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Just Bend Over.

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I can’t even begin to describe how frequently I see this particular wear pattern on the headguard of racquets. Most frequently it is observed on the frames of junior players. I suspect if you are a racquet stringer you have seen it too.

In my shop I have several juniors who regularly wear through the headguards. The wear pattern is always the same, as pictured above. I attempt to explain the cause to the parents, but I am continually surprised at how many do not address the issue with the kids. In some instances the worn grommet is not caught in time and the racquet is compromised to the point where a new one is needed. Expensive propositions, especially in today’s economy.

The purpose of this blog is to clarify a common misperception. I will hear from players and parents alike that the head guard is worn from digging out low balls. 99.999% of the time this is simply NOT accurate. I have gone to the courts and watched the juniors practice. In so doing I have personally observed the act that I strongly suspected was causing this particular wear pattern. If I had a video of said act, I would post it. It is an act that simply is not necessary and can be avoided without impacting play in any manner.

Kids, (and some adults alike), use a technique to pick up lose balls that is the cause of head guard destruction. The best way to describe the act is the player approaches a lose ball on the court. Instead of bending down to pick the ball up (afterall we wouldn’t want too much exercise) they place the racquet head on the far side of the ball. They then scoot the ball to the heal of their foot and pop the racquet and foot up in order to get the ball to rise to a point where they can reach it without bending over. In the process of “scooting the ball to their foot” the racquet head is allowed to scrape the court. Over time and repeated transgressions;  abrasion, wear and head guard obliteration occurs.

To me this is an easy problem to avoid. Don’t use your racquet in this manner to pick up the ball.  Dr. Johnny suggests, “Just bend over, it won’t hurt.”

5 thoughts on “Just Bend Over.

  1. Jonathan on said:

    Interesting post…I have seen this many times in racquets that I string for juniors. But I never thought this could be the cause. It makes sense though. I guess you learn something new everyday.

  2. PKS on said:

    In my tennis wisdom, as a tennis ninja, I have perfected a ball picking up technique. I can easily pick up the ball with the racquet, in full stride with no bending, and most important, no touching of the ground whatsoever.

    Even still I change my head-guard about every 2-3 string jobs, as I want to keep the balance and feel of all my frames as close as possible.

    Kids today are so lazy, they dont even call out the score. Can we really expect them to learn the correct way to pick up the ball?

  3. Tim Strawn on said:

    I’ve seen this a lot and as a former teaching pro I’d like to offer the following. While scooping up balls may cause wear like this I would suggest that the problem is accentuated more by another form of “scooping”. John has it right–players are just not bending over but I would submit that this is happening when they’re not bending their knees on low balls and instead, dipping the racquet down at a severe angle to get to the ball. This is as much a symptom of poor foot work and not getting into good position to hit the ball. Older players are NOTORIOUS for doing this and are the worst offenders. I change more B/G sets for senior players with this problem–far more than juniors or other players.

  4. ggtennis on said:

    @ Tim

    Excellent point. As a hacker, ( and the furthest thing from an actual coach), these points tend to escape me. Your observations make a lot of sense. Thank you for sharing. I will begin paying more attention to my seniors and keep an eye for this pattern in their sticks. I have a tournament playing junior who is rough on her bumper guards and while I have seen her picking up the ball with the forbidden method, she has tried to reduce this habit. Guards are still worn and her mother tells me the coaches are always on her about her footwork. I now see how there could be a correlation between the footwork and the bumper guard issue for her. THANK YOU!

  5. Tim Strawn on said:

    Glad to participate John. If you think about it, the scraping from actually swinging at a low ball is much more severe than just pulling a ball to your foot to pick it up so I suspect this is the main culprit here. However, I never really thought about your point of picking up a ball that way as a contributing factor to this problem. I think maybe we both learned something here.


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