Friday, June 14, 2013

Bump Up

Bump Up is from Mark Savage, USPTA certified Tennis Director at Sportsplex in New Windsor, NY. Best for young beginners.

Have players spread out a safe distance on court and ask them to dribble the ball into the air, or 'bump up' 10 times. When they are finished, they should sit down in the court.

Next, ask them to Bump Up and count how many times they are able to do so within a 30 second period.  Repeat, encouraging each to improve on their own personal records.

Finally, divide players into teams and repeat the first task (Bump Up 10 times). First team to have all of its players seated, wins.

It is up to you whether you want the 10 to be in a row or just 10 however they can get them!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Luck of the Draw

I hit the tennis drill jackpot recently and am mining it for all it is worth. Another great game inspired by Mike Barrell, evolve9: Luck of the Draw.

Create some cards with a variety of positive and negative tweaks to the usual rules:

Bonus (positive)
Unlimited serves
Replay point
Opponent gets only one serve
Alleys allowed (singles)

Challenge (negative)
Only one serve
No bounce
Use a different racquet
No backhands/volleys/lobs
Use opposite hand

Wild Card - choose a second card; player decides who it should apply to

Use these cards to present challenges or opportunities to your players as they play out points. For example, have two players or teams play a tiebreaker. Before each point, have one of the teams draw a card. Alternate which team draws, or allow each to draw, or allow team that won last point to draw. Stay flexible and let your imagination guide you on the best use of the cards. Great way to train them to deal with positive and negative momentum changes that may occur during a match.

Update: suggested by my students - bring blank cards and a sharpie - they wanted in on the fun and wanted to create their own cards. Love it!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Tic Tac Toe

Thanks Mike Barrell at evolve9 for adding to our collection of children's games converted to our tennis purposes with  Tennis Tic Tac Toe.

Players play singles or doubles with the usual rules EXCEPT they may only earn a point after earning three consecutive points. 

I'll let that sink in for a minute.

Yes, finishing a game could take a while. But the lesson on the value of consistency and momentum is worth the trouble.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mission Possible

Mission Possible is a drill from Mike Barrell at Mike is an industry leader in the field of coaching young tennis players.

Have players play a tiebreak. They are tasked with a challenge, such as keeping the ball deep or hitting to their opponent's backhand. Keep pad and pen handy courtside, and have the players keep track of how they are doing meeting the challenge, or 'mission', in between points. The tiebreaker is played/scored as usual, but the challenge of the mission should be of primary concern to players, second only to winning the point.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Sorry, Charlie!

Sorry, Charlie! is a result of instant inspiration on court recently when something wasn't working and I
Your young students will have no idea who
this is. I always felt badly for Charlie and
all those years of rejection. Very fishy!
had to think fast and switch gears. I like the result and I hope you do, too!

I was using this for young red ball players at the beginner level. Two players face off across the net from each other. On one side, player or coach has created a large target. I put my target smack-dab in the middle of the 36-foot court, more or less a circle about 4 feet in diameter. Remember these were beginners and I wanted to make this doable for them. Make the target out of flat spots or stripes as one player will be playing on this side.

Player on side WITHOUT target hits self-fed or coach fed ball across net, trying to make it bounce somewhere inside the target. If successful, other player returns ball and continues rally.

If the ball does NOT land in the target, player on side of net with target does not have to hit the ball and replies, "Sorry, Charlie!" to let the other player know their ball did not hit the target.

So we have one player working on feeding/targeting skills, and the other working on tracking, calling lines, and returning skills.

One point for every fed ball that lands in the target. Halfway through an average size hopper, switch roles and give the returning player a chance to self-feed.  Player with most points when hopper is empty is the winner.

If you have a large group and half a hopper is too long of a rotation, give each player a fixed number of chances such as 10 balls per player.

To make it more difficult, have the first ball fed to backhand, or shrink/move target.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Tennis Infinity

Thanks again to our friends +PhysEdGames for inspiring this tennis activity. Perfect for large groups, festivals, PE classes, etc. You will need some stickers or clothes pins to track scores.

Distribute your players among your courts. Best if your courts are next to each other to speed up court rotation times. Extra players are stationed at the ends of the courts. This screen shot pertains to a school gym but it translates easily to tennis courts IMO.

At timed intervals, Coach stops play and calls a rotation. All players move one position to left or right depending on Coach's instructions. Every rotation should move one of the excess players at the ends onto court, so no one is left standing out too long.

Players play out points. At the end of each rotation, player with most points won gets one sticker or clothes pin to represent that he/she 'won' during that rotation. At end of activity, player with most stickers/pins, wins.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


The Internet is truly a beautiful thing - an embarrassment of information riches! Sorting through my Twitter connections recently, I came across +PhysEdGames. If you follow my blog or tweets, you know lots of my tennis game ideas are modified children's games. Barnyard is one that is ripe for conversion. The video reminded me of the old Red Rover game from my childhood lo those many years ago when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Barnyard's roots being in a PE class setting, it is a natural for large groups. But I can also see how we can use it in a tennis clinic with a smaller group.

One player is designated the Farmer and is at the net. Across the net at the baseline are all other players. They have been broken into different groups, designated by various farm animal names such as Duck, Cow, Goose, Goat, etc. Coach or Farmer calls out an animal. That animal or a player from that group of animals comes forward. Coach feeds ball; player hits. If he/she gets ball safely by Farmer at net, they earn one point for themselves or their animal group, and back into group they go. However if they miss or if Farmer picks off their ball at the net, they are 'out' and must trot over to far baseline.

What happens here is up to you. You can either task them with catching a ball to free themselves and return to the hitting group, or have them pick up X number of balls and deposit them into the hopper before getting back into hitting group.

First player or group to 7 points wins and is the new Farmer. If it is a group that wins, let them figure out who gets to be the next Farmer.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


I cooked up this drill myself as a way to work on return of serve. Borrowing a little from a drill I saw that Jim Courier used to use. Bet his targets were way smaller, though! You will need some way to mark off the targeted area of the court.
Ad side corner of 60 foot court marked
off as a generous-sized target

Mark off a good-sized area deep in the corner of one half of the court. Coach or other player is on this side of the court, feeding or serving. All other players are cross court returning. One at a time, they return the fed/served ball. Once chance only on each feed. If server/feeder misses, receiving player waits until they receive a good serve. First to 21, wins. Anyone landing on 13 must go back to 0. Points awarded as follows:

0 = over net but out of play
1 = straight ahead
2 = cross court in front of service line (short)
3 = cross court behind service line (deep)
-1 = into net

Anyone hitting the marked off target (cross court very deep) is an INSTANT WINNER. The Instant Winner component can be the great equalizer and is very popular and motivating with my students.

Very simple to convert this game to a team-based activity, so good for larger groups, camps, etc. Make sure to feed/serve quickly, one chance each, teams alternating turns. If they are lollygagging, I feed/serve even if no one is 'ready', thus giving that player/team a missed opportunity = minus 1 point for ball not making it over the net. Trust me, you only need this to happen once, especially in a team setting, for everyone to pick up the pace and rotate through quickly!

Once game is won, rotate new player into serving/feeding position. Move target to opposite side of court on each rotation. So for example if you were hitting to deuce side, move to ad.

Want to make it harder? Make the target smaller. Easier? Reduce number of points needed to win, or hand-feed adjacent to player rather than serving to them.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Spot Shot

Here's another great versatile drill from a recent summer camp coaches training session led by my
boss, Jorge Andrew. It didn't have a name, so . . .

Spot Shot builds on the progression method of teaching new students the basics of stroke production.  They should be able to bounce feed.

Two players face each other across the net inside the service lines. Two spots are on one side of the net; one short, one a little deeper. Player on side with spots is receiving bounce feed. Player bounce feeding announces prior to feed which spot they are aiming for. Then they feed, and receiving player traps ball on racquet after one bounce. Trap should be to forehand.

After three successful traps, players high 5 each other at net and wait for others to finish. Then switch roles so that everyone gets a turn at each position.

Move spots so that they are at left and right within service box rather than short and deep.
Have player trapping to backhand side.

Easier - have players tossing and catching before they move on to using their racquets.
Harder - players rally 3 in a row (or more!) before trapping ball on racquet.