Racquet Network is one of Canada’s oldest pickleball retailers. As one of the country’s original pickleball dealers, we have been selling pickleball equipment on racquetnetwork.com and okpickleball.com for longer than most Canadians have been playing it.
Some of the staff on our coaching team have been certified by Pickleball Canada since they first started certifying instructors back in 2010. In the years since then, our team of instructors has taught hundreds of hours of pickleball lessons on top of thousands of hours of tennis and squash lessons.
The vast majority of people who take lessons from our instructors are beginners. In the years since we first started teaching racquet sports (2004), our team has taught more than 10,000 beginners how to play tennis, squash and pickleball. So it is safe to say that when it comes to beginners, we know our stuff.
As a group, our coaching team can confidently assure you that beginners in all racquet sports have a number of things in common. First, they have slower swings than intermediates or experts. They hit balls off center more often. They are slower to react, they tend to hang back rather than move forward and they generally grip their racquets too firmly.
Indeed, regardless of the sport, coaches in all racquet sports can watch new players move progressively through small stages from beginner to intermediate to advanced. Some players progress quickly; some slowly. But as they progress, their coach will see certain things happen. Their swing speed, foot speed and reaction speed will all accelerate. Their ability to receive the ball and middle it on their racquet/paddles will increase. Their grips will relax and they will recognize opportunities to move forward and attack.
This is true of all three sports — tennis, squash and pickleball — and any coach who teaches all three will tell you the same thing. There are fundamental differences that separate beginners from intermediates from advanced players. When you understand these differences you will understand why beginners struggle with equipment made for intermediates and experts.
Consider this one concrete example: racquet/paddle weight. In all three sports, beginners benefit from heavier racquets and paddles in a number of ways. First, beginners rarely hit the ball in exact center of their paddle or racquet. Intermediates, by contrast, do it much more often while advanced players do it consistently.
Hitting off center reduces both power and accuracy. So to help offset these common beginner level errors, a good coach will recommend a heavier racquet or paddle. Eventually, these beginners will learn to middle the ball more consistently and will not need a heavier racquet/paddle to cover up their mishits, but in the meantime, they will enjoy more success.
Hitting off center is not the only common beginner issue addressed by heavier racquets/paddles though. As mentioned above, beginners have slower swing speeds. They also hesitate to move forward, primarily because they lack experience and therefore the ability to anticipate what is about to happen. This combination often means that beginners are forced to hit the ball over longer distances than intermediate or expert players. Once again, heavier — and in the case of pickleball, thicker — equals more power. More power, in this case, helps to overcome some deficiencies in beginner level strokes and movement.
As any credible coach will tell you, there is no question that heavier, thicker paddles are better for beginners than lighter, thinner paddles. The same is true for grip size. Thicker grips are better for beginners than thinner grips.
Thicker grips provide more traction than thinner grips. Traction lock the paddle in place and prevents it from turning in the player’s hand when the ball is hit off center. Traction also allows the player to relax their grip. And finally, thicker grips reduce the occurrence of tennis elbow — the most common injury found in new pickleball players.
So as coaches, there is no doubt about the paddles that we recommend to beginners in our store. Our goal is to put a paddle in their hands that will maximize their enjoyment and minimize their chances of suffering injury. So in all three sports — tennis, squash and pickleball — this means a heavier racquet or paddle than we would recommend to an expert.