How to Choose a Racquet for Your Child

how to choose a kids tennis racquet

One of the questions I frequently receive from tennis parents is: “What racquet should I buy for my son/daughter?”

Before we dive into the details of choosing a tennis racquet, I would like to mention that there are certain recommended racquet specs according to a child’s age. But that does not mean children and parents should strictly follow those recommendations…

We know that children develop differently – some (let’s say) seven years olds are taller, some are shorter; some are stronger…

If a child is ready to play with a heavier racquet than standard recommended, he/she can do so.

Having said that, here are the recommended racquet lengths according to the children’s age:

  • 21” racquet would be best for 4-5 year olds;
  • 23” long racquet can be used by children of 6-8 years;
  • 25” long racquet would be preferred by 9-10 year olds;
  • 26” racquets are recommended for 10-11 years;
  • 27” can be used by any child that is 12 and older. 

My suggestion, for children who are ready to move up to a 27” adult racquet, is to choose a light version, under 10 ounces.

But again, if a child is strong and ready to benefit from a heavier racquet (more power, control) while avoiding injuries, he/she can demo/try and eventually purchase one that is above the standard recommendations.

Following I would like to present a few details that not only children, but adults as well, should consider when choosing a new tennis racquet.

Being the most important piece of equipment for any tennis player, the racquet should be carefully analysed so that it matches the player’s style of play and/or level of performance:

1. Racquet Weight – should be chosen according to the child’s strength.
There is an easy exercise you can do with your child: have her hold the racquet by the handle, take it behind her back with the elbow bent over the dominant shoulder; from there on ask her to swing up like she would be serving; observe how hard it is for her to do that; if it is too heavy, her face will tell you; if it is too light, she’ll also tell you.
Find a racquet that she feels that is not too heavy but not too light. If the player should be in doubt, always opt for a slightly heavier frame than lighter. More weight will help in absorbing the shock that is created at the contact with the ball thus saving the arm.

2. Grip Size – the child should be able to wrap their hand around the handle (gently) and there should be space enough to put the index finger (of the non-dominant hand) between the fingers tips and heel of the dominant palm; if it is too small or too large she’ll grip it too hard to not lose the racquet from her hand.

3. Racquet Head – this is a debatable subject because some coaches say that a small head (somewhere around 95-98 square inches) forces the child to make a clean contact with the ball, while others suggest that a larger head (105-110) can help the player achieve good contact with the ball easier thus making it easy to learn or practice their skills.
In my opinion, a racquet that has a circumference of 100 square inches is just about right for most players.

4. Racquet Strings are the most important element of every tennis racquet. That does not mean the others are not important. It is just that no matter how good the racquet is, the strings must be suited to player’s style of play.
Therefore, here are a few factors related to strings tension, composition, and thickness:

  • Tension – if you want more power, opt for a lower tension; for more control, string it tighter; you can find the specifications of the recommended string tension on the side of the racquet.
  • String composition – can be nylon, polyester or natural gut – the nylon is the cheapest, the gut is more expensive – you might think that the more expensive the sting the better feel; you are not far from the truth but it all depends of what you need: if you break strings a lot you might be ok with playing with a thick nylon, for more feel and control you can find some good polyester strings (my favourite choice), if you can afford to spend more then go for natural gut.
  • There is also the consideration of thickness of the string: the thinner it is the more it bites into the ball favouring spin and control; but it breaks sooner.

As you can see, there are quite a few factors you should consider when settling for a particular racquet. But the important part is that the racquet is only as good as the string (composition, tension) you put on.

My recommendation would be to either experiment with a few racquets by enrolling in your nearest pro shop demo program (even online tennis stores have demo programs through which they send you racquets to try before you decide to buy one), or ask a coach’s help in choosing one. A tennis professional stringer can take a look at your swing and style of play before advising you on which path to take in choosing your new tennis racquet.

I wish there would be an easy way, but in fact, the racquet is the most important piece of tennis equipment you will have. That’s why you should not make this decision in a hurry.

For a video presentation of this material (how to choose a tennis racquet for your child) visit WebTennis24 Kids section or 10 Lesson Plans program for teaching tennis to beginning players.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

How to Hit More Serves In… Under Pressure

how to serve under pressure in tennis

I’ve always considered that a high percentage serve deliverability, especially under pressure, depends on… the player’s mental strength.

As a player prepares to hit the second serve, thoughts of “I’m going to hit it into the net”, “My opponent will attack me” or “I’m going to miss it” often distract and impede him/her from hitting it with confidence.

You see, when players get ready for the first serve, there is very little pressure involved other than the desire to go for a winner or place it strategically (e.g. to opponent’s weak side).

But when the second serve is about to be delivered that’s when our thoughts begin to challenge us.

One must understand that the serve is very sensitive to the negative thinking: your racquet “becomes” heavy, the arm too tense, the whole body gets shaky…

To avoid these feelings before you are about to serve (second serves in particular) practice the following:

  1. Think positive thoughts (“I know I can”, “I have confidence”, “I can do this”).
  2. Visualize positive outcomes (“see” the ball going over the net and inside the desired service box).
  3. Have a ritual (bounce the ball a certain number of times, etc.).
  4. Relax your body (exhale slowly).
  5. Take your time… Position your feet, adjust the grip and hold the racquet in your most comfortable way. Take one more look toward your opponent’s position and at the service box you are about to send the ball to.

“If you believe you can, you might. If you know you can, you will.” ― Steve Maraboli

For video lessons to improve your serve technique check out our Tennis Technique Lessons section.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

What Should Coaches Teach in the First Tennis Lesson

first tennis lesson tips
When teaching tennis to a new and beginning student I have always tried to provide them a mix of fun and technique activities in the first lessons.

The very first lesson is especially important because that’s when the connection between the coach and player is made and that can be crucial for the tennis future of this particular student.

Paying attention to what you say, how you say it, and the way you present yourself in front of the new student is something that every coach should be well prepared when meeting a new tennis player.

When a new student books me for a lesson, in the first 5 – 10 minutes I try to get some information about him/her:

  • why do they want to learn tennis?
  • what do they know about tennis?
  • have they ever tried playing tennis?
  • have they watched tennis on TV and do they have a favourite pro player?

For example someone might want to learn so that they can play with their family.
Or they consider tennis a good way to stay in shape.
Or they are just being brought in by their parents.

Whatever the reason, it is good to ask them – you’ll find some interesting answers for why people pick up a sport like tennis.
The answers to the questions (above) will help you understand how to construct your lessons, the intensity of them, and how much passion your student will put into their practice.

After you familiarise yourself with your new student, it is important to let them know a little bit about yourself as well.
Keep it simply letting them know your name, how long you’ve enjoyed playing and teaching tennis and enthusiastically tell them how glad you are to have the opportunity to introduce them to this sport.

Following, I would like to give you a few ideas of how your first lesson should be structured in order to make a good connection with the new student and introduce them to some of the basic tennis elements:

  1. Court dimensions and name of the lines – it is important for new players to learn the names of the lines (e.g. baseline, singles side lines, service line etc.) so that when you ask them to practice a certain stroke from, let’s say, service line, he/she should know their way about the court.
  2. Racquet – explain your student the different parts of the racquet: head, neck and handle. If you want, you can show him/her the basic grips without getting into much detail.
  3. Introduce a few hand-eye coordination drills to test his/her physical skills.
  4. Demonstrate and teach the basic forehand ground-stroke technique followed by drills and fun games that puts in practice the skills they learn.

These are the main pieces of information that a student should learn during the first lesson.

Make sure to keep it fun and try as much as possible to connect with the student by listening to him/her and allowing them to ask you questions.

If your student is a child, encourage them all the time and praise his/her effort.
At the end of the class you should have a little “gift” for them (small candy, stickers etc.). Kids love that and they will continue coming to your lessons when you show that you care.

If your student is an adult, again, listening to their needs and allowing them to ask questions is important.
Adults, more than kids, are interested into detailed technique and… a good workout.
Do drills that make them “break a sweat” from time to time.

They should leave your class smiling, and… sweaty.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Easiest Way to Win in Doubles

When I was asked to express my opinion about which doubles formation is the best and which is the least effective at winning points quickly, I did not hesitate: both players at the net (both up) would be my favourite, while the two players at the baseline (both back) to be the defensive one and taking longer to finish/win points.
best doubles tennis formation

Here is my argument and why you should consider playing at the net more often:

But before I get into the details I want to point out that my analysis is done as a general guide and, when assessing one team’s best tactics and strategies, we should consider each player’s technical skills, experience, and their capability to work and communicate as a team.

I believe that the best doubles formation is… both-up.

When the two players manage to get to the net they will be in the best position to put pressure on their opponents, cover the court and finish the points in the quickest way possible.

When the team is at the net, the best chance for the opponents to pass them is using the back court by sending the ball over their heads (lobs).

The both-up formation has the following advantages:

    1. It puts pressure on the opposing team (which is defending) – gives them less time to prepare for the shot.
    2. They can cover a lot more court and there is almost no opening for the opponents to pass (except when using the lob which, if not executed properly, can be a “smash” opportunity).
    3. The ability to put the balls away (finish points) is greater at the net due to the many angle opportunities and the fact that they can contact the ball above net level.

But let’s not rule out the reasons why some players or teams prefer to play from the baseline, in doubles…

The case for both players staying back can be understood considering the following aspects:

  • Both players are not comfortable playing at the net but they possess reliable ground-strokes.
  • The team is receiving against a strong server – in this case, it is wise to begin the point with both players on the baseline and advance after the return is safely made.
  • The team’s serves are being aggressively attacked by the opposing team (example: if the serve is not powerful or deep enough, the returner attacks the net player; in such situation it is a good idea for the server’s partner to begin the point further back, close to the baseline).

Disadvantages of playing both-back formation:

  1. Many angle openings for the opposing team to put the ball away.
  2. Hard to cover the forecourt (against drop-shots or short angles etc.).
  3. Difficulty in finishing the points – they wait for the opposing team to make mistakes.

Any committed doubles player should strive to improve the net skills (volleys and overheads) and most importantly transitioning to the net which for most part can set them up for a comfortable play at the net if executed properly.

For more detailed analysis of how to play and win in doubles, sign up for the Training membership to learn how to play against different doubles formations, how to communicate with your doubles partner, how to cover the court and get to the ball quicker – watch easy to follow graphics and detailed information for beginning and advanced players.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Aggressive Doubles Strategy | The Lob

Many recreational tennis players think that the lob is a “cheap” shot and its main purpose is to “annoy” the opponents. But the best players know that it can be used as an aggressive tactic to take over the net and set themselves up for a winner. Here’s how:

how to use the lob for aggressive doubles tennisAs you see in the attached diagram, lobbing the net player can greatly affect the defending team (the one being lobbed: BP-NP) which has to change positions to retrieve the lob:

The net player (NP) must switch sides and back up (anticipating an eventual overhead from the opposing team);
The baseline player (BP) has to also switch side to return the lob.
Both players from the defending team will be on the run to play the next ball, which makes it difficult continuing the point.

On the other side, the attacking team (OBP – opposing baseline player, and ONP – opposing net player) following the lob will take position at the net with a high chance to finish the point with an overhead or a high volley.

Important:
For a lob to be considered an aggressive shot, it should have lots of topspin (to begin with) and placed deep, well beyond the service line.

Use the lob to give your team time to move up to the net and make your opponents play defensive.

For more doubles winning tactics visit the Training membership section (lessons, drills and tips for singles and doubles tennis players) at WebTennis24.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.