Men and women competing against one another

Ask the coachCategory: Tactics & match-playMen and women competing against one another
Andrew asked 6 months ago

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think table tennis is about the only sport I can think of where men can compete against women in singles at the amateur level, but not the professional level, unless it’s mixed doubles.

In fact in my local league earlier this year, a Chinese girl, who looked about 20, won the leading player for Division 2, beating many good male players along the way. However, she struggled when she was promoted to Division 1 later in the year, before another lockdown meant the next season was over after only three weeks.

Not that I’m complaining, but why do you think that women are able to compete against men in amateur local league pennant competitions?
Do you think it’s because there aren’t enough female competitors at this level?

Is it because the speed of a table tennis ball at this level isn’t as much of an issue as at the professional level, meaning less strength is required? Although at junior level, you would think strength would not be an issue but junior boys and junior boys are in separate competitions.

If your 6 year old daughter, who featured in a recent video of yours regarding teaching kids how to play table tennis, decided she wanted to be a professional table tennis player or at least a good amateur table tennis player, would you be happy for her when she is around 20 years of age or younger, to compete against male tennis players in a local league table tennis pennant competition, to hopefully speed her development and level of table tennis?

1 Answers
Tom Lodziak Staff answered 6 months ago

As a generalisation men have more power than women. Of course there are examples where some women are stronger than some men. I can think of a few female players who play more powerful shots than me. But in general, men have the advantage in power.

However, in amateur table tennis – especially at the local league level – your power (how hard you can hit a ball) isn’t that important. Spin, speed, ball placement, serves, return of serves, consistency, footwork, tactics and mindset are all more important than power. So any physical advantage that men may enjoy is quite diminished.

In my mind, this makes table tennis a fantastic sport to play, as men and women, young and old, can all compete together. There aren’t many other sports where this is the case.

At the professional level, power becomes more important. The players are all amazingly good at spin, speed, footwork, serves, tactics etc. So to gain an advantage – and win points – they have to hit the ball with more dynamic power. When I made some videos with Paul Drinkhall, I spent a lot of time just watching balls being smacked past me! So there is a clearer difference between men and women at the professional level, as men can utilise their physical advantages more.

As for my daughter, when the time is right, yes I’d be very keen for her to play against both men and women. It will be good for her to develop her skills against a wide range of opponents.