Best way to teach someone who has never played?

Discussion in 'Tennis Tips/Instruction' started by Muse, Feb 1, 2012.

  1. Muse

    Muse Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2004
    Messages:
    389
    Location:
    MKE
    So the situation breaks down like this: I'm a 5.0 player, I have a little experience with instructing people but it's always been teaching 2.5.-3.0 level players (so they already know how to play and hit, I was just helping them iron out their mechanics and teaching them how to take their shots to another level). My fiance wants me to teach her how to play tennis, but she's never picked up a racquet in her life.

    This is a new experience for me and I'm wondering what the best way to go about teaching her is. I've just started with teaching her the grips for an eastern forehand and 2HBH (no serves or volleys yet) and getting her used to the proper footwork and racquet preparation to hit a shot.

    What are the best drills I could have her do? Looking for advice from some experienced instructors. Let me know if you need any more info that I haven't provided.
     
    #1
  2. NJ1

    NJ1 Professional

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2011
    Messages:
    1,362
    Location:
    NA
    I know women better than I know tennis and my honest advice would be to hire a coach. I'm recently hitched, and I'd warn that coaching your fiance could be rather trying. I don't know you two though of course, so it may be all in good fun. My lady and I hit together occasionally but she's not too into tennis so it's just a fun knockup and thus avoids the pitfalls of having to be critical.

    To make clear, I'm not an instructor so advice as to the specifics I'm sure will follow from qualified coaches. Just wanted to give a heads up as to the other side of things. :)
     
    #2
  3. equinox

    equinox Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Messages:
    3,223
    Location:
    Cocos Islands, WA
    You don't teach her. Someone else does. To do otherwise is courting disaster.
     
    #3
  4. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Yeah, don't seriously teach her.
    However, you can hit and giggle with her feeding her one side at a time, relaxed and goofing around, but give her shots she can hit. It's a sacrifice day for you, but a bonding and fun experience for the couple.
    If she's really bad, you can just drop feed her while standing to her hitting side, and do not make a big thing where the ball goes.
     
    #4
  5. tennis_pr0

    tennis_pr0 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Messages:
    562
    The way I teach a beginner is like this...

    I start short in the court and teach an abbreviated swing for both the forehand and backhand. I have them point the butt of the racquet forward, and just take the ball over stopping at the contact point. Once that is done, then I have them pause after they hit the ball at the contact point, then add the follow through. For the forehand, the knuckles facing their ear, for the backhand, just over the shoulder. Once that is done, then I put one and one together and they are hitting nice, fluid looking forehands and backhands.

    I have never taught a beginner that had trouble with this. Most of the time, within a half hour they can consistently hit a technically sound forehand and backhand over the new from short in the court. It is all about breaking the stoke down and teaching it in progression, giving them small increments to learn in.
     
    #5
  6. tennis_pr0

    tennis_pr0 Semi-Pro

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2009
    Messages:
    562
    Grip does not matter, but eastern or semi western is usually the most comfortable.
     
    #6
  7. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Isn't there a huge difference between teaching a beginner who never played before, but PAID for a lesson, compared to a beginner who never played before, but asking a S/O to "teach" them?
    A person who PAID for a lesson expects to learn something about tennis.
    A person who asked for free lessions from a S/O would like to learn something from tennis, might even expect to play better, but think of the extenuating circumstances from a "bad" experience.
     
    #7
  8. colababy

    colababy New User

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2005
    Messages:
    70
    My husband (4.5 or open player) taught me from zero. Our first session involved me hitting a lot of balls out of the fence and whiffing many balls. But he is a very patient person, LOL. Your fiancé already sounds more athletic than I was if you're already teaching grips and footwork.

    I suggest just hitting with her a little for fun without worrying about form, then pay for 1-2 lessons. Use the lessons as a jump start for your instruction. Be patient and have fun! Encourage her to supplement your instruction with basic group clinics and drills.
     
    #8
  9. colababy

    colababy New User

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2005
    Messages:
    70
    I wanted to add that we played off and on (mostly due to cost and weather) but since moving to California from the east coast, I started playing a lot more.

    We met another couple (the guy is maybe 5.0) who taught his fiancé and she learned way faster than me and kicks my butt. They play 9.0. mixed.
     
    #9
  10. r2473

    r2473 Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 14, 2006
    Messages:
    7,113
    1) Buy her a racquet.

    2) Have her put on her tennis outfit and tennis shoes

    [​IMG]

    3) You'll be her hero

    [​IMG]
     
    #10
  11. pvaudio

    pvaudio Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    Messages:
    7,543
    If she actually wants to learn, you shouldn't teach her. Trust me on this one: don't use your relationship to teach complex skills.Go out and have fun, and if she wants to learn, get some lessons from a local pro. That way, once she's got the basic strokes down, then you guys can go have fun playing together.
     
    #11
  12. pvaudio

    pvaudio Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    Messages:
    7,543
    It's a bit different when you're planning a wedding with your student.
     
    #12
  13. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,027
     
    #13
  14. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    4,097
    Have a look at MTM and Oscar Wegner's stuff.

    Just ignore all the crap about him being the father of the modern game and coaching Guga blah blah blah

    His method is really good for beginners.

    Also, don't be scared of low compression balls.


    That said, I think you are way better to get her a coach and restrict your involvement to hitting with her for fun to consolidate what she did in her lessons...
     
    #14
  15. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Only reason for a freebie S/O "lesson" is to give her a fun, stress free experience (for her) so maybe she will try tennis again.
    Fun is the key.
     
    #15
  16. WildVolley

    WildVolley Legend

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2007
    Messages:
    5,899
    I'm a big fan of the progressions taught by the tennis mind game guy.

    He starts at contact and works back from there. Simple drills that will instill proper form from the beginning.
     
    #16
  17. Muse

    Muse Rookie

    Joined:
    Mar 13, 2004
    Messages:
    389
    Location:
    MKE
    Hahaha, wow. I didn't think trying to teach her would be so widely thought to be that bad of an idea. I'm pretty sure I've got the patience to help her out, it's not like I don't know what I'm getting in to...

    I do kinda like the idea of a couple lessons first to let someone else lay the foundation and work from there though.
     
    #17
  18. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    What good is experience if it's ignored?
    You have a "pretty good idea" what will happen.
    Most of us have experienced it firsthand, multiple times, and seen it happen even more times.
     
    #18
  19. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,441
    Read up on Modern tennis, learn it while you teach her. It's the simple way to play and used by the pros for that reason.
     
    #19
  20. Timbo's hopeless slice

    Timbo's hopeless slice Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Feb 8, 2011
    Messages:
    4,097
    i actually suggested MTM!

    thought you would be amused...
     
    #20
  21. 5263

    5263 G.O.A.T.

    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2008
    Messages:
    10,441
    Yes, but it's books are just a simple approach to what you guys are doing well down under, so I'm on to you, lol.
     
    #21
  22. ATP100

    ATP100 Professional

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2010
    Messages:
    1,027

    Sorry, you have no idea what you are getting into.
     
    #22
  23. Chyeaah

    Chyeaah Professional

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2011
    Messages:
    1,304
    Location:
    Sydney
    Oh damn... If only she was a guy. The way to teach guys is to insult them and smash balls at them =D.

    The best way to teach her is to feed her balls. Just teach them how to hit a forehand and feed them balls until they get it and rely on muscle memory.
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2012
    #23
  24. stlcards

    stlcards New User

    Joined:
    Feb 1, 2012
    Messages:
    1
    Location:
    Springfield, MO
    I'm going to start teaching my wife and our girls aged 11 and 5 this spring so I've thought about this a lot. My plan is to first simply teach the basics; grip, stance, swing, etc., then feed them balls so they can get the hang of it. Hit the ball over the net and inside the lines. More than anything it will just take time and patience. The more balls they hit, the more comfortable and better they will get. As they get more comfortable simply keeping the ball in play, then the fine tuning can start.

    Tennis isn't an overly difficult sport to learn. How many of us started by going to the local park with friends and just hit the ball back and forth and never got any instructions starting out? The more you play, the better you get. Practice, practice, practice.

    Much of it depends on how good she wants to get and how serious she will be. If she wants to be competitive down the road, maybe a series of lessons would be the way to go. If it is just to get out and exercise and do something fun, you should be able to handle it just fine.
     
    #24
  25. pvaudio

    pvaudio Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    Messages:
    7,543
    No, you don't know what you're getting yourself into. To you, it's fun, but you secretly and then openly will want to actually teach her how to play tennis. That requires a lot of focus and attention. That takes the fun out of playing with your SO. When you then start adding in other things for her to change, you've lost all hope. I love running, so I wanted to get my fiancee to run with me. I've spent years honing my gait to be as efficient as possible. I made the mistake of trying to teach her "how to run". Rather not revisit that.
     
    #25
  26. pvaudio

    pvaudio Legend

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2009
    Messages:
    7,543
    Muse seriously, listen to everyone telling you this. It takes personal experience to realize it. After all, you love her, she loves you, you're patient, what could go wrong? Do the lessons first, THEN take her on the court with you to have fun. The more time you have to spend being the instructor rather than her fiance, the more the fun aspect drops for her.
     
    #26
  27. Torres

    Torres Banned

    Joined:
    Jan 1, 2011
    Messages:
    4,766
    Have a look at Oscar Wegner's videos on his technique for teaching beginners. I have to say it looks pretty amazing in terms of results v time spent.
     
    #27
  28. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Too many people answering "do it" who haven't done it. You try to teach a S/O once, you know you made a mistake.
    You try to goof around, have fun, with a first timer who's S/O, you CATER to her wishes, you'll be OK but she won't learn anything about tennis.
     
    #28
  29. achokshi99

    achokshi99 Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 12, 2009
    Messages:
    336
    I am in a similar situation but not an experienced instructor. I taught at tennis camps for 6-10 y/os when I was in HS but I'm a 4.5 former DII college player that took a decade break off, started playing again last year or two and this summer got my wife into it and she never picked up a racquet before. Before getting into any thing, I'd say the biggest thing is to first set a rule that she has to totally listen to whatever you say on the courts. You don't want to waste your time out there so either she gets a real instructor where she doesn't potentially take your time for granted or she totally listens to you.

    I'd say my wife went from never playing to about a 2.5 for groundstrokes and essentially 0s for everything else right now since we started in June 2011 (she has not played as much since august) which would be about 3-4x a week for 1-1.5 hrs. I taught her first the handshake for the forehand and then a two handed backhand grip. But the biggest thing for teaching was I had a hopper of tennis balls and I'd be on the same side of the court as her, prob 5 ft diagonally away from her and literally hand toss (underhand) the balls to her and have her take FHs swings and then BH swings with a 70-80% effort mentality on the stroke. It needs to be a relaxed and controlled swing.

    Once she got that down, we started drills off each wing. So a hopper of FHs with me at the net, hitting the ball to her FH side, have her move laterally back to the midle of the court, and progressively pulling her out further so I could get her footwork down. I'd keep stressing that footwork is key, front foot forward type of stuff all the time. Also encourage after every shot where at least something good was done. If she had great footwork/prep and missed, easy to say the shot was almost there. Repetition during those drills was important too so unless there was something glaring that was going on, I'd want to keep going and save any critical comments for after the hopper was done. Then would do the same thing with the backhand side.

    After this, I was able to have her go alternating FH/BH, so one shot to the FH and one to the BH so it would further condition her to get the footwork down as well as racquet follow through. I'd say those are the two most critical things for beginners - make sure to finish by their shoulders on the strokes and also have a front foot forward set up, esp for women where upper body power wont be as easy to come by.

    From there, then I'd go from alternating to just FH/BH to not telling her whether a FH or BH was coming, also would vary the depth a bit moer as well. The other thing was after drills, we'd spend maybe 15-20 mins on a points game where I'd hit it to her from the baseline and as soon as that happened the ball would be in play so I'd literally just bop it back into the court and move her around so it further conditioned the importance of footwork, consistency, and a bit of a competitive edge. This points game can be done as early as once your fiance gets used to hitting FH and BH from you feeding from the hopper. I think this helped a lot because of the footwork development where your fiance will be forced to hit shots at different depths, etc.

    Lastly but sort of important, is that she'll need the right racquet. I had a few demos from TW for my wife to try and ultimately went with the dunlop aerogel 1000. The thing is, I want to make it as easy as possible for her to hit the ball and that thing is 118 inch head, it is also light/manueverable and fairly stiff which is good for my wife because she is not generating a ton of power.

     
    #29
  30. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    Agree with previous post.
    But maybe don't stress exact grip or foot position for a few days, or until she actually ASKS you.
     
    #30
  31. colababy

    colababy New User

    Joined:
    Feb 24, 2005
    Messages:
    70
    This is how my husband taught me. LOL
     
    #31
  32. Lsmkenpo

    Lsmkenpo Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Aug 21, 2006
    Messages:
    3,915
    Teach the "why" before you get into the "how" with each new area of the game.

    Hand a racquet to a noob and nine times out of ten they will hit the ball with a really opened face and just block it high over the net.

    (The why) Convey the idea of hitting a ball with the face of the racquet perpendicular versus closed or open and how the angle of the racquet face effects the flight of the ball. Than you can show them the "how"

    If they understand the basic principals some of the technique will be become automatic without teaching every little detail, just from knowing what they are trying to accomplish.

    Don't overload them with info right from the start, just a little at a time, once they show they have a basic understanding and execution of the technique down, than move on to something new.
     
    #32
  33. 10sLifer

    10sLifer New User

    Joined:
    Mar 14, 2010
    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Currently Touring
    I would recommend introducing her to the concept of topspin as early as possible. Many coaches assume this comes naturally and let there students scoop or poke, generally elevating the ball by turning the strings up. This is dangerous as it can set inproper motor programs which can be tuff to get out of. Let her hit out and miss a few long then talk to her about brushing so she can stroke out and have no roof to her improvement.
     
    #33
  34. Fuji

    Fuji Legend

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2010
    Messages:
    6,597
    Oh gosh, please don't. It's a long tedious process!

    I did it with my girlfriend, (I'm a pretty decent coach as I've helped young guns get into hitting,) but it was a very big process. My lady is very, very competitive, and she was very hard on herself for making mistakes. Best case was we left the court was improvement. Honestly, with teaching anyone, when they see the benefit of working on something, and there is tangible improvement, ESPECIALLY when first starting, it really adds the fun to it.

    Just my 2 cents. BTW, I always use low compression balls when teaching newer players, or just rallying with them to warm up. No point in chasing balls all over the court off the bat. I use them when warming up with my 4.5-5.0 practice partners as well, it's awesome to warm up with! :)

    -Fuji
     
    #34
  35. OTMPut

    OTMPut Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Dec 29, 2008
    Messages:
    2,328
    i have just recently started initiating a friend's daughter into tennis. she is 11 years old and has no intention of becoming a pro. this is more like learning another fun game and a bit of physical activity.

    first lesson:
    i made her catch balls thrown at her one at a time and before their second bounce. we did this within the serve box area, basically a mini tennis without racquet. within 20 minutes, she was getting comfortable in lining up the ball with her eyes and adjusting her foot work. i said nothing to her except to catch it before it bounces twice. i told her that trying to catch in front of her body may be a little easier. thats it. she thoroughly enjoyed it.
    next i asked her to hold the racket at the throat (did not say anything about grips, swing angle etc) and catch the ball with the racket. if it crosses the net, it is just bonus.
    In 10 minutes she was doing forehand volleying with her throat grip.
    I was pretty excited.
    We wound up the lesson by throwing some tennis balls over head.

    I allowed her to touch the racquet for 10 minutes.

    I cringe at kids lining up at baseline trying to hit a forehand or backhand during their initial days.

    my philosophy of pregression is catch -> volley -> stroke.

    volley is like a much abbreviated stroke. all the twisting, bending, turning, take back complications can wait. first learn to just present the racquet to the incoming ball and contact it nice and clean (i.e. volley).
     
    #35
  36. jk816

    jk816 Rookie

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2010
    Messages:
    157
    I absolutely have to agree; teaching loved ones anything has tremendous pitfalls. I taught my wife at her request; I've taught my daughters. None of it is as easy as it theoretically should have been. The fact of the matter is that in most cases, the emotional bonds between loved ones produces a different response than that of instructor to student. It can run one way or both, and how the family instructor or student may react when being taught by a loved one is different than by an uninvolved instructor.

    So now I pay pros to give my loved ones the same advice, technique, drills, etc, I previously gave them. Input they pushed back on with me they absorb like a sponge from a pro. It ain't just tennis; change tennis to skiing, etc, same effect. And it isn't just me, I've watched one husband/dad after another suffer from the same thing!

    So get her a few privates with the right pro for her; then suggest a few class lessons, with other ladies of the same level (start to show her the social side of tennis). Play with her FOR FUN, working to give her a ton of good balls to hit (don't baby them just make them hittable; she'll progress faster playing up a little).

    Let her see lessons as enjoyable work with others, and hitting with you as pure fun.

    Good luck.
     
    #36
  37. Nellie

    Nellie Hall of Fame

    Joined:
    Oct 4, 2004
    Messages:
    3,773
    When I play with my spouse (not a player), I basically feed her easy balls to hit back. I don't give her any technical advice, and we have a nice time together, even if she misses a lot. If she asks for any advice, I give it to her. But she doesn't usually.
     
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2012
    #37
  38. LeeD

    LeeD Bionic Poster

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2008
    Messages:
    37,199
    Location:
    East side of San Francisco Bay
    + 1 for me.
    Hitting with a non playing partner is not tennis as we know it, it's providing a S/O a chance to have a good time with you on a tennis court.
    If it's not a S/O, you can teach every technicality you want, force them to adopt a modern grip and swingpath, open their stance (or close it) to neutral, make them watch the ball and move their feet, split step and bounce, ......so you might as well consider that a ONE TIME experience.:twisted::twisted:
     
    #38

Share This Page