The String's The Thing - or
Why Ashaway and the AARA Have Entered into a "Partnership" Agreement
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
My great great great grandfather, Captain Lester Crandall, certainly never heard of racquetball back in 1824, but he would have understood perfectly the need for a special kind of string for the sport. Captain Lester had a good handle on technology; he understood marketing; and he knew that best way to succeed in business was to listen to the customer, and give him what he demanded. So I think he would have approved of the new relationship between the AARA and the company he founded 171 years ago, Ashaway Line & Twine, otherwise known as Ashaway Racket Strings.
Ashaway and the AARA recently entered into a sponsorship agreement - a partnership, if you will - that is structured to benefit everyone in the sport. As the Official String of the AARA through 1997, Ashaway Racket Strings has a lot to give, and a lot to gain from the sport. In future months, I'll be writing "Mains & Crosses," a regular column on racquet string and stringing for Racquetball Magazine, providing specific "how-to" and technical information that players can use to improve their game. In this issue, I'd like to introduce readers to the subject, and explain WHY Ashaway and the AARA got together.
As a manufacturer, Ashaway is obviously interested in selling string. As the official sanctioning body for racquetball, the AARA is obviously interested in promoting the sport. Working together, we hope to achieve both ends. By naming us the Official String, the AARA will help Ashaway increase its sales. And since the sponsorship is structured on a commission basis, the more string we sell, the greater our monetary contribution will be to the AARA, thus enabling it to better promote the sport.
We feel this is fair and beneficial to both parties, and offers something to you, the players, as well: every time you buy string, you have an opportunity to help the sport - as long as the string is Ashaway's. And we hope it will be. After all, you are the American Amateur Racquetball Association, and Ashaway is the only American manufacturer of strings for racquetball (in fact, the only American manufacturer of strings for all racquet sports). It just makes sense to help each other.
As the Official String, Ashaway will be attending numerous AARA-sanctioned tournaments, where we'll be giving away free string and occasionally providing free stringing services to players. By the time this appears in print, some readers will have seen us at the Nationals, and, we hope, tried our string. We honestly believe we've got some of the best product on the market and think that once you've tried our "Kill" series of strings (DuraKill(tm), SuperKill(r)II, and PowerKill(tm) Pro) and found the one best suited to your game, you'll stick with us.
There's another reason for Ashaway to attend tournaments and give away string: feedback. Talking with players is the only way we can learn what you're looking for in a racquetball string. When you see us at a tournament, introduce yourself. Ask questions, and tell us what kind of performance you want. What kind of feel? How much durability are you willing to sacrifice for better power, and vice versa? Which strings do you like? Which do you hate? What are your stringing habits? We want to know. For the same reason, we expect to be sponsoring some AARA players in the near future, and maybe some coaches as well: we want to get our strings into your racquets, and we want to hear your recommendations.
Now here's the hitch: Ashaway's deal with the AARA only applies to our racquetball string. If you buy Ashaway tennis string, the AARA receives nothing. The idea is not to try to reduce our obligation - it's to make the point that racquetball string and tennis string are different, and if you're putting tennis string in your racquetball racquet, you're doing yourself a disservice.
String dynamics are quite different between the two sports. Racquet head shapes and sizes are different. String tensions are different. Ball response is different. Racquetball is, first and foremost, a power game, while tennis relies on control and spin shots to a much greater extent. Racquetball players accidentally hit the wall with their racquets - there are no walls to hit in tennis. After too much use, tennis strings lose their resiliency - they often "die" long before they break. Not so in racquetball: strings almost always break before they wear out.
I always find it surprising that racquetball players don't pay more attention to their string: many aren't even aware that there are differences between racquetball and tennis string, much less differences between the many strings made specifically for our sport. But string is not somewhat important - it's absolutely critical: after all, you don't hit the ball with your racquet (at least not intentionally)- you hit it with the string. A racquetball player ignoring string is like an auto racer not caring about his tires (Hey, I got the car, right?), or a sailor ignoring his sails (my boat's great - who cares about those white floppy things?).
Ashaway and the other string makers have designed different strings to suit the needs of the different sports. String is actually a pretty sophisticated product, and while you may not be able to readily see the differences, they certainly exist. There are different fibers, different construction methods, different coatings and processes. In future months I'll be explaining many of these differences, and trying to relate string technology to performance characteristics. How the racquet is strung has an equally sizeable influence on your game. Eventually, I hope my readers will be able to make sense out of any manufacturer's claims, be able to relate string characteristics to their own playing style, and make informed decisions when buying string and stringing a racquet.
Back to Captain Lester: my ancestor was originally a commercial fisherman. But he was dissatisfied with the quality of the fishing line available, so he started tinkering, and in 1824 perfected a new type of line-making equipment that worked better than anything else available at that time. The linen line it produced was so good that his fellow fishermen essentially forced him to give up fishing and go into line-making full time. The man knew which side his bread was buttered on, and he did what his customers told him to do.
His descendants haven't forgotten. All along: we've listened to our customers, worked hard to develop what they've asked for, and been rewarded by having the Number One selling lines of badminton and squash strings. We intend to duplicate that performance in racquetball: tell us what you want, and we'll see to it that you get the best string that can be made.
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.