|My dog is great at catching tennis balls|
but her underhand toss is TERRIBLE
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??
- 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.