Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Tennis Horse

Not exactly what I had in mind . . .
Riders at Old Naval Academy Dairy Farm, Maryland
Hope those are non-marking hooves
I thought I knew how to play basketball 'Horse' until my husband informed me I had it completely wrong. Since I never played organized basketball, my take on the game of 'Horse' is a little skewed. But I have found a couple of ways to make the basic idea work for some tennis activities. You can either play with the goal of accumulating letters and spelling 'Horse' first, or do the opposite - the goal is to avoid losing all the letters of the word 'Horse'. Depends on whether you want to focus on the positive (glass half full) or illustrate negative consequences of errors (glass half empty). Both are useful. Either way, this is the activity. Horses optional.

  • Players compete individually or as teams.
  • Targets are identified across net. Physical targets can be used, but simplest is to identify parts of the court as targets. This achieves a secondary goal of reinforcing parts of the court. For example you have four choices of target: deuce side short (inside service box), deuce side deep (beyond service box), and ditto on the ad side.
  • First player stands in middle of service box and calls his/her target across net, then bounce feeds to target. If unsuccessful, next player goes until someone is successful at first shot. When someone is successful on this game-starting shot, the next player must make the same shot. If they are successful, next player attempts, continuing through all players until getting back to the original successful player, who then calls a different shot and the process begins again. Note: if you cycle through all players back to original player, and original player does not hit his/her second called target, the next player in turn has the chance to call the new shot. This aspect of the game teaches them that being successful/controlling the shot literally puts them in control of the game.

Glass Half Full scoring strategy
Letters are awarded for successful shotmaking. First player to spell 'Horse' wins.

Glass Half Empty scoring strategy
Any unsuccessful shots result in that player receiving one of the letters spelling 'Horse'. Once any players spell the entire word, they are eliminated. Last player standing is the winner.


  • Spell a different word, maybe something tennis related, like 'Tennis'
  • Add an Instant Winner aspect - add a challenge, that, if met, immediately ends game and person meeting challenge is declared Instant Winner. On my court this is usually if a ball hits a small target like a cone or hopper.

Too easy?
  • Make the targets more difficult either by making them smaller or moving the start point farther from the net. 
  • Make the feed underhand, no bounce. 
  • Make it a timed activity - must be completed within certain time limit, or whomever has best score after certain time limit wins. 
Too hard?
  • For younger players use glass half full only
  • Spell out a shorter, easier word. Three letters max. Fun to let them choose a word they know how to spell.
  • Make targets easier - 
    • deuce or ad side only, 
    • or anywhere within playable area over net, 
    • or anything over net gets a letter