There are various ways in which pickleball players try to improve their game and gain an edge over their opponents. And one way to do that is to customize the paddle by using a lead tape. Now, this is not something that anyone and everyone should do but it can be a useful tool if you are looking for some specific inputs in your game.
One question that many pickleball beginners ask is why pros add lead tape to their pickleball paddle. We explain the pros and cons of this tape on a pickleball paddle in this piece below and give you a few tips around its legality and whether this is for you or not.
Before deciding whether to add lead tape on your pickleball paddle one must understand the rules and regulations around making alterations to the paddle.
Rules & Regulations About Adding Tape to a Pickleball Paddle
Rule 2 E 5 in the official The USA Pickleball Association (USAPA) rulebook says,
“The only alterations or additions that may be made to a commercially made paddle are edge guard tape, lead tape, changes to the grip size or grip wrap, and name decals and/or other identification markings on the paddle face. Decals and tape can extend no farther than 1.0 inch (2.54 cm) above the top of the grip nor more than 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) inside the outer edge of a paddle or if an edge guard is in place, 0.5 inches inside the edge guard.”
So a player can add tape and make alterations to the edge or grip as long as the alterations are within the above-mentioned parameters.
Should I Add Lead Tape to My Pickleball Paddle?
There are many advantages that a player can get by adding lead tape to the paddle which includes adding weight to a certain area of the paddle and there are very specific objectives one can achieve by doing so. Recreational players and ones who are still figuring out their style of play should avoid adding lead tape onto their paddles.
As mentioned above there are multiple reasons why professional players do it. But it is not something that anyone can just do and improve their gameplay straightaway.
In short, it’s not what you can call a silver bullet to your pickleball problems but it does help.
Adding lead tape primarily adds weight to the paddle and unless you know what do you want to achieve with the extra weight, it may end up doing more harm than good.
A paddle that is too heavy can make your wrist to overextend and cause long term injury and using a heavier than required paddle makes you overcompensate.
So for players who are still figuring out their game, the best way to go about is to add lead tape in various parts of the paddle and see if it improves the feel of the paddle. One can start with little and depending upon how they feel about the paddle, add or remove the tape.
One important thing to always remember is that whenever you add lead tape on the paddle, always cover it with black electric tape to ensure that no reflective glare comes from your paddle and that the lead tape doesn’t fall off from the surface.
Now let us take a look at some of the reasons why pros add lead tape on their paddles and what do they gain from it.
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Why do Pros Add Lead Tape on Pickleball Paddles?
As mentioned earlier players who play at the professional level try to get the slightest edge they can over their opponent and there are a number of ways of legally doing that.
At times, they choose various kinds of paddle material, cores and grips to get the best output in their game.
And adding lead tape is another small but important measure that they take to improve their game. Below are some of the advantages one can gain from adding lead tape to the paddle and why most of the pros do it.
Increase Overall Paddle Weight
By adding lead tape on to the paddle will increase the power generated from the strokes. The more weight a paddle has, the more swing power it will generate from its shots.
A heavier paddle also makes it easier to hit through the ball. The best area to increase the weight on the paddle to increase power in the shots is to add the tape on the head part.
If we compare the shape of the paddle with a clock, you want to add the lead tape in the 9 o’clock to 3 o’clock part to gain the extra weight.
Now one may think how much weight can we add by putting lead tape on the paddle. A lead tape which is half-inch wide weighs around two grams if the length of the tape is around four inches.
So if you add that on the paddle that weighs around 7.4 ounces without the tape, the weight after putting the tape will be around 7.54 ounces. Now on the face of it, these extra 0.14 ounces or four grams doesn’t sound much, but it makes a lot of difference to a paddle.
Change the Balance Point on the Paddle
Another reason why players put lead tape on their paddle is to change the point of balance. Adding lead tape on a particular side of the paddle can make it either head heavy or more balanced towards the handle.
If a player wants more weight towards the head, the lead tape will be put between the 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock areas of the paddle. Adding tape towards the head adds power to the paddle and increases the head speed.
Although this would make the paddle feel heavier in the hand and produce more whip in the shots which is not ideal in pickleball.
But if the player wants to get a bigger sweet spot and have extra power without compromising on the feel and light feel of the paddle, they should tape the middle to lower part of the paddle. In terms of the clock analogy we used earlier, the 2 o’clock to 10 o’clock part should be taped.
Normally the lower half of the paddle is not a usual place where players like to add weight. The only benefit of doing that is to get more feel and weight in the paddle.
One advantage of adding lead tape to the lower half of the paddle is that the additional weight won’t feel in the hands since they are closer to the grip.
And if one wants more weight on the handle itself, first the grip of the handle needs to be removed, the lead tape needs to be stuck on each side of the handle and then grip is to be reinstalled back in place.
Increase the Stability & Reduce Vibrations
Not every player has the same amount of accuracy when it comes to hitting and some players struggle to hit consistently from the sweet spot.
So many players feel that rather than having extra power in a head heavy paddle, they prefer to add a bit more weight in the middle of the paddle to gain more stability. This makes the paddle more forgiving for mishits and off-centre strokes and enlarges the sweet spot.
Just as making the paddle head heavy increases the weight and power in the strokes, players with an existing elbow and wrist injuries would like to reduce the vibrations upon the impact.
For them, the lead tape can act like what stringers do in rackets by absorbing the shock vibrations and reducing the impact on the arm.
Final Words on Adding Lead Tape to Paddle
Adding lead tape to a pickleball paddle is not something that everyone should do and one should know beforehand what they want to achieve from it.
Professional players have specific goals in mind when they do it and there is no harm for beginners or casual players in doing it as long as they have put thought into it.
The best way to go about it is to experiment by adding tape on various places in the paddle and see what works and what doesn’t. This will not only allow you to explore and understand your game better, but it will also prevent any injuries or side effects of using a lead tape.