teaching tennis

In a recent email, I was asked what kind of tennis drills or games I prefer to apply in my classes…

Even though over the years I’ve posted over 1,000 tennis drills and games at WebTennis24.com, just a handful are my favorites which I use consistently in my lessons. That does not mean the other ones are not that good; they are all good drills, but it just happens that I connect and enjoy doing some of them (or I can’t remember them all 🙂

So here are the coaching tennis drills and games that I have noticed players enjoy the most during my lessons:

Popular drills and games for KIDS:
1. Jail Breaker – friendly competition for groups (practice ground strokes, ball catching, hand-eye coordination). In this game, the players line up behind the service line or baseline and they must hit their groundstrokes (forehand or backhand) in, otherwise, they go to ‘jail’ which is the court from where the balls are fed by the coach. The only way for them to get back in line is if they catch a ball that someone in the line hits over the net. This game is fun and has the kids cheering for each other.
2. Clean the Court – speed; conditioning. Another exciting game that can be a good workout because players must throw balls over the net as many as they can within a time frame.
3. Potato Race (click for video) – team race; speed; dynamic balance; racquet and ball control.
4. High Five – fun way to introduce kids to playing at the net. This is a drill that is best done with very young children because they feel like they can rally with the coach and develop the confidence to, later on, move up to the net.
5. Dodge Ball – kids love this game: teaches them quick feet, reaction, and dynamic balance. For this game, the kids move only inside one of the service boxes (with no rackets) while the coach feeds balls toward them from the other side. The young players must dodge the balls, otherwise, they are out of the game, until one remains.
6. Royal Court (click for video) – I use it mostly as a warm-up: hand-eye coordination, ball tracking, and movement.
7. Caterpillar – loved by kids; lateral movement, ball tracking. This is a game played mostly at the end of the class because it produces a lot of giggles and excitement. For this, the players line up single file line (no rackets) behind the baseline; the coach will roll balls, one at a time, while the players, maintaining the line, will have to shuffle sideways so that the rolling balls pass between their feet.
8. Popcorn – hand-eye coordination; fun. This is another favorite game but you, as a coach, must be careful and watch players to not run while the balls are rolling on the ground. For this game, the players must catch balls inside a cone (held upside-down) which the coach throws in the air many at a time (20-30). The kids will try to catch the balls in the cone while they still bounce.
9. Bounce It – racquet and ball control; competitive game for beginning players. This is one of my favorite tennis games, as a coach, because it teaches players ball tracking and eventually leads to rally the ball over the net. Here’s how it works: the coach will feed a ball to any of the players (one vs one, or two teams), each on opposite sides of the net. They must use only their racket to bounce the ball (up or down) and send it over the net as soon as they can. If the ball rolls on their side of the court, the other player receives a point. 
10. O-U-T – teaches the kids consistent serving under pressure; fun competitive game. For this, the players line up behind the baseline and take turns serving following a certain order. If one of them hits the serve in, the next one in line must also get it in, otherwise, the particular player receives the letter O. Next time it happens, he or she will get the letter U, and so on until they spell OUT. The last player who does not spell OUT wins the game.
11. My Invisible Opponent – great game to teach beginning players how to keep score while practicing their serve. The beginner player practices the serve from behind the baseline. They get 2 tries to hit the ball over the net and inside the proper service box. If they do it, they receive 15-0; if they miss, it is 0-15. Player(s) continue serving and alternating sides (left and right) until they either win or lose a tennis game. It can continue until they win or lose a set.
12. Cat and Mouse – loved game by kids: speed, quick change of direction, dynamic balance. This is a “chase” game that is done only inside the singles court and can be a good way to end a tennis lesson with.

Popular drills and games for SINGLES players:
1. Three for Air – aggressive play; moving up to the net to win more points. This is a singles game in which there is one player on each side of the court, the coach feeds balls alternating to the players to start the point. They are encouraged to move up to the net where every point they win with a ball taken in the air (volley, overhead) is worth three points.
2. 100 (click the link for drill) – great game for ground-strokes consistency.
3. In and Out – competitive game for 3+ players. This game can be played with at least three players: two competing and one waiting for their turn. The coach puts the ball in play for the two players. Whoever wins, stays; the one who loses gets replaced by the player waiting. Accumulate every point won and as soon as a player gets to a certain score (7, 10, etc.) wins the game.
4. 90 Seconds – rally competition; good conditioning play. For this game, the coach feeds only to one of the players who will try to win as many points during an allotted time (90 seconds). Then the other player will try to beat that number while receiving the coach’s feeds.
5. Ping-Pong Tennis – teamwork; ground-strokes consistency. Even though this is a team game, the play is done on a singles court, with players taking turns hitting one shot and then moving out to make room for another teammate.
6. Around the World – I usually do it at the end of a large group class – conditioning, groundstrokes consistency, fun. For this game, the players each start with 3 points (or ‘lives’). They hit the ball and then run to the other side to play the next shot while players that follow do the same. If a player misses a shot, he or she loses a ‘life’, until they are out of the game. It is an excellent drill to get players to run a lot and have lots of fun.
7. Court Defender – one of the best games for large groups. The coach needs at least two tennis courts for this particular game, to separate players into two teams. Each team designates a ‘court defender’ which they send to the other court to stop the opposing team from winning a certain number of points. 
8. Cross Fire (click the link for drill) – competitive game for large groups.
9. Wipe Out – fun game for large groups; one vs. many. This is another team game that starts as a singles play but it evolves into one vs many, played on the singles court only. It is lots of fun because teammates cheer for each other and bond.
10. Kings/Queens vs. Challengers – kids love this game; individual competitiveness. There is one group lined up on one side, and one single player on the other side. The coach begins every point by feeding to the first player in the group line. The two players play the point out and, as long as the single player (king/queen) wins, he/she stays put and accumulates points. But as soon as the king/queen loses they get replaced by the player who beat them. The first player to accumulate a certain number of points playing in the ‘royal’ position, wins the game.

Popular drills and games for DOUBLES players:
1. Three for Three (click the link for drill) – transition to the net; net play; defending from baseline – a players’ favorite.
2. Reflex Volleys – great net play game; quick reaction and volley control. For this drill, all players are up at the net, inside the service court. The coach feeds the ball to start the point to the opposite team. Play it at a fast pace while the two teams develop quick reflexes and volley control. Excellent for competitive doubles teams.
3. Three for Air – aggressive play; transition to the net; competitive game. Both teams begin the point from the baseline but they are encouraged to move up to the net where, if they win the point and their last shot was taken in the air (volley, overhead), they get three points instead.
4. Win at the Net – loved by the players: playing/winning at the net; teamwork. There is one team at the net, one team at the baseline, on opposite sides. The coach feeds only to the baseline team. The two teams play the point out. If the net team wins, they stay put for another play and get a point. If the baseline team wins, they move up to the net while the opposite team backs up to the baseline. Teams count the points only when they win while playing at the net.
5. Two Minutes – pressure play; net vs. baseline; conditioning for doubles. For this game, there is one team at the net, while the other team is at the baseline, on opposite sides. The coach feeds only to the baseline team. The team at the baseline has two minutes to win as many points as they can against the net team. Then they switch sides and roles with the new team at the baseline trying to beat the opposing team’s score.
6. One-Up-One-Back – classic doubles formation competitive game. This drill is good practice for the teams that prefer the classic one-up-one-back formation. The coach feeds the ball and the teams play it out. After a certain score, players move one spot clockwise so that everyone practices and plays on every doubles position (net, baseline).
7. Battle of Rackets – teamwork; court coverage for doubles. This game teaches the net team to work together and take quick decisions while playing against a team at the baseline.
8. Olympics – net vs. baseline game for large groups. Best played with large groups (6+ players), there is a team at the baseline (defending), while the rest of the players form teams behind the opposite baseline. The coach feeds only to the first team of the group – short balls, volleys, overheads – to bring them up and play at the net. Whichever team wins three points first becomes the baseline team (defending). 
9. Lob Over Net Player – tactical and court positioning drill/game. There is a team at the net which will receive a lob from the coach. They have to retrieve the lob (must let the ball bounce first) and play the point out against the opposite team which starts at the baseline and can come up if they want.
10. Moving Up and Down – the role of players in doubles; court coverage and competitive play. This is a very dynamic tennis game in which the teams start in the one-up-one-back formation and one of the net players receives a lob from the coach; that particular team will have to re-position with the baseline player retrieving the lob and the net player backing up ready to play the point from a new position. This is an excellent drill to teach players how to communicate in doubles.

The above drills and games are just some of my students’ favorites but there are so many more that you might love. Check them all out at WebTennis24.com.

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.