Parents & Junior Racquet Transitions

If you're a parent with an aspiring junior player you have a lot on your plate and this post is particularly important if you're starting your kids off at a very early age. Making sure your player has the right equipment for every stage of their development is important but often times, those decisions are made in the dark but take heart, it's not your fault as the parent. After all, are you supposed to know everything there is to know about racquets? Further to that point, what about string & tension selection for the racquet?

If your child is starting at age 6 they're going to need a racquet that works for them and that's certainly not going to be a standard 27 inch adult frame. Did you know that manufacturers make racquets specifically for children? Let's take Wilson as an example. In their most recent line there are 4 different racquets for children; Blade Team Junior, Federer, US Open & Serena. In each of these categories there are different lengths to accommodate your child's age and more importantly, their size. These racquets come in lengths of 19", 21", 23", 25" and 26" and they all vary in weight. Your child should be measured and properly fitted for the racquet that will work best for them so keep this in mind. If you plan on grooming the next Roger or Serena make sure you consult a professional racquet technician that can assist in getting the right racquet for your child.

Proper grip measurement

As your player gets older and bigger, the last phase in the junior line is going to be a 26" racquet, just one inch shy of a full adult sized racquet. This racquet should work well for older pre-teen kids but once they hit that growing spurt you're going to need to make another change to a full size 27" frame. These racquets are what we technicians often refer to as "transition" racquets. They're a full 27" long but they are much lighter, making them more maneuverable and easier for your teenager to handle on the court. Pay attention to grip size and make sure your player is measured and fitted properly because these racquets are available from a size 0 (4 inch) all the way up to a size 4 (4 1/2") The proper way to measure is shown in the photo and you can use a standard ruler to make this measurement. Measure from the tip of the ring finger to the second lifeline in the palm of the hand (the one closest to the wrist).

Now, let's look at some options from Wilson that would be considered good transition racquets. In the Ultra line there are two good candidates; the Ultra 100L (light) that weighs 9.8 oz and the Ultra 100UL (ultra light) that weighs 9.1 oz. Ultra racquets come with turquoise & blue cosmetics.

In the Burn line there's the Burn Team, a 100 sq inch frame that weighs 10.6 oz and if you need to go lighter there's the 100LS (light spin) at 9.9 oz and the 100ULS (ultra light spin) that weighs 9.2 oz.

Example of a Burn frame is shown below. These are great options for any player needing to transition to an adult frame. Burn racquets come in burnt orange and black cosmetics.

A word of caution here. When you see a Wilson racquet with an "S" designation that stands for spin and what that means is that the stringing pattern is not a typical 16x19 pattern. There will be fewer cross strings which in turn, opens up the pattern for more bite on the ball. While the marketing for this racquet touts more spin, that is, if your kid has some good high-to-low or low-to-high strokes, that also means that your strings are going to move around much more. That translates into premature wear via notching of the strings so your strings are not going to last as long. Having said that, the spin model racquets will be just fine for a transition racquet for many young players due to their lighter weight. You'll just have to determine if your kid is playing at a level where they're producing some heavy topspin or slice and if that's the case I would advise avoiding those spin racquets. Also, most any racquet with a "Team" designation is always going to be a lighter version of the standard model.

So there you have it. A quick look at what you, as a parent, can expect if you're planning to raise the next big star in tennis. Get them started with the right racquet and keep them in the right racquet until they're ready to move to the next level. Good luck!

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