Congratulations on your decision to learn to play tennis! Good choice as tennis can be played well into the older years. But how do you know what length and type of racquet to get for a child? In this article, I will describe my method for determining the right tennis racquet size by age (and other factors!) and why the right size racquet for kids is so important!
What is the proper racquet size for children?
When I started to play tennis back in 1959 as a 5-year-old, there were no children’s racquets. Yes, they made tennis racquets even back then. The racquets being made were 27” and made from wood and were heavy. Clearly, this was not going to work for a very young lad.
So, my dad took one of these heavy beasts, cut part of the handle off, re-gripped it and I had my very first racquet. Yay! He sent me off with my 2 older brothers and we headed to the tennis courts. Was this the ideal racquet for a 5-year-old? Hardly. But it’s all we had back then.
The good news is that things have advanced since 1959. Now they make racquets just for children – “junior racquets”.
Choosing a Junior Racquet for a Child
Junior racquets are appropriate for children ages 3 to 13 and they range from 17 inches to 26 inches in length. The grip sizes for junior racquets range from 3-1/2” to 4-1/4” and prices range from $30 to $150. To start your junior racquet selection, you can use the following table as a “rule of thumb”:
A Junior Tennis Racquet Size Chart
|Racquet Length||Child Age (years)||Child Height|
|17 inches||3-4||3′ to 3’4″|
|19 inches||4-5||3’4″ to 3’7″|
|21 inches||5-7||3’7″ to 4′|
|23 inches||7-10||4′ to 4’6″|
|25 inches||10-12||4’6″ to 4’11”|
|26 inches||12-13||4’11” to 5’1″|
Always Test the Racquet First
The selection of a junior racquet is generally based on height. However, I always like to test how well the child can swing the racquet from low to high (some kiddos are stronger than others).
The Importance of Testing Out Racquets
For the proper development of a child’s tennis, the correct racquet size is critical. This is because pairing a child with the wrong racquet for them can cause bad habits to form and hinder the growth of their skills.
- The wrong weight causes late or early swings. If you have a racquet that is too long and too heavy, it’s going to be bulky in the child’s hand and they will probably end up hitting the ball “late” (behind them). Likewise, if the racquet is too short the child will probably swing too fast and mis-hit the ball.
- The wrong head size or length can change the hitting position. As the junior racquets get longer, the head size gets bigger. This will help the child hit the strings, but it also effectively makes the racquet bulkier. If the racquet is too short and the contact point is too far in front (hitting the ball too “early”) then the balls will go onto the court next to you. If the racquet is too long and the contact point is behind or “late” then the balls will also miss the target.
How to Test for Racquet Length
To rest for racquet length, place the handle of the racquet in the child’s dominant hand, have them turn sideways, point the racquet to the ground and then swing the racquet toward an imaginary ball following through until the racquet is over their opposite shoulder. Word of warning – step away from the swinger before they start swinging.
Select the longest length that the child can swing comfortably. Be sure that the racquet does not hit the ground when the child lets it hang down.
How often should children get new racquets?
Since children’s height does not remain constant and they are constantly growing then it makes sense that the length of their racquet should change as they get taller. But many parents wonder when it’s the right time to buy a new racquet for their child. The racquet size chart shown above is a guide. But let’s take a look at two of my students:
The girl on the left is age 14, 58” tall, and a Freshman in High School. The boy on the right is age 7 and 55” tall. There is a difference of 7 years in their ages, but only a difference of 3” in their height. The girl uses a 27” adult racquet because she is stronger and a more advanced player and the boy uses a 23” racquet. So clearly the size chart above is only a starting point. I suggest contacting a local tennis pro to help determine the correct size racquet for your child.
What are the different constructions of the children’s racquet today?
The racquets being made today are, you guessed it, not made from wood. The basic two types of junior racquets are made from aluminum and graphite. The 17-inch to 23-inch racquets are usually only made of aluminum.
Once you get into a 25-inch racquet, then you have a choice of either aluminum or graphite. The 26-inch racquets are made of graphite or possibly some other similar alloys. Graphite racquets play much better than aluminum racquets but also cost much more. Aluminum racquets, however, are virtually indestructible. A graphite racquet is much more delicate and can crack or break.
Which racquet brand is best?
When considering children’s racquets, the construction from one brand to another is basically the same. Pretty much all of these racquets are made of aluminum construction which is very durable. This is helpful for the little ones who tend to bang their racquets up a lot. The playability of these racquets is nowhere close to a more expensive graphite racquet however. If you stick with the major manufacturers such as Head, Babolat, and Wilson you can’t go wrong.
Some Final Thoughts on Choosing the Best Tennis Racquet for Kids
Selecting the best tennis racquet for a child can be difficult, but it’s important to do so to help them play better and avoid forming bad habits. There are many different types of junior racquets on the market, so it is important to find the one that is best suited for your child. Whether you decide to go with an aluminum or graphite racquet, make sure to test how well they can swing it before making your purchase.