queue up at each end of the table, and the person at the front of one queue serves, then moves round to the right. Everyone has to get the ball over the net and onto the other side of the table when their shot comes, then move round to the right and join the queue again.

Miss and you lose a life. Lose three lives and you’re out. When it’s down to two of you, it’s alternate serves until someone’s out of lives. Last man standing is the winner!

Serves have to clear the net and hit both sides of the table. All other shots just have to hit the other side of the table.

The most important thing is to preserve the spirit of ping pong – it’s not about winning, it’s about keeping the ball on the table and the game going.

This can be played as singles, doubles, or in large teams, just make sure you take it in turns to hit the ball. Players start with five lives each, each point lost equals a life lost. The match continues until one player or team has lost all five lives and all players. The winner carries over their remaining lives into a game against a new challenger/team. The new challenger/team starts with five lives.

A competition in this format can be run over a very short period of time e.g. over a lunch break, or a longer period. If you’ve only got a short amount of time available, Winner Stays On (literal translation; whoever wins the game or match, stays on the table to play against the next person) is a good option, or a Knock Out Cup, whereby the winner goes through to the next round and the loser is out. There are Knock-Out Cup posters enclosed with the Loop resource pack. Randomly draw names from a hat and fill in the blue boxes. These players compete against each other and the winners progress through.

RR’s are probably the fairest way of running a tournament as it ensures that participants have to perform consistently. They can’t benefit from ‘lucky draws’ either, as everyone plays everyone once (unless you split players into pools). See an example below of how you might run and score a Round Robin competition:

You can easily develop a Round Robin competition into a Box League, by running several Round Robin competitions simultaneously, as Leagues (e.g. 1, 2 and 3). The player in bottom position in League 1 is relegated to League 2 and the winner of League 2 is promoted to League 1. The player in bottom position in League 2 is relegated to League 3 and, the winner of League 3 is promoted to League 2.

One of the best ways to get some quick competition going is by having a ladder board.

Simply set a ladder start and end date and encourage some of your colleagues/friends/members to sign up to this. Write their names onto the board in alphabetical order, then let them get on with it! They can challenge each other as often as they like during the period of the ladder board competition, but whoever is top on the closing day, is the winner! Ladder boards are provided in every Loop package.

Building the longest rally is both collaborative and competitive. The aim is to keep the ball in play for as many shots as possible, players will probably try to break each other’s record scores. This is a great game if there are lots of people all wanting to get involved and can be played in two ways: either players hit the ball and rotate around to the other side of the table  ‘round the world’; or players hit the ball and go to the back of the queue on their side of the table….and then, you basically build the longest rally you possibly can e.g. keep hitting the ball backwards and forwards. Don’t forget to count the number of shots, or time how long you can keep going for!

Also known as winner-stays-on. Play 1 point, best of 3 points or a whole game; whoever wins stays on the table and is challenged by the next person. Pick one side of the table as the Champ’s end so that everyone knows who the Champ is and who the challenger is.

Variation: the Champ starts each new game with the number of lives left after the last game to create a handicap.

Don’t forget to let us know what you’re doing by tweeting pictures to @TableTennisENG #INTHELOOP