As a parent in suburban NJ one standard is getting your child into organized sports. I was no exception, as there are many positives from participating in team sports at a youthful age. I did, the sports in the 1970’s and 80’s are not as intense as they are now but there are some things that will always remain the same. 

One sport which consumed my time was tennis, and the key piece of equipment was the racket. I was playing at the time with the greats of Bjorn Borg, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors etc. When I started, I was using the classic Tad Davis wooden racket. I won a lot of matches and tournaments with it. Being a fan of Borg, all I wanted was the Donnay Bjorn Borg Pro racket. With this racket I imagined myself winning the US Open, Wimbledon etc. I spent considerable time trying to convince my parents to get it for me. 

Fast forward thirty plus years, and my daughter is asking me for new goalie pads, sticks etc. With the same notion, how much better she is going to be with the new equipment. I am a sucker, really a sucker for both of my kids, and bought it for her each time. My other daughter needed newer skates, blades etc. for figure skating. And yes, she got them also.   

I am a rational adult, ok sometimes a rational adult, and I believe that new equipment does not make the athlete. It is ten plus years past buying equipment for my children, and I am going to put some thoughts that come to mind on this topic. Wondering if anyone goes through the same thoughts while shopping for new equipment for their child or themselves.  

What makes one a better athlete? Or better and any skill whatsoever? The answer in most cases is practice. What if that new equipment gets you to practice more? What if that new stick gets you to shoot an extra fifty pucks into the dryer?  That extra practice helps and helps more than the new piece of equipment. The new equipment did not help directly, but indirectly it changed your attitude, work habits etc. And that improved your game.  

Now there is an argument that this could be a race to waste. As every time a new piece of equipment comes out, if you do not buy it than the desire to practice will go. Using this method must be strategic when working with a child, and as an adult you need to also be careful. If anyone always needs a new piece of equipment to want to practice, they really are not interested.   

When moving from the wooden tennis racket to graphite larger head rackets my game jumped immediately. It was amazing, it made tennis accessible to many people who struggled with how hard it was to play with a wooden racket. The sweet spot to hit and tennis ball and the wooden racket was small, the larger head rackets made it easier. When you play better, you often play more so in this case the new equipment did make the difference.   

So, the negative of better equipment. Using the wooden racket, I learned how to move to the ball better, I mastered timing the ball and finding the spot on the racket. It was a skill I had to master to play, and for others learning with the newer equipment never mastered. Good coaches and better players did work as there still was a sweet spot, but it was just bigger.   

With my new hobby, astrophotography, I am using an older DLSR. I am learning the nuances of that specific camera. I could easily buy something like the Seestar S50, this is a telescope, camera that has software in it that generates pictures of the night sky easily. A simple smart phone app you can produce pictures of nebula and galaxies with almost no effort. There are others, but I chose this one as it was the one I found about first, I am not sponsored by it, nor endorsing it.  

This is both an upside and a downside. Gaining knowledge of the details is a skill, setting up the S50 and picking a nebula and saying go shoot, is well an instant dopamine hit. I look at this as an interesting balance of good and bad.  

First, getting an instant picture with some simple learning can drive me into taking more pictures and enjoying the hobby. I can then take pictures and share them to get likes on social media. Once I realized the limitations, I could dig in and learn the more difficult skills of stacking and photo editing. I could also get lazy and stick instant photos.  

If I start with the DLSR, I may struggle the first few months, or years, get bored and quit. I hope this is not what happens, and I use the failures and lessons, and I spend my time asking questions from experts and continue to improve. I cannot answer for my future self what will happen.  

The question I posed in the beginning, does the new equipment make you better does not have a straightforward answer. Digging deeper there is no simple answer. But I always say, I can learn more from a simple question than a wise answer. Waiting for the answer to which is right? Sorry, this is something that you might fail at, getting the new piece of equipment may not help you practice more, keeping the old equipment may demotivate you. Experiment and find what works for you as with many things there is no one answer. 

This opinion is mine, and mine only, my current or former employers have nothing to do with it. I do not write for any financial gain; I do not take advertising and any product company listed was not done for payment. But if you do like what I write you can donate to the charity I support (with my wife who passed away in 2017) Morgan Stanley’s Children’s Hospital or donate to your favorite charity. I pay to host my site out of my own pocket, my intention is to keep it free.  I do read all feedback; but it is moderated.  

This Blog is a labor of love and was originally going to be a book.  With the advent of being able to publish yourself on the web I chose this path.  I will write many of these and not worry too much about grammar or spelling (I will try to come back later and fix it) but focus on content.  I apologize in advance for my ADD as often topics may flip.  I hope one day to turn this into a book and or a podcast, but for now it will remain a blog.   AI is not used in this writing other than using the web to find information. Images without notes are created using an AI tool that allows me to reuse them.