The most important thing to know is that your shoes are much more important for improving your game than your racket is, (and your skills are even more important than that). Rackets have come a long way from the wooden rackets I used in the back yard when I was a kid! You simply want to have a racket that is your own, so you get used to how it feels and you can predict how it will respond. It’s hard to build consistency if you’re always borrowing different rackets.
There are 2 main types of materials that rackets are made out of: metal or carbon fiber.
The cheapest rackets are metal, meaning they are made out of steel, titanium or aluminum. They do not break easily, but they are not forgiving materials and can bend easily. If you break your strings on a metal racket, you’ll notice it’s already pulled the frame out of shape. Strings on metal rackets are not replaceable and the racket is not repairable. You can tell if a racket is metal because it will usually have the metal written on it, or more easily by just looking at the joint between the racket head and handle. If the “T” joint is made out of separate pieces of material, then it is metal. If it is all one piece, it is carbon based. You can often find a metal racket at Big 5 for about $15. Perfect for a beginner! Just remember that they are disposable.
Carbon fiber (sometimes called graphite, but that is technically inaccurate) rackets start around $50 and go on up to $200 and above. You can get a really excellent racket for $60-$80. Carbon fiber rackets are super strong and also have elasticity which you can feel when you hit as compared to a metal racket. Since these rackets are composites, it allows manufacturers to vary the stiffness and distribute weight differently. Because you’ll want to feel the variance between carbon fiber rackets, be sure to try them out by holding and swinging them. All the local shops that carry good rackets are on our resources page. Remember Bay Badminton gives all WGHS student s 15% off!
There are 3 different ways rackets are balanced:
Head-heavy rackets are meant to provide more power for clears and smashes. If you’re a singles player who needs your shots to go long distance consistently, this is a good choice, but it is NOT recommended for players who play doubles, want more versatility or who are beginners. Heavy heads put more stress on your muscles and joints and are more likely to cause a repetitive stress injury if you haven’t already been playing consistently for more than a year.
Head-light rackets are easier to manipulate and swing. They can help you react quickly to defend against smashes and are preferable for driving and when you’re at the net. They are great a choice for fast attacks, doubles players, or if you’re a singles player who already has excellent technique and swing speed.
Evenly-balanced rackets are the best choice for most players. When you are playing games, you will be all over the court and will need the versatility of speed from the middle and front and power from the back. For high school level, when you are not carrying multiple rackets for different types of playing, an evenly-balanced racket is what I recommend!
You don’t really need to worry about strings unless you’ve purchased a carbon fiber racket and you’ve broken your strings.
It’s only about $20-$25 to get strings replaced. I recommend staying in the 20-25 lb range.
20-21 for beginners, 22-23 for intermediate and 24-25 for advanced is a good rule of thumb.
The harder you can hit, the more tension you can take, but you don’t want to go too tight, or you’ll shrink your sweet spot and end up breaking strings more often! Less tension is great for beginners, since there is no reward for more tension if you’re not already hitting hard, and you’ll want a bigger sweet spot as you’re learning. Plus, more tension on strings means the tendons in your elbows will be taking more force.
I could go on about racket head shape, stiffness, weight and grips, but that’s more than you need to know to get a great racket. Just buy a racket that feels good in your hand and when you swing it!