Racket weight, stiffness and balance
When choosing a racket, it is important that it suits you and feels right when you hold it. Whenever possible, try to use a demo racket or borrow somebody else’s racket so that you can try it out rather than blindly spending potentially a lot of money on a racket that doesn’t suit you, especially if you buy it over the internet. The first most important thing to consider is a racket’s weight, as if a racket is too heavy, it will be hard to manoeuvre and will tire your arm out. But, on the other hand, if you’re an experienced player and your racket is too light you may find you’re not able to extract a lot of power from it. A good, modern carbon graphite racket will weigh in around 76 - 90grams, but it can tilt either way as racket manufacturing isn’t perfect! If you’re just starting or are still growing and developing, look at having a lighter racket, but the more experience you get you can increase racket weight for more power and stability.
Racket stiffness is essential to get right and if you do then your game will be the better for it. A more flexible racket will produce more ‘easy’ power with a longer swing but as you become stronger as a player and the more you become powerful and use more compact strokes, then using a stiffer shaft will allow for more power production. This is to do with a stiffer shaft’s elasticity providing more ‘energy-return’ when flexed more, whereas a more flexible shaft will have more ‘give’ in it, therefore reducing the energy put back into the shuttle. As a rule of thumb, the faster and more compact your strokes become, the stiffer your shaft should be, but keep in mind – if your technique isn’t up to standard and you aren’t physically developed enough, then you can cause stress to your arm by using a shaft that is too stiff.
Finally, the balance of a racket is more about personal preference and it is good to try and find the balance that suits you, otherwise you may be losing manoeuvrability or power. There are three variations: head light, medium and head heavy. Head light rackets are good for juniors but also those who prefer a faster and more manoeuvrable racket, yet it will lack the power of a head heavy racket due to the lack of greater momentum. Head heavy rackets produce the most power, yet can be a little harder to handle due to the slower head, and are so favoured by singles players and baseline hard-hitters. Finally, the medium balance head provides a balance between the other two balances, but it won’t excel in any one area.
So, bottom line - if you are looking for a new racket for a young child look for one that is as light as possible (around 76 - 85gms), medium flex and medium balance (although head light is fine).
Looking after your kit
Look after your kit, and it will look after you! This basically means you need to ensure your kit is looked after well and not abused, and in return it will do its job. You should aim to keep your racket in a thermo bag as it keeps the temperature regulated and in turn this will prevent your strings and racket from either contracting or expanding, both preserving string tension/life and racket wear. It will also help to prevent damage to it. Your shoes should be kept clean and free from dirt, and keeping a cloth in your bag to wipe your shoes’ soles down is a good idea as this will help with their grip. Make sure you also keep spare kit, such as shirts, socks, etc. in your bag as they may come in useful if you need to change during a match or training.