WHICH STICK TO BUY? WHO KNOWS!
With the school hockey season in full swing, coaches now get plenty of questions from parents and young players about what stick to buy next.
In my experience, the gap between what parents are hoping to pay and what their super keen ten to 15-yearolds are hoping they’ll fork out is somewhere around £100. That’s about as much as the parent wants to spend while the pleading eyes alongside are often hoping for double that and, in some cases, triple.
Not surprisingly, it’s the nonhockey playing parents who are mostly looking for some guidance and so this week, after exactly this type of conversation, I decided to test out my local sports store to see what would confront a parent with little or no hockey knowledge.
So, with a budget of between £75 and £150, I pulled out eight sticks from various brands and then started to write down what information was in front of me that would help me decide which stick might be best for my child.
The list, when I’d finished, was extraordinary. Alongside the percent- ages of carbon and fibreglass were all sorts of other features, highlighted by important looking branding, offering apparent rock-solid guarantees on things like grip, feel and protection.
The big buzz word however seemed to be “technology” with brands spouting core technology, gel technology and even bounce of the ball technology, whatever that is. In total I counted 21 different branded features on those eight sticks and not one bit of information explaining any of them.
Now, before any offended manufacturers cry foul, let me just recount what the desperately helpful shop assistant had to offer about just one of these features.
“I have no idea,” he said, “I suppose it keeps the ball bouncing low rather than high.” And with that, he left me to decide if that was a good enough reason to buy a stick for £149.
With my head now full of zones, gels and protection systems, I then decided to compare things with the tennis section, bearing in mind there are a lot of similarities between how racquets and sticks are made.
There I found an entirely different story. Not only were there fewer brands but the point of sale advertising was mainly based around the instantly recognisable sponsored players who used the top versions of the product. There also seemed to be a much smaller number of whizzbang features and they all seemed to be explained on a useful information sheet attached to the face of the racquets.
So, in our world now littered with fake news and alternate facts, let me offer some quick points of advice. First, take note of the weight, balance point and curve information but ignore the carbon content percentages which doesn’t actually give you any useful information about the quality of the stick. “99% carbon” tells you nothing about the type or grade of carbon, or the resins that are used or the rest of the production process. It might as well say it’s 100% butter.
Second, use the same type of logic as you might if you were buying a car. That top of the line coupe from North Korea might look good but does it have the production quality of a midrange Mercedes?
And the obvious lesson from the eight sticks I looked at this week was that there seems to be a pretty clear correlation between the brands without that range and quality and the number of dubious, eye-catching zones, gels and technologies they can apparently offer.
Finally, if you’re looking to buy a stick for your young player, just remember that just as Roger Federer’s racquet won’t teach someone to hit a backhand neither will a £275 stick teach anyone how to push or trap.
Even if you can afford a Mercedes, it still makes no sense to buy Lewis Hamilton’s F1 car for someone who is still only a couple of years in to driving.
Spend sensibly on a good brand and a player who is using it often enough and well enough will wear a good stick out.
That’s the right reason to upgrade rather than the size of its carbon footprint or the appeal of a 100% Kevlar Infused Ultra Protective High Visibility Soft Touch Power Zone.
Roger Federer’s racquet won’t teach someone to hit a backhand, nor will a £275 stick teach anyone how to push or trap
Getting stuck in: These boys are using their sticks to good effect