by Coach Joe Palmere Jr. 4/9/2020
I frequently conduct paddle selection clinics at retail racquet sport stores, such as HOLABIRD SPORTS on 9220 Pulaski Highway. The owner, David Hirschfeld and Son, Brian, have an indoor racquet sport demo court for customers to try out pickleball paddles, tennis and racquet ball racquets, while trying on a new pair of shoes, .
The store provides a variety of demo pickleball paddles for customers to try. I purposely add a few “colorful graphic, slick surface dud” in the mix, along with the paddles that I know to perform well for new or nearly new players.
After an explanation on paddle nomenclature, construction, comfort, fit, and performance, the customers can hit some practice shots with a variety different paddles, to see which ones feel most comfortable, and perform most consistently in their hands.
Inadvertently some customers will choose the paddle that is most decoratively eye appealing to them, even after it performs poorly in their hands. In good conscience, I try to steer them towards a paddle that I know will help their game. But some still choose to buy the pretty paddle.
Some of the brand name textured surface paddles with graphics, for which I have written “independent product performance reviews,” have produced inconsistent ball control, spin and ball placement. This I believe, was due to the graphics on the paddle The method used to apply or impregnated the graphics on the paddle surface. And if these graphics created any dead spots on the surface.
Again, I claim no expertise, certification or creditability for testing paddle performance. I based my findings on my personal use and testing of the paddle in my hands. I can play right and left hand, and I have better than average ball placement skills. I use the same brand of indoor and outdoor balls for each test. I also conduct the test on the same indoor and outdoor court surfaces.
The balls are fed to me by my Simon 2 Pickleball Throwing Machine. I follow the same pickleball shot sequences, hitting the same number of balls for each test. As I go, I record my findings on my findings on my “Paddle Test Performance Sheet.” which contains same performance criteria for each paddle.
When I encounter a poor performing textured paddle with graphics, further testing is conducted. A close visual inspection, followed by a touchy-feely inspection of the paddle, helps to determine if the graphics are impregnated into the surface material and follow the ridges and valleys of the textured surface, or if the graphics create smooth spots over the textured surface. I run my finger nail over the surface to feel the textured ridges and valleys covered by the graphic or if they are smooth.
I then lightly spray clean water over the entire paddle surface. I wipe off the excess water with the palm of my hand. This allows me to see if any water collects in the texture valleys, or gets completely wiped over top of the graphics. Standing water shows the graphic is not interfering with the texturing. When the surface is wiped dry, it shows that the graphic is filling the texturing rendering it almost useless.
If I find a correlation between poor performance and graphic overlay, I record my findings, and refernece these findings in a independent paddle review to place on my blog. Again my findings are subjective and not necessarily scientifically valid. But they are cause for some serious consideration.
I would like to see manufactures of textured surface paddles, conduct and publish testing on the effects of graphics on a textured paddle. And to determine if their method of applying graphics to a textured paddle surface interferes with the performance of that paddle. If so then change the graphic process or eliminate it entirely from the playing area of the paddle surface. And still comply with USAPA standards.
I also believe that many serious pickleball player such as myself, would be happier if the paddle makers would offer their textured surface paddles, with a “graphics free” option, except for that which is required by the USAPA.
The USAPA could be more relaxed with their restrictions on texturing paddle surfaces. I for one would like to see the USAPA redifine its restrictions on texturing of paddle surface to be more beneficial for many players, including myself. If players can improve their game with better textured paddles than not help them do so.
The current texturing restrictions infringe upon many players’ ability’s improve their ball control skills and adding a variety of spin to the ball, to help level the playing field with the more biomechanically fit and skilled players coming from a tennis background. Many new pickleball players are experiencing racquet style sports for the first time in their lives. Or they have mobility issues or physical impairments that limit their range of motion, speed and agility, that could be helped by using a paddle with more texture than that which is currently allowed.
The current texturing restrictions are archaic and somewhat discriminating against players who’s game would benefit by paddles with more surface texturing because of their lack of physical ability due to mobility issues, injuries’ or age. It’s not as if only certain players would be able to purchase better textured paddle. Any player would have this option.
What is it about Texture on a paddle surface that makes it such a bad thing ? Just maybe a less restive texturing rule, would encourage more players to participate in organized play, compete in tournaments, and enjoy the game even more. Isn’t this what Pickleball is all about ?
Another concern that I have are the heavy all wood paddles often provided for instructing beginners how to play pickleball. To date, I have logged several hundred hours of volunteer instruction of 212 new players. I have also logged many hours coaching small groups of improving players,
I am not a fan of instructing or coaching players who use all wood heavy starter paddles, especially beginners. The add 3 or 4 ounces of weight at a time when someone is just learning the basic strokes of the game and how to swing the paddle.
They offer no ball control, and place far too much power in the hands of a new players. Their grip circumference is excessive, causing the user to grap hold of the paddle handle tightly to keep it from flying out into space. This excessive gripping cause a lot of unnecessary unforced errors.
Plus the heavy weight of these paddles wear quickly tire new players trying to learn the game. Aside from making the learning process harder, the all wood paddle make the instruction process more time consuming.
The additional weight of the all wood paddles also causes injuries to the wrist, elbow and shoulder joints, especially in older players. A new player will learn faster having their own composite that is lighter and more comfortable to handle.
I now recommend that new players come to class with their own compositie paddles and three pickleballs. Then they will have the equipment needed to learn faster and better how to play the game, and provide them the opportunity practice at home what they learned in class.
When we resume playing pickleball, remember to sanitize your paddle handles before and after each game, and especially if someone accidentally grabs your paddle.