Sunday, November 30, 2014

Feed the Need: Tournament Fuel Strategies

I have already blogged about off-court advance preparation for playing a multi-day tournament. But I am often asked by parents about what their players should eat during the event. Naturally this depends on the player, but the same common sense fuel strategies that apply to other sports will also work for tennis.

Hydration and Electrolytes
WATER!! Water is so important for all of us humans, regardless of our fitness level. Be sensible. Encourage your child to never pass up an opportunity for a drink of water. Specifically I am thinking
of getting a drink 'on the switch', when players switch ends of court after every odd number of completed games. On the switch is the only time players are allowed to stop for a drink. If you don't get a drink then, you can't just stop and get one whenever you are thirsty. I have some students who think they are showing me how tough they are by never wanting to take a drink break. This is a recipe for cramps and failure. Of course, too much of a good thing can be harmful as well. Gulping gallons of water can lead to uncomfortable fullness, too many bathroom breaks/interruptions, and in extreme cases, extreme consequences too unpleasant to mention here. Okay, I will mention: yes, people have died from drinking too much water. A good strategy is to sip at every opportunity and drink when thirsty. Also take a drink of water if feeling hungry - thirst sometimes masquerades as hunger.

Sports drinks - I have already talked about electrolytes and why they are important here. Suffice to say moderation is what we are after. These drinks contain electrolytes, but they also often contain lots of sugar and artificial coloring. I have also found many of my students, like myself, don't care for them or tend to get a stomach ache when drinking them during competition. Not sure why, just FYI.

On to solid nutrition options:

Fruit - bananas, orange slices, frozen grapes, melons, basically any hydrating fruit your child enjoys. I once had a pound of plums disappear at a Jr. Team Tennis practice like they were little round purple bars of gold.
Yogurt - satisfying and easy to digest. Just don't overdo it as many yogurts can be high in sugar.
Nutrition bar - individually packaged, easy to toss in the bag, doesn't need a cooler. What we are going for here is a slow, even release of energy for your player. Nibble, don't gobble.

The Free Lunch
Tournaments often provide lunch for the players. What is offered varies widely. I have seen everything from cold cut subs/sandwiches to pizza to meat-and-three (it's a southern thing). You want to avoid the afternoon slump or worse, cramping, that can arise after eating a heavy meal for lunch. Definitely no fast food. Avoid anything that will require lots of effort for your digestive system. This diverts energy from other parts of the body which may be needed for chasing down lobs! You can call the tournament director and ask what they will be serving, or just bring your own snacks JIC (Just In Case). If it were up to me, I would offer cold cuts/subs for all tournament lunches. Good combination of carbs, protein and veg, not too heavy, and most people like them. When our facility hosted the Jr. Team Tennis Nationals recently, they also had a smoothie vendor. Smoothies are a tasty and more or less healthy snack option, but again, enjoy in moderation.

What NOT to eat is so much easier. Avoid the usual suspects:

Fast food
Fried food

Also avoid any foods new to your player that might be offered at the event. The chicken Caesar garlic wrap with tzatziki and quinoa may seem healthy and smell delicious, but tournament day is not the day to test if your player's stomach can tolerate whole grains and Greek food.

Bottom line: during the tournament, you want to eat like a world class athlete.
 WWFE (What Would Federer Eat?)

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Serve Smarter

PTR certified teaching professional Marcin Bieniek has some great tips on serve instruction in the November/December 2014 issue of TennisPro Magazine. The tips are not so much technical info as how to include the serve in the lesson plan in such a way that students are working on serves more effectively. If you are a PTR member or subscribe to the magazine, good for you - read the article! If you don't have access to it, I want to just give a couple of highlights.

My biggest takeaway is Coach Bieniek's recommendation to start as many points as possible during the lesson with a serve. I need to do better on this. I have many young beginners for whom getting the ball over the net and into play is a challenge, much less getting a serve in. So we begin many activities with a bounce feed or a coach feed. My logic is to get more 'touches' (in the soccer parlance), because if we waited for a serve to be 'in', we would be waiting a looooooong time. However - sometimes we go way too long without at least trying some serves. My bad. I have been thinking this week about how to incorporate serves into my beginner lessons with out slowing play to a crawl.

I sometimes have my students try their two allotted serves. If they double fault, rather than awarding a point to the opponent, I toss in a third ball as a serve. This way they can keep hammering away at the serve, but there is still a chance there will be a rally if I throw a ball in, rather than teams constantly winning games by virtue of a series of double faults by their opponents.

I also sometimes have my students aim for the correct service box, but also instruct the returner to play anything they can get to if it comes over the net and into the singles court. I have the returner call it 'out' to make sure they know it is out even though I have asked them to play it anyway. Jury is still out on whether allowing them to play 'out' serves is worth the trade-off of getting a rally going.

Coach Bieniek has a couple other lesson plan tips that I like. One is to vary the placement of the serve portion of the lesson, rather than always having it at the beginning or the end. Another is to pair serving with recovery and hitting the next ball. I agree with him that often players are so enamored of their serve, they forget to continue to play the point! I will be elaborating on both of these in future blog posts.

Do you have any tips on improving the serve for young beginners without bringing the learning process to a screeching halt?

Monday, November 17, 2014

14 Tennis Pun Dog Names

Tennis lovers don't just rescue cats - they rescue dogs, too, so here ya go!
(scroll to end for photo credits)

Photo credits all from Flickr with Creative Commons licenses.

Bobby Diggs:
Untitled by Tomas Hellberg license here

Maria Shar Pei Pova:
Fawn Dilute Chinese Shar Pei Puppy Dog, Aspen, Playing With Tennis Ball by Beverly license here

Novak Djokofetch:
Playtime by Ashtyn Warner license here

Lleyton Chewitt:
Diesel and His Tennis Ball by Hannah Kemp license here

Fangcesca Schiavone:
Black and his Ball by Jason Paluck license here

Mary Jo Furnandez:
Sheltie Monster by Alex Valentine license here

Lindsay Davenpup:
Too Many Toys by Alden Marchman license here

Evonne Droolagong:
Biba the Golden Retriever 3 by abuakel license here

Caroline Woofniacki:
dunlop puppy by pmin00 license here

Andre Wagassi/Steffi Grrrraf:
Two German Shepherds with tennis balls by Damian Synnott license here

Fabio Dognini:
Drop It! by Paul Long license here

Wagneska Radwanska:
hey lucy by Sherman Mui license here

Boris Barker:
Tennis Ball Shugi by TCL8TO7 license here

Eugenie Poochard:
Fetchin by Matthew C. Wright license here

Sunday, November 16, 2014

31 Tennis Pun Cat Names

Dogs get more press for their love of tennis (balls), but that doesn't mean cats can't join in the tennis fun. Get inspired when naming your next rescue.

Ladies first:

1. Meowtina Navclawtilova
2. Purrena Williams
3. Furia Sharapova
4. Martina Hinghiss
5. Lindsay Davenpurr
6. Pam Shrivepurr
7. Monica Selhiss
8. Samantha Stospurr
9. Jennifur Catriati

10. Simeowna Halep
11. Karolina Pusskova
12. Sabine Lislicki
13. Cattison Keys
14. Victoria Catarenka
15. Concheetah Martinez
16. Pounce Casals
17. Meowreen Connolly Brinker
18. Mary Furillo

and the gents:

19. Roger Federfur
20. Pawfael Nadal
21. Stan Clawrinka
22. Andy Furry
23. Tomas Purrdych

24. Jo-Wilfried Longclaw
25. John Hissner

26. Meowat Safin
27. Cats Wilander
28. Rene LaClaws

29. Pawncho Gonzales
30. Marcos Bagcattis
31. Pawfur Ashe

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bounce Tennis

Thanks to this recent article I will be trying Bounce Tennis soon with my intermediate and higher level students. I had seen the Djokovic video that inspired the article but had forgotten all about it.

Players play mini tennis (service boxes only) singles or doubles. If you have odd numbers, extra players can wait at net post and feed in when there is an error; King/Queen of the Court style; or when one player reaches X number of points.

Ball must bounce on player's own side before passing over net. That's the only difference between Bounce Tennis and regular mini-tennis. Watch the video if that seems confusing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Touch Meister

This drill is a modified ball machine drill, originally named 'Mr. & Mrs. Touch', from Inaki Balzola in the Sept/Oct 2014 issue of TennisPro Magazine. I took liberties with the name to avoid giggle fits with my junior players. As you might suspect, the goal is to improve touch shots at the net. Good for all levels, minimum 4 players. You will need some spots or other court markers.

Two players are at the net. Remaining players are at the opposite baseline divided equally among ad and deuce sides. Coach is behind net players feeding from the T. Mark off two target areas in the outer net quarter of each service box. In other words, the quarter of the box closest to net and alley.

Alternate feeds to baseline players ad/deuce. Baseline players must hit cross court. Net players attempt soft volleys to targeted areas.

Each baseline player gets three feeds. Points awarded to baseline player when net player misses. Points awarded to net player when baseline player misses, or when net player's volley hits inside target.

You can run this for a specified time period, or until one player reaches X points, then rotate until all players have had a chance at both net positions.