A Quick Guide for Effective on-court Coaching
The followign guide is meant as a reminder for any coach looking to optimize their time on the court. Most point will be second nature for seasond coaches but an objective review once in a while will never hurt.
Safety should always be a priority
Tennis is not a dangerous sport but players can easily get hurt if the coach is not constantly aware of the conditions on the court. Two of the most common problems are: players stepping on balls and young players getting hit with racquets. To avoid this, make sure there are no balls on the court where players can step on them and when working with small children make sure they have plenty of space to swing safely.
Form homogenous groups in terms of skill and desire
Optimal improvement can only happen in a group when players motivate each other. A weak player will bring the group down and an unmotivated player will kill it.
Make sure you are developing all areas of the game
Include all strokes and game situations in your practices. You do not have to practice everything every day, but in the course of the season you need to make sure you cover everything (all types of groundstrokes, volleys, serves, returns, lobs, overhead, specialty shots, singles situation, doubles situations, etc.)
Structure your practices
Always schedule a warm up off and on the court, a core concept to be practiced and the opportunity to apply what was practiced on point situations.
Always Warm up all strokes
Use the warm up to hit all the strokes: groundstrokes, volleys, overhead and do not forget serves and returns.
Allow for enough repetition
Players learn through repetition. Make sure you allow the players enough time to internalize the skill. Repeat the same drills often during several weeks. During each practice session, it is also better to use fewer drills and be thorough with them than to constantly change exercises.
Your demeanor will determine the attitude and performance on the court
You set the tone on the court. If you want practices to be intense, serious and fun, set an example. The players will follow your lead
Keep all players engaged the whole time
Find ways to keep everyone occupied and focused. Use mostly drills where everyone is involved. Feed sparingly and keep lines moving. Players should never be standing around.
Think and plan your exercises so that they build on each other
Your drill progression should move from easy to hard, from tecnical work to tactical work. Each drill should serve as the foundation to the next one and should help to guarantee the success and effectivceness of the practice session.
Use the Appropriate Equipment
Vary your equipment to match the skills of the players you are teaching. Use different court sizes, ball types and net sizes to ensure the success and enjoyment of your student.
Plan your conditioning so that it does not interfere with on court work and vice versa.
For example, do not work on technical changes after weight training or schedule speed training after practice. Speed training requires a rested body, do it before practice.
Keep your practices competitive
A very important part of tennis is to learn to compete. The more players compete during practice the better players they will become. Use competitive drills as much as possible. Competition will also add fun to your practices if channelled correctly.
Include serves and returns in all your practices
The serve and the return are two of the most important strokes in the game but also two of the least practiced. Have players start the drills with serve and return every time you can.
Make sure players are getting plenty of match play
Never forget that the goal of everything that you do is for your players to be able to perform at their best when competing. Sets, and matches are an essential part of player development.
Do not forget the “fun”
It is much easier to motivate and teach players that are having fun, and creating the right environment is an important part of your job. Obviously, not every drill can be fun and parts of the practice may not be very enjoyable, but the general experience has to be positive and players have to leave practices eagetr to return.