PE Teacher Mike Ginicola shares how to play Table Ball to spice up your striking unit for grades 3-6.
After 18 years of teaching volleyball to my grades 3-6 classes, I was getting bored with it. I happened to come across a Twitter post with a video of a game called Table Ball by a colleague in my network (Bart Jones – @exercys). Now that looked like a fun new way to work on striking skills! The game is easy to set up (assuming you have tables around!) and play. I always make sure there is a large space between tables for safety. Giving students a choice of multiple ball options is always a good practice.
- 1 table per every 3 students
- A variety of bouncy balls (rubber, foam, tennis, kick, beach), 1 each per table
How to Play Table Ball
I usually present this activity to students in two parts:
Table Ball Warm-up
Students are put into groups of three at each table. Two players face off across the table from one another. The extra player stands out on-deck (and is also the judge). When a player makes a mistake, they switch places with the judge, like king or queen of the court style-play. The winning player stays and is called the “expert.” Experts always serve first. Play starts with a gentle ball roll ‘serve’ across the table. Once it rolls off and bounces, the opponent must strike it with an open palm (1 or 2 hands) back onto the table. The ball can’t bounce twice on the floor. Once play starts, the ball can hit the table and bounce onto any side, and players can move around the table as needed. If a player lets the ball bounce twice, throws the ball (an underhand scoop is fine), serves it with bouncing, or misses the table on their hit, then they lose that round.
The judge breaks any disagreements with a 2 out of 3 majority vote. If the judge didn’t see what happened, then the players perform rock-paper-scissors to a judgment. A player who wins three in a row can choose a new ball.
Table Ball Main
Students are put into groups of three at each table. The three players face off across the table from one another. The person who lost the last round always serves first. Play starts with a ball roll ‘serve’ across the table. Once it rolls off and bounces, the next opponent must strike it with an open palm (1 or 2 hands) back onto the table. Players follow a 1-2-3 order, always hitting the ball after the same player before them.
Aside from the continuous play with three players, the rules are the same as the warm-up. The video shows this version of the game being played. When a player makes a mistake, they get an X or strike. The game ends after 5 strikes for any player. The player with the least amount of strikes gets to choose a new ball. If it’s a tie, then do rock-paper-scissors. The game is then reset.
Here is a video of my students playing Table Ball:
— Mike Ginicola (@PhysEdDepot) May 2, 2016
My students absolutely loved this game! It’s a fresh way to teach them both striking skills/techniques plus work on small game strategies like hitting the ball to certain parts of the table to make it harder for the opponent. It didn’t seem like students would be moving much at first, but by the end of class, many of them were sweating as if we ran laps.
About the Author:
Mike Ginicola attended Southern Connecticut State University to receive both his Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and Master’s Degree in School Health. He has been teaching Physical Education for eighteen years, and was recently the 2016 recipient of the CT PTA Teacher of the Year Award. Mike currently teaches in Stratford, CT. He loves to innovate and use as much technology as possible. Follow Mike on Twitter @PhysEdDepot and also his P.E. YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/nicholswinterfest