Thursday, February 28, 2013

Tennis Ball Pyramid

Tennis Ball Pyramid is a great little activity presented by Rita Gladstone at the recent PTR 10 and Under Tennis Conference in Hilton Head. It is very simple in concept but amazingly difficult to accomplish. Best of all, it is such a great challenge, your students will not give up until they solve it.

Place four tennis balls on the ground. Three of them are touching each other, making a sort of pyramid shape. Player must place the 4th ball onto the top of the other three. Here's the catch: they can't use their hands. They can use anything else, just not their hands.

I am not going to give you any hints on how to accomplish this task. But I strongly suggest you try this yourself before introducing it to your students. If they are unable to solve it, they may ask for help or for a demonstration just to prove it is possible.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Help Parents Help You

During Anne Pankhurst's session on 'Helping Parents Help Their Kids in Tennis', she reported an interesting statistic:

96% of tennis parents have never had a child in tennis
80% of tennis parents have never played tennis themselves

Whaaaaaaat????? With USTA membership topping 700,000, and 300,000 high school tennis players nationwide, I found this info surprising, to say the least. But if Anne Pankhurst said it, it must be true. Which brings us to the point of her presentation: with so many parents new to the game, we as coaches need to be mindful of this. They probably have lots of questions not only about their child's instruction, but very basic questions about the game itself. 

According to Anne, some of the top questions new tennis parents have are:
  • How to select a tennis coach
  • Recommended frequency of lessons
  • How to define success

I have a few more that I am often asked:
  • What to expect from the tournament experience
  • What is the proper way to fuel a player during a tournament
  • What gear is recommended/required
  • How best to help my player between lessons
  • What is proper match behavior for fans/parents - coaching, cheering, other points of tennis etiquette
And I am sure you can add to this list. Anne had a great suggestion for educating the parents: hold a lesson for parents only. Walk them through a sample lesson plan so that they understand what their children will be learning on court. Laramie Gavin of Midwest Athletic Club Rochester NY improved on this idea when he suggested hosting a parent meeting (with adult beverages!) in conjunction with pizza party for the players after a fun match play event. We have just created a Junior Tennis Instruction FAQ which is now printed on the flip side of our program fliers as well as on our Facebook page. Whatever works best for your operation, consider implementing simple and effective ways of keeping communications open with your parents. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

7 Free Things To Improve Your Junior's Tennis

Anne Pankhurst
More good info from the recent PTR 10 and Under Tennis Conference in Hilton Head. Physiology and instruction guru Anne Pankhurst led a couple different sessions which you will be hearing more about in future blog posts. Anne is a big shot in this field. The Baltimore Ravens recently had her over to consult with them on their junior sports program.

One of Anne's sessions was entitled 'Helping Parents Help Their Kids in Tennis'. She included some great tips on general ABC's (agility, balance, coordination) that will help any child improve in any sport. We have talked about these before in previous blog posts, but they are definitely worth mentioning again. These basic skills are often sadly lacking in today's TV and video game-based sedentary lifestyle. All are simple things you can do with your child at home. All are things your child should be delighted to do. I sometimes call these things 'homework'. That often results in a sour face from my students until they hear just exactly what the 'homework' entails.

Parents often ask me what they can do to help their kids improve their tennis skills outside of our lessons. The easy answer is to take your child out to the neighborhood courts and play. But this is often not an option for some. So here are some beneficial activities that can be done right at home - no courts required!

Here's the Magnificent 7:
  • Reaction/tracking - performing some of the 'bounce, catch' and other similar activities shows me the student is focused on the ball and is learning the proper timing and reaction based on what the ball is doing.
  • Throwing/catching TO SIDE - very important if you have a tennis player in the family and want to play a game of catch, please have them catch and throw from the side rather than from the belly button. This simulates the proper point of contact when they are hitting the ball. For example, for forehands - out in front racquet distance away (arms outstretched) at 2 o'clock for righties and 10 o'clock for lefties.
  • Overhand throwing - just as if they are throwing a football or baseball. This simulates an overhand service motion.
  • Running - good footwork and fitness is key in many sports. Tennis is no exception. 
  • Jumping - improves footwork, timing.
  • Skipping - great for coordination! Skipping is harder than it looks!
  • Jump rope - I brought some jump ropes to class recently to use during the warm-up. They were a huge hit. Strongly recommend adding them to your tennis bag of goodies. 
Anne said she tells parents 'don't pay coaches to do [the above activities]'. I understand her point - why waste valuable on-court time on things you can easily take care of at home for free? But let me give you a different perspective: if you see your child's coach including some of these activities, don't despair. This may be the only time some of the other students get to do them. Since they are so critical to physical development, a reasonable amount of time spent on basic athletic skills shows me the coach understands their importance, especially for very young players (8 and under). 

Monday, February 25, 2013


Another fun activity from evolve9's presentation at the PTR 10 and Under Tennis Conference. Escalator is actually the name of the rotation, but we will co-opt it for the name of this activity as well. It is great for large groups of varying skill levels.

Divide players into teams. Players line up in any old order by team, and are sent off to play in groups of four - two pairs of players from each team per court. However, they will not be playing doubles. One at a time, they play each other in singles, two points per pair with each player serving once. First team to 5 points wins.

Keep in mind multiple courts are playing, so before each round, all players must wait until all courts are ready before starting. As soon as Coach gives the go ahead, play begins. As soon as any court reaches 5 points, they call out '5' or 'Done' or whatever to indicate they are finished. Coach stops play for all courts. Whoever is ahead at that time wins.

Now here's where it could get tricky - the rotation. Prior to sending the players out, Coach has designated one end of the courts as the Escalator. When round is complete, Escalator side moves 'up' a court. Other end of court does not move. This results in fresh pairings for each round. If you have excess players, they just rotate in in an orderly fashion. For example Escalator players on end court rotate out and go to end of waiting line as leftover players on opposite end court rotate in.

This rotation sounds easy but in my experience the tricky part is determining which direction is 'up' at your facility. Some staff/volunteers may assume 'up' is moving to the next higher numbered court (from court 11 to court 12). Others may assume 'up'  means court 1 is your ultimate goal, so moving 'up' may in fact mean moving from court 11 to court 10. Whatever you choose is fine as long as everyone moves the same direction on the rotation!

We played this game on small courts with mini nets and foam balls. However, if you have enough courts, it is easily adapted to any size court/ball. Also note the Escalator rotation, like its namesake people mover, does not reward nor does it punish - it just moves people from point A to point B. So you can use it in any activity where you want to keep the pairings fresh and advancing to a winning court is not a consideration.

Friday, February 22, 2013

First to Four

On to the second format we played during the evolve9 presentation at the PTR conference: players are divided into teams. They are sent out to play singles. First to 4 points wins. Players alternate serving but do not switch ends. Winner comes off the court and collects a ticket. Non-winner stays on court and waits for another opponent. The kicker here is that the non-winner retains any points he/she accumulated in the previous match, even though he/she did not win. So when the next opponent comes out, they may have to start at a disadvantage. The idea is to handicap the lower level players a little bit so that presumably at some point they, too, will come up with a win.

Being on court with lots of tremendously gifted tennis players that night, I could easily see how this might not be the case for some players and they might get frustrated. But this probably would not occur at a tennis carnival or other event where many beginners will be involved.

We had a very large group, but this would also work nicely for a quick warm-up with a smaller group of kids. Squeeze down to one court of singles with extra players waiting at the net post. This will also get your players used to being observed and cheered during play.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Depth Charge

Depth Charge appeared in an article from Tennis Pro magazine (December 2010) by Rob Antoun. It was suggested as a warm-up, but I love it for working on consistency and depth any time during the lesson. You will need some way to mark the back court in half sideline to sideline.

Players pair up to play singles. If you have an odd number, the odd player out stands at the net post to keep score. If numbers are even, one of the two singles players is keeping score as well as serving as a cooperative rallying partner. The non-scorekeeping player has one minute to accumulate as many points as possible as follows:

1 point for ball hit over net and into service box
2 points if ball lands in front half of back court
3 points if ball lands in back half of back court

Rotate until each player has had their turn. Player with most points at end of last rotation wins.

Too hard? use a smaller court or slower balls, and allow 1 point for in front of service box, 2 points for behind service box. For your youngest beginners, have them toss and catch instead of rally with racquets.
Too easy (or need more courts)? Shrink court in half lengthwise baseline to baseline and have four players playing two rounds of singles straight ahead simultaneously. Also consider subtracting points if balls are hit out or in net.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Roll the Dice

I don't know if this is the actual name of this game. If not, it is now! We played this at the recent PTR 10 and Under Tennis Conference in Hilton Head. It was part of Mike Barrell's evolve9 presentation at the end of Day 1. We played three other formats during that presentation as well, so I will get those to you shortly. BTW thank you, evolve9, for the grub and beverages! Much appreciated!

Mike had a large group of players to manage for this presentation. He had four regulation size courts, each set up with four mini-nets for a total of 24 foam ball courts. Players were divided into four different teams. Conveniently enough, the four courts were separated by an observation pavilion. So it was easy for Mike to send two teams to one side and two to the other. Then each team lined up separately and waited to advance up the line and out onto the court.

Here's where the dice comes into play: when it was your turn to play, you and your opponent each took a turn at rolling a big plastic dice (or 'die' I guess is the correct singular but it sounds weird and depressing!). Whatever you rolled, that was your starting score. You then went out to court and played a 7 point tiebreaker, starting with the dice scores. Players alternate serving, but don't bother switching ends. Once the breaker is complete, both players leave the court and get back in their respective team lines to play again. Because the team sizes are not uniform and players are finishing at random times, the chances of you meeting the same opponent again were low. But if you do, just switch it up when you get to the head of the line again.

These are not exactly what we played with, but they are
just the right size. 
If you won, you received a ticket when you came off the court. Tickets were deposited in team boxes off court and toted up at the end of the event. Or you could just show accumulated points on a white board, or hand out stickers and count them up at the end.

It was fun, it was quick, and between the random starting scores and the foam balls, playing levels were somewhat equalized. Perfect for any number of players of any level.

Whatever you roll is your opponent's starting score, and vice versa. You may also use playing cards or dominoes pulled out of a bag if no dice are easily available.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Hunt and Gather

Hunt and Gather appeared in an article in TennisPro magazine (December 2010) by Rob Antoun about getting your clinics off to a good start. It combines the ABCs (agility, balance, coordination) with a healthy dose of competition. You will need some cones and clothes pins or other similar items. You should set this up before the players arrive.

Set up 15 cones in the back court (the area between the service line and the baseline). Hide 5 clothes pins under five random cones (one under each cone). Divide players into two teams, one at each sideline. Players take turns looking for the pins. They may only look one at a time per team, meaning two players (one from each team) will be looking simultaneously. They may only look under one cone at a time. Encourage quick, efficient movement. Each cone must stay in place after they look under it - no cheating by leaving it down or otherwise signalling it has already been searched.  After their turn they return to the sideline and the next player goes. Game is over when all pins have been found.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Set Your Court Abuzz

Last weekend I was at beautiful Hilton Head Island, SC attending PTR's first conference dedicated solely to 10 and under tennis. The presentations were outstanding. I will be sharing the highlights with you in the next several blog posts, starting with this one.

On the first day of the conference, Faisal Hassan gave a presentation about using 'kid friendly' buzzwords in teaching progressions. Many of you are probably already using alternatives to tennis jargon. For example, when I try to explain forehand stroke mechanics to a 5 year old, I ask them to 'scoop it' to get the low-to-high swing path we need to get the ball over the net. By comparing it to one of their favorite treats (ice cream) and pairing it with a visual, my students understand immediately what I am asking of them.

Faisal's examples were numerous, but the ones that really resonated with me were his examples of what he called Mistake Ritual Buzzwords. It wasn't so much the words themselves that were revolutionary. But I loved his idea of helping young players manage adversity by suggesting some phrases to help them maintain confidence and work through tough situations. As tennis instructors it is easy to spend much time on forehands and backhands and topspin and recovery and ready position and point of contact and serve and return of serve and . . . where was I? I think you get my point. So do your students a favor and take some time to offer them some positive mental touch points when things aren't going as planned.

Mistake Ritual Buzzwords
No Sweat
Brush it Off
Good thing you're tough!
Play with pride
You can handle it
You got this
And my personal favorite: Find a way

While we're on the topic of mental toughness, check out this TED presentation by Ann Cuddy. It's kinda long so I will break it down for you: positive body language plus positive attitude should yield positive results. So encourage your students to stand tall and grin and bear it. You might want them to work on that gymnastics dismount pose, too. Turns out there's something to that!

Friday, February 15, 2013


You will need some throw down spots or lines for this activity. Works for any level of player. It is a simple concept with unlimited variations. Especially good for improving targeting/direction.

Place three small targets on each side of the net. Players play singles with regular scoring. If either player hits any target during the point, that player wins the point.

Experiment with the size/shape of the court - play only the service boxes, or only deuce side, or only back court.
Modify the scoring to speed things up - first to X number of points wins, rather than traditional 15-30-40 scoring. Or, how about combining Minefield with Black Jack??
Move targets to service boxes only and make freebie points only available on serve.

Adapted from The Tennis Drill Book by Tina Hoskins

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Tennis Black Jack

Tennis Black Jack is a scoring strategy that can be applied to just about any tennis activity. It adds a fun element of danger, like the Go Directly To Jail space in the Monopoly game.

Take any activity where you want to emphasize a particular target, for example hitting forehands deep (behind service line). Coach feeds players balls from across the net. Players get one point for every forehand hit in front of service line, and two points for every forehand hit behind service line. First player to earn 21 points wins. However, any player accumulating 13 points loses ALL points and goes back to zero. 

You can spice things up by adding negative scoring elements, for example -1 point for any ball hit into the net. Black Jack is also great for serving games.

Adapted from The Tennis Drill Book by Tina Hoskins

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tea and Biscuits

This game is delicious
Tea and Biscuits is a variation of the court champ games. By changing the starting position of the challengers, it adds a fitness component.

One player is designated as the first champ, or the 'tea'. All others are the 'biscuits'. Tea takes up position at one baseline. Biscuits are lined up in single file near opposite service line sideline. Coach is on same side of court as Tea, feeding balls across net to Biscuits.

To begin point, a Biscuit enters the court at the T, then hustles to the baseline where the coach then feeds the first ball. Players play out a singles point. If Tea wins, new Biscuit enters at the T and moves to baseline. If Biscuit wins point, Biscuit runs to opposite baseline as the new Tea, and next Biscuit in line proceeds to T for next point. First player to win X amount of points wins game.

Safety tip: this is a great opportunity to reinforce the safe ways to move backwards from the service line to the baseline: carioca, grapevine, side shuffle, etc.

Adapted from The Tennis Drill Book by Tina Hoskins

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Great Divide

Put all those extra giveaway bean bag
balls in your tennis cart bag of tricks
You have probably played this game with water balloons. It's still fun with a tennis twist, and not so messy! Perfect for young beginners. You will need koosh balls or bean bags or hacky balls - anything that can be tossed easily but will not roll.

Pair players up. Each pair has one koosh/bean bag. One player puts the koosh on their racquet and tips it to the other player's racquet. If they tip it successfully without a drop, they each take a step apart and repeat. Soon they will be far enough apart that they will need to toss the koosh rather than just tip it onto the strings. Whichever pair successfully tosses/catches the farthest distance is the winner.

Adapted from USTA's QuickStart Guide handbook.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Juggle Rally

These NYC area players look ready to rally!
Juggle Rally combines the self rally with a partner rally for a natural transition to regular tennis rallying. Player should be able to self rally.

Pair players up. One of the pair self-rallies a certain number of times. How many times this is can be set by the coach or determined by some other fun method such as rolling a dice, picking a playing card, etc. After the player completes their number of self rallies, they bump it to their partner (a true rally) and the partner repeats the process.

Easiest - low number for self rally, no net between partners
Harder - increase number of rallies; add net as barrier between partners. For even more of a challenge, shrink the court and have them play only in a service box or only in an alley.

Adapted from USTA's QuickStart Tennis guide

Friday, February 8, 2013


Kirk Anderson
USTA's Director of
Recreational Coaches
and Programs
This activity is from USTA's QuickStart Tennis guide. I am not sure who 'Kirk' is, but I am guessing it is Kirk Anderson. Kirk is a big wheel at USTA and is listed as one of the contributors to that booklet. Thanks, Kirk, for this great concept. I hope you don't mind if I tweak it a little.

Kirk-O-Rama is a list of ball handling activities. Originally it was suggested to add some music and change activities every 30 seconds or so. Adding music is sometimes problematic for me, so I am planning on printing out these 20 activities and putting them in a container to be drawn one at a time by one or more students. Whichever one is drawn is the one we will do.

1 - bounce ball down
2 - bounce ball up, let bounce, catch
3 - bounce ball down on edge of racquet
4 - bounce ball up, keeping ball in air, no bounces
5 - bounce ball up, alternating sides of racquet
6 - bounce ball up, alternating sides of racquet, add an 'edgie' to the rotation
7 - bounce ball high
8 - bounce ball low
9 - bounce ball while on one knee
10 - bounce ball while sitting on court
11 - bounce ball while lying on the court
12 - bounce ball on a circle around the body
13 - bounce ball in a Figure 8 around the legs
14 - bounce ball down while hopping on one foot
15 - bounce ball up while hopping on other foot
16 - bounce ball up, with the racquet between the legs
17 - bounce ball up with racquet behind back
18 - toss ball up and catch it on the racquet without it bouncing on the strings
19 - balance the ball on the strings and turn the racquet 180 degrees without the ball falling off
20 - spin quickly in a circle while balancing ball on strings

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Jog Ball

Jog Ball is a quick and easy warm-up for all ages and abilities. Players jog lightly in a circle. While they are jogging, they toss a ball up, let it bounce, and catch with both hands. Progress to catching with just the right hand, then just the left hand, then alternate. Once they are used to this, coach can have them change direction on command or using a whistle. Note the initial directions for this activity were not clear whether all players are in one big circle, or are each jogging in their own individual circle. For safety reasons, I recommend the latter.

Adapted from USTA's QuickStart Tennis guide

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Move It!

Move It! is for older players, advanced beginners and up (although of course at the end of this article I will give you some ideas on how to make it easier for beginning players). They should be able to rally and direct the ball. If they can't direct the ball yet, Move It! will help them get there.

Move It! comes in two variations. One is to learn to move your opponent from side to side. The other is to move them deep to short. You will need two different colored spots.

Side to Side
Dust off your spots - you will need them
 for this drill
Place one spot on the ad side of the court, and one on the deuce side. Where is not especially important as long as they can be seen across the net from the far baseline. Two players rally singles. One is challenged to call out which side or color spot they are hitting to as they hit. Both players must recover to center baseline after every shot.

Deep to Short
Same idea, but now one spot is placed in front of service line and the other behind the service line. Player must call out the color of the spot or 'short'/'deep' before each shot and make it happen. This will be a workout for the returning player, as both will still be expected to recover to center baseline after every shot.

Give each players either 10 balls and switch, or switch after a set time limit so that each player has a turn at directing the ball.
For your young beginners, instead of rallying, have them tossing and catching with foam or red balls on the 36-foot court.

Adapted from USTA's QuickStart Tennis guide

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Partner Toss/Catch Variations

Will Hamilton from
demonstrating his tossing skills
Tossing and catching skills are central to many sports. In tennis, both progress into making contact with and hitting the ball with the racquet. So the more often your students work on these two basic skills, the quicker they will improve.

These two skills are also wonderful because they require little extra equipment and can be performed off the court (at home) for easy and fun tennis homework assignments. The tossing/catching activities below will require a partner.

Rolling - partners face each other a few feet apart. They take turns rolling the ball to each other. Receiving partner must move so that the ball is between their feet when they stop it. Crank it up a notch by adding a ball and having each partner rolling/catching the balls simultaneously.

Tossing - same as above, but have them toss underhanded rather than rolling the ball. No bounce is hardest. If this is too difficult allow one or more bounces, but still have the receiving player moving to catch the ball in the center of the body.

These will require coordination!

  • Each partner has a ball. One player rolls their ball. The other underhand tosses. Simultaneously!
  • One player underhand tosses (catch in air); the other bounce passes (one bounce before catch). Again, simultaneously!
  • Still using two balls, but in this variation, one partner has two balls in one hand, and tosses both at the same time to their partner. Partner must catch both balls after one bounce. If this is too hard, allow two bounces. 
Adapted from USTA's QuickStart Tennis guide

Monday, February 4, 2013

Low Compression Balls = Instant Tennis

Low compression
to the rescue!
True story, just happened over the weekend and I wanted to share it with you as anecdotal evidence demonstrating why I support the use of low compression balls to introduce 99% of junior newcomers to the game of tennis. (For those of you new to my blog, I have discussed this teaching technique in a previous blog entry. )

Recently as I rolled my teaching cart to my regular teaching court, I found two young boys already there. As I later discovered, they were about 8 and 10, flat-out beginners. They had racquets and a couple of yellow balls and were trying to play a little bit. Their 'play' went like this:

  • player bounces ball
  • player hits ball
  • ball goes in net - or - ball goes over net somewhere
  • opponent swings and misses - or - hits out - or hits into net
  • player retrieves yellow ball
  • repeat

I walked over to the adult who was standing outside the court observing them. She was their aunt and had brought them by to play tennis for fun. They had expressed interest in learning the game and even had two brand new racquets to try it out with.

I had a few minutes to kill before my lesson, so I inserted myself into the process. I sent both boys onto the same side of the net and set up across from them. But before I started hitting with them, I grabbed a couple of red felt low compression balls from my cart. Folks, I am not kidding when I say we went from zero rallies to instant rallies by the second ball. Sure, it was mini-tennis and it wasn't exactly championship form, but we were rallying! I wish you could have seen those boys' attitudes improve instantly. Gone were the slumped shoulders and frowns, replaced by lots of activity darting around the court and plenty of smiles and laughs. When two of my regular students showed up, I plugged them into my spot and went over to chat with the boys' aunt while the four kids played mini-tennis together. They had a ball.

When it was time for my lesson to begin, they graciously agreed to move to another court. I sent some red as well as orange balls with them so they could at least enjoy some rallies rather than chase a yellow ball all over the court. As they left with their aunt, I heard them ask if they could stay for the lesson.

These two young beginners' first experience on the tennis court went from disaster to delight in about 30 seconds, all due to a low compression ball.

I am not telling you this as part of a feel-good marketing scheme. Notice there were no 30-second spots featuring Clydesdales or astronauts. So there was no happy ending for the pro, with auntie shelling out big bucks for tons of lessons for her two nephews. But the chances of those kids pursuing their interest in tennis, at least short term, are 100% IMO. Without the low compression balls, no way. And that's happy ending enough for me.

Hot Seat

Hot Seat is a variation on elimination games like Jail Break. This version is perfect for your youngest beginners. Plus it contains an element of mercy, also perfect for your youngest beginners. With a little tweaking, it will work for players of any age and ability.

Players line up on one side of the net. One at a time, they attempt to bounce feed a ball over the net and into play. If the player succeeds, they go to the end of the line. If they do not succeed, they go to an area off court designated as the 'hot seat'. If the next player succeeds, the player on the hot seat is knocked out of the game. However, if the next player also fails, he/she is now on the hot seat, and the former hot seat player may return to the end of the line. Last player remaining in game wins.

My boss told me about this game. It appears in the free samples section of the tennis instruction site under the title 'Knock Out'. However, when I used it recently, the players were much more intrigued with the hot seat element than the knock out element. I found myself calling it Hot Seat and it just stuck. I played it with Red, Orange and Green ball level players. For the Red Ball we just played it simply with me tossing them forehands. For the more advanced players, we added moving back farther from the net after each round to increase difficulty. Then we ran through the whole game a second time with me tossing to their backhands. Everyone enjoyed it. I would definitely use it again.

UPDATE: for the players who are knocked out of the game, rather than have them just standing around waiting for the game to be over, put them to work shagging balls on the other side of the net. I tried this with my Red Ball class, offering a free pass back into the hitting line for anyone who caught a ball in the air or after one bounce (similar to Jail Break).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Clap The Bounce

Clap The Bounce is from a PTR 10 and Under booklet. It adds variations to the Bounce, Catch activity most coaches are familiar with. Best with young beginners.

Player tosses ball to eye level, lets it bounce, then catches it. Once they are proficient at this, add a clap when the ball bounces. Or,

  • Clap when ball reaches its highest point
  • Clap when ball reaches eye level


  • Ask them to toss as high as they can
  • Call out 'Up' when it is traveling up, 'Down' when it is falling, and perhaps Bounce and Catch at the appropriate times. 
  • Play with a partner - two players share one ball.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Catch This!

Living on a lake, I actually own one of these
This is a catching drill cleverly disguised as silly fun with silly objects.  Players will need a variety of items with which to catch balls. The key is preparation - bring lots of odd items to court with you for this activity. Build the drama by stuffing all the catching tools into one container, to be revealed just before play.

Some ideas for potential catching tools - the crazier, the better!

  • cones
  • shopping bags
  • gift bags
  • back packs
  • purses
  • hats - the crazier, the better!
  • towels
  • tennis bags
  • empty cardboard boxes
  • nets - fishing, butterfly, hair, vegetable
  • pots/pans, colanders, strainers, Tupperware, other kitchen items
  • Christmas stockings

They can also contribute their own ideas for things to use - shirt, hood, hat, etc. Once everyone has a catching tool, Coach just tosses balls and they try to catch them with their catching tool of choice. You will probably need to have several rounds so they can rotate catching tools. First to three points wins, for example. Take lots of pictures - this should be a hoot.

Play with a partner, taking turns tossing underhand. First team to X points wins.

Adapted from Growing Kids, Growing the Game by Mike Barrell

Friday, February 1, 2013

Alley Rally

4.5 foot strip of tennis heaven
Those 4.5 foot wide alleys on the 78-foot court come in handy for lots of things besides doubles. Alley Rally is a great warm-up and improves coordination skills as well.

Coach places spots or stripes 5-6 feet apart in a straight line in alley from net to baseline. Players pair up with a partner and face each other across alley at net. Side shuffling toward the baseline, players must toss and catch a ball to each other. Ball should bounce between them. If they miss, they return to the nearest spot and keep trying. First pair to reach baseline wins.

Eliminate the bounce and have them catch the ball out of the air.

Adapted from USTA's Learn To Rally And Play booklet