Play Conditions Affect String Choices
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
This column was going to be titled "Stringing for the Environment," but we didnít want badminton players to start using string made from recycled soda bottles in their rackets. The environment in which you play does, however, affect racket string. To get the best performance from your racket, you must consider environmental conditions and have your racket strung accordingly.
Look at the two world regions where badminton is most popular: the Southeast Asia/Pacific region, and Northern Europe. The climates couldnít be more different, and stringing habits reflect the differences.
Play is invariably indoors in Northern Europe, and most of it occurs in the fall, winter, and spring, when the weather is cold and dry. Rackets spend time in cold car trunks, then may be subjected to a rapid temperature change when brought indoors. Even so, many European facilities seem to be inadequately heated and play temperatures are usually cool. For the small amount of play that occurs in the warmer months, most facilities are air conditioned, and this also dries the air.
Cold temperatures and dryness tend to make racket string somewhat brittle, increasing the chances of "catastrophic" breakage, where the string breaks all at once, rather than through gradual wear. European players respond to these conditions by using thick string, with 20-micro or even straight 20-gauge being common choices. Most players also choose to have their rackets strung at lower tensions, often around 15 lb. This further reduces breakage, and improves the power of thick strings.
In contrast, it is generally warm and humid in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Hong Kong, and a great deal of play occurs outdoors. Because warmth and humidity loosens and softens strings, rackets are usually strung at higher tensions, up to 25 lb. And because the risk of catastrophic breakage is low, Asian players have the luxury of choosing very thin, powerful string, with 21 micro and even 22-gauge being the norms.
Many players think that plastic shuttlecocks feel heavier than natural feather ones, even though they are officially the same weight. The real difference is in flexibility: plastic feathers tend to be stiffer. They absorb less shock than natural feathers, so the affect on the racket strings is that of a harder impact.
Again, these differences are reflected in stringing choices. In Europe, where plastic shuttlecocks are in fairly wide use, heavier string and lower tensions help resist breakage from impact. In Asia, where natural feather shuttlecocks are standard even for casual recreational play, thinner strings and tighter tensions are more acceptable.
Now letís bring the lessons home. Conditions in the U.S. are all across the board: sometimes itís hot and humid, sometimes it cold and dry. A mix of plastic and natural feather shuttlecocks are in use. How should you string your racket?
Use overseas practice as your guide. If conditions are like Asia-hot and humid-string tight and thin. If itís cold and dry, like Northern Europe, string loose and thick. If plastic feathers are in use, think Norway: if natural feathers, think Singapore.
||Cold or hot
||Low or high
||Plastic or natural
||Plastic or natural
||Thick or thin
||Low or high
This article previously appeared in USA Badminton.