The Training Block

Columnist Chris Chaffee lives in Fryeburg, Maine, and is a teaching tennis professional around the Mount Washington Valley. He is also a JV tennis coach at Kennett High. (FILE PHOTO)

By Chris Chaffee

The Weekly Motivational Quote: "Tennis has given me soul" — Martina Navratilova

The Weekly Tennis Tip: Tennis equipment. Choosing a tennis racket and the right string is a key order to playing good tennis. With the right tools, you can get the most of your ability and enhance your game. The will to prepare is so important when playing tennis.

Let's start with selecting the right tennis racket. Tennis rackets and strings in the modern game have made it easier to hit the ball making it more forgiving. However, it has made the game much faster. When selecting a racket there are different things to consider. One of these things is the head size. A smaller head size allows for more control and a larger head size provides more power.

If you are a beginner or low intermediate you want to have a larger head size. While an advanced player would require a smaller head size.

The weight of the racket plays a factor, too. Weight can play a part in power and control. A heavier tennis racket gives you a little more pop. This means a lighter racket can be easier and more flexible which gives a player more control. If you are mainly a doubles player then a lighter racket may help with your volleys. If you like singles or want to hit the ball through the court, go for a heavier frame.

When choosing a tennis racket for a kid we have to look at the age of the junior. Rackets that measure between 19 and 23 inches tend to be best for players age 8-and-under. Rackets that are 23 and 25 inches are better for players at the 9- and 10-year-old age. The 26-inch rackets are good for players adjusting to the 78-foot court.

Now that we got that covered let's move onto one of the most common questions when selecting a racket, What is my grip size? The grip size has a major impact on your performance. A proper grip will help improve your control. To select the right grip hold the tennis racket as a forehand. There should be about a finger to a pencil’s width between your fingers and your palm. A smaller grip provides more whip, while a bigger grip provides more control. The most common grip is 4 3/8.

A grip that is too small can hurt your wrist or cause tennis elbow. A grip that's too large inhibits wrist snap on serves, makes changing grips more difficult and also requires more muscle strength.

Last but not least tennis string. It is often said that the strings on a racket are its heart and the soul. Here are the different types of string. Natural Gut — which is the original and most playable, but doesn't last very long. Synthetic Gut or Nylon is a good all-round performance. Multifilament strings are known for gut-like characteristics. Polyesters and kevlar are the most popular in today's game, but can be hard on the arm if strung too tight and are low in power and feel.

There is always a compromise between playability and durability, with natural gut and multifilament strings being the most playable and poly strings being the most durable. For playability (natural gut and multifilaments) for durability (poly and kevlar strings). Keep in mind there is also string gauge to think about, too.

The thinner string gauge improves playability where the thicker string gauge offers enhanced durability. Thinner strings also provide more spin potential by allowing the strings to embed into the ball more. The thinner the gauge, the more powerful the string, with lots of spin potential. But the string will be less durable, but you could allow for that by going for a really thin, durable string. The higher the string tension, you get more control (less power). The lower the tension, you get more power (less control). The higher the tension, also the more impact on your arm.

Good luck when choosing the right racket with the right string, which can be tough. Everyone is different, but when you do find the right equipment that suits you, then you can be ready to play to the best of your ability. You might have to experiment a little bit. Hopefully, this column has made you more confident about selecting your tennis equipment.

The Training Block: Volleyball and pickleball. Let's start with volleyball first. Volleyball is a great cross-training sport to help your tennis game. It is a fun social workout. The benefits of volleyball are that you are working on your hand-eye coordination and reaction time with different various movements, just like in tennis!

Volleyball players have to be on their toes and must have a strong base when moving into position to get the ball. Using your dominant arm in volleyball to perform the serve and certain attacks can build strength in your tennis playing arm. It also will help give you a stronger arm for your tennis serve and increase strength in your back.

The second cross-training sport is another racket sport called pickleball. Pickleball has grown in popularity because it is fun, easy to learn and a good workout. It also happens to be another sport that can focus on developing your tennis game. Some potential benefits include working on those tough mid-court shots and your net game (volleys and half volleys) which require quick cat-like reflexes.

Next week we focus on the benefits of the game of tennis and why it is the sport of a lifetime. Stay healthy, stay safe and go out there and play the wonderful game of tennis. Don't forget to practice the safety guidelines posted by the USTA during these hard times.

Chris Chaffee lives in Fryeburg, Maine, and is a teaching tennis professional around the Mount Washington Valley. He is also a JV tennis coach at Kennett High.

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