RacquetWorld's Newsletter Racquetball Tip of the Month
My racquet doesn't hit like it use to... I got new strings and it still doesn't play like new...I didn't hit anything, why did my racquet break? These, along with twenty-five different varieties of the same question come to me each year or so...time to tackle them.
First, knowing that I do sell racquets for a living, I expect many of you to take all this with a grain of salt. However, in my defense, life is short, my time is precious, and I wouldn't want to play with less than "good" equipment so I assume that many of you wouldn't either.
The majority of racquets today are made of carbon fiber...the same material used in airplane construction. These fibers are turned into sheets of varying degrees of stiffness and weight. Racquet designers then layer these fibers in various patterns to produce a frame. You add some resin, some heat and pressure and out comes a frame...sounds like I'm writing the next episode of "How It's made".
Racquets take an awful lot of stress during their life cycle. They not only need to survive hitting a 150 MPH racquetball but also smacking the wall or floor, colliding with other racquets and the expansion/contraction of several restring jobs. Over time, this results in the slow breakdown of the fibers and resins. How fast is usually determined by the amount of play or in some cases your play style.
For instance string breakers tend to also break more racquets. Mostly as a result of their harder hitting style, but also as a result of the added stress of the restringing process. (just as a side note, when restringing is done using modern equipment by certified stringers this added stress is kept to a minimum) If you've ever been told your racquet can't be restrung due to a crack in the frame, you now know why.
So what is the "recommended" life of a racquetball racquet?
Well, lets get the obvious out of the way first. If your racquet breaks, its life is over at that point. Some breaks are defective racquets so I don't want to count them in our discussion here....our discussion is centered around normal wear and tear and the time it takes for that to occur.
I'm going to use a very common reference point and go from there. All your sponsored players upgrade each year to new frames. They have a couple luxuries; first they are spreading their play among multiple racquets so usually a year of play is not a year of play per frame. However they do tend to play more and harder than your average weekend (or midweek) warriors. I would assign an average breakdown life cycle of these types of players at about 6-9 months. This seems to be in step with the numbers as many elite sponsored players (not pros) receive about 3 racquets per season and have 1 or 2 left by the end of the season.
I would extrapolate downward from there. Your typical 3-4 times a week tournament player will average about 9 months –18 months before noticing their frame is starting to lack response.
Your typical weekend warrior, depending on skill level, can last anywhere from 1.5 – 5 years.
Make no mistake about it though...each hit, each dramatic temperature change (freezing in the car or cooking in there), each wall contact, each partner contact, etc has a minute effect on your frame. It's the cumulative effect of racquetball life that over time wears out all frames.
All you players out there who say "something is a miss but my racquet isn't broken" may finally understand you're not really crazy...something is going on and it may be time to thrill yourself with a new family addition made of carbon fiber.