Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ball Thief

Ball Thief is one of those beloved tennis warm-up activities that has those endearing qualities tennis instructors love. It requires only a little preparation and minimal extra equipment, and it's fun! I first saw it at a USTA QuickStart Workshop.

A number of balls is placed in the center of the court (near the T). The number of balls should be double the number of players. Balls should be contained somehow. I have seen hula hoops used, or buckets, hoppers, etc. Push comes to shove you can just have them lying on the court but in a circle or a mound to start off to make it clear these are the balls to be used in this activity and create a little visual interest.

Players are spread out in a circle or other shape as long as they are all equally distant from the balls in the middle. They lay their racquets on the ground at their feet. The object is to get three tennis balls on their racquet within a brief set time period, usually one minute. They may only retrieve/transport one ball at a time. Once the balls are all gone from the middle supply, they may rob balls from other players' racquets, again, only one ball at a time.  This 'robbing' factor is why it is important to have the correct number of balls. If there are too many balls, there will be plenty in the middle and no reason to start robbing off other people's racquets, which is half the fun.

This can be done individually or as a team. If as a team, one player can be designated as the 'keeper' protecting the team's supply of balls from other raiding teams.

This is a fun activity but as you can imagine there is a very good chance there will be some disgruntlement and even tears when players start robbing balls off each others' racquets. I have seen many players intent on defending their racquets after they get their three, very irate when others try to take them, and really hesitant to take balls from others' racquets. Important everyone understands it is okay to rob from other racquets. In fact, it is encouraged!

Variation
Number of balls you start with is unimportant, as long as it is lots of them. Player/team with most balls on their racquet at end of timed period wins.