Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Nine Lives Backhand Lesson

When I blogged about the Nine Lives game recently, I mentioned how easy it would be to adapt it to a variety of situations. Here's one I used recently for my red ball class. Beware, it's the mother of all progression drills, so adjust accordingly. You will need some clothes pins.

Pick a skill, any skill, that you want to work on. Recently it was a backhand day. So I used Nine Lives like this.

Players count out nine pins and pin them to the top of the net. Players stand at the T in the backhand position. Coach hand-feeds backhands to players from close proximity. One pin is removed each time the backhand is hit into play. Goal is to remove all pins. When this is done, end Round 1 and get a drink. Pick up balls if necessary.

Round 2: get nine more pins and pin on net. Move players back to baseline and repeat.

Round 3: you guessed it - nine more pins. Coach moves to other side of court across net, but still feeding by hand. Repeat.

Round 4: More pins! Players now start from ready position at baseline. Repeat.

Round 5: More pins! For the final round, coach feeds with racquet instead of by hand. Repeat.

You should have a pretty good stack of pins by now, 45 if my multiplication skills have not completely deserted me. You can do some fun stuff with the pins your players are accumulating, such as:

  • For group fun, just make a big pile of them somewhere to be admired and counted after the lesson.
  • For a more competitive spin, have each player put any pin they earn onto their shirt. Player with most pins at end of lesson wins.
  • For the Lego crowd, let them make something creative with the pins. This student made a dragon.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Team Triples

Team Triples is a twist on the Triples game, a player favorite. I saw it mentioned in the August 2014 issue of Tennis Industry Magazine. I love their idea of making it a team format for a tournament. I especially love the idea of playing it with orange balls!

To recap how Triples works: there are three players on each end of court forming a triangle - one at the T, and two at the baseline where the singles sideline intersects with the baseline. Players self-feed with a bounce feed. Both sides rotate one position after every point. Full court (including alleys) is played. First team to X wins.

Using a slower ball on a full 78-foot court introduces a fitness element. Having the players self-feed introduces a strategy and directional control element.

The article did not give details about who feeds or how, other than suggesting players feed rather than coaches. When we play regular Triples, I usually feed straight ahead to the player across the net from me at the deuce side baseline. We play first to X, best two out of three, and the players rotate positions after every point, so someone new is always getting the feed. I suggest a similar strategy here so that a different person is serving every point. So consider whomever has rotated into the deuce side baseline position the feeder. Avoid having the player at the T as feeder.

As for scorekeeping, because you are rotating players after every point, I would go with a 'first to X' or rather than a traditional 15-30-40 scoring method. If using a 'first to X' scoring strategy, alternate teams feeding with each new game. If you want to play timed rounds, you don't need to have an end point to the game. Whichever team has the most points at the end of the timed round, wins. But with this scoring strategy, you may want to alternate which team is feeding with every point, so that one team is not feeding the entire timed round.

No need to organize a big tournament to enjoy this activity. Consider using this as a warm-up if you have six or more players in your group. If more than six, that's fine - just have the extras rotating in since there is a rotation after every point and things move pretty quickly.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Nine Lives

I found this game on the Tennis Resources site. They had it in a doubles format, but I can see
using it in a variety of ways.

Teams start out with nine points each. Coach feeds in the first ball. Players play out the point. Losing team loses a 'life'. Play continues until one team is out of lives. Play best two out of three, with coach feeding a different team each round.

How about this singles variation, especially if you have odd numbers or a larger group: One player is on one end alone; all others are at the other end. One by one, they take on the singleton. All players begin with 9 Lives, losing one each time they lose a point. Player with the most lives when someone gets down to zero is the new singleton.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Volley Control Drill

Lauren Stewart's third suggestion for 2.5 drills is this volley drill. In addition to consistency and backhand skills, she said beginners need to work on their volley skills. You will need some throw down targets.

Players pair up away from the net, facing each other 5-10 feet apart. One partner will be tossing balls for the other to volley. The throw down target should be just in front of the volleying partner as a reminder to take a step forward with each volley (make sure they recover after hitting). First team to get to X in a row, wins. Change roles and repeat.

Note only one ball per team is used. If they miss, they have to chase down their ball. Great for warming up!


  • Use net between partners
  • All forehands
  • All backhands 
  • First ball racquet fed, not hand tossed
  • Score resets to zero if any misses