Ping pong tournaments are so much fun to watch, but how much do table tennis players make? Professional ping pong players are athletes, and table tennis is an Olympic sport in the Summer Olympics. Still, most passionate players reach elite levels before they can fully support themselves and earn a living.
How much money can you make playing table tennis? In addition to the average salary, these professional athletes have other sources of income, such as sponsorships, endorsements, prize money and more.
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As with any professional sport, natural talent is essential to success in the field, and it's a prerequisite if you have any hope of success at the elite level of competition. You'll need a formidable backhand, forehand and other moves.
Especially if you hope to one day compete in the Olympic Games, you'll need to start training at a young age, developing your own unique playing style. After all, this job consists largely of competitions. While you might train with a team or coach regularly and work the equivalent of full-time hours, it is not a full-time job by any standard measure.
You'll need to participate in as many tournaments and championships as possible along your professional journey. You'll need to train hard at the same time. It may not seem like table tennis is an intense sport, but if you have watched the pros play, you know it is incredibly taxing. Table tennis players are true athletes who spend long hours training their body.
Try to attend schools (high school and college) with a team and then leap into the professional leagues. In addition, join professional organizations, like the International Table Tennis Federation and connect with others in your area and from further away. Find a sports agent early on to help you.
Industry and Setting
Many table tennis players work for clubs and draw player salaries from there. Still, some aren't paid during the off season and may not earn much if they don't win championships. As with other professional sports, an athlete's skill significantly affects how much they make.
A player may earn as little as $3,000 per season or as much as $35,000 depending on how well they perform. The payout for Olympic gold medals is over $35,000, but that is very rare; only a few individuals get those earnings every four years.
Job Mobility and Career Growth
It can be tricky to determine the exact salary for table tennis players. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes ping pongers with other professional athletes. While the median salary for a pro athlete was $77,300 in 2021, that may not be reflective of all sports. This is especially true given the sheer number of different sports that are included within this figure.
Sponsorships and endorsements are other excellent sources of income for the best table tennis players. They might become affiliated with companies that make paddles, balls, tables and other equipment. They might also make deals with companies that sell athletic wear or other products not related to sports at all. Even though you may not be able to name the top players in the sport, they have fans and followings.
Table tennis is a particularly popular sport in China, and it has been since 1950 when Chairman Mao declared it the country's national sport. Many of the world's top players are Chinese. In fact, the top three players in the world rankings in July 2022 were all Chinese: Fan Zhendong, Ma Long and Liang Jingkun. They're followed by Hugo Calderano from Brazil and Truls Moregard from Sweden, explains World Table Tennis.
Zhendong's net worth is estimated to be around $5 million. Much of his wealth comes from winning table tennis tournaments and grand slams as a member of the Chinese league. Calderano's is about $1.5 million, and Jan-Ove Waldner, a retired Swedish player, is worth around $10 million. Americans don't usually rank very high in pay, popularity or net worth.
The job outlook for professional ping pong players is expected to stay fairly consistent, as it continues to be a popular sport around the world.