Friday, September 3, 2010

Table Tennis as a profession

 This is the essay that I submitted for the mind map assignment (refer to previous post). A few things might seem unnecessary, but I just wanted to put this up as it was submitted. I've realized, at times, its necessary to state the obvious. :)

Table tennis is a sport in which 2 or 4 players hit a small light ball across a table, with the help of rackets. Though widely played in schools, colleges and game-rooms of corporate companies, it is perhaps one of the most underrated sports in India. Since it is largely looked upon as a means of passing time, it is rarely thought of as a suitable profession. This article explores the commercial viability of being a professional table tennis player.

If you want to pursue table tennis as a profession, the first thing that you would need to do is sharpen your skills and get your techniques right. Practice with friends who play well, and familiarize yourself with the rulebook. The next step would be to join a training camp. If your school has a TT training centre, enroll yourself for starters, before heading towards a professional TT training camp.
To test your caliber, you can participate in district and state level tournaments which are held in every state. Table tennis clubs are still a novelty, but you might find one if you’re staying in a metropolitan city. Once you achieve a good rank at the State Level, the State Government Association can pass on your name to the Table Tennis Federation of India (TTFI) for participation in National Level Tournaments. TTFI was one of the founding members of the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF) and its most important task is to send players to the ITTF Pro Tour international tournaments to represent India.

The most popular international table tennis competitions are ITTF Pro Tour, World Championships, World Cup (also sanctioned by ITTF) and Olympics.  Continental championships like European Championship, Asian Championships are fiercely competitive. Professional table tennis players also play for clubs, apart from their countries. However, in India, there are very few professional clubs as of now.

While considering table tennis as a profession, do remember that till the national level, you have to largely depend on prize money as a means of income. If you’re good, you might get individual sponsorship from companies, but this will need to be your initiative mainly. Mostly, players at national and international level earn a living through table tennis. If you do not make it to the international level, you can apply for a job in the sports quota in government organizations. Another option is to become a coach at a table tennis training camp. However, to have high credibility and earn well, you should have played well at the national level.

Some of the famous Indian players who have represented India internationally are Kamlesh Mehta, Chetan Baboor and Achanta Sharath Kamal . Lack of professional clubs leaves TT players largely at the mercy of prize money, which may be irregular. However, a few people believe that table tennis is slowly gaining popularity in India and in another 5-10 years, India might start having its own professional clubs. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that!


  1. I thought that there would be some reference to the movie Forrest Gump when you talk about table tennis as a profession. Oh well, since the essay is for the Indian public, I guess it is appropriate

  2. What is the reference to the context?

  3. This essay seems to be like the first 45 min. of the movie Lakshya. Something like follow this path and get there. Perhaps highlighting a few critical obstacles on the way could have helped. Of course, this will require uncanny interviweing skills and a lot of luck too.

  4. Ref. to Forrest Gump is the part where Forrest becomes a professional player after taking on Table Tennis as a past time. Of course, this is not the crux of the story as you pointed out, but a similar experience by a professional player (like the story about Vijay Merchant, the cricketeer) would have provided a better insight into real life struggles. Ref. to Lakshya is where the IMA part in the movie is cleared out in some 20 min or so while it takes atleast 2 yrs of extremely hard work to become a Lt. This, in no way, is a critique of the movie, since well, Lakshya is a Bollywood movie and such things are expected. My ref. to movies are not messages which come and slap you in the face while watching the movie, so that often causes contentions. So just because you follow a beaten path does not mean you will get there, esp. if we are talking about an Indian profesional sport. There are several other things which are necessary to be a professional TT player (duh!) so these values could have been highlighted too through real life experiences. Being a journalist is hard, getting a person to reveal his struggles to a stranger is next to impossible and hence I said that it will require uncanny interviewing skills and a lot of luck.