Almost every day I receive emails from players around the world telling me about their style of play on a badminton court. They then ask me which is the best racquet for their particular style of play.
If you’ve spent time reading my blog or forum you’ll probably already know the answer I would give. However, for the reader that hasn’t been around this blog, here is the answer I always give…
“Your style, technique, badminton experience, physique and muscular structure are different to mine and anyone else for that matter. Therefore, how you feel a racquet will also be different to me and every other player. This means nobody can accurately advise you which racquet to use.”
I honestly believe that the only person who can decide whether a racquet is right for you…is you. However, this means you have to take your time and go through the experience of testing different racquets.
And, this is where the big issue is. Most players do not have access to a wide range of racquets. There are very few retailers who have demo racquets for players to test on court which means it’s almost impossible to get your choice right at a first attempt.
As your badminton experience grows, you develop a feel or instinct for what you like in a racquet and also what you dislike. This experience, whilst invaluable, can occasionally be to the detriment of your game. Let me give you an example…
A few years ago I selected Armortec 900 Power as my racquet of choice. I really loved the racquet and it seemed to cover many aspects of my game. Not being a naturally powerful player, I needed the additional weight in the head of the racquet to help me hit hard.
One day I was running a demo session with a player and for some reason really struggled defensively which made me question my decision on AT900P. For the next season, I switched racquets to Nanospeed 9900 which was head light. Immediately my defence was “back to normal” and for a time I was still hitting hard.
During the season I noticed that my smash was being returned more often which puzzled me. What had changed? It took a while to figure out that my body had adjusted to the lighter headed racquet. Initially, switching from a head heavy to head light racquet meant my muscles were used to working harder to play an overhead shot. When I switched, the muscles worked just as hard, which initially got me a better result. Over time, the muscles eased off for some reason, which eventually left me with a worse result.
So, I picked up my old AT900P and tried it again. At first it felt slow however when I began to smash there was an immediate improvement. It then dawned on me what had been happening and that I had been asking the wrong questions.
The lesson here is that despite my experience I made an error due to drawing conclusions without asking the right questions. I now know what questions to ask before choosing a new badminton racquet – do you?
Ask The Right Questions
The first question you should really be asking is…
1) Do I really need a new racquet?
You see, many players create beliefs in order to justify to themselves that they need a new racquet. Most of the time the facts are simple – you don’t need one. However, the marketing from the racquet companies lure us into believing that playing with “that” racquet will almost magically make you a better player. That simply isn’t true.
If you really want to see significant improvement in your game, then invest in a coaching course or a coach. A good coach can do more to help you improve your game than any new racquet can.
Of course , if your racquet has a crack, or is looking very worn then it’s probably the right time to change it. Let’s also remember that a good re-string can also transform the performance in a racquet, so test string tension and type of string too.
OK, we’ve covered the first point. What’s the next question?
2) What are the characteristics of my current racquet that I really like/dislike?
You need to be aware why you like your existing racquet because ultimately it is the guide, your starting point to knowing where to begin choosing a replacement. If you like a medium flex shaft then perhaps this is the most important characteristic you need in a new racquet. By all means test a racquet with flexible or stiff shaft to validate your knowledge, just in case you find your tastes have changed. Do the same with head weight, actual weight of the racquet and grip size although I appreciate some countries have limited offerings in some of these characteristics compared to others.
3) What aspects of my game do I want to enhance with this new racquet?
This question makes you look at your current game first to decide which are the most important features you’d like to improve. Would a change in racquet really help? The answer can be positive depending on which features are on your personal list.
4) What aspects of my game am I prepared to allow a dip in performance until I can fix them?
This is just as important as question 3. Let’s give you a quick example here. You’ve decided that you want more power in your overhead and therefore are now seeking a head heavy racquet. This will result in a reduction in your immediate capability in defence and around the net area as the racquet head will move slower than your current model. However, this can be improved simply by doing my armchair exercises.
5) What am I prepared to pay?
Obvious question, I know. We all play on a budget so you then need to weigh up whether you are looking at the more expensive racquets and maybe buying one racquet, or do you compromise a little and look at the mid-price to budget racquets where you could possibly buy two or more of the same racquet (when you know it’s the racquet for you) and therefore have a spare for those times when you break a string, or worse case, break the frame in a collision.
I’ve covered a number of points here. Remember, nobody can accurately tell you a particular racquet will suit you best. By all means listen to other players, but remember, they are not you and therefore have completely different references for what makes a good racquet. Ask them if they don’t mind you trying their racquet then at least you have the knowledge of either keeping it on your like list or you can immediately discard it as something completely alien and not worth investing in.
Use the questions I have given you and hopefully you will make a more informed decision when choosing a new badminton racquet. Keep your ego out of the way. In other words, don’t buy the next great thing that is released from a manufacturer because your favourite player is using it. What suits them is unlikely to suit you and it certainly won’t make you play like them! If you do buy one of these racquets and then you don’t like it, think how you look in front of your badminton friends? I’m sure some will be thinking you have more money than sense!
Finally, do consider that you can get a far better return on investing in a coach or coaching. Resolving poor technique problems and helping you learn more skills will ensure you have these skills for life. Your racquet will rarely last as long as that.