Table tennis, also known as ping-pong and whiff-whaff, is a game of intense speed and jaw-dropping precision. For the first time table tennis was featured at the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul and has since been a fixture at the Games. Physical fitness includes a wide range of skills and is defined as the capacity to perform physical activities. Being fit for one sport or activity does not automatically make someone fit for another because each one requires a unique set of skills. Fitness is typically broken down into distinct categories or components, each of which can be measured and developed separately.
Therefore, to cater to this modern era of a scientific approach to sports, Sports Science students and faculties of the Department of Sports Science & Yoga, RKMVERI, Belur, and the Sports Science students of Calcutta University collaboratively conducted physical fitness tests of 24 under-15 (U-15), 21 under-13 (U-13), and 40 under-11 (U-11) sub-junior budding table tennis boys and girls as a part of selection trial at Bengal Table Tennis Academy (BTTA), Salt lake stadium under Government of West Bengal on 2nd and 3rd April 2022. The purpose of the assessment was to select under-11, under-13, and under-15 potential table tennis players for the academy.
A six-station battery test was set up at the Yuba Bharati Stadium ground, Salt lake where strength, flexibility, agility, endurance, and power were tested. U11 and U13 selection trials were organized on 2nd April 2022 whereas the U15 selection trial was organized on 3rd April 2022. The 6-station battery test included:
- Isometric strength test – to determine hand grip and back-leg strength
- Standing broad jump test – to determine lower-body explosive power
- Medicine ball throw test – to determine upper-body explosive power
- Sit and reach test – to assess flexibility
- Illinois agility test – to assess agility
- Modified Cooper test (for U11 & U13 participants) & YoYo test (for U15
participants) – to assess endurance capacity
Basic demographic details of the players were collected before beginning the tests. The height and weight of the participants of the test were also measured and noted. The participants of the selection trials of the table tennis academy were small children so extra care was taken that they don’t get injured during the test or after it and help them when needed. It was a hot summer day at that time so it was also checked whether they are well hydrated or not. Before every test, a demonstration of the test on how to do it and the dos and don’ts of the test were done by the administrator conducting the test.
Standing Board Jump Test
Explosive leg muscle power is important in many sports which was measured through the standing broad jump test. Therefore the test data can help prevent injury, maintain posture, and improve sports performance. In this test, a line was drawn near the sand pit where participants need to stand and jump on the sand pit. While standing they folded their knees and then jump on the pit. The footprint left on the pit was marked using a stick and using a measuring tape the distance from the marked line to the footprint was measured and recorded.
Isometric Strength Test
The isometric back-leg strength test is a measure of the strength of the muscles of the lower back and leg, which is important in maintaining the body’s core stability during exercise. A stronger hand grip strength is beneficial for sports such as tennis, baseball, cricket, etc. because it can withstand more force when a ball hits the racket or bat. Back-leg strength was measured using a back-strength dynamometer and grip strength was measured using a hand grip dynamometer.
Medicine Ball Throw
Medicine ball throw tests are used to measure upper body strength and explosive power which is important in many sports. In this test, a line was drawn near the sand pit and participants sat on the ground, spread out their legs while touching the line, and their knees were not bent. The ball in hand was placed near the chest by the participants who were asked to throw as far as he/she can on the sand pit. The mark left by the ball on the pit was measured from the starting point and recorded.
The sit and reach test is a common measure of flexibility and specifically measures the flexibility of the lower back and hamstring muscles. A sit-and-reach box was used to measure the flexibility of the table tennis players.
Illinois Agility Test
The Illinois Agility Test is a commonly used agility test in sports. Agility is an important component of many team sports, though it is not always tested, and is often difficult to interpret the results. In this test, the participant needs to run in a marked zigzag pathway and reach the end marker as fast as possible. The time taken to reach from starting marker to the end marker was noted.
YoYo test is a popular graded shuttle run test through which we can estimate someone’s VO2max or endurance capacity. The YoYo test involves a player shuttling between two cones that are set 20 meters apart on the flat ground according to a beep sound-based audio. It is an intermittent recovery test where the players get a 10 seconds recovery after finishing every shuttle. The level at which the participant left the test was noted down and later it was used to calculate the VO 2max . In the modified Cooper test, the participant has to cover as much distance as he/she can within four minutes through running. This test was conducted for U11 and U13 table tennis players after discussing it with the coaches and sports medicine doctors. The total distance covered in the four minutes was noted.
Table Tennis Skill Test
After the battery test, a skill test was conducted for the participants to test their basic game skills. These tests were conducted by the coach and officials of the BTTA.
- Gained experience and knowledge of how to conduct different physical fitness tests with athletes of varying ages.
- The skill of how to interact with little children and how to make them understand the test procedure and purpose and get their best performance in that particular test.
- The skill of multi-tasking while working in the field and conducting tests by running batch after batch without any delay or problems.
- Learned how to interact with the coaches, support staff, and some time with parents.
- The knowledge of how clubs/sports institutions conduct the events of selections and trials.
- Ability to make proper judgments during the tests and how to co-operate with other people/staffs.
- How to overcome real-time difficulties like –
- conducting the battery of tests in an organized manner and finishing the tests as fast as possible without affecting the test procedure,
- As the test was conducted on the YBK stadium on summer days the participants, as well as administrators, faced immense heat waves during tests which may have hampered some participants’ performance.
- The scale of the sit and reach test box was made of stainless steel so it got easily heated during the test and it needed to cool before every test.
Report and norms were prepared by the faculties of the Department of Sports Science & Yoga, RKMVERI based on the test data and test sample size in each group for Bengal Table Tennis players who attended selection trials. The data has been discussed with the CEO, coaches, and trainer of BTTA.
Below are some of the photos