Monday, October 22, 2012

Empty Nest

I came up with this activity out of desperation. On occasion I have a small number of young beginners on court, 2-4 players. We are still working on the basics, meaning just getting the ball over the net and in play. It is tempting to feed balls the entire lesson just to give them the repetitions they need. But I desperately want to avoid that because it is BORING. So I tweaked my Five Points drill a little and here's what I came up with. Works great with uneven numbers.

This hopper is full now,
but when it is empty,
Players face each other across the net at the baseline. Max 4 players per court. If you have more than four, station extras at net posts or have them compete as teams in a relay format. Ball hopper is located behind one of the baselines safely out of play. Player nearest ball hopper has five chances to bounce feed ball to begin point. One point awarded for every ball that goes over the net and into play (basically rally ball). After first player has used their five tries, all rotate one position and the next player has their turn with five balls. Player with most points when hopper is empty wins.

To clarify point system: any player hitting a ball over net and into playable area gets one point every time they do it, not just the server. Server hits ball into play = 1 point for server. Returner hits it back = 1 point for returner. Server hits this ball back = another point for server, and so on.

Recently during a serve lesson I had the server alone on one side and two players returning on the other side. I allowed any ball hit over the net and in court since a) the players are not quite able to direct their serves cross court (next lesson!), and b) having two returners gave the returners a better chance at returning the ball. But if this causes too much confusion, have the odd player waiting at net post instead.


  • Increase the difficulty by restricting where balls may land (cross court, behind service line) or which stroke should be used (forehand, backhand, etc.).
  • Speed it up by allowing only one ball per player instead of five. This is great for fitness also - rotation after every point.
  • As players advance they can underhand or overhand serve instead of bounce feed.