Table Tennis Bat Quick Tips
- Spare rackets - I'd suggest that you have two identical rackets, with the same blade and rubbers. I like to alternate between rackets every training session, so that both rackets get about the same amount of playing time, and thus remain fairly close to each other in terms of feel. I'll usually pick one racket to play with for a tournament though, so that there is no change at all in the feel between matches.
- Different colors on different rackets - for combination bat players, it's worth considering whether to have the same rubbers in the same colors, or to have alternating colors (e.g. have your long pips in red on one racket, and black on the other). I personally like to have the same color on both rackets (red for my inverted rubber, black for my long pips), but this is mainly just because I like black long pips better for some reason. Some people would add that it also avoids the problem you can have when the red and black versions of rubbers play slightly differently.
On the other hand, having different colors on different bats can make things a little bit more confusing for your regular opponents, who have to keep track of which bat you are using for every match. Obviously, this isn't relevant to players you only play now and then.
- Racket weight - there are a few ways to adjust the weight and balance of your racket to your liking.
An easy way to lighten your racket is to attach the rubbers so that the edge where the logo is stamped sits further up the blade, an inch or more away from the handle, instead of right next to it. This is perfectly legal according to the ITTF rules and regulations, and makes a significant difference to the racket weight and balance.
To make your racket head heavier or to move the racket balance towards the racket head, you can add a little weighted edge tape around the rim of the racket, or trim your rubbers so that a little extra rubber overhangs the blade (the ITTF will generally allow up to 2mm of overhang - Handbook for Match Officials, 7.1.1). To move the racket balance towards the handle, some players will add grip tape to the handle, thus shifting the balance a little.
- Rubber Overhang - some players use the above mentioned rubber overhang to help protect their blade a little more from scrapes and dings resulting from accidental contact with the table or floor. This can help a bit, but the slight overhang makes it very easy to accidentally catch the rubber on the table edge or similar surfaces, pulling the rubber away from the blade around the edges, which is a nuisance. I'd recommend using some edge tape to try to stop this from happening.
- Grip - some manufacturers use protective coatings on the handle of rackets which tend to make them slippery when the players hands get sweaty. In this situation, I prefer to lightly sandpaper the handle to remove the coating and allow the wood to absorb my sweat. Other players like to use tennis grip tape to improve their grip without thickening the handle. I've even seen players use elastic bands to provide better grip!
- Changing Rubbers before a Tournament - I like to change my inverted rubbers about a week before a big tournament (I only change my long pip rubbers when they start losing too many pips). This gives me plenty of time to air out any excess VOC's from the rubbers, and also gives me a week to play with them and make sure that they have been glued properly and feel OK, while still leaving the rubbers in prime condition for the tournament.
My current rubbers play well right out of the package, but in the past I've used some rubbers that need around 10 hours or so of breaking in to remove excess tackiness from the topsheet before they start to play at their best (e.g. Tackiness Chop, Domination). For those rubbers, I'd usually change them a few weeks before an important tournament, to give myself plenty of time to wear both of my rackets in.
Sometimes a big tournament will be coming up soon, and your rubbers aren't really new but aren't really old either - so should you change them? Personally, I'll tend to put new rubbers on, since I'm willing to pay a little extra now and then to maximize my chances of playing well.
- Glue - I always keep a container of water based glue in my table tennis bag, just in case I need to do some running repairs and quickly stick down some rubber that is peeling away from the edge of my racket.
- Cold Conditions - Most rubbers perform better when they are warm, so in very cold conditions I try to find a warm place to keep my rackets. If the playing area is cold but the adjoining cafe or rest area is warm, then I'll try to discreetly store my table tennis bag somewhere in the warmth, to keep my rubbers working at optimum.
If that option isn't available, then I take a tip I learned from other top Australian players, and keep my racket under my tracksuit at all times, in the hope that my body heat will help to keep it warm. In the past, some players have resorted to using hairdryers (or even the hand dryers in the change rooms) to warm up their rackets, but I believe that this is now considered to be illegal under strict interpretation of ITTF rules and guidelines (HMO, 7.1.3), so I can't advocate using those methods anymore.
One other method that I've considered at times is to use a hot water bottle to keep myself warm, and warm up my racket at the same time! I'm not exactly sure where the ITTF would stand on this, but fortunately in sunny Australia it's not a problem we have too often!