The two most important components for kids learning to play tennis are fun and safety. The last decade has seen a huge influx of children players, and accordingly junior racket technology.
A junior player should play with the longest racket that they can easily and safely handle. However in order to reduce the chance of injury, special attention should be paid to the size and muscle mass of children playing tennis.
Junior rackets range from 15” to 26”, with anything larger considered an adult racket. While kids are younger, it’s best to buy them inexpensive rackets, as they will probably mistreat them, and grow out of them quickly. Most racket manufacturers understand this and make affordable junior models.
1-4 year olds should be using the shortest and lightest racket possible. They probably won’t be on the court yet, but Le petit tennis and their 15” and 17” versions of their kids’ racket make it possible for youngsters to start practicing their hand eye coordination. Priced less than $20, this is an affordable way to get your child into the game. At this age, it’s best for them to use inflatable balls, in order to minimize the shock their wrists and arms absorb.
At ages 5-6, children may benefit from a slightly larger, 19” racket. However fun is still the primary goal of these players. They should have a racket that they feel comfortable with, and one that inspires them to keep playing. There are many bright colored or cartoon character themed rackets available. If they idolize a certain player, they might want to use the same brand as them. Foam balls are also a safe alternative to the full pressure balls the pros use.
At age 7-9, children begin to start developing their skills on the court, and often will want to compete. They might insist on using a full-size racket. However, it is important that they stick with a junior size if they are not physically developed enough to comfortably and safely handle an adult racket. A 23” racket is usually the best choice for kids this age.
With 10-11 year olds, you are reaching the point where they may be able to handle an adult racket, if they are larger than normal. However, if they are an average size or smaller than their age mates, a 25” or 26” racket is probably best.
At age 12, kids have usually reached the point of physical maturity to begin using a full-sized 27” adult racket. If they have stuck with the game for this long, and proved that they can take care of their equipment, now might be the time to invest in a slightly more durable racket made of graphite.
Children vary in shapes and sizes so much that it is impossible to create industry standards. These are intended to be a guide. A child’s racket should hang right above the ground, and never be too heavy for them to swing comfortably. If your child is taking lessons, or there is a coach around while they are playing, be sure to get their opinion on your child’s racket.