Over at Grand Slam Stringers there is a discussion thread (Vanilla hybrids for juniors) that has rendered me a bit bewildered. I choose not to post there because I am obviously going to recommend strings we carry. My fear is my post may be perceived as one with ulterior motives when in reality it is in the best interest of arm health. Our blog readers will recognize we are a stringing company that is 100% committed to arm health. In the case of juniors we are especially passionate about the issue. Simply put, “young and developing arms should NEVER be exposed to the harsh string products.”
With all due respect to those who have shared their favorite hybrids in that post, I am left scratching my head. The reason is because several of the posters list poly-based strings that are certainly not at the top of the arm-friendly poly list and may even be perceived as harsh. A little bit of explanation is needed.
Poly strings have been around for a lot longer than most realize. They are referred to as polys because they are comprised of polyester which is durable, stiff and loses playing properties (and more importantly, ability to absorb shock) rapidly. The early polyesters were made of a very high % of polyester and were widely perceived as awful, though they were inexpensive and durable.
More recently manufacturers have blended polyester with other chemicals and additives to create poly-based strings that play more softly, absorb shock better and hold playing properties longer. Many of the newer poly-based strings, including all those that we represent from WeissCANNON and Mauve Sports, have much lower percentages of polyester as the base and thus offer the advantages of polyester (durability and spin) with the added benefits of comfort and ability to hold playing properties for a reasonable period of time. In short those with a high percentage of polyester are generally less expensive than the newer generation poly-based strings, but they are not in same league in terms of arm health and performance.
Perhaps because I am a dealer, my perspective is different. Yet, when local customers come to me because little Jimmy or Sally has tennis elbow, in many instances I find them using a combination of unhealthy racquets with strings that are definitely less than ideal. Many of the older and less expensive polys are found in the mains as a hybrid or as a full setup. I chalk this up as products of stringers who have been asked by parents for something that is DURABLE and INEXPENSIVE. I doubt they consider the health implications as they are giving the customer what they ask for, but perhaps are not aware of the spectrum of poly-based string products. Yes, I cost more than the high school kid with a machine in the basement and the tennis coach who is not a stringing nerd, but I believe the expertise and string selection I offer is more than worth the cost.
Let’s focus on cost. Labor aside, the cost of the older strings (with the exception of anything from Luxilon) tends to be extremely appealing. The issue is these strings are comprised of a high percentage of polyester and these products are stiff and lose playing properties rapidly. By contrast, the newer poly-based strings are not much more expensive, (they fall in at different price points) are comprised of less polyester and offer superior playability and better shock absorption. (Shock is the enemy of tennis elbow!) I completely get it that parents want the lowest prices. However, I do not believe it is in their best interest to use the lowest priced polys. The newer generation polys are superior and healthier.
Please note that I generally do not recommend poly-based strings for juniors. However, the game is changing and with the heavy use of western grip players seeking spin are demanding poly-based string for both performance and durability. We almost always attempt to hybrid (soft solid core offering for crosses) with one of our poly-based strings in these instances. While parents are anxious to get the lowest cost, when health benefits of changing strings at regular intervals and using a more advanced poly-based string are explained, they come on board rather easily. We also try to take some of the sting away by offering all junior players a special that we call “Junior Player Development Special.” This is a discount of at least $3.50 off each racquet stringing. We do this to encourage frequent changes and allow parents to be able to afford strings with a slightly higher (not significant, BTW) price than the older technology offerings. The purpose of this discount is purely because of our interest in arm health for juniors. We have offered it since we started our business over 6 years ago.
If you are local and are seeking a healthy string for yourself or children, we welcome you to give us a try. If you are a stringer outside of our area and want to talk about our poly-based string products and how they compare to other products on the market, please feel free to give us a call or post a comment in this blog entry.