Friday, April 11, 2014

Progression Infinity

There's a fairly new website called CoachYouthTennis. It has lots of great info for coaches of all
I use the heck outta my spots
levels. Great for parents, too, who are new to tennis and want some perspective on what they may be seeing during their player's lessons.

As per my usual, I will be mining the info there and testing it on court. Today's post is a complete lesson plan as opposed to a single standalone activity. It has been battle tested recently and I am very pleased with the results. My students enjoyed it thoroughly. I used it in a private lesson as well as in a group lesson with 9 red ballers and also 6 orange ballers (two different clinics, natch). Worked great all times. You will need some spots or some way to mark the court.

Warm up and cool down as you please, but here's the meat of the lesson:

Throw down some spots on each side of the net, roughly at net position; then halfway between net position and service line; then at service line; and finally at baseline. If you are using the full 78-foot court, put one more spot between service line and baseline.

Players are in at least two groups, or multiple groups of pairs, across each other from the net. Before activity begins, determine a number by rolling dice, playing card, or randomly chosen by player or coach. Should be a single digit number. In our example, we will use 5.

Players start by tossing and catching ball across net from each other. Toss underhand; catch in air or after one bounce. After 5 completions, players yell, 'Tennis!' and high-five each other at the net. This part is important as it lets the other players know how everyone is progressing and ups the stakes. Anyway - after the 5 completions, both players move back one spot and repeat. First team with 5 completions from the baseline wins.

Now that everyone has mastered tossing/catching, we move on to trapping the ball. Players hold racquet out to the forehand side. Coach, or player partner if old enough, underhand tosses ball across net. Trapping player traps the ball on their strings with their non-dominant hand after bounce. Completions-yelling 'tennis'-high fives ensue; advance to baseline ensues.

Round three progresses to actual rallies. For young players who may not be ready to rally, coach feeds ball and player hits it over the net and into play. Completions-yelling 'tennis'-high fives ensue. Once this round is complete, you should be about at the end of a one hour clinic. Wrap up with some match play.

In my orange ball class with six students, there was much excitement and yelling when one team neared the baseline and completion of the final level of tossing/trapping/hitting. Overall a fun and productive afternoon on court.

Endless variations:

  • I use fuzzy dice to determine the random number to be completed. Different player rolls dice before every round. No dice?  No problem. Choose a number and stick with it the entire lesson.
  • Smaller groups - I rotate partners frequently so no one feels they are 'stuck' with anyone else.
  • Larger groups - rotate different players in, taking turns doing the catching/trapping. So for example if you have 12 kids, create two teams of 6 or three teams of 4. One player from each team tosses; others across the net take turns completing the task. They are working together as a team, so they only need 5 completions total, not five per player.
  • Work on whatever shot needs work on - forehands, backhands, serves, etc. I especially like the trapping challenge when working on backhands.
  • If you are low on spots, have players start at net position. After each successful completion, they may use their racquets to measure off one racquet length back and move back that amount. This may take longer than the spot method, but you will be surprised how meticulous they are about measuring off that racquet length!