When our newer Club players ask the proverbial question, "I am ready to buy a paddle. What should I order?".....I respond by saying it is a matter of personal preference. Usually, they have tried our loaner paddles (we have a bag of 12 different paddles), or, they have used one of the Club member's paddles. Honestly, I think all the right things are said, but maybe not remembered. I also advise calling a supplier and giving them information on the type of player they are, what results they are expecting, and what paddles they have used that seem to work.
However, it is always good to put the above mentioned advice in writing.....
1. Weight is important. An ounce or two can make a difference. Heavier paddles tend to do a little more work (mass helps with deflection, power, etc.), but can cost you in reaction time at the net. Lighter paddles require a little more oomph on the part of the paddler, but help with reaction time at the net. Players who play both singles and doubles may use two different paddles---heavier for singles, a little lighter for doubles.
2. Grip is important. The grip should fit your hand. You can easily replace grips. There should be at least a width of one finger between the tips of your fingers and the fatty part of your palm at the base of your thumb. A more cushioned grip helps defray paddle vibration (good for the elbow) and allows for more control of the ball.
3. The composition of the paddle is always a concern, and, for many, is very confusing. Here is a little bit of good advice....aluminum core/graphite face helps with control and touch, but you lose a bit of power. Composite paddles with a little more weight help with power and pop. You can go on the usapa.org website to read about paddles that are legal and what the deflection rating is for particular paddles. Higher deflection = less effort, but you will likely sacrifice a little control in the soft game. Lower deflection means more effort and swing speed, but a better soft game (at least in theory). It is still always best to speak to a paddle supplier and ask their advice. They should know.
"How did the ball come off your paddle today?" Hopefully with good touch and placement.
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