Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Your Serve, My Serve

This activity from Cosmin Milhoca is similar to Tina Hoskins' Serve Everlasting drill. Here it is verbatim from Cosmin's website, Web Tennis Drills:

Your Serve, My Serve

Two players (A and B) play a game where each point starts with a serve from behind the baseline.
One of them serves - let's say, player A. She is going to keep serving, alternating sides after each point, until her serve is broken (that means she loses a point on her serve).
Once that happens, player B will begin serving - first point from the right (second from the left and so on). Now, player B will continue serving on each point until her serve is broken.
Scoring: Every time a player serves and wins a point, they count it; players don't get points for breaking their opponent's serve. Play first to 11 (counting only the points won while serving).

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Forehands R Us

Here's a recent lesson plan I concocted for working on forehands. The serve may be 'the most important shot of the game', but forehands are the ones we hit the most (80% of shots by some estimates). So we spend a lot of time on forehands on my courts.

Spread players out around baseline based on how large of a group you have. One player, or the coach, is in front of the group. Front player leads with 10 forehand shadow swings. All others copy him/her. Each player takes their turn as leader. In a large group you will have hit 50 or more shadow swings by end of this warm-up. Make sure players begin with and return to ready position; are taking the racquet back properly; have a point of contact out in front; and a good quality follow through. I also ask my players to track the ball with their non-dominant hand. Coach circulates among players during warm-up, fine-tuning swings as needed.

Skills Challenge
Two players are at service line (ad/deuce). Place two spots for each player: one where the player stands/begins and another at where forehand should bounce. This will be at 1-2 o'clock for righties and 10-11 o'clock for lefties, about racquet length distance away from player. Helpful if the bounce target spot is the same color for both players and different from the beginning spot, so you can remind the tossing players to aim for the 'red' spot or whatever color.

All other players are across net at service line. If you have a large group, divide in half. These players are taking turns tossing underhand balls toward bounce target of player straight ahead. Toss must be good quality with step from opposite foot, similar motion they will be using when hitting. Object is for tossing players to hit bounce target before hitting player hits five forehands in. Ball hitting bounce target is instant win for tossing team. Once a win is achieved, two new players rotate over to hitting positions.

Continue until all players have had a turn at hitting. Repeat, this time tossing cross court. Repeat both straight ahead and cross court toss, this time moving hitting players back to baseline.

I continue this activity until we are about halfway through our lesson time. Then we warm up serves, and finish with some live ball points.

Note: some players, when on tossing side, are determined not to let the hitting players 'win', and toss some really ugly stuff. Reinforce their goal is to hit the target, not to hurl fastballs. Insisting on good quality form for underhand tosses goes a long way toward eliminating near-impossible feeds, but still - keep an eye on this.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Net Work

This simple but effective drill idea is from the 3rd Toad tennis blog. Its purpose is to get players comfortable with coming in to the net. Works for both singles and doubles. Also great for fitness and footwork.

Two players rally from the baseline cooperatively. After the third rally, one player moves in to the net and point is played out competitively.

For more than two players, divide players into more or less equal groups and have them rotate in after every point. Continue until all players have had a chance at both positions.

Variation: baseline player who wins point trades places with net player.

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.