One of the major reasons why people love tennis is that it is playable at nearly any age. Go to a local tennis club, and chances are there will be a group of older men or women playing and competing at their own level. The same goes for the other side of the age spectrum, as children who can barely walk are hitting groundstrokes and enjoying life on the court.
Tennis can certainly get expensive, but all it takes is a few balls and a racquet for a child to develop an interest in the sport. Of course, getting the right racquet can make a big difference and whether or not they really enjoy the sport. If they completely overwhelmed them, they likely won’t enjoy themselves.
Below is a look at how to shop for a racquet for a child. There are a lot of junior racquets available to help introduce the sport to a new player. Many benefit from this setup, as it allows for an easier entry into a pretty challenging sport.
A Racquet For All Ages
Once a player hits double digits in age, they should really be playing with a racquet that is the same size as those found on tour. A player is usually strong enough that they will be able to utilize a racquet like this, and the speed of the game has picked up considerably.
Maybe some people who are just starting out and are considered late bloomers should go with a smaller, easier to control option at first, but those who have been playing for a while should make the switch before age 10.
What if a child is well under the age of 10? Some kids are naturally gifted as athletes, and they will be able to control a full-length racquet without much trouble before others in their age group. Players who are really young benefit most from a racquet that fits their age group.
Here is a rough sizing chart for people to keep in mind when they are shopping for tennis racquets for kids. These numbers are not set in stone, and a lot of it comes down to the level a player plays at. Some people might get a different number depending on the two charts. When that is the case, demo both if possible before making a decision.
- 3-5 years old – 19″ racquet
- 6-8 years old – 21″-23″ racquet
- 9-10 years old – 25″-26″ racquet
- 11 years old and up – 27″-29″ racquet
- 3’8″ tall and under – 19″ racquet
- 3’9″-4’2″ tall – 21″-23″ racquet
- 4’3″-4’8″ tall – 25″-26″ racquet
- 4’9″ tall and up – 27″-29″ racquet
Length Of A Tennis Racquet
Measuring the length of a tennis racquet is a pretty simple process. Measuring a racquet is done by going from the edge of the frame at the top of the head to the bottom of the handle. The standard adult length is 27 inches, but some players on tour play with 28 or 29-inch racquets at times. Shorter players, in particular, will go with a longer racquet to add some extension.
About the smallest tennis racquet, a person will find that is useable with tennis balls or 10 and under balls is 19 inches. These usually have exaggerated head sizes as well, making it very easy to make contact with the ball and have fun. The handle is extremely short, which is designed to help a child feel like they are in control of the racquet, not the other way around.
Since the length of a child’s arms can vary quite a bit regardless of their height, make sure to find a racquet that fits pretty comfortably next to them if they use it as a cane. One way to measure is to put a racquet up against the leg, seeing where everything stands. If the racquet comes up to the mid-thigh and the player can put their racquet down on the ground without bending over, it is a proper size for them.
The racquet should not be coming up to their waist, and they shouldn’t have to completely bend their arm just to give themselves space when having the racquet standing up straight.
Figuring Out The Size Of The Grip
Grip size is extremely important in tennis because a player needs to be able to properly hold onto the racquet when taking swings. If the grip is entirely too big or too small, it can negatively affect the way a child plays. They can even possibly do damage and hurt a young player as they are trying to learn the game.
Junior racquets usually come in the same standard size of 4 inches. Even smaller hands are able to grip this to a certain degree. If the child has larger hands than the average kid in their age group, build up the grip with an overgrip to make it slightly bigger. This is a trick people use all of the time as well if a racquet is ever not properly sized for a certain player.
There are ways to measure grip size as children ages, but the best test early on is to just give them the racquet and ask them how it feels. If a little bulk needs to be added, go ahead and do exactly that.
Figuring Out Head Size of a Child Racquet
Younger players tend to use a racquet that is very forgiving. That means a large sweet spot with an oversized head in a lot of cases. It offers a good amount of flexibility. Look for something that is going to encourage play instead of ruining a child’s confidence. They should feel very confident when they have a racquet in their hand, especially at an early age.
As player ages, they can start to gravitate more and more towards a true player racquet. Most players on tour these days use a racquet that is more or less around 100 square inches. Developing the ability to hit that sweet spot consistently takes time, but players develop that skill after a lot of practice.
Different Balls For Smaller Racquet
There are other modifications to the game of tennis for anyone who is trying to enjoy the game with the younger player.
This could mean a smaller court, a different net, and even a different ball. For players under the age of 10, there is a softer ball that is easier to control and slows the game down a bit for proper preparation. Playing tennis with real equipment at an early age can really be frustrating, so it encourages success so that kids stick with the sport.
Every racquet designed for children will be able to handle both regular tennis balls and 10 and under balls. Unlike advanced players, there is no need to constantly make string tension adjustments or even look at anything more than standard string.
Those just starting out should use the 10 and under tennis balls if possible. This is again a case of trying to make sure that a player is not overwhelmed early on. A tennis ball moves pretty quickly for a beginner, and it is very difficult to control. The 10 and under the ball is much easier to direct, and the ball doesn’t have a huge bounce to it that is overwhelming.
A lot of tennis complexes have been set up specifically for younger tennis players if they want it. There’s also the opportunity to make junior tennis courts temporarily. It might not always be ideal, and the lines might not be perfect, but it is usually just for practice anyway.
The focus is less on having pinpoint accuracy with shots, and more on just getting the proper stroke technique down and accurate introduction to the game.
Why Using a Properly Sized Racquet Is Important
Adults take for granted just how easy it is to swing a normal-sized racquet. There are so many different options to choose from, and a player can get a very lightweight option to play with every single day and not feel any pain whatsoever.
Younger players don’t have that same luxury, simply because of the size of the racquet. It doesn’t have as much to do with the weight, as most tennis racquets are very lightweight. Having a huge racquet just gets in the way overall.
A properly sized racquet is very helpful in developing proper hand-eye coordination. Since the handle is much shorter, younger players are able to see the ball and connect with it without necessarily having proper form and technique.
When it is time to graduate to a bigger racquet, it should be done sooner rather than later. There is because a smaller racquet is just too limiting to a lot of players. Not having the ability to hit strokes that are a little more advanced can be extremely frustrating. No one wants to be in a predicament where they are unable to do that.
Shorter racquets also have less power, so it is easier to get discouraged because the ball isn’t going anywhere. If a junior player is showing their ability to use a heavier racquet, go ahead and let them do it. Even if it is just practicing serving with a larger racquet, it will benefit the player in the future.
The Best Junior Racquets on The Market
Since so many players start tennis at a young age, there are quite a few different options to choose from. Every single major tennis brand has the perfect solution for children needing a racquet from 19 inches to 26 inches.
Professional players influence children quite a bit, so it should come as no surprise that a lot of junior racquets are painted in the same way as adult options. A child might be playing with a smaller, differently shaped Babolat Pure Aero, but it still looks close enough. They can play like a mini-Rafael Nadal.
Not sure what racquet to go with? Take a look at a few great options from trusted brands in the industry. They all offer a unique take on a racquet that looks like a pro but is built for a specific size and skill set.
We will go through all the ages between 3 to 10. Starting with 3 to 5 years olds.
For my up-to-date junior tennis racquet recommendations, check out this post.
Age 3 To 5
Babolat Junior Racquet 19 Inches
Rafael Nadal has been a very popular player on tour since he first started winning grand slams. Even though he is getting up there in age, he is still extremely popular. A lot of young players try to emulate him, and what better way than to start them off with a racquet painted the same way?
This junior racquet is a very affordable option for young players looking to get their first real taste of tennis. It is a racquet that weighs just 6.1 ounces, and the head size is 82 square inches. Small children will be able to easily maneuver the racquet around so that they are hitting shots using proper form. It is never too early to teach about form, and it can pay off in a big way down the road.
Kids aren’t going to be able to do too much as far as hitting quality shots are concerned at this stage, but it is more about encouraging movement and building enjoyment with the game. Focus on having fun and making progress little by little. Before long, a player will grow out of the size of this racquet.
Age 6 To 8
Head Speed 21 Junior racquet
Not that many companies bother with a 19-inch racquet, but the competition becomes a bit stiffer at 21 inches. This is recommended for players who are roughly 6 to 8 years old, and it starts to look a little more like an actual racquet.
Made entirely of aluminum, the Head Speed 21 Junior racquet is affordable, comfortable for younger players to swing, and very durable. As long a person takes care of it, the racquet should last for a player until they are old enough to use a bigger racquet. For a very low investment, it’s worth looking into.
This is the age where there are a lot of different-sized children, so maybe a 23-inch racquet is better. Head also offers an identical version that is 2 inches longer, and it plays the same way. Make sure to take proper measurements before investing.
If between two different sizes, go with the bigger one. Not only will the child eventually grow into it, but it will provide a challenge for them that isn’t too overwhelming.
Age 9 To 10
Wilson Clash 26″ Junior
This is the age where players start to really play actual tennis and construct points like a true professional. Most players still aren’t ready for a full-sized racquet, but taking an inch or two off makes for a really playable option.
The Wilson Clash came out just this year, and it has made a big splash in the tennis world. It is designed for a competitive player who is starting to understand how to construct points and really compete at the highest level.
What makes this stand out compared to other models for this age group is that it is very easy to maneuver, and is also extremely soft. Players can start to develop arm issues at a very young age if they are putting too much stress on themselves with shots. Don’t let a younger player fall into the trap of trying to do too much.
Wilson uses the same material for this racquet as they do for the adult models. It is all hard to tell the difference between the two racquets from afar, other than using a little more weight and a slightly longer stick. The head size is the same, and it has a very similar balance.
Above all else, parents and coaches should be attempting to make tennis a very accessible and fun sport for a player of any age. If the sport feels more like a chore than anything, they are likely going to burn out from playing it past a certain age.
Tennis certainly is a sport that gets expensive the more a player gets into it, but it doesn’t cost much to provide early exposure. Most players can play with one racquet for a long time without ever needing it restrung. Players at a young age don’t hit hard enough that they need to constantly replace broken string.
What a racquet that fits a younger player, tennis becomes a fun sport to try out. Not everyone is going to have aspirations to be a pro player, but it is a sport that can be played at any age. Starting them young is often one of the most beneficial things to do.
They can learn the proper strokes in the beginning, instead of attempting to correct some bad habits later on in life for one reason or another.