Monday, May 7, 2012

Four Square

Here's another great takeaway from the recent PTR Symposium in Orlando, from David Brouwer's presentation on teaching progressions for 10 and Unders. He had several good activities, one of which I mentioned in an earlier post. Anyway, the overall concept is to become familiar with the types of games kids play elsewhere, playground and otherwise, and adapt them for tennis use. This one is so obvious, if you haven't thought of it before now, you will ask yourself: why not?

Are you ready for it? It's the playground game Four Square. Aggghhhh, I know, I know - it's so obvious! Those service boxes = four squares . . . Eureka!

In case it has been a few years since you last played, Four Square works like this: There is a big square drawn on the playground surface. Divide it into four smaller squares of equal size. Number the squares 1-4. Object of the game is to get to square 1 and stay there. Four players each stand in one of the squares. They take turns bouncing a ball to each other. Ball must be caught on one bounce. If anyone misses, they move down to square 4 and everyone else moves up one number.

With very minor adjustments, this works great on a tennis court. Use the four service boxes as your four squares. Naturally there is now a net bisecting the playing area in half, a new and valuable feature. Otherwise the game is more or less the same.

  • To make it more tennis-like, I require every ball to travel over the net. So cross-court and straight ahead is fine, but no passing to the person on the same side of the net as you. 
  • Also I strictly enforce the one-bounce rule. No bounce (catching in the air) is okay, too.


Progressions
For very young players, I have them start with a big soft bouncy rubber ball rather than tennis racquets and balls. Progress to a smaller ball, then to using balls and racquets.

Hints:

  • Very quickly the players will understand the importance of where they place their pass. This can lead to taking too much time between passes, so sometimes I enforce a time limit of no more than 5-10 seconds between passes.
  • When using balls only, I have them toss from the side of the body, both hands on the ball, to simulate the motion we want to see when striking the ball with a racquet. No granny passes or overhead passes.
  • I haven't found the need to mark the service boxes with 1, 2, 3, 4.  I just designate #1 at random, and the others in order either clockwise or counterclockwise. The kids learn quickly where #1 is!