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View Full Version : New to High School coaching - best practices/experiences


Fletch
01-06-2013, 08:36 AM
I will be a high school coach this year. :) I am a uspta pro, have been teaching kids for several years and have been an assistant at other schools before. Never coached full time before because of a full time job. My goal is to provide these kids with the best possible tennis experience I can. (we are not a very good team, we will win only a couple matches at best) I want them to improve as much as they can, be good sports and enjoy a lifetime sport.

What I am asking from you are best experiences/practices for the kids. Did you or your coach do something that you really enjoyed and thought was a great idea? What benefited you the most or what do you do that benefits the team. This can be from practice, challenge matches, match day experiences, player intro's, post match, etc.


I hope to get several ideas and mold my team around the best ones.

Thanks

Fletch

PS We will be practicing an a gym for the first couple weeks because of weather, I will be using the foam ball for that.

Head Pegger
01-06-2013, 10:22 AM
Perhaps if you're inside because of weather you can show them some good video of tennis. Could be a video like this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdcwbQa7S5E
or maybe instructional.

rkelley
01-06-2013, 11:19 AM
I think the biggest gift you can give a group of kids like you're describing is the gift of teaching them how to play the game. Teach them proper strokes.

There's a guy on this board named Dave Smith. If he pops into this thread listen to everything he says. He's also written a book, Coaching Mastery, that you should pick up.

I'm going go out on a limb and offer a couple of thoughts, but listen to Dave if he says something different:

- Since you're starting practice in a gym teach them to volley. Don't worry about ground strokes, even though that's likely what they'll want to do. Get some of those foam practice balls and teach them to use a continental grip on fh and bh volleys. They should never need to regrip. Show them how the racquet face is almost always open on volleys and how the continental grip facilitates that. Try to insist on 1hbh volleys.

- Add overheads to this once they have the volleying down a bit (you're setting them up for serves later). Again, no regripping. Just glue their hands on the racquet in a continental grip at the beginning of practice (OK, just kidding but you get the idea).

- Make up some games were they can practice their new found volleying skills. They should be able to maintain a volley rally and also learn to angle the balls off for winners. I would think that with the foamy balls then should be able to keep a volley rally going for a good while.

- Once they have this down, including the overheads, then introduce the serve. Again, everyone is still in a continental grip. Show them how the serve is an overhead except you get to toss the ball. If you can get them serving with a continental grip you have given them a gift for life.

Maybe you can get them to some reasonable point here in a week of everyday practice?

Then the second week start with ground strokes. I'd start with the end of the strokes just as the racquet comes forward, and then later on add the set-up and take back. There's a whole progression of teaching ground strokes (another great poster and professional coach, Ash, has had some great thoughts on this), but with a week every day and the foamy balls you have some hope of getting them to develop a basic modern swing path.

So by the time you hit the courts hopefully you have some kids with some real-ish strokes that they can play with and build on. If even a couple of those kids practice those strokes that you've taught them over the summer you will start to build the foundation for a real tennis team in the coming years.

Ash_Smith
01-06-2013, 11:43 AM
There's a whole progression of teaching ground strokes (another great poster and professional coach, Ash, has had some great thoughts on this), but with a week every day and the foamy balls you have some hope of getting them to develop a basic modern swing path.


You're too kind rkelly! :D

I have no experience of High School coaching - we don't have that kind of system/set-up over here, but I have taught plenty of performance squads in my time!

How does it work coaching high-school in the US - are you coaching them technically? tactically? Do hey have their own individual coaches or are you responsible for the whole shebang?!

UCSF2012
01-06-2013, 12:20 PM
While indoors, teach them proper mechanics: grip, swing, court movement (side shuffle, body turns, open/closed stance).


When they're on the court, they put it all together....

Have them drop feed to each other, and have them hit using proper mechanics, and proper court position (no high FH, low BH, etc. Strike zone only). Then have them hit to each other (and they'll likely be learning where to be in the court so the ball is always in their strike zone). The entire time, reinforce to them they can only hit so hard and keep the ball in....


misc, misc, misc....


Break it down into small objectives: using the proper grip, learning where to run to on the court (such that the ball is in your strike zone every time.), etc. Come up with drills and exercises to help them learn to execute.

Dunlop300t
01-06-2013, 12:30 PM
let the good players and the players who are learning and are decent mix, i hated it when my coach took me off from working with the kids who were decent and put with people who couldnt hit over the net. work with the ones who are bad give them your priority first and the the ones who are good will get better if they keep hitting... but getting mechanics right is a key in the game so if you could work one on one with each player for about 10 mins and you should be doing good if not decent. also if there is a wall available to you make the kids who are good hit against the wall that will help their game alot, it did help mine. and their sport psych is also important so you being a tennis player will know what they will be dealing with.

rkelley
01-06-2013, 12:51 PM
You're too kind rkelly! :D

I have no experience of High School coaching - we don't have that kind of system/set-up over here, but I have taught plenty of performance squads in my time!

How does it work coaching high-school in the US - are you coaching them technically? tactically? Do hey have their own individual coaches or are you responsible for the whole shebang?!

Generally in a public high school the "coach" can vary from someone with a pulse who just makes a roster to someone who actually knows the game and can teach a bit. The coaches only interact with the kids for season, at least in their capacity as the high school coach, which is only a couple of months long.

In more affluent areas like San Diego, CA where I live the best players will be playing all year round and have personal coaches. These kids are playing juniors in SoCal and will probably play D1 or D2 in college. Some players have parents who can teach them and hit with them, though that gets harder as the kid gets older for several reasons. At the other end of the spectrum you have kids that have never played but show up at the beginning of the season.

What I've seen mostly through watching my kids is that the high school coaches just use the kids that show up, but don't really put much into it even if they know the game well themselves. Here in San Diego the top player or two on most varsity teams is playing open in SoCal juniors. The rest have played at some level before. Very few programs here have to deal with complete novice players. When I lived in WA state where tennis isn't as popular the level is much lower, and many kids play on teams who have never played before. The kids usually have some level of athletic ability, but lack proper coaching so there are lots of tortured strokes, fh grip serves, no volleys, etc. I personally haven't seen coaches anywhere but much effort in growing their players for the future. It's mostly about getting whoever has shown up to hack their way through the season as best as possible.

I think a guy like Dave Smith has shown that it's possible to do a lot more than that, but you have to care. In fairness to the coaches, the positions pay almost nothing and even in San Diego tennis is not a premier sport like football or basketball. If a couple of parents show up for a match that's about average.

Ash_Smith
01-06-2013, 02:11 PM
^^^Thanks for that insight - sounds like a tough gig if you have to run squad sessions with novices and some more experienced players and even more so if you only have a short season to work with the players.

I'd be looking to develop a group with solid first serves (high %), reliable second serves (can be protected at least) and a good first strike. With a short timeframe to work with and a group of players you're not going to make major technical corrections in the time you have available so i'd be looking for "quick wins" in a tech/tac sense, and these elements will make the biggest impact on the kids tennis as they grow and move on so you are setting them up well for the future.

OP I can send you some simple progressive technical teaching stuff if you like? I have posted it in various threads before if you care to search for it though.

cheers

JohnYandell
01-06-2013, 04:05 PM
I coached high school tennis for 30 years.

It's a mistake to do serious technical work or change strokes during an actual competitive cycle. I was able to develop off season competitive development in which most of the varisty and also jv kids participated 2 or 3 days a week. This gives a framework that allows you to communicate technically during upcoming seasons. But anything besides small adjustments in your first cycle will be counterproductive.

Focus on tactics and the mental game. Teach them the Jim Loehr 4 stages.
Create a series of fast moving games that teach basic strategy. Cross court drop and hit points to 4, etc. Do 2 on 1 's to four points. Play tons of tiebreakers and constantly change up the teams. In my opinion every drill should be game based.

Start every practice with a dynamic warm up and a stretch. And end it with some form of conditioning--my kids loved the 10 ball run down the ball drill--you have to get 10 on the first bounce--and competed to out do each other with effort.

Start with a written set of rules about behavior, missing practices, bad and good attitude--make the kids sign it.

Be tough but positive. Sit the top player if you have to.

Most of all make it fun. Go out there to have fun yourself everyday. Accept the kids for who they are and let their quirks come out. Let the #6 player know his point counts as much as #1 and make sure the other kids know it to.
You are in it together. Be the team in your league with the best attitudes, work ethic, sportsmanship. That's what defines winning. The match wins will follow.

Fletch
01-06-2013, 05:50 PM
Perhaps if you're inside because of weather you can show them some good video of tennis. Could be a video like this
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdcwbQa7S5E
or maybe instructional.

I like this idea. I have already started a Facebook page for the team and have been posting some instructional videos and have them 'like' them once they watch them. Seems to be working well. The parents also enjoy watching the videos so far.

I think the biggest gift you can give a group of kids like you're describing is the gift of teaching them how to play the game. Teach them proper strokes.

There's a guy on this board named Dave Smith. If he pops into this thread listen to everything he says. He's also written a book, Coaching Mastery, that you should pick up.

I'm going go out on a limb and offer a couple of thoughts, but listen to Dave if he says something different:

- Since you're starting practice in a gym teach them to volley. Don't worry about ground strokes, even though that's likely what they'll want to do. Get some of those foam practice balls and teach them to use a continental grip on fh and bh volleys. They should never need to regrip. Show them how the racquet face is almost always open on volleys and how the continental grip facilitates that. Try to insist on 1hbh volleys.

- Add overheads to this once they have the volleying down a bit (you're setting them up for serves later). Again, no regripping. Just glue their hands on the racquet in a continental grip at the beginning of practice (OK, just kidding but you get the idea).

- Make up some games were they can practice their new found volleying skills. They should be able to maintain a volley rally and also learn to angle the balls off for winners. I would think that with the foamy balls then should be able to keep a volley rally going for a good while.

- Once they have this down, including the overheads, then introduce the serve. Again, everyone is still in a continental grip. Show them how the serve is an overhead except you get to toss the ball. If you can get them serving with a continental grip you have given them a gift for life.

Maybe you can get them to some reasonable point here in a week of everyday practice?

Then the second week start with ground strokes. I'd start with the end of the strokes just as the racquet comes forward, and then later on add the set-up and take back. There's a whole progression of teaching ground strokes (another great poster and professional coach, Ash, has had some great thoughts on this), but with a week every day and the foamy balls you have some hope of getting them to develop a basic modern swing path.

So by the time you hit the courts hopefully you have some kids with some real-ish strokes that they can play with and build on. If even a couple of those kids practice those strokes that you've taught them over the summer you will start to build the foundation for a real tennis team in the coming years.

I agree with volleys early and often. Most kids are so afraid of the net and if the doubles teams can get just a little competent at the net, we could steal some matches in doubles. Watched a video with Rick Macci on a 'closers' drill,even though we are not good, I would like to run this drill virtually every day in practice, our team can be the best at this drill. I only use foam balls in the gym, just too difficult to use anything else, its a basketball court, too fast. I like your thoughts on the continental grip, agree 100%. My pet peeve is kids serving on panel 3/eastern forehand grip. I will check out the book too.

While indoors, teach them proper mechanics: grip, swing, court movement (side shuffle, body turns, open/closed stance).


When they're on the court, they put it all together....

Have them drop feed to each other, and have them hit using proper mechanics, and proper court position (no high FH, low BH, etc. Strike zone only). Then have them hit to each other (and they'll likely be learning where to be in the court so the ball is always in their strike zone). The entire time, reinforce to them they can only hit so hard and keep the ball in....


misc, misc, misc....


Break it down into small objectives: using the proper grip, learning where to run to on the court (such that the ball is in your strike zone every time.), etc. Come up with drills and exercises to help them learn to execute.

Good info. I have some sheets on the grip from the USPTA that I can hand out. Panel 1, 2 etc. I like the thought of kids feeding each other so I can walk around and coach instead of feeding so much.

let the good players and the players who are learning and are decent mix, i hated it when my coach took me off from working with the kids who were decent and put with people who couldnt hit over the net. work with the ones who are bad give them your priority first and the the ones who are good will get better if they keep hitting... but getting mechanics right is a key in the game so if you could work one on one with each player for about 10 mins and you should be doing good if not decent. also if there is a wall available to you make the kids who are good hit against the wall that will help their game alot, it did help mine. and their sport psych is also important so you being a tennis player will know what they will be dealing with.

The gym wall with the foam balls works well. The ball doesn't come back so fast that they can't get set. I can do some game based drills against the wall that will work.

^^^Thanks for that insight - sounds like a tough gig if you have to run squad sessions with novices and some more experienced players and even more so if you only have a short season to work with the players.

I'd be looking to develop a group with solid first serves (high %), reliable second serves (can be protected at least) and a good first strike. With a short timeframe to work with and a group of players you're not going to make major technical corrections in the time you have available so i'd be looking for "quick wins" in a tech/tac sense, and these elements will make the biggest impact on the kids tennis as they grow and move on so you are setting them up well for the future.

OP I can send you some simple progressive technical teaching stuff if you like? I have posted it in various threads before if you care to search for it though.

cheers

Thanks Ash. Yes I do everything from driving the bus to making the entire schedule. Varsity and JV. I have a great set of parents that can hand feed balls which will help tremendously.
Good points on the serve, if you can't get it in you can play a point. Nothing worse than double faulting 3 points a game. :evil:

I coached high school tennis for 30 years.

It's a mistake to do serious technical work or change strokes during an actual competitive cycle. I was able to develop off season competitive development in which most of the varisty and also jv kids participated 2 or 3 days a week. This gives a framework that allows you to communicate technically during upcoming seasons. But anything besides small adjustments in your first cycle will be counterproductive.

Focus on tactics and the mental game. Teach them the Jim Loehr 4 stages.
Create a series of fast moving games that teach basic strategy. Cross court drop and hit points to 4, etc. Do 2 on 1 's to four points. Play tons of tiebreakers and constantly change up the teams. In my opinion every drill should be game based.

Start every practice with a dynamic warm up and a stretch. And end it with some form of conditioning--my kids loved the 10 ball run down the ball drill--you have to get 10 on the first bounce--and competed to out do each other with effort.

Start with a written set of rules about behavior, missing practices, bad and good attitude--make the kids sign it.

Be tough but positive. Sit the top player if you have to.

Most of all make it fun. Go out there to have fun yourself everyday. Accept the kids for who they are and let their quirks come out. Let the #6 player know his point counts as much as #1 and make sure the other kids know it to.
You are in it together. Be the team in your league with the best attitudes, work ethic, sportsmanship. That's what defines winning. The match wins will follow.

Thanks John. I am quite technical on breaking down strokes, so I will have to refrain from over coaching. I believe the most important part of the swing is the finish, if I can get them to finish properly they will learn to come over the ball and develop. I am big on getting them to scrimmage. In a 2 hour practice I believe I will drill for an hour then have them play sets and breakers for the next hour. I can walk around and talk to them while they are playing. I think one mistake coaches/kids make now is that then don't play enough. Low level kids sometimes back away from competition, which is understandable. I want them to enjoy the moment.
I have no problem sitting a kid if the act up, we are not going to states any time soon.
I agree 100% on game based drills, more fun the better. They really focus so much better when you start keeping score, it really gets there attention.
I do like to have music going during practice, the more fun the better. I will have to have a rule though, no more that 2 Justin Bieber songs an hour! :)


This is great stuff! Anything else to add? Really appreciate all the great suggestions.

the hack
01-06-2013, 05:52 PM
when I was in High School we had access to a gym but there were no tennis lines on the floor. Our coach got athletic tape from the trainer and we put down lines. same coach also had temporary net poles made so we could put up a net. then team worked out in shifts.no rain outs. I was really lucky to have such a hard working coach.

UCSF2012
01-06-2013, 05:59 PM
Personally, I wish my HS coached taught me how to play tennis. I had to figure out everything on my own, and it took years to learn the basics. It takes 30 minutes to teach them the flat forehand and flat backhand. Then let them practice it, such that they're hitting in their strike zone every time. That's the majority of high school tennis right there.

As he stated, they're not going to win matches, so maybe use the 4 years to develop a real tennis game, instead of 4 seasons of mental toughness. If I were the kid, I'd want to learn how to play AND learn basic tactics.

canny
01-06-2013, 06:11 PM
As a High School player who has had 3 Coaches in my three years best tips I'd day are to work on conditioning and consistency.

Lots of 3 ball drill, spider drill (volleying at net) all very fast paced. Get their endurance up and work on proper footwork.

The jv players or new ones with little knowledge of the game teach them proper technique and encourage them to have a love for the game so they'll play during the off season and improve as they go through their high school years.

Contact coaches in the area with competitive teams at your level and try to get 2 matches or more with them and the ones who it will be a beatdown ask if theyll make it more competitive by subbing out their better players or running exhibition matches. You want the team to capture some wins and not just get trashed try to make it fun.

SERVING! Get that serve in it means everything. Teach them the importance of the toss.

Fletch
01-06-2013, 06:21 PM
when I was in High School we had access to a gym but there were no tennis lines on the floor. Our coach got athletic tape from the trainer and we put down lines. same coach also had temporary net poles made so we could put up a net. then team worked out in shifts.no rain outs. I was really lucky to have such a hard working coach.

Our nets in the gym are folding chairs with caution tape. It actually works perfect, with a net the rally stops, with the tape the ball just keeps going! :)

Personally, I wish my HS coached taught me how to play tennis. I had to figure out everything on my own, and it took years to learn the basics. It takes 30 minutes to teach them the flat forehand and flat backhand. Then let them practice it, such that they're hitting in their strike zone every time. That's the majority of high school tennis right there.

As he stated, they're not going to win matches, so maybe use the 4 years to develop a real tennis game, instead of 4 seasons of mental toughness. If I were the kid, I'd want to learn how to play AND learn basic tactics.

I agree, tennis coaches are typically a teacher that doesn't know anything about tennis. No offense, but that would be like me being a soccer coach. Trust me, you don't want that!

As a High School player who has had 3 Coaches in my three years best tips I'd day are to work on conditioning and consistency.

Lots of 3 ball drill, spider drill (volleying at net) all very fast paced. Get their endurance up and work on proper footwork.

We will work on conditioning, but more consistency. The kids can't really keep it in long enough to get tired, but we will do some. I want to work on 'how many forehands in a row' can you hit etc.

BirdWalkR
01-06-2013, 06:24 PM
In my four years of high school tennis never once did we do actual footwork training. Most of our team had sound strokes but terrible footwork and preparation so consistency was a big problem. Please teach the team good footwork and preparation it will save them a lot of frustration lol

Fletch
01-06-2013, 06:34 PM
In my four years of high school tennis never once did we do actual footwork training. Most of our team had sound strokes but terrible footwork and preparation so consistency was a big problem. Please teach the team good footwork and preparation it will save them a lot of frustration lol

Okay BirdWalk, I will throw in some footwork drills I promise! :)
I actually have some training ladders that I can use. I have seen where kids go through the ladder with their racket and once the finish the ladder they coach feeds a ball to them, looked like a good idea. Speed in quickness over endurance for this particular group just because of the lack of consistency. As we get better, I can add endurance stuff.

Seriously good call though.