Getting started in Disability Table Tennis
What is a desirable characteristic?
Each sport has specific demands that are unique to that particular sport. These range from components of fitness (e.g. speed and power), to body type characteristics (e.g. tall or short) and many more. Each person may be better at some sports than others based on how well they ‘match’ the profile of that sport.
Looking at the desirable characteristics of each sport, may help to inform you about which sports may (or may not) be suitable for you. However there is no guarantee and there are always exceptions to the rule!
A highly skilful sport, disability table tennis is fast and dynamic, requiring excellent coordination and fast thinking. The two main categories are Wheelchair and Standing, although the fundamental characteristics are very similar. If you are interested in competing at an elite level then matching the desirable characteristics below may help.
One of the most important elements of the game is skill and at the elite level there are some very specific skills that are required. However some of the more general characteristics shown below:
- Accuracy – being able to play shots to the right area
- Consistency – minimising unforced errors
- Shot variety – ability to execute a wide variety of shots e.g. forehand, backhand, top spin, backspin etc.
- Decision making – knowing which shots to play and when
- Timing – ability to execute moves at exactly the right moment
Although the standing classes require a greater level of fitness than the wheelchair classes, the following traits are important from a fitness perspective:
- Coordination – ability to execute highly skilled movements
- Reaction time – ability to respond quickly to a stimulus
- Power – combination of strength and speed e.g. for moving quickly
- Speed – particularly in relation to hand/arm speed
- Agility – ability to quickly change direction
- Endurance – ability to withstand long, intense games
- Balance – ability to maintain a good body position while playing
- Strength – mainly leg strength for standing players
Disability table tennis is contested by a wide range of disabilities, and provided you have an appropriate level of skill it is possible to be successful at the elite level whatever your disability. Some of the main disabilities that play this sport are:
- Spinal cord injury (paraplegic and quadriplegic)
- Amputees (upper and lower limb)
- Cerebral palsy
This refers to characteristics relating to body type/appearance. In the sport of table tennis, the following traits may be important:
- Tall body
- Long arms (good reach)
- Slender build
OTHER DESIRABLE CHARACTERISTICS
Other characteristics that may be beneficial to fencing performance are:
- Previous table tennis experience as an able-bodied athlete (some of the top players are former able-bodied players with acquired disabilities)
- Previous sporting background (e.g. racquet sports)
- Sporting history in the family