Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Proof is in the Paddle

COACH WAYNE’S CORNER


Sarah Ansboury, 2016 US Open Women’s & Mixed Doubles Champion, who plays the Head Xtreme Tour.

Sarah Ansboury, 2016 US Open Women’s & Mixed Doubles Champion, who plays the Head Xtreme Tour.

As the sport of pickleball grows, several “mom and pop” companies have ventured into the pickleball paddle business. These entrepreneurial manufacturers are attempting to grab a piece of what is presenting itself to be a very popular and profitable marketplace.

The USAPA governs the specifications of pickleballs and pickleball paddles; they monitor and oversee the materials used, as well as the size and construction perimeters.

The specifications and restrictions are important because not adhering to them could create equipment which could/would change the dynamics of how the game is played.

Radical series of paddles

Radical series of paddles

Like in other sports, whether it’s the bats in baseball, clubs and balls in golf, or balls in football (Remember deflategate in the NFL?), control of the specifications that make up the equipment directly affects the way the games are played. Because of this, I encourage all players to only purchase and use USAPA certified paddles and balls.

Understanding all that, how do you find the right paddle for you?

With so many companies producing paddles, it is difficult to know which ones are producing quality equipment and which ones may be out of business next month.

Xtreme series of paddles

Xtreme series of paddles

Name brand recognition is a vital part of advertising and sales in all aspects of merchandising and marketing; and now the big boys are getting into the business.

Wilson Sports has had a limited lineup of paddles on the market for a few years. Head Sports has recently made a major move into the market with a full line of performance paddles for all level of players.

The Head lineup of pickleball paddles follows the tradition of their tennis rac- quet line in both name and appearance, with the Radical and Xtreme series. Head tennis racquets have been endorsed and played by the likes of Andre Agassi, and they are currently being endorsed and played by Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic. Head is also sponsoring professional level pickleball players, like Sarah Ansboury, 2016 US Open Women’s & Mixed Doubles Champion, who plays the Head Xtreme Tour.

Catedral de Puntarenas

Catedral de Puntarenas

As a player and instructor, I have used Head tennis racquets my entire professional life, and I am honored to now be associated with Head Sports as a pickleball player.

Most paddles on the market are a two-piece construction, with the handle a separate piece attached to the face of the paddle. However, Head paddles are a onepiece construction, with a mold and spray foam surrounding the handle, making it a solid piece that connects to the paddle as a whole. This creates a more durable neck. And because they are constructed of a polypropylene honeycomb core and a carbon graphite hitting surface with Extreme Spin technology, these paddles have a solid pop when you strike the ball, along with great feel, touch and control.

Street scene in the final port along the Pacific. PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA

Street scene in the final port along the Pacific. PUNTARENAS, COSTA RICA

The Xtreme Tour and Radical Tour are recommended for players coming from prior racquet sports due to their touch and texture, which more closely mimics the grip you can get from something like tennis strings. The graphite surface on both models provides excellent responsiveness as well.

Fort of San Diego ACAPULCO

Fort of San Diego ACAPULCO

For novice players, I believe that the Xtreme Elite or Radical Elite paddle would be a good choice. The two Elites have the lowest price point in both lines. They actually have the same high quality core and surface materials as the other options, but they have harder grips and a smooth face. Either would make a great starter paddle that will also hold up to advanced play.

Head paddles are competitively well priced between $59 and $89, and I personally believe that the graphic logo designs on the face of the paddles are very cool looking!

Our Lady of Solitude Cathedral

Our Lady of Solitude Cathedral

Like all of us nowadays, I enjoy online shopping. And while there are several websites that will provide demo paddles for you to play test, the problem is that you have to pay for shipping costs associated with getting the paddles back and forth from them to you.

As much as I enjoy online shopping, I also prefer doing business (when possible) with local companies. Thanks to my association with Head Sports and a local Naples store called ProAm Tennis, I now have demos of the entire Head paddle line, here at The Marco Island Racquet Center. You can play test as many of the paddles as you want, in one of the pickleball clinics offered by Jodi Pree and myself at The Racquet Center, and then order the one you like online at proamtennis.com. ProAm Tennis offers free shipping to any Marco Island address, on all Head paddle purchases. ProAm Tennis also carries a full line of tennis racquets, shoes, and apparel, both online and at their store, which is located at 13000 North Tamiami Trail.

So if you are new to the sport of pickleball and you are trying to determine which paddle you should buy, or if you are a veteran player and are in search of a pro level performance paddle; I highly recommend you try one of the new Head Radical or Xtreme paddles.

Wayne Clark is a certified professional tennis instructor with over 25 years experience coaching players on all levels of the game. Wayne is also qualified in pickleball instruction. He has been the head instructor at The Marco Island Racquet Center since 2001. The Racquet Center offers clinics, private and group lessons for both tennis and pickleball. Coach Wayne’s Island Kids Tennis/Sports Juniors programs run year round, and offer classes for players ranging from kindergarten through high school. Contact Coach Wayne by email at coachwayneclark@aol.com or by phone or text at 239-450-6161.

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