Quite often I come across parents (coaches are equally guilty), who do not pay much attention to gears, when starting with kids. Their common reasoning is they want to see if the kid is any good or even be interested in continuing with Tennis. While I understand, Tennis gears can be very expensive (a valid reason not to invest), I think its nevertheless better to invest in quality gears. In my view quality gears help kids to have a good feel and may also help them with their game, which in turn motivates them to keep playing.
The racquet, while the most important equipment of the game, is also the most ignored by parents. I did the same; I initially gave my son 27.5″ racquet, which he was happy to play with. His coach however was not happy as he could see my son was not able to control any swing. He asked my son to reduce the size and play with 26″ racquet. I bought him a flashing and state of the art Babolat 26″ racquet. His coach was still not happy with his swings. So he asked him to go even lower with 25″ racquet. But it was still same. His coach finally gave him a cheap plastic 19″ racquet and with that my son was brilliant and was able to swing as was instructed by his coach.
It was baffling, as premium racquets were supposed to help play better and not the plastic ones. We initially thought it was probably the weight of the racquet, which was too heavy for my son! So I started searching for lightest premium racquet. I bought Wilson 25″ which was the lightest I could find for any good known brands. It was however heavier than the plastic one. When my son played with it, he was able to swing as instructed. I also bought a 26″ version of same racquet and he was still able to swing all right. So this was still confusing. It was only until I noticed that Wilson racquets were both 3points head-light; while Babolat were both “even”, I understood the problem. It was not the over all weight but rather the distribution of weight, which was the main cause of issue at hand.
In simple terms, head-light (HL) means, racquet’s head is lighter than rest of its body. Even (E) means, the racquet head and handle are weight balanced; while head-heavy (HH) means head is heavier than rest of the body. In comparisons, HH provides more power than others, while HL allows for faster swings.
Kids love power and my son was no different, he liked Babolat (Even) as it was giving him more power than Wilson ones. But as he was not able to swing properly with Babolat, his coach restricted him to use Wilson (he initially used Babolat in matches without letting his coach know 😉 ; but he soon came to terms with). This was a good decision in a long term as it helped my son to develop good swings.
In a nutshell, I would suggest to get a racquet which is HL. In terms of brands and advanced technologies, I still think Babolat and Head (Graphene ones) are light years ahead of Wilson, especially in junior ranges (25-26”), as they use the same adult versions techs in junior’s racquets (Unlike Wilson 🙁 ). My son however is sticking with Wilson 26″ and he is doing just fine with that. 🙂
In terms of length, try to get as small as your kids is happy to play with. In my case, my son started with longest racquet and it was hard to convince him to play with shorter versions. In my view, racquet is an extension of the hand and the length of racquet should be up to the point where one can move it just like as his or her hand.
One way to test this is to teach one tennis swing to your kid using a table tennis racquet and ball first (doesn’t have to be on the table, if his shoulder is not higher than table height ) and then ask him to do the same with Tennis racquet and if your kid can do that, then its a good size, if can’t then try shorter length and so on. The idea here is if the kid to be able to handle racquet as his “hand” (as opposed to whole arm) extension, then racquet is proper weight and proper length for his or her body. [This logic is purely based on my experience with my son and has never been tried for any scientific testing 🙂 ] My son failed that test for both 25″ and 26″ but as he refused to go lower than 26″, I basically coach him in such a way that he passes the test 😉 . And I do that every time I introduce him something new in Tennis. [Funnily enough, he’s gotten better at Table Tennis :), I can’t beat him 10 points in a row (our benchmark for any new skill) anymore, which I can still do in Tennis 😉 ]