Tuesday, May 15, 2012

One Bounce, Two Bounce

One Bounce, Two Bounce is a great warm-up activity for very young students. I found it at the Coaching Resources page at USTA.com and tried it out. I have used a variation of this game before with very good results. Does 1B2B measure up? In a word, Yes.

My dog is great at catching tennis balls
but her underhand toss is TERRIBLE
This is a simple activity. Players work together in pairs. One tosses a ball to the other. Before tossing, player calls out either 'one bounce' or 'two bounces'. Catching player then catches ball after either one or two bounces. They take turns being the tosser or the catcher.

That's it.

Before you judge, hold on a sec. Sure, this is very basic and simple. But that's why you should like it, especially for players age 5-7.  I am fond of racquetless warm-ups so maybe this is a personal bias.

  • For one thing, all you need is one ball and two players (or a player and a coach/parent). So this also makes a great homework assignment. Wait - you don't give homework? We'll talk about that in another blog post. :)
  • Secondly, you are going to insist they toss underhanded. Two benefits of this: 
    • They will benefit from this throwing motion when they start learning a bounce serve and a forehand. 
    • Many young players are not particularly good at tossing a ball underhanded at a target, which will come in very handy as they progress in tennis. So they are getting an additional benefit here even if they are not the one catching the ball. Use the opportunity to teach them a smooth toss, release toward target, step with opposite foot, shift weight from back to front, etc. 
  • On the catching side, this is a great activity for teaching them to track the ball. As soon as the tossing player calls out 'one bounce' or 'two bounces', you can see the gears start spinning, the focus ratchets up, and their body language says 'pounce'. Love it!
  • As simple as this may seem, my younger players really enjoy this. The tossing players enjoy being in charge when they decide how many bounces. They also enjoy making it a challenge for the catcher by tossing it higher, farther, etc. Let's face it - they like it when the catcher cannot catch their ball! (BTW the first bounce must land in playable area)
To wrap up: it's simple, it builds good fundamentals, and the kids enjoy it. What's not to like??

I mentioned I originally learned this activity with some variations, and here they are.

You know I am kidding about
this 'cone', right??
I was working a summer camp and the kids on my court were 8-10 year-olds. Rather than have kids tossing to each other, I had them all on the far side of the net, behind the full court baseline. Using yellow balls, I called a player's name and the number of bounces allowed. Then I fed the ball super high using my racquet. Important to call out the player's name first to avoid a mad rush to the ball and possible injuries related thereto. The older kids enjoy this version as it is a challenge to time a ball hit very high into the air. After the first round, where everyone has had a chance to catch a ball, I let each player tell ME how many bounces they would like. This allows them to challenge themselves (or not) rather than have me doing all the dictating.

Other variations:
  • For very young players, or for homework, you don't necessarily have to do this across the net. But adding the net as a barrier is a perfect way to increase the difficulty once the basics are mastered.
  • I often offer the option of catching the ball in a cone rather than bare hands - makes it easier and adds a little flash.
  • This summer I played a version where 3 bounces was an option. I had the players take turn bounce feeding the balls.