How to Engage Players to Practice more Often

tennis practice tipsWe all love playing tennis but not so much “practicing” it…

Often coaches find it frustrating to see the lack of time their players put into practicing the skills they learn.

Playing the game is obviously more fun than the repetition required to hone a skill like forehand down the line, kick serve or drop shot.

So what should you do (coach or tennis parent) to engage players into practicing their skills more often?

It all depends on your players: are they beginners, intermediate or advanced?

– If they are beginners, give them ideas of fun tennis drills and games they can either practice by themselves, with a friend, or a family member.
Let them know that by the time next lesson comes you would like to hear about the games or drills they did; show interest and give them tasks to accomplish: 50 backhands down-the-line, 100 serves, play two sets with a friend, rally 200 balls over the net, etc.

– If they are intermediate or advanced players you might want to remind them about the benefits of practicing: consistency under pressure, better shot placement, win more matches, more power and foot speed, etc.
For these players also you can give them tasks to accomplish until the next lesson with you: 100 serves down-the-T, 50 drop shots, 200 forehands cross-court, 50 kick serves to the ad court, etc.

On or off the court, explaining your students the benefits of practicing and playing more tennis, some will pay attention and follow your advice while others would need more reminding.
People are all different and you can test what works and what does not.

Bottom line, self-motivation is a rare thing among most people. This is where the coach or parent must step in. We all need a little push sometimes…

To learn more about how to create exciting practice drills and lesson plans for tennis, check out the Lesson Plans section at WebTennis24.

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.

Outcome-Oriented Tennis Practice

“Whatever you do, don’t say anything to me about my serve. If I think about it, I’m in trouble.” – Andy Roddick said when he first met Patrick McEnroe, his Davis Cup coach.

In a tennis world where the emphasize is on the technical aspect there is one area that very few tennis players dare to adopt – and it pays off big time for their game. That is the… “letting things happen naturally”. 

What I’m about to tell you is directed to your tennis improvement by getting you out of the normal and popular tennis culture. 

As a tennis player and coach I have been experiencing many frustrations and successes in my own lessons with all kinds of players. 

One of the things that’s certain is that all players are different and you cannot teach the same technical aspect to everyone. I have to pay very much attention to what works for each of my students individually.

For example, in teaching my two daughters: Cezara (8 years old) and Bianca (6 years old)…

Cezara, on the serve prefers the pinpoint stance (when during the toss the back foot joins up the front foot) whereas Bianca likes the more traditional platform stance (when both feet are not moving during the toss and stand fairly close to each other). 

Cezara’s dominant elbow must elevate during the forehand ground-stroke preparation to avoid opening her racquet too much during contact; Bianca has a natural way of controlling the racquet face at contact without having to focus on the set-up. And so forth…

But my ultimate point for this letter is that players should be allowed to forget about all the technical overload and be focused on the outcome. 

When serving, the outcome could be just getting the ball in (for beginning players), sending the ball with lots of slice or topspin, or placing it powerfully in the corner of the service box. 

As Andy Roddick did when he was a junior – he got fed up with all the technique that was imposed on him when serving and then one day he just threw the ball up and hit it as hard as he naturally felt. And it worked great. 
Just imagine if someone would have tried to change his serve technique!
Or if some coach would have told Nadal to not hit his forehands with that looping finish…! (he was so fortunate to have such an open-minded coach like his uncle Toni)

You can only imagine what damage you can do when you want to impose one kind of technique to every single player that you coach. 

We should always be paying attention to what works for each player. 

As a tennis player you should listen to your body how it reacts to every stroke you execute…

In my teachings I get the best results when I give my kids tasks that are goal oriented. Examples:
– hit 40 serves in
– send 25 forehands cross-court
– rally 50 balls over the net with partner
– etc. 

When goal oriented tasks are given, the mind and body work together to accomplish them successfully. 

Next time you go to practice, forget about the technique. Instead focus on what you want to accomplish: is it more slice on your serve? is it more power on your backhand? more penetrating volleys? 

Then here’s what you need to do: 
– before you start hitting the balls visualize (or tell yourself) what you want: more power, more spin or to get it in
– let your body loose and the racquet do it’s work
– clear your mind of any technical thoughts and keep in there only the outcome you aim for (more power, spin, placement etc.)

When you practice without the technical details cluttering your mind you will see better things happening.

Cosmin Miholca
WebTennis24.com

How to Get the Most Out of Your Tennis Practice

As I watch the U.S. Open (Grand Slam) tennis tournament I can’t help feeling the urge to go out on the tennis court and practice.

I am sure you might feel the same to. But before you do it, I’d like to share with you some of my tips that can help you get the most out of your time on the practice court:

1. Serve Practice:
– Hit the ball with a loose arm: begin at slow pace then after about 10 serves increase the power on your serve.
– Practice with targets (use cones): place one target in the corner of singles line and service line, one just inside the service line and about half way between singles line and center line, and one target at the corner of center line and service line. Aim for them one at at time and do not move on to the next one until you get the serve within 6 inches close to it.
– Practice consistency: serve 10 balls in a row and see how many go in; then do it again trying to better the previous exercise. Do not cheat on the pace – if you practice your first serve then hit it at the speed you would in a match.

2. Return of Serve Practice:
If you can find a player willing to practice her/his serve then you are in luck.
Regardless if the player hits her serves hard or slow you can always practice returning them to certain areas in the opposite court.
Your targets should be cross-court, down-the-middle or down-the-line – but they should always be DEEP – that unless you would play a serve-and-volley player…

3. Ground-Strokes Practice:
– Consistency is key on every shot in tennis especially on ground-strokes.
Regardless of the level of skill that your partner possesses you should always try to out-rally her/him in practice. Counting your good strokes in a row is a great way to rally practice – that gives you a great feed-back of how consistent you are and it also helps you relax as you play.
– Placement: Invite your partner to play some pattern drills, like: cross-court or down-the-line rallies; or rally deep and stop if the ball lands inside the service line (or better yet, if the ball lands inside the service line to have the player move up and attack at the net).
– Experiment with new shots: While you might be tentative to use your weak slice backhand in a match, the practice is the time to use those strokes that you need more improvement on.
But you don’t want to upset your practice partner missing a lot of balls while you use your weaker shots often therefore you should do it on every 3rd or 4th shot.

4. Net Game Practice (volleys and overheads):
– Practice good court positioning and feel for the ball.
Considering that the ball comes to you a lot sooner when at the net, you will have to develop good habits of positioning to take the ball quicker and closer to the net as possible.
– Do not try to put the volleys away in practice, instead try to feel the ball and control the placement of every shot without the intent of finishing the rally right away (even if you could). Going for winners in practice will not win you anything besides frustrating your partner – save those shots for the match.

5. Match Play:
– If you play a better player that is the time to push yourself and see what areas of your game need improvement. Do not worry about the score too much; play to improve your strokes and quickness on the court instead.
– If you play a weaker player then you shouldn’t worry about the score either. This is the time for you to focus on new shots (maybe drop-shots, slices etc.) and tactics (e.g. serve-and-volley). Avoid playing the same game that you find comfortable only for the sake of a win against your weaker opponent. Be ok to lose a match as long as you try different things in your practice match (I know it is hard to do so… 🙂
– Play pressure situation kind of games: begin every game with server at 0-30, or play a game where the server loses two points instead of one when making a double fault etc. These kind of games teach you how to handle pressure situations.

Above all, make sure that your tennis practice is a positive experience and you always learn something out of your time on the court.
Cosmin Miholca
WebTennis24.com