Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Target Practice

I love this activity, especially for larger groups or camps. It is highly adaptable for whatever skill level you have on court. It can be used for any stroke. For this example I will use it as a serve activity.

I set up three large targets on one side of the net. One is in the middle, one on deuce side, one on ad side. For a serve activity I like the targets to be mid service box or deeper to encourage deep service targets. For the targets use anything you have available; the more fun/outlandish, the better.  Those big blowup kid targets are fun but if you don't have those, anything from a big ring of cones or spots to couple of hoppers, hula hoops, a jump rope, 5 gallon buckets, on-court trash cans, etc. Just make sure each of the three targets is distinct from the others - you want it to be very clear which target is Target 1, Target 2, and Target 3.

Divide the kids into two teams (see separate blog entry for the fun of dividing and naming teams). Each team spins to see who starts on which side, ad or deuce. Set ball cart at the T or hash mark depending on where you have them serving from. One at a time, each team member takes turns aiming their serve at the targets. Each team member gets one chance, then goes to end of his/her team's line. Once a team member hits a target, the entire team then aims for the next target. First team to hit all three targets in order wins. Switch sides of court and repeat. Best two out of three wins.
Scoring variations:

  • one point for hitting across net, two for hitting target
  • 'Instant Win' opportunities:
    • ball lands in cart 
    • player returns ball returned by instructor
    • hitting instructor. Yes, I sometimes encourage them to try to hit me. I am tall - I make a great target. Depends on the level of players (and balls used!) if I try to get out of the way or not. We arrange this prior to start of activity.
If one or both teams are having trouble hitting the targets, switch them to opposite sides halfway through the hopper rather than waiting for one team to win (which could take forever if they are struggling). You may have to pause the game for a ball pickup if they are struggling with a new skill.

The targets really seem to help the kids who are struggling with the mechanics. They focus on the target across the net rather than obsessing over the bounce/toss/hit. The team dynamic also does wonders - I love hearing them cheer each other on to be the one to hit the target and advance the entire team.

If you want to use it for forehands, backhands or volleys, you will need to feed from across the net rather than having them pick their own ball out of the hopper. Make sure to feed quickly and keep them moving quickly to the end of their line after they hit.

To increase the difficulty, make the targets smaller or add a time restriction.