Butterfly has been supporting “clickball” events for more than a year now, and this new sport is growing steadily. Clickball started out aiming at non-professional players looking for a quick match with the sandpaper racket.
Now we are seeing semi-professional and even professional players joining in the fun – for instance at the 2. German Clickball Cup or the 4. World Championships!
Clickball has the potential to unite beginners and professionals at one table. We had a closer look at the story behind the phenomenon.
Clickball – all grown up?
64 Participants were counted on last year’s German Clickball Cup. Signing up was enough to take part, no qualification stage was needed.
Quite the different picture on this year’s event: Several qualification stages had to be negotiated in order to take part in this tournament, where more than 400 players from all over Germany signed up to compete for the title. An increase by 600%.
This makes us wonder: what is this special allure of clickball? Surely, for most fans it is the equality of equipment which levels the playing field. No difficult spin, no deceptions at the serve are possible. Everyone has to rely on the same skills to win. For some players it is the experience of meeting lots of new people and playing against opponents, they usually never meet in table tennis.
So, what is clickball?
Jürgen LEU (GER), the inventor and organizer of the clickball tournaments is convinced that clickball most of all incorporates “Table tennis as its original form” and combines “simple and unified equipment with modern and media-oriented presentation.”
The racket consists of “a simple blade with two pieces of sandpaper. This eliminates most rotation of the ball, slows down the shots making them easier to follow for spectators and players.” A modern and media-oriented presentation also means that tournaments have to be presented on the big stage, rather than in dark halls and people’s garages, putting not too much focus on the fun, but rather presenting it as a serious sport.
Let’s have a look at clickball:
We asked players: What does clickball mean to you?
Albert Soler (Spain)
“For me it was a great experience! We organized the Spanish qualifier in our club, and it was wonderful.
Standard players giving surprises to beat top players. Nice championship and this year we will participate again.”
Maxim Shmyrev, Russia, WCCP champion
„Clickball offers the challenge to develop myself beyond what table tennis demands, in terms of techniques. Personally I like it very much, because also in table tennis my play doesn’t focus so much on different spins.
But most of all clickball offered the possibility to get in contact with great people from all over the world and play with guys like Appelgren, Drinkhall and others.
A very good vehicle for the promotion of table tennis as a sport for the general public“
Annemarie Zijnstra (The Netherlands)
“It’s the basics of table tennis. Everyone is equal when you’re playing, because you all play with the same bat.
At tournaments the atmosphere is relaxed and people are social, but still everyone wants to win.
I don’t train much, but I love to participate as many tournaments as I can, because it’s fun!”
Jo Biver (Luxembourg)
“What makes Clickball so special and appealing for me are for sure the complete equal conditions.
The sandpaper bats and the nearly impossibility to create spin provoke much longer rallyes which are mainly dominated by tactics.
If I had to describe Ping Pong in only 3 words, it would definitely be the following: FUN, FUN and just FUN!”
Adoni MAROPIS (USA)
“For me it ultimately represents LOVE… because my father introduced the game to me as a little boy before I could look over the table. I was sort of a natural at it. I hadn’t played for 30 years until I turned 44, I believe, and when things weren’t going so great I needed to bring some joy in my life… and of course I thought of ping pong. It’s a longer story.
But, anyway, once I brought ping pong into my life I immediately got the greatest role I have ever played and that was the Season 6 villain on 24, Abu Fayed. Anyway, if you notice I wear knee pads and elbow pads when I play. It’s not all about winning. Winning simply means I get to play again.
I love the dialogue and dance of playing Hardbat and especially sandpaper ping pong. The ball is a bit slower and stays in play and for me the longer the rally the more joy. Whether I win the point or not is not the main point. Typically I root for my opponent to get it back in and let’s make this dance last forever. But ultimately it comes back to the simple game I played with my father and 2 brothers when I was a little boy.”
Richard Hutchinson (England)
“I love Ping Pong! It’s a unique challenge on so many levels and such great fun. To be able to play your opponent with exactly the same equipment where skill and your ability to adapt outweighs power and spin really fascinates me.
The lack of spin reduces the impact of the service and it becomes more about how you can play out the rally than how clever you can serve.
I also love the challenge of trying to re-train my subconscious mind to play a Ping Pong return rather than my instinctive table tennis shots, this is where many players struggle, they dont open there mind sufficiently to learn the new skills. What’s really special about Ping Pong is that so many natural attacking table tennis players will turn up and start defending with the sand paper bats and really have fun with it. The smiles around the room make for a special and unique atmosphere!”
Gav Maguire (Ireland)
“I love Ping Pong for many reasons, but the most important is that I love the fact that it is simply man against man. Everybody plays with the same racket, it is just 1 man and his skill against another man and his skill. Ultimately the best competitor wins every time, no excuses.”
Filip Szymanski (Poland)
“Clickball, this is a fantastic game, first of all, great fun. Different way of sport because, when I am playing ping pong I am a defensive player and offensive in Table tennis. Perfect training, to practice my strengths and weaknesses during my table tennis practices. It is giving to me more feeling of ball and it’s helping me to improve my timing.
What makes it so special? It is a great opportunity to play in World Championship in London, The Alexandra Palace it is a fantastic venue. This time is reminding me of my school time, when I was playing ping pong at school between lessons. I remember that the price for the winner was one lemonade.”
Lubomir PISTEJ (Slovakia)
“Clickball is very beautiful version of table tennis where every player of each level can participate and have good results. Players must use different swing what i like the most because mine is swing from table tennis is very useful in Clickball. Very attractive for spectators is rule with using double point which gives to the game new opportunity to change psyche.”
Why is Butterfly so invested in Clickball?
Rüdiger von Berg, Sales and Marketing Director at Butterfly Europe
“Our Partner in the UK has brought Clickball to our attention.
At that time, there were already a lot of people playing in the UK. Table tennis needs to be refreshed, especially in the non-competitive and non-professional aspects of the sport. Clickball provides exactly that.
We also find interesting how the sport changes when every player uses the same equipment.
And the hype continues: clickball is growing in Germany as well as internationally – a trend that we are happy to support as a producer.”
Were you surprised by the acceptance of clickball?
“I wanted to find out if clickball could find more fans internationally in places, where table tennis is famous. Or in other words: Are table tennis fans interesting in something different, which is actually not that different?”
2013 proved to be the starting point for that, after my participation at the World Championships of Ping Pong in London 2013.
Now, after a year, I am quite surprised to see how much has happened. I receive requests for tournaments and equipment almost every day now. People are very interested in clickball and want to join the fun!”
What about the name — “clickball”?
“Finding a name was not easy, but I am happy with the outcome. I had to be something that describes the sound a ball makes on the racket, where people instantly know it is a sport. Also, it had to be something which is pronouncable internationally and which sounds good in different languages.”
The name seems to work. The Austrian Program started under the same cover and the Organizers of the World Championships of Ping pong are accepting the name as well. Connecting well on an international basis is one of the strong points of this trend. Jürgen Leu is working closely with organizers in the UK, Netherlands, France, Austria and Switzerland.”
How will Clickball continue to grow?
“Our plan for 2014 is complete. There will be 4 additional Qualification events for the 2. German Clickball Cup. I would like to see a hall full of players so the planning and organizing will be worth it. We also plan a “last chance saloon” a few days before the tournament, where players will have an additional chance to play at the cup.
Clickball was always explicitly aimed at everybody, so I hope to see more women and maybe a few more eldery people competing. We try to bring clickball into the hobby market as well as into companys, where we still see a lot of potential. All of these measures are aimed at bringing more media attention to the table tennis sport and grow our supporting basis in the clubs and federations.”
(Translation by Sebastian Hallen)