As kids grow, it is inevitable that they will outgrow their racquet. They might get bigger and need to switch to a full-sized racquet, or they will get stronger and need to switch to a heavier one. Regardless of how your child grows, this article will help you decide when, and how, to go about switching racquets.
Switching too Early
Switching to a heavier and/or longer racquet too early can be detrimental to your child’s tennis growth. Heavier and Longer racquets require more strength to use. If your child does not have the strength, they will compensate by changing their stroke. They will compromise by hitting the ball with using less wrist (losing spin and valuable control) and bringing the racquet closer to their body and tucking in their arm (losing valuable power in the long run).
Strengthening a child’s wrist so they can use spin on a heavier/longer racquet isn’t too hard. All it takes is a little training and a bunch of wrist drills to rebuild the habit of putting spin on the ball. While it isn’t hard, it can waste valuable time that they could have spent working on something else.
Breaking the habit of a child tucking in their arm is incredibly difficult. A bent arm forehand isn’t necessarily a bad stroke, but it certainly isn’t the best. Due to this, it is often hard to justify taking the time needed to change the stroke back. While your child will likely be able to get away with a bent arm forehand, it is best if they don’t have to go through that in general.
These are just a few of the more prevalent bad habits that form when kids switch to racquets they’re not ready for. However, a racquet that is too heavy/long for them can cause many other negative changes to their strokes.
Switching due to growth
Children always seem to be hitting growth spurts which can cause awkward transition periods in the sports they play. While they adjust to their new body, often things can go a little bit off. However, once they settle in, it’s time to reassess the racquet that they are using. The USTA goes by age, but as mentioned I would wait for a growth spurt before switching. Below is a chart that will give you a good idea on when to switch. You can check out a great article by tenniscompanion.com here that goes into more detail on switching for younger children.
|4 and under||40 in||19 in|
|4-5 years old||40-44 in||21 in|
|6-8 years old||45-49 in||23 in|
|9-10||50-55 in||25 in|
|10-11||56-60 in||26 in|
|12-13||61-65 in||27 in (Adult Sized Racquet) 9-10 oz range|
|14-15||66-68 in||27 in (Adult Sized Racquet)
10-10.6 oz range
|16 and older||69 in and taller||27 in (Adult Sized Racquet)
10.6 oz and up
There will be an adjustment period after your child switches to a larger sized racquet. With the racquet being longer, the sweet spot and contact zone for your child will be different compared to their old racquet. With a heavier racquet, the swing speed and time needed to move the racquet will change. It will probably take a few weeks for them to get used to the new changes. So be patient and be sure to tell them the same after switching.
Switching due to strength
As kids get older, they tend to get stronger without necessarily getting taller. You will normally run into this towards the latter end of high school. As a baseline, kids should be using a racquet in the 10.5-10.9 oz range by the end of their junior year. They need the weight in order to keep up with the bigger players they might be up against. With a lighter racquet, your child will have a much tougher time keeping up with bigger players who can hit the ball harder. By senior year you can look into getting your child an 11 oz racquet. However, I would hold off on this unless they have been working out and are in shape. While a heavier racquet will allow them to hit the ball harder, it can have detrimental effects on their game if they are not ready for it as stated above.
Switching From one Junior Racquet to Another
What racquet they use as a Junior isn’t super important. They most likely won’t be using that exact racquet for very long, and you will have to go about switching again sooner than you would like. The most important thing for your child while switching racquets is that they feel comfortable using it. Have them demo a few racquets and get them the one that makes them feel the most comfortable. The more racquets you demo while they are growing, the better idea they will have for what racquet they would like to use later on. If you would like more info on how to find a new racquet you can look at our article here.
Switching to a full-sized racquet
The most important thing is that they don’t pick a racquet that is too heavy. If your child is older (consult the chart), then they can go a little heavier, but it is better that they start light and need to switch to something heavier than the other way around.
Other than weight, make sure they demo PLENTY of racquets. There is no rush to switch, so have them take their time and try out each racquet that they are interested in. Your child should spend a few days with each racquet. If they find one they like, they can try it out with a fresh set of their preferred strings. If you and your child have no idea on what racquets to try, then be sure to ask your coach for some suggestions.
Switching racquets can be a daunting task. Make sure you and your child take plenty of time with the decision. There is no rush.
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