When a tennis racket is right for you, it feels like an extension of your arm. You can feel the way the ball hits it, and judge how quickly it will bounce off. The frame will be maneuverable but will offer just the amount of power and control you need.
In an ideal world, junior players would also get the chance to find the ideal racket by sifting through and trying out a range of options of different balance and construction. In practice, until they are around 10, they will find that most of the available rackets are similar and fairly cheaply constructed, although the largest junior rackets do bear more of a resemblance to the equipment used by adults.
This reflects the fact that most of the youngest players will be playing with low-compression balls, and these cancel out many of the benefits of advanced racket technology. Given this, the only significant factors in deciding on the best racket for your child, at least until they become an advanced player of around 10 or 11, are the size and weight of the frame. So how do you determine the most appropriate size of racket for a child?
Racket size is crucial for juniors to develop correct technique and avoid injury, and it is vital that they try out a few options to see how easily they handle them. Children tend to grow in spurts, so it is hard to predict how frequently they will need a new frame, but a racket may need to be replaced as frequently as every 6 months.
Why Racket Sizes Matter
As you can imagine, if a young child is attempting to swing a tennis racket that is far too big for them, there is a significant risk that they will injure their arm or wrist. This could, easily and understandably, put them off playing tennis at all.
Equally, the ‘technically correct’ shots executed by expert adult players are based upon a certain ratio of limb length to racket frame size. For a child to ‘get into good habits’ and learn how to swing the racket like an advanced player, they will need a racket whose size is proportionate to their height and arm length.
If, therefore, you want your child to learn the fundamentals of the game without injuring themselves, you must buy them a new racket appropriate to their height whenever they need it.
The Importance Of Testing Out Rackets
Whilst measuring your child can often provide enough data to enable you to determine the appropriate racket size for them, there is no substitute for seeing the racket in their hands and watching them swing it. If they like it, and it looks natural when they shadow shots, then it is likely to be a good choice.
Be wary of their enthusiasm for rackets that are manifestly too big, as it is important that they only move up to larger frames when they are ready.
Sizes For Common Ages
Junior rackets will tend to be required between the ages of 3 (or whatever later age they start playing) and 12. There will obviously be a wide range of sizes and strengths within this band, so the height of a child is far more important than their age when choosing a racket size.
The following table gives an idea of the length of frame which is appropriate for different heights:
|Junior Player Age||Height Range (inches)||Racket Frame Size (inches)|
|3||36 or less||17|
|11 or older||61 or above||27 (adult)|
How Often Should Kids Get New Rackets?
The above table shows that a growing child will need a change of racket roughly annually on average. However, a growth spurt can result in a new racket being needed much sooner, and you should not delay unnecessarily if you want your child to continue to enjoy their tennis.
Just periodically allow them to try a racket in the next size up, and, when it looks right, buy one. This should not be taken as a suggestion that you should break the bank to buy them the latest equipment every few months.
Rackets of up to 25 inches are designed to be used with very soft, light balls, and as such, they do not require expensive technology. You can therefore buy cheap rackets for even the most advanced players until they need a 26-inch frame, at which point something more closely resembling an adult racket will be beneficial.
What Grip Sizes Are Best For Kids?
There is a very limited choice of grip sizes available, partly due to the low pricing point of many junior rackets. Smaller junior rackets tend to use a standard size of 3.875 inches, although the grips of the tiniest frames will probably be even smaller.
26-inch rackets typically have a 4 inch (size 0) grip, and once the step to a full-sized 27-inch racket is taken a 4.125 inch (size 1) grip is common. Once a child is ready to move up to a 27-inch frame, they will be able to choose a grip size to fit their hand, but until that point they will have little option but to make do with a standard size.
If you want your child to enjoy tennis without getting injured, and to learn good shot mechanics, make sure that they are using a racket that is the right size for their body. Let them try out various frames to see what suits them, but do not feel obligated to overpay when they are young- there will be plenty of time for that later!