By Larry Hodges, USATT Hall of Famer and Certified National Coach
Here are some tips of proper care of your equipment. I’m amazed at how lazy players often are on these things!
- Racket Covering: One of the simplest ways to keep your racket surface clean while playing is to lightly blow on it every few points and then wipe it off with a cloth. The blowing puts a very light moisture on the blade, which allows you to wipe off the surface so it’s clean and dry. (Watch top players and you’ll see many of them do this regularly.) When you are done playing, wipe it off with a damp towel, and after it dries (you can wipe it off lightly to hasten the process), cover it in a racket case or in plastic. This protects it from oxidizing with the air, and I can verify that sponges left out in the open deteriorate much faster than those covered. You might also cover the surface with plastic protective sheet, which will make it last even longer, especially if you only play occasionally. Occasionally use a rubber cleaner to wipe off grease. When the sponge begins to lose its bounciness, or an inverted sheet begins to lose its tackiness, or a pips-out surface has broken pips (or the surface of the pips are worn down), it’s time to change. Keep the racket out of extreme heat and cold. If you are driving in the cold to play, keep the racket inside the car with you, not in the trunk where it’s cold. (Otherwise the racket will be rather slow and dead until it warms up.)
- Racket: Consider putting edge tape on the racket, if it’s not already there. This is mostly cosmetic to protect it if you accidentally hit the table with your racket, as sometimes happens during play.
- Shoes: Generally don’t wear them except at the playing hall. They are not meant for walking, and don’t give as much support as normal shoes. If you do wear them outside the playing hall, be careful not to get the soles dirty. If you do, wash them off. Otherwise, not only will you lose traction when you play, you’ll track dirt into the player area. Don’t. If you are playing on floors that aren’t grippy, wash the soles of your shoes off to add traction. (Another good way to add traction is to step lightly on a wet towel every few points. You’ll see top players to this all the time when they play on cement or wood floors; try it and you’ll see.)
- Shirt: Other than wearing something that’s both comfortable and legal (see USATT rules 3.22 and 3.25, but primarily neat, not the same color as the ball, and without huge advertisements), what do I have to say here? If you have a nice table tennis shirt with a nice design on it, that design will slowly wear away with washing. To slow that down, turn the shirt inside-out when you wash it. That way the water in the washing cycle will hit against the inside of the shirt rather than directly on the design, which wears it away much faster.