Table Ball is great for players of all ages. It's great with 2 or more players, but you can also play by yourself.
What is Table Ball?
For some players, Four Square just moves too fast and they need more time between hits. Table Ball allows that additional reaction time. It's a great challenge to master the art of striking a ball in the air.
Table Ball Rules
In Table Ball, the Server rolls the ball across the table to the other player. From that point, it's important to remember "Table, Floor, Hands, Table, Floor, Hands, etc"
The ball rolls off the table, the other player lets the ball bounce on the ground only once then hits the ball back onto the table. The ball can hit the table an infinite amount of times, but can only hit the hands and floor once. If a player hits the ball and they fail to land the ball on the table, the other player earns the point.
We play to two points before the person who loses moves to the line and the next challenger steps in. If you miss the table, you lost the point and the other person gets it. Double tapping, holding the ball, or hitting it with anything but the hands also results in the opponent gaining the point. The most complex rule is the same edge rule. You're allowed to hit any edge of the table except for the one you're closest to. If the ball bounces back to you, you lose the point.
The same edge rule is awesome for explaining why rules exist. They create balance. If one player hits the ball to a side edge of the table, it's very challenging for them to do successfully and it's very challenging for the opponent to field the ball. The challenge is high, but it's a fairly equal challenge for both players. However if a player hits their same edge, it's not very challenging for them while it's almost impossible for the opponent to get to. Because there's a huge disparity in the challenge level, there's a rule in place to even things out.
The other skills required are essential for all games. Two that I focus on the most are:
- Is it obvious? - There can be a lot of ambiguity in games. In baseball, for example, there are arguments about if a pitch is a ball or strike. Whether a player is safe or out. In football, there are debates over what is and isn't a catch, legal tackle, hold, or pass interference. In Four Square, the ball moves quickly and you have to decipher who's square the ball landed in or if it landed in bounds or out of bounds. My solution to this is the Is It Obvious rule. If it's obvious that something happened, we can talk about it. If it's not obvious, just play on.
- Own it - This one is not just a game skill but a life skill. Owning it is the process of being honest with yourself and using mistakes as learning opportunities. Take baseball for example. You tried stealing a base and got caught. Instead of arguing that the defender's foot was off base, acknowledge that maybe you misjudged the timing. Maybe the defense just made an awesome play. In Four Square, you make the best play you can. And when it doesn't work out, just own it. By doing so, you take that experience and grow from it. This is an important step in growing true self confidence. When you can be honest with yourself and grow from mistakes, you show yourself what you're capable of and that you can always be better than you were before... even by just a little.
Beyond that, I also make sure to illustrate how important it is to move your feet. If you're stuck in concrete, Table Ball will frustrate you.
I make sure to print off the rules and post them next to the activity to settle any disputes. Players can just point to the rule to make an argument. You can get a printable version in the Striking Activity Pack below.
Play Table Ball by Yourself
Push a small table up against a wall and you can play by yourself. In this version the ball should go Wall, Table, Floor, Hands. Make sure after you hit it that the ball hits the wall before the table. See how many hits you can do in a row.