Keiki 65 Tennis Racket

February 8, 2012

Lee Couillard designed the Keiki 65 Jr. tennis racket. The 2011 Keiki 65 is the first “high performance” junior racket on the market designed specifically for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders. Lee is the Head Tennis Professional at Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii. Lee has been teaching tennis to Punahou’s Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grades for the past 22 years. He has a “Little Tennis” certification from the United States Professional Tennis Association and is a National USTA QuickStart Trainer.

Until now, there has not been any option for younger players to experience the feel and touch of a smaller racket head size. Like adults, junior players need a personalized racket based on their athleticism, size and strength.

Choosing a racket for a junior player can be a daunting task. The numerous lengths, e.g.; 19”, 21”, 23’ and 25” rackets can be confusing depending on the above factors. However, there can be some overlap when choosing a length of the racket and the Keiki 65 is ideal for all players age 8 and under.

The Keiki 65’s desired performance characteristics; e.g., lightweight, smaller head size, high strength, durability, responsiveness, shock-absorbing, etc. and the need to tailor these properties to the skill level of a young child was the motivation behind its development. The design goal was to make a proportional racket in head, length and grip size for a young child and not max out on the legal trampoline-effect limit. The concept from the start is to train proprioception and that can only be done by using a smaller head size. The early years of child should be about forging the correct contact point, like in a baseball swing. There is no need over-analyze anyone’s particular swing. Their strength and sense of timing will take charge. Let them develop their swing by swinging; however, insist they get into the proper position at the very start.

The Keiki 65’s longer shaft forces the contact point farther away from the body. As the contact point becomes more consistent, a larger personalized racket can be selected for the child. Again, the emphasis here is to start small and then go bigger, not the other way around. The answer here to a good swing is to adjust the whole body, not increase the size of the head to accommodate poor contact.

In what has now become an intense market, performance rackets are lacking at the ever-increasing younger age groups. “Sensitivity” and “feel” are juxtaposed to shock and vibration, and tennis rackets are designed according to the skill and performance level of the individual athlete; smaller head size, quick and responsive for the better player — big head size, larger sweet spot for the slower, recreational novice player.

In the 1970’s, the development of the Prince 110 sq. in. tennis racket was one of the most significant factors in the growth of tennis as a recreational sport in the United States and elsewhere. The improvement in equipment continues to be a major factor in the development of the tennis industry today and the 110 sq. in. racket is now not a popular racket with the more advanced players.

Innovation will continue to change the sport of tennis, so watch for the next new wave of junior rackets with a wide range of different head sizes.