Kitting out the kids
Originally published on: 15/08/13 00:00
Almost every one of the well-known racket manufacturers has its own extensive range of junior frames aimed at the smallest of beginners all the way up to young professionals in the making.
We attempt to demystify the decision making process when parents are faced with handing over their hard-earned cash.
Junior rackets can be sorted into many different categories, but perhaps one of the most uncomplicated ways of doing that is to group the frames on offer by the material they are made from.
The most basic – and normally the least expensive – are those constructed using aluminium and are aimed at beginners. Juniors who can play a bit and need a little more from their racket can then move to a graphite composite frame. And performance players and the more serious competitors out there can choose a 100% graphite construction.
Each junior racket is also clearly marked with its length, which will determine the age of child that frame is designed for, and some manufacturers will use the Mini Tennis colour-coded grading system to help parents make the right choice, grouping rackets as to whether they are aimed at youngsters playing ‘red’, ‘orange’ or ‘green’ tennis.
The theory behind youngsters playing the sport on smaller courts with slower and lower-bouncing balls and with rackets that are an appropriate size for their body is that they can learn correct technique easier. And better technique generally means success in getting the ball in court – and therefore greater enjoyment.
The final piece of good news is that kitting out your mini Murray shouldn’t break the bank. Some of the smaller frames aimed at under 10s can be picked up for as little as around £20, while 100% graphite models fall into the £60-80 range.
Aluminium rackets are lightweight, easy to handle and sturdy so should last a reasonable amount of time regardless of how they’re treated! The smallest frames begin at 17 inches in length and aluminium rackets are available in two-inch increments all the way to 27 inches depending on the child’s age and size.
Babolat’s Ballfighter range offers all these sizes, while its B’Fly range is more girl-friendly with its pink and yellow cosmetics (19-25 inches). The Babolat Nadal Junior is another option and is available in 19 inches all the way up to a 26-inch model. Yonex also offers small aluminium frames, its VCORE Xi collection comes in 21, 23 and 25-inch sizes.Slazenger’s Smash collection is another option with all their frames from 19-25 inches priced at £23.99 and the 27-inch model just a pound more expensive.
Tecnifibre is updating its aluminium Bullit range in August with frames that are said to be 20 per cent more durable – good news for parents with mini tennis players with a temper. Tecnifibre is another brand that boasts a collection aimed at young girls – the Rebound range, which has ultra slim grips that are 30 per cent thinner than normal junior grips for easier handling.
Graphite Composite Rackets
A graphite composite frame is designed for a youngster who is playing regularly, developing their game and technique and demands a bit more from their racket. The blend of aluminium and graphite will increase feel and power for a young player but still shouldn't break the bank.
These frames will be less expensive than a 100% graphite construction. Babolat boasts two models with a graphite composite construction – the Pure Drive Junior (23 and 25 inches) and the Babolat Pure Junior (25 and 26 inches). Tecnifibre has its Fight collection to tick this box – the 63, 65 and 67 that go from 24.5 to 26.5 inches – as well as the Rebound 62 with its more female-friendly cosmetics for girls from ages 6-9.
100% Graphite Rackets
Once young players that are playing to a good standard have progressed from Mini Tennis on smaller courts using lighter, lower-bouncing balls onto playing the sport with ‘normal’ balls and on a full-sized court they'll probably find an aluminium racket won’t really be up to the job.
The heavier tennis balls they will now be using will make it almost impossible for kids to hit with any power or precision on a full-sized tennis court. This is the time to start using a premium-priced, stiffer graphite frame that will be either 25 or 26 inches in length (depending on their age and size) that will aid power, control and spin. You’re getting close to a full-sized racket now as an adult frame is normally 27 inches in length and this will make the transition to a full-sized racket all the easier when that day arrives.
Some examples of rackets on offer in this category are the Babolat Aeropro Drive Jnr, Babolat Pure Drive Roddick Jnr, the Yonex VCORE Xi 25 and 26, as well as its EZONE Xi 26, the Dunlop Biomimetic M3.0 26 and M3.0 25 and the Tecnifibre Flash 25 and 26 frames. Tecnifibre also has its T-Rebound 66, a full graphite frame aimed at competitive young girls aged between 8-10 years old.