Rex Lawler on Stringing
By Steve Crandall
Vice President, Sales & Marketing
Ashaway Racket Strings
It's always interesting to talk to people who are really masters of their craft. And when the craft is racquet stringing, few can claim to have mastered it as thoroughly as Rex Lawler, the self-described "String King." We had a chance to chat with Rex recently about his involvement with the game and about stringing. Here's some of what he had to say.
Rex Lawler stringing at Lawler Sports
Rex chanced onto racquetball nearly 35 years ago and immediately became "hooked." He began playing tournaments, local at first, then regional and even national, and had the good fortune, as he says, "to win a few." About 25 years ago, frustrated with the lack of good stringers at many of these venues, he began stringing, first his own racquets, then on others' as well.
News of a good thing travels fast and soon Rex had a nice part-time business going. Then, downsizing at the company where he worked gave him his golden opportunity to turn his passion into a full-time venture. He never looked back, and today Lawler Sports (www.lawlersports.com) is one of the best known online/mail-order racquetball suppliers in the industry.
And Rex is stringing more racquets than ever. In addition to stringing at national events like the US Open Racquetball Championships, the National Singles, and World Seniors, Rex traveled with the US Team for a few years, and works a number of Midwest regional tournaments. He also receives quite a few racquets through the mail. "We try to do the mail orders the same day we receive them," he says. "So with priority mail, you're normally talking about a four-day turnaround. A lot of times a local place will take a week anyway."
Over the years Rex has strung for many of the sport's top names - including names like Jack Huczek, Rocky Carson and Ruben Gonzalez - but he says it's not his experience at this level that has made his stringing so popular. "Most of the top players have their own people, now," he says, "and they don't string like the average player." For one thing, pros tend to be more conservative. They may experiment with different strings in practice, but once they find one that works for them, they are reluctant to change.
"They also tend to string their racquets tighter than the average player," said Rex. "Most seem to generate a lot of power naturally, so what they are looking for is good control." Many, he added, string between 38 to 45 pounds, and many go beyond recommended stringing tensions. "You have to remember that they do what tennis pros do, they use a racquet for maybe a game or two and then they don't use that racquet again until they restring it."
So, we asked, how should the average player approach stringing and what should he or she look for in a stringer?
"Well first, players need to understand the importance of stringing. I'm always surprised at how often recreational players will ask if there's something they can do to help their game a bit. They'll complain that they don't seem to be getting the same power they did when they first got their racquet. 'Well,' I'll say, 'when's the last time you restrung your racquet?' 'Well,' they say, 'I haven't.' 'And how long have you had the racquet?' 'Mmmmm, a year, maybe a year and a half.' So the problem is, their strings are dead.
"The second thing players need to understand is the importance of a good stringer, someone with enough experience and string knowledge to guide them through the process of finding the right string for their game. It takes a while. Unfortunately, if you take your racquet into some of these national chains, you don't get either the stringing experience or the guidance you need. I was at a tournament in Kentucky a while back, and a guy brought me a racquet he'd had restrung three times at a sporting goods chain. The first two times, the string broke as soon as he used it. I checked it over and, my goodness, it was supposed to be strung at 32 pounds, but was hardly 20.
"Stringing is complicated, especially for racquetball where you have shared holes, and strings that go down into the handle and back up, and others that go into the frame but not through it. So go to a professional shop or someone who belongs to the USRSA. It's a good chance they'll have a lot more knowledge of strings and what they can do.
"For example, a lot of people try to use tennis string to play racquetball, but it doesn't hold up. You need a good quality string, made especially for racquetball, something like Ashaway. And you need to let the stringer take you through the process, ask you about your game and how you swing. Let him make recommendations and then report back, let him know how it worked out. Go through the process. We've got data on our customers going back five years. Sometimes it takes a while to find just the right string. But it's worth it."
To find a USRSA Stringer, click here.
This article previously appeared in Racquetball Magazine.