Racquet Decisions for JuniorsMark Campanile
Developing today’s junior player should be taken very seriously as any such development could greatly affect their futures. As coaches, tennis professionals and parents, we focus on stroke development, conditioning, strategy, the mental game, and attitude. These are all very important elements of the ‘total’ game, but in addition, we must make the correct decisions regarding equipment.
Racquets, in particular, play a major role in the development of a child’s competitive tennis game. Junior players, whether they are beginning, intermediate, advanced or early tournament level, should be using a light to medium weight racquet with an even or head light balance point.
The reasons are simple, practical and safe. Firstly, because the racquet is more maneuverable, the likely occurrence of good to excellent stroke production will be more possible – all things being equal. These young players will have a better opportunity to learn and accomplish proper preparation, acceleration and follow through that will eventually lead to better and more penetrable shot making. Secondly, these junior players get no extra or ‘fake’ power (as I like to call it) from the racquet. Employing good stroke production and timing generates much of their power. Nothing is worse than seeing a junior playing a match with a ‘game improvement’ racquet. Their vision for the future is impeded by the lure of short-term successes. In other words, they give up mastering of stroke production for power. It may serve them in the early years but will have a negative affect later on in their tennis careers. Lastly, the danger of injury is greatly diminished because the proper racquet selection has allowed for proper stroke production. Racquets that are too heavy or too head heavy can lead to many forms of shoulder, elbow and wrist injuries. What a bad reason for juniors to playing tennis at such young ages!
I totally agree about those game improvement racquets. A player can often get away with “off-center” hits that they could not pull off with a smaller headsize. This can lead to lazy positioning and footwork.
Another issue I see often is a grip that’s too big. Parents will sometimes wrap an overgrip on their child’s grip as it gets worn, and sometimes even wrapping another one on top of that when the overgrip gets worn! Can you imagine your child playing with a grip larger than Nadal or Federer? 🙂
Thank you Albert. This topic is very important to me because I am all about proper stroke production for juniors. My own son kept bugging me to allow him to play with a more powerful racquet when he was young. I insisted that he play with a racquet that would enable him to have great strokes. I convinced him that more power would come as he grew taller and stronger, and ultimately, had better timing. I said he would eventually beat those ‘athletic’ kids that only focused on power and not precision. Needless to say, I accomplished my goal as my son had a very good junior and high school career. He went on to play D1 college tennis and is now running around the courts helping his dad win a few matches!