Start Your Season with the Right Plan

With Spring Practice about to start in some areas of the country having the right plan can make things easier for you (and staff) and help create more success and improvement with your team. Here are some ideas and examples:
Divide and Conquer: A team will usually have different ability and skill levels. You may need different plans (drills, topics) for each group. For example, the focus for your JV or development group may be more on introducing skills and techniques while for Varsity your plan can be more specific such as doubles strategies!
Team Activities: It’s important to spend time with the team together in areas such as fitness/stretching, group games building the “team” and off court workout (handouts, mental toughness, etc.).
You can find many different practice plans on! You can also easily search for drills for a specific topic or group size! Here’s a team building exercise:

Trust Me!
A lot of kids in high school have big egos that can easily shatter to pieces for many reasons. While interacting with this group try to instill a strong feeling of “belongingness” teaching them how to work together as a team.
To play this trust building game, divide the players into two teams and each team starts at the net on one side of the court. Choose one leader and blindfold the rest. Place a number of objects such as chairs, racquets, bags, books, or other objects. The leader is standing at the finishing line which is the baseline and has to guide the players on his team to cross this path full of obstacles. The catch is that if any of the team players touches an obstacle, the entire team has to start all over again from the starting line! The team which crosses the hurdles successfully in minimum attempts is declared the winner.

Here’s another tennis specific team building exercise from the site, use the drill search for: GaPr606 One racquet tennis

What do you say when the score is 3-5, 5-4, after the first set?

Coaches Match Booklet:

The booklet is a guideline providing tips and ideas on what to say to players during the changeover.  Although each player and match is unique this relevant information can help players stay on track and help coaches “coach”!   The time spent with a player during the changeover is short but what a coach says and or questions a coach uses can quickly help a player learn and improve and maybe win the match!

The guideline is divided into sections based on each possible changeover relevant to the score.  There are also sections on pre-match ideas for developing a game plan and additional coaching tips!

 Tennis “Check” Booklet:

This booklet allows a coach to track players and opponents’ performances by “checking” boxes. Use the Notes pages for common shot patterns opponents used, what to do different the next time and what the player can take from the match.  Compare your analysis with your player and use as a learning tool. Reference notes and match check points (strengths, weaknesses, etc.) before your next match!

Visit and click Coach’s Store to see more information!


What to say to players during a match

(This is from “Coachable Moments; Through the Fence” section on

Focus on the Positive
I was talking with Coach Tom Lang from the DC area and he made a good point about a coachable moment. One of his players had just lost the first set badly and Coach Lang heads to the fence. The player starts telling him everything he is doing wrong but Tom stops him immediately and asks “what are you doing right”, “tell me something positive!”
This is a great coaching strategy for a couple of reasons. First, you do not want your player to become too analytical trying to figure out what is going wrong, at least not during a match. Second by focusing on something positive you can build on one or two things going into the next set. Players will also increase their energy level by being positive. Here are some of drills/games to use from to help emphasize staying positive and gaining some momentum;
• GaC612 Two in a Row
• GC125 Love the Battle

You want your player to leave the fence with something positive. You do not want him to focus on the negative and some quick questions to ask are “what is he doing well”, “what does he feel good about”. If he says nothing which might happen, ask him what he thinks he needs to do to make things more positive. You may want to have a specific example ready from watching the match. For example, you may notice that your player is in better shape and if he can extend the rally he will probably win a lot more points (and games). It will be more powerful if the player has suggested the idea but either way have him puts it in his own words as he tells you the idea before you leave the fence.



GaC612 Two in a Row

Here’s a drill/game to help develop some important match components such as playing every point and staying positive.  The drill can be used for either singles or doubles and can start with a courtesy feed or with serves.  For a group divide your players into doubles teams, extra players can rotate in after a series. Players have to win two points in a row to win one point. If the players split the first two points no one receives a point. Play no-ad games. Players are forced to stay focused and play every point to gain the momentum.  Also after losing one point there may be a tendency to “feel down” but in this game players are given another chance so it pays to stay positive!


Teaching New Tennis Skills

Here are some ideas to help develop new skills in players:

  • Use repetitions; players learn by doing – hit a lot of balls!
  • Use progressions; for example you can break down the shot into parts such as shorter swings starting closer to the net.  Also practice individual shots before putting them together such as a groundstroke, approach shot, volley and then overhead!
  • Add pressure; players need to develop confidence in the new skill.  Add some fun pressure and stress games and drills in practice!
  • Repeat; players may need to repeat the different stages for the successful development of the skill!

For some sample drills to help your players learn new skills visit!


Adjusting Your Practice Drills for Levels

Tennis can be challenging and at the same time frustrating for players.  Here are some ideas for your practice when dealing with different levels:

  • Use targets in drills
    • You can adjust the size of the targets for levels and or use smaller targets inside a larger target area
  • Use a variety of goals
    • You can change the “number goal” for levels.  For example one player may need to hit 60-70% of good serves while other players are trying for 50%
  • Use a variety of feeds
    • Players can self-feed
    • Feed from same side of the court (toss-feeds)
    • Feed with or without spin…


DoC521 Short Court Serve and Volley

This drill provides an easier way to develop the serve and volley tactic.  The server will start in no-person’s land and hit a 60-75% serve and then move in to volley.  The point is played out and then the players rotate one spot on their side of the court.  You can also add certain restrictions such as the return of serve must go crosscourt, no lobs, etc.  After a period of time the players on the return side will serve. This drill can be part of a series of progression drills to help develop this tactic and eventually players will move the starting point of the drill back towards the baseline.

Starting Your Season: Tips from a State Champion Coach

Here are four ideas from Coach Kevin Record (coached two FL State Champion teams) on how he approaches a new season.  After coaching high school tennis for over 15 years this is what works well for him.  These ideas or parts of the ideas may also work well for you and your team!

1.  Setting up a Budget/Team Dues

In many areas of the country parents now pay dues for their child to participate in a high school sport such as tennis. Setting up a team budget that includes trips, uniforms, match day refreshments, etc. will help set the dues structure (note: you can offset some of these costs with team fundraising, see ideas and examples on!

 2. Organizational Meeting

This meeting can set the tone for the whole season – be organized!  Have your practice and match schedule finished and handout to players and parents.  Explain your policies, expectations and how the line-up will be organized.  Ask for a “commitment” from your players (note: we make things easier for you with these handouts on!

H146 Team Expectation Meeting

H147 Team Practice Calendar

H148 Team Schedule Overview

 3. Line Up and Team Building

Coach Record uses a double elimination tournament to determine the boys and girls lineups. Usually the positions are set for the season, unless a player slumps badly or a player left out of the lineup makes dramatic improvement. Once this “stressful” time is over a team building session such as a cookout, giving out uniforms or fun trip is scheduled (note: the Team Manager function on will set up challenge matches, tournaments and keep team and player statistics)!

 4.  Naming Captains

Captains play an important role for a team and their responsibilities can vary. Keep the communication open with your captains and make sure they know their roles and your expectations (note: a lot of our drills on can be self-run, captains can also with the energy of the drill and practice)!

 Here’s a sample drill:

 Good luck with your season.  You can find other helpful information and free samples at!