As someone who has played, umpired and spectated at his fair share of table tennis matches, I’m going to give some advice about how to conduct yourself as a spectator. Hopefully some of what I write here will catch on at tournaments around the place.
Do’s and Don’ts of Table Tennis Spectating
Do: Feel free to applaud any good shots the players make, or any great rallies that occur. The players will appreciate your encouragement. Make sure you clap for good shots by both players though!
Don’t: Applaud fault serves or easy mistakes made by the player you do not want to win. It shows a lack of class and respect to that player.
Do: Shout words of encouragement to your favorite player.
Don’t: Shout them in the middle of rallies – wait until the end of the point.
Don’t: Boo the other player – leave that to the football and soccer fans.
Don’t: Offer words of advice or try to coach a player – the player is only allowed one coach, and it’s not you!
Do: Feel free to discuss the match quietly with other spectators.
Don’t: Argue about it loudly where the players can hear you – they are trying to concentrate.
Do: Help out the players by chasing down balls that go off court for them.
Don’t: Swap the good balls over for cheap ones that you have in your pocket!
Do: Offer your services for umpiring duty to the tournament director – provided you know the rules of course!
Don’t: Try to help out the umpire by calling out your opinion on nets, edges and the score, or by calling out ‘let’ when another ball comes on the court. Let the umpire do his job – that’s what he is there for.
Do: Turn off your mobile or put it on silent mode while courtside. [Pulp Fiction reference] Pretty please. With sugar on top – turn off the mobile! [/Pulp Fiction reference]
Don’t: Answer it courtside and conduct loud conversations while on your way outside – or even worse, while sitting in the stands!
Do: Enjoy a snack while sitting in the stands and watching the match – if the playing hall allows it.
Don’t: Take the food on court, or rustle a bag of lollies as a player is about to serve – save that for the cinemas when you sit behind me like everyone else does!
Do: Take video footage or photographs of the action, provided you clear it with the tournament director first.
Don’t: Use a flash in the middle of points – it’s very distracting for the players when that bright light suddenly comes out of nowhere in the middle of a point.
Do: Congratulate or commiserate with players when they come off court after a match.
Don’t: Subject them to a play by play description of what they should have done – give them some time to get over the match and compose themselves before talking too much to them.
Do: Move around the hall so that you can see all the matches on offer.
Don’t: Walk around behind the players during a point in progress if you can help it. Even more so if one of the players is about to serve – that is the worst time for distractions as a player.
So there you are, some basic guidelines to good spectating. Feel free to apply them when you go to your next tournament – of course, I hope you’ll be doing more playing (and winning!) then watching!