Plastic Ball Update

By Michael Babuin, PhD, P.G. | Aug. 14, 2014, 1 a.m. (ET)
Mike Babuin

CHAIRMAN'S BLOG    August 2014

Much discussion still circulates the forums and message boards regarding the new plastic ball requirements unleashed by ITTF for international competitions that ITTF hosts. These changes truly only affect our national teams at this time whereas they are the ones competing in international events. As such, USATT has received a lot of requests from top athletes to migrate towards the non-celluloid ball for events at the US Nationals in order to allow competition time for national team members using a similar ball composition as they will experience at (for instance) the North American Olympic team trials or any world ITTF events – including cadet and junior events.

USATT is cognizant of these requests and the basis for them from our elite athletes and at the same time we are aware that the non-elite segment of USATT tournament participants have significant concerns with switching to the new ball at this time, especially in light of the still general unavailability for purchase in the United States. That coupled with the short lead time between now and the US National Championship to buy non-celluloid balls for practice, and having taken input from the membership into consideration, USATT will be taking the following approach to balls used at the 2014 US National Championship in Las Vegas.

  1. USATT has an existing contractual agreement to use Nittaku balls for the US Nationals and US Open through December of 2015. We will be honoring and maintaining that commitment by using Nittaku balls in December at the Nationals.
  2. USATT will be using the non-celluloid Nittaku ball for the events that affect the US National Teams – Men’s Women’s Junior’s and Cadet teams. Our Technical Director and acting CEO Doru will specify which events this pertains to on the US National Championship entry form. Please note that Nittaku non-celluloid balls are easily identifiable by a 40+ designation on the printed lettering and logos of the new balls. If you do not see a + symbol – it is not the new ball.
  3. Non-Elite events at the US Nationals that do not affect one of the National Teams referenced above, (rating events) will continue to use the celluloid Nittaku Premium ball (again per our ball contract to use that brand). This approach will allow non-elite tournament players to practice for the US National rating events (and most age events) using the same ball that you are used to, and which is widely available to purchase for practice leading up to the championship.
  4. As retail supplies  of the new ball become available in forthcoming months leading into the new year, USATT will once again evaluate the situation and make an informed decision moving forward prior to the 2015 US Open. We do anticipate by next year, non-celluloid ball supplies will be readily available in the USA.

Preliminary reports on testing of the new Nittaku non-celluloid ball suggest that the playing characteristics are closely aligned to those of the celluloid Nittaku Premium 3-star ball. Once supplies increase and availability is no longer an issue, testing by our general membership can take place freely and frequently with opinions reported accordingly on blogs, forums, and message boards as is the custom for all table tennis products.  For any questions on the new ball, please see the frequently asked questions or contact Doru at our National Office.  

Michael L. Babuin, PhD, Chairman 

USA Table Tennis