CHOOSING SPORTS RACKETS – SOME THOUGHTS
Buying sports` rackets for sports can be a confusing process. Rackets for Tennis, Squash and Badminton can be all be categorised by a few basic characteristics, namely size and shape, stiffness, weight and balance. However, there is a vast range of models on the market, each offering different combinations of the above. The following seeks to advise the beginner on the best choices available.
SIZE & SHAPE
Oversize tennis rackets are for beginners. Such rackets include the Head MicroGel Extreme, with a 107 sq. in. head, a forgiving racket with a generous sweetspot. Intermediate and advanced players often choose midsize rackets. There is a vast range of these available from manufacturers such as Babolat, Dunlop, Head, Prince, Slazenger and Wilson to name but a few. Generally, the larger the head, the larger the sweet spot and the greater the power, but the more difficult it is to control.
Squash rackets with a narrow profile are flexible with a manoeuvrable feel. A wide-profile racket offers increased power and a larger sweet spot. Novices should choose a mid-profile racket that balances power and control.
Oval is the traditional badminton racket shape, having a small but more concentrated sweet spot. The Yonex Muscle Power 21 is an inexpensive oval racket. The isometric head has a wider and more squared top half of the racket head. Its advantage is an enlarged sweetspot giving better results with off-centred strikes. Popular is the Yonex Isometric 65 Light badminton racket, suitable for players of all abilities.
For enhanced power and control, a stiff framed tennis racket is best. Flexible frames give less of both, but absorb more impact. Graphite rackets are available with flexible to stiff frames, while those made from aluminum tend to be more flexible. For beginners, head size will be more important than flexibility.
Modern squash rackets are made of reinforced fibres and metals for both non-brittle rigidity and controlled give. The more flexible the racket, the easier it is to control. More experienced players who can control a stiffer racket may find that it is better for power and shot making.
The effective stiffness of a badminton racket is similar to the string tension of squash and tennis rackets. A stiffer racket has the similar effect as a higher tensioned string, while a flexible racket is similar to the lower tension string. Amongst the more flexible rackets is the Ashaway Titanium 130, while the Carlton Fireblade Tour badminton racket is a stiff racket designed for the advanced player.
Beginners should choose a tennis racket weighing 280-320g. A lighter racket means the arm absorbs the impact of every shot, result in injuries to the wrist and elbow. The Babolat Pulsar Lite racket falls into this category, combining a weight of 280g with a head size of 100 sq. in.
The available range of squash rackets is huge, from manufacturers such as Grays, Harrow, Pointfore, QM and Titan, as well as those mentioned above. The average racket weight is between 140-170g, with the lightest available at around 100g. Most players prefer a mid-weight, evenly balanced racket. Lightweight rackets are favoured by experienced players for their manoeuvrability. They require a powerful swing because they deliver less force, but a slightly head-weighted model may compensate for this. Heavier rackets deliver a powerful swing, but are not as easy to control.
Badminton rackets usually weigh between 80-95g. In general, a lighter racket is more manoeuvrable than a heavy one. A light racket is less stable than a heavier racket, more force is necessary to keep its path. Additionally, a heavier racket has greater momentum and thus more transfers power to the shuttle more effectively.
The final racket characteristic for all three sports is its balance. Head-heavy rackets have becoming more popular recently. A head-heavy racket is more stable and generates higher angular momentum when swung. Contrastingly, an even-balanced racket is more manoeuvrable.
TABLE TENNIS BATS
A pre-made bat has the rubbers have already been glued to the blade. For a custom bat, blade and rubbers need to be chosen separately. Pre-made bats are ready to use and work out much cheaper. The Butterfly brand offers a wide range of pre-made bats to suit all players and budgets.
In the final analysis, skill level and style of play determines which racket is suitable for a particular player. Try out several, if possible, before purchasing, to see what suits your game best.
SPORTS BAGS AND BACKPACKS
Having acquired the appropriate racket, a sports bag or backpack is useful for carrying clothing and accessories. When considering what backpacks might be suitable, a capacity of about 25 litres should be adequate, preferably with two or more sections, to separate sweaty or wet clothing, towels etc. from the unused equipment. Adidas, Aztec and Columbia, amongst many others, offer suitable alternatives.