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Polybat endeavours to provide youngsters with more severe impairments, who cannot play recreational table tennis, with a suitable bat/ball net type game (with the net removed).

The game

Sides are used on the table tennis table to ‘contain’ the movements of the ball. The basic abilities required to play the game are:

  • some hand/arm dexterity/movement
  • ball tracking
  • reaction time
  • tactical awareness.

The perceptual challenges of ordinary table tennis are reduced as the ball is kept on the surface of the table during play. The table tennis table format was also chosen because of its universal identity and thus no special table was ever considered.

As research progressed it was evident that the game could be played successfully as either singles or doubles and in recreational or competitive contexts.

Further information on the development of Polybat.

The rules

1. How to play Polybat

  • Polybat can be played as either singles or doubles.
  • The scoring system is exactly the same as for mainstream table tennis.
  • Play always begins with the server, who can play the ball of any side. Strokes can then be played directly or off the sides. The ball must stay on the table surface.
  • The aim of the game is to hit the ball over the opponent's end of the table, or cause them to play a fault by lifting the ball off the table surface.
  • Players can hit the ball more than once before returning it to their opponent.
  • Players may not trap the ball with the hand or bat and then play it.

2. Slowing the game down

To slow the game down the following could be attempted.

  • Use a larger ball.
  • Reduce the width of the table by adding short plastic sides to the end of the table.
  • Allow some players to serve direct to the opponent.
  • Where wheelchair users are playing against ambulant players they should play from a seated position.

3. Health and safety considerations

  • Ensure the lower limbs of wheelchair users do not rub against the table.
  • The game can be very fast and absorbing so check for signs of fatigue.
  • Ensure each player, particularly in doubles play, has sufficient personal space.

4. Equipment

  1. The table should be a standard table tennis table with appropriate legs suitable for wheelchair users.
  2. The sides should be safely secured to the table, 10cm high, and encroach no more than 3.5cm towards the table centre.
  3. The bat should be made of wood or plastic to a maximum length of 30cm, including the handle, which may be at the end or the centre of the bat, provided that the total hitting surface area does not exceed 180cm. The edges of the bat should be rounded and covered with foam/felt/velcro to protect the table surface. Handles/gloves/strapping may have specific variations to facilitate the grip for individuals.
  4. The ball used should be a soft plastic airflow golf practice type (low bounce) with no bias in its roll or rebound, and should be white or orange in colour with a matt finish.

5. Service

  1. For all classes the ball should be hit from a stationary position on the centre line of the table no nearer to the centre of the table than one bat’s length from the end line. The action should be a discrete movement with no balking action.
  2. During service players must strike the ball to hit against any side panel.
  3. The receiver must allow the ball to strike the side panel before attempting to return it.

6. The order of play

  1. In singles the server shall first make a good service, the receiver shall then make a good return and thereafter server and receiver alternately shall each make a good return.
  2. In doubles, the server shall first make a good service to the receiver, diagonally opposite, who shall then make a good return. Players may then hit the ball in any order or any number of times successively.

7. Games and matches

  1. A game shall be won by the player or pair first scoring 11 points unless both players or pairs score ten points – in this instance the game shall be won by the player or pair first scoring subsequently two points more than the opposing player or pair.
  2. A match shall consist of the best of five games.
  3. Play shall be continuous throughout a match except that any player shall be entitled to an interval of not more than two minutes between successive games.

8. The choice of serving, receiving and ends

  1. The right to choose the initial order of serving, receiving and ends shall be decided by lot, and the winner may choose to serve or to receive first or to start at a particular end.
  2. When one player or pair has chosen to serve, to receive or to start at a particular end, then the other player or pair shall have the other choice.
  3. After every two points have been scored, the receiving player or pair shall become the serving player or pair and so on until the end of the game - unless both players or pairs have scored ten when the sequence of serving and receiving shall be the same but each player shall serve for only one point in turn.
  4. In each game of a doubles match, the pair having the right to serve first shall choose which of them shall do so, and in the first game of a match the receiving pair shall decide which of them shall receive first. In subsequent games of the match, the first server having been chosen, the first receiver shall be the player who served to him in the preceding game.
  5. In doubles at each change of service the previous receiver shall become the server, and the partner of the previous server shall become the receiver.
  6. The player or pair serving first in a game shall receive first in the next game of the match, and, in the last possible game of a doubles match, the pair due to receive next shall change their order of receiving when the first pair scores five.
  7. The player or pair starting at one end in a game shall start at the other end in the next game of the match, and, in the last possible game of a match, the players or pairs shall change ends when the first player or pair scores five points.

9. Order of service, receiving or ends

  1. If a player serves or receives out of turn, play shall be interrupted by the umpire as soon as the error is discovered. Play shall resume with those players who should be server and receiver at the score that has been reached, according to the sequence established at the beginning of the match.
  2. If the players have not changed ends when they should have done so, play shall be interrupted by the umpire as soon as the error is discovered. Play shall resume with the players being at the ends of the table that they should be at the score that has been reached, according to the sequence established at the beginning of the match.
  3. In any circumstances, all points scored before the discovery of an error shall be reckoned.

10. Spectators, coaches and escorts

  1. Players may receive advice only during the intervals between games or during other authorised suspension of play from one person, designated beforehand to the umpire, except in doubles where each player may designate an adviser.
  2. All individuals other than the players and umpire must remain away from the playing area so as not to influence or impede play unless instructed by the umpire.

11. Definitions

  1. A rally is the period during which the ball is in play.
  2. The ball is in play from the last moment it is stationary on the central line of the table before being hit.
  3. A let is a rally of which the result is not scored.
  4. A point is a rally of which the result is scored.
  5. The server is the player due to strike the ball first in a rally.
  6. The receiver is the player due to strike the ball second in a rally.
  7. The umpire is the person appointed to control a match.

12. Classification

The aim of classification is to:

  1. Preserve a balanced sporting contest.
  2. Maintain the dignity of the individuals involved.
  3. Be appropriate for the situation, i.e. some competitions may only require an informal assessment by the organiser. The main criteria for placing a participant in one of the four competition classes is the set of functional descriptions of each profile as per the Polybat functional profiles.
  4. For UK participants and their coaches Disability Sport England (DSE) profiles can be used as a basic guide to the four classes.
  5. If there is any doubt about a player's classification they should always be placed in the higher class and marked for observation.
  6. For doubles competitions the organiser shall decide which combinations of classes will be used.
  7. For all competitions the minimum ability is that which allows a player to participate in rallies with dignity, the maximum ability should not be equal to that of a recreational table tennis player.

Functional profiles

These profiles relate to physical impairments. For other groups with impairments, i.e. learning disability, hearing impairment etc. suitable competition profiles are currently being developed.

Polybat profile 1

  • Players have difficulty in covering the width of the table in defence and may not be able to regain their upright playing position for their next stroke.
  • Players may not be able to orientate the bat to the table so that the ball is often lifted causing bouncing and resulting in weak returns.
  • These players play a predominantly ‘response’ and ‘defensive’ game without basic strong directed shots.
  • Players often have difficulties in anticipating the path of the ball and need to slow the ball before returning it.

Criteria for the class

  1. Reach/range of movement across the table is limited; returns often lack length/strength; controlling the ball is a challenge; and the characteristic game ‘tempo’ is sedate.
  2. All players must participate seated even if not wheelchair users.
  3. Disability Sport England equivalent profiles for this functional class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12.

Polybat profile 2

  • The players in this class are mostly able to reach forwards and across the table width and anticipate returns.
  • Players are able to control the angle of the bat to the table to eliminate bouncing of the ball and produce controlled rebound shots.
  • Players can read the basic game and rely upon both defensive and offensive strokes.
  • Participants have a relatively strong serve in contrast to their other strokes.

Criteria for the class

  1. They have a dominant backhand or forehand stroke; engage in strong purposeful rallies; and the characteristic ‘tempo’ of the game is dynamic and rushed.
  2. Players only participate standing if their abilities fit the above functional profile – they cannot gain an advantage with reach (very few will be able to play standing).
  3. DSE equivalent profiles for the functional class 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 12, 13.

Polybat profile 3

  • Participants are able to play co-ordinated strokes with controlled pace and direction.
  • They are able to read the game tactically and turn defensive play into attack by using a combination of forehand and backhand strokes.
  • Competitors are able to play a faster rally with overall control.
  • Players are able to control the speed and direction of rebound shots.

Criteria for the class

  1. Able to anticipate the path of the ball; identify opponent’s weaknesses and attack them consistently; and the characteristic ‘tempo’ of the game is one of tactical rallies.
  2. Players only participate standing if their abilities fit the above functional profiles – they cannot gain an advantage with reach.
  3. DSE equivalent profiles 6, 7, 8, 14 (standing), 17 (seated or standing), 31 (seated or standing).

Polybat profile 4

  • Players have challenges which are observable in one or more of the following aspects: co-ordination – body, limbs, hand; arm manipulation; and perception – which would make even recreational table tennis impossible.
  • Balance challenges are often evident so table support can be necessary.
  • Being ambulant they can reach with control to stroke the ball early.
  • A key aspect in rallies is that they are able to sustain the fast rally.

Criteria for the class

  1. Ambulant movement allows for good early defence and offensive reactions; reach combined with the movement of the bat produces fast powerful strokes; and the characteristic ‘tempo’ of the game is often extremely fast with changing angles and reaction shots.
  2. Only standing players participate.
  3. DSE equivalent profiles 15, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28, 29.

Note: a proportion of individuals in the upper ability levels of this profile will have too much function to qualify for Polybat competitions and should be encouraged to participate in table tennis.



Davies Sports
Leigh Fold
SK14 4LL
Telephone: +44 (0)845 1204 515

  • Polybat set: side panels, clips, air flow ball, two x bats. Cat No.PCSD72511 or SCSD72511
  • Mini Polybat set: bat gloves, two x bats. Cat No. PCSD73163 or SCSD73163
  • Bat gloves set: Cat No. PCSG60449 or SCSG60449
  • Rebound boards: Cat No. PCSD73149 or SCSD73149


Make sure the golf airflow practise balls are the soft version and not the hard type which bounce too much.

Two or four plastic sides can be screwed to a wooden baton. This can then be just slotted into two guide brackets fixed to the table side (DIY). This saves the use of clips or tape so youngsters can be independent - see picture.

Still need help?

Doug Williamson
+44 (0)1949 829 313