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.

How to Teach (Or Learn) the Proper Distance to the Ball

The proper ball distance appears to be an ardent subject that tennis coaches want to know when teaching beginning players.

Some young players (beginners) indeed have difficulty achieving an optimal contact with the ball – getting either too close or too far from it. Therefore, coaches try to find solutions to help their players hit the ball more naturally and in balance.

Unfortunately, there is no quick or easy solution to this and, if you ask me, I consider this will get fixed naturally through repetition. The only way a beginning player realizes to “feel” the optimal contact point and space to the ball is through lots of practice. Eventually, the player will develop the proper timing, hand-eye coordination, and footwork to position the body and racquet most comfortably and naturally.

BUT if you really want to speed up the process, I dare to suggest a couple of drills that you and your student can do to get a clear understanding of where the contact with the ball should be and improve the timing to achieve that:

1. Have your student (or partner) position in an open stance (feet parallel to the net) or square stance (feet sideways to the net) and racquet held at a “contact point” position: racquet face towards the net, proper grip, arm slightly bent (see picture below). By the way, this can be applied when practicing either forehand or backhand groundstrokes.
practicing proper ball distance
From the “contact point” position, hand-feed a few balls towards the player’s racquet. After the ball bounce, the player should push the ball and swing from that point on, and follow through.
Practice contact and follow-through without backswing.
This drill will teach the player where the contact with the ball should be (spacing and body position). Eventually, they will register that. With proper timing and footwork developed through repetition, this will become a habit.

2. Repeat the previous drill with a slight adjustment: instead of tossing balls for your student, you will rally with them this time. Your student will begin every stroke from the contact point position (no backswing) while pushing and following through after each contact.
Again, this will teach the player proper spacing to the ball.
One important tip is to rally with your student from the service line or just behind it in order to avoid a bigger swing and take the racquet back.
You can even use foam or any light junior tennis balls to keep things simple in the beginning.

Try these two drills and let me know if your student develops and gets a better feel for spacing to the ball.

One more tip: do not over-emphasize other technical aspects such as footwork or body position. To get the contact and timing right, allow the student to focus only on the ball; let the other elements happen naturally… for now.

Additional Note:
For players who want to learn the above technique by themselves, I recommend either using a ball machine or asking a tennis partner to feed (by hand) some balls to them.

Related Content: Strokes Progressions Lessons (learn tennis without a partner or coach)

(Per readers’ request I am attaching more pictures showing the “point of contact”, below)

proper ball distance
point of contact
point of contact

 

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.

How I Taught a 70-Year-Old Man to Hit With Topspin

tennis changesA few years ago, the father of one of my students told me he wanted to take a couple of tennis lessons so I can teach him how to hit with topspin. This gentleman was about 70 years old and a reputable doctor in Southern California.

My first approach with him was to check his grip. I explained to him that in order to create more topspin on his groundstrokes, he needed to make a grip adjustment.

He was using a continental grip (on his forehand); I slowly helped him to make the transition to an eastern and then to a close to semi-western grip.

That, followed by a couple of other minor technical improvements (stance and swing), gave him a very good understanding and feel of how to hit with more topspin, and power, and keep a lot more balls in.

It took us a few sessions (about 10 – with a lot of questions and frustrating moments here and there :)) but then he ended up surprising his doubles buddies with his new strokes; as a result, his confidence and enjoyment for the game got to a new high level.

You see, many times the minor adjustments that we do in our tennis technique can be the foundation of our overall capability to play at our full potential.

Cosmin Miholca

Cosmin Miholca

Certified Tennis Teaching Professional

Visit the Training, Coaching and Kids Tennis sections at WebTennis24 – lessons, tips and drills for players, coaches and tennis parents.