Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tennis A-Z

I love this game for several reasons (not the least of which is that I was a pretty good speller back in the day).

  • It is great for any level player.
  • Many of my students perform better when talking during our hitting. I don't know why. I had a student the other day hit 15 backhands in a row while telling me his memories of his first tennis lessons. When he finally missed, I asked him if he knew how many he had hit. When I told him, he was floored - he had no idea!
  • Multitasking! I had a student tell me he had homework to get done after tennis. When I asked what kind and discovered it was spelling homework, we 'spelled' his spelling homework during our warm-up rally. Guarantee he aced his test the next day!
  • Versatile - see Variations below or make up your own. 
I have my students choose the word they would like to spell because if they are very young, this is a very short list. Yes, No, Ball, Dog, Cat, and of course their own names are pretty safe bets. 'Tennis' is another good one. If they run out of ideas then I have them choose any word they want and I help them spell it as we go along. The younger players get a big kick out of spelling ridiculously long  (to them) words like 'alligator' and 'Transformer'. 


  • Easy - they earn one letter for every ball hit over the net and inside court
  • Harder - they earn one letter for every ball rallied
  • Hardest - make the target or skill more demanding - all backhands, all cross court, etc.

  • Another fun letter-related activity is to have them go through the entire alphabet A-Z. This gives a strong sense of accomplishment, especially when mom/dad/grandparents are observing and give a big cheer when we get to 'Z'. To recap, for my youngest players I adjust the goal according to their skill level. We start by giving a letter each time a ball is hit over the net, no matter where it lands. As they improve, the ball must land in the playable area. Make it more challenging by having it land in a particular part of the court, or having them go back to A or zero if they miss.
  • Make it an elimination activity by having any player who misses either in spelling or hitting eliminated. Last player standing wins. 
  • Make this a team-building exercise by having all players working together to spell the word.