Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tennis Report Cards

For all you teaching pros out there - is anyone doing regular, documented objective player evaluations? My intent is to have some hard data to back up any feedback or input I give them regarding their progress. Also, many of my students are eager to progress to the next color ball. If they are not ready IMO, I think of this as a sort of tennis report card to help explain where they need to improve. Here's a form I put together recently for my players. I am willing to update and adapt. In fact, it is already 2.0.

Does a Tennis Report Card
spoil the fun?
Click here for a PDF of this form.
Initially I set up the first week of every month as evaluation week, where the clinic time would be spent on evaluations until all students had been evaluated. I jettisoned this approach fairly quickly as it was taking too much time per student in the larger classes. Plus I felt too much like I was teaching to the test. Also I did not have a standard form to work with - I was just winging it with simple dead ball feed exercises customized to the abilities of each student. It became obvious after looking at my initial documented results that this was not fair to the students. Why should one red ball student get hand-tossed balls while another gets racquet-fed balls? My desire to see them succeed was competing with my need for a fair, objective test of their skills. So, Plan B.

I created the form based on the skill pyramid suggested by PTR and others. I also made the evaluations optional and outside of clinic time. My students now have the option to request an evaluation by me no more often than once per month.  They are tested on the basics. I ask them to get at least 7 of 10 balls in play. They have three chances to get their 7 of 10.

The form is a work in progress. My intention is to increase the difficulty after they have mastered each level. So for example once they demonstrate better than 70% at the basic level (Consistency), at future evals they will be asked to demonstrate directional ability, then depth, then spin, etc.

One thing I am already considering changing is how many chances they get to achieve the 7 out of 10. With three chances of ten balls each on forehands, backhands, fh and bh volleys, and ad/deuce serves, each eval is taking about 30 minutes. It feels too long. Maybe they should get only one chance?

Any input appreciated. Is this type of evaluation useful? Does it have a role in junior tennis instruction, or should the students' performance against peers (tournaments, match play) be enough?