Monday, May 14, 2012
I found this activity while browsing the USTA's Coaching Resources page. You may recall this is where I found the Lobster Trap activity. Like Lobster Trap, I had some reservations about whether this activity would work as well in real life as it did in the video. In fact, if you watch the SPLAT video, it worked a little too well!
It's a simple activity. Create a small pile of balls, four touching and a fifth on top like a small pyramid. Two players face each other a few feet apart with the pyramid on the ground between them. They each place one ball on their racquet strings. Taking turns, they lift their ball into the air with their racquets so that it drops on the target. SPLAT!
My concern was that my younger students would become frustrated if they were not able to perform the SPLAT fairly quickly. Instead, here's what happened: they were intently focused on that little stack of balls in front of them. Like Lobster Trap, they became completely engrossed, and I had to interrupt them so that we could move on to the rest of the lesson. Yay! Love when that happens!
Teaching moment: I have been working with one of my students to avoid the temptation to swing as hard as possible at every ball. This activity did wonders for helping her understand the benefits of a lighter touch. And without me saying a word - she quickly discovered she could only SPLAT the target if she proceeded delicately. Happy to say this translated easily to her ground stroke production. Great improvement in a matter of only a few minutes.
Hint: someone is always trying to work the system. Some players were tempted to tilt the ball off the racquet at an angle so that it rolled to the SPLAT target rather than dropped there. After a few visual examples from Yours Truly, plus an admonition that rolled balls would not count as SPLATs, they got the idea and performed the task correctly.
Tip: This is a great companion activity to dribbling drills. Helps them lift the ball off the racquet and gently into the air.
I found this variation in USTA's Learn to Rally and Play booklet. It is perfect for younger players. Instead of having a pile of balls as the target, use a racquet. Rather than have the players use their racquets to drop the ball onto the target, have them underhand toss the ball. Players are working together as a team. Award one point for each time the target (racquet) is hit.