Have you heard of the term ‘panhandle’ before? Try picturing how you would hold a frying pan…now put a racquet in its place. To put it another way, rotate your racquet on your grip 90 degrees. That’s how some people hold their racquet….like me!! Most people hold their racquet like they are shaking hands, I’ve been told this is the proper way to hold it.
Let me tell you how I started as a ‘panhandle’. I first picked up a badminton racquet when I was in grade 6 and have been playing since. No one told me how to hold it, so I picked it up ‘panhandle’ style and it seemed to feel right. My game seemed to be pretty good throughout my school years. All my school coaches didn’t say anything, but I guess they didn’t notice or didn’t know much. When I was finished my schooling, I went on to play drop-in at Henderson Recreation Centre. That is where I really learned how to play. I learned most of my shots from the stronger players that I played against…trying to imitate their shots.
I didn’t really know about feather birds until I was a line judge volunteer at the Commonwealth Games here in ’94. I found out where to play feather birds a few years later and gave that a try. I think the first thing my partner said when we were warming up was, ‘Why are holding the racquet like that?’ I said, ‘What do you mean? Don’t you hold it like that?’ He showed me how to hold it ‘properly’ and I tried it and it sure felt weird. When we started to play, I went back to my usual grip. At the end of the night, he said I played pretty good with a ‘panhandle’ grip, but I could be better if I changed my grip.
I kept on alternating play with feather and nylon birds. Every time I went to play feather birds against someone new, they always said something about my grip and that I could be better, but when I played nylon, no one said anything. Then I became conscious about my grip and asked pretty much everyone how they hold their racquet…to my amazement, they didn’t have a ‘panhandle’ grip. I was wondering if I was the only person that played ‘panhandle.’ I found out there were a few out there over the past year and that made me happy!!
Someone convinced me to try smashing the proper way, it felt weird and I couldn’t hit it hard. He said it would take quite a while to get used to. I didn’t want to wait and went back to my ‘panhandle’ grip. Another person told me to try a proper grip for a night. I did, but the next day my whole arm was screwed up and I had to see my doctor!! My doctor said the biomechanics of how I played didn’t work with the new grip and I was out of play for a month.
Since I missed playing, guess what I did? I went and played with my left hand…and guess how I held the racquet? The proper way!! I played pretty decent, but didn’t have a good backhand. When my arm was better, I went back to play with my ‘panhandle’ grip. I’ve even tried to play with a racquet in both hands since my left hand got strong…it was a lot of fun because I didn’t have a backhand and the opponent didn’t know which racquet I was going to hit with. I tried that because I’ve seen someone play like that. I asked umpires if that was legal, and they said there was nothing in the rulebook that said you couldn’t.
I have never trained or been coached properly, just watched and learned from stronger players wherever I played. I don’t know if changing my grip will make me a stronger player or not…I just enjoy playing the game.
Most people have told me that the ‘panhandle’ is not the way to go, but I’m pretty good with it and have a unique way of playing. There are some advantages and disadvantages to my grip, but you’ll have to play against me to find out!!
To ‘panhandle’ or not…I think I will ‘panhandle!’