You know you’re at a table tennis club and not a hipster table tennis bar when the Coach (yes, there’s even a coach) asks you if you’ve brought your own equipment. Looking down at my work dress and boots, I would have thought he could have had a stab in the dark at that one, but I gushed accordingly ‘Oh no unfortunately not…’ Nae bother, he had spares.
Seeking a new hobby to try this week, I found a drop in class at the Highbury Table Tennis Club, based in the Highbury Grove School in Islington, and nipped along with a friend. As we declared ourselves beginners, the coach recommended the official extended forefinger grip – explained in excessive detail over here – to ensure we were off to the right start. Basically ensure your forefinger is extended on the back of the rubber bat, with remaining three fingers loosely gripping the handle, thumb tucked in. A little awkward at first, but mastering this is essential for standard play. Next was a rules refresher – no one plays til 21 any more so it’s scored up to 11 with alternating service after every 2 points. For more detail around service and winning margins, take a look here.
The school hall setting was apt for taking your mind away from the only other time you have probably played this sport; a family holiday many years ago. There were eight tables with two per table (don’t get distracted by the holiday doubles). You can come on your own, although it does help confidence levels to start off with a friend where you’re less embarrassed about the impossible-to-catch ping-pong ball thrown by a helpful neighbour, or rummaging around the stacked gym equipment on all fours trying to find the ball you missed or unintentionally smashed away from the table. At some stage in the session you’ll get swapped around which is good for learning.
There are two sessions for this drop-in twice a week at 6-7:30 and 7:30-9 with a £6 cover for non members. So worse case scenario (and definitely do not tell them I said this) – it’s £6 for 1.5 hours of guaranteed play, which is a shaving off most of the trendy ping-pong spots in London – and you get some tips on your game! It’s a fun and relatively easy sport to pick up and one that I’d definitely do again, so give it a go.
Other options around London and beyond:
- Oasis Table Tennis Club – London Waterloo – £3 Thursdays 7-10pm
- Find a free outdoor table for public use brought to you by Ping!
- If you’d like to take it more as a social event here is a list of bars in London to try:
- Find your closest club plus anything you could ever wish to know about proper table tennis with Table Tennis England
- If you’re obsessed, there’s even a table tennis Summer camp…