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.


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!

VC283 Volley Stations (doubles)

Here’s a practice set up using stations for a large group on a single court with the emphasis on volleys in doubles.  In a team practice the drill can be self-run allowing the coach to roam.  Each station works on a particular type of volley often used in doubles.  Here are the stations and the diagram shows spacing on a court.  You could also use this as a warm-up with quick rotations from station to station.  All the stations need to be co-operative; players are working together to improve and are not trying to hit winners.

Note: The video shows how the drill works for Station V but in this situation the players will be on a baseline and will not need to worry about the net.

Station I: First Volleys (deep volleys)

Each player starts in an alley close to the baseline and work on hitting co-operative first volleys to each other.  Emphasize footwork (split step and a weight transfer), racket angle (for more height) and a solid contact.

Station II: Crosscourt Volley

Depending on the level you can have players just hit either forehands or backhands back crosscourt or for more of a challenge players must alternative between the two shots.  Emphasize footwork (split step and a weight transfer), racket angle (for placement) and a solid contact.

Station III: Crosscourt Volley

See above

Station IV: Reflex Volleys

Two players start off the court standing just a few meters from each other and play reflex volleys back and forth.  Players can stand directly in front of each other and play either forehands or backhands or play to one side only for example a forehand to a backhand.  Or move players in opposite directions so their forehands line up and just play forehand to forehand (good for lower levels).  Emphasize keeping the racket in front (no swing) and a quick recovery.

Station V: Poaching Volley (controlled movement)

Two players start about 3-4 meters apart in the alley on the baseline. Players will volley back and forth as they move along the baseline to the opposite alley.  Once they reach the opposite alley they continue to volley as they move back across the court.  Emphasize fast feet and a controlled racket (for placement)

Station V sample video

Serve Tips and Handout

The serve is often a tough shot to learn with many high school players never able to reach a high level of competency. One stumbling block is often the grip – not being able to use the continental grip when serving.  One of your goals for the off-season for these players should be to serve with a continental grip to increase spin, power and consistency on their serves.  Here’s a handout explaining how to place your hand with references for a continental grip and other serving tips.  You can easily create handouts like this on

Serve Handout

GC136 Topspin

Start with your players standing sideways to the net. For forehands place their opposite hand on the net and their front foot at the bottom of the net. For one-handed backhand players stand about a foot away from the net and for a two-handed backhand the front foot is at the bottom of the net. Have the players take a few easy swings hitting the net and brushing up. On their forehands occasionally have them finish over their hitting shoulder for more topspin. Then have the players place a ball between their rackets and the net. Have the players brush up on the ball and spin it over. Eventually the players will move back and drop and hit topspin. Let the players start to alternate finishes on the forehand with one finish over their hitting shoulder and one in front of them. Then move the players to the baseline to practice topspin. The same procedure can be used for backhands. For the one-handed backhand players will finish in front and remain more sideways to the net.


Indoor/Outdoor Practice

Here’s another fitness/conditioning drill you can use inside or out.  Use the search function on  under Drills/Conditioning for more samples!

Here are two variations for this drill. In the first situation have your players’ pair up and start in the push-up position with the hands of one player on the singles side line and the hands of the other player on the doubles side line. Place a ball in the middle of the alley between the two players. When the coach says “go” the player who grabs the ball receives a point. The coach can also say either “right” or “left” and the players must use that hand to grab the ball.

In the other version have your players start in the push-up position on each baseline. The coach can feed to either side and the players have to explode up and play the point out.

 See the video here;

Spring Tennis Weather (going inside)

Many schools have started tennis practice and often coaches have to deal with the weather.  Going inside to the gym or other indoor space can be a great option.  Here are some ideas to help run a productive and efficient practice inside.

  • Have a plan.  Stations can be a great way to organize a large group in a small space.  Some sample stations could be; fitness, tennis simulations exercises, volley, wall hits and games.
  • Use transition balls such as low compression balls and foam tennis balls.  These balls will not bounce as high or fast and allow players to gain better control.  You can also incorporate them with your outdoor practices.  College coaches will often use them in some practice drills helping their players hit through the ball.  You can purchase these balls (and same day shipping) from Fromuth.  Here’s the link;
  • Many of the drills, games and handouts on our web site, can be used indoors.  The drills and games may take some tweaking or variations.  Here’s a sample of a game CF727 Service Box Bump that can be used indoors by marking off a designated area (instead of using the service boxes).