Sunday, November 10, 2013

Volley Caterpillar

What is it with tennis drills and caterpillars? There are at least a couple more caterpillar-named activities in this blog if you have the time to search for them. This one I stole from Tedi Doncheva, a pro at Rock Hill Tennis Center in Rock Hill, SC. Thanks, Tedi! Good for any beginners working on their volley shot.

Place several spots in a diagonal line near the net. First spot should be closest to net; last spot should be across court, at a spot farthest back from net where player may be likely to hit a volley. All spots should be in front of service line.

Closest spot is designated caterpillar's tail. Farthest spot is caterpillar's head. Players begin at closest spot. If they hit volley safely into play, they advance one spot. If they miss, they go back to tail spot. Goal is to be first player to advance from tail to head. Once this is accomplished by someone, rearrange spots so that they are running the opposite direction on the court. So for example if the 'tail' was closest to net on deuce side of court and 'head' was near service line on ad side, rearrange so that 'tail' is now closest to net on ad side and 'head' is now near deuce side service line.

My addition:
After two rounds of all players hitting volleys, consider having at least one player on the other side of the net attempting to return any of the volleys hit by the caterpillar players.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Son of 5 Points

Last year I wrote about an activity called 5 Points. This is an update, inspired by an article in TennisPro magazine by Amy Pazahanick . It talks about the difference between hard skills and soft skills, which I also mentioned in the 5 Points post. So this reincarnation of 5 Points emphasizes hard skills for those days when you need to get back to basics and hit a ton of balls to hone technique. Best with small groups. Also I am going to present this activity as part of an entire lesson (as opposed to one activity during the lesson) centered around the number 5.

Begin with a dynamic warm-up as follows:
All players set their racquets down on the court along the doubles sideline. Allow plenty of room between racquets. All players then go to far sideline and put a pile of 5 balls down directly across court from their racquets. When Coach says 'go', players move one ball at a time from their pile onto their racquet, using a medium jog. This is a warm-up, not a race. After all balls are on racquet, repeat activity with one big difference: instead of medium jog, all players are now facing the net and side shuffling rather than medium jog. Remember, this is a warm-up, not a race. Balls should be replaced into hopper. Look for good form on side shuffle -  no galloping; eyes across net.

Once warm-up is complete, Son of 5 Points can begin as follows.

One player is on one side of net; all others are on other side. Coach hand-feeds five balls to the individual player. One point is earned for every ball hit into play. Players across net can also earn balls if they can catch one in the air or after one bounce. After 5 balls are fed, players rotate and a new player is now the hitter.

I start with forehands from the service line, then move back to baseline; then switch to backhands from the service line, and finish with backhands from the baseline. By this time, the hopper should be getting empty. Once it is empty, pick up all balls. Players keep their scores - we are not done yet!

Repeat activity with one difference: non-fed players are now hitting balls back rather than catching balls with their hands. Maximum two players returning at a time; others waiting to rotate in. Points awarded for every rally. So the points earned could be pretty high if you have some long rallies. Have your players responsible for keeping their own scores as this is nigh on impossible doing yourself if you have more than 3-4 players. Player with most points at end of second hopper emptying is the winner. Pay attention to hitting order and number of rotations so that all players get the same number of opportunities hitting.

Before picking up balls now, have all players retire to one side of court and warm up serves with balls on that side of court. By the time all of these balls are served to other side, all players should be plenty warmed up and ready to finish the lesson with some match play.