Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ships and Sailors

Captain's Coming!
Ships and Sailors is another children's game we are adapting for tennis purposes. Thanks to my student Joanna S. for explaining it to me. It is basically a more complex version of Simon Says. I like it for a large group warm-up.

One person (Coach or player) acts as the caller, calling out commands. All others must follow the commands. Last player completing each command, or any player failing to perform the correct command, is knocked out of the game. Last player remaining, wins.

The list of commands is impressive and complex. You can eliminate some of those requiring large numbers of players if your group is small.

Captain's Coming! - all players salute
At Ease
At Ease - all players assume 'at ease' position
This is the similarity to Simon Says. If at any time the caller says Captain's Coming!, players may not perform any other command until caller says At Ease.  Any player performing another command after Captain's Coming without first getting the At Ease command is out of the game.
Wimbledon champ Andy Murray demonstrates
Hit The Deck

Ships - move to ad side of court
Sailors - move to deuce side of court
Seasick - yep, you guessed it - pretend to be sick to your stomach
Hit The Deck - players lie face down on the ground.

The following commands require 2 or more players. So players must not only remember what to do for each command; they must quickly find other players to group with. If you have a small group, here is where you can eliminate some commands to simplify the game.
Titanic of course

Titanic - 2 players. One holds arms out in a T shape; other stands behind and wraps arms around T player's waist.
Man Overboard - 2 players. One lies face down on ground; other stands with one foot on player's back. You may be reminded of the Captain Morgan pose.
3 Men Rowing - 3 players stand in single file and make a rowing motion.
4 Men Eating - 4 players stand in a circle and pretend to eat.
Imagine the keg is a second player
and you've got it for Man Overboard
5 Men Pointing North - group of 5 all pointing same direction; if they are lucky it may be north :)

Monday, July 15, 2013


I love it when my students suggest tennis activities. Thanks Will C. for sharing this one. I used it recently in an adult beginner clinic focusing on backhands and loved how it dovetailed with the backhand lesson. It's simple, which I also love. You will need at least two players.

One player is bounce feeding; the other is returning. Feeding player calls out 'forehand' or 'backhand' quickly, before fed ball crosses net. Returning player must hit whatever stroke was just called by feeding player. When we played this we played mini tennis (service line) but it could also work well from the baseline.

Scoring strategies: Will suggested scoring first to 7 points, then switch. If the point continues past the feed, EVERY ball hit must be accompanied by a stroke command (Forehand or Backhand), so the returning player can get in on the fun as well even though they don't get to feed (yet).

When I used this in the adult class, I didn't do it by points earned. Instead I gave every player 5 balls and rotated them around, giving everyone equal opportunities to feed as well as return.

At first this game may seem to be more of a learning opportunity for the returning player, to work on tracking the ball quickly and improving their footwork. It is, but as you play this, you may find it is equally a challenge for the feeding player. You will see their mental wheels spinning as the plot where to feed the ball and what stroke to require from their opponent. It's a win-win!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ball Pickup - In Disguise

Ball pickup doesn't always have to be about, well, picking up balls. Here's how I have worked in some additional ball striking opportunities into our ball pickup.

Send your players to whichever side of the court has the most balls on the ground. Coach is on the opposite end of court picking up. Have the players send the balls to you with one or more of the following challenges.

Serving - Have them serve into the cross court service box from the baseline.
Topspin forehand - bounce feed and send across the net with as much topspin as they can muster.
Backhand - bounce feed, then work on backhand style of their choice - one hand, two hands, slice.
Lob - bounce feed and aim for behind service line, middle of court. Add some topspin if you are able.

Sometimes my students aren't crazy about ball pickup, but they will wear themselves out with these simple challenges, even scrounging for additional balls to hit once they have exhausted the supply on their side.