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.
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.
- 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!