What Should Coaches Teach in the First Tennis Lesson

When teaching tennis to a new and beginning student I have always tried to provide them a mix of fun and technique activities in the first lessons.

The very first lesson is especially important because that’s when the connection between the coach and player is made and that can be crucial for the tennis future of this particular student.

Paying attention to what you say, how you say it, and the way you present yourself in front of the new student is something that every coach should be well prepared for when meeting a new tennis player.

When a new student books me for a lesson, in the first 5–10 minutes I try to get some information about them:

  • Why do they want to learn tennis?
  • What do they know about tennis?
  • Have they ever tried playing tennis?
  • Have they watched tennis on TV and do they have a favourite pro player?

For example, someone might want to learn so that they can play with their family.
Or they consider tennis a good way to stay in shape.
Or they are just being brought in by their parents.

Whatever the reason, it is good to ask them – you’ll find some interesting answers for why people pick up a sport like tennis.
The answers to the questions (above) will help you understand how to construct your lessons, the intensity of them, and how much passion your student will put into their practice.

After you familiarize yourself with your new student, it is important to let them know a little bit about yourself as well.
Keep it simply to letting them know your name, how long you’ve enjoyed playing and teaching tennis, and enthusiastically telling them how glad you are to have the opportunity to introduce them to this sport.

Following, I would like to give you a few ideas of how your first lesson should be structured in order to make a good connection with the new student and introduce them to some of the basic tennis elements:

  1. Court dimensions and name of the lines – it is important for new players to learn the names of the lines (e.g. baseline, singles side lines, service line etc.) so that when you ask them to practice a certain stroke from, let’s say, service line, they should know their way about the court.
  2. Racquet – explain to your student the different parts of the racquet: head, neck and handle. If you want, you can show them the basic grips without getting into much detail.
  3. Introduce a few hand-eye coordination drills to test their physical skills.
  4. Demonstrate and teach the basic forehand ground-stroke technique followed by drills and fun games that puts in practice the skills they learn.

These are the main pieces of information that a student should learn during the first lesson.

Make sure to keep it fun and try as much as possible to connect with the student by listening and allowing to them to ask you questions.

If your student is a child, encourage them all the time and praise their effort.
At the end of the class you should have a little “gift” for them (small candy, stickers, etc.). Kids love that and they will continue coming to your lessons when you show that you care.

If your student is an adult, again, listening to their needs and allowing them to ask questions is important.
Adults, more than kids, are interested into detailed technique and… a good workout.
Do drills that make them “break a sweat” from time to time.

They should leave your class smiling, and… sweaty.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

My Lesson Plan “Formula” (Students Love It)

A recent email that I received from a tennis coach motivated me to share my “secret” lesson plan formula.

I’ve always considered that a good tennis coach should first understand their students (their motivation behind learning tennis) before actually teaching them. Only after that can a coach tailor the lesson plans according to their student’s needs.

Read below the email that inspired me to write and share my “formula”:

“Many of my younger (8-11yrs old) beginner students are not willing to follow some of my instructions. They seem to be more interested in fun and games than learning the correct strokes; how can I encourage them to be a little more serious about the game?? (Jim)”

It is normal for beginners (especially at ages 8-11) to be looking more for fun games than instructions; after all, the technical part is boring for them, the stroke repetition is not that… fun. Therefore, a tennis coach should prepare lesson plans that combine both the technical knowledge and fun to keep the kids interested in their tennis lessons.

Below I would like to share my lesson plan formula that has proven to be very successful for many years in attracting and helping kids, as well as adults, to enjoy tennis and continue returning to my classes:

lesson plan formula for a perfect tennis practice

Step 1 (10 minutes)
Always be first to greet and welcome your students, with a big smile on your face. Show them you are happy to be their coach.
I then begin the lesson with a warm-up: jog, carioca, side shuffles, maybe a fun warm-up game such as “Caterpillar”, “Toss-Catch-Shuffle”, or “Royal Court”.

Step 2 (15 minutes)
I then follow with 15 minutes of technique practice (we begin with shadow strokes then I feed from the basket while we do all kinds of technique drills: three along the line, basket drills, etc.). I do the technique in the beginning because their attention span is still fresh and they are not yet tired.

Step 3 (5 minutes)
I give them a 5-minute break to pick up the balls and get some water.

Step 4 (10 minutes)
We continue with rally games – even if they are beginners you can add in some fun rally games such as “Kings and Challengers”, “In and Out” or any others that they like. 

Step 5 (10 minutes)
More technique practice (serve, volley, etc.).

Step 6 (10 minutes)
The end of the lesson is always dedicated to footwork drills or games such as: “Around the World”, “Potato Race”, or any relay race that gets everybody active and cheering for others (it is great if you can finish your class with all the players tired, loud, and… happy). 

So this is my tennis lesson plan formula. Kids do need a good balance of technique and fun games to stay interested and focused. 

Once they begin playing tournaments, they will understand the importance of learning and practicing the technical and tactical aspects. That’s why you should encourage your students to enter competitions early into their development, not only to see other kids playing but for them to understand the reason behind practicing those technical skills.

If you want to take your tennis knowledge to a higher level, consider signing up for WebTennis24 membership to get instant access to 800+ videos and 1,000+ tennis drills for players and coaches.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Fun Ways for Beginning Players to Learn Tennis

tennis game

Tennis is a great sport not only for staying in shape but also for social interaction. That’s why learning tennis is, for many, a way of life – I’ve seen 40-year-old people picking up tennis for the first time and admitting that it became their new “addiction”: taking lots of lessons and even enrolling into local tournaments very early.

But as enjoyable as it can be, learning new skills might be boring to some. And that can be due to many reasons: the teacher/coach is not enthusiastic, they find the lessons repetitive and boring, too much instruction (“paralysis by analysis”) or just lack of coordination on their part.
Learning tennis must be done through the right amount of technical knowledge and, most importantly, fun drills and games.

As a tennis coach, I’ve tried to implement in my lessons a good balance between the right amount of technical information and fun activities.

Following is a list of “some” of my students’ favorite tennis drills and games that add variety and enjoyment to learning tennis:

Fifty (video) is an excellent drill that promotes groundstroke consistency.
It can be done by two players who just learned how to keep a basic rally. The two rally while counting how many times the ball travels over the net. The winner will get a number of points equal to the number of times the ball passed over the net. They continue to add the numbers until one of the players reaches fifty.
I personally like it because it improves the players’ ground-strokes consistency while enjoying a friendly competition.

High Tap (video) – to improve serve contact point and timing.
It is for beginning and even intermediate level players to get a good feel of how high the contact between ball and racquet should happen when serving. All a player needs is a high fence, a ball, and a racquet.

You vs Basket (video) is another fun drill that pretty much teaches a player how to play a regular match except that they will not compete against a player; someone will feed balls to them.
The feeder will ask the player to return a certain number of balls to get a point (e.g. for five balls in, the player receives 15-0; failing to do that would result in 0 – 15). Playing this game is good not only for learning how to keep score (beginners) but also to improve groundstrokes (rally) under pressure.

Game Over (video) is a great way to stay in shape while practicing forehand and backhand groundstrokes.
A feeder will send balls side to side for a player who practices this drill from the baseline. The feeding continues until the player gets exhausted chasing the balls side to side or until they say “game over!”. Excellent for all-level players.

Bounce It (video) is one of my favorite games to introduce to beginning players, even from their first lesson. It develops great hand-eye coordination, good exercise, and lots of fun. Players get comfortable controlling the ball and racquet.
In short, there are two or more players on opposite sides that will pass the ball over the net avoiding having the ball roll on their side. If the ball rolls on their court, the opponent receives a point. While the ball is in their court the players can bounce the ball on the racquet or down, then, whenever ready, hit it over the net. Touching the ball by hand is not allowed; only racquet.

Plus 20 (video) is another rally game that beginning players would enjoy. This must be played against a more experienced tennis partner.
The beginning player is required to rally with their partner; for every ball hit over the net and inside the singles court they will receive +1 point until they reach +20. But, if a mistake is made (hits the net or out), the player loses two points (-2).
It is a good drill/game to improve ground-strokes consistency under a little bit of pressure.

These are just some of the fun drills and games beginning players can enjoy, but there are many more that you can discover by looking through the WebTennis24’s coaches section.

Enjoy learning tennis!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

7 Steps for Making a Great Connection with Your (New) Students

tennis coach with kids

The following pieces of advice address mostly to coaches but players can also find some applicable uses:

As a tennis coach at WebTennis24, I often get emails in which players or coaches ask for my opinion on certain subjects. One of them was how to make a good impression as a coach in front of your new students.

In this regard, I made a video that will show you the first 10-15 minutes of what you can do with a new tennis student (beginner or even intermediate). In this video, you’ll find my “magic” formula on how to interact with new students and how to make them feel welcome and excited to learn tennis. It has worked great for me throughout my over 15 years of teaching tennis, and it will guarantee to help you too.

Besides that… in preparation for the upcoming lesson (or a match if you are a tennis player) it is good to develop some “rituals” that prepare you mentally for what comes. 
I used to get quite nervous especially when meeting new students and/or their parents.

So don’t worry: you are not the only one getting nervous; a lot of coaches are too… the students also. If it helps, you can only imagine that your students are more nervous to meet you than you are to meet them. Or, if you are a player before a tennis match, your opponent might be more nervous to play against you than you are.

Here are some of my “rituals” that I do on the way to my lessons in order to ensure that I would be properly prepared and my students will find a true professional in me as their coach:

1. In the car, as I drive to the tennis court, I practice some breathing exercises: take a slow deep breath in – hold it for 4 seconds – release slowly; do this about 5 – 7 times.

2. Say positive things to yourself such as: “I can’t wait to meet my students”, “I love what I do”, “This is going to be fun!”, etc.

3. Get on the tennis court at least 10 minutes before your students arrive; prepare all your teaching gear and be ready early.

4. As soon as you see your students coming towards the court, put a smile on your face and walk to them looking happy to see/meet them. Stretch your hand out and introduce yourself first, then ask for their names (memorize it).

5. As you can see in the video I mentioned above, it is important to ask your students questions, find out about them; that would make them feel welcome and important.

6. If you get nervous, smile; smiling is a great way to help you relax; also, ask your student questions during the lesson: “what do you feel about what I just taught you? does it make sense? does if feel natural?” etc.

7. And last… actually this should have been first: make sure you have lesson plans ready (a general plan of drills and things you want to teach before you get on the court). I sometimes carry little pieces of paper with notes that I find important to say or do during the lessons. This helps me to know that I do not leave things out and takes some of the pressure off considering that I don’t have to remember everything.

I hope all these tips are of help to you. Write in the comments box below and let me know your thoughts.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

What Should the First Tennis Lesson Be About

coach teaching tennis lesson
When teaching tennis to a new and beginning student, I have always emphasized a combination of fun and technique.

When a new student books me for a lesson, in the first 5-10 minutes I try to find out about them: why they want to learn tennis, what they know about it, and if they have ever tried tennis before.

For example, someone might want to learn so that they can play with their family. Or they consider tennis a good way to stay in shape. Or they are just being brought in by their parents. Whatever the reason, it is good to ask them – you’ll find some interesting answers for why people pick up a tennis racquet.

After you familiarize yourself with your new student, it is good to let them know a “very” little bit about yourself – do not bore them too much about your life. Just keep it to simply letting them know your name, how long you’ve enjoyed playing and teaching tennis, and enthusiastically let them know how glad you are to have the opportunity to teach tennis.

To keep this article short, I’d suggest that in the first lesson you should introduce your students to the following:

1. Court dimensions and names of the lines – it is important for new players to learn the names of the lines (e.g. baseline, singles side lines, service line, etc.) so that when you ask them to practice from a certain spot on the court, they should know their way about the court.

2. Racquet introduction – explain to your student the different parts of the racquet: head, neck, and handle. If you want, you can show them the basic grips without getting into much detail.

3. Introduce some hand-eye coordination drills to test their physical skills.

4. Begin by demonstrating and teaching the basic forehand ground-stroke technique followed by drills and fun games that put into practice the skills they learn.

These are the main points that a student should learn in the first lesson. Make sure to keep it fun and try as much as possible to connect with the student by listening to them and allowing them to ask you questions during the lesson.

If your student is a child, encourage them all the time and praise their effort. It wouldn’t hurt if at the end of the class you have a little prize for them (e.g. small candy, stickers, etc.). Kids love that and will continue coming to your lessons when you show that you care.

If your student is an adult, again, listening to their needs and allowing them to ask questions is important. Adults, more than kids, are interested in detailed techniques and… a good workout. Do drills that make them “break a sweat” from time to time. They should leave your classes smiling and sweaty. (:

Have fun on the court and write to me if you have any questions!

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

What Is ONE Thing You Would Improve About Your Tennis?

tennis balls in net
I sent a simple question to over 10,000 tennis players, coaches, and tennis parents:

“If I could write about 1 thing to make your tennis better, what would it be?”

There are many players and coaches who strive for good and straight-to-the-point information.
Now that I’ve been playing tennis for over 28 years and taught this wonderful sport full time for almost 13 years, it would be a great pleasure of mine to share my knowledge.

Below, I’ve written my answers to the requests you sent in response to my email.
I’ve tried my best to give my honest answers, hoping to clarify the issues and give solutions to improving your tennis.

I’d have to mention that some of the answers I provided below are already presented in great detail on my website. Some issues are going to be the material for future articles/videos, and the ones I could give my straight opinion are there to be read and debated (which I strongly advise you to do, whether you agree with me or not).

So here are the first 50 requests that tennis players and coaches would like to find out more about:

1. “to share your experience and what you learned out of it”
– Most of the tennis experiences that I’ve been sharing are on My Blog, where you can find lots of articles describing my honest opinion about how to learn and teach tennis, as well as my “adventure” in teaching my own two daughters.

2. “how to handle topspin volley without hitting them in the net or out?”
– You just asked a question about my favorite stroke in tennis, the drive volley.
As I described in a recent video lesson I posted at WebTennis24, when you hit a drive volley you must understand the following:
1) the ball comes down onto your racquet faster than during a groundstroke, therefore you should aim higher (at least 2 feet over the net) – otherwise, you’ll send many drive volleys into the net;
2) if you swing up and across the back of the ball (some call it “windshield wiper” motion) you’ll impart enough spin to keep the ball inside the baseline.

3. “return of serve (both bh and fh)”
– The key elements to a good return of serve are: reading your opponent’s body language (predicting the type of spin and placement), footwork, and preparation.
For details on how to hit a successful return of serve, check out the following articles/videos:
1) Do THIS for a Better Return of Serve
2) Return of Serve Tactics – an excellent resource presenting how, where, and why you should hit your return of serve according to certain tactical situations.

4. “injury prevention”
– This is an area that I, unfortunately, don’t have too much material to write about. Therefore, I’d warmly recommend you check out Suzanna McGee’s website: http://www.tennisfitnesslove.com/. She is a true professional in regard to tennis nutrition and injury prevention.

5. “how to hit a good forehand and backhand accompanied by some good videos to download”
– In my Tennis Technique Lessons video section, I have tried my best to break down both strokes (forehand and backhand: two-handed and one-handed) into small elements so that the player can understand the basic mechanics for a correct, consistent, and comfortable technique. You can also check out drills to improve your strokes once you feel comfortable with the proper technique.

6. “being (not) so hard on myself”
– I feel your pain and I can share many times when I’ve gone through frustrations.
Here are some of my tips:

1) make sure that your equipment feels “right”; that means to get a good string (it matters a lot), a racquet appropriate to the level and kind of game you play;
2) get in shape – most of our frustration comes from not moving well on the court and not being fit enough to execute certain strokes that we want;
3) mentally – understand that tennis is a game and you should play to have fun and get a good workout.
Ultimately, don’t do what I recently did: break a new racquet out of frustration. I still regret that I did not control my temper. It was so not worth it… I miss my racquet!!! :'(

7. “my second serve”
– I did write quite a few articles about the Second Serve (where have you been??? :)). Check them out here:
1) Why Should You Slice Your Second Serve
2) Second Serve Priorities in Tennis
3) How to Attack the Second Serve
4) Second Serve – Spin, Tactics, and Mental Tips

8. “I’m 75 years old; how can I play tennis and have good fitness considering I have knee pains and not strong?”
– I once had a student who was 81. I loved the way he committed to improving his tennis.
I would say to get better with the choice of shots and understand and use the court geometry to your advantage. Depending on whether you enjoy singles or doubles, there are certain tactics and shot selections you could use in order to run less and cover the court more efficiently.
I’ve spent a great amount of time presenting all the advantages that involve good knowledge of court coverage and how to use them to save energy by positioning in the right spot when playing certain shots.
Get an in-depth analysis of court coverage by clicking here.

9. “kick serve that goes in all the time with speed and depth”
– This is something I have on the list of things to do. It will come up sometime in May 2016: progression drills for hitting a solid kick serve.

10. “consistency with a penetrating topspin forehand”
– I’ll put this on my to-do list as well. Thank you for suggesting it! (:

11. “mental aspects of tennis”
– This is another area that you can find at WebTennis24.com under the section “Mental Tennis“. Here you’ll find some unique content in the sense that each stroke is presented from a mental aspect: what you should visualize yourself achieving, how you should control your body, and other mental elements that I personally studied for many years because I was one of those less talented individuals who had to figure out how tennis works on my own. Enjoy! (:

12. “how to make the necessary mental adjustments when your match may be slipping away”
– From my point of view, when you see the match slipping away, you should realize that you’ve got nothing to lose. Therefore, as I tell my students… if my opponent is going to take this match, at least I’ll make them work hard for it.
I’ll play with the confidence of somebody who goes out fighting.
I won’t hold off anything.
You want the match? Then come and get it! (;

13. “how to stay focused/poised when you’re in control of the match, staying confident but not cocky”
– It is so easy to lose your concentration during the match, especially when you are ahead.
One trick that has worked for me to remain focused throughout the match was to always keep track of the score and visualize that I am winning the next point.
That keeps your mind from wandering away and getting distracted. This helps you stay positive and connected with what happens on the court.
I often tell my students that if they lose track of the score during a match, that means they are not focused on what is happening on the court. And that is one of the causes many players lose matches.

14. “how to make training more match realistic, with stress factor etc.”
– There are many drills and games that you can apply in your training. We have posted lots of them in the “Mental Strength Tennis Drills” section at WebTennisDrills.com. Enjoy becoming mentally tough!

15. “how to teach kids to improve their tracking skills”
– There are quite a few drills and even games that kids would love (always make it fun for them). A lot has been posted at the “Tennis Games and Drills for Kids” section at WebTennis24.com. Kids love them!

16. “lesson plans for senior players”
– We have posted many lesson plans at WebTennisDrills.com that can be applied to seniors also. Most of the drills and games presented there can be adapted to senior players with respect to applying the proper recovery time and adjusting the intensity of the effort.

17. “I have some problems right now with the correct contact to hit the ball, the toss and the correct way to hit with topspin.”
– There is a section called Quick Tennis Fixes at WebTennis24.com. You’ll find many videos presenting common issues that tennis players encounter, the reasons they happen, and how to fix them. You’ll love these videos – they are short and demonstrate the fix in the simplest ways.

18. “anticipation”
– Anticipation in tennis comes with experience and a conscientious effort to pay attention to your opponent’s body language before they strike the ball, as well as with good court coverage knowledge. Study those and you’ll find yourself being in the right spot (most of the time), saving energy and winning points easier.

19. “look at the ball!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”
– I know what you mean! (: Let me just share one of my tricks that has allowed me for many years to focus on the ball:
Before I have a tough tennis match, I do this exercise (you can call it meditation, if you want)… I sit in a chair, comfortably, and look for a spot (no bigger than a button) that is at least 3 feet away. It can be any spot on the wall or… anything. Then I keep my eyes on it without staring or straining my eyes. I stay still and focus on that spot for at least 1 minute.
That has helped me clear my mind and learn to avoid shifting my eyes away from the object (in this case, the ball) which interests me. Try it! You might find it useful in keeping your eyes on the ball.

20. “serve”
– Oh, the mighty Serve. What is there to say about it? It is a stroke that anybody can improve as far as technique, power, placement, spin, etc.
I’ve written quite a few articles and shot many videos in regard to the Serve. Please check them out yourself:
1) Two Surprising Elements for Serve Balance and Power (video)
2) Best Second Serve Grip (video)
3) Flat Serve – Progression Drills (videos)
4) My Best Tip for a Good Serve Toss (article)
5) It’s the Only Serve I Trust (article)
6) Tennis Lesson: Slice Serve (videos)
7) Serve Tactics – Advanced Level (article)
8) Serve Tactics – Intermediate Level (article)
9) Tennis Lesson: Flat Serve (videos)
10) Tennis Lesson: Ultimate Tennis Serve – Slice, Kick, and Flat (videos)
11) I’ve Found This to Be the Best Serve Toss Tip (article)
12) Serve Speed (article)
13) Serve Spin (article)
14) Serve Placement in Doubles (article)
15) How to Get a Better Serve Toss in Tennis (article)
16) Facts You Should Know About Slice and Kick Serves (article)
17) Topspin Serve – Tip 1 (video)
18) Topspin Serve – Tip 2 (video)
19) Topspin Serve – Tip 3 (video)
20) Quick Fix: My First Serves Land Too Deep (video)
21) Quick Fix: My First Serves Go Into the Net Often (video)
22) Second Serve Priorities in Tennis (article)
23) Why You Should Slice Your Second Serve (article)
24) Serve Toss Tips (video)
25) How to Serve or Teach Serving With a Continental Grip (video)
26) How to Read the Incoming Serve (video)
27) Serve Mind (article)
28) Serve Drill: +5 / -5 (video)
29) How to Avoid Choking When Serving in Tennis (article)
30) Serve Drill: Toss and Warm-Up (video)
31) Why Should You Practice the Wide Serve More Often (article)
32) Practice Ad Court Serves More Often – Here’s Why… (article)
33) The Body Serve is The Best – Here’s Why! (article)

21. “first volley!”
– Your first volleys depend a lot on the previous stroke: the approach shot.
The quality of your approach shot can place you in a situation of an easier first volley or a more difficult one. I said “easier” because, in general, the first volley is not an easy shot.
If you are approaching the net, most of the time you’ll be hitting the first volley from around the service line area and it will be a low one (contact below net level).
Think about the first volley being more of a placement shot. The emphasis will be to give yourself time to get in balance and a better position closer to the net for the next volley while making it possible for your opponent to hit it on the run or as a weak reply.
So think of your first volley more in terms of placement and set yourself up for the second volley where you’ll afford a more comfortable and aggressive shot.

22. “how to avoid unforced errors”
– If one finds the solution to avoid unforced errors, they are my idol. 🙂
Aside from that, you can obviously cut down on unforced errors by doing the following:
1) keep your mind distracted from the pressure of the match and your opponent;
2) stick with what makes you comfortable and use the strokes you don’t trust only when you have a clear advantage;
3) keep your knees bent – by doing that you increase your balance by having a low center of gravity;
4) aim higher over the net and at least 3 feet inside the lines; don’t fall for the hype to hit all the balls close to the baseline – making them land just beyond the service line would be sufficient enough to enjoy long rallies and keep your opponent from attacking you;
5) use spin – it is one of the best ways to allow yourself to put more pace on your shots while maintaining the balls in the court;
6) visualize your shots going in; keep a positive attitude and find a way to snap out of negative thoughts (see tip above: number 13)
7) practice the strokes you don’t feel consistent with; use drills that put you under pressure situations like the ones highlighted in the “Mental Strength Tennis Drills” section.

23. “speed”
– One of my favorite tennis drills for footwork and speed is the so-called Spider Web. This incorporates most of the movements you’ll need in tennis and it is great for conditioning too.
Do it at least 3 times per week and you’ll see an improvement in your on-court speed.

24. “doubles strategy”
– Everything (well, at least that’s what I consider) about how to play and win in doubles (positioning, formations, communication, court geometry, etc.) is here in the “Doubles Tennis Tactics” section at WebTennis24.com. Have fun learning the doubles tactics and strategies!

25. “pronation on the serve”
– That’s a tough one to teach because it can lead to injuries if not done correctly.
In my opinion, the pronation should be the result of you keeping the grip and wrist loose, allowing your forearm to rotate inward during the contact.
Also, try to visualize how you’d like the strings to brush on the back of the ball; then let it happen.

26. “consistent focus during the matches”
– See answer to no. 13 (above).

27. “more lesson plans and remedial drills to correct mistakes in techniques”
– I’ll continue to provide that. Until then, make sure you check out the Tennis Lesson Plans section at WebTennisDrills.com and Tennis Technique Lessons at WebTennis24.com.

28. “fitness”
– Lots of video fitness and conditioning drills can be found in the “Conditioning/Speed” section at WebTennis24.com.

29. “what is the best strategy to use to return hard, fast-paced balls when a very large hard-hitting man is hitting at me in mixed doubles (especially when I’m at the net)?”
– When you are a player at the net defending against a hard hitter I would suggest the following:
1) don’t play at the net (you didn’t see this one coming, huh? :)). Instead, play more from the baseline and come up when you find a better opportunity; but if you dare to come up to the net, then…
2) technically: stay low, keep the racquet up and get ready to use your backhand side of your racquet (it is easier to move the dominant elbow away and block the ball with the backhand);
3) if you really want to stay at the net against a fast returner, make a couple of steps further back (closer to the service line) and try blocking the balls from there until you find a better chance to come closer to the net;
4) if nothing else works, then I guess the best way is to warn the big macho man that hitting hard toward a lady is not polite (you can tell him I said that :))!

30. “how to hit a topspin second serve using a pinpoint serve stance”
– The same way you’d hit a topspin second serve using a platform stance: toss the ball a bit over towards the non-dominant shoulder and brush the ball up as it comes down.
Oh, and one more thing: visualize it going in.

31. “how long should kids practice on one drill and how many hours a day?”
– How long should a kid practice a drill depends on the kid’s age, desire and focus.
In general, try to not dwell on a single drill for too long. I remember one of my mentors telling me (when I was at the beginning of my career) – “Cosmin, within 20 minutes you should do at least 3 drills; more than that as the kids are younger”.
How many hours a DAY? It depends on the kids’ age, level of performance, and obviously, desire to play.
With older kids (over 10 years old) you can do it up to 2 hours, but the younger they are, the harder it is to keep them focused and enjoying it.

For example, with my two daughters (8.5 and 10 years old) I do 1.5-hour long lessons 3 times per week. Besides tennis, they do swimming (once a week) and soon they’ll start guitar (the younger one) and piano (the older one) lessons.
If the kid wants more, then do more than three times a week; as long as they enjoy and ask for it.

32. “how to play slice backhand well; where does the ball hit the racket?”
– I recently added a new Slice Backhand Lesson and Adding more Power to Your Slice Backhand videos where the following elements are highlighted:
1) grip should be continental;
2) prepare with the racquet higher than the eventual point of contact;
3) keep the body sideways and in balance by “spreading the wings” and sliding the back foot behind you during contact;
4) learn to pull the racquet through the ball instead of pushing it – you’ll get more power!
5) at contact, visualize that the lower part of your strings will make contact first with the ball which will then slide over the center of the racquet as the strings brush the ball in a high to low trajectory;
6) keep the head down and still.

33. “any tips for tennis elbow”
– I had “golfer’s elbow” at some point when I was playing and tried to add more power to my one-handed backhand by over-supinating the forearm; but, fortunately, I’ve never had tennis elbow.
And I owe this to one single exercise I do every day: I grab the racquet’s handle with both hands so that the racquet is parallel to the ground, shoulders level, palms down; I twist the racquet handle in my hands forward until I count to 30, then backward.
When you do this exercise for the first time you’ll feel a little burning in your forearms. That’s a good sign. (:
Do it every day. It only takes a minute but you’ll feel more control on your forehand groundstrokes, one-handed backhand, volleys, serves, etc.

How to cure tennis elbow? Rest and do specific forearm exercises that you can find on the internet.

34. “the volley: to gain more confidence when I raise the net”
– Practice, practice, and practice. Use volley drills as you can find in the Volley Tennis Drills section at WebTennis24.com.

35. “to be more orthodox hitting the forehand”
– I assume that the video lessons we’ve posted at WebTennis24.com in regard to forehand technique would help you a lot:
1) Tennis Lesson: Forehand Ground-Stroke (Topspin)
2) Forehand Ground-Stroke: Progression Drills

36. “how to play with a more relaxed body so that the techniques they are learning can work effectively (especially after taking a long break)”
– Warm-up well. I can’t stress this enough as I oftentimes see tennis players stepping on the court, asking each other only two minutes later who wants to serve first…!!!
Take time to jog, do some “shadow” strokes, and stretch before beginning to actually hit the balls.

37. “when to approach the net and how to do it effectively”
– You should approach the net in the following situations:
1) serve and volley: if you have a powerful serve and notice your opponent tends to block it back slowly, you should move up to the net;
2) if you play against a “pusher” (somebody who just hits the ball back with little pace);
3) if you get a short ball that forces you to step closer to the service line;
4) if you pulled your opponent wide and see a lot of court opening for you to go for a put-away; don’t hesitate – move up and take the next ball early.

– To effectively approach the net, consider the following:
1) hit the ball with slice (under-spin) – that keeps it low, impeding your opponent to hit the ball back down to your feet;
2) attack the opponent’s weak side or send it down the line (you’ll be in a better position to cover the angles);
3) expect to hit at least two volleys before you have the opportunity to put the ball away;
4) stay low and keep the racquet out in front of your body for early ball contact.

38. “I want to know how to place my serves, i.e. out wide, into the body, at the T”
– The best way, which I now apply with my two daughters, is to practice your Serve using targets (cones, piles of balls, etc.) in certain areas inside the service line. Then do not leave the court until you hit every target at least one time.
Don’t fall for tips such as: to position your feet, toss the ball or hold the racquet in a certain way… Aiming and hitting a target in tennis when serving has a lot to do with visualization and feel. Tell your body (consciously) what you want to achieve and then let your muscles execute it (subconsciously). With lots of this practice, in time, you’ll be able to hit any target you place inside the service court.
These days I am having my two little daughters (8.5 and 10 years old) practice serves to targets. Sometimes it takes them a full basket to hit one of the targets (even though they are big cones)… at some point they tend to give up and comment that the task is impossible. That’s why I challenged them that I would hit those targets within 3 tries. They did not believe me; frankly, I did not believe myself of being able to do it also. But I just looked at the targets, threw the ball up in the air and hit it visualizing where I wanted it to go.
I hit those targets each in no more than three tries (to my girls astonishment).
So practice serving to targets using visualization and… lots of repetition.

39. “Strategies to set up the net player in doubles. Mixed doubles strategies given the physical differences in partners.”
– This is a good one! I’ll put it on my to-do list (coming soon!).

40. “What’s the right mechanics and mentality in doing a running volley? (I frequently hit it long.)”
– Body balance and racquet control… Most of the volleys on the run you miss because you can’t control your body balance due to the poor footwork.
Hitting the volleys long is because your racquet is too open and/or you transfer the energy you put into reaching the ball to your shot.
Try slowing down as you reach the ball or tighten the grip a little bit before the contact. That might help control the volley while on the run.

41. “Strategy”
– Strategy is a plan that you apply according to your opponents’ skills and most importantly your ability to put that into practice using the right tactics.
A lot is discussed in the “Singles Tennis Tactics” and “Doubles Tennis Tactics” sections at WebTennis24.com.

42. “mastering kick and slice service”
– Learning the Kick and Slice Service is one thing, mastering is a long process based on lots of technical and tactical processes.
In my 45-minute video lessons, Ultimate Tennis Serve – Slice, Kick and Flat I highlighted some important aspects that go into hitting effective serves beginning with the warm-up and continuing with the role of each serve as far as spin, placement, and how can they be used tactically in a match.

43. “I am especially interested in child tennis, 10S, Red, Orange, Green tennis up to twelve years old.”
– In this case, I would recommend that you visit the “My Daddy / My Coach” video section at WebTennis24.com where you’ll see lots of videos on how to teach tennis to kids from the early age of 5 through 10.
Through the MD/MC video lessons, I wanted to show how I taught tennis to my own two daughters from their very first beginning (picking up the racquet and learning the basic strokes) all the way to playing orange and green level tournaments.
These are live (and uncut) lessons showing exactly how I teach: tips, progressions, drills… I could say they are the ONLY live and full tennis lessons that you could find on the internet.

44. “I’m a senior player of 73 years, rating of 2.5-3.0. Play only doubles. I have trouble moving after hitting the ball, being in the right place for the next shot.”
– Please read the answer to no. 8 (above).

45. “Some way to better track the ball all the way to the racket. I find that my eyes leave the ball at about the net and no matter how hard I try it’s hard to keep my eyes on it much longer.”
– Please read the answer to no. 19 (above).

46. “Details of proper cross over step.”
– The cross-over step is the one where the outside foot pushes off the ground and moves in front of the inside foot to initiate a faster recovery especially after hitting a wide ball. In a recent video, I was showing how to effectively combine the cross-over with shuffle steps to get back in position and cover the open court after being pulled wide by an opponent’s wide ball.
Since it is easier to demonstrate (through video) than putting it into words, I’d suggest you check out the Recovery Steps for a Quick Court Coverage video lesson.

47. “One of the challenges I face is hitting waist and above level forehand. I tend to hit them long most of the time. So basically it is the technique that I lack. I use semi western grip.”
– Using a semi-western grip is a good choice to handle balls that are above waist level therefore the fact that you hit them long could be caused by many reasons. The ones I could point out without seeing you actually hitting those forehand groundstrokes are as following:
1) not enough spin – fix: try brushing more on the back of the ball (low to high)
2) opening your racquet face at contact – fix: visualize rolling your racquet strings up and over the top of the ball.
Try these two solutions (especially the second one) and see if they help.

48. “Happy New Year! In answer to your question, I would like to be able to read (in singles and doubles) the likely returns from my opponents.”
– This is an excellent question and the answer to it can be based on a good understanding of court coverage and conscious attention to your opponents’ body language which can be practiced.
I’d recommend studying the “Singles Tennis Tactics“, “Doubles Tennis Tactics” and “Court Coverage in Tennis” sections at WebTennis24.com where you’ll find important articles based on level of play that debate the proper positioning, reading opponent’s possible options, and the choices of strokes you can use according to your specific tactics.

49. “What do you tell your students as well as their parents about sportsmanship? It seems that for the junior tournament players, sportsmanship and respect for the opponent has slipped a great deal. This slippage leading to many players not returning to tournament tennis after numerous bad experiences on the court.”
– This is one of the reasons I am nervous to go into tournaments with my own children and students – the fact that occasionally we must run into players or parents who are overly competitive.
With my own two daughters, I talk about these players’ behaviors and we laugh thinking how bad behavior on the court on the opponents’ part leads to lack of concentration for them which is to our advantage.
Therefore, if they see their opponents misbehaving on the court, they should perceive it as a sign that the tactics applied are working and continue to stay focused.
It is obviously something we learn from and no matter what, we should not show our emotions until only after the match is over. Whatever we feel during the match should be kept secret so that we do not boost our opponent’s confidence or give away what we feel about certain shots.
To parents who are overly competitive, I try to explain that it is more important for their children to have a good experience and see them encourage and support their efforts.

50. “I am 69 and play 3.5 tennis (mostly doubles). At my age, can I continue to improve or is maintaining the status quo about all I can hope for?”
– I think you can still improve a lot regardless of age.
Technically, you can experiment with different spins, stances or add variety to your strokes.
The area in which one can always improve even more (regardless of age) is the tactics and court coverage. Through a good knowledge of court coverage you’ll know where to hit the ball and how to position yourself to minimize effort and make your opponents do most of the work. By understanding the tactics which you should apply according to your opponents skills you’ll find yourself enjoying tennis even more.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.

Tips on Teaching Your Own Children / Students

teaching children tennis
After watching the latest My Daddy / My Coach live lesson (where I teach my two daughters), one of our site members asked: how come the girls seem to behave so well, with patience and listening to all my instructions?

He wanted to know the “behind-the-scene” tips I tell my daughters considering that, as a parent, it is not so easy to teach your own children.

Well, first of all, they see the camera pointing at them and know this should be a serious tennis lesson. (:

Besides this, we’ve had many “talks” trying to make them understand the difference of me as a tennis coach and me as a father:

– I try not to talk too much about tennis in the house.
When we watch tennis matches, together, on TV, we do that only if they willingly join me; I never tell them to watch tennis with me. 
Teaching, by example, is best: when I express my passion for tennis, they think it is fun and will want to join me. Only then do I point out some of the technical and tactical elements the pros do. 
Tip: Whatever you communicate to them, keep it short: under 15-20 seconds. Otherwise, their mind wanders off.

– When stepping on the court with my two daughters (by the way, they are 9 and 8 years old), I expect and tell them to listen to everything I say: when I speak, it is an instruction which I demand that they should pay attention to.
Sometimes, after I give them tennis advice (tactical or technical) I ask one of them to repeat what I said. In this way I keep them focused on my instruction and make sure that none of the tips or tricks I tell them are going to waste. 
This works great and I encourage every coach to apply it in their tennis lessons.

…I’ll share more of the tips and tricks I apply with my own kids and students in a more ample article – so stay in touch and look out for future newsletters.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Coach

Check out my work at WebTennis24 where I share with you my best video tennis lessons, drills and tips for players, coaches and tennis parents.