Using Competitive Games
to Develop Strategy and Tactics
Ted Murray, Tennis From the Heart
Why are games so important?
• Make it fun
• Keep kids (& adults) engaged
• Bridge the gap between drilling and instruction and match play
• More realistic situations are faced
• Allow players to develop their own strategy
• Take them out of their comfort zone and force them to grow
• Frustration is the key to growth!
• Create cooperation and team spirit
• Free the coach to roam and help individual kids instead of only feeding
• Keep it FUN!
Progressively turning every drill into a game
• Progressive approach to teaching always builds into a game
• Won’t know if the skill you worked on will hold up in reality without testing it in a game
• Build the interest and engagement through competition
• Keep competitions fun and not cut-throat
• For most games, don’t record scores or use as basis for ladder
• Make sure the players aren’t put down or belittled
• Keep rewards simple and easily shared
• Don’t make a big deal of the scores once the game is over
Definition – working in pairs or groups of players. One pair or group is cooperating together to beat the other pairs or groups.
• Force players to improve level of control by working together
• Increase intensity and concentration
• Raise energy level of entire court
• Working with partners frees coach to roam & help players
• 3 minute depth finder – Partners hitting cross-court half court. One point for each ball that lands beyond the service line.
• Around the world team – mini-tennis or volleys. How many team can hit in a row
• Team hit with catcher- teams hit fed balls, bonus point if catcher catches
• Innumerable warm-up drills can become cooperative competition
Tips to Make it Work
• Insist that team scores are called out so all can hear (and you know no one is cheating)
• Don’t make a big deal of who wins. Ask for scores then move onto the next game.
CONTROLLED COMPETITION (CNC)
Definition – Usually in pairs. They have to hit a certain number of balls often in a defined pattern in order to start the point.
• Create consistency before moving into head on head competition
• Create concept of getting into a point before going for big shots
• Become aware of mistakes early in the point
• I drill – Start hitting controlled shots down the middle. Pro calls out cross or inside out. Whenever desired the pro calls out Play and the point starts immediately.
• X drill – Serve starts point. If serve goes out wide return is hit cross-court, server hits DTL and next shot also cross-court. After these 4 shots are hit successfully the point starts. If serve is down the middle return is hit down the line and next ball hit crosscourt. Pattern continues until 4 balls are hit and point starts.
• 6 ball rally & play. Point starts with feed or serve. Must hit 6 balls in a row (between both players) then point begins.
• Bingo – 4 players on court. Two balls being hit simultaneously down the line. When 1 pair misses the remaining ball is played out as a doubles point.
Tips to make it work
• Pro needs to monitor closely.
• If one player continues to miss pro can create system where they lose the point if the same player misses 2 or 3 times in a row before the first target is achieved.
LIMITATION COMPETITION (LIC)
Definition – Games in which you put certain limitations on both players in terms of shots, court usage, etc.
• Force players to play a style or hit shots they aren’t comfortable with
• Develop natural strategy to figure out how to take advantage of limitation
• Can be used to create more movement and emphasize footwork and court coverage
• Baseline hugger – both players must stay inside baseline during entire point. Lose point if both feet step behind baseline.
• Forehand only – only forehands (or backhands are allowed)
• Rush & Crush – If singles, play half court. You only get credit for a point if you are inside the service line when it ends.
• Single Serve – Both players only get one serve per point. Or they may get only 2 or 3 second serves per game.
Tips for Success
• Select or create games for specific areas that need work with players
• Encourage them to experience frustration. Learning happens when players get out of their comfort zone.
• Encourage innovate strategies to try to take advantage of the limitation
SCORE ADJUSTMENT COMPETITION (SAC)
Definition – Use a variety of point bonuses to encourage players to accomplish what you are trying to focus on. There is no limit to what combinations can be used.
• Reward players for playing the style or hitting the shots you have been working on.
• Give an incentive to encourage players to try shots they might not yet be comfortable hitting in a match situation.
• Force players to use strategy to gain extra points.
• Serve & volley – if the server serves and volleys and wins the point they get 2 points.
• Net Animal- If a player wins the point at the net they get bonus point.
• Monster serve & return – 3 points for an ace. 2 points for outright winner on return.
• No balls in net – Any point in which a player hits into the net gives 2 points to opponent.
• Master blaster – Give bonus point for any ball hit for a winner that opponent doesn’t get their racket on.
Tips for Success
• Use whatever scoring system will encourage players to use what you have been teaching them.
• Instead of using regular scoring, use games up to 10 or 15.
• Encourage creativity in figuring out strategy
OVERLOAD COMPETITION (OLC)
Definition – Creating an overload of power in many ways.
• Learn to create more power than currently have
• Learn to handle power so normal amount of power seems simple
• Develop better racket head acceleration
• Service Line Serve and Return – Player serves from the service line. Returner wins the point if they return cross-court (including alleys) or if the server misses the serve (only one).
• Mid-court Crusher – Pro feeds easy first ball to player moving toward service line to take shoulder high ball. Get two points for a clean winner. Receiver can get a point just by returning ball. Scoring depends on level.
• Four on Four Doubles – Regular doubles with 4 players on each side.
Tips for success
• Make sure that levels are evenly matched. Otherwise it can be dangerous.
• Be sure they don’t take too big a swing or injury can result
• Encourage racket head speed and going for it.
HANDICAPPED COMPETITION (HAC)
Definition – Could be any game in which you try to balance the level by giving certain handicaps to one of the players.
• Enable players of different levels to play a meaningful match
Force better players to either try new strategies or develop mental toughness
• One player has one serve only
• One player must hit only underspin backhands
• One player must serve and volley
• One player can hit only forehands or only backhands
• Scoring – one player starts with one or more points in each game
• Self-regulating handicap match – Players start even. Whoever wins first game starts second game down by one point (love 15 or 15-love). If the same player wins second game they start third game down by two points. If the other player wins the third game the fourth game starts with leader reverting to 15-love. Score continues to go back and forth depending on who wins the previous game.
Tips for Success
• Let players know the purpose behind the handicap before starting match
• These are generally used with normal match scoring
• Used primarily to challenge the better players
• Make handicap relevant to what better player needs to improve upon
TEAM FUN GAMES (TFG)
Definition – large group games that are meant to be fun and low-pressure competition
• Great for warm-up or cooldown
• Brings teams together
• Create atmosphere of fun
• Develop shot creativity in low pressure competition
• Finish lesson on a high note
• Team Throwdown (clean your room) – two teams. Each player starts with one ball. At coach’s command of go throw balls to opposite side of court. Continue until at one instant in time all balls are on one side. The other team wins. Or have a set time limit and when time is called the team with the fewest balls on their side wins.
• Crazy Feed Scramble –Two teams start with all players’ rackets touching net. Pro feeds any kind of ball, often high bouncer they need to flick back. Play out point. Best to use orange balls for safety.
• Keep it alive – Any number of players on each side. Point doesn’t end until ball stops rolling. Anything goes except picking up the ball with the hands.
Tips for success
• Sometimes enhance intensity by giving reward to winning team. Other times de-emphasize the score.
• Keep score close by how you feed
• Keep energy and excitement high with shouting encouragement and keeping a running commentary on the score
• Finish with high fives all around
Ted Murray – ted@TennisFromtheHeart.com – 720-402-2669