Sunday, July 21, 2019

Paddle Perplexity

Coach Wayne’s Corner


As the sport of pickleball continues to grow in leaps and bounds, so does the number of paddle manufacturing companies.

One of the most frequent questions I get from players in my beginner clinics is, “Which paddle is right for me?” A challenging and perplexing question, to say the least!

My generic response is, “Whatever paddle feels best to you!” It’s like test driving and buying a new car, what I like and works for me, may not be right and work for you.

For me personally, as a tennis player, I have been a lifelong fan of Head racquets. I have actually played with the same Head model, the Head Prestige racquet, for nearly 30 years. Even though the Prestige has gone through many cosmetic changes over the years, the weight, balance and feel of it has remained the same.

As a tennis player, with the Prestige racquet, I am able to effectively, efficiently and confidently execute the shots I need to hit in order to accomplish the task at hand. So when Head announced that they were getting into the sport of pickleball, the decision to play head paddles was a simple no brainer for me.

Head Sports has a lineup of paddles covering a full range of weights and balances.

For playing pickleball, I chose the Head Radical Pro as my paddle, because, like my Prestige racquet, the Radical Pro is on the heavy side in its weight and provides the feel, power and control that I (personally) am looking for.

So enough about me. What about you?

In the sports of golf and tennis, companies produce and market equipment designed for beginner, intermediate and advanced level players. Pros in both of these sports are very selective and specific in the dynamics (aka, the weight and balance) of their clubs or racquets.

But again, what about you? Let’s consider and examine the basic fundamental requirements to be considered when purchasing your first paddle.

As with a tennis racquet, I believe the most important factor to consider is the weight of the paddle. With that said, there is a direct association between the weight of the paddle and the amount of power it is able to generate.

It is basic physics; the heavier the object I am swinging, the more power it will self-generate from the momentum of its weight through the length of the swing.

Like swinging an axe to chop some firewood, the weight of the head of the ax generates its own momentum through the swing, into contact with the piece of wood, to provide enough force to split the piece of wood in two.

So with that understanding, you might be saying to yourself, OK, the heavier the better? The theory being that the more weight I have in a paddle, the more power I am going to get from it, right?

The answer is yes and no.

The laws of physics also require that to be able get more power out of a heavier paddle (like swinging an axe), I must have the strength to generate enough speed and length of swing  to effectively allow the paddle to generate its own momentum through the swing and into contact with the object which  I am striking, aka, the ball.

So, due to the facts of physics and science, my recommendation is for beginner recreational players, who are not in what I will refer to as competitive tournament playing condition, to go with a lighter weight paddle. The lighter paddle will produce less stress and fatigue on the joints and muscles of the arm from daily use.

I did some online research and found these charts which compares the pros and cons of lightweight vs. heavyweight paddles.

My final insight and advice is on how long a paddle lasts.

If my tennis racquet is not feeling or playing right, I can get it restrung, and like getting a new set of tires on my car, I’m good to go! But if my pickleball paddle is not feeling or playing right, it’s time for a new paddle.

The amount of time to replace your paddle depends on how you how often you play. Players who play daily should expect to retire a graphite or composite paddle after about one year. For people playing a couple of times a week, a paddle should last around three years.

Wayne Clark is a professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction and is on staff as an instructor with The Pickleball Academy of Southwest Florida at East Naples Community Park. Contact Coach Wayne by email at coachwayneclark@aol.com, or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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