In the summer between third and fourth grade, I tried tennis for the first time. I loved sports, but knew nothing about the rules, culture and equipment of tennis. I don’t even think I had seen tennis on TV - at least that I paid attention to.
Ahead of my first tennis class we bought a cheap, red, titanium Wilson, that was too heavy and too big for me. Thinking back to what I can remember, more often would I swing that heavy red racquet like a baseball bat, hitting plenty of balls over the fence.
A lot has changed in the 14 years since. Little by little, I understood more about how to control the ball and desired to get better until around age 12, when I took tennis very seriously.
Today, I coach tennis as my full-time job. A passion and devotion to the sport that I never would have dreamed of when I first started playing. I love my job: the mix of meeting new people, to the hours of playing and hitting, and seeing people find the passion for tennis they also never knew they had. Working the hours that I do on court would not be physically possible without high quality gear and proactive care for my body. I want to tell you the story of how I came to find the ShockSorb, the only dampener I will ever use, because without it, my elbow would not make it through a given week.
When I was training and playing in high school, I was using a 2013 Babolat AeroPro Lite, chosen because it was popular and aesthetic. 9.2 ounces of whippable, stiff racquet. I preferred my racquets strung at a high tension (58lbs at the time), typically with a synthetic. To get a more “solid” and “composite” feel, I would use the weavable, gelatin dampeners below the central eight mains. I loved those long dampeners, but they had a fatal flaw: durability. Those dampeners were approximately $5 each, and on at least one occasion: broke during the very first practice. The plastic clip that held onto the string would break away from the gel, leaving the dampener less effective and dangling. Refusing to consistently buy new $5 dampeners, but also accepting the fact that no other dampener would do the trick better, I kept the broken ones in, only clipped to one side, and would just re-weave them between each point.
I kept that set up during the majority of high school and into my freshman year of college. Around halfway through my sophomore year of college, I began teaching at an indoor club near my university. Grateful for the opportunity, I attempted to gain traction as fast as I could to help pay for school and other expenses. As my hours and responsibilities grew, something unexpected happened: I developed a lot of pain in my right elbow. I never really had arm issues when I strictly hit/played. But the amount of feeding I would do on the job added a different type of wear and tear to my body.
About 6 months after I started coaching, I was up to about 15 hours per week. Occasionally I would get asked to hit on my free time, mainly by a guy named Stanley, and I would typically agree for a select few members as it offered a high level of competition and chance to play points I rarely got. By that point into the job, I was happy to play in my free time - my elbow was not. What once was never a problem, quickly became an injury
not just when I had a racquet in my hand, but it would pulse and hurt when I was away from the court as well. I knew that despite my passion for tennis, coaching any number of hours may not be the best for me based on what my body was telling me. I worried about my job and my ability to play tennis at all. I would jokingly envision teaching 40 lessons per week like some coaches at the club and couldn’t have imagined how my body would feel.
The member, Stanley, that I would hit with in my spare time, told me that he had battled chronic pain in his right arm as well. He sought several equipment changes like new racquets and natural strings to ease the pain. There was one piece of equipment, however, which he swore made the biggest difference for his elbow: The ShockSorb.
Sensing my skepticism, Stanley installed this cylindrical, black dampener in my strings and we hit some more. I felt the ball both better, but also less. My elbow seemed happier, my stiff AeroPro Lite seemed softer. Just a minute ago, I mentioned that $16 for a dampener was insane. Moments into trying it, I realized that I needed to invest.
Stanley had trouble remembering exactly what the brand and model were called in the moment - just that he had bought it during their Kickstarter campaign. With a few keyword searches into Google, “Kickstarter tennis dampener”, I was able to find Road to Pro and that all-black ShockSorb that I knew was going to make tennis a pain-free experience again. All of this happened in June of 2019. That very same dampener that I bought that month stayed on my racquet until December of 2020 when I had miss-hit the ball directly onto the ShockSorb and it broke. For 18 months, it had held on during broken strings, framed shots and other, less direct miss-hits.
Thankfully, I had invested in additional dampeners for my other racquets a few months prior, and had backups. By this point, RTP had debuted their “UltraSoft” lineup which are stronger than the Black originals and have a more colorful flare.
After CoVid-19 closed our gym for 3 months, I was one of the first coaches to return, work summer camp, and the soon to be, the tsunami of lesson requests later in the summer and Fall. What once seemed unimaginable - working 40 hours a week - was in the rear view mirror, for the majority of last year I worked between 43 and 47 hours per week on the tennis court. This was made possible, mentally AND physically because of The ShockSorb. There is no way that had I not been shown the ShockSorb, that I could be coaching that many hours and hitting thousands of tennis balls per week.
If you have any sort of pain in your arm from playing tennis, the ShockSorb is a great option to test how it may help reduce the cumulative shock and impact on your dominant arm.