Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Group Serving Lesson Plan

Here's a serve lesson plan great for larger groups.

Form two teams. Station each time at the service line. Players take turn tossing balls overhand across the net into the correct service box (cross court). Continue until ball hopper is empty.

Ball pickup/water break

Skill activity: modified Clean Sweep
Teams at service line. One team member is sent across net cross court from rest of team. Players take turns serving from service line. If serve is in, team member across net retrieves ball and places it on the ground at net as a scorekeeping device (one ball = one point). Server now runs over to other side of court and is now score keeper. Next player in line now serves. Play continues until one team achieves 10 points.

Coach is stationed near servers. Teaching opportunities with groups between rounds and during serves with individual players.

Ball pickup/water break

Repeat above activity moving players back, now hitting serves from halfway between service line and baseline. Have teams switch sides of court to get practice serving from both ad and deuce.

Ball pickup/water break

Final repetition from baseline. Team winning best two out of three wins.

We had time at the end of our one-hour clinic for a round of Champs v Chumps which served as our cool down. They had done enough serving for one day. :)

Safety Tip: Be sure players take care not to run in front of servers or score keepers to avoid being hit by balls or slowing the game down.

This is a good cardio workout in addition to being a good serve drill. One player commented it 'wasn't fair' because the other team had one more player. I explained to them that was only an advantage if the other team was serving better. Players soon learned the more efficiently and quickly they ran this activity, the quicker they would win. It was fun to watch them manage themselves, encourage each other, and basically just figure stuff out on their own.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Forehand Lesson Plan

Here's a complete one-hour lesson plan including warm-up, instruction, and match play using drills that have been posted here previously.

Warm-up: Figure 8

Drop & Hit
Ken DeHart's drill is a simple and effective way to introduce using a tracking arm when hitting the forehand.

Four Ball
Adapt the original drill and focus only on forehands for the player working with the coach.

Forehand Challenge
Using quick-moving lines or a forehand caterpillar, all players take turns hitting forehands (fed by coach) using the tracking arm and shoulder turn. For every forehand that lands in playable area, players earn a point. As a group they are trying to earn X number of points. Forehands not using the tracking arm do not count toward the total. Extend this activity by repeating, having each individual player trying to be the first to earn the required number of points.

Match Play
Coach observes match play, encouraging/reminding/reinforcing use of tracking hand on all forehands.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nine Lives Backhand Lesson

When I blogged about the Nine Lives game recently, I mentioned how easy it would be to adapt it to a variety of situations. Here's one I used recently for my red ball class. Beware, it's the mother of all progression drills, so adjust accordingly. You will need some clothes pins.

Pick a skill, any skill, that you want to work on. Recently it was a backhand day. So I used Nine Lives like this.

Players count out nine pins and pin them to the top of the net. Players stand at the T in the backhand position. Coach hand-feeds backhands to players from close proximity. One pin is removed each time the backhand is hit into play. Goal is to remove all pins. When this is done, end Round 1 and get a drink. Pick up balls if necessary.

Round 2: get nine more pins and pin on net. Move players back to baseline and repeat.

Round 3: you guessed it - nine more pins. Coach moves to other side of court across net, but still feeding by hand. Repeat.

Round 4: More pins! Players now start from ready position at baseline. Repeat.

Round 5: More pins! For the final round, coach feeds with racquet instead of by hand. Repeat.

You should have a pretty good stack of pins by now, 45 if my multiplication skills have not completely deserted me. You can do some fun stuff with the pins your players are accumulating, such as:

  • For group fun, just make a big pile of them somewhere to be admired and counted after the lesson.
  • For a more competitive spin, have each player put any pin they earn onto their shirt. Player with most pins at end of lesson wins.
  • For the Lego crowd, let them make something creative with the pins. This student made a dragon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Team Triples

Team Triples is a twist on the Triples game, a player favorite. I saw it mentioned in the August 2014 issue of Tennis Industry Magazine. I love their idea of making it a team format for a tournament. I especially love the idea of playing it with orange balls!

To recap how Triples works: there are three players on each end of court forming a triangle - one at the T, and two at the baseline where the singles sideline intersects with the baseline. Players self-feed with a bounce feed. Both sides rotate one position after every point. Full court (including alleys) is played. First team to X wins.

Using a slower ball on a full 78-foot court introduces a fitness element. Having the players self-feed introduces a strategy and directional control element.

The article did not give details about who feeds or how, other than suggesting players feed rather than coaches. When we play regular Triples, I usually feed straight ahead to the player across the net from me at the deuce side baseline. We play first to X, best two out of three, and the players rotate positions after every point, so someone new is always getting the feed. I suggest a similar strategy here so that a different person is serving every point. So consider whomever has rotated into the deuce side baseline position the feeder. Avoid having the player at the T as feeder.

As for scorekeeping, because you are rotating players after every point, I would go with a 'first to X' or rather than a traditional 15-30-40 scoring method. If using a 'first to X' scoring strategy, alternate teams feeding with each new game. If you want to play timed rounds, you don't need to have an end point to the game. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the timed round, wins. But with this scoring strategy, you may want to alternate which team is feeding with every point, so that one team is not feeding the entire timed round.

No need to organize a big tournament to enjoy this activity. Consider using this as a warm-up if you have six or more players in your group. If more than six, that's fine - just have the extras rotating in since there is a rotation after every point and things move pretty quickly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nine Lives

I found this game on the Tennis Resources site. They had it in a doubles format, but I can see
using it in a variety of ways.

Teams start out with nine points each. Coach feeds in the first ball. Players play out the point. Losing team loses a 'life'. Play continues until one team is out of lives. Play best two out of three, with coach feeding a different team each round.

How about this singles variation, especially if you have odd numbers or a larger group: One player is on one end alone; all others are at the other end. One by one, they take on the singleton. All players begin with 9 Lives, losing one each time they lose a point. Player with the most lives when someone gets down to zero is the new singleton.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Volley Control Drill

Lauren Stewart's third suggestion for 2.5 drills is this volley drill. In addition to consistency and backhand skills, she said beginners need to work on their volley skills. You will need some throw down targets.

Players pair up away from the net, facing each other 5-10 feet apart. One partner will be tossing balls for the other to volley. The throw down target should be just in front of the volleying partner as a reminder to take a step forward with each volley (make sure they recover after hitting). First team to get to X in a row, wins. Change roles and repeat.

Note only one ball per team is used. If they miss, they have to chase down their ball. Great for warming up!


  • Use net between partners
  • All forehands
  • All backhands 
  • First ball racquet fed, not hand tossed
  • Score resets to zero if any misses

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Four Square Jr.

Four Square is a ball machine drill by Inaki Balzola in a recent issue of Tennis Pro magazine. If you
don't have access to a ball machine, YOU are the ball machine :)

Balls are fed from the T. Feeds alternate between ad and deuce baseline. Players are on opposite baseline in two lines (deuce and ad). Place a cone or spot at the hash mark between them.

Opposite end of court is divided into four spaces. Ad service box is #1. Deuce service box is #2. Ad back court is #3. Deuce back court is #4.

Each player in line hits four balls, recovering to touch cone target after every hit. Player cannot hit into the same numbered square twice in a row. Player gets one point for every square hit, unless they hit the same square twice in a row, in which case they get ZERO points for that turn.

Play for a set time period or until machine/hopper is empty. Player with most points wins.


  • Subtract a point for hitting into the net.
  • Points earned equal square hit into. 1 point for square 1, 2 points for square 2, etc.
  • Extra points, or instant winner, for hitting all four squares in order 1-2-3-4.
  • All shots must be forehands, backhands, slice, topspin, whatever you want to work on that day.