Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mr. Wolf

Perfect book to accompany
this game
Thanks to Martyn Collins for sending this website my way. I will be R&D'ing* heavily the next few posts to convert some of the fun game ideas into tennis activities.

The original is entitled, "What Time Is It, Mr. Wolf?" but I can already see where that will be too long for my younger students. Game names are important to the success of an activity. If you have some activities that seem like they should be fun but aren't quite working, make sure they have a fun name. If they don't have a name, make one up. If it involves scary animals like sharks or wolves, all the better!

This game is best for larger groups. One player is selected as the Wolf. The Wolf stands with his/her back to the rest of the group. If you are playing this on a full size tennis court, have the Wolf at the net and all others behind the baseline.

Players in the large group take turns calling out, "What time is it, Mr. Wolf?" Each time Wolf answers, players take a step closer to Wolf. Remember, Wolf has his/her back to the group so cannot see how close they are. Wolf answers each question with a time. Time can be completely made up, like ''two thirty" or "eleven fifteen". Eventually however, Wolf will answer, "Dinner time!", turn, and chase the players. First player tagged before reaching the safe zone behind the baseline is the new Wolf.

You may have to dictate how large of a step should be taken after each of Wolf's answers - giant step, baby step, regular step, etc.

*ripping off and duplicating

Friday, January 24, 2014

Four Square Junior

I have written about a tennis version of the children's playground game Foursquare in the past. This
one is from Joey Rive in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Tennis Magazine.

You will need at least four players playing doubles. Divide court into eight boxes, four on each side. You don't need any extra equipment for this. Just use the the service boxes as two of the boxes. Extend the line dividing ad from deuce all the way to the baseline, cutting the back court in half as well.

Feed first ball and rally. Scoring as usual, plus no team may hit to same box twice in a row. For example, if team a hits to opponent's deuce service box, they must hit to one of the other three boxes on the next shot. Hitting to same box consecutively counts as an error; point goes to opponent.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

3 on 1

This drill is from Nick Bollettieri in the Jan/Feb 2014 issue of Tennis Magazine. He suggested it for a player who was having trouble hitting back to the opponent every time. I also like it for a good fitness and consistency workout for singles.

You will need at least four players. As the name suggests, play three on one end against one player in the other. You can set up any variety of scoring options:

  • Play first to 7 then rotate (regardless of winner).
  • Have all start with 7 points. Minus one point for every error. When someone gets to zero, rotate.
  • Play 7/11. Trio must get 11 before singles player gets 7.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shrinking Racquet

I came up with this one at random during a clinic with my older students. As always, I told them if they were going to miss, miss long. In other words, avoid hitting into the net.

As further encouragement to avoid the net, I established a new rule: anyone hitting into the net must exchange their full size racquet for my 21" Sponge Bob racquet for the next point.

This elicited exactly the responses I was hoping for: anticipation by some; dread by some; wariness of the net by all. If you are going to try this, make sure your small racquet is the craziest, most colorful or, dare I say it - most baby-ish racquet you can find.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Hoodie Season

Like most of the country, we have had a chilly winter so far. Here in Tennis Heaven (South
Carolina), the land of year-round outdoor tennis, that just means an extra layer is required for tennis clinic!

I stumbled upon this fun idea recently. All of my red ball students happened to be wearing a jacket that had a hood on it. We were playing a target practice game where they each got to bounce feed one ball toward a target. They would hit, then run to the end of the line where they would grab a ball out of the hopper in preparation for their next turn. Forget the hopper - I started tucking one ball into their hoods instead.

These were young players, 6-7. They got a huge kick out of grabbing their ball out of the hood of the person in front of them when it was their turn. It was a simple idea that turned out to be a big hit. See what I did there????

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Cone Guard

Like so many activity ideas, Cone Guard came about out of thin air during a lesson when I was looking for a way to jazz things up. It worked beautifully.

Rather than just boring feeding, place an object behind your students for them to 'guard' or protect by hitting the ball away from it. I explain to them that I will be trying to hit the object with the ball I am tossing. If my ball hits their object, I get a point. I toss 5 balls to each player in very quick succession. It is amazing to see students who may be struggling to make contact suddenly hitting 5 out of 5. This activity also alleviates crazy messy backswings, since the hopper or cone is right behind the player and they don't want to hit it.

My students love the idea of working together to keep me from getting a point. They cheer each other on with each successful turn at defending. Suggest setting a number such as 5 points for coach's goal so that even if you happen to hit the object once or twice, the kids still feel a sense of accomplishment even if I do happen to get lucky a time or two.

Many variations on this game - use your imagination.

  • Move the object around on the court. 
  • Ask for all forehands or all backhands. 
  • Award points to the players instead, for every successful defending shot.

Friday, January 17, 2014

4 Stroke Challenge

4 Stroke Challenge is great for any level. I use it both as a warm-up as well as a point competition activity.

Warm-up version
Players begin at service line. You can have one line or two depending on your feeding prowess and the size of the group. Each player is fed four balls from coach in this order: forehand, backhand, volley, overhead. Then they rotate out and next player is in for their four.

It gives me a chance to do two important things. 1)They get used to the idea of following a ball in
(the backhand, in this case) for a volley. 2) We get to tweak the overhead, and they get used to hitting a high ball out of the air.

Keep the feeds at a lively pace, keep them on their toes and paying attention to keep the line moving.

Point Competition
Once you feel they are warmed up, change the rotation so that after a player completes their four shots, they come over to other side of court. The four shots are still fed, but now they play out the point each time. You may have to move your feeding location if you have been feeding from on court.

One point awarded to winning player each time, so every rotation, a total of four points will be earned by someone. I don't give second chances on the feed. If they miss the feed, point goes to opponent. Player with most points when hopper is empty, wins.

This could be played as singles or as doubles. If you play it as doubles, you have a couple of scoring options.

  • Switch to a golf score format. Points awarded to player making error; player with lowest score when hopper is empty, wins.
  • Award all players 10 points when you begin. Subtract points for errors. Player with most remaining points when hopper is empty, wins.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014


Presently I am holding a Rallyball competition among my students. Every Saturday throughout the
month of January, clinics will consist of a warm-up, then round robins with Rallyball scoring. I am awarding two overall prizes: one for most total points and one for Most Improved. Most Improved will be determined by who has the highest percentage increase between first match and best match.

RSVPs are helpful since you are playing singles and may need plenty of courts depending on your turnout.

Orange ball and higher:

  • Singles round robin format of timed matches. How many rotations and how long they are depends on how many courts and players you have to work with. For a one hour clinic you can plan on about three 10-12 minute rotations after warm-up and including rotation and water break time, assuming you have plenty of courts. It helps to have even numbers of players so no one is sitting out. Sitting out means you are not earning points. If you are squeezed for courts, shorten the rotation time.
  • Each player serves once from each side (deuce, ad). After four points (each player serving twice), players switch ends.
  • Points are awarded per rally. Serve counts as one rally for server. Double fault awards one point to opponent. So for example if Player A serves, then a three ball rally occurs before server nets ball, 4 rallies have been completed (one serve and three rallies) so each player earns 2 points.
  • Players report point totals to coach at end of each rotation. Players begin at 0 for each new rotation. 
  • Since we are playing over an entire month, points accumulate throughout the month. So the more they attend, the better chance they have to win. If some players aren't able to make every match and therefore are at a disadvantage for winning on overall points, remind them they still have a shot at winning Most Improved if they have plenty of long rallies.

Red ball:
This can be very tricky to count rallies, so some additional help from staff or parents will be greatly appreciated. Feed the first ball to players who are not able to serve well yet. I find clothespins very handy here to help us all keep track of score.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Live Ball

Live Ball is a fun activity that goes by many different names. What I love about this particular
Go here for article and video
incarnation is that the author explains why it is okay to sometimes just skip 'the most important stroke of the game' (the serve) in the interest of speeding things up and leveling the playing field. In the article, the players are very high level. But I have had success using this for students of all levels and abilities with groups large or small. The article example is with a larger group and is playing doubles. But recently I played it with two orange ball players - TWO - (singles, natch), and they both loved it. It really gets the competitive juices flowing. It is also great for fitness. I had my older yellow ball players huffing and puffing with it a few weeks ago.

To summarize the article and video: this is basically King/Queen of the Court with a 4/2 scoring scheme. Pro feeds first ball to challenger(s). Challengers must win 4 points before king/queen wins 2. If challengers succeed, they are the new king/queen.

Some fun variations:

  • Set a time limit. Player(s) who are king/queen when time ends are that day's champs.
  • Set a limit on how many rotations the king/queen can stay. 
  • Base your feeds on whatever you are working on that class - all backhands, no bounce, etc. 

Friday, January 10, 2014

Tennis Bingo

Everyone is making resolutions this time of year. I saw a Reading Bingo game recently to encourage more reading and decided to rip it off for Tennis Bingo.  Here's my Tennis Bingo card:

My students will have until September 1 to complete their card. The following week I will hold a drawing from all who have completed it. The winner will get something really cool from our pro shop.

Feel free to use this bingo card as-is. If you want to change it, let me know and I will send you the original doc file so you don't have to re-invent the wheel.