And a great squash player can play great squash with many different rackets. A painter creates beautiful paintings not because of which brush they use, and a great photographer takes amazing photographs without expensive cameras. The funniest example of this concept is asking a writer “I love your writing, which pen do you use?“.
All of the above examples are different from a sports person using a particular piece of equipment, but there are some similarities. The general idea that “better equipment will make you a better performer” is prevalent in almost all endeavours. I think we all agree that giving a new driver a Ferrari would be a bad idea. Putting aside the fact that it is too powerful, the new driver would not really know how to get the most out of the car, and it’s the same with sports equipment.
Skill is more important than equipment
I see too many questions on the internet along the lines of “I have been playing squash for 6 weeks and wonder whether is should get racket A with String B at X tension or Racket D with string E at X tension. Oh, by the way I am tall if that makes any difference“. In fact, I saw one yesterday that said “I’m a beginner and my racket says I should string it between 19 and 24lbs. Which tension do you recommend?“.
Having the “right” racket *is* important, but when you first start playing the details are not important.
I’m Guilty Of It Too!
I spend way more time looking at camera reviews and specifications on the internet than I do about HOW to use cameras and get the best footage. I dream about owning a Sony A7SIII (my birthday is in October, if anybody would like to make my dream come true!). The reality is that even if I had one, my lack of experience would mean it would be wasted in my hands. I am better off buying something more automated and learning more about angles, ISO, focal lengths and general frame composition – but that’s hard work! So, I take the easy option of thinking better equipment will make me a better videographer - spoiler alert - it won't!
Hard Work Before Equipment
And this is the crux of the issue. Spending time reading, watching and talking about brands, models, frames, weights, balance, strings and tensions is fun and easy. Much easier than getting on court and learning to swing correctly, or getting up early and doing a spin bike session. Any gains we get from buying a new racket is often short-lived anyway. We quickly become accustomed to what the new racket has to offer and crave the next change.
Suitability Before Better
I have said this a lot, and I will keep saying it. There is no “best” racket. If you take two players with exactly the same experience and skill level, the same age and fitness level, the same style and body type. What one player loves, the other could hate. The “right” racket is mostly about personal preference, not specifications.
Try Every Single Racket You Can
Ideally, every time you play against somebody, you should ask to hit with it for a few minutes. You don’t have to be an advanced player to know what feels good and what feels bad. The only way to learn more about what rackets suit you, is to play with many different types. Be aware though that you are not just testing the racket frame, but also the string type and tension. The same frame with different strings at a different tension will feel COMPLETELY different.
Let’s Normalise Testing Each Other’s Rackets
I know there is a hygiene issue with holding somebody else’s grip, and not everybody likes sharing, but as a general rule I believe we should normalise letting somebody test our rackets. Quick anecdote. When I played a couple of local tournament in The Basque Country, most players would leave their rackets on the court between games. The moment they came off court, at least one person would rush onto the court pick up one of the rackets and start hitting the ball. Often right until the two players return to start the next game and actually handing the racket back to the player! I had never seen this before and at first was surprised, but it seemed to be normal and everybody was fine with it.
By all means, have fun reading and talking about different rackets, but remember that the racket is just a tool and like all tools, it’s only as useful as the person using it. Spend more time getting better than thinking about new equipment.
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