Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Battle Cones

Battle Cones has a great name, doesn't it? Makes you want to go out on the court and, well, take names. When I learned it at a QuickStart Workshop, we played it on 36 foot courts with foam balls and we had a grand time. Keep in mind we were all 3.5+ level adults. No surprise to learn it needs modification to work at a 10 and Under level. The good news is, it's easy to modify.

In its original format, Battle Cones is an activity to improve control and consistency.
  • A group of cones is set up somewhere on the court. 
  • An equal group is set up on the other side of the net. Depending on what you are working on, they may be cross court from each other, or straight ahead, or some combination. Just make sure there are the same number of cones on both sides.
  • Players are divided into two teams. 
  • They take turns rallying cross court, attempting to hit each other's cones. 
  • Whenever a cone is hit, it is removed from the court. 
  • When a team has lost all its cones, it loses and the game is over. 
Just stop for a minute and think of all the possibilities here based on how you set up the cones: cross court deuce for righty forehands, or maybe one deuce and one ad to have one team working on backhands, or maybe work on down-the-line shots, wide target volleys, or deep for lobs - you get the picture.

Handy tip: I put a tennis ball atop each cone to make it easier to determine when a cone has been struck.

I have modified this activity in a variety of ways because although my young beginners do not have the skill to control a ball to the degree that makes this activity agreeable, I do like the visual target of the cones for other things.

  • It reinforces which side is deuce or ad.
  • It is a great way to subtly reinforce hitting cross court, down the line, or whatever you are working on that day. Just set up a bunch of cones and let them start hitting.
  • Removing the cones when they are hit is a very simple yet effective way to let the players know when progress is being made.

Case in point: yesterday my 8Us were having trouble hitting the court much less hitting the cones. So instead of removing cones when hit, I awarded points when the ball was hit into the side of the court where the cones were set up. Extra points given if they actually hit a cone, and I did remove that cone.  We began by tossing the ball underhand to the cones. Then we worked on bounce serving to the cones, and finally worked on them hitting a fed ball toward the cones. Progressively more challenging, but by the end of the session believe me they were well aware of a cross court target!