I am extremely grateful to see more and more tennis parents and coaches reaching out to me for advice based on my playing and teaching experience.
This time I’d like to bring to your attention the question a tennis coach was recently asking: how to run his tennis classes so that the kids/students do not have to wait in line for too long?…
Waiting in line is not only boring but it is disruptive to the rest of the players especially when those who wait begin chatting and the coach’s instructions are not being heard by the other players.
Following are some of my tips that I have used in my classes to keep all my students happy and getting the best of my instruction:
1. A coach should never accept more than 6 players on the court (unless you are conducting a cardio tennis class where the coach feeds more and teaches less).
2. While some players (first in line) hit the balls that the coach feeds, the others in line should shadow the first player or do some tennis related exercises (ladder, cones etc.) – make sure your students are aware of proper spacing so that no one is hurt.
3. A coach should line up the players (if there are more than three) in two lines and learn to double-feed (two balls in the air at the same time) so that two players (one from each line) practice their strokes at the same time.
4. Choose games that involve players as much as possible: 2-3 points before rotating and bringing new players on the court. The ones waiting can be put through some drills (cones, ladders etc.) or have them act as ball boys/girls for the ones who play.
Feel free to send me your suggestions if you have some more tips in regard to keeping the class going and getting everyone involved.
I was recently asked about my preferred teaching style: do I strive for the “perfect” technique or I let my students learn tennis through games (lately there are more and more tennis coaches who embrace the games based approach by the way).
The answer is simple: tennis should be fun regardless of the level of performance.
I do like to stress the proper technique in the beginning of the lesson just to start with the right fundamentals but I want to make sure that at least 60% of my lessons are actually exciting for my students by introducing games and drills that have them work on placement, friendly competition and strategies.
In my teaching career I’ve often paid attention to the faces of my students: when they are put through the repetitive drills of learning the “perfect” technique and when they are presented with the opportunity of playing tennis games.
The difference between the two is enormous; and here is why:
1. When a coach stresses the technique most of the time they (the kids) might end up “looking great” on the court but deep down in the back of their minds they will consider tennis as boring and repetitive.
2. The games based approach gets players thrilled to be on the court and, even though their technique will not be as good in the beginning, the fact that they enjoy playing tennis will make them do this longer and not only that… they’ll encourage their friends to get involved into it because people want to share things they love.
I’m not advocating that technique should be eliminated from the tennis practice – just not over-emphasised.
My suggestion would be that a player/student should practice his/her technical elements in the beginning of the lesson (let’s say for about 15 – 20 minutes) but then she/he should be exposed to applying the learned fundamentals into a fun related tennis activity.