Play Better – Practice Better

With limited practice time, courts, etc. it’s important for a high school tennis coach to get the most out of the time with the team.  Here are two ideas to keep in mind:

Spend more time on these two shots; the serve and return of serve! These two shots are the most important in a match.  For example, in singles your player will hit one of these shots in every point!  The more successful your players are with serving and returning the more success they (and your team) will have throughout the season.  The player serving is usually the most important player in the game!   The server will also have the biggest influence on winning the game especially as the level of the play increases.  For example, the player serving should be able to hit an offensive serve, place it to a weakness of the returner and often set up a tactic. For lower levels the server can still have a major influence on the game mainly by getting first serves in and using the serve as a set up for the next shot.

Remind your players that the serve is:

  • It’s the only way to start the point
  • It’s the only shot that you can be fully prepared and hit the ball on your terms (pace, spin, placement)
  • It’s a shot you can set up a play or tactic with your partner
  • It’s a shot that gives you two chances to make one!

Here are some drills you can use from;

  • SRC322 One Serve vs Just Forehands
  • SRC349 Initial Serve and Return
  • SRC375 Serve 24s
  • SRC363 Stand Wide Serve Wide & First Shot Drill


This drill is the start of a progression and can be self-run. Divide your players in two groups, one group starts in a line standing wide in the ad court with a player ready to serve.  The other group starts outside the alley near the service line on the deuce side.  The player serves a ball to the ad court and then moves and plays a forehand from the feed from the other player.  Players then switch lines.

Use “Doubles Vision”

Here’s a tip to help your players quickly improve their doubles!  “Doubles Vision” will help players make good decisions by watching what type of ball is hit to their partner.  For example, if a team is in the 1 up and 1 back formation and the opponents hit a fast wide ball to the back player the net player needs to recognize that their partner is moving off the court and may possibly be in trouble (and hit a weak return).  The net player should move to the best position to help cover more of the court.

“Doubles Vision” will help the player not hitting the ball stay engaged, make quick and good position decisions and play better doubles!

For more tips and drills for your practice visit!


Dry Your Court – BATT!

Better in Doubles – Better Watch Out


Doubles is a faster game than singles and as a coach you can help your players improve their doubles by improving their vision!  Not their 20-20 vision but their “who” vision, what player they should be watching when their partner is hitting.  For example, when your team is in the one up and one back position and the ball goes crosscourt to the back player the net player should watch the other net player and not turn their head to watch their partner hit.  The opposing net player is the player that can “hurt” your net player first and by watching that player your player has a better chance to react to their movements and shots.

To incorporate these ideas with your practice there are two drills on you can use; DoC543 and DoC544 Volley to the “T” I and II!

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!