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Before I talk about the process, I would quickly like to talk about how I developed my process.
Back in the late 1990s I was squash promotions manager for Dunlop Slazenger. One of my responsibilities was the testing of prototype rackets. I did this myself, but also by sending them to selected Dunlop professional players and contracted coaches.
I developed a report format that allowed me to collate the feedback so I could report to my boss and the product development manager. The process described below is an evolution of that report format.
Unless otherwise stated, all the equipment I review is supplied to me free of charge. I return any equipment supplied if the manufacturer asks me to. If the manufacturer decides to allow me to keep the equipment, I then use the rackets in videos I make and also let local players use the rackets. I DO NOT write preferential reviews based on whether I keep the equipment or not.
At the time of writing this article all my reviews have been conducted via mid-term tests.
Short-Term: This is less than 30 minutes to test a racket. This may occur because I have met somebody at a tournament and don't have long to use and evaluate the racket.
Mid-Term: These tests are usually about 5 hours of use, although not in one session. I would estimate 5 sessions of about one hour is normal.
Long-Term: I consider a long-term test to be 3 months or above of regular weekly or even daily use.
I perform the following stages when testing a racket. Besides the initial "Bedding In", I usually follow the order below during each session, although in all test sessions I will include some side-to-side shots.
|"Bedding in" is approximately 500 side-to-side shots. This allows the racket strings to lose their initial tightness and "relax" into a lower but longer lasting tension.|
It's worth noting that how a racket plays for the first 15 minutes or so is almost always very different from how it plays and feels after longer use. I have always found that this initial period is the biggest change in a racket's response. The difference between a week of use and a month is is much smaller than the difference between the initial first minutes and anything after.
Obviously, hitting the ball with a racket is the most important aspect of testing a racket, but there are others too.
I am not claiming that the process I have described above is the "best" or "only" way a racket should be tested.
It's a format that works well for me and it keeps the reviews consistent. Due to no longer playing, the one thing the process is missing is use during real matches. It's always nice to use a product in a "real" situation but often your feedback is clouded by your performance. That said, I would prefer to use all the rackets in actual matches, but I can't.
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© Copyright 2020 Phillip Marlowe