Handling Your Players
Often overlooked by players, the grip and handle are crucial to a racquet’s performance. Educate your customers on how important this area is to their game.
The handle of a racquet is the only contact the player has with the racquet during play, yet it is often the most overlooked. Most players seem content to play with a grip or overgrip until it literally disintegrates. Most are totally surprised when they compare their worn-out grip to a fresh one.
As racquet technicians, we notice a severely worn grip when a racquet comes in for stringing and recommend a replacement for the customer. Often it ends there, but it shouldn’t. The grip and handle are crucial to the performance of the racquet, and both players and technicians should understand this.
Grips, like strings, should be treated as an integral part of the racquet that must be tuned to players’ specific needs in order to provide optimum performance every time he or she steps out on the court. I encourage technicians to add the grip and handle to their discussion with their customers to determine how that customer can best be served. Just like the strings, most players are using a grip just because it came on their racquet. That may be just fine, but they should at least try others to see if there is something that may work better for them.
Grips are available in such a wide variety and what works for one player may feel terrible to the next guy. You should stock an assortment of grips and have a display available for customers to grab and feel. Some will like a cushy, soft grip, while others will gravitate to the firmer feel of leather. Some will prefer grooves while others will go for ridges. Unless you offer a variety, you may not only miss a sale, you may lose a client. That perfect string job won’t feel so perfect when the client is having trouble holding onto the racquet.
But don’t stop with the grip. The handle underneath the grip is just as important. Although almost all racquets come with an octagon-shaped handle, each manufacturer has a slightly different shape. Some even have a couple of different shapes within their own lines. Although all 4-3/8-inch grips should have a circumference of 4-3/8 inches, they certainly don’t feel the same. The difference in the bevels and angles of the octagon shape will change the feel in a player’s hand. Some players are more sensitive to this than others. The differences are very subtle, and subtle alterations may make the difference for most players.
Think about simple customizations that can make a difference. Do you have a client who prefers a more rounded feel on their racquet that has a more rectangular profile? Try the simple build-up shown in “Rounding Out a Handle” on page 36.
Do you have a customer who complains about the racquet flying out of their hand on serves? Try offering a tacky grip with grooves or ridges to help them hold on better. If that is not enough to do the trick, offer a handle customization shown in “Flaring the Butt Cap” on page 37. By customizing the handle to make the butt cap more steeply flared, the racquet won’t slide out of their hand so easily.
These are two examples of simple customizations that any technician should be able to do. If you can build up a handle with heat sleeves, then you can do this. There are other handle customizations that can be done using heat sleeves. Just think outside the box! A bump here, a groove there — no problem!
Giving your customers full service not only shows you have their enjoyment of the game in mind, but it also sets you apart from your competition and adds to your bottom line.
Rounding Out a Handle
- Start with a clean handle.
- Apply double-face tape along the face bevel on each side.
- Apply the heat shrink sleeve as normal.
- Trim to length as with a normal build-up.
- Trim away the material along the length of the handle, leaving the face bevel material over the tape.
- Wrap the grip.
Flaring the Butt Cap
- Start with a clean handle. Cut build-up sleeves to length. The quantity and length depends on your application. You will want them longer than desired, then trim to fit.
- Heat shrink the small sleeves over the butt cap and allow each one to cool completely before applying the next one. Wait until all are in place before trimming.
- Trim the sleeves at the top of the butt cap, or lower if you want a more pronounced effect.
- Trim flush with the end of the butt cap.
- Shrink a 1/16” size sleeve over the others and allow to cool.
- Trim just above the top edge of the butt cap. A piece of finishing tape makes a good guide to ensure a smooth, straight cut. This sleeve needs to be longer than the others to lock the entire process in place.
- Trim flush with butt cap.
- Install the grip, making sure to keep the grip taught as you wrap around the butt cap and transition to the handle to ensure there are no wrinkles.
See all articles by Bob Patterson
About the Author
Bob Patterson , the founder of the RacquetMAXX customization service, is a Master Racquet Technician with more than 20 years of experience. He was RSI's Stringer of the Year in 2005. He is Executive Director for the U.S. Racquet Stringers Association.
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