The World Table Tennis Championships begin this Wednesday in Chiba, Japan. The U.S.'s top entrant is Jim Butler of Iowa City, Iowa, who here offers 10 pieces of advice for recreational players:
1. Don't call it Ping-Pong—That's a demeaning term for the fastest racket sport and, after soccer, the most popular sport in the world.
2. Play with someone better than you are—Good players spin the ball, and to excel, you'll have to learn to return different spins.
3. Choose a comfortable, legal paddle—Paddles can be any size, but the two surfaces must be made out of rubber.
4. Don't throw your paddle—From my experience, it breaks quite easily.
5. Choose a comfortable grip—Use whatever works for you, either the "pen-holder" grip (popular in Asia) or the "shake-hands" grip (favored in Europe and the U.S.).
6. Read a good book—I recommend the soon-to-be-published "Table Tennis—The Sport," by Scott Preiss.
7. Don't step on the ball—From my experience, it breaks quite easily.
8. Keep your feet moving—The ball can move at 105 mph, so stay on your toes.
9. Dress well—If you can't play well, you can at least look good. I favor the monochromatic Pete Sampras look.