Friday, October 25, 2013

Different Strokes

Was this show before your time??
Oooh I like this one, too - challenging, so maybe for intermediate players and above.

Both players start at baseline. Coach feeds medium pace ball to ad side of Player A (deuce side if player is a lefty). Player A must return this ball with a cross court backhand. Point is played out.

  • Repeat, but Player A must now hit an inside out forehand (cross court) on the first fed ball.
  • Repeat, but Player A must now hit an inside in forehand (down the line) on the first fed ball.
This drill teaches the player the various options available to him/her and the consequences of each. Variations are endless, so use this construct to work on whatever shots or situations work best for your students.

Adapted from "Live Ball: Let Them Play!" by Oliver Stephens, TennisPro Magazine, Sept/Oct 2013

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Coach's Call

Poster available here
Like most of life's best ideas, Coach's Call is so simple yet so effective. Players should be able to rally

Players rally from the baseline until coach calls 'Play!'. Then and only then they proceed to play out the point. This teaches patience and 'staying in the point' until the right opportunity arises to end the point.

Adapted from "Live Ball: Let Them Play!" by Oliver Stephens, TennisPro Magazine, Sept/Oct 2013.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Criss-Cross is a variation of one of my favorite live ball drills, 3 Monkeys. Like 3 Monkeys, it requires certain criteria be met before the point can be played out. With 3 Monkeys it is usually a set number of shots cross-court, increasing in number required as players improve. Criss-Cross requires certain types of shot be achieved before playing out the point.

Two players play singles.

  • One serves out wide
  • Returning player must return down the line
  • Server must return this ball cross court

Only now can the point be played out. I like this drill because it works on serving to a specific spot as well as what is like to happen when you serve out wide. I would also set this up as a doubles drill to train the net player to guard that alley when their partner's serve lands in the out-wide third of the service box.

Adapted from "Live Ball: Let Them Play" by Oliver Stephens, TennisPro Magazine Sept/Oct 2013.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plus 2

This is a simple consistency drill great for all but the youngest beginners. Players should be able to rally.

Challenge them to hit a serve, return and 2 additional rallies without an error. Do not play out the point, just these four shots. Put them on a timer and see how many times they can complete this successfully within the given time period. Rally must be quality shots from baseline - resist the urge to make it easy on them or let them take it easy on themselves :)

Adapted from "Live Ball: Let Them Play" by Oliver Stephens, TennisPro Magazine Sept/Oct 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Approach Drill

Mining Oliver Stephens' recent article in TennisPro Magazine for all it is worth! Here's a twist on a
dead ball drill that Stephens feels makes it more realistic for working on approaching the net. Players should be able to rally with a variety of shots, so advanced beginner and higher.

Two players begin at the baseline. One bounce-feeds a ball and follows it in to the net. This player's job is to become comfortable following a ball in and works on his/her volleys and overheads.

The other player should hit the first three rallies as follows: two ground strokes, then a defensive lob (ideally playable by net player).

I have tried this drill and like it. I have found my non-feeding players tend to tighten up when they see the opponent charging into the net from the baseline. Teaching opportunity: to have them hit quality ground strokes as if the opponent were still at the baseline.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Traffic Light

Suggested by Oliver Stephens in his article for TennisPro Magazine. Players should be able to rally
from the baseline.

As soon as a ball is struck by the opponent, the other player calls out either Red, Yellow or Green depending on how he/she evaluates the incoming ball. Red is for a deep difficult ball, meaning they 'stop' whatever offensive intentions they may have had and just hit the ball to stay in the point. Yellow is for a mid court or transitional, neutral ball. Green is a ball they feel they can or should attack offensively, probably a softly hit ball, or short, or both.

In addition to recognizing what ball is coming their way, players should respond accordingly and hit the correct type of ball back.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Short, Mid, Deep

Short, Mid, Deep is one of several drill ideas contained in a recent TennisPro Magazine article by PTR Master of Tennis Oliver Stephens.

Players play singles and are challenged to hit 10 balls in a row short to short. Then 10 more mid court to mid court, and finally 10  more baseline to baseline. Ideally they will get to the point where they can use one ball and keep this pattern going for a long time. It is not spelled out in the article but I think Oliver intends that the players do not stop between transitioning from short to mid to deep and back again.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Six Pack Swinger

Let's just say I had lots of options when
Googling an image to go with this post
This drill appeared in TennisPro magazine. It was suggested as a ball machine drill by Julien Heine. Great for working on volley skills with any size group.

One at a time, players begin at the T. Coach is across the net feeding them six high balls/lobs in succession. First ball must be a swinging volley approach shot. Next four should be volleys alternating forehand and backhand. Last ball should be taken as an overhead.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Double Trouble

Double Trouble originally was a ball machine drill suggested in TennisPro Magazine by Inaki Balzola, PTR's International Director. It's a great doubles drill for large groups. Players should be able to rally.

One player is at ad side baseline; coach is at same baseline on deuce side. All other players are at the net post. Coach feeds first ball to first player waiting at net post. This player volleys the ball back toward the coach. Coach feeds second ball cross court; same player must run and volley toward player waiting at baseline.

Player at baseline lobs this volley over net player. Net player runs down the lob, returns it with a lob of their own, goes to end of player line. Note baseline player does not have to play this ball. Coach then stars the process all over again with next player waiting in line.

Continue for a set time or until X amount of lobs have been hit by either player; then rotate a different player into the baseline position.

Eliminate first fed volley; volleying player only gets one ball fed before baseline player returns it with a lob.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mountain Climb

Mountain Climb is Daniel Breag's version of Uptown/Downtown. But I like his addition of different types of balls at the various stations.

Players are distributed among as many courts as you have available. They play singles across the net from each other. Half courts are okay/encouraged. Small ball/mini tennis okay also. Points are played out; winner of best 2 of 3 moves 'up' a court and non-winner moves 'down'. Which is up/down is determined prior to play.

Since each court has different types of balls, typically the slowest balls will be on the lowest court. Balls will increase in compression until you get to the highest court. So for example if you have three half courts playing, first court could be orange ball; then green ball; then yellow ball would be the highest court and ultimate goal.

Players at highest court when activity is finished are the winners.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Of course I found this on a TX website
a TX loblolly aka mud hole
Another one from Daniel Breag - he did not give it a specific name so I will harken back to my rural roots. So simple - tennis face palm moment.

Four players are in, all at baseline. One end of court can hit nothing but lobs. Great for working on overheads and defending against them. Structure it however you like. For example:


  • First team to X points wins; switch ends; best 2 of 3.
  • First team to hit X winning overheads wins.
  • First team to hit X unreturned lobs wins. 
  • For groups larger than 4, divide into teams, have players rotating in after every point. Timed intervals; team who is ahead at end of time, wins. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013


This is such a fun game from PTR Master Professional Daniel Breag. Simple and action-packed. Plus, I like the name.

Four players at service lines. One starts the point with a bounce feed. Point is played out. Ball must stay within service boxes. Each player serves 4 times. Team with most points after 16 serves is the winner.

Full disclosure: Daniel said a couple different times that this was a 32 point game, so either my math skills are lacking (likely) or I misunderstood his instructions (also likely). In any case, this activity is great for a warm-up, great for quick hands, great for working on volleys and using the continental grip.

If you have more than 4 players but only one court, divide them into teams and have them rotate after every 4 points/feeds.


  • Make it harder by restricting strokes - all volleys, all backhands, etc.
  • Start play with a 'drop' ball - feeder places ball on racquet, then gently rolls it onto other side of net to begin point.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Spiders and Snakes

So apparently the 1973 Skylab
mission has a tennis connection
This is what I deserve for Googling 'snake tennis drill'. . . but this one is a cute idea from . Good for groups of 4-6 or more. Players should be able to rally.

Two players are designated 'spiders' and are stationed at the net. All others ('snakes') are lined up at the opposite baseline. Snakes play against the two Spiders one vs. two. Coach feeds first ball to Snake #1. Snake #1 cannot lob the first ball. Players play out the point. If Snake wins, Snake moves up to T and gets second ball fed. If Snake wins second point, he/she takes place of one of the Spiders, who now is one of the Snakes. When game is over, Snakes pick up all balls.

Original instructions did not specify which Spider is replaced by Snake who won 2 points in a row. Suggest the Spider who made the error is the one who is now a Snake.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The Snake

This was the only snake pic I could bear
to include. Available here.
The 11-17 PTR certification workshop I attended recently was lead by PTR Master Professional Daniel Breag of St. Marys, GA. He had some great ideas for on court activities, so you will be seeing many of them here in the next few blog posts.

I really hate snakes, but this name makes sense so I will leave it as-is. The concept is simple and can be used for all kinds of shot production. We used it to work on split steps and volleys.

Coach is feeding from service line. Players are lined up across net. One at a time they move up to starting spot (about halfway between service line and net) and split step. Coach feeds out wide to their forehand, where they move to hit a volley, then immediately run to back of line.

If this is working properly, the players are snaking through at a pretty good clip, so it is not as heinous as some of the other dreaded line drills.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

50 Ball Rally

I attended a PTR 11-17 certification this workshop and came away with some great drill ideas. This one is from Ashlee Creen, girls tennis coach at Brookland Cayce High School. Great for large groups, but you can make it work with as few as 4 players. Players should be able to volley and rally. No special equipment needed.

Divide players into two teams. Each team selects one player as their King or Queen. King/Queen takes up position at net. All other players on their team are at the opposite baseline. One at a time, they rally straight ahead relay fashion (baseline player hits one ball, then goes to end of line so next player can hit next ball). First team to 50 rallies, wins.


  • If they miss, they don't necessarily have to start over at zero - that is completely up to you. 
  • Switching out King/Queen - you can do this after each round of 50, or devise some method of having them switch during play. For example, if net player mis-plays a ball, they have to switch with whomever they were playing against. 
  • Limit to specific shots, such as players must hit only backhands, or net player must hit volleys. 
This game generated a high level of enthusiasm, camaraderie and competition. I will def be trying it soon with my own students.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hit Or Miss

After months of stealing other pros' drills, today I have one that I made up spur-of-the-moment yesterday. Great warm-up for any size group, any ability. No special equipment needed. Yes, there is the dreaded 'line' of players waiting to hit, but this goes quickly.

Players line up at service line or baseline, however you prefer to warm up. Coach feeds balls to players from net post area.  If player hits safely, he/she goes to end of line. However if he/she hits out or into net, ALL players run to opposite end of court, re-form line, and continue activity. Repeat for every miss. Yes this means Coach needs to switch sides also so be prepared. Coach may feed wherever they want to adjust the challenge accordingly. Go for as long as you want or until players are sufficiently warmed up.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Greatest Doubles Drill Ever Created

Dontcha love the name of this drill? I found it in an article by Greg Moran in TennisPro Magazine. If
Is this drill the GOAT??
you have been reading this blog any time at all, you know I sometimes tinker with the original names of the drills I find. But this one is so confident, how dare I?

You will need at least four players. Two are in traditional doubles receiving position (one at service line, one at baseline). The other two are at the net. Coach is off to the side and begins point by feeding a ball to one of the non-net players. First ball should be hit cooperatively to one of the net players. They are then asked to hit back to the baseline player.

To recap: the first three shots (feed, return of feed, return of return) should be cooperative.

Once the third ball has found its way back to the baseline player, anything goes and things get interesting.

Baseline player should be working on avoiding hitting anything to the net players that may end the point in their favor. Lobs and topspin forehands come in handy here.

Net players are working on moving together as well as anticipating baseline player's shots. Most shots should go back to the baseline player unless they have an opportunity to end the point.

Service line player is in the 'hot seat'. Net players may be targeting them so they need to be alert and focused across the net. Look for an opportunity to poach.

Play to a set number of points and rotate so that all players have a chance to work on all positions. Coach feeds a variety of balls including lobs to start the point to better simulate live doubles play. If you want to include serve practice, have the player at the baseline position serve, and returner must follow ball in to restore the preferred starting setup of having two players at the net on their side.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Net Rush

Net Rush is a direct rip-off of another Jorge Capestany drill. He calls it Triples. I have taken the liberty of renaming it,and Jorge I hope you don't mind. The game I know as Triples is nothing like this. It features three players per side and is already posted here.

Net Rush is a drill designed to improve a doubles player's ability to play the first ball coming back to them after their own serve. It is a hybrid of Rush and Crush and All Position Doubles. Great for four or more players.

Four players take up regular doubles positions on court. One of the baseline players bounce feeds the first ball and point is played out. Feeding player MUST follow the ball in to the net.

After each point, players rotate positions with net players advancing to opposite baseline.

It's virtually impossible to use an individual scoring method with this game (believe me, I've tried). So probably best to just run this on a timed interval with plenty of coaching in between points.